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20 Dec, 2019   |   

Travel Tips from Up with People Alumni

The next cast of Up with People will be arriving in January, 2020! We invited alumni of our program to share some of their best tips and advice for newcomers starting their gap year program.

Up with People perform abroad
Brody Carrasco (right)

Travel Tips

  • “Think of a great way to document your semester that you’ll stick with, and then really commit to it. It may feel like a nuisance at times, but you will appreciate it so much. I became lazy and didn’t end up with a consistent keepsake or documentation of my journey, and I really wish I had! One identical picture in each place, a sticker, whatever that may be. You’ll love to look at it all the time!!” – Jessica Moler
  • “Have a solid system for getting comfortable on the bus. Get a good travel pillow, a compact and comfortable travel blanket, those types of items. Being able to recharge on the bus will be exactly what you need on the road.” – Emilio Roberto Rodriguez
  • “Do everything that scares you! Are you asked to go ahead of your cast to a place where you don’t speak the language? Go! Are you given the opportunity to be in charge? Do it!” – Denise McGuire
  • “Live in the present. Get to know your host families. Be flexible. Try new, difficult, and scary things. That is the best way to learn and grow. Plant seeds for relationships that will continue to grow for decades!” – Lee Ann Markle Hamilton
  • “I think the biggest thing for a new traveler is to keep an open mind about anywhere you are. There is a lot of growth around you, but you have to be willing to take that step.” – Brody Carrasco
  • “If there is food, eat it. If there is a toilet, use it. If there is a bed, sleep in it. If there is something you like, buy it. If there is an adventure, go for it! You will never know when the next chance will be to do something like this. Stretch outside of your boundaries and step beyond your comfort zone.” – Anne Virta

Packing Tips

Leanne McDorman
  • “Lay out your wardrobe. If each piece doesn’t ‘go’ with at least three other items, don’t take it. Be sure your suitcase is not too heavy to carry by yourself.” – Kimberly S. McLean
  • “Pack all of your bags, then go for a walk with them. Go up stairs, down stairs, through snow, sand, and gravel. Then repack.” – Laura Coates
  • “Get a clam shell suitcase that opens in halves, so you can use what you bring. Fleece is your friend for layering all day long. A component coat with a zip out liner covers weather extremes. Pack a bathing suit, too.” – Beth Pollack
  • “Bring comfortable walking shoes and pack less than you think you need!” – Leanne McDorman

Cast Tips

  • “It’s hard to get to know everyone. You don’t have to! When you start to develop a friendship, work on it and spend time with them. Your semester will be over before you know it.” – Denise McGuire
  • “Don’t anticipate, participate. Sometimes you miss things by worrying about them. This year is way too much fun to worry about anything, just enjoy.” – Ellen Schumann
  • “Put your phone down and have more conversations with your cast members.” – Rich Calabrese
  • “Be in the moment, there will never be another one like it. Absorb experiences and interactions like a sponge!! I promise it will make you a better person. Good Luck!” – Jan Heller Martin
  • “Thing I didn’t do that I wish I had: Keep a journal, keep names and addresses of all of my host families, and take lots of photos!” – Jan Vazquez Benjamin
  • “Appreciate every experience, live in the moment, and make sure to journal and take lots of photos. You will look back on these memories throughout your entire life.” – Leanne McDorman
Keaunis Grant

Host Family Tips

  • “Invest in a host family book. Two of the three travelers I hosted didn’t have them! It is my most precious memory of my year traveling in Up with People!” – Laura Coates
  • “Be present with your host family, you can sleep next year!” – Denise McGuire
  • “Try to stay in contact with the host families that you connect with the most. It’s such a rewarding experience to be able to visit after the program.” – Keaunis Grant


“A thousand miles, somebody said,
Start when we take a single step.
A thousand reasons to begin,
To move ahead.”

A Single Step © Up with People

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