Have you ever wanted to travel in a more meaningful way and together as a family?  For me, I personally find the trips in which I’m traveling sustainably and giving back to the local communities I visit, to be the most rewarding trips of my life. From that first trip to Nepal in 2010 where I raised money to build a rural reading center to my climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro to raise funds for Solar Sister and bring solar electricity to Sub-Saharan Africa, I have always believed in the power of travel to make a difference.  So what if you could combine this kind of transformational, meaningful travel with a family trip and bring your kids? That is the very concept behind Global Family Travels, a travel company that offers enriching cultural immersion experiences for families to “Learn, Serve, and Immerse”.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Jennifer Spatz, founder of Global Family Travels, and here is what she had to say.

When were you founded?

Much more than a traditional tour operator, Global Family Travels (GFT) was founded by Jennifer Spatz in 2010.

What inspired you to found Global Family Adventures? 

There were two things that inspired me to start Global Family Travels: An inspirational quote and her own family travels.

The inspirational quote was by Jeffrey Sachs and I found it on of a Starbucks Coffee Mug, “The Way I See It #262”:

“We are the First Generation in history that can end extreme poverty. That is our good fortune, our challenge, and our responsibility.”

Global Family Travels Zimbabwe

Jennifer Spatz, Founder of Global Family Travels visiting School in Zimbabwe

From the age of 6 months old, when I was transported to Europe on the S.S. Independence I was given the gift of traveling abroad with my own family. Those special bonding experiences as a family sharing enriching and cultural learning experiences are etched in my heart. (examples – Riding through the rice paddies of Taiwan with my mother in a small Datsun to celebrate the harvest moon festivities with our friends; or hauling a small Christmas tree in a small village in Austria and decorating it with candles and traditional wooden ornaments) These experiences also instilled values of compassion and understanding for different cultures and something I wanted to recreate for our travelers.

Global Family Travel trips offer the opportunity to strengthen your own family bonds and experience the joy and fulfillment of meeting new people, discovering other cultures while reaffirming what matters most…our shared values and connectedness. 

When you venture outside your world—and outside of yourself—with an open mind and heart, you open yourself to the timeless truths that bind us together as fellow human beings, no matter how different we may look, dress or speak.  Now imagine doing this as a family on an immersive service-learning and cultural exploration vacation.  Each of Global Family Travels has a volunteer component that bonds families from different cultures as they work side-by-side and learn from each other to effect positive change.

What is your mission?

Much more than a traditional tour operator, Global Family Travels’ mission is to “Learn, Serve and Immerse,” to foster cross-cultural understanding and global citizens.  In partnership with community-based partners, schools and non-profit organizations, we offer family-friendly, sustainable travel experiences in support of some key  United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). In partnership with community-based tour operators and local non-profit organizations, Global Family Travels creates and offers service-learning tours for families which include a unique mix of cultural and educational activities, homestays and participation in local service projects aimed at improving the lives of people in the communities we visit.   

Global Family Travels

Reading to new friends. Photo credit: Global Family Travels

At the core of Global Family Travels is the passion and love the owner and founder Jennifer Spatz has for connecting people and cultures worldwide, building stronger family ties while expanding one’s family circle, and helping to foster and inspire the next generation of local and global leaders who will take responsibility for the challenges and opportunities facing our increasingly interconnected planet. 

You can listen to Global Family Travels/Jennifer’s travel philosophy in this recent podcast by This Travel Tribe: How to Create Vacations that Combat Global Issues. 

What makes you unique in the sustainable travel field? 

Community-Based Travel:Like any buzzword, the term “sustainability” has become overused, but in essence it means society meeting its current economic and environmental needs without limiting the ability of future generations to meet their needs. In the travel world, I prefer to the phrase “meaningful community-based travel,”  and since I launched  Global Family Travels  in 2010, my mission has been to create family-friendly trips that are truly meaningful, encouraging travelers of all ages to become both stewards of the environment and citizens of the world. So not only do you get to take a transformative bucket-list vacation to an exotic land and, along the way, you’ll help teach your kids life lessons about responsibility, compassion,  sustainable development , and cultural awareness. 

Global Family Travels strives to build thoughtfully-planned itineraries that include  making strong cross-cultural connections offers culturally immersive, family-friendly trips to support the local communities we visit through the good work of several non-profits and communities with a focus on critical global issues aligned around some key  United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs),   such as access to Quality Education, Clean Water and Sanitation, and Gender Equality, and Life Below Water. 

Global Family Travels

Connecting with the community. Photo Credit: Global Family Travels

I recommend looking for  “sustainable tourism” (community-based) opportunities that emphasize authentic cultural immersion experiences since they will give your family a true, local taste of a destination. Our trips are designed so that you still visit the destination’s most iconic sights – and you’ll also get to meet local people, have the privilege to engage in real conversations and discover the local community’s challenges and triumphs. 

