The Solo as an Important Aspect of a Trip for Outdoor Leadership Development


  • Whitney Ward Southern Illinois University Carbondale


Significant research has manifest the innumerable benefits associated with the many forms of outdoor programming (see Driver & Bruns, 1999; Driver, Nash, & Haas, 1987; Ewert, 1985; 1989; Ewert et al., 2000; Hendee & Dawson, 2002; Horwood, 1999; Johnson, 2002; Pierskalla, et al., 2004; Stein & Lee, 1995; Walker, Hull, & Roggenbuck, 1998). Nevertheless each program is unique and the specific components that make up each outdoor experience can vary from program to program or even experience to experience. There are, however, several key components that are commonplace and may even be thought of as a standard of outdoor programs when it comes to important components of an outdoor trip. The solo is one of these common components. The solo dates back to the days of Kurt Hahn and is an integral part of several outdoor adventure programs including Outward Bound (OB), National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and Wilderness Education Association (WEA) (Knapp & Smith, 2005). The benefits of a solo experience associated with outdoor trips have also been highly documented (see Bobilya, 2004; Daniel, 2003, Daniel, Bobilya, & Kalisch, 2006; McAvoy, 2000; Nicholls, 2009; Sibthorp, 2000). Nicholls even stated that the solo “has gained empirical credibility as a significant component of contemporary programming†(2009, p 1). However, Sibthorp (2000), when discussing the important components of an outdoor trip (the solo experience being one specific component), acknowledged that it was not surprising that trip components were beneficial to overall leadership development; however it was not understood how or why development occurred. Furthermore, when addressing the solo specifically there is an even greater lack of understanding (Maxted, 2005). Therefore, this study addresses the question of how the solo experience influences outdoor leadership development.