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Sep
18

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Living Mayan History in Belize and Guatemala

Posted by on September 18, 2016 · 1 Comment  

For those born in the 21st century, it’s difficult to imagine what life was life before computers, cell phones, or cable TV. Now try to imagine life without metal tools. It’s almost incomprehensible!

It was during such an era that the Maya Empire came into existence. Evidence of their civilization dates back to around 1800 BC. By the 6th century AD, the Mayans were at the height of their power, having built an empire of great influence that excelled in agriculture, pottery, hieroglyphic writing and mathematics.

The Maya people spread across the Yucatan Peninsula in what is now Belize, Guatemala and parts of Mexico. Their location and concentration made them less vulnerable to attack than other civilizations of that time, and so their empire grew and flourished.

It’s the challenge of looking back so many years and trying to imagine what life would have been like that attracts so many people to ancient cultures. In Guatemala and Belize, Mayan History comes to life amidst the rocky ruins, tucked away in remote jungles. But the magic really comes to life once you realize that aspects of this ancient culture still live on today…

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Aug
28

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Planning a Family Trip: How to Get Kids Involved

Posted by on August 28, 2016 · 1 Comment  

Taking a family trip offers an exciting opportunity for bonding, learning, and exploring a new place together. Involving everyone in the trip-planning process is just as important as involving everyone in the trip itself, and that includes the kids!

Children may have varying levels of interest in the idea of “trip planning.” But they’re sure to become enthusiastic once they start to explore all of the fun things you can do together.

By involving kids in planning your family trip, we get them engaged on a deeper level. It’s hard to please everyone with every plan on the road. But when kids feel included in the planning process, they’ll have a better understanding of the trip as a whole. If there’s a portion that they’re not particularly enthusiastic about, they’re less likely to become agitated or bored if they have a say in what’s coming next.

Building anticipation for your family vacation can be a bonding experience in itself. So get everyone involved right from the very start, and you may find that the whole experience will be more rewarding. Here are a few tips to help you through the process…

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Aug
19

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7 Travel Photography Tips for Photographing Other Cultures

Posted by on August 19, 2016 · 1 Comment  

Photography is a big part of travel these days. Everyone wants to capture their awe-inspiring travel experiences to share with friends and family back home. Thanks to social media, we can do so almost instantly (depending on the availability of wifi).

While it’s great that the proliferation of stories and photos can spread so quickly and help make the world feel smaller and less intimidating, we must remember that we have a responsibility to the people and places we photograph.

Cultures do not exist merely for the sake of Facebook likes and retweets. They are complex, intimate, and sacred. And we, as travelers, should feel honored when we’re given access to cultural experiences that are not our own.

That being said, there are ways to photograph cultures that are respectful and effective in capturing beautiful moments around the world. Keep these points in mind and you’ll come away with great photos and richer experiences as a result.

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Aug
11

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Celebrate World Elephant Day with 20 Fascinating Facts About Elephants

Posted by on August 11, 2016 · Leave a Comment  

With their enormous, lumbering bodies; their kind, thoughtful eyes; and those long, silly trunks, elephants are skilled at capturing our hearts and imaginations. People around the world adore elephants. Yet humans are persistently the most harmful threat to the largest land mammals on Earth.

August 12 is World Elephant Day— a chance to celebrate elephants and bring attention to their fragile existence. If we don’t find ways to put a stop to the damage that people are doing to the elephant population, future generations will not have an opportunity to appreciate these beautiful creatures.

Discover Corps volunteers who join our Elephant Conservation Expedition have the opportunity to interact with Asian elephants in Northern Thailand. Deforestation has forced many Asian elephants out of their natural habitat, an issue that inspired a Thai family to build a place where elephants can live, surrounded by lush trees. Our volunteers experience the importance of elephants to the local people, and vice versa, while engaging with the elephants and the community that cares for them.

Elephants are fascinating creatures, so in honor of World Elephant Day, we’d like to dive into what makes them so interesting. Below you can read up on some fun elephant facts, and then visit WorldElephantDay.org to discover ways that you can help protect them.

