"Getting time away to get to Prescott was my biggest obstacle with my busy schedule. Regardless, this course has changed my life greatly. The reason I set out on the “nothing course” was to test my personal limits in the wilderness. What I took away was so much more. I gained knowledge, comfort, understanding and peace with myself in not only the wilderness, but the unknown of the world that we live in today. I’ve also found one of the largest things that I took away was my responsibility, not just to myself, but others around me who will lean on me for my knowledge in times of need. I found that I had it deep within me to survive and how to be more resourceful. How to be ok with being uncomfortable (hungry and cold), mentally prepared and the will to live have undoubtedly come to the forefront of my self being. Again, my perspective has changed for the rest of my life and I’m glad it has.
I’m forever glad that I took the class and talk about it to this day. I look forward to my next chance to take a class at ALSS. I have and will continue to recommend ALSS HIGHLY!"
Jeff Longshore, “Nothing Course” alum, 2012.
"I was concerned that I would not be in good enough physical shape to enjoy the course and get the most out of it as I could. I was apprehensive about being a burden or be the one person that slowed the group down. That we were all there to learn and some of us learning at a different pace just gave the instructor the ability to use more time to reinforce our skills. I saw very quickly that there are no individuals in a survival situation. We became a team almost immediately. No one was better, no one was faster, no one was smarter, and we learned together knowing these skills may one day save our lives.
We learned to be very much aware of our surroundings and what we can utilize to survive. We developed confidence in our ability meet our basic needs and take care of others if needed. I know I can build shelter and make a fire in almost any conditions. I would recommend ALSS to others as this course developed my confidence so that I am equipped mentally and confident. I know what resources I need to survive and be rescued should the need arrive when on my own in just about any environment. Life is much more enjoyable when you are not worried you will fail.
The main reason I enrolled was to spend time with my teenage son. Let him build confidence in his ability to survive tough situations and show him never to be scared of a good adventure in life. Thanks to Cody and his staff for helping me become more confident in myself and give me the gift of time with my son I will never forget."
Steven and Connor Clem, Florida, “Staying Alive: Modern Wilderness Survival Skills” alums, 2011.
"I took an ALSS course because I have always been concerned about personal safety. Whether in the city or traveling through the loneliest stretches of wilderness, I wanted to feel that I knew ways to help myself and others should the need arise. While I don’t have much experience in the wild, it can still be brutal to be stuck in your car in a traffic jam that lasts for hours.
The course I did attend, I loved! I count it as one of the highlights of my outdoor experiences. I was in the ‘save your butt overnight course’ i.e. your car breaks down or you are lost on a hike. It was tremendously informative and Cody was more than professional. As a matter of fact, his demeanor was such that I knew he was deadly serious about teaching us how to survive a potentially life-threatening situation. He was not there for fun and games. The most interesting thing I learned was not to waste energy digging a solar still…too much energy wasted and too little return for the effort!!!
Without Cody there would be no course, however, the area he took us to for the overnight was absolutely beautiful. Being a city slicker I felt so comfortable with him and I really enjoyed the people in our group. They came from all over and it was fun to swap stories around the campfire. The hike to learn which plants were edible led us to a meandering stream (yes, there was water in the summer in Arizona!) that flowed passed some amazing cliffs with petroglyphs!
Even though it’s been a while, the knowledge that Cody gave me has stayed with me. There is no doubt in my mind that should something occur, I would be able to help myself as well as anyone else with me. I have included packs and maps in both vehicles so that if we break down we can shield ourselves from the worst of the AZ heat and hunker down until someone arrives who can help.
I would highly recommend an ALSS course to anyone! The intense heat of an Arizona summer has killed and will continue to kill people within hours of exposure. Extreme cold does the same. The knowledge that Cody shares can SAVE YOUR LIFE!!!
With the suggestions Cody offers in his courses and his books, I no longer worry about having the tools to increase my odds of survival. Our packs are ready. Someday, I WILL take another course. Until then Cody, thank you for everything you’re doing!"
Susan MacIver, “Sonoran Desert Daze” alum, 2008.
