Adolescence is a troubled time for many people. From being a totally dependent child, one has to learn independence and find one’s path in life, often with hormones flying around your system and causing all sorts of impulses. Many teenagers end up in trouble as they try to fly the nest too early and demand freedom. All too often they end up in dire straits with mental health issues or criminal convictions as they surge into adulthood…
“Get your kid into sailing and they’ll never have enough money for drugs!”
In the sailing world, there’s a meme flying around suggesting that if you ‘get your kid into sailing, they’ll never have enough money for drugs!’ This is a truism but also runs a lot more deeply. Sailing teaches the child responsibility, teamwork, and a very complex set of skills. There’s another saying in the sailing world too – ‘sailing takes the me out of you’.
Even on solo round the world yacht races, sailing is about teamwork and sharing skills. The shore team will have prepared the boat for every eventuality, while the sailor themselves will have had to work in close quarters with other people to make their bid to win the race possible. At sea, the sailor will be talking to the shore team all the time about a range of issues to keep the boat in good repair and in top trim. To that extent, one is always part of a team and is never alone even thousands of miles from home.
The wilderness ashore
Even hermits in Alaska need some sort of community! Humanity has travelled so far that one can’t do without certain things, be it electricity for refrigerators and power tools, or even essential food for nutrition in a hard winter.
Community is at the heart of life in the wilderness. The wild teen will come to understand that they can’t do without others and will really suffer for being completely alone.
The big city
The skills learned from the wilderness have been found to be extremely useful for people in city and urban environments. Key social skills learned from troubled teen programs have proven benefit for life in the ‘real world’. Where they may not have to light a fire without matches to cook food they have found in the streets, the soft skills learned in isolation are key to moving in all areas of society.
Teamwork is key to surviving in all societies. As can be seen in the instance of the round the world solo sailor above, we are never fully alone.
Good communications skills are important to teamwork, as are leadership skills that enable one to play a key role in that team. Self reliance gives confidence to resolve problems.
A wilderness therapy program for troubled teens teaches these skills, as well as enabling people to learn to keep a cool head when provoked. Under the big skies of the wilderness people are coached away from their old ways and aided in finding new ways of dealing with their issues as they appear.
These are not ‘boot camps’ or even extended holiday camps – they are hard but not brutal, and can be rewarding and fun but not about sex drugs and rock and roll! These schemes are designed to reward the person holistically and enable them to go back to the real world with the skills to find a new direction in life. What better way to find one’s true path than with a two or month spell of complete self reliance and learning about yourself?