Yosemite Overlook

The Gift of Travel: Bursting Your Bubble

The Gift of Travel: Bursting Your Bubble

By Bryan Salyer, ARCC Regional Director, Intrepid Traveler

I’m sitting in a tiny Costa Rican open-air cafe, drinking a well-needed, semi-cold Sprite. My large backpack filled with months worth of my personal belongings beside me. I’ve just ordered something off a laminated menu. I think chicken and rice, but honestly, I’m not quite sure, as I hardly speak any Spanish at all. Internally I’m kicking myself for the eight years of German I studied in school – Spanish would be pretty handy right about now.

Outside the wooden, hand-built cafe and its five wooden tables covered by colorful plastic tablecloths, life is twirling and whirling about. People walk down the dirt roads, stopping here and there to greet each other with large smiles speaking rapid-fire Spanish. Every once in a while, a noisy, old American school bus rolls through the tiny town kicking up dirt into the humid air. The townspeople stream into empty doorways to take cover. Once the dust settles and the air clears, the people in the streets go back to their life without any thought to the momentary pause in life.

I sip my drink and look down at my watch. Just hours ago I had landed in San Jose, Costa Rica. Since then, I made my way to this tiny, foreign town via public transportation. I’ve never even traveled outside of America and now I’m on my way to a remote village to assist on a volunteer project for several months. I can’t help asking myself what I’ve gotten into.

As the time passes, slowly I realize how different, yet similar this new environment feels. It is still everyday life, but one I’m not familiar with.. It is the same but somehow different, it has an undyingly unique cadence. So I sit and wait for my food and take in a world of different sights and sounds.

With a twinge of anxiety, which if I’m being honest is probably more than a twinge, and a body reverberating with excitement I think of the adventure that awaits. A new world, a new experience, a new adventure!

Neale Donald Walsch once proclaimed, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

This couldn’t be more true. I didn’t know it then, while sitting in that café in a small town in Costa Rica, but I sure know it now. I can look back and see the person I once was and how each stop along this crazy path we call life has affected me.

Growing up in small, rural Indiana town of about 6,000 people I grew up in what I now realize was a very small, yet beautiful bubble. My life was full of spending time in the town square, driving down country roads surrounded by cornfields, and the occasional foray into the closest metropolitan areas, Cincinnati or Indianapolis, for clothes shopping or a nice dinner with my family. I grew up with the same people around me all my life. From elementary school, to middle school, to high school we all grew together. I grew up across the street from the person who I still consider one of my best friends even to this day. Our experiences growing up were largely the same, they shaped our teenage years. Very rarely was there anything that shook our world or challenged our way of thinking. The O.J. trial, Columbine, even 9/11 seemed so far away. I was content and didn’t know or care much about the outside world. My daily life, my bubble, consumed my teenage existence.

It wasn’t until I started to travel that I began to realize the interconnectedness of all things. When I started to travel I really started to grow. I started to see that my little bubble was beginning to expand exponentially.

I quit my job as a classroom teacher and moved to the mountains of California to teach at an outdoor science school. My friends and family supported me, but they also thought I was a little crazy. I knew nobody in California and nothing about California except what I had seen and heard on the internet or television. Armed with this little information I packed all my belongings in a car and set off on the 2,000 plus mile drive across America.

During my drive, I really realized the diversity of America for the first time. Not only the landscapes, from the great plains through the Rocky Mountains and into the arid Mojave Desert, but the people I met and the vast array of experiences they had.

I spent three years in California and befriended people from all over America. Each and every one of these people “stretched my skin” and brought different perspectives and life experiences to my life. I traveled and experienced places that were nothing short of breathtaking. I looked out over the unfathomably vast Grand Canyon at sunrise, watched the sunset over the waves of the Pacific Ocean, and experienced the majestic limestone bluffs of Yosemite. I explored places that I have only dreamed of prior to experiencing them.

I had ups and downs, good times and difficult times. Even though I was still in the USA, I gained a wider world perspective by just being away from home. I grew in my independence and realized that life was an endless list of options. Best of all, I realized that I had power to choose what was next. That I had control to leave my mark on the world as I saw fit.

