GeoVisions Blog

The GeoVisions Model Applicant

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Mon, Jul 07, 2014

The GeoVisions Model ApplicantHow I See You

Five days ago
Sally Smith (alias … ) talked to us about Walk and Talk Italy. She really wanted to go, the country was right, the timing was right and the price was right.

Four Days Ago
Sally Smith (same alias … ) applied for Walk and Talk Spain. She changed her mind and … that’s OK. We wrote back asking her if she really wanted Spain since she contacted us about Spain. In the meantime … she got an email from someone in Operations welcoming her to Italy. Ugh.

Three Days Ago
We got Sally Smith (yes … alias) enrolled in Spain. Chucked out Italy. (Sorry, Italy.)

Two Days Ago
Sally Smith (OK already … ) got an email from our Operations department welcoming her to Spain and suggesting she write her “Dear Family letter” in their native language … French.

Sally Smith left us a telephone message because we are closed for the July 4th holidays. Her “buyers remorse” period was ending that day. (By the way, we’re the ONLY travel company offering a 72-hour “buyers remorse” cancellation policy.) But I digress. She left a message saying she really needed more time because she originally wanted Italy, moved to Spain, got an email about writing a letter in French. And she wanted to make sure we were … uh … not having some kind of sun-stroke.

So … I’m the Executive Director. I listened to her phone message (I get them all via email) and I called her back. Within 30-minutes. And what makes this remarkable … or at least from Alias Sally’s perspective … I’m in London.

“Hello, Sally?” (“Hello, Real Name?”)


“My name is Randy LeGrant. I work at GeoVisions. I just heard your message all the way from London.”


“Yes. And it was important enough for me to call you back and give you the holiday weekend plus 2 more days for your ‘buyers remorse policy.’


“Yes … I’m in London. I listen to all our messages. I knew our US office is closed for the holiday weekend and I wanted to call you from London and give you extra time. You need to be absolutely sure you’re doing the right thing with the right organization.”

And I'm proud to say even on the 4th, two staff from Connecticut got in touch with Alias Sally to reassure her.  We do make errors, and we do what it takes to make you feel comfortable about traveling with us.  

So … How Do I See You?

When I read your emails and when I listen to your messages and sometimes talk to you on the telephone, this is what I imagine:

  • How I See Our ApplicantsYou are giving up a lot of your time to go abroad to make a difference in people’s lives.
  • You are spending a lot of your money to go abroad to make a difference in people’s lives.
    • Lets add spending money and airfare.
  • You think more about the people you are going to teach or work with than you do yourself.
  • You don’t consider this a tour … it’s an opportunity to give back.
  • This isn’t the cheapest option you found … you are investing in solving problems.
  • You’re flexible. You want to leverage your time and money to make the biggest difference.
  • You’re not “” It’s not about you. Rather, it simply involves you.
  • You trust us so you deserve the very best service we can possibly provide.
  • More than service, you want to make sure you’re always safe.
    • Safety is the number one priority at GeoVisions.
  • You really want to exchange your culture with another person’s culture.
  • You want to teach your language and learn your host’s language. (Or brush up on it.)
  • You like kids.
  • You don’t mind living in someone’s home as a guest.
  • You’re a pleasant guest … you help clear the table, you don’t sit in your room on the Internet and you keep your room tidy.

Admittedly, I could make a much longer list. But you have other things to do with your day.

Why Do I See You This Way?

We ask people after they have been in-country for a month, two months, three months and so on how things are going. Here’s what some of them have told us this week:

