My Outward Bound story.

My Outward Bound story.

The power of being present.

By Della-May Vining.

Della Mayv2 Circle

Della-May Vining.

Outward Bound Classic 698     |    Cook Watch   |    3 – 23 February 2023.

Outward Bound has been on my bucket list for a few years. When my flatmate went on the course in 2022, she returned raving about it, which only deepened my desire to attend. Then, one day out the blue I received a call from Outward Bound to tell me that my flatmate had passed on the baton to me, nominating me for a scholarship. Such an awesome surprise.

I was excited by the opportunity in front of me, getting to try activities that I’ve not done before like sailing, rock climbing and rafting. And having missed a year away from netball due to injury, I was eager to use this as a reset: to test where I was at physically and see how far I could push myself.


"I was halfway up the wall and froze. There was absolutely no way I could continue. Then somehow, I’d made it to the top."

Day-1 of the course was rock climbing outdoors, it’s crazy to look back on. I’d never done this before. Half-way up the wall my body shut down. My hands were shaking, tears were flowing, and I may have shouted a few times. There was absolutely no way I could continue.

My instructor, Sophie, somehow coached me through it. She reminded me of the lesson we’d spoken about – the power of excuses and taking control of our minds. Sophie reinforced that my brain and body were telling me they didn’t want to be there and reminded me of, what I needed to do to take control of it. I then started to tell myself that ‘I can do it. I love rock climbing.’ Somehow this subtle reframing got me to the top, it was an unbelievable feeling. Literally 2 or 3 minutes earlier I felt I couldn’t carry on. Then feeling like I could do anything. Crazy.

Dellay May Watch.JPG

"I’ve learnt to let go of expectation and live in the moment."

Expectations have demanded a lot of attention in my life. Even before my Outward Bound course, I was expecting to have a big ‘a-ha’ or waiting for the big ‘eureka’ moment. When it didn’t happen, I remember feeling a tad disappointed. Then came the revelation about how distracted and pre-occupied I’d become about expectations. Especially in a sporting sense, with my passion for netball, I’d regularly put pressure on myself to achieve certain things or to perform in certain ways. 21 days surrounded by the beauty of the Queen Charlotte Sound, was game changing for me. Learning to let go, live in the moment, and lighten the mental load of expectation that I’d been carrying with me.

I’ve seen this play out in a netball tournament I played about 5 weeks after my course had finished. This was a mixed tournament, something I’ve not played before and with a team I wasn’t familiar with. In addition to this, I knew this tournament was being watched with the offer of trials available for top performers. The pre course ‘me’ would get distracted by this – I’d plan, think, and focus more about what I wanted to achieve and worry about what could happen.

Dellay May Mountain Leaf (1)

"Letting go was natural and lightened the mental load."

When entering the tournament, I found myself with a clear mind and simply at ease with myself, feeling ok with everything that was new, and the pressure of potential trials (that I so badly wanted) and told myself just to go out there, play in the moment and enjoy myself. This relaxed mindset seemed to flow naturally and helped me connect with the present moment. I wasn’t distracted about wanting to get selected for trials or worry how I’d go in the new team.

Other subtle shifts started to play out. I realised that I’d let go of expectations and just played for the love of the game. I’d reframed the expectation of wanting to make the trials, to feeling grateful for the opportunity of being there in the first place and feeling privileged to play at this level with other great athletes. The trials became a bonus and not an incessant distraction.

I’d let go of the need to prove myself – and trusted my ability and the hard work that got me there. It made me play for the love of the game. Something that I’d lost focus on in recent years.

After the tournament I was selected for trials in June which I was stoked about. And, these skills I picked up on my Outward Bound course, really helped me relax into the tournament, which I’m so grateful for.

Dellay May Boat

"That uncomfy feeling that I’ve often shied away from, is something I now am actively seeking."

I look back to the rock-climbing experience and think it was a real blessing it happened to me on day-1. It set me up perfectly for the rest of the course and nudged me further to actively seek discomfort and the feeling of butterflies in my tummy. Back in daily life now, it’s something I’m actively searching for. I love the feeling of finding it, confronting it and trying to push past it. Like in netball training, I’m now actively seeking things I’m not good at and trying to work on it to improve versus shying away from it. It’s making me a better player and I enjoy the mental challenge and resilience it demands of me.

"Being aware and more present has made me more thankful for what I have."

Being disconnected from everything for 21 days with time to focus on me, my Watch and have no other distractions was such a grounding experience. I observed how ‘on’ I am in life, constantly busy, doing things and have often neglected to take time for myself.

I’m trying to keep hold of good habits I learned through Outward Bound, like being present and focussed on the people I’m with or what I’m doing. Little shifts like not taking my phone everywhere with me. It’s made me lift my head up more, look around and be aware and connected to what’s around me. It’s helped me appreciate more, the time I spend with others.

Outwards Bound has been such a game changer for me. I’m so grateful for my flatmate who nominated me and the gift I have received.