A Fictional Letter About a Very Real Vacation by Deb Danielle

June, 1990
Day One
Dear Mom,
Thanks so much for sending me to Outward Bound. I still think it’s unfair that I had no choice but I’m looking forward to being one with nature and, with all the hiking, I’ll probably lose that 5 lbs that made my Senior Prom dress feel a little tight. (110, here I come!)

I’m sure it’ll turn out to be great that they took away my biodegradable soap, shampoo and conditioner, my book and half my clothes. Obviously I need to learn more about simplicity, embrace my inner savage and so on. And it’s only two weeks, right? That’s one pair of underwear per week and who needs more than that?! There were mosquitoes in our food tonight but it’s fine because they were boiled and are also high in protein. Our tent looks a bit wobbly, but I can’t wait to sleep between the two guys I’ve been paired with.

Day Two
Hi again, Mom. You wouldn’t believe how refreshing it is to awaken in fresh rainwater—a whole two inches of it—especially after a soothing sleepover with an ex-con and a guy with a (repaired) harelip that gives him a chronic snore. Such interesting guys. One of them is uninhibited enough to sleep in his tighty-whiteys and change right in front of me. So make that refreshing rain water plus one bare, hairy bum. Refreshing all around.

Did I mention that my one pair of clean underwear is soaked? Someone suggested I hang them on the outside of my backpack as we hike today so that (unlike my sleeping bag) they’ll be dry by tonight. I’m sure this is exactly the kind of handy trick you sent me here to learn. Interestingly enough, it looks like the leaders knew last night that we’d set the tent in a bad spot and also hadn’t secured the rain shield thingy but decided not to tell us.

Day Three
We learned so much yesterday, Mom, you would have loved it. Our leaders let us walk for two hours in the wrong direction on a dried-up river bed with large, chunky rocks while wearing eighty-pound backpacks. It was absolute genius, the way they didn’t say a word, the way they let us get totally lost and start fighting with each other and stabbing at the map and so on. How smart of them to do this on our first day of hiking when we’re out of shape, getting blisters and the backpacks are at their heaviest. I’m not quite sure what the lesson was, but the whole thing made a strong impression, that’s for sure.

I washed my underwear in the lake last night but since we got to camp in the dark, I had to hang them by the fire. They never dried but they did pick up a lovely bbq/cigarette smoke scent.

Here’s something I bet you didn’t expect me to be doing: carrying my own dirty toilet paper in a ziplock bag! That’s right, we’re one with nature here which means going to the bathroom au natural–I’ve learned a great way to lean back on a tree so I don’t pee on my pants–and we’re to leave nature as we found it as much as possible. Which means leaving no toilet paper, even though it IS biodegradable. Next time I do this, Mom, you’re coming with me and I can’t wait to see your little ziplock bag.

In addition to the ex-con, repaired-harelip guy and some social misfits, there is a girl who just escaped from a cult and at least one high school drop-out here. It looks like you found me a very nice “troubled youth” group, Mom. It was interesting to see their faces when I finally admitted I’ve been forced to come because I didn’t graduate an “Ontario Scholar.” Well actually, none of them knows what that is so I just said my grades weren’t good enough. I didn’t tell them my grades were good enough to get me into every university I applied to.

I have to admit I’ve been crying a lot. Can’t seem to stop except when we’re hiking, actually. But I’m sure it’s healthy–part of the transformation and all that. Undoubtedly I am morphing into an outdoorsy type. And getting thinner. In fact I have high hopes of getting a tapeworm from all the bugs I’m eating and tapeworms are awesome for weight loss. I don’t know why I ever thought it would be more fun to lay on a beach with a book, travel Europe, sleep in a clean warm bed (alone) and take a hot shower every morning. I can never thank you enough for this wonderful, wonderful experience.

Stay tuned next week for Part 2 of Deb Danielle’s Worst Vacation Ever…

23 Replies to “A Fictional Letter About a Very Real Vacation by Deb Danielle”

  1. Man- I think if my grades were low I was forced to listen to the be all you can be speech without obviously rolling my eyes.

    I will never look at another Ziplock in the same way. I imagine you were glad for those leak resistant bags.

  2. Thanks Joanne and Eileen. Funny enough, I’d kind of blocked the ziplock thing out and just remembered it as I was posting this last night.

    Eileen–Iol about the “be all you can be” speech!

  3. Great post, Danielle. Funny thing is I always wanted to be forced to go to Outward Bound. I thought it would kick the suburban girl out of me. Now I wonder…

  4. You’re such a great storyteller, Danielle. I could visualize you trooping the wrong way up that river bed with an eighty pound pack. I’ll have to wait until next week to read part two of your Outbound experience but at least now I know their claim to make their participants “better people” is true. You’re one of the good ones.

  5. Jenny–Thanks for the thought of the leaky ziplocks. Yuck.

    Bev–I admit, this story has been good material.

    Larramie–LOL! Yes, she paid $$. To be fair though, both my brothers had done an Outward Bound (voluntarily) and really loved it. But they both did a trip where they stayed at a central camp, in cabins I think, and so it was quite a different experience for them. Not sure whether they had to deal with wet sleeping conditions or ziplock bags.

    Gail–The suburban girl cannot be kicked out, in my experience!

    Sheila–Thanks for reading and posting! Yep, I’ll be back next week with the conclusion of this.


  6. And to think I always wanted to do Outward Bound…

    Your friend Maureen (who was ziplocing toilet paper just a couple of weeks ago in the Grand Canyon…) Do you like the way I turned ziploc into a verb? 🙂

  7. Good GAWD,

    This makes me so sad!! I just want to wisk you off to spa and and feed you chocolate chip cookies.

    Vivid, as always. I would have imploded by day 2 — I can’t pee outside. Even if I’m desperate.


  8. What can i say … your brothers did outward bound & loved it! It was supposed to help in your ‘survival skills’ since you didn’t seem to be using your intellectual abilities! Obviously you developed other ‘survival’ skills!!

  9. Thanks Lisa. I’m always willing to be whisked off to a spa!

    Mom–I know you really had no idea how awful it would be! The boys had a much easier “course” I think. And they might have thought it was cool to carry their tp in ziplock bags! Fortunately, I’ve long forgiven your for part A of this story and I think you’ve forgiven me for part B!

  10. I have a much different understanding of the history of this situation. Danielle this was not a vacation it was a penalty. Vacations are rewards. You chose this option , rather than the very simple option of being an Ontario scholar which you had breezed through to accomplish year after year. So your Mother and I have always therefore felt you wanted to go to Outward Bound. We were surprised you had chosen this option.

    We were also surpised with part B.

    Your Father

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