Smarties, I’m super excited for you to get to know Meredith Bower with Wilderness Adventures, CSP’s top pick for adventure travel! Meredith is a wealth of knowledge on all things outdoors. Today, she is sharing her experience and wisdom as a camper, a trip leader and now international regional director for all of us considering adventure travel trips for our tweens and teens!
Meredith hails from Charlottesville, VA where she was exposed to the wonders of the outdoor world at an early age. After graduating from the University of Maryland, College Park, Meredith started pursuing her passion of helping students discover the outdoors and care for the natural world. Meredith worked as a trip leader for Wilderness Adventures for three summers, and spent time teaching environmental and farm education in Alabama. She has now joined the leadership team as the International Regional Director, and could not be more excited. In her free time, Meredith loves to hike, cook, snowboard and travel!
Let’s get cozy with Meredith!
Tell us how you first got involved with WA.
My first experience with Wilderness Adventures was in 2007. That I received at WA catalog in the mail and spent hours perusing the pages; searching for my perfect adventure. When I came across the picture of the Tetons on the Jackson Hole Explorer program, my mind was made – I needed to hike in those mountains, camp in their shadows, and take in their beauty. In the summer of 2007, I attended my first WA trip as a shy, barely “outdoorsy”, thirteen-year-old girl, and I was hooked for the rest of my life.
What was your favorite memory of your first WA trip as a student?
My absolute favorite memory was the second to last night of my Jackson Hole Explorer trip. We had just finished our last backpacking section and were all so incredibly proud of ourselves for all we had accomplished. That night we made “backcountry thanksgiving” for dinner, played games, and we made a big campfire. We spent the evening reminiscing about the past three weeks, exchanging favorite moments and jokes, and sitting in awe of the fact that we had all only known each other three weeks. This group felt like family. We all set up our sleeping bags outside and fell asleep one last time in the cool mountain air, staring up at the most incredible night sky.
How did your experience as a student help you become a trip leader?
My experience as a WA student was absolutely life-changing. I arrived for my WA trip as a shy, 8th grade girl, who was nervous to state her opinions and try new things. I left my trip feeling like I could conquer the world and returned home with a new sense of confidence that I never dreamed possible. This trip helped me become the person I am today and opened up so many doors throughout my life.
My WA trip experience inspired me to want to help other kids find their confidence and become brighter more confident people in their everyday lives– people who can accomplish anything they put their mind to. All students are capable of this, some just need help in realizing and sharing what lies inside of them. I wanted to be a mentor for these students. I wanted to share with them the marvels of the outdoor world and how it can teach you about yourself.
What is the first thing you tell your students on Day 1 of the trip?
A quote I always share with my students on day one is, “Keep your face always towards the sunshine, and shadows will fall behind you.” On my trips, I love to inspire positivity in my students and create a space where everyone is comfortable being themselves. Whether you wear socks on your ears, feel shy around new groups, or are a star athlete, you are welcomed into our community with open arms. I want my students to understand that these trips (and also life) are what you make them, seeing the positives each day and working together through the challenges. It is all about keeping your face towards the sun (with sunscreen!), and finding growth and joy through adventure, friendship, and the outdoors.
What do you hope students gain from a WA trip?
I think that each student desires to gain something different from a trip, but there are a couple things I hope that every student walks away with. Firstly, I hope that every student gets the chance to step out of their comfort zone, and gains a new sense of confidence. I hope every student accomplishes something they never thought possible, and takes that sense of accomplishment home with them. Secondly, I hope that students have the chance to disconnect from their electronics and connect to the natural world. On every single one of our trips, students are exposed to some of the most beautiful places on our planet, and I hope they gain an appreciation for the environment surrounding them, and the teaching power of the outdoor world.
What is your favorite story from a WA trip?
