Exploring the world as a teen

The greatest explorers in history were at least partly lost, some of the time. Columbus, in 1492, thought he'd discovered India. Finding a way through the Rockies was a matter of luck, for a long time. People kept looking for a non-existent North West Passage for decades.

Explorers are expert survivors. They survived their explorations, usually, and discovered the world.

Teenagers, however, have to explore schools, careers, jobs, staying alive, and having a life worth living.

teen explorer

That's a bit tougher than Columbus had it. He even had a sponsor prepared to pay for his journey half way around the world. Teenagers have difficulty affording to get out of the house.

Explorers have to be fitted out for their exploring. They need supplies, a base camp, and to be able to get from home base to their destination.

Exploring requires time, money, patience, and the ability to learn effectively.

Time, money and patience are hard to find, for teenagers, and the ability to learn at all, despite the education system, really takes some brains.

That's where the teenage explorer can go to work, with no resources at all: Brains. The brain can usually find its way through any problem, when it gets enough information to work with.

Exploring, as a problem, figures out as two basic questions:

What needs doing?

What doesn't need doing?

What needs doing?

The answer is always something practical, finding the most necessary stuff first, and pinning down the essentials of what you're trying to achieve.

What doesn't need doing?

This one question can save years of people's lives.

teen explore life

To get from A to B is one thing.

teen explore job search path

To get from A to B via C through Z, is another.

Exploring is about making decisions. If you simply want to be a lawyer, there's a set path for doing that. You can easily see what doesn't need to be done, and concentrate on your goal. Other people know what you need, too, so you're in the golf course part of the jungle. You still have to explore, but it's easier.

For other people, it's not so easy. They don't know where to start. It's hard to get to B if you don't know where A is.

The first decision for any explorer is what to explore. That's an essential.

So, what do you want to check out?

How do you make your decision?

In one word, the answer is preferences.

Everyone has a set of things they prefer to do, usually things they're good at, where they're sure of their abilities and likely to achieve something. Talents are a basic key to your explorations.

Everyone also has a set of things they really loathe, the things they'd never even consider doing as a joke, let alone explore in detail.

(In most cases, that's a really good guide to the things you should avoid, too. If your instincts hate it, so will you.)

This is where the decisions are actually critical.

All of this sounds simple. But if you've just committed yourself for the rest of your life to some career with an expensive and time consuming degree attached to it, that's no trivial choice.

Fortunately for the human race, the brain, believe it or not, prefers to try to get things right. The explorer also doesn't like walking off every cliff he finds.

(Well, most of them don't.)

Explorers soon learn to try to see a few moves ahead. What are the risks, what are the dangers, it's almost a reflex.

DANGER: Sidetracks

There's a further problem at this point in that many teenagers are given a set of options which really isn't what they want. They don't have the chance to explore properly, because they need money, they have to find work, wherever or whatever it is.

(Which is a colossal waste of human beings who could achieve far more by being able to do the things they're good at, rather than what's forced on them.)

So they get sidetracked, pretty early on, and to start exploring the things they want to do, they have to get back on the trail somehow.

If you're in this situation:

The advice here is Get yourself back on track ASAP.

Create some financial time and space for yourself, and start looking for what you want.

This world runs on money, not sanity.

You'll find that if you can cover your expenses, you get enough peace to do your exploring. It might involve extra work, but it could save you years of your life.

Don't allow yourself to get lost in the jungle.

The Explorer's Survival Kit

To explore anything, you need a few basic survival tools.

teen brain

There's an inventory:

  • A person.
  • A brain.
  • Skills.
  • Talents.
  • Qualifications.
  • Information systems.

A person.

This, despite many rumors, is a really useful asset. People are the emotional and rational pack animals that carry around the worries, the hopes, the thoughts and the feelings that provide the raw materials for everything else.

A brain.

Another very much underrated asset, (if it gets enough exercise), it can do a lot, and give the person a few clues. That helps, because experiments with clueless people have been pretty unanimous in finding that they don't know what they're doing, or why they're doing it. Rather oddly, humans are rationed to only one per person, which seems a bit unfair.


Every human being has a unique set of skills they learn. Nearly every human being doesn't make anywhere near enough use of them. They have to be sharpened, like tools, to keep their edge. Skills can become rusty, lost, or outdated. A bit of maintenance will keep them functional and useful.


Skills can be learned. Talents are the skills you're born with, the things at which you are naturally competent, or more than competent. Prodigies are talents which are recognized. Everyone has talents, like skills, but most don't get enough recognition.

What you're naturally good at doing really matters.

It's your best indicator of where you should be going.

Talented people are also good at teaching skills. That's a potentially invaluable asset, both to talented people, and to those they teach, so those skills aren't lost to the world. (It's actually a historical fact that a lot of science, for example, has had to be rediscovered, because the people with the talent to teach those skills didn't get to pass them on.)

Talents are also your own personal natural advantage.

You need every advantage you can get in the jungle, so don't allow your talents to molder away.


Qualifications are tools. Sometimes they're weapons.

They're how the Explorer provides for survival needs.

They also provide some of the navigation materials you'll need.

A lot is said about how necessary qualifications are, but the career angle isn't the whole story.

They're also portable tools. They apply across more than one career, usually, and you can use them as a way of getting other qualifications, and other career options. Good basic qualifications can take you anywhere.

Information systems.

Every explorer needs a constant stream of information.

You need to know more than navigation. You need to know what's happening on a daily basis, what to look out for, what you have and don't have. You need to know where you're going, what's in front of you, and what possible dangers there are in the area.

The information system for teenagers is comprised of:

  • Friendly natives
  • Unfriendly natives
  • Good sources
  • Bad sources
  • A phone which never turns off
  • An internet presence
  • Fellow explorers
  • Strange older people from another world
  • Parents, and other odd forms of furniture

If this gives you the impression that the teenage explorer tends to get a lot more information than required, you're almost right.

All information systems need to be appreciated for the types of information they give you.

Some quality control is required, but you can usually recognize good information because it tends to prove itself every step of the way.

Facts are like that, they can't actually contradict themselves.

It's the inconsistent information that's probably dangerous. If facts are few and theories are the main content, be wary. One way or another, you don't get enough real info, just spin and hype.

General rule: Check things out yourself, when it involves you. You don't have to settle for secondhand information, if you can avoid it.