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Gordon's Outdoor Classroom

La Vida in the Adirondacks

Story by Gordon College January 25th, 2017

Why La Vida?

Gordon College has long been a pioneer in outdoor orientation programs, and continues to stand out as a leader in providing students with transformative experiences that ease the transition into college. We recommend that new students complete their outdoor education requirement by participating in La Vida before the start of their first year. La Vida has proven to help students form meaningful friendships, develop resiliency to face the rigors of college academics, and acquire key leadership traits that contribute to success in college and beyond. Expeditions are led by current Gordon students and recent alumni, and consist of 12 days in the Adirondacks where participants can hear God’s voice through His creation and dive into meaningful relationships with peers.

“On La Vida, I learned that God is overwhelmingly present in Christian community. Our crew of individuals, who hardly knew each other at the beginning of the trip, came together as a family by the time our journey had ended. God blessed me strikingly through my group, and I was able to enjoy the experience all the more because of it.” —Jonathan Chandra ’19

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be here now

“Be Here Now!” It’s a phrase repeated daily during La Vida expeditions. When our minds begin to wander into worry over plans or meals or grades, this simple phrase snaps us back to the present experience. Jesus wants us to surrender our worries to him so we can truly live in the “now,” trusting that he knows what is best for us, leaning into each moment and being thankful for whatever it holds. Living in the “now” is truly a gift, and it’s why these three simple words stick with students long after their expedition ends.

"Not having access to technology on La Vida was amazing. Although there were times I wished that I could post something cool on social media, being disconnected allowed me to focus more on what was around me and really embrace the idea of being present. As a result, the friendships I formed with the members of my crew were deep and true, despite only knowing them for a short amount of time." —Jeff Davis '20

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A commitment move

Whether it’s balancing on a telephone pole suspended 40 feet in the air, peering over the edge of a 50-foot granite cliff, or sharing your story at the campfire, there’s a slew of moments on La Vida expeditions that are sure to make your heart race. The point is not to create tension, but to help you decide what to do with that tension. Will you push yourself beyond the unknown, or will you return to your comfort zone? When you believe that you have what it takes, you expand your capacity to accomplish even more.

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challenge by choice

“Every failure is an invitation to growth. Mistakes are occasions for grace, opportunities to choose a different path. They make forgiveness possible. Only in the absence of success can you know yourself to be loved without cause.”

—Belden C. Lane, Backpacking with the Saints

We believe that deep growth happens when you choose to push past the comforts of everyday life. La Vida creates opportunities—through the ropes course, rock climbing and scaling 4,000-foot peaks—to develop perseverance and resiliency that will prepare you to face obstacles long after your 12 days in the wilderness. Although designed to be a challenging experience, La Vida is well within the physical limits of anyone in normal health. Most students venture out with little or no camping experience, and learn together as they go.

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Redefine Success

“An ambitious failure is better than no attempt at all. Failure gives us the freedom to change, without fear of what others think.”

—Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat

The way we measure success is important to the way we approach life. It affects our goals as well as our hindsight. Regardless of how successful or unsuccessful we consider our lives to be at any given point, the truth is that each of us has seen both moments of accomplishment and moments of failure—and the medley of those moments has shaped us into who we are. It’s not always about getting to the top of a mountain; the arduous journey through the valleys teaches us lessons that will last a lifetime.

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life in the wilderness

“The faster one goes, the more strain there is on the senses, the more they fail to take in, the more confusion they must tolerate or glass over—and the longer it takes to bring the mind to a stop in the presence of anything.” —Wendell Berry, An Entrance to the Woods

We trade our fridge for a 50-pound bag of food and warm water for an icy stream, but there’s something about the rhythm of camping that allows us to become intimately intertwined with life in the wilderness. We rise and settle with the sun. With each pull of the paddle, we experience the tranquility of the ponds. The songs of birds and crickets echo as we traverse up and over mountains. It takes time to adjust to this lifestyle, and that’s why we spend 12 days together.

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Solo

“Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” —Mark 1:35

48 hours in the wilderness with nothing more than your sleeping bag, tarp, water, Bible and journal: it’s one of the more daunting and ultimately rewarding aspects of La Vida. This is a time set aside before the conclusion of the expedition to come unencumbered before God, to reflect on your experiences and to consider your next step. These hours are spent alone, but they’re far from lonely. Through time in solitude, we find ourselves and commune more deeply with God.

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La Vida began in 1970 and has been a program of Gordon since 1982. The transformation that took place in the students led the college to make it a requirement in 1986. La Vida Expeditions can be completed before you start at Gordon. Visit www.gordon.edu/lavida/college to learn more.


Footnote: Story by Nate Hausman. Photos by Amber Hausman.
Adirondack Mountains, NY, United States
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