Category: Boomer Travel

Tips, ideas and resources for baby boomers planning a volunteer vacation abroad.

Jul
18

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Why Close Panda Encounters in China are No Longer Legal

Posted by on July 18, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

If you have yet to hear, there’s something happening in the field of wildlife conservation that you really should know about…the animal rights movement is growing. This decades-long form of activism has created meaningful change – especially as of late. A great example of this is with the famed giant panda. Pressure from activist groups, along with other factors, has led to a significant policy change by the Chinese government: close panda encounters in China are no longer legal.

Officially, those visiting the Dujiangyan Panda Breeding Center or other panda centers in China can no longer pay an extra fee for a hands-on panda experience. For many, this is a surprising move by the government, so let’s look at the reasons for this change and Discover Corps’ stance on the issue:

Safety Concerns

Several recent incidents involving what officials referred to as “bold travelers” led to visitor injuries caused by the pandas during the experience. The facility has since stated that it was a safety issue because they could not guarantee the protection of clients who chose to experience this close encounter. This also leads us to believe the pandas may have felt threatened by travelers coming so close. 

Panda Encounters in China
An example of the now-banned panda encounter

Income: A Key Motivator Has Now Been Eliminated

Historically, a key motivator for research centers to offer these hands-on experiences was the additional source of income (as the experience was very lucrative by Chinese standards). But the change in policy also brought a new financial source, as the government has stepped up to provide funding to centers, thus reducing the impetus to continue the experience given the risks mentioned above.

Reputation Concerns 

Perhaps the final straw for this issue was the increased push back and negative publicity from animal rights groups opposing these close panda encounters. This, understandably, put heat on the government to act. As a highly controversial subject, many in the public view these types of experiences as the manipulation of pandas for profit, rather than providing any real benefit to the animal. As such, this is the primary reason why Discover Corps never formally included it in our itinerary, but only as a non-compulsory activity at the travelers’ discretion on our China: Panda Conservation Adventure trip.  

What This Means for Future Travelers to China 

We fully agree with and support the new panda-related changes. If the health and well-being of animals are ever in question, we will consistently air on the side of caution in support of wildlife. As the issue of animal rights continues to evolve, Discover Corps pledges to continually evaluate best practices and seek out the best outcomes for all animals that we encounter.

If you are considering going to China and were looking forward to a panda encounter, the Dujiangyan Research Center still has much to offer, including: an incredible educational tour, the opportunity to volunteer in panda enclosures and learn what it takes to take care of pandas, the ability to prepare food for and feed pandas at a safe distance, and much more. Importantly, all funds from these experiences go to support panda conservation.

You can learn more about Discover Corps China: Panda Conservation Adventure here

May
29

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Ask the Alumni: Peru through the Eyes of a Discover Corps’ Traveler

Posted by on May 29, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

Sometimes in travel, as in life, it is better to know what you don’t want from your experience than what you do desire. This was certainly the case for Kai, on her recent Peru: Children of the Andes trip. A seasoned traveler, Kai had chosen to travel by herself in the past but learned it was not for her.

“Previously, I have had the experience of being a solo traveler… planning the trip alone, traveling by myself the entire trip. I learned that I don’t like that! I need someone else to arrange details, introduce me to the culture and local people and customs and places, and other travelers to share experiences with.”

This awareness made her Peru volunteer vacation with Discover Crops a perfect match, as Kai details below:

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May
17

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Interview from Peru: Discover Corps’ Guide Miguel

Posted by on May 17, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

The name of our Peru trip, Children of the Andes, gives a great indication of what you can expect on your vacation with purpose to this special part of South America. You will spend quality time teaching, learning from, and connecting with children that each have a unique story to share. This time is precious and much needed for all involved, but it’s hardly the only aspect of this dynamic experience. Discover Corps’ guide for Peru, Miguel, agrees:

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May
2

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The Havana Jazz Festival – An Incomparable Celebration

Posted by on May 2, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

Jazz and Cuba are as interwoven as any genre of music and country can possibly be. The centuries-old form of creative expression is forever linked to the soul of this nation. For jazz fans and aficionados, no better time exists to experience this intoxicating art form than the Havana Jazz Festival, happening January of 2020. This month will mark a weighty milestone in the history of the festival as it celebrates its 35th year.

