One of my teaching dreams has been to develop a travel course. In an ideal world, I’d take a group of students on an international trip to somewhere tropical and full of beautiful, exotic birds. Also in an ideal world, someone would take care of all the planning and sort out the financial, travel, packing, and various other logistical challenges associated with a travel course. Unfortunately, I live in reality.
In what turned out to be a very smart plan, I decided the best option for my first travel course would be a shorter length domestic class with a destination I was familiar with: Arizona.
I’m taking eight students, mostly sophomores and juniors without any birding experience, to Arizona for 16 days. We’ll be in Southeastern Arizona for the first half and northern Arizona for the second half. We’ll be traveling by van and staying in hotels (note to self: making reservations in remote areas for this many people takes a VERY long time) for most of the trip, but we’ll be camping at the Grand Canyon for three nights.
The course is going to be an intense introduction to natural history and identification of birds, in one of the most diverse areas of the country. Many of the students I’m taking have never left Wisconsin, so this is going to be an eye-opening trip for them; some areas will seem so foreign to them. I’m so excited to see their excitement!
Everyone warned me that these classes were incredibly time-intensive to plan, and I believed them. I allotted many hours of my time in the semester and the weeks before the class to plan, FAR more time than I’d need. Or so I thought.
I needed at least twice what I thought was too much time.
For those that don’t know me, I am hyper organized. This binder is full of the logistical paperwork associated with the trip – hotel/flight/van rental reservation information, medical releases, credit card purchase tracking (and space for collecting receipts), information about the locations, maps, etc. I’m sure I’m forgetting many things, too.
Like I said, there was way more involved in planning this course than I expected, and I expected there to be a lot. That binder represents an incredible amount of work, time, planning, and ultimately LOVE of traveling and teaching.
All of this is not to say that I regret it – far from it. I am just beginning to re-think my assertion that the course will go to a different location each time I teach it. If I can save this binder and the trip itinerary (I won’t tell you how long that took, but it was more hours than in a day) and re-use it for another course, you better believe I am going to.
The itinerary doesn’t look like it took long, but trust me. Days of my life went into that spreadsheet.
So, here we are, four days from departure, and I *think* I am okay to take a short break from planning. Maybe.
Class officially starts tomorrow, and I’ve got all the papers for students printed and sitting on my desk. I’ve got a list of things for them to do during the first three days, and then we leave from Duluth on Thursday. All this planning ahead is going to make the trip so much more enjoyable for everyone.
I’ll be posting photos and updates here and on the course webpage, if you want to follow along with us.