Travel broadens people’s views. And a teenage mind is a petri dish for being broadened. As a kid your world view is small, it’s your family, friends, and school. For most teenagers it doesn’t go much beyond that. Sure they get exposed to friends of their parents and their friend’s parents, but it’s all still likely from the same region in the world.
I’m basing this on my own experience as a teenager in the Midwest. I had a pretty small life back then. It was a good life, but my worldview was small; Peoria, sports, school, and family. We traveled, but mainly regionally, and certainly nothing that took a passport. My worldview was mainly based on TV and movies.
That’s why I love to take my nieces traveling – it exponentially broadens their exposure to new things, ideas, and people. I’ve found that one of the best ways to maximize this exposure is to take them on small group tours where they aren’t simply traveling with me, but with a group of interesting people from around the world. For 3 of the 5 Niece Projects I’ve traveled with Intrepid Travel who specialized in this type of small group cultural travel. It’s my perfect solution for my Niece Project trips and here’s why.
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4 Reasons Why Small Group Tours are Perfect When Traveling With Teenagers
There Are More People to Interact With
Two or three weeks can be a long time for my nieces to travel with me, and quite frankly we can get sick of each other after that long! Doing a small group tour allows us both to have other people to interact with when we get sick of each other! I say that jokingly, but it’s really nice to have some variety of people to talk to. It provides different perspectives on things.
Small group travel is just what it sounds like…small. It’s normally a maximum of 12 to 15 people and I find that it normally is made up of solo travelers who don’t feel like traveling alone. Our New Zealand group was nearly all solo travelers representing ages 20’s 30’s 40’s and 50’s. Plus, it was a nice cross section of people from around the world.
Lindsey got along great with everyone. One of the women in our group, Abi, decided she wanted to find out what teenagers were listening to these days, so she sat with Lindsey on the bus for a day and they shared headphones! Lindsey loved showing off her music choices, and Abi had a chance to get in touch with the younger generation.
Local Guides Who Teach You More About the Culture
Our guide, Sue, worked tirelessly on trip logistics and made sure we were always in the right place at the right time. Sue was a local and had been guiding for 15 years. She knew these areas inside out and could recommend places to eat and things to do in each town. In addition to logistics, I love having a local guide to be able to ask more in depth questions to. We learn so much more about the culture that way. Sue introduced us to Christmas Crackers – little paper ‘gifts’ you pull apart that make a cracking noise and come with a goofy toy and paper crown – apparently a Christmas Eve tradition in New Zealand. She also taught us about the Maori culture, and gave us facts on the millions of sheep. Plus a million other little things like why Kiwi’s call dinner ‘tea’ and other strange phrases we didn’t understand.
You Don’t Just Travel To One Country, You Travel To Many Countries
Our small group in New Zealand was multicultural coming from Australia, Canada, UK, China, Pakistan, NYC, Germany, and Switzerland. So in a weird way, we didn’t just travel to New Zealand, Lindsey also learned about all of these other countries and what it was like to live there – amplifying her exposure.
One of my favorite nights on the trip was Christmas night. There’s not much open in Wellington on Christmas night for dinner. However, the mother daughter travelers from China in our group called around and found a Chinese restaurant open for Christmas night. They reserved a big table for our group and we all went together and let ‘Team China’ make all of the ordering decisions. We had heaps of plates of food come out. The mother and daughter team said this was very special to them because it was the biggest ‘family Christmas’ they’ve ever had. Normally it’s just the 2 of them and that’s all. So not only were we in New Zealand, we were transported and included in a Chinese family as we feasted on food and enjoyed everyone’s diverse company. Such a special travel moment that will never be forgotten for Lindsey or me.
Sometimes Strangers Can Make a Big Impact
I adore exposing my nieces to people who have no connection to their family, and who are slightly older than them but independent and working. I travel with my nieces at the age where they are making big university decisions on where to go and what to study. They often believe that their decision on what to major in is this huge life decision that will shape the rest of their life. As adults, we all know what you decide to study in college isn’t always the direction your life goes. Hell, I studied accounting, and here I am a travel writer by way of IT Director! I always tell my nieces to ask the people in our travel group what they studied in school and what they do now for a living. I want them to learn about how people are using their degrees, and get them more exposure to all the different types of professions there are out there to choose from. I used to think that my only choices were engineering, teaching, medicine, or law because that was all I was ever really exposed to.
Lindsey was exposed to a great group or professionals on our trip – ranging from engineers, artists, teachers, market researchers, finance professionals, nurses, and business strategists. Our fellow group members, Brad (Finance and real estate) and Neil (Market Research) were giving Lindsey advice on life and how to strategize for college. I adore it when she can get different perspectives from people; I always wonder what little nuggets are going to sink in.
At the end of the trip she even said to me, “I think I decided that I may not want to be an engineer, or maybe I want to do something in environmental engineering or math. There are many other things I could do.” I guess a few things did begin to sink in and take hold. I don’t care if she becomes an engineer or not, but I just want her to be as informed as she can be and feel like it’s ok to try new things. Being exposed to a group different from your normal peer group can be a great learning experience – even while you travel.
I go into each Niece Project with grand expectations that they will learn so many new things. I always feel like I expect to see their mind explode with new thoughts and ideas as they take it all in – but then I realize I’m projecting my way of thinking on them. In fact, after doing 5 of these trips now I realize my nieces take it all in, but there are no big a-ha moments or revelations. I know the thoughts and ideas are implanted…and hopefully the seeds will grow. It’s really hard to say how each person they meet effects them – which ones will stick with them and which ones will be filed into the trash. But I know by traveling with Intrepid on their small group tours, it gives them a broader perspective for a few weeks, and hopefully a lifetime.
For the 3rd year the Niece Project is working with Intrepid Travel! Check out their great family travel opportunities. Family doesn’t always have to mean the conventional family, it is also for aunts and uncles!
I was a guest of Intrepid Travel on this tour However all opinions are my own.
- The Niece Project
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- Taking the Leap into Fear
- Flying Tips on How to deal with Long Flights
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- Experiencing India As a Teenager
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- The End of the Niece Project