Favorite Travel Destination:
Alexa’s favorite travel destination is Paris. On top of loving it because she has family there, she is obsessed with the food, culture, people, art, and architecture of Paris. She feels that there is a kind of magic there that exists nowhere else she has ever been. It is full of hidden treasures, waiting to be discovered with each visit.
She Can’t Stay Away:
Alexa actually left ACIS in 2011, after five wonderful years as a Tour Consultant with ACIS. She returned to school as she had always planned, and obtained her Masters in Social Work in 2014. Though she enjoyed her training and her clients, she could not shake the feeling that her passion had been extinguished. She finally realized that she really belonged right back where she started – working with teachers and group leaders, passionate about the same thing she is – travel. So she returned to her roots and found her happiness again, working with ACIS group leaders to expose their students to some of the most informative experiences of their lives!
“Having been given the opportunity to travel as a young, impressionable person, I have found it has only increased my curiosity for things I have yet to see. I love working for ACIS because now I can help give people of all ages something that has been so key in my own personal development. I can’t wait for you to experience all the globe has to offer!”
There will be a quiz:
Alicia’s 8th grade geography teacher announced to the class that by the end of the school year they would be able to name and locate every country in the world and its capital in 40 minutes. At the end of the year, not only could she name almost every country in the world (and locate it on a map and state its capital) but she really wanted to visit them all, too!
Must have been the haggis:
Alicia’s first step in traveling the world was studying abroad her junior year in college in Glasgow, Scotland. This experience was a life lesson for her in many ways, and got her hooked on world exploration.
Never too late to go back:
Alicia has since returned to Europe to explore cities she missed out on during her backpacking trip in college including Prague, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Madrid and Rome. Knowing there was more to the world than Europe, she also ventured to Israel and Thailand, one of her favorite destinations.
Travel Tip: The most important travel tip I have learned, (it works when things are going perfectly as well as when those occasional hiccups arise), is to smile—it’s the one thing everyone in the world over can relate to.
I love helping group leaders plan the perfect trip for their participants, students and adults alike, to expose them all to a new environment that will leave each individual forever changed. It’s been a joy to tour with groups in Ireland, Scotland, England, France and Costa Rica and see them make discoveries about themselves as well as the places we explored. - Alicia
When the travel bug bites:
Cara’s first steps in travel began with her family camping vacations to destinations throughout the United States on every school break. Soon after taking her first Spanish class and a trip to Mexico, she realized her passion for learning a new language and understanding other cultures. This passion has since brought her across the globe to destinations including Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Japan, Thailand, Australia, the Philippines and Egypt.
Why be simply a tourist when you can be a teacher?
After completing a study abroad program in Spain, Cara traveled for a few weeks in Europe getting a flavor of the diverse continent. Soon after graduating from college, she ventured further abroad, this time to the Orient where she taught English for a year in Japan. Cara loved experiencing the fascinating tradition-bound yet highly modernized country, and of course, the oishi (delicious) sushi!
From continent to continent:
Cara’s next international adventure brought her to South America where she spent over 2 years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Paraguay. She soon fell in love with the colorful continent and even decided to spend an additional year living and exploring the cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Next on Cara’s travel list is Africa. She hopes to explore this fascinating and unique continent.
Travel Tip: The best way to get an authentic experience in a foreign country is to leave the guidebook at home for a day and wander the area taking in all its sights, smells and sounds, chat with the locals, and get off the beaten path.
There are so many incredible places out there to explore, and I am thrilled to share my passion for travel with others who are open to experiencing new destinations and learning about unique cultures. - Cara
Black Forest to lack of forest:
Heidi was born to travel. By the time she was two, she had already lived on two continents. Born in Germany while her dad was in the Air Force, the family moved to South Dakota when she was just one year old.
Don’t forget the fruitcake:
In Heidi’s family it became a tradition to travel over Christmas. Skiing in Utah, riding roller coasters in Disney World, and laying on the beach in the Riviera Maya are how she remembers spending her December vacations.
The Franken family vacation:
With 5 of them packed into a rental car when she was sixteen, Heidi’s family traveled over 2000 miles through the UK, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy, reuniting with old friends in Germany and gaining lots of memories, laughs, and a passport full of stamps!
La bella costa:
Heidi’s favorite destination so far is Italy’s Amalfi Coast. On her visit there, they rented a car and braved the jagged coastline drive for its breathtaking views though Heidi admits that she doesn’t think she ever took her hands off the door handles!
Travel Tip: In the end all you really need is your passport. So pack light, and enjoy your journey!
