Reflection by RLT Alumni Parent Allison Kimmich:
My husband Nik and I sat in the hotel lobby, leaning over his cell phone listening to our son Sameer on speaker from his Road Less Traveled program in Tanzania.
“Hi son, how are you?!” Nik exclaimed.
“Hi honey, we miss you!” I chimed in.
“Hi guys, I’m great! This is the best experience of my life!” Sameer’s happiness and enthusiasm spilled through the phone.
Our typically taciturn son poured out details for the few minutes allocated to him: he loved the children in the orphanage. He enjoyed the delicious food. He admired his group leaders. He had developed amazing friendships with fellow participants on his trip. He had visited the Hadza tribe, witnessed a goat sacrifice, and tasted the meat.
We interjected with a question or two, or the occasional, “Wow!” Then it was time for Sameer to hang up.
You might think that Sameer had an exceptional experience in Tanzania.
From our perspective as the parents of two children who have together participated in six programs on five continents (Pura Vida, Footsteps of Giants, 5280′, Aotearoa, Sigue No Mas, and Hujambo) we know that the joy, connection, and sense of discovery that Sameer articulated are typical of RLT programs.
For example, our daughter Maya came home from her kayaking, hiking, and biking adventure in Norway knowing she had not only tested the limits of her endurance but also discovered new depths of emotion. A postcard she wrote for us that day still hangs on a bulletin board in our kitchen: “I have never felt happier than I did today. As we biked down the mountain there was an incredible waterfall on our left. It was so breathtaking that when we stopped to soak it all in we all started crying!”
We could go on to list moments like this from each trip our children have taken, and we know that RLT’s philosophy and program design make such moments possible. For example, we have been impressed by the ways that trip leaders foster a sense of community and inclusion among the participants as well as a respect for the environment and local people. With a respite from their electronic devices, our son and daughter have been free to immerse themselves fully in new surroundings and relationships: what a gift!
As parents we sometimes focus on our worries. After all, enrolling a son or daughter in an RLT program is a leap of faith: Will they adjust to the time away from home? Will they make friends? How will they adapt to new foods and cultures?
We know firsthand that such concerns pale next to the growth and sense of wonder our children have experienced discovering the world with The Road Less Traveled. We took the leap of faith and it has paid far greater dividends than we could have imagined. We hope you will do the same!
Allison Kimmich works as a research consultant on gender issues. For fourteen years she led the National Women’s Studies Association. Under her leadership, NWSA grew into an international network of nearly 3,000 members with professional development, research, and advocacy initiatives to support women’s studies and women’s center professionals.
Her efforts to advance diversity at NWSA were recognized when the National Council for Research on Women awarded NWSA its Member Center Diversity and Inclusion award in 2010.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and French from Muskingum University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in women’s studies from Emory University. She is also a dedicated runner and has completed seven marathons, including New York City, Chicago, and Boston.
Allison’s two children, Maya and Sameer, have spent many summers traveling with RLT in New Zealand , Ecuador, Norway, Costa Rica, Colorado, and Tanzania. This summer, we are excited to have Maya and Sameer join us once again! Sameer will be traveling as a participant, and Maya will be joining us for her first year as a trip leader.
For a student’s perspective on RLT, read Maya’s incredible blog post about overcoming obstacles on her New Zealand program!