Nervously shaking, they tightened the harness around their waist, looked up the steep face and took the first step into the unfamiliar territory that was once thought to be a distant goal, lead by an example. The amount of young travelers abroad is not only increasing, but also their willingness to branch out even further while traveling is becoming more of a common trend.
“Young people keep doing more and more dangerous activities for that feeling in the pit of your stomach that what you are doing is unsafe,” said Gavin Konstanzer, a student at Charles University. He has recently travelled to Konstantinovy Lazne Sept. 19 for a weekend excursion in which they jumped off cliffs into a quarry many feet below.
In addition to this, the group of students went on a grueling 8-mile hike to a castle through the Czech countryside. Whether it is working, studying, or participating in adventure sports, today’s travelers are eager to enrich their life beyond the point of simply touring.
Students in AAU’s Cultural Experiences Abroad (CEA) program have recently been offered an outdoors trip to Cesky Raj (Czech Paradise) Sept. 26 for a weekend excursion. This provided students with a sense of physical and mental enrichment, partaking in adventure activities that they may not have otherwise had the opportunity to experience.
“A trip involving the outdoors and physical activities where students have to work collaboratively not only requires that students step out of their comfort zone but it also fosters their team spirit and serves as a bonding experience,” Marketa Hypiusova, Senior Housing Advisor for CEA said. Activities included rock climbing, cliff rappelling, river rafting, and cave exploration.
“There’s something very satisfying about being in nature with a group of people you aren’t familiar with, preforming risky activities in which you have to rely on each other to achieve a common goal,” said Jay Ressler, a student at AAU from San Diego, California majoring in Environmental Engineering.
The first day, the group of 12 students rafted through the Jizera River in the rain for 12 kilometers, ducking under tree branches and navigating the rugged river. The second day, students hiked to a natural rock formation in the mountains of Mala Skala, a village in the Liberec Region of the Czech Republic.
Students were challenged by a series of different rock climbs in which professional guides assisted them by belaying the students while they carefully climbed up the steep rock walls. Belaying refers to a technique used by climbers to exert a certain amount of tension on the rope so the climber does not fall. Students were secured with a harness and a rope to ensue safety.
“Students were at first nervous by the sketchy conditions and seemingly high walls, but the humor by the guides eased everyone’s anxieties,” says Jack Sunderland, an Environmental Engineer from Vail, Colorado. By the end of the day everyone had successfully scaled a wall with their peers encouraging from down below.
Another adventure sport gaining popularity is River Surfing. The Alberta River Surfing Association (ARSA) started in 2005 by Neil Egsgard, Jeff Brooks, Chris Szampanski and Paul Barrett in Calgary, Canada. This Association was initially created to promote a supportive and stoke filled river surfing culture. In May 2006, ARSA launched RiverSurfing.ca as a simple forum for river surfers to share information about waves, gear, river safety, and board shaping.
The sport allows people from remote places that don’t have access to the beach to try out the surfing experience. “River surfing is incredibly accessible for a white water sport. If you can swim decently, have a safe wave and can get access to the gear you can try river surfing and be successful,” said Neil Egsgard.
Since 2005, ARSA has hosted 31 surfing events all over the world including Canada, Germany, United States, and Austria. In some cases the waves are not natural and need to be built from the ground up. “You have to figure out how to navigate your local government approval processes, figure out what type of waves are possible in your location, determine what building styles makes sense and raise the necessary funds,” said Egsgard.
Building a new wave in a river usually costs up to 100,000 USD. The wave Vlna pod Zamkem near Prague located in the town Brandys nad Labem on the Elbe river has been in development for a year now, and with the proper fundraising is promptly underway. A second wave is being built not to far from there and should be ready in about two years.
These waves range in different rapid class systems but that does not determine the quality of the wave, unfortunately. ARSA will continue to spread the stoke and encourage surfers and non-surfers to try this adventure sport all over the world.
Young people defined as 15 to 35 now represent 20 percent of world travelers according to a new study of youth and travel released by Amsterdam-based World Youth Student and Educational Travel Confederation. “The age demographic for young travelers is thought to be widening,” said Natalia Kavourimou of The Global Association for Youth Travel Accommodation.
The reason for this is as older people are traveling more like young people, less is more and cheaper is better. “Young travelers today want, more than ever, to enrich themselves with cultural experiences, to meet local people and to improve their employability when they return home,” says David Chapman, director general for the WYSE, quoted in a recent study The power of youth and travel.