Leadership & Resilience in the face of Change
This January tour operators, vendors, and educational travel leaders from around the world assembled in San Juan for the SYTA Summit. I was fortunate to attend, along with two other team members Tracy Roderick and George Mastrovaselis.
The Student and Youth Travel Association (SYTA) is a non-profit, professional trade association promoting student & youth travel. SYTA chose Puerto Rico for a reason: to show support to a land that is rich in culture and history, but also needs help after several devastating natural disasters. While tourism offers an economic boost to the island, even more, our presence showed camaraderie with our global travel community.
From SYTA: “The SYTA Summit 2020 theme of ‘Leadership and Resilience’ comes from the incredible stories of the people of Puerto Rico. From history to hurricanes, earthquakes to community collaboration, island life presents unique challenges and opportunities to learn and lead.“
Rather than looking away from the challenges Puerto Rico has faced, the summit shone a light on them and explored how we, as leaders in educational travel, can be even more prepared to care for our students and staff no matter the situation. Some of the sessions included crisis response planning, managing information, and risk management. Five local Puerto Ricans even shared their stories about resilience in the days after Hurricane Maria; it was inspiring to hear how everyday individuals stayed strong, and communities were both resourceful and kind. Amidst all this hard work, we ate extraordinary food, visited artists, danced the bomba, and even competed in the first ever Summit Olympics. (George’s team won!)
How completely unaware we were that another natural disaster would hit us all just days later. COVID-19 has changed the lives of everyone across the globe. We must stay inside when we deeply want to reach out and connect. We are hesitant to cross the threshold of our own homes, much less the borders of our states, our countries.
We at Academic and Discovery Expeditions believe firmly that traveling builds empathy and compassion – two qualities much needed right now. By traveling to other lands, meeting other people, speaking other languages, we learn that we are part of a community much larger than ourselves.
While we cannot physically travel right now, we would like to offer ways to learn the world from your safe home. Stay tuned for various educational resources from the Academic and Discovery team, including videos and blog posts. By sharing stories and academic content, we hope to stay connected with our travel community – friends, families, and educators. Like the individuals and communities of Puerto Rico, we too can stay resilient and compassionate throughout this challenging time.