5 minutes reading time (1092 words)

If You're Not Out Of Your Comfort Zone You Haven't Traveled

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Jan Eckhouse has spent 40 years teaching AP Biology to students at Haddonfield Memorial High School. Over the years, she and her husband Mark have been taking select groups of teens on custom designed Wildland Adventures to Africa and South America.
Students make new friends with Bushman on school safaris in Tanzania.

We have a great working relationship with Mark and Jan with whom we share their goals to take students out of their comfort zone to be exposed to other environments and ways of life. Together we not only want to make a difference in the lives of their students, but also to make a positive contribution to the lives of the local people we help them to connect with in meaningful ways.

In their trip review below they report on hunting with bushmen, playing soccer with Maasai, visiting local schools, and seeing more wildlife than they could ever have imagined:
We had a fantastic time - everything was perfect -Tom our guide in Kenya was great and made sure we were happy with everything. We enjoyed the Maasai very much and we think  "our" warriors really enjoyed guiding and being with the students - they played soccer with us (still wearing their machetes) it was a real fun laughable game.  We were never concerned, everyone was comfortable in the community bomas and we felt everyone including the cooks and staff helped to make our stay very memorable and very, very enjoyable. Some of the students had tears in their eyes after just 4 short days with the Maasai when it was time to  leave.  
Spending time with Maasai in their community on student safari in Tanzania. (Photo: G. Swanson)
Tanzania was amazing - and the guides were exceptional--we saw more wildlife than we could have imagined. The hotels and safaris were also amazing, and the grand finale at the mobile camp in Serengeti was something none of us will ever forget. The food was great and always more than enough to keep 16 hungry teens satisfied.
 
Maasai guides accompany school safaris in Tanzania. (Photo: G. Swanson)
One of the activities that we know made a large impression was talking with the students in the primary and secondary school. If we get to do this trip again we think we would add an extra day with the Maasai to spend more time at the schools. They had so many questions for us and we would have liked more time exchanging ideas. 
Meeting  local students on safari in Merrushi Maasai community. (Photo: G. Swanson)
Another experience that would be hard to duplicate was hunting with the Bushmen! As we ran into the bush trying to keep up with the hunters I was sure with all the noise of 18 students and chaperones tramping along the Bushmen would never be able to make a "kill" and we would have just had a fun sprint through the bush. But they did! All of us got to watch the field dressing of the animal and then taste some of the organ meats cooked over a fire they had started (by rubbing sticks together no less). It was a true circle of life experience for our whole group.  
There were some very pale faces so we had a little "debriefing" quietly with our students afterward. They were all a little in awe that they had just witnessed the whole event and a little in shock. Some admitted they were just running along not thinking about the Bushmen's lives or the animals. The general consensus was that while it appeared harsh this was their way of life and means of survival. Each one acknowledged that it was WAY out of their comfort zone but they would do it again and recommend it to anyone because it was an experience of a life time.  
Stalking game on hunt with Bushman. 
After our de-briefing and re-composing themselves they enjoyed dancing and celebrating with the Bushmen and shooting the bows and arrows. They bought some of the bows from the Bushmen and everyone had a great experience.   
We always tell our students and parents that we believe if they're not out of their comfort zone they have not traveled. One of our goals when we take students on these trips is to make sure they have been out of their comfort zone, not to be afraid but to do and try things they (and generally us too) would never have dreamed of ever seeing, experiencing or doing. We certainly did that!  
Close encounters to observe and listen to elephants interacting in their habitat out side of the zoo can transforms lives and set the course of future study for young students. (Photo: G. Swanson)
Our other goal is to make even a small difference in the world. As an individual you have a choice to feel you are too small to do anything and therefore do nothing, or you can do a little.  We hope we can make a difference in the student's lives by giving them (and ourselves) the opportunity to interact with peoples from other cultures and with different ways of living than we are accustomed. We always hope that by bringing a group of kids we also make a little difference in the lives of those we visit.  
Women of different age and different worlds getting to know each other. (Photo: G. Swanson)
This trip has done all that and more - your company is fantastic to work with. I feel extremely confident that the guides will be good, they will be at the airport to meet us and every place you take us is outstanding. Your guidance on what to do or not do has always been accurate.
The whole trip was one big highlight!
Mark and Jan Eckhouse

For more information about out safaris, including special student groups for high schools and colleges, contact our Africa specialist, Jeff Stivers at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 1-800-345-4453. One of our more in-depth wildlife and cultural experiences for students and families is our Maasailand Safari: Living Among the Maasai which was the basis for Mark and Jan's safari reviewed above.
 
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