The Traveling Advisor http://www.thetravelingadvisor.com Fri, 02 Dec 2016 04:44:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.10 Dear X, You Changed My Life http://www.thetravelingadvisor.com/2014/02/23/dear-x-you-changed-my-life/ Mon, 24 Feb 2014 00:29:17 +0000 http://www.thetravelingadvisor.com/?p=3406 This is an open letter to people I met through my study, volunteer, and work experiences across more than a dozen countries over the last decade. These individuals impacted me in a profound way but will likely never know it.

Statue in Sligo, Ireland

Dear …

Joel,

We sat down on overturned buckets in a slum on the outskirts of Lima, Peru and talked for a few hours. I was 17 and I thought I had something to say to you about truth and life. You did not correct me. Instead, you created a crack in my worldview by sharing your story and asking me thoughtful questions.

Years later, I finally understood that my ignorance, arrogance, and good intentions blinded me to reality. I have never forgotten.

Zappallal, Peru

Zachary,

I read your interview in the university newspaper as the first openly gay student president at the University of South Carolina. I kept that article for some time and thought about it for years. You were clear, unapologetic, and gracious towards those who mistreated you the most.

We never even spoke, but you demonstrated to me leadership, acceptance, and forgiveness.

Professor Theophanous,

I took your class on my study abroad program because I wanted to learn about Cyprus, not because it counted towards my degree. By encouraging civil discussion every week in class and challenging our notions of nationality, identity, and history, you sparked my interest in politics and international relations.

Your class was largely responsible for my pursuit of a master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies on a different divided island years later.

Nicosia, Cyprus

Quote on a Wall in Belfast

Sophie,

You called every hotel and hostel in Salzburg late one night out of concern for me and another US backpacker without a place to stay. When there were no more rooms in the whole city, you tracked us down in the streets and invited us to come stay with you and your son. The time the four of us spent together was stranger than fiction and I’ve been telling the story of those 3 days and nights to the delight and disbelief of friends and family every since.

You provided me with food and shelter and reminded me to be open to the unexpected.

Dinner Table and Hostess in Salzburg, Austria

Michael and Jacob

Fayez,

I was nervous when the International Office paired us together as language partners my senior year in college. You were from Saudi Arabia and I thought your motivations for meeting with me might eventually extend beyond practicing English.

I learned that gender, nationality, and culture don’t trump the simple respect, kindness, and openness that are the core of any relationship.

Luz,

After years of writing letters to each other, I never expected to meet you in your one-room home in the Dominican Republic. During my brief visit, you told me about the games you played with your friends and proudly sang me a song. You seemed happy, childish, and full of life. I knew that you would probably never have the same educational and mobility opportunities as me, however, I was not prepared to receive a call several years later from the nonprofit agency telling me that you were married at 13 and no longer in the child sponsorship program. I was beyond rage and grief when in the same breath, the agency worker asked me if I would like to sponsor another child– as if this were a simple transactional matter.

I am not done being angry about structural violence and I am not done learning the things that your story and our encounters are still teaching me.

Uncle Billy,

When I met you, we were volunteering together in Mississippi right after Hurricane Katrina. A small group of us drove a food truck into one of the hardest hit areas and watched as people waited silently in their grief and devastation for us to give them food. You held up a pair of giant whitey-tighty underwear in line and asked if anyone had lost them. You asked people to dance the cha-cha, as an 80 year old.

Somehow, you made the people laugh and remember that they still could. On the drive back to our camp, you told me about how you had been volunteering with Rotary all over the world for decades. You told me to apply for a Rotary scholarship someday and I did several years later. It resulted in a master’s degree in Northern Ireland, joining the Rotary community, and the start of many life-long relationships.

You helped me understand why service to others is important, no matter your age.

Looking out on the Lough Swilly, Donegal, Ireland

To Joel, Zachery, Professor Theophanus, Sophie, Fayez, Luz, Uncle Billy, and so many more, thank you.

You changed my life.

