My Outward Bound story.

My Outward Bound story.

Becoming a better version of myself.

By Jack Johnston.

Jack Johnston

Jack Johnston.

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

I had a difficult time growing up. As an only child, struggling to understand how to use my ADHD to my advantage, I often felt lonely and out of place.


“I was hoping that Outward Bound would teach me how to be more prepared for the world and how to cooperate with others.”

For years I’ve felt that I wasn’t accepted and that I don’t fit in. I’d change how I was to benefit others and I’d neglect myself. If I felt isolated by others, I’d further isolate myself. I got used to being seen a certain way and lived into the ideas that others had about me. I knew I was a people person, but I’d confused the meaning of that to be, putting other people first instead of myself.

The beauty of Outward Bound is that you get to spend time with new people. People who don’t have perceived ideas of who you are, what you’re like or how you should behave. Something about the environment of Anakiwa, and its natural beauty, encourages you to want to understand who you are at your core. As the days went by, I found myself shedding in-authentic habits and traits. I removed the social expectations I’d put upon myself and learned to just ‘be’ me.

Jack Watch Final

“I realised I have a lot of love to give. I care deeply about people. But by being so focused on caring for others, I’d learned to neglect myself.”

My instructor said that I represent the best parts of humanity – but I’d learned to hide those parts away when they weren’t appreciated by others. Before attending Outward Bound, I was miscommunicating my strengths and misdirecting my care. I’d developed a bad habit of fiercely defending others – getting into fights on their behalf – then being left to deal with the fallout all alone. For all the care I showed to others, I wasn’t receiving much back. And I certainly wasn’t caring for myself.

“Outward Bound showed me the power of reframing negative ideas and beliefs about myself.”


For many years I’d distracted myself from my own emotions, because connecting with them seemed hard to do. It took a watchmate’s kindness, of just being there and listening to me without judgement or interruption, for me to realise that simple gestures go a long way. I learned that I don’t need to sacrifice my own wellbeing with big, courageous acts, to show people I care or to feel cared for. I understand now that learning how to access my emotions, understand them and come out the other side is a valuable life skill to have. Emotions tap into your soul, and they impact how you are in everyday life – the choices you make and the direction you move in.

“Understanding who you are is hard. Being confident in who you are is even harder.”


Somewhere along the way, I’d stopped sharing who I am with others and began being who I thought people wanted me to be. Outward Bound was the first social experience where I have felt wholly accepted and understood by others. I continued to look out for people, make them feel welcome, but for once my care wasn’t shunned by others. It was reciprocated. People asked me how I was or would give me a helping hand. I opened up to my watchmates and I let people in. And in turn, they let me in. Through different scenarios, we showed our loyalty to each other. In the short space of 21 days we made deep, trusting friendships. I’ve left Outward Bound knowing that we’ll be friends for life because we’re like a family. We are united. We care about each other. We have each other’s back. Months on and we still talk on a regular basis.

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“Sometimes you just need the belief of others and the space to be yourself, to see your own potential.”

Outward Bound tests your commitment to your values. It gives you real scenarios so you get to know what’s important to you, what you should pay attention to and what you can let go of. It shows you can live in harmony with others and yourself, you can grow bonds with people. It changes you a lot mentally. I left a better version of myself.

"Now I’ve got a sense of direction, I’ve started an outdoor education course and I’m more confident in my abilities."


I’m paying attention to myself and I’m aware of better ways to care for others. I’m more interested in listening to people and being there for them in a way my Outward Bound family was for me.