NOLS Blog

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Learning to Say “Thank You:” The path to building community while climbing

By Andy Notopoulos on Sep 3, 2019
Photo by Alex Thomas.
 

“Thank you!!!”

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Topics: self confidence, wilderness education, instructor, rock climbing, Instructor Development Fund (IDF), story, thank you, gratitude

My Path to Outdoor Education from a Semester in Alaska

By Katiya Gombar on Jul 15, 2019

Editor's note: Katiya took a semester in Alaska in the summer of 2016 and became a NOLS instructor in May 2019.

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Topics: study abroad, Semester, Live the Dream, Alaska, leadership, story

Why We Leave Phones Behind on NOLS Courses (and why you should do it more often)

By Molly Herber on Jul 1, 2019

Photo by Molly Hagbrand.

Cell phones are becoming better adventure tools every day. You can find what feels like endless apps for navigation, trip guides, even stargazing.

So why, when you look through a NOLS equipment list, is a cell phone nowhere to be found?

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Topics: technology, Live the Dream, wilderness, story

I Don't Need to Be an Extrovert to Lead: Reflections on Backpacking in Alaska

By Natasha Gold on Jun 18, 2019
Photo by Natasha Gold
 

In January 2018, I was perusing the internet for outdoor schools on a whim that perhaps I would apply to a program. I stumbled onto the NOLS website; instantly, I wanted to go.

I found an 8-day women-only backpacking expedition in Alaska. I liked the idea of a women’s only trip and I have wanted to camp in Alaska since I was little.

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Topics: Live the Dream, Alaska, all-women, leadership, story, women in leadership

There and Back Again, a Patagonia Tale: The Patagonia Cultural Expedition

By Jen Antocci on May 29, 2019

Photo courtesy of Alex Chang - Cornell Leadership Expedition.
 

I was sitting in my doctor’s office, awkwardly fussing with my johnny gown and glancing down at the NOLS health form in my hands. My doctor comes in and after some formal chitchat I ask her to complete the health clearance for this month long hiking and cultural expedition in Patagonia.

“A month of hiking? Sleeping in tents? In South America? Are you being punished?” she half joked. “No, I’m paying to do this” I joked back. “Well good for you, I don’t even like going out in my backyard.” She signed the form and I left the office, mentally checking off the final item on my expedition to-do list.

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Topics: Patagonia, culture, Live the Dream, story, cultural expedition

Finding What Makes Others Tick on a Baja Semester

By Alison Peterson on May 8, 2019
Photo by Alison Peterson.
 

Two months into our fall semester in Baja and dinner had just ended, wrapping up a weary day of classes and cleaning the kayaks. I strolled over to my coursemate, who was writing on the beach, asking if I could join in. In waves, a few more came to join us.

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Topics: NOLS Mexico, Baja, inspiring women, story

12 Days That Changed My Life: A Homestay in East Africa

By Steve Stoddard on May 6, 2019

Photo courtesy of Steve Stoddard.
 

Rather than my watch alarm bringing me out of sleep, it was roosters and cows. Instead of bundling up to get out of my tent and start boiling water for my cook group, I was waking up in someone else’s home.

This was all pretty different than what I had gotten accustomed to during the previous six weeks of backpacking on my NOLS semester.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, study abroad, culture, NOLS East Africa, story, homestay

Dream with Your Eyes Open: Women's Baja Sea Kayaking Expedition

By Jessey Jansen on Apr 15, 2019

Jessey shares rhythm and memories from the spring 2019 Women’s Baja Sea Kayaking - Prime course.

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Topics: NOLS Mexico, Baja Sea Kayaking, story, women in leadership

"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.
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Topics: Live the Dream, leadership, NOLS East Africa, story, women in leadership

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

By Tricia Ballard on Mar 7, 2019

 

Photo by 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 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.

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Topics: Gap Year, inspiring women, leadership, Semester in New Zealand, story

Learning Expedition Behavior With Kids: Winter Edition

By Alyssa Walker on Feb 28, 2019

Photo by Alyssa Walker.
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Topics: leadership, expedition behavior, winter, parenting, story

Everything You Need to Know About Winter Camping

By Rob Motley on Feb 8, 2019

Students during dawn patrol. Photo by Katie Oram.
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Topics: camping, leave no trace, winter, backcountry skiing, snowboarding, splitboarding, story

The Places that Scare You: First Ascents on Patagonia’s Northern Icefield

By Willy Oppenheim on Feb 4, 2019

Approaching Pantragruel (left). The peak at right is Gargantua. Photo by Willy Oppenheim.
 

Months later, I still find myself wondering what brought me there, and what I brought back.

Always it is like this: from the warmth of home, the mind moves towards cold and distant lands. From known to unknown, from comfort into fear, from one set of questions towards another at once more vast and elemental. From union into aloneness, and then back again—but never to stay.

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Topics: Patagonia, Educators Notebook, mountaineering, Instructor Development Fund (IDF), Instructor expedition, story

My Semester in Baja, as Told in Food and Sunsets [photo essay]

By Claire Burgeson on Jan 22, 2019

On the seventh day of my Spring Semester in Baja, we bought a goat.

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Topics: sailing, Baja Sea Kayaking, culture, Live the Dream, photos, Semester in Baja, NOLS Expeditions, story

A New Map: A NOLS Grad’s Journey to Walking Again

By Dan Kenah on Jan 14, 2019


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.

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Topics: Alumni, Live the Dream, leadership, story