Alumni Reflections: A Letter To Future Students

To current and future students of the Philadelphia Outward Bound School:

While we have never met, I know that you have begun or are about to embark on an amazing journey. I am years past my Outward Bound expeditions and want to share with you some of my reflections on my experience.

My journey to Outward Bound started as a 5 year-old kid, falling in love with a tree in front of my childhood home. It was the first nature I ever explored and played in. It led to my interest in outdoor experiences throughout my youth.

However, this interest never manifested fully until 7th grade when I participated in a five-day Peer Leadership expedition with fellow students of mine at Wissahickon Charter School. I was hooked after that first experience. I proceeded to participate in a Outward Bound trip every year from 2008-2012. I explored the wilderness of the Delaware Water Gap, climbed cliffs in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina, paddled down the Chattooga River in Georgia, and got lost in the Southern Colorado Rockies. These experiences cemented my love for the outdoors and my conviction that it needs to be protected.

I have had the good fortune of being inspired by many brilliant teachers throughout my educational career, and I foresee that you will find the same if you haven’t already. But no teacher is as inspiring as the outdoors. The outdoors is a teacher that challenges and pushes us, forces us to look inside ourselves, gets us to look at the world a little differently, and makes it really fun! And what a great principal is Outward Bound. Molding and shaping the school out of the vastness of the wilderness. Guiding us and supporting us as we explore territory beyond our comfort zone.

It is entirely possible that I’ve lost you at this point. Perhaps this is a bulky metaphor, and at the end of the day, Outward Bound just feels like recess: extreme edition.

But I assure you there are lessons in play that we take some time to notice. The most functional teams I have ever worked with have been Outward Bound crews, demonstrated through such challenges as keeping the fire burning all night, navigating across miles of mountain range with no clear trail to guide us, and figuring out how to get a hot meal going in a torrential downpour.

My emotional and mental limits were tested much more through roles such as Leader of the Day, navigating a crew down a river with inexperienced paddlers their second day on course, than moving to a foreign country. I learned much more about the physical capabilities of my body hiking through the woods with 40 pounds on my back than I did training for and running a marathon. The Outward Bound experience is a big ol’ lesson in life.

We have to heed those lessons and take care of the great spaces that taught them to us. Outward Bound started me on a passionate journey of environmentalism. In fact, I am currently serving as an Environmental Educator in the Peace Corps in Mexico, where I am teaching rural communities about the dangers of climate change and how they can adapt to their changing environment.

My life to date has led me to do many things that people often claim are “life-changing experiences.” My involvement with Philadelphia Outward Bound School is chief among these experiences, and I hope you cherish the memories you have made through them. Those memories changed my life.

I hope Outward Bound has set you on a passionate journey of your own, and I am certain that it will lead to great and wonderful things.

Peace and love,

Daniel Farmer