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2021 Northshore China Cultural Journey

Dear Families, Friends, and Travelers – Welcome to the 2021 Northshore China Cultural Journey! We have created two webpages dedicated to this exciting program so that travelers are as informed as possible throughout the process. The first page, Pre-Enrollment, is meant to share exciting details, highlights and pertinent info that participants will want to know before enrolling. Once enrolled, the Post-Enrollment page, is meant to prepare travelers for participation on the adventure ahead. Please be sure to review the information on the appropriate page thoroughly and we can't wait to start our enriching adventure!
Travel Dates: April 9, 2021 - April 17, 2021
Group Organizer(s):
WTT Contact:
Program Tuition: $2,590 USD
Airfare not included in program tuition
Estimated Airfare: $1,000

What to Expect

Please read through all of the information below. More details will be added as your departure draws closer.

Itinerary

We do everything possible to run safe, engaging, and immersive programs for our travelers, but given the unpredictable nature of international travel we must remain flexible in our planning. Changes to a schedule are uncommon but if inclement weather pushes us off course or an unexpected opportunity arises which travelers are excited about, we reserve the right to adjust programming in the best interest of the group. 

Day DateLocationDescriptionAccomodation
12020-04-09 00:00:00USToday we'll depart the USA and fly to Beijing.Plane
22020-04-10 00:00:00BeijingAfter crossing the international dateline, we'll arrive at Beijing International Airport in the evening. We'll settle into our accommodations in one of Beijing's oldest hutong alleyway neighborhoods dating back to the Ming dynasty. We'll have our first dinner together and rest up for our upcoming adventure!Drum Tower Hotel
32020-04-11 00:00:00BeijingWe'll begin our morning bright and early with a hutong scavenger hunt, exploring our neighborhood and soaking up Beijing's unique culture. We'll make our way to the Drum and Bell Tower Square for a demonstration of how time was kept by beating drums ancient times. We'll then hop on the subway heading towards Qianmen, the old front gate of the city wall. We'll walk through Tiananmen Square and make our way to the Forbidden City, the Chinese Imperial Palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. After a busy day, we'll spend the late afternoon in Jingshan Park and enjoy the sweeping views of the Forbidden City from above. Drum Tower Hotel
42020-04-12 00:00:00BeijingToday, we'll participate in a service day to learn more about China and Chinese society. Our potential projects could include joining in activities with an NGO that works with farmers' children or visiting a school for children with autism. In the evening, we'll try the famous Peking duck. Drum Tower Hotel
52020-04-13 00:00:00BeijingIn the morning, we'll visit the restored section of the Great Wall at Mutianyu and get a chance to tobaggan down the Wall. Afterwards, we'll travel to a rural village at the foot of the Great Wall of China (Xiangshuihu). We'll hike through chestnut orchards, walk past Wild Wall (unrestored section) and enjoy exploring this quiet, peaceful community. We'll be staying with the Hu family and have the opportunity to practice our Chinese with them and enjoy home-cooked meals as part of our homestay programing.Drum Tower Hotel
62020-04-14 00:00:00Beijing-Xi'anToday, we'll make our way back from Xiangshuihu to the Beijing train station to a high-speed train to Xi'an. We'll spend the afternoon observing the Chinese countryside while riding on part of the world's longest high-speed railway network! Xi'an Traveling With Hotel
72020-04-15 00:00:00Xi'anToday we'll explore the sights and sounds of Xi'an by strolling (or biking) along the ancient city wall, one of the few remaining intact in a major city across China. After, we'll discover the Terracotta Army of Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of China. Dating from 209 BCE, the full army and surrounding mausoleum are a must see! After we've seen the Terracotta Warriors, we'll join a workshop to learn how reproductions are made. Later on, we'll further hone our historical knowledge by checking out the famed Shaanxi Provincial Museum.Xi'an Traveling With Hotel
82020-04-16 00:00:00Xi'anOn our final day in Xi'an, we'll head to the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda dating to the Tang Dynasty. Afterwards, we'll check out Xi'an Muslim Quarter, which contains China's largest mosque, The Great Mosque, and a bustling, snack street filled with goodies like cumin-flavored lamb and roujiamo - also know as the "Chinese hamburger." Xi'an Traveling With Hotel
92020-04-17 00:00:00Xi'an - USWe will travel back to Beijing and fly home! 中国再见!Plane

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Accommodations

In order to provide a safe and memorable experience, we follow strict guidelines when choosing program accommodations. Walking Tree partners with locally-operated, three-star equivalent hotels and guest houses which are centrally located, clean and safe. 

Below are the accommodations we anticipate using on your trip, subject to availability. 
Drum Tower Hostel

The convenient location of Drum Tower Hostel reduces commute times and eases busy travel days.  However, we have chosen to partner with this particular accommodation for its safety standards, comfortable and cheerful atmosphere, and commitment to good service. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the building keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.

 

Group Flight

Once your flight has been secured the itinerary will appear here. Walking Tree will secure a seat on the group flight for each participant unless otherwise instructed.

Travelers are responsible for checked baggage fees. Please visit the airline’s baggage webpage to learn if you should expect to pay anything.

