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Australian Educational Trips: 6 things to consider

International school trips won’t be going ahead as planned for the foreseeable future, but that’s ok because there is a plethora of diverse learning outside of the classroom experiences to be had right here in Australia.

If you’ve never planned an active or educational school trip longer than a week at home, then you may want to get ready for a few key differences. Australia provides high quality, safe experiences, but they do come with extra costs and often, regulations.

PRICE

A two-week trip in Nepal for AUD$4k with flights is very possible. Getting the same length of trip for the same price in Australia, at the same level of quality, will be harder. Internal flights are already on the higher end when compared with cheaper flights to Asia. Wages for experienced Australian guides and staff are much higher than in developing countries. As can be National Park fees and permits, accommodations and the cost of nearly everything to operate a trip, from the muesli in the morning to fuel in the tank. 

It costs more to operate quality wilderness programs in Australia. Your existing budgets are likely to go a lot longer if you can reduce the length of trip.

GROUP SIZES

The Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park in Tasmania only permits 10 paying walkers per group. That’s a little awkward when you have a group of 25-35 kids you want to take away. 

Many of our National Parks or places worth protecting do come with some rules and regulations that you may not see abroad; however, they are in place to minimise the impact of popular places so they can be enjoyed by everyone. Before you get too excited about a destination, check the National Park commercial group size allowance.

SEASONALITY

As good as the weather is in Australia it certainly pays to choose the right season when choosing to take students into our wilderness. Many schools get the advantage of the warmer weather in the northern hemisphere with mid-year trips however that is the Aussie winter, which is ideal if you're headed out to the desert.

Here's a quick glance at the best times to visit some of our most popular places. 

  • Tasmania: ideal for October to March, the warmer summer months with typically less rain. It can rain and temperatures can drop at anytime during summer.
  • Darwin and Kakadu: Outside the wet season, June to August is coolest with least humidity
  • Alice Springs and Larapinta: May to September are the coolest months, winter nights can be freezing
  • Flinders Ranges and Kangaroo Island: The winter months June to August are the coolest times, however it is also rainy season on Kangaroo Island
  • Ningaloo Reef and Karijiji National Park: Between May and September, the milder, drier months. Average winter temperatures can still be warm, mid 20C.
  • South West Australia: Most of the year really. Cooler to walk during winter although swimming might not be in the itinerary.
  • Daintree Rainforrest and Cape Tribulation: 
  • New Zealand: Late September it begins to warm up for a typically mild summer before autumn brings the changing of the leaves and the lower temperatures again. It can rain and temperatures can drop at anytime during summer.

SERVICE LEARNING 

Our wilderness is iconic and helping to clean and protect it is of valuable need and instils a long-standing ethos of respect between the student and our native landscapes. There are some wonderful and highly beneficial conservation service learning programs all around Australia and New Zealand. You can join a hands on project studying species, helping with landcare management, caring for bushfire affected areas or perhaps studying the impact of microplastics in our river systems.

Australia offers a robust network of social programs to help support those in need. Unlike developing countries, where there is essentially little to no government or third-party assistance for the poor, the government and many charities have programs in place at home assisting where required. While they are more limited here than you would find abroad, humanitarian service-learning programs are still possible within Australia. 

EXPERIENCE IS EVERYTHING

Australia is a vast, remote land. Our landscapes are beautiful but can be dangerous is you are not experienced with the terrain. During this time many school group operators will scramble to provide product in Australia, except us. Our parent company, World Expeditions, has pioneered many classic Australian adventures and has been rewarded for our sustainability initiative. Before swapping your international student trip to a domestic one, ensure your local operator has the ‘runs on the board’ and can offer a high quality, safe educational learning experience in Australia.

USING KNOWLEDEABLE GUIDES

While using a local guide is obviously going to be more expensive than leading a local tour yourself, don't be tempted too quickly by the saving. For a world class, safe experience only a guide can bring stories of local history and flora, be familiar with the weather patterns and add an extra element of comfort, knowledge and safety into your school tour. It's tempting to lead a trip even with experienced outdoor staff but to truly get the most out of an experience you spend time organising why not get the most out of it.

 
Will It Actually Help to Offset the Carbon Footprint of My Travel?

Carbon offsetting – the counter arguments

Offsetting carbon emissions from your trip with us is just one way we aim to address our carbon footprint. The first – and most important – step is to reduce the emissions produced by our student adventures to begin with.

In November 2019, our parent company World Expeditions launched the 100% Carbon Offset initiative. This means that we compensate for the carbon footprint associated with all school trips offered by many World Youth Adventures.

When developing your educational adventure, ingrained into the process is an investigation of the least carbon intensive mode of transport or accommodation available on the ground. Once we have identified that option, and providing safety considerations are met, we use it. However, no matter how carbon conscious we all are, travel invariably has a carbon footprint – whether it be from road transport or electricity from accommodations. To help address this, we compensate for the remaining unavoidable emissions by financing emission reduction projects around the world.

We know that many people are unsure about the role of carbon offsetting in the bigger picture of global decarbonisation. Often this leads to scepticism. With assistance from the experts at South Pole, read on to find out how we address common arguments often made to discredit carbon offsetting.

#1: We should be reducing carbon emissions, not offsetting them!

Reducing emissions must be the first step in any responsible carbon offsetting programme. However, because we don’t live in a zero emissions world (...yet!) and some carbon is produced by almost everything we do, offsets can help bridge the gap between today and a low-carbon tomorrow.

Low-carbon alternatives to flying, electricity generation and other activities associated with travel and tourism are being developed. But for now, the two approaches – reduce and offset – must work together, not against each other.

Our Positive Impact Projects, such as the Hydropower China Project, supports local communities through employment. |  <i>South Pole</i> Our Positive Impact Projects support conservation projects in Victoria's Annya State forest land in Australia. |  <i>South Pole</i> Our Positive Impact Projects, such as the Bac Lieu Vietnam Wind Project, supports local economies and their sustainable development. |  <i>South Pole</i> Our Positive Impact Projects, such as the Kariba REDD+ forest protection in Zimbabwe, supports local communities and their sustainable development. |  <i>South Pole</i> Our Positive Impact Projects, such as the Kariba REDD+ forest protection in Zimbabwe, supports local communities and their sustainable development. |  <i>South Pole</i> Our Positive Impact Projects, such as the Hydropower Project in China, supports local economies and their sustainable development. |  <i>South Pole</i> Our Positive Impact Projects, such as the Bac Lieu Vietnam Wind Project, supports local economies and their sustainable development. |  <i>South Pole</i>
 

#2: By paying somebody else to reduce emissions, carbon offsets enable ‘guilt-free’ pollution

The argument here is that carbon offsets provide a ‘licence to pollute’ – allowing individuals and organisations that purchase them and carry on with business as usual without changing their emissions-intensive behaviours.

However, this is not true: accepting a price on carbon creates an incentive to reduce emissions to keep costs down. On top of this, there are many other benefits aside from emission reductions that carbon compensation projects create. We’ll come to those later.

#3: Carbon offsets remove the incentive to reduce emissions or decarbonise carbon-intensive activities, like flying

To offset unavoidable emissions, organisations can buy carbon credits. As more and more people, businesses and industries adopt emission reduction strategies, the price of carbon is driven up further. Pricing carbon helps incentivise emission reductions and drives innovations in low-carbon technology for emissions-intensive activities – like flying.

Speaking of flying, a new source of demand for carbon offsets is imminent as the aviation industry will be required to cap emissions at 2020 levels – as set out by the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA, learn more about that here). This will drive up the price of carbon even further, thereby encouraging the industry to develop low-carbon alternatives to flying.