"The main reason why I chose to attend an ALSS course can be boiled down to one word: trust.
I trust Cody because he lives what he teaches. Everything I know about Cody smacks of personal integrity. Cody's vast personal experience is the sound foundation that I want in an instructor/coach/mentor.
The only obstacle for me attending is distance. But I wanted to come to Arizona. I love the southwest, and one of my goals was becoming more confident with living in the desert. I will return for further instruction and the confidence building experience that mastering new skills affords the students.
I would recommend ALSS to anyone who wants to become more self-reliant. Feeling confident in a survival situation because one is prepared to do what needs to be done is halfway to success!"
Tom Hamilton, Canada, “Staying Alive: Modern Wilderness Survival Skills” alum, 2016.
"Aside from the cost of travel, time off work, etc., I really lacked confidence in my ability to exist for any amount of time out in nature and off the grid. Although I love to watch the TV shows about other people living in and enjoying nature, I somehow felt it was too late and would be too difficult to learn what I needed to learn in order to fully participate and not slow the group down.
I found out that my previous assumptions were wrong. I had a blast! I loved my group and Cody and Mark were fantastic guides and teachers. I felt totally comfortable the whole time and learned so much. I learned I could extend the boundaries of my comfort zone and have a lot more fun in life! I loved the ride out to the desert and conversing with Cody and Mark on the way. I loved setting up camp and feeling like I was part of something cool. (I was so sure that the cool in my life was long gone.)
Now I love the outdoors and feel much more comfortable in nature. I also learned the importance of being adequately prepared for my activity, leaving my plans with another person, and most of all not to panic in an emergency. (That last one helped tremendously last year when I forgot I had a gun in my bag as I went through airport security. That's another story, but remaining calm, made all the difference in the world.)
I will and I do recommend ALSS courses to others! I keep the flyers in my office and talk about my adventure often! If a person is already experienced in the outdoors, I think participating in ALSS classes can enhance their knowledge and help them to do more with less. If a person has no experience, or fears being in nature, the ALSS courses can introduce them to the beauty of being in nature, and help to alleviate their fears through exposure and education.
This course changed a lot of things about my life. It came at a time when my kids had left home and life was becoming a dull routine. Since the trip, we bought mountain bikes and road bikes. Every weekend we hit the trails one day and the road the other day. We are always going to new places, and having a great time! I have my emergency tools and always bring extra water, which usually gets used by someone else on the trail who didn't prepare and was struggling. I feel changed for the better by this experience."
Cecelia Maurer, “Sonoran Desert Daze” alum, 2015.
"What I found is a no-nonsense course which was professionally presented and executed. As a former Special Forces instructor I know the work that is put into a course before the students show up and I also know how much work is required by the instructors during the course. I congratulate you and Mark for putting on a top notch course which was steeped in common sense and left out theatrics. The latter can get people seriously injured or killed. I have attended many survival courses in the military and I can say without a doubt I enjoyed the Desert Drifter more than any others. Thanks for teaching and more importantly demonstrating competency and common sense. Both qualities are hard to find in this day and age.
The specific feature I enjoyed most about the course was the room to fail. You guys did not float around the students at all times and this allowed the individuals to learn from their mistakes. While I did not witness any student conducting themselves in an unsafe manner, I gathered that if one had, you would have stepped in immediately to mitigate the situation.
The biggest benefits I personally gained from the course are hard to describe so I will begin with the easiest one first. It was important to me to understand what civilians are learning about survival as there may come a time when my life or that of my children rests on another’s abilities and knowledge. I will feel much safer in a bad situation if the other person says “I have attended ALSS courses.” That simple statement tells me that they have received top notch, no nonsense instruction and I would be more likely to trust their skills/abilities.
The second benefit for me as a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq was a psychological reset. I have dealt and am still dealing with minor PTSD as a retired Special Forces medic. The Desert Drifter course allowed me to reset and think about life on a basic level and it allowed me to find what was most important to me and work through a couple of issues. The biggest one was getting me away from the bottle which I know as a former medic only leads to bad things. Since that time, I have been fortunate to remove some of the bad habits I had developed. If the course was another week longer, I would have loved it even more! While you taught many things during the course, it was my inner victories which I most revered from that week of walking through the beautiful desert.
