People assume since I’ve traveled a lot, I must be good at it. I’m not exactly sure what makes a good traveler, perhaps it’s the ability to sit a very, very long time as the world passes by out the window, or to go with the flow when plans derail. I have no problem going with the flow because I often travel with no plan, just a to/from plane ticket and a vague idea of where I’ll go in between. If being a good traveler involves being a good travel planner, I’m a bad traveler. That’s why when universities began asking to go on trips with me, I turned to Kelly Campbell of The Village Experience.
Kelly is a good travel planner and an amazing person changing the world one passenger, one fair trade product, and one trip at a time. She arranged Winthrop University’s trip to Guatemala (check out our itinerary) and everything went so smoothly. No one got lost, the police were never called, and we weren’t even close to inciting an international incident. This is to say, it was a much different experience than a lot of my solo trips.
Kelly wrote this guest post about why she does what she does.
Last week I had the pleasure of leading a group from Winthrop University to Guatemala to carry the knowledge they learned from Kelsey Timmerman’s book, “Where Am I Wearing” into the field. This group of young women were new to traveling, the developing world, and stepping outside of their comfort zones in general. They came with only a small backpack and Keene sandals, but they left with half the market and memories to last a lifetime.
I have been developing and implementing socially responsible trips around the world for more than 11 years. To me, travel is second nature. I throw the essentials in a backpack, I hitch a ride to the airport, I meet friends on the other side, and I carry out the mission of The Village Experience and The Village Cooperative. Sometimes I forget how life-changing that first trip abroad can be…and then I watch my passengers overwhelmed and energized in the markets or marveling at the money they’ve just exchanged. I listen to them shouting out the names of American fast food chains they never thought they would encounter on their travels – McDonalds, Subway, Taco Bell, KFC. I watch their comments pop up on facebook, and I try to see the trip through their perspective. And, on occasion, I hear them scream at the dinner table when the fish they ordered comes out with the head intact.
Travel is quite possibly the best education one can receive–learning about the history of a colonial city through a walking tour, conversing in Spanish with a local, using art to portray the indigenous struggle, sitting in a restaurant watching the news and understanding that history is being made in the very place you are eating, or sharing a glass of wine with people from cities all over the world and getting their view on the current election. You learn to appreciate and understand other perspectives, barriers come crashing down, those history classes start to make sense, and friendships are created.
It was with great joy that I watched as the women of Winthrop University explored their new surroundings, sampled Guatemalan coffee and chocolate, delivered food to the malnourished, squealed with joy on their first tuc-tuc ride in search of Maximon, and shopped fair trade to their heart’s content. The stories around the dinner table each night were of the next trip, returning to Guatemala, brainstorming career paths, and how to raise money to help the communities they had met. It made my heart happy to see so many young people so energized after just one trip…one experience…one journey abroad.