Blog  Traveling with a Group of Strangers? No Problem!

Traveling with a Group of Strangers? No Problem!

By Ilana Schear, URJ Teen Travel Programs, Registrar

The number one question I am asked when a family calls inquiring about one of our national trips is, “Is it common for teens to go without knowing anyone?” And I respond with the same answer every time, “YES!” Every year, teens from all over the U.S. arrive at the airport for NFTY in Israel not knowing a single person. While this may be a fear going into the program, it ends up being the best part of the trip when you realize you’re leaving with 30-40 new friends. Don’t believe me? Take it from a 2017 participant who wrote this blog a few days into the trip reflecting on his experience traveling with a group of strangers.

By Matthew Lischin, NFTY in Israel, 2017 National L’Dor V’Dor Participant I made it mom!!! I am successfully in another country without any of your help! Of course, excluding all of the months of preparing, hours of paperwork, and endless packing you basically did for me.  And you said I couldn’t do it!  I have so many great experiences waiting for me within this trip, and I can’t wait to get started. However, no great trip is possible without a great group, and without your company, I might have to make some friends.

When I think of this group of amazing people, the first thing that comes to mind is “inclusive”. When I arrived at the airport, I was greeted by countless handshakes and greetings, something I did not necessarily expect. Once orientation was over and the group successfully made it through security, we immediately began to bond. Within the first 15 minutes, we were playing an icebreaker game. In this game, each participant was required to state their name, age, where they are from, and what he/she would testify to be their favorite kitchen utensil for use in the shower. By the time we arrived in Munich, Germany, we had developed a book of hilarious quotes started randomly by someone on the trip. Also, a book of ridiculous rules were created, advising all group members to not be sassy, as well as not get arrested in foreign countries.

All in all, everyone I have met so far on this trip is truly and utterly amazing. I could list countless cliches about how I feel towards every single friend, but instead I will say something a person would usually not notice. Picture this: you are talking to a random stranger on the street. They crack a relatively funny joke and you laugh. Is your laugh actually your real laugh? Is your laugh the same exact laugh as one that you would use while chatting with your family? One thing I noticed within just the first few hours of mingling with these new found friends is that everyone’s laugh is unexpectedly, overwhelmingly genuine. Interpret this odd statement however you would like, but personally, this specific trait made me feel instantly accepted and at home with the people I have just met; and ultimately made the tight, everlasting bonds of friendship appear ever so sooner, making our friendships ever so longer. I can’t wait to spend the rest of the summer with these wonderful people.

To find out more about our national trips, please visit our website.