We will provide a group manifest – complete with reservation codes and ticket numbers – to the Group Organizer/s before departure, but travelers will need to check in at the airport in order to receive their boarding pass and have documents verified. We recommend arriving no later than three hours prior to the scheduled departure, but contact your Group Organizer for specific details on exactly where and when to meet on the day of departure.

FLIGHT INTERRUPTION DELAY OR CANCELLATION 
Air travel is unpredictable, especially in a pandemic.  Regardless of proper planning, there may still be instances when a flight is delayed or cancelled due to staffing shortages, weather, mechanical problems, etc.  Please note that in such an event, Walking Tree Travel (WTT) is not financially responsible for unanticipated costs incurred by travelers en route.  Our programs officially begin and end in the destination country, and because our staff doesn’t fly with the group, Group Organizers (the traveling faculty member/s) become the front-line advocate for the group in the event of a delay. In most cases of cancellations or delays, the airline will be the one who re-books travel or possibly arranges a hotel and food the night.  Our primary role will be to  keep families updated and provide support to the Group Organizer to reach a  quick and effective resolution.

Host Community and Project Details

Packing List

What follows is a sample packing list that is provided as a guideline. Feel free to augment as you feel necessary.  We recommend you bring a larger piece of luggage like a roller, duffel bag, or backpack, as well as a smaller backpack that you can bring on hikes, weekend excursions and shorter activities.

“Less is more” is a packing tip we encourage for all our travelers. The list below should cover everything you would need, but know yourself and what you are comfortable traveling with.  We suggest bringing only as much as you would be able to carry on your own.

Finally, we recommend consulting a weather forecast for your destination. 

The region of the country you will be visiting is in a lush tropical rainforest and next to the ocean and therefore humidity is omnipresent and it can take a while for clothes to dry. Keep this in mind when selecting your clothing fabric.

Most importantly, be sure to remember your PASSPORT and STUDENT ID.

CLOTHES (quantities depend on your trip length) :

  • Underwear
  • Socks (a mixture of good hiking socks and casual socks)
  • T-shirts (some quick dry)
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Long sleeve quick dry shirt (for activities under the sun such as rafting or surfing)
  • Rain jacket or poncho
  • Travel/athletic shorts that are breathable and light
  • Comfortable/hiking/everyday pants (NOT all jeans)
  • 1 nice shirt/top to be worn to more formal dinners (girls might want a skirt or something a little nicer for such occasions, boys may want to opt for a polo shirt or button up shirt with jeans)
  • Durable athletic/hiking shoes with good grip
  • Sandals (Chaco/Teva/Keen/Merrel sandals are great to have for water activities)
  • Thick long socks (for the sand fleas)
  • Bandana for work site (optional)
  • A hat that can protect your neck
  • Swimming suit, for surf classes a rash guard is recommended for sensitive skins

TOILETRIES: BRING THE BASIC TOILETRIES YOU NEED PLUS:

  • Sunscreen (You will use a lot. Natural products/lotions are preferred over aerosol, especially for the beach)
  • Mosquito repellent (non-deet/lotions are preferred to reduce environmental impact)
  • Band Aids and Neosporin
  • Anti-itch cream
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Medication in properly marked original container. It’s important that medication travel in its original container, as customs officials have the right to confiscate it otherwise.

MISCELLANEOUS:

  • Sunglasses
  • Journal and pen
  • Book
  • Camera (digital, disposable, waterproof)
  • Alarm Clock and watch
  • Debit card/US Dollars (we recommend about $50-$150, depending on number of desired snacks, souvenirs, extra items etc.)
  • Durable water bottle
  • 1 quick-dry towel
  • Flashlight/headlamp
  • Batteries
  • Deck of cards or other portable games
  • Chinese/English dictionary
  • Electrical converter and adapter
    **China runs 220V, 50Hz AC electricity. A converter is only necessary if your device does not have 120-220V range.

RECOMMENDED ADDITIONAL ITEMS:

  • Small luggage lock
  • Portable charger (for long train ride)
  • Wet wipes
  • Ziplock bags
  • Travel pillow
  • Ear plugs

Support Team

At a minimum, one experienced Program Leader will travel on every trip. In addition to this full time leadership presence, Walking Tree has additional support staff in all destinations and 24/7 support from our headquarters in Denver, Colorado. Below you’ll find a list of the team members involved in the planning, organizing, and leadership of your program.

Alena Shish
Alena Shish
China Country Director, Program Leader


Middlebury College – B.A. in Chinese Language in Literature; Minor in French & Francophone Studies

Born in Ukraine and growing up in the United States, Alena is no stranger to thriving in different cultural environments and studying foreign languages (so far, she speaks four: English, Chinese, French, & Russian). While at Middlebury College, she had the opportunity to study in both Hangzhou, China, and Paris, France. Her time abroad inspired her to see the potential in study abroad and intercultural exchange for personal growth and cross-cultural understanding. Having fallen in love with the Chinese language, food, and culture while abroad, after graduation, she moved to Shenzhen, China to help Chinese high schools students through the US university application process. Since then, she’s also traveled around Russia, Israel, East Asia and all over China. So far, she’s been to 19 provinces, 4 municipalities, and 2 administrative regions in mainland China. When she’s not hiking or spending time reading, she’s obsessively baidu-ing (the Chinese Google) new Chinese slang, new Chinese dishes to try, or new places to explore in China. She’s excited to see to share her love of China, Chinese language, and travel with all her trip participants.

