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Greenheart Travel

About

Greenheart Travel is a 501(c)3 non-profit, mission driven organization based in Chicago, USA. We are passionate about providing immersive cultural immersion experiences for teenagers and adults in countries all over the world.

We believe in the power of travel; a power that broadens your perspective and turns strangers into family. It’s this belief that motivates us at Greenheart Travel to provide life-changing adventures for anyone with a case of wanderlust. We’re your personal cheerleaders as you navigate the unpredictable joys, surprises, and challenges of life abroad. With unrivaled support and guidance, Greenheart Travel gives you the tools to make sure you’re more than a tourist, you’re a world citizen. You don’t just travel for the sights, you travel for a change.

Website
Founded
1985
Headquarters

200 W. Superior St.
Suite 300
Chicago, IL 60654
United States

Reviews

Default avatar
Abigail
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I am writing this while still in Italy, having just completed my 10 weeks of teaching in Verbania, Italy. I could not recommend this program enough.

Greenheart provides incredible support and preparation, and the orientation we received was thorough. Orientation was also a blast because I was able to meet the other 20 teachers also being placed in the Piedmont region (most of them near Turin). Everyone was instant, effortless friends and all of my trips around Italy on the weekends involved at least one of these new friends, sometimes more (like the 10 of us who took on Florence for a weekend---such a blast).

I had 2 host families during my stay, and each one was fantastic. I consider them close friends now and living in their homes meant traveling with them to their favorite local spots, eating incredible meals together, and sharing our worldly perspectives around the dinner table over local wine. Staying with host families was certainly the most rewarding part of this adventure as I feel I got a very deep sense of Italy culture.

Teaching at the local middle school was a really great experience. It boosted my future teaching career so much. And, be warned, Italian school systems are very disorganized. If you can go with the flow, you'll be okay. That being said, be prepared to run an entire class by yourself because the teacher usually with you took the day off to go skiing. Be prepared for teachers who harshly yell at students and students who yell right back. It's a different system in a different culture so be prepared for it to take a lot of time and energy.

During my time, I've been able to travel to Florence, Venice (for Carnival no less), Naples, Rome, Genoa, Turin, Milan, and even into the Swiss Alps. Every day is an adventure and a chance to eat the most incredible food you've ever had in your life. And the gelato is so good, you'll seek out the best places in every town and have it at least 3 times a week. Embrace it.

I highly recommend this program for anyone who wants to be immersed in a culture, work hard at school, eat amazing food, and travel around Italy/Europe. I never had any issues.

What would you improve about this program?
Implement some sort of program where travelers can set up tutoring services for money as we're working full time and earning nothing for three months. Perhaps would make the program more feasible for more people.
Default avatar
Michelle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Doing this program was one of the best decisions of my life. Greenheart was incredibly supportive throughout all the pre-departure planning and the trip itself. Being a first time traveller, I was also able to apply for the Greenheart Travel First Time Traveller Scholarship which was a huge financial help to me!

Rescue P.A.W.S. became my second home and will forever have a special place in my heart. I was lucky to have an incredible boss and amazing coworkers who I know will be friends for life. My days were spent with puppies or cats in my lap, putting my skills to use in a way that I can confidently say I am proud of. This internship is very self-directed - I came in with project ideas in mind and was able to do all of them. I come from an art background and was even able to illustrate for, and design, a bunch of new merchandise, which isn't something I thought I'd be doing in a marketing internship at all! I loved Rescue P.A.W.S. so much that I even decided to stay a couple of months longer than I had planned. If you're on the fence about doing this program, don't be. What could be better than puppies in Thailand?

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
The most unfamiliar thing I ate was a scorpion. It tasted like crunchy plastic.
Default avatar
Haley
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A few years ago I was searching the internet for a way to travel to another country but stay longer than a normal vacation. After weeks of searching I found Green Heart Travel's program to Colombia. I studied history and focused on Latin America so this was instantly my favorite program I'd seen. After applying and going through a few interviews, I was on my way to Colombia within 6 months. For the following 6 months I not only had an amazing time with my students and teachers at my school but also traveled the entire country which included snow and glaciers, beaches, mountains, ancient ruins, urban cities, colonial towns, and lots of beautiful hikes with waterfalls and mountains everywhere. Everywhere I went the people were so friendly and I never felt unsafe at anytime. I would highly recommend taking a chance and traveling to Colombia and would definitely recommend Green Heart Travel for all of their help and organization throughout my time there and even after returning.

