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Washington State University Extension

Frequently Asked Questions

Billy outside overlooking a lake

Will I be safe?

Safety is our primary concern in 4-H Youth Rite of Passage and in 30 years of doing this work at the School of Lost Borders there have been no serious accidents.  Participants are screened through a lengthy interview process, both before leaving home and at the site prior to their solo.  Accommodations for differences in preparation and ability are made so that the solo best suits each participant’s needs.  Two guides are always available at base camp for personal attention.  Ample preparation occurs in advance to assess and address health and safety needs and risk.

Is there communication in the event of an emergency?

We have a cell phone in base camp in case of emergencies. The emergency numbers will be provided to registered participants. However, we do not encourage the use of cell phones during the experience.

Why are three “taboos” part of a Rite of Passage?

The three taboos are no food, no company and minimal shelter.  These taboos have become a tradition in modern day rites of passage.  Going without food is an ancient, pan-cultural tradition that allows one to focus attention on the matters at hand.  Ample water is provided to ensure safety but food is discouraged.  Throughout history, traditional Rites of Passage have required youth to go alone into the wilderness to claim their place as adults.  In being alone you receive the gift of confronting and exploring your true self.  Minimal shelter puts one in direct contact with nature while challenging the individual to keep themselves safe.

What if I want to come back early?

Participants may return early for a variety of reasons.  They will meet with a guide for a consultation to help them successfully finish their initiation.

What if I would like my child(ren) to do this, but they don’t want to?

This experience is most effective when the initiate has a personal investment and a desire to be there.  It is safer and much more powerful for an adolescent to arrive on their own accord.  As in all challenge programs, the Rite of Passage is “challenge by choice”; therefore we only welcome youth who come to this important ceremony by their own choice.

If I send my teen out on this, will he/she return as a more mature adult?

While it is nice to dream about your child returning with fewer “teenager” qualities, it is important to remember that becoming a responsible adult is a multi-year process.  The Rite of Passage can have positive, life-altering effects for participants, but the best thing a parent can do when their child comes home is to support them where they are, affirm what they have accomplished (i.e., the enormous courage it takes to go alone into the wilderness without food and shelter for 3 days and nights) and also affirm the difficult challenge of entering the beginning stages of adulthood. See “A Note to Family and Friends” in the Rite of Passage Youth Handbook.

Can couples participate together?

Yes, we have had couples take the training together, however, remember that the solo time is meant to be done alone.

Can I bring my dog?

No. Although dogs are great companions, they tend to be a distraction to this intense training.