When I traveled by myself
in the past
I’d book that ticket,
pack that suitcase,
hop on the train or plane
and would just be gone
for the time being.
When I traveled with a group of students
under the age of 18
and some without a German passport
and some with serious medical conditions
to a non-European urban destination
and a very limited budget
for the very first time
(for all of us),
the previous travel ease turned into
a logistical headstand and ever-changing adventure.
Here are some revelations from me
in semi-chronological order and in poetic form
because after all,
the harder it got, the harder we dreamt
and the more intensely we experienced everything
when it finally all came true.
First, I needed permission from the boss
to be exempt from work
with a colleague
and all my students
for three days.
Then I wrote to the parents,
and asked for their permission and signatures
as well as emergency contact information
and the medical issues of their children.
Already, I had a pile on my desk
of well over 40 pages.
Next was cutting video footage for a video
we’d send to private and public partners
Because our budget would merely suffice
for five meals per person.
Next were follow-up emails and letters and phone-calls
after school and in the evenings.
Then I began collecting passport copies from the students
which added another 20 pages to the pile of papers.
I booked the tickets with my boss by my side
and all of the sudden, there was no backing out
At this point, we had about 30% of our funding in,
if at all
and 8 weeks until departure day.
No reason to panic
Next, we checked centrally located hostels and availabilities
for 18 people.
There weren’t many left
and the one I ended up booking
had received 130 horrible reviews
on most travel apps.
My heartbeat quickened,
but this was only a short trip
On the same day I found out
that my five non-German students would need visas,
which for the UK
cost 200 Euro per person.
And there it went, our budget.
So I filled out pages and pages of visa applications,
booked appointments at the embassy,
and paid the fees.
My credit card had a heart-attack on that day.
One day later, I received an email
with a 1000 Euro donation
and promptly started crying.
Two days later, I received another email,
this time from Berlin,
saying that since this was a school trip,
we didn’t need visas
and instead only a so-called travelers’ list
signed by the school and the office for foreign residents.
I felt like crying again
because I was just meeting up with some more sponsors.
Then I booked train tickets on German and UK grounds
and subway tickets for the city
and stored away all receipts in yet another folder.
The pile now ate up half my kitchen table.
Then there were travel packing lists for the students,
reflection guides and itineraries,
which all needed printing and distributing
even to those who were ill
or otherwise unable to come to class.
Then there were trips to the office of foreigners
and long waiting lines and crowded hallways.
Finally, the list was approved.
Around that time, we also had our funding in.
This was four days before departure time.
On the first travel day I realized that the walking pace
needed to be set by the slowest,
the food determined by the most restricted diets,
and my sleeping cycle by incidents during the night.
So our program changed,
our food choices became more cognizant
and my amount of sleep cut roughly in half.
(No quite, but it felt like it.)
But the more the students planned and plotted themselves
around each others’ needs
and with great communication,
the more fun we had,
and the more they owned the project.
We walked and talked,
we surprised each other in more than one way
and we learned a ton, and not just language related.
The trip out to a British school
was probably the most prominent highlight,
because the kids could relate to each other and the circumstances.
The hospitality blew us away and assured us
that learning is best when communal
and always emotional!
We returned sleep-deprived and happy
and ready to take on new adventures!
With the money that we have left over
(I know!!! I ask myself how that happened every day!!!),
we will pay for Thank You packages to our hosts at the school,
Thank You cards to sponsors
and other school-related materials.
We cherish this memory like no other
because it proved that it starts with believing:
believing in ourselves, believing in our dreams,
and showing other people that if they believe in both as well,
we can do excellent work
and help to make this place
just that tad bit more interconnected!
And so this poem
is the last sheet on my pile
which I will now ban from my table
so it’s free again
for the next big thing!