  • I have been to a couple of soccer parties. Spaniards love their futbol and going to these parties was a great way to meet new people.
  • My initial goal was to perfect my Spanish. Learning a language is a slow process, but I think that I have made significant strides. I am now able to have conversations with just about everyone and I am excited to see how much I will progress by the end of my trip.
  • The internship is beyond any expectations. I have learned more than I could ever have hoped, and my supervisor has really helped me immerse in the culture.
  • I came over with the goals to
    • 1. Help My host family improve their English.
    • 2. Try to learn a little German.
    • 3. learn about another culture/lifestyle.
    • 4. Go out of my comfort zone to experience new things.
    • I have accomplished all of these goals, though in different ways and to different stages. I was not able to learn as much German as I hoped, as it was difficult without any formal instruction at all. It would've been nice to have just a small background on the language. However, the English of my host family has improved, so that has been rewarding to watch. Through lots of activities and great, long conversations with all different people here I have gained a great appreciation for their culture and lifestyles while also stepping outside of my comfort zone and trying lots of new things.
  • I have had an amazing time so far. I was paired with a wonderful family who are very welcoming.
  • Yes, thanks to my host family, I have traveled a lot. I have also done some weekend trips with other Au Pairs.
  • Say yes to everything, try to speak to everyone in the native tongue, and don't get frustrated by inconveniences, learn from everything.

Coming For All The Wrong ReasonsWhere The Rubber Meets The Road

We do have people who have managed to go abroad with us for all the wrong reasons. They end up unhappy. And unhappy people want to write to the BBB and complain, write a negative review "to pay us back", and write a multitude of nasty emails, which takes up time since we want to reply to each one.

Writing this on 5 July, 2014 I can honestly write that these people I’ve just described comprise 0.64% of our annual participants. And we move 4,000 people each year all around the world. That’s 25 travelers out of 4,000 total travelers. Our goal is to keep getting that down to 20, then 15 and then 10. Ideally, in a perfect world, we’d like it to be zero.

But I can also honestly write here that if you match “how I see you” in the list above … you will be one of the many GeoVisions travelers writing kudos, like the ones above. And if you don’t match “how I see you” in the list above … all of us promise to do all we can to help you, support you and try our best to turn the experience around.


We would love to have you comment!

Tags: The Well Prepared Traveler, Working For A Better World, Why You Matter

Packing For Europe

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Wed, Jan 08, 2014

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 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.

travel walletAndy 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.

contact lens caseLastly ... 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.

Tags: Travel Ideas, Packing, The Well Prepared Traveler

Peek Travel App - Book Amazing Activities

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Wed, Dec 18, 2013

So ...

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.

Peek AppThen 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?

Tags: Travel Ideas, The Well Prepared Traveler, Destinations, Travel Apps

Travel Abroad With A New Packing App

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Fri, Dec 06, 2013

New Packing Planner AppI have one full screen for my travel apps on my iPhone.  I have so many, I even put them into groups like Air, Hotels and Navigation.  I use these apps all the time when I travel abroad and just before I head to the airport.

If I'm going abroad, I check out my destination on Smart Traveler and make sure everything is fine on that end and that where I'm going is considered safe rigt now. If it's a country where I've never been, I open up Cultures and read about where I'm going to make sure when I hold up 2 fingers it means I want 2 of something ... not that I'm offending anyone.

Right now I'm testing 2 packing apps:  Packing Pro and Packing Planner.  Truth is, I normally throw things into a bag and head to the airport.  I'm hoping one of these apps will help me plan what I'm taking better, so I can start traveling with a smaller bag.

Packing Planner is essentially a digital packing checklist app for your device that allows you to create customizable to-pack (or to-buy) lists from a selection of hundreds of various items. You can categorize them (clothes, tech, toiletries), then once you’ve packed that item, check the box and move on to the next one. Simple as that.  You can do that with Packing Pro as well.

My iPhone Travel App Screen

Want the app to take on Skynet-like control of your packing? You have the option of setting the app to remind and nag you to pack or buy certain items prior to the trip. You can also email off the list to your traveling partners and print out a copy in case you need a backup.  This is a cool setting that Packing Pro does not yet have.  And I need to be nagged constantly, so I'm going to enjoy that part of the app.

Here is a screen shot of my iPhone travel app area.  I'm a real nut job, huh?

I guess I'm going to rely on you to tell me if I've missed anything.  And if there are travel apps you highly recommend, please let me know and I'll give them a try.

For more information about Packing Pro and Packing Planner ... and more information about the Cultures and Smart Traveler ... I've provided those links for you in this post.

And on the subject of Smart Traveler, always remember that it's a great idea to always register with the State Dept. so in case of a dire emergency, someone in that country is going to have a record of you.