I began my ACIS career as a client services representative where I fielded thousands of calls and emails from tour participants and parents. I moved on to work as a tour consultant helping group leaders plan their perfect tour. I think my favorite part of the job is checking in with group leaders after they return from their trip. After months of planning, they deserve the perfect trip and I love to hear that is exactly what they experienced! - Heidi
"When I was living in Spain and my parents came over to visit me during my Christmas break. Spain had experienced several years of drought prior to that and of course, the moment my parents arrived, the weather took a turn and it began raining like cats and dogs. We boarded a bus and then a boat to make our way across the Strait of Gibraltar for our adventure to Morocco. Due to the intensity of the storm that was slamming Southern Europe, the sea was extremely rough and I’ll never forget the size of the swells as we made our way precariously across the Strait.
When we finally made it to Tangier, we boarded a train to make our way to Fez. Of course at this point it had been raining for days on end and much of Morocco was beginning to flood. As such, when we got part-way into our train journey, the train suddenly came to an abrupt halt. We were told that the tracks were flooded and impassable and that we’d have to spend the night on the train platform and wait to see if the tracks became passable the following day. We were in the middle of nowhere, there was nothing around, no food, no town, just a deserted train platform. All of the passengers disembarked from the train and we sat there on the platform with our suitcases, wondering how long we’d be stuck there before the tracks were passable again. Most of the people around us were Moroccans so of course didn't speak either of my two languages. But it just so happened that there was a group of Japanese tourists stuck with us. They had been visiting their son, who was an artist living in Spain. So he and I were the only two that spoke a common language - Spanish- and we ended up chatting with them and keeping each other company, as he and I translated for our families into both English and Japanese.
It was in this moment that I fully understood how global the world was. Here we were on a deserted train platform, stranded in the middle of nowhere; two groups of people from completely different cultures on opposite sides of worlds, and speaking different languages. And even still, we managed to find a common thread that allowed us to connect as fellow brothers and sisters of this world, all on intertwining journeys."
Only three, in this order:
1. Roll with the punches
2. Laugh often
3. Take every opportunity to connect with strangers
The travel bug bites again:
Jessica started traveling a little later in life. Initially, she visited cities in the US, usually to visit family or friends; she recalls it was a definite plus to have a brother who lived in Juneau, AK! Next, it was resort vacations to Mexico and the Caribbean, until finally in 2006, Jessica went to Europe for the first time. She spent three weeks in Italy stopping in many of the major cities and visiting a little town named Pianella in the Abruzzo region where her grandfather was born. She saw his birth record in the original volume from 1912, the house he was born in, learned about art and history in Rome, Florence and Venice, and she was forever changed.
A love affair with language:
Jessica started her undergrad career as a Russian major and graduated with a degree in Biology! She then spent the next 10+ years working in the non-profit sector. After her 2006 visit to Italy, she decided to pursue a master’s in Italian—only problem—she didn’t speak the language. Jessica spent the next year working during the day and learning Italian in her spare time before entering into a master’s program at Middlebury College in Vermont. After a summer on the Middlebury campus, she journeyed to Florence for the academic year to study at the Universita` di Firenze. Jessica took advantage of her time in Italy—it was the perfect jumping off point to other countries such as England, Spain and Russia!
For its art, its history, its beauty and because it was her home for 10 months, Florence will always be the city of Jessica’s heart–-though Positano ranks a close second!
The generosity of strangers:
The first time Jessica visited Positano, she met a young woman from Bologna. After only a few hours of talking the woman invited Jessica to visit her in Bologna later in her journey. Jessica quickly took her up on her offer and spent the day seeing the city through the eyes of a local—she even got to eat lunch in her apartment! Jessica was amazed by her generosity, though she admits she shouldn’t have been. Since then, she has found that people all over the world are very giving and as interested in learning about her as she is in learning about them.
The real thing:
Jessica fondly remembers a period of about two weeks during her stay in Florence when every time she visited the Piazza della Signoria, she was compelled to make sure the tourists knew that the David in the piazza was not the original by Michelangelo and they needed to go to L’Accademia to see the real thing…Jessica couldn’t help herself!
Flexibility and attitude are the keys to a successful trip. Rarely do travel plans go exactly as expected and a positive outlook goes a long way to ensuring a great adventure!
I love Italy and knew before I finished my master’s that I wanted to find a way to share my passion for Italy and traveling. I am so happy that with ACIS I can fulfill my goal! -Jessica
The travel itch you can’t scratch:
Jill first traveled abroad her sophomore year of college on a 10-day trip to Brussels to study NATO and the European Union. During her stay, she took day trips to Amsterdam, Bruges, Paris, and Leuven, and from there she knew this was not going to be her last visit abroad. Walking down streets brimmed with history and culture gave Jill the inspiration to see what else the world had to offer. Next thing she knew, she was interning in Paris and touring Europe on her weekends, and she hasn’t stopped traveling since!