After three years expanding my horizons in California I decided it was time to see more of the world at large, to push myself out of my comfort zone and travel abroad. For the next 10 months, I traveled through Central America volunteering at sustainable farms and teaching English to local communities. I found myself in the middle of so many new experiences (like sitting at that café in Costa Rica) having to figure out how to order food and get where I needed to go. I learned so much about the world and myself during those ten months abroad. I learned that language is a barrier, but it is easily overcome with a little persistence, effort and a genuine smile. I learned that buses don’t always show up on time (or at all) and how to be flexible and creative in finding solutions to life’s problems. I learned how to trust my instincts and how to open up to others. I stepped out of my comfort zone and I grew, I learned, and with each challenge I met I become more confident in myself.

Ten months after I left California I came back from Central America and informed my friends and family I had accepted a job in China. Again, they supported me but this time thought I was absolutely crazy. “China?!”

The world was calling! I told them I had to go, and a week later I was on a plane to China.

For two years, I worked and traveled in Asia. I learned more than I can possibly put down on paper. In fact, I’m still learning and digesting my entire experience.

I learned about the importance of how you present yourself and how you treat others in mainland China. A first impression is always important. In Cambodia and Vietnam I learned how to rise from the ashes and about true forgiveness. In Nepal I learned about genuine, heart-felt kindness and the peaceful merging of spiritual beliefs. I learned about the duality of modern life, the haves and have-nots, and the items that are truly necessary for happiness. In all these places, I learned about love and respect, and how to recognize our differences yet celebrate our similarities (mostly over tea or delicious, hand-made cuisine).

But above all else I learned about myself and who I wanted to become. I learned who I wanted to be in this world. Travel has truly opened my eyes to a new world, has stretched my skin, and has burst my own bubble again and again. Travel has given me the greatest gift I could have asked for… a better, more aware and confident me!

Traveling is the greatest gift because unlike anything else it bursts your bubble and it gives you wings.

Give the Gift Of An ARCC Experience!!

Sign up for any ARCC Program in December and we’ll send you an ARCC Gear Pack that you can give when the time is right.
Call us at 415-332-5075 to learn more!


ARCC Programs has offered summer travel programs for teens for over 30 years. With travel programs for teens on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a summer program on our website or request a catalog today.

QUIZ: Which ARCC Summer Service Program is Right for You

QUIZ: Which ARCC Summer Service Program is Right for You

With 18 different summer service programs across 6 different continents, we know how hard it can be to make a decision about which program is the best match for your personality. Everyday we talk to families and help them decide between two or more programs that they are interested in. After years of these conversations, which we love, we thought it would be fun to design a short quiz that might help people figure out which program is the one for them. Plus – it’s fun to see what you come up with. Give it a try (or two!) below!

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For over 30 years ARCC Programs has offered summer service programs for teens. With travel and adventure programs on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a summer program on our website or request a catalog today.

Experiential Learning in Vietnam

Experiential Learning in Vietnam

Experiential Learning in Vietnam

Luke DaunerLuke Dauner is an ARCC Gap Instructor currently leading the Asia Gap Semester that travels through China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Our Gap Year Program in Asia is a unique blend of education, service and exploration of these intriguing and ancient cultures. Our exclusive access to people and places, developed over decades, gives us a window on aspects of China and Southeast Asia rarely experienced by outsiders. In Luke’s blog below he shares his perspectives from his group’s time in Vietnam as considered through the eyes of an experiential educator.

Luke studied Neuroscience and Religion at Middlebury College. Prior to ARCC, Luke was a Field Instructor for the Teton Science School in Jackson, WY. Luke has led ARCC’s California: Urban and Wilderness Service program, Thailand: Hill Tribe Impact program, and is currently leading the Asia Gap Semester.

As an environmental educator for the past two years, I have always considered “experiential education” to be most effectively implemented in nature’s classroom, learning about ecology, geology, and scientific inquiry through direct engagement with one’s surroundings. For me, history, as an academic subject, has never seemed as conducive to experiential education as science—how can one have direct experience with something that by definition has already occurred? Science is all around us, history is in the past. After traveling through Vietnam, however, I quickly realized how wrong that assumption was. History is on display in this proud country, and the decades of war that has shaped the identity of its citizens inspired as much curiosity in me as any ecology experiment ever has.

