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I went on a 24 day multi-expedition trip. I felt that I wanted/needed that at the time and I am glad I did it. It was an unforgettable experience and I learned some things I needed to learn then. But it needs major improvements. It’s been almost a year since the trip, and I still don't have positive feelings when I think about it. I don’t think I would ever do something like that again.
Outward Bound needs at least one mental health clinician on their trips. Without them, it becomes a free-for-all of emotional guidance based on the personal experience of the instructors and students/members. When emotional development is such an important part of their mission AND they cater to at-risk youth, it does not make sense that a skilled professional in mental health is not present. It is not possible to communicate with anyone outside the group for the entire duration of the trip, so it is especially important that receiving appropriate social support is not a gamble based on the random group you go with but is systematically in place.
Also, everyone on my trip was ** except for me (which meant I did not see a single POC for 24 days). The ** male dominance was definitely present, and when I spoke up about a specific person, an instructor told me that this person was offended that I would bring up potential discrimination & superiority because that person tries their best to be equitable. ** fragility at its finest, and that too completely unrecognized by the staff. It ultimately became another thing I needed to deal with.
In general, the experience was really brutal. I was sleep-deprived throughout (they said the trip was for hard work not resting); I barely got any time by myself even though a big reason I did the trip was to have space to reflect (thankfully, we got Solo, which was really great and much needed); I couldn’t sleep at night from severe itching due to hiking in over 100 degree temperatures for days and not being able to bathe in water at all (because of lack of time, because apparently mileage, curriculum, *anything else* are more important than basic forms of self-care); cliques formed and talking behind people’s backs & bullying happened (yes, in a group of 12 students, all college age and above).
Outward Bound’s goals seem pretty similar to group therapy’s, but the difference is that group therapy is where safety, trust, and skilled guidance form the basis of an environment where members can be vulnerable with each other and grow together. Outward Bound, in my experience, was the opposite: it was hostile, and which breeds resentment and closing in, not growth. I’m not saying I didn’t grow; I’m saying that the environment was not particularly conducive to growth as they advertise. Again, this was my particular group, but the instructors were not helpful, which can be applied more generally to the organization.
Outward Bound is an experience of the extremes. That can be beautifully invigorating but also difficult in ways that aren’t necessarily healthy (mentally or physically). My main feedback would be to bring a mental health clinician onboard and to bring more people of color on trips. But on a broader level, in practice, I don’t think mental health is a focus for Outward Bound. "Toughness," maybe, but not mental health.
I don't want to end on a bad note; I want to sing praises of the people I was with and the organization that really tries to do good. This is a very subjective experience that depends on many variable factors of the trip. I am still proud of completing the trip and wrote a very positive post about it after completing the trip on my own FB page, but I've had time to process it after the trip ended and I decided it is finally time to share my thoughts.
After contacting the main office many times and waiting for 2 weeks I finally got a email from Matt ** from the North Carolina office informing me that I had to fill out an application and submit documents within 3 days of that email. After filling it within 3 hours. I was requirement to do a 30 min phone interview with Mr. ** which was set up with their service the next day at 12 pm. I received no phone call from Mr. ** and he was not responding to my emails or phones.
After 3 days I tried the main office. However they quickly wanted to dumb me the North Carolina office. After leaving a voice message with them and getting no reply back from anyone I tried the main office again. They told the same information as before, to contact Mr. ** and complete the application process. Well no one seems to care and I am given auto pilot answer. The times I called the main office the person on the phone had to pull on the phone just to find out basic information. I made the decision to withdrawn my application because I cannot trust them to do their job. If you're veteran I would advice you to think twice.
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I went on a 22 day trip with OB two summer ago and it was one of the best experiences I have ever had the privilege to have. The people in my group came from all over the country and from different backgrounds and experiences, which is what makes OB such a success. OB taught me to communicate effectively and respectfully with people who have different opinions and beliefs than I do, while at the same time teaching me to stick up for what I believe in. Throughout the entire trip I never felt unsafe or uncomfortable with my group, and the instructors do an amazing job making sure every student is safe both physically and mentally. This is not to say however that OB was easy, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life.
