You may not know about, or have any interest in Outward Bound, but please read this if you have teenagers in your family.
My daughter Morgan went to an all-girls boarding school, and after four years had had enough of school for a while. She had worked hard, so when she decided to take a year off before college, it was fine with me. That summer after her graduation, I met a lady who was on the national board of Outward Bound. She invited us to a fundraiser in Asheville, near where we lived.
The presentation was impressive and caught Morgan’s interest. She recognized her need for the benefits Outward Bound offered as the leading experiential and outdoor education program. She took the ball and ran with it–selecting a program and applying for a scholarship.
“There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for anything less”
-Kurt Hahn, Outward Bound Founder
There were 1- to 4-week programs near our home in the North Carolina mountains and on the coast. But no-no, they were not the direction she wanted to go. She picked a three-month international program.
As you might imagine, a trip of that duration required a lot of preparation. Detailed instructions were received. Everything seemed to be thought of, so by the time she got on a flight in Atlanta, her backpack outweighed her.
I don’t remember all the details, but her group of 18- to 24-year-olds met at an Outward Bound lodge in a village near Innsbruck, Austria. For a couple of weeks, they trained for mountain backpack hiking, rock climbing and primitive camping. They worked up to a 10K run, and each member was required to spend 24 hours alone in the countryside practicing survival techniques.
From there they hiked the Austrian Alps and on into the Italian Dolomites, carrying their camping gear and food–all this in winter.
Then it was off by bus to Germany for another two weeks of training in preparation for the next leg of the adventure. They were to sail a three- masted schooner from Germany to Portugal. Visiting ports along the way, this proved to be another interesting and successful adventure.
When we met Morgan back in Atlanta, she was in great shape with shoulders like a ball player–proud and self confident. During her teen years, Morgan had traveled quite a bit–her 16th birthday with her mother in Paris, a tour through Europe with friends–but nothing like Outward Bound. I am convinced that laid the foundation for a lot she has achieved and will continue to master as she goes forward.
Not long after her return, her younger brother, Madison, decided he wanted to give an Outward Bound course a try. He picked a “Winter Survival School” based in the Rocky Mountains–I think mainly because it involved snowboarding, which he loved.
Morgan and I flew with him to Park City, Utah, the jumping-off place for his group. Again the advanced instructions were detailed, and he arrived well prepared. They were transported high in the backcountry where there was plenty of snow, but not much else. They had tents, but most of the time they built their shelters out of snow, or slept in the open. They fashioned furniture out of packed snow–chairs, beds, and tables. All had to be destroyed when they moved camp–“Leave no footprints” was the rule. As part of the “Do no harm to the land” policy,” no open fires were allowed. Meals were cooked on small alcohol stoves.
After Madison was off on his adventure, Morgan and I spent another day in Park City before returning home. At lunch, her going to college came up and turned into a conversation that ended up taking our lives down an unexpected course–one that changed our lives, even to today. It seemed she had met a young man from Australia on her trip. To make a long story short, he had told her about college in Australia and she wanted to continue her education there. Of course I knew the young man was the real enticement and she had just turned nineteen, but I was comfortable with her decision-making.
With her mother’s support and hard work, the hurdles were cleared, and once again, I found myself putting my daughter on a plane heading halfway around the world.
By the way, she is still there some eighteen years later, and recently presented us with our first grandchild–but that’s another story.
KEEP VIGILANT TO PROTECT US ALL FROM COVID-19.
Bill Minus is a storyteller who lives in Chestertown and writes about memories and observations.