Every BOE trip includes a “Solo” experience. During this experience the students spend up to 72 hours in their own location in the woods, separate from other group members, yet still under the support and supervision of the BOE staff. The Solo Experience is a vital part of our program and while it seems daunting students often see the experience as a highlight of the trip.
Our lives are filled with distractions, responsibilities, and technology; there are also iPods, jobs, homework, athletics, music, friends, family, internet, and so much more that are constantly consuming our energy and focus. With all of these it is extremely challenging to focus on personal growth especially when struggling with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and so much more. The Solo Experience is designed to strip away those distractions even more than the rest of a Blackwater trip and allow the students to wholly focus on themselves without worrying or struggling with all the other distractions of every-day life.
The Solo Experience comes at a time in the trip when the students are fully prepared for the experience. They are equipped with all of the skills necessary to not only survive but thrive. This experience gives the students time to process and incorporate everything they have learned and then start applying that to creating a plan and goals for life after Blackwater. Reflecting, introspection, and journaling are key aspects of the Solo, often giving students a number of realizations or “ah-ha” moments.
Not many people are able to have an experience similar to ours and it is a big accomplishment to complete a 72 hour solo. The solo is similar to coming of age rituals that various cultures have. The Solo Experience is the start o transition time in the trip; focus changes from ‘Why am I here?’ to ‘Now what am I going to do?’
Another major benefit of the timing is that students are able to rest, sleep in, relax and have a more casual, personal connection with the wilderness. The students are also responsible for themselves and depend on themselves without the group in turn building confidence.
With all of that said, safety is a primary concern of the BOE Staff in everything we do and that is true of the Solo Experience. Physical and emotional safety are at the forefront of the Solo Experience, without these the growth and benefits of the Solo Experience are not possible. While the students are in their own separate campsites the staff visit each student during the day for check-ins, water, therapeutic sessions, and for medication administration. The students have boundaries and guidelines to keep them safe and also whistles to communicate to staff in the event of emergency.