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Aug
4

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A Week in Cuba: Building Bridges of Friendship & Understanding

Posted by on August 4, 2016 · Leave a Comment  

Cuba is a country that is on the move – just look in the news. It seems like every day brings new stories as relations between the U.S. and Cuba gradually warm and borders begin to open to American travelers. But in the streets of Havana, life continues largely as it did half a century ago. Vintage cars drive along the malecon – Havana’s famous sea wall, century-old buildings stand in narrow alleyways echoing Cuban percussion and signs adorning Che Guevara’s infamous silhouette decorate billboards alongside communist-era slogans.

Ask anyone in the streets and they will tell you the same thing – “Change is coming…”. Whether it’s the wi-fi that is sprouting up in hotels and cafes, cruise ships beginning to arrive in the city’s ports or direct air service from the U.S., Cuba is on the verge of entering into a new era, one influenced by it’s neighbor only 90 miles to the north. Whether these changes will be good or bad is to be determined, but one thing is clear – this is the time to see the island in all of its glory.

I was lucky enough to spend a week exploring the island on Discover Corps’ Cuba: Building Bridges trip. Here’s a look at my day-by-day journal…

 

DAY 1

Arriving into Havana is like taking a step back into time. Walk out of the airport and you are immediately greeted by vintage automobiles dating back as far as the 1940’s and billboards dating back to the Cold War. Oh, and the unmistakable Caribbean heat!

The group, a family of four originally from China and a father & son from Washington, hop into the bus as we take off for downtown Havana. Along the way, our group leaders introduce themselves and give us a brief history of the city as the Caribbean shows itself in the distance.

We jump right into the jet stream of life having lunch in a shaded park right in Old Havana. Tasty Cuban sandwiches and music echoing from a nearby cafe makes for the perfect arrival into the city.

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We continue on with a guided tour of Old Havana. While navigating the narrow cobblestone alleys and listening to the history that can be found around each corner, it really starts to set in that I’m in Cuba. From Hemingway’s old haunts to relics of Spanish colonialism, Cuba has a depth of history unlike anywhere else.

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Later in the afternoon, we check-in to our hotel in the center of Havana and enjoy dinner together at a charming restaurant overlooking the old city of Havana.

 

DAY 2

After a relaxing breakfast at the hotel, we step into the fresh Caribbean air for a day of arts & history in Havana. First stop is Project Fuster, where the work of Cuban artist Jose Rodriguez Fuster has transformed a community into a colorful art project. Brightly colored sculptures and mosaics adorn the buildings, roofs, benches and walkways of the community.

Our guide walks us through the community, pointing out various social and political messages hidden in the artwork along the way. While exploring the vibrant streets, we even managed to stumble upon a local baseball game and had a chance to watch the locals cheer along their team!

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Next stop is an enlightening discussion with Dr. Hugo Pons, Special Advisor to the President of ANEC (Association of Cuban Economists) and Consultant with the United Nations, on the Cuban economy. Through an interactive presentation, Dr. Pons shows the group exactly how the Cuban economy works and what the future of U.S.-Cuban relations are. This helps to provide a foundation for our experience in Cuba going forward.

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On to mojitos! After a relaxing lunch looking over the bay of Havana, we head over to the famous Hotel Nacional for a mojito tasting session (and for those younger ones – virgin mojitos!). Overlooking the Caribbean with swaying palms, this proves to be the perfect late afternoon activity.

After exploring the lavish hotel grounds, we head to dinner at a nearby paladar, or self-run private restaurant in Cuba. A three course meal greets us along with stunning views of downtown Havana.

 

DAY 3

Fresh Cuban coffee and tropical fruit – now this is how you start a day!

As we hit the streets of Havana, I can’t help but to think of the joie de vivre that exists on this island. From the colorful art that adorns the streets to the upbeat music streaming out of every cafe, Cuba is alive.

Our journey takes us to an alley, but not just any alley. Callejon de Hamel is an alley that has been transformed by the artwork of Salvador Gonzalez. More importantly, it is a celebration of Afro-Cuban culture as well as the location of a weekly rumba party hosted for the community.

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Walking along taking in the beauty of the artwork, our guide points out to us the artist himself who has come for a visit! The group stops for a quick chat and even gets a chance to see some of his recent paintings that were exhibited abroad.

