2021 Saratoga Springs High School Western China Cultural Journey
Review all materials
What to Expect
Please read through all of the information below. More details will be added as your departure draws closer.
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.
|1||USA - Chengdu||Today we'll depart the USA and fly across the Pacific to the metropolis of Chengdu in Sichuan Province, China.||In flight|
|2||Chengdu, Sichuan||After crossing the international dateline, we'll arrive in Chengdu in the evening. We'll settle in to the hotel, have our first dinner together and rest up for our upcoming adventure!||Chengdu Dreams Hostel|
|3||Chengdu, Sichuan||After a good night's rest we'll have our orientation and explore Chengdu, checking out the famous Wuhou Temple and eating our fair share of Chengdu's specialty street snacks on Jinli street. We'll also stroll over to the People's Park to hang with the locals while they get fit and socialize through ballroom dance, kite flying, taichi, and more! For dinner, we'll try our hand at expert level DIY Sichuan cuisine, hotpot!||Chengdu Dreams Hostel|
|4||Anlong - Chengdu, Sichuan||Today we will visit and tour Anlong Village to learn about the work of Chengdu Urban Rivers Association and pitch in to help with some of their sustainable agricultural education programing. We'll enjoy tea and mahjong on the shores of the surging river while we experience the relaxed pace of life in rural Sichuan. We'll also have the unique opportunity to enjoy family style meals in local farmer's homes. After heading back into the city in the evening, we'll enjoy an entertaining Sichuan opera performance featuring traditional “Face Changing” acrobatics, and more.||Chengdu Dreams Hostel|
|5||Transit||After a final morning in Sichuan, we'll hop on the long-distance sleeper train to Beijing. As we zip through the countryside, we'll rest and recharge our batteries, play cards, journal, and snack and/or practice our Chinese language skills with our neighbors.||Train|
|6||Beijing||We'll arrive in Beijing and get settled in at our accommodations in the historic Ming Dynasty Hutong alleyways of the old city center. This afternoon we'll check out the Lama Temple, Beijing's largest active Buddhist temple. In the evening, we'll take a cooking class at The Hutong and try our hand at crafting the Chinese cuisine we've been enjoying (option of making dumplings or handmade noodles)||Drum Tower Hostel|
|7||Beijing||We'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 Squa e for a demonstration of how time was kept in ancient times by beating drums. 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 reflect on the significance of the events that took place here. Then, we'll make our way to the Forbidden City, the Chinese Imperial Palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. Time allowing, we'll check out the emperor's impressive collection of elaborate mechanized clocks from all over the world at the Hall of Clocks. 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 Hostel or Sleepy Inn|
|8||Beijing||Today we'll visit one of the most important cultural sites on the planet: the Great Wall of China! We'll start our climb on the Wild Wall in Lotus Pond Village (taking time to get a sense of life in a rural village outside the city) and eventually connect to the restored Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. After taking as many photos as we can stand, we'll have our choice of ways to descend, either via cable car or toboggan rides. We'll enjoy a meal at a small family-run restaurant to get a sense of rural home-style Chinese cooking.||Drum Tower Hostel or Sleepy Inn|
|9||Beijing||For our final full day in China, we'll either engage in a cultural exchange activity with local students, or further explore Beijing's rich culture. Options include experiencing stunning imperial ritual architecture during a visit to the Temple of Heaven, or testing our haggling skills while picking up last minute gifts/souvenirs at the famed Pan Jia Yuan Flea Market. We'll go out for our farewell dinner and enjoy a Beijing specialty: Peking duck. We'll close out the celebration of our time together with a Karaoke party after dinner.||Drum Tower Hostel or Sleepy Inn|
|10||Beijing - USA||Check out, head to the airport and fly home! 再见中国！||Airplane|
Need to Raise Money? We Have you Covered.
Our travelers are provided with funding opportunities that are easy to implement and fun to take part in. Our flagship fundraiser involves selling fair trade, organic, carbon-neutral coffee from a women’s collective in Peru. There is no limit to the amount you can earn, so get started now by clicking the link below!
