On March 5, 2007, I wrote a Blog post entitled "You Say Goodbye And I Say Hello." I was on an airplane when I wrote the post, and it was all about how difficult it is to say "goodbye" to those we love when we travel and at the same time, how exciting it is to be headed to a new place. When you volunteer abroad for a few months or teach abroad for a year ... saying goodbye is different than leaving for a 5-day cruise. Imagine my shock the other day to find that since writing that post, 5,893 people have read it. It is the 4th most popular article we ever published, and our Blog is in its 7th year.
A few days ago I was lucky enough to stumble upon a post I really liked. It was on the National Geographic Blog, Travel With Heart. The post I liked is entitled, "Dreaming of the Devil: The Joy Of Going Back". It was posted by Ben Long on January 10, 2014.
Mr. Long begins his piece with, "It’s not true that travelers have a “list” of places to see and, once they’ve checked off every box, hang up their knapsacks. When you’re traveling, you’re constantly adding to your list. Every casual conversation with fellow wayfarers introduces a world of possibility when your life is strapped to your back."
I had just written a post at the end of December about my Travel Patty awards and the dubious things people do with travel. One was "country counting." You know, those people who want to see every country on the planet and the only reason is to say they were there. Maybe just a stop over on their way to somewhere else. But they can honestly count that country.
I take issue with that practice because at the very least, we always want to leave something better than we found it and saying you were in a country for 24 hours really isn't doing that. It's basically telling me how far you can pee, and challenging me to pee further. As I get older, it is crystal clear to me ... it is never about the quantity, it is always about the quality.
So ... there are some places I've been that are places where I want to return (many times). Perhaps I'm interested in how the place has changed. Or I want to see if I can capture the feeling I remember when I was there the first time.
But Mr. Long's article got me to thinking about those "Country Counters" out there and all those people who keep moving forward without taking some real quality time to take a few steps back. Not that everyone should lead their life the way I lead mine ... God forbid. But you can go home ... even if for a very short time. Yes, it's true ... you say goodbye and I say hello!
Here is my top five list of places I want to wander again. If you don't mind, would you use the Comments section below to put a few of the places you want to return to, or have? I'd like to publish a long list of the places where others have said goodbye, but where you want to say hello (again).
- Dingle, Ireland
- Boscastle and Tintagel, England
- Beirut, Lebanon (and while I'm in the area, I'd love to visit Damascus, Syria again)
- Steinach, Austria
- Kyoto, Japan
Take a look at Mr. Long's article while you're at it, please. He presents several great reasons to return to those places where you've traveled ... to say "hello."
We came across this great Blog post on GoAbroad.com's Blog site and wanted to share it with you.
GeoVisions has a great Au Pair program in Ireland utilizing the Irish Work and Travel Visa. Participants have enjoyed being in Ireland (and getting paid).
GeoVisions also offers Internships in Dublin. Choose from 28 different areas of work, including Retail, Fashion Design, media and law. You can live on your own, in a shared apartment or with a host family ... all close to your internship.
So while you're in Ireland as an Au Pair or Intern ... this Blog post from Candice Walsh will come in handy as you explore these Five Off-The-Beaten-Path Locations In Ireland when you have time off.
Candice spent some time in Ireland last year road tripping around the whole country. For the first two weeks she was busy researching a genealogy project in the south, trying to find any trace her ancestry. It led her to some interesting off-the-grid locations that she probably wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.
Here are a few of her favorite more obscure (or at least underrated) destinations. Let us know if you get to any of them. We have a meeting in Cork in April and we have two on our must-see list.
Read the source article at goabroad.com
Unfortunately, 75% of our participants choose Western Europe as their destination of choice for their GeoVisions program.
I write "unfortunately" simply because we have other amazing options, like Jordan, and Turkey and SE Asia. And of course our programs in Europe are also amazing ... we just like to see people get a little feisty with their plans and locations.
So before I get myself into trouble, I wanted to share a very cool Blog post I ran across over on the GoAbroad.com Blog site. It's entitled, Basic Packing Tips For Your Trip To Europe. It was actually a guest post by Andy Steves, of Weekend Student Adventures.
Andy reminds travelers that the first rule is not to forget your Passport! He suggests that it gets packed first. After 39 years of professional travel, I'm going to disagree to the point that I use a travel wallet ... the size where I can fit my credit cards, airline and hotel cards and my passport. It actually looks a little like the photo here.
