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Buckhead teen completes 3-month wilderness expedition
by Nicole Dow
June 11, 2014 01:15 PM | 1792 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Special / Tristan Litre / From left, coursemate Clay Gookin, Tristan Litre, coursemate Andrew Will-Orrego and instructor Sean Williams during the mountaineering portion of their New Zealand exploration trip.
Special / Tristan Litre / From left, coursemate Clay Gookin, Tristan Litre, coursemate Andrew Will-Orrego and instructor Sean Williams during the mountaineering portion of their New Zealand exploration trip.
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When 2013 Atlanta International School graduate Tristan Litre decided to take a gap year between high school and college, he wanted to try something outside his comfort zone.

With a little Internet research, the 18-year-old Buckhead resident came across the Lander, Wyo.-based National Outdoor Leadership School, a wilderness education and leadership building program with courses in locations all over the globe.

“I just wanted to get out into nature, because I didn’t really understand nature before and I wanted to throw myself all the way in,” Litre said.

School spokeswoman Rahel Manna said leadership development, technical outdoor skills and environmental studies are incorporated into the programs. Of the hundreds of courses offered, Litre chose the 80-day semester in New Zealand, which began Sept. 12. The wilderness expedition was broken down in three segments: sea kayaking, mountaineering and hiking.

“Each course usually has multiple skill sets,” Manna said. “For students that do a semester course like Tristan did, there are usually three to four skill sets.”

Litre said he loved his time in New Zealand.

“It was the best experience I’ve ever had, and it was definitely the biggest learning experience I’ve ever had,” he said. “It was hard and it was rewarding.”

One of Litre’s fondest memories of the trip is when he and his fellow coursemates decided to start one leg of the kayaking expedition before dawn and were able to watch the sunrise on the water.

“It was the most beautiful thing in the world,” he said.

Litre said the most difficult experience was when a bad storm hit while the group was mountaineering.

“It was too difficult for us to get down from where we were, and so we just hunkered down inside of our tents and prepared ourselves for the worst,” he said. 

“For 24 hours, we couldn’t leave our tents. The wind was so strong that it was actually tearing the tents apart. So we had to sew the tents together at, like, 2 in the morning. Nobody slept because you actually had to hold up the tent poles or else it would snap on you.”

All in all, Litre said the trip taught him about persistence, motivation and will power.

“When you’re out there and you’re walking, you have to walk for 12 hours straight,” he said. “It’s not like your body can’t do it. It’s just that your mind doesn’t want to do it, so you have to push yourself.”

Litre will be attending Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., in the fall.

ON THE WEB: For more information about the National Outdoor Leadership School, visit: www.nols.edu
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