Many of our immersive trips include some homestay accommodations, which let your family spend a night or two in a local family’s home and share time and meals together. Some of my fondest memories are of my kids playing with the children of a host family, effortlessly proving how breaking down language and cultural barriers can be as easy as a game of tag or soccer. 

What are some highlights of your top five tours? 

If your dual goals are to discover the world as a family and also make a positive impact along the way, you’re in luck.  Every continent and corner of the world  offers wonderful opportunities for travelers to make a positive impact when they visit through working with Global Family Travels partners and communities. 

Here are 5 of our top favorite destinations to Learn-Serve and Immerse but many more listed on our Upcoming Trips Page

Bali

Bali: Learn, Serve & Immerse (April 3-14, 2020) 

An island famous for its stunning beaches, captivating culture and mystical traditions, on this trip you’ll learn about the Tri Hita Karana, the central philosophy of the Balinese people, enjoy a fun music workshop, witness a performance of the Balinese Legong dance, sample the flavors of delicious Balinese cuisine, and explore the backroads of Bali’s heartland on two wheels.   

More importantly, this trip offers opportunities to help address some global challenges that Bali faces. In Bali and across Indonesia, there is a looming water crisis as groundwater is consumed at an alarming rate in the tourism sector and other industries, and communities, as well as marine life, are being comprised by the alarming use of plastics. On this program, you will learn about the challenges with plastics and clean water access in Bali and complete a service project alongside two organizations working to address the issue. 

Early-bird special: $150 off by March 1 by using  Code Meaningful2020.  

Global Family Travels Bali trip

Bali, Learn, Serve and Immerse Trip. Photo credit: Global Family Travel

Cuba

Cuba: Explore & Color with Colorful Havana (Custom Spring Dates) 

Discover the colors of  Cuba and  support the Cuban People  through the lens of  Colorful Havana -Explore & Color  book , a fun trip for kids and adults alike!  Exploring Cuba through the lens of the coloring book as a travel guide. A highlight of this trip is a day of engagement with Los Pocitos, a Havana community project in a neighborhood that serves as the center of the Abakúa fraternal society, and an informal settlement unique for its active expressions of Afro-Cuban identities and contentious religious practices.  While rich in culture, the people of Los Pocitos rely on an informal economy to subsist.  We will learn about how this project has helped the community build more secure livelihoods by drawing on their strengths. 

On this trip, you will learn from authentic interactions with Cubans who are passionate about music, dance, visual arts, baseball, and cars, and who are happy to share their talents with visitors.  Through the Explore & Color Book, you will learn about many of Havana’s colorful locations, including 9 UNESCO World Heritage sites, and the beautiful colonial cities of Trinidad and Cienfuegos.   Learn more about Cuba in our latest blog: Why Now is the Perfect Time to Travel to Cuba. 

Early-bird special: $150 off by March 1 by using Code Meaningful2020.  

Cuban Dancers Global Family Travels

Cuban Dancers. Photo credit: Global Family Travels

India

Ladakh, India Trips to Learn, Serve & Immerse   

Ladakh, India is one of the most magical destinations that we travel to and has always been at the heart and soul of Global Family Travels.  Set high in the Himalaya on the western edge of the Tibetan plateau, Ladakh’s scenic beauty of snow peak glaciers, a stunning landscape dotted with Buddhist monasteries and stupas, majestic rivers and crystal lakes offer endless natural beauty.  We invite you to join us for a unique experience in this special region in India and experience some of India’s grandest wonders along the way. 

Every Summer, we have the pleasure to return to Ladakh on our Learn, Serve & Immerse trip with many travelers who are supporters of the Siddhartha School, a school that we have worked with since 2010 which provides high-quality education in remote parts of the Himalayas, while preserving Ladakhi culture. 

 Learning themes unique to all of our tours in Ladakh include: 

  • Sustainable Living 
  • Tibetan Buddhist and Northern Indian culture and history 
  • Environmental and social issues affecting the Ladakh region 
Ladakh Homestay Global Family Travels

Ladakh Homestay. Photo credit: Global Family Travels

Immerse: Ladakhi Homestay  

A highlight of our time in Ladakh is our homestay with our local family in the village of Stok.  The ethnically diverse and joyful people of this region live in a sustainable, harmonious balance with the environment and have much to teach us.  During our homestay, we spent precious time with our gracious host family, helping in daily chores, tending animals, working fields, playing with the children and getting to know our families.  Learn more about our experiences in this blog: Highlights from our 2018 Learn, Serve & Immerse Ladakh Trip. 

In 2020, we are planning two trips to magical Ladakh and are happy to customize our Learn, Serve & Immerse trip for people interested 

Ladakh : A Social Impact Photo Adventure  

Explore the rich cultural heritage and beauty of Ladakh, India while learning photography and visual storytelling skills from  Merrill Images. In partnership with the  Ladakh Arts & Media Organization (LAMO), you’ll also have the opportunity to use your visual storytelling skills to help Ladakhi Non-profit organizations (NGOs) doing vital work to strengthen communities, promote cultural heritage and foster sustainable development.   Global Family Travels’ 3 travel pillars of  Learn, Serve and Immerse  are woven throughout our itinerary.  Whether an avid photographer or casual phone-camera user, you’ll dive deep into local life, explore the artistic and technical sides of photography, and create compelling images to treasure and share.  

