Group Travel: Recognition

Group Travel: Recognition

In light of my upcoming time in Greece with a group of 145 students, 11 other staff and myself, I’ve been thinking about what has made my past travel groups some of the best communities of which I have ever been a part.  The way we recognize the members of our community shows a lot about ourselves, and what we value. I’ve had some truly beautiful communities, like the Egypt and DR summer experiences, as well as the past spring’s Model NATO/Model Arab League travel teams.  I’m trying to draw from these good examples when I plan the activities and traditions I want to embed in this year’s N.U.in Greece program. At the end of our Benin trip, during our wonderful Memorial Day at a Lebanese hotel (read: a pool and American food) we had two great forms of recognition: superlatives and speeches.  The superlatives covered everything, from most afraid of bugs to to most prepared to most likely to eat cous cous again.  With write-ins and multiple winners, it was a laid-back way to reminisce.  After, we gave our speeches.  The day before, each of us had drawn a name out of a hat of someone else on the trip.  That night at dinner, starting randomly and following the chain of speeches back around, we each took a turn to rise and recognize the singular, spectacular achievements and contribution that person made to the group.  While this can be uncomfortable if the group stays sectioned off, it’s a nice way leave everyone feeling good about their time. When Esther was in Zambia, they passed a baton that had...

10 Tips for Group Travel Success

Group travel takes a lot of heat from travel bloggers, but it has been my specialty and I find it incredibly rewarding. Most of my foreign travel has been for at least four weeks, and with the same group of people. The groups have ranged from 8 to 30, and this fall I’m making a huge jump up to 145 students and 12 of us staff. Eeek! While I am definitely looking forward to some solo side-trips, I have also learned a thing (or ten!) about living, working, learning, and traveling with the same people day in and day out, and I’d love to share them with all those group travelers out there! Carve out some down time for yourself.  This is paramount. Whether it means reading on some evenings in instead of going out with the group, putting on headphones or napping during a bus ride, or getting up early for yoga or a run, you need your personal space to survive group travel. You will have plenty of time to get to know each other, but only limited sanity if you don’t keep up the hobbies and habits that maintain you as a person. It’s all about dosage.  You can be pleasant with anyone as long as you limit the duration and frequency of your actions. If you can tell someone will get on your nerves, do your best to separate yourselves (politely) when you can.  That way, when you don’t have a choice it won’t get to you as quickly. Become the master of the “loose tie” as Malcolm Gladwell puts it; be friends with some...

Group Travel: Reflection

Now that I’ve accepted a job leading a group of brave young travelers, I’ve been thinking back on my many, fabulous travel groups and what made them so great. Reflection is one of my favorite things, clearly.  I love writing, reading, thinking (blogging!) and discussing ad nauseum.  When I was in Egypt, the hours of conversation I shared with J9, Sheff, Iskandriyya, Goldilocks and others helped me grow exponentially.  It deepened my comprehension of Middle East and Egyptian culture, helped me work through my conflicted feelings of our daily experiences, and brought me to a better understanding of our own country.  Sharing my experiences out loud in a safe forum, while hearing from phenomenal, brilliant women whom I hope to emulate really made me get the most out of Egypt.  I honestly don’t think I would have learned as much or been as happy if it weren’t for those ladies and those conversations. It is conversations like those that are the basis for this blog.  Every time someone compliments the ideas here, I feel like that praise belongs equally to those aforementioned ladies, as well as to Marisa, Jordyn, Kate and Leif, to my roommates in Cuba, to the ballers that made up the DR Dialogue and to my capstone class, all of whom sparked great discussions and debates that I later share with all of you. I’m sure reflection is already a significant part of the N.U.in curriculum, especially considering there is a 1-credit course devoted to service-learning, introspection and their “Global Experience” as a whole.  However, I plan to make sure some of the best practices that...

We Are Family

Everyone is sad to go, for a variety of reasons.  Cairo is like home, and no one wants to go back to the real world, outside of our bubble.  But one of the biggest causes of sadness is that we have all gotten so close so quickly.  Massages, relentless teasing and snuggling en masse have become a regular part of our group culture.  We all have little nicknames (some more loving and adorable than others…) and almost all the roommates love each other.  I don’t know what I’m going to do when I’m not greated by 25 Great Americans every morning at breakfast.  I will miss Brendan’s goofy laugh, Sarah’s practical advice and Nana’s insanity.  There will be no more “anonymous” lovenotes from Meaghan, fake sermons by Khalid or constant freestyling from Ray.  I didn’t come here intending to find all these people who would become so important to me.  In fact, I didn’t think about the social aspect at all.  But I’m glad our ragtag bunch was the group I was lucky enough to join, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  So to my Dialogue family, (which includes a creepy, plastic anatomically correct new addition):  thank you, I love you, I’ll miss you.  I hope to see everyone at our welcome back hafla, and I’m so glad we’ve already started planning reunions.  You’re all welcome to stay with me at NU or in Reading any time, and I can’t wait to see how our friendships transition stateside.  Dennis Sullivan gave us some good advice: don’t think that you may never come back.  Just enjoy it and think about...

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