Cultural Experience | United States

5 Reasons To Go On An Alternative Spring Break Trip

There’s something special about driving thousands of miles on a coach bus with 40 other college students.

Although it is only the middle of January, spring break has already been a popular topic of conversation amongst my group of friends. With temperatures not reaching more than 10° Fahrenheit for the past week in the Chicagoland area, it is not hard to fantasize spending a week on the beach with no worries in the world.

While there’s no denying that a week in warm weather sounds wonderful right about now, there are other options for spring break 2015, believe it or not.

I had the opportunity to go on a volunteer trip during spring break with the organization Students Today Leaders Forever. Over the course of the week we traveled to six different cities and completed a service project in each community.

It was a life changing experience, and looking back I wouldn’t change a thing if I could. So without further ado, here are five reasons I’m glad I went on an alternative spring break trip, and why I think you should too.

Unexpected friendships

Although I convinced my friend Ashlyn to come on this adventure with me, I did not know what to expect from the other 40+ people that accompanied us on the bus. The leaders of the trip kept assuring us that we would all become close friends, and I’m so happy to say that they were right.

For nine days we did service work together, explored new cities, and participated in ice breakers to get to know each other. When we returned at the end of the trip and classes resumed again, it was exciting to see 40 more familiar faces on campus. I met some of my best friends on this trip, and I couldn’t imagine my life without these people that were once strangers.

Affordable travel

For all the other travel enthusiasts out there, I know I’m not alone when I say that travel is expensive! Plane tickets, hotel rooms and sightseeing costs are not cheap. That’s what I loved about traveling with STLF last spring.

For $450 we got to go to explore six different cities including Memphis, New Orleans and San Antonio. $450 barely covered the plane ticket to Phoenix I just bought.

Sure, we were roughing it for the first part of the week by staying in schools and churches, but it did make the hotel stay at the end of the week that much sweeter.

Nap time on the bus.

Eye opening experiences

Once we were done volunteering in the morning we had time to explore the cities before moving on to the next destination.

Even though we were only in each place for one day we got to experience what makes each city unique. Some of my favorite moments were walking down Beale Street in Memphis, getting a palm reading in New Orleans, and taking a water boat ride in San Antonio. Our group leaders also added in a zip-lining surprise and a trip to the beach.

This trip also taught us to be humble. Like I mentioned we slept in different community locations each night with accommodations that were less comfortable than we were used to. This trip taught us to think of others before ourselves and to appreciate everything we take for granted back on campus.

We also witnessed how generous people can be. Churches, schools and other organizations welcomed us with open arms and even provided meals for us. Without people willing to do this, we wouldn’t have been able to go on our trip.

Local band playing in downtown New Orleans.

Local band playing in downtown New Orleans.


A little help goes a long way

I feel like sometimes in college, we tend to forget how fortunate we are. Only a small percentage of the world has a college education, which is something that we tend to overlook. The whole point of the week was to pay it forward. Trying to make a small difference in this huge world. And in my opinion, I think we accomplished what we set out to do.

We cleaned a zoo in Memphis, recycled mardi gras beads in New Orleans, sorted food at food banks in Lafayette and San Antonio, and helped program coordinators at a children’s museum in Houston.

By spending just one day helping these organizations, we were able to accomplish tasks that would have taken them weeks to do alone. Seeing how much our help impacted them was very inspiring. If everyone volunteered the world would be a much better place.

Sorting mardi gras beads in New Orleans

Me & Ashlyn sorting beads.

There’s nothing else quite like it

When I signed up for STLF, I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into. I knew it was service based and that we were traveling to cities in the south but that was about it.

When I entered the bus on the first day I had no expectations. This trip taught me to go with the flow and to keep an open mind. I learned a lot from my peers, tried new things, and gained a greater appreciation for everything I have.

I think everyone should experience an alternative spring break trip, or something similar, in college. It is a unique opportunity that will stay with you for all the years to come.


Shannon Kelly

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | 10 stories

Shannon Kelly is a Journalism major at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is involved with the student newspaper, new student programing, and greek life on campus. She has a passion for travel, loves animals, and never turns down an adventure. Always looking for a reason to laugh and be spontaneous, Shannon also enjoys music and movies.

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