Holly Walker - Inward Bound, Dunedin

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Free advertising

Exactly one year ago today, I rode a shitty all-night shuttle van from Dunedin to Picton, and 12 hours later, arrived dishevelled, disoriented and shit-scared at the ferry terminal ready to be collected and transported to Outward Bound, Anakiwa, for three weeks. A year before, I had been given a voucher for the 21 day Classic course as a 21st present, and, after prevaricating for 12 months, scared by my lack of physical fitness, had finally committed myself.

I don't think there are words to describe how terrified I was (my boyfriend can attest to that, having dealt with an increasingly hysterical girlfriend as the time to depart grew closer). I was overweight and unfit after a year of sitting on my arse writing - either for Critic or my Honours dissertation, and, while well-grounded from a childhood in the outdoors, quite apprehensive about the bushman style adventures that might await me. I was also trying to dismiss as rumour something I'd heard about running a half marathon (it's true).

I loved it, of course. How could I not? I consider it possibly to be the best experience of my life so far, (and I'm well aware that I sound like a cheesy commercial, but it's true) and have been reflecting recently on the sad fact that even if I went back and did the same course, I will never again replicate the experience of doing something like that for the first time. I've already written a feature article about the experience, which, interestingly enough, Outward Bound didn't like too much. I'm of the opinion that it describes the real experience, which is bloody hard at times, but still conveys how very rewarding it was. They think it might have put people off.

This week I've been thinking about the goals I set while I was there. One was to put $10,000 towards paying off my student loan, at which I failed dismally. Luckily it will be interest-free next year and I won't have to worry about it (yes, I'm sure my attitude is unhealthy, I'm the poster-girl for the nay-sayers, etc. I don't care. I simply can't process the fact that at my age I am tens of thousands of dollars in debt.). I fared better on another: to do another half marathon, which I did in September, though after another year of sitting on my arse writing, it damn near killed me. And Critic won the ASPA award for Best Publication, which was the third. More importantly, I know myself better, am a stronger, healthier person, and will always, always have something to call on when things are tough: "If you can tramp for 12 hours a day for three days and then run a half marathon the next day, you can do this".

I've also been thinking about the people I met there. I've lost touch with most of them, but I think about them quite often - when you have such an intense experience with a group of people, you're not likely to forget them in a hurry. Of those I do keep in touch with, OB seems to be been a catalyst for good things: one even bought a cinema.

So, in an ideal world, I think it should be compulsory for every young person in New Zealand to do an Outward Bound course, or something similar. Kind of like military service, but way, way better. One teengaer who was there at the same time as I was (but not in my group) had been offered a choice by a judge; prison or Outward Bound. He chose Outward Bound, and, while I don't know what he's doing now, it seemed to have a pretty amazing effect on him. How do we solve youth crime in South Auckland? As far as I'm concerned, the answer's simple.