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.

Yesterday
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?”)

“Yes.”

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

“Really?”

“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.’

“Seriously?”

“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 “me.com.” 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

At GeoVisions We Don't Save Lives

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Wed, Jun 04, 2014

Clinic Medical School Brigade1 resized 600Our CEO, Kevin Morgan, sometimes has to remind us that, "We're not saving lives here."  And this typically comes up when someone is taking what we do too seriously.

Now, there isn't anything wrong with taking travel and cultural exchange seriously.  In fact, that's a good thing.

But sometimes we obsess on why someone we've been talking to for 3 months decides not to take the jump and do a GeoVisions program ... or, chooses another organization.  sometimes we get grouchy when a participant calls from overseas and is having an issue with a host parent ... but they end the call with, "Please don't tell them I called you."  Well, how can we help, then?

GeoVisions was founded, ultimately, as a place where people can have fun.  We try to create an atmosphere where staff can come to work (no matter how busy or stressed they are) and have fun doing good work.  We create programs where our participants can have fun meeting and exceeding their goals.  We always try to provide home stay exchanges whereby a host family in another country will have fun with a GeoVisions volunteer living with them.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with savings lives.  It's just that we're not doing it here.  And that isn't why we exist.

I am attending a conference in Berkeley, CA for two-days at the GoOverseas.com offices.  One of the speakers today asked one of the founders of GoOverseas why he founded the search engine.  Mitch replied quickly and definitively ... "I wanted GoOverseas to be the Yelp for overseas programs."  It's the first time I ever heard Mitch put it that way.  I liked it.

We started GeoVisions to have fun exchanging our culture with other cultures.  It never came up that we'd save lives or save the world.  And honestly?  We don't exist to change the world.  That kind of presumes we know how the world should be.  And we don't.  We are happy taking responsibility for making sure we give all of our participants a platform in which they can meet and exceed their goals, exchange their culture with other cultures, meet and live like locals and have fun doing it.  Period.  Full stop.

Is it hard teaching or tutoring English?  Sure.  Can you laugh out loud teaching "four," "fore," and "for?"  We hope so.

Smiles do not need translation.

Tags: Travel Is Transforming, Working For A Better World, Why You Matter

The Best At What We Do

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Fri, Dec 27, 2013

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.

Why Our Volunteers MatterAnother 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.

Tags: GeoVisions Updates, Why You Matter