By Inge Davids, Alaska Backpacking and Sea Kayaking '12
Five years ago, on a typical Saturday evening in the Netherlands, I saw a film that took place in Alaska. It showed stunning scenery, pure wilderness, and endless possibilities for adventure. From that moment on, I could not stop thinking about the Last Frontier. I was lured to the land like nothing else. I had to go there to explore it for myself!
Dreaming turned to brainstorming, and eventually, planning. I thought about what I wanted to experience, where, and with whom. I wrote numerous emails, dug through guidebooks and photo blogs, met with experienced travelers, searching for an option that made sense to me. Finally, another outdoor enthusiast suggested I should “do one of those outdoor courses.” I had never heard of an "outdoor course," and had no idea such a thing even existed. So I Googled it—and found NOLS.
My NOLS course enabled me to explore the Alaskan wilderness and learn about the outdoors in an inspiring and safe environment, giving me the tools to go backpacking responsibly in the raw backcountry by myself. NOLS taught me how to stay on route in an area without trails and how to deal with wildlife. And just like in the film, I went into the wild. More than that though, I realized that learning technical skills was only a part of it, expedition behavior and leadership were essential. It was a life lesson in the heart of Alaska.
When I look back on my NOLS course, I remember it as a very challenging experience, yet also incredibly rewarding. Alaska made us endure the harshness of its wild landscape and pouring rain, but in return, gave us stunning sun-filled vistas and unforgettable adventures. The physical and personal challenges almost pushed me to my breaking point, but made me a stronger person in the end.
And my drive to explore and experience unknown lands? That did not end in Alaska. I continue to live that dream, only this time in Patagonia and Alaska again, working for NOLS.
I never would have thought that a single story could change my life so much: taking me from the flat lands of the Netherlands to the rugged outdoors of Alaska and Patagonia.
About the Author: Inge Davids is a NOLS alumna from the Netherlands. After graduating with a BA in Interior Architecture from an art academy, Inge traveled throughout North America for two years in the pursuit of adventure. It was during this time that she found herself on a NOLS course, as well as working in Denali National Park. Inge now works at the NOLS Alaska branch, and previously interned for the school in Patagonia. During her free time she enjoys exploring and using writing and photography to share her stories of exploration.