With scientific inquiry, unexpected results can often produce the most profound findings, and this is exactly what our group discovered during our first week in Vietnam. The highlight for many of us was during our stay in a community just outside of Hanoi. Here we had a talk with the American War veterans [Editor’s note: In Vietnam they refer to what we call the “Vietnam War” as the “American War”]. Coming into this experience, many in our group were harboring some guilt over our country’s brutal engagement with Vietnam, so it was no surprise that there were some nerves before we had this discussion with the veterans—our parents and grandparents were their enemies. They have every reason to hate America (and Americans): we bombed vast regions of their country, killed many thousands of civilians, and even sprayed the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, which is still causing disease and deformity in their children and their children’s children.

Yet the veterans showed nothing but compassion to our group (the first Americans they have ever met, I might add). They spoke primarily of forgiveness and reconciliation, emphasizing that it was a war between governments, not people. When we spoke of our guilt, they made certain that we abandon that guilt, and when we asked them about their country they spoke of love and pride, patriotically orating about their fight for independence and the optimism they have for the future. I think it is fair to say that our entire group was surprised, inspired, and moved by the attitude of forgiveness and compassion that seemed to permeate that room, and that became characteristic of seemingly all Vietnamese people when asked about the past. For me, I realized that I have to broaden my definition of “scientific inquiry”; observing, asking good questions, and collecting data allowed us to learn experientially about Vietnam’s history in an incredibly profound way.

Yet, just when I thought I had a firm grasp on Vietnamese identity–transfixed by an unabashed patriotism I have never known and a depth of forgiveness usually reserved for literature–we traveled south to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon). Like in all great experiments, we were presented with entirely new and unexpected evidence, and my schema once again had to readjust. Saigon is the cultural and economic center of southern Vietnam, and was the stronghold of the South Vietnam-allied U.S. military during the American War. The impression of the war that the northerners gave us was one of national pride and independence–going to war was never an option for them because their freedom was at stake. In the south, however, that impression was much more skewed. Instead of a war between the governments of the U.S. and Vietnam (as it was treated in the North), some southerners defined it as a civil war in which the U.S. simply participated. Instead of a fight for national independence where communism was hardly a factor, communism was a driving force in the conflict. Instead of an unequivocal victory for all Vietnamese, reunification had its pros and cons.

As we strolled through the emotional War Remnants Museum in central Saigon and the Cu Chi Tunnels just outside the city, we were presented with a new and sometimes brutal perspective of the war. Nobody we met in Saigon ever expressed any contempt for the North or lack of pride in Vietnam–the country as a whole is strong and dignified–but the moral complexity of war and identity was revealed in the restaurant owner who is nostalgic for the days before skyscrapers, the tour guide whose parents are blacklisted from government employment, and the flagrant western influence of the city itself. This contradicting evidence ignited our curiosity, and caused us to think more critically about one of the great questions of history: how can we learn from our past?

Personally, Vietnam gave me a much greater appreciation for history as a subject, and for experiential education as a purveyor of that subject. I also realized that curiosity and inquiry doesn’t just connect you with nature, but to whatever you direct it towards–in this instance, I feel deeply connected to Vietnam. As a group, our time in Vietnam was an exercise in depth psychology and, from a scientific perspective, a wonderful and robust experiment. Our engagement with Vietnam’s history seemed at first to provide us with conclusive and meaningful results, but we realized before leaving that we had barely scratched the surface. And like all great inquiries, we left with more questions than answers.

Written By ARCC Gap Asia Instructor Luke Dauner


ARCC Gap Year Programs offers Gap Year travel programs in India, Asia, Latin America, Africa, Patagonia and Cuba.

Meeting The Fijian National Rugby Team

ARCC Australia/Fiji Students Meet the Gold Medal Winning Fiji Rugby Team

ARCC Australia/Fiji Students Meet the Gold Medal Winning Fiji Rugby Team

Meeting The Fijian National Rugby Team

ARCC’s Australia/Fiji: Island Village Initiative program is a 22-day service adventure in the South Pacific. During this program students do more than just see the sights in Sydney. They spend time on a liveaboard dive boat and get their PADI Open Water SCUBA certification near the Great Barrier Reef, volunteer in a wildlife habitat center where they meet and care for Australia’s national animals, kangaroos, and venture off to the nation of Fiji to work on critical village improvement projects and education initiatives in remote Nawaisomo Village.

