My Colorado Outward Bound School Course

Posted by Author David Lee


Last Updated October 1, 2021

The river water shimmered in the sunlight as the kayak streamlined through it, zipping through the smooth green current. As I kept my hold on the paddle, dipping it into the water, propelling myself forward, I felt relaxed for the first time in months, satisfied with nothing else but canyons around me and the river underneath. The summer before high school, I took a leap of faith and chose to attend a course through the Colorado Outward Bound School, kayaking and rafting through canyons in the Utah desert for two weeks. Prior to this experience, I had never stayed outdoors for longer than a few nights and had never ventured to Utah, let alone the deserts there. But, I had felt weighed down by the constant social pressures I had faced at school, overwhelmed by social media and typically feeling like an outsider to exclusive friend groups. When I signed up for the Outward Bound course, I suspect a part of me wanted to challenge myself, yet the other part just wished to go far, far away, to leave behind the social media and the pressure. I faced challenges in the outdoors that pushed me to use inner strength. From warding off swarms of mosquitoes at night to traveling the miles on the river each day to make it to the next campsite to spending a solo night alone, I challenged myself. At times, I wasn’t sure if I was capable of it all. But, with the support of my course teammates who became more like family, I faced the obstacles one by one. And something magical seemed to happen to me when taked the anchor off the water and ventured out onto the river each morning, especially in a kayak. It was spellbinding and relaxing, to glide along the water and feel myself continue moving forward. I felt at peace with myself in the kayak, as if I was enough. My strength was enough to continue along the river.

On the river, I had conversations with my teammates that rejuvenated and inspired me. I felt accepted by those around me, and, for the first time in a long time, truly proud of myself for propelling myself forward each day. The two weeks I spent on the kayaks with the Colorado Outward Bound School renewed a sense of joy, perseverance, and awareness in myself. I discovered that my inner strength and love had to come from within myself and couldn’t be something that I earned through social media or the gratification that I had met the standards of others. Somehow, travelling on the kayaks had especially helped me learn this lesson. It was when I was moving across the water, plunging forward, despite the heat or the aches in my arms, that I felt the strongest, the surest of myself. Since the two weeks I spent kayaking in Utah, I have continued enjoying time on the water. The following summer, I decided to challenge myself in another course, this time with the Chesapeake Outward Bound School, canoeing and backpacking. However, I continue kayaking whenever I can. I enjoy taking trips to a lake reserve near my home, where I can rent a kayak for an hour and experience the pure bliss of gliding on the water. There is solace I find on the water, a sureness in myself and an appreciation of my own power. Each time I step back inside the familiar feeling of a kayak, I find a part of myself is transported back to the freeing feeling of traversing the Utah canyons, pushed forward on a kayak.

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