The Transformative Power of Travel

There is an unspoken personal transformation that often happens to people traveling away from home and experiencing – seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling – a new culture for the first time. It’s not always immediately recognized, and sometimes it is years before the real impact is understood. But it’s moments of personal development like this that make traveling the world such an invaluable experience.

As educators we should embrace this as an opportunity to truly inspire our students and positively impact their future – the reason many of us got into teaching in the first place! Here are a few ways a Group Leader can help foster this while on tour:

Appreciating the past, present and future
With almost certainty, you’ll visit a historic site of some significance on your tour. It’s too easy for the passive or distracted student to move through these places without putting much thought into what they represent and what they can learn from them. I often encourage my students to put themselves in the shoes of the people that once lived or experienced these places at the height of their importance. For example, in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles I challenge them to reflect on what took place in this room. How did those people help influence the future, and what impact did they have on the lives they live today? That question usually helps them link the past with their present, and more importantly, it helps them gain a better sense of appreciation for how they individually fit into it all.

Discovering passion and curiosity
Travel can be a great catalyst for realizing what you’re passionate about. I’ve seen and heard students talk about how they didn’t know how much they enjoyed culinary arts, architecture or environmental science until they became immersed in a new culture and stood in front of the Notre Dame in Paris, tasted paella in Barcelona or studied the ecosystem of mangroves in Costa Rica. Bring your lesson plans to life by directly connecting them to your tour experiences. Travel helps us shed our preconceived notions and uncover new strengths as we look at everything around us from a new perspective, including what we may have previously learned inside a traditional classroom.

Learning to walk with confidence
One of the best parts of travel is it forces you to be okay with feeling a little uncomfortable. At home we live in a bubble of comfort that we’ve organically built around us for years. Who you talk to, your commute, where you sleep and what you eat becomes one big daily routine. Over time, it turns into a nice and secure environment where everything is simple and easy. It’s a good feeling. But when you travel you’re forced to temporarily leave that bubble. All of a sudden you’re talking to different people, maybe in a different language. You’re eating new foods, walking down new streets and experiencing new cultural customs. All of these events, no matter how small they may be, are actually strengthening you for new adventures back home. Challenge your students to order at a food market in Italy or lead you to your next tour stop by following unfamiliar directions. Back home, changes that once seemed scary will be welcomed as new challenges and opportunities.

Travel opens us up to a whole new world – literally! It transforms our thought processes and our perspective. But it also helps us become a better version of ourselves. As a Group Leader I am passionate about travel, but what drives this passion is the opportunity it gives me to help inspire and steer my students into bright and successful futures.

Still looking for the perfect transformative experience? Browse our Domestic and International student tours.

Kay K.

Kay is a Middle School Spanish World Cultures Teacher. She first traveled with EF to Costa Rica in 2009 and has been leading student groups every Summer since. Kay believes that students should experience travel to help broaden their perspectives and allow them to see firsthand how tolerant, global and open-minded we should all strive to become.

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