Posts Tagged ‘Outward Bound’

Justifying My Existence

02/11/2012

A case for the hard working travelers & educators

Finally Realizing I Actually Did Make the Best Life Decisions
By R. Richards, Founder
Mountain Spirit Institute
Andrew McCarthy in his book  “The Longest Way Home – One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down “  writes, “Whenever I would tell people that I was going off on some trip or another, I was met with remarks like, “Oh, tough life,” or, “That’s rough.” Even good friends reacted with outright hostile envy-“Must be nice,” they often said. I used to try to explain and justify my travels.  It was pointless.  Travel, especially by people who rarely do it, is often dismissed as a luxury and an indulgence, not a practical or useful way to spend one’s time.
“People complain, “I wish I could afford to go away.” Even when I did the math and showed that I often spent less money while on the road than staying home, they looked at me with skepticism.  The reasons for not traveling are as varied and complex as the justification for any behavior.  Perhaps people feel this way about travel because of how it’s so often perceived and presented.
“They anticipate and expect escape, from jobs and worries, from routines and families, but mostly, I think, from themselves-the sunny beach with life’s burdens left behind.  For me, travel has rarely been about escape; it’s often not even about a particular destination. The motivation is to go, to meet life, and myself, head-on along the road. There’s something in the act of setting out that renews me, that fills me with a feeling of possibility. On the road, I’m forced to rely on instinct and intuition, on the kindness of strangers, in ways that illuminate who I am, ways that shed light on my motivations, my fears. “

The author as a child on Lake Sunapee

My wife, who had been reading McCarthy’s book this week, showed the above passage to me the other day.  Although I’ve done more than my fair share of “inner work”, in one instant, after hearing her read these words, I realized, I too have been carrying a chip on my shoulder about supposedly not working hard enough, about being a mountain guide and facilitator and director of a non-profit organziation. I’ve tried to defend what I do to  family, friends and the fellow community members in my home town. It has not been the work of my imagination – that some have thought I “was on permanent vacation”.

After graduation from University of Utah, I was on a fast track to represent an Austrian ski boot company in the U.S. by taking a Master Boot-maker program in Austria. However, the combination of two main life events,  meeting Erga and Luciano Cappella, (see my earlier post: Reconnecting with a Mentor)  and one day, simply realizing I was on the wrong side of the window in that little mountain workshop where I was learning how to make ski boots, made me have a paradigm shift. I needed to be “out there in the mountains”, in the Alps. Something in me snapped, and I realized at that moment, I was the closest I would ever get to corporate life, (aside from later conducting Outward Bound Professional corporate team-building workshops). I took a left-hand turn out of the corporate ski business, and never looked back.  With that decision, came a shift in perception, and future decisions  led me to international mountain guiding, a long stint with Outward Bound as a lead instructor and staff trainer, and lastly, founder of Mountain Spirit Institute.

Richards rappelling in his twenties, Newbury, NH

I’ve worked hard, as do most people in the outdoor education field. Anyone who has started a  non-profit organization from the ground up also knows program building and organizational management on a small scale takes a lot of energy, more so than punching a timeclock.  It has sometimes felt like pushing a boulder uphill.  That’s not even taking into account the fun, but hard and endless hours of making sure the participants get what they need on any given program.  I’m committed to what I do, and feel I’m  good at it. It has been my passion since I started teaching in the outdoors at age thirteen, and I feel it’s my life’s purpose.

But from the outside,  it looks like I’ve been galavanting around since my twenties. “When are you going to get a real job” is what if not said, is implied sometimes. Indeed, even my parents occasionally expressed concerns about my not “biting the bullet” , a nice term. Then, later in her life, my mom was just happy knowing that I was doing what filled me up.

With Dr. Theo Paredes, Peru

I didn’t know this article needed to be written until a few nights ago, but now realize it has been long overdue.  I quoted Eckhart Tolle in an earlier post
“Most people are only peripherally aware of the world that surrounds them,  Especially if their surroundings are familiar. The voice in the head absorbs a greater part of their attention. Some people feel more alive when they travel and visit unfamiliar places or foreign countries because at those times sense perception, experiencing takes up more of their consciousness than thinking. They become more present.”

I never looked back – Guiding in Alaska

It’s almost a cliché, but I think this is what other climbers, outdoor leaders and guides are up against when they encounter the world of the conventional. It’s almost like two worlds intersecting. Many articles and books have been written about this. Of course we’re all connected on one level. On another, there very different lives happening in my small hometown.  Said Oliver Wendall Holmes  “A mind that is stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimensions.”

