Vacations for Teachers with GEEO

vacation for teachers in sri lanka

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The traveling teachers series is all about people who travel and you guessed it – teach! Each interview features a different teacher, traveling to a different place, and teaching a unique group of students. This story is unique because it’s actually about vacations for teachers with an organization called GEEO!

There are many questions surrounding traveling and teaching. Through this series, I hope you are inspired by the good work going on around the world, learn, and start to think about ways you can travel and teach abroad yourself. I’m excited to share a story about two teachers who became friends while on vacations for teachers with GEEO. GEEO is a non-profit that runs group trips designed for teachers. You can go as just fun vacations for teachers, or earn PD/grad school credits too. Such a cool organization!

Jesse, who is the founder of GEEO, and I connected a few months back via Clubhouse. I then posted about GEEO on my TikTok as a vacation for teachers, and it blew up! After that, we actually decided that the Facebook group I help run with a few other traveling teachers should take a group trip in 2022. Social media is so cool! Jesse connected me to Libby and Teresa who are going to share their story of traveling with GEEO on vacations designed just for teachers.

Libby and Teresa met through traveling with GEEO and have become good friends. They now regularly travel together, along with other teacher friends they met on GEEO trips. How fun is that?!

How long have you taught and where?

Teresa:  I started teaching 17 years ago. I have taught the majority of the time at Bridgeport Elementary School in Jackson County, Alabama.  I teach 4th grade now but have also taught 3rd grade.  This year I have 16 students in the classroom and two students are still learning remotely.

Teaching is a second career for me.  Before teaching, I prepared taxes at H&R Block and also worked at the Tennessee Valley Authority at Bellefonte Nuclear Plant.  

Libby: I have been a high school history teacher for 30 years. I can’t believe that I have taught for so long since I still have the energy and creativity to teach. Traveling to the places that I teach about has helped me have and keep energy and excitement for teaching. I teach in the Chicago area. I have taught at several different types of high schools from Chicago Public Schools to large and smaller suburban high schools on the north and south sides. I moved around to several schools early in my teaching career but I have been at my current school for 25 years. It was a good experience teaching so many different students in such different communities.

What inspired you to go on trips with GEEO?

Teresa:  I started traveling when my daughter left for college.  Traveling helped me get over my empty nest syndrome.  

Libby: I had traveled overseas of several grants, including two Fulbright Hays, but I was interested in teacher travel where we could have a little more adventure and a little more control. So when I heard about GEEO from a colleague, I signed up for my first trip…to Peru.

vacations for teachers in the Maldives
Teresa on left and Libby on right in the Maldives

I know you all met going on GEEO trips, tell us that story!

Teresa:  My second summer of traveling with GEEO was to Eastern Europe.  I met Libby on this trip but we did not room together.  We did spend some time together on this trip shopping because Libby’s luggage did not arrive. Libby and I stayed in communication for several years basically once a year to discuss our summer travels.  We both traveled to different places until the year we agreed to travel together to Sri Lanka and the Maldives in 2018.  We arrived in Sri Lanka at different times and then roomed together in Sri Lanka and again in the Maldives which we toured by small boat.  We then flew separately to Madrid, Spain, where we stayed for several days.  We then went our separate ways…Libby to Iceland and me to Sarria, Spain to hike the Camino.

Libby: We met on the Eastern Europe trip. Due to a mix-up, my friend was Teresa’s roommate while we were in Berlin, so I got to know Teresa. We resolved the rooming situation but I really liked Teresa from the beginning and spent time with her. She is always positive and up for an adventure. I remember enjoying a beer together in Vienna, on a perfect summer day, and then Teresa helped me shop for clothes since my luggage hadn’t arrived. She was such a big help since I had to figure out the sizes and money and buy a lot of clothes all at once. We finally roomed together, like Teresa shared, on an epic adventure to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, then to Spain. We both like to hike so we had a great time together in Sri Lanka and in Madrid.

How did you find out about the opportunity to go?

Teresa:  I saw an advertisement in a national teachers’ magazine.  I waited until the last day to sign up for summer travel.  My first trip was to Morocco in 2012.

Libby: I heard about GEEO from a colleague who had gone to an NCSS conference and had met Jesse. I had been wanting to travel to Peru for some time and GEEO offered a trip with school visits as well, so I went on my first GEEO trip in 2009. I tend to go on one GEEO trip every summer, and see one country thoroughly…except for our epic adventure in 2018, of course.

There are so many trips to choose from! Any tips for people on narrowing it down?

Teresa:  I have to pick a trip that fits with my schedule.  I start back to school at the first of August so this is always a deciding factor.  I pick places that I want to go to or places that sound adventurous.  Sometimes I go on a trip because somebody asks me…like Libby or other people that I’ve traveled with before.  This year I will be traveling with GEEO to Alaska and hiking in the Western USA.  It will be my first time traveling in the US with GEEO.  Of course, international travel is iffy now.

Libby: I pick trips to places that I have not traveled to yet and that would be a little harder to travel to on my own. Also, I try to arrive early so I can travel around more on my own before the trip starts or even add in a layover in another city on the way to my destination. Often, I have friends who will join me on those extensions, like Terersa. This summer, Teresa and I are going to Alaska. Then she is continuing to the Western USA while I stay longer in Alaska.

vacation for teachers in sri lanka
Libby on the right, Theresa on the left in Sri Lanka

What are the benefits of going on a trip with GEEO? Any perks to tell us about? 

Teresa:  One benefit of traveling with GEEO is always having a group to travel with.  Since most people on the trip are teachers, we all have something in common.  I have met a lot of friends from all over the country.  Some I still communicate with.    The great thing about traveling with GEEO is that they make all the arrangements—hotels, tickets, etc.  Also, every trip is a learning experience.

Libby: I agree with Teresa. The teachers in the group are great to travel with as they want to learn and have fun. Also the guide that leads us often becomes a friend as well. Also traveling with GEEO saves a lot of time, like not  getting lost, and makes the trip even a better experience. I can remember how our guide in Turkey took us to sites a little later in the day when it wasn’t so hot or so crowded, making our excursions extra memorable.. I would have never thought of that. 

You all have gone on 11-12 trips with GEEO a piece! Any tips on affording to go on vacations for teachers? 

Teresa:  You might be surprised about how cheap the trips are.  Book your trips early to get a discount.  Also, book multiple trips in order to receive the multiple trip discount.  The hotels might not be 5-star but they are always clean and close to the major attractions.  Luckily, I am able to finance my own travel.  I know the GEEO site has some links for funding travel.

Libby: Teresa is right. She is a great budgeter. In addition, I have a travel savings account in which my paycheck gets automatically deducted so I always have the money to travel. 

vacations for teachers in Madrid
Libby on left Teresa on right in Madrid, Spain

What is one piece of advice you have for someone who wants to be a traveling teacher?

Teresa:  Make it happen…get out of your comfort zone and experience the world.  I have such great memories.  I’ve never felt uncomfortable in any country that I’ve traveled to.

Libby: It is trite but “Just Do It.” Travel has made me a better History teacher because I have been to the places that I teach about and the students love my descriptions and stories. Also, travel has made me a better person. Like Teresa wrote, by challenging yourself and getting out of your comfort zone, you will see that you can do so much more that you realize. I have also learned that most people are basically decent and good all over this world. That gives me hope. 

A big thank you to Libby and Teresa for sharing their advice and tips on taking a trip with GEEO, vacations for teachers are such a unique and fun idea. I hope you’re inspired by their traveling teacher story!