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Journey Map

Instructions and resources.

Download High-Resolution 18"x24" Journey Map, Map Key, Contract, and Contract Sample (PDF)

About the Journey Map

Proactive teaching for self-discovery.

Dr. Derek Cabrera developed the Journey Map after leading many instructor trainings for Outward Bound where new and returning instructors commonly asked what to do when problematic behaviors or situations occur during their courses. Questions such as, What do I do when X happens?

What do I do when a student wants to quit?
What do I do when we have a group blow-up?
What do I do when a group wants to kick someone off the course?
What do I do when I find drugs?
What do I do when we have exclusive relationships?

The common thread in these questions was the word "when," indicating a reactive rather than proactive approach to teaching. Dr. Cabrera realized that if instructors were already asking these questions, it was too late to prepare for these occurrences. Instead, instructors should anticipate such situations and prepare themselves and their students accordingly. Dr. Cabrera also observed a trend among instructors to be quick to "send kids home" or "emo evac," which ignores the fact that these students were sent to OB for precisely this problematic behavior (or in the case of standard population, chose to come on the course to resolve or get clarity on such dysfunctional behavior). He utilized his experience with Restorative Justice techniques to develop a plan that turned these situations into opportunities for personal and group development.

The Journey Map aims to remedy the central misunderstanding (for students and staff) of what constitutes an OB course: the mountains are the medium, not the message. Subsequently, the oft-sought-after itinerary is a description of the medium, not the message. The Journey Map consciously uses metaphor to highlight the message of the course, which is an external and internal journey of both discovery and self-discovery. It aims to "map" internal-world OB course onto the external-world OB course, focusing on the conscious use of metaphor to aid with the all-important transfer of the experience to real-life. The Journey Map takes a proactive and systemic approach, emphasizing reflection, social contracting and personal and interpersonal mastery. It removes pressure from the mountains and shifts the focus onto intra- and interpersonal dynamics. The Journey Map aims to reduce the aged problem of lack-of-transfer (which is perennial at OB) by making reflection on experience explicit and highlighting the importance of organizing information to make meaning of experiences. It uncovers the great twin misconceptions of OB that: (a) "the mountains teach for themselves (they don't) and (b) "we learn from experience" (we don't). The mountains are a medium, they do not teach. The only reason we use the mountains (or the sea, etc.) is because it tends to be foreign to students, thereby providing challenges to be overcome. Likewise, OB instructors need mountain training and fitness only so that the challenges of the mountains and fitness are not a distraction from focusing on and facilitating the real message. In fact, as the late CI, Doug Mahon, was fond of saying, "If you were a solid-enough instructor, an OB course could be taught under the kitchen table.”). And, we are reminded of the old adage, "If you're okay, your students are tired. If you're tired your students are exhausted. If you're exhausted your students are dead." Finally, it must be underscored that--contrary to popular belief--humans do not learn from experience. If we did, it wouldn't be the case that we so often need to experience things again and again to learn from them. In fact, we learn from reflection on experience. The great thing about the medium of reality (the mountains, etc.) is they are constantly teaching us lessons if we are listening, and if we are not listening (metacognitively reflecting) then reality will repeat the lesson again and again until it is learned. The Journey Map makes metacognitive reflection explicit and targeted on the takeaway and transferable message rather than the medium.

The perceived need for students to understand, and for staff to communicate, the “itinerary” of an OB course is precisely the problem the Journey Map seeks to address. While the mountains or any other environment may serve as the medium for the experience, they are not the core message of the course. Providing students with a detailed itinerary that solely describes the physical activities can be misleading, as it does not capture the true essence of the journey. The Journey Map leverages metaphor to highlight the message of the course, emphasizing that Outward Bound is not just about exploring the outdoors, but also about discovering oneself and others and transferring this learning to real-life situations. Outward Bound represents a voyage into the unknown, both externally and internally, that is marked by both discovery and self-discovery. The Journey Map encompasses this essential aspect of the Outward Bound experience, fusing the external and internal experiences by capturing the unknown. While the outcomes of the journey cannot be predicted, adhering to simple rules (or "stays" of a tent): stay together, stay present, stay frosty, and stay on course can help ensure a safe and enriching experience. As John A. Shedd once said, "A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for." The Blue Peter flag, the symbol of Outward Bound, signifies a ship that is "ready to sail" or "outward bound" for a journey unknown.


