As an Outward Bound Instructor, I’ve often felt inspired by my students. I recently reached out to former students and asked what aspects of their Outward Bound experiences have continued to positively impact them in their daily lives. It was interesting to hear several themes emerge, as you’ll read below. I was struck by how relevant many of their learnings are when considering our current global situation. It’s safe to say we’re all facing unique challenges that are forcing us to confront our humanity and inner strength. The skills developed on an Outward Bound course not only prepare you to take on challenges in everyday life but also help you embrace these instances in order to find their silver linings.
This is something I’ve been trying to practice daily—a growth mindset and a positive attitude in the face of hardships. Even when I feel pushed to my limits with stress and anxiety, I’m reminded of the strength of my students and my capacity to grow. Outward Bound has given me and so many others the confidence to weather life’s storms and discover just how capable we are. Now’s the perfect time to view challenges as opportunities to practice being our best selves so that we can better show up in this time of crisis. Shout out to all my students for reminding me of this.
As you read the following quotes from alumni, I encourage you to recognize your own strength and capacity in the face of adversity.
Comfort in the Outdoors
“My experience doing Outward Bound has positively influenced my life in countless ways, but the most notable has been my deep connection with nature. I had always been an outdoorsy kid, but during my course I found a more personal appreciation of nature within me. My Instructors never explicitly explained this, but through their behavior I learned how to respect the places I was in and find a different kind of beauty in them than I had previously looked for. I still look at the world this way today, trying to appreciate the little things, especially concerning nature. I think it’s a valuable skill to have and I’m beyond grateful to Outward Bound and my Instructors for allowing me to find this beauty and for being able to flourish because of it.” -Jackson, 2017 Alum
“Outward Bound opened up a whole range of what I see as opportunities in the outdoors. Since my course, I’ve done a 4-day solo trip in the Sierras, gone group backpacking with people from my work, and I’ve taken my brother and sister on their first overnight backpacking trip. I’ve also gone back to some of the places we went to during our course, like Joshua Tree and Smith Rock. It gave me the skills and tools, as well as the risk assessment frame of mind, to get out there. That’s what the course taught me—that once you know the basics you can keep getting after it.” -Franky, 2018 Alum
“The desire to be my best self has been very impactful. This idea resonated with me and is something I try to work towards. I see it as a lifestyle, a way of simplifying things. It’s a way of practicing self-awareness and an awareness of others. If I’m being my best self, I should be able to help others. How could I show up for [others] and be the best version of myself? It helps motivate me.” -Franky, 2018 Alum
“Something I’ve learned from Outward Bound and brought to my workplace is the practice of accountability and voicing appreciation. I ended up talking to my current superiors about the frequent practice on my course of owning our mistakes and appreciating others as a way to hold ourselves accountable, empathize and show gratitude. They thought it was a great idea and we started incorporating it into our weekly meetings. Our team has grown and it’s now morphed into something we call “shout outs,” or more of an open forum where people can appreciate one another.” -Franky, 2018 Alum
“My course taught me that ‘I can.’ I can raft that gnarly rapid, I can conquer that crag (blindfolded!), and I most definitely can hike uphill for a mile with a 40-pound pack on my back! I can be a supportive team member and I can be a strong group facilitator. I can do anything I set my mind to, even if it seems impossible.” -Haley, 2017 Alum
“Because of Outward Bound, I was able to build self-confidence and teach myself that I can do most things I set my mind to. Every time I go on a run and think to myself ‘I can’t do this, I need to stop,’ I think back to my final challenge where I ran seven miles without stopping. Anytime that I tell myself I can’t do something, I think back to when, despite all the fear, I summited Broken Top Mountain.” -Georgia, 2017 Alum
“The Outward Bound environment is perfect for testing your boundaries in a safe place. Once I learned to test myself physically, I felt like there was nothing I couldn’t do. I found that the more I overcame physical barriers, the less I was burdened by mental ones. Whenever I think of Outward Bound, I’m reminded that I can do anything I set my mind to.” –Maria, 2018 Alum
“I’ve changed immensely in the previous year because of Outward Bound. The learnings I’ve gained as a student and as an Instructor are not all that different—believe in my intuition, accept imperfections and know that I’m capable of surprising myself.” -Kate, 2019 Alum
Strength in the Face of Challenge
“Thinking back on my course reminds me that no matter the hardships I face, I’ve done something much harder. Every challenge has a reward, which doesn’t have to be tangible. Because of Outward Bound, I’ve become a stronger, more confident person, and I’m so grateful to have had this experience.” -Georgia, 2017 Alum
“The most impactful lesson I learned was that to grow, you have to push yourself. I recognize the importance of challenging myself and being uncomfortable to grow, and I’ve taken that attitude with me to college. It has helped me flourish academically and socially. In every moment where I feel afraid or challenged, I think back to how my previous experiences have prepared me for the task at hand, and I’m inspired to push through my doubts and anxieties, trusting that I have it within myself to succeed at anything.” –Maria, 2018 Alum
“I’ve learned to embrace the fear. I’ve allowed unknowns to teach me the facts I was too afraid to confront in the past. I allowed the Outward Bound journey to prove itself not only as an exposure to a world of physical potential but also emotional clarity.” -Kate, 2019 Alum
“My Outward Bound adventure was a vastly liberating, inspiring experience that I believe has changed my character and the course of my life. My plan after college is to travel, work for Outward Bound and one day become a ranger in a national park. All of these goals I came up with while on my course.” -Haley, 2017 Alum
“Without Outward Bound, I wouldn’t have been driven to major in Recreational Management with a concentration in Outdoor Education, with the hopes of being an Instructor myself one day.” -Georgia, 2017 Alum
“I’m now an Instructor at Outward Bound because I saw my best self through my 50-day experience. I want to continue to pursue the mission of challenging others to be their best selves.” –Kate, 2019 Alum
A Highly Transformational Experience
The Outward Bound experience has the potential to be highly transformational. As Instructors, we often tell our students, “You get out of the experience whatever you put into it.” Reconnecting with my former students and hearing how they’ve continued to put energy into being their best selves reflects the long-term impact of this idea. The Outward Bound experience doesn’t end on the final day of a course. If anything, a course is just the foundation upon which you continue to build and grow as an individual, and thereby inspire others.
Whether you’ve taken a course, are a supportive family member of an Outward Bound alum, worked as an Outward Bound Instructor, or just love Outward Bound and our programs, you are always Outward Bound. Update your contact information so you can stay connected.
About the Author
Ari Kosel is an Outward Bound Instructor in the Northwest. Her love of the outdoors was cultivated at a young age exploring the rivers and trails around her home dome of Mount Shasta. Top three things she loves on any adventure: dried mango, watercolors and Sriracha.
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