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Travels in 16 Countries with Teacher Grants and Programs

Traveling U.S. Teachers, and a camel crossing in Tunisia!
Traveling U.S. Teachers, and a camel crossing in Tunisia! Readers, get psyched to learn about a whole slew of inexpensive teacher travel grants and programs, from one Teacher-Traveler who did them all!

Welcome, Libby Lupfer. Please tell us a little about yourself.

Libby: I have been a high school history teach for 20 years in the Chicago suburbs. I started teaching a little late after living in Europe, working at a ski resort, and getting a Master’s degree in History. I have taught in a wide variety of high schools as a World History, European History and Geography teacher.

TT: Excellent! Tell us about your travel background.

L: I have traveled to Asia on four different grants during the summer breaks from school. Three of those grants were Freeman Foundation grants through different universities and the EastWest Center in Honolulu. I traveled on those grants to China, Japan and Korea, Vietnam and Thailand. I also spent a summer in Malaysia and Singapore on a Fulbright-Hays grant. I also spent another summer in South Africa on another Fulbright-Hays.

Libby at ruins in Carthage, Tunisia.
Libby at ruins in Carthage, Tunisia.

After all of this educational travel, I decided to volunteer in the summer with Habitat for Humanity building houses. I went to Honduras and Ghana doing that. I also went with some colleagues last summer to Haiti to help build a school.

Lately, I have really enjoyed traveling with GEEO to Peru and than last summer, to Tunisia. I really enjoy the GEEO approach because I can travel with teachers (so I learn a lot more and network) but I don’t have to follow the agenda of a grant giver. I plan on traveling with GEEO this summer to Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil and my roommate will be a teacher that I met on the Peru trip. She is a Spanish teacher so I learn a different perspective from her.

TT: Libby, you have found and taken advantage of more great teacher travel opportunities than anyone I’ve ever encountered! Tell us more about your recent favorite, GEEO.

Camel acrobatics on the GEEO teacher travel trip to Tunisia.
Camel acrobatics on the GEEO teacher travel trip to Tunisia.

L: I learned about GEEO from a colleague who went to a National Conference for the Social Studies and met GEEO Director, Jesse Weisz. She knew that I liked to travel with groups so she told me about GEEO.

TT: Nice! How do you fund your travel adventures?

L: I started out traveling by winning grants, but lately I have been spending my own money. That said, because GEEO offers college credit for the travel, I can defer some of the costs that way. I have set up a travel savings account where part of my paycheck is directly deposited into it.

TT: Love it. Can you share with us some travel experiences that were particularly moving or powerful?

L: I can remember feeling so welcomed in Ghana. On our first day on the worksite, a woman walked up to me and tied a bracelet on my wrist. She kind of adopted me into her family from that point on.

I also remember losing my passport in Tokyo and going back to the store that I thought that I had left it at and being greeted by an anxious store manager who had kept the store open long after closing time, hoping that I would come back.

I also remember the sheer fun of riding camels in the desert both in Egypt, and later on, in Tunisia on the Sahara Desert. Most of all, I remember good friends and the common human connections I have made on every trip.

These Tunisian and American teachers stayed in touch through the Jasmine Revolution.
These Tunisian and American teachers stayed in touch by Facebook throughout the Jasmine Revolution.

TT: Absolutely beautiful. How has travel changed you as a teacher?

L: My students really love that I travel, partly because I have made the classroom beautiful and interesting with what I have brought back, but also because of my passion and stories.

They ask me so many questions about what it is like in the countries that we are learning about, and what the famous buildings, etc. are really like. I also learn how to pronounce things more correctly and a more accurate understanding of history. Through travel, I learn much more beyond the textbook.

TT: How have your travels changed you as a person?

L: My travels have definitely impacted me as a person. I feel connected to and more understanding of the world’s people. I also have learned that we all share a common human experience.

TT: Beautiful. What advice do you have for other teachers who dream of travel?

A mother and daughter in beautiful Tunisia.
A mother and daughter in beautiful Tunisia.

L: My advice to other teachers about traveling is to absolutely do it.

I am such a better teacher of Mayan or Incan History after having visited Guatemala and Peru. I have learned that there are errors in my school’s textbook.

But any teacher should travel. One summer, I traveled with a Chemistry teacher to Vietnam and Thailand and he created very interesting lessons. One was on Agent Orange (we visited an orphanage for Agent Orange children and talked with American vets who had also been exposed). He also created an experiment for his students to test whether or not women in Myanmar’s traditional sunscreen lotions really worked.

TT: What a fascinating set of experiences! Libby, thanks so much for sharing your useful tips and world of opportunities! Readers, what questions or comments do you have for Libby?

The GEEO Group at historic ruins in Tunsia. Hooray for traveling teachers!
The GEEO Group at historic ruins in Tunsia. Hooray for traveling teachers!


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Thursday 31st of July 2014

Libby and Lillie you are my heroes. Do you know of any opportunities for teachers with families to travel? Or are most of these opportunities for teachers to travel alone?

Lillie of

Thursday 31st of July 2014

Aw, thanks, Steven! I'm sure there are some such grants, but even if the only funding you get is for one person, I always argue it's worth it to splurge to bring the others. You can't put a price on memories and experiences!

Troy Puckett

Wednesday 29th of January 2014

i want to help teach in Accra/Ghana i need to be certified can i get any kind of help to get my certificate hope to heir back from you thank you x Troy Puckett

Carol Maher

Friday 23rd of August 2013

Libby, I am encouraged by your travel experiences. Are their travel opportunities for retired teachers and teachers that are currently unemployed? Carol

Libby Lupfer

Saturday 1st of February 2014

I would look at You will have to pay but it is a discounted amount. The Geeo direction, Jesse, also has ideas for writing travel grants. Good luck.


Friday 25th of January 2013

Wow! You truly inspired me! I'm a 3rd and 4th grade teacher in Orange County, California -- and recently taught 6th grade for four years prior to 3-4. I love to travel. I've also had the opportunity to travel for free; once with a group of teachers to Costa Rica and twice with a group of students to Costa Rica and Europe. I loved it! I'm hooked!

Every year now I am always researching for other means for teachers to travel for free or at a very very low cost. And now I found you. I had no idea there are grants to travel to earn credits. How does it work? I have always enjoyed history and love learning and sharing it with my students. Having experienced a place sure makes a difference when teaching -- and kids love to hear stories of places their teachers have visited.

Thank you again for sharing your experiences and would love to learn more.



Tuesday 24th of July 2012

Libby, thank you for inspiring me to keep my dream alive to travel the world!! I have been very lucky to have been awarded several travel grants throughout my years of teaching, but the last 2 I tried for, I just wasn't as lucky. I teach third grade in southern California at a school where most kids and people just don't travel too much. Thanks for sharing how deeply travel has impacted both you and your students.

Libby Lupfer

Wednesday 26th of September 2012

Thanks for your comment, Wendy. I know about not always getting travel grants. I have been traveling with lately and their trips are affordable for teachers. Plus I love traveling with groups of teachers, they are so informed and energetic. My students also don't travel much so I travel for them and share my stories so hopefully, some day they can also be inspired to go.

Lillie of

Tuesday 24th of July 2012

Wendy, thanks for your beautiful comment! Keep on trying! It's worth it!

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