Adaptable teaching method.

In summary, the Journey Map is a proactive approach to teaching that emphasizes personal and group development through the conscious use of metaphor. It shifts the focus away from the mountains and onto the journey itself, emphasizing personal mastery and reflection on experience to make meaning of it. By doing so, it prepares instructors and students to anticipate and handle problematic situations while reducing real-life recidivism of dysfunctional behaviors and transferring the experience into real-life situations. The Journey Map captures and explicates the message (the itinerary of the journey) allowing the mountain itinerary to remain as merely the medium (which could be replaced by nearly any other medium).

The Journey Map was originally developed at and for Outward Bound but it has since been adapted to manage classrooms, STEM programs, experiential excursions of all kinds, and even whole school districts. Today's version of the Journey Map combines Dr. Cabrera's three+ decades as an Outward Bound Instructor with his work as a cognitive systems scientist. In its current form, the Journey Map is a "mash up" of Outward Bound pillars and principles and the latest scientific research in cognitive science, neuroscience, as well ad human development at the individual/psychological level and group dynamics and systems science at the group/sociological level.

How to Use the Journey Map

The guide for Outward Bound courses.

The Journey Map is used at the start of the course as the focus of the intro course talk to students, which could be made either at the course-level by the CD or at the patrol-level by the LI. The map itself can be adapted to include different variations of what the CD/LI deems important during the design of the course.
Step 1

At the trailhead, after unpacking and packing and luggage is on the bus, tell students that you're going to tell them all about the course and answer all of their questions (which will likely be logistical and itinerarial such as "when is solo" or "do we take toilet paper"). Pull out the map and tell them a story about the Journey they will be going on together. You'll hit on some of the bigger ideas in the map, not everything (those will get covered throughout the course). At some point a student will interject and ask a question (again, likely be logistical and itinerarial), and simply frame the question metaphorically and connect them to a place on the map saying, "yes! We will be going to Fear Mountain," which most of you will come to realize is really just a molehill, and we will be climbing all of the peaks in that region such as NcNc (No challenge=No change) peak, etc.?" Soon enough, the students will catch on that "its not about the itinerary and the future worries" but staying in the present. Show them that the scale of the map is 1" = 1 metaphor and that the map is produced by the Department of the Interior, Metaphorical Survey. The other names in the map are detailed below and you can cover these in many ways throughout the course. Also share with them the park rules at the bottom of the map (Dr. Cabrera would actually have a park ranger hat and do some theatrical things with the rules) and that while there is on trail activity there will also be significant portions of the course that will be off trail and explore the Vast Wildness and Uncertainty of the unknown.

Step 2

When all the questions are exhausted and students have a sense of what's important on the course and where their focus should be, bring out the contract. Have everyone sign it. Anyone who doesn't want to sign it, is welcome to get on the bus, or to continue on. Social-contracting is a key step in everyone committing to the journey. It is this social-contract that you will refer to when something happens on the course. Here's an example of how it is used:

"It looks like we're having a bit of a blow out and everyone seems upset. Remember when we started the journey and all signed that we would obey the Park Rules?  The fourth rule is stay on course, which means literally stay on the course but also read your map and follow it on the terrain. Well, this conflict is part of the terrain. So, where are we on the map? [pull out the map]. And, importantly, what did we say we would do? Stay together. Stay present. Stay frosty. We knew we would get here. Today is a big day! We are climbing Mt. Conflict. [point to it--try to stay somewhat in character in the same way that you would introduce a peak climb]. And we know that there are two types of conflict: constructive and destructive. We want to err on the side of constructive conflict--conflict that makes us all better people and forms tighter bonds through integrity [point to Integrity Springs]...We may need to get acclimatized in the Circle Up Range [point] and then revisit some of the techniques we learned in Coroot Pass [point]..."