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Travel Every Day: A Joie de Vivre Approach to Life http://www.thetravelingadvisor.com/2014/02/07/travel-every-day-joie-de-vivre-life/ Sat, 08 Feb 2014 03:55:31 +0000 http://www.thetravelingadvisor.com/?p=3361  

What most people really desire is something quite different from industrial gimmickry- liberty, spontaneity, nakedness, mystery, wildness, wilderness.  Edward Abbey

When we were kids, life was an adventure.

We examined bugs, fought off ‘evil’ with made-up super powers, and thought little of consequences. Gradually, society taught us how to cope with boredom rather than cultivate curiosity. We internalized that the ‘real world’ would be a duty rather than a delight– and then we perpetuated this narrative.

Eventually, we bought into the idea that success means comfort and stability rather than a raucous ride into the unknown.

When we realized we lost our way, some of us burrowed deeper into a job or career, got married, had kids, or traveled the world. We constructed our identities as ‘expert’, ‘spouse’, ‘parent’ or ‘traveler’ and fortified them with online social masks.

We forgot that the world is a wild kingdom to be explored.

Streets of Paris

It is nearly close at an empty Mexican restaurant on Colfax Avenue on a cold Thursday night.  Stories on travels and lessons from the road are being exchanged in between bites of huevos rancheros and cursory conversation with the server. 

Out of nowhere, he says four words that stop me dead in my tracks.

I travel every day.

He isn’t referring to a daily commute. He is telling me that every day is an adventure. Twenty minutes of conversation distills into a profound mantra. 

top of kyrenia castle

So how do we recover and reclaim our joie de vivre? 

Let’s look to travel to teach us how the present moment is rich with opportunity. The folks at Travel Go Girl offer this sage advice in this blog entitled Be A Girl Who Travels [modified] :

Get excited about a 10 hour bus ride and look forward to the scenery and people watching…

Sleep on airport floors or metal picnic tables, because you know a little discomfort is worth the adventure ahead.

Know how to entertain yourself – with a good book, your thoughts, or even just a changing view outside the bus window.

Does this approach really translate into cotidian routine? Look at a petal-strewn path or dewy blades of grass as artwork. Imagine a toxic co-worker is a tragic character from a novel. Approach your partner with the intent to uncover his or her layers of mystery.

Petal Strewn Path, 3rd & Verbeke, Harrisburg, PA

Dew in the Grass

Can we really activate and sustain curiosity throughout the day?

I created an Instagram account today to document my response to this question  (yes, I’m not what you’d call an ‘early adopter’ on this front).

Every day for the next month, I’m going to capture at least one spontaneous moment that speaks to me as I go about my normal day and give it the hashtag #traveleveryday. The idea is to simply notice what is around me in the same way I absorb my surroundings while traveling.

Feel free to join my experiment (#traveleveryday)!

Thanks to Bruce Akens Dotterer for providing this inspiration. Follow his adventures and join an outdoor mission for good at mystompinground.

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Finding Art & Beauty In an Unexpected Place http://www.thetravelingadvisor.com/2014/01/13/finding-art-beauty-in-an-unexpected-place/ Tue, 14 Jan 2014 00:36:10 +0000 http://www.thetravelingadvisor.com/?p=3349
This is a guest post by British travel writer Gaby Lucius. Read her bio below!

It was late June and the summer doldrums had me bored and restless. My freelance work had slowed and if I hadn’t been so damn hot, I would have been bouncing off the walls.

“Why don’t we go to Vegas?” my husband proposed after work one day.

“Vegas? What the hell, Mike? Can’t you come up with something slightly more inventive?” The thing is, when I get hot, I get grumpy. The thought of going someplace decidedly hotter than Portland was not appealing.

From the first day of our married life, Mike and I had been working hard to see the most beautiful parts of the world. We’d been to Singapore, Cambodia, France, Belgium, Russia…I could go on and on. We’d enjoyed home cooked meals with local families, hiked through humid jungles and thoroughly explored ancient temples. We made a point to avoid the tourist traps like the plague.

And here he was asking me if I wanted to go to Vegas.

“Come on!” he said, “We’re young. We’re supposed to be spontaneous and stupid. Let’s just pack a suitcase and hop the next flight to Vegas.”