This thing is appropriate for women or men, students or old geezers like me. If you fly a lot you will realize you're going to need your tickets/boarding pass and your Passport together all the time. It's a great place to store your luggage receipts if you check a bag or two or three. And because I'm typically going 100 mph on my travels ... I like to know all of my travel docs that I simply cannot do without are in one place and that I don't accidentally pack them in my luggage. This one piece stays with me at all times.
Andy goes on to provide a list of what to take and what to leave at home. One more thing that I disagree with on his list to leave at home is a Baseball Cap. I don't go across the road to get my mail without my Red Sox cap. Not happening and in all honesty ... Europeans really do want to see Yanks in their baseball caps and sneakers. It feeds their stereotype and we all like that monster fed as much as possible. Europeans are not offended by your sneakers and caps and don't let anyone tell you they are. Yes! Fit in. No! Don't change who you are. And it's great to see travelers make cultural adjustments as they travel. As you learn, you change.
Probably the best part of the post is choosing a travel bag. Andy provides some great choices. So if you have 5 minutes, take a look at Andy's post on the GoAbroad site and take it to heart if you're flying soon.
Lastly ... I saw a great packing idea on another site and I don't remember where it was. I recently took a trip with my youngest daughter and I was shocked that her makeup bag was the size of her suitcase. That's CRAZY and I spent the entire trip telling her that. Want a great idea that will help?
Yep ... there on the left. No! Your other left. And what does a contact lens case have to do with makeup? They are small. You can carry a dozen of them in the space of 1 or 2 bottles of something. They are made for contacts and lens solution ... they don't leak. You can fill them with creams, liquids and mushy solids. And they cost maybe $4 at the most and even then you can get a full set of them. So if you need to travel with liquids, gels or creams, try the contact lens carrying cases. In that one quart zip lock bag, you can get at least a dozen of those little guys in there.
Enjoy Andy's post and if you have other ideas that would help our participants pack lighter please feel free to use the Comments section below and share.
If you follow any of GeoVisions' social media at all, we loathe writing about ourselves. I'd say over the course of a calendar year, only about 10% of the content we Tweet or Post (Facebook or our Blog) is about GeoVisions. The other 90% is curated articles that we think are useful to the people who have an affinity for GeoVisions.
Several of us were talking in the office recently about all the great things we do around here and I started to make a list. Even that was uncomfortable. So maybe the first of the best is that
1. 90% of our content is designed to help other people in their travels ... whether they choose to work with us, one of our competitors, or go it alone.
One of the other areas where we excel is
2. uniqueness. We are very proud that GoAbroad.com hails us as the company "Where the traditional meets the unique" to use their words. It's always amazing to me how many people have tried to copy the Conversation Corps, which we started in 2007. We even see text on other organizations' sites that has been copied from our original program to their page. But in the end, we are the only organization that not only has amazing host families wanting to improve their conversational English ... we have the ESL-Lounge and our own in-house ESL teacher. And we provide our tutors and our host families with language goals (kind of like a menu) that they have in advance and work on together in real time. Every program we invent, goes through total innovation at least twice a year. We're proud to be the exclusive provider of tutors to Feynan Lodge, an ecolodge in the Dana Bisophere in Jordan, as well as other unique opportunities around the world for our participants.
Another place we excel is
3. making sure you not only know that you (our teachers and volunteers) matter, but Why You Matter. GeoVisions focuses on the stories our teachers and volunteers bring with them, the impact they make when they go abroad, and how the stories evolve during the experience. 35 countries and counting. Over 2700 teachers, interns, au pairs and volunteers this year equaling 5,926 months of service. That's the equivalent of 494 years of service to others. It isn't about GeoVisions. It's about you.
4. Our demographics are changing through our uniqueness, not our marketing. If you're "older" you have a place here. Although 85% of our volunteers and teachers are aged 18-29, 13% are 30-59. 8% now (used to be 3%) are 60+. Why? Programs they can believe in. Experiences they deserve. Welcome home ... to your place.
5. We love women. By that, I mean that although women make up 50% of the workforce in the United States, an incredible 75% of our volunteers, au pairs and teachers are women ... choosing their own adventures! Now. And forever.
I could go on. And on. But hopefully you get the picture. We don't like to talk about ourselves, but we can, and when we do we really do toot our horn.
Join us in 2014 and become another reason we are the best at what we do.
