Designing a Heritage Journey to your child’s birth country continued:
After last week’s newsletter about the fears and concerns that prevent parents from planning a Heritage Journey to their child’s birth country, I thought I should talk about some of the fundamentals – different types of heritage trips that are available to adoptive families and how they operate.
Understanding the different types of heritage trips.
There are several companies that offer heritage travel for families with adopted children. When choosing the type of heritage journey that best fits your family, keep in mind the needs of every family member – the parents, the adopted child, as well as any siblings that will travel. Heritage trips are typically either group trips or customized for individual families.
Group heritage trips tend to focus on well-known cultural sites, cultural immersion activities and optional visits to orphanages, to meet foster families or to find birth families. A group typically consists of ten or more participants. Group trips have set departure dates and a structured itinerary that might not allow for as much individual customization.
Large groups (30+ participants) usually have a well-trained guide(s) on the tour and often a social worker or staff member as additional support. Smaller groups are often run using well-trained local guides. Group tours are not as flexible as customized trips but are typically less expensive.
Customized heritage trips are carefully planned and designed to consider the individual family members’ preferences, needs, and schedule. They can be focused on cultural immersion, adventure activities, heritage sites, service learning or events – it depends on what each family is trying to achieve during their trip. Well-trained local guides typically escort a family on a customized heritage trip. These guides are chosen based on the family’s needs. A customized heritage trip is typically more expensive but will offer a range of options from which a family can choose – depending on their budget, comfort level required, timing and needs.
When traveling with my daughter to China, we participated in a large group trip that included many famous cultural sites from The Forbidden City to the Great Wall of China. We were able to hold live baby panda bears (my daughter’s favorite part by the way) and visit the mysterious offices of the CCAA (the governmental body that processes all Chinese adoptions). With a large group trip, we enjoyed the benefits of economy of scale but at times it was an exhausting and structured itinerary that seemed overly rigid and very impersonal. Although I am by nature outgoing and energized by meeting new people, it became apparent that my more introverted daughter was increasingly withdrawn being around people day and night with such a structured itinerary.
The large group trip did not always serve to connect us more deeply; rather it caused friction at different times throughout our two-week journey. Overall the experience was positive, but in hindsight, a large group trip would have better suited my son, who like me, enjoys interacting with many different types of people. Being a travel planner, I broke my golden rule; understand the needs of the family before designing their trip!
By contrast, when traveling solely with my family – although less economically beneficial – I design the trip to take consideration the likes, dislikes, and needs of everyone in my family thus creating more positive moments (therefor memories) for each of us. There is a natural intensity to foreign travel that can be harnessed to manage experiences and outcomes when traveling with a very small group (like a family or even two families traveling together). It is also easier to manage expectations and have a more fluid and dynamic itinerary.
For instance, we can replace a visit to a sought out cultural site that might not interest everyone in the family with a more personalized visit to a lesser known site, to cook a meal with a local family, to climb a mountain or bicycle around a local village. Bottom line, the smaller the group the easier it is to include adventure or cultural activities that suit the specific family. It is the ability to make these small changes, taking into consideration each traveler, which contributes to a positive overall experience.
Now is the time to begin planning a Heritage Journey for 2018 so when you’re ready, I’d love to help!
I know this decision can be a tough one so if you’d like to schedule a 30-minute call just to talk, I’m always excited to explore your options with you. You can schedule a call with me at www.calendly.com/bambi.
More to come next week!
My best to each of you,
Bambi Wineland is the mother of two internationally adopted children, a traveler, a Certified Professional Coach, and the Founder and CEO of Motherland Travel. Motherland Travel began by designing Heritage Journeys for families with internationally adopted children. The emphasis of those Heritage Journeys has always been on deepening family connections, building self-esteem and cultivating pride in a family’s multi-cultural heritage. Motherland Travel also uses the philosophies of transformative Travel for designing family trips with purpose – building rich connections, with each other and the world! Read more about her here >> http://motherlandtravel.com/