During the first semester of a LEAPYEAR, students travel in groups of 8-12 with two experienced adult leaders for 10 weeks.
The emphasis is on breadth of experience - immersion in the language, sampling of diverse short-term internships, social service work, trekking, work with endangered animals or on behalf of the environment, and completion of short-term yoga or meditation retreats. During these group travel months, students learn the skills they will need to live, travel and work independently during the individual internship in the second half of the year.
First Semester Group Travel in India
NEPAL & NORTH INDIA: Orientation in Kathmandu, with a focus on local religion, art and culture. Serve earthquake-affected communities and by supporting relief and re-construction projects. Learn and practice yoga and meditation while working with children in the Kathmandu Valley. Trek in the awe-inspiring Himalayas.
Learn about the extensive history and living diversity of Buddhism in Bodhgaya, a destination for many Buddhist pilgrims and home to the Bodhi tree under which the Budhha himself attained enlightenment and offered his first teachings. Visit active rural communities outside of Bodhgaya and see first-hand the struggle and increcible beauty of village life. Witness the traditional dress and musical expression of local youth, and share your own musical talents.
Study Hindi language while taking classes and exploring traditional arts on the Ganges in Varanasi, one of the world’s oldest cities. Live with a host family and experience the richness of Indian culture, family and social structure, and a delicious diversity of foods. Directly experience the Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian and Sikh religions. Explore and depart from Delhi, the bustling capital city of India.
NORTH AND SOUTH INDIA: Orientation in India’s capital of New Delhi, the bustling capital city of India, for an orientation to Indian culture and history while recovering from the jet lag resulting from flying to the other side of the world.
Departing Delhi, head up toward the mountains and stay in the hill-station town of Mussoorie, known for being a small town with incredibly rich religious diversity. You will study one week of Hindi language to access the culture in a deeper way throughout your travels in India. The group will also explore the spiritual and cultural practices several religions, including Islam and Sikhism.
Take classes and explore traditional arts on the Ganges in Varanasi, one of the world’s oldest cities. Live with a host family and experience the richness of Indian culture, family and social structure, and a delicious diversity of foods. Directly experience the Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian and Sikh religions. Learn and practice yoga and meditation in a peaceful and traditional ashram setting in Kerala, the southern-most state in all of India. Serve the local community by building houses, alongside the families that will live in them, in tropical Tamil Nadu. Trek in the Western Ghats, the breathtaking mountain range of Southern India. Depart from Thiruvanantapuram, one of the most highly educated and progressive cities in all of India.
You’ll finish your trip with a few days of group travel and closure before departing India and returning to the USA.
- Regina Sara Ryan
First Semester Group Travel in Latin America
During past LEAPYEARs, we have taken the fall travel groups to both Central America and South America. We have recently focused on Central America, giving the students less long travel days, and a deeper experience of this rich region.
The group will land in Guatemala and begin with an orientation in Comalapa, a small city in central Guatemala, famous for its Kaqchikel painters. We will spend time exploring the markets and get to know the cultural rules as you practice getting around in this comfortable town. We will then join a construction team and spend a week helping build a school completely from trash collected in and around the area.
Moving into the highlands, we will spend two weeks in Quetzaltenango (a.k.a. Xela), the cultural and economic center of the Mayan world. Students will take two weeks of one-on-one language classes and live in homestays with local families. The afternoons will be spent volunteering with local non-profits, learning about Mayan culture and history, and visiting important sites in the area.
From Xela, the group will trek directly to Lago Atitlan, hiking through volcanic craters, indigenous villages and diverse natural ecosystems. Arriving at Lago Atitlan, the spiritual heart of the many Mayan communities, we will spend a few days closing curriculum and time in Guatemala, while enjoying the beauty of the lake and many surrounding volcanoes.
We then move on to Nicaragua, starting with a group orientation in the beautiful colonial city of Leon. Here, we will spend some timing noting the cultural and language differences, and prepare to enter the new country.
Then we head east through the highlands to the coffee capital of Matagalpa. Here you'll dive into two week of intensive Spanish language learning and explore volunteering with a few of the many small NGOs here. You'll be paired with local High School students for a language and cultural exchange - a great way to cross the language and culture gap.
Spend a few days in the colonial town of Granada, the oldest city in the country and a vibrant rainbow of Spanish colonial buildings. Explore the endless markets and numerous beaches before taking a boat to the Isla de Ometepe. We will spend two weeks on this incredibly luscious island, living with a local homestay families and learning the basics of permaculture and sustainable community living. Weekends will give us the opportunity to further discover the natural beauty of this fairy-tale land and the two volcanoes that rise out of Lake Nicaragua to form the island. Boating back to the mainland, we head to the capital town of Managua and prepare for the flight to Honduras.
Upon arriving on Roatan Island in Honduras, we will settle in and prepare for the PADI certified scuba diving course. The course will cover four days and five dives, and allow the group to explore the incredibly rich underwater world around Roatan. We will also experience the local Garifuna cutlure, unique to small areas of the Carribean. The group will close their time in Roatan before departing back for the USA.
This is a sample itinerary. LEAPNOW reserves the right to make changes to the itinerary at any time in order to safeguard our students and respond to changing political or climatic conditions.
- Laurens van der Post