I wasn’t supposed to ever go to Wyoming. I had originally signed up for a summer study abroad trip to Ecuador that got cancelled because of a lack of enrollment – and when I found out that the alternative was to go to Wyoming, I was more than a little disappointed. What could I possibly gain out of a trip to Wyoming compared to doing coursework in the Amazon Rainforest? I was determined to make the most of it though, and I am so glad I didn’t back out.
Wyoming was worlds beyond anything I could’ve ever imagined. I have never felt more connected in my entire life – to nature, the past, the future, myself, others; for a whole six weeks I simply existed as part of systems that are so much larger than myself, as much an interloper as a crucial component.
I remember sitting in one of the many museums that we visited, early on in the trip. I was looking at the fossilized skull of a triceratops when the magnitude of the moment truly snapped into place – the two of us, separated by millions of years, occupy the same floating rock in the vastness of space. Two earthlings, neither more important than the other, both a testament to the complexity of existence. These feelings were strangely mirrored not long after, when I went on an early-morning walk and encountered a moose on the trail. I again locked eyes with a creature that I share this earth with and, before I high-tailed it back to camp, had an intense moment of fleeting connection. There is so much ego in humanity, to think that somehow we have more of a claim to this place than anything else. The earth and its life has existed for long before us and it will continue to exist long after, the human race just a blip in the fossil record (if we’re lucky). Some may find that disheartening, but I disagree – it’s what makes life worth enjoying, rather than merely living.
Wyoming taught me to savor the small moments. Watching the sun rise over the badlands as I sat in contemplative silence with my friends, herds of pronghorn sprinting across the prairie, the icy cold water of swimming under the Tetons at sunset, and countless more relatively insignificant moments that each made profound impacts on me. Even kicking a cactus and picking the needles out of my foot for weeks was worth the pure glee of playing hacky-sack with our crew. And the stars. Oh the stars – as any one of my classmates would tell you, the stars hold a special place in my heart, and Wyoming had the best of them. I could (and have) ramble at length about the cosmos, but I’ll spare you. The moments I felt most at home were the ones sitting with the people I have grown so close to, waiting for everyone to see one last shooting star before going to bed.
It’s not something that can be conveyed quite right in words, the intense connection that Wyoming fostered. I am so glad to have 14 other classmates who experienced it all with me and understand just how profound every moment of this trip was. I learned so much in the classes I took on this course, but I learned so much more in the simple lived experiences of Wyoming – things that will not only be carried with me back to Pittsburgh, but through the rest of my life. Until next time, Wyoming – not an if, but when.
I wasn’t supposed to ever go to Wyoming. I am forever grateful that I did.