We hop in the van to the next project called Muraleando, an art collective that began in 2003 under Cuban artist Manuel Diaz Baldrich. The beautiful structure hosts workshops in the community of all forms of art and holds an annual international symposium on wall painting.

After a guided tour, we’re led to the top floor of the building were a band is taking the stage and a table is laid out for a private lunchtime performance! Some take the stage to practice their salsa moves while other simply take in the music. A home-made lunch of chicken, rice, beans, salad and fruit is served – a refreshing break in the afternoon heat.

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Back to old Havana for some free time and a quick visit to the National Rum Museum. Later, we enjoy dinner at a charming paladar in the city. We even decide to explore the malecon where thousands of Cubans gather in the evenings to enjoy the cool Caribbean air.

 

DAY 4

On the road again. Today, we make our way across the island to the southern town of Trinidad. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trinidad is home to beautifully preserved colorful buildings and winding cobblestone streets.

The drive takes some time, so we stop along the way for some fresh juice and piña coladas. But that’s not our only stop – as we make our way along the southern coast, Gretell, our guide, points out the infamous Bay of Pigs. Home to the failed CIA invasion in 1961, we have the unique opportunity to see the beaches where the battle took place as well as enjoy lunch at a nearby paladar.

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Back on the road, we continue onwards to Trinidad gazing in wonder as the beautiful coastline of Southern Cuba comes into view. As the van starts to rumble along the cobblestone streets and colorful buildings of colonial design come into view, we know we’re here.

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Over the next two nights, we’ll have the unique opportunity to stay in casas particulares, or local bed and breakfasts that are common throughout Cuba. This is the perfect chance to learn about Cuban culture from the people themselves.

After having a chat with my host family, a husband and wife who are both retired engineers, I head to dinner with the group at a beautiful paladar in town. Greeting us upon arrival is a live band who plays for us as we wait for our delicious meal of fresh caught lobster. Later in the evening, I join some of the group for an evening listening to salsa music in the historic city center.

 

DAY 5

Waking up to fresh squeezed mango juice, Cuban coffee and an enlightening conversation about Cuban music is not a bad way to start the day! My host even has a private bonsai garden that she walks me through.

We hit the streets of Trinidad early with a walking tour of the historic city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Quaint alleyways lead to cobblestone streets lined with colorful houses. In the center of Trinidad sits an ornate cathedral that looks over the main square, a relic to the 16th Century Spanish sugar trade.

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Towards the end of the tour, our guide waves us over to a set of stairs that leads to a secret lookout point. The group stands motionless taking in the most well preserved city in Cuba as well as the Caribbean sitting in the distance.

Speaking of the Caribbean, you can’t go to Cuba without taking a dip in its warm waters. After lunch, we take a short drive down the road to an unspoiled beach for a brief afternoon swim – a relaxing addition to a wonderful day.

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After relaxing a bit back at our casas and a delicious dinner at a charming paladar in town, we decide to head over to a nearby jazz bar to see some live Cuban music and salsa dancing. I’ve come to the conclusion that learning to salsa dance is basically a right of entry to the island. From kids to adults, it seems as though everyone knows the moves.

 

DAY 6

The road is calling again. We hop into the van on our way back to Havana, but not without a stop in the Cienfuegos. Dubbed the “Pearl of the South” for its French-inspired architecture, Cienfuegos is unlike any of the places we’ve visited in Cuba. Wide boulevards, classic French-style buildings, a beautiful harbor and even a replica of the Arc de Triomphe adorn this city.

Our morning in Cienfuegos begins with a visit to a local health clinic to see firsthand how the Cuban healthcare system works. Along with a team of doctors, the director of the clinic gives our group a tour of the facilities as well as a Q & A where the group is free to ask anything. It’s amazing to hear that even though Cuban doctors only earn an average of $67 per month, they have some of the best trained doctors in the world (and they’re sent all over the globe to help)!

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Next we head into the city center for a once in a lifetime experience – a private performance from the Cienfuegos Chamber Orchestra. The group is utterly speechless as the various members take the stage and treat us to an amazing hour of music. By the end of the performance, we were even up dancing with the conductor!

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Afterwards, the orchestra opens the room to a Q&A about Cuban musical history and the role the government plays in promoting Cuban culture. A fascinating experience indeed.

