Before I went to Puerto Vallarta, I had been to ten countries, having lived in three of those 10; I had led service trips, studied abroad, worked on a farm in rural Ireland; and had had my fair share of missed, delayed, and cancelled flights. I traveled consciously and bought fairtrade products wherever I could (I still do). I didn’t take cruise ships and I didn’t stay in big resorts because they negatively impact the environment, economy, and culture in their destinations. All of these things, I thought, made me well traveled and a good tourist.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is a huge global tourist destination. Cruise ships dock there almost daily, spewing out a massive amount of passengers. On this trip we engaged with local micro entrepreneurs in the tourism industry to learn about the barriers that tourism corporations and cruise ships create that they have to overcome. This experience made me a more aware tourist. I am much more equipped to think critically about the impact that I have as a tourist and use that responsibility responsibly.

I learned a lot about myself as a leader as a person. I learned that I have a very big impact on the world around me. I even got to learn a lot about another CNR major, PRTM. I learned how my major (Environmental Sciences) and PRTM overlap and the importance of tourism, and especially sustainable tourism.

As a leader of this trip, my goal was to engage my participants in a different way of thinking about the world around them. I feel that through doing this, I always learn from my team and come out thinking about things differently. This is important as I want to grow and learn as much about what it means to be a global citizen as possible. I most enjoyed getting to meet the people and learn about the culture in the village we were staying in. Learning from people who have different upbringings from myself is the best way I can learn to be more empathetic and think critically about the values and beliefs I have grown up around.

I would definitely recommend this experience to any student, no matter what your major! You learn so much, have so much fun, and make a lot of new memories and old friends!