Archive for May, 2008

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Your Hometown = My Holiday Destination

May 28, 2008

You probably spend a lot of time thinking about getting away. Wherever you are, you want away from there. If you have snow you want sand, if you have sand you want mountains, and if you have mountains you want cityscapes.

I was cruising around online looking for some destination inspiration of my own. I decided to see where Londoners were reading about and went to the travel section of a UK newspaper. Where were they recommending readers go on holiday? San Francisco. About 20 minutes from my front door. Hmmm. Where else? The small town of Deal, not far from the white cliffs of Dover, home to my friend, Luke, and someplace that I once spent a week’s vacation, mostly listening to Luke talk about how dull Deal was and how he wanted to get away.

Well Luke’s living in Tokyo now, but apparently somebody thinks his hometown is worth a visit. And after reading the article on the beaches outside of San Francisco, I thought that sounded like a pretty good trip as well.

Sometimes you don’t need a new destination, just a new perspective.

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Spend Summer as a High School Travel Ambassador

May 27, 2008

JapanSummer 2008 is almost here. That means it’s a great time to start planning for summer 2009. What’s that? You’re only in high school? So what? Incredible student travel experiences aren’t limited to those over 18.

The People to People Student Ambassador Program, for example, was founded by President Eisenhower in 1956 and has sent thousands of junior high and high school students abroad in the 50 years since then. The focus of the program isn’t just travel, but cultural exchange, and many of their adventures include homestays with local families, meetings with influential politicians and business people, and visits to significant organizations and landmarks.

One difference with this program is that you don’t just sign up and pay the price like you do with a tour company; you have to apply and go through an interview. Don’t let that stop you though. If you have a passion to travel around the world, you’re probably just who they’re looking for. (I’m pretty sure I bumbled my way through my interview many years ago, but I still got to spend some of the best weeks of my life traveling through Australia one summer and Europe the next.)

The Program has drawn some big names over the years (not just me), so you’ll be in good company. According to their website, “Walt Disney created the “It’s a Small World” attraction in 1964 after his participation in the People to People International White House conference. This attraction has now introduced over 250 million people to the concept that we may have our differences, but underneath we all share the same core values.”

Student Ambassadors can travel to Asia, Australia, Europe, or even to Canada (it’s always good to stay friendly with the neighbors) and trips last two to three weeks. Teachers are also needed to lead the student groups, so if you know a teacher who might be interested, let them know about the program too. The fees include all of your meals and transportation, and if you come up with some creative fundraising ideas, you can at least reduce the amount coming out of your pocket.

You’re never too young to get out there and develop a lifelong travel habit. Good luck, and have fun!

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Have You Been a Student Travel Cliché?

May 23, 2008

DisneylandAnd if so, does it matter?

In a recent blog, The Backpacker listed what he thought were the ultimate student travel clichés, including a drunken bus tour of Europe and a full moon party in Thailand. But while he thinks some of these cliches should be left behind, others he sees as a right of passage, or worth doing despite the fact that everybody does them.

His list is focused on Autralians abroad, but Americans have their clichés as well: Spring Break in Cancun or Florida, a graduation trip to Disneyland or Disney World, maybe a weekend in Vegas for your 21st. 

But why not do them? If that’s where you want to go, and you have good friends to have good times with, that’s what matters most. Thinking outside the student travel box can’t hurt though, so take some time to explore your more uncommon options.

 

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Hello Kitty, Ambassador of Tourism

May 20, 2008

Hello KittyJapan just named Hello Kitty as their ambassador of tourism in an effort to enourage more women to visit Japan. This article also tells us, “According to her official profile from Sanrio, Hello Kitty lives with her family in London.”

Huh? Shouldn’t living in Japan be a main part of the job? Especially for a fictional character whose fictional bio could have her living anywhere?

Ah, well. If Miss Ambassador visits the U.S., I hope we send both Mickey Mouse and Homer Simpson to welcome her.

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The Scholar Ship: The Other Semester at Sea

May 19, 2008

The ScholarshipIt was such an awesome idea, of course someone else was going to jump on it. Lucky for you, that means that if spending a few months sailing around the world, learning as you go and visiting exotic ports of call sounds like something you’d enjoy, you have more than one option.

The Scholar Ship is a globally recognized academic program aboard a transformed passenger ship hosting students on semester-long voyages around the world (according to their website.)

The “globally recognized” part must be true though, because they’ve partnered with several colleges and universities, including U.C. Berkeley and Macquarie University in Sydney, to make sure you get the most out of the experience academically as well as culturally. It’s open to both undergrads and graduate students, and financial aid options are available.

If I could travel back in time and redo a semester of my own college experience, this is exactly what I’d want to do, so I hope some of you are able to hop aboard and tell me all about it. Maybe send me a postcard or two to say “Ahoy!”

For more information: http://thescholarship.com/

And to arrange your travel to and from the ship, talk to our friends at Travel CUTS. They can find you a great student deal on flights and can also hook you up with an ISIC so that you’ll save some cash during your time in port.

Update: Unfortunately, it looks like this program no longer exists. If learning at sea interests you, check out Semester at Sea.

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Fun Summer Tours Near You: Ice Cream Factories

May 16, 2008

Chunky MonkeyRight now I’m indoors, at my desk, and it’s 86 degrees. At my desk. Inside. More than anything, I would like to climb inside a refrigerator. The next best thing would be an ice cream factory/wonderland. Here are a few you could check out.

  • Ben & Jerry’s in Waterbury, Vermont: This is one of the happiest places on earth, even with the flavor graveyard that reminds me just how much I miss that old timey Rainforest Crunch. The factory is in a beautiful location, very un-industrial, there are fun things to see and do and eat, and as long as you’re in the area you can visit all the cheese and maple syrup farms and shops and boutiques. It’s a foodie’s paradise.
  • Blue Bell Ice Cream in Brenham, Texas; Broken Arrow, Oklahoma; and Sylacauga, Alabama: It’s “The Little Creamery” that could. Tour the factory and then sit back and enjoy a fresh scoop or four.
  • Mayfield Dairy Farms in Athens, Tennessee and Braseltonm Georgia: This place has been around since 1912 and they produce milk as well, so you can get the whole history of ice cream along with the fancy new flavors. 
  • Oberweis Dairy in North Aurora, Illinois: The address for Oberweis Dairy is Ice Cream Drive. Do you need another reason to go?

Any of these places would make a good day trip, or why not find a nearby hostel and make a weekend or full-on road trip out of it? Make your own adventure on whatever budget you can afford and you can make great travel memories without spending a fortune or traveling thousands of miles.

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It’s Not Too Late to Volunteer Abroad This Summer

May 14, 2008

Volunteer AbroadIf the recent tragedies in Myanmar and China have gotten you thinking about ways you can help out, why not consider spending part of your summer volunteering as you travel? Those areas may be the most devestated right now, but there are programs that can take you all over the world to help those in need.

You can build schools, teach, work on environmental conservation, assist medical professionals, or even help local kids create art and try something new. Most of all, you’ll be letting people in sometimes remote areas know that people care enough to come from far away and lend a hand.

Start with the Volunteer Abroad site and see where in the world you can go from there.