Thursday, December 20, 2012

Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira

Mt. Kilimanjaro is composed of three volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. Mawenzi and Shira are both extinct, but Kibo, the highest peak, is dormant, and may one day erupt again. This is the second time Outward Bound Canada has sent a fundraising expedition up Kilimanjaro. The last expedition left on January 8th 2012, and returned home with over $70,000 raised for OBC’s core funded programs.

 Susan Calahan was first introduced to Outward Bound a few years ago when she participated in a dog sled trip. She is excited about the climb and the visit to East Africa.

“I am a human resources professional with TD Bank Group specializing in initiatives to recruit diverse talent into the organization.  I am currently working on my MBA and in my spare time I enjoy sailing and cycling.  Harold and I live in the Toronto Beaches and enjoy canoeing and hiking in Ontario. We also travel as much as we can, having explored many parts of the world with trips that usually involve as much walking and outdoor activities as possible. 

“I am looking forward to travelling to East Africa for the first time and to the experience of this Mount Kilimanjaro Expedition.   My connection to Outward Bound is rather recent as Harold introduced me to the organization with a dog sled trip a few years ago.   I enjoyed the learning experience the trip provided and the philosophy of Outward Bound.   I look forward to the opportunity to raise funds and awareness for this great organization through our 'Kili' climb.”

Please help Susan her fellow climbers reach their goal by making a donation to the 2013 Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb and clicking on the "Canada Helps" icon below:

You can make a general donation to the climb or dedicate it specifically to one of the climbers.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rainforest, Heather, Moorland, Alpine Desert and Glaciers - What More Could You Ask For?

Over the course of their trip, the climbers will walk through rainforest, heather, moorland, alpine desert and glacial terrain. At the lowest altitudes, the climbers will sweat it out in temperatures as high as 30 degrees Celsius. As they near the top, they’ll be bundling up – temperatures will dip as low as -15 degrees Celsius.

Susan Casson is another one of our climbers. She’s done plenty of tripping up north – namely the Yukon and the Northwest Territories – and she’s excited about embarking on an adventure in the southern hemisphere; Mt. Kilimanjaro is just 330 kilometres south of the equator.

“I currently live on a farm in the Hockley Valley near Orangeville.  I have a 12 minute commute to my job at a local Racquet/Fitness Club where I am the administrator for the Racquets Department, as well as teaching tennis and leading fitness classes.

“I have always had a focus in my life for spending time outside.  Most recently I have participated in several hiking and canoeing trips in both the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

“I am very excited to participate in this adventure to Kilimanjaro with Outward Bound.  One of my children took an Outward Bound course 15 years ago and ever since then I have maintained an ongoing interest in Outward Bound projects.  I look forward to the opportunity to fundraise for such a worthwhile organization that has such a positive and profound effect on so many people.”

Please help Susan and her fellow climbers reach their goal by making a donation to the 2013 Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb and clicking on the "Canada Helps" icon below:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Mountains Lure Us

On October 6, 1889, German geographer Hans Meyer and Austrian mountain climber Ludwig Purtscheller were the first to climb Kilimanjaro. 

The mountains lure us. Kilimanjaro lured Meyer and Purtscheller 120 years ago, and it’s today it’s calling  out to Katie Flynn. Katie fell in love with high altitude climbing when she summited Gulap Kanghri in India. She is thrilled to be a part of the 2013 Kilimanjaro Fundraising Expedition.

“East Africa is a part of the world that I have longed to explore for quite some time, and I couldn't think of a more fitting opportunity to do so.

“My experience with Outward Bound began a decade ago, when I became an instructor.  I knew right away that Outward Bound was an organization that complemented my professional goals. 

“Having been a classroom teacher for several years prior, I longed to take learning outside of the classroom, into the great outdoors.  My peers shared common views on education and I was exhilarated to work with students throughout their various adventures, discovering that there is "more in you than you know.

“Recently, I decided to take a step back from my career in education in order to take some time to explore and travel around the world.  During this time, I had my first experience with high altitude climbing.  I took part in a fundraising climb up Gulap Kanghri, in the Ladakh region of India.  This experience inspired me to continue to seek other amazing climbing regions in the world.

“I am so honored to be a part of this expedition for several reasons.  Above all, I am passionate about the community programs at Outward Bound.  This past summer, myself and nine other amazing women paddled in the Yukon River Quest to raise funds for Outward Bound's community programs and I would like to continue with my efforts for this cause.  Having instructed and coordinated these programs in the past, I have seen first-hand the world of good that they offer their students.  We are all so fortunate to be able to support these programs by experiencing such an amazing and fascinating part of the world.”

Please help Katie and her fellow climbers reach their goal by making a donation to the 2013 Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb and clicking on the "Canada Helps" icon below:

Thursday, November 29, 2012


One of the biggest challenges in summiting Kilimanjaro is dealing with the effects of altitude sickness. Acclimatization is extremely important, as even the most physically fit and seasoned climbers can become ill from the effects of high altitude. Our team will take the slightly longer Machame-Mweka route – extra time on the mountain will aid acclimatization and allow our climbers extra time to recover and prepare for the final push to the summit.