A true wanderlust:
Jill has never been anywhere she hasn’t loved, so choosing her favorite destination almost seems unfair. The world is an amazing place. (Later she admits that she holds quite a fondness for Paris and Tel Aviv!)
From Ireland to Israel and everywhere in between:
Jill graduated from Stonehill College with a degree in International Studies and a minor in French. She’s been studying the French language since she was five so Jill has known for a long time that she was going to have a multi-cultural future. Jill also studied the workings of the EU and NATO in Brussels, spent the fall semester of her junior year of college interning in La Defense, Paris’ business district, and studied Celtic literature, history, and archeology at St. Angela’s College while on a 2-week educational trip to Sligo, Ireland. To top it off, Jill also spent 10 days touring Israel learning about the history of the Jewish culture and its roots in the country.
You never know who you’ll meet when you’re abroad. Jill met Dustin Hoffman while he was filming Last Chance Harvey in London!
There’s no such thing as a wrong turn—every step is a new adventure!
My first trip to Europe was as a student and I remember the excitement like it was yesterday. It’s really fulfilling to know that the work we do here at ACIS is providing students with the same eye opening, life changing experiences! -Jill
The country, people and lifestyles in Costa Rica are beautiful. I know my experiences there paved the way for me to cross paths with ACIS. Every day was an adventure, pura vida! The opportunity to travel abroad and learn about other cultures became my passion and I wanted to share this passion with others. With ACIS I am grateful to have the opportunity to continue the adventure with teachers and students. -Katie
Liz grew up traveling around the country with her family—from Yellowstone to the Florida panhandle, there weren’t many places that their trusty van did not traverse on one of their annual family vacations! She caught the international travel bug when she was in high school, spending several weeks volunteering in Mexico and on a homestay trip to Russelsheim, Germany. In college, she studied abroad in both Salamanca and Toledo, Spain, and continued on to backpack across Europe. Even as she continues to check places off her list as she travels for ACIS and on her own, her list of new places to see just continues to grow…
Not just laying on the beach:
Liz has also ventured south to Mexico a few times–and not just for relaxation! Two her trips to our southern neighbor were to build houses in Juarez, Mexico.
While backpacking in Geneva, Switzerland, Liz and her friend came upon a giant chess board painted onto the ground in a park, complete with three-foot tall chess pieces, and decided to play. Having never played chess before, Liz’s inexperience was apparent to the many passers-by who stopped to give advice. By the end of the game, a small crowd of Swiss locals had gathered, consulting with each other and with Liz before she would take her turn. With the help of her “team,” Liz ended up winning her very first game of chess!
Amateur tour consultant turned pro:
When Liz was studying abroad she got a reputation as “the planner” among her friends. For all of their weekend trips, she always made all of their reservations, printed out the maps, and was occasionally even known to create customized itineraries for each person coming along (an effort that she got a lot of grief for, but one that her companions secretly loved!). Liz can’t wait to help people plan their ACIS trips, because in her opinion, the planning is half of the fun!
Santiago or Shanghai?
Liz is torn over what to plan for her next travel adventure since there are so many fantastic places that she hasn’t been yet! She would love to do everything from exploring Brazil or Chile (or any South American locale), to visiting the exotic destinations of Asia and India.
Travel Tip: Plan ahead, but also stay very flexible. Some of my best experiences while traveling were spur-of-the-moment activities that I hadn’t originally planned on doing.
Travel is important for everyone to experience, but I think it is especially valuable for teenagers to see a world outside of their own as they start to form their world views as adults. I truly believe in ACIS’ proclamation that 'travel changes lives.' Having had the opportunity to experience educational travel myself, I know how important travel is in obtaining a broadened perspective and a respect for other cultures. It’s very exciting to be working for a company who brings that experience to so many people. - Liz
Yes, there will be a quiz:
Lynne’s interest in places far away developed from a grade school geography project on all 50 states. After doing a report on each state, its capital, population, geographic boundaries, products produced, etc., her interest in geography kept spreading on to other places.
Not your traditional calamari dish:
Italy is Lynne’s favorite destination. Not only does she love the country’s architecture and the way it stands the test of time, influencing the interior and exterior designs of today, but she also loves the Italian food. Lynne’s culinary adventures have gone so far as to try black spaghetti–the pasta and fish dishes made with squid ink found in Venice.
Travel Tip: Be flexible and travel with a good attitude.
I became interested in educational travel while working at East Central University in Oklahoma. I organized four groups to travel to Europe and quickly realized the value of an organized trip where you visit and learn about all the important sights. Traveling helps us to be more accepting of other people, cultures and world views. - Lynne
She left her heart in Santiago:
Patty says her new favorite destination is Chile. Her next adventure will take her to Southeast Asia’s Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, however, so her favorite place may not remain the same for long!