I have and will continue to recommend and advocate your courses to others. I have many friends in various government agencies and I have championed your school as I believe in a common sense approach to problem solving. If I had the time and I hit the lottery, I would attend every course you offered back to back. As I have said, I have been to many “survival schools” some good and some bad. But none of them really delved into the physiology of survival and only one other talked about the psychology of survival. They are just as important to survival as is making shelter, building fire or acquiring water and sadly, are grossly under trained. Great job on the presentation of these two key issues.
My biggest reason for enrolling in the Desert Drifter was to continue to test myself and learn from others. I love learning different techniques of doing things from folks of various backgrounds. I took away some tools and hopefully I provided some to others. As much time as I have spent in jungles, deserts and mountains and I still learn from others which fascinates me. Also courses like the Desert Drifter attract folks with similar interests to mine for the most part. Dealing with folks from vastly different walks of life and training levels, was a challenge for me. However, I walked away with a greater ability to cope or rather engage with different personalities. This doesn't sound like a hard thing to do, however please remember I am used to dealing with guys with the same level of training, outlook and attitude when things get hard. The Desert Drifter could be a corporate level leadership course as one’s temperament and coping abilities will be tested at least once during the course.
I am thankful that a school such as yours exists and I believe whole heartedly that ALSS provides the best level of instruction anyone could get in this day and age. For anyone who thinks they know everything, I recommend attending a course at ALSS and I guarantee they will walk away with even more tools in their tool chest. Hell yes I would and probably will attend another course at ALSS!"
Barty Sorrells, Retired Special Forces Medical Sergeant, “Desert Drifter” alum, 2015.
"What I like most is that nothing is sugar coated on one of Cody's courses. We had our fun, but if there was no shelter, food or water we were cold, hungry and thirsty. We were there to learn how to deal with it. Oh, very important lesson: if you sleep under a tree in black clothing, don't be surprised if someone pees on you in the middle of the night.
The two greatest benefits I gained were 1: a sense of teamwork; and 2: establishing a new baseline for suck factor. After the Desert Drifter, nothing could be called hard (until...well, that's another story.)
If anyone has the time and money to do a course with Cody, DO IT! Yes, it's expensive. Yes, it's far away. Yes, it will be full of suck factor. It's also one of the most awesome things you can do without being arrested! The only thing that keeps me from going every year is that I have other stuff that demands my money.
I've always said that if you want to learn how to do something right, you go to the best and damn the expense. My goal was to learn everything that Cody had to teach about everything. After five times I feel no closer than when I started."
Daniel Giddings, CA., Arizona Combo Special 2010, Ultimate Abo 2010, Desert Drifter 2011, Self- Reliance Symposium 2011, Winter Wonderland 2014 alum.
"I live in NY, so travel to AZ was a bit of an obstacle, but I received it as a gift, so we took a family trip and I got to train with one of my hero’s. I've always had a love for the outdoors, and I've read Cody's books. When I saw him on Dual Survival, I saw how GENIUS he actually was. He is a master of his environment, he doesn't "go camping," he LIVES IT. I thought, "Who better to learn from?"
Cody used life experience, as well as science to teach his course. I work in medicine, so this made the physics of survival very easy to understand, however he has a way of teaching to make it easy for anyone, including children to learn. Cody isn't some "weekend warrior." The outdoors is his house, his life, and to be a part of his course was truly phenomenal. Cody is such a natural teacher and the class/activities are structured in a way that you feel the entire day is productive. Cody is a wealth of knowledge, and I took away so much from only 2 days with him.
I recommend this course to EVERYONE, as it isn't just about camping, but it involves survival, safety, physics of the outdoors, how to work as a team and so much more. I would LOVE to get back out there and do some more training! Thank you Cody for one of the most amazing experiences of my life!!!!!!"
Matthew Alti, New York, “Staying Alive: Modern Wilderness Survival Skills” alum, 2013.
