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Rites of Passage

One experience most young people don't get these days is a rite of passage, a challenge they must overcome that better prepares them for adulthood. As I listened to my two sons, ages 27 and 23, tell a friend about their recent traveling adventures in South America, I realized their trip was a sort of rite of passage.


There are several reasons why an experience like theirs is so transformative. First, they had to foot the entire bill on their own.  Having to earn your way and delay gratification for a year makes it more meaningful. It also necessitated them to be extremely frugal and creative.  They got free places to stay by 'couch surfing,'  finding these homes on websites.  They stayed in a lot of cheap hostels and also with new friends they made along the way.  They got their budget down to about $20 per day--not bad! 


They also had no set itinerary; they just winged it. There is something invaluable about taking risks and flying by the seat of your pants in a foreign country. They learned to trust themselves and to trust the process of life.  And they both came home with a sense that they can make anything happen out of nothing.  And they have earned a kind of confidence that no matter what obstacle comes their way, they believe they can handle it.


That is self-efficacy.  Like self esteem and motivation, it’s not a gift a parent can give a child; it has to be earned.  That self confidence will always be with them because it’s been internalized and because they own 100 percent of achieving it.


They also learned lessons about budgeting their money, resources and time.  Having traveled through eight countries, they learned to deal with a vast array of diverse people, another skill that will serve them well in any job. Too many young people today go right from high school to college, and then college to graduate school or a job. This doesn't leave them the time to gather their thoughts and soul-search questions like:  Who am I?  What is my purpose for being on this planet?  What do I want to accomplish in my lifetime?


They’ve been programmed to be busy and distracted, but not given the tools to look within and figure things out. That’s why an experience like traveling to foreign countries can be so valuable. It’s a chance to breathe, be totally independent, and to make things happen--a chance to regroup and recalibrate after years of sitting in classrooms.  It’s a chance to develop street smarts and the kind of confidence you can get only by living through challenging experiences.


Without this kind of rite of passage, young adults can feel lost and rudderless. Sound familiar?

Tim Jordan M.D. 2014

More Tip's by Dr. Tim Jordan

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