Fortunately my mind has been stretched. Now it is up to me, with this new perspective, (thanks to McCarthy), to compassionately nod to those who don’t understand my lifestyle and career choice, and to move on.
For more information on R. Richards’ career choices you can read his short bio at Mountain Spirit Institute’s About Page.
Re-edited on 11/3/12 16:46EST (My motto, post first, edit later)

Some responses from my personal Facebook Page, also see the comment posted below by Jay for additional insight.

  • Peter Canaday Hard to explain unless you come across others of the same mind, and then, no explanation is necessary….
  • Wendy Gilker Randy, I understand living a life different from the norm. Generally, people do question it. How many times have people asked me – “When do you get a life Wendy”. As Joseph Campbell said ” the Journey begins with a” call to adventure in which the He…See More
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  • Wendy Gilker Helen Keller – “Many people admire what I did with my life because I seemed to be at such a disadvantage. But, they’re mistaken. If anything , I was greatly blessed. The danger in my “zone unknown” was great, but so was the treasure since eternal pr…See More
  • Randy Richards Good comments Wendy, I like the quotes.
  • Irene Powell Thank you for sharing….I will be allowing this words to percolate inside and see where they take me in my inner voyage of discovery.
  • Kevin Sleeper Randy, I have to say that it is/was probably jealousy which produces those comments. Be comfortable that it is our loss and your gain. Being outside was always a passion of mine, mostly expressed through scouting. Check out my posting of the Sailors take warning sky last Sunday at 6:15 or so over Lake Sunapee. I am sure you will recognize the place?
  • Randy Richards Thanks Jay Leavitt for the comment and poem (posted on our blog). You bring up some good points I failed to include. Also, I’ve done some re-edits of the blog post – My motto: Post first, edit later.
  • Randy Richards Hey Kevin Thanks for that..Yeah I remember that about you.
  • Dale Morrow I agree with Kevin, Randy. Feel a little sympathy for us who look at you, and feel the need to needle you, because we covet your life. But don’t take it all to heart. They mean no harm. People have to learn to accept the choices they’ve made.
  • Kevin Sleeper Randy, I learned a long time ago if U R going to swim upstream U R going to need a thick skin.

Ken Wylie Named to MSI Board

24/03/2012

Mountain Spirit Institute names Ken Wylie to Board of Directors

Ken Wylie

Ken Wylie, a veteran certified mountain guide from Cochrane Alberta, Canada with years as an experiential educator and program manager at Canadian universities as well as Outward Bound Canada and the Outward Bound USA, has recently been named to the board of directors at Mountain Spirit Institute based in the U.S. and New Zealand.  In addition to helping guide the U.S. organization, Wylie has plans to launch a  Mountain Spirit Institute Canada where he will create mountain programs based on the mission statement. Mr. Wylie and founder Randall Richards along with fellow board members are in discussions about also collaborating on mountain programs in the U.S,  New Zealand and possibly the Alps.

Says Wylie, “I am drawn to Mountain Spirit Institute because of the organization’s vision. MSI has the vision for the 21st century in my estimation, and is what I have been searching for in my career.” Adds Wylie, “The mountains are an experience that can change people’s lives, but are more often than not just another consumable, another peak to check off the list. What people need now more than ever,  is to connect and MSI helps them do that.” (more…)

The Man Who Quit Money

19/02/2012

What? Quit Using Fed Notes??

What Money Is & What Money Is Not – Living Without Money
A Walden for the 21st century, the true story of a man who has radically reinvented “the good life”.

In 2000, Daniel Suelo left his life savings-all thirty dollars of it-in a phone booth. He has lived without money-and with a new-found sense of freedom and security-ever since.

The Man Who Quit Money is an account of how one man learned to live, sanely and happily, without earning, receiving, or spending a single cent. Suelo doesn’t pay taxes, or accept food stamps or welfare. He lives in caves in the Utah canyonlands, forages wild foods and gourmet discards. He no longer even carries an I.D. Yet he manages to amply fulfill not only the basic human needs-for shelter, food, and warmth-but, to an enviable degree, the universal desires for companionship, purpose, and spiritual engagement. In retracing the surprising path and guiding philosophy that led Suelo into this way of life, Sundeen raises provocative and riveting questions about the decisions we all make, by default or by design, about how we live-and how we might live better.
Editor’s note: It sounds like we have another Outward Bound success story here. I read that Suelo has been an OB instructor. Good to see he’s living the dream, and it looks like some of the OB values rubbed off, but I’m sure he had influences from more than just Outward Bound.

