I recently wrote a piece for The Huffington Post about (in my opinion) the importance of seeing the world from a young age, if possible. What I realized after reading the comments, some of which were highly unkind, is that people may not realize the type of trip I’m talking about.
When I encouraged teenagers to see the world, I was not talking about going to the Chedi Club in Bali or the Four Seasons in Philadelphia. I’ve already done one of those things, and the other is on my appropriately-titled Wanderlist (I’ll allow you to determine which is which!). I’m taking about adventurous, living-off-the-land style adventures. Volunteer trips. Work camps. Exploratory voyages. Trips that allow you to see a foreign country in it’s raw, beautiful essence, unencumbered by spa treatments or 24-hour room service.
One of the main concerns on the Huffington Post entry was money. How could a teen afford such a trip? With careful research, it’s possible to only spend a relatively small chunk of money on a service or immersion trip, well within reach of a teen working a part-time summer job.
Last summer, I did a program called Pueblo Ingles. Based in Spain, PI is a cultural-exchange type camp, where English-speaking teens volunteer their time in exchange for room and board at the camp resort in the Spanish countryside. For up to two weeks, Anglos talk and share experiences with their Spanish counterparts, teens between the ages of 13-18. It was the perfect balance of structure and freedom. Much of the day was spent talking and sharing with the Spaniards, but there was a couple hours of free time and lots of bonding and team building. It’s an extremely positive experience.
So what does this all cost? The price of a plane ticket. All the other expenses are taken care of by Pueblo Ingles, save for a night in Madrid at the beginning and end of the program, depending on available flight times.
It’s an extremely worthwhile experience, and I also earned 100 service hours towards my requirement for school, which I believe most high schools have nowadays. For more information, you’re welcome to contact me, or visit the Pueblo Ingles website, linked above.
A fellow HuffPost columnist, LA-based Jack Davis wrote about his experience traveling to China as a guest of Cathay Pacific Airways in conjunction with their Green Explorer program. While all the details can be found in his post, a worthy read, it’s just another example of the unique opportunities out there, ready to be experienced.
There are at least a handful of summer programs, even closer to home, that reward volunteering or conservation efforts with room, board, and meals for a week or two. A Google search turns up several. It’s all about finding the dreams, desire, and time to have a unique experience that could change you forever.