I went on a course in 1997, and was just blown away by the powerful impact that it had. Everything is striped away – no cell phones, no computers, and no background. So you’re meeting up with people, and you don’t know if they make 5 million dollars or if they’re on food stamps. I had just gone through a divorce and lost a lot of esteem and confidence in my life’s pursuits. I decided to try a course to challenge myself and see if the tough kid in me still existed. On course, I was grouped with a unique group of students that were very open and allowed me to feel safe and share my story.
Later as an instructor there are so many situations that stand out. In 1997, I did two back-to-back, 22-day ascent courses. On the second course, there was a boy who had witnessed one of the first school shootings in Oregon. I remember his mother telling me, “He won’t talk about it.” He wasn’t shot, but what affected him was that he was friends with this kid—the shooter—growing up. I remember after solo, when I went to pick him up and bring him back to base camp, he just broke down and poured out the entire event. He said, “You’re the first person I’ve ever told this to. I couldn’t even talk to the police.” He said, “I think I can start healing now.” That’s powerful stuff. There was another kid on that course who had some challenges with his family. We all came in after the course, and the parents were in a circle. His dad walked into the middle of the circle and said, “Son, I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this, but I love you and I’m proud of you.” I just about lost it. To see that was just amazing. The two of them embraced, broke down and started crying. To witness that and be there was so inspiring and empowering.
I just wish more people could participate in Outward Bound. You could never explain it so that anyone could grasp the power of what goes on out there. You learn so much more in 22 days out there than you could ever learn anywhere else. The lives are just changed—it’s amazing.