Kurt Hahn, the educator who founded the first Outward Bound School, believed that within every person is “an outlandish thirst for adventure.” Outward Bound Schools all across the nation continue to serve that vision through our wilderness and urban programs.
How do you decide which Outward Bound course meets your “thirst for adventure?” It’s helpful to start with the nuts and bolts of each type of expedition, and we’ve provided some details below that can help.
Benefits for Every Age
Middle School: Some of our youngest students are just leaving home for the first or second time. Outward Bound is typically the biggest thing they’ve ever done. Middle school students can expect to experience the first steps of learning independence apart from their parents and gaining confidence while doing so. They will also learn practical life skills such as cooking, cleaning and keeping track of personal belongings. Students come back from these formative experiences having made lifelong friends in a fun and new environment.
High School: High school students on an Outward Bound course are learning more about independence and natural consequences. Outward Bound covers the basics of assertive communication, giving and receiving feedback and conflict resolution. Typically, the most important component of a high school student’s experience is the social bonding aspect of going out and meeting new people within their crew. By the end of the course, many of our students feel much closer to those in their group than their friends back home.
College: College-aged students attending an Outward Bound course refine group relationship skills such as assertive communication and feedback, and work on leadership and risk management skills. They also learn a higher level of autonomous decision-making. Depending on the group, students can also dive into a diversity-inclusivity curriculum, which is one of the hallmarks of an Outward Bound experience.
Adult: Courses for adults offer a way to reset from everyday life, disrupt the daily grind and reconnect to what’s important. Courses are offered starting at 30+ years of age, and provide an opportunity for those looking for adventure or needing to unplug.
Learn New Skills
Backpacking: Most Outward Bound Schools offer courses that involve backpacking through the wilderness. Whether it’s the desert or alpine forests, backcountry travel as a group provides the time and venue to get adjusted to the rigors of being in the backcountry. You and your crew work together to solve problems, navigate the terrain and take care of each person’s basic needs, from shelter, to food, water and – most importantly – lots of fun and laughter. Check out these backpacking courses for this summer:
Canoeing: You might be interested in the peaceful waters of the Boundary Waters in Minnesota, where Voyageur Outward Bound School takes students paddling and portaging across the lakes of the great north. If adrenaline is more your cup of tea, then you might want to consider exploring whitewater canoeing, which North Carolina Outward Bound School and Hurricane Island Outward Bound School both specialize in. You can expect rapids up to class III on some of our courses. You can also expect to learn important communication and teamwork skills as you paddle with a partner while navigating increasingly difficult rapids. Check out these courses that feature canoeing:
Whitewater Rafting: Colorado Outward Bound and Northwest Outward Bound Schools offer whitewater rafting as part of their choice expeditions. Rafting provides the security of a big boat while working as an entire team to pass through challenging rapids while on expedition through the backcountry.
Kayaking: If you like water, sun, and sand, why not consider a sea kayaking course? You can travel to the tropical climates of southern Florida or the famous pirate hideaways of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Sailing: If the sailor’s life is for you, then look no further than Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, which offers courses on pulling boats, where an entire crew will learn to work together to steer, row and harness the power of the wind to get to the desired destination. The whole group will live on one ship, anchoring on different islands off of the coast of Maine during the summer and Florida during the Winter.
Rock Climbing: Most Outward Bound Schools offer rock climbing. If you’re interested in the Colorado Rockies, then the Colorado Outward Bound School is the place to go. If you’re dreaming about the Sierra’s then you will want to start plotting your way towards Outward Bound California. If rock climbing is something that you’re seriously interested in as a sport, you may want to consider either Outward Bound California or North Carolina Outward Bound Schools, as they both have options for multi-pitch progressions where you can climb up to several hundred feet in one day!
Mountaineering: Do you like the idea of high alpine travel, volcanoes, glaciers and high elevation? Mountaineering is a technical skill that combines aspects of backpacking with technical rope and safety systems of rock climbing. Colorado Outward Bound School and Northwest Outward Bound School, located near the Cascades, offer stateside mountaineering programs. Internationally, Colorado Outward Bound School travels to Ecuador and North Carolina Outward Bound School also has a long standing program based in the Patagonia region of Argentina.
Although mountaineering and rock climbing involve many of the same skill sets, they are two different, yet related, activities. Mountaineering can involve vertically climbing up a rock wall, but it can also involve glacier travel, avalanche safety, travel across snow and ice and lastly, ice climbing. Pure rock climbing involves ascending steep rock cliffs by using ropes and gear as means of protection.
Interested in both? Try a course that features both mountaineering and rock climbing: Colorado Rockies Mountaineering & Rock Climbing
If you’re thinking more about specific times of the year or groups of people that you want to expedition with, there are several specialty courses that Outward Bound offers.
Gap Year and Instructor Development Courses: While our Gap Year or Semester courses focus on ages 18 and up, you don’t have to be in college in order to enroll in these programs. However, if you are enrolled in higher education, we can work with you to get credit for your Outward Bound Semester Course, many of which also include international travel. Instructor Development Courses can help prepare you for a career in the outdoor education industry, even if you don’t have a lot of prior experience. In some cases, Outward Bound students who complete an Instructor Development Course go on to become Outward Bound Instructors.
Intercept: The Intercept program is for struggling teens and young adults who would benefit from unplugging from the distractions and influences of life at home or school. Typically 28-days long, these courses have a specific structure that incorporates high levels of accountability along with life skills, focusing on assertive communication, conflict resolution and coping skills for dealing with stress.
Pathfinder: Pathfinder courses are 30-day expeditions that are geared towards young adults who are trying to figure out what’s next in life. Students on these expeditions benefit from coaching and peer support in order to break through to the next phase of their lives.
Now that you have an idea of the expeditions offered, other questions get much easier to answer. Typically, the longer the course, the more opportunity for combining activities, such as the Blue Ridge Mountains Backpacking, Rock Climbing & Whitewater Canoeing 22-day expedition.
If you’d like to talk with an Admissions Advisor, we can help answer any questions you may have about going on course with Outward Bound. Give us a call at 866-467-7651 and tell us what expedition most piques your interest.
Returning to our founding father, Kurt Hahn, his idea around the thirst for adventure is also connected with seeking out a grand passion which lies inside of us. Outward Bound Schools across the world strive to educate the whole person so that anyone who comes through our School would continue to live outside of their comfort zone and experience the adventure of living their passion.
About the Author
Shane Ambro is a Lead Instructor, River Staff and Course Director for Outward Bound. Shane grew up attending extended backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail with his Boy Scout group, which fostered and nurtured his love for the outdoors. Before instructing with Outward Bound, Shane worked as a ropes course instructor, social worker, life coach, professional musician and copywriter. When he’s not in the field he likes to play guitar, garden, run, paddle, connect with friends and drink lots of coffee.