What was the most nerve-racking moment?
One weekend I decided to take a hiking tour up to glacier that sits in between two volcanoes. The way up was fairly easy but continued to get colder and had more snow on the ground the higher we went. After reaching the top it began snowing so the guides said to take your last pictures and start heading down (there were a lot of people and quite a few guides but the trail was clearly marked so we were able to start walking ourselves). As I started walking down it got very foggy and was hard to see which way to go. A few others caught up to me and also were unsure of the way down. A few seconds later a guide came running down to us, kind of frantically searching and talking on his walkie talkie. Eventually he was certain of the correct way down and guided us in that direction. I really enjoyed the entire hike and tour but it was a little scary not being able to see very well which direction to head knowing you could easily go the wrong way and fall off the edge... but I made it and am super happy I went on the tour!
Default avatar
Lauren
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I came to China via Greenheart having used them already in 2015 to complete a programme in Thailand. Once again, Greenheart were very well organised, pragmatic and supportive throughout the entire process. Greenheart had less involvement in the programme than when I went to the teaching placement in Thailand, as there was no introductory weeks of lessons, activities etc. I was regularly in contact with Greenheart staff however, who were especially supportive when I was having a tough time in my homestay struggling with cultural difference and homesickness. The lady I spoke to had suggestions, encouragement and liaised with my boss of the company that I was handed over to, in order to help me though my issues and feel more at home in China. By the end I didn't want to leave! I also had an alumni discount for this programme, which is also great as we all know that money can be an issue when you have itchy feet. I would definitely recommend the home-stay programmes as an immersive and humbling experience, however i might suggest going on a paid teaching programme first like I did in order to get to grips with culture shock and first-time working abroad with others in the same boat before going it alone.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Chicken feet. Deep fried duck bones. Rice wine. Apart from these three awful things, China had the best food I've had in my life. Chinese home cooking rocks!
Default avatar
Lauren
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Greenheart are fantastic at providing support from the moment you land in the country. I arrived and was picked up by a driver arranged by greenheart, and then driven to my hotel room (sharing with another teacher). We then spent the next week having all our important documents sorted, applications for teaching jobs filled out and phones sorted, as well as Thai lessons, culture lessons, teaching lessons and wonderful activities such as muai thai and visiting an elephant sanctuary. I felt 100% supported by greenheart staff to get a teaching job, although flexibility on this front was required on my part as this changed once or twice before it was finalised. as well as emotionally and psychically supported for the rest of my time in Thailand. I ended up working for a school and a learning centre in Ayutthaya, a beautiful historic town, the learning centre was fantastic, wonderfully organised and gave me a variety of students in terms of age and requirements. The school was far less organised and I had some trouble here trying to make my lessons a success, however, I felt i could call upon Greenheart should I encounter any problems. I found the culture and language lessons provided by Greenheart at the beginning very helpful, as well as technical support of getting a SIM card and bank account, all of which would have been very difficult to do alone. I had a wonderful placement and a perfect place to live, and still keep in touch now with some of the fellow teacher I met there. A fantastic experience, so much so that I decided to use Greenheart again in 2018 for a home stay programme in China.

What would you improve about this program?
Of course it would be nice if the programme was a little more affordable for everyone, although I did make plenty of money once I was out there. I also got discount for my next programme.

Jobs

Programs

Displaying 1 - 9 of 48

Alumni Interviews

Alumni interviews are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Abby Lex

Abby is 25 years old and originally from Minnesota, USA. After college, she spent three years working in a corporate office before deciding that being an adult just wasn't for her – she’s been traveling ever since

Group of people kneeling for a photo.

Why did you choose this program?

There were programs to choose from when I was looking. Ultimately, I think one of the biggest factors was that this program had flexible start dates all throughout the year. Other programs only had one or two dates to choose from in a year, and their timelines didn't line up with mine.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

I would say that Greenheart gave me assistance with organizing just about everything. They made sure I had the correct visa paperwork and that I sent it to the right location. They advised me on proper timing to book my flights, and they made sure I got picked up from the airport and taken to my hotel when I reached Thailand.

