NOLS Blog

Browse by Category

Creating Space: Why All-Women's Expeditions Matter

By Brooke Ortel on Mar 5, 2020
Photo by Nadine Lehner

“In a lot of ways, it’s just a normal NOLS course. But there’s also an aspect of recognition that the outdoor world is still predominantly male, and it’s cool and empowering to be out here with a bunch of women who historically haven’t always been accepted in this realm of work and play.” —Katie Oram, NOLS Instructor

Read More

Topics: Leadership Skills, Research, all-women, female leaders, inspiring women, NOLS Expeditions, affinity, Leadership

5 Things I Learned from Going on a Paddling Expedition with My Spouse

By Ashley Drake on May 13, 2019

Going on an expedition is one thing—going with your spouse can be something else entirely. NOLS Instructor and Custom Education Account Manager Ashley Drake shares how, with intentional planning and plenty of good humor, adventuring with your spouse can be some of your best time spent outdoors.

Read More

Topics: Skills, River, nols instructor, Becoming an Instructor, inspiring women, whitewater rafting, NOLS Expeditions, Stories, Rafting, Instructor Stories

Turnback Canyon: A NOLS Instructor Shares Lessons from Whitewater Paddling the Alsek River

By Natalie Sands on Apr 9, 2019

I sit on a rocky shelf, studying the colours and rock formations of a mountain across the river that seems to stare back. The ridge below Bates Creek has bright orange scree that contrasts against the nearby grey and black rock, still scarred by the ancient glaciers lining this valley.

Read More

Topics: whitewater, Skills, Kayaking, Yukon, Becoming an Instructor, inspiring women, paddling, Instructor expedition, Stories

"There Is No Limit:" A Kenyan Mountain Guide Advances Her Wilderness Training

By Carol Wanjiru (Mimie) on Mar 13, 2019
On the right is Ol Doinyo Lengai Mountain, which we would attempt summit later that night. On the left is Lake Natron (on the Tanzania side of the border) and Shompole Mountain Conservancy (on the Kenya side). Photo by Carol Wanjiru.

Editor's note: NOLS began operating in East Africa in 1974, opening our first location in Narumoru, Kenya (1974-2003), which closed and later reopened as NOLS East Africa in Arusha, Tanzania in 2011.

In 1987, legendary instructor James Kagambi (KG), a native Kenyan, joined NOLS and launched NOEP, the NOLS Outdoor Educator Program. These courses are designed solely for East Africans and provide training in backcountry travel, leadership, and risk management.

Read More

Topics: Skills, Backpacking, Mountaineering, inspiring women, NOLS East Africa, women in leadership, Stories, Student Stories, Leadership

Discovering My—Slightly Strange—New Normal on a NOLS Gap Year

By Tricia Ballard on Mar 7, 2019
Kevin Castellanos

I’m normally apprehensive about opening up to people—so I was nervous when I showed up to a random bus stop three plane rides away from home for the start of mySemester in New Zealand. That day, I met nine strangers who would supposedly become my new best friends during the following 77 days in the mountains of New Zealand.

Read More

Topics: Study Abroad Stories, NOLS New Zealand, NOLS semester, Gap Year, inspiring women, outdoor semester, Semester in New Zealand, Stories, Student Stories

Leading in the Avalanche Safety and Education Industry

By Kim Freitas on Dec 19, 2018
Photo by Paul Rachele

Editor's note: Adapted from the Fall 2016 issue of The Leader.

When Jaime Musnicki was first introduced to skiing at age two, it led to a lifelong love of winter sports and an unexpected career path.

Read More

Topics: Alumni, Avalanche, winter, inspiring women, women in leadership, Stories, Alumni Accomplishments, Leadership

Meeting the Experts: NOLS Winter Instructor Kate Koons

By Caleb Walker on Dec 18, 2018
Photo by Kate Koons

Kate Koons has a love affair with winter sports.

It began when she learned to ski as part of an after-school program in northern New Jersey.

"There was one lift and one Poma and many of my first memories revolved around trying to push my sister off the Poma lift, or not fall down while skiing the icy moguls to the bottom."

Read More

Topics: winter camping, winter, NOLS Teton Valley, backcountry skiing, inspiring women, snowboarding, splitboarding, women in leadership, Stories, Instructor Stories, Leadership

From the Office to the Wild: How I Became a Naturalist

By Day Scott on Dec 18, 2017

On a recent camping trip, I saw a group of young boys using sticks as swords, throwing rocks, and flinging algae from the tiny creek that ran adjacent to the campground—not ideal Leave No Trace behavior. I went over to their trip leaders and introduced myself as a naturalist and expressed my discomfort with what the boys were doing. I wasn't sure how the leaders would react—would they ignore me, a black woman, and let “boys be boys”? Instead, one of the leaders called the boys over and told them to have a seat because they were about to learn a lesson on stewardship.

Read More

Topics: Alumni, Wilderness First Responder, inspiring women, Wilderness Medicine, women in leadership, Stories

55 and Climbing

By Liz Johnson on Dec 11, 2017

“You’re cruising, Alex. I can hardly keep up with you!” I called up to my climbing coursemate as I belayed her.

“I’m trying a new technique,” she yelled back. “It’s called ‘Keep Going!’”

Read More

Topics: Rock Climbing, all-women, inspiring women, women in leadership, Stories

A Letter to My Future Self

By Carolyn Highland on Nov 29, 2017

Editor’s Note: Carolyn wrote this letter to her future self on a one-night solo near the end of her Semester in New Zealand.

Read More

Topics: Semester, NOLS New Zealand, inspiring women, Stories

Growing Confidence through Solo Canoeing

By Rumi Kodama on Jun 14, 2017
Photo courtesy of Rumi Kodama

Editor’s note: Instructor Rumi Kodama takes us inside the connection between person and paddle as she develops her whitewater canoeing skills.

Knowing and understanding a canoe stroke goes much deeper than the movement of the paddle. It’s all about the interplay between the paddle, the canoe, and the movement of the water.

Read More

Topics: Canoeing, whitewater, Skills, nols instructor, inspiring women, whitewater canoeing, women in leadership, Stories, Instructor Stories

Our 10 Favorite Books about Leadership by Women

By Molly Herber on Feb 9, 2017
Photo from Pixabay

Editor’s note: When I asked folks at NOLS World Headquarters for book recommendations, a small and steady flood of suggestions hit my inbox. The request expanded from a small circle of coworkers and friends to include folks I’ve never met—so many that they couldn’t all make the list.

So, you book lovers out there, remember that each one of these books stuck with the person who suggested it—and maybe will for you, too.

Here are 10 of our favorite books about leadership by women to read before, after, or on the way to your next adventure.

Read More

Topics: Leadership Skills, women, inspiring women, Books, women in leadership, Leadership

Vulnerabilities into Empowerment: What Alaska Meant to Me

By Elizabeth Camarillo Gutierrez on Jan 23, 2017
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Camarill Gutierrez

The more that time separates me from my NOLS Expedition with STEP in the summer of 2013, the more I find myself reflecting on the ephemeral 21 days that I spent in Prince William Sound. Preserved in the haze inherent to all fleeting memories, I remember the physical exhaustion, the arduous and cold days and the ill-fated cooking.

Read More

Topics: Leadership Skills, Skills, Kayaking, inspiring women, NOLS Custom Education, Leadership