Benefits of Teen Travel and Service Trips

Amanda Fox26 Mar, 2019
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If you’re reading this, you may have already researched the extensive benefits of teen travel and community service programs. As more and more studies show that today’s teenagers are experiencing higher than ever levels of pressure, depression, and anxiety, parents continually seek out programs that boost confidence, increase independence and leadership skills, and offer inclusive communities so that their children can make genuine, lifelong friendships.

Bold Earth is one of those programs! Our adventure travel camps provide an array of lifelong benefits during formative adolescent years, including:

  • A much-needed break from technology and digital media
  • A chance to grow into the person they truly want to be
  • Multiple opportunities to step outside one’s comfort zone and experience personal growth
  • Building friendships in a supportive, welcoming community
  • Exploring and learning about new countries and cultures
  • Giving back through meaningful service opportunities
  • Developing skills to thrive in the 21st century

Studies have shown that ever-growing use of technology and digital media are related to an increase in physical, psychological, and behavior disorders among adolescents. Now more than ever, teenagers and young adults are reporting overwhelming anxiety and worry in their day-to-day life, and they haven’t found effective ways to cope with the stress. It’s no secret that social media and smartphone use are linked to depression in adolescents. The question is: How can we help them manage and decrease anxiety?

It’s simple! At Bold Earth, teens get a digital detox and are able to completely unplug from technology for two to four weeks, giving them a much-needed break and relieving the non-stop pressure they feel at school. Some students initially resist the idea of giving up their phones, but while they’re at summer camp, they realize that they can fully thrive without them.

Growing into their own person

A major appeal of teen adventure travel camps is that kids are able to be who they truly want to be—not who they feel pigeonholed into being at school. They can break free of whatever personality they’ve taken on at home: the athletic one, the quiet one, the noisy one, the fidgety one, the social one. At Bold Earth, students have the opportunity to rewrite their story in a supportive and judgment-free community of people who accept them for who they are.

Comfort zones and personal growth

Many of us stay wrapped snugly in our comfort zones; we fear challenging ourselves because we don’t want to fail. Today’s children are less-equipped to deal with challenging situations, which leads to a fixed mindset of trying, failing, and giving up. Travel camps promote and provide endless opportunities for teenagers to develop and cultivate a growth mindset, allowing them to try new things, fail, rebound from that failure, and then ultimately succeed because they’re working hard. What does this lead to?

teens smiling and posing with surfboards

Think about the Yerkes-Dodson law: At Bold Earth, when students go outside their comfort zone (i.e., experiencing an optimal level of stress), they perform better, their skills increase, and they feel more comfortable about leaving their comfort zone again. Plus, new experiences and new skills open the door to continue trying new things, which leads to teenagers becoming more well-rounded and open to embracing challenge. Often, it’s us as parents who hold our children back from venturing out and learning to take risks on their own.

Children and teenagers need risk for normal brain development. How do we detach from our children so they can venture out and learn how to take reasonable risks on their own? When they’re at Bold Earth, students are allowed to make decisions with low consequences, under the supervision of professional and trained trip leaders. We make daily risk management overviews part of our daily routine, where we work together to develop judgment, assess probability and consequences, and give our students the tools to make good decisions when they return home. We want them to live a life that is neither risk-averse or risky, but embraces the calculated, reasonable risks we all need in order to grow.

Building genuine friendships

While your children may have friendships that are healthy, sustainable, and genuine (and we hope that’s the case!), many relationships built in school are circumstantial. After all, you do spend your entire day together for over a decade! Outside of school, however, kids tend to bond with others on a more voluntary basis, mostly because they have similar interests or hobbies. At Bold Earth, our students choose to push the envelope and do something different than their peers for the summer. They’re choosing to step outside their comfort zones and assimilate into a group of people whom they’ve never met. They quickly find common ground with people they might have otherwise not socialized with at school. We don’t tolerate cliques, mutually exclusive relationships, or bullying; rather, our instructors model a welcoming, inclusive, and judgment-free community—one where everyone feels welcome and free to be their best selves.

We can’t count the number of times we’ve heard about Bold Earth reunions years after students age out of our programs. Bold Earth friends are friends for life.

21st century and leadership skills

scuba diving

Sure, this is a buzzword/phrase—but for good reason. 21st century skills aren’t taught in school or in athletics; these non-cognitive skills are recognized by leaders in education and business (like Google, Apple, and Dell) to be key to thriving in today’s world. We call our set of 21st skills the Great 8 Outcomes:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration and social achievement
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Resilience
  • Optimism

The biggest discrepancy in the skills that top businesses expect in their employees and what their employees actually possess is in the area of leadership. Students improve their leadership through experience and practice, and few teenagers get real opportunities to develop these skills in middle and high school. The complexities of living in an community-minded environment at Bold Earth provide multiple opportunities to learn and practice leadership.

Exposure to different cultures

Bold Earth’s trips focus not only on travel, but also on providing exposure to different cultures and ways of life. Engaging directly with local communities in different countries gives our teenagers a broader understanding of their place in the world. In today’s increasingly interconnected world, teenagers with a more global perspective have an advantage over their peers. Our trips that have homestays seem to have a particularly powerful impact.

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