5 valuable life lessons everyone who went to OBS learnt

Some things you just can’t learn in a classroom.

By He Ruiming | April 12, 2017

For teenage Singaporeans living in one of the most cutting edge cities in the world, the idea of going outdoors can be pretty alien.

Fortunately, for many teens growing up, there’s this place called OBS (Outward Bound Singapore), that kinda helps you not become excessively spoiled.  

First established in 1967 by Dr Goh Keng Swee, then-Minister for Defence, OBS first started out with the intention to help build a “rugged society”. The old guard felt that a nation of people who were armed with a ‘can-do’ attitude could help them tackle the teething nation’s problems.

But aside from how to survive various obstacles, kayaking in the mangroves, basic first aid and sleeping in non-air conditioned places, going to OBS was a defining moment of our growing up years. 

1. Things don’t magically appear in front of you


Need a shelter? Pitch a tent. Need to eat? Cook your own food. In the grand scale of things, these may seem basic, but they lead you down the path of being independent.

If problems arise, you learn how to take control of the situation.

And by doing so, you’re less likely to be one of those annoying Singaporeans who go overseas to complain about everything.


2. Faith is a valuable thing


How many of you hesitated at the top of the flying fox before taking the plunge? Or feared falling into that murky river while balancing on a tightrope?

Sometimes the only thing left to do is to take a leap of faith (Of course, things are super safe at OBS, but when you are at the top of any High Obstacle Course, everything looks a little dangerous).

3. You realise that there’s more to life than WiFi

Or texts. Or, gasp, pagers, for the the Gen X’ers.

OBS has taught generations and generations of youth what it’s like to live without technology. (That’s still the case today – no Internet access in OBS’ facilities).

But who needs WiFi when you have moments like this:


And this:


Sure, you wish you could post these on your Instagram immediately. But you know what? These images live longer in memory than on your feed.

4. You discover that teamwork is everything

Your first few days in OBS can be rough. Staying with a bunch of strangers, and not having anyone to text/call/facetime can be unbearable. Tasks also seem insurmountable. But with your teammates, everything eventually becomes more bearable.

…that’s if you’re not an awkward turtle, of course.

5. You developed a respect for nature and the environment


There are many parks and nature reserves in Singapore, but we often don’t spend enough time in them to fully appreciate the biodiversity and beauty. But things are different when you’re made to live among nature for awhile.

For instance, staying in Pulau Ubin’s jungles let you fully appreciate the island’s biodiversity – baby wild boars included (though being chased by their mom, not so much).

And the environment? When you have to keep your surroundings clean without relying on  cleaners, you quickly learn how important it is to clean up. Because ants.

Mostly ants.


OBS celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year. What other important lessons did you learn from OBS? Share with us in the comments here, or use tag your stories with #myOBSstory!

Top image from here.

This sponsored post is brought to you by Outward Bound Singapore and the National Youth Council, and helps Mothership.sg’s writers get out of our comfort zone to try something new!

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About He Ruiming

Ruiming is a freelance writer that has lived in Singapore, Melbourne and Hongkong. When he’s not being snarky on Mothership or waddling waist-deep in deadlines, he finds time for life’s simple pleasures: Teh-O PengLao Gan Ma chilli oil and HBO’s award-winning TV series Game Of Thrones.

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