Here on Christmas Eve, 2013, we wanted to call your attention to a Blog post that ran last week on the GoAbroad Blog. The post, written by Tiffany Harrison is entitled, 13 Holiday Gifts NOT to Give Study Abroad Students.
Since this is Christmas Eve and you may be getting ready to find that quick, last minute gift for your love-one or friend going abroad (or for yourself) make sure these items are NOT on the list.
And after you read the post ... go on over to a post I wrote a very long time ago about the Top Five Things NOT To Put In Your GeoVisions Host Family Letter. It's the number one post we've ever written and posted on the GeoVisions Blog. Almost 9,000 reads so far. It's funny and very helpful.
Enjoy this holiday week. Be safe.
We're taking a short break and we will be back with you on December 27 with an interesting post. In the meantime, if you have items to add to Tiffany's great list of gifts to avoid, add them in the Comments section below and we'll curate "The Master List" to start out 2014.
Until then, Happy Holidays!
Each week I take a look at The Expeditioner ... an online travel magazine run by Matt Stabile. The site is amazing and I can't recommend it enough ... Matt's a genius at knowing what kind of content is King.
When I was on the site last week I saw a travel video that is actually a commercial for Grand Trunk Hammocks. But the amazing thing about the video is that you only see 3 hammocks, and incredible scenery the rest of the 3 minute video. As Matt writes, "... when’s the last time you saw a commercial about travel that was this inspirational and well done? It’s as if Apple decided to loan out its marketing department for the day to hawk something other than portable electronics."
Created by Texas-based production company ultralite films, this video features sweeping shots of the American West, a gargled-with-dirt voiceover reminiscent of Sam Shepard’s work on The Big Lebowski and enough beautiful slow-motion nature shots to make even the most hardened city dweller want to escape the city pronto.
Here is some of the text ... beautifully written to match the beautiful video:
"People have a love affair with adventure. And it drives us to step outside the ordinary. Some of us feel in our shoes, what we all hear in our souls. It propels us to tap into our curiosity and seek out new horizons. Whether it's the lure of the unknown and unseen or the charm of our favorite local getaway, the need to travel beckons us with the promise of balmy nights and strange places ... the conquest of paths untrodden and the chance to navigate down streams of culture that become tributaries in the great river of humanity.
But the real magic of the journey is more than the exhilaration of crossed borders. It's the empowerment within the experiences that become part of our being. It becomes old stamps and weathered passports, campfires, sunsets, deserts and unseen oceans.
Sometimes we travel for the solitude of the experience, the quiet of the mountains, the stillness of the mind and stars. And sometimes it's for the sheer thrill of the story. Yet sometimes more, it's for the company of new friends that live a world away but share the same dreams and aspirations.
The romance of the traveler is not the wild places of the world. It's in the wilderness of spirit. It makes no difference where it takes you. The importance lies in the road you took to get there, explore the trails you never thought possible and live where you are in this moment, place and time. Because it's time to rejoice, as your journey has just begun."
For more great travel videos like these, visit The Expeditioner's Travel Video group at Vimeo.
According to Matt Stabile, the founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheExpeditioner.com, the video we have embedded here for you "may qualify as one of the most oddball, strange, entertaining and beautiful road trip videos you’re going to see for a while (at least through 2013). Made by videographer Ari Fararooy, this irreverent jaunt across the U.S. includes enough strange musical interludes, fourth wall breakdowns and compelling visual footage to please the David Lynch/Woody Allen fan in all of you." Read the rest of Matt's post here and read some of his interview with Ari Fararooy, the guy who shot it.
Videographer, Ari Fararooy, explained that this 10 minute video is an experimental short film he made documenting his 3-week road trip from Boston to Los Angeles in summer 2013. There were no ideas planned prior to the trip, so this was a big editing project as you will see as you watch this amazing video.
I apologize for posting a 10-minute video. Typically we post 2 or 3 minute videos, which are watched for all of about 30 seconds. I hope you'll give this one as much time as you can, because it really is creative. I had my 15 year-old daughter watch it and suggested she show it to her TV Production class. It's that good.
Yeah, yeah, yeah ... it has nothing to do with volunteer abroad or teach abroad or anything abroad for that matter. Take a break from all that "abroad" stuff for 10 minutes and enjoy this video!
Driving Across America By Myself from Ari Fararooy on Vimeo.
