Three weeks before I was supposed to leave for my Outdoor Educator expedition, I typed up an email saying I couldn’t commit to 50 days in the wilderness and would need to unenroll. I left it in my drafts folder for a day, but I (thought I) was sure—putting my life on hold for several weeks to live in the wilderness and gain leadership and technical skills was not worth my time. Fast forward to a few weeks later, and I found myself on a ferry with seven strangers beginning our expedition in the Pacific Northwest.
My gut told me I couldn’t say no to this opportunity. I believed in the mission to get more people in the outdoors, and wanted the skills needed to contribute to that mission. When I kept circling back to that logic, I had to go on the course because I recognized it was something I truly found value in, and it was worth giving my time to. I booked my travel and packed my bags, and what I gained from saying yes was 100 fold more than I could have ever imagined.
Our days were spent in a constant forward motion; kayaking between islands and hiking to reach the next ridge. Skills were taught and developed in the moment, making the present state of affairs the only thing that mattered. I attained a range of skill sets, as promised in the course description, but the greatest gift I walked away with was the magic found in a shared experience with my crew.
Friendship and trust were built in the simplest day-to-day acts—from cooking spicy Thai noodles on the beach to setting up the tent for the fifteenth night in a row. We took turns answering 20 questions as we navigated across the sea and exchanged encouragement on hard climbing routes. One of our crew members had a birthday and we celebrated with warm, gooey brownies. When we were met with falling snow amongst the grand granite spires we embraced our place in the world with deep belly laughs and trail stories.
I would not trade those 50 days for anything. Coming back, I realized I didn’t view this season of life as being put on hold, but instead the greatest stepping stone into the next chapter of my life. Summing up my time with Outward Bound is like trying to stuff a backpack for the first time—not knowing where to start or how to end. I left with a collection of stories too long to write in a single journal, a tattered puffy jacket, a new sense of confidence, and the beauty of an unwavering community that comes only from spending an extended amount of time with others in nature. I am a better version of myself because of my crew and the lessons we learned together and from each other.
The following still shots are a great representation of the joy of those days and the group of humans who made even the longest miles worth it.
Note: All photos are credit of Charis Nichols, graduate of the Northwest Outdoor Educator expedition.
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