Sunday, December 4, 2016

Chilcotin Holidays

Riding to new Heights

“Sooo Clementine, you’ll be riding Strawberry” says our guide giving the riding orientation. Everyone laughs. We will make a good fruit salad. So here I am, Clementine, 20 years-old, from France, matched with my horse Strawberry who is 20 years-old, from the mountains. This is the third time in my life that I am getting on a horse. Three months later, as I am leading a trip in the mountains, my guest asks: “How long have you been at the ranch for?” “About three months.” “ Have you ridden horses before?” “Once or twice maybe.”

I politely return the questions, but the guest seems more interested in knowing my story than telling me hers. I am now leading her on a horse into the alpine, but it is true that a few months ago I did not even know how to saddle a horse. When I arrived at the ranch I started to work in the office. I first worked with the employment department and then moved on to selling all our amazing trips. As I am currently doing a bachelor in business administration back home in Montréal, my first interest was to gain experience on that field. After a couple of months of working hard and trying to beat my worst enemy, the $20 answering machine, I decided to experience the outdoors and the wilderness. I wanted to experience what I had been selling! Working in the office was challenging, but becoming a guide was an unexpectedly high step to take. I thoroughly read the guide binders and completed the guide test before the start of my guide school. The training in the mountains was absolutely wonderful as it was my first time in the Canadian alpine! Not long after the course, I was already leading trips based at the ranch. Who would have thought that I would be doing this, leading horse riding trips into the mountains? Not me, for sure. I was hoping I would be able to ride a few times a week, but never imagined I would be the one in the front. I left home with no work experience and I saw Chilcotin Holidays as a great opportunity to gain the latter whilst discovering a way of life in the outdoors. I had always been interested in working in the tourism industry, but knew that I did not want to spend my time sitting in an office. Chilcotin Holiday's only confirmed that!

One of the first sentences I read about Chilcotin Holidays was: “If you meet our expectations, we will exceed yours!” It sure did. I was highly interested by the “internship for leadership development” mentioned in the first questionnaire. My other main interests were to challenge myself, learn how to handle pressure, learn the lessons of failure and success, identify my strengths and weaknesses, take initiative and action, responsibility and be in charge, establish my life values, define my life goals and experience empowerment. Now looking back, I think I improved on all this points. As I was used to asking for help and directions at any time, it was quite arduous for me to look for all the information by myself. First read the binders, look for yourself, try to figure it out alone and only then ask for help. It taught me to take initiative, responsibility and even though the process might be a bit slow, it is much more rewarding than being given all the answers right away. And if you do a mistake, only you and yourself can hold the blame. Good life lessons!

At the Ranch, I also got to experience many different areas, from office and guiding through to kitchen and ranch hand work. It helped me identify some of my strengths and weaknesses, even though I still have to work on that. One thing I now know for sure is that I am much more efficient at working by myself than working with others. I feel much more empowered if I can make my own decisions and manage my own time which leads me to be more productive. Handling pressure also is something that I still struggle with, but as I have seen others having difficulties with stressful situations too, it reminded me that everything can wait for a few more seconds. It is always good to take a few minutes to think and plan, rather than rush and mess up. That is something I mastered during my bushcraft course with Nick: STOPA, which is an acronym for Stop, Think, Observe, Plan, Act. Way too often we start with the last letter and finish with the first.

Living with a small number of people and all being responsible for our own actions also brings on other life lessons. The “Do as I say, not as I do” expression does not work here because, as Kevan says, “Monkey see monkey do”! One effort that was hard for me was to lead by example. Coaching (for a short amount of time) in the office and leading horseback trips, I had to make sure that I did everything right in order to ensure that the people who followed me did it right as well. Not long before leaving, as I crossed a bridge that I was not supposed to, I learnt that leading by example was extremely important for the safety of others. The woman following me did not fall and the horse did not break his ankle, but it could easily have happened. “Always be aware of your surroundings”, Kevan reminded me. If I had been watching, I would have followed the riders in front on the right path. Furthermore, living with such a small number of people 24/7 encourages each one of us to help each other; our work is not self-related but community-related, we work for the wellbeing of everybody. If someone has not finished and it is late at night, we would all go help person. We all work together and we are all friends. Would you leave your friend struggle all alone? Surely not! I believed working in such an environment leads us to become more altruistic and considerate. And we can always count on someone for comfort and motivation.

The emphasis that there is on self-development, leadership development, progress and personal growth pushes us forward all the time. The books recommended and the little life lessons we get every day encourage those who want to go further in their apprenticeship. The Julie Witness meeting is a good exercise to look back on what we have accomplished and to refocus ourselves on our short term and long term goals. During this meeting, we also get to know what others have carried out and I believe it further inspires us to go beyond our limits. As Kevan says, we are only limited by our imagination! Seeing the work and accomplishment of others stretches our own imagination raising our own expectations skywards!

Chilcotin Holidays

About Chilcotin Holidays

We are a licensed guide outfitter and we conduct guided wilderness adventures throughout our 5,000 square km operating area. This guide area has been operational since 1880, making it the oldest in British Columbia. More about us HERE.

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