Tioman With Teens

Last year I went to Taiwan with teens, and this year I was lucky enough to go to Tioman Island, Malaysia, with a group of my 9th grade students. It was a week long outdoors extravaganza of jungle trekking, turtle conservation, scuba diving, mangrove kayaking, organic farming, snorkeling, and beach parties.

The students loved snorkeling in the pristine waters

With my students cooling off after a long hike
(I'm the overexcited one on the end)

Traveling with teens can be frustrating sometimes. They have to come first, so even if you quietly spot a turtle swimming off in the distance, you can't blame them for shouting and pointing and driving it away. If you find a ukulele or a dog to pet or spot a monkey nearby, they too will be enthused and likely take over your finding and drive it away with their infectious enthusiasm (aka ruckus). Being asked for a band-aid for every single little bug bite or boo boo might wear down even the most resilient teacher.

We really did push them out of their comfort zones

Lots of games to keep them on their toes

But the pros far outweigh the cons. Being with kids and getting to watch them experience the jungle for the first time, or helping a student adjust their scuba regulator before a reef dive brings a special joy to the activity. It reminds me of the first time I did those things- camping in the woods as a Girl Scout, kayaking down back waterways around the Amazon, or even going on a road trip to Busch Gardens without my parents for the first time with my friends.

The student excitement when they saw our 
mode of transport was out of control

Our kids were down for anything-
including yoga on the beach

Cheering on students as they jumped off a tall jetty

Relationships are super important when traveling with teenagers. We were able to kick back a bit more than in the classroom, where discipline might be enforced more strongly. The students did try to toe the line in little ways, like dropping curse words, but overall I think they knew that we were making their safety a first priority, so there really weren't any major issues.

Performing in the camp talent show with one of the local guides

Hanging around the campfire with another chaperone

This trip to Tioman reminded me of what I will be losing by leaving Hong Kong- the most amazing group of students ever. The kids on this trip were incredible- they were so kind and supportive of each other, respectful towards local customs, and inclusive of anyone who felt like an outsider. I know I certainly wasn't the most upstanding citizen at that age, but I really believe that my students are good people. The best people, in fact. A trip like this would not have been possible with my students in Ecuador because they would have run amok and eaten us alive. Once again I remembered that Hong Kong parents must be doing something right.

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