If you have a teenager finishing school this year, chances are they already have their ‘schoolies’ plans locked in. But for those of you with children a year or two younger, it might be time to start introducing them to the idea of a slightly different schoolies experience.
In what has become a rite of passage in the past few decades, the schoolies trip is now synonymous with completing year 12 studies.
While the mainstay destinations of Victor Harbor, the Gold Coast and Bali continue to be popular with party seeking school leavers, there is also a large up swell in the number of year 12 students looking for something different.
A safer, alternative post-school celebratory experience – one filled with a little more adventure, or perhaps a little more personal fulfillment.
From island hopping through Fiji, to snorkeling tours in Vanuatu, school leavers are increasingly booking purpose-designed international ‘grad trips’.
With a heavy emphasis on school leaver safety, such as a no duty free alcohol policy, fully guided coach travel and transfers and additional security at exclusive tour group only accommodation resorts, these grad-trips are gaining popularity among both teenagers and parents, according to Jot Lynas, CEO of Unleashed Travel.
“It’s encouraging to see that so many teens, having
heard so much about the anti-social behaviour at the Gold Coast and in Bali, have chosen to experience new cultures and more rewarding holidays,” Mr Lynas said.
“The shocking documentary television series ‘What really happens in Bali’ gave viewers unprecedented access to underage drunken rampages that were enough to embarrass a nation, and for our youth to turn their back on mirroring those stereotypes.
“Not every teen wants to spend a whole week avoiding creepy toolies and nursing a constant hangover, which is why these packages are becoming so popular.”
Also increasing in popularity are volunteer trips, which see school leavers head for destinations such as Cambodia and South Africa, to spend time teaching children in orphanages, or learning about elephant conservation. It’s a far cry from a week long, alcohol fuelled binge on the Gold Coast.
Adelaide teenager, Hannah Koler, 19, says she was never interested in taking a traditional drunken schoolies trip, but jumped at the chance to travel to Cambodia with Reach Out Volunteers in January this year.
During her two week trip, Hannah spent her first week building classrooms for KidTea, a not for profit, non-government school; while in her second week she spent time at the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary, working with rescued elephants and monkeys, and building toilets for the 300 live-in soldiers who protect the animals.
Not every teen wants to spend a whole week avoiding creepy toolies and nursing a constant hangover
“The experience was amazing,” said Hannah.
“It was so great to build classrooms for underprivileged children, so they had the opportunity to learn English and go to school. It was also incredible to experience how the people lived, as it is a very poverty stricken country.
“The majority of the people are so poor, however there are always smiles on their faces and they all seem to work together to help one another out.
Also the experience of meeting two wonderful elephants, Arun Reah and Kham Lin, was eye opening , especially with regard to the logging and circus trades and how they treat and abuse elephants.”
Volunteering overseas had been on Hannah’s wishlist for some time before her trip, and she believes the experience has truly changed her life.
“It gave me an eye opening view of people’s lives outside of Australia,” she said.
“I came home wanting to jump back on a plane to a different country to help and experience it all over again. I have never felt so happy and proud of the effort that everyone put into building those classrooms and the happy smiles on the children’s faces when we handed out much needed stationery donations.”
Hannah would encourage other teenagers to undertake similar opportunities.
“It’s an eye opening and rewarding experience to see how other cultures work and live, and to help a country in need,” she said.
“It’s a great way to explore the world, experience cultures and help out at the same time.”