#4: Carbon offsetting schemes do not work and emission reductions may have happened regardless

This argument is most commonly made about the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which was established by the Kyoto Protocol to allow countries to meet emission reduction targets by purchasing carbon credits – called ‘certified emission reductions’ (CERs) – from projects in emerging economies.

The CDM has been scrutinised because its actual effect on global emission levels is hard to prove. Some argue that the emission reductions claimed under the scheme would have occurred even without it. This is where the concept of ‘additionality’ comes in.

Additionality is a mandatory component for carbon offsetting projects. It ensures that emission reductions claimed by projects are actually ‘additional’ to what would occur in a ‘business as usual’ scenario. Moreover, the CDM and standards that have followed – like Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Gold Standard – have been subject to ongoing review for over a decade to ensure additionality is achieved. As a result, methodologies and verification procedures are continually improved.

What further is indisputable is the billions of dollars in investment that the CDM and carbon markets drive into climate action. The CDM has thousands of registered climate protection and renewable energy projects, which would never have been established without the finance created by the carbon markets. The CDM also provides a framework for continuing climate action; the Paris Agreement includes a similar mechanism that will allow countries to meet their nationally determined contributions using offsets: Article 6.

#5: Emission reduction projects are bad for local communities

It is unfortunately true that there have been reported cases where emission reduction projects have had negative consequences for local communities. However, not all carbon credits are created equal and these cases are the exception, not the norm.

The best way to ensure that carbon compensation does not affect communities negatively is by doing the research. Source for example carbon credits from reputable project developers with projects certified by robust, best practice standards.

World Expeditions Travel Group purchases carbon credits from leading sustainability solutions provider and project developer, South Pole. All of South Pole’s climate protection projects are certified under robust certification standards like the Gold Standard and VCS. Besides, community engagement is a key step in the project development process. First of all, projects must be approved by local stakeholders in both the development and implementation phases. On top of that community consultation is performed on an ongoing basis throughout monitoring and verification cycles. Not only do these projects reduce emissions – they also create real, positive co-benefits for the local communities in which they operate. 

So, while we agree that carbon compensation is not the solution to climate change, it is an important step in the right direction. And it’s a step that we can take right now to drive finance into climate protection projects and help bridge the gap between today and a low-carbon future.

When you travel with World Youth Adventures you can do so with the knowledge that we have calculated the emissions produced by your land arrangements. For every kilogram of carbon produced, we invest money on your behalf into projects that reduce or remove carbon elsewhere.

School travel to China
For centuries the country was a closed book to the world beyond her borders. Outsiders had yearned to visit this mysterious civilisation however little was known by most about this extraordinary land and its people and only the truly adventurous, like Marco Polo, even considered attempting to navigate their way around this nation.

It’s only since 1976 that tourism really started and today China is a must-see destination for everyone. China has been modernising at a rapid pace, with cities such as Shanghai a testament to their evolution. With its young middle class population the Chinese are also quickly developing a taste for consumerism culture that at one point in time no one could ever have imagined.

As much as China is keen to display its stunning scenery, historical sites and impressive cities, it is also dedicated to conveying something about how its society works. This contrast between the old world and the new is what makes China such an alluring travel destination. Although its political system has set it apart from the west, China is now moving forward in leaps and bounds, especially in the areas of trade and commerce. The major cities are indicative of the burgeoning economy of modern China.

Within the almost four million square miles of China's vast territory live more than 1.3 billion people, which makes China the most populated nation on earth. Initially, foreign visitors were only allowed to see a fraction of what the country had to offer, however, today it is possible to visit as many as 60 different areas. An increasing number of historical sites are also being restored and opened up to viewing for foreign tourists.

China never fails to conjure up a myriad of feelings, images and a sense of mystery. Its history cannot be summed up in a few paragraphs in this article. To fully appreciate the events that have shaped the country and its people, students should take the time to read at least one of the many excellent books available on China and be prepared to be drawn into tales of adventure, betrayal, love, life and absolute amazement.

School group travel in Chin with World Youth Adventures.

TRAVELLING IN CHINA

As in the days of Marco Polo, travellers are still regarded as honoured guests and the locals delight in watching you watching them. Within the relatively short time that China's doors have been open to the West, few tourists have visited the rural parts of the country, including the remote region of Yunnan, which is famously home to Zhongdian, the city which gave the inspiration to the mystical Shangri –La.

So where should one visit in China? From Beijing in the east to the lands of the Uyghur people in the far west, there are a million and one places to consider in between. The following are the most popular places right now.

The Great Wall of China: China's Great Wall needs little introduction. What you need to know about it is the best way to experience it. Get away from the restored sections and the large crowds to trek along a remote section of the Great Wall outside Beijing in Hebei Province to truly appreciate this monument. The scenery is vast and diverse as you trek your way through swaying corn cropped fields to distant green river valleys with one of the great wonders of the world as your backdrop. While there are opportunities to stay in designated accommodations, camping near to the villages will provide you with true rural hospitality in the 'real China' and allow a rare interaction with the local people. The opportunity to visit a number of sections of the Wall will make your school adventure even more special.

Discover the ancient Silk Road cities and history: The Romans, it is thought, first encountered silk in 53 B.C during their campaigns against the Parthians. Learning from Parthian prisoners that the silk came from a mysterious tribe in the east they sent agents to explore the route, which became one of early history’s most prized trading routes between the East and West. The birth of the Silk Road in China came as the Warring States period was brought to an end with the consolidation of the Qin Dynasty. This saw the unification of language, the standardisation of systems and the birth of Xi’an as the capital, as well as the joining of the sections of the Great Wall.

Perhaps the most significant commodity to be carried along the route was religion. Buddhism came to China from India along the northern branch of the Silk Road. Various emperors sent missions to India to learn more about this mysterious religion. Slowly, as merchants, pilgrims and missionaries came into contact with Buddhism it spread along the route and stampas, monasteries and grottos bearing murals and Buddhist artwork, began to appear, with some of the finest examples in China found near Dunhuang. For students of history, the Silk Road is a fascinating project.

Beijing; Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square: Beijing is an extraordinary city with a wealth of iconic attractions, where local knowledge is essential if you want to get the most out of limited time. Highlights include Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and everyone must do a walking tour of ancient Hutong District to get a real vibe of this amazing city.

Xian and the Terracotta Warriors:  Xian is the traditional starting point of the Silk Road. This old walled city, the capital of Shaanxi Province, is a vivid example of old and new China as the modernised new city bustles around the quaint, winding lanes of the Old Quarter.

The Wild Goose Pagoda is a classic example of Chinese temple architecture. Built in 652 AD it houses Buddhist Scriptures brought back from India along the Silk Road.  The Shaanxi History Museum, built in huge classical-Chinese style, houses a collection of chronologically arranged items and includes material previously housed in the Provincial Museum, with many objects that have never been on permanent display before The Muslim quarter of Xian provides a different feel to the city with its elaborate markets and the Great Mosque.

The real attraction of the city however is a discovery by local farmers in 1974 of the tomb of Qin Shihuang with its army of terracotta warriors.  Each warrior stands over 6 feet tall and has different features and characteristics.  Some stand in a vanguard with crossbow and longbow bearers; others hold spears, daggers and axes at the ready. They are accompanied by dozens of horse-drawn carriages and enormous terracotta horses. The sight of the warriors arising from their muddy grave, some intact, others still submerged in the ground, is an extraordinary one.