Harold Murray is another one of our climbers. Though he is a seasoned traveler, this will be his first time to East Africa. 

“I am an engineer specializing in sustainable and energy efficient lighting and building design, a field I have worked in for almost 25 years. I am an active cyclist, rower and sailor.

“Susan and I live in the Toronto Beaches and enjoy canoeing and hiking in Ontario. We also travel as much as we can, having explored many parts of the world with trips that usually involve as much walking and outdoor activities as possible.


“I am very much looking forward to traveling to East Africa for the first time and to the challenges of this Mount Kilimanjaro Expedition. My expectation is that it will be quite difficult, but also a truly rewarding experience; a great team with the fine guidance and spirit of Outward Bound. Outward Bound had a profound effect on my life almost 30 years ago and that experiential approach has always inspired me with its ability to develop confidence and strong commitments to teamwork and community service. I would like to help insure that other young people and adults alike will continue to benefit from Outward Bound programs, particularly where financial constraints would make this otherwise difficult or impossible. This is a great opportunity for us to give back to Outward Bound and to encourage our friends and colleagues to contribute as well.”

Please help Harold and his team reach their goal by making a donation to the 2013 Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb and clicking on the "Canada Helps" icon below:

You can make a general donation to the climb or dedicate it specifically to one of the climbers.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Everyman’s Everest

Kilimanjaro is a mountain fondly referred to as “everyman’s Everest” – it requires no technical climbing, but can be summited simply by walking. However, the climb is not to be taken lightly. High winds, high altitudes and cold weather make it a dangerous trek.

Dan Reisler is another of the climbers who will be embarking up Mt Kilimanjaro on January 9. He is a two-time Outward Bound graduate.

“I am a lawyer and senior partner at Reisler Franklin LLP in Toronto. We conduct and defend insurance-related litigation on behalf of major North American and European insurance companies. Born and raised in Port Hope, Ontario, I studied at the University of Toronto then took my law degree at the University of Windsor. Although my life and career since then has kept me in the city, I have always loved the outdoors, and relish physical challenges. I have completed 2 OBC courses, canoeing on the Kopka River in Northern Ontario in 1993 and climbing in Strathcona Park on Vancouver Island in 2003.

“My wife Dale is also a lawyer and we have a daughter and son, 22 and 20, studying at U of T and McGill, respectively.

“Kili 2013 is an opportunity for me to take on a new challenge, and to give back in a small way to an organization that has done much for me and many others.”

Please help Dan and his fellow climbers reach their goal by making a donation to the 2013 Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb and clicking on the "Canada Helps" icon below:

You can make a general donation to the climb or dedicate it specifically to one of the climbers.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Trek to the Top

At 19,340 ft., Mt. Kilimanjaro is the world’s tallest freestanding mountain.  On January 9th, a team of seven climbers and two Outward Bound instructors will embark on a seven day, 55 kilometre trek to the top. They’re climbing to raise money for Outward Bound Canada’s Core Funded Programs for women survivors of violence, veterans, Aboriginal youth and inner city youth.  The team's goal is to raise $50,000 so that more individuals representing these populations can experience Outward Bound.

To highlight these courageous individuals, we thought we would profile a member of the group each week.  So be sure to check in every Thursday between now and the climb date to learn more about these incredible people.

Meet Rob Rainer. Twenty two years ago, he took an Outward Bound course that changed him. Below, he tells us a little bit about his experience, and how it brought him to where he is today: about to embark on a journey up Kilimanjaro as one of the seven climbers.

“In 1980 I took a three-week Outward Bound winter mountaineering course in the North Cascade mountains of southern British Columbia.  At that time it was by far the hardest physical and mental experience of my 20-year old life.  Sometime into the first week, I wanted and was determined to quit.  However, encouraged by my course mates and inspired by our instructor, Barb Clemes, I found an inner strength I hadn't known before.

“I completed the course and ever since have drawn on the lessons I learned from Outward Bound concerning perseverance, compassion, teamwork and more.  Outward Bound thus remains the most formative learning experience of my life.  And now through this Kilimanjaro fundraising expedition, I have the opportunity to give back to this great program!

“Following my OB course, I embraced outdoor recreation and education in a significant way including working for both OB schools in Canada at the time, for short stints in 1984 and 1986.  My extensive time in outdoor and wilderness settings led to a passionate interest and concern in the environment, and by 1987 I was working in the field of environmental conservation.  Since 1993 I have held senior leadership positions with a number of environmental and social justice groups, and gained experience at the community, regional, national and international levels.  I owe so much of my career and growth trajectory to Outward Bound.

“I have two grown daughters, Robin and Alison.  Robin is also an OB graduate having taken courses in 2004 in Ontario and in 2011 in Alberta.  Indeed, it was on Robin's 2011 mountain instructor's course in Canmore that she met her now fiancée, fellow student Ryan Downey.  They are to be married in Canmore in May 2013, at the Alpine Club of Canada lodge where they first met!”

