The gift we can give our graduates—and the gift they’ll give back to us
Given the crises that have rocked our world in 2020—the pandemic, the election, the imperiled economy, the climate-change denial, the racial reckoning, and whatever new crisis is coming next week—the younger generation is being handed an increasingly long To Do List of problems to help solve. We need to be raising global citizens at a time when our young people are stuck schooling online from home. Once the big wide world opens to us again, It will be important to get them back out there experiencing it. After all, travel is one of the best forms of education.
This past spring, my son Charlie graduated from high school the same way many students around the country did—virtually. Rite-of-passage senior-class events were cancelled, and colleges resorted to remote learning. Charlie opted to postpone his freshman year and spent what would normally have been his first semester of college participating in a gap-year outdoor education program in Hawaii, where he studied sustainability and environmental sciences by working on farms and helping local conservation causes. His travel this fall taught him real solutions he can bring home.
Travel has also taught him to value inclusivity and diversity, as it’s all about meeting and befriending people from different races and cultures. Charlie’s college application essay, in fact, was about the main lesson he’s learned from his travels, which is how to find common ground with people who are not like you: Wherever you are in the world, from Atlanta to Zambia, you can listen closely to the people you meet, find common ground, and bring those different perspectives to your community back home.
Many of you had 2020 plans to give your favorite high-school, college, or grad-school graduate an important experience of the world—plans you’d like to revive when the time is right. As inspiration, here are reviews of some of the graduation trips, arranged by WOW List destination experts, that have most delighted your fellow travelers.
“A perfect balance of wildlife, culture, adventure and a bit of relaxation…”
“This was a special trip to Peru for my niece just graduating from high school. She is about to study marine biology in college, so Marisol steered us toward the right Amazon basin area we hadn’t even considered. My husband, niece, and I just returned yesterday from Peru and wanted to send a HUGE GRACIAS to Marisol and her crew for making this trip one of a lifetime! There’s no way I ever could have constructed such a wonderful journey on my own. For sure, it was packed, but we came back feeling we’d seen such a diversity in Peru. It was a perfect balance of wildlife, culture, adventure and a bit of relaxation. And although the weather was terrible during our one-day Inca Trail hike, with rain and clouds obscuring Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate, we still wouldn’t change a thing. I will of course recommend and tell everyone I know to use Marisol—and to once again trust a Wendy Perrin specialist. Over the years, I have used and vetted many of Wendy’s travel specialists—and, no doubt, Marisol and her team are top of the list.” —Jon Paul Buchmeyer
“A fascinating dinner at a club with geishas, and a calligraphy lesson…”
“I wanted to take my youngest daughter to Japan to celebrate her high school graduation. Scott planned a fabulous and varied itinerary, and our guides were fantastic: They were very flexible to accommodate our interests and energy levels and very understanding of how a teenager would like to travel. Scott arranged several special experiences based on the relationships he has formed. We had a cooking lesson with an amazing woman in her home, a fascinating dinner at a club with geishas, and a calligraphy lesson with an excellent teacher. We both loved Studio Ghibli and the Monkey Park. Scott’s choice of hotels was wonderful. We slept so well every night, particularly at our ryokan. The Mandarin Oriental serves a fantastic breakfast buffet. The Ritz-Carlton was very luxurious (and yes—we did see Leonardo Di Caprio there). We were particularly fortunate that the cherry blossoms came out when we got there and we got to experience the beauty of the season. Throughout the trip, I was able to sit back and relax and enjoy everything because of Scott’s careful planning and knowledge of Japan. I would absolutely use him again and recommend him. I have been a fan of Wendy’s since her Condé Nast days. This is now my second special trip with her experts, and I plan on more. The level of professionalism is exceptional.” —Patricia Klein
“Our eight-day food tour of Italy was requested by our 21-year-old son who was graduating from university…”
