While Outward Bound is well-known for its youth expeditionary programs, some can be surprised to learn that we also offer courses for adults. These courses range in length, with options for those over 55, specifically for women, veterans, young adults and those interested in outdoor leadership. These courses, both with and without specific populations, provide a chance for adults to step outside their routines and regular responsibilities. Distance from one’s daily life often provides adult students with insight into their patterns and priorities.
Adult courses still focus on expeditionary travel, with opportunities to examine leadership and communication styles. Ample space for reflection is included as adults often (though not always) arrive with a clearer understanding of what they’re hoping to get out of their experience. It can be a chance to hit “reset” after a major life change or difficult time, to reconnect to one’s values and one’s self.
Invest in Yourself
Just as with youth, setting aside the time and resources to take a course is an investment in yourself. With the demands of life often pulling us to put all of ourselves into caring for others or working for others, choosing to work on yourself and care for yourself can feel like a radical and unusual choice. Because our courses happen in a group, it can be inspiring to connect with your crew and find a community of other adults who have made the same choice.
Instructors come with plans and curricula, but they’re also experts at tailoring the experience to the needs of the crew. Outward Bound’s small group sizes allow for an experience that’s personal rather than one-size-fits-most. Expeditions may share many similar elements with youth courses, and Instructors recognize that adults are more capable of voicing their needs, processing events and using metaphors to make connections between the course and their life. Adult students often have their own life experiences that they understand their experience in the context of, rather than younger students who are building their sense of self. Instructors are there to facilitate and validate, rather than dictate what it is that students should be taking home from their courses.
One adult student I worked with understood—as soon as she saw the high ropes course—that it would be extraordinarily difficult for her, and it was a chance for her to say “yes” to challenges. This came from a place where she felt she’d been saying “no” to a lot of challenges at home. She felt comfortable explaining her fear of heights and how she anticipated her body would react when she climbed up there. She offered no excuses and set boundaries for what she would ask herself to do, knowing it may be much less than other students, but it was the right amount for her.
Another adult student spoke to me in a check-in during his overnight Solo experience about self-acceptance and love. He later shared that during his Solo, he had reached a decision about the next steps in his relationship.
It can be easy to see time set aside for yourself get gobbled away by minnows—little tasks and interruptions and demands and distractions that never seem to end. Especially in the era of constant connection with work, family and friends, putting physical distance between yourself and your life can be one of the more effective strategies for ensuring time to yourself really happens. Deep in the backcountry, distractions are limited to birdsong and berries, allowing for a level of reflection and thought that can be difficult to achieve at home.
Outward Bound is part of a long tradition of people traveling away from society to gain insight. An expedition can be a relevant and powerful way to recharge and focus on your next chapter, whatever that may be. Take the first step today to become part of a crew!
About the Author
Renee Igo was an Outward Bound student at age 15, and has been instructing wilderness expeditions for the Voyageur Outward Bound School for the past eight years. When not instructing, she holds a variety of other teaching positions and raises sheep in Maine.
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