Cruise the Yangtze and Three Gorges: The Yangtze River is the longest river in China and the third longest waterway in the world. Over millions of years it has carved its way through the surrounding mountains creating the uniquely beautiful gorges now known as the Three Gorges. A cruise along the Yangtze is a must if time allows.

See Pandas in Chengdu: A recognised symbol of China, the Giant Panda is also an endangered animal. With fewer than 1000 left in the wild a visit to the Panda Breeding Research Centre in Chengdu is a unique opportunity to see these animals in an environment that mimics their natural habitat. This centre leads the world in research into the rearing and breeding of Pandas and your visit supports this ongoing work.

Explore Shangrila (Zhongdian) & the mountains of the Yunnan region: Wedged between the upper tributaries of the Mekong and Yangtze Rivers, and the vast Tibetan Plateau, Northern Yunnan is one of the most spectacular regions of China and contains approximately one third of all China’s minority groups. One can create a superb itinerary in this region alone. Visit the stone forest outside of Kunming before heading to the ancient city of Lijiang set beneath the Snow Dragon Mountain. After the dramatic Tiger Leaping Gorge visit lush Tibetan villages and travel on to the high plateau that defines the borderlands of Tibet. It is here that you can view the sacred peak of Kawakarpo in the spectacular Meili Snow Mountains - an important place for pilgrims from Tibet.

Kashgar Markets: You wouldn’t know you were in China, or the 21st century for that matter, at the Sunday markets in Kashgar. Kashgar is in Uyghur territory on the far west side of China and was an important city during the ‘Great Game’, a strategic rivalry staged between Britain and Russia in their attempts to secure the Central Asian states.

This article really only touches on what you can do in China. Diversity in landscape and depth in history are two things that are abundant in China and to truly appreciate these natural and cultural wonders using an experienced organisation that can provide quality local guides will ensure that your students have a memorable experience of China.

 
Disconnect to Connect on a School Trip Abroad

How a school trip abroad can help bring back real communication

On returning home from my travels this Summer I squeezed onto a packed commuter train at Gatwick, carefully trying to avoid knocking into too many people with my rucksack whilst on the search for an empty seat. A little boy of not more than seven beamed as I sat down opposite him, his bright eyes seeking out mine, clearly fascinated about where I had come from. Was it the rucksack he was drawn to? Had he found it funny that it was just that little bit too awkward to walk down the aisle with? Did I have a dirty mark on my face? Oh no he’d just found the only other person in the train carriage not wearing headphones lost to a world of technology – he wanted to do the strangest of things … talk! 

We passed a wonderful hour. He’d been to London (his first time in the capital). Seen Buckingham Palace (not the Queen unfortunately). Helped his Mum at work (wouldn’t want to do that every day). Explained that the mass of clothes next to him was his sleeping sister (exhausted from their adventures). Quizzed me about who might live in the castles that flew past the train window (do all those fields belong to the castle?) Those around us continued to exist in their own bubble, knees bizarrely touching, shoulders rubbing, eyes averted and brains and minds intent on their solitary fix.

What are we teaching our next generation? 

That it is wrong to talk to complete strangers under any circumstances? That it is awkward to make eye contact? That last night’s fictional episode is more important than the day the person opposite is having? Are we deskilling our children? Are they able to recognise facial signals, respond to conversation starters, confidently engage with others and develop social skills in order to form positive relationships and real friendships?
 

Unplug to unwind. Tune out to tune in. Disconnect to connect.

 
A recent experiential learning trip to Morocco with a group of my secondary students has given me hope. As organisers of the trip we explained prior to enrolment that students were not allowed to take mobile phones with them for a number of reasons. It was fascinating to watch the results. 
 
Disconnect first, in order to connect with each other

The initial reason, given to us during our original staff training, was partly due to the poor signal in many of the parts of the High Atlas Mountains. On top of that, it is essential that if there is a difficulty or even an emergency that students have to deal with, that they are able to do so without feeling the need to immediately text parents back at home. Students need to work as a team, support each other, react to the situation at hand and learn from the experts. Our local guides had both the equipment, and more importantly, the knowledge of the surrounding area to get messages through if required. Broken and confused messages received by worried parents who are unable to help cause unnecessary angst. Besides, a student who has successfully overcome feeling unwell, upset, homesick or just simply exhausted comes back from their school trip abroad as a far stronger and independent person.  
 
There was no pressure to pose for selfies
 
Our students found the lack of a phone disconcerting at first. Many panicked, thinking they had left it on the coach or in the airport, but it didn’t take long to feel a new found sense of freedom. There was no risk that they were going to lose, scratch or drop their phone. Or worse still, be the target of theft. There was no pressure to pose for selfies, pout and post or even consider what their friends were doing that evening at a party they were missing. There was no worry about a bad hair day or whether the clothes were right – we were there to live alongside, support and build contacts with the Moroccan community in a beautiful part of the world that relies, for the fragile present, far less on modern technology.

Entertainment had to be technology free

The sheer joy of watching students bond as a group, making friendship bracelets, playing cards, creating ball games, doing yoga and talking, really talking, was a breath of fresh air. Not just for those of us old enough to remember a different world, but also for those students who have known nothing other than the technological frenzy of social media they have been born into.
 
Enjoying breakfast in Bhaktapur, just outside of Kathmandu |  <i>Greg Pike</i>

Communication was real. Individuals had to pick up whether members of the group needed help, support, distraction or time alone. Their soft skills flourished. Communication with those speaking a different language had to be carefully thought out, expressed through gesture or the simplicity of a smile.

Through the senses

The trekking in Morocco’s High Atlas is demanding both physically and mentally. To truly experience the challenge and the splendour, whether in Morocco or any other destination for a school trip abroad, it is paramount to do so through the senses. A quote I saw on my own travels in Estonia summed up the need to embrace the world not from behind a phone or through the ubiquitous headphones but through the heart and through the people around you:
 
Hiking means looking with one’s own eyes, listening with one’s own ears, thinking with one’s own mind and feeling with one’s own heart.
– Edgar Kant, geographer & economist

There is an irony that due to the close friendships formed across a quite disparate group the students are using their phones to remain in contact with each other since their return and going their separate ways. Likewise, once the bundle of clothes that was the sister woke up, my train companion grabbed an iPad to challenge his sibling. Technology is undoubtedly here to stay. But we must ensure that, despite the obvious advantages, we provide our children with opportunities to disconnect in order to connect, before we all forget how.

Article is written by Jo Biddle, who travelled on a school trip abroad with World Youth Adventures in July 2019. Pictures from World Youth Adventures image library. 
 

What does 'Disconnect to Connect' mean?

To maximize the benefits of the travel experience, students need to be free to be fully in the moment, engaging in the activities on offer and focusing on the people they are travelling with. This blog article by the Huffpost explains it in another way. 
When phones are down (students are disconnected), eyes are up, freeing students to look around and notice things (they are connected). Without phones, students are open to receive information from all their senses, allowing them to fully engage in the travel experience, to maximize the potential for learning and growth. It also gives them the chance to top up their creative fuel by being in tune to their own thoughts and responses in a way that is not possible when they are beholden to the phone. 
 
 
Eliminating Plastic From Our School Treks

The Himalayan nation of Nepal has stepped up in banning single-use plastics in the Everest region, which will take effect in January 2020 in the Khumbu Pasang Lhamu province. All plastic drinking bottles and plastics of less than 30 microns in width will be banned in the area. 

With plastic packaging accounting for about half of the plastic waste in the world, here's how we are leading the way in eliminating its use on our treks.

