The Value of Wandering More than any other experience at W&L, the Outing Club has taught Bowen Spottswood '18 about living life joyfully.
“The Sunset Club, other Outing Club outings, and the OC members help me to unplug and recharge, to just be and to wander.”
Bowen Spottswood ’18
Hometown: Point Clear, Alabama
Minor: Poverty and Human Capability Studies
As we wandered through the ponderosa pine trees in Bryce Canyon National Park during an Outing Club Spring Break trip, James Dick, W&L’s director of outdoor education and recreation, mentioned to me that the motto for Outing Club the next year would be “unplug and recharge.” I thought that was rather catchy, and we chatted about it for a bit then and there. However, upon further reflection, I realized it was precisely this “recharging,” refreshing aspect of the Outing Club that makes it such a unique and special aspect of the Washington and Lee community, especially in my own experience. The Outing Club—meaning James, the experiences, and the community—has not only empowered me to push my limits. It has instilled within me a love to wander and has persistently reminded me to step back from business in order to just be.
I arrived on campus eager to explore the mountains and trails in Lexington and surrounding areas. I knew how to slip on hiking boots, pack a PB&J, and walk up a hill, but I could not have imagined the opportunities ahead. Through the Outing Club, I have been hiking, caving, backpacking, paddling, trail running and biking. I’ve traveled on Spring Break trips to Zion, Bryce and the Paria Desert. I was encouraged to participate in a backpacking excursion in the Yukon Territory with the National Outdoor Leadership School. I felt prepared for treks throughout my semester in New Zealand. I’ve even had the opportunity to lead others into the woods as an Appalachian Adventure Trip Leader and a member of the Outing Club Key Staff. This summer, I’ll be guiding high schoolers with Moondance Adventures in Alaska. My experiences in the OC have empowered me in four short years to continue heading outside unafraid (but safely, of course), learning more from those who have been there, done that.
These experiences with the Outing Club are wonderful because of the lessons they have taught me and the people I have met along the way. They have reminded me to step away from the busyness and just be. When I find myself slipping into a calculated, busy routine, even just a little excursion can refresh me and reground me. The experiences also remind me of the value of wandering. This world is a glorious and mysterious place. I don’t have to wander anywhere specific or exotic. When I simply saunter slowly, paying attention to the trees or to zany Outing Club members around me, I’m refreshed. I often encounter this nourishment near sundown, as I have grown to care deeply about the Sunset Club. My friend McKenna Quatro ’18 and I have been loyal members since its very beginning. The adventure is simple—we watch the sun go down. Yet, something about it continues to fill me with life. The Sunset Club, other OC outings, and the OC members help me to “unplug and recharge,” to just be and to wander.
The fun-loving, caring, crazy folks that proudly label themselves OC members are the heart of the Outing Club. James, our humble leader, cares heaps about going outside, but more about living life joyfully and fully. His perspective is rejuvenating and lively. He has built and fostered a close-knit yet eclectic community, pulling from every end of campus. I am grateful for this peculiar crew. Some of my fondest W&L memories take place at Appalachian Adventure trip leader training, sitting on a grassy hill sharing stories and bad jokes as the sun goes down. I know that these meaningful experiences and lessons from James and the Outing Club will remain close to me in years to come, whatever the years may hold and wherever they may be. I’ll remember to unplug and recharge, to be and to wander.
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More about Bowen
Reformed University Fellowship (RUF)
ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages)
Why did you choose your major?
I took Intro to Religion with Professor Jeffrey Kosky as an interesting way to fulfill a Foundation and Distribution Requirement (FDR). We spent the first half of class exploring what religion is and why people do it. I was fascinated and continued to take religion classes. Some friends convinced me to go ahead and sign off on the major. It was definitely the right decision.
Has anyone on campus inspired you?
University Psychiatrist Dr. Kirk Luder’s calm demeanor and deep care for the well-being of the W&L community has continued to amaze and inspire me throughout my time in Lexington. He really makes people feel known. On top of all that, he is the most incredible chef.
Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
I love to go to the Red Hen on special occasions. Most recently, I ordered a snapper entrée. Their famous lemon meringue dessert is the best way to finish off any meal there.
What film or book do you recommend to everyone?
I would recommend Thoreau’s “Walden.” My friend Becca Morris’ recent time with this book for her religion thesis has motivated me to respect this book more than I had before. While I don’t think we all need to go live like Thoreau, I think he artfully presents some cool ideas about living
What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
I wish that I had known that I didn’t have to decide post-graduate plans so early, and I wish that I had known the value of taking classes I deeply care about sooner.
What are your post-graduation plans?
I hope to go to graduate school for a master’s in counseling after a gap year working with Moondance Adventures and traveling in South America.
I really don’t have a favorite, but two of my top picks are Nature and Place with Professor Jeffrey Kosky and Neighborhoods, Culture, and Poverty with Professor Jon Eastwood.
Why did you choose W&L?
I came across W&L in a funny way. I was in Virginia visiting larger schools. My mom had some close ties to Lexington, and she knew I should at least give W&L a look. Well, she knows me better than I know myself sometimes. I immediately recognized the sense of community and cheerfulness that I know and love on campus today. I made my decision that very day, and luckily things fell into place.