Outward Bound for teens

Just looking for feedback from any of you whose teens have done an Outward Bound trip. Was it well run? Organized? Safe? Fun? Etc. Thanks!

I worked for Colorado Outward Bound School for 5 years and look forward to sending my daughter on a trip. I would say yes to all of your questions. This was of course 17+ year ago.

My mom always wanted me to do this and 20 years later I still regret not doing it.

I worked for NYC Outward Bound for many years. Their programs are not only well run and safe, but are life changing. I also look forward to sending my kids on an Outward Bound trip! Feel free to contact me if you want to talk more!

@grahamb, there are trips for adults as well! I was always scared to do it, I think, but my daughter wants to go. And now, after my saying for years that I want to do a real hike, my family has given me a backpack for my birthday, so I might actually have to follow through.

All of the trips look great. A friend's son did a trip for younger kids and said it was the best thing he ever did, despite that he also said it was the hardest thing he ever did.

I might reach out, @sbs. Somehow I get the sense that it's better run and safer than the cushier outdoors teen trips, but I'm not sure why I think that.

Thanks for the input. It's reassuring!

They have so many years of experience running trips and they get to pick from the top instructors since they are a top school. The instructors are highly skilled mountaineers or river folks and they often have degrees in experiential education.

My son really benefited from an Outward Bound experience when he was a teenager. His course was hiking and mountain-climbing in North Carolina. Good luck!

Edited to say, he reported that it was rigorous in terms of safety education and physically. Some attendees left the course early.

Are there any that are less physically demanding ?

Are there any for those with fear of heights who don't want to change?

@boomie and @nan, I think you're maybe looking for Inward Bound. Or, er, maybe that would involve change too.

Not fair zucca. I'm adventurous, but uncoordinated, and visually lacking depth perception. Also, not good at following directions in the correct sequence. Not a good idea to go where lack of these skills mean death.

zucca said:

@boomie and @nan, I think you're maybe looking for Inward Bound. Or, er, maybe that would involve change too.

For My son I meant.

Sorry, @nan! I just thought you were joking around. I actually have a late-discovered fear of heights, so some of the trip pictures freak me out from the get-go. As long as there are trees, I don't care how high I hike. But those huge expanses of rock face turn my stomach. I remember hiking once in the desert in the West Bank and feeling like the path must have been a half-foot wide, next to a drop-off. It was probably 4 or 5 feet wide--I have no idea.

So I totally get where you're coming from.

I've just started looking in to it, @boomie, so I'm not sure about the range of difficulty. I do know that my son did a program with a different group several years ago that was kind of like outdoors-program lite. They did a range of activities (hiking, biking, kayaking, rock climbing, and even skiing/snowboarding), traveling by van between them. They still camped out for three weeks, which was huge for him. The Outward Bound things all look pretty hardcore to me so far, but it's hard to tell from the website.

@nan, don't you think change at some level comes with the territory of doing anything new? When my son returned from the trip he did (with Bold Earth), he and the other kids from the trip were up until all hours in group chats for weeks. I think doing a trip like that of any level is a challenge. And you return from it a little different.

I just saw the addendum to @brealer 's post. Ugh--really?! People left early? I do not want this not to be successful. That terrifies me.

I don't think you have to be an experienced hiker or mountain climber. My son wasn't by any means. But he was willing to submit himself to the (supervised) challenge. Just saying, it is a challenge. That's what changes the graduates. That they met it.

And Outward Bound also has voyageur programs -- canoeing and portaging through the Boundary Waters in MN. Non-hikers might like those better.

@brealer, I saw those trips and thought they looked cool (except for the portaging part). Unfortunately, my daughter loves kayaking and not canoeing so much, so those didn't appeal to her as much as some of the other trips.

I know these trips are great for kids, even if they're not loving it at the time, but they can be hard on the parent! My son was not happy at the outset of his trip (they let him keep his iPod Touch at the airport, which was a mistake--lots of unhappy texts). Then we got an update from the program that the trip started out with rain and lots of kids in the group (including mine, I learned later) getting a stomach bug. I am very good at worrying, so those were a tough three weeks for me.

Pretty sure it was no cell phones when my son did Outward Bound. Also, his trip was a lot shorter than 3 weeks. More like 1 week, which probably helped with the seeing-it-through thing.

