Don't Lodge 12 People in a Single-Room Apartment and Four Other Group Travel Tips
by Pamela Slim, guest blogger
In the follies of my twenties, I co-led a trip to Brazil for 12 martial art students.
I was hot and heavy in the study of Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art. I had spent three months living in Rio de Janeiro a couple of years earlier, familiarizing myself with the language and country.
A friend and I "organized" (and I use this term lightly) a trip for fellow students who wanted to train Capoeira in its motherland. I was used to traveling light and without lots of plans, so I didn't imagine that it would be a very big deal. I was wrong. Participants for the most part were college students with no money, so we wanted to keep things as cheap as possible.
Here's what we did wrong that I encourage you to avoid:
1. To save money, we lodged 12 people in a single-room apartment for a few nights. It didn't seem like a very big deal when we arranged it, but it quickly became evident that 12 people had important bathroom needs that could not be met by one commode. Uncomfortable, to say the least.
2. We left plans too open and flexible. It is one thing to have no plans when you are travelling alone or in a twosome, it is quite another when you have a gaggle of students. Imagine the adult equivalent of 12 kids constantly asking "Are we there yet?" and "I'm bored, what are we doing today?" for three weeks straight. We should have made more concrete plans so our group knew what to expect.
3. I didn't factor in a charge for my services. I paid the same amount as everyone else, and spent most of the three weeks frantically organizing the next leg of the trip, acting as tour guide and translator and trying to quell student frustrations. I was exhausted by the end and frustrated that people didn't enjoy it more.
4. We made the trip too long for such a large group of people. We stayed for over two weeks. Tempers started to flare and nerves got raw. If we had provided comfortable rooms where everyone could relax and get away from each other, it would have been different. But our operating on a shoestring with everyone together all the time type of trip dragged on for too long.
5. We didn't get to the airport early enough for the flight home. The Brazilian airline attendants informed me that there was no way everyone could make it on the flight, even though we had reserved seats. My friend was a native Brazilian with a terrible temper, and he played an excellent "bad cop" to my "good cop." Finally they pleaded with me "If you can make that man shut up and go away, we will put you all in first class."
On the upside, we did get interviewed by a national Brazilian television station who did a story on our visit to their country to learn a native art form. They filmed an interview with me in Portuguese, and capped the segment off with footage of us doing the national "booty shaking dance" of Samba. Apparently, I had good hips for a gringa. At the airport, I got called up to the counter by a pair of serious-looking airline managers. Fearing visa troubles or more cancelled flights, I solemnly asked what was wrong. One leaned over and whispered to me, "Was that you on television today? Man, you can sure Samba!"
Pamela Slim is a seasoned coach who helps frustrated creatives in corporate jobs break out and start their own business. You can find her at her own blog, Escape from Cubicle Nation. Don't worry, she doesn't lead trips anymore.
June 23, 2006