I stared at him pointedly.

“And do what? Stand in front of the fountains at the Bellagio while flashing a peace sign at the camera?”

“Quit being such a travel snob!” he snapped at me. “Let go and do something touristy for once in your life.”

I thought about it for a while. Had I become a travel snob? I remember having scoffed once at a friend for eating at a McDonald’s in Japan, but she had countered that it was an experience to remember. I didn’t want to be one of those high and mighty people that thought my sophisticated view of the world made me better than everyone else.

And I was insanely bored.

I told Mike to make the reservations and I began to pack.

Fiore de Como

Despite my original snark, we ended up staying at the Bellagio — and the fountains really are lovely.While checking in, I was overtaken by the beauty of Dale Chihuly’s “Fiori di Como”, a gorgeous glass chandelier piece set into the lobby ceiling.

“They have a lot of gorgeous art spread throughout the hotel and casino,” my husband pointed out.

“They even have a gallery of fine art. Wanna check it out?”

I nodded enthusiastically. If there’s one thing I never turn down, it’s a trip to any kind of museum.

warhol

As we approached the gallery, my enthusiasm tripled. We’d managed to time our first trip to Vegas during the Bellagio’s “Warhol Out West” exhibit.

We happily paid the $16 entrance fee and put on our headphones to listen to the audio tour as we wandered through the small exhibit. There were 56 pieces in the gallery, including some of his most iconic works — think Campbell’s Soup and Liz Taylor — as well as some rarely seen pieces of the “Cowboys and Indians” series.

We left the gallery high on art appreciation and jonesing for more. After a quick internet search, we decided our next stop would be the Venetian Hotel & Casino, which was featuring an exhibition of National Geographic’s 50 greatest photographs.

National Geographic Photo of Afghani Woman

To say I was moved might be a slight understatement. Seeing National Geographic’s most recognizable and celebrated photographs and hearing the story behind them was incredibly poignant.

While viewing these incredible photos, I began to wonder what pieces of contemporary photography would be remembered in years to come. I was at a loss.

Are future generations really going to be fascinated by photos documenting Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy or would they rather see scenes of war, despair, hope and beauty that really speak of what the world was like in the early 21st century?

Our trip through the Imagine Exhibitions Gallery ended and we flew off into the night to spend time doing the touristy things Mike had requested. While waiting in a line for the Big Apple coaster at the New York New York, a nice woman from Idaho suggested we make time for a trip to the Neon Museum the next morning.

“If you’re into art, it’ll be right up your alley!” the cheerful brunette exclaimed.

I couldn’t resist.

Neon Museum Las Vegas

The Neon Museum is both extraordinarily artistic and quintessentially Vegas. Walking through the boneyard in the blistering sun was uncomfortable as there was little shade to be found, but I was so captivated by the timeworn signage that I didn’t care if I burnt to a crisp.

As if peeling back the layers of Las Vegas’s tumultuous past through the exploration of antique signs wasn’t enough, we were also treated to the history of neon sign making. Mike was so blown away by the haunting beauty of the boneyard, he asked me if we could move to Vegas.

I told him there was no way in hell.

We left for home the next morning, and as the gentle hum of the airplane lulled me into a state of unconsciousness, I realized I had thoroughly enjoyed our trip. In the face of my prejudices against the tourist mecca that is Las Vegas, I found beauty in art. More importantly, by letting go of my worldly views and locavore attitude, I found the fun loving girl I used to be.

It was nice to see her again.

Gaby Lucius is a freelance writer. When she’s not traveling the world, she loves attempting tricky Pinterest crafts. She doesn’t enjoy the inevitable failure that follows.

 

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So Long 2013! You Kicked Me Right in the Pants and for that, I Thank You. http://www.thetravelingadvisor.com/2013/12/30/2013-the-best-worst-year/ Tue, 31 Dec 2013 00:27:34 +0000 http://www.thetravelingadvisor.com/?p=3316

2013 gave me two choices– expand or break. It was an exhilarating, frustrating, exhausting year and I’ve never grown so quickly personally or professionally in just 365 days. I lived in four different states, become co-founder of a startup company, and made Boulder, CO home. Here are the highlights!

