Before Ben Gunn became an instructor for Outward Bound Canada, he spent a decade in an environment you might not expect an outdoor enthusiast who sometimes carries trail mix in his pocket to be; Bay Street.
“I only knew that I wanted to change things up,” said Ben, when asked what prompted the switch. “After much introspection, I felt a calling to spend more time outdoors and to connect with youth. I started to talk with friends in the outdoor education space and before I knew it I was enrolled in both an Advanced Wilderness First Aid and Bronze Cross course.”
According to Ben, the transition from Toronto’s financial district to the rugged hiking trails walked by Outward Bound Canada staff and students was anything but linear. Talking to Ben now, however, it’s clear he’s found his calling.
Ben hopes that his students learn to trust themselves, their capabilities and to grow their confidence during a course spent with him. “I hope that students learn that it is ok to ask for help, and that we need to work together to achieve our goals.”
Ben has only been teaching these important lessons at Outward Bound Canada since last year, but his journey with our organization started long ago. When Ben was 18 years old, he had a deeply impactful experience when he took a 21-day Outward Bound Canada expedition in northern Ontario.
“The journey came at a critical time in my life. I was still coping with the loss of my father,” said Ben. “Several years ago, while contemplating what direction to take my life in, I was reflecting on that journey. I recalled how fantastic my instructors were and how incredible the work is that they do. I thought to myself that I too would love to be able to offer a similar experience to today's youth. So I reached out to OBC and here we are.”
Just like the students that Ben sheppards through the emotional highs and lows of a challenging adventure, Ben himself is still learning about how to cope with obstacles and finding new wells of resiliency on long journeys.
“The same adverse conditions whether it be the inclement weather, the gruelling hike, the burnt food, or the unrelenting bugs can really test our resiliency,” he said, when asked about what he finds most challenging in his chosen profession. “I find the best way to cope is to be honest not only with myself, but with the group as well, and to bring the challenge into the open. In doing so, I am better able to relate with the group and we can work together to overcome anything.”
Ben chooses to spend most of his down time - it should come as no surprise - in the outdoors, using the greatest classroom at our disposal to seek new challenges and pursue new learnings in the hopes of passing them along to his students.