After being featured in the New York times about her Secret Trip to Bolivia and Peru earlier this year, the 19-year old daughter of president Barack Obama was back all over the news this week, as she is re-taking her further studies at Harvard University after taking some personal time during a gap-year in which she was with us in Peru .
During her 12 months off time, Malia Obama chose to come to Peru and Bolivia on a cross-cultural experiential learning adventure in the high Andes and deep Amazon. Her extended trip over the fall of 2016 started in the Peruvian Andes where they visited the temples and archeological sites of Cusco, the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machu Picchu but also went far off the beaten tourist track. They did a big hike around Mt. Ausangate (above 17,000 feet), they lived with local Quechua families in the remote Qéros Nation, studied ecology while hiking in the Amazon rainforest and learned about the traditions of the people from the Amazon during community homestays in the Peruvian jungle.
The Obama´s chose to have their daughter´s trip coordinated by the US-based ‘Where There Be Dragons’, a very respectful Organization with whom we have a long-standing working relationship here at Vamos Expeditions supporting their local operations here in Peru. They offer small-group education trips in developing countries that include rugged travel, home-stays, language study, trekking, learning service, development studies, comparative religion, leadership and skill-building activities.
Also for this special trip Dragons contracted Vamos Expeditions´s services for support on their mission to help them take care of their logistics while trekking through Peru´s remote Andes and Amazon regions. We had the change to work hand-in-hand with the instructors and with the 15 secret service agents that came along with 7 support vehicles from the White house to warrant extraordinary security measures for Ms. Obama making sure Malia was safe while enjoying an authentic experience in Peru just as any other student in her group.
It´s not the first time we work with important personalities and security but hosting the president´s daughter is a big deal that comes with great responsibility and honor. We sincerely thank all our staff that was involved, served with excellence and understood the significance of giving space for a learning experience like this and respecting Malia´s privacy on this journey.
Chris Yager, founder of Dragons wrote us a note afterwards: ‘Malia could have chosen any country in the world but she elected to join our Andes and Amazon course this past fall. I am writing with a very sincere Thank You because I felt confident with our in-country relationships and regional support staff. Thank you for your part in making us an organization that was selected by such a high profile family.´
Also Jackson Cooper, group leader of Dragons that was in charge of the security agents also wrote us a heartfelt review on Trip Advisor about the services Vamos Expeditions provided during this trip: Vamos Expeditions Trip Advisor reviews
Titel: ¨High quality experience every time¨
”I bring educational travel groups to Peru several times a year, and I often work with Vamos Expeditionsto help with logistics. They consistently provide high-quality, timely, and well-priced services. Their ability to customize services according to my needs is very helpful. And the trekking cooks they organized for me (Alex and rudi) were THE BEST cooks I´ve ever worked with. A hugh thanks to Annelies and Marleny at Vamos. I look forward to working with you the next time I’m in Peru!”
Annelies Hamerlinck, founder of Vamos Expeditions said:
‘This year was a very exciting year for us in which we had the honor to welcome several groups and prestigious schools coming as far from the US, Australia and Europe for experiential learning and transformational travel experiences here in Peru.”
This type of travel experiences are highly on the rise and it is fascinating work. There´s a hugh variety in what schools look for and that makes it interesting for us. We have both experience working with young student groups from the age of 13 till adults that are doing prestigious MBA programs such as Babson College, Harvard Business School and Wharton .
They are all very different and we create each program according to the school´s needs and interests. Some schools come for shorter immersion programs or specific topics of investigation and others stay with us for more than a month visiting organizations, local business, mines, national parks, NGO´s, doing service learning projects, engineering and environmental projects, community stays, work with local schools.
We look for interesting learning opportunities everywhere and have a big network of influential guest speakers. For example, we had a group meet at the presidential palace for a session of questions and answers with the president of Peru and first minister, which was very inspiring and unforgettable experience for a group of students from HBS. We also work with universities in several projects both with students and teachers. For example Seminole State University of Florida, both sends us groups of students and professors who study various subjects, such as biology, the impact of illegal mining activities in the Amazon on the environment and possibilities to help local Andean communities through thoughtful engineering projects.