You're in the middle of Conversation Corps-France, living in Lyon, and your host family has told you it's fine to take a 3-day weekend to Paris. You text your friend who is on the same program in a small town nearby. It's a perfect opportunity to get to Paris by 10:00 a.m. on Friday and return to Lyon by 8:00 p.m. Sunday night. And you have a travel buddy.
So what are you two going to do?
Ah ... you check the online GeoVisions community and chat with people who are already in Paris (or who have also spent a 3-day weekend there) and you check in with our office and your local coordinator about things to do.
Then your friend takes out her iPhone and taps her Peek app.
"Peek is your one-stop shop to discover and book amazing activities! The New York Times called Peek 'a site you want to visit again and again', and TIME Magazine selected it as one of its top travel tools. Whether it’s going swimming with sharks or eating your way through a local culinary walking tour, Peek has selected the highest quality activities at the best prices guaranteed. "
When you first open the Peek app, you’ll take a quiz to discover your travel persona. Then you’ll receive personalized activity recommendations, handpicked by Peek just for you!
This app is the perfect companion to a GeoVisions program.
Don't have an iPhone? If you have any tablet or laptop while your're traveling, this link will take you to the desktop site and you can use Peek there. In Paris already? That's OK. Book activities on the go.
CEO Ruzwana Bashir was named one of Fast Company's Most Creative People in 2013.
Only London and Paris is listed as cities abroad right now. Peek has focused on areas of the US for its launch. Give them a little time and more International sites will be available.
What other areas would you like to see Peek add?
So what else is new? I’m going to buck the system. This time of year my Travel Blog buddies are coming up with “travel resolutions for 2014” and making lists of the “hottest travel destinations for 2014.” I wanted to come up with something different. I prefer writing in the theme of “bah-humbug” and just be the Larry David curmudgeon of travel in this post today.
I’m from Oklahoma originally. Growing up I saw a lot of “cow patties” in our pastures. There are even “cow patty throwing contests” where I come from. So what could be better than harking back to my roots and hosting the Travel Patty awards? You know, the awards for travel stuff that just doesn't make sense to me. Sometimes I read Travel Blogs and think if someone really thought about it, they wouldn't have done that, said that, written that, or been there, done that.
Travel Patties. Yeah. It’s an award I’m going to give out annually now. Those Travel Abroad, Volunteer Abroad, Teach Abroad activities that annoy the “patty” out of me. The award is a cowboy boot fresh with cow patty smeared all over it. And those of you in the big city ... a cow patty is not hamburger.
In all honesty and with full transparency, I got this idea from Travel Blog Writer Richard Reid over at his amazing site, Reid On Travel. (I lived in Oklahoma ... he lives in Oklahoma.) He’s giving out the annual Travel Jail awards. So the basic idea is Richard’s. The Travel Patties? Well, their mine. But after this post, be sure to go over and read Richard's Travel Jail Awards.
So here we go.
There’s a guy out on the west coast of the US that has written a few books, holds an annual conference getting folks all riled up about setting their own rules and changing the world. He writes that he wants to visit every country in the world ... he has only a few to go, actually. That would be great if he did anything while he was there for 24 hours … but he's more into a simple quest rather than doing something useful for the world. You, Dude, get my first Travel Patty. Thank you for making travel a contest of country counting. You’ve just ruined it for those of us who really want to have a relationship with where we travel.
OK. I'm likin' this. Feels good.
This would not be a real Travel Patty award post without giving one to all those Volunteer Abroad Review sites and the "aggregator" sites that let consumers review their so-called experiences. You are the bottom feeders of our industry. You do nothing for consumers with your reviews, although each of you have tried to convince yourselves that you do. If you had one shred of honesty, you would admit that you push reviews on your site for the traffic rankings on Alexa. The result of the Internet space you occupy promotes fake reviews, and reviews by people who don’t have the courage to list their real names and the underlying purpose of their review. There is one site among you in particular who accepts payment from travel organizations that proposes to inoculate them from negative reviews. All of you know who it is, and not one of you has the courage to clean up your cumulative act. All of you share this Travel Patty.
