In April of this year, our guide Louise Lawrence took a group from St. Michael’s College on the trip of a lifetime. They went to India to bring computers to a school, teach the students there how to use them, and finally go on a trekking and rafting adventure! Here she tells us all about travelling with teenagers in India, and how she and expedition doctor Paula Greally managed it.
Travelling with teenagers in India
The students who signed up for an adventure in India were taking on two weeks travel in the Northern Indian Himalayas close to Rishikesh. They were to visit a local school for two days, trek for five and raft for one.
The aim of any guide is to enable the participants to have an enjoyable, healthy and injury-free experience! We can only do so much, and then it is up to each person to follow the guidelines and take on the responsibility! How does this work with teenage boys?
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
Prior to the trip, we held a pre-expedition training weekend where we camped, hiked, went through the kit list, and the full itinerary. We also spoke about staying healthy & safe on the expedition. A busy weekend! It was well worth the effort though, everyone arrived at the airport truly well prepared and ready for India.
Shortly after our arrival to base camp near Rishikesh, we had to change our itinerary due to extreme weather conditions higher up in the mountains. Our mountain expedition turned into a very exciting Tri Adventure. We planned to trek for two and a half days in the lower Himalayas, cycle for half a day and journey down the Ganges in inflatable kayaks for another two days.
We would still raft for the last day. Part of this whole experience included a community aspect and the boys visited an organisation called Goonj in Delhi and taught computer skills in a local school for two days before we headed for the adventure.
Rules for travelling with teenagers.
I always find the easiest part of any trip is the time we are actually out on the expedition. We are doing something adventurous; everyone stays together, everyone is aware and we all look after each other. The difficult times make up the hard parts; airports, taxis, pickpockets, and shopping. Basically, I’m working hardest when people relax a little, forget time and switch off as this is when people tend to make mistakes! It’s no different when travelling with teenagers.
Out on our Tri-Adventure, the boys were quick to remind each other about sun cream, hand sanitiser, highlighting places that needed caution, chatted to locals and were very capable and responsible. The downtime was more of a challenge. The “off button” gets turned on (no matter how much you try). Crossing roads, busy places, flies, cows, untied shoelaces, walking away from bags, wandering off for a pee down a dark alley!
It all changes and the leader’s stress levels go up considerably! Although the down and travel time is slightly more stressful and hard work, it is an essential part of adventure travel and the whole learning experience.
Adventure travel with teenagers is an incredibly rewarding experience. The growth, enthusiasm and depth of character you see evolving is amazing. However, it can be hard work. We figured out a few things that made our lives a lot easier on the trip, some planned, others created as problems reared their ugly heads. Here are some of the rules we followed to make sure we had a great trip:
Big luggage labels
We found that attaching big bright labels to each piece of luggage was a game-changer. This made identifying our luggage in airports, on trains and for quick counts very easy.
The buddy system
A rule that students couldn’t wander off anywhere in groups of less than three meant we kept tabs on everyone. It’s easy for two people to be chatting away and not realise that they’d wandered away from the group. The third person makes this a lot more difficult!
Hygiene on the trip
We made it routine that after using the toilet and before eating everyone washed their hands with Dettol soap and then sanitised. The whole group made it through 11 days in India without any sickness! Anyone who has experienced Dehli Belly knows how bad it can be, but good hygiene kept that at bay!
Every day a group of three students had a duty/responsibility to look after the health and well being of the whole group. Their job was to remind everyone about sun cream, washing hands, rehydration, medication and to liaise with our doctor. It works a treat. We had a doctor and a full medical kit. I can’t put into words what an amazing extra this is.
Worries about travel in India
It is also interesting to see what the teenagers are worried about as apposed to what the leaders were worried about. We are always concerned about students wandering off, unsupervised luggage, pickpockets, crazy traffic and roads, health, moral, etc.
The students were more concerned about crowds, cows wandering about, flies, dirt, who gets to sit with whom, unusual food etc. With this in mind, the classic “to assume is to make an a** out of u and me” is very important! Super important to highlight all the areas of concern to all members of the party.
Overall it was an amazing trip with great highlights and we were very lucky to complete a safe and exciting adventure together. Thanks to all the students and teachers for joining us on this journey,