Life’s a journey: tips to empower youth when traveling

Use these tips to capitalize on learning opportunities the next time you travel with youth.

Michigan 4-H members riding the escalator at the subway station in Atlanta, Georgia on their way to National 4-H Congress. Photo credit: Jackie Martin | MSU Extension

Michigan 4-H members riding the escalator at the subway station in Atlanta, Georgia on their way to National 4-H Congress. Photo credit: Jackie Martin | MSU Extension

Traveling to new places provides a great opportunity for youth to learn and grow. Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us in his famous quote, “Life’s a journey, not a destination,” that there are many important opportunities to learn and grow on our way to our destinations. However, the new city, museum or experience is only part of the adventure.

For adults who are responsible for the youth, traveling can be a stressful, challenging experience and it’s natural for adults to assume the “in charge” state of mind. However, adults can empower youth to take ownership in the journey by sharing the “leading” responsibilities with them. The next time you travel, try these four tips from Michigan State University Extension:

  • Make youth the leader. Put youth at the front of the group and deliberately ask them where the group is going. Places like airport terminals can be busy places, but all are usually well-marked with directional cues. Follow the youth in the group, ask them which direction they are going next, how they know that and deliberately call their attention to directional signs.
  • Get oriented. Pull up a GPS or a mapping application on your smart phone and help youth to determine which way is north. Ask them periodically if they know which ordinal direction they are traveling without simply checking the compass.
  • Give youth the map. Venturing a few blocks outside of the hotel to a nearby park? Instead of planning your route in advance and leading youth there, give youth a walking map (you can pick one up at the hotel desk) and ask them how to get there. Review the route with them to make sure they understand, and then let them lead the way.
  • Experience new modes of transportation. Many youth that live in suburbs or rural areas have never experienced public transportation. Introduce youth to the bus, train or subway and involve them in planning the route, reviewing timetables and purchasing tickets. Find yourself standing on the subway platform waiting for a train? Ask youth which direction the group is going, how they will know they’re getting on the right train, and how they will know they’re at the right stop.

If adults are able to relinquish a little control and share navigational responsibilities with youth, youth can build important life skills to help them successfully traverse a new city in the future. If we are able to build confidence in youth as they travel, we will empower them to continue the process of learning, growing and experiencing new places as an adult. Allowing youth to lead today’s trip prepares tomorrow’s leaders to map our future.

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