Tags: Travel Ideas, The Well Prepared Traveler

Travel Abroad Safely For Women

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Mon, Nov 25, 2013

female solo backpackerRecently, Michael Huxley, founder of Bemused Backpacker, wrote an article entitled Why I Hate The Term Solo Female Backpacker.  It reminded me of the posts we published here by GeoVisions teacher in Thailand, Carla Gott.  Carla pinned 3 posts for us on teaching in Thailand as a woman ... the safety, health, packing and living solo aspects.

You can read Part I, Part II and Part III of Carla's posts here.  We also have 8 posts tagged with Travel Safety, that you may find interesting.

As Mr. Huxley points out in his post, " is just as safe for women to travel independently as it is for any man, and any stereotype or assumption that states that isn't true, is in my opinion, wrong."  We found that in Ms. Gott's posts for us on women teaching in Thailand and living alone.  With a few mindful precautions, it is very safe for women traveling independently.

I chose Mr. Huxley's post to share with our subscribers because of this quote: "The prevailing wisdom is that somehow just because they happen to be female the fact that they have dared to go it alone and travel the world somehow elevates them above the norm, somehow makes them braver and stronger than everyone else. Of course it is much more difficult for women to travel isn't it? So of course women have to be braver and stronger than men to conquer that mountain.

That is absolute rubbish."

It is exactly what Ms. Gott had to say in her posts.

Did you know that although 50% of the jobs in the United States are held by women, at GeoVisions 75% of our participants are women?  It says a great deal about women, travel, going abroad.  90% of our programs are solo programs.  In other words, everyday we see women of all ages and walks of life come in, take on a program they really want to do, go abroad and make it highly successful, and return to encourage others to do the same.

Mr. Huxley obviously see's the same thing:  "Perpetuating the ideology that it is dangerous for women to travel independently and alone does absolutely nothing to normalize the fact that women are perfectly capable of traveling independently and safely."

What do you think?  If you're a female traveler, what are your experiences?

Read more of Mr. Huxley's article here.

Tags: The Well Prepared Traveler, Travel Safety

8 Must Have Travel Abroad Smart Phone Apps

Posted by Alexandra LeGrant on Fri, Jul 05, 2013

Travel apps on iPhoneAre you one of those people who are glued to their smartphone?  Yeah, join the crowd, and just admit it!  The truth is (as sad as it might be) smartphones have become an integral part of our daily lives, including when we travel.  For example, traveling without music? I can’t even imagine the day … or not being able to instagram your meal the second it arrives?  How could one live? So, take a deep breath because I’m going to tell you how to continue to justify your habit while you travel with these incredible, must have, tech-geek approved apps!

Organizing Your Travel Itineraries

Tripcase keeps you from scrambling for those annoying confirmation numbers, flight numbers or hotel addresses that can slow you down from capturing a potential epic photo on your way to the airport or texting your friends about how crazy your cabbie is.  Keep everything regarding your trip details in one place and stay in the know about your trip with updates on flight alerts… pretty handy. You can also store as many future trips as you want, so you don’t even have to think about reminding yourself the next time you travel so long as you input the information, duhhh.

At the airport

GateGuru is the only app that provides all the info you need to manage your entire day of travel from your mobile devices. Not only does it have everything you need, but you can show- off your high flyer status and rank against others in a community with ‘Your Travel Stats’ within the app.  “Like, I’m so much cooler than you because I’ve checked into 41 airports, lol.”

App in the air Have a long layover? This savvy app features useful tools to find the best food in the airport, where to connect to free Wi-Fi and the best ways to spend free time; you can also share your flight status to keep your VIP friends updated. Talk about a life saver!

Location Based Services

GuidiGO allows you to explore a new destination like never before (but only if you are cool enough to have an iPhone 3GS or higher).  Basically, this app allows you to follow the steps of storytellers wherever you may be through an interactive guided tour, great for exploring new cities and museums. Wine tour and tasting in Paris anyone?

