I Said Yes... Best Decision Ever? by Ellie Pegden

Summing up Week 1 was something that would take a lot of words. There were highs and lows (often quite literally) and the whole experience was a rollercoaster of emotions that, as I sit at home writing this, makes me desperate to relive it again and again. We went, we saw, we conquered. We sang some songs (#TeamFalafel), we built some fires, we swam in some lakes. We lived, we learned and we laughed. It was a trip like no other, and something I think everyone needs to know about, but then needs to go and do for themselves…

As a socially anxious person, meeting new people (and just spending time with people in general) is terrifying, and the idea of spending five days constantly surrounded by people – who, for the most part, were total strangers – was a daunting prospect. Sure, I’d made sure to ‘take a mate’ and arrived with three close friends, but the number of people on the bus in comparison to our little group was scary. Working it out, I only knew six people in my wave before Friday. I can know say that during the five days I was in Grasmere, I have spoken to everyone there at least once. I’ve made new friends and laughed so much these last few days that my cheeks are hurting and maybe a two-day break to recover is a good thing. Still, it’s too quiet being at home without the girls in my room. I’m already missing our impromptu dancing and singing and the constant snacking and laughing. Meeting new people was scary, but once the awkward introductions were over, it was totally worth it.

For me, participating in the activities was another level of fear altogether. My previous experiences with outdoor pursuits is hardly one to gloat about, and the mere thought of gorge scrambling or a mountain adventure was enough to make me regret my decision. But, as I got to know my team (#TeamFalafel) and we all started on building shelters and fires (it was a miracle the trees didn’t burn down) I started to ease into it more, and gradually found myself enjoying it, until later that afternoon I was gorge scrambling and living my best life. Things like that don’t happen in Teesside. We don’t swim in lakes or chant as we trek up a mountain. You don’t push yourself and achieve stuff like that sat at home bingeing on Netflix.

So, what was the highlight of my trip? Easily the end of the mountain adventure on Sunday. The satisfaction when we made it up to Easedale Tarn on Sunday afternoon (in relentless sun, I might add) was a feeling I can’t really compare to any other. Perhaps I was sweating like a pig and had no water, and Megan was burnt and Caitlyn was dead on the floor and Hamza was meditating, but there was immense pride when we all arrived at that lake, staggering towards some grass (thankfully it was sheep poo free) whilst Sam went to dunk his head in the lake for some lad points. We’d already made it to the top of Helm Crag, and – in spite of aching legs and hot weather – we’d somehow made it to this lake and were relishing in the fact that 1) we’d survived that walk, and 2) the scenery and views from there were stunning. Sunday’s walk was a true team building moment (we developed our own chant) and – although my neck kills from sunburn – I’d love to repeat it.

Maybe it was pouring with rain, and maybe the basement wasn’t the best smelling place, but the Monday night was a memory that will probably stick with me forever. Along with the rest of my friends, I was a part of an impromptu disco in the basement, belting out Mamma Mia! Hits (I’m aware now that I can’t sing) and dancing to the Cha Cha Slide in leggings and a baggy t-shirt. Maybe I looked like Shrek, and maybe I looked like I’d been dragged backwards through a bush, but you know what? I was living my best life. Surrounded by friends – old and new – I found myself learning what it’s like to have a good time, especially seeing as though my experience was free of any drama that comes with a school residential.

Simultaneously one of the most action-packed yet relaxed four days of my life was definitely a week to remember. I learned things about myself (and did things) I never thought I could. I made new friends, I had fun and I laughed until I couldn’t laugh anymore. Being at home is too quiet, so I may have already started my packing for Phase 2. I can’t wait to be reunited with the rest of Team Falafel & Co. I miss them so much.
Roll on Phase 2!!