At the end of a long, fabulously fun but exhausting day in Kauai, when the rest of my family crashed, I cracked open the laptop in an attempt to check the long list of emails I knew were waiting for me. I didn’t get very far; one of the first I opened captured my attention. My teenager’s summer was taking a turn for the amazing, via Thailand.
Note the phrasing, my teenager’s summer, not mine. My 15 year-old is going to Thailand and she’s leaving me behind. Like most parents, I’m quite simply not used to that.
She’ll spend her two weeks abroad with Adventures Cross-Country (ARCC) logging some impressive community service. Along with tutoring English, she’ll have the opportunity to work with rescued elephants. It will be a trip she remembers for the rest of her life… and it will be without me. Are you sensing a theme?
Beyond Summer Camp
When I was growing up, (not all that long ago just for the record) going abroad was something old teens or early twenty-somethings did during college, either for a semester or summer. But somehow, the big world we live in has gotten a bit smaller when it comes to the where and when kids venture out on their own for the first time.
This is not summer camp. Kids who have grown up enjoying family vacations in places like China and Vietnam, are taking the idea of summer enrichment to the next level, using their precious summer vacation time to do good in great locations like Fiji, China, Africa and Australia. There are 21 countries on six continents, to choose from.
Letting Go Isn’t Easy
The folks at Adventures Cross-Country seem to understand the important of trust and confidence. The president of the company is a father whose children have gone on many of the trips his company organizes. A small fact among many about the company and the trips they organize, but knowing his own children take part, immediately put my mind a bit more at ease. Parent expectations are high. Safety is a priority and from what I’ve seen so far, the attention to details is impressive.
Group sizes typically fall somewhere between 15 and 18 teenagers. Two ARCC leaders, one male and one female accompany the kids for the entire trip, including the long-haul segments of airplane travel. It takes a special type of person to spend 24 hours a day for two-plus weeks (or longer) navigating a foreign country with a dozen or so teens. It takes an even more impressive person to do it while still seeming cool and fun in the eyes of those teenagers.
Leaders come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are teachers, nurses or graduate students. Every leader has training in emergency wilderness medicine and most are Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certified or Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). In addition all leaders attend a ten-day staff training that focuses on trip safety, group dynamics, logistics, leadership, communications, protocols and emergency procedures.
Long List of Logistics
My daughter is set to take off to Thailand in mid-July, which in theory seems like a long way off, but preparations are already underway.
Since my daughter is a U. S. citizen, she does not need a visa to enter Thailand, but her passport must be valid for at least six months after her return date to the United States. Pulling out her passport to confirm some dates was the simplest thing on our list.
She also needs a recommendation, and her pediatrician has to fill out some paperwork. I have paperwork too. Things like a health history form, and an assortment of travel authorization forms. These are all little things in the grand scheme of life, but things that take time none the less.
Health & Disease Guidelines
Adventures Cross-Country provides a comprehensive health and disease information handout to all families and encourages them to share it with their family physician or travel clinic. It’s an FAQ sheet, but it details a great amount of information in an easily digested format including where teens will be traveling, sleeping, and where their water and food will come from. It also provides a link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Health Information Page of the country your teenager will be visiting.
The immunization guidelines provided on the FAQ sheet have been especially helpful and make the CDC health information easier to read and understand. My daughter’s pediatrician will provide the necessary prescriptions for antimalarials and an antibiotic that’s recommended the kids carry just in case, but the Typhoid Fever immunization and Japanese Encephalitis shots will require separate, plural appointments at a travel clinic. They’ll have to be done on a specific schedule to allow for a stretch of time before the trip gets underway. Anyone who has an active teenager knows how tricky scheduling can be, especially in the final stretch of the school year.
The seemingly simplest of all the vaccinations – a flu shot. That said, she almost missed it. The end of flu season, it took a few phone calls to find a provider that still had the immunization in stock. I week later and she might have been out of luck.
Building Knowledge & Excitement
As we check things off the list, it seems as though a week doesn’t go by that we don’t hear from Sophia, the Regional Director in charge of my daughter’s trip to Thailand. Her emails typically have a couple important reminders along with some fun facts. The last note explained the Songkran festival. It’s a celebration of the Thai New Year that runs April 13th through the 15th. Typically the hottest time of the year, folks celebrate in a fitting, zany sort of way with the “throwing of water” ceremony, which is essentially just what it sounds like, a big water fight.
The countdown to summer is officially on.
Editor’s Note: Dana was given a media rate for her daughter’s upcoming summer trip to Thailand with Adventures Cross-Country, but as always, her opinions are her own. All photos courtesy of Adventures Cross-Country.