The Life Significance of an Outward Bound Expedition: A Retrospective Study Up to 50 Years Later


  • Brad Daniel 2nd Nature TREC (Training, Research, Education, Consulting)
  • Andrew J. Bobilya Western Carolina University
  • W. Brad Faircloth University of North Carolina Asheville



Outward Bound, wilderness expedition, significant life experience, autobiographical memory, narrative inquiry


This cross-sectional retrospective study examined the life significance of participation in an Outward Bound (OB) course up to 50 years later to discover what participants learned, if their opinion had changed, whether it played a significant role in their lives subsequently, and its relative importance in comparison to other life experiences. Respondents (n = 180) from 1967-2017 represented 46 of the 50 years. Over 90% indicated that their OB course(s) had made a positive difference in their lives. Emergent themes indicated that their OB course: a) promoted greater confidence and courage, b) provided lessons and skills that were transferred to other life contexts, c) increased their self and social awareness, d) helped them develop teamwork skills. These findings enhance our understanding of the long-term impact of OB and OB-type expeditions and support the notion that significant experiences are often used as reference points in a person's life story. 


Keywords: wilderness expedition, narrative inquiry, autobiographical memory, significant life experience, Outward Bound



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Coalition for Education in the Outdoors Special Issue 2022