At a time when teenagers have a panoply of options for their summer experiences, and dozens of competing priorities (team sports obligations, summer school, etc), it can be hard to commit to letting your teenager travel internationally. After all, it feels so much simpler to have them do something closer to home. No international flights, immunizations. As a parent, you may ask yourself “why bother”?
The truth is that few activities offer your teenager (and you) the growth opportunities that a trip abroad can have. As a young person, traveling internationally had a profound impact on me. It’s one thing to read (or watch video) about far-flung destinations and different cultures and ways of life, and quite another thing to be immersed in them and to viscerally experience life in another country and culture.
One of the reasons Bold Earth focuses so much on international travel is that we haven’t found anything that pushes young people’s boundaries and forces them to think and behave in different ways. There are a few distinct benefits we feel international travel has for youth:
- Exposure to different cultures: Traveling abroad forces you to engage with people who have different ways of life and different traditions. This helps build respect and understanding for cultural differences. The key is having authentic experiences, and not settling for being shuttled around on a tour bus. Seeing Thailand on a larger tour is still beautiful, but lacks the impact that a homestay with a Thai family would have.
- Confidence building: International travel involves confronting inevitable obstacles. Even trying to purchase something in a grocery store is more difficult in a foreign country. Traveling builds a tolerance for adversity, which in turn helps young people (and adults) gain confidence.
- Problem-solving and adaptability: The one certainty of traveling internationally is that plans will change. While we could insulate our students from the small problems that pop up on a trip, we bring them in as leaders in the decision making process so they can experience this firsthand
- Appreciation for what you have: While most people are loathe to return home after a trip abroad, when they do it’s usually with a renewed sense of appreciation for many of the comforts and conveniences that are enjoyed at home.
- Unique sights and experiences: This is why most people travel abroad in the first place (rather than the problem solving and confidence building). It’s to see the unique sights that exotic destinations can offer. As stunning as the natural beauty in the US is, there’s nothing quite like scuba diving in the crystalline waters off the coast of Fiji, or trekking on a glacier in Iceland surrounded by a volcanic landscape.
While it can be nerve wracking as a parent to let your child get on a plane to South Africa, the payoff (for them and you) is certainly worth it. At Bold Earth, we’re passionate about the benefits of international travel for teenagers, and proud of our intentionally designed small group experiences. Our 44 year history has allowed us to see how travel can positively affect the lives of teenagers.
If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits international travel has for teenagers, feel free to call us at 303-526-0806 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. There may prove to be a better option for facilitating growth and building confidence, but we haven’t found it yet!