Chris Comodeca sent her daughter on a Voyageur Outward Bound School course over ten years ago. For her daughter, one course turned into three, and then turned into a professional rock climbing and photography career. Last month, Chris tried Outward Bound for herself. She returned refreshed and rejuvenated after eight days in the Boundary Waters on a VOBS winter dog sledding course. I had the pleasure of talking to Chris about trying a new adventure, finding joy in every day and the importance of compassion.
Q.) Where do you work? And what inspired you to pursue a career in this field?
A.) I currently have three places I work. Brookhaven Hospital, a small community hospital in New York, Mather Hospital, a sleep studies clinic in New York and Norweigion Airlines, as a flight attendant. I fly every other month and look at it as my retirement job. It’s a great way to keep me challenged. I’m moving and changing all the time.
I decided to pursue a career in healthcare after working at Shriners Pediatric Burn Hospital. That experience had the most impact on my career. I worked there as a respiratory therapist. The inspiration started while I was in school. Being burned was the one thing in the medical field that everyone feared along with drowning. I had an opportunity to do an internship there and decided to face that fear. Because of that, I had to be on their flight team. I grew up in an airline family and flew from a very young age. The combination of flying and saving lives was my dream job.
Attitude is Everything
Q.) What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
I don’t have digital. I don’t have diddly squat. It’s not having what you want. It’s wanting what you’ve got.
I was 30 when this song came out and it was at the perfect time for me. I grew up poor and used to think if I could afford designer jeans, or the latest trending item then I’d be accepted. When I had kids, I had more of an opportunity to give them things but saw that because of that, they never had a “favorite.” They didn’t know what it was to truly want something.
Materialistic things don’t bring happiness. It’s about recognizing your weaknesses and your strengths and accepting them both.
Q.) What is the best advice you’ve ever given?
A.) So many times you say things that you think resonate with others, but you don’t really know. So I decided to ask my kids! I sent out messages to my son and daughter and here’s what they said:
My best advice remembered by my son: “Have patience, everyone grows and develops at different times.” Also, “Do not let your past dictate your present and future.”
My best advice remembered by my daughter: “You gave me support on anything I’ve been passionate about.”
Q.) What is your advice for future leaders?
A.) Right out of the Voyageur Outward Bound School Readings Book, a quote from Jack Welch:
Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.
Q.) What is your favorite outdoor activity?
A.) That is like asking who is my favorite child. I love them all. Each one is unique and resonates something special in my heart and soul.
Q.) Tell us about a person that changed your life for the better?
A.) I was lucky to have a very special woman mentor me; her name is Pammy. She came into my life when I was a teenager. She was the girlfriend of my father’s best friend and saw that I did not have a mother figure. When I was in tenth grade I remember she was helping me with my hair for prom and offered to be my godmother. From that moment on, she never left my side. Even through both of my children’s births. She is the oldest of ten and a natural born leader. She shepherded me through the tough times and I’m very thankful to her.
Q.) How did you first hear about Outward Bound?
A.) Ten years ago, I started doing research and reviews for programs to help my daughter. I spent two years looking and Outward Bound kept popping up. If it wasn’t for Outward Bound and my daughter’s amazing instructors, she wouldn’t be where she is today. (Check out Chris’ daughter, Savannah’s, Outward Bound story here.)
An Adventure All Her Own
Q.) Why did you want to go on course?
A.) I wanted to go on course to create a better, stronger, courageous version of myself. I also wanted to relate better to my daughter and her Outward Bound experiences.
Q.) What moment(s) from course do you think about the most?
A.) One moment I think about the most, because it was the hardest, was getting in and out of my sleeping bag at -34 degrees. If you ask me a month from now I’m sure I won’t talk about that at all. Like childbirth, I know the pain will go away and I’ll be left with just the good stuff (haha).
My favorite moments were traveling to each campsite. I’m in my zone when I’m pushed physically and surrounded by nature.
Q.) How did VOBS impact the way you live your life today?
A.) I can’t put it into words myself, so I’ll refer back to the Voyageur Outward Bound School Readings Book. This quote by Sigurd Olson:
You cannot turn your back on any challenge, physical or mental. If you do, you diminish yourself, and the next time it will be easier to say, “no, I can not do it.” If you take the hazards as they come and survive, you will be stronger and better and the trip will be a milestone in your life, one you will always know as a turning point.
Q.) Our values are: Compassion, Integrity, Excellence, Inclusion and Safety. Which Outward Bound Value is your favorite and why?
A.) Compassion – I’m a giver. Wanting gets in the way of enjoying what you have. When you have compassion, you walk in someone’s shoes and really feel for them.
Q.) Why should people go on a VOBS course?
A.) I think if more people had the opportunity to go on an Outward Bound course there would be a decrease in anxiety and depression and everything that plagues us, especially suicide. I have a funeral today, for a crew member we just lost to that disease.
Q.) Why do we NEED VOBS in this world?
A.) It changes people’s lives in the most positive and powerful way through nature, compassion and leadership.
Q.) What is one word you would use to describe VOBS?
A.) Numinous. A Latin word, describing an experience that makes you fearful yet fascinated, awed yet attracted – the powerful, personal feeling of being overwhelmed and inspired.
Q.) Now that you’re a donor (Thank you!), why do you think it is important to give to an organization like VOBS? What inspired you to give?
A.) Outward Bound can have a financial roadblock for people that can’t afford it. I will give back in every little increment I can so someone else can have this opportunity.
Giving or Going Outward Bound
You can help make Voyageur Outward Bound Programming possible for students that could not otherwise afford it. Join Chris and our growing list of supporters. You can donate online with this link, send me an email or give me a call: (651) 401-0635.
If you would like to go on your own Outward Bound adventure, check out our list of Voyageur Outward Bound Courses here.