Canada Outward Bound testimonial by Chris Beal

 My Outward Bound Canada experience was something I will never forget. A once in a lifetime opportunity spent in a country I have never travelled to, with people I had never met before. Spending three weeks away from home was never going to be easy but the time flew by; before I knew it day ten had arrived and we were over one hundred kilometres into our journey. The constant positivity of the people within the group and the determination shared between us all helped cope with the overall experience of the trip. I made friends with everyone in the group almost instantaneously and it felt like I had known them all my life. It was easy to share jokes and have a brilliant time whilst also reap the benefits of learning about a new culture and the differences between England and Canada. Paddling for such a long period of time with no outside contact of the world was a situation I have never been in before and it seemed strange not to have the constant reminder of world news circulating my lifestyle. The instructors guided us to set personal goals and monitored our progress at regular ‘check-ins’ throughout the trip. A main goal of mine was physically based and I challenged myself to portage a canoe on my shoulders for one kilometre unaided. In actual fact I managed to portage the canoe fourteen hundred metres across the muddy Brunswick portage whilst sinking knee deep in sludgy conditions. Another personal goal of mine was to try to eat a variety of new foods over the duration of the trip. Before the trip began I would have described myself as a relatively fussy eater so I would have to try a number of new foods. An example of me completing this goal is that at the beginning of the trip I wasn’t keen on the dehydrated mash and chilli dish we ate for dinner but by day eighteen I was going up for seconds and thirds of that same dish. The forty eight hour solo experience was very uneventful for me. I arrived on my small island at midday on a Saturday with only my dry bag, a small tarp set up, a bug net and four meals worth of food. I immediately began to set up my tarp using the knots we were taught by our instructors, Nat and Julia. I laid down my roll mat and sleeping bag and enclosed it within my rectangular shaped bug net (luckily I didn’t have the ‘princess style’ bug net). It was then time for me to dry out all of my clothes by laying them out on a rock as they had got wet from canoeing on previous days. The rest of the time was spent completing my journal and self-reflecting which helped me to realise what I have gained from the trip and realise how much my family do for me and that I take a lot of things for granted.

The course was made up of a number a number of elements but mainly it was canoe based. Each day we would wake up around seven thirty and do morning stretch as a group. We would then proceed to do camp duties (hydro, pyro, architect, chef or leader of the day) and begin to pack away all of our things to prepare to get out on the water to carry on down the Missinaibi. Another element was portaging. Portaging was a very regular yet physical challenge which required us to carry all of our gear across land for a set distance. Some days we would have to portage two or three times for distances between two hundred to fourteen hundred metres. A long the way, another major element was learning and development. During the trip I learnt a number of new skills including knot tying, canoe strokes, cooking techniques and map reading. During the journey, we were each given the opportunity to develop all of the skills required and also lead the rest of the group when we were leaders of the day. Before beginning the trip I felt physically capable of completing the course. Personally I feel that I am quite a strong individual so I believed once I had mastered the strokes I would be able to keep up with the group on the water without having any real problems. In fairness my physicality was recognised by the other group members and this meant I would usually be elected to carry a canoe through a portage. This further challenged me on the trip and in reflection I would regard it as beneficial as it pushed me to my limits physically. Mentally however I wasn’t really sure how intense the course would be and so I would consider myself less prepared in that respect. As it was my first time being away from home for such a prolonged period of time there was a few doubts over how well I would cope being out of my comfort zone but within a matter of days I was very settled and considered myself as part of the team.

It is difficult for me to select just one exciting aspect of the trip as the whole experience was such a once in a life time, fantastic opportunity. However, the amazing people and the rippling white water made the trip for me. Each day I would learn new phrases or quotes or try new things which didn’t exist in my own culture and the more similar it began to feel, soon I would realise that things were done so differently over there. On and off the trip I got to embrace the Canadian experience by eating ‘Smors’ around a campfire and trying ‘Jell-o’ chocolate pudding for the very first time. Being out on the Missinaibi River and getting to grips with the rapids was also very exciting for me. Whether it was a Grade 1, 2 or 3, each rapid would present a new path or opportunity which required skill and concentration but it was also great fun to ‘shred the gnar!’ for the first time. I think that it was amazing to visit such a vast and beautiful country and it has inspired me to revisit Canada again in the future. The culture and people there were all very welcoming and enjoyable to be around which made every day seem filled with excitement and a pleasant atmosphere. The trip has inspired my future plans as it has made me even more motivated to be successful within school to achieve high grades to gain access to the course I would like to do at university (Civil Engineering). This would provide me with a transferable skill in which, providing there was a job in my chosen area of work, I could emigrate to Canada on a more permanent basis and live there.

The trip has had a big effect on me personally as I feel it has made me become more independent not only at home but also at school and in a working environment. At home I feel more inclined to help around the house to cook and help with chores around the house as this puts what I learnt at Canada to the test in a real world situation. Helping around the house has become second nature as I would always offer myself to my camp mates if they ever needed something doing whilst on trip and it is something which I have brought back home and will use frequently. At school I have become significantly more independent as I am more confident in my own judgement and will stick with my own gut instincts as a pose to looking to others for conformation. To anyone considering an OBC opportunity I would say grab the opportunity with both hands and go for it. The course was outstanding, and this is an opinion shared between me my other friends who went on different OBC courses. The instructors we very patient, clear and motivating throughout the trip and would always be willing to talk or help out whether it was on a personal level or if the group needed guidance. Canada and the Missinaibi River were beautiful and it felt like a three week detox from the outside world without the need to know what was going on elsewhere or talking to familiar faces. It may seem a daunting task but the rewards are endless, the people you meet are fantastic and I still speak to the people who I went on my trip with to this day. To conclude OBC was a brilliant three weeks which helped to educate and to push you mentally and physically but yet still provided opportunity to reflect, make new friends and take a step out of your comfort zone. Finally I would again like to thank everyone at DRET for blessing me with this opportunity and selecting me to go on the course. The course has helped me to grow as a person, enhance my skills, make some great new friends, experience a new culture and more importantly to take part in an opportunity of a lifetime and I can’t put into words how much I appreciate everything that has been done for me regarding this trip. I can’t fault anything, a lot of support was provided in every detail of the trip and I am honoured to have been given this opportunity and become a member of the OBC family.

Thank you. Yours sincerely, Chris Beal (3rd from the right of picture)

Beginning of our last day of paddling at Glassy falls, Canada.