On Day One, everyone’s nervous. The students, quietly unloading their luggage at a campsite seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The instructors, trying to break the ice with the quiet students. The parents, waiting for a final call or text before a phone is turned off for maybe longer than it’s ever been off before.
By Day Three, we’re on expedition, and everything else falls away. Days of the week lose meaning, and except for the occasional wilderness traveler, all of our human interactions happen with this handful of faces sitting around the fire or battling across a windy lake together.
Choosing to do something which you know will be difficult and you expect will be life-changing takes trust. And how do you trust people you’ve never met?
Every day in the woods is full of moments that require trust. Reaching for a hand on a wet, slippery rock as I struggle to balance a pack that weighs more than half of what I do. Asking for help flipping a 75-pound canoe onto my shoulders. Looking at my students’ hands chopping vegetables for my dinner and trusting they washed them.
When I think about my mother signing my fourteen-year-old self up for my Outward Bound course, I see foresight. And a great gift. No one (not even my instructor) would have predicted that I would later return to instruct for Outward Bound. But somehow, my mother saw she needed to give me the opportunity to do something harder than I’d ever done. Instead of trying to make my life easier, she opened the door to make it harder.
She questioned if the course would be too hard for me. She put a note in my application, concerned that I typically slept at least ten hours a night, and what if that was not possible on my expedition?
On Day Seven, I think we only got four hours of sleep. We had a mountain to climb the next morning.
Turns out I needed to climb that mountain more than I needed to sleep.
Maybe you find yourself wondering what your, or your child’s, kryptonite will be in the woods. Will it be the break from technology, the physical rigors of expedition, the food, the toilet situation, the bugs, homesickness, the other students? VOBS has compiled an extensive list of frequently asked questions, and they employ people to sit at the other end of the phone and answer infrequently asked questions (like, what if a passing Boy Scout inadvertently steals my lifejacket on a portage trail?) (That happened.)
We’ll answer your questions, but at some point, you’ll be down to just one. How do I know this is the right thing to do? At which point, it’s time to put on your boots (or get your kid to put on theirs) and come find out. We’re about taking risks and heading into the unknown – it’s part of changing lives.