The desert trip, described as cultish by some and transformative by others, is notorious on campus for being either exclusive or heart-opening—depending on whether you went. The “Desert Trip Glow,” as it is described by Jason Maas-Baldwin, a staff member on the trip, is a phenomenon which inhabits campus the weeks following the return from spring break, marked by enthusiastic greetings, bear hugs and even tears of joy from desert trippers.
As a returning member this year, I was definitely prepared for the eventual fadeout of the “glow,” as last year’s group definitely had difficulty with maintaining that feeling that I can really only equate to the desert trip–something a lot like happiness, but also of comfort and confidence and love.
“I think that it’s really hard for a lot of people who went on the trip to come back from a place where there was just so much acceptance and love to the real world, to high school,” Maas-Baldwin says. “Obviously, there’s a big element of bonding on the trip, so coming home to people who haven’t experienced it or aren’t comfortable with it can be difficult for a group who feel so close with each other.”
We were able to agree that the intention of the group is never to exclude anyone—quite the opposite; it’s just a very difficult thing to return to civilization after a week of such intense emotional intimacy with 50-60 other people.
“The main goal of the trip to create better people, and that emotional cleansing, the bonding with other people is just one of the ways that that happens. Being so open with other people, being exposed, it’s cathartic. That’s hard for a lot of people to understand.”
This sentiment, however, can be lost on those who didn’t go.
“I just remember feeling vaguely left out the day everyone came back from spring break and seeing everyone giving each other hugs, but I wasn’t that affected,” says Erika DePalatis, a senior who didn’t go on the trip. “A lot of people were complaining about feeling left out, though.”
Sophie Robel, an attending senior, feels similarly: “There’s a definite absence of the friendship that we all said we’d bring back. It really just lasted for the first couple of days after spring break.”
“From the inside, the trip opens up cliques and encourages bonding [with new people],” says senior David Warner, who has been on the trip six times. “But from the outside, it really just looks like 50 people with a big inside joke. It really depends on the group, though.”
Warner also notes the honest attempts at planning reunions, keeping in contact and otherwise maintaining the bonds that were created on the trip, saying that there’s a lot of love in the 51 students who went this year.
“I think the desert trippers need to try harder to be inclusive and loving to the community at large, but we’re on our way.”
So, in conclusion, fellow desert trippers, I hope we can continue to bond with and love each other in the few remaining weeks of this school year, even if that means some slight social discomfort—isn’t that how we got to know each other so well in Joshua Tree? If we can perpetuate that aforementioned desert trip-exclusive feeling, then it won’t become so desert trip-exclusive anymore. And isn’t that the point, to make this as inclusive as possible? Share the love, Padres.