Think of the last time you were in charge of planning every detail of a weeklong trip – including paying for it – for a group of twenty friends. From picking out the destination, to securing transportation and lodging; and from researching activities to specifying menus for the grocery shopping – this is real world project management at its finest. And, let’s pretend you made your trip a “no tech” one for all involved and there was a policy that individuals could not separate into sub-groups. Finally, there must be an element of learning about the destination – either about the life of a hero who lived there or the general history of its people.
This is exactly what the Launchpad Eagles are charged with every year. No adults are involved in any part of the planning. Yes, the Eagles secure chaperones to attend and even cover their costs. But the trip is 100% planned and carried out by the teenagers. They work all year to earn their money through servant leader hours on campus. (This is not “fund me” trip where they ask other people to pay their way. They log real and tough servant leadership work all year – each hour converted into $5 which is applied to their trip fund.) Finally the day arrives and they set out on their grand adventure.
It may sound like a simple challenge. But the reality is a complicated project with diverse personalities, tastes, and various human needs injected into the equation. As a traveler myself, I know the grit and patience it requires to work through plans that fall through (inevitably) and to work with humans whose ideas and opinions clash (inevitably).
Throughout the year, I bite my lip, restraining myself from offering advice when I see them struggling to make airplane reservations for the group or secure a house to rent that sleeps twenty people. I don’t ask if they remembered to budget for gas for the car rental or if they’ve packed sunscreen for their high altitude hikes. I let it all go and remember why we built these travel experiences into the Acton Academy journey.
It is this experience that delivers exactly what I dream for my children when they turn 18 and leave home: to be humble and confident in the big, wide world.
Travel is the best antidote to the fear we may have of people who live differently. It dispels discomfort of the unknown and slashes pride. Travel simply swells the heart like nothing else.
When out in the world without the safety of adults solving their problems or negotiating their way through, these young people find their able voices and worldly legs. They come home a bit wiser, knowing they are capable of solving problems and being on their own. Life out there is big and not to be feared.
Humility and confidence. Together, these two states of being feed what is at the heart of a life well-lived: curiosity.
So it is with bravery that the Acton parents say good-bye each year as the Launchpad Eagles set out on adventure.
And with joy that we welcome them home.