In order to provide a safe and memorable experience for travelers, 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, safe and wifi-enabled.
Once your flight has been secured the itinerary will appear here.
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. We recommend arriving no later than three hours prior to the scheduled departure but for specific details on exactly where and when to meet on the day of departure, please contact your Group Organizer/s.
A NOTE ON FLIGHTS
Air travel is unpredictable. Although we can ensure that our groups arrive to the airport with ample time and follow all airline instructions, there may still be instances when a flight is delayed or cancelled due to weather, mechanical problems, labor strikes, etc. Please note that in such an event Walking Tree Travel (WTT) is not financially responsible for unexpected costs incurred by travelers. Our programs officially begin and end in our host countries. That being said, our travelers’ well-being and safety is our number one priority, so please know that should flight delays/cancellations occur we will do everything we can to get travelers home in a timely manner and will do our best to keep family members updated on developments.
WTT is not responsible for fees associated with checked baggage. Please visit the airline’s baggage webpage to find out about baggage fees and options. It is also important to make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the final day in country.
Please confirm with your air travel provider as some airlines may require that travelers under a certain age have completed an unaccompanied minor parental consent form. Please consult the airline website to confirm if this is required on your flight.
Host Community and Project Details
What follows is a sample packing list, which will be updated for each program. 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.
Most importantly, be sure to remember your PASSPORT and STUDENT ID.
China Packing List
Long-sleeved T-shirts, preferably light-weight
Sweater or sweatshirt
Light-weight pants/hiking pants
Nice outfit to be worn at community gatherings and final dinner (sundress, skirt, polo, khaki shorts, etc.)
Sneakers (appropriate for hiking/athletic activity)
Sports sandals or 1 pair flip flops
Hat or visor
Sunscreen SPF 30+ (You will use a lot!)
Tampons/maxi pads (if applicable)
Any necessary medication (TSA requires that pills be properly labeled and in the original container.)
Band aids and neosporin
REQUIRED ADDITIONAL ITEMS
Bath towel (quick-dry recommended)
Plastic bag for dirty laundry
Alarm clock or watch
$100-200 US dollars in perfect condition (for souvenirs, snacks, optional excursions, etc.)
Visa/MasterCard ATM card We do NOT recommend traveler’s checks, gift cards or credit cards.
Durable water bottle
RECOMMENDED ADDITIONAL ITEMS
Small luggage lock
Portable charger (for long train ride)
Journal & writing utensils
Journal and pen
Flashlight or headlamp
Cards/games/etc (small and easy to carry)
Electrical converter and adapter
**China runs 220V, 50Hz AC electricity. A converter is only necessary if your device does not have 120-220V range.
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 where we remain available to the group for additional help whenever necessary. Below you’ll find a list of the team members involved in the planning, organizing, and leadership of your program. Meet your support team!
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.
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.
See below for a list of 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, and can check back any time via the black “Program Blog” button at the top of this page or the link included in the email.
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.
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.
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. Any of the following are grounds for early dismissal or in-country consequences at our discretion.
- Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
- Associating with participants while they are in possession of or are consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
- 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
- Getting a piercing or tattoo
- Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials
- Threatening with or using weapons such as firearms, knives, explosives, etc.
- Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle
- Being out of designated area or accommodations after curfew
- Breaking group rules
These standards of behavior are essential for the successful completion of a travel program. Please take the time to review these rules as a family and make sure everyone understands and agrees to them before choosing to travel with us.
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.
While we work hard to ensure the safest experience possible for our travelers on program, experience has taught us that travel can come with risk. For this reason, we recommend that all travelers consider protecting their trip and travel investment by purchasing a travel protection plan with a Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) provision.
To make this process as easy as possible, we have partnered with Travel Insured International, one of the most respected providers in the industry. Begin by taking a few minutes to get 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. Please note that CFAR is not available to residents of New York.