Group Coordinator John has led tours across the globe for 40 years. He started taking students to places like New York City and Washington D.C. with our sister company EF Educational Tours in 1978 and recently started bringing adults on trips with EF Go Ahead Tours. Whether traveling locally or internationally John has always had one goal—financially help those in his local Arizona community see the world.
John’s idea to combine education and travel started when he was a high school government and history teacher. He thought that taking his students to New York City and Washington D.C. would help them form real-world connections between the lessons he taught in school and the memorials, monuments, and government buildings throughout these cities. “I tried to make sure they were prepared ahead of time,” said John. “We learned about things like Congress and the Statue of Liberty, which made the students a lot more aware of what they were going to see.”
Year after year, students jumped at the opportunity to travel and see the places that they learned about in John’s class. But, there were often students who showed interest in the trip, but couldn’t afford to go. John never let these financial hurdles keep them from seeing the world. “When I recruited enough people for a free place, I used it to bring students that couldn’t afford the trip,” said John. “The students around here don’t have many opportunities to travel outside of Arizona. I wanted to help expose them to different places.”
Over half of the residents in the rural Arizona mining community are part of low-income families and many of the students at John’s school qualify for free or reduced lunch. The town and local businesses rely on the income created by the mining industry. John has always been involved in the community and he found a way to collaborate with these businesses to further support his students’ travel aspirations. “I would get judges and businesspeople from the community to sponsor students,” said John. “They were always willing to help and this allowed me to send even more kids on tour.”
This generous spirit and selflessness stayed with John as he transitioned into leading tours for adults. He recently designed a customized trip to Mexico and has upcoming tours to Italy, the U.K., Ireland, Washington D.C., and New York City. He plans to support adult community members who don’t have the financial means to travel on these tours by sharing some of the benefits he receives through the Group Travel Program, including his free place. “It’s more important to me to give my free space on tour to someone who can’t afford to go than to travel on the tour myself,” said John.
John has helped his group members experience life-changing travel experiences through the years. One that sticks out is when a husband and wife traveled with him to Washington, D.C. Their son, who was also one of John’s classmates, died while fighting in the Vietnam War. His name is on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the wife wanted to see it, but the husband was apprehensive to go. Eventually, they decided to take the trip and came out of it having had an incredibly moving experience.
“I took them to the name and left them alone and they were there for about a half an hour,” said John. “They etched a copy of their son’s name and it really hit the husband. He told me that although he didn’t want to go, he really enjoyed visiting the memorial. He knew it was something he needed to do for closure.”
There are so many eye-opening moments like this that stick out to John. He hopes to continue to bring the magic of travel to those in and around his community by recruiting through ads he creates for the local newspapers and radio stations. “I love traveling,” said John. “I see the need for it in a rural community. It’s a great opportunity for the students and adults to go to places that they wouldn’t otherwise see.”
Do you have an inspirational travel story you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!