Reflections From My Summer As A Trip Leader Specialist with Summer Dreamers
By: Matthew Morris
Being just one school year away from graduation and taking my next step into the professional world, this summer was filled with new experiences and responsibilities. Prior to the summer I expected to be a photographer for Venture Outdoors but found myself training to become what Venture Outdoors calls a TLS, or Trip Leader Specialist. A Trip Leader Specialist is an outdoor guide who leads both youth and adult trips including, but not limited to, kayaking, hiking, fishing, cycling, and geocaching. Though I knew some of my assignments would be adult, I was mainly focused in youth.
Despite having experience with youth, this would be an entirely different situation than I had faced before. While coaching volleyball, I was extremely comfortable with my knowledge and skill, allowing me to serve as a guide and teacher easily. With the trips that Venture Outdoors would have me lead, the outdoor experience I had accumulated had been leisurely (unlike competitive volleyball), meaning I hadn’t been forced to think critically about the skills I had acquired. Though I was nervous, I found myself being more and more excited for the chance to teach children about the outdoor activities that I love and grew up with. With this, most of my nerves slipped away.
As a photographer on youth trips, it’s hard to focus on what goes on between the Trip Leaders and children. Most of the time is spent looking for the better angle and waiting for the opportune moment. I learned early on in my first trip (kayaking), that the relationship between Leader and participants was special. Many children have little experience with most outdoor activities, meaning they rely on the Trip Leader as a source of information, a guide, and a safety net.