Wikitude is just as cool as it sounds, and is a tech/travel geek hybrid’s dream.  It has been voted “Best Augmented Reality Browser” by the AR community 4 years in a row. Wow, what does THAT mean? Simply, Wikitude allows you to see what’s around you by using your camera from restaurants to people and activities. Exploration is great, but if you’re looking to narrow down your search to a single interest this app has all the bells and whistles. Got a taste for Thai tonight? Use Wikitude to not only find Thai restaurants near you, but narrow in on user reviews and opinions. Depending on your search and the content provider, you can dig much deeper into additionally provided information.

Abroad Friendly

OANDA Currency Converter alleviates the headache of converting currencies in your head.  What makes OANDA unique to other currency converter apps?  Not only is it super sleek, but it has the intuitive ability to factor the typical ATM rate or credit card rate into the conversion.  Can we say cool beans?

Google Translate is always handy if you happened to be daydreaming in your foreign language class.  This app saves the day in a pinch and can rapidly translate whole paragraphs of text or even spoken word if you’re lazy. Google translate will repeat your words in the foreign language of your choice… Use this app for picking up foreigners at the bar at your own expense…

MySafe Travel (for iPhone only) might raise your paranoia level, but will provide you with updates on country-specific security threats and safety issues, give advice if you are traveling alone and for the first time traveler provides ‘cultural travel tips’ for each continent.  If you think you’re James Bond, pay a little extra fee to opt in for SMS alerts providing you with 24/7 updates on risks in over 200 countries in real-time. 


Of course, this is a small sample of the travel apps currently available for iPhone and Android, and these are just a few of my personal recommendations.  If you use an app for travel that is not listed above, please share in the comments section below!

Tags: Travel Ideas, The Well Prepared Traveler

They Stole My iPhone...Again!

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Mon, Feb 18, 2013

This post was written for GeoVisions by Brielle Sydor of Elon College.  Brie was one of our counselors in 2012 on the Italy Summer Camp program and will be returning to Italy this summer to live and work.

Brielle Sydor

While I was happy to find that many of the Italian stereotypes were true—amazing food, beautiful architecture, cute boys—there was one that was definitely less amusing: theft. Every guidebook and travel website out there will tell you to “guard your possessions with your life” while traveling through Rome or Naples, and I certainly wish I had listened to them. On not one, but TWO occasions, I had my iPhone 4 stolen from me and didn’t even realize at the time that it had happened. Those thieves are tricky; so if you are unlucky enough to have your smartphone swiped while living abroad, simply follow my (unfortunately tried-and-true) recovery plan to get yourself back to the cellular world.

Before You Leave:

If you’re the prepared type and are reading this post before you go abroad, I would definitely recommend downloading a locater app on your smartphone. “Find My iPhone” and “Life360” are great choices for the iPhone, while “Where’s My Droid” is designed for Androids and “Find My Phone” is a highly-rated choice for Blackberry. When set up properly, you can use a computer to access the app and find the location of your stolen phone.

When It Happens:

You might take this iPhone to volunteer abroad

Chances are, you’re consulting this article because your phone was taken and you never downloaded a location app/it isn’t working. In this situation, it’s best to contact your cellular provider and block your phone so that the thief can’t access your information or run up a huge phone bill.

Your next step is to go to the police station (“La Stazione di Polizia” in Italian) and file a report. While the odds are slim that your phone will be turned in to the police, this will give them a way of contacting you and returning it if the thief does have a change of heart. A police report also provides you with documentation you may need if you plan to file an insurance claim on your phone.

In the Mean Time:

Assuming you don’t want to buy another iPhone while you are abroad, a pay-as-you-go cell phone can be a good alternative. Italian phone stores like TIM, Vodaphone, and Wind have basic cell phones that you can buy or rent to get you through the remainder of your trip. To add “credit” (minutes and text allowance) to your phone, simply go into any Tabacchi and tell the cashier you want €__ euros worth of credit on your phone. They will then ask for the service provider (name is typically next to service bars in upper left-hand corner of screen) and your phone number. Once the transaction is complete, you will get an Italian text saying that €__ euros have been credited to your phone. The service provider should also send you free credit-update texts after every phone call and when your credit is almost out so that you will know when to reload your phone.

