How I learned to look inward during my Outward Bound adventure: Ridhwanlai Badmos’s story
The Loran Scholars Foundation is a remarkable Canadian scholarship program that annually provides 36 students with four years of higher education. Each year, the Foundation partners with Outward Bound Canada (OBC) to provide these students with a unique community-building experience in the wilderness. One of the participants, Ridhwanlai Badmos, a 2023 Loran Scholar, told us about his experience on a canoe trip in Algonquin Park this summer:
The night before I leave for what I think will be an ordinary camping trip, I’m nervous for two reasons: first, because it will be my second camping trip ever. My first time was in the winter – when the bears are hibernating and mosquitos are non-existent. The second reason is that I’ll be seeing some friends again that I haven’t seen in a while. We were all chosen to be a part of an amazing scholar organization and we haven’t seen each other since we’ve been selected. I believe that first impressions matter, and they matter even more when it’s with friends you haven’t seen for millennia.
I’m frantically searching for quotes to boost my confidence. My room is a mess. There are clothes everywhere. A few minutes pass, and I read a quote. A moment later, I’m back to packing. This process repeats for a while, over and over, until I only have a few things left to pack. Just as I’m thinking about calling it a day and getting up early in the morning to finish the rest, I discover this quote, “Don’t stop when you’re tired. Stop when you’re done.” I’ve never been the type to dismiss moments like this as coincidence, so even though I groan, I grab my clothes and decide to get it over with. Little did I know that this quote would define the rest of my Outward Bound adventure.
The first day we arrived at the base, every part of my body was energized. All I’m thinking about is my excitement. The words, “I can’t wait to get camping, I’ve got this!” were playing on repeat in my head. But as we began to walk to the cabins with all of our gear up the hill, I got hit with a sinking realization. I might’ve benefited from not skipping leg day at the gym. To be honest, I might’ve benefited from going to the gym at all.
We spent the next few days at base camp, learning the basics of camping and safety procedures. Then we hit the deck. We put our canoes in the water and off we went! All my previous worries were instantly dispelled. I was expecting that we’d have to fight the current, with rain pouring down on us, as we yelled to each other, “Stay in sight!” It wasn’t like that at all. It was peaceful to be with my group and hear their stories about their journeys to become Loran Scholars. Although it took us a while to learn to work together as a team, soon enough we were paddling as a unit.
Later during our paddle, it started to rain, but that didn’t bother us much because we shortly landed at the first stop of our journey. We quickly gathered our things, put on dry clothes, and set about our roles. Some were responsible for starting the fire, others for cooking the food, and I was in charge of gathering firewood. Soon it was time for dinner and we realized that camping food has a distinct taste. Our instructors called it camp spice and despite it, the first meal was delicious. We made quick work of that too.
The next morning we were up bright and early, ready to start our day. We had a short paddle and soon I heard a word that still scares me: Portage. I’ve never carried a boat in my life and to this day it’s one of the most physically demanding things I’ve ever done. The only things that kept me going were God, David Goggins, and “Don’t stop when you’re tired. Stop when you’re done.” My body was exhausted and it took me a while to figure out how to keep the boat on my back. My mind was telling me to give up and take a break, and even though I felt I had reached my limits, I also felt this was an opportunity for me to surpass them. It’s the little things we do every day that determine the way we live the rest of our lives, so I found it in myself to push a little harder and go a little further.
Despite the fear I had of the portages, they soon became one of the biggest highlights of my adventure. Each of them felt like a battle between the old me and the person I wished to become. There’s nothing wrong with who I am now, but I know I’m not perfect and that I can always be better. Whether that “better” means being at peace with myself, being more in control of my emotions, or more empathetic. Every time I reached the end of the path and threw the boat off my back, I knew the person I wanted to become was winning and it didn’t seem so far-fetched to imagine that one day that could be me. We went like this for a few more days, until the second highlight of my adventure: the OBC solo.
