A huge thank you and lots of love to the author, Cindy Trim, mother of two COBS alumnae.
Photos by Matt Zia of Cindy (header image) and her daughter, COBS Instructor Hannah (left) from a COBS staff climbing trip.
So, you’ve signed up your child for an Outward Bound Course and are wondering what to expect? You’ve bought all the required gear and clothing. You’ve paid a bunch of money. You’ve made sure they have done some sort of physical training? Not easy, I know. You may have had moments of regret as well as moments of high expectation. You have said good-bye, tearfully and/or joyfully. And now, you have driven away and are wondering, “What have we done?” Is my child going to make it out alive? Are there bear or mountain lions where they will be hiking? Did we pack enough underwear?”
Well… the courses are challenging, sometimes grueling but most often, life changing. The first thing you will notice upon their return is probably the smell, but in a short time, if you listen, you will notice an awareness beyond him or herself in a unique way that is a direct result of sending them on course. They might start helping with the dishes or dinner. They might start working within the family as a group. They might tell you about their feelings. Whoa!
Don’t be alarmed if they need to sleep on the floor with their window open for a while. They also might only want to eat outside. I recommend learning the ways of composting, as they will certainly start telling you about how much food is wasted, and that can be quite foul if not everyone is on board. Your Outward Bound alumnus could start uttering phrases like “LNT” and start looking up trails to hike on your family vacations. For their birthday, expect requests for backpacking and rock climbing gear or a GPS gadget instead of another cell phone.
When the time comes, it is possible the schools they choose for college will be based out of some remote, but beautiful, place like the Pacific Northwest or Colorado. They might base their college choices on where they can rock climb or ski or kayak. They might base their future life choices on how it affects the environment and choose to buy a bicycle before a car. They actually might base their career choices on what will make them happy instead of just what will make them money.
In short, expect your kid to be changed in beautiful, smelly, and conscientious ways in return for your investment. Some changes will be immediately apparent, and some will show up throughout their life. No matter what, expect this course to affect your child and your family. Had I known the positive, radiant impact Outward Bound would have on mine when I first signed my daughters up, I would have sent them on course earlier and more often.
There are many studies that show how being outdoors is good for us. Letting our kids be outdoors in an instructional setting during one of the most formative times of their lives may be the best gift we can give them. It might also be the best gift we can give our world. Our kids are after all, the generation that will take over after us.