"For me the main challenge in taking a course was finding time. I wanted to take one of the longer and more challenging ALSS courses (Desert Drifter), but I teach full-time at a university and during most summers I conduct scientific research in Africa. I had to wait until I was on leave in order to attend. It was the best thing I did on that leave.
As a result, I found myself more confident about doing new things. It inspired me to try other challenging skills classes. I really enjoyed the trail-finding and orienteering. It challenges your senses. You feel “switched on” during the experience.
I learned a lot about finding food, about treating water, and about navigating mountain and desert landscapes. Inasmuch as I plan to retire in the Southwest and that I like to travel to wilderness areas, the course was a great introduction to such survival techniques and strategies I might have to use, if I got into trouble there. I was very impressed with how little food we required on the Desert Drifter. Since returning from the course, I eat much less, walk more, and have shed a considerable amount of weight. I also learned to always guard against hypothermia. Our first night out was the coldest I have ever been in my life.
I would strongly recommend ALSS courses to others. The course I took was a great learning experience and a fun adventure. One finds out a lot about oneself when you are disconnected from family, friends, and the media, thrown together with a group of strangers, and working together towards a goal. Many of the most lasting lessons I took from my ALSS course were about how to teach. Cody is one of most accomplished educators I have ever met, better than most college professors. Of the various lessons he imparts, the most important one is humility before nature. A lot of people who teach survival skills try to sell fear and treat nature as a force to be conquered. Cody’s “party on” approach is exactly the opposite, it teaches respect, not fear, and instills confidence. After all, nature always wins in the long run."
John J. Shea, Professor, Anthropology Department & Turkana Basin Institute, Stony Brook University, "Desert Drifter" alum, 2014.
"For me, the biggest problem in attending a course was getting time away from family and work. My experience in attending the Staying Alive course was that I found out that I didn’t really know anything about emergency survival. I liked that it wasn’t BS flashy survival stuff. They are serious about what they do and if you do what they teach you have a high likelihood of surviving a serious situation. I learned teamwork and that you can’t just make decisions that are in your best interests. I also learned about priorities. The goal of our course was to get out alive, not build fish baskets, etc. I also learned to appreciate slow, steady, well thought out movement.
Would I recommend an ALSS course to others? I would totally recommend this to friends. It’s like cross-fit, veganism and being atheist. I tell everyone about my experience. Why recommend it? It gives you two solid pieces of information, skills needed to survive, and the knowledge that you need to continue to practice those skills. It’s not a train once and you will survive any disaster.
If anyone is interested in learning survival skills, please don’t short change yourself and go to a flashy, YouTube channel survival instructor. Go to ALSS. Your life just may depend on it."
Jack Carnes, “Staying Alive: Modern Wilderness Survival Skills” alum, 2012.
"The main reason I enrolled in the course was to challenge myself. I wanted to challenge myself in all different aspects. Physically, mentally, and spiritually. I wanted to challenge myself physically to carrying a pack and humping close to 10 miles a day with a limited amount of water. I wanted to challenge myself mentally by being able to make decisions and taking on a leadership role. I wanted to challenge myself spiritually by exorcising my past demons of chemical dependency and being more present in the modern world.
I found a profound sense of accomplishment as well as new found leadership and teamwork skills. I made new friendships, which seemed more genuine given the amount of cooperation required to complete the course. I loved how the course involved problem solving (e.g. topo navigation, water sourcing, resource gathering). I didn’t feel like the group was having their hands held and led though the course. I felt we were learning and applying skill sets even when we were making mistakes. I believe that since we were allowed to make mistakes, we learned more from those mistakes. That to me, is huge in the big picture. On a side note, just hiking through the desert wilderness and witnessing all of her sights, sounds, and smells was other worldly. From the sandstone cliffs, to the tall shades of the sycamore, or the mocking call of the canyon wren, it was all enjoyable.
I also gained a better sense of confidence in decision making, a better appreciation for water conservation, and a more robust “can do” attitude.
I absolutely recommend an ALSS course to anyone who wants the challenge. I feel that the course has so much more to offer than just survival skill sets. I feel it opens the student up to a whole realm of different challenges, whether it be leadership skills, teamwork skills, and a sense of going without just to name a few."
