NOLS Blog

Browse by Category

Do NOLS Even (and Especially) If You’re Scared

By Olivia Hewitt on 12/10/18 8:45 AM
Me feeling excited and nervous right before I shared some passages from my journal with the group. Taken at Martin's Park campsite, one of the most beautiful spots we came to. Photo courtesy of Olivia Hewitt.

About four months ago I sat in one of my college’s campus cafés and procrastinated away my final few minutes before class. I was in the middle of a season of complete chaos, and was trying to find something that would re-energize and center me. I was scrolling through a bunch of NOLS blog posts when suddenly a strange thing happened:

As I read about tents being blown over at 3 a.m. by torrential rain, days of brutal heat and scarce food and blistering heels, I started to cry tears of joy.

Read More

Topics: Live the Dream, expeditions, Pacific Northwest Backpacking

How to Take the Mountains Home: A Gateway Scholar Reflects on Horsepacking

By Cristina Edwards on 11/19/18 7:40 AM


Picture captured by Eve Cinquino.

Before Rebeca Espinosa set off on her Wilderness Horsepacking course, she wasn’t sure she’d be challenged on the 21-day expedition. With horses carrying all the gear, and students and instructors riding on horseback, it was hard to see what about the course could be difficult.

At 5:45 a.m. the next day, it became clearer. 

Read More

Topics: Gateway Partner, Gateway Scholar, Live the Dream, horsepacking, scholarship

Sketches from Tanzania

By Mingyuk Chen on 11/14/18 11:45 AM

At the first camp site in Tanzania, I was so taken by the silhouette of the thorn acacia trees outlined by the setting sun that I found myself sketching them in the dark with just a dim light behind me.

Read More

Topics: Live the Dream, NOLS East Africa, NOLS Tanzania, safari, wildlife, visual art

Simple Views Teach Profound Lessons: Sunrise in the Himalaya

By Chris Pouch on 10/2/18 8:45 AM

Students en route to Camp 1 on a cold, clear morning, with Nanda Devi (middle) and Nanda Devi East (right) in the background. Photo by Chris Pouch.
 

Nanda Devi, according to the legend of villagers in the Garhwal and Kumaon regions of India, was a beautiful princess. When a prince fell in love with her and asked to marry her, she refused, sending him into a rage. The prince declared war and forced Nanda Devi to flee to the mountains. She climbed to the heights of a snow-covered peak in search of refuge. When she could go no higher, she rested, looking down from the top of the world. This summit proved to be her final resting place as she merged with the mountain, leaving behind only her spirit, present in the wind and snow, and her name, which now belongs to the place that took her: Nanda Devi.

Read More

Topics: Live the Dream, NOLS India, Himalaya, mountaineering

Why Car Camping With Kids Was Harder Than My NOLS Course

By Alyssa Walker on 9/18/18 7:45 AM


Photo by Alyssa Walker.

On our last family car camping sojourn, a three-day affair two years ago, we learned that two- and four-year-olds are too young for anyone to enjoy any aspect of car camping. There were diapers. There were legions of biting insects. There was not one, but two kid backpacks. There was a frog potty. There were tantrums. Everything was sticky. It rained. We were too close to our neighbors. Fun, but not. At all.

We took a break for a year, thinking two potty-trained kids, at a minimum, would help. This time, we resolved, would be better, more fun, the stuff of memories and traditions. Our children, at four and six, were ready. So were we.

Read More

Topics: Tolerance for Adversity, expedition behavior, Live the Dream, kids, parenting, car camping

Tolerance for Uncertainty: Sea, Mountains, and Culture on a Patagonia Semester

By Molly Herber on 7/30/18 7:01 PM

Enjoying rainbows in Patagonia. Photo by Ignacio Martínez.

“Learn, just learn about this unique and remote place in the world, connect with the people, nature, history, and its wild places—the glaciers, ice fields, rivers, lakes, islands, and sea.”