Lunch at the harbor as well as some free time in the city is a perfect break before hitting the road back to Havana. The scenery is absolutely stunning as we make our way along the coast and back inland through lush fields. We’re even greeted with an afternoon thunderstorm as we enter the outskirts of Havana.

Tonight, we have a relaxing evening in town enjoying dinner at a paladar in town followed by a leisurely walk along the malecon.

 

DAY 7

I can’t believe it’s our last full day together in Cuba. It’s amazing how fast time flies by!

We hit the road early to catch a performance from the Havana Compass dance group. I have to admit, after seeing several performances over the past week, I did not think this could be any better. Boy was I wrong…

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Havana Compass is not only a dance troupe that has performed for the likes of Mick Jagger, but also trains over 200 children in the community to be dancers, some of whom become professionals. Their full performance absolutely blows the group away. Using everyday items such as chairs as instruments of percussion combined with traditional and modern dances creates an atmosphere that is absolutely electric.

We couldn’t leave without a group a picture…

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Our final stop of the trip takes us to the seaside village of Cojimar. Why drive all the way out to such a small town? Because it was once home of one of Cuba’s most famous residents – Ernest Hemingway.

We take a guided tour of Hemingway’s home, including the rooms where he wrote some of his most famous novels including The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway spent a bulk of his life and Cuba and his home, dubbed Finca Vigia or Lookout Farm, is a testament to his love for the island. From his boat to leftover manuscripts scattered on his desk, it’s truly amazing to see the life of such an illustrious writer.

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We make our way to lunch down by the bay where the cool sea breeze tempers the Caribbean humidity. With less than a day left on the island, Harlen, our driver, takes us to a small indoor market in Havana for some last minute souvenir shopping. From artwork to rum, our group comes back with everything!

Tonight is bittersweet. Our last meal together is at one of Havana’s best restaurants where we enjoy fresh paella and the sounds of a live piano performance. A final cheers to Cuba ends the night as we walk back to our hotel.

 

DAY 8

And we’re off. Driving through the streets of Havana to the airport is somewhat of a surreal experience. Watching vintage cars fly by as I realize I’ve been offline for nearly a week is almost unheard of in today’s world. But Cuba is different. This is a place that has retained its culture and fended off globalization unlike anywhere else. Change is coming and I’m sure it will mean many things for the island both good and bad. But for now, I’m happy to have seen a place that is anchored to its cultural foundation and to have met so many beautiful, happy people. Until next time… –text and photos by Alex DuBois

BIO: Alex DuBoismanages the operations of Discover Corps. Cuba has always been a place that has fascinated him and he could not have thought of a better time to visit the island. His one tip when going to Cuba – be flexible and enjoy the ride, it will be well worth it!

 

 

 

 

Jul
27

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Why Volunteer Service is Vital to NGOs

Posted by on July 27, 2016 · Leave a Comment  

If you’ve ever wondered how much of an impact you can really have with your volunteer service, consider how vital those roles are to NGOs. “NGO” is short for “non-governmental organization,” and the label applies to any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group.

These are organizations specifically designed to work on helping people, animals, and the planet as a whole. They support causes that are often struggling.

Because these organizations are not-for-profit, they often have lower budgets than the types of companies that actually make money. That’s where volunteer service come in, providing the labor and support they so often need.

Without the contributions of volunteers, many NGOs would not exist. Let’s take a look at how volunteer service helps support NGOs that, in turn, help to make the world a better place.

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Jul
17

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5 Reasons Small Group Tours Can Be More Rewarding Than Independent Travel

Posted by on July 17, 2016 · 1 Comment  

Do you prefer to travel solo or with groups?

If you’re a regular group traveler, then we don’t have to tell you how rewarding it can be to surround yourself with fellow adventurers. You already know how much can be gained by sharing travel experiences and learning how to travel with strangers. But for those who prefer to travel independently, group travel might surprise you.

Here at Discover Corps, we think it’s wonderful to venture out on your own to face the challenges and the rewards of traveling solo. But as the organizers of small group (8-15 people) tours, we see many benefits of group travel that are often overlooked.

