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Saturday, 12 February 2011

Become a Trip Leader! - Part two

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What is it really like to be a trip leader? And how do you become one?

It should be clear by now that trip leading is an active, exciting
lifestyle that is the antithesis to an office job. However there are
give-and-takes and tensions inherent - it is certainly not for
everyone.

- You're not in it for the money! Your stipend varies greatly
depending on experience, education and time spent with the same
company.  Veteran trip leaders will see their salaries capped
eventually. Tour leaders of adults can expect tips; trip leaders of
students should not. Your expenses will be covered - accommodations,
food, transportation, and activities - such as retreats, language
classes, homestays, adventure activities, and weekend excursions. Your
flight to the country and back home is typically covered as well.
Health insurance is another matter: it’s more likely you will receive
some form of travel insurance, or a type of health insurance that is
only good for treatment outside of the U.S.

- You’ll be independent… sort of. While shredding your material
possessions can be a relief, you will need something to do and
somewhere to go on off-periods. This is a plus as well as a challenge
that comes with being a trip leader. Think ahead as to where you can
hang your hat between trips.

- You’re at peace with being ´juggled.´ Trips may or may not run at
the last minute depending on student enrollment. Matching up
leadership teams can be a long process that leaves you out of the know
for long stretches.

For me, these are slight obstacles when I consider the many, many
positives associated with this job. Liberation from an office!
Exciting activities! An opportunity to mentor youth! Seeing the world!
Sharing my day with a co-leader! Having fun! Every day becomes a new
adventure.

Before you apply, make sure you have these qualities that most tour
companies are looking for.

* Experience with this age group. Good leaders establish an intimate
but responsible rapport with students.

* Experience abroad. The more intimately you know a place, the better
the case for you to lead a trip there.

* Language skills. Most trips to Latin America demand a decent command
of the Spanish language. To places like India, where English is a
common medium, Hindi may not be a requirement.

* A minimum age. Advertised minimum ages may be around 21 for high
school programs and 25 for college-aged programs. For gap semester
companies, the average age advertised is typically 26 to 29.

* Flexibility. A lot can change in the field. In an interview and on
an application, be sure to talk up any job in which you have had to be
flexible.

* Maturity and responsibility, especially in emergencies. If you have
first aid, CPR, or wilderness first aid training, they are a plus and
for most companies a requirement after being hired.

* References. Up to three people who will be called to vouch for the
above-mentioned qualities.

If you don’t have these things, or if you’re not yet 21, there are
many things you can do that will push your eventual application to the
front of the line:

…Become a camp counselor, RA, teacher. Think positions with
responsibility. A simple internet search will reveal many summer camps
that take counselors who are under 21.

…Volunteer abroad. Picking a region where many programs lead trips
will give you an opportunity to talk up your experience in the region
in question.

…Learn a language. Language skills are a plus and sometimes mandatory
- enroll in a language school abroad and practice by staying with a
host family. Take advantage of any semester study abroad programs your
high school or college offers.

…Save a life. First Aid and CPR certification and Wilderness First Aid
are looked upon favorably, as is trekking and outdoor experience.

…Apply anyway! Some companies will accept younger applicants who are
otherwise qualified as “Trip Leader Interns,” “Assistant Trip
Leaders,“ or “Staffs-In-Training” (S.I.T.s). You may be unpaid or you
may be paid less, though your expenses will still be covered. This
gentle foot-in-the-door will help you learn the ropes and build
confidence in a leadership role. Lifeworks, for instance, advertises
it takes staff-in-training as young as 19.

Happy Trip Leading!

You can contact the author at NateMarcus [at] gmail.com

Tuesday, 08 February 2011

Staying Active and Sane this Winter

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With over 20 inches of snow, I mean ice, on the ground; it’s hard to believe spring and summer are such a short time away. Winter can seem dull and dreary, white snow turning a dirty brown, cars and building doused with a coating of ice and salt. Finding the positive in such a limiting time of year is no easy task, but even if you live in the heart of a winter stricken city, it can be done.

My thoughts of winter include mountain sports, ice fishing, some light hiking, pretty much anything that can get me out of the house. However, most of these things are not so easily attained. In fact, I recently found myself moving to Boston from a small coastal village. I was frustrated and agitated by things I only used to rarely encounter. Traffic, for one, made any trip a nightmare, and there were too many variables involved when trying to predict when the traffic may be at its lightest.

Only with time, trial and error, have I found my way in this new place. There is much more to offer than immediately meets the eye, it just takes a little searching. Take ice fishing for example, Boston is loaded with smaller ponds and lakes, and with a deep freeze winter like we have been having this year, even the most novice of angler can fish the Charles River.

As for skiing and snowboarding, the Blue Hills in Milton, Mass offers an affordable, local and pretty fun day on the mountain. It is a quick 24 minute drive from Kenmore Square, and a commute I can deal with when I just can’t make the three hour drive north.

Every city has a heap of local magazines and other publications that offer information on local shows, restaurants, and social events, and with a little research you can find those special outdoor spots too.

Just because there might be an endless winter outside, doesn’t mean you have to stay inside.

 

 

Below is a list of web pages that might help you:

www.city-discovery.com

General Search for happenings in your city

www.yelp.com

Reviews on just about anything you can think of

www.citysearch.com

All you need to know on your local city

www.nps.gov/parks.html

National Parks and Recreation

www.inpra-usacan.com

International Parks and Recreation

www.mapsofworld.com

Helpful Travel maps

www.maps.google.com

Saturday, 05 February 2011

Become A Trip Leader!