Yes--my son's trip was supposed to be no cell phones too. I was so irked that they let him hold onto it while the other kids' flights were still landing, because I got a lot of miserable texts. Followed, of course, by silence, once the phones/iPods, etc., had been collected. So he recovered, and I was stuck thinking he was miserable. The trip was a solid three weeks, but not so hardcore as Outward Bound. It was plenty hardcore for him!

The trips my daughter is looking at are about two weeks, I think. She is right on the cusp between age groups. I'd prefer she go with the younger age group (because maybe it'll be easier?), but she thinks she prefers the older age group. I guess either would be okay.

If you are looking for something for teens that is perhaps a bit less hard core you could consider the adventure trips that Frost Valley does. I know one is in the Adirondacks, one in Maine. They are hiking or hiking and kayaking trips, I think. We considered but never did it. I know a teenage girl who did the Maine trip and loved it.

Those look good too, @frances. The website is a little difficult to navigate, though. My daughter has an "immersion" requirement for school and limited windows over the summer when she can fulfill it. With so many trips out there, it's amazing how difficult it is to find options that meet the school's requirements and our limitations.

Okay, looks like she's got it narrowed down to what must be the trip @brealer's son did, and a Northwest sailing trip. Not sure how she's going to pick one over the other, but I guess we'll get there. Not good to Google too much, though. There are a few horror stories that are giving me cold feet!

where do you find info on the Maine one ?

My friend's kid went there and liked it to the point that he became a leader.

Having worked many Outward Bound courses I can offer the following.

1. Kids go home because they don't want to be there. People have a perception of OB as a place to send kids who are having "problems". It's not that, it's an outdoor education program. If a students doesn't want to be there and the instructors can't get them to change their minds then they are sent home. They try hard to keep them, but some students are forced to go and it really is not what they want.

2. Sometimes students go home because they are not outdoor kids. You have to poop in the woods if you are doing a mountain course. If that is not for your kid, then try a river course where a portable toilet is used. That would also be a good course if you have a fear of heights but there is still hiking and climbing as a part of it. You can also do a sailing course.

3. The courses are very safe, but injuries do happen. Death, not so much =)

4. You need to be in good health but students all have varied skill sets and physical condition, staff are use to this. If you are concerned, go for a sailing or river trip where students are not carrying a pack.

@zucca, if you're not up for an Outward Bound trip, I highly recommend these trips, run by the summer camp my daughter went to until she was 16 or 17.

My daughter has an "Immersion trip" requirement for school, so this would fulfill that. That said, she is choosing the Outward Bound trips over other trips. (The school, for instance, runs some trips, which I think would be considerably easier than the Outward Bound trips.) She is totally up for this, and is already asking whether, if she really loves it, she could do the one she doesn't choose the following summer.

So I guess, @Wilkanoid, I'm the one not up for it, not she. I am familiar with Keewaydin but don't see the trips for teens separate from the camps. I guess I need to look more closely.

I appreciate your input, @unixiscool. I think we often blindly send our kids off on these trips without thinking about the risk involved. Deaths have happened, on Outward Bound trips and elsewhere, and they usually do seem to have been preventable/stupid. I'm not against the challenge aspect of it, I just hope that the instructors are intelligent about it, because an injury without cause would also be really unfortunate. I'm not talking about an incidental injury, but one that comes about because of the kids being pushed too hard. My daughter is in good shape, so that's a plus. She's now leaning away from the sailing trip, mainly because she'd rather carry a heavy pack and poop in the woods than sleep "stacked" (as we were told) on a 25-foot rustic boat with a huge pile of people.

@ek-mayhem, do you mean this trip: http://www.outwardbound.org/course/maine-coast-sailing/433/ ? Also, specifics about the Maine programs can be found here: https://www.hiobs.org/ .

@zucca, the separate trips are for adults and that note was directed at you and your new backpack.

Otherwise, you have to be a camper at Songadeewin, where my daughter went. Interesting that the school has an immersion requirement. May I ask what school she goes to?

Ahhhhh--got it now, @Wilkanoid. I'd forgotten my backpack was part of this conversation. I think my backpack and I are going to do it the cheapest way--groupless (not counting the family members who implicated themselves by giving it to me).

My daughter's at Newark Academy. The Immersion requirement is interesting. I might be a bigger believer in it in theory than in practice, but only because it's ridiculous how complicated teenagers' schedules can be (and because, though I'm sure there is scholarship money available, it's also usually an expensive proposition). Trips not under the school's auspices have to be approved individually, though I'm pretty sure any Outward Bound trip of the appropriate length would qualify.

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