This article was written as a guest blog by our very own MD, Sam and published on the Scottish Transitions Forum website back in August. With international travel now becoming much easier and restrictions easing globally, we thought we’d share Sam’s words again. Travelling and the positive impact it can have on mental health and wellbeing cannot be underestimated but what about the other benefits? Take a seat, grab a cup of your favourite beverage and find out 5 reasons why travel can improve a young person’s transition to independence.
There are many reasons why travelling at a young age is desirable and why you should do it. If you are an autistic or learning-disabled young person, we think you should do it even more. These are our 5 reasons why travelling can not only be an adventure but a life-defining experience that will enhance your transition into adulthood.
You already know that we work with young, autistic and learning-disabled people aged 18-35, but did you also know that our young people love, love, love, travelling with us.
Someone once said ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ – never has this been more important. We know that sometimes life can be too difficult and overwhelming, we also know that when you are a young, disabled person, life can be even more challenging. After Covid-19, folk are nervous, they have been isolated, scared, anxious and left managing a wealth of mental health issues. The pandemic has left most of us feeling shaky and alone, our confidence is low, we ate too much, or too little, our hair is now a little ‘weird’ and all of our friends now live online.
Where did our hard-fought confidence go?
Getting your confidence back after a knock is going to take some resolve and a bit of a jump into the unknown. Our autistic young people hate surprises, so how do we do this? We asked them. A lot of them said they felt overwhelmed by the risks of becoming ill, unsure of what to do in different places and frightened of travelling alone. We know that travelling promotes happiness and helps you take your mind off stressful situations; This leads to lower cortisol levels, making you feel calmer, content and confident.
“Even though I’m always busy when I travel, whether it’s sightseeing, taking photos or just exploring a destination on foot, I know I’m the calmest and most relaxed when I travel,” says Jacintha Verdegaal, an avid traveller and founder of travel and lifestyle blog, Urban Pixxels.
Our young people have told us that they want to have independent adventures, experience other cultures, try new activities and mostly have a brilliant time with other like-minded young folks. Some come on – feel the fear and do it anyway, your confidence will soar.
2. Life Skills
In the past 18 months, we have lived day-to-day, unable to plan, unable to set anything but the smallest of goals, stuck in our pyjamas, eating wonderful pizza. Some of us, me included, forgot that fitness, motivation and life aims were actually a thing. We have all been in survival mode, but remember when we all had life skills? Some of us were well on our way to developing quite good ones and then, before we knew it, we even forgot how to speak to the dog.
So, getting back on track with your life skills is really important. Human interaction, organisation, making plans and having a future are all things we should be getting on with now. Travelling has always inspired ‘bucket lists’ and never has there been a better time to write yours. Experiential travelling, particularly to a foreign country, can help you re-evaluate and reinvent your life, opening your mind and body to different ideas, philosophies and new futures.
If you are a young disabled person, looking to lead an independent life, then right now you need to feel some success. You need to experiment to succeed. Come fly with us, you will be glad you did.
3. Social Skills
Do you remember how to start a conversation? How to tell someone their bum does look big in that dress? How to go on a date? We all came blinking out of lockdown like poorly socialised underground mole people. If you are also autistic, and communication is difficult for lots of other reasons, then you may need the practice.
“I think people, in general, are not meant to be tied down to just one place their entire lives. I especially feel “trapped” when I have to stay in the same place for too much time, without being able to really move about and explore,” says travel aficionado and co-founder of The Passport Memorandum, Marta Estevez.
Having ‘like-minded’ folk to talk to is one of the main reasons our young people enjoy travelling with us. It allows them to hang out with their peer group, folk who speak the same language, come from similar backgrounds and experience many of the same challenges. Positive peer relationships are integral to a good and well-developed sense of self. Travelling together gives us bonds that can last a lifetime. When you travel, you meet people of diverse backgrounds and experiences and every single one of them has the potential to play an important role in your life, whether that is a new best friend or your soul mate.
Pushing your feet into the dirt to feel the earth, dipping your toes in the ocean to feel the chill and experience the world. Push the boundaries, reinvent yourself, speak to foreign people, stay relevant and dynamic. Understanding your own emotions, managing your own stressors and looking after yourself is all a huge part of your own education.
How do I keep myself safe when I travel? Learning about the world outside of your own bubble makes you grow up, despite yourself. Learning a new language, even if it is just a few simple phrases, is exciting and opens communication. We think travel improves self-awareness and resilience through interaction and experience.
“If you allow it, travel has the ability to expand your mind in a way you never realized was possible,” says solo travel expert and founder of the Trusted Travel Girl, Valerie Wilson.
Travel makes your eyes light up – it is true you know! Travelling makes people happier because it makes you grow. We know because we all travel a lot. Your mind is stretched, your perceptions are challenged, and your perspectives change for the better. Your experiences can define your reality – what better way to shape your life than by experiencing all that the world has to offer? Once you go on your first trip, you’ll be hooked, and you’ll be better for it.
The best part of our adventures, ask any of our young people, is the banter!
“The Edge team are like our friends, they have as much fun as we do, and keep everyone laughing” DM
Laughter is strong medicine. It draws people together in ways that trigger healthy physical and emotional changes in the body. Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress.
The Method Behind the Madness
I set up Edge Adventures with the primary goal of enabling the 18-35 year old autistic and learning-disabled community to travel without limits and make new friends. A person-centred approach and inherent conviction there should be no limits to what young people could achieve have driven the organisation forward.
Initially, we started with Scottish-based adventures, day trips and week-long experiences; white water rafting in Perthshire, bushcraft at Duncarron, quad biking, mountain climbing and archery in Aviemore.
Now autistic and learning-disabled young folk can travel with their peers and meet new friends in amazing places. Now that you’ve finished reading about all the wonderful things travel does to your brain, it’s time to pack your bags and get going!
Where will your next adventure take you?
Get in touch
If you want to chat through any of our adventures, international or otherwise, please get in touch and our team will be happy to chat through any questions you might have. Click the Contact Us link below or give us a call on 0131 285 8930.
Check out the Scottish Transitions Forum for a wealth of information and resources.