Stories / Blog Posts / Outward Bound Canada partners with adventurer Adam Shoalts: Let’s get outside and explore!

Outward Bound Canada partners with adventurer Adam Shoalts: Let’s get outside and explore!

We’re thrilled to announce our partnership with renowned Canadian explorer, best-selling author, and adventurer Adam Shoalts for the 2024 Get Outside for Outward Bound campaign (May 11-25)! Adam’s unwavering commitment to preserving wild places and fostering a love for the outdoors perfectly aligns with Outward Bound Canada’s mission to empower youth through experiential adventures in nature.

man paddling a canoe on a lake with forest behind

Throughout 2024, Adam Shoalts will be a champion for Outward Bound Canada’s mission, spreading the word about our work through his many speaking engagements and on social media. One of those talks will take place on Saturday, May 25, when we’ll have the pleasure of hosting Adam for an exclusive event at the OBC program office at  Don Valley Brickworks in Toronto (550 Bayview Ave). In an intimate setting, he’ll share captivating stories from his adventures and delve into the importance of outdoor education in shaping a brighter future.

Read on to learn more about Adam Shoalts’ incredible career and discover how to secure a ticket for his exclusive event with the OBC team at the Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto on Saturday, May 25 at 4pm.

How Adam Shoalts found his wild side: A Q&A to inspire you!

OBC: Can you tell us about your childhood experiences with nature? Were you always interested in exploring?

AS: I was lucky to grow up in a rural area with a forest that surrounded my childhood home. So exploring the woods just came naturally. My brother and I learned from my father and from books how to identify trees, plants, animal tracks, birds, etc. As for exploring, I think the urge to explore is a human universal, it just takes different forms. Some people might for example explore music, or art, or technology, or even antiques. But when we explore the natural world, we’re engaged in the oldest form of exploration of all, which I think speaks to something deep within all of us, even if its dormant in some.

It’s easy to forget that humans have spent most of human history outside and that people everywhere have lived most of their history in tune with nature. The rhythm of life was dictated by the seasons and the natural world. Until quite recently, most large cities were little more than villages. Nowadays, of course, more and more people live in dense urban areas and spend most of their time indoors. But getting outside again and reconnecting with nature, I think, really awakens something in all of us.

man paddling a canoe on a lake

OBC: How did your parents or other adults encourage your interest in exploring nature? 

AS: We were allowed to play in the woods, camp and roam the forest at will. This “free-range” approach, which wasn’t a conscious philosophy but just a natural part of growing up in rural Canada, probably helped a great deal, as I do think there is something special about just wandering freely through the woods without any structure that helps a person become more attuned to natural patterns. My father encouraged us and taught us things, such as how to make canoes. He is a woodworker, and so he understands trees on the level of someone who shapes things by hand.

OBC: Who were the role models who inspired your adventurous spirit?

AS: When I was 13, my grade 8 class read the book “Lost in the Barrens” by Farley Mowat. I remember it being one of the most exciting books we read in our school. It definitely made me want to venture farther afield than just my local woods. Later on, I read many more books, which further nurtured my desire to explore wild places.

OBC: Looking back on your experiences, are there any skills you wish you had learned earlier in life that would have been beneficial for your explorations?

AS: I’m not sure. On the one hand, there are many things I know now that I didn’t know when I was younger, such as how to identify many different species of wild mushrooms, or various technical canoe strokes that would have been useful to know earlier. On the other hand, learning is a progression, and in some ways, leap-frogging ahead to where I am now would have cut out a lot of the crucial steps along the way.

OBC: Can you share any specific instances in your life where the skills learned outdoors have proved crucial in “day to day” life?

AS: Well, I consider my outdoor skills part of my “day to day” life as I try to spend as much time in nature as possible! But when it comes to applying outdoor skills outside the wild, I find the organizational skills I’ve learned in the wilderness very useful. On a long expedition like my four-month solo canoe journey across the Canadian Arctic, managing your time efficiently is crucial. The journey was a race against the changing seasons. Therefore, I had to do a lot of strategizing in terms of how to maximize my efficiency so that I could spend as much time traveling (i.e. canoeing or portaging) as possible. This meant organizing my morning and evening routine into a series of tasks that I could complete quickly and efficiently in a logical order without overlooking anything. I try to maintain this habit even when I’m at home.

man taking a front facing photo in a field

OBC: What’s your favourite book or reading material to take on an expedition?

AS: I usually lay my hands on any adventure book that I can find. Books I’ve read on long expeditions include Joshua Slocum’s “Sailing Alone Around the World”, “The Long Ships” by Frans G. Bengtsson, and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. I also work on writing my own books while in the wild, so I’m often reading over what I’ve jotted down.

OBC: What’s something you take with you on a trip that we wouldn’t expect?

AS: I put a premium on traveling light, so there’s probably nothing in my pack or canoe that you wouldn’t expect. It’s just standard outdoor gear: life jacket, paddles, extra pair of clothing, gloves, first aid kit, Swiss Army knife, food rations, cooking pot, notebook, pen, rope, tent, etc. The only non-expedition thing I pack is a book to read. I prefer to keep things to a minimum to absorb my surroundings with fewer distractions. There’s always something interesting that I’m afraid I’d miss if I had music on, for example. The sound of a beaver slapping its tail, or the strange call of a distant sandhill crane, the wind in the trees, or the faint roar of rapids ahead.

OBC: What shared values do you see in your work and OBC’s mission to be a vocal champion and leading provider of social, emotional, and environmental outdoor learning experiences for underserved youth.

In my books, I’ve tried to get across in different ways the crucial importance of preserving wild places. Part of that is trying to capture in words the magic that comes with experiencing first-hand remote, wild spaces. With OBC, youth now get to experience these places for themselves, including many who might not otherwise get the opportunity. And I think that is one of the best things we can do to help foster the next generation of ecologically conscious stewards of our planet’s wild places.

OBC: You’ve seen and done so much! What’s your dream trip now? 

AS: I’d love to do at least one more long journey similar to my 4,000 km canoe journey across the Arctic or my recent 3,400 km undertaking from Lake Erie to the Arctic coast. At this point, I don’t know exactly what form it will take, as I usually wait for something unexpected to inspire me. On my last journey, it was the sight of a migrating peregrine falcon outside my living room window that gave me the idea of following it from my doorstep to the Arctic. So there’s no telling what my next adventure will be.

Join Adam Shoalts and Outward Bound Canada for an afternoon of adventure

Ever dreamed of getting a glimpse into the world of a world-class explorer? Here’s your chance! Join Adam Shoalts, Ph.D., a Canadian Geographic Top Explorer, and the OBC team for an afternoon of adventure at the Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto on Saturday, May 25 at 4pm.

man paddling a canoe on a lake

This event is exclusive to our close supporters and we’d like to invite five of our readers to join us in person! Want to be one of them? Be one of the first five people to email for a chance to win a free ticket!