It comes as no surprise to both parents and teens that adolescents and young adults crave taking risks and experimenting with boundaries. Risk-taking is central to building the skills and confidence that launch independent lives, helping to navigate from the dependency of childhood to the responsibility of adulthood. While the drive to do things independently away from their parents is part of a healthy and robust transformation, the challenge comes in protecting teens from risks with potentially harmful consequences.
Teenagers’ brain development takes place in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), eventually leading to mature self-regulation and high level “executive functions” like organization and decision-making. The PFC develops gradually during adolescence and continues right up through the mid twenties. It is during these years that “we learn how to navigate the world outside the safety of home, how to connect deeply with others and how to safely take risks” says Dr. Dan Siegel, author of BrainStorm, The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain. To support this process he urges parents to steer teens towards “positive risks”.
“Positive risks are any activities that encourage teens to think creatively, seek out novel experiences, push their physical limits, and expand their social circles—essentially to try things that cause that “butterflies-in-the-tummy” feeling. That feeling lets teens know that they are pushing their boundaries and expanding their minds, enabling them to develop vital new capacities that they can use to lead happier, healthier lives”.
Dr. Siegel calls this the ESSENCE of adolescence; ES stands for emotional spark, SE is social engagement, N is novelty and CE is creative expression. It is an easy leap to appreciate how travel experiences designed for teens and young adults can hit the sweet spot for “positive risk” activities, providing opportunity and support to chart a course for the adults they will become.
As we move into our middle and later adult years, our lives may no longer offer opportunities for “positive risks”, yet we still crave passion, social connection, novelty and creative expression. It may come as a surprise, but these same ESSENCE factors strongly influence continued physical and cognitive health and longevity. Once honed as skills enabling us to become independent, as adults they let us thrive and be healthy and independent across our lifespan. And they provide protective reserves if and when illness, injury, or personal crises arise, helping us remain resilient at every point in our adult lives.
The ESSENCE of adolescence is something you don’t ever have to let go of no matter what your age, but it does become something you need to do on purpose, as we all get busy with the demands of life. Just as for the young, one of the best ways to reclaim your essence throughout adulthood is to travel. Find ways to bring back your emotional spark, take risks, connect deeply with the world, seek out novelty, and experiment with your creative spirit.
Travelcations adventures can help you reclaim your essence. Join us in some the world’s most beautiful settings.
Siegel, Daniel J. (2013). Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain. New York, NY: Penguin Group (USA) LLC.