Posts Tagged 'travel abroad'

Protecting Your Favorite Travel Destinations

What do the Temples in Agrigento, Sicily, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and Yosemite National Park in California all have in common? Any takers? They are all World Heritage sites. Odds are if you’ve traveled anywhere in the world or are planning a study abroad trip, you’ll visit at least one World Heritage site. What is a World Heritage site and why should you care? Well, if you want any of those beautiful locales to disappear, stop reading.

WHC Protects Temples Like This One in Agrigento, Sicilia

WHC Protects Temples Like This One in Agrigento, Sicilia

Traveling is not just about jotting things off your to do list. It’s about learning new cultures as well as our own past. In an effort to preserve important locations and habitat around the world, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) developed the World Heritage Centre (WHC).  Centuries of habitation, exploration, and tourism have led to the deterioration of antique palaces, monuments,  marine reserves, and national parks. The World Heritage Centre nominates these places to its “World Heritage List,” to raise awareness and preserve the site’s legacy through additional government involvement.

Developed by an American in 1972 and modeled after the National Parks system, the World Heritage List recognizes sites that are natural or cultural or mixed and demonstrate a “universal value to humanity.” They represent remarkable architecture or technology, or ecological or biological importance.

Each year the World Heritage Committee nominates vulnerable areas of cultural and historical significance. This past week the Committee added to the list: the Stoclet House in Brussels, Belgium, The Tower of Hercules (an ancient lighthouse) in La Coruña, Spain, and the Swiss watch-manufacturing towns of La Chaux-de-Fonds / Le Locle. The Committee will conclude its nominating process in Sevilla, Spain on Tuesday, June 30th. Next year the U.S. government hopes to nominate Mount Vernon in Virginia and Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii to this prestigious list.

Which World Heritage Sites have you visited? Check out this list. Some might surprise you. On a recent trip to Loreto, Mexico in Baja California Sur I went kayaking, clam diving, and snorkeling in the Sea of Cortez. Guess what? The islands and protected areas of the Gulf of California (aka, Sea of Cortez) are on the World Heritage List. An interesting fact: the UNESCO site in the Sea of Cortez is home to 695 plant species and 891 species of fish, more than any other marine or island property on the World Heritage List. Cool, huh?

Take a Stroll Down Andrássy Avenue in Budapest, Hungary

Take a Stroll Down Andrássy Avenue in Budapest, Hungary

Other recognizable locations include: the historic centres of Florence, Napoli, and Siena, Italy; Taj Mahal in India; the city of Budapest in Hungary; the Loire Valley in France; the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador; and Machu Picchu in Peru. I’ve been to five of the above mentioned sites…how about you?

You’ll notice most sites on the World Heritage List are famous. With fame comes challenges in preservation. The World Heritage Centre encourages visitors to be aware and travel responsibly. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can share and preserve World Heritage sites check out the Friends of World Heritage website. You can also donate to support communities around the sites. For every $1 donated, both Expedia and the United Nations Foundation will match your donation. Don’t forget to let Gulliver help you plan your next big adventure!

What Makes Studying Abroad Worth Your Time?

You just landed in a new country. You take a deep breath. You’re studying abroad. Once the excitement dissipates you realize you have no clue where you are, you don’t know the language, and you don’t recognize anything (save a few chains like McDonald’s or Starbucks). You ask yourself, “Why am I here?”

Of course you want to discover new territory, meet new people, and sample tasty native cuisine, but any traveler could do that. Why did you decide to study abroad?  Escaping the normality of everyday life is one reason, but as an article for the INSE at the University of Oslo explains, there are a few key benefits.

Experience a New Country

Living abroad is the best way to adapt to a culture. You’ll discover the customs that make a culture tick on a daily basis.

Some Customs Can't Be Explained

Some Customs Can't Be Explained

Learning the language helps you appreciate this different way of life. You won’t become fluent in a semester but you will learn more than you ever imagined. If you stay for a year- you may never want to leave. When you’re not exploring take some time to soak in the sights and sounds. There’s a big world out there just waiting to be conquered. It’s best to do a little research before leaving. Check out Gulliver’s “Prepare to Go” section to brush up on everything you’ll need to know.

Personal Growth

The moment you decide to study abroad you become a different person. You step out of your comfort zone and into a strange environment.  When you have no friends or family to rely on, you become stronger and more independent. You grow as a person and are able to handle any situation or crisis that comes your way.  Some might find it hard to build relationships overseas; others will find it easy. Don’t force yourself to do anything that is uncomfortable, but do push yourself to take risks. Bring a positive attitude. It will keep you upbeat and focused on your education and experience rather than what you miss back home.

Career Opportunities

Studying abroad gives you access to a larger and more diverse job market. The trip could push you ahead in your current career or create a new direction.  When applying to jobs, be sure to include your abroad experience as well as any languages you attained. This shows you can adapt to most situations and want to advance your skills in the real world.

Apply Your New Knowledge Back Home

While abroad, you’ll gain insight into the lifestyle of your adopted home.  Put this knowledge to good use when you return stateside. Maybe this experience will inspire you to seek change back home, or get involved in volunteer or charity work. The opportunities are endless. One thing’s for sure, you will return home transformed.

Need help getting ready?

Traveling Abroad: A Time to Learn, Adapt, and Cope with Change

With the current economic struggles, more people are turning to school and discovering new cultures through studying abroad. The other day my friend told me she attended a Henna party as a pre-wedding ceremony for her friend. Along with several other attendees, she had a Henna design painted onto her hand. She thought the design would last a week, but when she discovered it might not wash off for two or three weeks she started to panic. Her interest to this Indian custom reminded me why people choose to study abroad – and how easily they can find themselves uncomfortable. Our societal growth is dependent upon our learning and understanding of different languages and cultures. A study abroad experience is most rewarding when we let ourselves experience and participate in the traditions and lifestyle of others.

