Outward Bound
History, Philosophy, Theory, Research & Evaluation

James Neill
Last updated:
16 Mar 2005

Main Links


Outward Bound Australia 9 day adults course (for over 30's), North Queensland, 1990

Official Links


Outward Bound Motto

To serve, to strive, and not to yield

(Related link: The Adventures of Ulysses and the Outward Bound Motto)

What's New?

  • Outward Bound Thunder Bay, Canada closes after 35 years
  • (Chen Chikki, The Chronicle-Journal, 7 February, 2005)

    Once known as the world's most remote Outward Bound school, the Thunder Bay school has closed down after 35 years, in a cost-cutting move to help OB survive in Canada.

  • Outward Bound USA "circles the wagons" by merging 5 out of 8 chartered operations
    (Outward Bound USA press release, Yahoo News, 25 January, 2005)
  • Outward Bound founder, Kurt Hahn, had always wanted to see more, not fewer OB schools.  However, in recent years, countries with long histories of OB programs have been struggling and merging rather than expanding.  In an effort to "circle the wagons", OB in the USA has partially joined recent merger trends in the UK and Canada by combine 5 out of its 8 chartered OB operations.   The merger will bring all except 1 of the traditional "wilderness-style" OB schools: OB West (which arose from a 2003 merger of the Colorado OB School and the Pacific Crest OB School),  the Hurricane Island OB School, and the Voyageur OB School, with 2 other OB operations: the OB USA Inc central administration and executive headquarters and ELOB, a whole-school expeditionary learning program developed with a federal educational grant in the 1990s.  The merger will leave 2 urban-based schools, the New York City OB School and the Thompson Island OB School, plus 1 traditional "wilderness-style" program, North Carolina OB School, as independent chartered OB operations.

  • Outward Bound USA traces roots to Marble, CO
    (Christine Dell'Amore, 26 July, 2004, Glenwood Springs Post Independent)
  • Outward Bound West is starting programs again at Marble, CO where OB USA started with the Colorado Outward Bound School over 40 years ago.

  • From struggle to serendipity: Thoughts on the future of Outward Bound [.pdf]
    (Graham Ellis-Smith, Outward Bound International Newsletter, July, 2002)
  • >Is Outward Bound becoming too safe?
    (James Neill, 2002, Outward Bound International Newsletter)
  • Outward Bound Australia: What the research really says!
    (James Neill, 1998, Outward Bound Australia)

What is Outward Bound?

Outward Bound programs aim to facilitate personal development through experiential learning in the outdoors.  Started in 1941, Outward Bound is the world's oldest and best known outdoor education program.  There are approximately 40 non-profit, independent, educational schools around the world.  In addition, Outward Bound programs influence the operations of other educational bodies, school curricula and personal change methodologies.

Outward Bound Today

Today, a wide variety of Outward Bound programs exist, and the nature of the programs has evolved considerably.  Most programs are still expedition and adventure-based, but there are also urban-based programs (esp. New York City Outward Bound Center) and other newer Outward Bound schools, such as Outward Bound Czech Republic, conduct programs which is known for emphasizing social, dramatic, and creative challenges.

As the best known and most prominent outdoor education organization, Outward Bound has played a significant role in the development of outdoor education as a whole.  For example, Outward Bound research has helped to legitimize the idea of using outdoor adventure for education. 

In addition, the National Outdoor Leadership School and Project Adventure were both spawned by the USA Outward Bound schools, as was, more recently, Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound.

Hard work was worth it

Outward Bound was surprisingly good fun, although we carried heavy backpacks for kilometres through scrub land and over rocks.

We also consumed the most revolting food you have ever tasted, clambered down rocks on to black snakes and - wait for it - floated down gushing torrents on lilos.

I mean, how silly can you be?  What is the point of risking life and limb when you are probably never going to do that sort of thing again anyway?

By the end of eight days, we were dirty, tired, scratched, smelly and eager to go home.

A couple of us fell asleep on the bus trip back and I can guarantee we call clambered into bed as soon as we reached home.

Although it was hard work, which we are not used to, we all enjoyed it immensely.

ZoŽ Beecher
Class 7, The Cathedral School
Townsville Daily Bulletin, Thursday, September 24, 1987

Outward Bound Recipe

Select: 10 strangers

Remove: Social dependencies - tobacco, spouses, friends, wristwatches, alcohol

Place on the edge of a pan: filled with unusual and stressful circumstances

Give a slight push: and watch to see that all are fully immersed

Add: the opportunity to learn and master skills

Shake: a sprinkling of natural grandeur

Stir in: a soupcon of skilled instructors

Simmer: carefully for 26 days.  Skim off the fat and deep-freeze until needed.

Derek Pritchard, Director
Minnesota Outward Bound School