by Molly Fried, Greenheart Travel Outreach Coordinator

Molly shares how dysfunctional childhood family vacations taught her valuable lessons for traveling in a group as an adult and why you should plan your group trip today.

My earliest memories of traveling with a group were loosely-planned family vacations. We often visited relatives in Detroit, and then traveled farther north to the Upper Peninsula where the weather in the summer is cool and pleasant. As one of five children, I learned from an early age the advantages and disadvantages of being surrounded by different personalities in a new place. From fights in the car to the daily arguments about our itinerary, there were plenty times when I got frustrated with this group I was born into and dreamed of more independent days in my future adulthood. Yet, despite our complaining, my parents were resolute that we stick together as a group, knowing that these trips would become our favorite memories as adults (they were right).

As we got older, my parents took us on more adventurous trips. I remember my brother encouraging me to go on my first rollercoaster at an amusement park in northern Ohio. They took our photo on the ride and he was smiling from ear-to-ear next to a girl whose skin had turned a horrible shade of green. I also remember when my dad faced his deathly fear of heights, braving a group mule ride along the Grand Canyon during a family road trip through the Southwest. And I could never forget when my mom and I decided to try barbecued alligator in the Everglades to the shock of my Pescetarian-raised family. We squabbled about most activities, but we were learning to push each other outside our comfort zones so we could try new things together, bringing us closer as a family.

During college and the years that followed, I was lucky to go on group trips abroad to countries such as Turkey, Lithuania and Sweden. Sometimes I traveled with friends, sometimes colleagues and I also signed up for organized volunteer trips with complete strangers who became good friends. The lessons I learned from traveling with my large family as a child guided my principles traveling with groups as an adult. I had learned over the years to go with the flow, value collective decisions, and take time each day for solitary reflection. While traveling with a group means making a commitment to enjoy these new destinations and experiences together, it is important to find your sense of self in a foreign environment.

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Now all my siblings are grown and live in different cities, but we continue to go on more adventures together. Our trip to the majestic Rajasthan region in India last year included elephant rides, wandering around ancient temples, and sleeping each night aboard a moving train. In this unbelievable setting, our large group actually fought very little and took comfort in being together, especially in the evenings as we gobbled up traditional Indian meals and recalled our new shared experiences.

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Joining the team at Greenheart Travel, I often meditate on these amazing travel memories, especially when we create new itineraries for Group Volunteer Programs Abroad. Even if you are just thinking about solo adventures for now, I encourage you to consider the benefits of traveling with others in the future as it can strengthen your own community and maximize your volunteer impact at the destination. Whether you travel with friends or complete strangers on an organized service trip, there is always something new to be learned from sharing experiences with others. But I wouldn’t recommend the barbecued alligator.

To discover your own India adventure and learn about all our amazing Greenheart Travel group destinations, read about our Customized Group Volunteer Programs Abroad.

If you are a college student interested in helping us recruit for organized volunteer trips, learn more about our Ambassador program and the major benefits to joining and email me at mfried@greenhearttravel.org.