Navigating the Post Pandemic World: The Vital Role of Teen Travel Camps

Josh Goldbach26 Apr, 2024
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A group of teens hangs their arms over the side of a raft on a Colorado river

As our world moves beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, the significance of experiences that foster connection, exploration, resilience, and growth for teenagers can’t be overstated. Four years after the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, we’re still learning about its impacts on young people. What we know for certain is that teens suffered negative effects in many parts of their lives, from their academic achievement to their physical and mental health.

For kids who came into their adolescence during lockdowns and remote learning, there’s a lot of catching up to do. The world is a beautiful, fascinating place and we’re more grateful than ever to have the opportunity to explore it. Learning how to explore, after being told to stay inside and keep to ourselves, is a process many of us (adults included!) are still getting used to. The same applies to forging real, in-person relationships without the barrier of a screen. It’s not always easy and it takes practice.

Traveling with an adventure camp group is one way to support post-pandemic teens in developing these essential skills. Here, we’ll dive into the impact travel camps can have on shaping the lives of young people.

Exploration and Connection

For kids whose elementary or middle school experience was marked by staying inside and being isolated, the importance of exploration has been magnified. Exploration is a key component in the healthy development of identity and self-awareness. All of us have the need to explore, both in the physical world and within the internal landscape of the self. Exploration is how we discover who we are and who we want to become.

During the pandemic, many of us found ourselves navigating a digital landscape, where virtual substitutes attempted to fill the void left by real-life experiences. At one point or another, many of us had to make do with a Zoom video instead of the real deal. We all know the difference between an online campus tour with a chatroom Q&A and the way it feels to walk along a grassy quad, smelling spring on the air and hearing the happy chatter of students on their way to class.

Connection is the essential ingredient that teen travel camps add to the concept of exploration. By creating secure, positive relationships with friends and role models, teenagers are able to go farther and experience life more fully. By traveling with a group of peers in a safe environment, teens are free to push themselves beyond the comfort zone. Striking out to discover new horizons is much more achievable when you have a group of supportive people falling in step beside you.

Two teens face away from the camera in the desert, arms around each other Resilience and Growth

The pandemic taught us that resilience isn’t an innate trait; it’s a constantly developing skill that requires intentional effort. For teenagers who weathered the storm of lockdowns and disrupted routines, resilience became both a necessity and growth edge. Now that life has returned mostly to normal, we have the opportunity to continue honing this skill by choice. The last few years gave us a moment to recenter after a prolonged period of stress. Now, it’s time to choose challenge again, in a way that’s safe and productive for our personal growth.

On any Bold Earth trip, plans are likely to change at some point due to weather or the needs of the group members. Learning how to adapt to unexpected detours is a growth opportunity for everyone involved. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that everything can change quicker than we ever expected. Our world is still evolving and the next decades are sure to bring challenges along with successes. The teens of today will need to embrace uncertainty, bounce back from setbacks, and develop the confidence to tackle whatever life throws their way. These skills will allow them to grow into the adults they want to become.

Fun!

We already know we lost our avenues for human connection, our daily routines, and our toilet paper during the pandemic, but there’s something else worth mentioning that slipped away through the cracks. Fun! We didn’t necessarily have a whole lot of in 2020. It’s easy to see why. In times of stress and crisis, play is de-prioritized in favor of survival. If our basic needs of safety, shelter, food, and emotional well being aren’t being met, it’s impossible for us to engage in play. But play matters.

Just like we have the opportunity to choose challenge for ourselves, now that the global challenge of the pandemic has ended, we also have the opportunity to choose fun. Play is an essential part of human development. We know kids need to play in order to learn, but teenagers and adults need play, too. Play helps us regulate our emotions, think more creatively, and foster independence.

Play is central to our culture at Bold Earth. Our trip leaders know that kids from age 13 to 17 don’t always get opportunities to be silly. We were all teenagers once and we remember how hard it can be to allow your true self to shine. Self-consciousness pushes play to the sidelines. On Bold Earth trips, we bring fun back into the spotlight. Teenagers need to play just as much as everyone else, even when they’re given the least space to do so.

How do we encourage fun in our groups? We model it. Our staff training is dedicated to managing trip logistics, risk assessment, safety, and teen mental health, but we also prioritize adult play as a vital ingredient for our trip leaders. We believe play is an essential part of fostering resilience, connection, growth, and exploration.

Three girls splash in the water at sunset

Let’s Navigate Together

Have more questions about how our programs encourage teenagers to step back out into the world? Reach out to us. We’d love to hear from you. If you’d like to see our full list of teen travel camp programs, check out our 2024 summer offerings. Here’s to travel, exploring, and having an unforgettable summer!

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