Thompson Island Outward Bound

10/02/2012

Alex shares what he likes about his role at head of Thompson Island Outward Bound Center just outside of Boston, MA. USA.
The center is located on a beautiful island reachable by shuttle boat for students and the public. Go check it out, meanwhile here’s what Alex has to say about TIOBC.

Project Positive

06/01/2012

Graeme Dingle, New Zealand mountaineer does good

Graeme Dingle is fast becoming one of my role models, and I’ve never met the man. I intend to though. Maybe if I’m fortunate, we may collaborate on a co-venture project helping to connect people to the mountains, who knows. The more I learn about Mr. Dingle, the more I like and respect who he is, what he stands for, and what he’s accomplished in outdoor education.
Here’s an article from the Directions Magazine
By Laura Crooks

Inspiring New Zealand teenagers to reach their potential was a plan born during a trip to the Arctic by adventurer Graeme Dingle and partner Jo-anne
Wilkinson in the early ’90s.

Why did you think New Zealand needed a specific programme to help the country’s youth?
I set  up the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre (OPC) in 1972 and I thought that was my  contribution to New Zealand in terms of young people. But it was really just the start, because I learnt so much about youth development through it and I got to thinking about the business of dealing with harder kids than those we met at OPC. I felt that for kids who had low confidence and low self-esteem, a one week experience in the wilderness wasn’t enough – it needed to be a continuum of things that really built on what had been learnt in that first period. I then set out to do the first continuous circumnavigation of the Arctic and in the Arctic you get a lot of very unusual communities – they’re very isolated and they live in such extraordinary circumstances where it’s light half the year, then continuously dark the other half of the year. They have very high rates of suicide, the kids don’t have too much to look forward to, and that started us thinking. But it didn’t really hit home until we got back to New Zealand – that here we lived in paradise and yet we had one of the highest rates of youth suicide, youth incarceration, dropouts from school unplanned teenage pregnancy – the works. The main catalyst was going to see Once Were Warriors – that was the thing that finally made us say: “Let’s do something about this”. So, Jo-anne and I invented Project K. basically. The Project K Trust grew into the Foundation for Youth Development (FYD) with nearly 20,000 young people in programmes each year. The FYD runs programmes for kids aged 5 – 18, and Project K is one of these. (more…)

Following Your Gut Feelings

10/08/2011

Mtn Guide & Writer, Ken Wyle

When the Mountain Bites Back, And What Are the Lessons To Be Learned
Mountain guide, writer and longtime friend from Outward Bound days, Ken Wyle is writing a book about his accounts the day he was caught in the La Traviata avalanche in Canada that killed seven people. I had heard through the grapevine that Ken had been caught in a big one, and I felt a wrench in my gut. Mountaineering accidents, in which friends are involved affect me more than most things in life. Alan Bard was one of my ski-guiding mentors, and he goes and dies on the Grand Teton. One’s teacher isn’t supposed to do that. There was a cloud over me for a time after I had heard the news, and I did’t feel comfortable on the rock for a time too. There have been other friends too that are no longer with us, and I ask myself the same questions that we all do about events like this, and the meaning of it all.

Reading a few of Ken’s Facebook posts and on his blog, give me the impression, he too has been asking some questions. And while the answers are secondary, the questions he’s asking have weight, at least from my humble perspective.  While compassion is one of outcomes of teaching an Outward Bound course, it looks like Ken is living it.
I caught up with Ken on Facebook last week, and he suggested I check out his blog The Energies of Adventure. Some glimpses of what will most likely be included his book can be seen on his blog.
Here’s the lead-in to his first post on that blog:

Seven Cairns
Chapter 1, “Lost in the Fog”

January 20th 2003, deep in the Selkirk mountains of Canada’s British Columbia. It is overcast and white out.  Snow flakes are lightly falling from the clouds.  The air is moving softly out of the southeast. Two groups of backcountry ski tourers collect at the frozen, snow covered, Tumbledown Lake for our first tea break of the day. My smaller group of read the rest of this story..

 

 

“High Crimes” & Mt. Everest

16/12/2009

Mt. Everest, Dramas and Ticklists..And, Another Way
By R. Richards

Drama in the Mountains

I probably would have had the opportunity when mountain guiding for Alpine Ascents International, to eventually guide on Mt. Everest.  Had I the interest to do so, or stayed with the company, that opportunity might have arisen. But I moved away from the classical “guiding life” to return back to my experiential education roots, and started Mountain Spirit Institute.

