There’s something special about embarking on a trip into the unknown and really experiencing the world. Whether it’s a trek into the mountains or cycling along rural back roads, an active school adventure can benefit a students physical, mental and emotional state.
However our community is changing. The evolving trend for more comfortable travel supports the headlines about our growing sedentary lifestyle. Most alarmingly, many of these reports point towards today’s youth. Increases in child weight gain, depression and an addiction to an electronic umbilical cord which pumps out advertisements heralding the benefits of manufactured foods and even more computer activity has seemingly caused a rapid decline in the time spent outdoors by children.
With all the advances in modern living through an increased urban lifestyle, we’re worried that the next generation will be passed on the concept that nature is not our friend and that it offers little benefit.
It’s concerning that concepts that helped to inspire terms such as ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ and ‘Protective House Arrest’ - both coined by American author Richard Louv – have sprung into mainstream thinking. The idea that it has been a removal from nature that could be causing the health problem within kids, as well as the idea that this removal is being encouraged by parents who believe that the outdoors is a dangerous place, is something that worries many of us who have learned the exact opposite during our formative years.
While there are many types of educational travel experiences on offer for students, here's 9 reasons why we believe combining active travel elements in your school trip is a wise option.
1. Spending time outdoors reduces stress
There’s a reason why there’s a smile on everyone’s face after they’ve come back from an active adventure.
Australians are some of the most stressed out people in the world, with a recent report reporting that stress levels have been rising around the country for the past five years. Thankfully, research suggests that nature walks can reduce stress, as well as boost levels of attention, which is very relevant for students.
Gregory Bratman, the lead author of the study, said that 'nature experiences, even of a short duration, can decrease this pattern of thinking that is associated with the onset, in some cases depression.'
2. Nature makes exercise easier
Some kids have tdifficulty motivating themselves to get fit. So, make it fun and give them a goal to aim towards.
Research conducted at the University of Essex suggests that exercise feels easier when you are viewing the colour green, such as on trees, grass and other plants in nature.
The study conducted tested cyclists pedalling in front of green, red and grey images. Those who pedalled in front of the green screen reported that they felt lower exertion during their cycling, as well as displayed less mood disturbances than the other participants.
3. Nature can rejuvenates your soul
One of the best reasons to spend time outdoors trekking and cycling is that it can reinvigorate your mental state. Studies have shown that viewing natural beauty can elicit feelings of awe, which can release endorphins and trigger a mental boost.
An interview by HuffingtonPost with a Seattle-based environmental psychologist states: 'In addition to helping decrease stress levels, spending more time with nature shows a shift toward more positive moods... the theory is that we respond positively to things that are good for us. Trees offer shade, protection and often have fruits and nuts, so they are a source of food as well as protection and comfort.'
Ultimately, we tend to be drawn and attracted to things that are beneficial to our survival, which is one of the reasons why trees and other natural elements can help lift our moods.
4. Gain a sense of accomplishment
Regardless of age and size, taking on an overseas adventure can create feelings associated with personal achievement. The greater the challenge, the more sense of achievement we feel when we accomplish those goals.
5. Travel increases your self-awareness
A bi-product of travel is raising your self-awareness and it’s one of the most beneficial parts of taking on an adventurous school trip overseas.
Adventure travel brings you closer to your “inner self”, giving you the chance to examine and challenge yourself in ways you didn’t think were possible.
Stepping into the unknown and taking a risk demands our increased attention and can bring an intense state of self awareness – one of the reasons that people, such as mountain climbers, engage in adventure activities.
6. The outdoors can make you smarter
Immersing a child in the outdoors can increase their higher order cognition in more ways than one. This study found that brain scans taken after exercise showed that the participants had greater and more focused activity in the prefrontal cortex than they did before.
What’s more, active adventures help increase activity in your hippocampus, the brain’s main “storage unit”.
7. Forge new friendships
After an adventure it's not uncommon to see bonds form between students who prior to the trip perhaps weren't as close. The common goals shared of achieving a physical challenge can bring kids together.
Embarking on a challenge with other people can bring them closer together; sharing the trials and the triumphs gives them something to bond over and forms relationships that'll embed deep in their memories for many years to come.
8. Learn new life skills
Travel develops a child in any ways. From problem solving to growing confidence and building, resilience, the experiences gained from entering new surroundings and immersing yourself in a different culture creates exciting challenges that can enable students to expand their skill set.
Taking part in a Service Learning Project only enhances the opportunity to grow as you work alongside local people to achieve a common goal for the benefit of both the host communities and visiting students.
9. Know that you're making a difference when you travel ethically
There’s more to travel than just experiencing nature’s finest spaces. Embarking on a trip to some of the world’s most remote and untouched corners puts money into the local economy and helps preserve these pristine landscapes.
As many of these far-flung destinations are located in some of the world’s poorest countries, eco tourism helps these countries in their efforts to save and preserve their land through organisations that ultimately aim to save the planet.
Adventure travellers are needed throughout the world to support these initiatives with their tourism dollars. Also, travelling with eco-friendly and responsible travel companies can have positive changes on animal welfare, waste management, porter protection, communities in need and sustainable development – check out our Thoughtful Traveller guidebook for more information.
If you would like to talk to our team about tailoring an active outdoor educational trip for your school, start designing your journey here.