|Transitions Abroad Magazine March/April 2007 Vol. XXX, NO.5|
Beyond the Tour Bus (magazine only)
Web Editor's Note: See TransitionsAbroad.com's Cultural Travel page for a selection of Cultural Travel Programs.Interview
Warren Rovetch: The Creaky Traveler by Alison Gardner
International Career Adviser by Jean-Marc Hachey
Back Door Travel by Rick Steves
The Resourceful Traveler by Tim Leffel
Local Encounters by Michele Peterson
The Independent Traveler by Rob Sangster
Deepening the Experience of Travel Mara DelliPriscoli
Living and Working Abroad
Living in the Limousin Volker Poelzl
Abroad at Home
Activist Responsible Traveler
From The Editor
Many of us live hurried lives these days, and we have only a few weeks’ vacation time, which we want to maximize. Like many of you, we at Transitions Abroad have always felt that the most life-enriching international experiences come from independent travel; however, times are changing and travel providers are creating more innovative and interactive itineraries that enable you to make a real connection with a place and its people, even in a short period of time.
Independent-minded travelers today have a growing number of options, from well established educational travel organizations such as Elderhostel and Smithsonian to smaller, owner-operated outfits founded by people just like you, who know the value of living, working, volunteering, or studying abroad. They have a vision and a mission around which they develop trips that bespeak their mottos, such as “learning adventures,” “meaningful travel, “reality tours,” “cultural adventures,” and “travel for the hungry mind.”
You can visit Rwanda to track mountain gorillas and meet with farmers whose lives are improving thanks to the country’s burgeoning coffee industry (page 57), learn to cook traditional Chinese food with a family in a Hutong village (page 58), volunteer in a Holocaust historical preservation project at Poland’s Auschwitz Memorial (page 63), or trek among the wildlife of Kamchatka peninsula in Siberia and spend time with the people indigenous to this area (page 65).
In addition to the obvious time-saving benefits and safety net these organized trips provide, their true value comes in the knowledge, skill sets, and deeper understanding of the world that they offer. The companies we feature employ guides who, if not native, are proficient in their destination’s language and well-educated about the cultures and issues of the countries in which they guide. Through their local knowledge and contacts these travel planners provide access to private venues and facilitate meetings with community and indigenous leaders, artists and environmentalists, politicians, academics, and explorers.
By spotlighting selected tour companies we hope to recognize an admirable and growing group of travel providers, many of which put their values ahead of their profits. While our roundup is by no means comprehensive nor perfect, we strove to choose longestablished companies and programs with long-term local connections in the places they operate. Many of these travel providers take measures to ensure that travel is sustainable for future generations: they minimize their impact on the environment, provide immersion into local cultures, facilitate respectful interaction with host communities, and employ incountry services and suppliers. In some best case examples, tour providers are going the extra mile to offset their travelers’ carbon emissions or direct a portion of their revenue toward locally based initiatives and nonprofit organizations. Volunteer programs are consulting with community members to develop needed and culturally appropriate projects, and they are also making a commitment to provide continued support.
The richness and depth of the tours and trips we researched made for a fun experience. We hope the many hours we spent talking with company founders, program directors, and travelers will save you time and help you narrow your choices. We ourselves would be hard-pressed to choose even our top 10 favorites! If you participate in an upcoming trip, please write to us about it. We welcome your feedback and articles.
And for those of you lucky enough to have more than a few weeks’ vacation or who cannot imagine not mapping out your own journey, we promise to bring you all the resources and tips you need for organizing your own independent and long-term travel in Transitions Abroad’s July/August “Overseas Travel Planner” issue.