Life off the grid can be incredibly satisfying; surprisingly so for some. After completing a year of undergraduate study at Rutgers University, I was fortunate to land a summer job as an Island Mate at the Brinton Environmental Center on Summerland Key, FL. As a high adventure BSAt camp, our mission was to lead small groups of scouts on week long expeditions to Big Munson Island where they engaged in sporting, leadership activities, and sustainability/local ecology education.
This barrier Island sits 20 miles from the southernmost point in the continental US and has no permanent structures. Scouts abandon all technology, load kayaks with necessary supplies, and paddle over 5 miles of ocean to their new home.
My initial experience on Munson was similar to that of our participants. The constant moisture, abrading sand, and inescapable salt creates a lingering sense of discomfort. However, after experiencing this place for awhile, I learned to submit to the will of nature. I connected deeply with Munson as it exemplifies wildness that can still exist on our constantly developing planet. As I communed with the tropical landscape, I began to welcome the unknown and appreciate the infinite complexity of life. The profound understanding that man is subject to the same rules as other organisms was transferred to the scouts that I led. Weekly, I witnessed a meaningful change in their outlooks on the world. We experienced this place together and, I was taught new truths as I guided these young people on an adventurous exploration that would test their mettle. I felt great pride in extending the connection that I felt to the island. Together, we embraced the unknown; sensing imminent storms and greeting them with open arms. Fellowship and commitment to group goals became paramount.
By departure, the worldviews of these scouts were irrevocably altered for the better. I was sad to leave at the conclusion of summer programming. Munson represents a deeper plane of existence for humans. My hope is that the lessons of nature continue to be imparted by this unique place and that it is preserved for future generations.