Before we left for our solos, our instructors read out The Parable of the Trapeze. Hearing this in what felt like the middle of nowhere, with trees spanning multiple generations old, felt surreal. As they read, there was one part that stuck with me: “I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It’s empty and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, and my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart of hearts I know that, for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well-known bar and move to the new one.”
Something that surprised me the most about my OBC adventure was how much I enjoyed my solo, despite being such a social person. I spent the majority of my time writing in my notebook. I didn’t say a single word because I was afraid of ruining the peaceful silence that I had created. Here is an excerpt from my notebook during my solo:
The air is infested with bug spray from my panicked attempt to kill a mosquito, but that’s not the important part. What is important is this view that I’m staring at. It’s beyond beautiful and amidst my panic I almost miss it. I hear a roar fly above reminding me that despite the deathly silence, I am not alone in this world and that there are certainly more of my kind out there. I draw in my thoughts and let out a big breath as I concentrate on my writing. Tuesday, August 15th. I state the day to remember the vow of silence that I took. All that’s on my mind are the next portages. 800 meters and 700 meters. Huge numbers. But we will get it done. We must. For this has always felt like do or die, and I’m quite comfortable amongst the living right now. So I’ll pick up a boat, and come back for another. I’ll paddle with all my strength like my life depends on it. I’ll push my body to exhaustion, sleep, wake up, and do it all over again. Because this moment right here is my trapeze bar filled with my growth and aliveness. This is my next step. You don’t get to that next stage in your life by doing the same thing you were doing before and so it is time for me to let go of what I know and become better. I will. I must.
On our last night, our team got together and talked about our experience. We talked about what we had seen and who we felt we had become. We talked about our highlights and our lowlights. We talked about lessons learned and memories made. We talked about the journey we had all undergone, and although it was short by “Outward Bound standards”, to me it had felt like a lifetime. The next day, we all tried to race to see who could get back first, but with each paddle stroke, it felt like I was leaving something behind. When I got back home I needed a bit more alone time to acclimate back to my present environment. Every time I closed my eyes, it felt like I was still in the woods.
It’s been a month and a few weeks since I first found my silence in the woods. As I write, I’m currently living a very different life. I’m at university preparing for midterm exams, worrying about getting into clubs, and there’s noise all around me. Despite my adventure being a while ago, I find it hard to hold back the tears in my eyes as I reflect on it. Back then, our biggest worry was making it to the next base before it got dark.
I miss those moments, and I promise you, if you end up going on an Outward Bound adventure, you will too no matter how hard it seems in the present. Civilization has washed away the calluses on my hands, but those on my mind and heart remain. To me they represent achieving a goal before the day ends, and the poignant quote from the start of my journey: “Don’t stop when you’re tired. stop when you’re done.“
What you’ve read is merely a summary of the feelings and transformations that I experienced during my adventure. I hope with my words, I did what I experienced justice but the truth is, no amount of words will be able to describe it. So then, you’re probably wondering, “Why did you write this? What are you trying to say?” To be honest, I’m not so sure myself. Maybe my message is to try something new and leave your comfort zone. Maybe my message is to give every experience an equal opportunity and be open-minded. Or maybe my message is that you need to get outside to see what’s inside. Who knows? Maybe you’ll let me know when you find out, but until then just be yourself and enjoy life. After all, we only live once and every adventure is a magical moment waiting to happen.
About the author:
Ridhwanlai Badmos is a freelance writer and contributor. This past year he was named a Loran Scholar and a recipient of the TD Award of Merit for Community Leadership. Ridhwanlai is also the founder of Wake Up Mental Health, a non-profit that offers mental well-being workshops throughout Canada. When not being active within his communities and inspiring youth to get involved, you can find him gardening in his backyard, under a tree reading a book, or at the basketball court shooting hoops. Learn more about him and his work through his Instagram and LinkedIn profiles.