Click on any of the below questions and the answer will be displayed. If you would prefer to watch a video in which the Directors of Walking Tree answer the below questions, you can do so via the video player box in the right-hand column of this page! Please feel free to contact us anytime with additional questions.
Traveling abroad in high school is a challenge that every student should have the opportunity to undertake because it builds character and deepens knowledge. Our students report that traveling with Walking Tree expanded their understanding of the world, helped them better understand and appreciate life in America, increased their self-confidence, bolstered their sense of independence, helped them make new friends, and proved to them that they can make a difference.
Safety is our number one priority at Walking Tree. Although travel is never without risk, our staff has lived and traveled in our host countries for years, and we understand how to best experience the country. We design all of our itineraries evaluating safety concerns above all else and have tried to anticipate all eventualities, planning each phase of the program with the utmost care and diligence.
Currently, there are no required immunizations to enter our destination countries. That said, we strongly recommend you contact the CDC or your local travel clinic to make sure your student has the recommended immunizations or medication for travel in your destination.
Remote malaria zones do exist in some of our host countries, but they are generally isolated to certain regions and are typically only present during certain seasons. We strongly recommend Malaria prophylactic for travel to Senegal, and suggest it for travel to Peru, Guatemala, and the Costa Rica Sea Turtle programs. Ultimately, it is something we leave to each family to decide. For more information, we suggest that families contact the CDC or their local travel clinic.
All of our leaders are trained in CPR and First Aid and are equipped with an extensive med-kit while traveling, which allows them to handle minor ailments like headaches, blisters, or upset stomachs. If the issue is more severe, Walking Tree staff will contact families directly whenever possible before going to the nearest and best medical facility.
We understand that some students have special needs related to health, diet, or other concerns. Walking Tree is committed to doing all we can to accommodate the special needs of students, and it’s important we know as much about the issue as possible before the program’s departure.
Once the application process is complete and the applicant accepted, Walking Tree will be in frequent contact with each participant to ensure that they and their family are well prepared for the program. Each program will have its own web page that will contain packing lists, a roster of participants, group flight information, homestay village, information, leader biographies, links to each program’s Facebook group, vaccination advice and much, much more. Once the program begins, Walking Tree will be in constant contact with families through email and blog updates.
Our experience has taught us that travel can be unpredictable. As such, we strongly recommend that our participants purchase a separate travel insurance policy that helps to cover them financially in the event of an unforeseen complication or mishap. Coverage for emergency medical evacuation, medical expenses if you get sick or injured, lost luggage/delays, travel delays, lost travel document replacement, and trip cancellation are basic tenets of any good policy. While we encourage you to research all options available, we have had good experiences with the International Volunteer Card. It is discounted insurance exclusively for volunteers and is underwritten by TravelGuard, the largest travel insurance provider in the US.
Medical doctors are available 24/7 through a free international phone number, and personnel can assist in everything from flight and luggage delays, to emergency situations. All their coverage has no deductible and covers you for multiple trips – up to 180 days of travel in a given year. Trip cancellation is an additional option. It covers your trip being canceled for natural disasters, organizational failure, debilitating sickness, or tragedy preventing you from going on the trip. You can also purchase this through the Volunteer Card. An additional benefit for the Volunteer Card is they offer 100,000 discounts for volunteer travelers. There are different plans to choose from but their Plus plan offer extensive coverage and only costs $35. See more at http://www.volunteercard.com/
Participants are assigned to their host families after the program begins but before arrival in the host village. This gives leaders a chance to become familiar with the personalities and specific interests of each participant so that we can place him or her in the best possible homestay environment. While each host family is distinct in its makeup, all are likely to have children so that participants have host brothers and sisters. The common denominator among all our families are that they are kind, hospitable, and excited to receive our students.
More than anything, we select families based on their sincere desire to host our students. In many cases, students will be staying with families that have already received our travelers and have proven to be wonderful hosts. Walking Tree’s in-country staff spend significant time with all host families prior to the group’s arrival. They ensure that each family will provide a welcoming and comfortable environment and that they understand our expectations for safety and behavior.
