My Experience With Outward Bound


Cullen Stevens, Staff Writer

I was given a chance to apply for a scholarship to go on a Hurricane Island Outward Bound School (HIOBS) course through the school free of charge. This provided an opportunity to push me out of my comfort zone and try something that seemed at first to be a waste of time. 

I recall receiving a flyer about HIOBS during my sophomore year in advisory. It included a brief description of the program and how to apply. Coincidentally, my advisor had been on an Outward Bound course herself and shared with my fellow advisees just how amazing it was and how it was a “once in a lifetime experience.” Just like many others, I stuffed it into my bag and moved on with my day. I had no reactions to this opportunity; I figured it would be a waste of my summer. I had completely overlooked this “once in a lifetime experience.”

When I got home, I emptied my school bag onto our dining room table and my mom noticed this HIOBS form. She was all for me applying to win the scholarship, and in the upcoming weeks, I learned why I should apply for this scholarship, why this course would benefit me, and why I wouldn’t be wasting my summer. I consulted my advisor, guidance counselors, and some of my teachers. With this newly gathered information, I decided to apply. My mom put the thought into my head of “why not? There’s no reason not to try out. If you win and don’t want to do it, then you don’t have to.” This was the reason I went for it. The prompt was short and simple: Write about why an Outward Bound course would benefit me, and write about a time that challenged me and how I overcame it. 

When I found out that I had won the scholarship, I didn’t know how to respond since a part of me was hoping I wouldn’t win. I told myself that this was just another obligatory waste of my time. I went through a cycle of debating whether or not I wanted to pursue the opportunity. Many of the critical people in my life said that I should give it a shot. I finally agreed and decided on a 14-day backpacking and canoeing course for the summer of 2020. 

Everyone knows how the year 2020 went. Schools shut down for “just a couple of weeks for safety reasons,” and developed into the well-known pandemic. The initial plan was that the trip would still occur as we would be outdoors for the whole thing and could quarantine together. It wasn’t until about two months before I was supposed to leave that these plans crumbled, and I was told they would try to reschedule for the summer of 2021. I wasn’t quite sure what to think, because part of me was starting to get excited about the course. 

When I received an email from Mrs. Wiewel, head of guidance and scholarships, saying I had the opportunity to sign up for next summer’s course under the same scholarship, I pursued the opportunity. I completed the admissions process with a different mindset, not necessarily positive, but different. I was signed up for a 14-day course at the beginning of the summer of 2021, but out of precautions, I shifted to a 22-day course at the end of the summer. This made it the second time my course moved due to the pandemic. I grew more excited about the experience as the start date approached, especially about the opportunity to kind of leave the world, the chance to try something new, and the opportunity to learn. 

The next thing I knew, I found myself on the way to the Portland International Jetport, not to embark on a flight myself, but to greet the other members of the program. I arrived in the lobby and found two instructors helping out some of my future friends to make sure they had everything sorted. It was an awkward start. Everyone was just kind of standing alone and minding their own business at the airport, which I thought was weird considering we were about to spend the next 22 days constantly around each other. I began going around attempting to make introductions. 

I went up to someone who said they were from Washington, so I followed up with some corny joke about the East Coast and was corrected to find out he was actually from Seattle rather than Washington D.C.. I assumed everyone was from New England.  

After the car ride of introductions, we found ourselves at base camp. We emptied our belongings, said goodbye to the bags we brought, and packed up our backpacks. After some decent stir-fry, we began our first hike to the camp for the night. Well, I shouldn’t call it a hike because it was half a mile, but it was our first time walking with these 50 or so pound bags, so it felt like a hike. We arrived at the camp and paused, looking around at our sleep setup for the next few weeks: a low to the ground A-frame-style tent cast between the trees and a cozy one-inch-thick sleeping pad. What did I get myself into?

I slept a total of 10 hours during the first two nights. It wouldn’t be until night six that I got to enjoy some sleep. The first portion of my trip was primarily backpacking-a recipe for a sore back and constant fatigue. From hiking 3000 feet of elevation over 2-3 miles, long hikes in rain and mud, and slipping down numerous rocks, I was tired. The counselors informed us of the two-night “solo” portion of our trip. No one really thought much about it other than it was going to be very hard and painful. As the days moved along to day thirteen, I knew the solo started the next day. I was beyond excited. This was my ticket to finally sit down, relax, get some sleep, and reflect a little bit. This excitement stuck with me all the way up until the next morning.

I had never seen my group so split, half were excited about the solo and half were realizing that they were going to be alone for the next two nights. I was a part of the realization group. 

After a gross cheesy grit breakfast, we were on our way to our different camps along the shoreline of Mooselookmeguntic Lake in Maine. I spent my solo reflecting on many thoughts and ideas including “why does time move so slow?” And “what do I do with myself?” The answer to the second question was that there wasn’t anything to do. That was the point of it. The point of the solo was to slow down and self-reflect. Self-reflection over the trip, self-reflection over how I act, self-reflection over who I have been in my life. I left the long fifty-six hours with a list of goals on how I want to change myself, and how I can pursue these changes. 

One of these goals that I wrote down was, “Slow down life a bit, and take some time to myself here and there.” After the solo, I looked back and disregarded the goal, but when I arrived home I reflected again and promised myself that I would change my schedule to allow for some solo time. Because what did I learn during time alone? I learned that taking risks, although they may be extremely difficult, is worth it. Taking a risk, whether you fail or succeed, will present you with knowledge that you didn’t previously have.