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 my Semester 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
Photo by Mireille Brown.
In his 1997 Idaho Adventure Course evaluation, Jim Harris’ instructors noted that “map reading comes easily to Jim.”
He reflected on that skill recently, and how it felt like he "was given the keys to the castle. I could go anywhere on the planet" with it.
But at the time he had no idea it would lead him down a path where few maps exist to show the way forward.Read More
Picture a leader in your mind.
Maybe you're imagining a lone individual singlehandedly making decisions and wielding authority.
Or, maybe you're thinking of someone completely different—like your friend who avoids the spotlight, but always has their eyes open for places to help.
Which one’s a “real” leader? Of course, the answer’s both—and more.
Photo by Jordan Cranch.
On her Rocky Mountain Outdoor Educator semester, Erin Phillips skied backcountry mountains, canoed whitewater rapids, and hiked more than 100 miles across the Utah desert. Each new landscape brought fresh experiences, including the day she and her coursemates hiked for hours to reach a water source in the desert’s slot canyons and danced in celebration.
The desert awakened another kind of thirst as well, a burning curiosity about the beautiful and harsh environment that surrounded her: “Escalante taught me a very special lesson: to stop. To stop doing and start listening.”Read More
Last summer, the Antler River was a knee-deep stream flowing through a broad meadow deep in the mountains of Alaska. Now, it was a moving lake, flooding the entire meadow.Read More
My rope team heading back to base camp. Photo by Liz Townsend.
You might think that seven years of working in the business world would have taught me about leadership. Yet the best lessons I’ve learned have come while climbing rocks and mountains and hiking miles into the wilderness, where traveling with companions over steep snowy passes and through thick forested valleys has forced me to face leadership challenges in ways that I rarely encounter inside.Read More
Photo by Carolyn Highland
November 21, 2012 was one of my favorite days on this planet. Up until this point, the idea of identifying a favorite day had seemed impossible, like choosing your favorite drop of water in a rushing river. But this was a day that made you realize if you couldn’t identify days that made the shortlist, you hadn’t yet experienced the type of day worthy of it.Read More
Getting ready to launch the boats. Photo by Ali Bradley.
It was hot. I struggled to find shade as our group went through necessary orientation tasks: carry 3-5 water droms behind each boat, assign cook groups, gather group gear, divide group gear, assign and load boats.
Since I'd paddled on a NOLS trip before, I was "voluntold" to be the lead boat in a single kayak. I learned our heading, received a few instructions about monitoring my speed, and then we launched—a group of women on a Baja Sea Kayaking course.Read More
Photo by Eric Page.
How do you become a better educator? There’s no one best answer, but continuing to be a learner yourself is certainly up there.Read More
All my life my dad had preached the power of NOLS. The first summer he moved to the United States from Venezuela, he completed the four-week backpacking course in the Wind River Range.
Speaking little English, he cruised with his team through snowy mountain tops, only to be caught in a snowstorm at 8,000 feet with an instructor who had a leg injury. He still loves to talk about carrying the instructor up to a clearing and snuggling with him at night to prevent hypothermia.
“I’ve never done anything like it,” my dad told me.
“Cool, Papa,” I said for the thousandth time, tired of hearing about Wind River epics that seemed so foreign to me.Read More
Photo by Craig Muderlak
When I heard from NOLS’ staffing office that I’d been accepted on the River Instructor Course, I was beyond stoked. I ran to tell my boss the great news. Expecting her to be happy, instead she said, “We can’t afford to lose you this time of year.”Read More
Photo by Betsy Winston.
Imagine this: You’re trying to figure out the best way to cross a river with your group of four friends. Even though you’ve crossed rivers on your own before, you’ve never led a group while doing it.
You’re wracking your brain trying to remember any acronyms that might help you, scrambling around the riverbank trying to guess the river’s speed, and weighing the equally strong temptations of “just going for it” and staying put, making camp, and coming back to the decision in the morning.
When you’re on the verge of total frustration, your friend shouts, “Hey, I found a log! Let’s use it to cross the river!”Read More