Fast facts: How big is our plastic problem?

  Humans buy around 1 million plastic bottles per minute.
  Half a million straws are used in the world every day.
  It is estimated that almost 10 million plastic bags are consumed worldwide per minute.
  79% of all the plastics ever produced have now been discarded. Only 21% of plastics are still in active use.
  Each year, about 13 million tonnes of plastic leak into the ocean, with reports warning that there will be more plastic than marine life in the oceans by 2050.
  By 2050, an estimated 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic.
  Because plastic is long lasting and durable, most do not biodegrade; only certain types of plastic waste can be recycled. Plastic waste is therefore either destroyed, converted to fuel or energy via incineration or pyrolysis, disposed of in waste management systems or discarded where it ends up in the natural environment.
  Single-use-plastics frequently do not make it to a landfill.

Worst plastic offenders

1. Plastic bags

2. Coffee cups and lids

3. Straws

4. Single-use bottles

Other offenders: balloons and their sticks and ribbons, chip and snack packets, food containers, plastic cutlery and sanitary products.

What can we do about it?

Making the switch from plastic to sustainable alternatives, as well as making responsible travel choices – such as bringing along a refillable water bottle, can make a positive investment in the future of our environment. Read these eight ways to avoid plastic when you travel.

Travel sustainably: how World Youth Adventures is eliminating plastic

Leading the way in responsible travel, our latest green initiatives in Nepal allow travellers to avoid the use of disposable and single-use plastic throughout their Nepal trip. The Kathmandu hotel we use has a water dispenser with potable water available for students to refill their reusable bottles, so that travellers aren't contributing to the plastic problem in the poor, landlocked country.

“While water on the treks has been boiled and provided to trekkers for many years, we are delighted to totally eliminate the need for plastic bottles from the moment the client arrives at the hotel.”

“Providing our clients with access to potable water throughout their Nepal experience is the final step in giving our clients the confidence to know that they are travelling green in Nepal,” says World Expeditions Responsible Travel Manager, Donna Lawrence.

In addition to phasing out single-use plastic bottles, our Nepali kitchen crew are trained to minimise plastic waste in trek kitchens, which is especially important in remote regions, when responsible disposal becomes more difficult.  We minimize the use of plastic by buying fresh produce from local farmers whenever possible, which has the dual benefit of creating income for subsistence communities and reducing the need of packaging and excess plastic.

Our credentials in eco tourism in Nepal are unrivalled:  We're proud to follow the seven principles of  Leave No Trace on all our treks and we're the founding partner of the 10 Pieces environmental initiative, which encourages trekkers to pick up 10 pieces of plastic or paper (or more!) to help reduce the litter problem through their collective effort.


Sources: Cleaseas.org, Earthday.org, Report from Science Advances, 2018 Outlook report from UN Environment.

#SaveTheAmazon: Amazon Rainforest Appeal

We all need the Amazon. Now it needs you. Donate to the World Expeditions Foundation's appeal to protect the forest, its wildlife and local communities affected.

Fires are raging through the Amazon rainforest, primarily in the Brazilian Amazon, gripped by its most vigorous fire season since 2010. The media images we are seeing are devastating, showing the extent of the fires and the subsequent smoke which is impacting Brazil and its neighbours.

NASA reports that, “while drought has played a large role in exacerbating fires in the past, the timing and location of fire detections early in the 2019 dry season are more consistent with land clearing than with regional drought.” Studies show that the rainforest is at tipping point, with large fragmented sections at risk of transforming into a drier ecosystem which could result in the severe loss of species, the acceleration of climate change and spell disaster for the indigenous populations who call the forest home.

Home to a million people and three times as many wildlife, the Amazon is also the largest piece of rainforest in the world.

Often referred to as ‘the lungs of the earth’, scientists warn that the extent of this year’s Amazon forest fires will make the Paris climate target more difficult to achieve as tree cover loss from forests is estimated to account for nearly 10% of global carbon emissions, while trees are also said to provide more than 20% of climate solutions. Trees not only absorb carbon dioxide, they also then lock carbon away.

How you can help

Want to support those working to arrest the damage? Donate to the World Expeditions Foundation’s Amazon Forest Appeal and 100% of your donation will be directed to Earth Alliance to be distributed to local partners and indigenous communities working to protect the forest and its wildlife and to mitigate fire and its effects on local communities.

Earth Alliance is an environmental foundation created by climate change crusader Leonardo DiCaprio and his philanthropic friends.

Travel advisory information

The scale of the region is so large that the areas where we operate our jungle trips are not affected by the fires and there is no risk to our travellers or our traveller’s experience on any of our trips in Peru or Ecuador. We will continue to monitor the situation and contingency plans will be enacted if required.

As always, the safety of our travellers is our foremost priority and one we will not compromise on. We will continue to support the preservation of this vital wilderness and those who live and work in it.

First published on worldexpeditions.com on 30 August 2019.

Tanzania's Plastic Ban: What Students Need To Know

As of June 2019, plastic bags were no longer allowed into Tanzania, as the country stepped up in the global movement against single plastic use.

Special desks will be designated at border posts and airports for travellers entering the country to surrender their plastic bags. The strict government initiative hopes to cut down on plastic waste in the country and to help preserve the natural beauty of Tanzania.

The United Republic of Tanzania released a notice for travellers wishing to visit the country that "all plastic carriers, regardless of their thickness, will be prohibited from being imported, exported, manufactured, sold, stored, supplied and used in Mainland Tanzania."

Visitors must avoid carrying or using plastic carrier bags for items in their suitcase or in their hand luggage. However, ziplock bags specifically used to carry toiletries are permitted as they are expected to remain the permanent possession of visitors and to not be disposed of in Tanzania.

When you arrive into Tanzania carrying items in a plastic bag, customs and immigration will confiscate the bag. We suggest bringing a few cloth carry bags or stuff sacks (which pack down to nothing) from home to store your personal items and laundry.

Tanzania is not the first African country to take a step towards removing plastic bags. It follows Kenya, Mali, Cameroon, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Morocco, South Africa, Rwanda and Botswana, all of which have already either banned plastic bags completely or now charge a tax on them.

The plastic waste issue for African countries is serious.  At one stage, it was suggested South Africa had named the plastic bag its national flower, since there were so many bags littering their landscape.

This situation is not new and many countries across the globe are slowly following suit. So far, 65 countries have imposed bans and another 31 countries impose a tax per bag.

The Earth Policy Institute estimates that a trillion plastic bags are used throughout the world each year.

Fast facts: the plastic issue

Plastic bags are made from polyethylene, which almost always comes from some form of fossil fuel.  Although shopping bags are recyclable in the short term, many pollute our landscapes and waterways, blocking drains and sewerage pipes and killing marine animals. Longer term, plastic bags never break down fully, remaining micro plastics, which release toxins into the environment, to be ingested by animals and entering the human food chain. 


How to reduce plastic use when you travel

Countries around the world vary in their commitment to ban plastic bags, but you can make a difference to the war on plastic bags when you travel. Travel with reusable bags, so when you are offered a plastic bag you can politely refuse. Consumer sentiment cannot be underestimated in the drive to minimize plastic. 

Another action that can make a difference is to collect plastic bags that blemish the natural landscape and end up in waterways, removing them from the environment and finding a responsible method of disposal, such as a recycling plant.

Our 10 Pieces program has been encouraging trekkers in many destinations to collect paper and plastic litter from trails.  Since February 2018, on Mount Kilimanjaro, for example, more than 110 trekkers have volunteered to participate in the program with plastic bags being the number one item collected.

