What Youth Learn Through Travel | YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka
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What Youth Learn Through Travel

By Melanie Pockaj, YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka


What Youth Learn from Travel

There is so much more to travel than what meets the eye. It’s easy to read through a travel guide and check off a number of learning opportunities to add to the itinerary. History, art, culture, economics, social structures, politics, and world issues can all be discovered through careful planning and exploration of various museums, sites and attractions. The biggest growth however, can’t be planned on paper, and it can’t be bought with a wristband. The true lessons in travel escape the pages of the best laid plans and happen in between points on an itinerary. Check out these amazing and sometimes unexpected lessons of travel.


Travel challenges youth to take on a heightened responsibility for themselves and their belongings. In addition to managing passports, boarding passes, luggage and money; youth who travel are given a heightened responsibility for themselves. A couple days away from mom and dad quickly empowers them to ensure that they take care of themselves and ensure that they are prepared and ready to keep up with the day’s adventures. Eating right, sleeping right, remembering to put on sunscreen and ensuring there is enough water in the day pack are just a few of the self-help skills that are inevitably strengthened when away from home.


Away from the comforts of home life is not always easy and things don’t always go as planned. When traveling to new places youth must acclimate to new conditions and adjust to the surrounding customs. They are limited to what they’ve packed and if suddenly they want their favourite sweater, a taste of home or that extra $10, it’s not as easy to run back home and repack – They must adapt.  Youth may also find that even the best planned trips have changes to the schedule or bumps in the road. Travel teaches adaptability not as a choice but a necessity and quickly young tourists grow to enjoy the challenge and feeling of empowerment that come with conquering them.


Globetrotting will always offer communication challenges that provide opportunities to strengthen these important skills. In addition to the obvious language barriers in new places, youth also have to learn new customs, behaviours, pace and tones. Through speech, facial expression and gesture they are required to communicate out of necessity, navigating the new world in which they are travelling; and for social reasons as well. Travelling challenges you to become a story teller, an advocate for where you’ve been and a student of where you are going. These skills don’t stop on your return flight. Coming home offers many more opportunities to share your adventures with those who have missed you.


Nothing builds confidence quite like travel. You learn new things and put yourself to the test. Travel experiences often take you outside of the preferred comfort zone, where personal growth flourishes. You learn to takes risks, make mistakes, bounce back and thrive in ever changing unfamiliar circumstances. As youth travel they not only become more worldly and adaptable, but they also develop a strong sense of confidence in their ability to do both. Travel also helps to break down the fear of the unknown, the fear of failure or getting lost and the concern of what other people may think. You learn to appreciate your differences both good and bad and develop a better understanding of who you are. Knowing yourself and believing in yourself through travel can build a lifelong sense of confidence.

Less is More

Depending on the destination, travel has an astounding way of pointing out how overindulgent North American culture can be. From the size of our homes to the size of our plates, we tend to go bigger, but, as experiencing simpler ways of life will teach, we aren’t necessarily better. It’s amazing to see how little one needs to get by and truly be happy. Even the simple act of fitting a week’s wardrobe into a small back pack and eliminating the morning struggle of what to wear can teach the age old adage of less really can be more.

We Are All Connected

What Youth Learn from Travel

Meeting new people and experiencing new cultures is an incredible way to learn about something new or different…but one thing that I’ve taken away from every single travel experience I’ve had, is that we as humans have far more in common, than different. We all laugh and cry, we eat and sleep, we work and play, we are individuals, families, communities. No matter where you go there are friends to be made. Even with translation barriers, our faces can share so much, music and play connect us all and laughter means the same thing in every language. Travel helps youth realize they are a part of a global community of humans connected by the need to survive and the desire to thrive. We can exist together, share with each other, support one another and be better because of it.

For these and so many other reasons, the YMCA believes in opening doors for youth and empowering them with travel opportunities. Through local leadership programs our youth are able to participate in YMCA Canada Youth Exchanges. This program recently sent our Midland leaders to Halifax for the opportunity of a lifetime. In March our Youth Advisory Council participated in a Global Learning Experience in Colombia. There is still time to apply for a travel opportunity to England this summer. Stop by your local YMCA today to learn about how the Y can provide opportunities for youth to travel and grow.

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