2023 Colorado Academy Colombia Service Adventure

Dear Families, Friends, and Travelers – Welcome to the 2023 Colorado Academy Colombia Program!  We have created two webpages dedicated to this once in a lifetime experience so that travelers are as informed as possible throughout the process. The Pre-Enrollment page 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 intended to prepare travelers for participation on the adventure ahead. Please be sure to review the information thoroughly and get excited for Colombia!
Travel Dates: May 20, 2023 - May 27, 2023
Group Organizer(s):
WTT Contact:
Program Tuition: $2,892 USD
Deadline(s): International airfare is included in tuition

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. 

DayLocationDescriptionLodging
May 20USA - MedellinToday we'll travel from Denver, CO to Medellin, Colombia. We'll likely have an evening arrival, after which we'll head straight our hotel for dinner and some rest after the long day of travel.Hotel San Pedro del Fuerte
May 21MedellinOur first full day in Colombia! After a breakfast of bunuelos, coffee and other delicious local treats we hop the modern metro and head into the center of Medellin. We'll take a short walking tour of the historical city center before checking out the Museo de Antioquia where many of Fernando Botero's paintings, sculptures and other works are housed. After a couple of hours in the museum we'll enjoy lunch of traditional bandeja paisas, a favorite in this particular department. In the afternoon we'll check out an awesome tour of graffiti street art through Comuna 13, formerly one of Medellin's most dangerous barrios. These days Comuna 13 is an internationally renowned example of how innovative urban regeneration projects can be used to transform and revitalize communities. Our guide will be a member of the Casa Kolacho community center, responsible for 90% of the graffiti art in Comuna 13. As you climb the outdoor electric escalators they'll explain the controversial history of the transformation of Comuna 13 and the importance that graffiti & hip hop play in the community.Hotel San Pedro del Fuerte
May 22MedellinAfter breakfast we're back on the metro, this time headed to the extreme west of the city. Our destination is Parque Arvi, a lushly forested public park high above the city center. To get there we'll board an impressive gondola that not only serves to ferry tourists up the mountain and into the park but also provides people in the impoverished hillside communities an efficient mode of transportation down into the city. The group will spend the day hiking along the different trails, shopping in the market place run by local vendors that has sprung up at the park's center and enjoying a delicious barbecue lunch. Around mid-afternoon we'll head back down the mountain en route to our hotel in Poblado.Hotel San Pedro del Fuerte
May 23Medellin - Jardin de AntioquiaToday we will leave the city life behind and head to beautiful Jardin de Antioquia. The small town of Jardin is one of the most idyllic pueblos in all of Colombia. Located approximately 4 hours to the south of Medellin, it sits in the southernmost stretches of the department of Antioquia. The pueblo is famous in Colombia for its preserved and colonial appearance as well as its striking mountain views and lush green, garden filled landscapes. We will arrive in Jardin this afternoon and begin our homestay experience after a short community orientation.Homestay Families
May 24Jardin de AntioquiaThe days spent in our homestay community represent the heart and soul of the program as students will be volunteering on a selection of meaningful service projects during the day while also enjoying sufficient free time to hang out with their host families and fellow travelers, practice their language skills, play soccer, make friends with local youth, attend community gatherings and explore the surrounding area. Homestay Families
May 25Jardin de AntioquiaAfter our service work today, we will end our time in the host community by throwing a fiesta de despedida, or going away party, to celebrate the time spent with our new friends and family and say goodbye to the community that has become our home.Homestay Families
May 26Samana River regionToday we'll make our way back to Medellin, but not before we embark on a rafting adventure on the Samaná river! After breakfast with our families we'll travel by bus to this full day activity, settling back into Medellin tonight. After we get cleaned up, we'll enjoy a final dinner in country together and reflect on our journey together ahead of our international departure tomorrow.Hotel San Pedro del Fuerte
May 27Medellin - USAFly homeYour own bed, eventually!

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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. 
Hotel San Pedro del Fuerte

Hotel San Pedro del Fuerte is centrally located in Medellín. Located just 10 minutes from Plaza Mayor, this hotel is the perfect location for our group. Students will be split between double or triple rooms based on gender and hotel availability. The hotel has wifi, air conditioning and includes breakfast each morning.

Homestay

This will be the best part of your trip! Staying with a host family immerses you in the language and culture of the destination, and can lead to deep and lasting relationships with your hosts. Initially intimidating but ultimately unforgettable, there’s no better way to begin to truly understand the place you’re visiting.

