Spring Newsletter

Spring 2014  |  Volume 1  |  Number 2

Global Travel Alliance Accents


A Message from Jeff

Global Travel Alliance

We have modified our quarterly newsletter format . Instead of four paper editions per year, we will produce two, which will mail in June and in late November. In April and September, you will receive our on-line edition via our website, globaltravelalliance.com or directly to your email address. We will continue to keep you updated about our traveling opportunities both for school groups and for adults.

You will also be informed about our non-profit division, Global Doing Good. We have been working diligently to solidify our goals and vision over the past four months and now have a clear focus as we move forward. First, we are continuing to support the Two Roads Project. This project entails giving select students (not always the top students) $100 bills during the fall of their 8th grade year, and telling them to find ways to help people over the course of the following three months. What thrills me about this project is that it’s student centered. You’ll read more about it in this letter.

Last December, I mentioned our Service Scholars Program designed to give high school students service experiences during their high school summers. We have identified four, the first of which we plan to implement in Summer, 2015. I support these because I am convinced that more than ever young people need to learn to serve before they can lead. The best way to teach service is to give students the opportunities to do so as they mature. I hope you will partner with Global Doing Good as we engage our youth for lives of service.

Our spring trip season has begun. In addition to our international and Western U.S. programs, we have close to fifty schools, which will be participating in our American Heritage trips to Washington, D.C. and surrounding sites such as Colonial Williamsburg, Gettysburg Battlefield, Fort Mc Henry in Baltimore and others. As a history teacher myself, I believe it is important that these 8th graders experience the events, the people, the sacrifices and the controversies that have shaped the American experience. The philosopher, George Santayana said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Our American Heritage travelers encounter the good and the bad of American history, an important guide as they become the adult citizens of tomorrow.

It’s very important for me to help support students who avail themselves of these opportunities but do not have the means to do so. This past year Global Travel Alliance donated the $3200 to help 32 students who participated in the Two Roads projects. We are also donating three $500 scholarships to deserving students who travel on our American Heritage tours. Three $500 scholarships for our Service Scholars Program will be awarded for Summer, 2015. Won’t you consider helping me to expand these programs, which are at the heart of Global Travel Alliance? Together, we could help so many more students who want to serve and want to learn through educational travel.

Be sure to check out our September New York trip for ladies only. This represents what the travel industry calls Free and Independent Travel. You will be with a guided group, but you will have plenty of time to explore and shop on your own if you wish. These types of travel experiences are becoming increasingly popular. Watch for future opportunities to exciting destinations.

Finally, have a lovely spring and a Blessed Easter Season, and thank you for your support.


Jeff Peterson


Homebuilding Continues in Costa Rica Through Efforts of Many

A group of Concordia Lutheran High School students from Houston, Texas, journeyed to Costa Rica in mid-March to build a home for a poor family. This was the second group from the school to engage in a service project under the auspices of Global Travel Alliance, but more specifically under the non-profit division, Global Doing Good.

As in the past, Global Travel Alliance staff and Costa Rican residents Daniel Granados and his wife Andrea served as coordinators. Their job is to find families that qualify for a home, coordinate with a contractor, and take care of the details of housing and feeding the students from Houston.

Homebuilding in Costa Rica has garnered the attention of groups all across the United States. As we look forward to fall, 2014, and into 2015, ten group leaders have already indicated they would like to reserve a time slot for their volunteers to participate. The groups range in age from adults to teens. Some hail from churches and some from private and public schools.

Besides building the home, the crews have some very interesting experiences as noted in some of the following comments:

I learned that termites do, in fact, taste like breath mints. Question: how did that amazing revelation come about?

Frogs are scary creatures. Hmm. Must be some rather large ones down there.

On the more serious side, kids were touched and impacted in multiple ways by the experience.

I learned that we have it too easy compared to the lives of those in not so prosperous areas of the world.

But going to Costa Rica isn’t just about homebuilding. Our travelers will get a close-up look at this amazing country that has been called the Switzerland of Central America. Participants will walk the rain forest trails where they will thrill to a large variety of flora and fauna. One of the most astounding sights is watching a flock of Macaws take wing. Ancient and active volcanoes are also prevalent in the country. Some hikes encompass eight different eco-zones. And don’t forget the Costa Rican beaches, some of the most pristine and beautiful in the entire world. You can experience all this and more while you assist a needy family move from a tin and scrap wood shanty into a serviceable new home. Call Global Travel Alliance today toll-free at 1-866-313-2577 and ask for Steve, Bryan, or Jeff for more information about homebuilding in Costa Rica.

