There’s been a seismic shift in travel over the past three years, and it’s not as easy for today’s teens to enjoy the carefree adventures their parents once did. But one thing hasn’t changed: travel is still one of the most powerful ways for teens to learn about themselves and the world, all while developing skills like empathy, self-confidence and resilience. Here, we outline five big benefits of travel for teens, plus tips to make the most of every experience.

1. Problem-solving Skills

How do you read a subway map? Communicate in a language you’ve only practiced on Duolingo? Do laundry while backpacking? By exposing teens to unfamiliar situations, travel stretches their cognitive flexibility. The right kind of travel provides some support and supervision – like an itinerary and a local host – but also gives teens independence to explore and figure a few things out for themselves. Troubleshooting and navigating unfamiliar circumstances builds confidence and creativity. Lots of parents report that teens return from trips suddenly seeming more mature, responsible and capable: definitely a win-win.

2. Executive Functioning Skills

During the teen years, the brain undergoes explosive growth in the executive neural network. The skills governed by this area include planning, organization, time management, focus, and self-regulation of emotions and impulses. While teens vary in the pace of development, carefully tailored travel experiences can boost these critical skills. If your teen wants to travel, take advantage of their motivation and involve them in planning the trip. Decide on tasks they can be responsible for, like creating a packing list or day trip itinerary. Fundraising and saving money for a trip also develops their executive functioning skills.

3. Resilience & Self-Confidence

According to Merriam-Webster, resilience is an ability to recover from or adjust easily to change. Researchers at the University of Melbourne say that teen resilience comes from a combination of social skills, optimism, purpose, an attachment to family and learning, problem-solving and coping skills, and a positive self-image. Travel allows teens to uplevel each of these skill sets as they learn to adapt to change. To help your teen cultivate resilience, plan a trip that keeps them safe but takes them a little out of their comfort zone. Encourage them to stretch themselves and take on slightly scary experiences, even if it’s just a week without Wi-Fi. After a little discomfort, they’ll quickly discover just how much they are capable of.

4. Empathy & Cultural Awareness

Travel opens up the world, exposing teens to worldviews and ways of life that are different from the ones they grew up in. When traveling, teens from privileged backgrounds may feel more gratitude for their blessings, and teens with a background of struggle can reach beyond their everyday reality. Meaningful interactions with people who experience the world differently build empathy and give teens first-hand appreciation for diversity. Look for trips that emphasize relationship-building and volunteering, like service-learning projects or cultural exchange programs, and make sure your teen has time to spend time with locals in addition to seeing the sights.

5. Purpose

According to Anthony L. Burrow of Cornell University, “purpose is a forward-looking directionality, an intention to do something in the world.” It’s a major predictor of long-term health and happiness for teens. “We are confronted with the ups and downs of life, but purpose is an active ingredient that helps us stay stable,” says Burrow. Travel helps teens develop a sense of purpose by sparking their curiosity and passion and showing them how they can make a difference. Transformative travel experiences often provide direction and shape teens’ lives in profound ways. To help your teen find a sense of purpose in travel, make sure their trip allows them to explore something meaningful, like their heritage, a career they’re interested in, or a cause they’re passionate about. And when they get back home, support them in taking what they’ve learned to the next level.

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