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written by Nate Marcus

 

Can you be paid to travel to different countries - to trek the Incan Trail to Machu Picchu, practice yoga and meditation in India, and board down sand dunes in Argentina? What about getting paid to scuba-dive with sharks, see the sun rise over Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and live with Tibetan families?

It’s not a dream, but a reality for international trip leaders who work for companies that organize summer trips and gap semesters. As a trip leader I’ve been paid to do every one of the experiences listed above and many more.

At present I have led 12 trips over six summers and six semesters and worked for four different trip companies. As part of my job I have gotten to:

…patrol the beach at night collecting turtle eggs in Costa Rica…

…hostel hop on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua…

…tour the Mayan ruins of Copan and teach English in Honduras…

…learn Spanish and hike volcanoes in Guatemala…

…camp with gauchos and search for Eva Peron’s grave in Argentina…

…shower under an Amazonian waterfall in Ecuador…

…practice yoga and meditation in Peru…

…climb over the Pyrenees and dance Flamenco in Spain…

…smell the burning ghats in India…

…sit cross-legged at a Buddhist retreat and trek the Himalayas in Nepal…

…and learn about children’s issues in Cambodia.

A trip leader - alternatively called “group leader,” “instructor,” or “international educator” - is different than a guide. It would be fair to expect a guide to know about the history and culture of a place, or to have experience in a geographical area. As a trip leader I‘ve been to places where I’ve had neither. A trip leader may at times act as a guide, but essentially it is but one of the roles that a trip leader may play. Contracted guides are called “guides,” “experts” or “in-country coordinators.”

An international trip leader, rather, is someone who accompanies students or adults to another countries (or meets them there) and takes responsibility for the participants and the details of the program on behalf of the parent organization.

The details of the trip leader’s role depend on the program he or she is leading and the expectations of the company he or she works for. Typically a trip leader wears many hats. There are logistical details to take of. He or she must ensure program quality control; take care of emergencies that may arise; budget appropriately and account for every expenditure; and communicate with the home office back in the States. There is also the teacher role: a trip leader will be called on to guide group dynamics and instruct students on how to travel safely abroad. A trip leader acts as a disciplinarian, and may have to send students home (many gap semesters and summer programs have no-drug, no-alcohol and sometimes no-relationship policies). The rule-breaking scenarios and their consequences can consume a lot of energy, while “teachable moments” are commonplace and wonderful ways to impart knowledge onto curious minds. And there is also a mentor role - trip leaders have a special opportunity to get to intimately know the students and share advice, warm words and a more mature perspective.

Here are the various types of programs you may find. Gap-semester trips (and possibly some summer trips) are a hybrid combination of each.

Language Learning -

typically require that the leader speak the language proficiently. You may be doing the teaching, either formally or in dynamic activities such as scavenger hunts or games, or students may be enrolled in formal classes that you do not teach. Some programs like those with Putney Student Travels (www.goputney.com) include a language pledge according to which students promise to speak only the target language for their entire 5-week trip.

Community Service -

are hands-on volunteer-oriented trips during which participants are typically living with and working in a smaller community. Weekends may be used for sight-seeing excursions. One of the additional responsibilities of the leader on these trips is to keep moral in the group high, and excite and motivate students with their volunteer work.

Cultural Exploration -

think: beach, cafes, skiing. Cultural exploration trips are fun fun fun. Travel for travel’s sake!

Outdoor Adventure -

are extremely active, typically learning to surf, bike, trek, kayak and the like. Leaders should love the outdoors. Leaders may have to already possess certain skills.

Overland -

involve taking participants on van rides around North America or to other countries. These trips require that trip leaders have a good driving record, which may mean no more than one infraction within a certain period of time.

Academic Enrichment -

take a more academic slant to travel and may take structured classes while abroad. They may learn creative writing or photography, biology or environmental science. These trips are at times accredited. You may be asked to teach one or more courses, in which case you can expect a higher compensation compared to other forms of trip leading.

 

Some companies looking for trip leaders include:

International summer teen tours:

360 Student Travel

(www.360studenttravel.com)

All About Visiting Earth

(www.aave.com)

Academic Treks

(www.academictreks.com)

Global Routes

(www.globalroutes.org)

Global Works

(www.globalworkstravel.com)

Lifeworks International

(www.lifeworks-international.com)

Putney Student Travel

(www.goputney.com)

Rustic Pathways

(www.rusticpathways.com)

Travel for Teens

(www.travelforteens.com)

Where There Be Dragons

(www.wheretherebedragons.com)

Gap-semesters for students 17 and up:

Carpe Diem International Education

(www.carpediemeducation.org) - Africa, Australia, India, Latin America, Southeast Asia

Global Routes

(www.globalroutes.org) - Africa, Latin America

Global-Lab

(www.global-lab.org) - China, Greece, India, Morocco

LEAPNow (Lifelong Educational Alternative Programs)

(www.leapnow.org) - India, Latin America

Thinking Beyond Borders

(www.thinkingbeyondborders.com) - 8-month trip that goes to Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Where There Be Dragons

(www.wheretherebedragons.com) - China, Himalayas, India, Latin America, Mekong region, West Africa

Happy Trip Leading!

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