We hear from Trip Leaders all over the country that are in various stages of "trip planning" maturity. What we mean by that is, after a while, certain locations become more and more frequented over the years to the point where trip leaders are yearning for a new type of experience for their students.
Although locations like Costa Rica, Spain, France, Italy, etc. are always going to be interesting for the next group of students, perhaps the school administration has ventured into a new direction with global travel and is wanting to diversify.
That's where "off the beaten track" educational travel comes into play. But you may be asking: How do I get started on new locations and subject matter experiences?
We've got a few tips for you.
#1 - Dig Deeper into the Repertoire of Programs Your Provider Can Offer
It's often that most providers display more prominently their "popular programs", as they are sometimes the most profitable and visually appealing one (equals $$$). But you'll find that providers are willing to work with you on your goals, and the specific purpose you're trying to achieve. For example, Our Human Family has developed new programs over the past few years specifically based on the needs that our client schools have expressed to us. Instead of Spanish Immersion in Costa Rica, we've offered Citizen Science in Costa Rica, that will be a formal offering to all schools soon based on one Environmental Science teacher expressing interest.
#2 - Ask Your Colleagues
If your provider cannot achieve what you would like out of an educational travel experience for your students, reach out to your peers in the industry. This is when it pays to be a member of a shared resource organization like the Global Educators Benchmark Group. The GEBG (for short) is a membership organization of like-minded schools around the country that have all put global studies as a focus for their administration. A simple email out to the membership base with an inquiry for ideas on how to run a program in Sri Lanka would render some great results! There's also subject matter focused organizations like the AAFT (American Association of French Teachers) that can help in areas specific to French locations abroad.
#3 - Frequent Verified Website Resources
Regardless of whether or not your colleagues or provider(s) can come through for you, it's always intelligent to check out websites like the CDC (Center for Disease Control & Prevention) and the U.S. State Department Travel Advisory database. Each of these resources contains valuable information on the status of the location of interest, from a general safety standpoint to potential diseases. For example, the State Department has a scale of 1-4, one being the safest and four being most dangerous, for every country you could search. Then, it goes into more granular detail on why and where not to go if you do. The CDC has three levels, also in the same order, and serves as a great cross reference with state department data.
#4 - Build Your Own Relationships
If numbers 1 and 2 fall through above, and you feel like you've done your homework on 3, then it may be an opportunity for you to build relationships for your school directly. If you have approval from your administration to develop an exchange or relationship with local organizations in other countries, start reaching out, begin conversations, and CHECK REFERENCES.
If you want to learn more about the process of identifying off the beaten track educational travel, or are perhaps interested in creating an itinerary for your group, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org!