Maybe you can’t make the trip yourself, but your support for these life-changing projects would be greatly appreciated. Please be advised that these homes, while sturdy and weather proof, are built to very minimum standards. They total 600 square feet with a common area and two bedrooms. The bathroom facilities and cooking area are outside. Materials for one home cost in the range of $7000. Thank you for considering supporting our homebuilding projects in Costa Rica.

As the group coordinator and Global Travel Alliance Vice President, Steve Maehl, noted after the Concordia project , “We continue to build bridges and change lives through efforts such as these.”



Vietnam Trip an Eye-Opening Experience for Montana State University-Billings Group


Global Travel Alliance sponsored an early spring trip to Vietnam for a Montana State University-Billings group of travelers, February 27- March 9. Twelve travelers, which included Global Travel Alliance Coordinator, Marlene McCave, MSU-B Chancellor Rolf Gorseth and wife Jaynee, a student, professor of history Keith Edgerton, and several alumni traveled to a country that, at one time, caused a horrific breach in the social and political fabric of the United States. There are still wounds that may never heal so long as that generation lives so it was interesting to hear how the Vietnamese are doing forty years after the war’s end.

Marlene had these observations:

The people were very friendly and courteous to our group. They don’t seem to be holding grudges. Some of this might be because most of the people we met were too young to remember the war. Some older folks did tell us stories about people trying to escape the country during the war’s final days, and many did, a large number coming to the United States. Some of the people drew comparisons between themselves and American Indians, many of whom were also forced or made the decision to flee from their ancestral homelands.

Because of the exodus of people to America in the early 1970s, there are many family connections between the two countries. American Vietnamese have no trouble visiting relatives in that country, but family members there find it difficult and expensive to obtain travel visas to come here.

Agriculture still is a mainstay of the Vietnamese economy, but there is evidence of foreign businesses setting up manufacturing plants in the country. The group saw plants bearing names like Nike, Honda and Samsung. The country is also trying to attract more tourism. And no wonder: the land has healed itself from the ravages of the war and is verdant, lush and lovely.

Christianity has a strong presence in Vietnam with Catholicism being the primary denomination. Religious freedom is allowed, but Christians cannot be members of the Vietnam Communist Party. From what we gathered, the Communist Party is not large within the country.

We would absolutely recommend this trip to Americans. We always felt safe there and encountered many solitary travelers who felt the same way. Everything about Vietnam really took me by surprise and I have been in the travel business for 24 years.

You can reach Marlene toll-free at 1-866-313-2577 if you are interested in information about organizing a group tour to Vietnam. It represents the perfect opportunity, as we say at Global Travel Alliance, “To build bridges and change lives.”

For more information and photos about the Vietnam trip follow this link to the Billings Gazette, Sunday, March 30.





New York, New York…Start Spreadin’ the News

Calling females of all ages for a New York adventure. Do you ever tire of the daily routine, whether it’s work, maintaining a home or raising kids? Why not consider joining the fall New York City Ladies’ Tour September 26-29? Bring a friend, your mother, your daughter, or you might even talk to your Bible study group or book club. Any and all are welcome.

Your guide is Brian Mathis, who lived and worked in New York and now calls Billings his home. He will take you to the Empire State Building, his favorite restaurants and the best places to shop. He will also share “hidden” tidbits of NYC. Call him today toll-free at 1-866-313-2577. He will be happy to discuss the trip with you. Even if this trip doesn’t work for you, be sure to ask Brian about future opportunities.

For a comprehensive itinerary, you can click here. Space is limited. “Start Spreadin’ the News.” We’ll see you in New York in September.




Florida American Heritage Tour Group Enjoys a Snow Blast in D.C.

by Ryan Sparzak

Last week, I had the opportunity to co-lead a group of 36 students and 21 adults from Indian Rocks Christian School from Largo, Florida to Washington, D.C. It ended up being a cold and snowy couple of days before the sun arrived on our last day while at Arlington National Cemetery.

