Going Outward Bound and what I learned along the way
“Do it. There is no comparable experience to Outward Bound.–Joss Richman
No matter if you love it or you hate it, you will learn something.”
Having never been on an Outward Bound course, Joss Richman, 17, came to HIOBS this past summer with skepticism and nerves. However, his worries about experiential learning soon faded when he was met with kindness and reassurance from the instructors on his sea kayaking expedition. For the next eight days, Joss found himself pushing his limits, bonding and creating meaningful relationships with his peers, learning new skills, and having a profound experience on Solo. As Joss recalls, his HIOBS course was “immensely freeing” and made him realize he could go far beyond what he thought his limitations were.
Read our interview with Joss below, where he answers a few questions about his expedition and shares his tips and tricks for leaning into and enjoying being in the field!
What were you most nervous about before the course started?
I was actually really nervous about personal hygiene while on course. I was especially nervous about things like changing and pooping. In my mind, I was thinking “How am I going to have any privacy?” I was reassured when I got there because the instructors taught us how to keep ourselves clean, safe, and private while on course.
What surprised you the most?
I was surprised at how real it was. I was expecting the course to be more sheltered and controlled, but it really was an actual expedition where we had an incredible level of autonomy even from the beginning.
What was the hardest part and one thing you learned from the experience?
The hardest part of my course was probably the first leg of our expedition. When we first got on the water it was very windy so the surf was super rough. Given that the whole crew had only done a small amount of paddling instruction, it was incredibly scary to face massive waves. I even had a moment where I got launched into the air for a few solid seconds! But by having a difficult first day, everyone quickly learned how to effectively steer and paddle through waves—the next day was much easier!
What was the most meaningful day/activity/moment?
For me, the most meaningful activity/moment was the Solo. Solo is a different experience for every person but I found it to be extremely meditative. The beginning of course can be a little hectic because everyone is learning new skills at such a rapid pace, so Solo is a great time to reflect. In my experience, most people found their reflections to be very powerful.
What was your favorite food while on course?
I was really surprised at the beginning because I thought the food would be pretty bad, but every meal was really good! My favorite food(s) would probably be the snacks, because they always hit the spot right when everyone was starting to get hangry.
How did HIOBS help you achieve your goals this summer?
As a high school student, I spend a lot of time sitting in classes, doing homework, etc. Being able to participate in experiential learning is a goal that I always have, because I learn so much in such a short period of time. Outward Bound was an extremely good example of this—I was able to learn so much about myself and the world around me in just 8 days.
What will you carry with you from this experience into your personal life?
In our current time, there is a strange interpersonal dynamic where we share a lot of stuff on social media, but we don’t actually talk to each other about positive things or our struggles. Being part of an Outward Bound crew taught me how to realize when people are struggling and understand how to support them—even if that means giving them space.
What would you say to future students thinking about doing Outward Bound?
Do it. There is no comparable experience to Outward Bound. No matter if you love it or you hate it, you will learn something. Afterward, you will realize that you have gone far beyond what you thought your limitations were. It’s a very empowering experience.
What do you hope you’ll remember about this experience 10 years from now?
I really hope I will remember the experience of dipping every morning. It’s such a simple act, but it really focused everyone for the day ahead. Having a routine like that was super helpful in getting each day to be consistent, even when we had unpredictable circumstances like rain or wind.
Would you do it again?
Absolutely. No question. Being out there was immensely freeing. My only regret was not being able to do a longer course.