Please help Rob and his fellow climbers reach their goal by making a donation to the 2013 Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb and clicking on the "Canada Helps" icon below:

Link not working?  You can also click here to donate.

You can make a general donation to the climb or dedicate it specifically to one of the climbers.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Reconnecting with nature

Imagine you’re sitting in a mall food court on one of those plastic seats.  You’re eating a slightly stale and sickeningly sweet cinnamon bun. You’re not really hungry, and it smelled better than it tastes. You wash it down with a soda that makes your teeth ache.
Now imagine that you’re perched on a mossy log with a hot bowl of steaming pasta on your lap. You’re famished from a day of activity, and the pasta fills your empty belly and regenerates your happily tired body. A pot of tea comes to a boil over the fire in front of you and warms your toes.

Sometimes getting in touch with the earth can be inconvenient. It’s cold outside, so we’d rather be in. We’re hungry, but we’d rather buy something pre-made than cook something from fresh, whole ingredients.  Lounging on the couch is more relaxing than taking a walk in the woods.
But the emotional, physical and psychological rewards that come from being in the natural world are hard to beat.  There are challenges that can be overcome, lessons that can be learned and relationships that can be built outdoors that cannot be matched inside.  There are also important correlations between being outside and our well-being  – emotional and physical health, intelligence and creativity are all positively impacted when we spend time in nature.

There is an infographic that you might have seen lately about brand and plant recognition.

Take a moment to think about why you might recognize the brand of a sugary soft drink before you recognize the shape of a sugar maple tree.

Try to do something small every day to put yourself in touch with the earth.

If you feel cold, take a minute before you go inside. Move around, generate your own body heat, or put on a sweater.

Drink water when you’re thirsty.

If you need to get somewhere, use the power of your body to get there. Walk, or run, or ride a bike.
Carry a piece of fruit for the day. Save it for when you’re truly hungry. Feel its heaviness in your hand and when you bite into it, let its juice cool your throat. Don’t throw out the peel or core, but keep it with you for a while, and think about where it’ll end up when you do throw it out, and how it will get there.

Put up a bird feeder and watch who comes.

 You will find more in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.” – St. Bernard

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Outward Bound Canada is celebrating 25 years of “Women of Courage”

Tonight we’ll be celebrating 25 years of the Women of Courage (WoC) program, which has given over 1000 women the opportunity to experience renewed self-confidence and self-worth in beautiful natural environments. We’ll be celebrating with an evening of wine and cheese from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m., and  meeting at Tory’s LLP Toronto offices, 79 Wellington Street West, 33rd floor.

Alumni will speak about the impact the program has had on their lives, and OBC staff will share future plans for the expansion of the program.  We’ll also be recognizing the major fundraising efforts of the 2012 Mt. Kilimanjaro team and the 2011 and 2012 Yukon River Quest teams which have together raised $150,000 for the program in the last year.  

Women of courage courses have been created for women who are involved in the process of healing that follows the self-acknowledgement of an experience of abuse. This could include sexual, physical or emotional abuse, perpetrated by any individual or group, and experienced at any time during the woman’s life.

The course is an 8-day expedition, where women paddle into the wilderness with only what they truly need – food, shelter and gear – packed into their canoes.

Shannon Hartwig has been an instructor with OBC since 2008. She ran her first WoC course last summer. “Working within the WoC program feels less like being an instructor and more like getting an invaluable opportunity to travel through an amazing journey with women who I could learn a great deal from,” Shannon explains.

“Although it can be difficult for all of us when it is raining or when we need to figure out how to work through personality differences, there is nothing more captivating than watching women do things they never thought was possible for them - like swim in a lake for the first time, or portage a canoe, or open up to group of new people. It is such a gift to watch people be so awe of their own potential.”
If you’d like to join us in celebrating 25 years of the Women of Courage program, please RSVP with

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Montcrest School visits Outward Bound Canada at Evergreen Brick Works

Eleanor Roosevelt said that you should do one thing every day that scares you. 

When we challenge ourselves and step out of our comfort zones, we grow as individuals. 

When is the last time your challenged yourself? When was the last time your put yourself out of your comfort zone? When is the last time you did something that brought that rush of excitement and exhilaration that only comes from trying something new? For an effervescent bunch of seventh and eighth graders from Montcrest School in Toronto, it was only a few days ago. 

We welcomed the group to the Outward Bound Canada urban base camp at the Evergreen Brick Works last Friday. 

The day began with some seemingly simple challenges that got us thinking about teamwork and our physical and mental limitations. 

The challenge: Get all members to pass through the spider's web without touching the string. No two people may pass through the same section of the web.

The challenge: Lift the tennis ball off the base and lower it onto another base a few feet away without letting it drop. More difficult than it looks!

The challenge: Hoist the life ring up over the white pole without touching either the ring or the pole. Also more difficult than it looks. 

After lunch and a quick re-charge, we upped the ante and took on some more thrilling physical challenges.  

We tried some rock climbing,

some bouldering,

and a crowd favourite: the blanket toss. 

