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June 27 - July 21, 2019
Join us on a 25-day teen community service trip and cultural immersion program in Vietnam! Bạn Thân, or “Best Friends” in Vietnamese, is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit one of the world’s greatest destinations: Vietnam. Participants on The Road experience a nation that is filled with beauty, gracious people, and a culture that is deeply compelling. We experience city life in Hanoi before volunteering to empower students at Friendship Village, where children living with the effects of dioxins from the herbicide “Agent Orange”, find support. We adventure through the splendor of Sapa Valley before spending time in Hòa Bình province where we stay with a local family, helping to maintain their home on construction and gardening based projects. Genuine interactions, meaningful service, amazing food and fun await you in Vietnam.
“Nicole loved interacting with the Vietnamese people she met on the trip. The program section at Friendship Village was eye-opening for her - it's a part of American history that wasn't really discussed in her American history class, so to see the effects of Agent Orange first-hand definitely made an impact... we are thrilled that this trip has provided a push towards thinking about philanthropy and taking an active role in educating others." - Parent of Nicole T., Vietnam: Ban Than
Join us for a unique journey through one of Southeast Asia’s top destinations, making meaningful connections, and inevitably, new best friends that will last a lifetime.
Keep scrolling to learn more about this community service trip and cultural immersion program in Vietnam!
Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam for almost a thousand years, has a beating heart called the Old Quarter. The streets, typically divided by trade (ie: silk, jewelry, woodcraft), beg to be explored by the curious, with new discoveries around every corner.
#2 Friendship Village
Be a part of the “symbol of international solidarity, reconciliation, and the continued efforts to heal the pains of war caused by Agent Orange,” while sharing skills, helping in the garden, and playing games with the residents.
#3 Splendors of Sapa Valley
It’s a view like none other: the diverse ecosystem among the carpet of paddy fields with green as far as the eye can see! Mix in the Gothic stone church in the middle of town from the French missionary roots and come away with a unique blend of the past and present.
Simple yet oh so incredible, the broth, noodles, herbs, and more of pho have a way of feeding the body and the soul. Don’t miss out on Vietnam’s most popular (and many say most delicious) dish!
Meaning, “Descending Dragon Bay,” Hạ Long Bay is made up of countless limestone karsts and gorgeous rock formations. Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994, the floating houses of fishermen, along with the antelopes, monkeys, and lizards call this magical area home.
Though there is plenty of action to be found in Hanoi, it is sometimes called “city of lakes” because of the peaceful waterfront settings found throughout town. These places are popular spots to bicycle, paint, unwind, and enjoy the lotus ponds! Breathe, stretch, and be present.
With its distinct flavors and textures, Vietnam is known for its astounding food culture. After walking through street markets with enticing tropical fruits and warm pots of pho, our group learns how to cook and create some Vietnamese dishes with our local guide!
Imagine you're on a boat exploring new lands full of twists and turns through colorful rice fields and Karst towers. Down the Ngo Dong River, peacefully we'll sail, exploring caves and keeping our eyes open for mountain goats, kingfishers and monkeys.
From the city to the countryside, Vietnam and its people are rich in song, dance, and music. Bring along some of your favorite tunes and best moves to share and connect with everyone along the way. You never know, one song may just lead to a new best friend!
Working with victims of Agent Orange at Friendship Village by assisting students in special education classes, helping in the garden, & socializing with children and veterans; Working on construction and gardening based projects with our host family in Hoa Binh province.
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: Hanoi, Sapa, Hạ Long Bay, Hòa Bình, Bat Trang Pottery Village, Cát Bà and Freedom Islands, Hoàn Kiếm Lake
Trek: Sapa Valley
Classes: Vietnamese Cooking, Basic Vietnamese Language
Float: Tam Cốc on the Ngo Dong River
Kayak and Swim: Hạ Long Bay
In Hanoi, we sleep in bunkbeds in a dormitory. While in Hòa Bình and Sapa we enjoy group homestays where we all stay in our hosts home, and in Hạ Long Bay, we sleep for two nights on a boat. On the way to and from Sapa, we sleep overnight on a train in private cabins. Showers are available; however, we shower every three to four days to conserve resources and support sustainability.
A leader-escorted round-trip flight will be available (but not required) from LAX for those travelers who wish to fly with a leader. Please contact our office for details.
Deep in a dream about a summer full of meaning, where discoveries unfold around every corner and fulfillment is found in genuine projects and genuine people, we open our eyes as the plane touches down in Hanoi, Vietnam. Bags in hand, we hit the ground running, breathing life into the vision. Settling into our group homestay, we embark on a neighborhood tour. Bạn Thân, or “Best Friends” in Vietnamese, reminds us to make the most of opportunities for connection. From the Temple of Literature and the Vietnamese Women Museum, to the historic Hỏa Lò Prison and peaceful Hoàn Kiếm Lake, Hanoi sparkles with richness and lore.
After experiencing the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, a striking memorial remembering the country's past leader, and enjoying a famous water puppet show, a tradition dating back as far as the 11th century, we venture into the Old Quarter and Hanoi’s markets to gather inspiration for a Vietnamese cooking course. Feed the soul while fostering culinary skills! Venturing out of the city’s limits, we see Tam Coc, “Three Caves,” for a boat cruise along the Ngo Dong River. Swirling through colorful rice fields and ancient karst towers, we learn about the region and the wildlife who call it home: monkeys, mountain goats, kingfishers and more. A visit to the ever-tranquil Thai VI Temple rounds out a day full of majesty and mystique.