Over the course of two decades, ARCC students have done some some pretty incredible work in Nawaisomo Village. Students helped install community generators that brought light to the village for the first time, built the local elementary school where even today, we help teach English lessons to the village school children.

In addition to these incredible projects, this year students got another thrilling surprise. In preparation for the Olympics in Rio, the Fijian National Rugby Team was touring the many islands that make up the Fijian Archipelago, including Nawaisomo Village. It’s not everyday that you get a chance to meet some of the best athletes in the world, but that’s just what happened this summer for some ARCC students in Fiji.

Our ARCC group was on their way to teach English in a school in Beqa. As they stepped off the boat that morning, the Fiji National Rugby Team was finishing up a kava ceremony with the chief before starting a training session for the day. Fijian are fanatics when it comes to rugby and the rugby players are national heroes. (This team coming to a school in Fiji is like the NFL’s Patriots or Packers with Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers suddenly arrived to play football at your elementary school.)

As ARCC students worked in the school teaching English classes, the team spent the afternoon practicing their skills on the adjacent field. All day, excited and rowdy schoolchildren kept peeking out the windows of the school to get a glimpse of their heroes as local villagers surrounded the field to watch. There were groups of ladies singing and dancing, exuberantly cheering them on. Once the practice was complete, students were released in a rush from their classrooms to flood the fields and meet the players. Everyone, including the ARCC students, took a turn getting autographs and their pictures taken with these national heroes.

ARCC students were interviewed by television crews and newspaper writers covering the team. Leaders Matt and Aubrey also spoke to the reporters who were eager to hear about ARCC’s service work and initiatives in Fiji.

Excited by the energetic day, our ARCC group boarded their boat back to their village for the night. They next day they started work on a construction project, but not before waking up early to catch one last practice from the future gold medal winners of the Fijian national rugby team.

Note: Several weeks after visiting with the ARCC students, the Fijian National Rugby team won the gold medal in the Rio Olympics. The celebration in Fiji went on for days.


ARCC Programs has offered summer travel programs for teens for over 30 year. With travel programs for teens on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a summer program on our website or request a catalog today.

Announcing New ARCC Spring Semester Gap Programs

Announcing New ARCC Spring Semester Gap Programs

ARCC is thrilled to announce two 90-day Spring semester gap programs to compliment our Fall gap offerings. Beginning in February of 2017, ARCC will offer a brand new Spring semester gap program in Patagonia and Cuba, as well as our popular Asia gap semester offering to China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

These programs are designed to be either stand alone spring programs or natural extensions of ARCC’s Fall semester gap programs. Just as with our fall gap programs, these new spring semester gap programs will use service learning experiences and cultural immersion as the jumping off points for discussions centered around our five global gap themes:

  1. Environment and Conservation
  2. Literacy and Education
  3. Public Health
  4. Microfinance and Economic Growth
  5. Urbanization and the Movement of Peoples

Patagonia and Cuba: Spring Semester Gap Program

ARCC Spring Semester Gap Programs in Patagonia & Cuba - Map

February 13 – May 12, 2017
The Patagonia & Cuba Spring Semester Gap Program explores the wild frontiers, rugged mountain ranges and stunning coastlines of Chile and South America’s Patagonia region. The program then travels to Cuba, the vibrant Caribbean nation closed to U.S. travelers for almost 60 years, and home to a fun loving, proud and welcoming population. With unparalleled access to these remote and rarely visited destinations, we explore our five gap Global Themes through service learning projects, travel and research that includes fishery studies in the southern Pacific Ocean, trail work in Patagonia’s park system, climate change research in Chile’s high country, teaching English to Cuban students ages 5-60, providing meals for Cuba’s underserved elderly population, and much more. Along the way, the group experiences the Latin magic and electric atmospheres of Havana and Santiago and Cuba’s magnificent caribbean beaches and crystal clear waters. This immersive 90-day educational semester is a formative experience, breaking the mold of the traditional academic classroom.