All in all it was a great day. 

What do you do to get out of your comfort zone? We'd love to hear about it. Leave a comment below!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Meet Your Instructor: Martha McCallum

Martha McCallum lives, plays and works close to nature, year-round, in the Canadian Rockies. She began her work with Outward Bound in 1982 and continues to bring a boundless enthusiasm and wealth of experience to her role. You'll enjoy her passion for exploring, her knowledge of wildlife and native medicinal plants, and her fine cuisine! 

"As a teenager I knew that I felt most alive when I was close to nature, and I wanted to live and play in the Rocky Mountains. Thirty years later, I still try my best to listen to, and follow, that inner wisdom; the place that feels right. It knows what we each need -- for our health, happiness, and deep fulfilment."

Martha's certification as an ACMG hiking guide is enriched by her experience as a mother, mountaineer, biologist, Hakomi therapist, herbalist, yoga teacher and life-long student and instructor of mindfulness practices. 

With Martha as your instructor, you will immediately feel you are in capable hands.

In this video, you'll hear Martha talk about Canmore, Alberta -- the starting place for our Mindfulness in the Mountains course -- as a site for spiritual and physical well-being.

Martha is the lead instructor of Mindfulness in the Mountains courses, and recently she has worked with our Explore and Renew courses for adults.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

From the instructor's mouth: Part 5


At Outward Bound Canada, we're big believers in continuing the journey of self-discovery, even when your official trip is over. We asked Megan Kelly, Alberta Course Director, if she could recommend three ways for youth to continue growing and learning about themselves. Here are her suggestions:

1. Find a mentor that you trust. 

A mentor is someone who has similar interests, personality and passions as you, but is a few years ahead in experience and knowledge. Look around in your current circle of friends and family for someone who has a job or hobby that you could see yourself doing. Ask them out for coffee. Let them know what you're thinking of doing with your life, and how you'd like their support. By having someone available to answer questions or offer advice, you'll receive an immense amount of encouragement and confidence. Plus, your new mentor will likely find that they learn as much from you as you learn from them!

2. Push your limits: Make sure you are doing activities that bring you out of your comfort zone. 

Everyone's personal comfort zone is different. One person might be comfortable swimming out into deep, open water while another person is terrified. Another person might be nervous of public speaking, while another person feels at home with an audience. Part of the personal learning process is identifying these areas of life where you are comfortable and where you are uncomfortable. Consider what you did yesterday. Was there something that you hesitated to do? How did you overcome this hesitation or fear? How did you feel afterwards? We transform ourselves everyday, even in the smallest challenges. Feel good about it!

3. Try a solo experience

The solo is a modern version of an ancient coming-of-age ceremony, traditionally for young men, but practiced today by anyone of any age. Virtually every culture has a similar tradition that involves going alone into wild and sacred places to fast, pray and seek guidance and inspiration. It is an opportunity to reflect deeply on your life and a time to discover your sense of purpose and true gifts. Heading into the wild alone for any length of time (whether it's 2 hours or 48 hours) requires preparation, and notifying someone of where you are going. We recommend talking to others who have done solos, and reading up on how to prepare.

What ways to do you practice self-discovery and personal growth? We'd love to hear your stories, so please comment below.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Food, glorious food!

Have you signed up for a course this summer? Have you read your Welcome Package and still have questions? For specific questions, we encourage you to contact any member of staff. But if you want to know what sort of meals you'll enjoy on the trip, or roughly how heavy your pack will be, keep reading!

The Food
When it comes to meals, Outward Bound doesn't hold back. Prepared by a professional chef, we offer delicious, tasty meals prepared with fresh ingredients which are dehydrated just a couple days before the trip. How does penne with tomato sauce and ground beef sound after a hard day of hiking?

In addition to your main entrée, every meal includes hot soup and, of course, dessert!

As for breakfast, we know the importance of a healthy, carbohydrate meal to set your day off right. Expect delicious loafs or muffins with hot oatmeal or granola.

Lunches will be a variety of bagels, pitas and wraps with cheese and a selection of meats or meat alternatives. And while on the trail, we provide snack bags (we love snacks too!) with a variety of energy-packed munchies and -- you got it -- chocolate.

Your Pack
The contents and weight of your pack will vary with the course. In general, you're looking at carrying 35-40 pounds at the start of the trip. But it gets better! Because as the days go on and you keep eating, your pack gets lighter. 

Again, depending on the trip, your instructor guide will plan two to three resupplies of food throughout the duration of the trip. This minimizes the food you must carry at one time. We generally like to carry a maximum of six days of food at a time.

Remember, the Welcome Package you receive from your course instructor contains most of the info you need to know prior to the trip. But if you have specific questions, don't hesitate to ask us here on the blog or email any member of staff!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Meet your instructor: Troy Patenaude

Tory Patenaude is a true 'renaissance' educator. With deep wilderness experience and the ability to move between diverse worlds make him a unique guide for participants on a quest. 