Litter that is collected by trekkers is carried off the mountain by porters and handed over to National Park Rangers for proper disposal. The initiative has even encouraged other people on treks to follow suit in picking up rubbish.

A small effort can collectively make a huge difference by placing the issue at hand in the spotlight by helping educate mountain communities on the negative consequences of litter for the benefit  and the health of their animals and people.

Written by Donna Lawrence, the Responsible Travel Manager at World Expeditions.

Service Learning: Tips for Volunteering Overseas

Tips for Students Volunteering Overseas


If you're in charge of organising your school's overseas Educational Travel trips the following information will help you ask the right questions of your Educational Travel provider to ensure you create a  responsible, truly worthwhile experience for both your students and the host communities you plan to visit or help.
 
Students on Cambodia Service Learning tripStudents on Cambodia Service Learning trip


Valuable and sustainable projects

When choosing a volunteering experience overseas be sure to use a reputable organisation, to ensure that the work you will be doing has a positive impact on the community and that it fulfils a real need.

Questions to ask:

Is the development of the volunteering experience consultative?

Has the community been involved in the decisions from the outset? Is the work needed and wanted and is it a priority for the community? Volunteer experiences that consult with or are led by the heads of the local community are usually very successful because early ownership of the project by the beneficiaries ensures long-term sustainability.

Is the volunteering collaborative?

Are you working along side members of the local community?

Is the project sustainable?

After you leave will the project continue to benefit the community? A sustainable project engages the local community with the aim that they will become self sufficient and able to operate the project themselves in the future.

Is there a transference of skills/knowledge?

Will you come away from the experience with new skills, new insights and new understandings? And are you able to leave behind the same? A transference of skills -both ways - is an ideal volunteering experience, one that is enriching for both parties.

The welfare of children in the tourism setting

Children working and living in tourist areas are especially vulnerable to physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Here are some things to consider when interacting with children during your travels and overseas volunteering experiences;

  1. Child begging or selling on the street: our natural reaction is to give to a child, but often this just compounds the problem. To break the cycle it is better to support their families and communities by donating to reputable children’s charities that are working to change the situation for the long term.

  2.  Ask yourself "would this be ok in my home country?": If the answer is 'no' then you should probably not participate. Some examples, would it be ok to teach children in a school setting even though you are not qualified? Is it ok to take photos of children without the permission of their parents?

  3. Orphanage tourism: Legitimate orphanages employ local people to care for the children and will not allow strangers to walk through their premises to look at and interact with their vulnerable children. Corruption is rift through orphanages in South East Asia, Nepal. Remember that children are not tourist attractions. Each child deserves a stable and caring environment

  4. If you are going to have contact with children during a volunteer experience make sure that the organization you are with has a child protection code of conduct in place and that they ask you to provide a background check.


  5.  

If you suspect a child is being abused tell your guide, or report it to the local authorities or your embassy in that country.
 
Working on Service Learning project in CambodiaStudents working on a Service Learning project in Cambodia


 

The welfare on animals in the tourism setting. 

Volunteering with animal welfare agency requires some due diligence to ensure that you are not inadvertently harming animals instead of helping them. Two such cased of animal exploitation in the tourism setting that are currently receiving much attention are elephants and lions.

Elephants

With so much research and evidence pointing to the fact that riding on the back of an elephant is damaging, travellers should steer clear of this experience. The best way to experience an elephant is in the wild, from the safety of a vehicle, in a national park or reserve where the elephant is not in captivity and able to display its natural behaviours. Many elephant sanctuaries / orphanages are a tourist trap, existing for the tourist dollar and not welfare of the elephants. If you must volunteer at an elephant sanctuary / orphanage do plenty of research and critic the orphanages on the following criteria:

  • Is the aim to rehabilitate and release elephants into the wild. Or are the elephants kept in captivity because they attract the tourist dollar?

  • Are you able to have physical contact with the elephants? If yes, remember that the only way you can have safe unprotected contact (no barrier between you and the elephant) is if that elephant has been 'crushed' - a painful process that a baby elephant endures that essentially 'breaks its spirit'. Help break the cycle and resist the opportunity to touch an elephant.

  • Are the elephants kept in chains?

  • Do they offer rides on the back of the elephants?

  • Do the elephants have recent puncture wounds?

  • Do the mahouts ask for payments for photo opportunities?

  • Are baby elephants chained to railings so that tourists could pet them?

  • If the answer is yes to the above 5 questions, then the motives of the sanctuary/orphanages is questionable and you should reconsider volunteering.


  •  
 
Elephant's in the wild, TanzaniaElephant's in the wild, Tanzania


Petting Lion Cubs, Walking with Lion experiences and volunteering with Lions in South Africa

Many unsuspecting tourists and volunteers in South Africa inadvertently contribute to a terrible industry called Canned Lion Hunting. Under the guise of lion conservation, lions are breed for the sole purpose of “canned” hunting. Today, anywhere between 7,000 and 8,000 predators, most of them lions, are being kept in cages or confined areas on over 150 private farms across the country. Used for a host of revenue streams – cub petting, raising “orphaned” cubs (actually cubs are removed from their mother a few days after birth which brings her back into oestrus to continue the breeding machine cycle) and “lion walking” young adult lions are ultimately shot in “canned” hunts. Close to 800 lions are killed each year by trophy hunters in enclosed or confined areas with little or no chance of escape, while hundreds more get killed and shipped to the East for the burgeoning lion bone trade.

Despite the claims of the operators, all leading conservationists and lion ecologists agree there is absolutely no conservation merit whatsoever in any of these practices.

By supporting these  “lion reserve” facilities day visitors or volunteers are directly contributing to the funding of this industry, and the misinformation that confuses conservation messages and priorities, resulting in a misdirection of valuable conservation funding away from the real threats facing wild animals.

There are a number of organizations campaigning against this Canned Lion Hunting

Take a look at: www.fortheloveofwildlife.org.au or www.facebook.com/volunteersbeware

 
9 Tips on Responsible Gift Giving
After spending time with local communities and forging relationships with them in developing countries, students may want to offer a gift to express their gratitude. However, their best intentions can cause unintended issues in these countries.

Often, gift giving can result in locals becoming dependent on hand outs. It can create jealousy within communities and cause internal conflicts if some beneficiaries receive gifts while others do not.

At its worst, certain gifts can also result in health problems. For example, if lollies and chocolates are distributed to young children in an underprivileged region with limited or no access to oral healthcare, this will contribute to their development of gum disease and tooth decay.

“In some cases, material goods given are not something the community needs, and may end up being something members cannot use – such as a remote control race car that require batteries or an electronic device that requires regular charging,” says Donna Lawrence, Responsible Travel Manager at World Youth Adventures.

While gift giving is a lovely gesture, it is important to be considerate and mindful of the presents your students offer to communities.

Here are nine tips to share with your students on how to give presents responsibly:

1. Don’t make assumptions about community needs. Plan ahead. If your students intend on giving to a school, hospital or organisation, contact them in advance to find out what items they need and purchase and hand deliver the products.

2. Avoid giving drinks or foods that are high in sugar, especially when it is clear that dental health care is not available. Poor nutrition is often worsened by consuming sweets. Instead, buy fruit from the local market, which will provide children with a nutritional treat and support local businesses.

3. Avoid giving directly to an individual; rather, give to the head of the community or the head master of the school so that they can distribute the gifts fairly. Don’t be offended if this occurs once you’ve left.

