1. Do you need backpacking or camping experience to go on a Rites of Passage Vision Quest or other nature-based program?
You don’t need backpacking or camping experience—we’ve had people come who had never slept outdoors, and did fine. While all our programs involve time spent in nature, they provide different levels of challenge. Some shorter programs take place at a retreat center (where you’ll sleep indoors and eat meals from a kitchen) or campground (where you’ll sleep in a tent and help prepare food). For the Vision Quest, there are two types of base camp, walk-in and drive-in. While our walk-in base camps are usually less than two miles from the trailhead, drive-in base camps are a good choice for people who can’t carry a backpack this distance. You don’t need to go far from base camp to find your solo site--it could be within ½ mile of base camp and still offer you privacy and beauty.
2. Do you need to be in great condition to undertake a Vision Quest?
You don’t need to be in exceptional condition, just reasonably healthy. A good measure of adequate conditioning for the Vision Quest: to be able to walk a couple of miles on level ground. If you get out of breath or exhausted doing this, try walking for a few weeks before the quest begins.
Our summer programs take place at higher elevations, which require some acclimation to the thinner air. If you have difficulty adjusting to altitude, consider coming on a fall, winter or spring program at a lower elevation.
3. What equipment is required for Rites of Passage programs?
For the Vision Walk and most weekend programs, you’ll just need equipment to undertake daytime excursions into nature. A day pack, hiking boots or sturdy shoes, a water bottle, sun hat, sunscreen, personal emergency kit and journal are the main items.
For the Vision Quest, you’ll also need a warm sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tarp, rope, ground cloth, more water, and possibly a tent (for campground nights). Click here for a complete equipment list for the Vision Quest. You don’t have to buy everything, you can rent or borrow gear and we can often loan some items.
4. Why do you suggest fasting for the Vision Quest? What if I can’t fast?
Many spiritual traditions and religions use fasting to help induce a shift in consciousness and mark a change from ordinary daily life. We recommend the fast for spiritual reasons, not for health reasons (although there may be health benefits to fasting). Fasting helps clarify the mind and spirit, even as it weakens the body. You could say that fasting “opens doors to the other world.” Rumi puts it this way:
We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox
is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and the belly are burning clean
with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
Adults and older teens in good health should be able to undertake a 3 or 4 day fast safely, but some people cannot or should not fast, for example diabetics, or people taking certain medications. If you have any medical concerns about fasting, check with your health provider. If you can’t fast or choose not to, we suggest eating lightly as an alternative.
5. Why should I choose to go with Rites of Passage instead of another organization?
We’ve been doing this work for over 35 years. We’ve learned a great deal about guiding people on rites of passage in nature during this time, and we’ve incorporated this learning into our program designs. Our work has been field-tested with a wide range of communities: youth, young adults, women & men, with diverse cultures in the Czech Republic, South Korea, Australia, Denmark, and with Native Americans. We’re pleased to say that we’ve met with great success with all these audiences.
We meet the highest standards for safety and professionalism in our work. There are at least two staff on every wilderness program, so in an emergency requiring a participant to leave, one staff person would always remain with the group. On each Vision Quest program there is at least one staff who is a certified Wilderness First Responder, trained to save lives in a wide range of back country emergency situations. We also obtain special use permits for all programs on Federal lands, something that is required by law. Permits help protect participants as well as safeguarding the environment.
There’s also an intuitive aspect to choosing a guide organization. With our approach of providing loving, caring support balanced by just the right amount of challenge, our work will appeal to those
• who are on a healing path
• who are looking for a rich experience of community
• who know they must step into the unknown despite feeling afraid
• who feel called to the hero’s/heroine’s path
• who feel called to live a life of purpose
• who feel called to live in accord with their deepest nature
• who long for a deeper connection to nature
6. How do I know if I’m ready for this?
A rite of passage marks a change in life stage. In our culture, these ceremonies have largely disappeared or lost their transformational power. But at a time of transition, you may be hearing the call to quest, deep in your soul. It’s a part of our human nature.
A Vision Quest, as a rite of passage, has a three-part structure: dying to an old life, crossing a threshold into “the other world,” and returning to the world you left behind. On the Vision Quest, you can dialogue with everything as “Sacred Other”: plants, animals, air, stars, wind. Our ancestors surely knew how to do this, but our modern world has forgotten.
Such a ceremony doesn’t mark what we wish were true, it marks what is true in our deepest nature. A young person on the threshold of adulthood already has all the capacity she needs to take on the freedom and responsibility of the new status—but she doesn’t know it yet. The Vision Quest solo, with its immersion in solitude and silence, offers a challenge that will allow her to claim the truth that has been growing inside: yes, I’m capable and ready.
Or maybe a man feels a lack of excitement and passion in his work, despite being successful. He feels something deeper calling to him, but isn’t sure what it’s telling him, so he decides to participate in the Vision Quest. As he prepares for the solo with the support and encouragement of the program guides, he begins to understand what his soul is telling him: he needs to live fully from his passionate heart. When he steps into wild nature, he encounters his own wild soul, listens to its song, and begins to live from this bigger self. The poet David Whyte expresses it beautifully:
You must learn one thing.
the world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
~from Sweet Darkness
You’ll know you’re ready when you can’t ignore the inner calling. As you embark on the journey, you will undoubtedly meet old ghosts, doubts, failures, childhood wounds that call to be healed. Your fears may suddenly rise up, threatening to defeat you before you even get started. But—and this is key—fear is just part of the territory. You continue despite your fears; this is called “courage.” Surrounded by the beautiful wilderness and with loving support from the community of guides and questers, you discover the place where you are already “home,” already whole.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
~ Wild Geese by Mary Oliver