Why Become a Trip Leader?

Tziporah Lax19 May, 2023

Getting paid to travel the globe with a group of adventurous teens on an epic itinerary might sound too good to be true. To some, the concept of being a professional adventurer could be all they’ve ever wanted from a summer job. To others, it might sound intimidating to carry the responsibility for a group of kids in an unfamiliar place engaging in outdoor activities.

The reality of being a trip leader is much more challenging than either of these descriptions allows. It’s also far more rewarding.

A group of Bold Earth instructors pose in front of their banner at staff training

Staff Training

One of the first reasons to become a trip leader for Bold Earth this summer is that you will start off your season by attending staff training. Staff training is the place where the field instructors, office staff, and the leadership team come together for a glorious union of dance battles, physical and emotional preparation, professional development, and glitter.

Staff training at Bold Earth goes far beyond learning the expectations of being a trip leader. At staff training, you’ll be mentored by instructors who have been leading these adventures season after season and have answers to your pressing questions. You’ll be part of interactive conversations on the best ways to engage with teens, resolve conflict, practice nonviolent communication, and encourage growth through challenge. You’ll also cook and eat in the Bold Earth way, right after playing the most ridiculous game you’ve ever heard of.

At staff training, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with every instructor and chances are, you’re going to meet some of the most interesting people you’ve ever met. Kindness, connection, and friendships (both brand new and years deep) are at the core of staff training. You’ll also have the chance to start getting to know your co-leader. This relationship will be the foundation of your summer experience. 

Mission Control, We’re Ready for Blast Off

When the glitter has washed off (mostly) and the last round of Song Wars won, you’ll be on your way to the start of your summer adventure as a trip leader. At this point in time, gear has been sorted and logistics finalized. You’ll be heading off on a road trip or boarding an international flight to the beginning of your trip.

With your co-pilot beside you, you’re ready for blast off. Every trip leader team is now responsible for running their trip as a unit. Decisions will need to be made, logistics handled, meals planned, and trailers hitched. The first couple days of preparation are vital to running a smooth and well-executed trip. This is the first time it will be just you and your co-leader, which is why your communication is critical. The most magical summers happen when co-leaders are on the same page from day 1. Using all the tools you learned at staff training, it’s time to bring the magic to the kids. 

Instructor Casey H. laughs as he is held up by his students


Oh my, it’s really happening. Your students have arrived and they’re wide-eyed and quiet. Nobody knows each other yet and things are awkward. The kids are settling in to the fact that they’re on a two week adventure trip with you, your co-leader, and a group of strangers. This is the time to get silly. It’s your job to show the group what it looks like to be yourself. As a role model and a leader, being yourself is the queue to everybody else that it’s okay to be whatever weird and wacky person they really are.

At Bold Earth, we love the outdoors and all the rad things we can do out there: climbing, rafting, paddling, hiking, camping. You name it, we love it. But what a Bold Earth summer is really all about are the people on the trip. Their interactions with each other are what dictates the experiences of the group. We all begin the trip as individuals and strangers, but we end it as a community. Our trips are magical because of the bonds we build and the friendships that are born. 

Five teens stand in the rain in Iceland in front of a white van

It Will Rain

As an outdoor professional, you probably already know about rain. It’s wet and it makes you cold and it can be difficult to stay positive when all your gear, tent, and clothes are soaked. It’s something we all recognize to be a part of nature, but we also get some feelings when we’re not well prepared for it to happen to us. 

More than likely at some point on your trip, it will rain. I don’t just mean the weather. Things will get tricky. There will be disagreements. Personalities will clash and feelings might get hurt. When learning how to live, sleep, eat, drive, and travel as a group, there will be moments of learning because nobody can predict all the unique and wonderful ways people will respond to new experiences. This friction can happen between teens, leaders and students, and co-leaders.

We hope there are challenges. I say this not because I want every trip leader to have a difficult summer full of emotional and physical hardship, but because without challenge there can be no growth. This is as much true for trip leaders as it is for teens. We need challenge. These trips wouldn’t mean anything to anybody if they didn’t come with their own, unique challenges. 

Kids could need you in the middle of the night. They might be homesick, heartsick, or just plain sick sick. They might not like the food or each other or you. They might introduce themselves to you like grown-ups, but the truth is that all of our students are still kids. Many haven’t ever done this kind of trip before in their lives. They will need you more than you know. 

Meeting someone else’s needs is not straightforward and it’s not easy. Multiply this by a group of 10 or so teens plus your co-leader, who’s going to have emotional and physical needs, too. This is the reality of being a trip leader. You are the support system for the group you’re responsible for. Yes, they have a phone call home in the middle of the trip and they have the new friends they’re making. But when it comes down to it, you are the person they will turn to. 

This might sound scary, but we don’t want to come as a surprise. Trip leading is not a dream or a fantasy. It’s a very real, very serious job. It could be one of the hardest jobs you’ll ever do. It’s also one of the most rewarding. 

teens hiking in the alps mountains

Is This Job for Me?

If you’re considering a career with Bold Earth, we want it to be a great fit. This is because we want to give our students the best possible experiences, but also because we want our leaders to have incredible summers with us that are filled with unforgettable moments. It’s just as important to our community that our leaders are supported, happy, and thriving. 

While many of our trip leaders find us through our network of former trip leaders (we have been around for over 45 years), some of our new leaders find us through online job boards such as Jooble. However you find us, what’s important is to have a full understanding of this role and what it entails.

The most critical thing to think about when considering applying to be a trip leader is how you feel about the rain. You might be the most fun, competent, well-organized person in the world when everything is going well, but what happens when things don’t go according to plan? How do you react when unexpected change arises? How would you navigate tensions between teens or with a co-leader?

We don’t need you to be the most epic rock climber in the world or know how to triangulate a compass. We’re looking for kindness, empathy, and a willingness to learn how to do this job. All of us are still learning how to do better, every single season. We’re looking for leaders who believe in human connection, communicate directly, and are excited about honing their leadership styles. We value our leaders for being uniquely, unapologetically themselves.

Group of teens posing in red rock slot canyon

If you’ve gotten to the bottom of this post and you’re still reading, thank you, It’s important to us as a company to let potential trip leaders know what it’s really like to lead our trips. We want you to be prepared for these challenges and we’re going to help you get there.

On any Bold Earth summer trip, you are never alone. If you’re going on an epic adventure with us, you’re heading off with an entire community at your back. The leadership team dedicates themselves year-round to creating an incredible support network for their instructors. In the summertime, they become your point of contact for questions, help, support, advice, and a warm reassurance at the end of a long day. That 3 AM phone call you need to make? It will always be answered.

If you’re interested in learning more about our trip leader job description and application process, please visit our Work at Bold Earth page. We can’t wait to meet you.


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