Asia: Spring Semester Gap Program (China, Vietnam, Cambodia & Thailand)

February 13 – May 12, 2017
ARCC Spring Semester Gap Programs in Patagonia & Cuba - MapARCC’s Asia Spring Semester Gap Program travels through the culturally distinct nations of China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. This one-of-a-kind experience blends education, service and exploration of these ancient cultures. With decades of experience in Asia, this program dives deep into unique and untouched geographies, rarely visited by outsiders, to unearth a way of life rooted in history over the course of centuries. With projects and curriculum grounded in our five Global Themes, students on our Asia Spring Semester Gap programs explore the issue of human trafficking with a local NGO, camp overnight on the Great Wall of China, install clean water filters in rural Cambodian homes, study the devastating effects of Agent Orange in Hanoi, work side-by-side with local mahouts and biologists at an Elephant Rehabilitation Center in Thailand and much more.


ARCC Programs has offered summer service and gap year programs for teens for over 30 years. With programs for teens on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a Gap program on our website or request a catalog today.

Turning on a Solar Powered Light in Tanzania

Solar Power in Tanzania: Why is it important?

Solar Power in Tanzania: Why is it important?

Installing Solar Panels in Tanzania

By Margo Brookfield

What do you think of when you turn on a light in your home? Have you ever stopped to think about how fortunate you are to have electricity, the ability to watch TV at any hour of the day, charge your electronics, have a light to read by? Most of us have probably never given it a second thought. But the unfortunate reality is that approximately 1.1 billion people in the world do not have access to electricity. That is roughly 17% of the global population. Meanwhile, another 2.9 billion people burn wood or other biomass fuels for light, to cook food and to heat their homes. This results in harmful indoor air pollution that causes millions of deaths each year. Electricity is such a privilege, and one which many people in the world do not have access to.

The downside to not having electricity in Tanzania

In Tanzania, there are many benefits for a family to have electricity in their home, and a lot of negative side effects for the entire family if they do not. In Tanzania, only 15% of the population has access to electricity. That is far, far below the average for the rest of the world. When families in Tanzania do not have electricity, their children are unable to continue their studies after daylight. Since Tanzania is very close to the equator, the sun rises and sets at around 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. every day, respectively. Without light, families are confined to the hours of daylight to do what they need to do.

Many families utilize kerosene lanterns for light. Though this does allow families to have light after sunset, kerosene is expensive, often costing nearly 1 dollar per liter. For families living in poverty, often on less than 1 dollar per day, this is quite a bit of money out of their daily budget. Kerosene is not only expensive, but the emissions from kerosene lanterns can be very harmful to the health of the family. And if it is not kerosene, it is wood burning stoves or the burning of other fuels for lighting, heating, and cooking that have shown to have incredibly harmful health hazards, causing over 4 million deaths annually from indoor air pollution.

Benefits to Electricity

For a local family the benefits to having solar power in Tanzania are abundant. There are immense health and monetary benefits to electricity, including the elimination of indoor air pollution from kerosene lanterns or burning wood, and money saved from not having to purchase these sources of fuel. When given light, children are able to study after the sun has set and finish their homework for the following day in school. Furthermore, many women make beautiful beaded jewelry and trinkets to be sold in the market. This is a valuable source of their income, and if they cannot work beyond 6 pm this significantly cuts down on their profits and the number of bracelets or necklaces they are able to create and sell.

One of the most important reasons that electricity is important in East Africa is a thing called M-Pesa. M-Pesa is a mobile phone-based money transfer system, where essentially all transactions are done via cell phone. Nearly everyone in Tanzania uses M-Pesa, as you can make deposits, withdrawals, transfers, or even pay for goods and services with a simple text to someone else’s mobile device. Mobile phones are such a crucial part of life in Tanzania, and nearly everyone has one. The problem is, when someone has nowhere to charge their mobile phone then they are unable to access their money, or pay for their food at the market. Often people will walk for miles to a “pay-to-charge” station, which not only is costly but also takes a lot of time out of someone’s day to walk to and from this charging station. With electricity in the home, they can charge their mobile devices and have access to their money at any time.