Not all groups have the same time available but longer programs allow more time to slow down from the busy student life at campus to fully absorb these experiences and to thoughtfully incorporate the insights into daily life.
An example of an extraordinary school program that has really incorporated experiential learning adventures in their curriculum is the Evergreen School of Seattle.
They come a whole month to Peru every other year with us. This school does an outstanding job preparing their students long in advance during a whole school year for their experiential learning adventure in Peru. They tie the whole learning experience in Peru in their curriculum through language, science classes, discussions and pre-and post-trip Global Studies lessons in which students learn how to organize a part of their own trip for certain days of the program and research and fundraise for the non-profit organizations and communities they will work with during their time in Peru. Students also write penpal letters to a student of their own age from a school in Peru they will visit during the trip and spend a school day with. This helps a great deal for these 13-14 year old´s to have more context and grasp everything better during their time in Peru. Also after going back they still debrief and work for 3 more weeks specially on the program.
Thanks to this mutual cooperation over the past years we were able to build a beautiful dining hall for the hundred children of the elementary school in the rural Andean community of Paru Paru. This dining hall is been in inaugurated in may this year with the students of the Evergreen school and offers the local children a space to eat with dignity. (before they had no indoor space for this and were just sitting on the ground outside their classrooms to eat). Together with a chicken house to offer more protein-rich in the children´s school diets.
Taking students out of their usual, into nature, away from modern-day technology and in touch with totally different cultures, people and personal challenging can really be a life-changing experience. A rare and special break where they can really be present, explore who they really are, feel more alive and seek deeper meaning and connections with their own heart and the world they live in. We feel that Peru is the perfect classroom because it is one of the most diverse countries in the world, geographically, ecologically, culturally and with a very rich history that helps to the broaden horizons and open the eyes of young adults.
We fully believe in the power of this work and that this type of education and travel has the potential to create more empathic and self-aware leaders we need for a more just and loving world. We hope that through our work we can spark a small change for the better, even if it’s in one person at the time.
Eli Keltz, Global Studies coordinator of Evergreen School wrote on Trip Advisor:
I am a teacher in Seattle, Washington, USA. I took 48 students to Peru, along with 12 adults. Vamos orchestrated, for the 2nd year in a row, a flawless 28-day trip around Peru. This trip was a custom product at every corner. Annelies and her team are so responsive and flexible. Our group of middle school students often have A LOT of requests, and never did they balk at our needs. I can’t recommend Vamos enough for any custom or standard tour. From large scale to a small scale trip, this team will take care of you as you travel through Latin America.
With a sincere thank you to all of our staff and the ministry of Tourism of Peru for the support in helping us complete our mission.
Anyone interested in a learning adventure, transformational travel experience can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org We also create travel itineraries for families, multi-generational groups and adults who want to experience an authentic trip in Peru. More information on our Vamos Expeditions website.
Also check out the article by Norie Quintos published on Adventure Travel News with tips from us on managing high profile and VIP clients: 10 tips for tour operators:
Information about Vamos Expeditions:
- Founded in Peru in 2004.
- Mission: Provide safe, life-enriching adventures that support sustainable development, cultural heritage, and the environment.
- Founder: Annelies Hamerlinck: studies: Master in Sports and Movement Scienes, University Ghent, Belgium with specialization in outdoor sports education, Master in Development Cooperation, University Ghent, Belgium, Studies in Tourism in Cenfotur, Lima Peru and Master in Business Administration at Centrum Catolica, Lima, Peru.
- General Manager: Pablo Moreno Romani: studies: Master in Applied Economics, University of Munster, Germany. Master in Business Administration, Centrum Catolica, Lima, Peru. Plenty of working experience in quality improvement of education and Project Based Learning in different regions of Peru and Latin America.