Even though there were things that I had to do by myself, I never felt like I was on my own during the process. And the Program Coordinator was SO FAST with responding to emails, so anytime I had a question I would get an answer usually within minutes.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

The one thing that I tell anybody going to Asia for the first time is: be prepared for everything to go wrong. Haha! It makes things sound so bad, but after all, things don't go quite according to plan a lot of the time. You have to expect the unexpected.

It's one of the things that I actually grew to love about being there, and I think it helped me chill out a bit as a person. You have to learn to just calm down when things don't go how you thought they would.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

First, we had a week of cultural orientation, which was usually some fun activity every day as well as some kind of culture/history/language lesson. After that, we had three weeks of the TESOL course; we were in classes Monday to Friday pretty much all day and usually doing homework in the evenings.

The course was intense, but things mellow out when you get to your placement. In my case, I had to be at the school Monday to Friday from 8AM - 4PM, but I only actually taught for 16-18 hours a week. The rest of that time I could lesson plan, grade, or really do anything I wanted in the office. It leaves you a lot of free time in the evenings and weekends to explore, meet the locals, and have adventures!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I was pretty worried about the language barrier with my students. I had no idea how I was going to go into a classroom full of students who don't understand English and somehow manage to communicate with them (and teach them too!) This really was TOUGH for the first couple of months in my placement. In my second week, I remember giving a very basic command to take out a piece of paper, and all I got were blank looks! But I learned to speak some basic classroom commands in Thai, and everything really turned around.

It accomplished two purposes: I could make the kids understand what I wanted from them, making the class less stressful for me and them; and I was also able to manage my classes better simply because the kids respected me for putting in the extra effort for them.

I think with any fear or issue holding you back, you should know that as long as you are willing to work hard to overcome it, you can do pretty much anything you want!

What were your experiences like with the local people during your program?

The Thai people are honestly some of the most relaxed and generous people I've ever met! Scooter broken down on the road? Don't worry, someone is sure to stop and help you out within a couple minutes! And after helping you, that person might even bring you home to meet their family and feed you dinner and treat you like a lifelong friend – all while struggling through a huge language barrier! I just can't say enough good things about all the people I met there and how glad I am that I chose this program. It truly changed the course of my life for the better.

More Interviews

Staff Interviews

Staff interviews are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Amanda Tazioli

Job Title
Marketing Content Cooridnator
Amanda Tazioli is the Marketing Content Coordinator at Greenheart Travel, where she gets to empower others to pursue diverse experiences. She has visited dozens of cities, but is happy to call Chicago home.
Amanda Tazioli

What is your favorite travel memory?

The first time I ever hiked was in Cornwall. Even though the trail was for beginners, I was very nervous because I’m not an athletic person. I decided that I would take it slow and really soak up the atmosphere. My hike turned into a leisurely walk as I spent most of the time admiring the view. I spotted two people in the distance who were just sitting at the edge. They looked simultaneously isolated from the world, yet very much a part of the earth. I sat down and tried to experience the same. I surprised myself, not by my physical ability, but because I was able to pause and appreciate the present, which is something I find difficult to do.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I've added so many things to my bucket list since I've started working at Greenheart Travel! A big part of my job is to share people's travel experiences, so I am always making mental notes when I hear about someone's exciting adventure abroad. For example, I am making it a priority to see the Loi Krathong Light Festival in Thailand!

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

My favorite part of my job is that I get to hear so many stories from participants before, during, and after they have gone abroad. My favorite stories are when people break out of their comfort zones and feel they have grown as a person. It shows that travel isn't an experience that ends once you return home.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

Right now, I would choose our Volunteer in Puerto Rico program for sure. Even though Hurricane Maria was over a year ago, there is still so much that needs to be done to aid in relief and reforestation. It's a great program for someone who wants to get their hands dirty and really make a difference.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

Everyone truly cares about every single person on our programs. It sounds cheesy, but it's true! I have seen my coworkers go out of their way to do everything they can to ensure travelers have the best experience abroad and provide the necessary resources to prepare them. It is definitely a culture of care.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

There are two things that come to mind. First and foremost, everyone needs to be on the same page and understand the "Big Picture." The second is transparency. Being honest and transparent with participants is what is going to help them feel prepared before they go abroad. As someone in marketing, it is crucial I portray authentic travel experiences to set realistic expectations.

More Interviews

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