Travel Journal (Day 1)
So, I have spentSunday, July 14, 2013, packing and finishing up prepping for my trip overseas. This has been, and always is, a complicated experience. I should explain that the other professor on this trip happens to be my boyfriend. We have been doing short-term global studies trips together for several years, so we are really practiced in the pre-trip prep.
See, the trips we lead are more student focused. We also have trips at my college that have more community member participation and are arranged by big travel companies. But the trips I participate in are those that have mainly students on them. And part of the goal of these trips is to teach students how to travel effectively, affordably, and safely. We call these light backpacking trips because we insist that students use backpacks for the trips.
We have them use internal frame backpacks. I use a Kelty backpack kind of like this one. This is perhaps my favorite way to travel because the pack is easy to carry, holds everything I need, and is a carry-on so I do not have to check any bags. Plus, when I am in a new place (be it somewhere in the US or internationally), I can move about easily. I know many people think that the roller bags are convenient, but when doing a lot of moving around, backpacks are definitely easier.
What we want to teach them is how to feel comfortable traveling and not seem too much like a tourist. We want them to be able to move about no matter where they are and not worry about too much. Carrying the backpacks helps with this.
We also teach them how to use public transportation. We make them purchase their own tickets, check into the lodgings, and even teach them key phrases when we go to countries that speak a different language. We give them free time to experience the cities and towns we visit on their own, as well as have group activities. Both of these help them learn about travel. By having lots of free time, we allow them to make decisions on what they want to do. They are always welcome to come with us (the tour guide and profs) wherever we are going, but we also encourage them to experience the places in their own way.
We ensure that students know how to use the trains, buses, or other public transportation methods. And we always have a meeting time when everyone has to come back together. Students enjoy the freedom and appreciate the concern.
We also teach them how to check-in to the airlines. Every trip we have taken, we have had students who have never flown, as well as those who have never left their home state. So teaching them how to navigate the airport is just as important as every other travel lesson.
To round out the backpacking experience, we stay in hostels. More on this later, though.
Today, my boyfriend and I have been packing our backpacks. One concern has been liquids. On the flights out, we all carry on our backpacks, which means we have to put our liquids in the 1-quart plastic bag according to the 3-1-1 rule. We can only have 3 ounces of each liquid (shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, soap, hair stuff, lotion, et cetera), and they must fit in a 1-quart bag. Click here for the Travel Security Administration’s explanation of this.
By carrying on our backpacks, we ensure that no one loses their bags right at the start of the trip. It does limit the liquids we can bring, but this makes students really consider what they are taking and why. We emphasize that backpacking in foreign countries is about the experience not a fashion show. The vast majority of students enjoy the simplicity of this kind of travel.
Now, we do check our bags when we come back to the States.
The whole point of the light backpacking study abroad tours we plan is to give students the knowledge and confidence to travel on their own without having to rely on a big travel company. These are about smart traveling that you control.
Now, I must go and put the finishing touches on everything.
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