4. Don’t give gifts to children begging on the street. It reinforces the bad situation they are in. An alternative is to donate to a local charity that works to keep children off the streets and to stay with their family and in school.

5. Don’t give gifts that are broken or damaged, unhygienic, dangerous or which contribute to waste. Think of the waste your students' gifts will generate over time. Avoid donating plastic toys and choose pencils and crayons over pens. In more remote regions, there are no waste disposal facilities, so your presence will be around for much longer than you think.

6. Be aware of the limitations of a gift. For example, giving a gift that requires batteries that are not readily available to the recipient or are expensive locally. Instead, give manual or solar powered torches. Some houses do not have electricity at all or experience frequent power cuts.

7. Think practical over superficial items. In remote regions, communities have a huge need for basic necessities. Items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, socks, sanitary kits, hairbrushes and hair ties are very practical.

8. Don’t give out medicine. Each country has different laws about the use of medical supplies and medications, and some pharmaceutical drugs are not permitted. Instead, consider practical supplies such as bandages, thermometers, gauze, as well as hygiene products and re-usable sanitary items to help prevent the spread of disease. You can also consider donating to charities or organisations that support local hospitals or medical centres.

9. Share your time and skills instead of a material gift. You can join a community project to help make tangible change in underprivileged areas, such as completing grass-root construction projects in villages of Cambodia, Romania and more.



If you are unsure of an appropriate gift, ask your travel company or the school, hospital or organisation you are helping.

Want to learn more about how to travel, give, grow with your students? View our current community projects and read our latest The Thoughtful Traveller e-book.
Volunteering Overseas: What to Consider
People generally volunteer to do something meaningful and experience a new culture. However, some volunteer-sending companies may be more concerned with creating a ‘life-changing’ experience for the volunteer, with less focus on the purpose and the needs of local communities.

For instance, the growth of orphanages, in many cases, directly corresponds to the increase in tourism numbers that have been driven by well meaning but uninformed tourists who volunteer and donate to the orphanages.

There are now millions of children sent to live in orphanages, away from their families as it is deemed to be the only way these children can get an education.

However, decades of research show that growing up in a residential care institution is harmful for a child's development and well-being. This has led to a global effort to move away from this model of care as a response to poverty.

We are a division of World Expeditions, which is on the working party of the Rethink Orphanages Network, an organization working to prevent the unnecessary institutionalisation of children in developing countries.

Here are 10 things to look for to make sure your time overseas is spent making a genuine difference:

1. Track Record
Look for evidence of past achievements and how programs are monitored and evaluated.

2. Integrity
A growing number of companies have ceased orphanage volunteering. Find out who.

Since 2013, we’ve removed all instances of orphanage tourism from our trips when research first revealed a direct relationship between the increase in the number of orphanages in developing nations and the increase in tourism numbers. We hope that our involvement will encourage other companies, and travellers, to avoid orphanage tourism.

3. Accountability
Some organisations recruit volunteers for their own programs; others act as ‘volunteer brokers’ and may not have end-to-end accountability for the project or your safety.

4. Selectivity
Expect to apply to volunteer and be vetted as if you were applying for a job or university. You should also receive pre-departure support.

5. Credibility
Emotive language like ‘saving the world’ or ‘giving children the love they need’ may be used to recruit volunteers, but it’s not an indicator of quality.

6. The ‘Need’
Make sure your role will enhance local capacity – e.g. by providing training to, or working with, local people to meet a short-term skills gap.

7. Sustainability
Check there’s a project end date, not a long-term dependency on volunteers.

8. Skills Match
What do you have to offer? Skills in high demand include digital, monitoring and evaluation, fundraising, language and computer skills. However, some community projects may not require specific skill sets.

9. Suitably Qualified
Avoid placements for which you are not skilled or qualified – e.g. teaching or caring for children or providing medical care.

10. Learning Opportunity
How will you apply what you’ve learnt back home? Employers will be interested in evidence of impact, not just the fact that you have volunteered overseas.

Did you know, globally, an estimated 80% of children in orphanages have a living parent? Watch this short documentary revealing the untold story of orphanage tourism.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUUjPvnWFgM&w=1180&h=664]

The solution to orphanage tourism is to re-direct support away from orphanages towards programs that help to strengthen communities and keep families together.

Want to make a difference? Join our Alternative Schoolies where you can help marginalised communities and give back to the world.

If you are a teacher and want to get your students involved, you can include a service learning element in your next school program - simply get in touch.
 
8 Hacks for Your First Trek in Nepal
It’s tricky to decide on a destination for your overseas school program or your Schoolies, especially when you have so many options out there. Why not venture to the destinations less travelled such as Nepal and support communities in need? You’ll be surprised to discover you can easily find all sorts of info about Nepal on Google.

To help you get started, here are some travel hacks from our frequent adventurers to make your first trek in Nepal easier.

1. Down boots are your friend.
The year before I went to Nepal, I hiked the Overland Track in Tasmania. It was full pack trekking, so anything deemed unnecessary for survival was culled. The first evening at camp, one of our seemingly tough group members donned a pair of down booties. It took all of three seconds for me to mentally place these wacky Michelin Man looking shoes on the ‘unnecessary’ list. As it later turned out, this person had been on treks all over the world and knew what he was doing. Fast forward one year and I’m sitting in Gorak Shep with, you guessed it, a pair of down booties on my weary feet. Do not underestimate the power of the weird and wonderful footwear.

2. And so is a hot water bottle.
Hydration is crucial, especially at altitude, so you’re going to have an assortment of water drinking contraptions that adorn your backpack. Fill your bottles with boiled water at night and make use of these steamy bottles of goodness by putting them in your sleeping bag before you settle in. Just make sure the bottles are unbreakable and sealed very tightly.

3. Keep your batteries warm.
Battery life suffers in cold temperatures and you most likely won’t be able to recharge it. Keep them in a sock at the bottom of your sleeping bag each night to help prolong the inevitable.

4. Take it slooooow.
Acclimatisation is serious business and it can be life threatening if not treated with care. While on the trek, drink lots of water, continue to eat even if you lose your appetite and go slow. If you feel unwell at any point in time, don’t hesitate to let your guide know. In the words of the Nepalese, ‘slowly-slowly’ wins the race.

5. You need to train for the trek.
Hiking in the Himalaya requires endurance and fitness. You’ll want to do a mix of day walks with and without a full pack, cycling and cardio workouts for at least 3 months prior to your trek. You wouldn’t want to give up halfway on your trek and miss out on the full experience.

6. Always have two towels handy.
When you wash up in the morning, have 2 towels at hand - one to soak in the water to clean yourself with, and one to dry yourself with because it’s always cold. Tie them to the straps of your backpack during the day and they’ll be dry and ready for use when you’re back in camp.

7. Walk on the mountain side of the trail.
Always walk on the inner edge of the trial (the mountain side). You’ll frequently come across yaks that are sharing the trail with you, which gives living on the edge a whole new meaning, and you need to step aside to let them pass. Keep an ear out for the sound of their bells up ahead.



8. Act on the urge to get up at night.
Yes, it’s warm in your sleeping bag and cold outside. Yes, it’s dark and you need to navigate to the toilet set up by torch light. Once you get past that, you will be a happy person because the crisp, starry Himalaya night sky is a sight to be seen and a memory to capture.

Interested in bringing your students to Nepal? Get in touch and we can customise a program to suit your school's learning objectives and budget.