Ezra A. Peters, Idaho, wilderness guide, BrushBuck Wildlife Tours, “Desert Drifter” alum, 2016.
"The benefits from the class were so much more than I expected. I went to have a new, challenging experience, get way outside my comfort zone, meet someone interesting, and learn skills that were new to me. What Cody and Mark provided was an experience that gave me the self-confidence to face anything in my life that may challenge me. Sure, "the more you know, the less you need", but in that knowledge, there is a security that you will be able to meet your own basic needs, no matter what. With that intrinsic knowledge, you are better prepared to make life choices from a place of power and confidence! This shaped who I am. Learning what heat exhaustion feels like and how to fend it off has come in handy several times since my class, so I feel like Cody and Mark continue to watch over me like a couple of protective brothers!
I highly recommend ALSS. From early logistics all the way through the class itself, the process was made clear, and staff were warm, knowledgeable, patient and helpful. I signed up for a second class which had to be canceled due to lack of enrollment. Cody contacted me early, seeing that my travel plans were going to need to involve airfare, with a warning that enrollment was low. He re-contacted me, as agreed, later, giving me a choice of refund or school credit. His presence of mind saved me a couple hundred dollars, and when I expressed my gratitude, his response was, "well it's the right thing to do." ...like it was a no brainer...How many other businesses do you deal with that will actually go out of their way to be ethical or helpful? The classes are not cheap, but the school is run with the utmost integrity, so refinance your house or sell a kidney to make it happen, and you will have an experience of a lifetime!"
Erika Hergenreder, CA., “Essential Abo” alum, 2014.
"I took my two school-aged boys with me on the Sonoran Desert Daze course with Cody this year and it was definitely one of the best family adventures I've been on. Not only was it fun to spend a weekend out in the beautiful desert, it was great to see my boys engaged and curious about what Cody was teaching. All three of us learned about how to survive in a desert environment, to find water, food and how to maintain a healthy body temperature in extreme conditions. Cody's knowledge base is endless, he's a great guy and was really cool with my kids."
"Cody is pretty much a super hero and has magic powers." Niko Rubinstein, 8 years old.
"The Desert Survival course with Cody was AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME!" Kobe Rubinstein, 10 years old.
Noah, Niko, and Kobe Rubinstein, Washington, “Sonoran Desert Daze” alums, 2016.
"The “main reason” to join the “Arizona Combo Special 2014” was that I was really very keen on getting to know Cody in the field, as we knew Cody before only via TV – the real Cody live in action! It was the idea to see a way – Cody’s way – on treating the environment/wilderness and being always ready to solve a problem! Also, the way of Cody’s thinking, that everything is special and unique as well as to never give up, although it might be chance less.
It was, of course, the adventure worth, to take the long trip from Austria to Arizona to get the training days with ALSS! So, no way is too long, if you are interested in something special! Best of course was making fire with the bow/stick, and to see how exhausting it is/was to look for water (solar still, digging a hole in a creek, using leafs to get water over night…) Not to forget Cody’s knowledge about the species, plants, what to eat/what not … what to take care of … where to put your shelter.
Of course I recommend ALSS courses at any possibility, only people don’t do it, because it needs a lot of traveling and for them it’s a lot of money. Anyway, they don’t know what they get back on the other side for life ;-) … I do and I still do! Also, for me it was the reason trying to bring my mind and body into an extreme situation, I´ve never been before to see how I manage in such situations."
Michael Sereinig, Austria, "Arizona Combo Special" alum, 2014.
"My wife and I are of the mind to survive if the way of life changes due to the unknown factors of a modern day crisis that could be caused by Nature or Humans. Be it war, solar flares or whatever takes the world of technology down to its knees. Our result from enrolling in the Nothing Course was an appreciation of the life style of the ancient peoples and their quest for survival in a hostile environment.
We want to live as long as possible using the techniques of the ancient humans before us that needed only what the environment around them had to offer. They survived for tens of thousands of years without the need for electricity or fossil fuel; the function of a tribe working together to create benefits of separate tasks needed in a successful society. We will do the same! If you have a mind of self-reliance in a world of uncertainty, this is a must do course."