But how to get electricity to remote Tanzanian villages? Answer: solar power

Solar power is energy harnessed from the sun. It is not only a wonderful source of sustainable and renewable energy, but it is a relatively low maintenance way of lighting your home. As long as the sun is still shining, humans can utilize this resource. This is important because in much of Tanzania, there is not a power grid for families to use. Therefore they need a source of energy that is independent of any power grid, and ideally one that is free of cost. Solar power covers both of these bases. With these solar systems, families are provided with two or three light bulbs (usually one indoor and one outdoor), a charging station for their phones, and the capability to hook up a television if they so desire. The battery for this system can last for 8-10 years if they are well maintained, giving families a phenomenal opportunity and a sustainable solution to their lack of light.

How can you make a difference?: ARCC Tanzania summer trip!

On the ARCC Tanzania: Safari and Solar trip, you could have the opportunity to provide this much needed solar power in Tanzania by helping install systems for families in need. Working with ARCC’s wonderful partners, you have the opportunity to learn more about solar energy. Students learn how to build the solar batteries, complete the wiring for the systems, and actually go install them in the home of someone who has never had electricity before. ARCC’s partner does a day-long workshop with the students to teach them about how solar works, how the batteries work, how to go about constructing and wiring all of these parts, and even has every member of the group calculate how much energy their household uses at home in order for them to gain perspective. Not only will you gain valuable skills in learning how to use power tools, and wire the light bulbs into a home, but you can have the opportunity to change someone’s life forever by giving them light.

Tanzania Solar Project 1

And if you are interested in learning more about ARCC’s Tanzania summer trip? Check out the Tanzania: Safari and Solar summer program for more information on how to get involved


ARCC Programs has offered summer travel programs for teens for over 30 years. With travel programs for teens on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a summer program on our website or request a catalog today.

Sunset on Safari in Tanzania

Traveling in the Footsteps of ARCC’s Africa Service Programs

Traveling in the Footsteps of ARCC’s Africa Service Programs

Sunset on Safari in Tanzania

By Scott von Eschen, ARCC Programs President 

My family and I just returned from two weeks exploring Tanzania and Kenya. While this wasn’t an official ARCC scouting trip, we met and stayed with ARCC’s local Africa partners, traveled by overland truck crossing international borders much as we do in our Africa service programs for teens.

Witnessing The Impact of ARCC’s Africa Service Programs
It was an amazing journey. We first visited communities where ARCC’s Africa service programs, Tanzania: Safari & Solar & Africa Gap semester, have built and installed solar lighting into homes over the past 10 years and will continue to do so for years to come.

It was particularly moving to witness firsthand the impact ARCC students have made through these simple–solar panel and several bulb–solar power installations. By providing power to homes in this remote section of the world, our students have accomplished something few ever do, they have changed the day-to-day quality of life for an entire family. ARCC students have given people access to light in their homes. No longer do they use expensive and dangerous kerosene lanterns. Importantly, families can now also charge cell phones in their homes instead of walking miles to a central charging station. Cell phones in Africa are critical tools not just for communication, but also for conducting financial/banking transactions and for doing homework. We came away so proud of a decade of hard work put in by countless ARCC groups and excited for future groups to continue this impactful project.

Seeing the Great Migration First-Hand
The most anticipated section for our family was our safari in Tanzania’s Serengeti. Even though I’d been through this area before, my family had never visited Africa. Not unlike the students on our Africa service programs, the excitement was palpable as we set out the first day in search of wildlife.

There is nothing quite like seeing your first zebra in the wild. It’s hard to describe it, but when you round a corner to find a zebra standing alongside the road it is a special moment. There are lots of giggles and pointing, the cameras all come out at once and start clicking away. Then, just when seeing zebras becomes routine, you spot a giraffe casually grabbing a meal of acacia tree leaves a few feet from your vehicle. Or you spy a dozen plodding elephantine beasts on the horizon becoming larger and larger as they lumber in your direction and cross the road a few feet from your safari vehicle.

Little did we know that over the course of the next three days we would see tens of thousands of zebras, and countless other animals participating in the “Great Migration” as millions of animals circle the Serengeti in search of green grass and fresh water.

And then there are the lions. Disney’s The Lion King had it right. Nobody messes with the lions. Seeing these powerful creatures up close for the first time is exhilarating, and a little frightening. If they wished, they could easily leap into the opening in the roof of our vehicle. But apparently, we are not as tasty as the ‘brown jumpy things’ that populate the savannah so we are pretty much ignored.

