When you finish a program, you might not look different (apart from the teva tan lines), but you will most certainly feel different. You will take away a lot more than photos and souvenirs after traveling on a 70 day overland journey to some of the most vibrant and culturally diverse destinations on earth. The lessons learnt from our experiences on program will be drip fed into Your lives for years after the program.
Wide Open Mind
A gap semester program might unravel some of your beliefs and opinions. And that’s okay. In society, we are told that if we stand for nothing, we will fall for anything. During immersive overland travel, we are separated from those powerful cultural narratives that permeate our lives. We are removed from our echo chamber and given a blank slate to explore with. The more we see - the more mountain view and fireworks and convoluted plot twists and illogical and curly events we dip our toes in - the less we are certain about. Experiential travel allows us to approach situations through the lens of empathy, with an absence of ego and from a place of constant questioning.
We learn a lot about human development challenges and opportunities while out on these programs. We are also given tools to embrace the idea of radical acceptance, and make sense of our place in this world. On the programs, we learn through examples that the globe is complex and interconnected. There is not always a solution to the problem. There are issues which are meaty and that’s okay. There are people who are going to disagree with us. And that’s okay. There are a million and two things we could be doing to better ourselves as global citizens. And that’s okay.
More than finding ourselves on programs, we learn to be a bit more vulnerable and open. This is a hugely important transferable skill. In life after the program, we naturally have more empathy for people. Making connections with people of diverse backgrounds will occur organically. With more of an understanding of what’s happening out there beyond our borders, we get comfortable not knowing all the answers. We become more joyful. We become more flexible. We become natural leaders.
Won’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Experiential travel is a great way to shake up your routine and gain new levels of resilience. When we remove ourselves from our day to day comforts, routines and structures, it is a sure fire way to becoming more adaptable in the face of challenges. During programs, our field of vision expands far beyond our family, school and community. We begin to realize what’s most important in life. Overland travel requires quick thinking, willingness to change plans, spontaneity and accepting a little bit of organized chaos. Students come off these programs feeling grateful for their life circumstances, and mentally prepared for the next challenges in life. By putting ourselves out there and rubbing shoulders with local people around the world, by jumping into our hiking boots and onto expedition, by traveling full time for up to seventy days with a group of like-minded peers, we come home with a whole new perspective on life. Exams no longer seem so daunting, and end goals look a little clearer. We develop increased bounce-back-ability in the face of challenges, because we’ve been out in the world and witnessed the diverse lived experience of so many others. We have been out there and seen pristine wilderness areas that make the world worth fighting for.
Appreciation for the Kettle
Have you ever thought about how easy it is to get out of bed in the morning, walk to the kitchen and flick a switch for hot water? Out on programs, whether it's at a homestay in Mexico or camping in the Australian bush, we learn that boiling a kettle is not such an easy process for all the people sharing this earth right now. We learn this first hand. We live alongside locals in homestays and get to hear their stories. We are very fortunate to be observers out in the world on programs. We were born with the power of privilege; a huge life lottery. We have political rights, social choice, freedom of movement, consumer power, and we walk forward on crushed traditions. Privilege is invisible, until it is exposed. These programs help us to realize our privilege, which is a crucial observation to affect change.
Learn from Avocados
Our comfort zone is like the nutty core of an avocado. The green flesh is our stretch or expansion zone. The skin is our panic zone. On programs, we practice living life in the fleshy part as much as possible. On programs, we learn to do the things we don’t think we can. Do the yoga lesson, speak in front of the group, swim further into the deep blue, whatever it looks like for the individual to expand their comfort zone. We practice diversity and challenge ourselves to keep ourselves flexible. We can take our avocado through life and it will keep growing with us. When we get home from a program, we can expect to feel more assertive and confident. We will look for greater challenges. We will be empowered to feel the fear and do it anyway.
The Best Version of Ourselves
Travel makes us feel more connected with the earth and its people. We emerge wanting to be good people. Make positive change. Influence people for the better. Learn more about the world. Be our best selves. Strengthen systems so that inequality can be addressed. Be radically grateful for the amazing privilege we flow through this world with. If we catch ourselves comparing upward, we remember to look back downward and extend a hand. We ultimately learn to live a beautiful life and make this world a little better.
The benefits to life after programs could go on and on. In the end, it’s not enough to read about the effects of intentional, immersive overland travel. We’ve just got to get out there in the world and experience our own aha moments.
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