Having spent his early years growing up in the bush, it's no surprise Troy is now an ACMG-certified guide. He also operates a family-run eco-tourism lodge! When he's not guiding for Outward Bound, Troy handles the practical work of building log homes, fixing solar power systems and tackling the various tasks required to maintain a remote, off-the-grid wilderness centre.  

Troy is also well known in international, academic circles as a leading scholar of the 18th century poet and artist, William Blake

Strongly connected to his Métis heritage, Troy has a gift for helping his course participants feel at home in wild places and for guiding them through their own inner journeys of self-discovery. This summer, Troy will be guiding Life Compass Odyssey in August and Mountain Passages for Boys -- which departs in just five days!

Will Troy be your instructor? Enroll today!


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Meet your instructor: Laurie Skreslet

This week, we send off our first summer session of the Mountain Discovery course! And leading this group of 17-18 year olds through the Rocky Mountains is Laurie Skreslet -- the first Canadian to climb Mt Everest.

Years before Laurie's current crew was even born (1982, to be precise), Laurie summited Mt. Everest. But this guy isn't just a three-decade professional mountaineer. He's also an inspirational speaker, and Laurie excels at helping youth face challenges and step into adulthood.

Laurie credits the Outward Bound course he took as a young man with instilling a deep sense of tenacity and resilience that has remained with him throughout his life. Still actively leading mountain courses after 40 years as an instructor, Laurie brings an unmatched wealth of experience, passion and insight to his work with participants. 

Laurie will also be leading the August session of Mountain Adventure

Check out this inspirational video Laurie put together for businesses, but which we think is just as appropriate for you as an individual. (We also love his sunglasses.)

Happy travels, friends!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Jennifer Mackey: A life of gratitude

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

Even before Jennifer Mackey heard of Outward Bound, life brought her challenges that seemed insurmountable. The two-time alumna had been abandoned by her family at age 12 and due to her age and behavioral issues, no foster family wanted her. With nowhere else to go, she was placed in a group home under the ward of Children's Aid. It was a situation no pre-teen should have to face.

Fortunately, at age 14, Jennifer's supportive and encouraging case worker, Judy Moir, connected her with the generous funds of the Royal Bank of Canada and Jennifer was offered the next challenge of her life: Completing an Outward Bound youth challenge program.

This program saw Jennifer portage a canoe in black-fly infested humidity over a one-kilometer densely forested course. It was her and her portage partner, neither able to carry more weight then they already bore. At one point, collapsing from exhaustion and frustration, Jennifer dropped the canoe and it thudded heavily against a tree. She shrugged off her heavy pack and cried out in frustration. 

But through this experience, Jennifer learned her true power: to carry on. She suited back up and picked up the canoe. 

"And when the forest cleared and my destination finally came into view, I unclenched my jaw and gritted teeth and smiled my greatest smile. I’d done it! The victory was that much more glorious because it hadn’t been easy."


Fast-forward to June 11, 2012 when Jennifer was invited to share her story at the Kurt Hahn Leadership Award Dinner. Joining her at the event were Outward Bound board members, staff and supporters gathered to recognize the leadership and commitment of Jamie Anderson, former board chair of Outward Bound Canada and Outward Bound International.

In showing her appreciation for Jamie, RBC and Outward Bound, Jennifer shared how this challenging experience served her well even seven years later. It was 2002. She was frustrated by her dead-end job and, having dropped out of college the year before, was at an all-time low. Wanting more for herself, she once again suited up and...carried on.

"And when the forest cleared, I was a two-time college graduate at the top of my class, with a bright future as a career counselling professional."

In the following selection from her speech, Jennifer expresses gratitude -- a theme introduced to her through Outward Bound and a theme she has found relevant and appropriate through her whole life.

One of my three-day Outward Bound solo experiences also had a profound impact on me. It had poured rain nearly the whole time, leaving everything on my private little island soaked. I could’ve been miserable, what with my inability to light a fire, my meagre supply of food I couldn’t cook, and my makeshift tent made up of a measly sheet of plastic draped over a thin piece of string tied between two young trees bowed by strong winds. 

I could’ve been scared, what with the heavily rumbling thunder and piercing cracks of lightning. I could’ve been bored, what with nothing more to do than think, journal, or explore. Yet I wasn’t miserable or scared or bored. 

“How could that be?” you may be wondering. 

Because I chose instead, as had been modelled to me at Outward Bound, to be grateful. Grateful for the opportunity to even be there; grateful for my new friends and teachers; grateful for the wondrous adventure; and grateful for the chance to reflect. Here’s an excerpt of the letter I wrote to myself during my solo: 

“It’s so beautiful out here with the only noises those of pure nature and your only thoughts being yours and having all the time in the world to modify your behaviours and grow as a person. Take care of yourself both physically and mentally and don’t judge others for their differences. You are a free woman. Free to choose who you want to be and what you want to do and who you want to share your choices with. Keep an open mind and when frustration sets in, evaluate the situation and ask yourself if it’s worth your energy. Love is beautiful. Hate is meaningless and time consuming. Be peaceful in your ways. Empty what’s full. Fill what’s empty. And scratch where it itches!” 

