Home»Sports & Outdoor»Encouraging Self-Discovery in Youth: Inner Guide Expeditions

Encouraging Self-Discovery in Youth: Inner Guide Expeditions

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Youth bond over the fire, on the trail, and in the challenges they face in every expedition.

While second-hand experiences (you know, Facebook, Instagramaphone, etc.) are on the rise, there’s one place still dedicated to the first-hand experience: Inner Guide Expeditions is entering its sixth season of summer trips, taking kids and teens on outdoor adventures in the Pacific Northwest and even Europe.

“It’s really about working with teens and youth and the self-discovery aspect,” says co-founder and co-owner Kelly Shelstad. “Connecting one back to oneself in this age where we’re completely absorbed with our electronics. As youth are growing up there’s a certain aspect of a rite of passage or an edge that is missing. We’re coming from a place of wanting to reconnect them back into themselves.”

Shelstad founded Inner Guide Expeditions with husband Tom Shelstad, who has deep experience in education and the outdoors. Expeditions have involved traversing through Olympic National Park in Washington, backpacking and canoeing in the North Cascades, and creating councils comprised of youth to discuss and organize more outings.

“We have the adventure edge,” says Shelstad, “as well as them catering to more depth. That goes with circles every night around the camp fire. There’s a solo experience and basically one on one mentoring going on.” With children coming from all walks of life and different backgrounds, she speaks of an authentic “family feel” because they’re connecting with one another and the outdoors.

The reason behind focusing on children and adolescents, Shelstad shares, “That’s where we come and really resonate with that age group. We feel it’s the pivotal time where we become adults. In our culture it becomes missed or gone under the radar.” With that she speaks of an individuality that’s crucial to these young age groups, challenged by emotions and integrity. “If they learn these things now, as adults it’ll be a different place.”

When it comes to deciding on where certain trips will take place, it all revolves around the most beautiful places imaginable. An 8-day expedition takes youth to the Trinity Alps in California, just three hours from Ashland. Participants are provided with the necessary safety gear, transportation, and mentors to guide them throughout the trip. At the end of June, Tom and Kelly Shelstad will mentor youth while hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc in France, as well as visiting Italy, Switzerland, and Iceland. Participants will see geysers in Iceland, camp in alpine hostels, and spend 13 days hiking in some of the most beautiful places in the world.

Expeditions are tuition based, which covers transportation and gear costs, food, and the mentorships. Trips range anywhere from $1,920 to $7,500, with payment plans and scholarship opportunities available.

“Our curriculum is really in each moment and each group,” Shelstad says. “Each trip has a different flavor based on who shows up.”

When there are hiking expeditions going on, there is a Guide Council for high school and middle school girls and boys. Separated by gender, the goal is to reach a vulnerability within each group. “It’s really about having a consistent circle meeting twice a week or once a month, depending the age,” she says. Each group seeks to achieve a special community within it, learning to work and grow together. Family mediations are also offered, creating a different, yet just as strong, community with loved ones.


As for the future, Shelstad says, “We are watching and seeing where this is going to head. We really are just watching what’s the need and what has most juice in any given moment.” If direction is something she’s focusing on, it’s looking forward to the exciting expeditions and relationships to foster and create coming this year.

To learn more information about Inner Guide Expeditions and everything it offers, go to https://innerguideexpeditions.com.


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