Teaching Traveling: Interested in traveling abroad with students, but don’t know where to start? Nathan Allison, a teacher, traveler, and entrepreneur in Dallas, may have the solution for you! Nathan, tell us about your background.
Nathan: My name is Nathan Allison and I have lived in Texas my entire life. I teach social studies and I have been teaching for 9 years even though I am just 31. I started traveling during my last year of high school. I went on several mission trips in college and this built my love for travel and cultural exchange.
I have been traveling with my students to Europe ever since my second year of teaching. This past year I began working on a website, TeachersTravelingAbroad.com, to help teachers that want to travel with their students, but lack the direction and help to get started, especially for those teachers that lack experience in travel.
TT: Fascinating! Tell us more about how you first started traveling.
N: My first travel experience was in high school when I went to Venezuela. I was there for two weeks and we helped the locals in the impoverished areas with their physical needs. This trip made a profound impression on me and is what sparked my desire to travel and help others around the world.
I was able to see how travel broadens the mind and when I became a teacher, I knew that I had to provide this same opportunity to my students. Today, I take students mainly to Europe so they can see history first-hand. I honestly believe that taking my students overseas is the most important activity I do with them. I cannot replicate in the classroom what travel does to a person.
TT: I totally hear you. The trip I took to China with my students was unforgettable. How did you find your first travel opportunity?
N: My first trip was through my church, so we took part in fundraising in order to fund our trip. I sent out support letters as well as activates like car washes. When I became a teacher, I learned about educational travel through a brochure I received in my box at work. I decided to give it a shot and see what happens. That one decision has truly set the course for me as a teacher.
TT: Yes! How did you find the money to fund your travel?
N: With mission trips I raised money, but with educational travel I go for free and make money doing it. The students raise money for their trip through fundraising as well as working outside of school. I give students plenty of time so they can raise money and make this dream a reality.
As far as for personal travel, I use the money and other bonuses through the travel company I use to fund my travel. I take my wife and kids throughout the U.S. using the free plane tickets I earn and then use my reward points with my travel company to go on trips like Costa Rica this coming summer for free for 6 nights.
TT: Inspiring. Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful, interesting, or funny.
N: In 2012, I was traveling through northern France with my students and we stopped for lunch. I was starving so I was looking for a dish with plenty of meat! I know very little French, so looking at a menu does little for me. I found an item with a word I recognized, tartare, but I did not remember what it meant.
I went ahead and placed my order feeling confident that I would be eating some type of steak. I was right on the steak part, but I did not realize it would be served raw with a raw egg placed on top. I suffered through several bites before I threw in the towel and ate some pizza that a student across from me ordered.
TT: Hah! How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your current career?
N: My travels have impacted me more as a teacher than anything else I have done, including professional development! Students often comment how they are more engaged in my class due to the experiences I share with them. They can see how what I am teaching them applies in the real-world.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?
N: Personally I feel a greater empathy for others outside of my own country. Travel has helped me see past the artificial walls that divide us and has allowed me to put myself in others shoes to see the world from their perspective. I truly believe that travel and the knowledge that comes from it is key to approaching the world’s greatest problems.
TT: What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?
N: I strongly believe that teachers should travel with their students, no matter what you teach. It is the best way to impact their lives in a lasting way. Leading student trips allows you to pursue personal travel as well with little to no cost since you can earn rewards and stipends through the student trips.
TT: Thanks so much Nathan! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?