“Our eight-day food tour of Italy was requested by our 21-year-old son, who was graduating from university. Milan was the starting point, next was Bologna to learn about the renowned foods of the region, and then a repeat visit to Florence—and we absolutely loved everything Maria planned. The drivers, guides, food tours, wine tasting, cooking class were all impeccable. In Milan, when our guide found out our son loved fashion, she made a call to a fashion designer, and we were able to meet with the designer. We spent an hour-plus speaking with him, trying on his designs, and buying some of his pieces. In Bologna our guide took us on a delicious food tasting that culminated in copious amounts of prosciutto, hams, cheeses, bread, balsamic vinegar, wine. Our all-day food tour through Parma and Emilia-Romagna was incredible, as was the private wine tasting where we sat in the cellar with the vineyard owner for more than two hours, tasting food and wine pairings. The vineyard owner then asked our driver to detour us through the medieval village of Fontanellato, to view the castle and moat and to indulge in gelato.” —Deb Lurie
“Zulya even arranged for us to have lunch with her family in Bukhara…”
“My son was graduating from Harvard’s Kennedy School with a degree in public policy, and his interest is Central Asia, so as a graduation present we took him to Uzbekistan. Not only would I recommend Uzbekistan as a travel destination, but I would highly recommend Zulya to anyone planning a trip there. She arranged for a wonderful guide to accompany us throughout the country; our guide stayed with us day and night, shared meals and her culture, and helped us navigate a very foreign language. Zulya even arranged for us to have lunch with her family in Bukhara. It was amazing. Her mother taught my son how to make Palov. The lunch was a true feast, with about 20 family members. After lunch we all got up and danced together. It was an experience my wife, son, daughter-in-law, and I will cherish forever.” —Ron Klausner
“Upon entering our room, we were greeted by a 6-foot-long banner on the wall that read: ‘Congratulations, Emmy!’ ”
“Lindsey was instrumental in creating the most special and absolutely perfect trip to Jamaica for my daughter and me, to celebrate my daughter’s graduation. Lindsey’s great knowledge of the resort and the area, combined with the many special touches she added to customize our trip, were unmatched. Upon entering our room (upgraded to a suite!) we were greeted by a 6-foot-long banner on the wall that read: “Congratulations, Emmy!” The banner was complete with photographs of Emmy and her college insignia. We found, to our delight, a bountiful fruit and snack basket that lasted our entire six days, as well as a rum cake that was delivered separately. Before our departure, Lindsey had asked via email for a list of Emmy’s favorite snacks and drinks, as well as for some photos of Emmy, her high school, and college insignias. I never anticipated the banner. Lindsey’s partnership with the perfect resort, and the exceptional staff at Half Moon, helped to make Emmy’s graduation trip unforgettable. Additionally, Lindsey’s suggestion to get the VIP service and ‘fast pass’ through customs, as well as the ‘Club MoBay’ pass, helped to make our travel days so much more civilized.” —Sallie Bunn
“Our son wanted to mountain bike on Whistler/Blackcomb and truly enjoyed it…”
“We recently traveled to British Columbia to celebrate our son’s high school graduation. On Wendy Perrin’s recommendation, we contacted Sheri, who suggested that, given our time constraints, we limit our visit to Whistler and Tofino. That proved to be an excellent recommendation which allowed us to enjoy our vacation without being rushed. Our son wanted to mountain bike on Whistler/Blackcomb and truly enjoyed it. Sheri suggested other activities which kept the rest of us active while our son spent the day on the mountain. Her recommendation that we stay at the Four Seasons Whistler was great. It’s a beautiful hotel with great staff and a wonderful breakfast. We enjoyed our time in Tofino as well; Sheri’s recommendations for lodging, food, and activities were perfect for us. One of the things that I appreciated was that Sheri was willing to do as much or as little as we desired.” —John Masko
We’re Here to Help
If you’re thinking about a trip during Covid, write to Ask Wendy. We know which trip-planning specialists have up-to-the-minute intel for your destination and can ensure that your entire trip is safe, smart, and extraordinary. Check out Real Trips Right Now to see the difference that this makes. For future (post-Covid) trips, use The WOW List to find the best destination specialist for your needs.
This article was originally published April 2019; it has been updated.