Australia

The best part of my career as a teacher has been the educational trips I’ve organized. Adult friends of mine have asked over the years why I would chose to travel with teenagers half way across the globe, suggesting it didn’t seem like a vacation to them. On the contrary, I find group travel a lot of fun provided it’s done “my” way. Ha! Here are the rules:

A. Never take more than fifteen people. It will take you less time to go from point A to point B as well as waiting in lines and for service.

B. Have a variety of ages go with you. Everyone behaves better. Students, families, couples, and singles join me. The trips are glitch-free. Everything is inclusive except for lunches. Free time is for individual pursuits unless you are student, then we explore in small groups. We always stay in 3 and 4 star hotels in the center of town. I work with http://www.passports.com. This July, we are going to Munich and Berlin. Next year, London and Scotland. Would you like to join me? Let’s go!

C. I like mature, older students. Never take a student younger than 15 and encourage roommates to alternate rooms after each leg. Even your best buddy gets on your nerves after awhile, and a new perspective is always refreshing.

D. Spend three to four nights in a metropolitan city and two to three nights in smaller towns. Vary the sizes of your destination “legs”. A city pops with fizz when arriving from a calm, beautiful town as a small town refreshing after the noise of the city. You need both.

E. Always include free days. Sensory bombardment from 5am to 11pm with few breaks in the itinerary is a miserable way to travel. Relax and people watch. Take time to do nothing. Those are the moments that stay with you. I once spent an afternoon in Florence at the laundromat by myself and watched the locals and drank a soda pop. It was a much needed respite to do something mundane.

I love watching the faces of teenagers and college students when they talk about their day and sharing insights and pictures. It’s the shy ones who blossom with confidence and start grinning that make the trip worthwhile. They went somewhere very cool and did something. All the students are grateful and thoughtful.

Okay, back to Australia.

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In Sydney, a highlight was the aquarium. It was the first one I went to that had the see through tunnels going through the center of the tanks so you could be up close with the creatures. Australia is wonderful because they have the strangest creatures inhabiting the continent that just aren’t found anywhere else in the world. I remember going through a park outside of Sydney and wild kangaroos hopped around like they were a pack of deer. When you look up in the trees, there are twenty wild cockatoos screeching at you. Not little parakeets, but the white big birds you see in the pet stores. To me, I thought that great.

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Just outside of Sydney is Featherdale Wildlife Park. You can pet the animals and the reptile house still lingers in my mind. Creepy being surrounded by the world’s most venomous creatures like the Taipan snake.

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My first educational trip was my most ambitious one. We flew to Oahu for 3 nights then down to Sydney for four nights, then up to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef for 3 nights. Half the group were scuba divers and carried around their equipment from leg to leg. I got a kick looking up at the stars at night and seeing the Southern Cross. Coming from the U.S. you really knew you were half way around the world.

Cairns was great. We took a high speed boat out to the Great Barrier Reef to snorkel. I never felt so small looking at the underwater canyons and reef. We saw a humpback whale from the boat, that was a special memory.

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Make sure you stop at the Rattle and Hum bar in Cairns for a pint and the most unusual bathrooms in a restaurant. The toilets were hilarious to sit on. For the men, they stood behind a two-way mirror. They felt exposed but no one could see them. You have to go there to see it.

The highlight of the trip for me was attending the Sydney Opera House. I love the opera. To see and hear Pagliacci’s,  Cavalleria Rusticana was worth traveling half way around the world for. While I was at the opera, several students walked on top of the bridge. No thanks, I’d rather listen to fine music.

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I wish I could have seen Melbourne or Tasmania or Perth or the Out Back. Now with oil prices so high, it’s a fortune just to fly there. I hope one day I make it back!

6 thoughts on “Australia

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  1. Ooooh!! You’ve been to Sydney too? You lucky girl you! This is one of my dream places to visit and I’ll be sure to visit Sydney Opera House of course, though I probably can’t afford seeing an opera there. My dear aunt lives about 45 min away from Sydney, I hope one day I can visit her and this beautiful city!

    1. Thanks, Ruth. It was a fun city–not a huge metropolis like NYC–rather like Chicago–walkable, breathable, the water, the architecture. I’d go back in a second. I’d visit your dear aunt if you can! 😉

  2. Educational trips – do you take one every year? I wish I could do them, too, but thus far I haven’t been able.

    Your guidelines sound like a way to ensure trips are successful!

    1. I go every other year, but lately I feel the urge to try and go every year. It’s harder and harder to get kids to sign up. They can’t fathom working to pay for the trip and many don’t have a desire to see the world. Unfathomable to me, of course. I travel for free if I recruit 6 people.That’s the only way I could afford to go. Even if 3 sign up, it’s a half price trip and worth my while to facilitate the trip.

  3. Hey Cindy, I just got back from three weeks in Australia! We went to Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road, Tasmania and Sydney. Didn’t get up to the Reef unfortunately because my son is studying at U Melbourne for the semester, so we went in and out of there for the first part of the trip. But those parrots!! We were eating at an outdoor cafe at the harbor by the Opera House and some larakeets swooped down and landed on our table to try to grab our food. I would be annoyed if they weren’t so colorful. (Never heard of ’em until then.) The cockatoos and other parrots were too much! I would be walking along, hear the squawking, look up, see them in a tree, continue walking and the squawking stopped almost immediately. Think they only stay in the party trees?

    1. LOL. Barbara, your larakeet (didn’t know they were called that) story is funny…and scary. I’ve seen that happen with pigeons, but that’s lame compared with giant squawking things trying to take your food. I’ve always wanted to go to Tasmania and Melbourne. I’m glad for your son and you for the opportunity. It was a strange, beautiful continent, and I only saw a sliver of it. 🙂

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