Chet and Berta Hupp, Hupp Farm, “Nothing Course” alums, 2014.
"After completing the Desert Drifter, I have a new place in my spirit that allows me to conquer the fear of the unknown. I have found the animal inside me that has instincts and the ability to adapt and survive to multiple conditions in the outdoors. I have made a life-long friend. I have transferred my knowledge to my children and show them many skills while we have outdoor time together. This course has taught me and my children confidence in the outdoors which ultimately transfers to real life challenges. It sends a positive message to my kids to take chances, succeed at life and love the outdoors. I have modeled to my children what life was like in the past, that I am warrior. They can do anything life throws at them if they are warriors also.
Cody Lundin is a realist, who cares about his students. I felt like an extension of him while on the trip with him and still feel connected to him and his teachings several months after the trip. I enjoyed learning about not only outdoor survival but personal survival as it relates to real world challenges we are faced with. I enjoyed the extremes of weather types knowing I can conquer them and that my body adapts to each one differently. I gained an ultimate appreciation for Mother Nature, what it offers and how you need to work with what it lays out for you to survive. Survival is all around you, you just have to learn the tools to coexist with Mother Nature and use it to your advantage.
I have also learned that I hate the societal impact and control companies like APS and Geico have on your personal lifestyles. When you are drifting you are free. You are with yourself, Cody and have no one to hold you down except yourself. I truly appreciate not having the shackles of these companies and how they control a portion of your life.
I have recommended ALSS courses several times. Cody is a true super hero and I consider myself lucky to have had this experience with him. I will have my children join him as well. The time to train is now, raise the funds, get the support of your family and sign up for a course. "
W. Shane Hesse, Ph.D., Arizona State University, “Desert Drifter” alum, 2016.
"I have a home in the mountains of New Mexico with resources inconveniently distant and a yard that boasts over 550,000 acres of wilderness. We are quickly learning how critical it is to plan and stay on course…in so many more ways than one.
I’ve been through three Aboriginal Living Skills School courses. The AZ Combo with my middle son in 2008, then again with my youngest son in 2011, and the Self Reliance Symposium with a friend in 2009. There were so many wonderful components to these courses! I enjoyed the hands on element the most. I felt like I was “in the shit”, though I knew at all times I was safe. Oh, and the realism! So many of my earlier assumptions flew out the “Orange Blossom” window. Sure, I get that the ability to self-preserve is predominantly psychological, but why not change the game. ALSS courses helped me to better identify the physical influences and many variables that come with preservation and survival challenges. Then, to be able to apply realistic methods, wow! The emotional strength I walked away with had me saying, “Me and my mind, we’ll be just fine.”
Since 2008, ALSS courses have inspired me to stop filling my bookshelves and learn as much as possible by putting my hands to task, use my sun oven regularly, run a 500 gallon Aquaponic system for three years, get my butt outside more and hike our trails, prepare my whole family for adversity - any adversity, acquire a nice little collection of Mora knives ;o), never, never take water for granted, obtain my Amateur Radio Operators License - HAM, learn more about the flora in my region, have confident conversations with survivalists, scouts, adventurers, military & provisionists, dabble in solar generator power, reduce my outdoor gear from a backpack I could barely lift off the ground to one not much bigger than a school backpack, also, to reduce my 72 hour evacuation bag into my black leather purse, to get my hands into dirt gardening again, to save money for a food freeze dryer…the inspiration goes on and on.
If you’re reading this client testimonial because you’re considering taking an ALSS course - do it - make it happen! It’s a practice every person should experience at least once in their lives. Since ALSS, I have done so much more than I ever dreamed. I’m working at self-reliance, instead of reading about it. I’m reducing baggage, instead of acquiring more. I’m focusing on my priorities, instead of wandering lost. And mostly, I’m living and no longer fretting. Me and mine, we’ll be just fine!"
Kristina Freeman, Author, “Arizona Combo Special” alum, 2008 & 2011, “Self-reliance Symposium” alum, 2009.