While you're enjoying all that Italian food and sights, be sure to carry your bag opposite the street-side, and keep your belongings close to you and out of sight.  Best of luck to you and enjoy Italy!

If you have other ideas to stay safe and to keep your personal belongings safe, please share your ideas in our Comments section below.

Tags: The Well Prepared Traveler, Travel Safety

The First Five Things I Wish I Knew When I Decided To Travel Abroad

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Mon, Feb 11, 2013

I took my first trip abroad in 1976. As an American, that was our Bicentennial year and so my passport was in celebration of that fact. I still have it.

Since then, I've traveled abroad almost every year and multiple times in a year. Even as I grow older, I look forward to traveling as a renewal. I'm eager to go, I'm eager to return.

When my father was alive and he would travel to visit me, the first thing he would do was put his small travel bag by the back door. "This way I won't forget it when I leave." That was almost before he hugged me "hello." He was preparing for his departure the moment of his arrival. Now I get it. We all want to enjoy our trip, of course. We all look forward to our "stuff" and getting back into some kind of routine at the end.

All of this made me want to come up with a list of 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Decided To Travel Abroad.  For brevity, I am sharing my top five things in this post, and tomorrow I'll share the next five things.

Teaching English abroad doesn't have to be a lonely adventure.

1. Uncertainty About The Trip Is Certain
Will I make it to the airport on time? Did I pack everything? Will there be a delay, which will cause me to miss a connecting flight? When I land, will anyone speak my language? How much time, really, do I have to make my connection and is it easy? What kind of transport will I use when I get to my final destination? Can I trust the taxis? Do I have enough cash in the local currency?  Will I know how to buy a ticket on the train? What do I do with this luggage while I wait 6 hours to check into my hotel? Will it be safe? If I'm staying with a host family (most GeoVisions' programs) will they like me? Will I like them? Is the house noisy? Will I like the food? Is there ANY privacy? The Internet: Do they have access?

Do you know 100% of our participants go over these questions, and more? It's normal. Nothing about travel and cultural exchange is certain. And, isn't that ONE reason you're traveling? What other uncertainties do you think about? You can write them in the Comments section below.

2. Your Itinerary Is A Circle
Even if you start in one place and end up in quite another…you will come home eventually. But your itinerary is far more than a list of places you will you see and a list of places you will go.

This is how all of my itineraries begin:  If you want to be rich, be generous. If you want to make friends, be friendly. If you want to be understood by others, take the time to truly understand them. If you want to be heard, listen.

If you want to have an interesting life, be interested the happenings around you, no matter where you are.

If you want the world to change, start with the one in the mirror.

I have learned that if I begin any trip with these words written down, it really doesn't matter if my plane is late, my taxi gets lost or if I miss a meal.

TaeKwon-Do tournament in New Jersey.3. Discipline Is The Mother Of All Virtues When You Travel
I am preparing to test for my 3rd Degree Black Belt in TaeKwon-Do. I have five Gold medals in International competition.  (And, I get to train with 3 of my children...)  I lead my entire life by the Five Tenets of TaeKwon-Do. I manage GeoVisions by those same Five Tenets:

Self Control
Indomitable Spirit

You don't have to kick high and break boards to live your life by these five tenets. You just have to live them.  They bring discipline into your life and the space needed to take a breath and "persevere" on.

4. You Have Full Control Of Your Fears
Your fear is 100% dependent on YOU for its survival, and it is the only thing standing between you and your travel goals. Deal with your fears; don’t let them deal with you. And know that 100% of the people who put their butts in an airplane seat are in the midst of controlling their fears about their trip. We're all in various stages, that's all.

In October 2012, I started my 39th year of professional travel. And still, I have fears to deal with when I travel.

5. Good Travel Buddies Are Priceless
Finding someone to travel with is easy. When I announce I'm headed to [blank] for a week to 10-days, I have a line out my office door of people who want to tag along. Especially my kids.

I love to travel with my wife, Rebecca. Other than her disdain for museums (and I love them…) she makes a fantastic travel partner. She doesn't look it, but she is very adventurous when she travels and will hike mountains and volcanoes like a pro.

