This piece is the second in a 2023 summer series, “Trip Leader Tuesday,” that highlights the Trip Leaders who make Explore Austin’s programming possible
Henry Adamson can take the heat of the lowlands – they grew up in Florida, hiking its swamps and kayaking through the mangroves with their father. It wasn’t until they were 25 that they discovered climbing. They’d taken an outdoor-education job in Hong Kong, where their coworkers taught them outdoor climbing skills on their off days.
“I used to travel and work as an ecotourism guide, outdoor educator and wilderness-therapy leader in other countries and states, so when I settled in Austin, I was looking for a position I was familiar with and found Explore Austin,” explained Henry, adding: “I was drawn to the fact that Explore Austin combines the outdoor-recreation aspect with conservation education and social-emotional learning.”
An Explore Austin Trip Leader since 2021, Henry has since added mountain biking to their rolodex, which has become their favorite Saturday Challenge to lead Explorers and Mentors on because “there is a steep growth curve with the activity in as little as a day – from Explorers and Mentors who have never mountain biked before and are hesitant, to zipping through the trail by the end of the day and wanting to go again.”
Henry also leads canoeing and rock-climbing Saturday Challenges. Now, a couple years into their tenure, they can truly appreciate both the long-term nature of Explore Austin’s six-year program and its unique pairing of mentorship with free outdoor adventure experiences for kids who would otherwise not have access.
“The other companies and organizations I have worked for serve clients or students for short periods, from one day to a few months, at most. It is neat that through Explore Austin, one can observe an extended period of personal development in the community. The relationships that evolve between the Mentors and Explorers is also special because generally there is more of an instructor-student dynamic with outdoor programs, and Explore Austin’s approach is more holistic and interpersonal.”
Henry has taken inspiration from the Explorer-Mentor relationship and credits the Mentors of the Lost Boys and Adventure Seekers teams in particular with smoothing the trail for these deep bonds to form. Said Henry:
“They are both very supportive groups, which is a community culture facilitated by their Mentors. It is inspiring to see the Explorers hold each other up and empower one another. They also step up to tasks when something needs doing. It has impacted me as a Trip Leader because it is a reminder that Trip Leaders can also be an integral part of contributing to the culture and modeling leadership. All of the Mentors of the Adventure Seekers and the Lost Boys have advocated for their Explorers and made thoughtful decisions on behalf of the group. They inspire me to be a more conscientious leader.”
Although the great outdoors has been a major part of Henry’s life for as long as they can remember, what keeps them returning to Explore Austin as a Trip Leader is its people who live out the program’s mission of empowering young people from economically disadvantaged communities:
“I keep coming back because I enjoy leading with my coworkers, the activities we provide, and seeing familiar faces year after year. I also believe in Explore Austin’s mission, and there is no other organization like it in Austin.”