What Do Rite of Passage Journeys Look Like?

Dawn is rising and the Mescalero Apache Indians of New Mexico are already several days into one of their rite of passage journeys; this particular one to mark the transition of the community’s young girls into adulthood.

Adorned in traditional beaded buckskin clothing, a young 13-year-old Mescalero Apache girl is spending time with her medicine woman from whom she takes knowledge and learnings. As is expected of her, she does well to maintain a solemn and serious face, conveying little of the sense of excitement she feels within.

The smell of the community feast her family has helped prepare perfumes the air and teepees built by the men stand tall on the land. Drummers and dancers add to the ceremonious air of the occasion.

In the evening, she will join her fellow young women to participate in an all-night dancing vigil to demonstrate her commitment and endurance, before the elders will eventually approach and give her a new name.

After several more days, the rite of passage journey will come to an end, and the young women will be welcomed into their new roles within the community with honour.

Rite of Passage journeys around the world

Like the
Mescalero Apache Indians of New Mexico, young people from all over the world participate in rite of passage journeys to mark their transition into adulthood.

In Central and South America, young girls celebrate their fifteenth year with Quinceanera (which translates to ‘fifteenth year’). This period of celebration signifies their transition to becoming a mature and independent woman capable of making her own decisions. This rite of passage journey typically involves a Catholic mass and a fiesta with family and friends.

In Vanuatu, the land diving initiation into manhood is a common rite of passage journey for young men to mark the transition from childhood to manhood. With tree vines strapped around his ankles to prevent him from hitting the ground at full speed, the young boy dives off a 30-metre wooden tower. The boy’s mother watches on, holding a symbol of their son’s boyhood which they will ceremoniously throw away after the jump to symbolise their transition into adulthood.

There are many different ways communities from around the world approach rite of passage journeys to mark a young person’s transition into adulthood, but each one has something in common: the coming together of community to support their young people as they experience an important time in their lives.

A framework for rite of passage journeys

As the adult figures in their lives, parents and teachers are some of the most prominent role models and support networks within a young person’s community.

This sense of community and support is an important part of the rite of passage journeys we facilitate at AdventureWorks, and is vital to support young people’s wellbeing and help them to develop resilience and leadership skills, among others.

But community is just one part of what we encompass within our programs – alongside connection, storytelling, and discovery.

Fostering a sense of connection and safety

Our rite of passage journeys are generally conducted away from the young person’s everyday life to encourage a separation from routine, technology, and social norms, and create space for stillness and reflection. It is also an important time to connect with nature.

To welcome students into the journey, it is important to acknowledge that it is a safe place for personal development and an opportunity to build valuable life skills. Storytelling is used to share experiences and take knowledge from one another, and listen to others.

Understanding our inner strengths

Challenge is an important part of breaking through boundaries and self-imposed barriers that may be holding young people back from reaching their full potential. Through challenges presented during rite of passage journeys, young people are offered the opportunity to explore and test their limits and learn from both success and failure.

Soon they will start to discover and understand their unique gifts and talents, and observe and acknowledge the genius in others. With a better understanding of their personal strengths and potential, they can begin shaping a vision of who they are becoming, and how to approach future challenges and barriers they might experience.

The power of community

We have the ability to make a positive difference to the lives of those around us. When young people have a firm grasp on their strengths and capabilities, they learn to use their talents to give back to the community. Understanding service is an opportunity to channel what they know they’re capable of, for the greater good to help others.

Along each step of the way, the journey through rite of passage is always upheld and nurtured by community members. At the close of the journey, it is important for the community to acknowledge the journey and transition young people are experiencing, and offer opportunities for them to step up.

AdventureWorks Into Adulthood programs

Into Adulthood programs are aligned with a rite of passage framework, designed to give young people the space and support to safely challenge themselves and grow into their potential. They support:

  • Social and emotional learning
  • Development of resilience and mindset
  • Positive psychology
  • Leadership activation
  • Mentoring and role modelling

Programs are tailored to the Australian curriculum and the needs of each school we work with, giving students the opportunity to connect with themselves, nature, and community, and be ready for their future ahead.

Learn more about our rite of passage journeys, or get in touch to discuss how we can help you support your students to become responsible and resilient young adults.

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AdventureWorks and its team would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work and live and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging. AdventureWorks further pledge our commitment to increasing understanding and connection to Aboriginal Australians through the work we do with young Australians and as individuals.


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90a Commonage Road
+61 8 9796 1000

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