When talking with the students and parents there were many highlights, but most pointed to our last night as the best, especially our visit to the Korean War Memorial. The setting sun and the chill in the air helped to complement what is already a very moving memorial to a very cold and difficult war. The boisterous middle schoolers and their parents grew quiet as they walked around the 19 stainless steel figures that are the center of the memorial.

Despite the chill, the students and parents made the best of it. In fact, outside of the monuments, memorials, and museums, these students – most of whom are native Floridians – enjoyed the snow. Snowmen, snow angels, and just about any other snow related activity would happen during even the shortest break or minute of down-time.

One parent who joined us on this educational trip posted on our Facebook page: “We did learn an amazing amount of information from both of our guides. Thank you Ryan and J.J. for the absolute awesome time we had with our kids in Washington, D.C. this week! You two are definitely doing what you’re supposed to! Keep it up!”

To paraphrase the U.S. Postal Service: Neither rain nor snow nor heat nor gloom of night stays Global Travel Alliance from keeping its appointed trips.




Texas Travelers Make Connections in Washington, D.C.

When you read the words “American Heritage” you probably think about places like Boston, Washington D.C. Williamsburg, Gettysburg and other iconic sites that define the American experience. Nearly fifty student groups will experience these places through the Global Travel Alliance lens this spring, For the past ten years, students from all across America have traveled with Global Travel Alliance to these sites, and have come away with a greater understanding of what happened and why.

Make no mistake: the whys of the American story have shaped this country into what it is today– a vast conglomeration of races, cultures, and viewpoints that don’t always support solidarity or consensus. Some say such diversity could be the undoing of America; others believe it will shape stronger ties going forward. Whatever the case, the Global Travel Alliance tour coordinators know their history and explain it in terms that junior high and high school students can understand.

One of those leaders, Brian Mathis, is a virtual encyclopedia of information. Brian has traveled the world and lived in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar. American history and culture is his forté. His first group this spring consisted of thirteen eighth graders from Georgetown, Texas.

The focus of the trip was Colonial America to the present and included stops in Williamsburg, Jamestown, Gettysburg, Washington, D.C. and Fort Mc Henry in Baltimore. Brian had this to say about the experience:

I did a lot of work with the students explaining how the pieces of American History fit together. From the Colonial Period going forward I tried to show how each interlude affected or disrupted the historical periods following one upon another.

One interesting aside occurred as we toured the various museums on the Mall. The kids felt real affinity for the Air and Space Museum because the command center for the shuttle flights is located in Houston, Texas. Most of the kids had visited there.

One of the parents on the tour had lived in the D.C. area in the past and texted her husband about each day’s activities. He wrote back, “You couldn’t possibly have done all that in one day.”

But that’s how it is when you or your children travel with Global Travel Alliance. there’s no superficiality. Stones are overturned to discover those historical nuggets that have shaped America. Brian Mathis is a superb tour leader whose knowledge is unmatched. If you want to banish your classroom walls and reveal the classroom beyond to your students, call Brian toll-free at 1-866-313-2577 today and get your students on board for 2015. If you are a parent, talk to your child’s teacher about helping to make an American Heritage trip a reality. Find out how travel with Global Travel Alliance builds bridges and changes lives.



St. Francis Eighth Graders Make the American Heritage Grand Tour


Forty-eight St. Francis students, their chaperones and their trip leaders, all from Billings, Montana, experienced American Heritage from Virginia to Pennsylvania and much in between. The first stop for the group was Colonial Williamsburg, established in 1637. Through preservation efforts, the city appears much as it did in the 17th Century. From there the students traveled to Jamestown, the first American colony established in 1607. The group guide provided comprehensive portraits of life in Colonial America as did the students’ history teacher who organized the trip.

From there they traveled to Washington, D.C. Fort McHenry in Baltimore and Gettysburg Battlefield, where they toured the various sites that are important to the formation of the United States. Logistical guide Steven Falls Down, a ten year veteran of leading American Heritage trips, was accomponied by Curt Gausman, lead interpreter and one of the most knowledgeable and passionate instructional leaders in Washington, D.C. According to Allison Cassie, Global Travel Alliance Trip Coordinator, they were particularly interested in and moved by what they observed and the talks by Curt. “The Holocaust Memorial Museum really got their attention,” she said. “But Fort McHenry was also an emotional stop. The history there, particularly of the origin of The Star Spangled Banner, enthralled them.”