If you don’t think small group tours can be just as rewarding as independent travel, if not more so, then we invite you to consider the following benefits of traveler with others…

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Knowledgeable Tour Guides

There’s only so much information you can uncover on your own. A knowledgeable, local tour guide will have intimate connections to the place you’re exploring. They can offer history, anecdotes, and insider information along the way. Without the guidance of a knowledgeable tour guide, we run the risk of only skimming the surface of our travel experiences.

When you travel with a group, your tour guide stays with you for the duration of the trip. Instead of bouncing from one excursion to the next, with different guides along the way, you have the opportunity to get to know your tour guide. You’ll learn about their life and their experience with this new place. You’ll learn what they love about it, and why they were inspired to share it with others.

Not only will you benefit from the knowledge of your tour guide, you’ll also have a whole group of fellow travelers to learn from. Speaking of your fellow travelers…

Group Tour Travel Leader

New Friends

Being part of a tour group means an automatic set of travel companions. If you’re intimidated by the idea of introducing yourself to people on the road, small group travel is a great opportunity to meet new people without the pressure. Many solo travelers will join groups in order to meet people, so even if you join the group on your own, you’ll find new connections quickly.

The people you’ll meet in a group tour can be from all over the world. They’ll have different backgrounds, different opinions, and different travel styles. These differences can present challenges. But facing the challenges of acclimating to an eclectic group of people will make you an even better traveler. You’ll learn so much about each other, and even about yourself, as you adjust to the group and navigate these travel experiences together.

Discover Corps Home Base

Local Connections

Group tours are often designed by local guides with local connections. When you join a group, you’re not only benefiting from the knowledge and experience of your guide. You’re also benefiting from the knowledge and experience of their connections. Group tours will often involve many people within the community who can give you an even better idea of what it’s like not only to travel in this new place, but also to live there.

Since these local experts will often speak a language other than English, your tour guide will be key in communicating with them. The connections you’ll make with the local community through a group tour can be incredibly valuable. These connections would be nearly impossible to find if you were traveling without the guidance of a knowledgeable guide.

For those who would like to strike out on their own, a group tour can be an excellent starting point, where local connections can provide information and inspiration for your future solo adventures.

Group tour travel experiences

Unique Experiences

Group tours often involve itineraries. A detailed plan of your time in a place might seem to squash the opportunity for unique experiences, but the truth is, you’ll find experiences in a group tour that often aren’t possible for the independent traveler.

The power of groups can open doors in new places. There are meals, classes, excursions and community involvement that only groups can have access to, thanks to their size. If a solo traveler wanted to take a cooking class in Thailand, they would pay a pretty penny to join one on their own. But a group cooking class could be covered by the expense of the tour at a much more reasonable rate, thanks to the size of the group.

When it comes to volunteer experiences, group tours make more possible. One person can only do so much, but when you work with a group that’s led by a knowledgeable, local guide, you can be connected to the causes that really matter to a place, and do work that will make a difference.

The work done by our volunteers in Guatemala has been an incredible example of how much can be accomplished when volunteers and the local community come together. Throughout the years, various groups have traveled to Guatemala to work on building and improving a local school for Mayan children. This type of project would never have been possible without a group effort.

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A Balance Of Group And Alone Time

It’s great to be surrounded by new friends, knowledgeable guides, and local connections. But everyone needs some alone time on the road. With the right group tour, you can the time and space for both.

Alone time is crucial to a rewarding travel experience. It allows us to process our thoughts and reflect on our experiences. It allows us to absorb and analyze without the opinions or disruptions of others. This is probably why so many people are drawn to solo travel — the opportunity for endless alone time is enticing.

On the other hand, too much alone time can also become down right lonely. The time we have on our own can be even more rewarding when we can talk to other people about what’s going on inside our heads.

A balance of group and alone time can come together for the perfect concoction of travel experiences on a group tour — especially a group tour that’s designed with flexibility built in. With Discover Corps, we won’t pack your schedule so full that you never have time to breathe. Instead, you’ll have options. If you need more alone time from a group, you can find it. If you want to be with people as much as possible, then people will be there.

Group travel is an incredibly rewarding approach to seeing the world. You’ll meet new people, discover new knowledge, and absorb new experiences with people to share them with.

