Going solo on carrots, apples and some flapjack

17 March, 2022

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McKenzie Tornquist says going on an Outward Bound course was the best thing she’s ever done in her life. The challenges she experienced while tramping, kayaking, swimming, cooking, running and sailing proffered many lessons that she’s already applying to her everyday life and work.

“We did so much in the 3 weeks and I came back a better person. I was the happiest there that I’ve ever been. The 13 people in my watch (group) formed really close connections and we laughed together so much”, she says.

The days started about 6 am with a 3 km run followed by a swim in the sea, despite cool, wet weather. “I could barely run 3 k before I went but at the end we had to do a half marathon and I ran the whole 21 km. Afterwards I was probably the most tired I’ve ever been, but am so proud of the achievement. Now I think I can do anything!”

McKenzie says each activity was kept secret until it actually happened. “We’d just be told what to pack, then we had to show up and be ready for anything. I don’t like working that way, but it was good for me to be more spontaneous and learn to trust.”

One highlight was a 3-day sailing voyage in the Marlborough Sounds, going all the way to Cook Strait. “On the second day we had no wind so we had to row the boat for 13 hours, doing 15 strokes then swapping over with others. I still have the blisters on my hands! We had to go for a swim that night, and when we were in the water our instructors pointed out the bioluminescence all around us. It was so cool. I’d learned about it at uni but had never actually seen it before.”

McKenzie (front right) sailing home after the wind picked up.
McKenzie (front right) sailing home after the wind picked up.

Each participant was given a journal and encouraged to use the 5 ways to wellbeing to reflect on the events of each day. (They are to: learn, be active, take notice, connect and give.) McKenzie says she found it a helpful exercise and has continued the practice since getting home.

Going on a solo expedition provided some welcome rest. “We got dropped off in the bush alone with a fly and a rope to make a shelter for 3 days. We had no phone or watch and only three apples, three carrots and flapjack for food – and I only ate the apples! I slept a lot and also wrote some feedback for myself and for two others. It turns out being in the bush at night isn’t that scary after all.”

The Outward Bound course came at a good time for McKenzie. “Sometimes in my life I feel quite negative and can be a bit hard on myself. I felt like I needed to do something on my own to gain confidence. I really love being out in nature and exercising so this felt like a good challenge.”

“Dragonfly was very supportive about me being away for so long, but I knew I’d be able to bring home what I learned and put it into my work life. Now I know I can push myself out of my comfort zone and be more confident. Getting through the hard stuff has definitely made me learn how to enjoy experiences and be more positive.”

Outward Bound is based at Anakiwa in the Marlborough Sounds. It aims to be plastic free and sustainable. Food scraps are composted or fed to local pigs and each student plants a tree at the end of their course to offset emissions.

Top image: A morning aquajogging session.