Seventeen year-old Kristen Ewing is a 5-time Outward Bound alum. Totally unprompted, she wrote us a great letter about the impact of her courses. It turned out that she lives in New Jersey, where our newest Outward Bound Council is forming to support local students.
We wanted to share it with you:
“When I look back at the past four years of my life, I ignore the routine things of a teenager’s life and think of the things that really made an impact: five Outward Bound courses, totaling 84 days in the wilderness before my 17th birthday.
I climbed knife-edge ridges of 14,000 foot mountains without ropes, navigated rapids in rafts and canoes, scaled the side of a rock face, raced to camp in the pouring rain soaking wet trying to beat the lightning, began hiking in the dark, eager to greet the sunrise, and got to camp after midnight with a smile still stretched on my face. In those 84 days I watched more sunrises and saw more stars than I had in my pre-Outward Bound life. My jaw has dropped while making that final step to the top of the pass more times than I can count. I’ve laughed so hard I’ve cried, and then fell over as my knees became weak. Racing into the pouring rain to make calzones while crouching under a poorly-assembled tarp has never been so fun and midnight bathroom runs have never been so annoying. I’ve collapsed into piles of snow in both December and July and have had snowball fights in both shorts and sleeping bags. Each expedition was different from the last, and I never knew if this one would be the last. Yet they were all unforgettable.
Each course was unique, different, and special. Each presented different challenges and unique obstacles that my patrol and I had to work around. Each taught me something new. I learned that it’s okay to ask for help and you don’t become any weaker because of it. I learned that my limits aren’t really my limits and that I can push myself as far as my path may lead. I’ve learned it’s just as difficult to be a follower as it is to be a leader. I learned that friends can become family quickly when you’re suspended on the side of a rock wall, shaking with tired muscles, ready to give up, but you hear your patrol cheering you on and their enthusiasm transforms into energy, propelling you to the top with a smile stretched from ear to ear.
I’ve tried so many times to put my experiences into words, but it’s one of those unquantifiable things. I smile every time I see my five pins lined up on my desk and refuse to throw away my river shirt which, once white, is now stained brown. I refuse to scrape the final pieces of dirt off my boots and smile whenever I see them. My “plastic socks” which I wore in between my socks while dogsledding remain in a secret shoe box on the top shelf of my closet, right next to my journals and certificates. I smile whenever I put my dirty wool hat on or look at the holes in my fleece made from rocks, sparks, and slips down the mountain. I admire my rain pants that are now spotted with repair tape, from yellow to tan to brown, and remember how each hole was made, whether brushing against a rock or climbing over a log. I proudly display my Outward Bound t-shirts and animatedly tell people about my New Year’s Eve spent on a frozen lake in -30 degree temperatures.
It’s too easy to say that Outward Bound changed my life. Saying that I’ll never forget my experiences from course doesn’t really explain the impact they had on me. The inspiration and excitement of those I met is forever instilled within me. There is never a day when I don’t sit and smile while drinking tea out of my Outward Bound mug or something small reminds me of course and I explode with excitement.”