If you are a student and want to explore Nepal for your Schoolies, you can now register for our 2019 alternative Schoolies, where you can meet like-minded people, help repair a remote school and make a difference in this world.
What It's Like Climbing Kilimanjaro - A Student's Perspective
The roof of Africa, the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro, should not be underestimated. Rising almost 6000m above sea level, you need much more than excellent physical fitness. You also need a determined state of mind.

There are plenty of articles out there written by experienced adventurers, but what about from a student's perspective. We asked Annabelle Grimes, who climbed it with classmates from Nepal High School in Ottawa, Canada, what it takes to get to the top.

Students making a push to the summit of Mt KilmanjaroStudents making a push to the summit of Mt Kilmanjaro

Before leaving Ottawa what were you most looking forward to about the Mount Kilimanjaro climb?


Besides the obvious prospect of successfully summiting Mount Kilimanjaro with all the members of my group, there were an endless number of things that culminated to my anticipation as the trip approached. I looked forward to experiencing African culture for the first time, and observing the animals I’d only ever watched on National Geographic. I also looked forward to bonding with my climbing-mates and seeing the vast and stark beauty of the mountain first-hand. I was overwhelmed by all the new experiences I would encounter, and I could hardly contain my excitement.

Can you outline the training you and your fellow students did pre-trip in order to make it to the summit?


Mostly, we trained individually for this trip; everyone took it seriously and prepared according to their own abilities. For example, I had an endurance and strength regiment that spanned for months in preparation. Before leaving, many of us did multi-day hiking trips in the Adirondack Mountain Range in New York State - a few hours’ drive from Ottawa. Being part of our schools’ Outdoor Education program, we already had strong backgrounds in camping and hiking, so no strenuous training was necessary.
Kilimanjaro is not a technically demanding climb, so nearly anyone with reasonable physical health and determination can hope to summit.

Students enjoying a meal on Mt KilimanjaroStudents enjoying a meal on Mt Kilimanjaro

What was the most overwhelming feeling you experience on the trip?


I was overwhelmed by the outstanding work of guides, porters, and cooks during our trip. They contributed so much, not only physically and logistically, but also in helping maintain exceptional morale throughout.

As we climbed, many of us had the opportunity to get to know the women and men who accompanied us, and this offered a glimpse into a rich, welcoming culture. The incredible amount of work and effort that went into making our experience comfortable was astonishing, and for that we are so grateful.

What life skills did the Kilimanjaro expedition develop?


As it would be, a few of our group’s bags, including mine, were lost on our flight from Doha, Qatar. Unsure as to whether or when these bags would arrive, our group opted to rent necessities at the base of the mountain and continue on schedule.
With little more than the shirt on my back and a sleeping bag, I relied on my resourcefulness and the generosity of my fellow-climbers for dry clothes.

Our bags arrived on our third day on Kilimanjaro by some amazing feat of human coordination, but in the days leading up, I came to realize how little I can make do with. This realization translated to a new appreciation for all the luxuries I enjoy daily, and to a heightened perspective of my own materialism.

Success! WYA student expedition on the roof of Africa, Mt KilimanjaroSuccess! WYA student expedition on the roof of Africa, Mt Kilimanjaro

Was the trip or reaching the summit tougher than you expected?


I think all of us went knowing that summiting would be tough. Coming from Ottawa, our bodies were all unaccustomed to low oxygen environments.
Altitude sickness affects some far more than others, though because of its unpredictable nature, there was no way to know who would suffer. Though our route aimed to maximize acclimatization, everyone suffered to some degree.

Throughout, we remained wary of worsening symptoms, and our guides carried supplemental oxygen for emergencies. I personally struggled summit night with nausea and dizziness, but I went on the trip accepting that I might be forced to turn back and descend at any time.

That being said, we were all ecstatic to be able to summit alongside all of our friends, knowing that our suffering was entirely outweighed by the beauty and splendor of the journey itself.

Now you have returned home, having been part of a team that had 100% success on summit day, what are your most treasured moments from the trip?


I remember the day after summiting, how we were all ecstatic to have made it, and equally as excited to have plummeted down the mountain the thicker air. That morning, the sky was a clear blue, and as the sun rose up to meet us, we stood before all of our guides and porters who sang to us as a final goodbye. With the snows of the mountain as a backdrop, we all eventually erupted into song and dance together. Looking at everyone’s faces - those I had met just a short week before, but seemed to have known for far longer - I saw nothing but joy, laughter, and elation.

It was incredible; I’ll never forget my last morning on Kilimanjaro.

Campsite on Mt KilimanjaroCampsite on Mt Kilimanjaro.

Did this trip instill a thirst for adventure and travel?


Absolutely - and I know I’m not alone. It may sound cliché, but there is nothing more liberating than stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something wildly daring and new. I’m hearing that Kilimanjaro is just the first of the Seven Summits many of my teammates plan on ticking off their lists. I’m moving to British Columbia for university in the fall and I’ve started planning climbs in the Rockies and West Coast Trail backpacking next year.

Having climbed Kilimanjaro at the ages of 16 and 17, the bar has been set high for the many adventures that are sure to follow. I know for a fact that Kilimanjaro will not be the highest summit many of us will climb; even greater endeavors lie ahead.

Do you have advice for other students considering an international school trip?


I’d tell them that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. This is the stuff of life, and there’s no better time to venture into the unknown than if you haven’t before.

Find out More About a Kilimanjaro School Expedition


World Youth Adventures (WYA) specialise in custom school group adventures & youth adventure travel experiences to some of the world’s most captivating destinations, including mount Kilimanjaro. Find Out More >>> Kilimanjaro School Expedition 
My Alternative Schoolies Adventure to Nepal
Life after school; a time to reflect on twelve years of friendships; made and lost, of hard work and unquestionable bouts of procrastination, and what felt like prolonged drudgery in those last remaining months. High school is a truly memorable stepping stone in the paths of our lives; it helps shape who we are.

So wouldn’t we want to celebrate our past dedications and achievements, 12 years of our lives, with something merely more than “YEAHHHH let’s get pissed dude!”

There are better ways to celebrate the beginning of freedom and a life of your choosing; ways in which you will actually remember.
This is a mere snippet of my schoolies experience. And I think it was done right.
 
Welcomed with marigold garlands and an abundance of smiling faces, upon arrival in Dhampus after a full day of trekking through the mountains.

In late November I travelled to Nepal with a group of seven other schoolies. We trekked and traversed our way over mountainous terrain, volunteered our physical strength and love to a remote school in the village of Dhampus, and were lucky enough to fly over the Himalayas - an experience that actually touches the soul.

We did this with an organisation called World Youth Adventures; a company that offers truly unique experiences in different destinations around the world- a rewarding alternative to more traditional schoolies.

One of my many favourite moments; the final day trek to Ghandruk:
 
Alternative School Leavers adventure in NepalEuphoria in Ghandruk. A dry open grass field with a 270 degree view of the sun rising onto the distant Himalayas.


Upon walking up to a grassy ledge above Dhampus camp, we watched the shades of the mountains turn from black silhouettes to dappled misty greys; the rising sun a ginormous ball of pink light. The scattered huts and rice paddies etched into the mountainside slowly became clearer. Dhampus awed us with its raw beauty.

The first section of the trek was through lush jungle, off the beaten path and up quite an incline! We were a bit worried the terrain was going to be like that for the next few hours, however eventually we reached the top of the mountain and were welcomed by a seat at a teahouse with a clear view of the Himalayas; Mount Pistol and South Annapurna. They were always moving in and out of our sight along the trek.
 
