Eleven years and two university degrees later, I’m back to the same job I had acquired during my sophomore year of college. Outward Bound is my employer once again. Not that I’m complaining. It’s exactly where I want to be. The last Outward Bound course I instructed was almost five years ago, canoeing on an alpine lake in Washington. Today I find myself in a remarkable similar setting on the opposite side of the Earth – Patagonia, only this time I’m working alongside warm Argentines, sipping mate, crossing Andean borders, and lesson-planning in Spanish.
Outward Bound, started by Kurt Hahn in Aberdovy, Wales, 1941 was intended as a school to take students out of their normal environments, usually into the wilderness and marine domain, and impel value-forming experiences, confidence, perseverance, and leadership skills. Today, with some 40 schools spread out all over the world and 200,000 students annually, Outward Bound continues to maintain these objectives.
Instructing for Outward Bound means that you are a teacher, not a guide. You provide challenges, not summits. You have a curriculum to deliver, but no chalkboard. It means that the content you teach is dictated by your course area, whether that be geological, cultural, historical, or technical. It means that you are fully engaged in your job 24 hours a day for up to 72 days at a time. It means that you surround yourself with inspiring co-workers, and work for students who are at a mental crossroads, and wondering what next? It means that with time, you will have the opportunity to work in places like Colorado, backwoods Maine, Costa Rica, Brazil, Spain, Indonesia, South Africa, and India.
Instructing Outward Bound courses is a fabulous way of living, but for many of us, it is simply not sustainable. When I checked in for staff training this year, I realized I was one of the oldest staff in the group. By age thirty, most people are ready move on to things that don’t jive with the OB lifestyle…to settle down, buy a home, start a family. Fortunately for my Outward Bound career, that isn’t me right now. In fact, working for Outward Bound is a great complement to my travel bug, and I think I might pursue a few more seasons in places I’ve never worked. Next up, the wildest course area of them all – New York City.
And some photos from the trips….