For me, the Serengeti is a step back into a different era; it’s almost prehistoric. An endless sea of waving grasses, rugged rocky bluffs and oddly shaped animals reminiscent of dinosaurs–rhinos, hippos, ostriches, giraffes, and elephants–can be seen in almost every direction. Other than the dirt road on which we travel, no sign of man is apparent from horizon to horizon. Each species, including the homo sapiens in the safari vehicle, is acutely aware of their own status in the food chain, and we all behave accordingly, wary of some, and in pursuit of others.


ARCC Summer Service Programs and Gap Semester Programs offer opportunities for teens and high school graduates to live, work & volunteer in some of the most interesting areas of the world. Learn more about our Tanzania service program by calling a regional director at 415-332-5075 or email info@adventurescrosscountry.com.

10 Reasons to Take a Gap Year

10 Reasons to Take a Gap Year After High School

10 Reasons to Take a Gap Year After High School

10 Reasons to Take a Gap Year

It’s no coincidence that more and more American students are taking a gap year before heading off to college. Every year, more high schools, colleges, counselors, parents and students are embracing this opportunity to take a break from the traditional classroom and explore the world in which we live. There are so many reasons to take a gap year too! Beyond the fact that this is a natural time to take a break and apply classroom learnings to real life situations, there are proven benefits both in the short and long term to students who take gap years. Here are a few of our favorite reasons to take a gap year.


Gap Year students show a clear pattern of having higher GPAs than would otherwise have been predicted, and the positive effect lasts over all four years.1

88 percent of Gap Year graduates report that their Gap Year has significantly added to their employability.1

The highest rated outcome of Gap Years is that of gaining “a better sense of who I am as a person and what is important to me.”1

Gap Year students are perceived to be ‘more mature, more self-reliant and independent’ than non-Gap Year students.1

Many teenagers in other countries wait a year after high school before heading to college. In Norway, Denmark and Turkey, for instance, more than 50 percent of students take a year off before college.1

Taking a Gap Year helps students discover what they are passionate about through real world situations and helps inform education and career choices down the road. This leads to higher satisfaction with school and employment over time.

In an increasingly competitive educational arena it has become difficult to set oneself apart from peers. An intentional and productive gap year can do just that by offering students the opportunity to gain practical life skills, take on leadership opportunities, and develop skills needed to stand out from those coming straight out of high school.

Gap Year students often make some of their closest friends during their Gap Year. Shared interests, the desire to experience the world outside of the classroom, and the willingness to stretch beyond one’s comfort zone foster a dynamic space for life-long friendships to form.

Gap Year students have proven to be more engaged in leadership opportunities and extracurricular activities on college campuses.

Ask five people older than you if they wish they’d taken a Gap Year before college… The answers will speak for themselves. We’ve never heard any one regret taking a Gap Year, in fact, almost unanimously people have stated that they wish they’d taken a Gap Year!

Armed with these reasons to take a gap year it shouldn’t be hard to see the long term benefit this formative break from the classroom can have. It’s no surprise that more colleges are not only supportive of students who want to take a gap year, but actually encourage it. Even Ivy League schools are saying it’s a great idea to take a gap year.


ARCC Programs has offered summer service programs and gap year programs for teens for over 30 years. With programs for teens on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a Gap Year program on our website or request a catalog today.

1American Gap Association (n.d), Data & Gap Year Benefits, Retrieved from http://www.americangap.org/data-benefits.php

ARCC Alumni In Focus: Willa Imhoff

ARCC Alumni In Focus: Willa Imhoff

Meet ARCC Gap and Summer alumnus Willa! Willa first came to ARCC in 2014 as a student on our Tanzania: Safari and Solar service program. She had such a positive experience with ARCC in East Africa that she decided to take a Gap Semester in Latin America with ARCC  in the Fall of 2015. She hails from Healdsburg, California and is currently attending Colorado College (as a winter start)!

Q: Why did you decide to take a Gap Year?
A: I decided to take a gap semester because I am very passionate about traveling, and I was young for my grade. I was in no rush to start college, and knew that having a semester to see the world and experience different cultures, regions, and people could only benefit me and put me in a better place to start school.

