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Tolerance for Uncertainty & Adversity

By Carolyn Highland on 2/22/17 10:31 AM

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.

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Topics: Semester, NOLS New Zealand, Live the Dream, Gap Year

Looking Within, Stepping Forward

By NOLS Blog on 2/15/17 11:56 AM

NOLS was born in a time of tumult in the United States. In 1965 the Vietnam War was expanding, the Selma March paved the way for the Voting Rights Act, the Watts riots raged and Malcolm X was assassinated. NOLS was not an accident. It was a response to a void that existed.

Fifty two years later in another time of considerable division, now is a good time to reflect on our values, our purpose and our place in the world.

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Topics: Live the Dream

The Big Picture: How I Found My Grit on a Semester in Baja

By Sarah Buer on 1/25/17 8:20 AM

Tell us a little about your NOLS course.

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!)

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Topics: Semester, Baja, sea kayak, Baja Sea Kayaking, Live the Dream, NOLS semester, Gap Year, education, backcountry, NOLS Wilderness Medicine

Enjoying the Tiny Life

By Molly Herber on 1/3/17 10:48 AM

Twelve years ago, Dee Williams decided to radically downsize. With excessive work hours, a hefty home loan, and a period of poor health, she realized she couldnt pursue her real joys. “I wanted to have time and energy and resources to offer to other folks and other issues that were important to me,” she said.

Inspired by an article she read about a tiny house, Dee decided to build her own, an 84-square-foot home on wheels.

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Topics: Live the Dream

Potential Energy

By Rachel Dranoff on 12/27/16 7:52 AM

Potential energy: (noun) Energy that is stored within an object, not in motion but capable of becoming active.

I had been dreaming of doing a NOLS course since age 21, although I didn’t fully realize it at the time. My college boyfriend did a semester in the Pacific Northwest, and I remember exchanging letters and the excitement of being able to talk on the phone when he was back at the base.

Six years later, recovering from the end of our relationship, I found myself in the Pacific Northwest about to embark on a NOLS adventure of my own.

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Topics: Live the Dream

An Astronaut Candidate’s Take on Goals and Leadership

By Molly Herber on 12/21/16 10:43 AM

When I asked Canadian astronaut candidate Shawna Pandya about which of her many roles she identified with first, she said,

“It really depends on the day.”

Given the number of roles she has, this answer isn’t a surprise. Pandya’s a resident physician finishing her residency in family practice, training as a citizen science astronaut and aquanaut, and is a competitive martial artist—just to name a few.

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Topics: Live the Dream

How Can I Support You? The Power of Expedition Behavior

By Carolyn Highland on 12/19/16 8:52 AM

The sky was gray and the sea restless and we had just pulled up to a desolate beach somewhere in the Marlborough Sound. I sat on a piece of driftwood with my head between my knees, taking belabored breaths in and out of my mouth, relishing the stillness of my current position.

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Topics: Live the Dream

Just Go for It: Making Gap Year a Reality

By Bailey Barnes on 11/21/16 1:13 PM

We caught up with Fall Semester in the Rockies grad Bailey Barnes to learn more about the challenges—and fun—of a gap year, and the work and planning it took to make her gap year a reality.

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Topics: Live the Dream, Gap Year

I Crave the Quietness: What a City Dweller Learned from Two Weeks in the Wilderness

By Laura Young on 9/27/16 8:34 AM

Growing up as a city slicker, I had minimal experience with backpacking and the outdoors—just a handful of day hikes in upstate New York and while on vacation in Hawaii and California. With so many outdoor adventures available to me now that I’ve moved to Colorado, my husband and I thought it would be a good idea for me to learn backcountry skills from knowledgeable instructors—and possibly learn new techniques and skills I could eventually teach him.

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Topics: Live the Dream

Any Year Can Be a Gap Year

By Shelby Cranshaw on 9/9/16 6:49 AM

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.

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Topics: Alumni, NOLS Patagonia, Semester, wilderness medicine, adventure, Live the Dream, Gap Year, education

My Playground, My Dad, My Leadership Voice

By Brette Brickel on 8/23/16 11:09 AM

I have always loved being outside, being in the mountains; however, my road since college had taken me from that lifestyle. In the past few years I made it a priority to bring it back to the forefront, which is why I was so excited to show my dad my New Hampshire playground.

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Topics: Alumni, adventure, Live the Dream, leadership

3 Months in the Rockies to 30 Countries in a Year: How a NOLS Alum Went Worldwide

By Erica Levine Weber on 8/18/16 9:46 AM

My choice of going on a NOLS Semester in the Rockies was as absurd as traveling to 30 countries with a baby before their first birthday. Apparently, I have a flare for the ridiculous!

I had never been canyoneering, kayaking, rock climbing, ridden a horse, or even camped before. Now, add to that dumbfounded look you're starting to picture, a 17 year old girl who was still mastering a command of her limbs (think a few clicks past klutzy), and not exactly an Olympic athlete. I'm pretty sure my parents cried when they dropped me off at the airport, not because they'd miss me, but because they weren't totally confident I'd survive.

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Topics: Alumni, travel, Family, adventure, Live the Dream, education, leadership

Why City People Are Made for the Backcountry

By Shelby Cranshaw on 7/22/16 9:57 AM

 A city prepares you for the backcountry more than most might think. We call them “concrete jungles” for a reason. 

In a city, you develop a certain set of skills that translate surprisingly well into the wild. So fear not, city dwellers—here's why you're already prepared for the backcountry.

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Topics: adventure, Live the Dream, backcountry

13 Signs You’re Having Trouble Getting Back into City Life

By Molly Herber on 6/24/16 12:50 PM

Spending days at a time in the outdoors is pretty darn awesome, but at some point, we all come back to the frontcountry. For some of us, it can be hard to make that transition happen.

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Topics: adventure, Live the Dream, backcountry

How I Became a NOLS Nerd

By Jonas Alexanderson on 6/14/16 10:05 AM

“Next year I will turn 50 years old,” I told my wife. This was 2011 and I didn’t want any presents. Instead, I wanted to travel to Alaska from my home in Sweden to sea kayak.

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Topics: Alumni, Sea Kayaking, NOLS Alaska, adventure, Live the Dream, education