The summer Sam was 13 we found a summer trip opportunity that ended up making a profound difference in his life. He joined a group called Teen Treks on a bicycle trip from New York City up the Hudson River Valley to Albany.
First of all, although he had traveled before without me (when his Nashville Boy Choir went to Germany), this was the first time he went without knowing anyone. He had normal jitters about the unknown aspects that presented, and yet he discovered he could make friends easily. We got a phone call on the third day telling us he felt he knew these other kids for much longer (maybe three whole weeks!) and by the end of the 10-day trip he found everyone was sad to be dispersing. He learned that he can adventure without his safety net (me) and do well.
Secondly, his body improved. He was not the only kid who started the bike trip a bit….hmmm, let’s call it underprepared. After we got the bike for the trip he and I went out for rides, but at no time did we do the kind of mileage needed to prepare him for a day on the road. He was not the only one and the tour leaders had experience with this, so managed the kids well with breaks and lots of water and snacks. Sam not only tightened muscle on this trip, but his legs improved so much that a few days after his return home he ran in a local 5K race and dropped 10 minutes off his time!
Finally, he has held the memory of his experience. This past spring, when we drove through Albany on our college road trip, he asked us to stop. Although he could not find the place he wanted us to enjoy for lunch, he took us to the State Capitol grounds to share things he had seen four years before. I also believe that when it comes to raising his own kids, he will understand their need to have their own independent adventure and like me, help them do so in a way that will offer experience along with guidance and supervision, appropriate for the age.