Marwa Hassan was part of the GALS trip in summer 2017. In this blog post, she describes the challenging physical aspects of backpacking.
My name is Marwa Hassan, and I am a former GALS participant. I wanted to take the time to speak to students that are either considering applying or have already applied to GALS. I’m here to share my experience and hope to give you some advice that will help you prepare for your trip because this program is by no means easy. It requires hard work and dedication like most rewarding things in life and will challenge you both mentally and physically.
Personally, I really struggled with the physical aspect, which is what I’m going to focus on. I don’t want people to make the same mistake I did. In the GALS packet, it suggests for you to exercise before the program starts. LISTEN TO IT! When I imagined backpacking, I thought it was going to be more like camping, where we would stay in one area near a campsite and each day we would explore a different part of the forest. I didn’t expect hiking at high latitudes for hours, carrying 40 pound packs on our back, and pooping in the woods.
The first day hiking was, to put it lightly, a shock. My legs were screaming at me every 10 minutes to stop and take a break. They were shaking so much I thought my legs would give out under the weight. The second day was even more difficult than the first. Because I didn’t exercise and condition myself before the program, I had to hike with sore legs. This lasted for about the first half of the program.
Now, I do not mean to discourage anyone from joining. Despite my struggle, I still enjoyed the program immensely. At the end of each day, the view from the tops of the mountains became more and more stunning. On our hardest hiking day, the view at the summit of the mountain was absolutely breathtaking. We could see the clouds below us and the air felt so clean and pure. At night, the fireflies came out and spread through the campsite. In the distance, we could see the city lights. It is an image unworthy of a description in words. It made everything worth it. The only way to give it justice is to be there and see it yourself, which is what I hope for all of you.
I hope you grasp the opportunity to be a part of this amazing program and meet amazing people! Just be prepared to tackle the physical challenges you will face.