The idea of summer as a chance to relax, recharge and forget about everything sticks with us long after the idyllic weeks between elementary school grades are gone. Children have a way of reminding us adults that it’s important to play more and not take things too seriously. In my opinion, youth have the right expectations and approach to summer.
When we are in our youth, we act as the architects of our summer break, with imaginations running wild in the backyard. As we get older, we sometimes lose that imagination as responsibilities close in and summer starts to feel like a given number of weeks where the weather is warmer but the workload is the same.
If you’re ready for a summer break that feels different than your spring, winter and fall, here are five things you can get out of an Outward Bound Adult expedition this summer.
Being tucked warm and dry in your sleeping bag as rain hammers the tent above you is one of the best feelings in the world. During moments like these, it’s easy to be grateful for the simple structure that protects you, and it helps you think about how much more you have back home that you may not necessarily need. Anyone who has traveled in the woods can attest to how delicious even the most straightforward meals can taste. Expansive horizons are cliché for a reason – looking out on the expanse of the world seems to universally cause feelings of smallness, humility and reflection within you. Having distance from your everyday life will make you more grateful when you return, while also giving you clarity around what really matters.
Regardless of what your day-to-day is, an Outward Bound expedition will be a change of pace that can pull you out of your routine. We are creatures of habit and can thrive and feel comfortable when things are predictable. But too much routine stifles creativity and we forget what else is possible. Your summer break is a chance to re-set and evaluate your routines, choosing which ones to carry forward for a good fall and winter.
It’s also a break from technology. Even teens on my courses who struggle with self-awareness have admitted to being reluctant to receive their phones back after their course. Why? Because they recognize that their time without them has forced a level of interaction, presence and connection that they know will be a struggle to maintain back home with media constantly at their fingertips.
We are creatures of habit and can thrive and feel comfortable when things are predictable. But too much routine stifles creativity and we forget what else is possible.
Outward Bound courses are also a lot of movement, which is out of the ordinary for many of us. Moving our bodies across landscapes and up mountains reminds us that we are consistently poor judges of what we are capable of. Even my local mountain that I’ve climbed a dozen times still shocks me, looming above me as the trail climbs – I still find it hard to believe that my body can get up there within a few hours.
Human-powered travel happens at a meditative pace. Whether paddling or walking, it takes time to get where you’re going, with plenty of space for thoughts. Quiet moments provide the opportunity to reawaken dreams and set new goals. Kurt Hahn, Outward Bound’s founder, sensed that we all need to accomplish things we didn’t think were possible and that an outdoor expedition is an excellent tool for doing that. It turns out that Everest doesn’t have to be your destination in order to feel challenged. The feeling of standing on top of an unnamed 6,000-foot peak can be enough inspiration for years to come—if I could do that, I can do anything.
4. Connections to New People and New Places
In a year when many of us have gone far fewer places and met fewer new people, especially in person, it’s easy to forget the effect that newness has on the brain. New people bring new challenges, new ways of thinking, new combinations of personalities. They bring out strengths and sides of yourself that have been tucked away. Being with new people in a new place is exhilarating and terrifying, which cues the brain to stay on alert and be ready to learn.
Gone is the feeling of reading the same sentence over and over again on the couch without catching any meaning. The natural world requires quick responses—it only takes a moment for water to soak through a pack dragging in the lake or for a moose to duck out of sight. Your brain wakes up and soaks it all in, feeling more stimulated and needed than it has in a long time.
New people bring new challenges, new ways of thinking, new combinations of personalities. They bring out sides of yourself that have been tucked away.
Kids know it. Playing in the woods is fun. You can lean back in the canoe and relax with the sun on your face or listen to owls call in the evening around the campfire. You can skip rocks or go for a swim. You can find yourself rebuilding a relationship with your inner child, relearning how to play in the woods on the adventure of a lifetime.
As we get older and face more responsibilities, it’s less likely that the summer break we need will just happen to us. It takes planning and commitment – so, what do you want your summer to be?
Adult Summer Break Expeditions With Outward Bound
Adult expeditions are run year-round with course offerings for ages 18+, 18-25 and 30+. With a range of length options and activity offerings, there is sure to be an expedition perfect for you. Make your summer what you want it to be on one of our upcoming summer adult expeditions or check out these expeditions now enrolling:
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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