The Road Less Traveled
2331 N. Elston Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
June 24 - July 8, 2018 // 15 Days
July 11 - July 25, 2018 // 15 Days
Twelve years later, the Gulf Coast remains relevant to our mission at The Road Less Traveled.
After Hurricane Katrina pounded south Louisiana in 2005, aid poured in from across the country. After Hurricane Harvey made landfall in August and dropped more than 2 feet of rain, thousands more people in Houston and along the Gulf Coast have been displaced. We are committed to bringing stability to this vital region. Our work is not finished.
If she was an olympian and won a gold medal, I’d be more proud of her for doing this.” - Parent of Savannah G., New Orleans: The Gulf Coast
Travel with us to New Orleans on a 15-day teen community service trip and hurricane relief program focused on the residents and coastal wetlands of Louisiana. Based in the Crescent City, we volunteer and partner with local homeowners who are rebuilding their lives through the devastation from natural and human-made disasters over the past decade. We work to bring community gardens to low-income neighborhoods and provide aid to the ecological system of destroyed marshes, sand dunes, and islands.
The Gulf Coast has a lived-in, cozy feeling that’s fun and easy. Everything that makes life worth living is here: eating, music, architecture and culture. Journey to find an expression of tradition, community spirit, and joy that can only be found in the charming city of New Orleans.
Keep scrolling to learn more about our service trip to New Orleans and how you can make a real difference with your summer!
New Orleans is surrounded by water – the Great River, Lake Pontchartrain, and the ever-encroaching Gulf of Mexico!
A beignet-free trip to New Orleans would be a travesty! For more than 150 years, the French Market Café Du Monde has entertained guests with signature fried treats, café au lait, and prime seating to view the nonstop parade of tourists, street performers, and local characters.
Vieux Carré, the French Quarter, is the city’s oldest neighborhood. Colorful gardens add natural beauty to the square where coins are tossed wishfully into the fountain. The crescent along the Mississippi River is the setting for iconic New Orleans photographs.
Mysterious moss-draped bayous are home for flora and fauna found nowhere else in the country. Cruise on a fanboat through age-old cypresses, among 10-foot gators, and where long-legged waterfowl wait patiently to scoop up their dinner.
As the gutting of homes, rebuilding of levees, and removal of debris continues, the Labyrinth stands as a symbol of hope for the New Orleans community: a place to heal, walk together, and celebrate the city's culture.
Human and natural causes are behind Hurricane Katrina's remarkable loss of life, land, and property. Volunteers continue to lend a hand to the flooded neighborhoods that still need help where life is hardly back to normal.
Sold from trucks, windows, and sweet shops, sno-balls (not snow cones) are a local treat of finely shaved ice drenched in colorful syrup. Flavors range from the traditional to the uber-contemporary (satsuma, cardamom, and ginger).
Among the benefits of eating in New Orleans: silverware is frequently optional. Eating with your hands is the only way to get through a bowl of crawfish from The Fisherman. More napkins, anyone?
A ragtag collection of artists and fortune-tellers gathers here at heart and soul of the French Quarter. At the Square’s crown is the Hurricane Katrina Museum and three 18th-century architectural glories: the Cabildo, where the Louisiana Purchase was signed, St. Louis Cathedral, and the Presbytère.
It’s love at first bite with these delicious sandwiches made from fresh French bread slathered with mayonnaise and crammed with fried Gulf oysters or shrimp.
New Orleans relies on the skill and creativity of its chefs. Foodies can expand their culinary horizons and learn about traditional recipes and ingredients from Chef Ricardo.
North America’s largest museum devoted to insects explains how mosquitoes have influenced New Orleans and provides glimpses of rare pink katydids and giant hissing cockroaches. Lunch is served at the Bug Appétit, a snack bar featuring Cajun-spiced crickets and chocolate “chirp” cookies.
Live oaks, wrought iron, pillars, and porticos make up spectacular 19th-century mansions built in styles ranging from Greek revival to gothic. This district also houses Lafayette Cemetery #1, possibly the most photogenic necropolis on the planet. Dirty Coast is the destination for home grown t-shirts!
There’s nothing like viewing the tree-lined St. Charles Avenue through the open windows of an old swaying streetcar. Classic mahogany bench seats and romantic scenery make the trip more than a ride with plenty of entertainment along the way.