Living in 4 Different States.

For the better part of 2013 I didn’t know where I lived, at least, I didn’t where my ‘real’ home was. It’s a struggle for all nomadic souls.

Chicago, Illinois

In early 2013, I packed my bags and headed to the Windy City to work with the Project Travel team for 8 weeks.

View of North Chicago from the John Hancock Building

North Chicago from the John Hancock Building

I fell in love with Chicago’s architecture, L Train, museums, and big-city bustle. I realized, however, that I wouldn’t ever choose to live in a big city long-term. After years questioning whether or not I could hack it in Manhattan, London, or Chicago the answer was right there in front of me–I need quiet, natural and untamed spaces, trails, sea or rock faces nearby. It’s a non-negotiable.

Stained Glass Tiffany Dome at the Chicago Cultural Center

Stained Glass Tiffany Dome at the Chicago Cultural Center

I lived with 5 dudes and one girl and they all were either Ruby on Rails developers or graphic designers. Next to them, I looked like a grandma learning how to ‘navigate the interwebs’. We had a lot of laughs, I learned what terms like ‘full stack’ meant, and I finally agreed to watch Game of Thrones…and I now want a dire wolf.

View of Chicago Skyline from Rooftop

A Normal Workday in Chicago

 Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

The capital city of Harrisburg hosts the annual Pennsylvania Farm Show and I revived a life-long family tradition in 2013 by going with my little sister. If you go you to the PA Farm Show you will come out smelling like poop, but where else can you see a 2,000 pound butter sculpture or watch a contest to see who can sheer a sheep, spin it’s wool into yarn, and knit a shawl the fastest? I love the Farm Show. Listen, you can take the girl out of Pennsylvania, but you can’t quite take the Pennsylvania out of the girl!

Girl with Cow at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Harrisburg, PA

The Pennsylvania Farm Show Harrisburg, PA

A festival on State Street in Harrisburg, PA

A festival on State Street in PA’s Capital City

In spring 2013,  I committed to living in PA for an unspecified period of time, signed a one-year lease, and planted a modest garden. Days later, I got a phone call from my business partner and by the end of our 5 minute conversation, I was moving to Northern Michigan for the summer. So much for my big epiphany! I had to remember that letting my expectations go meant giving myself the ability to see unplanned opportunity. 

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: View from the Susquehanna River

View of Harrisburg from the Susquehanna River

Harrisburg is (quite literally) falling apart, but living in the city proper changed my perspective. In just a short period of time, I found a real community, a burgeoning underground arts scene, and idyllic sunset walks and bike rides by the Susquehanna River.

Petal Strewn Path, 3rd & Verbeke, Harrisburg, PA

Petal Strewn Path, 3rd & Verbeke, Harrisburg, PA

Harrisburg showed me that the forgotten cities of America are diamonds in the rough. Meaningful community and interesting life experiences can be found anywhere.

Harbor Springs, Michigan

I had never been to Michigan before and had 6 days to find a place to live in a summer vacation town of 5,000 during peak season. Project Travel was invited to join a ‘startup accelerator’ program in Harbor Springs two weeks late because another team dropped. I didn’t even know what an accelerator program was but I soon find out that it would be one of the most intense and rewarding 8 weeks of my life.

Harbor Springs

Harbor Springs

Coolhouse Labs on July 4th in Harbor Springs, Michigan

Coolhouse Labs on July 4th

My business partner and I represented one of five teams at Coolhouse Labs. The mantra for startup accelerators is fail fast. Seriously. The idea is that you work out all the crappy half-baked ideas and solutions within the context of a mentorship network, co-working space, and business training. Thankfully, I could take a walk by the harbor (below) when ‘failing fast’ became too disappointing, overwhelming, or frustrating.

