Signing up for an Outward Bound expedition is not easy. We know that no matter if you are a parent of a student or the one going on the expedition yourself, the process and days leading up to the experience can be filled with questions. From who will be with me to what should I pack or even where do we go? We hope to answer some of those questions in our four-part series: What to Expect on an Outward Bound Expedition.
First on the list of what to expect is your crew. Keep reading for an Instructor’s inside look into your community at Outward Bound.
An Outward Bound Crew
So you are set to go on an outdoor expedition or considering signing up for a course. Great, we can’t wait to meet you. You might not know this yet, but you’re about to meet a group of people who may be very similar to you or very different—either way, they’re about to become your day-to-day, hour-by-hour community—your crew.
When it comes to an Outward Bound course, your crew is a foundational aspect of your time on an expedition. The wilderness and the outdoor activities you’ll encounter are simply the medium through which community is built and experienced.
On an Outward Bound course, learning through experience is the name of the game—and that experience is shared with your crew. Personal growth on a course is inseparable from the crew alongside experiencing it alongside you. At the end of the day, you will learn about the world and yourself in a new way, regardless of who else is signed up.
For more concrete answers and resources to select the proper course for you or your child, keep reading.
Who Signs up for an Outward Bound Course?
As an Instructor, I receive this question all the time. I have seen such a variety of students on courses that it’s hard to sum it up. Generally, most people who sign up for an Outward Bound course are doing so because they are seeking some selection or combination of adventure, challenge, community, break from routine, connection with nature or character development. Since the pandemic, I have met more and more students who signed up for Outward Bound simply because they want to meet people and make friends.
I have observed that students who are bought into the experience, generally get more out of their expedition. Of course, there are always students who are not 100% stoked about the trip, maybe a parent signed them up, or their school runs a mandatory trip each year. Though on average, students signed up for an expedition are individuals ready to have a full-on experience and live in the present.
Outdoor Experience Levels
Students undoubtedly arrive at their Outward Bound expedition with a range of experiences. It is not uncommon for students who have slept outside more times than they can count in the same crew as students who have never slept outside. This range of outdoor experience levels can vary based on the expedition program type you are interested in. For example, students on an Outdoor Educator Course might collectively have more backcountry experience than say students on a middle school or high school backpacking course.
If you are someone who is new to camping, fear not! We are glad you’re here—the course is designed for you. If you are someone who has tons of experience in the outdoors, fabulous—your expedition is also designed for you, and new realms of challenge will emerge for you on the course.
There are a wide variety of age ranges depending on the expedition you choose. On teen courses, student groups are within 2-4 years of each other. Some adult courses may be as broad as 18-25, 18+ or 30+. It is not uncommon for adult courses with such a wide age range to see a student or two in a different life stage than other crew members. In my experience, this has not been a problem for that individual or crew, but that is entirely situational.
If you need more course-specific details to make an informed decision about whether a course is the right choice for your age or your child’s age, our Admissions Advisors can help you work through that decision. In general, the age of your group will largely depend on the program type selected. Use the expedition finder on our website to filter by age to find a course that best suits you or your child.
Benefits of a Diverse Community and Crew
As mentioned, crewmates may be similar to you or vastly different—that’s the beauty of it. Outward Bound students make deep, fast and genuine connections through shared experiences with their crew. It’s a vulnerable and strong thing to step into discomfort in front of others—to share your life’s story, paddle a scary rapid or prepare a meal for 12 people.
Creating a safe emotional space is one of the main goals of an Outward Bound Instructor. The people are what it’s all about, the community dynamic is the experience. Through sharing and fostering a positive crew culture, everyone involved can learn from others’ perspectives, giving the course the potential to be a training ground for compassion.
Lean Into the Unknown
Hopefully, the topics covered here can assist you in making an informed decision. Ultimately, every crew member says “yes” to this new experience without knowing who else is in the crew. Time and time again, I see the relationships formed while on an expedition being one of the most rewarding parts of the entire experience for students.
About the Author
Addie Hurwitz is a field Instructor for the North Carolina Outward Bound School, primarily out of Table Rock base camp. Addie has a degree in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management from Penn State University. She loves working in experiential education and takes similar joy from studying its academic side. When not on a course, Addie is likely skiing or traveling.
OTHER POSTS YOU MAY LIKE