I have been fortunate to have been on a fair number of student travel adventures in the last 3 years. Earlier this year I gave a presentation on why I felt student travel was so important. And one of the three points I made is that traveling builds Community. It builds RELATIONSHIPS. And so as I started to list my favourite travel moments I started to realize that the thing that made them my favourite moments is that they were all about building and strengthening relationship. So in no particular order:
1. Singing Bob Marley with the Druids (London 2014) – We were lucky enough to get an all access pass to Stonehenge the day of the Equinox. This was a 6:00 AM hand holding, circle forming, group singing kid of endeavour with the local druids, which ended in us singing “Three Little Birds” at the top of our lungs. Sure enough that became the theme song of the trip, and every time I hear it, this is the memory I go straight back to. I’m certain our group would agree that this freezing cold morning was a memorable one.
2. Interviewing Broadway Stars (NYC 2012) – When we were in NYC our students were taking journalism and photography courses from Columbia University. One of their assignments was to interview someone. They were also suppose to try and write a descriptive article on an experience. Well that night we had tickets for “Newsies,” the newest broadway show. After the show I suggested that we stick around and wait for the dancers/actors to exit. Given that we had some huge dance (and “So You Think You Can Dance”) fans in the group, they waited out side – and then were brave enough to ask their favourite actor/dancers if they could interview them. So there they were, hanging out on Broadway, interviewing Broadway’s newest stars – and glowing. Watching them walk into their dreams (and hearing them talk about if for the rest of the night) was priceless.
3. That time I went to NASA (Florida 2014) – Most of my travels have led to me delighting in my students as they discover new and exciting things in the world. But this was all about me fulfilling a childhood memory. When I was growing up I wanted to be an astronaut SO bad. And I knew EVERYTHING about NASA and space history. So walking into NASA, seeing the globe, staring at the Saturn V, and walking in Neil Armstrong’s footsteps was a dream come true. And even better was the smiles on my students faces as they were delighting in my goofy grins and wide-eyed wonder.
4. That time Shweta lost her voice (Disneyland 2014) – It’s amazing how the smallest moments can lead to the most unexpected outcomes. When we were in Disneyland Shweta lost her voice. Those of her who know her may rejoice, or laugh, or just shrug your shoulders because you aren’t surprised. But I didn’t know Shweta very well. But by the end of the second day, she was in a lot of pain, and couldn’t speak. We couldn’t find a Halls anywhere, and it was pitch back and the park was closing. The rest of our crew headed back to the hotel, and Shweta and I embarked on a speed walking mission to find some relief – which we eventually found in the fancy lobby of the Disneyland Hotel. Now, this doesn’t seem like a special moment to those of you reading – except this lead to 1 hour of walking, exploring, and talking (or squeaking/whispering) – which lead to a beautiful relationship. Getting to know students well starts in the ordinary moments. And this was an ordinary moment in an extraordinary place.
5. The Baby Gorillas (Florida 2014) – When we were in Florida we had plans to go swim with the Manatees. But then Jennah and Gurveer got sick. Another example of an ordinary moment. Flu happens. So while the majority of the group headed off for a day in the river, I stayed behind, bringing juiceboxes and fruit to the sick students until they could stand up straight again. Now I was sad that they were missing a day of fun, so I worked out a deal with my groups coordinator, and we ended up spending the day in the Animal Kingdom. Now, they were recovering, so rides were out. So we agreed to a slow day of animal watching. When we got down to the gorilla pavilion their were two BABY gorillas. 2 months and 4 months old. The little baby was lying on the ground playing in the air, and then eventually wrapped around his mama’s leg while she walked. One of them was trying to learn to crawl, and the 5 year old pushed him over for fun. Big mama DID NOT like that and rushed in to protect the little one. Everything about this was beautiful, and adorable, and jaw-dropping and magical. Unlikely I ever see an infant gorilla again. Sharing this experience was priceless.
6. Bohemian Rhapsody on the Thames (London 2014) – One Sunday night in London, after dinner, the group was heading back to the hotel. I wanted to take the time to hear Big Ben chime and take night photos along the river. The other chaperones were guiding the group back, but 4 students asked if they could come with us. When we travel with students the majority of our time is well scheduled. It’s important with large groups to have order and organization. So in those few moments where you can be spontaneous, they come with great beauty and authenticity. We walked along the South Bank, taking pictures of the river, and the Eye, and Parliament. The girls found a performing space, and without any prompting, started belting out a lovely (and overly dramatic) rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” This was followed by onlookers, then laughter, then the bell striking 9, and finally a turfing competition on the tube ride back to the hotel.
7. Main Street Blues (Disneyland 2014) – On our last night in Disneyland we were suppose to meet up at the front of Main Street. Slowly students came down the main way back towards the exit and joined our crowd. The park was getting quieter, and the glow of Main Street felt magical. We all sat in a circle on the ground. As students got to the front they would join us. Each bringing a sigh and a frown that this experience had come to an end. In our 3 days together we had grown from friends to family, and every one knew it. We weren’t ready to leave this moment and let it become memory. So we just sat there. Even I, the teacher, who should have been directing us to get up and head home, was fixed in my seat. One more smile, one more laugh, one more group hug. We savoured it as long as we could.
8. Jelly Bean Roulette (Florida 2014) – Pool side. 21 students in a circle. Brown paper bag filled with Every Flavour Beans, purchased at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Vomit tastes like – Vomit. Insert screams, gags and laughter. I think you get the picture.
9. Dough Balls (London 2014) – Delicious. We became obsessed. In fact, happiness is now measured on a scale of zero to dough balls. Mmmmm. Dough balls…..
10. Compliment Circle (Vedder River 2015) – This year student council went on a camping retreat together. On our last night, around the fire, I thought it would be nice if we went around and said something nice about each person here. After the first person we needed to limit it to 5 compliments. I thought this would be a positive and uplifting experience. And it was. WAS IT EVER. Except that everyone had such beautiful things to say – compliments, anecdotes, stories – and tears. LOTS OF TEARS. After 3.5 hours (and being WAY past bedtime) we were left with embers in the fire, a dark sky, and a campsite full of tears, hugs and love. I think the whole group would agree that this was beyond special (and emotionally exhausting).
There are so many more, for example
- That time I had to ground some students
- That time Gaston did pull ups with Kaitlin hanging from his arm
- That time we managed to sneak students to the front of the line with Anna and Elsa
- That time we met Arthur Darvill
- That time we saw Darwin’s Spirit Collection
- That time we went behind the scenes at Universal
- That time we road the Hogwarts Express
- That time we leader that anything is possible
So as I am here, only 431 hours away from my next travel adventure, I cannot wait for more special moments to add to the list. #shseurope – are you ready?