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College Expedition FAQs

Is the program safe?
Safety is very important to us. La Vida has been in operation for 50 years and has a very good safety record. If you have additional questions about this program, please contact our office at 978.867.4111 or .

If I hurt myself, who is qualified to help me?
Your leaders will be certified by the Wilderness Medical Associates at the Wilderness Advanced First Aid or Wilderness First Responder level. The Department of Environmental Conservation Rangers in the Adirondacks can also be called in for emergencies and there are phones posted at ranger stations throughout the park.

Can I contact my family during the expeditions?
You will not have access to communicate with family once you have arrived at the base camp. We encourage students to be fully invested in the experience and to remain present throughout all activities. Our philosophy of “Be Here Now” starts from the time you arrive for La Vida to the time you depart and hopefully is implemented in your life after La Vida.

Special Note to Parents: Likewise, the La Vida staff will not be sending regular updates to parents during the expedition, nor will we be able to deliver non-emergency-related information to your son or daughter. Once your student arrives at the base camp, our attention is 100% on them to ensure a seamless experience. We try to send out one email update towards the end of the trip, but cannot always guarantee this. You can trust that your student is in good hands with our staff. Our program has had an impeccable safety record during our 50 years of ministry, and although we recognize that this time apart can be difficult for both parents and students, we think this can be one of the steps in establishing their independence and transitioning into the college experience.

How many participants will be on an expedition?
Groups range from 6–10 participants per group and two La Vida leaders per group. These small groups allow for participants to be active in the group, form new friendships, and learn new leadership skills.

Are there male and female counselors who can meet the potential personal gender needs of participants?
Yes, each group has one female and one male trip leader. The average student-to-leader ratio is 4 or 5:1.

Are meals provided?
All meals are provided except for lunch on the travel days to and from New York. For these travel days, participants should bring $20 for food.

If I'm afraid of heights, do I have to rock climb or rappel?
No, not necessarily. La Vida incorporates challenges designed to promote growth and perseverance on a “challenge by choice” basis, and no one is forced to complete them.

What is meant by 'Challenge by Choice'?
You will be presented with many challenges while on La Vida, and it is up to you how you will respond to those challenges. All we ask is that you give your best effort. No experience or above-average physical strength is needed—just a desire for growth, adventure and fun. La Vida has redefined success. It is not always dependent upon completing activities and is not based on comparison. La Vida creates encouraging environments that motivate participants to push themselves past their preconceived limits. We do not use (nor allow others to use) peer pressure to coerce people into doing activities.

What if I have never camped before?
Most people who do La Vida have never camped before. Your trip leaders will teach you new camping skills and the group will work together to accomplish the daily camp chores.

Can I sign up with my friends?
La Vida is designed to bring people together from different backgrounds and experiences. We can allow you to sign up with one friend who is also an incoming Gordon Student, but anything more than that could become “cliquey” and could hinder group development. However, though you may be on the same expedition trip with a friend, we cannot guarantee that you will be in the same group as them. 

How do I choose between hiking or canoeing?
Making this decision mostly comes down to personal preference. Your main mode of travel for hiking is on your feet. Hiking allows the opportunity for mountain peak views, and you will hike about 5-8 miles a day with your backpack on. Your main mode of travel for canoeing is by boat, and at times, you will have to carry your boat from one body of water to the next, called a portage. Canoeing allows the opportunity to see areas that are only accessible by boat, and you'll travel about 8-12 miles a day. Both hiking and canoeing are challenging in their own ways. We recommend that people who have a history of knee or back problems choose a canoe trip.

Is there swimming on the canoe trip?
Students are not allowed to swim on the expedition per Department of Health regulations. Wilderness swimming areas have much stricter rules than swimming pools or waterfront areas. Life jackets (also known as a PFD) are required anytime a student gets in the water as a precautionary measure in the event that their boat tips over (incidental water immersion). There may be times where you get to your campsite and the group may want to wade in the water with PFD's on which is acceptable.

Will we travel every day on the expedition?
You will be canoeing or backpacking most days of the expedition part of the program. This means that you have chances to see the lakes and rivers of the Adirondack State Park, develop your canoeing and backpacking skills, set up camps at different sites and become efficient travelers. You will canoe or backpack all your gear as you travel to different campsites.

Where will we sleep?
Most nights you will sleep in tents that are separated by gender. Under some circumstances, you will spend the night in a lean-to or under a large tarp where males and females are separated.

Are there any showers?
No, there is no running water while you are on the expedition. You may clean up in a stream, but soap can only be used 150 feet away from any lake, river, or stream. You will have plenty of opportunities to rinse off in the water. In addition to this, you can bring baby wipes and hand sanitizer with you on the expedition. You will be able to change into clean clothes before departing from the La Vida base camp on the final day of your trip.

What is the solo experience?
The solo is a unique chance to step back from the normal distractions of life and realize what is important to you, set goals for the future and realize what you are thankful for in your life. The solo also offers participants the chance to practice the classic disciplines of solitude, simplicity and silence as well as fasting and prayer. Participants are placed approximately 100 feet from each other and given the space to read, journal and spend time in nature while under the close supervision of the La Vida trip leaders. 

Do I have to fast on the solo?
The majority of people do fast on their solo unless they are diabetic, hypoglycemic or have an eating disorder. If you choose not to fast, food can be provided or you can do a partial fast with a smaller amount of food. Your leaders will prepare you, support you and ask that you give it a try. They will be checking on you a few times during the day. Fasting has a long history, and many others before you have chosen to try it. It is a chance to give up something so that you can grow in your faith.

What is the final challenge?
La Vida's final challenge is a run, not a race. You may want to challenge yourself and run the whole way for your own personal record or you may run with a small group or a buddy. Many do not run the whole way, but run a little and then walk some. All that we ask is that you do your best.

What if I have medication that I need to take daily?
All medications will be placed in the first aid kit and must have an accompanying prescription label. The trip leaders will log and dispense according to directions. We cannot dispense unlabeled medication. Additionally, we are not allowed to give out OTC medications on an “as needed” basis to anyone under 18 years of age. OTC medications may only be dispensed if a written prescription from a doctor is provided. If you are under 18 at the start of your expedition and need to take medication, you must have your physician fill out the Authorization for Administration of Medication at Camps.

What if I have a food allergy or bee allergy?
If you have an allergy that requires the use of an EpiPen, you will need to bring your own EpiPen in addition to the ones the leaders carry in the first-aid kit. Our staff have handled many allergies and can accommodate most food needs. Please contact [email protected] to discuss your food options. We cannot accommodate food preferences but can assist with medical dietary needs.

What if I don't have all the equipment? Can I borrow anything?
La Vida has a large assortment of boots, socks and clothing that can be rented for a small cleaning fee if you prefer to not buy all your own equipment. Quantities are limited, though, so if you have a need, please let us know and we can reserve them for you.