Hearing the words “I’m bored” even after jam-packed schedule full of fun can be scary but is in fact perfectly normal.
It’s not abnormal to find it difficult to have fun in a new environment. Some people adapt immediately while others struggle to understand the possibilities available when trying something new. Change, although often exciting, can also provoke anxiety, fear and loneliness. Because of that, going into an unfamiliar environment can sometimes take some relearning when it comes to things you already know how to do, like for example, having fun.
In a wilderness context, “I am bored” isn’t always a direct translation of boredom. This isn’t to say that the students are lying, but it’s often a more complex emotion than what is being expressed verbally. Consider that “I am bored” could include any of the following sentiments as well:
- I’ve never done this before
- I’m scared
- I’m tired
- I feel sad
- I miss my family and friends
- I’m uncomfortable
- I’m hungry, thirsty and tired, and I have to pee
- This isn’t how I have fun in my daily life and I don’t see how it could work for me
These things are all quite understandable. And humans are, thankfully, all quite adaptable. So therefore the “I’m bored” statement is both understandable and adaptable. The important thing to note—no matter what perspective you’re coming from—is that not being bored in the wilderness is a learned skill. Whether the source of the feeling is fear, discomfort, homesickness, physical needs or straight-up boredom, it’s perfectly normal to not know how to cope right off the bat. Much like you need to learn how to start a fire in order to cook your food, students need to learn how to have fun in order to feel comfortable.
Like any skill we teach, we start by modeling it. This may not be a revelation, but teaching fun is still teaching. You model fun, you practice fun, and then you prompt students to have fun on their own. In other words, “I do it,” “You do it,” “We do it.”
Some fun skills we teach on a course are:
- Conversation starters
- Get to know you questions
- Wilderness cooking
- Looking on the bright side
Fun is an Important Part of Learning
Depending on the students’ ages and personalities, these can look radically different. It may look like helping the students find time to chat every day on their own, or teaching them a new sport and making time to play it. Whatever fun is for them, it may take a little bit of experimentation to find it. But once you do, practice makes perfect. Taking the time to practice fun during the day sends the message that it is important. And it truly is.
We teach fun on NWE courses because fun is an important part of learning. When you’re doing something challenging it’s not always fun right away. Fun is one of our most basic needs as humans, and ignoring the need for fun is ignoring an essential part of students’ learning. And, when combined with love, support, and clear instruction, can lead to higher levels of leadership, better communication and an overall more meaningful course outcome.