Broaden your horizons with this 65-day expedition exploring portions of Maine’s coast and rivers, followed by scuba certification and sea kayaking in the turquoise waters of Panama.
Leadership is best learned by experience and on this challenging semester-long course, you will have plenty of opportunities to practice! Your journey begins on a pulling boat in midcoast Maine, where you’ll learn to sail, navigate, and work together with your crew. With some perseverance and encouragement, you’ll see how this experience builds the foundation for everything to come—emphasizing the skills you need to work together, make decisions, and manage risk on the water. During this time, you’ll also earn your Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) certification, helping you take care of yourself and others while on expedition.
Your focus will then shift inland, where you’ll follow the traditional routes of the Abenaki and Penobscot peoples as you canoe some of Maine’s most remote lakes and rivers. Your leadership and expeditionary skills will continue to grow throughout this section with the addition of canoeing and backcountry camping to your resume of accomplishments. Finally, you’ll fly to Costa Rica before traveling overland to Panama where you will earn your Scuba certification and embark on a sea kayaking expedition in the famed Bocas Del Torro archipelago on the Caribbean coast. When your expedition ends, you’ll walk away with new friendships, incredible experiences, and the awareness that the skills you learned and practiced on course can be integrated into whatever comes next!
NOTE: Outward Bound strongly recommends that all students be vaccinated against COVID-19 and up to date as defined by the CDC prior to arriving to their course start. For all open enrollment courses beginning on or after April 15, 2023, Outward Bound will no longer require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19. For questions regarding this policy please see this page or call us at 866-467-7651.
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Waitlist applicants are encouraged to complete all required admissions documents while awaiting an open position. Positions may become available up to two weeks prior to the course start date. Applicants may only apply to one course. We recommend applying to a course with open positions instead of a course that is accepting waitlist applications. If you have questions, please call 866-467-7651 to speak with one of our Admissions Advisors.
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Course start, Wheeler Bay, Maine; meet your group and being orientation
Wilderness Advanced First Aid training
Transport to Newry, Maine
Canoe expedition, Solo
Travel to San Jose, Costa Rica, orientation, transport to Bocas Del Toros Region on Panama’s Caribbean coast
NAUI Scuba Diving course, island basecamp living
Sea kayaking expedition in Bocas Del Toros archipelago
Service projects are often incorporated into Outward Bound courses through coordination with local land managers, conservation groups, government, or social service agencies. While on expedition, students are encouraged to practice service to the environment and their team by sharing responsibilities and following Recreate Responsibly ethics throughout the course.
Most College Savings Plans, including the 529 College Savings Plan, may be used to attend an Outward Bound expedition, thanks to a partnership with Western Colorado University. Anyone can register – you do not have to be a current Western Colorado University student. Registration is easy! Click here to learn more.
Develop outdoor skills. Enhance your leadership and communication abilities. Strive to increase your knowledge of the environment – all while learning wilderness travel techniques in a variety of stunning environments. The ultimate goal of our Gap Year expeditions is to help you develop the confidence, knowledge, and integrity essential for effective leadership. Whether you are learning how to safely tie in on belay, deciding as a group how to navigate through new terrain, or setting up a minimum-impact campsite for the evening, you’ll be honing and practicing skills for life.
Build skills, form connections: Amidst rugged natural landscapes, learn to lead and to follow; to give and receive feedback; and to trust in your own capabilities as you expand your technical and personal knowledge base. Find connections with your crewmates based on support and respect (and fun too!), and in the thick of challenges, discover there is more in you than you know.
Value strengths and strengthen values: Uncover your unique character strengths, exercise your independence as you gain life experience and learn how to let compassion in to everyday life by pushing your own limits and supporting your crew as you tackle obstacles together, big and small.
Demonstrate mastery: As you gain confidence in new skills and a better understanding of the natural world around you, take on more decision-making responsibilities. Work together to achieve team goals, solve problems and succeed both as independent individuals and as a group.
What you’ll learn: Examine your personal values and discover more about your true self. Hone your technical abilities as you become a master at ropes courses or swiftwater rescue techniques and Wilderness First Aid. Numerous certificates are available depending on the course, and up to 18 credit hours can be earned along the way.
Exploring new environments and building new connections will put your tenacity to the test. You’ll return with broader understanding of the natural world around you, deeper appreciation for small kindnesses and greater confidence in yourself and others that will serve you well long after you return.
Outward Bound is accredited with the American Gap Association and is the longest running program in this elite group dedicated to providing safe, meaningful and high-caliber educational experiences to students.
The 30-foot open sailboat is your home and classroom. These seaworthy boats are rigged to take full advantage of the power of Maine coastal winds, and when the winds do not cooperate, the boats can be rowed by two or four people pulling on oars. At night the boat will be configured as a sleeping platform, and you and your watch mates will take turns at anchor watch under brilliant night skies. Underway, you will learn to set your sails properly for sailing at different angles to the wind and to anticipate and respond to changes in weather. As you practice rowing, you will discover that by coordinating all of the rower’s movements so that the oars splash as one, you halve the effort it takes to travel on windless days. You will learn to navigate using a chart and compass across open water and among the bold granite islands, concentrating on the environment around you.
If your expedition route and water levels allow, you may get the opportunity to learn to run whitewater stretches of river up to Class II. You will learn self-rescue, reading the river, picking out the line you will run, and maneuvering the canoe in moving water and waves. This will give you the chance to work with your canoe partner and put together your paddle skills to run the rapid.