Bạn Thân and Friendship Village await us: a residential health and education center for children living with the effects of dioxins from the herbicide “Agent Orange.” We spend four days at this “symbol of international solidarity, reconciliation, and continued efforts to heal the pains of war.” Assisting students in special education classes, playing sports and games with children and veterans, and helping in the center’s vegetable garden are some of the ways our group lends a hand. Bookending our time here, we share in a cultural exchange night full of music, dancing, and recognition.
Packing our bags, we board an overnight train ride to Sapa, a must-see region of the country. Bearing witness to sprawling, green mountains, we set off through the town center and surrounding villages on an all-day trek of a lifetime capped off by a stay in one of the ethnic villages. Impossible to find a poor view or bad meal, we prepare for four days of service in the Hòa Bình Province. Working and staying with a local host family, we learn the ways of one of Vietnam’s most unique provinces. We work on construction and gardening based projects to assist local Vietnamese with any of their particular needs. In the evenings, we share meals and gain a better understanding of Vietnam and of each other, all while looking out over rice patties and the tropical forest. Here’s to authenticity off the beaten path!
Saying farewell to our friends in Hòa Bình, we head to the emerald waters of Hạ Long Bay for an overnight voyage to Freedom Island full of kayaking, swimming, and starlit evenings. The perfect setting to celebrate our journey of service, we soak up the awe-inspiring setting surrounding us before returning to Hanoi for a traditional pottery making experience, a final banquet, and a Poet’s Campfire.
Gone are the days together, as Bạn Thân comes to an end; yet, as we board our return flight home, we know the friends we’ve made and the memories we’ve forged will remain for years to come.
Gather in LAX to board the optional escorted flight bound for Hanoi. Arrive in Vietnam the next evening, settle in, and get the lay of the land.
We have our group orientation in the morning before setting off on walking tour of the surrounding neighborhood. Participate in an introduction to Vietnamese culture, language, and history while gaining insight into life in Vietnam. Learn introductory Vietnamese in a formal lesson and use your culinary skills in a cooking class!
We'll explore Hanoi's Temple of Literature, Hỏa Lò Prison Prison, the Vietnamese Women Museum, and the lively Old Quarter. We'll visit beautiful Hoàn Kiếm Lake – a cultural and social focal point in Hanoi.
Activities at Friendship Village will include working with children in special education classes, observing and working with students in the vocational training classes, playing sports with children and veterans, gardening and most interestingly, talking with Vietnamese veterans about the U.S. & Vietnam War.
Embark on a day trip to Tam Coc (Three Caves) for a boat ride along the Ngo Dong River. Visit Thai VI Temple before returning to Hanoi.
Visit the culturally significant site of Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. Weave through local markets, experiencing Vietnamese life and culture first-hand. Enjoy a water puppet show, a cultural tradition that dates back to as far back as the 11th century.
We revisit Friendship Village for a final farewell to celebrate what we have learned during such a thoughtful exchange. After spending the day saying goodbye and thanking our newfound friends at Friendship Village, we prepare for our overnight train to Sapa.
We explore the town center, market and surrounding villages seeing a different side to Vietnam life. The following day we'll hike in the mountains to experience the Vietnamese countryside. We'll spend the night in one of the villages and return to Sapa the following morning to take the train back to Hanoi that evening.
Our group transfers to Hòa Bình Province for cultural exchange and further service opportunities with our host family. Here, we work side-by-side with the family to assist in gardening and construction based projects. Grateful for our hosts’ hospitality, we share meals and stories after a each days hard work. Games, gardening, song, and dance forge friendships during our time here.
Board our boat, explore caves, swim, sea kayak, visit Cát Bà Island, and continue the overnight cruise to Freedom Island.
Return to Hanoi and visit the most traditional pottery villages in North Vietnam. Try our hand at making our own pottery and have a chance to get last minute souvenirs. Share in a final banquet and Poet’s Campfire to close off a remarkable experience. Gazing one final time out over the wild landscape of Vietnam, we board our return flight home from Hanoi still in awe of the last three weeks.
Travelers are required to obtain a tourist visa prior to entering Vietnam. These 30-day tourist visas can be obtained from any Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate.
The Road Less Traveled does not require any vaccinations or immunizations other than an up-to-date tetanus shot or booster (within the last nine years).
Please visit the CDC’s website to read more about recommended vaccinations for travel to Vietnam. The decision to get some, none, or all of the recommended vaccinations is a personal one, and should be discussed with your family doctor.
If you’d like to receive an emailed copy of this program’s day-to-day calendar, please give our office a call anytime between 9am and 5pm CST at 773-342-5200.
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 on the first day of the trip, and from the ending destination back home on the last day of the trip.
This program offers an optional leader-escorted flight for those families who are interested.
If you wish to have your participant fly directly into the starting location, please call the office for details.
We are proud of the profound and meaningful service work we take part in at Friendship Village for students living with various mental, emotional, and physical conditions. For that reason, a certain level of maturity is required for successful participation.
We ask that all of our Ban Than participants be prepared for the cultural and emotional sensitivity that will be needed to work with the population at Friendship Village.