Travel

There are endless ways to explore the world: solo, with family, as a volunteer, or with a program. No doubt each method offers its own unique perks and setbacks. Having the opportunity to travel more independently with family and friends and with larger organizations like People to People Student Ambassadors and Global Visions International (GVI), I’ve experienced a bit of what these various types of travel have to offer. If you’re considering signing-up with a traveling program, hopefully this little list of pros and cons of traveling in large groups will help you make your decision!

Pros

  1. Meeting people from all over the world is ten times easier in an organized setting. When you think about it, everyone is likely there for the same purpose – to gain invaluable experience in a foreign location and build relationships – so you already have something in common! Many times programs have semi-organized free time or group activities that promote casual socializing. Afterwards you will hopefully have great friends to visit (and who will let you crash on their couches) in other countries!
  1. Access to special deals, promotions, and events are common perks as organizations usually have deals with popular tourist sites and great relationships with the local community. I’m talking private tours, discounted tickets, and behind-the-scenes information that you would never have known about had you traveled independently. When I went on a three week South Pacific tour with People to People the summer of 2011, all of us students had a chance to meet the mayor of Rotorua, New Zealand, and enjoyed a night dancing our hearts out on a boat overlooking the Sydney Opera House. Could we have done this on our own? Maybe, but definitely not for free like we did!
  1. You’re going to learn so much. Most large travel organizations have a platform, activity, or issue they are addressing through their program – it could be education, sports, poverty, hunger, health, politics, or cross-cultural understanding, just to name a few. The program I volunteered with through GVI was focused on education. Had I never participated, I would know nothing about injustices that exist in the South African primary school system. The entire experience opens eyes to issues you know little about or, like me, never knew existed.

Cons

  1. Early mornings are part of the packaged deal when traveling with a large group. Depending on the type of program you travel with, schedules vary slightly, but more than likely participants are required to follow a schedule that starts early in the morning. It’s not always terrible, but when jet lag combined with simple travel exhaustion are combined, waking up could be a struggle.
  1. Yes, there will be some people you don’t care for in your program. But the good news is, there are many other people to focus on and you will not be with them forever. You never know, after your travels you may even miss that one annoying personality.

There are so many positives than negatives that come from traveling with a larger group or organization. I dare you to give it a shot!

Image: Flickr

CultureEducationTravel

CHOOSING THE DESTINATION

With over 190 countries in the world and 50 states in America alone, how do you figure out where to travel to? How do you narrow down the choices let alone choose just one?

Although we live in a globalized world with phenomenally quick modes of transportation and travel guides in every language, the bottom line is that physical convenience does not equal financial accessibility. Traveling is still a very costly activity and must therefore be considered carefully. When it comes to spending, even the smallest details of a trip can make the difference – check out our tips for traveling on a budget.

Ultimately the biggest question still comes down to where you will be going and then building your plans around that decision. I have compiled the most useful information that helped me decide to travel when I had one week available to me this previous November while I was studying abroad in Denmark.

1)   Here at Carpe, we suggest that you aim high! Get a pen and paper out and write down all the places you want to go. Consider characteristics of places you would enjoy exploring. Maybe you want to visit somewhere with historical landmarks or sandy beaches. Perhaps you want to experience what sleeping in an igloo is like! Whatever strikes your fancy write it down! Follow the steps below to sort out what your most realistic options are. I knew that I wanted to go somewhere with a lot of museums and was accessible by public transportation. Those two key factors helped me narrow down my search to London and Paris.

2)   How will you be traveling? Consider the way you will be traveling and what you’re realistically able to afford and physically handle. If you live in the United States but and want to visit Australia, keep in mind that that trip is over 24 hours worth of flying. Don’t be afraid to look locally and consider what is just under your nose! Although I toyed with the idea of going to Turkey or even South America, ultimately I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford those plane tickets and that one week would not be enough time to explore any surrounding areas.

3)   How much time do you have? Are you taking a short getaway weekend trip or will this be an all-out excursion? Figure out how many days and nights you have, and don’t forget to factor in travel time and potential jet-lag. A few years ago I had the opportunity to travel to China to see family, but I did not realize that the time difference would cause me to be so tired! It took me about three days on each end of the trip to properly adjust to the new time zone. If you are doing a short trip I would suggest not going too far out of the same time zone, or you will lose exploration time to sleep.

4)   Consider your age. This may sound like an odd step, but take a second to think about your age in relation to the place you want to visit; if you are thinking about going to Las Vegas but are only fifteen, explore some other options and figure out how you can get the most experience out of your trip. If you have a very touristy city like New York on your list, keep in mind that because those are in metropolitan areas and therefore more handicap accessible, they might be better options for when you are older. Take advantage of the extra energy you have when you are younger and go somewhere that you can utilize that physical capability. On my independent trip, I got around almost entirely by walking and taking the metro. It was necessary for me to have the energy for multiple days of walking, but because of the solid infrastructure I could have taken cabs if necessary.

5)   Are you traveling in a group or independently? In our first Travel Series post we outline the importance of safety. It’s critical to take into account safety aspects whether you are in a group or alone. If you have never traveled alone before but are choosing to for the next adventure, consider going somewhere that is safe for a young person who is new to traveling. It also helps to visit somewhere that you know someone. When I travelled to London and Paris by myself I asked my friends via Facebook if they were also in those cities. It turned out that I have more than a few friends in both places who I was able to meet up with and explore the city with! If you are in a larger group maybe go somewhere more adventurous – you will have more people to keep on eye on the surroundings and belongings, and to help take care of each other.

Wherever you choose to go, I hope you have an awesome time! Traveling is a wonderful privilege and I hope some of this advice helps you narrow down your next travel destination!

Where are you going next? Let us know!