It is so hard to choose, but I think my favorite moment occurred when I was a leader on our Hawaii Explorer program. It was summer 2016 and a hurricane had hit the islands. All of the beach campsites were closed, so we had to find a new solution on where to stay. Our group was relocated to a house near Volcanoes National Park. We hunkered down inside the house while the weather died down. That night, because we couldn’t drive or play outside, we had to get creative with our activities. My co-leader and I came up with the idea of having a “Wilderness Adventures Fashion Show”. The students must use only what they brought on their trip to fulfill the three categories: 1) Fancy Dinner Party, 2) Wacky Tacky, and 3) Wilderness Adventures Chic. Our students had us on the floor laughing with the outfits they came up with. From swim trunks on their head, to funny choreographed dances, they put on a real show! To this day it is one of my favorite memories from a trip, and I believe that is because it captured the essence of WA. No matter the conditions outside, or the event at hand, there is always a bright side, and your trip will be unique and memorable.
What tips do you have for Smarty Moms when they buy gear for an adventure trip? What’s your favorite piece of gear?
My first tip is to call the office! We have a whole team ready to help you and talk through the gear list. Our team has hand-selected items for our WA store that are the perfect WA backpack, sleeping bag, camping bowl, etc. We know our trips like the back of our hands, and we know exactly what will work best for each one.
My second tip is to buy well-made gear! Outdoor gear is made to last many years and investing in solid gear is one of the best decisions you can make. A backpack that will last you 15 years is a much better investment than one that will only last a summer.
My absolute favorite piece of gear is my backpack. I love how many adventures I have taken my pack on, the dirt stains, patched up holes, and memories from around the world. This pack has had my life in it so many times, and I cherish the memories we share together, and those yet to come!
What tips do you have for students in packing for an adventure trip?
Keep it light! Let every item you pack help get you excited for the adventure ahead. Your water bottle will be your new best friend, and your sleeping bag your new bed— love them both! In addition, bring only the necessities. A picture of your dog is a great thing to bring, but 5 pairs of shoes may be excessive. Our packing lists are fine-tuned to be the best possible combination of gear you’ll need, so follow this list to the T!
What tips do you have for students to mentally prepare for an adventure trip?
Don’t worry about finding your group- our leaders are well trained in finding you and have all the information necessary to get you where you need to be.
Don’t worry about being inexperienced- you are not the only one on your trip who has never been camping, and our leaders will teach you everything you need to know.
Don’t worry about missing your friends- they will be there when you get home, and you will make a whole new group of friends on your trip.
Don’t worry about sleeping outside- pretty soon, it will be the “norm” and sleeping inside will be hard!
Don’t worry about not having fun- that is what we DO, and we know how to make everything from laundry and grocery shopping to hiking and driving so much fun.
What is your favorite thing about Wilderness Adventures programs?
I have to pick just one?
I must say that above all of the adventure, the outside time, and the beautiful places we travel, is the people that surround you. From my first WA group as a student, to the group I now work with in the office—the WA community is unmatched. I have met some of my best friends through this community, as well as people who have inspired me and challenged me to grow into the best version of myself. I am so thankful for this community, and the people WA has brought into my life.
What is the biggest change you see in your students from Day 1 to the last day?
Honestly, every student is so different. I have seen so many students go through changes on my trips– shy students who have come out of their shell to become leaders of the group; students who didn’t believe they could finish our first day of hiking get to the end of the trail; students who didn’t know how to crack an egg, cook breakfast for the whole crew on the last day. Our students grow so much, but it always comes down to newfound confidence. Whether in a specific outdoor activity, their leadership skills, cooking a meal, making new friends, or stepping into the unknown, each student inevitably discovers a new bit of confidence in themselves.
What trips are you leading this summer?
This summer I will not be leading any trips! I have taken on the role of International and Hawaii Regional Director on the year-round Leadership Team. I will be providing full-time support for our staff out in the field, ready to help with any hiccups that may arise, and share in the experience from behind the scenes!
Smarties, you can always find Meredith and Wilderness Adventures at:
You can choose from 45 programs for the perfect experience in outdoor adventuring all over the world. Smarty Alert: We have an exclusive discount code just for CSP readers – Get $200 off any trip by using code “WA_CSP” at registration. Do something big this summer and go WILD with Wilderness Adventures!
Read here on why Team CSP is #allin with Wilderness Adventures!