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Using travel as a professional development tool for your organization

May 24, 2017 |

Tips and Resources

| by Lindsay Taulbee

Professional development is important for any organization to thrive. It can increase staff retention, build credibility, and re-energize your team.

Whether your organization is an educational institution, museum, or other association, using travel as a professional development tool provides unique benefits to your staff, and by extension your entire base. Travel can do more than just change the way a person looks at the world; it can also enhance their skills and commitment to their mission.

Professional development in Costa Rica by Joanna Livingstone
Photo by Joanna Livingstone

What is professional development travel?

Professional development travel is unique in that it offers an added layer of understanding to any training program, with itineraries designed to provide hands-on learning, firsthand exposure, and real-world context. On any given trip, participants may take part in data collection and observation in the field, cultural immersion, site lectures conducted by local experts, and other activities, all to support the ultimate goal of experiential learning.

Training can be customized for staff, administrators, or even your organization’s volunteers or interns.

The benefits of these professional development programs extend beyond the participants—returning travelers share what they’ve learned, thereby creating a ripple effect. Their work within your organization is informed by their new experiences, lending an added layer of credibility to their expertise.

Professional development in Cuba by Michelle Korczynski
Photo by Michelle Korczynski

How do you turn just another trip into a professional development program?

Professional development travel programs can be tailored to meet your objectives, integrating a variety of different elements. For example:

  • By incorporating seminars, meetings, and lectures with local experts, travelers have the chance for peer exchange with professionals in the same field, where they can learn how other countries approach their same industry and its challenges.

  • Activities can focus on topics like conservation, biology, research techniques, or general natural history for in-depth understanding of themes. For instance, aquarium staff could conduct research on the Belize Barrier Reef, or employees of a conservation organization could take part in reforestation projects in Costa Rica.

  • As the name suggests, a familiarization trip allows staff members to become acquainted with a particular destination and its educational opportunities, which is ideal if your organization hopes to build a travel program for members or donors in the future. By becoming familiar with a destination, your staff gains the expertise they need to be successful trip leaders in the future.

  • A site-based program allows for more in-depth study of a particular ecosystem or culture. Field stations can be utilized for longitudinal research projects.

Professional development in Costa Rica by Joanna LivingstonePhoto by Joanna Livingstone

What are the benefits of travel as a professional development tool?

In addition to providing staff with more in-depth understanding and experience, professional development travel builds global literacy among your team, strengthening your organization’s credibility and its ability to serve your audience or members. It can generate loyalty and camaraderie among your staff. Last but not least, it creates better future leaders, especially if your organization has a travel program for members or donors in place, or hopes to build one.

Professional development in Iceland by Matt Dawson
Photo by Matt Dawson

Can you get credit for travel professional development programs?

Holbrook Travel partners with national, regional, and private organizations that support professionals continuing their learning experience. Graduate and continuing education credits are available for our professional development travel programs through University of the Pacific. You can also subsidize costs through fundraising partners including Fund for Teachers, an organization providing educators access to grants to help fund their travel program.


Main photo by Joanna Livingstone