Outward Bound

Why choose Outward Bound?

Here at Outward Bound, our motto is "learn by doing." Founded in 1962, Outward Bound has helped over 1 million students achieve their goals. Today, we equip students looking to pursue a gap year with self-confidence, tenacity and compassion. Outward Bound offers programs of all lengths in some of the most spectacular and inspiring settings in the United States, Asia and Central and South America.

Our semester programs range anywhere from 30 to 85 days and can be as adventurous as mountaineering, dog sledding or even swimming with dolphins. Our students have opportunities to complete service projects in remote villages, national parks, schools and more. Our goal is to have students leave our program with a new sense of awareness and the motivation to change the world.

Outward Bound is accredited with the American Gap Association and is the longest running program in this elite group dedicated to providing safe, meaningful and high-caliber educational experiences to students.


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Yes, I recommend this program

Voyager Outward Bound School Winter Leadership Semester 2022

This gap year program changed my life. Outward Bound provides challenge and growth through experimental education which resonated with my learning style and allowed me to gain self confidence, purpose, integrity, the ability to work well in a team and with others, it gave me the tools to communicate assertively, and helped develop my leadership skills. I would recommend this program to any person going through college and feeling lost or looking for change in their life. It is rigorous and challenging, but you are set up for success by instructors and program staff to overcome any obstacle you face.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
We mushed for 16 days in a row, living and sleeping in the woods and on the lakes of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness which was one of the most amazing experiences i've had in my life. During that time we cooked over massive fires, cared for ourselves as well as 11 sled dogs, had a 3 day solo experience, and traveled almost every single day.
  • Unique opportunity
  • Life changing
  • Learn wilderness skills
  • Very little free time
  • Wouldn't take up a full gap year
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Yes, I recommend this program

The best experience known to man

Outward bout dog sledding is the most humbling experience you can do with your life. The outward bound experience really shows you how much you can push through and do things by your self and with others. The experience you make are the best and I would not change then for anything. I'd you are on the fence about going or sending your child I will say it will be one of the best things in there life and when I have kids I plan to have my kids do the outward bound courses if they are still running.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My advice would be to not worry about anything back home and enjoy the moment. Things will get hard and you will break down but the staff will keep you from falling down so trust them and push through all obstacles. Also have an open mind and e joy your time and make new friends
  • Perseverance
  • Being with the sled dogs and taking care of them
  • Making new friends
  • There are no cons to the outward bound experience
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Yes, I recommend this program

Best Semester Ever

My experience with Outward Bound was super unique because it was the 1st year that Pacific offered this type of applied outdoor leadership pathway. It was quite interesting being the 1st group of students able to do something like camp outside for 70 days doing some of the coolest outdoor recreating possible. This trip was my first time really being exposed to all of the activities we did besides just regular backpacking, and the instructors' incredible scope of knowledge, skills, and compassion made me feel very empowered to take on new risks and learn new things about myself. I now have an incredibly solid foundation of outdoor recreation/guiding skills to build upon thanks to all my wonderful instructors.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
I'd say one of the most suprising things we did was completing a 140ft free hanging rappel during the mountain section of the trip. Totally epic experience and in such a cool environment as well in the north cascades. Another thing we did a lot though which I throughly enjoyed was stopping at various native museums during our river section. It made me further respect and appreciate the lands where we were recreating in as well as those who've called it home for much longer than anyone else.
  • Increased appreciated of the outdoors and the native people's who inhabit the land in which we recreate on
  • You receive an incredible array of foundational technical/interpersonal skills for moving through the backcountry efficiently
  • Fostering of group leadership skills and expedition behavior
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Yes, I recommend this program

Oregon Outdoor Educator Course

This 55 day outdoor course is meant to challenge you, but it was not what I had originally expected. It is not an outdoor boot camp, it is much more about learning to live in a community with others and work to accomplish challenges together. After completing even a single element of the course you leave the backcountry with an immense sense of accomplishment and confidence in yourself. This course is meant to give you all the skills to be an outdoor educator- there are a lot of technical skill lessons on each element (such as how to set up and manage a rock climbing site), and we got a lot of practice teaching lessons to each other and growing as teachers in general. The instructors create an amazing culture of feedback and support to really allow for personal growth, professional growth, and self discovery. I learned a lot about myself.

  • Amazing instructors really care about your personal growth, in both technical and social/ emotional skills.
  • Create a tight knit community that you go through challenges with
  • Become confident in yourself
  • Did not get to do technical mountaineering that I wanted to do, based on the skill level of other students
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Yes, I recommend this program

VOBS Leadership Semester - Best Decision Of My Life!

My experience with Outward Bound was (and continues to be) nothing short of life-changing. The instructors balanced fun, interpersonal connection, and structure with the inherent learning that stems from an intense expedition, all while acting as wonderful mentors during a transitional time in my life. Through the experience, my physical and emotional resilience grew immensely, I found a newfound comfort in vulnerability, and I began to see challenge less as an obstacle and more as an opportunity to grow. I attended during the winter, so I got to experience the magic of dogsledding in Minnesota. It is nearly impossible to express just how incredible it feels to bond with a team of dogs as you make your way across the BWCA. The semester was unforgettable, but the dogsledding portion holds a special place in my heart. Going on leadership semester was one of the most difficult yet formative experiences of my life, and I'd do it all over again without a second thought.

On top of the immense personal growth that the course fostered, VOBS also encouraged me to bring my personal DSLR camera, which introduced me to backcountry photography. It gave me the opportunity to navigate various harsh environments with fragile pieces of equipment and helped me develop skills that I am now applying toward a career in film. This is NOT a photography-oriented program, but it's worth mentioning as I thoroughly enjoyed that element of the semester.

