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backpacker girl

The trip that inspired it all

Story by
postedApril 20, 2020

Just as teachers or doctors might choose their career because of a meaningful experience as a youngster, many travel professionals fall in love with the experience on their first school trip. These tourism pros look back with pleasure on a meaningful journey they took with peers, and—lucky for us—some still have the photos.

Julie Kozikowski
Photo by Julie Kozikowski

Julie Kozikowski
Destinations Unlimited
Plymouth, Connecticut

“I went to France with my high school language program. We had a few hours on our own in Paris, and I convinced three friends and a teacher to get on the metro and go see Napoleon’s tomb. The tour guide in me was born.”

Mark Hoffmann, CTP
Sports Leisure Vacations
Sacramento, California

“The Fulton-El Camino Parks & Rec in Sacramento took a busload of us third and fourth graders to a San Francisco Giants baseball game in 1963. At day games during the week, the team let kids sit in the upper deck for free. It was my first baseball game ever, and I remember thinking 35 cents was an awful lot of money to pay for a hot dog.”

Holly Rogers
Photo by Holly Rogers

Holly Rogers (second from left)
Explore St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri

“I went to France with my high school French class, and we were there for about 10 days. At 15, I was the first person in my family to travel out of the country. I’d seen photos of some of the beautiful places we visited, but physically being somewhere new was an eye-opening experience. It sparked something in me as a teenager that has yet to burn out—there is still so much to see out there!”

Kaitlyn Dunneback
Witte Travel & Tours
Grand Rapids, Michigan

“As a junior at Grand Valley State University, I participated in a study abroad semester at the International College of Management Sydney (a hospitality school) in beautiful Manly Beach, Australia. It was the first time I had traveled internationally, and it made me realize how much value there is in experiencing places and perspectives outside of your own.”

Misha Jovanovic
Photo by Misha Jovanovic

Misha Jovanovic
Misha Tours
San Diego, California

“As a college student in Skopje, Yugoslavia (now North Macedonia), I traveled to England in the summers. I worked in an international farm camp in East Anglia near Norwich and earned enough money picking fruit to support myself in college. After about three summers, I got the idea to bring students from Yugoslavia to this camp. As group leader I was given free accommodation, and that meant I could earn more money.

“I organized my first group in 1974 and led them on a 36-hour journey to England on a train that went through Italy, Switzerland, and France. The picture was taken during a long layover in Paris. (I am on the far left in the front row—with lots of good black hair.)

“It was not an easy job, but I didn’t lose anybody on this long journey. This is how I got the idea to be in the travel business.”

Mike Jensen
Photo by Mike Jensen

Mike Jensen
North Dakota Tourism
Bismarck, North Dakota

“During my senior year, my high school band did a tour of Washington, New York City, and Philadelphia. For a kid that had never been anywhere beyond his home state, it was eye-opening to say the least. We went inside the Statue of Liberty, went to several Broadway plays, ventured to the top of the Empire State Building, saw the workings of government in the U.S. Capitol Building, felt the spray of Niagara Falls on our faces, and stood in the spot where Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention in Independence Hall. This trip made things I thought existed only on television or in books real, and it ignited a curiosity about other places I had to see and experience.”

Mike Jensen in red stripes
Bonus photo: Mike’s colleague Fred Walker submitted this picture from a 1986 school trip to D.C. He didn’t include details but the photo says it all.

Top photo ©Dudarev Mikhail/Adobe Stock