High Class, Low Cost

An obstructed view could change the way you travel. It was a beautiful summer’s day in Paris, and it had just started to drizzle. Before we knew it, my dad and I were caught in a torrential storm, which isn’t nearly as romantic as the movies make it seem, though that may have had something to do with the company. As the lights of a marquee became visible about a half-mile away, we squinted to read the words Les Misérables. At that moment, an unspoken agreement formed between us; our pace quickened. Watching Les Misérables that night taught me that cultural experiences need not be expensive or well planned. Obstructed seating. Standing room. Standby lines. There are countless ways to find a last-minute bargain around the world. That night, we secured two seats to the show for less than $10, when tickets to operas and plays can sometimes run over $100. We were seated near a pillar that obstructed about a third of the stage, but I was so enchanted by our good fortune—a real play in a real theater where the real French Revolution took place—that I hardly noticed.   These discount tickets can be obtained for plays, concerts, operas, and even sporting events around the world. The best way to obtain discounted tickets is to call the box office directly the morning of the show to inquire about obstructed view or standing room availability. These tickets are normally sold at a fraction of the price but give you the same access to world-class entertainment that you would typically plan to see well in advance. Similar experiences can...
A Forgotten Generation: Serving the Elderly Abroad

A Forgotten Generation: Serving the Elderly Abroad

  Her face lit up the room as we walked in. “You came back!” she exclaimed, a look of surprise on her smiling face.  “We told you we’d be back!” my fellow volunteer replied.  We sat down across from her and began what proved to be another lovely, entertaining visit with Madame Bienvenu, an 84-year-old French woman who had just moved into the nursing home. Knowing that she didn’t have family or friends, we looked forward to our weekly visits—and so did she. The Forgotten Generation When people look into volunteer opportunities abroad, most are initially drawn to humanitarian or child-oriented programs. Katie Nichols, an employee at Cross-Cultural Solutions, a service-abroad organization, notes that the elderly are often “a forgotten generation.” A mixture of fear, apathy, or unfamiliarity might keep you from volunteering with the elderly. Maybe the prospect of spending time helping children simply seems more fun. But volunteering with the forgotten generation can be just as enjoyable. The Struggles They Face Interacting with the elderly “can be a very mutually beneficial experience,” says Melanie McDowell, a program manager for another service-abroad organization, Connect-123. “Older people come with so much history,” she explains. There’s a lot to be learned from them, but unfortunately, so much of that history and knowledge can be lost.  “A lot of these residents have been abandoned by their families,” says a volunteer. “So their only connection with the outside world is the staff.” However, overworked or understaffed agencies often don’t have enough time for that one-on-one interaction. Without these connections with others, it’s hard for some residents to stave off pangs of loneliness....

Ditch the Ferrari, Take a Safari

The word safari probably makes you think of people wearing khaki, bumping along in a jeep, and peering through tall savannah grass at a majestic lion. But did you know that there are other exciting ways to enjoy an African safari? Here are four ways to get a different view of Africa’s wild landscape. Balloon Safaris It’s 6 am. Dawn is just beginning to break over the Serengeti, changing the dark shapes below into trees. The only sounds that break the silence are birdcalls and the occasional ssshhh of the hot air balloon’s whisper burner. As the balloon approaches a river, the water stirs, disturbed by what look like large moving rocks. “Hippos,” the guide says quietly, lowering the balloon a bit for a better look. Balloon safaris take place at dawn, when animals are most active, and they offer a unique, panoramic perspective of the African terrain. Rides last about an hour, and they are offered year-round. Cost: $350–$500* Best time to go: May–June www.balloonsafaris.com/   River Safaris Gliding along the smooth water on a riverboat, you have a chance to see crocodiles, elephants, wild dogs, hippos, zebras, and other animals as they come to the water to drink. In the hot summer months in Africa, vegetation dries out and animals congregate near rivers, guaranteeing safari-goers an up-close look at some of Africa’s most popular wildlife. River safaris range from canoes or boats to luxury cruises that have suites with a private balcony. Cost: $180–$1250 Best time to go: March–October https://www.zambezi.com/safari-type/canoe-safaris/   Elephant-back Safaris Most animals are more scared of us than we are of them, and the...