By Tom Reed
Reprinted from The Leader, Winter 2000, Vol. 16, No. 2
Tori Murden quotes William Blake, Charles Lindbergh, Lao-Tzu and Homer. She pens a solution to the world's fossil fuel wars and takes time for inward reflection, so it is really no surprise that she is well-educated and well read. She obtained a masters of divinity from Harvard and a law degree from the University of Louisville. When it came to outdoor schooling, she chose NOLS.
In 1985, Tori took a semester in Alaska with NOLS and then followed that experience up with a semester in Kenya. "There's absolutely no question in my mind that NOLS is the finest outdoor school in the world," she says. "I had been overseas before, but I didn't experience the immersion that I had with NOLS."
The two semesters offered very different experiences. NOLS Alaska taught the nuts and bolts outdoor skills an individual needs to feel comfortable in a cold harsh environment. NOLS Kenya [now NOLS East Africa] did some of this but added in more of a cultural exchange. Both were very valuable.
"NOLS made me comfortable in the outdoors," recalls Tori. "After my first NOLS course I realized that I could go anywhere in the world and be comfortable. NOLS is really the foundation for everything I do in the outdoors and it's not an exaggeration to say that a week doesn't go by when I use something that I learned at NOLS."
Indeed, to plan and pull off her now-famous solo trip rowing across the Atlantic, she used tried and true NOLS formulas for fuel and food consumption.
Sometimes the things Tori uses that come from NOLS are "as simple as rowing in the winter with polypro or CapileneTM.
"In the backcountry overlooking the simple stuff can get a person killed. All of the comfort, efficiency, and grace I feel in the backcountry began with NOLS. The respect that I have for the wilderness and my desire to preserve it also come from NOLS."
And much of her mental stamina, the same endurance that allowed her to become the first woman to ski to the South Pole (a distance of 750 miles in 1989) and the first American and first woman to row across the Atlantic came from the school. "It's a lot about patience. Patience and meticulous planning. That comes from NOLS. I often think back on my NOLS experiences and view them fondly."