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Q&A: What’s a “flexible” itinerary?

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Dragons HQ

Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Indonesia Gap Year Program.

Many study abroad programs provide a day-by-day (sometimes hour-by-hour) trip schedule used year after year. At Dragons, we keep our programs flexible and dynamic: each itinerary is uniquely designed and implemented by the instructors who lead the program. We believe some of the best experiences can come in the unscripted, serendipitous, and candid moments of surprise. It’s a novel approach to travel and best explained by our participants. So here’s how our past students define Dragons “flexible” itinerary concept:

“Unlike American life regulated by precise and punctual schedules, life abroad is hectic and ever-changing, which is the beauty of it. Pre-program, I was concerned that the larger and central aspects of the trip may be changed, but this isn’t at all what they meant by flexible itinerary.  Flexible itinerary refers to smaller, more logistical changes. You’ll still get to the end destination, just perhaps by a different route. The itinerary will never be changed in a way that detracts from your experience, but will instead always improve it for you or the group as a whole, whether it is balancing out the hiking days to make it more manageable or taking a quick side-trip to the hot springs to refuel as a group.” Will LeVan, Peru Summer Student Travel Program

Photo by Stefanie Daehler, Custom School Program in India.

“The flexibility allowed my group to turn hikes into classes about religion. It allowed for us to get lost, which then turned into lessons on how not to get lost. We were given the freedom to explore like a traveler, not like a tourist.” – Alyssa Hilb, Silk Road China Summer Student Travel Program

“To travel with a flexible itinerary is to travel with an open mind and receptivity to the realities of travel. During my program in Morocco, there were numerous occasions in which sickness, navigational difficulties, or side trips caused unforeseen delays in our daily plan. While ordinarily, this would be a huge logistical and emotional headache, the ease with which my instructors took it in stride and adjusted our plans made all the difference. The benefit of a dynamic itinerary is bypassing the regimented, anxious parts of travel, to embrace the wild, unplanned fun that exploration can be.” – Brett Cohen, Morocco Summer Student Travel Program

Photo by Ngun Siang Kim, Myanmar Summer Program.

“Ultimately, embracing the possibility of candid experiences—those that lead you into the waters of coursing Himalayan rivers and into the corridors of 500-year old monasteries, as mine did during my programs—are what have been most influential in shaping me into the confident, prepared and wise traveler I am today.” – Olivia Sotirchos, North India Summer Study Abroad Program

“The most important part of embracing the flexible itinerary was recognizing that our safety was a priority over strict travel and time constraints, and the comfort of knowing we could adjust the plan to fit our needs.” – Silvana Montagu, Eastern Himalayas Summer Student Travel Program

“I wasn’t sure what “flexible itinerary” meant at the beginning, but by the end of the trip I grew to appreciate the spontaneity it brought. Our itinerary stayed mostly true to the original outline, but changed in small, beneficiary, ways. For example, we had been staying in a very rural town, Cotzal, where we were doing service projects. We decided to leave a day early, and instead spend the last day at a beautiful waterfall with the homestay families, eating lunch together and swimming. It’s important to let yourself be surprised.”  Maggie Needham, Guatemala Summer Student Travel Program

“The best part about being able to mix up the schedule is that you have the ability to invest your time in areas you are most passionate about. For example, during my trip to China we stumbled upon a shamanism festival with rich colors and new experiences. On the spot, our group decided that spending more time at the festival would be the best for our educational and cultural journey. The best days are those that aren’t 100 percent scripted.”Liana Flecker, Silk Road China Summer Student Travel Program

Photo by Nils Skattum, Nepal Semester Program.

“I’m normally a very planned out person, and was a bit anxious about the flexible itinerary. When I got to Indonesia, I soon realized their concept of Jam Karet there—essentially meaning, “rubber time.” People we were supposed to meet, and transportation we were planning to take, often ran late and sometimes never even showed up. This at first drove me crazy, but throughout my semester I learned to “santai saja” (or “just relax”) and just accept the situations for how they were, and everything always worked out. Dragons trips are highly immersive and intensive, and can be exhausting. Being flexible allows the group and its members to get what they really need—whether that’s time to rest, or time to engage and participate longer than the planned amount of time.” – Crissy McCarthy, Indonesia Gap Year Semester Abroad Program

“To put the experience into a specific set of bullet points would seriously harm the whole meaning of this voyage in the first place. The world is open to so many possibilities waiting around the corner.”– Will Jamieson, Guatemala Summer Student Travel Program

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