Early-bird special: $200 off by March 1 by using  Code:Ladakh-Photo 

Peru 

Peru’s civilization is the oldest in South America and although it is well known for being the heart of the Inca Empire, the country was also home to many diverse indigenous cultures long before the Incas arrived.  Travelers on each of these trips will also learn more about the ancient Inca civilization and explore Peru’s Sacred Valley. Of course, a visit to Peru is not complete without taking in the magic of the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World! 

Here are the highlights of Global Family Travels 2 Spring Trips to Peru that Empower Women and Support the Education of Children with Disabilities: and we invite you to click on the links to learn more and join us!  

Peru Global Family Trip. Photo Credit Awamaki

Peru: Learn, Serve, Immerse (April 11-19) 

Join Global Family Travels  and global educator and trip Leader Vicki Weeks for an incredible journey to explore the culture and society of contemporary Peru, and work side-by-side in the Sacred Valley with a rural Andean community to support women artisans and their local businesses.  

On this 9-day trip to Peru, you will learn about the ancient history of the Sacred Valley and be welcomed by the diverse Peruvian people who take pride in offering incredible services and experiences to visitors that include traditional foods, celebrations, and festivals.  Families will stay several days in a homestay with an Andean family, which provides a wonderfully intimate view of the local way of life, and will learn about the ancient history and cultures of the Sacred Valley, volunteer to help build a center for local female artisans and be welcomed by the diverse Peruvian people who take pride in offering incredible services and experiences to visitors that include traditional foods, celebrations, and festivals. This tour has an emphasis on development, as it pertains to helping the local community improve their living conditions in Peru and will help travelers understand how  Awamaki, our partner, approaches development in their work with female artisans. 

Lend A Hand with Manos Unidas (April 3-12 or April 11-19) 

On this 9-day trip to Peru, you will learn about the ancient history and cultures of the Sacred Valley, volunteer with  Manos Unidas Perua non-profit school for special education in Cusco, Peru with the mission to help improve the quality of life for children with disabilities and their families. You will be welcomed by the diverse Peruvian people who take pride in offering incredible services and experiences to visitors that include traditional foods, celebrations, and festivals.   

Travelers will have the opportunity to engage and volunteer with Manos Unidas and learn firsthand how the organization is improving  the quality of life for youth with disabilities in Cusco, Peru. 

Early-bird special: $150 off by March 1 by using  Code Meaningful2020.  

Zimbabwe 

Zimbabwe Safari & Painted Dog Conservation Adventure (Custom Spring Dates) 

Immerse in the natural wonders and spectacular views of Victoria Falls, the Zambezi River, and Batoka Gorge. Located in southeastern Africa, Zimbabwe is known for its natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, several UNESCO World Heritage sites, and serene, crowd-free, and abundant wildlife parks.   

This 10-day Conservation Safari in Zimbabwe offers the extraordinary opportunity to work on a conservation project to save the beautiful African Painted Dog, one of the most vulnerable species on the continent. We have a conservation service day with the Painted Dog Research Trust which also operates an environmentally self-sustaining campus of education and conservation for the Szinda Community outside of Victoria Falls. Beyond employment and educational opportunities provided to the local community, they are also building a conservation community center and the first Conservation Primary School in Africa. Of course, you will also learn about the history of Safari, while discovering the extraordinary wildlife thriving in the Hwange and Zambezi National Parks and support local communities bordering Hwange National Park and outside Victoria Falls through our local sustainable lodge partner. 

Early-bird special: $150 off by March 1 by using  Code Meaningful2020.  

Zimbabwe wild dogs Global Family Travels

Zimbabwe tracking a pack of wild dogs on foot. Photo credit: Global Family Travels

How are you helping sustainable, responsible travel? 

The impact of responsible travel has both a sustainable and transformational impact on people and places. Tourism is one of the driving forces of global economic growth, and  currently accounts for 1 in 11 jobs worldwide, and Global Family Travels trips support work opportunities in the tourism sector, as well as the local communities we engage with, particularly youth and women, who benefit from enhanced  skills and professional development.   

Global Family Travels’ trips reflect our active commitment to responsible travel  experiences which propagate our three pillars of Learn-Serve and Immerse and provide for authentic engagement and  collaboration with the  communities we visit.  These experiences help  understand and support their  needs by creating  inclusive and equitable economic opportunities while still preserving their culture. Responsible travel also respects the people who are our hosts, their culture and the places we visit. Best of all, our travelers get the chance to experience the joy and fulfillment of working alongside the local community while making lifelong friends. 

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Global Family Travels 5 life-changing trips for the entire family

 

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