My Outward Bound story.

My Outward Bound story.

What a privilege.

By Declan Ward.


Declan Ward.

Outward Bound Classic 695     |    Cobham Watch     |    5 – 25 November 2022.

For several years I’ve been part of Big Buddy NZ – an organisation that connects boys living without dads to positive male role models. At age 13, I was paired up with Craig. He became a regular presence in my life, a mentor and a friend. Over the years he’s helped me make big decisions and pass milestones – things like learning to drive, buying a car and preparing for my first job. He’s become part of my family and helped me become who I am today. Craig nominated me to go to Outward Bound. When I asked why, he said: “I thought it would be a perfect fit for you as you transition into adulthood.”


“It gave me the space to understand who I am and the tools I need to approach adult life.”

When I finished school I took a gap year, I travelled, reconnected with family and tried to make space for the next chapter in my life. Because I didn’t choose to work or study straight away, I lacked a little confidence in my decision making. Craig reassured me that not knowing what I want to do is an advantage. As it leaves me wide open to all sorts of opportunities.

I headed for Outward Bound not knowing what I should do going forward and lacking a way to find out. I was hoping that the course would help me find inspiration and put me on my path. I set myself a challenge to participate in and try everything, even if I was out of my comfort limits. I was ready to “seize every piece of goodness, every opportunity” as Craig put it.

Declan Watch Final2

“Outward Bound showed me my capacity to do great things. And to live each day with greatness.”

On the course, I was asked to consider what I want to harness and take with me into the world. I realised that to help my future self I had to let go of the insecurities I’d been carrying around with me. I had to leave that baggage behind.

I found the solo time particularly useful in breaking through the noise. It gave me time to think, process and reflect. I’d journal at least once a day. I found the action of putting my thoughts into writing helpful for making sense of the world around me. One word that appears on almost every page I wrote on is ‘privilege’. I feel grateful to have been given the opportunity to work on myself for 21-days. And to do so without pressure from others to show something for it or have it all figured it. Outward Bound gave me the time and space to learn how to face challenges, to understand how I think about things and what my opinions are.


“Knowing more about myself gave me the confidence to back my own decisions and judgements.”

My watchmates and I were invited to think about our values. Starting with 101 value cards, we were each asked to select 20 that resonate with us, then 10, then 3. I really enjoyed this exercise. It was interesting to ask myself “why am I choosing this?” and “what does this mean to me?”. Doing this alongside others made it feel more meaningful and legitimate. It seemed to bring purpose to the activity. It showed me that values aren’t singular – we don’t live in isolation to others. Our values have the potential to impact others and be impacted by others.

There were moments across the course that brought this understanding to life. As the days went by, and conversations deepened, my watchmates and I became more comfortable expressing ourselves to each other. I started opening up to my watch, talking about what I want for myself going forward and what I’ve struggled with in the past. I was surprised at the response. I wasn’t ignored or judged. My watchmates thanked me. They said it gave them comfort to hear my honesty and the courage to speak their truth.

“It was a cool experience to get to know and bond with others. To learn how to trust.”


Activities on the course present you with challenges. Each of which show you something about yourself that you couldn’t have guessed going in. During a rock-climbing session, I was encouraged to climb the rock face blindfolded. I was scared to do it, I worried that I wasn’t skilled enough and that I’d fall. Remembering the challenge I’d set myself – I gave it a go.

As I climbed the rock face, without my eyes to guide me, I became more aware of how I placed my hands, not just where. For me, the lesson wasn’t how to rock climb blindfolded; it was to understand that our perceptions can deceive us. That we can distract ourselves from what’s real and true, by only approaching things from one angle or looking at things one way. Instead of giving up, I relied on what I had to work with – my instincts and my senses. I focused on what I could hear – my watchmates cheering me on, being my eyes and guiding me up the rock face. I had to listen to others, to trust them so that I’d stay safe. It was wholesome to have everyone come together to help me succeed.

Declan Forward

“Before Outward Bound, I was crawling forward. Now I feel I’m moving forward with a sense of direction and confidence.”

I felt good about myself on the course, and I liked who I was. I pushed myself to do more, to build up tolerance and become more disciplined. The environment and the people brought something out in me. I like being part of a community – learning from others and having something to share. It feels good when people see something in me that’s worth paying attention to, even if it’s through a little friendly competition. Making new friends, building connections and opening up to others did me wonders. For years, I’ve shown that side of me to only a select few, like Craig.

Declan’s come back with an air of confidence, a swagger.


“I’ve always seen the potential in Declan, but this opportunity has brought that goodness out. His time on Outward Bound has been a catalyst for him getting started with his adult life. He’s come back with an air of confidence, a swagger. He’s at ease and comfortable with himself. He’s more focused and he knows what he wants” says Craig.

I left the course fitter and stronger than when I entered. Both physically and mentally. I think deeply about things, I question and I’m grateful for where I’m at. I’m more confident in myself and what I can do, and I feel more driven. Now my mindset is if I want something I’m going to do something about it.

It really has meant a lot to me, to have my Outward Bound adventure funded by Fidelity Life. Thank you for giving me this opportunity