Brian Campeau is a born and raised Californian, Veteran, Police Officer, Filmmaker, Small-Business Owner and as of last February, a dog sledding VOBS alumnus. Last year, Brian found himself searching for as he put it, “a need to disconnect, to reconnect.” Last month I had a chance to chat with Brian about his first visit to Minnesota and his first Dog Sled Expedition with VOBS.
Comfortable With the Uncomfortable
Brian first heard about Outward Bound from Veterans in Film & Television (VFT). Brian is a filmmaker and owner of the creative agency, One Ninth. VFT is a nonprofit that “unites current and former members of the military working in the film and television industry.” Outward Bound is listed on VFT’s website because we offer free courses, to Veterans and active duty service men and women. These courses are made possible through the generosity of Outward Bound donors and foundations.
Brian lives in Manhattan Beach, CA — home to one of “the top ten beaches in the world.” Of all the Outward Bound courses to take, I had to ask, “why pick the coldest?” Brian laughed and confessed, “I wanted to go on a course where I could really step outside of my comfort zone. I’m a Marine that has traveled to both Iraq and Afghanistan. I know that true growth comes from being comfortable with the uncomfortable.” So last January, Brian traded in flip flops and sun for wool socks and snow, and headed to Ely, MN.
Working With and Within Nature
In addition to providing a major contrast to Cali life, Brian tells me his Dog Sled Expedition gave him an “opportunity to appreciate nature in multiple ways.” All Outward Bound courses immerse you in the outdoors, but Brain says dogsledding offers not only the chance “to be in nature, but also to work with it.” He explains: “…working with the dogs, added an extra element to our team and crew. We took care of them but they also took care of us.” Brian describes his first time controlling a sled: “All my senses were kicking…the moment that the dogs pulled into action, reminded me of standing up on a surf board in the ocean. Part of you is in control, but part of you is holding your breath. You are being moved, but solely by nature—in this case, the sled dogs.”
Dogsledding offers not only the chance to be in nature, but also to work with it … working with the dogs, added an extra element to our team and crew. We took care of them but they also took care of us.
“Appreciation and gratitude” come up a lot during my conversation with Brian. Appreciation not just for his human crewmates, but gratitude for his canine team. Brian tells me that as soon as his crew arrived at a destination, they thanked each and every one of the dogs for helping them get there. The human/canine bond is clearly a strong one. So much so, that Brian shares with me that he asked to be on our Adopt A Dog list for “Raven,” once she retires from the sled team.
Part of going on course with Outward Bound includes a day of service. After Brian’s day of volunteering in MN, he was inspired to give back once he got home. Currently, he volunteers with The Jimmy Miller Foundation for wounded warriors. Surfing is something that helps Brian with his own PTSD, and through this non-profit organization he uses surfing to help fellow Veterans. This shared activity allows Brian to assist others in achieving the thrill of standing up on a surf board. “When the Veterans first stand up, it’s a moment of knowing what true confidence and freedom is,” Brian reveals.
I asked Brian about post-course life and what it’s like to return to work and life in sunny CA.
Brain tells me that going on an Expedition in Northern MN in the dead of winter allowed him to, “disappear, but reappear as himself…When you’re out there in the middle of the wilderness, you realize how vulnerable you are…I’d recommend this course to anyone that’s doubting themselves. Going on course was an excuse to disconnect, heal and settle. After eight days out in the field, I came back rejuvenated, and ready to work harder.”
When you’re out there in the middle of the wilderness, you realize how vulnerable you are…I’d recommend this course to anyone that’s doubting themselves. Going on course was an excuse to disconnect, heal and settle.
Brian was so inspired by his trip, he documented it in film. He captured his VOBS adventure as a way to give back to Outward Bound, “Dog Sledding and Cross Country Skiing.” Watch the video below!
We love working with Veterans and seeing moments like these captured during an expedition! Here is an inside look to a dog sledding and cross country skiing course for Veterans, with great music addition by Nahko and Medicine for the People. Also a huge thank you to the Outward Bound Student who put this footage together.
Posted by Outward Bound on Sunday, April 23, 2017
Dog Sledding Course Impressions
As we near the end of our conversation, I ask Brian to try to sum up his experience in four words. He answers quickly with three, and then expands a little on the fourth:
“Faith. In yourself, the dogs, the instructors, the crew and the gear. This experience reminded me of being in the military and the importance of requiring trust. Especially when it’s -20° and you’re sleeping outside.”
Before we wrap up, Brian tells me that this course allowed him to find happiness in the every day. “To everyone that gives to Outward Bound, Thank you. This money is going to a great place.”
Thank you, Brian, for sharing your story. And thank you to everyone who donates to VOBS. You make it possible for vets like Brian to go Outward Bound. If you would like to make our courses accessible for others please visit our donate page. If you think a Dog Sledding Expedition might be for you, get on course with us this winter!