How Outward Bound shaped one woman’s life | PostIndependent.com

How Outward Bound shaped one woman’s life

Marlene Manown

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In 1968, at age 26, I saw a flier on the faculty bulletin board of the junior high school where I taught. That flier would end up changing my life.

It promoted the Colorado Outward Bound School’s first teacher practicum. It was to be a 35-day course with segments in mountaineering, whitewater rafting, sailing, inner city immersion and some campus academics. I was one of only five American women who attended that summer’s course. It affected my life in ways that I still find myself in awe of.

Once accepted, we were asked to prepare ourselves for the physicality of the course by doing some pushups, sit ups and a mile run each day. “No problem,” I said to myself. I had not been raised as an outdoor girl; this was the ’60s and the start of the women’s lib movement, and I had been raised in Detroit. Those expectations became the beginning of a series of challenges — a lifetime of them.

The course awoke in me a side of myself I didn’t know existed. I learned to love to sweat, to hurt, to be fearful, to care intensely about the success of others. I ended each day with great joy and pride in who I was, despite a spectrum of emotions. I shed my city girl persona and found a young woman who loved adventure and the outdoors.

While on my (first) personal solo, I wrote extensively about this new me and was often teary-eyed with thankfulness that I’d taken this course. In those days, there weren’t very many women backpacking or rock climbing. As a teacher, I was an ideal match for the Colorado Outward Bound School. It allowed me to apply my skills as an empathic and effective communicator with the outdoor skills of the program. Soon after, I was asked if I’d become an instructor.

For the next 18 years, I combined teaching school during the academic year and working field courses for the Colorado Outward Bound School during the summers. It’s nearly impossible to describe the joy it brought me to share my newfound love of the outdoors and lead the personal growth and leadership development Outward Bound courses provide. On day one of each course, I met nine wide-eyed students, be they teenagers, teachers, business professionals or rehabbing alcoholics. To experience their sense of personal empowerment and confidence was beyond rewarding. It has influenced me in my own personal development.

I worked most of my courses at the Outward Bound base camp above Marble. I often said to myself, “Someday, I am going to move here.” In 1983, I was able to do that. After completing my master’s degree in counseling and guidance, I landed a job at Basalt High School and later transferred to Glenwood Springs High School, where I retired in 1996.

Now, as I approach age 76, I can recognize the life-changing impact this choice continues to have on my life, my relationships, my path. I have had the good fortune of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, hiking into Machu Picchu and riding my bike across the country. In 2016, to celebrate my 75th birthday, we hiked the exquisite Tour du Mont Blanc. Last summer, we spent three months camping and fishing in Alaska (to celebrate my husband’s 80th). This summer I will complete backpacking of the Colorado Trail and I plan to bicycle the length of the Colorado. The spirit of adventure, the belief that “I can do whatever I choose to do” and the joy I experience when I combine both of those have compelled me to live a full and joy-filled life. As Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”


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