Happy Kids and Adventure Treks

AT Staff20 Jul, 2014

Our first 166 students are all safely home. We have 95 students in the field and 164 joining us as we open another round of trips this week. All of our directors are in the field greeting students and checking in with instructors. I’m in California and the Northwest, Jan is with the Blue Ridge, Josh is in Colorado and California and D-Mac is in the Northwest.   I love seeing students who were nervous on opening day, but by closing day feel that Adventure Treks has become their second home.

Cal Challenge 1 in the Shasta Trinity Alps
Cal Challenge 1 in the Shasta Trinity Alps

My daughter just completed a British Columbia trip.  I haven’t seen her yet but I can’t wait to hear her stories.  When we talked to her via phone during her trip, my wife, Jane’s conclusion was “She sounded so… happy,” and I agreed.  Her voice was calm and she was practically beaming over the phone. I could tell she was proud of what she has accomplished and excited about the great friends she has made.

In 2014 teenagers are under a lot of stress, my daughter is no exception.  She has studied very hard all year and between the commute to school, club soccer, non-stop texts, middle school girl drama, and the nuisance factor of three younger siblings and two overbearing parents, Adventure Treks has been a wonderful time for a break!  I hear this again and again when I talk to other parents.  “My son or daughter is so happy when they are at Adventure Treks.”  And I hear from our students –  “Adventure Treks is my happy place,” “This is the place I can be myself,” or “This is where I am my best self and my happiest.”

To make some sense of why Adventure Treks is a place where kids can be so happy – I am going to defer to the 13-year old Ted Talk sensation, Logan LaPlante. If you aren’t one of the 5.8 M folks who has seen his viral Ted Talk embedded below – it’s well  worth watching! (especially the first 5 minutes, if you are short on time)

The crux of Logan’s talk (besides the fact that he is ridiculously articulate for his age) is that we adults “have gotten it all wrong.”  Rather than wanting to grow up to be good at a profession, he wants first to grow up to be happy.  He advocates “Hacking” the concept of school and states that school should begin with a focus on teaching people how to be happy, rather than merely delivering information.   Logan references Dr. Roger Walsh and his seven TLC’s or Therapeutic Lifestyle Choices. These TLC’s are habits that lead to a healthy and happy life.

Dr. Walsh’s Seven TLC’s:

Exercise – Healthy people are happy people.  We all know how exercise reduces stress and tension and how much better we feel when we are in shape and burn calories doing something physical and fun.  There is no shortage of exercise at AT.

Nutrition and Diet – There is now considerable evidence of the importance of nutrition for mental health – we try to eat healthy at Adventure Treks!

Nature – for thousands of years wise people have recommended time in nature as a source of wisdom and healing. Now more than ever in our media centered world, time in nature is essential.  Research shows time in nature improves your cognitive functioning and reduces stress.

Relationships – The idea that good relationships are central to both physical and mental well-being is an ancient theme, now supported by considerable research. Rich relationships reduce health risks, and good relationships are associated with enhanced happiness, quality of life, resilience, cognitive capacity, and perhaps even wisdom. We take this to heart at Adventure Treks, with a strong focus on developing healthy communities!

Recreation and Enjoyable Activities – This is at our core – what can be more fun than non-stop, exciting outdoor activities?

Relaxation and Stress Management – Even though stress is universal, few people are trained in managing it. In addition, humans now face an array of novel stressors for which there are no evolutionary or historical precedents. For our Adventure Treks students, three weeks of  living in a community in nature without the interruption of media is about as relaxing and stress free as one can get in 2014. More importantly through real experiences we can teach kids the importance of resilience – a crucial skill in managing stressful situations!

Contribution and Service – We all know that when one takes the focus off yourself and instead gives to others, we end up happier.  At AT we talk about waking up every day and working to make everyone else’s day great, we call this expedition mentality. When everyone is looking out for each other, it’s amazing how rewarding your own experience becomes. When we feel part of something larger than ourselves, it makes us happy.

What quickly impresses me is how much the Adventure Treks experience embodies these seven TLC’s.  More than just a three-week experience, we hope Adventure Treks helps our students build healthy habits that last long beyond the summer.  We hope that our students will take the components from Adventure Treks which makes them the most happy and bring these aspects into their lives at home. Coming home from Adventure Treks can sometimes be tough.  Our kids have literally had a “Peak Experience” and life at home can be a bit boring. We hope if nothing more, your child’s time outdoors with Adventure Treks has made them just a little bit happier and if we’ve done that – we’ve been successful!

John Dockendorf

Executive Director

Read More About Dr. Walsh’s Research Here


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