My 2nd favorite travel buddy is someone I work with and don't see enough. Ray is our station chief in Paris. He travels easy and light. He loves good food and good wine and when he travels he is jolly all the time. I never pass on an opportunity to travel with Ray.

Even if you depart by yourself...keep any eye out for someone to travel with.  Your trip will bloom.


Do you have comments about these five things I wish I'd known when I started traveling?  If so, please use the Comments section right below.

Tomorrow I'm going over the next five:

It's Impossible To Travel Alone

It's Impossible To Make People At Home Understand

Knowing The Purpose Of Your Journey Brings Great Results

A Positive Vision Makes A Big Difference

Your Journey Is Ultimately What You Make Of It

See you back here tomorrow!

Tags: The Well Prepared Traveler, Make Something Happen, Randy LeGrant

Think Traveling or Volunteering Abroad Is Too Expensive? Think Again

Posted by Alexandra LeGrant on Tue, Oct 16, 2012

Every now and then we like to trot out a post that has done really well over the course of the last few months.  And this is one of them.  This particular post has been read 2,220 times since March.  That's 10 reads a day, 7 days a week for the last 228 days.  So, we thought we'd offer it up to those of you who are new or failed to see it before.  One of the best we have ever written.  Thanks to Alexandra, our Social Media Manager here at GeoVisions for writing it.


Traveling Fund

How many times have you told yourself or others that you’ll travel abroad once you have saved enough money?  Now, be honest with yourself, how much money have you really saved?

If you are like most people who are scraping by to pay their bills and are thankful even for a boss from hell just to get a paycheck every two weeks, you probably haven’t saved a penny for your travel the world dream fund.

Take a look at these links to see how some other people made their traveling dreams a reality and how to move past your "it’s too expensive" thoughts that might be holding you back.

Volunteer Forever. This website is amazing and allows you to fund your dreams and bring them to reality. Crowd funding for traveling abroad made easy and straight forward. This article tells you why now is the best to time volunteer abroad and take advantage of the financial crisis. There are 5 specific reasons you could probably relate to. Read this blog entry from a person who spent three years traveling abroad and actually saved money by doing so. It is possible! Why you should quit your job and travel around the world… Don’t let your excuses hold you back from what you want out of YOUR life.    

The truth is, you could actually save yourself money by traveling abroad without much financial preparation. It sounds like a crazy idea, but when you think about how much you spend every week (gas, coffee, lunch with a co-worker, dry cleaning, take-out dinners, entertainment, etc) it really adds up, and you could end up spending $200-$300 a week indulging in your day-to-day expenses and hardly blink an eye.

Add this on top of rent or a mortgage, utilities, car loan, gym fee, phone bill, and cable you are probably spending at least $2,000 a month if not more just to live. Now, maybe you have roommates and live frugally, and actually get by on a lot less than that amount, but I’m going to tell you just how much it would cost you to travel or volunteer abroad and I guarantee the numbers will surprise you…  overflowing piggy bank

1. Sell your car or have a friend or family member drive it and help you out with car payments while you are abroad, it’s a win/win! Cha-ching! Save yourself on rent by subletting your place while you travel. It is considerably less to live with a host family abroad, and with GeoVisions it is included in your program fee along with most of your meals. Entertainment while abroad can be as simple as visiting and touring local sites (often times free), and depending on where you are traveling you can get a meal for just a few dollars (that’s less than what you would pay for your daily latte at Starbucks).  Be sure to steer clear of touristy traps for day trips and rentals, and if you are staying with a host family you should have no problem getting the ‘local’ going rate and finding out where the best deals are.

2. If you’re looking for some extra cash before you travel, have a yard/garage sale and get rid of your clutter at the same time. If you have a lot of ‘stuff’ not only will this result in some extra cash (possibly a few weeks worth of spending money while abroad) but when you come back home you’ll already have your spring cleaning done!