High altitude fashion:
Patty took her first airplane ride in 1963. Back then, flying was glamorous - Flight Attendants were called Stewardesses, and passengers dressed formally to take a plane trip.
Tales from Taunggyi:
Two of Patty’s favorite aunts worked for KLM Airlines and the Foreign Service. They would dazzle her with stories of trips to Afghanistan and Burma, of postings to Paris and Cameroon. Envy of their exotic and exciting lives grew into Patty’s lifelong commitment to travel.
A study abroad program was one of Patty’s top criteria when she was applying to colleges and she put that department into good use with a semester spent in London. Not content to end her journeys with graduation, post-college Patty dabbled in everything from a three-month backpacking trip around Europe, to a seven-month sojourn in Sydney, Australia.
Travel Tip: You don't have to travel in your Sunday Best anymore - leave room in that suitcase for souvenirs!
My career with ACIS began in Boston 22 years ago. Today I am a transplanted East-Coaster living in Southern California, and each year I try to take a trip to a new destination. To all my Group Leaders, please keep taking your students on ACIS trips abroad. Every young person needs the maturity and experience gained from travel to foreign places. - Patty
Life lessons from Mom:
Whenever Tom informs his family of his next trip abroad, his mother usually gives him an uneasy chuckle, reminds him not to like it too much, not to fall in love, and to remember that his family still lives in Boston. Tom reminds her that she first introduced him to travel.
Sunshine state to sunshine sea:
At the age of 6, Tom began a persistent campaign to convince his family to vacation at his grandparents’ in Florida. Eight years and nine trips later, he had mastered the sunshine state of FLA and had an insatiable desire to see and experience more. Partial to warm weather and white sand, he and his family toured 6 different Caribbean islands’ beaches in 7 days, falling in love with the new cultures and environments, the pastel-colored houses and the laid-back attitude.
Tom’s favorite destination is Montezuma, Costa Rica.
Travel Tip: Always expect the unexpected and be open to change. Sometimes the best parts of a trip come from spontaneity. Those are the random moments that you’ll look back on with a smile and be able to say, “Do you remember the time when…”
I couldn’t agree more with the ACIS belief that 'travel changes lives.' I recently backpacked throughout Costa Rica with a friend, and upon my return to the states, I realized that I needed to help other people experience the things that I had. As fate would have it, I’ve found ACIS. I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to help others see the world, and I am excited to share my experiences with you and help you plan your next life-changing adventure! - Tom
How it began:Her first time overseas was to Hull, England as part of a study abroad program. She then studied with two programs in Annecy and Strasbourg in France. She had started and finished over half of her degree toward Elementary and Special Education, and studying abroad absolutely turned her life upside down in the best possible way. Funnily enough, she had avoided language learning before then, but then became a linguist. Her eyes and heart were opened and she began to really see the world and the amazing people in it! She became fluent in French, then Italian, and finished her degree in International Affairs.
“Amore” at first sight:It was during Tricia’s first study abroad semester in England that she lived with two Italian girls and first traveled with them to Italy, which began her obsession with everything Italian – an obsession that eventually led her to move to Italy right after college graduation. She taught herself Italian from “Italian for Dummies” and felt fluent after about 6 months (thanks in large part to her foundation in French). She stayed in Rome for almost 6 years.
Desert moon:One of her most memorable travel moments would be traveling on a camel’s back through the sand dunes of the Sahara in western Morocco. She was with only one girlfriend of hers and their camels were gently led by a local guide only by moonlight. There were no towns or lights anywhere on the horizon. He seemed to know all the curves and dips of the dunes by heart. Spectacular!
Family reunion:Because of her innate drive to move to Italy and learn the language, she and her parents traveled to the small mountaintop village of their ancestors (that they learned about in 100 year-old letters written in Italian between her great grandfather and the family he’d left behind in Italy when he moved to the U.S.). When they asked around in the ‘piazza’ about their long-lost family members, they discovered their cousins that had been lost from their family history for a century! She visited them frequently throughout her years in Rome and they remain in close touch. She feels this is why she was “meant” to go to Italy all along!
In all of my international travels over the past 14 years, I’ve always had little miracles and comforting people pop into my realm. I call these people my travel angels. Whether it’s someone that has popped up in a train station asking if I need help if I looked confused, someone that told me I’d dropped my passport somewhere, someone that caught a thief trying to pull something out of my bag…or even the lifelong friends I’ve made along the way. They’ve just always saved me in big or small instances when I needed it. And not too strangely, this sounds very much like the “travel angels” that are our ACIS tour managers! - Tricia