Putting the Group First by Fiona Castorina
In 2010, Fiona Castorina was on Vermont; in 2011, she did Nova Scotia & Acadia; and in 2012, she tackled Pacific Coast. Fiona looks forward to returning to the West Coast this summer and biking with her California group. Read her essay to see why she returns to Overland every summer.
On the first day of an Overland trip, I can see that we are going to be a close group—even if other people don’t see it. Everyone is on the trip to accomplish the same goal—whether it’s to bike 1,000 miles or to hike to the top of a mountain. However what I have learned from my experiences is that it’s about the journey that you take to accomplish that goal and the people with whom you experience it.
On Vermont, my very first Overland trip, our bonding moment was on the first day. We were off of the bikes at our campsite, and a few Overlanders rolled down a hill. We were all laughing and talking as if we had known each other forever. On the first day of my Nova Scotia & Acadia trip, a parent said that by the end of the trip, we were going to become close. We were all thinking “how is that going to happen?” Later that day, I realized that it was going to be true. Our leaders gave us a task: by the end of the three-hour van ride, we had to know at least three things about a group member. I ended up knowing more than three things about many people in the group. By the first dessert circle, I felt like I knew everyone. And on my Pacific Coast trip, at the airport, I could tell that it was going to be a close group. On our van ride to our first campground, I noticed that everyone was introducing themselves to each other. A few people were helping others set up their bikes. Some were playing Ultimate Frisbee. At our first dinner, a boy was rapping which made everyone relax and feel comfortable. All of these actions helped to “break the ice”. There is never an awkward moment on an Overland trip—not even on the first day. The groups click.
As the trips progress, the leaders show us that it is not about individuals accomplishing a goal, but it is about the group accomplishing a goal together. “Putting the group first” is an important aspect of Overland. Doing little things such as holding a bike for someone while she packs up her gear or carrying more food than your fair share really make a huge difference because you are helping the group out. Looking out for each other is what makes the bond stronger. At Overland, no one is ever left out or excluded. Group members step out of their way in order to make the trip enjoyable for everyone. I love this about Overland—it’s the main reason that I come back every year. I love feeling part of something so special.
Even long after my Overland trips are done, I continue to communicate with my group members. My Pacific Coast group has our own Facebook group, and we are always talking about how we want to have a reunion. It has been seven months since our trip ended, and we communicate as easily as if we were still on the trip. I also still talk with people who were on my first two Overland trips. The connections that you make on Overland continue long after the trip is over.
Last summer when we were biking across the Golden Gate Bridge on my Pacific Coast trip, I knew that everyone was reflecting on the trip and all of the challenges that we had overcome as a group to get to that moment. We were so happy to have finally made it to our destination, but we were even happier to have experienced it with our group—which was now a family.
I have been lucky to be a member of three amazing groups. Now that I’m going into my fourth summer with Overland, I never question if I’m going to have a close group or not. I know that I will.