A guiding life not lived: an update
Why not stay out there in the wilderness the rest of your days?
Early in my life I seriously considered dedicating my life to being in the wilderness and in the mountains and to becoming an outdoor guide—or, more specifically, a NOLS instructor.
NOLS is the National Outdoor Leadership School. It’s like Outward Bound, but more: deeper wilderness, more extreme challenges, and much, much more emphasis on developing leadership and team-building skills. At Outward Bound, they take you into the wilderness to challenge you. At NOLS, they teach you how to take others.
In College, I took a semester-long NOLS course that changed my life. We hiked the North Cascades (more elevation gain per square foot than anywhere except the Himalayas), sailed through Desolation Sound in British Columbia, lived on a glacier, and coastal backpacked through Olympic National Park. And, I first learned how to climb.
Altogether, it was three months in the wilderness. The outdoors had already been a big part of my childhood, but NOLS prompted me to ask the question, did I want this as my life? Becoming a NOLS instructor, or making the wilderness my career, always held deep appeal. And yet, in the final analysis, it was a short piece of writing I encountered during the NOLS course that convinced me out of it.
That was my choice. Then, last month, I came across a story published in Climbing Magazine by someone who made the opposite choice—
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