Group Flight

Type Carrier Name Carrier Code Flight Number Departure Airport & City Departure Date and Time  Arrival Airport & City Arrival Date and Time 
Outbound
American Airlines
AA
1003
DEN – Denver International Airport, Denver, United States
May 20, 2023 at 10:50 AM
MIA – Miami International Airport, Miami, United States
May 20, 2023 at 04:49 PM
Outbound
American Airlines
AA
923
MIA – Miami International Airport, Miami, United States
May 20, 2023 at 05:50 PM
MDE – Jose Maria Cordova International Airport, Medellin, Colombia
May 20, 2023 at 08:15 PM
Inbound
American Airlines
AA
924
MDE – Jose Maria Cordova International Airport, Medellin, Colombia
May 27, 2023 at 07:00 AM
MIA – Miami International Airport, Miami, United States
May 27, 2023 at 11:36 AM
Inbound
American Airlines
AA
608
MIA – Miami International Airport, Miami, United States
May 27, 2023 at 01:40 PM
ORD – O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, United States
May 27, 2023 at 04:08 PM
Inbound
American Airlines
AA
1387
ORD – O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, United States
May 27, 2023 at 05:20 PM
DEN – Denver International Airport, Denver, United States
May 27, 2023 at 06:59 PM

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, 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.

“Less is more” is a packing tip we encourage for all our travelers. The below list should cover everything you would need, but we frequently hear that travelers feel “overpacked” if they follow all of our suggestions. 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.

Please consult the 10-day weather forecast in https://weather.com and enter the cities listed in your itinerary if you desire a more detailed look at the weather you might encounter. 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
  • Lightweight sweater
  • 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)
  • Work gloves – required for service work
  • 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
  • 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
  • Host family gift
  • Spanish/English Dictionary

HOMESTAY GIFTS
Travelers often contact us regarding what an appropriate gift might be for their student’s host family. Host families are often curious about where our students come from and their families in the U.S. As such, we recommend a simple gift that describes, represents or depicts your home. Well-received gifts in the past have included calendars or picture/coffee table books from your city or state, a framed picture of your family, paraphernalia from a local sports team, toys, soccer balls, school supplies, or something produced or grown in your hometown, like chocolate, local candy, t-shirts, etc. The most important thing to keep in mind is not to worry about this… Anything, no matter its value, will be well received!

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.

Natalia Avila Angel
Natalia Avila Angel
Ecuador Country Director


International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus Rotterdam University – M.A. Development Studies, Environment and Sustainable Development

Born in Cali, Colombia, nestled in a family-oriented, tropical environment surrounded by dance and nature, Natalia grew up between two countries during her childhood and youth: Ecuador and Colombia. From a very young age she developed strong skills in intercultural understanding, particularly between Latin American sister nations. Through her passion and talent in athletics, she has had opportunities to travel to many different countries and cities in South America. Natalia studied at a university in Germany, which allowed her to travel around Europe, where she experienced a vast array of countries and Western cultures. She later pursued a master’s degree in social studies in Holland, focusing on environmental studies. She completed research on natural biosphere reserves in the Ecuadorian Amazon and the issues facing indigenous communities there. After many adventures and experiences, Natalia fell in love with Ecuador’s natural and cultural diversity and has lived and worked in several different places along the coast, highlands, mountains and Amazon regions of the country.

Luke Mueller
Luke Mueller
Co-Founder of Walking Tree Travel and Business Lead - Denver, CO


Emory University – B.A. Sociology and minor in Latin American History

During college, Luke spent a semester living and traveling in rural Mexico. His experience sparked a fascination with Latin America and a commitment to community service that continues to this day. Upon graduating from college, he joined WorldTeach and lived with a local family in a small village in Costa Rica while teaching elementary English. After this experience, he moved to San José, the capital and largest city of Costa Rica, and wrote for The Tico Times newspaper. Luke has since traveled to over 60 countries on five different continents.  Now settled in Denver with his family, he continues to crave massive helpings of rice and beans.

Group Roster

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

  • 1 Ashley Hagen
  • 2 Aziza Diallo
  • 3 Bela Chaudhuri
  • 4 Desmond Silverman-Joseph
  • 5 Fletcher Miller
  • 6 Graham Neely
  • 7 Harper Hodgson
  • 8 Jessica Zinn
  • 9 Joaquin LeWand
  • 10 Lilly Biederman
  • 11 Lisa Todd
  • 12 Melissa Acker
  • 13 Naomi Gillis
  • 14 Noah Sohn
  • 15 Taja McKinney Zisler
  • 16 Zoe Cope
16 Travelers

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 Colombia 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.

Beyond these recommendations, 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.

VACCINATIONS

Vaccination information and requirements are constantly changing. For more information we suggest that you consult your local travel clinic and/or family physician.

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 your deposit/first payment. You must also insure 100% of your trip cost, so program tuition + flight.

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