Bug Bites

Describe a location that has shaped you.


My legs are dotted with faded scars left behind by mosquito bites.

Sitting in a stuffy classroom in early September, I look down at them nostalgically. In June, my feelings towards mosquito bites were less cordial. I had just begun a 45-day backpacking trip in the Brooks Mountain Range of Alaska, a place whose website dons a whole page simply on avoiding the pesky insects. During the first weeks spent in the mountains, my skin crawled with bugs. The bites emphasized the aching in my legs left by long days of hiking over the unstable ground. They spread across my hips and shoulders alongside bruises from my 70-pound backpack. The itch kept me up at night, tossing and turning in a claustrophobic tent.

When the physical challenge threatened to overwhelm me, I asked myself why I decided to give up a typical teenaged summer for a trip to the Alaskan wilderness. The answer was easy to find. I wanted an experience that would push me as far from my comfort zone as possible for the sake of personal growth. Spending my time doing seemingly meaningless things had grown exhausting. While backpacking, each step is aimed towards a point on the map. Items are only carried if they’re purpose justifies their weight. Every action is deliberate,...

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