I went to bed exhausted and sore every night and woke up ridiculously early to complete the days activities. Every day was something new and challenging, pushing me to my limits. We had real conversation about issues both on the trip and off the trip, but I always left feeling like my ideas and opinions were heard and respected and that I was a valued member of the team. Each and every instructor I met through OB was dedicated to helping us succeeded and were focused on safety as the activities we did could result in serious harm on injury if one wasn't aware. It was an amazing trip, one that I know I will never forget and I will tell my kids about.
I'd first learned about Outward Bound when I was a teen and over the years I read everything I could find about the program. An excellent book about it is "Outward Bound: Schools of the Possible" which is out of print but which you can probably find in libraries or on Amazon. In 2005 I finally got the opportunity to go, at age 43, participating in a week-long adults (30 years of age and older) white water rafting trip in Idaho. The course lived up to every expectation I had to it and in fact exceeded my expectations. I cannot tell you that every OB course will be as good as the one I went on. We were blessed to have two very competent guides as instructors and the seven students, who ranged from age 30 to 50 and who came from all over the country, really meshed well as a group. The daily physical challenges of rafting were matched by the emotional highs we had during evening group discussions.
Outward Bound can be dangerous--on the third day of our trip another classmate and I wrecked our raft and we were very lucky we didn't drown in the roughest rapids on the river. A great deal of improvised teamwork and problem-solving rescued us. Outward Bound doesn't solve people's problems, if they come to the course with them. It may give you a new context through which to examine your strengths and weaknesses but you're only going to get out of it what you are willing to put into it. I would not recommend OB as a way for a parent to try and straighten out a kid who has behavioral problems, not serious ones anyway. It's not a school for people trying to overcome drug and alcohol addictions.
I was lucky in that my group really worked well together. Everyone came to the course with their own motivations (one was an OB alumni) and goals. There was a lot of diversity in backgrounds and everyone got into the self-revelation style that our course seemed to take on. I can say this, I told my classmates some things about myself that I've never talked about to anyone else. Perhaps the anonymity of the experience, that I would unlikely see these people again, lent to that freedom of personal expression. They were gracious, every one of them, and confidences were often shared.
Again, we were also lucky that our two guides, one male, one female, were so technically competent but also, despite being only 30 years old, "old souls" who each had a lot of wisdom for being almost the youngest people in the group. The more competent the class became, the more the guides faded into the background until the last night of the trip they left the class completely alone. My only complaint about the trip was that we only got to do a "solo" for 12 hrs but given it was only an 8 day course, there wasn't time for anything more. It was a great 12 hr experience though.
My advice for people considering going--be in reasonably good shape before you get there because the courses are going to be demanding at times. Be willing to look at yourself and at others in a totally new way. Look at it as a chance to be of service to strangers, to try and help out the teammate who is struggling perhaps. If you've got addiction problems or mental health problems, OB is probably not where you should be.
My 17-year old daughter just did a 2-week trip at OB, North Carolina. She came back happy and excited, reporting that her "crew" had become family to her. She was a bit bruised from one fall while running (a dog, apparently, got excited and got under her feet), but she had gained confidence in herself, a love of nature, and a more open mind about people and challenges. We couldn't be more happy. I read reviews about others who had bad experiences. I can't speak to what happened to others. In our particular case, it was tremendous for our daughter.
I attended a semester course with Outward Bound Costa Rica when I was 20 and my expectations were exceeded to say the least. I got to explore the amazing country, be immersed in the culture, learn from well educated and knowledgeable instructors and participate in outdoor recreation activities. Outward Bound focuses on experiential learning and teaching leadership skills to participants. My course opened my eyes to the world around me, gave me a newfound sense of purpose in this world. While on course you learn social skills, academic skills, and life skills. I learned more in my 65 days with OBCR than I did in my 13 years of public schooling. I would absolutely recommend Outward Bound to anyone who is looking for an eye-opening, life changing, adventure packed trip.
I took a five-day course for people over 40. As someone who grew up in Colorado with a good deal of backpacking and survival training, I was shocked at how bad the program was. We had far too much food for the number of people and days, but the instructor never suggested that we should have pared it down until it was too late. Our packs were too heavy to lift alone, filled with excess crap we never used. The instructor acted like a New Age guru but did very little to teach wilderness skills. As the most skilled person there, I was the one showing people how to set up tents and make the stoves work.
