Editor’s note: I asked staff around NOLS why they think it’s a good idea to get off the grid for a gap year. We do love our technology, but there’s also a whole lot of value in disconnecting for a while. Here’s why.Read More
I took my first NOLS course, Alaska Backpacking, the summer before my senior year of high school. Many things I learned in the backcountry made me better prepared for my final year of high school and starting college. If you're thinking about taking a gap year, that's a perfect time to hone your leadership skills. The value of travel, work experience, or service during a gap year isn't just in activities—it's also in the intangible skills like teamwork and self-reliance.Read More
It was four in the morning, it was sideways sleeting, and the tent pole cup was broken. I stood huddled in my rain gear, aiming my headlamp down at my tentmate and my instructor, who were lying sideways on the icy snow, trying to speedy-stitch the stirrup back to the tent body before they lost all dexterity in their hands.
It was four in the morning and I was supposed to be snuggled up in my sleeping bag inside the tent, but instead I was outside getting pelted with rain on the side of a snowy mountain, the blackness around me increasing the sense of being in the absolute middle of nowhere.Read More
Three years ago as part of a gap year, I took part in a semester-long, eighty day NOLS course in Baja California.
This course consisted of fifteen students and four highly-trained instructors embarking on a 100-mile hike from San Juanico to Mulegé, a 120-nautical mile sail on the Sea of Cortez from Loreto to just about south of Puerto Agua Verde, and ending with a 250-mile sea kayaking journey from Puerto Agua Verde to a town called Tecalote. (I also received sixteen college credits for my course, ranging from wilderness first aid to Leave No Trace principles!)Read More
“You what?” I asked my 17-year-old daughter, Brooke.
“I’m going to graduate early, a semester, my senior year. I want that to be my gap semester. I want to do a NOLS course.”
Accepting the independence of a teenage daughter is hard enough; seeing it come at the sake of a promising soccer career—one making you a doting soccer parent for over a decade—was perhaps even harder.Read More
I am not entirely sure what I meant when I claimed to “hate nature” for the majority of my life.
But I said it. Often. My dad used to bribe me up mountains with M&Ms every 100 steps. He threatened to send me on NOLS courses during my high school summers when I complained of boredom.Read More
Spending an extended period of time in the backcountry can seem challenging even to the most experienced of wilderness travelers, but you can learn a lot of humorous and valuable lessons when you're removed from civilization for a long time.
Here are few reasons why you should go into the wild for more time than you think.Read More
Taking a gap year is a big decision, and figuring out how to do it can be overwhelming.
If you’re struggling to make a plan for your gap year, take a look at these guidelines to get ideas for how to plan (financially, academically, and personally), a successful gap year.Read More
Each year, more students choose to take a gap year before college, spending the year after graduating high school to travel, work or volunteer. A gap year is a great way to gain experience, learn about yourself, and take a break from the traditional classroom before buckling down for another four years of school. Choosing the right gap year program can be tricky. If you type "gap year" into your search bar, you'll see what feels like an endless list of options.Read More
One of the most powerful statements on my NOLS course came from Morgan Hite’s essay “Briefing for Entry into a More Harsh Environment.” The last sentence reads: “You don’t need the mountains to do that.” Hite wrote the beloved piece in 1989, just weeks before Curtis Bartosik began his fall semester in the Rockies. In the years since, Bartosik, an American, has gone on to live in Japan, Hong Kong and now France, where he is an established entrepreneur, member of the board of the American Chamber of Commerce in France, general secretary of the American Legion in Paris and President of the Cornell Club of France. Bartosik’s life choices demonstrate that yes, it is possible to live in some of the most populated regions of the globe, and still connect with the natural world and maintain the values a NOLS course cultivates.Read More
I spent the summer before my junior year of college working for a trail crew. That summer was the most wonderful, the most physically and the most mentally challenging three months of my life.
We hiked 20 miles a day cutting out fallen trees. We carried loaded pack boards up mountains to work sites where we quarried rock to build staircases on the trail. The constant challenge was exhausting but liberating.Read More