Where to next?3. Traveling the world can be great, but why not enhance your resume by volunteering or working abroad? With GeoVisions, you have the option to participate in Au Pair programs (the placement fee for most is only $850), apply for a PAID internship, or live with a family and teach them conversational English, no teaching experience required. The time you spend on these projects will give you unique experience that you can use when you come home to get a better job than the one you have now! If you don’t want to make a long- term commitment, GeoVisions offers a two-week conversation corps program in Italy for $755 and Spain for only $715. The program fees usually include your room and board along with extensive health insurance.

So, with just a bit of preparation and getting in the right frame of mind (getting past your hesitations), traveling abroad can be a lot simpler than you probably have thought. Of course, don’t just take my word for it, do some research and ask around and be sure to check out those helpful links at the top of this page. Happy traveling!

Tags: Reasons To Volunteer Abroad, Conversation Corps, The Well Prepared Traveler, Make Something Happen, Volunteering Abroad

How Facebook's New Timeline Can Help Your Volunteer Abroad Experience

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Thu, Dec 22, 2011

On December 16, USA Today ran an article entitled Facebook Timeline: 9 Things You Need To Know.  Timeline attempts to take your data (text, video, photos, wall posts and links) and turn it into a digital scrapbook.

Randy LeGrant's Facebook TimlineI case you haven't seen a Timeline, here is what mine looks like.  (We are a wild and crazy TaeKwon-Do family of 4 Blackbelts and a green belt.)

Anyway, if you're going to volunteer abroad and live with a host family (90% of our programs involve living with a host family) the first thing you should notice is, ta da, the time line over on the far right.

If I am going to have you live in my home with my kids, I am going to start clicking on those dates and look at what you were writing and posting and then take a look at those photos you were sharing with the world.

There are scrapbooks that sit in your closet and you show your best friend every so often.  And then there are digital scrapbooks that just never go away and everyone on the planet can see them.  Your Facebook Timeline is one of those types of scrapbooks.

Guy drinking beerSo how much can your new potential host family really see if they click the years you were crazy in college?  According to the USA Today article, "Your privacy settings on old posts will remain. A post shared four years ago that was set to be viewable to just friends will continue to be viewable to just friends. The only concern here lies in how a user's definition of friend has changed. A photo or status update that in college that was OK for friends might not be OK for friends now, which might include coworkers."  So you really do want to go back in all those posts and photos and make sure you have your settings exactly right.

Boy kissing his dogOn the other side of the coin, and something you really do want to think about, is having some of your posts and your photos available for everyone to see.  Why?  Potential employers are going to go through your site for sure.  And your potential host family will also want to rifle through your photos.  If you have some set for the entire world to see, you will be directing exactly who sees what and when.  Would you rather have your new employer or your new host family see your talent for chugging beer, or loving man's best friend?  You can really use the new Timeline feature to put your forward.

You can also go back into your photo library and upload photos from your youthier youth, date them and have them appear in the right year.  This makes your Facebook Timeline a great way to showcase yourself to employers and host families.  Dedicate a weekend to bringing Facebook up to date with your life.  Decide who can see what photos and posts and Timeline can be a great advantage in your life.  All you have to do is find that photo of you volunteering in a local park, upload it to Facebook, adjust the date to 2007, and it will appear in the proper order in the new Timeline.

Another item you will want to use is expanding on important posts.  According to the article, "The Activity Log is the best place to edit a Timeline. Facebook has built a very helpful new page called the Activity Log, which can be accessed from a profile page, that shows every single piece of content Facebook has from a user. Each item can be deleted or tweaked from this page."  So now you can expand on your posts about your graduation, what you want to do with your life, why you want to volunteer abroad or teach abroad and how great of an addition you are going to make to your new host family.

Lastly, make sure you use the "Only Me" feature.  As you're editing your Timeline, if you find something you simply cannot part with but you don't want ANYONE to see, mark it as visible to "Only Me."  Double check that, and then you're good to go.

Everyone needs to understand that what you put on the Internet stays on the Internet.  Facebook is letting you control who sees what, but you need to make time every now and then to tweak your settings and keep yourself safe.

Anyone out there using Timeline in a creative way?  Do you have other ideas to share that would make it a useful tool for getting a job or convincing your new host family they are going to love you?

Tags: Teach Abroad, The Well Prepared Traveler, Volunteering Abroad