The remembering of this solo experience served me well in 2010, when I was laid-off after five years of dedicated service due to government-funding cutbacks in employment services. I was completely shocked and devastated. It took nearly a year and a half to secure new employment due to the labour market and economic situation. 

In that time, my greatest solace was gratitude. Gratitude for what I did have. Gratitude for what I believed earnestly would come my way again. Just as on my private little island at Outward Bound, the storm eventually passed, the clouds dissipated, and the sun shone once more. Gratitude had seen me through.

Before Outward Bound, I was broken. During Outward Bound, I was empowered. After Outward Bound, I was powerful. Outward Bound not only changed my life; it saved my life. Debby, Danny, and Kelly wrote this about me following my Youth Challenge: 

“Jenn is a lioness who knows her beauty, her strength, and compassion for others. She glides through the jungle, watching and learning, accepting each new challenge with a positive spirit.” 

Thank you, Outward Bound, for showing me myself. You saved my life.

-- Jennifer Mackey, 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Outward Bound Canada Team currently in 2nd place in Yukon River Quest

This just in....the team is sitting in second place in the Women's Voyageur Canoe category. They are now in Carmacks, at the first mandatory rest stop, where they will rest, eat, drink for a few hours. They arrived in Carmacks at 10:15am this morning and will head out late afternoon/early evening. Check out their progress on the YRQ website:

Outward Bound Canada team crosses Lake Labarge

The race has begun and the team is endeavouring to cross Lake Labarge - this is a very challenging section of the race as the river widens into a huge lake that takes hours to cross. In addition, the team will have to deal with rough waters due to wind & weather, and less currant. All of this equals MORE EFFORT! Go Team Go!

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Outward Bound Canada team getting ready to depart on Yukon River Quest race.

The OB Yukon River Quest team spent the morning packing their boat and preparing everything racing through the Yukon wilderness. Favorite food items include pizza, Skittles, pickles, chocolate covered espresso beans, homemade protein bars, apple sauce and copious amounts of granola bars. 

The other teams are from all around the world - Australia, Japan, The UK, Belgium, and more! Some are experienced racers and others are newbies.

Our team's secret weapon is our support crew ninja Annemarie, an amazing woman who can move mountains, make miracles happen, deal with anything and do it all with a smile.

The OB team is feeling incredibly excited and deeply thankful for the incredible support from all across Canada and the world. Thank younger the letters, cards, Facebook messages and calls.

The race will begin at noon sharp, updates available on the YRQ website.

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Outward Bound Canada team prepares for their journey

As part of the preparations for the Yukon River Quest race, all teams must go through a mandatory gear check to make sure that they have the required gear, safety and rescue equipment, and supplies. They will be paddling 750kms, and only stopping for a few hours of rest/sleep twice during the race. So, this prep day is crucial in terms of ensuring that they have adequate supplies individually and as a team. Only one more sleep until the start....m
Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Outward Bound Canada Yukon River Quest team arrives in Whitehorse!

The Outward Bound Canada staff team consisting of ten ultra fit, experienced and adventurous gals, is in Whitehorse and preparing for the start of the gruelling Yukon River Quest race - the longest wilderness river race in the world. The 10 women have already raised 22K for the Outward Bound Women of Courage program for survivors of abuse. Stay tuned for more updates and more action from the team as they prepare for the race start on June 28th.
Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

From the instructor's mouth: Part 4

For the last couple weeks we've been featuring the insider experiences of an Outward Bound instructor, Megan Kelly. You can read more about Megan here

Today Megan tells us about how she was affected as an instructor while leading a group on a particularly unique Outward Bound trip. Here's Megan:

"A huge piece of being an Outward Bound instructor is the parallel process. We are continually learning and growing with our students. I always learn lessons from the group.

An example of this way my first year as an instructor. I was leading a group of young hearing-impaired students. The impairments ranged from minor hearing loss to completely deaf. It was inspiring to witness the growth of these students when on solo. Most people had never been allowed to be on their own because family and friends were always supporting them.

This experience taught me the importance of finding a balance between supporting someone while also allowing them to make their own mistakes."

Don't forget to comment on the blog, post on our Facebook wall or tweet @OutwardBoundCan about your own #personaldiscovery to save $250 on fees for a 2012 summer youth course in BC or Alberta. More details here:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

From out of left field: Natalie Fasano

"We sometimes meet people and they plant a wee seed in ones mind. It may not come to fruition immediately, but one day those ideas, thoughts or advice sprout and come into full bloom."

Natalie Fasano, a recent alumni, wrote to Sarah Wiley last week about her recent experience with Outward Bound Canada.

June 4, 2012

Hi Sarah, 

I'm not sure if you will remember me. It was about one year ago exactly that I met you at the Evergreen Brickworks Farmers Market and Outward Bound Open House. We met again at your office and we spoke of Outward Bound. You so kindly gave me an OB book. I think we both got busy with life and have not had the chance to catch up. 

