When we applied to be an i2P youth ambassador, we all knew that we were up for a big challenge. I mean, running multiple marathons through the driest desert on earth just screams physical and mental challenges. As i2P’s most diverse team of Youth Ambassadors yet, we realized that our personalities are quite different. Some of us were adventurers while others were introverts; however, each one of us brought something special to the team that no one could supply. Likewise, the variety of challenges that we faced ended up being really different to what we had expected.
Adapting to the Desert Life
JP had a difficult time transitioning into expedition life. His first time in a tent, he spent fifteen minutes trying to figure out the sleeping bag’s zipper! When it came time to run, the first few days he had to plug into his iPod to run comfortably: he wasn’t used to life without technology. However, on Day 3, he felt that he wasn’t connecting with the team as well so he made a huge decision to stop using his music to run in order to communicate with his teammates better. From that day onwards, things became easier because we were able to tackle the challenge of no technology as a team!
Val found through this adventure that working with accomplished people from all over the world was more challenging than expected. Great individual athletes coming together as a team was the most difficult part of this expedition. Everyone took on a different role in this team and Val found that the outgoing, loud and excited type was not the person she needed to be to bring the team together. Instead, she did what she knows best which is to keep her head high, push forward, be strong; and hopefully, the others would follow. This experience proved Val that both weaknesses and strengths makes a team, and it is how everyone deals with these together what determines the success of this team. In the Atacama, each team member had a different role that collectively enabled us to achieve the impossible.
Never Underestimate/Overestimate Yourself
So many emotions and experiences in just two weeks, Alex thinks it’s really difficult sum up in just a few sentences; probably this expedition can’t be described with words. Alex has gained a family: two sisters and two brothers…and more than ten friends. Because he was the fastest runner, this lead him to think that it would be easy, but this thought crushed on the wall of the reality. When faced with the first difficult moment on Day 3, his only intention was to drop out but thanks to an amazing and supportive team, he reached the end. Not as five individual guys and girls, but as a TEAM with tons of ups and downs, and ups again. Sometimes envying his companions for the mental strength or for their charisma, but in the end with the consciousness that everyone has their role: everyone has his or her peculiarities which makes that individual unique and at the same time only one fifth of the team. Being normal and weak doesn’t mean being a loser, believing that you can do everything by yourself will lead you to failure.
Flo thoroughly enjoyed the entire running part of the expedition and was surprised that physically and mentally it was not as tough as she had expected - being around the amazing teammates and in the incredible environment helped her to stay super energized and positive. This state of mind made everything seem easier!! The biggest challenge is yet to come: applying the same frame of mind and lessons learned back home. The time to depart is fast approaching, which is sad, but also an opportunity for further adventures.
Stephen could not be more proud of the group of Youth Ambassadors, and the i2P team as a whole. When arriving in the Atacama, the feelings of excitement were so powerful that it was hard to really focus on what challenges were ahead. It may not have been as physically challenging as expected; however, mental and emotional strengths were tested each day. Bonding as a team through encouragement and support allowed Stephen to reflect on the importance of teamwork in accomplishing such an important goal. After just two weeks together, the friendships that have been made will last a lifetime. As the expedition comes to a close, the hardest part of this whole experience has proven to be saying goodbye to such an incredible group of people.
The Atacama Youth Ambassadors are now off to their respective countries, but their unbreakable bond and friendship continues. The team is ready to pass the torch.