character building outdoor education

Sometimes Getting It Right Begins with Getting It Wrong

By Taylor Sheldon

Outward Bound was a life-changing experience for me. Outward Bound helped me with my self-confidence, and it served as the subject of my personal statement on my college application. And I recently found out that I’ve been accepted early to the college of my choice.

My Outward Bound experience began on July 6th in Asheville, N.C. I embarked on a 14-day backpacking program into the Blue Ridge Mountains with ten strangers and two instructors from the North Carolina Outward Bound School.

On day three, another girl and I volunteered to be co-leaders for the day, unaware of the challenges that were soon to come. We decided to follow a trail that ascended a rock face instead of forking off on more moderate terrain to the northeast. I led the group up the steep rock face in a rigorous climb that had us sweating profusely, only to discover there was no clear pathway leading towards our necessary descent.

It was at this moment that I realized I had to own the mistake and tell the group that, although we weren’t lost, we faced some rough hiking before anyone got any rest or dinner. Amid the nervous tension, I calmly took charge, leading the group by sliding down a steep, rocky drop-off, pack and all. The group followed reluctantly, and we soon discovered the correct trail, sliding happily towards our destination. When we reached the bottom, we were covered in dirt, laughing and bonding over the mess and how badly we wished we could take a shower.

On course, I found the courage and confidence I needed to lead my group, to recognize and take responsibility for a wrong turn but then correct it and to make the right decision at a crucial time. Outward Bound not only helped me put into perspective some of the petty matters of daily life, but it also made me realize I had the strength and resilience to push myself further than I had ever imagined.

Taylor Sheldon is a 2012 Outward Bound graduate and is from Bethesda, Md. She is a senior at Walt Whitman High School and will soon be a first-year student at Bucknell University.