The sounds of jazz are everywhere in the Crescent City. From trumpeters at Preservation Hall to other venues scattered throughout New Orleans, sweet melodies rise through the warm air.
Disaster Relief, Hurricane Reconstruction, Replanting Native Trees, Wetland and Ecosystem Rehabilitation
A Certificate of Community Service indicating the total number of hours worked and a Presidential Volunteer Service Award will be issued upon successful completion of the program.
Explore: French Quarter, Area Beaches, Audubon Park, Cafe du Monde, Jackson Square
Tour: Bayou fan boat tour on Bayou Barataria, Voodoo Tour, Hurricane Katrina Museum
Class: Cajun Cooking
Attend: Preservation Hall Jazz Band Performance
Kayak: Historic Manshac Swamp & Bayou
8 - 12
We stay in a private home. Bedrooms will be divided by gender and participants will sleep slumber party style – in sleeping bags, rotating available beds nightly. Showers are available; however, we shower every three to four days to conserve resources and support sustainability.
New Orleans, LA
Join in on the fun! Check out #tgcRLT for a behind-the-scenes look at photos from past participants and leaders.
Disasters on the Gulf Coast seem to be a given. Since 2005, our attention has turned from the destruction of Katrina, Rita, and Ike, to the ongoing concern of oil coming from fractures in the floor of the gulf. Residents, the marine and wildlife habitats, and diverse fishing and tourism industries still struggle to recover and the Gulf Coast remains one of the most vulnerable areas in the U.S.
Years later, it is still a challenge to find basic resources in New Orleans – especially in the Lower Ninth Ward. Houses and businesses remain decimated and the area remains a food desert with nowhere to find fresh groceries.
We continue our work outdoors providing aid to the ecological system of destroyed marshes, sand dunes, and islands. In a region that loses wetland area the size of a football field every hour, action is critical.
Working alongside residents, we cultivate nurseries in abandoned lots to restore the wetlands of southern Louisiana. We plant new growth while removing damaged plants and invasive species to help slow down erosion and protect valuable natural resources.
We join sustainable social enterprises to clear vacant lots so they can be built upon by local residents who are still working to restore flood-ravaged homes.
In nearby Cajun Country, we explore local waters by boat to understand the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the challenges that threaten the survival of residents who have lived here for generations.
While this trip is a labor of love, there is time to experience native culture, music, and dance in the French Quarter at the world famous Preservation Hall. We enjoy art, architecture, bayou tours, voodoo tours, cooking classes, and cuisine – including a stop at the original French coffee market stand for beignets and sweet café au lait.
Though we cannot call our time in New Orleans “The Big Easy,” there is a feeling of true accomplishment and pride that comes from working alongside homeowners and conservationists who have dedicated their lives to saving this great city and its natural habitats.
Arrive in New Orleans, settle in.
Orientation, visit the Hurrican Katrina Museum, familiarize ourselves with the city.
Provide aid to threatened ecological systems. Create nurseries, restore wetlands, help plant new growth that will slow down erosion, and remove damaged plants and invasive species. Help to brighten communities disproportionately affected by storms by assisting local residents to restore damaged homes and community buildings.
Explore Audubon Park and take a Bayou Tour on a fan boat.
Continue our service work in New Orleans. In the afternoons, we will practice our culinary skills in a Cajun cooking class, kayak through the cypress trees and spanish moss in a local bayou, listen to an authentic jazz performance, try a renowned Po’ Boy, and walk through the famous Garden District.
Enjoy the delicious sounds, tastes, and smells of the French Quarter. Visit the incomparable Café du Monde, take a tour of classic New Orleans architecture and voodoo dens. Close with our traditional final banquet.
Say goodbye to our new friends and fly home.
The Road Less Traveled does not require any vaccinations or immunizations to travel with us, other than an up-to-date tetanus shot or booster (within the last nine years).
Please click below to view your program’s equipment and packing list!
For an emailed copy of this program’s day-to-day calendar, please call our office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST at 773-342-5200 and we’ll happily send you one!
It is imperative that no one make any travel arrangements until RLT provides instructions for specific arrival and departure time windows. Those details are typically released in mid-spring.
Families are individually responsible for booking their own airfare to get their student from home to the starting destination of New Orleans, LA (MSY) on the first day of the trip, and from the ending destination of New Orleans, LA (MSY) back home on the last day of the trip.