A typical Trip with Discover Corps

BIO: Britany Robinson is a freelance travel and culture writer based in Portland, Oregon. Her works appears in BBC Travel, Mashable, The Daily Dot and more. Her blog, Travel Write Away, shares advice and musings on travel writing. When she’s not planning her next big trip, she’s scoping out Portland craft beers and local hikes. –Britany Robinson

Jul
10

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7 Benefits of Immersive Travel Experiences

Posted by on July 10, 2016 · Leave a Comment  

We travel to discover new things — about ourselves and about the world around us. Immersive travel allows us to dive headfirst into the experiences that allow us to do just that, and so much more.

While some travel styles involve dipping a toe in the pool of a new culture, immersive travel means just what it sounds like — being completely surrounded with the newness of an unfamiliar place. The immersive traveler comes in contact with unfamiliar sights, sounds, sensations, flavors, and challenges that are unlike anything they’ve known before.

So let’s dive in to the benefits of immersive travel. The benefits to expanding our understanding of the world and experiencing new things are endless, but here are a few that stand out.

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1. Learn a new language

You can study for years in a classroom, but there is nothing like an immersive travel experience for absorbing a new language.

When you travel deeper, you abandon the comforts of your own culture, for the exposure of another one. This type of experience forces you senses to heighten. You notice things you wouldn’t have seen at home. You smell foods you’ve never tasted. And of course, amidst all of the other sensory input, you hear words you don’t understand.

Through immersive travel, we want to understand! So we try a little harder to listen. We write down the words we hear, again and again. We carry a dictionary, and attempt to speak the language, even if our words come out wrong.

When we become the person speaking a foreign language, we must put extra effort into adapting, and this forces us to pay attention, listen, and learn.

Picking up on a new language can be as simple as attempting to order coffee for the first time. Translation apps on your phone can help you look up the words you need. And of course, there’s always the trusted translation dictionaries.

For a more intensive language experience, you can take a class, or volunteer at a school where the students will speak the local language. Teaching English is a great way to pick up on the language of the people you’re teaching. Even though you’ll be focused on a language you know, you’ll be surrounded by one that is unfamiliar.

Whether you want to hone the language skills you learned in school, or expose yourself to an entirely new one, immersive travel is an excellent way to do so.

Immersive Travel: Talk to Locals

2. Meet the local people

While it’s wonderful to meet fellow travelers on the road — sharing stories from our trips and comparing notes on where we’re heading next — we rob ourselves of a very special experience when we fail to interact with the local community.

Immersive travelers know better. When the immersive traveler enters a new place, they want to learn about all of it. The best resource for learning about the place is of course, the people who call that place home.

While so much of travel is dictated by large companies selling prepackaged experiences, immersive travel allows us to go to the source. We meet the local shop owners, the neighbors at the market, and people passing on the street. Of course, these experiences won’t just happen. We have to put ourselves out there.

Consider how much you enjoy sharing the place you call home with newcomers. If a friend comes to visit from out of town, it’s always exciting to show them the places you frequent and the hidden spots that visitors wouldn’t otherwise find.

People are proud of where they’re from, and they inherently want to share it with others. Immersive travel allows us to connect with those people and really experience a place, through the eyes of those who love it.

Immersive Travel: Have a truly unique experience

3. Have a truly unique experience

No two immersive travel experiences are alike. Every traveler is going to absorb and learn about a place differently. And when we aren’t afraid to immerse ourselves in a new place, we discover things that few other people will.

Immersive travel can be as simple as taking a walk in a new place. Rather than taking a tour, we can allow ourselves to get lost amidst the chatter we don’t understand and the street names that don’t sound familiar.

It’s important to put safety first and understand the risks of diving into an unfamiliar place, but if we’re careful, these types of immersive approaches to exploring a new place can provide us with truly unique experiences.

Perhaps you’ll find a cafe that wasn’t mentioned in the guidebook, and the owner will tell you about the best view of the ocean — where only the locals go. You never know what will happen when you allow yourself to be consumed by a new place, but you do know it will be memorable.

Immersive Travel: Learn more about yourself

4. Learn more about yourself

Immersive travel is challenging. And when we challenge ourselves, we’re able to acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses, and grow as a result.

When you’re traveling in a foreign place, it’s natural to turn inward. When everything around you is new, it prompts you to become more in tune to how you’re experiencing these things.

