Trip Leaders are at the gravitational heart of any Bold Earth trip. Their uniquely weird and wacky personalities provide the flavor and spirit of a once in a lifetime experience for students. But what does it take to be a trip leader at an adventure camp for teens? And what do these incredible individuals do when they’re not hiking through the Rockies or snorkeling in the Kahalu’u Bay?
Casey H. has been leading outdoor trips for teens since 2018. This past summer was his fifth consecutive season with Bold Earth. He spoke with me from his home base in Bend, Oregon, where he’s lived for the past two and a half years. I caught up with him on a Monday afternoon, after returning from his day job as a Montessori elementary school teacher.
From his back porch on a warm October evening, Casey told me about the elements of his off-season life that bring him joy when he’s not hitting the road with Bold Earth students.
“Easy access to the outdoors is really critical for me, whether that’s skiing or hiking or walking or swimming. I also love playing board games with friends,” he tells me, with a characteristic Casey Hayes chuckle.
As an avid downhill skier and patron of Mt. Bachelor, Casey takes advantage of his classroom teaching schedule to spend weekends in the mountains. When asked about his favorite off-season adventure of this year, Casey tells me about a special memory from this past winter.
“On New Year’s day, I went backcountry skiing with a bunch of friends. It was a beautiful day in the Oregon wilderness,” he says. “I snowshoed up this small mountain, or really a large hill, with my skis. A couple of my friends had snowmobiles. We spent the day on top of this hill, skiing down it and snowmobiling back up. It was the first day of the year and felt like a really good year to come. It was with a lot of people who love to be outside, like me. Some of my favorite people, doing my favorite things.”
When I ask Casey if there’s anything he’d like to tell students and families about his life outside of Bold Earth, his response is immediate.
“It would be that I think about them a lot,” he says. “I’ve met so many really awesome kids on these trips and sometimes they don’t even seem like kids because of how independent, mature and strong they are. Whenever I hear someone’s name who had the same name [of a past student], I think about missing them and wonder what they’re doing now.”
The bond between trip leaders and their group is one that goes far beyond a single season of teen camping trips. Leaders have the special privilege of witnessing the individual growth of our students as they overcome challenges and go outside their comfort zones. These experiences leave our staff hopeful for the future and excited to see where their campers will go next. Just as kids often wonder what trip leaders’ lives look like during their off-season, Casey feels the same way about his students.
“As students get older, I’m always curious to know what they’re up to and what they look like when they’re not on a trip with us.”
Casey has worked at a variety of outdoor education and guiding ventures, including working with at-risk teens in a wilderness therapy program. He’s constantly working to grow his experience in the field and hone his educational skills, both in the classroom and in the natural world.
There’s something special about Bold Earth that keeps him coming back, season after season. Casey tells me next about how working at Bold Earth fits in with his identity, both professionally and personally.
“I feel like a lot of core parts of my identity and personality are encompassed in what BE is to me. Being outside, being adventurous, this idea of exploring and pushing yourself physically and mentally and going somewhere new.”
“At a certain point when I’m spending so much time outside, I feel like I’m becoming the truest version of myself,” he says, echoing a sentiment that many students have also come away from the program with. “I don’t know many other jobs that would allow me to do that.”
We end our catch up by talking about some of the reasons Bold Earth is a very special place to work. There’s a lot to say when it comes to describing the environment and culture of a company like this one.
“A huge part of BE is relationships, community, laughter, and forming really powerful bonds with people. That’s one of the main things that I reflect on when I look back on my life. How are my relationships doing and how much am I laughing? BE has given me the strongest sense of belonging and some of the biggest laughs.”
Thank you to Casey for taking the time to participate in our Trip Leader Spotlight Series. We can’t wait to see him next season!