Where Do We Go From Here? Next Steps for Bold Earth Alumni

Josh Goldbach15 May, 2024

Two girls smile form a sit on top kayak in front of a rustic wall Have you felt that special type of feeling on the last day of a summer camp program? It’s a potent blend of nostalgia forming for an experience that hasn’t quite ended yet, combined with excitement to get home and share stories with family. There’s sadness mixed in, too. It’s hard leaving the friends who used to be strangers, but now feel like they’ve always been part of your life. The long summer days felt like they might be endless and yet, somehow, you’ve made it to the end of the line.

You’re on the brink of exiting an experience that has immersed you in all senses. You’re looking forward to sleeping in your own bed again and eating the favorite meal you’ve missed so much, but it’s also hard to remember what life was like before summer camp. You’ve become absorbed by the routine of the days, the sounds of your friends laughing, the shared meals and camaraderie that’s begun to feel as familiar as home.

Re-entry into normal life after a transformative experience can be jarring. That’s why we’ve put together this list of ideas for what might come next for our alumni. For those of you who are heading into young adulthood and craving a similar experience to the summer camp adventure you embarked on, look no further. We’ve compiled suggested programs that follow interests you may have sparked on a Bold Earth program.

1. Apply to Work at Camp Pinnacle

Camp Pinnacle is our overall top recommendation for Bold Earth alumni looking for their next step. This is the place to find those long summer days stretching onwards once more, followed by warm nights under starry skies accompanied by the sound of crackling campfires. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, this sleepaway summer camp is for kids ages 7-16 and draws participants from around the country and abroad.

The campus includes 126 wooded acres dotted with rustic cabins and camp facilities, located on the shores of Wolfe Lake. Staff are provided on-site housing and high quality meals at the dining hall. Counselors instruct and support campers as they enjoy on campus activities like swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, mountain biking, a low ropes course, and many more. Campers also have the chance to go off campus for wilderness adventures, like overnight camping trips and white-water rafting.

Counseling at Camp Pinnacle is an amazing experience for anyone interested in working with kids, being in the outdoor industry, and joining a community of committed and passionate professionals. Much like Bold Earth, the Camp Pinnacle culture revolves around kindness and inclusivity. Counselors must be at least 18 and have one or more years of college finished to apply. A summer spent as a counselor at Camp Pinnacle is not one you’re likely to regret!

2. Get Certified in Your Outdoor Passion

Did whitewater rafting the Pacuare River in Costa Rica light a fire inside your heart? Or did you try rock climbing in Saint George, Utah and now you can’t spot visualizing routes up every boulder and cliff you come across? Whatever the case may be, don’t let that passion fizzle out. There’s an excellent array of certification courses for whichever outdoor pursuit got under your skin. These classes are designed for a variety of levels, from amateur enthusiast to professional guide.

The American Canoe Association offers a wide range of courses for almost any paddle sport you can think of. From packrafting to surf kayaking, the ACA has you covered when you’re looking to advance your skillset on the water. The ACA also puts on competitions and events for their members and the communities they offer courses in. Checking out their local offerings is a great place to start if rivers and oceans are where you like to spend your free time.

If you’re interested in taking your climbing up a notch, take a look at the American Alpine Institute. These folks offer classes in rock climbing, mountaineering, canyoneering, and ice climbing. They’re also a great resource to learn more about avalanche safety for winter recreation in the mountains.

A girl rappels in front of a waterfall

3. Take a Wilderness First Aid Course

If you’re starting to spend more time in the outdoors and pursue your own interests when it comes to camping and hiking, having a few basic wilderness first aid skills is a great way to gain confidence and recreate safely. Wilderness First Aid courses are offered in many states through a variety of organizations, but a great place to look first is on your local parks and recreation website. Some high quality providers include the National Outdoor Leadership School, Wilderness Medical Associates International, and Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities.

Knowing your first aid in the wilderness is beneficial for you and the people you recreate with, but it’s also just an extremely fun class to take. You’re likely to meet lots of other like-minded folks who enjoy the outdoors and might want to join you on your next adventure. It’s a great opportunity to meet new friends and the best part is, you’ll all be prepared to take care of each other if the need ever arises.

4. Become a WWOOFer

If a farm or garden-based service project felt like a good fit, Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms might be a great next step. Working as a WWOOFer can provide structure for a gap year and lead to interesting connections with an international community. You don’t have to have previous experience working on farms to WWOOF and you’ll come away with valuable practical skills. The list of potential host farms can be seen on the website, allowing you to choose something that aligns with your interest. You might end up beekeeping, making cheese, or in a vineyard, depending on what kind of farm you apply to work on.

The concept of WWOOFing is that you provide a certain amount of hours of farm work per day in exchange for room, board, and the opportunity to learn. Usually, you’ll work between 4 and 6 hours, although every host will have their own specific guidelines. In most places, you have to be 18 to participate as a WWOOFer. WWOOFers under the age of 18 are accepted in Portugal, Germany, Italy, and the UK with a letter of consent from parents.

5. Apply to Work as a Bold Earth Trip Leader

Two women embrace in a side hug dressed in outdoorsy clothing

The magic of summer camp doesn’t have to end when you age out of Bold Earth trips. Some of our most successful trip leaders were once participants themselves. You have to be 21 years old to trip lead, so getting a few of these other experiences under your belt in the meantime is an excellent way to prepare for the job. If you’ve been a participant in the past, you probably have an idea of how rigorous the job of being a leader can be. It’s not a simple task to manage trip logistics, look out for the health and safety of the group, and regulate your own emotions and energy. It takes resilience, dedication, and a persistent sense of humor to be successful.

As challenging as the job can be, it’s also incredibly rewarding. Seeing behind the “curtain” and learning what goes into the making of a Bold Earth trip after getting to experience one is a unique way to gain perspective. It can also be a neat way to connect with participants, having been one yourself.


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