Harbor Springs, Michigan

Harbor Springs, Michigan

Smitten with the Mitten T-Shirt

Smitten with the Mitten

In the end, I was surrounded by interesting, curious, and intelligent people who wanted me to succeed. In spite of the typical 6 or 7 day work week, I managed a few summer adventures in ‘the Mitten’, which included watching a meteor shower from a Dark Sky park, living with a host family, and catching a 22 lb. King Salmon from Lake Michigan.

Startup Life with Project Travel

A more seasoned entrepreneur once told me that startup life is a “roller-coaster ride”. He was dead on. Starting a company is like becoming a parent for the first time. It is exciting, painful, confusing, and scary. Everyone you talk to will have a very strong (and usually opposing) viewpoint about how you should go about it.

Coolhouse Labs Harbor Springs

Coolhouse Labs

Project Travel at a Tech Cocktail Event at Denver Startup Week

Project Travel at a Tech Cocktail Event at Denver Startup Week

Becoming a co-founder with Project Travel this year has taught me more about business, people, and myself than I thought possible. 2013 was the year Project Travel launched a public website, had a major shift in the core team, and expanded our vision to become more than a fundraising site for educational travelers. 2014 will be a year to see the next phase of our idea take flight. In September, Jen and I also decided to move Project Travel to Boulder, Colorado to make it happen.

Home (Boulder, Colorado)

I packed up a Chevy pickup truck, Jen flew into Harrisburg, and together we drove more than 1,600 miles from Pennsylvania to Colorado. I have not been in one place for more than 12 weeks since early 2012. This move signifies a new chapter in my life, one in which I welcome the formation of habits and routines, relish the simple and even the mundane, and plant roots for myself personally and professionally.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Red Rocks in Boulder, Colorado

Red Rocks in Boulder, Colorado

I feel like I can have it all in Boulder…wilderness at my doorstep, a vibrant startup community, interesting and well-traveled folks, good coffee, craft beer, and even salsa dancing! To top it off, I have friends from New York, Florida, Northern Ireland, Michigan, and Pennsylvania who also decided to move to Colorado. I landed in the right place and I’m relieved to call Boulder home, for 2014 and even beyond.

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Making the Most of Teaching English in Thailand http://www.thetravelingadvisor.com/2013/12/11/making-the-most-of-teaching-english-in-thailand/ Wed, 11 Dec 2013 18:32:40 +0000 http://www.thetravelingadvisor.com/?p=3279
This is a guest post by Robert Oakden. See his profile below!

Congratulations on deciding to explore the world! Thailand is a truly stunning country, with a fascinating culture and friendly population – not to mention the weather. In fact, we’re starting to get a little jealous of your adventure – can we come too?

Spending a year teaching abroad isn’t the same simply traveling. There are similar perks, but being a TEFL teacher is a job and possibly the start of a career. So before you pack us into your suitcase, here are some tips on how to make the most of your time teaching abroad.

Thailand by McKay Savage via Wikimedia Commons

Get qualified

Strictly speaking, it is possible to get a teaching job without a certification, however, a TEFL qualification is a fantastic way to learn the trade and it will certainly make getting a position easier. There are plenty of online courses to choose from that you can complete in your own time over the course of around six months, or you can opt to complete an intensive face-to-face course.

Another option is to complete an internship where you learn on the job – this can offer great security and support, as well as accommodation. Plus, it means that you can go straight to the job site and start doing what you want to do, instead of staying at home to prepare. Having the right qualifications and some experience in advance will increase your chances of getting a good job.

Boats in Thailand by Christopher Michel via Wikimedia Commons

Be adventurous

If you’ve alway longed to be a little more daring, now is your chance! You’re going to a country where it’s likely nobody knows who you are, so it’s a chance to modify your reputation as a quiet person. Being a teacher will force you to be more outgoing and you will gain confidence quickly; you will also spend a lot of time outside of your comfort zone. The key to success is to be whoever you want to be! Now is your time to try new experiences, and if you pass up on something you really want to do due to shyness, you may regret it later.

Photo by Christopher P. Michel in ThailandMaking Friends

One of the key differences between teaching and travelling is that you will spend a lot of time working with local teachers. It is important to try and make friends and bridge the culture gap as your time will be much richer for it and you may make some lifelong friendships.

