My Outward Bound Journey at 61 - Outward Bound

My Outward Bound Journey at 61

by Sue Richards - Hillary 705

My Course, Inspirational

After finishing 12 years’ of voluntary work on a large high school Board of Trustees that took close to one full day a week, I found myself with extra time on my hands, even while working full time in my investment career. At the age of 61 (I’m one year older than Anakiwa!), I realised that I needed to have more in my life – not just things to fill it with, but things with more meaning.

Then a couple of months later a chance OB post on Facebook caught my eye, so without knowing any more about what happens at Anakiwa other than the Solo, I registered for a course 6 months out. I opted for the Low Impact Discovery Course; working in finance I am either sitting in my office talking to clients or sitting in my car driving around Northland going to see them, so I’m not really physically active. I thought the Low Impact course would challenge me but hopefully not kill me. 

While my enrolment process was going on, my Dad became very ill and within two months he passed away. I remember visiting him in hospital and telling him I had enrolled, and the look of pride on his face was all I needed to keep going on the journey. And so the weeks and months that followed didn’t really involve the physical preparation that should have happened; I was too caught up in saying goodbye.

And so I arrived in Picton under-prepared but cautiously excited. Our Watch of seven ranged in age from 20 to 68 with every decade in between. And because we were smaller, we had to be tighter and stronger (it’s harder rowing the cutter with half a crew!) - we all bonded pretty quickly.

The standout moments for me were the big emotional ones. Sailing the cutter to Te Kainga and sleeping under the stars – oh my god – I don’t know that I slept much because I was captivated by the sky above me and didn’t want to close my eyes. And then 3 days later on Solo, I heard my Dad’s voice as I camped in my little glade and his words led me to an epiphany. When I got home I stood in front of his picture and told him I was back; I felt a sudden warmth as if he was standing beside me, as if he had put his arms around me and told me he was proud of me.

The challenges for me were physical, and the biggest was heights – I stood and walked the wire three stories high in the kahikateas but knew that if I did fall, the carabiners would hold me. What I wasn’t expecting though, was having to climb up and over the hill when we went coasteering in the Pelorus Sounds. But inaction was never an option – I committed to completing everything. On our last day, we did the 3km run, and on a buggered knee, all I could do was walk as fast as I could. I was mortified when an instructor suggested I could turn around; I was going to complete it even if I had to crawl back.

There have been a lot of changes within me since OB. I have stopped comparing myself to others now, in terms of absolutely everything I think and do. On that last run, I saw that I was falling behind and that I was going to arrive after everyone else had finished. But as soon as I had that thought, from out of nowhere I heard myself say “It’s not about them, this is about you”. So I don’t think of myself as coming last. I think of myself as having done it. And that mantra has become a habit.

When we left Anakiwa I asked for another OB journal, with the intention to rewrite mine, it was mud-stained, out of order, with wobbly writing. I didn’t change any of the words, I just put the days in order and wrote it all in my best hand. Doing that brought all the memories flooding back. And getting my Letter to Self six months later did it again. Now I find I regularly think back to my time there and I’m keeping the adventure alive in my heart. Telling this story is doing it too.

If I hadn’t seen that Facebook post, I would be a completely different person now. The old me, the 2022 me, still searching for meaning, direction and purpose. Now I have real direction, a sense of purpose, and confidence in mind, body and spirit. What would I say to anyone thinking of doing the same course as me? Haere mō tēnā! Go for it!

Sue Richards (pictured below, far right)
Hillary 705


Discovery Low Impact

For ages 20+ with a mild physical condition

Duration 8 days

Suitable for people aged 20+ who have a mild physical condition, are motivated to be active, and want opportunities to be challenged.

See Course details and make a booking