Unearthed travel programs encourage teenagers to explore the world

Morgan Schaening is on a mission to give young adults opportunities to connect with each other, the world and—most importantly—themselves.

Written by Julia Horwitz

After living in a variety of locations from Madrid to Melbourne, Manhattan Beach native Morgan Schaening is returning to his roots and helping others expand theirs. With a shirt pushed up at the sleeves and a plan “to inspire young people to look beyond their own borders,” Morgan is starting a revolution of personal growth and global awareness.

In 2015, after years of working with Australian student travel organizations, Morgan created the adventure-based travel program Unearthed. With destinations from Nicaragua to Nepal, Unearthed revolves around three major principles: mindfulness, resilience and leadership. It offers student travel experiences led by expert facilitators and designed to be learning adventures.

Morgan’s journey to starting Unearthed was an adventure itself. A Mira Costa and University of San Diego graduate, he wavered between the worlds of hotel management, finance and sales. And while he found success in these areas, they were “all very unsatisfying and unfulfilling,” he says. The piece missing at that point in his life is what Unearthed strives to help young people find.

“High school students in general are unprepared for college,” Morgan explains. “It’s tough to expect them to be prepared when they don’t know enough about themselves and yet are asked to invest a lot into a field of study that they may not end up loving.”

For Morgan, it’s not about avoiding mistakes but getting the opportunity to experiment and make the mistakes that count. As he puts it, “Any time in life is a great time to figure out what your meaning is, but the earlier that happens, the better.”

Looking back, he reflects, “I credit my own success to all of those failed career paths that didn’t amount to what I was expecting them to be. I always say that it’s great to throw yourself into things.”

Ready to throw himself in a new direction, he thought back to his time studying abroad in Madrid. He remembers, “It was the first independent trip I had done. I had to fend for myself. It was eye-opening and life-changing in so many ways. It gave me a new perspective on who I was and where I came from, which was really exciting.”

With this experience in tow and a decision to work in the world of student travel, the first seeds of Unearthed were planted.

“Setting up this program has been incredibly challenging and overwhelming at times—but also really rewarding. My driving force is helping people; that’s what I want to achieve.”

Through a series of service and self-reflection activities, Morgan and Unearthed embody that driving force. “Tourism, as opposed to travel, is more of a passive experience. In the classroom, education can become passive in the same way,” says Morgan. By genuinely engaging with the communities that Unearthed travels to and creating a system of teachers and students learning from each other, Morgan is pushing against that passivity.

Currently he is building relationships with schools across the South Bay to bring these life-changing experiences to students. Ann Petit, director of experiential learning at Vistamar School in El Segundo, describes working with Morgan as “a partnership rather than a one-time event.” He is passionate about forming a network of adventure-loving educators and students, noting, “I really want to give back to the community that I am so grateful to have grown up in.”

To be a part of the adventure and find out more about Unearthed, visit unearthedtravel.com.

 

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