I must say, I am a cheesy believer in the concept of planting seeds, kind of like the Van Gogh painting. We sometimes meet people and they plant a wee seed in ones mind. It may not come to fruition immediately, but one day those ideas, thoughts or advice sprout and come into full bloom. I think that is what you may have done for me. 

When I met you I had just recently moved to Toronto, and had taken on a marketing agency role. I knew that it was not for me but with the attractive salary and security it offered at the time, it was suitable. One day at the office I saw on your Facebook an advert for the West Coast Life Compass Course which was to be running May 14 - 27th. I read the description and immediately phoned my mother. 

I told her I was going to be leaving my job and going on this adventure. I told her that, for some reason, I knew I had to go there at this time. It felt very natural. It felt on purpose. 

Then I looked at my finances. With a large student debt and the cost of Toronto rent, I was not in a place to spend that kind of money on a trip. I called Angela Benoliel to ask if the scholarships and grants were only available for youth, or if adults could also apply. 

She was so friendly and helpful through the entire enrolment process. I was given support through Outward Bound for a portion of the course cost. I also dug into my Airmiles to help with the flight and soon enough, I was booked. I was a confirmed OB participant.

I decided that this was the perfect time to transition into something I was truly passionate about. When I had confirmed I was going on this trip, I put in my 3-weeks notice and chose to resign from my role at the agency. I was heading West and knew things would fall into place when I got home. 

Funnily, whilst I was on this course, I did not think about the uncertainty of life back home. I did not think that I needed a plan, a job. I just trusted that I was there for a reason. I absolutely loved and appreciated the way that Outward Bound courses keep you in the moment, present to what you are working on, the activity you are doing, or the conversation you are having. This kept the mind where the feet were. 

I have to extend the utmost gratitude and respect to the facilitators of this course, Kat McGlynn and Tim Ross. Words are so not enough to explain how passionate and dedicated these two instructors are. Their work ethic and commitment to each participant was beyond what I could have expected from this course. Their balance of humour, education, compassion, and expanding consciousness was done with such grace. I never felt as though they were forcing any of it either -- they were so natural in their role. I know I can speak for myself and my fellow participants that they were always going above and beyond to ensure we had the best experience. 

I cannot hold them up next to any other OB instructors because this was my first experience with OB. But if your other staff are anything like these two amazing people then I will definitely be signing up for another course in the future. They really live and breath the four pillars of Outward Bound. You cannot pay for that kind of passion. 

I just had to write to you to express my appreciation for planting the seed I needed in my life. 

I came home on Monday of last week and serendipitously was having lunch at a friend's restaurant in Burlington. By chance the owner of the restaurant's adjacent yoga studio came by to join us. I was talking about my latest adventure with Outward Bound and how I had left my job. The owner of the yoga studio began to speak of how just this past weekend her studio manager had finished up and left for a corporate job. Before I knew it I was on an interview, and that evening she sent over a job offer! 

I love how life comes together and gives you exactly what you need when you need it. I know that this Outward Bound course was exactly what I needed to do to switch gears once more and keep true to my life's journey. 

So, thank you. For you may not have realized it but meeting you set off a chain reaction of events that have left me with a smile on my face and in my heart. I will forever be grateful that I crossed paths with you.

I hope you are having an amazing Monday morning and that your week will be a fantastic one.

Best always, 


Natalie and her course crew pose in the forest of Vancouver Island.

Monday, June 18, 2012

From the instructor's mouth: Part 3

Have you been thinking about what you'll do this summer? Perhaps you just applied for your first ever Outward Bound course! If you're still thinking about it, make sure to comment on the blog, post on our Facebook wall, or tweet at us to save $250 on enrollment.

And if you're not quite convinced that an OB course is what you're meant to do this summer, we have Megan Kelly back today with some more insider's perspective.

Megan Kelly isn't just an instructor. Like any staff or volunteer of Outward Bound, she's also a participant. A course instructor may be the one in charge but it's hard not to be impacted by the experiences of those around them -- no matter how many times they've been out in the field.

"I love the first time that people see the mountains and are in awe of the beauty and peacefulness."

Realizing the value of what we regularly take for granted in our urban, developed lives is a common response to an Outward Bound trip, says Megan.

"Usually after a very tough day or a long period of bad weather, participants often reflect on the luxury of our everyday life. You can really learn to appreciate the simple things in life, like turning on a tap for water instead of collecting and boiling it."

Other personal discoveries can happen at any time during the trip. The famed Outward Bound solo, one of the modern world's few true rites of passage, is a common source of personal discovery.

"For most people, this is the first time in their lives they have sat alone without distractions -- for any length of time. The learnings from this experience are usually very powerful, impactful and different for everyone."

And these personal discoveries aren't always easy. We all deal with challenges differently, and in different ways. Even as an instructor and course director, Megan discovers new, challenging qualities about herself each time she's out in the field.

"Sometimes I discover something that I need to change and I am usually upset at first. But then I come to realize the importance of changing. After I accept the new awareness, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders."