Hotel accommodations were in nearby Alexandria where the students enjoyed hearing the ghost stories about the area. At Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the changing of the guard captivated their hearts and minds.

Despite the cold and snow, this group of hearty Montanans thoroughly enjoyed the trip. And as Allison pointed out, “They were very energetic, what you would expect from eighth graders.”



Global Doing Good Two Roads Project

In 1916, poet Robert Frost wrote, The Road Not Taken. a poem about life’s choices. Near the end he says,
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Various interpretations of the poem have been suggested, but Jamie Jarvis, Lewis and Clark Middle School teacher in Billings, Montana, and founder of the project, asked his students to take the road of service, service through helping those in need. His method was simple: hand out $100 bills to select students and let them to go into the community, do good with the money and report back in three months.

Consider the results from the 2013-2014 Academic Year:

  • 20 eighth grade participants in five different schools.
  • Goal was to benefit at least 500 people, which appears to have been mostly met.
  • Students raised an additional $18,000 in addition to the $2,000 they were given.
  • Invaluable life-changing experiences for participants and recipients.

Global Travel Alliance working through its non-profit division, Global Doing Good, provides the seed money for Two Roads participants. You can help by supporting the Two Roads Project as we look ahead to the 2014-2015 Academic Year. Many more students and teachers in a number of schools have already asked for the initial $100 start-up funds. It is expected sixty or more students may be involved this year. Giving levels are listed below.

____ Clear The Path. $100 will provide one student with the maximum amount of seed money for a project.

____ Build The Road. $50 will provide half the seed money for one student’s project.

____ Light The Way. $25 will provide one quarter of the seed money for one student’s project.

____ Other. Any amount you give will help students choose the road less taken, the road of service and helping others.

You can donate online by clicking here, or you can send your contribution to:

Global Travel Alliance
1645 Parkhill Drive Ste. 1
Billings, Montana 59102

Your contributions to the Two Roads Project is fully tax deductible since it falls under the Global Travel Alliance non-profit division, Global Doing Good, a 501 (c) (3) Non-Profit Corporation, organized under the laws of the State of Montana.

Thank you for your support.


Two Roads Trio Raises Bar with Eagle Mount Donation


Eagle Mount-Billings began in 1988, when Greta and Bob Mathis – United States Air Force General – retired, began an adaptive ski program at Red Lodge Mountain Resort for children and adults with disabilities. They had already established the program in Bozeman, Montana in 1984, immediately so successful they wanted to expand to other areas. In time, the program grew to include arts & crafts, bicycling, summer day camps, equestrian activities and much more. The program also expanded to Great Falls, Montana.

Matthew Hayden, Maia Ragar and Logan Tracy from St. Francis Upper School in Billings, Montana, recipients of $100 bills to be used and expanded for good, thought Eagle Mount a perfect cause to help with their combined $300 from Global Doing Good, a division of Global Travel Alliance. As they visited, they decided they would try to multiply their funds rather than simply donate the $300 to Eagle Mount.

Through fundraisers, grants from local businesses and other activities, the students expanded their $300 into $5,210.75, enough to pay for 21 individuals to attend Eagle Mount Day Camp this coming summer. Maia Rager got things moving by organizing a screening of the movie, Polar Express last January.
Tracy Hayden used his $100 to have bracelets made for the rummage sale he was sponsoring. The bracelets featured the Eagle Mount logo from Isaiah 40:31: . . .but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.

Eagle Mount staff members were astounded; one observed, “We couldn’t believe these three raised this much money; we are so thankful we were the recipients of their hard work and dedication.”

This goes back to the original vision of Jamie Jarvis, who gave eight students $100 each to catch the vision of service – people helping people, and reaping the personal benefits one receives from reaching out to others.

This year 32 students participated, but the concept has caught on in different cities and even as far away as Colorado where an entire classroom will be involved this coming year. From eight students last year, to 32 this year, it seems the sky is the limit as more teachers and kids catch the vision.