There seem to be a few **main types of characters in the mountains. The tribe with which I’m most comfortable is the Outward Bound experiential group of students and instructors, who are willing to step out of their comfort zones, “stretch” and allow the place and experience to change them.
Then there’s the N.O.L.S. (National Outdoor Leadership School) student or graduate who tends to be more pragmatic in wanting an experience in just the mountain skills with a touch of “expedition behavior” mixed in and important “leave no trace”.
Then there’s a third group, usually professionals, but not always, who want to tick off another peak, whether it’s one of the seven summits, or Mt. Rainier. They want to say they’ve done it. They’re more interested in the trophy than the experience. (more…)

Sunapee students on Outward Bound

15/10/2009

Mountain Spirit facilitates 4th year of scholarships for Sunapee H.S. students on Outward Bound.
By Randall Richards

Linnea Circosta on Outward Bound

Linnea Circosta on Outward Bound

Two students from Sunapee High School were the 2009 recipients of Mountain Spirit Institute’s Sunapee High School/Outward Bound Scholarship Program. The two 17-year old seniors were Sean Reidy, and Linnea Circosta who chose different challenge courses both in the western U.S.
This is Mountain Spirit’s 4th year facilitating the connection between Outward Bound USA,  local students, and donors such as Rotary International of New London, NH, and Sugar River Savings Bank, Newport NH.

The courses can be life changing for students who learn about community building, climbing, rafting, mountaineering skills as well as how to be more self reliant and compassionate with others under challenging circumstances.
Mountain Spirit Institute founder Randy Richards has a long history with Outward Bound and considers the scholarship program an opportunity for his organization to give back to his hometown community.

Sean Reidy on Wyo. granite

Sean Reidy on Wyo. granite

Reidy chose the Veedawoo National Park Rock Climbing course which lasted eight days north of Denver in Wyoming’s southern border area where great rock climbing abounds.
Sean had climbed a little before the program –  “Some indoor climbing, but not much outside, ” said Reidy.
When asked if he had any fears or concerns, he mentioned, “When I was younger, heights definitely got me, and on this trip, being away from home was not a big deal, I’d done camps, and this was my second time in my life on a plane.” He added, “flying alone was a concern, but there were signs all over the airport.
“Are you glad you chose a program out west?” I asked.  Reidy responded,  “The weather was great! This was my first time out west,….  No, I did, take a road trip with family but that was four years ago.
(more…)

Traveling Lightly

27/06/2009

Decisions, Decisions – Motorhomes or Going Light

"fast und light"

" Capt'n Fast und Light"

Huge motorhomes rumbling down the Motorways and Interstates are proof that humans have entirely too many non-renewable resources at their disposal. What it takes to move these beasts of burden one kilometer in energy could light the two lightbulbs in my yurt for a week.  OK,  I actually owned a motorhome when living in Sedona Arizona, as an alternative to apartment living. We’d drive out into the desert at night and base there, while I led trips for Sedona Adventures.  And yes, we drove it to Washington state, fully loaded for the Outward Bound summer season. If a motorhome is one’s main residence, it may be “going lighter” on the planet, (I think) –  Maybe lighter than owning a MacMansion.  If, however, it’s one’s vacation mode of travel, please read on. (more…)

Remembering the Route

05/06/2009
Near The Sunshine Route-Bergshrund Mt. Hood

Near The Sunshine Route-Bergshrund Mt. Hood

I was a senior staff trainer at Outward Bound for their Instructor’s Alpine Courses on Mt. Hood. We were finalising a week of training with a successful summit climb. But on the ascent, there was one of those moments, when learning from experience could have been painful but wasn’t, because the outcome was positive. We were climbing the Snow Dome, on Mt. Hood’s northwest side, on the final approach to the Sunshine Route. I had been leading and training staff on this route for a few years prior, so was relatively familiar with the route, crevasses and bivy sites.

Site not far from snowbridge collapse

Site not far from snowbridge collapse

We set out from high camp on the snow dome early on a cloudless sunny day, a crisp snap in the spring air, crampons crunched the snow underfoot. I decided to let the trainees lead out  on ropes of four, with one trainer per rope team. There were three rope teams, and my team was in the back, with taking up the final position. It was easy ground, and once we got to the base of the steeper terrain at the start of the Sunshine route, we’d rearrange the order.

Before setting off, we first decided who would lead out. I then briefed him on the route, which generally followed the crest of the snow dome, but (more…)