So she gets it. All Outward Bound instructors get it. When it comes to facing change and handling personal discoveries, an Outward Bound course is the best place to be. You'll be in an environment of understanding and support.

When asked how she supports participants as they experience their own personal discoveries, Megan replies:

"I am there to listen, and to give small nudges when needed."

Want to know which courses are on offer this summer for youth in BC and Alberta? Check out this blog post for links to full course descriptions. And ask any questions you might have, right here on the blog.

Monday, June 11, 2012

When I went Outward Bound: Erik Bertram, Part 2

Even if you're accustomed to the outdoors and think you have a good grasp of who you are, there is always more to discover about yourself. Here's more from Erik, our intrepid alumnus.

Erik Bertram wasn't a stranger to outdoor adventures when he enrolled in his first Outward Bound trip. As a kid, he'd participated in many fall and winter Scout Camps and completed multiple day hikes. His family was really into camping, and he also completed two week-long camping and canoeing trips in Haliburton through the Greater Toronto Council's Camp Adventureland program.

This experience helped Erik build essential skills for working through challenges and having fun in group settings. When asked what personal qualities he discovered in himself through his first OBC course, Erik highlighted teamwork, leadership and patience.

"It felt good knowing that I was improving myself and the way I interact with other people."

Erik is a very independent young man and he felt confident making these discoveries on his own. But when he needed the support, he sure wasn't alone.

"My course instructors were really great, and were very easy to connect with. They were able to make everyone feel comfortable."

Want to meet some of the instructors of this year's summer courses? Check back tomorrow to meet Troy Patenaude and Delmar Williams -- instructors of the 2012 Mountain Passages for Boys!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Weekly Roundup: June 4-10, 2012

What happened in the world of Outward Bound Canada this week? Here's a quick summary:

The latest Duke of Edinburgh's Urban Expedition ventured outside their Toronto homes to practice their outdoor skills. Thanks for the fabulous weekend, team!

On the porch of a new staff cabin, our newly trained instructors ended their intensive Instructor Training Program adventure with a slideshow recap and celebration of the impending 2012 season. 

Did you know all our Veteran's programs are free? You got it! Thanks to the generous financial support from numerous partners and sponsors, we offer a range of programs for members of the Canadian Forces.

You can be sure that wherever paddlesports are involved, so is Outward Bound Canada! This weekend our instructors made a splash at Toronto's MEC Paddlefest.

Team OBC joined the national fundraising campaign and cycled 200km in the Ride to Conquer Cancer. Thank you to everyone who donated funds -- we raised over $34,000! 

Courses are filling fast for Summer 2012 and these folks filled our Open House to find out how they can get in on a trip! There are still spots available on courses in BC and Alberta -- post your questions on the blog and we'll give you $250 off enrolment!

Friday, June 8, 2012

When I went Outward Bound: Erik Bertram

During the next few weeks on the blog, we'll be sharing first-hand experience from people who know the world of Outward Bound. You'll hear from one instructor and one participant to help you see if an Outward Bound course this summer is the next challenge in your life! 

Today we'll introduce you to Erik Bertram, our adventuring alumni participant.

Erik was introduced to Outward Bound like many other kids -- through his parents. As a pre-teen, he was fairly active with karate, winter skiing and Scouts. Home life was normal, with two parents and a younger sister. Grades were good and so were his group of friends. He was the type of kid who preferred outdoor adventures with friends over indoor activities with a computer.

"But when I was around 13, I quit [Scouts]," says Erik. "I was still interested in doing some outdoors camps, so my parents suggested Outward Bound."

Erik's first trip was EcoVentures, a former 12-day camp for pre-teens. Joined by other 12-13 year olds, he tried low- and high-ropes courses, orienteering, day hikes, swimming and even a 4-night canoe trip in the wilderness!

Preparing for this first trip was made a bit easier due to his previous outdoor experience. "I had a big hiking pack from Scouts, so I just packed that with everything from the clothing list. Anything I didn't already have I got from Mountain Equipment Co-op."

When it came to mentally preparing for the trip, Erik dealt with his excitement and anticipation by talking to others who knew more than him. "I didn't have too many questions because I was used to overnight camps. But for any small questions, I asked my parents because they knew more of what the course was about."

(FYI: Another great resource for questions and information are Outward Bound staff -- like Megan Kelly, Alberta Course Director. Just leave a comment below, write on our Facebook wall, or tweet @OutwardBoundCan with your concerns/questions. Megan will get back to you ASAP.) 

New Outward Bound students aren't the only ones who feel nervous and excited before a trip. As Megan Kelly said in this previous blog post: "I am always worried that I will forget something or that the trip won't go as I imagined."

But there is great reward to be had from facing a challenge with some unknowns. You'll likely find that the new sights, sounds and activities keep the excitement and anticipation going throughout the course.

"[These feelings] didn't really change," says Erik. "There always seemed to be something fun to do."

Check in with us again on Monday for more of Erik's first Outward Bound experience. And don't forget to ask us questions -- when embarking on the adventure of a lifetime, it's important to prepare. Have a great weekend!