This type of approach teaches people that human conflict need not be destructive or avoided--that it can be approached in much the same way that you tackle any challenge (Are we prepared? Do we have the gear we need? etc.). It also empowers the group to solve their own problems with you as merely a guide. You're teaching them a process that they can use for the rest of their lives.

step 3

In the field, when something happens (X), do what you would do when you think you're lost--pull out the map from the map bag! Lay it out, get your stick or pine needle and ask them, "this thing X just happened, where do you all think we are?" From there the conversation starts and the reflection begins. It makes negotiating conflict or tense situations less scary because there is a map that somewhat presciently "predicts" that its a place that they may have ended up. If the situation has no metaphorical place on the map, that's okay, just add a place with a pen like you would name an unnamed peak. Example: If the "X" is that a student wants to go home (for reasons that don't require it; the most egregious failure of an OB course because it will establish a pattern of quitting when things are challenging), the map can be very valuable. Simply bring out the contract and gather the group around, explain the situation, and say, "where are we?" And a Circle Up will occur where 9 times out of 10the group will facilitate itself back to staying together and finishing together.

Instructor Notes

Metaphorical place names guide nonlinear course navigation.

Explanation of metaphorical place names and their connection to (1) research concepts and (2) course facilitation are provided in the image below and also included in the higher resolution PDF download. 

Note that bold signifies metaphorical place names. Underline signifies web links to more information (in the PDF). Generally, the map is facilitated starting with border information and then top right area circling counterclockwise. However, the instructor should adapt to where the patrol is metaphorically. Travel on the Journey Map Quad is nonlinear so patrols can be in multiple places at once and jump around throughout the course. All of the concepts herein are born of empirical science across cognitive and neuroscience, systems science, ecology, human development, etc.

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how to Print your map

Visit Staples to print. Fold map to use.



After testing many options, I recommend Staples Design Services.  Do the following steps:

  1. Go to Staples Design Services page for printing Blueprints (Blueprints are large format colored prints that utilize lighterweight paper which not only leads to a lighter more realistic map, but also increases the foldability when laminated.
  2. Click start project
  3. Save the first page of the PDF (the Journey Map) as its own PDF file and upload it. Click continue
  4. Select 18"x24" layout and check scale to fit
  5. Select Color Ink
  6. Select 3Mil Laminate (laminating your map allows you to use dry erase markers on it and also to use the backside as a backcountry whiteboard). A laminated map weighs ~2.2oz. You don't have to laminate your map. Not laminating will save on weight and cost. A laminated map costs approximately $9 whereas non-laminated is ~$3. Whether or not you laminate the map, students will get creative by adding place names to the map, making it a keepsake record of the course. You do not need to select "Dry Erase" laminate. The regular 3Mil laminate is dry erase and the Dry Erase laminate is a tad-bit heavier and also cannot be picked up locally and takes a few weeks to receive.
    1. If it's your first time using the map, you may consider printing the InstructorNotes on the back (double sided) and not utilizing the whiteboard space.
    2. You may also want to consider printing $3 copies for your co-instructor (while on course) and for students (that can be given at the end of the course during the pinning ceremony). It makes a nice keepsake and all-in will cost ~$33 extra.
  7. Choose your local store for pickup or other shipping options.
  8. Print the blank contract in black and white or color on regular 8.5"x11 paper
  9. When you receive your map, fold it the same way you would fold a topo (see below)
  10. I carry my Journey Map in my front pocket with my other maps and treat it in exactly the same way as my other maps, bringing it out on the trail or at camp and grabbing a pointer to discuss where we might be...