Q: What’s your favorite memory from your Gap Semester?
A: My favorite ARCC memory was our three day in a homestay in a rural community of The Amazon in Ecuador. It was a huge culture shock and I saw a way of life that I had never encountered before. I got to see what regular day life is like for a cocoa farmer and learned a lot about their culture. There was so much to experience here: we helped plant yucca, cut back brush with machetes, canoed down the Amazon in a rustic canoe, played with children, bathed in the river, ate beetle larvae, fished for piraña, and learned how to prepare chocolate. Of course, there were challenges during those three days, but the experience was out of this world and I learned so much.

Q: How your ARCC Gap Semester experience inspired you?
A: My ARCC experience inspired me to travel more and to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way.

Q: What advice would you give to students considering a Gap Year?
A: My advice to future students would be to travel with an open mind, adventurous spirit, and to not be afraid to try new things. The world is filled with so many amazing opportunities, and if you are lucky enough to be on an ARCC trip, you will learn so much about the world and yourself.

Q: Why did you choose to take your gap semester with ARCC?
A: I chose ARCC because I had gone on a Summer trip with them the year before, and had loved every second of the trip. I knew that ARCC had decades of experience and did an amazing job with itineraries, activities, focus of studies, and choosing leaders as well as students.

Q: How did your instructors inspire you?
My instructors inspired me to do what I love and to always have a good attitude in life. To be kind to everyone and to not be afraid to apply myself in the world.


Are you an ARCC Summer or Gap Alumni who wants to share your story? Let us know by emailing us at info@adventurescrosscountry.com. Discover all of our Gap Programs and Summer Trips by visiting our website at www.adventurescrosscountry.com

What to Ask When Choosing Summer Travel Programs

What to Ask When Choosing Summer Travel Programs

Choosing the right summer travel programs for high school students can be an overwhelming experience for many parents. After all, you are putting your trust in the hands of new people in places that are often far off the beaten path in distant corners of the world. Asking the right questions can help alleviate many of these concerns and allow your teenager to embark on a life changing experience and leave parents with peace of mind at the same time. Here are some questions that you should ask and know the answer to before you send your child overseas or even across the country.

What kind of projects will my child be participating in? Will they be pulling weeds, cleaning up trash, helping patients in a clinic, teaching local children or all of these? Knowing who benefits from the volunteer work can not only help determine what kind of impact is being made on the local community but also what kind of impact it will have on the camper.

Has the company worked with the scheduled project(s) before? Is there a service curriculum? Are the students briefed, facilitated and debriefed as to the service project? Being immersed in a new culture can be overwhelming, it’s important that campers learn about local customs and the challenges local communities are facing before they start their project so that they can fully absorb the benefit of their work and the impact they are making.

How big is the group? Who is in charge of the students? Are they used to dealing with teenagers? Are they comfortable with teenagers in a community service work setting? Group dynamics are a vital part of creating the positive experience. Group leaders that are used to working with and have training mentoring teens are essential. Look for leader to student ratios of no more than 1:9 so that each camper gets the attention and experience they deserve.

Will students stay in the same location on the same project the entire time, getting to know villagers in this “home away from home”? Or will they be moving around? While many people want to be able to take in a whole country or region during their time at camp, you don’t want your camper to be spending all of their time getting from place to place. Make sure that there is plenty of time spent on the ground and there is opportunity for them to immerse themselves in places and people they are visiting during their summer travel program.

What are the safety protocols? What happens if a camper gets injured? How do you make sure that the places you are visiting are safe? Make sure that the summer travel program is focused on safety is of primary importance. Check that each day is thoroughly planned out well in advance of departure and ask questions about areas and locations that concern you. Leaders should have some level of first aid training so that they are able to respond to any needs as they arise. There can be vast differences between different first aid certifications (WFA or WFR for example) and the training and the requirements to obtain them so make sure to know or ask about the differences.

Service travel is an incredible impactful way to spend a summer. Campers form incredible bonds with their peers in places they have only seen in pictures, gain broad new perspective and make a difference in the world at the same time. By being armed with the right questions, you can ensure the best possible service travel experience for your teenager and a bit of piece of mind for yourself while they are abroad.


ARCC Programs has offered summer travel programs for teens for over 30 years. With programs on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a summer program on our website or request a catalog today.