To travel between lakes, your group will work together as a team to carry packs and canoes over trails. Portage trails are rugged and often rocky or hilly. They vary in length from a few hundred yards to a few miles. The group will work to come up with a portaging plan that sensibly and safely distributes all of the responsibilities.
Students will have another chance to step outside their comfort zone and explore a new environment as they earn a NAUI Scuba Certification in the crystal-clear waters off Solarte Island in the Bocas del Toro region in Panama. This is a unique opportunity to learn about tropical ecology and coral reefs while participating in several dives to complete this certification. With Scuba gear securely in place, students transform into underwater explorers and experience the diversity of marine life firsthand.
This section begins on the island of Solarte where the group will spend one to two days planning and packing for the expedition as well as practicing paddling and rescues. During this expedition, instructors will train the group in the skills of kayak-based expedition travel. This section has a strong cultural immersion component with homestays in many of the villages of the indigenous Guaymi-Ngobe people within this tropical lagoon. The Guaymi communicate in both Spanish and their traditional language, of which there are only about 2,000 fluent speakers left in the world, and their dwellings are typically constructed on stilts over the water with grass-thatched roofs. Several small communities and outlying homesteads will host your group as you all explore the region in expedition sea kayaks.
The solo experience is a standard element of Outward Bound courses. With sufficient food and equipment, you will set up camp at a site on your own. The solo will last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the length of your course. Your solo site is chosen to offer as much solitude as possible yet be within hearing distance of other group members. You will not travel during this time alone, and your instructors will check on you occasionally. The solitude and break from the fast pace of your expedition allows for rest and personal reflection, which is necessary to make the most of your experience.
Our courses end with a Personal Challenge Event, an individual final physical push. These events might take the form of a running, rowing, or swimming activity, or it may be a combination of the three. This event is a chance to finish your Outward Bound Experience with a true personal challenge where you can own all of your decisions and efforts in contrast to the time you have spent operating within an expedition team.
Amongst backcountry expeditions, you’ll take a four-day training in backcountry First Aid. The Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) course is an introduction to wilderness medicine that combines classroom time with hands-on practical sessions. Students will learn how to manage injuries/illnesses in the backcountry, setting them up for safe and self-reliant expeditions in the future.
This semester focuses on developing a solid foundation of expedition skills and a greater understanding of and appreciation for the natural world. While immersed in a challenging wilderness expedition, each student will take on leadership roles. Outward Bound’s curriculum combines the skills necessary to become proficient in wilderness travel with interpersonal skills that will benefit students in any setting. Through a series of different activities, students practice applying general principles in different elements and environments, deepening their understanding of each skill and building greater levels of ability. In addition to being a memorable adventure, this semester promotes situational thinking, individual and group goal setting, evaluation of options and decision-making and flexibility and effectiveness in problem solving.
The coast of Maine, with its intricate and indented shoreline, is a unique segment of the North Atlantic seaboard. It is known among sailors for its picturesque beauty, iconic lighthouses, abundant bays and harbors, rocky islands, and quiet coves. Our cruising area covers nearly 200 miles of the Maine coast, with countless rivers, bays, and islands to explore. The rocky, spruce-covered islands are the summits of a prehistoric mountain range, and generations of inhabitants have made their livelihoods here. Evidence left behind on the islands reveals the historic presence of indigenous Abenaki camps, pre-colonial fishing communities, post-colonial timber and farming operations, and early 20th-century granite quarries. Cold, nutrient-rich waters flow from the Canadian Maritimes and make the Gulf of Maine home to a wide range of sea birds, seals, porpoises, and whales.
The mountains of western Maine and northern New Hampshire comprise the northern end of the Appalachian Mountain range. The upper reaches of the Androscoggin watershed are fed by the Aziscohos Lake, the Magalloway River, and the Rangeley Lakes. Indigenous Abenaki peoples used the Androscoggin as both a means of transportation between winter habitats inland and summer living on the coast as well as a source of food. Later the Androscoggin River was used to move logs to mills downstate during the logging boom of the 19th century. These days the lakes and rivers are used primarily by canoeists, fishermen, and other recreationists. Some of the portage trails here, such as those along the Rapid River, have been in use for centuries. These regions are the ancestral lands of the Wabanaki Confederacy, which includes Abenaki/Abénaquis, W∂last∂kwiyik (Maliseet), Penobscot, and Passamaquoddy nations.
The final phase of the program is located in Panama where the group will learn two technical skills, scuba diving and sea kayak expeditioning. The Bocas del Torro archipelago is located near the Caribbean border with Costa Rica. The islands are home to a rich, heterogeneous culture including the indigenous Guaymi-Ngobe people who are direct descendants of the original inhabitants of these islands and the afro-Caribbean Bastimentenos. The Guaymi communicate in both Spanish and their traditional language, of which there are only about 2,000 fluent speakers left in the world. Their dwellings are typically constructed on stilts over the water with grass-thatched roofs. Several small communities and outlying homesteads will host the group as the crew explores the region in expedition sea kayaks. The Guaymi-Ngobe community on the island of Solarte is the staging ground for the scuba element of the course. These regions are the ancestral lands of the Guna Yala, Guna of Wargandí, Emberá/Eperara/Épera, and Wounaan nations
If you are ready to enroll on a course click the enroll button next to the course you wish to select or you can enroll over the phone by speaking with one of our Admissions Advisors (toll-free) at 866-467-7651.
To secure your spot on a course you must submit an enrollment form and $500 deposit that is applied toward the total cost of the course and includes a $150 non-refundable enrollment processing fee.