[ I always want to leave something in a post that helps other people. So that no one can complain that I am against all review sites, here is the only travel review site on planet earth that helps people who truly want to travel. Triptease. That's it ... give it a try. First you have to upload an awesome photo of what it is you're reviewing. It isn’t about fake reviews from company owners and staff, or trashing a company because they didn’t give you a refund … it’s a site where intelligent people upload a stunning photo from their travels, write about it, and rank the hotel, restaurant or location. Then, when I go to Morocco … I can add the photos and reviews to my own travel itinerary. Who’d have thunk it? A review company that actually focuses on travelers and travel. Raving about it? The BBC, Mashable, and Vanity Fair. The rest of you guys? I'm sorry you think you’re accomplishing anything positive with your reviews. You do the same thing as each other. You don't practice any creativity at all. Try a review site that helps people. It's the industry you seemingly work in. Give it a shot. I tested Triptease, and here is my entry.]
Man ... that felt better than a dietary cleanse.
Volunteer Abroad projects that involve orphans. HEY! People zoo keepers: Stop trotting out the kids to get funding and pull on the heart strings of volunteers to put butts in seats. If you have to rely on orphans to get volunteers to go abroad, you need to read Dante’s Inferno and think of it as non-fiction, and believe the 8th Circle awaits you. This Travel Patty is for you.
The Professional Travel Bloggers Association. Part of their mission is to “legitimize travel blogging as a business.” Now, I'm all for associations. We belong to 2 or 3. But if you need an association to legitimize what you’re doing, you need to rethink what you’re doing. Here's your Travel Patty.
Volunteer Abroad organization web sites that over use "Travel for a Change," "Change the world," "Travel with a purpose." To me they read like over-used slogans. Here's something to talk about with your Director of Internet Marketing: Slogans are about you. Stories are about your volunteers. Your volunteers know that. Here's the boot.
If you're upset or offended and want to debate anything I've written ... go ahead and leave a comment below. I promise to reply. And if anyone has other nominations the Travel Patty committee should consider ... please feel free to leave them in the Comments area below.
All of us here at GeoVisions wish you a Happy New Year and we hope 2013 was kind to you and yours. We are getting a new website in 2014 ... and we promise, NO SLOGANS. We're interested in our participant's stories ... what made you decide to volunteer or teach abroad, and we're interested in your stories as the experience you deserve develops.
In 2014 we are focused on one thing: "How are we helping?"
If consumer's can't differentiate us from the rest of the guys offering some of the same experiences ... we'll quit. If our Blog and our online experience isn't seen as a "learning center ... your hub to teach, learn and discuss volunteer and teach abroad," then we're simply contributing to Internet smog. We won't be a happy cow.
Try something really different in 2014 and help a lot of people at the same time. This adventure takes you to the Dana Biosphere Reserve in the Jordanian Desert.
Hailed as one of the top fifty ecolodges in the world by National Geographic Adventure Magazine, the solar powered Feynan Ecolodge offers the most developed eco-experience in Jordan; an experience made possible by a unique partnership between EcoHotels and the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, a Jordanian NGO devoted to the protection of the Kingdom’s finest natural landscapes.
GeoVisions is the exclusive provider of English lessons to the staff at Feynan Ecolodge. That means your adventure, should you decide to accept it, is to live at Feynan (free) and teach the hotel staff English.
Candice Walsh, a travel Blogger was just in Jordan and visited Feynan. She wrote a great post entitled, Coffee With Bedouins. It's a great post where she writes about the "old ways" of the Bedouins [“If you don’t like your neighbours, do it quietly.”] and contrasts that with "new ways" [I’m thinking about the simplicity of it all as Mohammed Abu-Khaleel tends to the fire. The sheer purpose in life to fulfill daily tasks, to use your hands and your skill to live the day. And then a cell phone rings, and Mohammed Abu-Khaleel pulls a flip phone from his pocket. The modern Bedouin."]
Be prepared! Feynan Ecolodge’s electricity is solar-generated. There is limited electricity to light the guest bathrooms, kitchen, phone system, and other crucial functions. There are no electrical outlets in guest rooms. Cell phones, cameras and laptops can be recharged at Reception. Internet can be sketchy.
Along with teaching English to the staff at Feynan, and getting your hotel room and all meals for free, you also get to ride (or walk) along with the tour guides for free. Visit Copper mines, Wadi Ghwayr, Wadi Dana and walk and bicycle to many aarchaeological treasures with local guides. And if you really want to learn more about the Bedouin, we will arrange it so you can do a little teaching at the local Bedouin school.
Read Candice's full post here on the Matador Network.
Is this an adventure you would like to add to your list for 2014?