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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 · 6 Comments  

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…

group-travel-elephants

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.

group-travel-time

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 · 2 Comments  

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.

learninglanguage

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.

Bali-dance

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!

localcommunity

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.

market

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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Jun
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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Jun
19

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Why Sustainable Tourism is the Best Way to Travel

Posted by on June 19, 2016 · 1 Comment  

It’s no secret that we love responsible travel, and we want you to love it, too. But the benefits of sustainable tourism go even further than helping the environment and the people we encounter along the way. Responsible travel can also make travel more fun, inspiring, and fulfilling for YOU, the traveler.

We understand that you might be skeptical. Sustainable tourism has become such a big buzzword lately. At first glance it can seem more like a marketing ploy (a.k.a. greenwashing) than an effective way to make travel better for everyone.

There are many travel companies out there who use the words “responsible ” and “eco-friendly” simply to attract customers interested in traveling sustainably, without making the effort needed to back that label up with the action necessary to make those claims true.

But once travelers understand what real sustainable travel is (and why it makes travel so much better), they can do a better job at traveling responsibly on their own, or through selecting the correct tour operator. Let’s take a look at why sustainable tourism really is the best form of travel…

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Jun
9

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7 Ways Peace Corps Volunteers are Changing the World

Posted by on June 9, 2016 · Leave a Comment  

The Peace Corps has been dedicated to changing the world for over five decades. From fighting HIV/AIDS to improving access to technology in remote communities, Peace Corps volunteers are part of something big.

So many of them take their experiences with volunteering through the Peace Corps and build upon them with their own projects, continuing a legacy of dedication to making the world a better place.

Let’s take a look at some specific ways that the Peace Corps (and, more specifically, the volunteers who make up this program) have dedicated themselves to making a difference…

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May
29

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Peace Corps Volunteer Q&A: Charlene Espinoza of Bosh Bosh

Posted by on May 29, 2016 · 2 Comments  

For Charlene Espinoza, traveling to Liberia as a Peace Corps volunteer was only the beginning. When Charlene became a volunteer English teacher, she noticed that many of the girls in Liberia were missing out on school, and she set out to change that.

Charlene founded Bosh Bosh in 2012 in an effort to remedy this issue. The girls were taught to sew patchwork bags, which were then sold to raise money that would help them stay in school. Bosh Bosh has since evolved into an education-focused program that teaches valuable trade skills, hosts after school workshops, and supports the education of young women in Liberia.

Charlene and Bosh Bosh have been recognized at the White House and by the National Peace Corps for their work in empowering young women in Liberia. We recently spoke to Charlene about her non-profit line of cloth bags, which are changing the lives of many people in this developing nation.

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May
21

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The Benefits of Cultural Immersion When You Travel

Posted by on May 21, 2016 · 5 Comments  

When you travel to an unfamiliar place, you will likely face barriers to an authentic experience unless you choose a tour operator well-versed in cultural immersion.

You’re unfamiliar with the basics, like how to get around, how to speak the language, which restaurants serve the real deal, and which serve a touristy rendition of local food. So you hop on a bus or walking tour, and hope that the person in charge will give you an authentic interpretation of things. But when you’re an outsider, it can be very difficult to understand the bigger picture.

What are the people of this unfamiliar place passionate about? What are their lives really like?

Cultural immersion is the act of surrounding yourself with the culture of a place. It might mean living with family and helping out on their farm, or simply sharing a meal with a local.

Cultural immersion is a unique experience that can open doors to a deeper understanding of an unfamiliar place. You’re never going to know a place as intimately as the people who live there, but through cultural immersion experiences, you can begin to understand it all a little better.

Travelers are increasingly seeking these authentic, immersive experiences in new places. It might seem like calling an experience “immersive” or “authentic” is just another way to sell tourists on an activity. But there are benefits to cultural immersion that go far beyond the tourism dollars.

Trips through Discover Corps provide culturally immersive experiences because we see the benefits for both travelers and the locals they interact with.

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May
15

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7 Reasons Why Responsible Travel Matters

Posted by on May 15, 2016 · Leave a Comment  

People are inspired to travel because they’re curious and fascinated by the world around them. Which is great! The world is a beautiful, exciting place. But travel can have negative impacts on that world we love so much. Which is why responsible travel matters.

Responsible travel has become a buzz word lately, but it’s so much more than a marketing trend. Whether you call it responsible, sustainable, or eco-friendly, it all basically means traveling in a way that minimizes impact and gives back to the places we visit. Promoting this type of tourism is critical if we want to continue enjoying the natural beauty, the culture, and the interactions that make travel so special.

Responsible travel can have a significantly positive impact on both traveler and local. Here are seven reasons why this increasingly popular travel style is becoming increasingly necessary.

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May
2

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Staying Healthy While Traveling: 12 Simple Tips

Posted by on May 2, 2016 · 2 Comments  

Are you traveling to a developing country for the first time? If so, you may be worried about getting sick. Though it’s always a possibility, there are certain steps you can take to ensure you stay healthy while traveling.

It’s important to remember that illness and injury can happen wherever we are. We must always take care of ourselves, whether we’re at home or on the road. But there are certain risks that increase in developing countries, where many of the best volunteer vacations tend to happen.

Oftentimes the water supply isn’t safe to drink, and certain foods might not be kind to our foreign bellies. Lately, travelers are increasingly seeing the Zika virus in the headlines. You might be nervous to travel to countries where cases of this mosquito-borne illness are increasing.

Lucky for you, we at Discover Corps have learned some tricks over the years. We think it’s important to be careful, but also not to allow unnecessary fear to dictate our travel plans. (And the media does have a tendency of escalating our fears.)

Here are 12 tips you can use to stay healthy while traveling, allowing you to enjoy the experience of visiting developing countries.

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