Group trips are increasingly popular around the world. They offer an opportunity for travelers to meet new people, engage in local communities, all while experiencing a new culture. Many of these trips also incorporate some type of service-learning component, providing a way for participants to give back. Group trips can be exciting but also tricky to navigate, especially the division between fun and service. Effective group trips require both a high-quality trip and a lot of work on the part of participants.
We’ve talked about what to look for in a sustainable program, but today we’re going to go more in-depth on how you can make the most out of your trip once you’re already in-country!
Follow your group leader/hosts’ instructions
The Number one thing to remember when on a group trip is that you’re there for a purpose. You, your fellow travelers, and your host organization are all a team working toward a common goal. Because of this, it’s critically important that you listen and follow the instructions you’re given. Generally speaking, the people organizing your trip are going to better know the location and projects and won’t give you instructions without reason. Failure to follow these can lead to a much less effective trip or even put you in danger.
Asking your leader about why you’re doing certain things or working in a certain area can be a great way to improve your own learning on the trip!
Get to know your community
One of the wonderful parts of a group trip is the people you get to meet. Whether it’s your fellow travelers or members of your host community and organization, it’s important to take the time to get to know the people around you.
It will ensure a better trip and lead to long-lasting friendships. Spend time with your group both while you’re working together and during your downtime.
A critical aspect of service-learning – and learning in general – is reflection. By intentionally thinking about what you’re doing and learning, and why, you can learn at a deeper level and better appreciate the experience you’re having.
Journaling is a great way to practice daily reflection. It can help you look through your experience with greater purpose and glean more from the whole trip. If journaling isn’t your cup of tea, you can also practice reflection in other forms. Simply taking a few minutes each day to think about your experiences during the day or discussing the day with your group members are both other ways of engaging in meaningful reflection.
On each KinoSol trip, we spend time each day reflecting on the experiences of the day. It’s a great way to discuss what we’re observing, learning, and what’s put us out of our comfort zone!
Listen to the locals
Asking local community members about their culture, community, or for recommendations is a great way to get a deeper experience on your trip. Whether you’re looking for new foods to try or want to learn about local politics, the locals have the best insights.
Not only will you get to try new things, but you’ll also be learning more about the community and culture you’re visiting. It’s a great way to learn things you can’t find in a book or in the classroom!
Focus on the trip itself
This is perhaps the most important tip you can follow for any travel experience. Simply put, be present! Our normal life is full of so many distractions when we travel. Social media being the biggest.
We can easily get caught up in our own internal pressure to get the very most out of every trip and share it with the world. But that may mean we inadvertently miss things.
The best way to make the most of your trip is to focus on what you’re actually experiencing. This doesn’t necessarily mean leaving your phone or camera behind or locking yourself out of all your social media accounts. Instead, it means making intentional choices about what you’re doing and why. Are you taking this photo because you want to remember this moment or just to update your Instagram? On the other hand, are you abstaining from taking photos that you’ll wish you had when you get back home?
There isn’t one way to make the most out of your group trip. If you remember to be purposeful about how you engage with the activities and experiences in-country, you’ll get more out of your next trip. This looks different for everyone and can take some experimentation to figure out for yourself, but if you spend some time focusing on it,