Backpacking Spirit Reloaded

In less than a year, I found myself back in Tokyo for another adventure. This trip was far from indulgence and relaxation, but was satisfying. I had the opportunity to accompany 12 teenagers, led by Leeminghay on Youth Square’s “Backpacker Challenge”. These 12 teenagers all had 1 thing in common; none of them had ever traveled. With only 3 workshops before departure, Leeminghay asked these teens to develop an itinerary and stick to a very rigid budget. Throughout the 8 nights we spent in Japan, the teenagers took turns leading, planning and managing the funds and the entire group.

I was there to be a female presence and help the kids with any issues that would arise, such as if they were sick or hurt, dealing with homesickness, or even low morale. Maybe it had been a long time since I was around teenagers and I have fell out of touch with today’s youth, but 12 hours into the trip, I was utterly impressed by these kids.

Each day they set the bar high. They had their difficulties, made mistakes, learned many lessons and never once complained. The first day, the kids were asked to invite strangers for a picnic lunch in Yoyogi Park. To my surprise, within 20 minutes, we had a full blown party! One of the boys that were unsuccessful at bringing a guest to the picnic got a second wind and went off in search again. He eventually found the life of the party; a funny Japanese guy with a guitar. These kids didn’t shy away from any challenge presented to them. Two of the girls in the group only just learned how to ride a bicycle just before the trip. During the cycling day, these girls smacked the pavement hard, got dragged against a stone wall, fell in a ditch; they were banged up and cut up and never lost their smiles, never gave up and not a single tear fell from either of them.

I had been saying over the past few years that today’s youth are very sheltered and soft compared to previous generations. These 12 teenagers proved me wrong during our time in Japan. I was the one getting soft and sheltered the older I get. After the experience these teenagers gave me, I have more tenacity to keep myself adventuresome and strong willed.

(Article from Clip Magazine #39:



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