“I walked on the Moon…”
by Ryan Sparzak
Classroom teachers have stories, and so does our student travel staff.
When school educators come together, there is immeasurable conversation around crazy classroom moments, problem children, and ridiculously comical circumstances that spiral into total chaos.
When travel professionals come together, there is countless discussion of sleeping in castles, serendipitous meetings in obscure locations, and all the unforeseeable events that make travel interesting. “Have you ever…” becomes the opening to every sentence.
In both crowds, there can be a certain “one-up-manship” or “story topping” that escalates into a feverish pitch.
But when you bring a staff of student travel professionals together and put them into a closed work environment for three days in December (feeding them copious amounts of See’s Candies), things reach another level. Brian Regan’s skit on the me monster and walking on the moon is a fitting bit for what can happen in these situations.
Here is a Top 10 list of our favorite student travel story topics that came up during our meetings last month:
Ed Travelers collect state and country visits like kids in the 1990’s collected Ken Griffey Jr. baseball cards. “When I last counted, I was at 49 states and 8 countries. Bummer, I can’t count that one country anymore because it no longer exists.”
Most of us don’t feel too bad when a fellow traveler loses elite status with an airline. We do, however, get very jealous when a fellow traveler obtains elite status. We noticed that the staff members who receive the award get a noble, high-nose high-five from the other First Class award members. Brian Regan elaborates once more.
Speaking of airlines, everyone can pick a favorite and explain why they like and dislike each for a variety of reasons. We really can’t come up with a clear “best airline.” We can all share stories of the worst airline, airport, or flight story.
When you find yourself among people who work in student travel, never ask questions like “What is the best food? Best destination? Best shopping experience? Best food court? Best anything?” Snobbery piles on like Old Country Buffet proportions. Again, everyone has an opinion and it’s likely there are very few people in the room that can confirm or deny any claim.
Learning how to pack for travel is an acquired skill after many long years of experience. A room of experts like to talk about the clothing they wear, how much it cost, why it’s the most comfortable, how easy it is to pack, etc. No matter what brand you wear or the breathability of your rain gear or the number of wheels on your suitcase, remember that less is more.
Since we are professional, we like to sound professional. Instead of an “agenda” or “daily schedule” we follow and coordinate an “itinerary.”
Our love for technology is on a variety of levels. One travel expert might depend on digital maps and trendy smartphone apps, while another might only need their device to read their favorite novel. Another comparison would be how some staff meetings are centered around a computer projector and a Prezi, while others are centered around an old-school whiteboard and Expo markers (whiteboards are still cool – check out these awesome whiteboard and Expo marker drawings).
When it comes to planning and executing trips, teamwork rules. Student travel people recognize that others may have more expertise in an area and at those times it’s best to stay quiet and follow the leader.
Educational travel professionals talk more about frameworks, mindsets, and approaches as opposed to process and systems. Not because process and systems don’t undergird everything, but they do not encompass every situation, especially when dealing with 100 eighth grade students in Washington, D.C. or 30 high school seniors in Prague. Travel remains difficult to apply process and systems to because there are endless variables. Frameworks and mindsets are adaptable to more situations and can be applied more globally.
SAFETY. For a student travel professional and educator, no matter what the situation, safety is always the first and most important topic of focus and discussion.