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We Woke In a Bedouin Tent as the Sun Rose Over the Dead Sea…

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My own life-changing trip – and some journeys that might turn out to be yours.

By Guest Blogger Rachel Freeman I SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY Undergrad degree – cum laude – in communications. Currently pursuing a master’s in broadcast and electronic communication arts. Not-so-secret passion: Baseball (go, San Francisco Giants!).

So I just got back from the trip of a lifetime – a free 10-day trip organized by Birthright Israel for Jewish students and young adults between the ages of 18–26. It was a life-changing experience, and one of the greatest aspects of the trip was participating with 44 complete strangers.

We met with musicians and other important Israelis. We went wine tasting. We floated down the Jordan River, visited the holy sites of Jerusalem, and rode camels (you know I wouldn’t skip the camels). We slept in a Bedouin tent, waking at 3 a.m. to hike Masada — the ancient desert fortress that today is one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols – to watch the sun rise over the Dead Sea. And these were just the highlights of my experience in Israel.

The trip got me thinking: What other summer travel opportunities are out there for people my age? For Birthright Israel, being Jewish is a requirement. But I knew there must be other awesome trips that were open to anyone.

Here are some trip organizers whose offerings sound like an epic way to spend summer break or gap year abroad:

1. EF College Break has trips of different lengths to many different parts of the world. You can sign on for a 7–10 day journey or travel for 35 days. The company offers a menu of great destinations like Australia, Turkey, Africa, and Spain, with well-planned itineraries that have plenty of free time built in so that you can explore the local scene on your own. Trip prices include airfare.

2. Projects Abroad provides internship and volunteer opportunities for university students, recent grads, and anyone else who is interested. Whether you’re planning a summer break or taking a gap year to explore the world, the organization offers you the chance to be part of a wide range of international service projects in fields as diverse as law & humans rights, performing arts, archaeology, and journalism. Great in-country support from an international staff.

3. Ever wanted to visit the Incas? Or explore Vietnam? Gap Adventures, another student travel organization, has these trips and others. The company’s slogan is We Love Changing People’s Lives, and they do. With these folks you can tour the catacombs of Paris, ride a yak in Sikkim, or – right here at home – mountain bike the Grand Staircase of Bryce Canyon. If festivals are your thing, Gap Adventures can get you there: Think Germany and Oktoberfest, Rio for Carnival, and the Zanzibar International Music Festival.

4. The last place I checked out is Contiki, an outfit that will take you to six of the seven continents (who wants to go to the Arctic anyway; it’s cold!). Contiki offers trips every month of the year. Trip lengths range from 4–45 days, so even if you work or go to school full-time, there’s a trip for you. The company says its mission is to “create hassle-free vacations with an unbeatable mix of sightseeing, culture, people your own age, and free time” – not a bad combo.

Through a trip organizers or on your own, where would you go if you could pick anywhere in the world?

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