The instructor set out on an impassable route. One of the young women nearly had heat stroke (this was in Canyonlands) and I'm not surprised that a few years later, another young woman died in the same place under the same stupid circumstances. My lasting souvenir of Outward Bound is a compressed disc in my back from the heavy pack. I believe in being smart in the wilderness, not in making an experience as difficult as possible just to make it challenging. Shockingly unsafe and unprofessional.
I just got back from a grade trip to the outward bound school yesterday. I am in the 8th grade; and I want to say outward bound changed my life dramatically in a good way. My instructors were amazing. We called them Mad Dogg and Easy V. We also got nicknames throughout the week. Whenever we were homesick or nervous about something they would help us out. I became extremely close to my crew members. I learned to be compassionate, to be independent, to be a good team member, and that my opinion actually mattered - that meant a lot to me. Everyday different people had different jobs like being trail leader, camp leader, first aid leader, cooks, hydration monitor, and someone to make sure we left the site how we arrived. Sure we had heavy packs but the weight was distributed equally and through the experience we learned to work as a team.
When I rock climbed I was terrified but every crew member and my instructors were cheering me on; and I knew they had me and would not let anything happen to me. At the end I was able to do it and it was amazing. Another thing the food is amazing and so what if a little dirt gets in, that just means more flavor. After all dirt is the flavoring of the earth. When we had to cross a creek our instructors stood in a freezing cold creek for us helping us pass one by one. That was so amazing of them. One night before dinner we made a crew flag and wrote our poem together (the instructors stepped out for this). When we finished we decided to go around and share our insecurities with each other then we went around telling what we liked about each person in the circle; it was extremely moving.
Outward Bound teaches you to go beyond your limits and to be compassionate. Outward Bound really changed me for the better and changed my future and maybe even my life. So you should do Outward Bound. So what if it might go wrong? Then it will go right. I promise you won’t regret it. It will change your life for the better.
I myself am the Alumni of two Outward Bound Expeditions, the first in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota and the second in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. I will say that there are several problems when attending an Outward Bound expedition. I had seen several of my now very good friends get severely injured, some passed out and many came close while battling dehydration, extreme hunger, terrain and some very intense weather storms that scared me to death. Keeping this in mind, it is all part of the experience. I saw many of my buddies reach their breaking points and then they passed them and grew in ways I had never seen before.
Outward Bound is dangerous, you know that going in, you know that when you sign up, it is what you hope for when attending. Of course there are dangers in all expeditions, no one told you it was safe or easy by any means. All these negative reviews are from people, or parents of kids who went and simply couldn't "hack" it, so of course they didn't enjoy it. I didn't enjoy all of my time out there. What I did enjoy was completing my course with confidence and coming home to a well earned bed and an American cheese burger, also well earned. If I had failed on course and gone home without completing it, of course I would have been upset, but not with Outward Bound, with myself, however I might have taken it out on Outward bound for sure, but truly it would have been based on my own failures.
Coming home I was fairly well traumatized by some of my experiences. I was young, but I was more than proud, more than confident. I felt ten feet tall and bullet proof. I owe everything I have, everything I have become to Outward Bound and for that I thank them, my instructors and my peers out there, who I still keep in touch with to this day. Outward Bound is certainly not for the weak at heart and I mean that too. If however you think you can hack it and your bull headed, I would encourage you from the bottom of my heart to take a leap of faith, give it all you got, it will change your life forever!! Don't give up either, or you might end up like some of the sorry wimps on here. This is coming from someone with military experience by the way (after outward bound).
My son was expelled from Outward Bound along with six other students of a group of 12 for smoking pot. They were 8 days into the semester leadership course and apparently there was not adequate supervision or oversight. There was very little communication with the parents, all I received was a one minute phone call from staff member indicating that my son has been expelled - All over 21, and at night. While I don't approve of pot, it should have been handled better. For $14,000 I would expect more engaging process. There are seven very angry sets of parents.
Outward Bound Company Information
- Company Name:
- Outward Bound
- 910 Jackson St #140
- Postal Code:
- United States
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