Gabriel Duncan
Gabriel Duncan
Co-Founder of Walking Tree Travel and Business Lead - Denver, CO


Colby College – B.A. International Relations and Government

While at Colby, Gabriel spent a semester in Spain at the University of Salamanca studying contemporary Spanish politics and Spanish language. He also lettered for four-years on Colby’s lacrosse team and earned All-American honors. After graduating, Gabriel hit the road. He fished commercially in Alaska, taught in Chile and China, led programs for students in Spain and Costa Rica, and traveled to over 50 countries and all 50 states in the USA. Regardless of where Gabriel is located, he is constantly haunted by his naive faith and unconditional love for Denver sports teams.

Group Roster

Below is a list of the travelers enrolled on the program.

Blog and Communication

During travel we will work hard to keep families updated as frequently as possible with blogs and photos, giving you peace of mind that your traveler is safe and thriving on their program.  Students regularly contribute to these posts, giving parents a great way to vicariously track the progress of the trip. You will receive an email notification when the first blog is posted, after which we recommend you check in regularly via the black “Program Blog” button at the top of this page.

Beyond this proactive approach to communication during the trip, most destinations are wired enough to allow participants semi-regular access to WiFi so you can also expect to communicate with your traveler directly. Ask your Walking Tree representative about the degree of connectivity on your program.

 

GLC Curriculum

Walking Tree has developed a curriculum of activities meant to help travelers get the most out of their trip before departure, during travel and after they return home. These simple and engaging activities are meant to spark discussion, frame experiences, and prepare participants to travel ethically and effectively both on this trip and on future adventures.

For more information about student learning objectives and the format of the curriculum, click on the ‘learn more’ button below.

Learn More About the GLC

To view and complete the Pre-Program Activities, visit our online portal at the button below.

Pre-Program Activity Portal

Standards of Behavior

In order to run a safe and successful program, it is important that we create an environment of trust, security and respect. All individuals participating in our programs are required to take responsibility for their actions and adhere to a high standard of behavioral conduct.

ABSOLUTE DISMISSAL

  1. Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs.
  2. Associating with participants while they are in possession of or are consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs.
  3. Behaving in a way that consistently damages the group dynamic or jeopardizes personal or group safety. This includes consistently displaying a negative attitude, intimidating or excluding other participants, sneaking out, disobeying group leaders, and any other behavior that is not conducive to an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.

GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL OR IN-COUNTRY CONSEQUENCE

  1. Failure to abide by COVID-19 restrictions.
  2. Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials.
  3. Possessing weapons.
  4. Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle.
  5. Getting a piercing or tattoo.
  6. Being out after curfew.
  7. Breaking group rules.

These standards of behavior are essential for the successful completion of your program. Please take the time to review these as a family and make sure everyone understands and agrees to them.

Health and Safety

We strongly recommend visiting the CDC China website to get the most updated information on health and vaccination considerations in your destination country. In addition, we encourage you to consult with your personal family physician so you can be as informed as possible when making important decisions about vaccinations and other necessary health-related preparations before travel.

Our in-country staff prepare meticulously for all programs. Walking Tree will register our programs and travelers with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in case of emergency. In country staff also verify the safety records of our partner organizations, vendors, and transportation providers, thoroughly vet homestay families via in depth interviews and home visits, and keep up on important current events in the region.

Program Leaders are seasoned travelers who are CPR and First Aid certified, undergo thorough training in crisis management, and participate in a multi-day leadership training retreat. We do our best to prepare for any eventuality and have detailed emergency protocols for our leaders, in-country staff and U.S.-based staff.

We receive medical disclosures from all participants to ensure we are able to meet every students’ needs during the program. Please inform us immediately of any additional health issues that you did not list during your initial registration process. Program Leaders will also hold an online information session before your departure, as well as an arrival orientation in-country, in order to give participants important instructions on food safety, hygiene and preventing injury and illness. Leaders and in-country staff always respond immediately to any mental, physical or emotional health issues and follow comprehensive emergency protocols.

Insurance

While we work hard to ensure the safest experience possible for our travelers on program, experience teaches that travel is never without risk. For this reason, we recommend that all travelers consider a travel insurance policy with  two additional provisions: Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) and Bed Rest. Detailed explanations of both provisions can be found on the link below.

To provide families with a quality option, Walking Tree has partnered with Travel Insured International, one of the most respected providers in the industry.  Begin by getting a quote here.

IMPORTANT NOTE: in order to secure coverage with CFAR included, you must purchase the plan within 21 days of the date your initial payment or your deposit for your trip is received. You must also insure 100% of the prepaid, non-refundable trip costs that are subject to cancellation penalties or restrictions and cancel 48 hours or more before your scheduled trip departure date.

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