Alltagsmagie

something_s we make

Grouptravels

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

for funding.

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

anymore.

At this point, we had about 30% of our funding in,

if at all

and 8 weeks until departure day.

No reason to panic

just yet.

 

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

after all.

 

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.

 

But.

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

but didn’t

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!

About Marie-Sophie Guntram

Marie-Sophie is a language lover at heart and a linguist by training. She's currently seeking to make a living and, more importantly, a life.

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This entry was posted on March 16, 2016 by in writing some poetry.