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

Outward Bound Leadership Semester

My semester experience with Outward Bound was more than I ever thought it could be. The amazing people I met and traveled with, the beautiful natural environments I called home during our expedition, the personal growth I experienced, and the technical successes I achieved are just a few of the aspects of my time with Outward Bound that made my course an incredible life event. I learned more about myself, gained new confidence and motivation, mastered new technical skills, and broadened my perspective on the world. And the fact that all of this development was part of an outdoor adventure full of new and exciting personal experiences made my Outward Bound semester a highly formative and memorable moment in my life.

  • Personal Growth
  • Amazing Adventure
  • Useful Life Skills
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Yes, I recommend this program

Northwest Outward Bound Outdoor Educator Course

Taking this course was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I signed up in order to gain technical skills to perform better in my role within the outdoor industry. I walked away with these skills, but I also gained so much more. Some of the greatest lessons I learned while on trail came from the seven other individuals on expedition with me. They remain some of the closest friends and encouragers I have in my life. While on trail we leaned on each other's strengths to get us both physically and mentally to our next destination. And while, sleeping in a cave overlooking granite spires and kayaking alongside orca whales are "never-forget-it moments", some of my favorite memories are rap battles and campfire dinners with my crew. This expedition of course would have not been the same without the instructors who led it. They exemplified passion, integrity, and grit — leading by example and creating a space that was fun to learn, fail, and try again in, they are truly the real MVP's and are reason enough to sign up for a course.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
For anyone considering this course — first and foremost: do it! And secondly, lean fully into every part of the course. Ask questions. Be yourself. And be ready to challenge and grow yourself in ways, you probably won't even recognize until you're back home.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Outward Bound Pathfinder in Texas Big Bend National Park

This trip was one of the best experiences of my life. I've never had an experience before which I can so clearly point to and say "this changed me" or "this helped make me who I am". Going on this expedition challenged me to face fears, empathize with others, and see myself all in ways that I never had before. And back in my "normal life" I see myself applying things I learned on the trip like challenging negative beliefs about myself, working through problems and not giving up easily, building healthy relationships, etc. The people that I was on expedition with mean more to me than I ever could have guessed people I only spent a month with would ever mean. If you are considering going on one of these trips and you're not sure if you're brave enough or ready to "take the plunge", please do it. Trust me, even if you're afraid now, if you're excited about it, and willing to push yourself, you'll be glad you went.

Yes, I recommend this program

Best Decision I have Ever Made!

I would not be the person I am today if I had not chosen to go on Outward Bound. My trip was sailing on the Maine coastline, and it was incredible. I overcame my fear of heights and was able to rock climb. One of my favorite parts of the program was solo, because I got to write and reflect on who I was becoming and how I had to evolve. A great tip for solo was definitely to to ration your food, because it’s easy to eat it all in one go and be starving for the rest of the time. I split the bagel up and ate the chocolate first so it wouldn’t melt all over my other food. I would not be the woman I am today if it weren’t for Outward bound, and although I was homesick at the time, the experience gave me a whole new perspective on nature and how we can live within it rather than beside it.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Mazama Washington Billy Goat Mountain

I loved loved loved Northwest Outward Bound! I would do it again in a heartbeat! I treasure the memories and abilities that I gained and created throughout my trip through the back mountains of Washington every day! I gained more strength, willpower, and confidence than I could have ever imagined! The people I met on this adventure will forever have a special place in my heart because they are the ones that taught me so much throughout the journey about life, healthy friendships, and the importance of encouragement and teamwork!

What would you improve about this program?
I honestly don’t have an recommendations it was amazing!


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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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