  • Beaches: Head to Ko Samet and Ko Chang archipelago for white sands and gorgeous views. If you fancy diving, the Andaman coasts offer spectacular coral reefs.
  • Jungle: Khao Sok National Park offers dense rain forests with an abundance of wildlife. Meanwhile, for night safari, try Khao Yai National Park. Thailand’s jungles are beautiful and you should make the most of the opportunity to explore during your time off.
  • Culture: Don’t miss the Grand Palace in Bangkok, have a look around some temples (Wats) and try your hand at cookery classes in Chiang Mai. Above all else though make the effort to get to know a bit about Thailand’s rich culture. Don’t make the mistake of spending all your time socialising with other westerners.
  • Relaxation: The Thai Massage might have a brutal reputation – which is somewhat deserved – but it’s definitely worth a go. That niggle you’ve got in your back might just disappear forever…

Thai Beach by McKay Savage

Don’t forget your webcam

Believe it or not, amongst all of this adventure and fun you are going to miss the folks back home – and they will no doubt miss you, too! Make a point of arranging times when you can chat with them every couple of weeks or so, then if you do get homesick you’ll be able to look forward to the next Skype session.

Bankoks Khao San Road via Wikimedia Commons

Take Thailand home with you

As much as you’d probably like to, it’s doubtful that you’ll fit the entire country in your suitcase. However, you can take home more than just physical souvenirs of your time in Thailand – what have you learned about yourself as a person?

  • Have you discovered a new perspective about certain things?
  • Have you practiced a new skill, such as cooking?

These things can often be more valuable than the items you take home. Keep a journal while you are away so that you can always remember what you learned, and how different experiences felt. Though you will probably come home with tons of photos, you may forget exactly how you felt at each moment or why a particular view was important to you at the time.

Record these moments and treasure them.

This guest post was written by Robert from www.ICALTEFL.com Robert is an avid traveller and has spent a lot of time travelling and teaching in Asia. Robert now helps other people to attain their TEFL certificates and writes about travel and teaching. Click here to learn more about ICAL’s online TEFL courses or find them on Twitter @icaltefl.

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Nice, France (a poem) http://www.thetravelingadvisor.com/2013/11/20/nice-france-a-poem/ Wed, 20 Nov 2013 05:26:27 +0000 http://www.thetravelingadvisor.com/?p=2962  

confined between the shores of europe and africa

the mediterranean watches the affairs of men

from a neighborly distance

caring nothing for the flash and pomp of the cars and casinos

but only of the sun dancing across her back

and when the markets drain and the children scatter

and day surrenders to the ink of night

the sea glows hot in the dying light

 

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How to Choose an International Program http://www.thetravelingadvisor.com/2013/10/16/how-to-choose-an-international-program/ Wed, 16 Oct 2013 14:07:17 +0000 http://www.thetravelingadvisor.com/?p=54 I Amsterdam Sign with Bicycles in the Netherlands

During my time as a study abroad advisor, I was frequently asked the question, Which program is better? There are no “right” or “wrong” choices when choosing an international program*, only different outcomes and consequences. Ask these 10 questions to determine which international program is right for you.

*Choose an international program through a reputable organization that offers international programs! If you don’t know any reputable programs, check out GoAbroad.com or GoOverseas.com.

1. Why am I traveling? 
Write down every reason you can think of as to why you are interested in traveling, studying, working, or volunteering abroad. Maybe you want to see a new place, learn a new language, or know what it is like to live outside of the country. This is good, keep going.

  • Are you trying to accomplish something through traveling that you cannot accomplish at home?
  • Was there a particular moment, conversation, person, or idea that inspired you to pursue an international opportunity?
  • What are your goals?
  • Are you trying to get away from something back home?
  • Which of these reasons are more important?
  • Which of your motivations are healthy reasons for wanting to travel and which may be unhealthy?

