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7 Dec, 2023   |    Leni Weichardt

Dancing Across Borders: Exploring Cultures with Up with People

A journey with “VOICES” by “Up with People” transcends the conventional notion of travel. It’s more than a mere exploration of destinations; it’s a transformative experience that connects cultural exchange, musical expression, community service, and much more. As I traversed the globe alongside many other individuals from diverse backgrounds, the impact of our collective efforts in growing as a person and becoming a Changemaker holds great potential for powerful changes in the world.

What is different about “Up with People”?

The essence of “Up with People” lies in its unique composition – a group of young people from all corners of the globe, united by a common goal: making a change in the world. Traveling in such a diverse ensemble enhances the cultural exchange, creating a dynamic environment where we learn from one another and share our unique perspectives. This cultural melting pot becomes the backdrop for meaningful relationships and global teamwork.

At the heart of “Up with People” is the power of music as a universal language, which is not only helpful to connect with each other but also to connect with local communities on a deeper level. Musical performances become a bridge, facilitating communication, and understanding, but also are giving the opportunity to call attention to global problems such as inequality, environmental problems, or global health issues.


Beyond the Tourist Trail

Another important aspect of the “VOICES” program is community service. Participating in e.g., beach cleanups, tree planting initiatives, or helping in an elderly home are precious experiences. Engaging in community service projects allowed me and my cast to deeply experience local cultures.

While traditional tourists may only scratch the surface, we became immersed in the daily lives of the communities. This firsthand experience enriched our understanding of diverse cultures and broadened our global perspective. Working hand in hand with locals gives the chance to experience the sometimes different approaches to all aspects of life and to adapt and learn from them. Those community interactions are beyond mere fleeting encounters. By sharing cultures and experiences, enduring bonds are being created that transcend geographical distances.

Community service also pushes comfort zones. Navigating unfamiliar environments, overcoming language barriers, and working as a cohesive team during service projects can be challenging but forced us many times to find creative solutions. Therefore, they become a powerful catalyst for personal growth. I remember one specific day of community service. We were separated into groups of about 3-4 people and my group was assigned to support two locals to paint a small house. The two of them only spoke Spanish, a language none of us was particularly good at. But still, they taught us so much about their community and the environment they were living in, because somehow, we found a way to communicate.

By finding a creative solution, I really emerged from experiences like this with heightened resilience, adaptability, and a profound understanding of my own capabilities. Comparable to the challenges, advantages, and learnings of community service is the experience of living in host families. An important aspect of the “VOICES” program is the alternation of living in host families and co-living which allowed us on one hand to deeply get to know our cast members by living together in hotels or hostels and on the other hand to experience all the positive aspects of being hosted. Having the chance to not only work but also live with locals gives an even deeper insight into the cultures.

For a week at a time, you become part of the host families. Shared meals, interesting conversations, and exciting adventures create connections and lasting friendships. (I still receive cute video messages from my host sister in Costa Rica) That way we had the opportunity to learn about traditional dishes, the political system or about challenges within the community. I got to know every single country from a completely different point of view and finally learned how things work there, apart from all the cliches we sometimes tend to have.

For a week at a time, you become part of the host families.


Living and experiencing different cultures made me also reflect on my own culture. Automatically comparing the own and other cultures shows differences and similarities, and encouraged me to share my own culture with host families and cast members. To me it was a very special experience to see how others think and talk about my culture. What cliches but also facts can be found there? This magnitude of cultural exchange allowed us, traveling in “VOICES”, to grow as a person.

The skills me and my cast members acquired during the program can be helpful in many ways for our future. Especially the ability to deal with new situations, new environments or new challenges is and will be essential. Knowing that all obstacles can be overcome by working together as a team lays the foundation for young adults, for my generation to become Changemakers.


“VOICES” – A Symphony of Impact and Unity           

In a world that often seems divided, “Up with People” stands as a testament to the transformative power of unity, music, community service and much more. Beyond the stages and performances lies a commitment to leaving a positive impact on the communities visited. Traveling with this organization is not just about exploring the world; it’s about actively contributing to its betterment. As we engaged in service projects, we became part of a global movement, leaving behind not just memories but a legacy of positive change. By making friends within the organization as well as within the communities visited, a global network of passionate changemakers is being created, allowing to tackle global challenges together in teamwork. “VOICES” is a symphony of impact and unity that echoes long after the music fades, resonating in the communities touched and the hearts of those who embark on this extraordinary journey.

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