Nepal Schoolies AdventureLocal kids of Pokhara


From here it was down and up stone steps. You had to remind yourself to look up every now and then to fully acknowledge and appreciate the view, pinching yourself that you were trekking in the Nepal mountainside. After our legs had almost turned to jelly from an infinite amount of steps up and down mountains, we walked along a flat dusty road for about an hour; seeing other trekkers and taking in the village of Landruk; local Nepali kids playing volleyball in their schoolyard and women beating millet (a harvested grain) outside their homes, a true atmospheric embodiment of a community.

We stopped for lunch further across in Landruk, down below a teahouse we perched ourselves on the grass, the chefs and porters utilising village huts and the open space to cook up their magic. The mountainside view we were blessed with was absolutely astonishing. We grabbed a bench chair and perched it on the edge of the slope, our feet lying underneath on the grass. We had a clothesline of patterned Soris and sheets over our heads, looking out into the haze of the mountains. The rice paddies and small local villages outlined in the distance.
 
Nepal School Leavers tripDhampus camp // A community base while we volunteered at the nearby Primary school. Prayer flags are strung in the shape of a star, and when the sun rises over the mountains, it shines directly onto the roof of the community centre. A true embodiment of how Nepali people connect to the land.


Indra, one of our humble Nepali guides, served us pineapple cordial and for lunch a chapatti with small sliced sausages, vegetables and a bean mix with hot potato chips on the side; a mix of Nepalese and western cuisine. Safe to say we never went hungry! Also some of the best meals I’ve eaten. *Note: popcorn and soup together work wonders (this is no trickery!).

In the distance we could see the village that we needed to trek to for arrival at camp; Ghandruk. It was sitting above us on the opposite mountain, at a much higher altitude and a good length away. We were a little overwhelmed by what we had to accomplish in the next few hours; a knee wobbling descend and an intimidating incline, yet we hadn’t realised the great distance we had already achieved.
 
Nepal Schoolies Alternative AdventureLunch with a view


This experience really does make you grow as a person. And the amazing thing is you grow with other people, making lifelong friendships through some of the greatest moments you’ve ever shared. I’m visiting two of the girls who are from Byron Bay in the upcoming months; after only a few days of meeting each other we were already planning our next adventure! We couldn’t wait to be reunited with such like-minded souls.

I have become so grateful for the places I've grown up in around Western Australia and come to not only appreciate, but love the simple things in life; after all, those are what truly what make us happy.

This is a mere snippet of my schoolies experience. And I think it was done right.

I hope that after reading this, more people can open themselves up to these kinds of opportunities; celebrate schoolies the right way. It doesn’t have to be climbing a mountain either!

View alternative School Leavers Adventures

This article was submitted by Jemma Scott, who travelled on our Nepal Schoolies Adventure. The article originally appeared on her own blog - The Salty Dreamers.
10 Good Reasons to Join the ‘10 Pieces’ Litter Collection Movement
Brazilian poet and writer, Paulo Coelho, once said “It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary”.

Imagine if you could do something extraordinary for the planet by simply picking up 10 pieces of litter on your travels.
 


With our 10 Pieces, you can.

World Youth Adventures partners with a simple but effective litter collection initiative that harnesses the collective power of travellers to keep wilderness trails free of litter.

Put simply, it encourages travellers to pick up 10 pieces of litter each day on its guided treks in Nepal, Bhutan and Peru and on Mount Rinjani and Mount Kilimanjaro climbs.

Here are 10 good reasons why you should consider joining the “10 Pieces” movement:

  1. Impact: less litter on wilderness trails brings benefit to animals and humans. Not only is litter unsightly and capable of ruining our experience in nature, it also poses danger to animals that may ingest it. Often litter on a trail ends up in a river and we all know where our rivers lead! By removing litter from mountain environments, we are ensuring that it doesn’t end up in our oceans.

  2. Scale: 10 pieces sounds like a nominal number, but it’s scaled immensely when the collective power of a group of travelers joins in. With a group of just 20 travelers, the 10 pieces quickly turns into 200 pieces of litter each day. And if there’s another group of 12 travelers at the same place the next week that’s another 200 pieces of litter. It soon adds up.

  3. Ease: 10 pieces of litter can be collected in under 60 seconds, anyone can do it, it costs nothing, and World Youth Adventures manages the responsible disposal of all litter collected.

  4. Safety: we provide participants with our reusable litter collection bags. Participants bring their own protective gloves and hand sanitizer, and are asked to only paper and plastic litter; no hazardous litter.

  5. Our planet’s future: as more travelers enter mountain environments, so does infrastructure and therefore non-biodegradable waste. Litter control programs are therefore critically relevant for future generations.

  6. Leading by example: The communities we pass through along trails in Peru, Nepal, Bhutan, Indonesia and Tanzania may not have been exposed to litter education programs, but when they see visitors to their home collecting litter it encourages them to be responsible about their waste disposal. With this understanding they can lobby for better litter disposal methods for their communities and they also become less likely to throw litter into their environment themselves.

  7. Leaving No Trace: we are all accustomed to the phrase “take only photographs, leave only footprints”. Well we have expanded the “Leave No Trace” concept to “take only photographs and 10 pieces of litter, and leave only footprints”

  8. Forward planning: there’s no point in collecting litter if it’s disposed of incorrectly. Before offering 10 Pieces on a trek we ensure that we can dispose of litter responsibly. In some cases, this means transporting it to the nearest city to be delivered to a recycling plant and in other cases it’s the clean and thorough incineration of the litter at our campsites.

  9. Inspiring others: we encourage the travellers everywhere and the travel industry to join the 10 Pieces movement, turning this into a collective movement that is propelled forward by travelers globally

  10. And finally, because 10 Pieces helps make the world a better place!

Over the months of September to December 2017, over 100 students from five different Australian schools will be participating in 10 Pieces in Nepal. When we do the math, we figure that’s over 7000 pieces of litter collected from Nepal’s wilderness trails. Awesome eh?!

Want to learn how your school can be involved? Get in touch with one of our Youth Adventure Experts.
Trying a Scorpion in Beijing
As I read through my guidebook about the different things to do in Beijing, the thing that kept on coming up was to visit the different markets across this city.

These markets sell all sorts of items -  from pearls to selfie sticks - you name it, at least one market will sell the item you're looking for!

However there was only one market that I was really interested in visiting, and that was the food market; Wangfujing night market. This market dates back to the Ming Dynasty.

As I turned down into one of the Hutong’s (side alleys), the variety of different smells, sounds and food’s available immersed me in a multitude of scents and sensations.
Starfish on skewers, people crunching fried silk worms and dumpling’s bubbling in water; everything was strange, new and eye popping!

Starfish on skewers, people crunching fried silk worms and dumpling’s bubbling in water; everything was strange, new and eye popping!

As I walked around Wangfujing, I saw food that I didn't even know was possible to eat such as scorpions, sea horses and spiders!
 

While I certainly could not bring myself to eat a spider, I decided to try a fried scorpion. As I was handed this scorpion on a stick I was unsure what to make of it… was it even safe to eat these creatures? Weren’t the stings poisonous? The woman cooking the scorpion reassured me, telling me that they were not poisonous when exposed to heat.

So I put my trust in this woman and bit into the scorpion... The taste was like a really fried salty chip.

While I didn't get poisoned from the scorpion, I would certainly not rush to eating them again and I think it is fair to say that I will be sticking to dumplings and duck next time I order a Chinese!

This is just one adventure that can be had in Beijing – I thoroughly recommend a visit!
 


William Shears

View our China destination page for ideas of what your school could do in China.
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