Outward Bound was founded by Kurt Hahn, whose guiding philosophy was summarized best in the following quotation:
“I regard it as the foremost task of education to ensure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an indefatigable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion.”
At Outward Bound we use the term “authentic adventure” to describe the activities we offer to our participants.
The following six elements are a way of describing what we mean by authentic adventure within Outward Bound. The whole adventure is often described as a journey, both physical and metaphorical where participants gain new insights and experiences working with others in a close group in the outdoors with a skilled instructor.
The elements are real and as immersed in the natural environment as possible, giving a high degree of uncertainty and challenge. When combined with the deliberate learning process participant’s development will be at the highest level. Authentic adventure acts as a metaphor for life; participants can reflect on the skills, attitudes and insights that helped them on their Outward Bound journey and how these will help them in the future.
An expedition might be a whole day or a number of days with bivouacs or wild camps. Expeditions involve a journey either on land or on the water.
The longer time period of an expedition can allow for real consequences and real responsibility. On an expedition opportunities arise to encounter highs and lows; drama as well as tranquility. There will be challenges, along with chances to look back at the journey taken.
2) CHALLENGING ACTIVITIES
A critical element in an Outward Bound experience is engaging with challenging activities in the natural environment.
These can include gorge scrambling, rock climbing, cutter sailing, descending a river or paddling on the sea or lake and ideally are incorporated into the expedition. By adding these challenging activities, we are more likely to take participants to the edge of their capabilities, creating new experiences from which they can learn.
3) AS SELF-RELIANT AS POSSIBLE
Self-reliance is about encouraging participants to take responsibility for themselves and each other. They will take responsibility throughout their experience, in activities, life at Outward Bound and participating in reviews. Self- reliance can be related to small tasks, such as tying boot laces and adjusting backpack straps or larger tasks such as the complexity of leading a group through the mountains. Experiencing self-reliance can support a sense of self-efficacy in participants.
4) IN THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
In our context, adventuring in the natural environment is about spending time in challenging outdoor places – lakes, rivers, sea and mountains. We aim to provide opportunities for participants to feel immersed in the natural environment, this can involve jumping into a lake, camping on a mountainside, walking through snow, looking down onto a cloud inversion or participating in a solo. We believe by doing this, participants can discover new things about themselves and new perspectives on the world around them.
5) BEING CHALLENGED AT THE EDGE OF YOUR CAPABILITIES
This is about facing challenges at or near the edge of your capabilities but without exceeding your limits. Everyone has different levels of experience, skill and confidence. Participants have different levels of fitness and different comfort zone thresholds. Outward Bound instructors consider the individual and aim to lead adventures at a level which will be challenging, sometimes very challenging but not overwhelming. When the level is just right participants see themselves in a new light which is engaging, motivating and instructive about who they are and what they are capable of.
Outward Bound courses are progressive. Taking participants from whichever starting point they are at before the course towards new places relevant for them. At the beginning of a course the instructor will lead and the participants follow; as the program develops the instructor will then always be looking for opportunities to pass the responsibility to participants, where this is appropriate. Outward Bound courses are much more than a combination of standalone activities – they progressively open up new experiences, demand new skills and unveil new awareness.