Some of the most pivotal moments of a La Vida trip are the moments that most people wouldn’t think twice about. From first-time participants to seasoned staff members, there are a plethora of learning experiences on trail. Oftentimes we forget about the small gears that make the machine run. However, when we pay attention to these “small things”, they can make a big impact.  

Life consists of relationships that work together for one experience. These relationships take form in three spheres: relationships to self, relationship to your team, and relationship to others. Rather than think about these relationships passively, La Vida is an opportunity to actively understand our relationships and how caring for these three spheres impacts our daily experiences. When we think about these things on trail, we can see why self-care, managing conflict, eating right, and all of the “small” ways of living are vital to not only an expedition, but to our lives as Christians. Learning how to care holistically for the relationships we experience on trail draws out the most impactful parts of La Vida for life.

As a sherpa in the Adirondacks for two summers, a Discovery Apprentice, and a prior Holistic Health Initiative team member at Gordon College, I have become passionate about promoting the holistic health of everyone involved in a La Vida expedition. While it may seem like this information is geared towards being on trail, don’t let that fool you! The holistic health care we learn from La Vida is applicable to our daily lives, as the relational spheres we experience don’t leave us once we leave the woods.


There are five areas of Holistic Health, which can be depicted as a pinwheel. They are as follows:

  1. Spiritual: health of our souls and relationship with God
  2. Mental: health of our minds and emotions
  3. Physical: health of our bodies
  4. Social: health of our relationships
  5. Academic/Vocational: health of our “learning self,” calling, or vocation

These areas of health are depicted as a pinwheel because of their interconnectedness. Holistic Health is the health of the whole being, and if one pinwheel is lagging, ignored, or broken, it can change how the pinwheel spins and works.


One of the consistent check-ins I would do with myself on trail over the summers is called HALT. HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. If I was not feeling like myself, I would HALT and ask “Am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? Or a combination of the four?” Often, they intersect and contribute to one another. The more hungry I am, the more likely I am to feel angry or tired. If I’m lonely, I’m likely to feel drained or agitated. If I was one of these things, there were practical ways which I could address each problem that would help me get into a healthier state in order to make better decisions and have a better experience.


In the example above, it is easy to see where the pinwheel falls into the three relationship spheres. On trail, HALTing would provide me with awareness about my relationship to myself, to others in my group, and to my team/co-sherpa by acknowledging where I felt vulnerable and asking for help. Ultimately, checking in on my holistic health was a way of providing care and attention towards the relationships that were shaping my experience.

Each wing of the pinwheel can be thought of as a subsection underneath the three relationship spheres that we experience. While ideas for caring for each pinwheel wing under each sphere can tend to overlap, we can break down each sphere by asking a few key questions.

  • To self: “How do I feel cared for?” 
  • To your team: “What is the best way I can care for you?” 
  • For others: “How can I best serve this group?” 

Below is a helpful exercise that you can use in any new season or experience, on trail or off trail. In this Venn diagram we can see the interrelatedness of the three spheres and the pinwheel while still being able to distinguish them with our key questions. 

Holistic Health Worksheet


The likelihood is that you are reading this in the middle of a global pandemic. What can I say? The world is crazy, God is in control. With that in mind, here is a challenge. Print off a Venn Diagram as a worksheet and see if you can fill it out for Holistic Health Care in your life right now. For self, think about self-care. For your team, think about your family or those you are living with. And for others, think about people outside of your immediate arena who may be needing help. Below are some examples to get you started.

Self-Care: Take a walk, FaceTime a friend you haven’t talked to for over a week, get into a good sleeping habit, make your favorite food, call a spiritual mentor and ask for prayer.

People you live with: Write a note of encouragement to each person you’re living with, pray together with people in your house, do a “tech-free” challenge for 5 hours, have a dance party, have each person share what they’re grateful for during this time.

Others: Buy something for your neighbor when grocery shopping, run an errand for a senior citizen, call your grandparents and pray for them, encourage someone who you know is out of work, make a meal for someone in need.


Hopefully, spending some time thinking about this has helped you realize how holistic health care can make a huge impact, from the trails to the dinner table. Here are some final thoughts:

  • Holistically caring for yourself impacts the ability you have to serve and care for others in your life.
  • Holistically caring for people on your team impacts the ability you have to make an impact as a leader, to make a friend, and to foster community in your work or living place.
  • Holistically caring for others embraces everyone as a whole person. This draws out the learning and impact of any experience far beyond the days “on trail”, but into their future lives.

Living holistically healthy is a pursuit and a journey, and there are always ways we can grow and different seasons to learn new tools towards caring for ourselves and those around us.

Article by Electa Sutton ’21, La Vida Communications Intern