"Finding the time to fly out to Arizona (from Ohio) and coming up with money for the course was difficult. I think the prices are probably high for many people -but- I also think ALSS is justified in asking for as much as they do because their time is valuable and their knowledge and experience are invaluable. Cody proved as much (at least to me!) in the two days we were with him.
My trip into the woods with Cody was the first time I'd ever taken a primitive skills course (or any professional outdoor course lasting longer than a day) and the perspective gained from that alone was eye-opening, for sure. It was an intense two days. There wasn't any backbreaking physical exertion involved, but we moved around a lot - and even when we weren't moving Cody kept the wheels turning in our minds pretty much constantly. A high level of focus and discipline was required even for a guided trip with a group, so that got me thinking a lot about what it would take to get by if I were alone, in the same situation (no food, no water, minimal supplies, etc.) without the support and guidance of others to rely on. I also realized that outdoor education was a thing and that it was possible to make a living doing what you loved. Based on how I felt and how other people seemed to feel after the course was over, it was a valuable investment of one's time and something I should seriously consider doing after graduating college. And of course there were tons of smaller, more specific things I learned that I found to be valuable as well. How to make a cutting edge by bashing certain rocks together (crude, but effective), how to make fire (bow drills!), how to set up comfortably for the night without any real shelter, how to work together with different people from vastly different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, helpful knowledge about local flora, fauna, and geography, etc. If nothing else the course validated what Cody always says: "The more you know, the less you need." And that was a wonderful feeling!
I liked that we weren't allowed to bring anything (outside of a water bottle and two layers, if memory serves) and that Cody held us to that and treated us like adults the entire time. Tough love and all that. Cody expected us to communicate and work together and make decisions as a group, and didn't ruin the immersion of the moment by stashing Snickers bars or something for us after we survived our first night. Cody was direct and real, as was the course itself. It pushed me way outside my comfort zone and I found myself surprisingly relieved when the course was over, but at the same time I was instantly appreciative of what I'd just experienced and wanted to go back and challenge myself again. (That might seem counter-intuitive but I think that's how personal growth works - it's uncomfortable in the moment but you realize how significant it is afterwards and seek it out again as a result.)
In no particular order, I a), gained a sincere appreciation (and respect) for nature and native cultures that I didn't have before, b), gained confidence and experience in the field that I didn't have before, and c), gained the desire to get out there and do things and make a difference after seeing how effectively Cody worked with us in such a short period of time.
Would I recommend an ALSS course to others? Absolutely I would! I have before, and I will again. Even for people who do -not- consider themselves to be the outdoors-y type, I think an experience in the woods with someone as experienced as Cody could still be life-changing and even necessary in some cases. I mentioned perspective previously and that was my biggest takeaway from ALSS - there's a real world out there and the things we do every day (all the choices we make, all the hidden relationships between those choices that we consciously or unconsciously ignore, etc.) have real consequences. It might seem obvious by now but our technologically-dominated lifestyle is fragile. It's also an illusion in a lot of ways because nature hasn't disappeared; we're -not- separate from it; things can and do go wrong, and self-reliance is a skill that many people just don't have. I encourage everyone who has the time or the desire to learn to go out into the field with Cody because they'll probably walk away more confident, more knowledgeable, and ultimately more appreciative of the (real) world we live in and our place in it. And that's never a bad thing!
Enrolling in my first ALSS course was a profound experience for me. I was super young, super nervous, but super excited to see what was out there - and heading out west for the first time was life-changing in a way that I couldn't have anticipated at the time. I'm still super young now (22), still nervous (I have a lot to learn), but I'm more excited than ever and where I'm at in my life now is a direct result of the time I spent with Cody a few years ago. I'm now working for an outdoor science school called High Trails now taking middle school students out into the woods and teaching classes by day (and by night) about animals, plants, the earth, environmental awareness, etc. Moving across the country alone to start a new life and a new career was tough, but I'm glad I made the change and I owe Cody a lot for starting me on this path. Now I know why he does what he does!"
Nick Spinelli, OH. “Nothing Course” alum, 2013.