Walking Tree in-country staff meet with village committees to decide on a project that is both needed and viable. These projects take many different forms but are always a collaborative effort, with both sides contributing resources to the common goal. More specifics for your program’s project will become available as the departure date draws near.
Projects have included construction of kindergarten classrooms, reforestation campaigns, malaria prevention efforts, a ramp for handicapped students, community kitchens, a community library, a two-mile long sidewalk along a dangerous road, a playground, a sophisticated village drainage system, countless painting projects, creating green spaces, and teaching English in orphanages, monasteries, private lessons and classrooms.
We try to work with families who have children so that our participants can have host “brothers” and “sisters.” That said, we also use the utmost discretion when assigning students. For example, if a family has a 15-year-old son, we are likely to put a male student with the family. We are consistently moved by the generosity, hospitality, and dedication of our host families. They truly care for our participants as if they were their own children.
Walking Tree leaders are a select group of dynamic young adults. All leaders have shown excellence in leadership positions, have extensive travel experience, are fluent in the necessary foreign language, and are enthusiastic about our philosophy of travel. In addition, all leaders are CPR and First Aid certified and have been thoroughly trained by Walking Tree for this important position. All open enrollment programs have at least one female and one male leader.
We are delighted to welcome students who have limited travel experience and strongly encourage that they apply despite understandable anxieties. Even participants who have previously traveled internationally will see and experience things for the first time due to Walking Tree’s unique itineraries.
A valid and current US Passport is required for all travel outside of the United States. The passport must be valid for six months beyond the time of travel and must be in reasonable condition. China requires a Visa from all US citizens. Participants are responsible for obtaining this visa ahead of time. Once accepted, Walking Tree will send you information on when, where, and how to apply for the visa. Neither Peru, Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Senegal require an additional visa. We highly recommend you contact your local consulate for more details.
The name Walking Tree is emblematic of our philosophy of travel and cultural exploration. Walking trees grow throughout the world. Their unique external root system grows, or “walks,” in the direction of more abundant water or sunshine. Our name suggests an ability to establish strong connections in the host country while continuing to search for a meaningful and positive role in our world community.
Open Enrollment Specific
In order to ensure the safest, most memorable programs possible, Walking Tree will maintain a ratio of at least two leaders (one male and one female) per group of around 15 students.
While there is no official deadline, our programs tend to fill quickly. Most open enrollment programs reach capacity by March. Participants and their families are encouraged to apply as soon as possible to ensure space in the desired program. When contacted, Walking Tree is able to give up-to-date information on the program space available.
Friends are welcome to participate in the same program. However, it is important for them to understand that it is our expectation that all participants make a concerted effort to spend time with all travelers to ensure there is no exclusion within the group.
Typically, for every six paying participants, one group sponsor or chaperone travels for free. Walking Tree requires that at least one group sponsor travels with each group. The inclusion of additional chaperones is left to the discretion of each group.
While there are no official maximums or minimums, we typically seek a at least six travelers and rarely exceed more than 20 on each program.
Walking Tree encourages all groups to spend time in one of our many great host communities living with local families and doing community service but understands it is not always possible or of interest and thus is not something we require.
Once your itinerary is developed, Walking Tree will provide you with customized catalogs, posters, and promotional DVDs to help recruit. Further, we will assist you with strategic planning and will be readily accessible throughout the planning and recruitment process to offer guidance and help directly whenever desired.
There will be at least one Walking Tree staff member with your group the entire time your group is in a country. We want all travelers, including group coordinators, to enjoy the program as much as possible so our staff member will coordinate all logistics, meals, transport, activities etc and help with the management of the group as much as desired.
The group organizer is welcome to collect all paperwork and tuition payments and send them to Walking Tree. If it’s more convenient for the group organizer, Walking Tree is happy to deal directly with all participants regarding the collection of paperwork. Better still, all applications and necessary release forms are found in digital form online!