Girl Looking Out from Romelian Castle in Istanbul, Turkey

2. Where do I want to go? 
Research in this stage is key.

  • What language is spoken?
  • Do you need a visa to enter the country?
  • What is the current currency and exchange rates, transportation options, weather and terrain during different seasons, etc?
  • Which places are in your comfort zone and which ones will challenge you a bit more?
  • How important is it that you push yourself out of your comfort zone to be challenged in this experience?
  • How important is it that you find a place that will allow you to accomplish a particular task?
  • Is the location you first had in mind the best fit to help you achieve the goals you have already determined are important?

3. What does it cost? 
Create a budget. If you don’t have one, make one. If you don’t know how, seek out the counsel of someone who has gone on an international program or traveled. (Check out The Traveling Advisor’s Free Guide to Creating a Budget for International Travel) If the international program is a good fit in every way except for your budget, you may need to readjust your expectations of what it costs to have the experience that is right for you or identify ways to raise additional funds creatively via peer-funding, scholarships, or these other funding ideas. Remember, this is an investment with long-term rewards. If you want a big ‘return’, you need to invest time, money, and energy.

Foggy Road

4. When is the best time to go?

  • If you’re a student, what year should you study abroad to earn credits toward your degree and apply your financial aid?
  • Is a summer, semester, or academic year program a better fit?
  • If you are a working professional, when can you take paid or unpaid vacation time?
  • Is it time to travel in between jobs or during a career change?
  • Can you incorporate business into a part of your journey and leverage for additional time away from the office?
  • If you are a retiree, when is a good time to travel outside of volunteer and family obligations?

5. Who will I be traveling with? 
Traveling solo? Making meaningful connections through your housing choices, involvement in activities, professional networking, volunteering, etc is important. A word of caution! Don’t assume that traveling with a friend is the best option. Sometimes best friends make the worst travel buddies. Also, if your goal is to meet new people, learn a new language, or develop independence, traveling with someone may make it difficult to achieve your ultimate goals. However, if you are traveling with another person or a group, ask these questions together so that you can set expectations, address potential problems, and make plans together so that everyone feels they are a part of both the process and the outcome.

Au Pairs in Germany

6. What level of support do I want or need? 
Everyone requires a different level of support in order to feel confident to travel. Some people like to find resources and information on their own via the internet or guidebooks but most people prefer to have a personal contact to ask questions and get professional support for their journey. If you are looking at an organized international program, contact the organization and ask them what type of support they offer participants. This will vary greatly. If you have a medical condition or disability, it will be particularly important to identify an organization that prioritizes your success through actions, not just lip service!

7. Do I have any limitations or barriers?
There is a big difference between a perceived barrier and a real one. Perceived barrier = you cannot go to Japan because you do not speak Japanese. Your real barrier is fear of not speaking Japanese…yet!). A food allergy, on the other hand, may be a real barrier if you decide you want to participate on a program that only offers homestays where the family cooks for you and is not able to accommodate your food needs. You can still travel, but that particular program may not be the best choice for you.

8. Which of these categories are most important to me?
Rank questions 1-7 in order of importance. As you research your options your priorities will shift. For example, you may have ranked ‘Location’ as the most important priority and identified Italy as the goal to complete a studio art program (your motivation). Then, you found a studio art program in Ireland that was a better match for your overall goals, budget, and interests. You may still be interested in the art program in Italy, but now you have discovered you are interested in exploring other options and ‘Location’ is not the number one priority anymore. This is normal. Embrace the changes now, there are many more to come.

iStock_000023305237XSmall

9. Which option is best for me right now?
Now that you have worked through the important topics to consider when traveling and ranked them in order of importance, you are in a much better position to identify which organization or program is the right fit for you. Or, you may decide that you can better craft your own experience without a pre-set program, and there are many resources to help you do so.

10. Who do I trust to share my ideas with?

Share your thoughts! Make sure that in addition to your program advisor, you speak with a trusted friend or family member who is supportive of your desire to go on an international program. They may challenge your assumptions, ask you additional questions, point you to a valuable resource, or call you out if you haven’t been completely honest with yourself in one of the above categories!

You’re ready! Take the next step and start submitting applications to your top 3 international programs.

Now voyager, sail thou forth to seek and find. | Walt Whitman

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