Read More

Topics: Semester in Patagonia, Semester, Live the Dream, Sea Kayaking, mountaineering, culture, chile

The Top 3 Leadership Lessons You Won’t Learn in an Office or Classroom

By Liz Townsend on 7/10/18 8:51 AM


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

Topics: Live the Dream, NOLS Custom Education, Backpacking, leadership, MBAs, tolerance for adversity and uncertainty

Pay It Forward: How My NOLS Semester Helped Me Lead My Own Backcountry Trips

By Carolyn Highland on 6/27/18 10:00 AM


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

Topics: NOLS New Zealand, Semester, leadership, Live the Dream, skiing

Snow in May: Leadership in the Face of Uncertainty

By Sarah Delany on 6/18/18 10:01 AM


Photo from Pixabay.

Postholing is a gamble at best; the unstable snow holds a person carrying a pack one step and collapses the next, leaving you up to your knees in snow when you least expect it.

When my Leadership Development class from Bates College rolled into the NOLS Northeast campus in Gabriels, New York this spring, the last thing I could have imagined was that I would find myself hip deep in rotten snow, moving slower than imaginable, and pondering whether or not I would have to set up my tent in the dark.

Read More

Topics: NOLS Northeast, NOLS Custom Education, Bates College, Live the Dream, Backpacking

What I Learned About Resilience from Swimming an Icy Canyon Pond

By Maddy Eschholz on 5/30/18 8:29 AM


Photo by Lindsay Nohl.

Limb-numbing cold water drips down my shirt and pants. Uncontrollable, body wracking shivers. Shallow, quick breaths don't quite fill my lungs. Tears that I couldn't hold in any longer rolling down my cheeks. I hate this. I want to go home. Why do people think this is fun? Why am I so emotional? Why won't these tears stop?

These thoughts and feelings all came rushing into my head after swimming through a deep pond in a slot canyon on the sixth day of my NOLS course. It was November, and the water was the coldest thing I’ve ever felt—it was the kind of cold that made it hurt to take a deep breath. This was the hardest moment of my trip, but also the time when I learned the most about myself and who I wanted to be.

Read More

Topics: Live the Dream, canyoneering, Utah, Semester in the Rockies

Opinion | Breaking the Habits of Technology

By Kathryn Wheeler on 5/22/18 2:36 PM


Photo by Oscar Manguy

Since moving to Lander, I’ve developed a bit of routine around technology. My weeks are comprised of long days in front of a computer, with constant access to the web, and all of the baggage that brings. My weekends tend to look the opposite, as I attend to my need for uninterrupted experiences outside with others. This weekly routine casts me into two different worlds: one where I am totally absorbed by screens, and the other where I try to forget the existence of technology for a clarifying breath of fresh air.

Read More

Topics: Live the Dream, technology, opinion

Lessons from the Alpine Pass: Columbia Business School Student Goes to Chile

By Sho Fujiwara on 5/10/18 8:29 AM


Classmate Oly looks at his feet and looks back on the alpine pass. Photo by Sho Fujiwara.

Read More

Topics: Live the Dream, NOLS Patagonia, Backpacking, Columbia Business School

5 Ways Expedition Behavior Helps You Raise Kids

By Alyssa Walker on 5/3/18 8:27 AM


Photo by Alyssa Walker

The most miserable and telling moment on my monthlong NOLS Alaska Outdoor Educator Course 13 years ago—descending a steep talus slope—taught me the value and beauty of expedition behavior, or EB. It also prepared me for an even bigger life adventure: parenthood.

Read More

Topics: Live the Dream, Alaska, expedition behavior, Family

The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful: Why I Went Back to NOLS

By Elena Cabot Rodriguez on 4/3/18 9:11 AM

Photo courtesy of NOLS archives.
 

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

Topics: Live the Dream, Semester in the Rockies, Alaska backpacking, leadership

How to Convince Your Boss to Let You Take a NOLS Course

By Erica Nelson on 3/15/18 10:37 AM


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

Topics: Live the Dream, leadership, Expedition Prep