Immersive travel means not always knowing which direction to go, how to order a meal, or how to hail a cab. We must look within ourselves to find the strength and the courage to face these unfamiliar challenges that would be so simple at home.

How do you face these challenges? Acknowledging the ways we excel and the ways we struggle can provide us with valuable lessons about ourselves that we can bring back home.

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5. Leave your comfort zone

We feel safe when we’re surrounded by the familiar. We don’t have to think much about our day-to-day lives when they are routine.

When we abandon those familiar aspects of our daily lives, we quickly realize how much we take for granted. It’s not easy to order food when you don’t know what it’s called or how to say it. But the food will taste even better when we overcome that obstacle.

By leaving our comfort zone, we learn and we grow. We’re faced with challenges that we never would have come across at home. And when we’re surrounded by the beauty and thrill of exploring a foreign place, those challenges are clearly worth it.

Never heard of Bali’s traditional Legong dance? Leaving your comfort zone to learn might be a little scary, but we promise it will be fun!

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6. Support the local community

Travel should be a mutually beneficial relationship between a place and its visitors. Unfortunately, some travel only takes from places. Travelers fill the streets and use up resources without giving back. Immersive travel is about absorbing the culture, but also supporting it.

When we immerse ourselves in travel, it’s important to give back to the local community. They give us so much when they share their food, their music, and their passion for their homes. We can give back by shopping local, supporting local organizations, and traveling with companies that support the local economy.

Discover Corps employs local guides who understand the culture and can help our travelers understand it better, too.

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7. Help to preserve the local culture

When we capture that perfect picture to share on Facebook, what are we really accomplishing? Immersive travel is about looking for more. It’s about experiencing the culture, and learning as much about a place as we can. When we do so, we help to preserve much more than a pretty picture.

There are so many cultures and so many cultural nuances to consider around the world. These unique cultures are what make places so special to experience. We learn how different people live, how they dress, how they eat, and ultimately we learn that they’re not all that different than us.

When we learn about the details that make these cultures unique, we spread cultural understanding. Returning home to regale your friends with stories of a traditional dinner you helped prepare with a family in India will be so much more rewarding than that photo of a sunset.

Through our photos and our stories, we can inspire others to leave their comfort zones to experience these cultures for themselves.

Learn More about Immersive Travel

BIO: Britany Robinson is a freelance travel and culture writer based in Portland, Oregon. Her works appears in BBC Travel, Mashable, The Daily Dot and more. Her blog, Travel Write Away, shares advice and musings on travel writing. When she’s not planning her next big trip, she’s scoping out Portland craft beers and local hikes. –Britany Robinson

Jun
26

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7 Things To Do In Bali

Posted by on June 26, 2016 · 1 Comment  

The mention of Bali evokes images of white sand beaches and clear blue water. It’s true: This tiny island is a tropical paradise. But it’s not just for travelers looking to plop their lounge chair in the sand and drift away to the sound of lapping waves. There are myriad different things to do in Bali.

Bali has something for everyone, from culture seekers and nature lovers to adventure addicts (and yes, even those beach loungers). There are volcanoes, forests, museums, ancient temples, beachside bungalows, high class restaurants, markets, and more.

Whatever your definition of paradise entails, you can likely find it on this tiny Indonesian island. Here are some of our top picks for Bali’s can’t-miss attractions and activities…

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22

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What to do in Costa Rica with Kids

Posted by on June 22, 2016 · Leave a Comment  

 

What to do in Costa Rica with Kids

If happy is the way you like your family holidays, then Costa Rica—an annual inclusion in lists of the world’s happiest countries— might be the perfect place for the next one. But it’s not just smiles your kids will be wearing: They’ll need to pack their swimsuits, lace up their hiking boots, and dust off their binoculars. Adventures aplenty await!

With coastlines on both the Caribbean and the Pacific as well as a tropical treasure trove of cloud forests, live volcanoes, and diverse wildlife, Costa Rica has something to interest everyone. There are even a bevy of activities that will have enough experiential oomph to persuade a teenager’s eyes, at least momentarily, away from the smartphone.

Here’s our guide on what to do in Costa Rica with Kids…

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