Using travel to give back hope to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds

16 minutes to read
Writing: Eva Milko, Good Vibes Strategy

In a world where teens face numerous challenges, it is essential to offer them hopeful perspectives to help them face their future. For young people from unstable environments, travel can be a powerful means of inspiration, self-discovery and access to new opportunities.

Discover how we can change the life of these teens by offering them experiences that nurture their confidence in themselves, stimulate their curiosity and broaden their horizons.

Travel: a gateway to other possible worlds for teens from unstable environments

Growing up in a disadvantaged area where financial, professional and familial troubles are common may cause people to lose hope in a better life. According to the sociologist Michel Fize, “Above all else, you must not discourage a teen by presenting the difficulties of life as permanent. It is true that they shouldn’t ignore these difficulties, but they don’t have to be a huge obstacle to them determinedly moving forward.”  By showing a young person other ways of living by means of travel outside of their regular environment, we can help them rediscover hope and become true citizens of the world.

“Above all else, you must not discourage a teen by presenting the difficulties of life as permanent. It is true that they shouldn’t ignore these difficulties, but they don’t have to be a huge obstacle to them determinedly moving forward.”

In fact, by staying at youth hostels, young people have the opportunity to discover different ways of living as well as more varied socio-economic backgrounds. This broadens their horizons and gives them new perspectives on life. Thanks to these new models of reference, teens become more open-minded, empathetic and accepting, little by little. They are therefore more likely to forge harmonious relationships with others as well as to move away from their own problems, for example, by helping their peers. In doing so, young people learn to better understand themselves, gain confidence and become more resilient.

Travel also offers a wonderful opportunity for teens to meet new people who can give them precious support when they’re dealing with hard situations. According to the psychiatrist Boris Cyrulnik, these kind individuals, sometimes called “resilience tutors,” can be other young people, educators and even residents of the places the young person has visited. By interacting positively with teens, these people give them psychological support, whether consciously or not, and help them to better overcome problems which, while perhaps easily surmountable to an adult, may be traumatic to a teen (family conflicts, financial insecurity, etc.).

Finally, travel is a real driver of inclusion for young people who rarely have access to leisure activities. These young people can make vacation memories like other kids their age, sometimes for the first time ever, and enjoy positive experiences that they will love sharing with others.

Travel: a key tool of personal development for young people coming from disadvantaged backgrounds

Teens from precarious backgrounds may experience stigma and are more likely to have problems with drugs and behavioural issues. In addition, young people from immigrant backgrounds (particularly refugees and recent immigrants) grow up in disadvantaged backgrounds more often than those who were born in Canada and are regularly confronted with racism and discrimination.

Affected by social exclusion, young people coming from vulnerable backgrounds may also develop deep feelings of shame and distress, which can lead them to:

  • retreat into themselves
  • become angry, sad or anxious
  • become a bully or be bullied
  • stop paying attention in or attending school
  • consume alcohol or drugs
  • engage in delinquency
  • hypsersexualize or prostitute themselves
  • want to start a family at a very young age to create their own roots

Over time, this can heavily affect their personal development, their social circle and even their own children.

By travelling in a safe setting with kind adults, young people from precarious backgrounds have the opportunity to get away from the conditions of their usual life and learn more about themselves. Thus, with every unknown environment encountered and each interaction with a person from a different culture, young people internalize their experiences and develop new abilities and ways of living. Teens also learn to better understand and respect their limits as well as those of others. They also become more resilient by overcoming their fear of growing up alone apart from their family and are able to discover qualities such as perseverance, resourcefulness, interpersonal skills and cooperation, which helps them to be more self-confident.

Furthermore, the artistic and cultural activities offered by the Foundation encourage young people to apply many skills such as communication, collaboration, planning and creativity. By discovering these skills, they develop a more positive view of themselves, which helps them overcome feelings of inferiority or powerlessness and believe more in their future. Valued and recognized as individuals capable of pursuing great things, they regain the confidence necessary to take their place in society, despite the social barriers they face.

Groupe de quatre jeunes filles souriantes.

Travelling: a stimulating and motivational experience for young people in vulnerable situations

Living in poverty regularly exposes young people to feelings of powerlessness and injustice. These negative emotions can lead to more serious problems like depression, eating disorders or violence. By taking these teens out of their environment, away from the insecurity and uncertainty, we open the discourse that poverty is not inevitable.

When young people obtain a broader vision of the world and greater confidence in themselves, they start to want more than what they have in their home environment. The new models and perspectives that they encounter give another meaning to their life and can motivate them to follow a more positive and intentional direction, be this with their studies, work, lifestyle, etc.

Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are particularly affected by academic failure. According to the Ministère de l’éducation et de l’enseignement supérieur du Québec, 23.5% of young people from very disadvantaged backgrounds leave school with no diploma or qualifications (versus only 10% of young people from privileged backgrounds).

When teens are aware of the possibility of a better life, they become more resilient and rediscover the energy necessary to make the effort required to succeed. This renewed hope helps them stay concentrated on their goals and pushes them to work more diligently to achieve them.

Jeune homme souriant dans une rue passante.

Finally, we must not forget that, through our actions, these young people can also become sources of inspiration for other teens in their own environment.

They powerfully prove that their social conditions do not necessarily dictate their destiny.

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