Boy Scouts “stole my soul … and planted it in the wilderness”


National Geographic Traveler contributing editor Boyd Matson has traveled the world to exotic locations, getting paid to write about his adventures to Nicaragua, Rome, Antarctica, and Bhutan—to name a few.

And who does he blame for his unquenchable thirst for adventure? The Boy Scouts.

In the latest edition of his monthly Traveler column, "I Blame the Boy Scouts," Matson explains the source of his passion for the outdoors

The Boy Scouts, he writes, "stole my soul when I was a kid and planted it in the wilderness. I was too young to resist their clever sales pitch built around hiking and camping trips. And their system of rewarding accomplishments with higher ranks and colorful merit badges meant, in effect, there was always one more goal to reach, one more mountain to climb."

Matson, an Eagle Scout, bases his latest column on his recent climb up Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro with his son. In recounting this adventure, he remembers another from 50 years ago when he, as a Boy Scout, climbed his first mountain: Signal Peak near Big Spring, Tex.

"Growing up 80 miles away in Midland, we were surrounded by a flat, featureless landscape. Seeing this monolith looming on the horizon 2,667 feet above sea level proved an irresistible temptation to us 12-, 13-, and 14-year-old boys out for a weekend of adventure and exploration," he writes.

He later explains how Scouting is a place for young men and women to experience some adversity, saying the outdoors "was our classroom for life lessons about facing challenges and learning that the best rewards sometimes require a little pain and suffering."

That's especially true in the digital age, Matson writes. 

"Kids spending their lives in front of computer screens may be missing those lessons," he writes. "Does a virtual world prepare them to handle adversity that has real life consequences?"

Check out the full column at the link above or in the November-December 2010 issue of Traveler.

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