  • Personal Growth
  • Communication
  • Leadership


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because I had an avid interest in sailing and the sea for as long as I could remember. So when the opportunity to attend a sailing course through The Boys and Girls Club appeared, I jumped at it.

I knew it would allow me to develop sailing skills and explore the sea, which I had never done before. I knew it would also allow me to explore the world in a totally new way. Proximity was important as well, since I knew my parents would have to drive to the location. Baltimore, Maryland was relatively close to my home in New Jersey.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Once the course fees were paid, Outward Bound provided food, sunblock, and lodging in the form of a thirty-foot tugboat. You are given a list of items that must be purchased before you set sail. Those items include swim wear, bug spray, sunglasses, hats, etc. Personally, a pair of gloves to handle the oars might be a good idea as well.

As previously mentioned, I did have to drive to their basecamp, which is located in Baltimore, Maryland. From there, the course sailed along the Chesapeake Bay. All meals were prepared on the vessel, with cooking assignments and other crew tasks being assigned on a rotating basis – captain, cook, deckhand, etc.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

The advice I would give to anyone embarking on this program is to stay open to learning something new each day, and to meeting people from all walks of life whom you may not ordinarily come in contact with.

Leave your preconceived notions about life in general on the docks. This program has so much to offer if you are simply open to change.

I was a teenager at the time, and I had arrived at basecamp with my best friend. We expected to be on the same boat but the instructors separated us. At the time, I was very upset and considered going right back home. In the end, it turned out to be the best thing the instructors could have done for us because we grew so much in ways we likely would not have, had we had each other to lean on.

We made new friends and were able to come back at the end of the course and discuss all we had learned. Although there were many similarities, there were also many differences. We realized how much we had both changed and grown. Expect to be challenged and to be changed for the better.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

An average day at sea means waking up on oars you slept on the night before (which is much more comfortable than it sounds), preparing for the day starting with breakfast and putting the main mast back up. Sunblock is essential as there is nowhere to hide from the sun out on the water. Staying hydrated is incredibly important for the same reason.

Then you have a crew meeting to determine where your next destination will be. You then take turns rowing your way there. At the end of the day, you lower the masts and prepare dinner. Before bed, someone reads the Captain’s log of the day, which is full of the observations of the day’s events.

You will also have to determine a schedule for bow watch. Bow watch is when someone is awake at all times throughout the night to ensure no other vessels collide with our own. This process is generally done in shifts of one or two, which is also a wonderful time for quiet reflection in the silence of the dark.

Part of the course also includes visiting protected marshlands and helping habitats thrive via gardening, etc. It also includes a solo mission, which requires you to be separated from your boat mates and camp on your own for 48 hours. It is a great time to really think about your experiences throughout the course and also be further immersed in nature.

At the end of the course, you will have to undergo a course final, in which you use the skills you have learned to navigate on your own, without the input of your instructors. You will also be tasked with physical endurance tests.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear going into the course was that I would not be able to keep up with everyone else. Luckily, I did not worry about this for long because I realized how much preparation our instructors were actually administering to us. They were there every step of the way, teaching and encouraging. There were some days where I got frustrated with myself but I still kept going. At the end, not only did I keep up, I thrived.

What is your advice to travelers?

An important bit of advice I have for prospective travelers is to be prepared to be a part of a support system and to develop relationships that last long after you leave the course. You have the opportunity to really step out of your comfort zone and learn things about yourself you never knew. Get comfortable with discomfort. Sometimes, it’s the only way to grow.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Shelby Jumper

Job Title
Web Content Manager
Shelby's hunger for adventure has taken her all over the world – from hiking in the Swiss Alps to exploring the South African Wild Coast to swimming with wild whale sharks in the Philippines. She’s passionate about getting people outside, the medicinal value of laughter and her dog, Scout.
Shelby Jumper

What is your favorite travel memory?

While visiting friends in South Africa, I had the privilege to spend time on the Wild Coast, a section of the coast of the Eastern Cape, on the ancestral lands of the Xhosa people. We stayed in a cottage, with no potable water or electricity, about 100 yards from the ocean. We woke and slept with the sun, spent the days exploring, swimming and reading, and the evenings playing games and stargazing. Spending time with some of my favorite people in such a beautiful place is one of my all-time favorite memories.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Since working for Outward Bound, I have become a more self-aware, crew-oriented, focused and compassionate person. I think it's safe to say most people who work for the organization prioritize self-growth, so I've had strong examples to follow in the ways that I want to grow/am growing professionally.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Honestly, there are too many to choose from! The stories that resonate with me most, though, are those in which an Outward Bound course sparked purpose within a student. Whether it's a passion for nature, a commitment to service, or a deeper understanding of community, students often leave the course with a renewed sense of purpose.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

Having already been on a 10-day Boundary Waters Cross Country Skiing & Dog Sledding expedition, I've experienced the impact a short Outward Bound course can provide.

I'd love to experience the Southwest Leadership Semester. This is a long Semester course, so the potential for learning and transformation is huge. Plus, spending 50 days rafting, kayaking, backpacking, canyoneering and rock climbing in Utah sounds super fun.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I think what makes Outward Bound unique is that it's chock-full of people dedicated to living authentic, compassionate and meaningful lives. An organization-wide dedication like that is contagious and is often transferred to students on course. So not only do Outward Bound students receive a world-class outdoor education program, but they also receive a whole new outlook on life and their place in the world.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

In my opinion, a purpose-driven community is what takes an organization from a business to a team.

At Outward Bound, we believe wholeheartedly in what we do and in the strength and value of our programs. Internally, we also look out for one another and cultivate community. A shared purpose paired with trust in one another is a recipe for success. Crew, not passengers!

Professional Associations

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