If prior occasions are any indication, the festivities are sure to be filled with the same energy and excitement that jazz regularly releases on Cuban airwaves. Allow us to take you inside the happenings of this incomparable celebration to discover what makes the event such a sublime experience and why you simply must be there:

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Apr
18

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Interview from Cuba: Discover Corps’ Guide Orelvis

Posted by on April 18, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

The passion of Discover Corps’ guide, Orelvis, is clear from the moment you first meet him. His enthusiasm for his country and showing you his country is infectious. As you explore Havana and the surrounding region “Elvis” provides colorful commentary that only deepens your experience. It’s no wonder, that many travelers can’t help but form a strong bond with their insightful guide.

“I remember one time, some [travelers] came back again [to Cuba] through Discover Corps with us, and I remember waiting in the airport. When they saw me and I saw them it was like seeing family. That was a unique emotion and feeling.” – Orelvis

So what better person, to share in his own words, what a trip with Discover Corps like Cuba: Preserving Nature’s Wonders is really like. Take it away Elvis!

Apr
11

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Ask the Alumni: Cuba through the Words of a Discover Corps’ Traveler

Posted by on April 11, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

This Traveler Plans to Return

For Discover Corps traveler, Barbara, her Cuba travel experience was so powerful she is already planning a return trip one year from now. During her adventure, she explored the country, felt the warmth of the Cuban people, and witnessed a moving reunion, years in the making. Barbara provides all the details below of her Cuba: Celebration of Arts & Culture vacation:

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Mar
18

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Interview from Thailand: Discover Corps’ Guide Tam

Posted by on March 18, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

After being a tour guide for so many years, you might think Discover Corps Guide Siwarkorn Hkt, or “Tam”, has probably done and seen it all. There’s something, however, that keeps him smiling and talking about how much he loves his job: the people. Of course, the wildlife and beautiful scenery on the Thailand: Elephants & Islands Expedition are incredible, but it’s the people that really stand out for him. From the conversations and shared experiences between travelers, to the time spent with locals, these relationships built while on your volunteer vacation stay with you for a lifetime.

“On the second day of elephant camp when we return in the morning time, the elephant makes noise to say hi or hello…the elephant remembers you, it smells you, it remembers your face and also your voice!” – Tam

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Feb
18

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Havana Biennial: Everything You Need to Know about Cuba’s Most-Anticipated Art Festival

Posted by on February 18, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

The Havana Biennial is back! For the first time since 2015, the world renown, month-long art exhibition will be held this April in Cuba. If the countdown clock on biennialhavana.org is any indication, the world is eagerly awaiting its return.

Considering this event is nearly four years in the making and will help celebrate the 500th anniversary of the city of Havana, there is truly no better time to explore Cuba. Here’s everything you need to know about the highly-anticipated biennial festival, including a local’s perspective (quotations throughout) from Dayron Gonzalez, Discover Corps’ Cuban partner and Havana resident for 40 years:

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Feb
8

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Ask the Alumni: Cuba Trips through the Eyes of a Discover Corps Traveler

Posted by on February 8, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

Three Cuba Trips in and this Discover Corps Traveler Still Wants More

After three Discover Corps Cuba trips, some might consider Elaine an aspiring Cuban expert. The way she describes her experiences there, it’s clear she has seen a side of the country that many have not. Yet, as she shares, there is still so much she wants to see and learn.

Elaine kindly opened up about her adventures – which includes some valuable information for future Cuba travelers – and to no one’s surprise, she is ready to go back again. This time with the whole family.

‘’[The trip] gave me an emotional rush that lasted for two weeks after we got home. It was just so exciting. We’re so used to what we encounter in our everyday lives at home. We tend to think the rest of the world is like that. And it isn’t.’’

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Jan
9

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Best Time to Visit: A Travel Guide for Every Season [Infographic]

Posted by on January 9, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

When planning a vacation many travelers are also expert researchers. How many minutes is the second layover? Does the hotel have 4 or 5 stars? and especially, Is breakfast included? This information is valuable, but knowing when to travel is just as important. So to help the cause, we studied the best time to visit each of the must-see destinations below. Now, you can focus on that complimentary omelet with orange juice. Enjoy!

best time to visit