Choosing to study abroad feels tough at first. Once the decision is made, the trip set, and all the details mapped out… then the real nerves take shape.  Look around Gulliver if you need any help in the “getting ready” category. It’s a lot easier to talk about a new culture than it is to adapt to one. Italy is a beautiful country, but it’s frustrating when you don’t know the language. Japan has so much going on, but again, do you really get a feel for the land if you don’t associate with locals or participate in any daily rituals? Taking that first step toward integrating into another cultural identity is difficult. We have a tendency to use our own values and beliefs to judge a situation. Here are a few tips to get you around these initial judgments:

1) Look at the situation in terms of your own cultural traits, customs, or values.
2) Look at the situation in terms of the host culture’s traits, customs, or values.
3) Understand how your perceptions influence your view of the situation.
4) Redefine the situation, but this time without any cloud of judgment and act in a way that benefits everyone.

People go to different countries for school, business, or to live. Some people adapt well to a new environment, while others retain their original cultural identity. Adapting to a new culture or environment will greatly depend on you background, where you stay, and your personality.

The Peace Corps offers coping mechanisms for its volunteers that apply to anyone traveling overseas. Here are a few instructive ideas to consider: build bonds with other people (sports clubs, movies, social gatherings, volunteering); do things on your own (cooking, writing, watching TV, studying language); remind yourself: No pain, no gain; and learn the new language (talk with children, eavesdrop at a café, get involved in group activities).

Studying abroad is a learning experience. Don’t let your fear of becoming part of a new culture hold you back. It’s difficult to fit in; it takes time, but the whole reason to discover a new culture is not to sit back and watch others get involved. In this current global economy, knowing multiple cultures, having connections overseas, and understanding cultural interactions, will help you become more well-rounded, educated, and valuable. Go and explore the world – and bring a piece of everything you learn back home.

Study Abroad and Discover the World…By Accident

Studying abroad opens the door for students to travel. Some trips are planned, others happen by accident. Before studying in Paris last year, I spent two months backpacking around Europe. At one point I found myself in Munich, Germany. Next stop: Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest,” which sits on the border of Germany and Salzburg, Austria. Eagle’s Nest was given to Hitler on his 50th birthday and was meant to be a retreat and a place for him to entertain visiting dignitaries. I discovered that day, however, you don’t always accomplish what you set out to do. Regardless of the outcome, every part of a trip abroad is an experience in itself.

Everything that could possibly go wrong… went wrong. From train and bus strikes, to rain, sleet, and snow, reaching Hitler’s famed retreat became an unbearable task. After boarding our train from Munich toward Salzburg, my friend Charlie and I quickly learned we would be stopped short. Train strikes had taken over Germany. Our train was no exception. We had to exit prematurely with dozens of other people. As we tried to understand the German announcements at our train station it started pouring. It never stopped raining.

Locals informed us we could take an inter-city train (those weren’t on strike) to Salzburg, and then take a bus back into Germany, to the town of Berchtesgaden. From there we would find yet another bus that would drive us up the mountain to Obersalzburg, the base of Eagle’s Nest. It was early in the day. We had time.

After biting our nails for a good hour, a train stopped. A German announcement informed us it was the only train headed to Salzburg. We stampeded the train. After arriving in Salzburg we bolted to the bus stop. We watched in horror as the bus we needed to catch drove away. Gone, forever. At the bus stop there were no signs, bus schedules, anything. We waited, in the pouring rain. Another train finally came an hour later. We now had another hour’s drive back into Germany. Ugh.

German Alps Covered in Snow

German Alps Covered in Snow

We finally made it to Berchtesgaden. We found the bus we needed to take up the mountain. The schedule said the last bus ran at 5pm. It was 3pm… we’d just made it! When we went to buy our tickets we passed souvenir shops, books on Eagle’s Nest, World War II puzzles, and postcards. Then we learned the last shuttle bus to Obersalzburg (Hitler’s quarters right below Eagle’s Nest) had just left. We went to another ticket window and asked for the bus schedule. Then we found out Eagle’s Nest had been closed for two hours… because of snow. It might open again in a few days- but would soon close for winter. We never had a chance.

Hitler's Eagle's Nest

Hitler's Eagle's Nest

We had a few hours until a bus would return us to Salzburg. So, Charlie and I explored the town of Berchtesgaden. The dense fog lifted on our walk into town. As we looked up into the German Alps we saw a protruding shape on one of the cliffs. It was an image we had seen on magazines in the souvenir shop. Berchtesgaden apparently offers a perfect view of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest!

Berchtesgaden turned out to be a fascinating city with imprints of World War II everywhere. It felt like walking through a scene from the WWII TV series, “Band of Brothers.” The town was occupied by troops during the war, but suffered little damage. We visited century’s old churches, small shops, and checked out cool restaurants. We even met a couple who had visited Eagle’s Nest the day before. They showed us a video recording of their walking tour. That night I had my first Weiner schnitznel with groztl (like corned beef hash- soo good)… and a few steins.

Berchtesgaden: A Hidden Treasure

Berchtesgaden: A Hidden Treasure

The journey of trying to make it to Eagle’s Nest became more exciting than actually getting there. The unplanned trip to Berchtesgaden introduced me to yet another fascinating town that I would have never come across had plans gone right. When studying abroad, go exploring on your own. Instead of dreading a failed trip, enjoy whatever else happens. More than anything, enjoy the adventure!

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