The Best Part of Student Travel – According to a Group Leader

Every trip season, as I present our trip and prepare the traveling students for their experience, the question I get asked most often is, “Ms. Allie, what is YOUR favorite part of the trip?”  Loaded question for sure! Traveling with GTA for so many years, that question can be answered in many different ways.  My answers rarely are what the kids would expect; as they frequently guess it would be one of the memorials, museums, or any of the particular venue experiences.  But my “favorite parts” of these trips are the ones that give me “all the feels” in unexpected ways!

One time that I will never forget occurred after our group had visited both Monticello and Mount Vernon as gathered in Old Town Alexandria’s Town Square. One of our seasoned chaperones broke out into a “Presidential Rap” summarizing all of the information the students had learned about these famous men.  Many students and the other chaperones joined in with beat boxing accompaniment and break dancing moves!  We became the spontaneous entertainment for the gathering bystanders, and created a lasting memory for many.  Seeing the growing connections between the adults on the trip with those traveling students; THAT was my favorite part of that trip!  

Another unplanned “favorite” occurred last year at the top Observation Deck of the Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh.  We had ridden the incline to the top of Mt. Washington to get a picturesque view of the city lights and bridges of Pittsburgh at night.  It was completely dark above the city, and during the few moments we were there, we witnessed the launch of the SpaceX satellites!  The students were amazed, and the GTA lead guide proceeded to explain to the kids what they were fortunate to be seeing.  Sometimes, these unexpected, unplanned moments can become a “favorite” part. Speaking of Pittsburgh, we had the opportunity to enjoy a dinner cruise and see the flow of three rivers joining together.  As the students took in the landscape, stadiums, many bridges and stunning views, we turned the vessel into a memory-making voyage. With a cornhole tournament on the upper deck, our choir teacher choreographing dances on the middle deck, and a disco lights dance party on the main deck, there was something for everyone!  We even had the GTA gentlemen shakin’ a leg!  THAT easily became another “favorite” part.

As I watched a student journal on one particular trip, I asked him if he was writing down things he observed, or was he just keeping track of all of the sights he was seeing?  His response was that he was writing down all of the different things he was feeling on the trip.  He said his journaling started with his anticipation of going on the trip, and during our days together, he didn’t want to forget how seeing so many different things on the trip was making him feel, so he was trying to write it all down.  Seeing kids so invested in their experience will always be “my favorite” part!  

So, as I continue to answer this frequently asked question every year, I can honestly tell my students that my favorite part is always watching them enjoy their experience. Their joy is my joy!  I don’t see the same things every year, instead, I see a new set of young people, eager to create their memories; the planned ones, and especially the unplanned moments. The impact these trips have on our kids is witnessed immediately; as well as in the many years ahead for them.  As I get ready to depart with my travelers next week on what I’m sure will be another unforgettable time together…I can’t wait to discover what my “favorite” part of this year’s trip will be!

Jenna Allie taught 7th grade geography in Billings, Montana, and began traveling with student groups with GTA in 2009. She led the student travel program at Ben Steele Middle School for 5 years. When she recently retired after 35 years of teaching, she was thrilled to become an Ambassador for Global Travel Alliance by leading the area’s enrollment and pre-trip meetings and serving on the Teacher Advisory Board.

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