When I was 21, I studied in London for what have been two transformative months of my young adulthood. It was my first time traveling alone for a long time, which allowed me to really immerse myself in a culture distinct from my own. It was also, unbeknownst to me, the last time I would do this.
There are certain realities of adulthood – careers, student loans, mortgages, children, aging parents – that have historically made the possibility of settling in a foreign country for a significant length of time at best implausible. It is not something that you can necessarily fully appreciate as a college kid, free from virtually all of the real world responsibilities and under the false impression that the opportunities offered by young people will always be there for you.
Having said that, does it really have to be so? Why should travel focused on language acquisition, personal growth and cultural exchange not be a fully acceptable component of adult life?
Enter Sojrn, a study abroad program geared to the generation of digital nomads that has only grown since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic. With four ‘chapters’ scheduled for 2021 and several more scheduled for 2022, Sojrn offers adults working remotely the opportunity to learn more about mental health and wellness in Bali, wine in Tuscany, philosophy in Athens or Spanish in Colombia, all without any interruptions. to their work schedule.
“Sojrn is for anyone who’s ever said, ‘I wish I could have spent a month and do X. Like,’ I wish I could go to Scotland for a month learning whiskey ‘or’ I wish I could spend a month in Greece learning to sail, ”says Tara Cappel, CEO of Sojrn. “Before the pandemic, that meant having to take a month off work, but now with so many people working remotely, more people can do something like this without completely disconnecting.”
And she is right. More than 70% of employed adults have spent most of the pandemic working remotely, a statistic that lends itself well to the prospect of traveling longer than was once considered the norm.
“So many people, I think, have these daydreams of doing something like that and living a different version of their life for a while, it’s just something that’s been really hard to execute,” she continues. .
It is his vision that Sojrn is the vessel that makes these reveries come true.
Cyrus David, 36, is the vice president of product at a tech startup in New York City. He is also a remote worker and was among the first to register with Cappel.
“I have worked remotely overseas a number of times, and that alone has been a great experience,” says David. “But what makes Sojrn so appealing is the added dimension of connecting with the local community – which isn’t easy to do on your own – and exploring a new topic in an organized way. This trio of working remotely with other people from around the world, with an immersion in the local community and programming organized around a new topic, seems like a first experience in nature that I would like to be a part of.
David plans to study in Bali next time, citing well-being of mind and body, a major theme he would like to explore over the next year.
Cappel, from Sun Valley, Idaho, is also CEO of For The Love Of Travel – a modern group travel agency that caters to travelers between the ages of 25 and 39. She already knows her target audience intimately, and them along with her (David heard about Sojrn directly from Cappel). To date, she has received over 300 registrations for chapters in Italy and Bali – many of which are former FTLO travelers, a community that Cappel has helped cultivate.
“Sojrn was made possible by the changes brought on by the pandemic, but the origins of the idea really stem from an experience I had about ten years ago when I was 20 years old and I left university to go to Europe to learn languages in the country where they actually spoke. language, ”Cappel says. “When I arrived in Rome, I met this wonderful community of ex-patents from all over the world. They have become like my family.
“And also studying Italian in Italy really made it fun and effective and helped me discover Rome in a way that I couldn’t have done if I had just spent a week traveling,” continues- it. “This is the experience I have always wanted to offer people. And now that remote working is so much more widely accepted, it allows more people to do just that. “
The decision to include Colombia, Greece, Bali and Italy in their program rollout was an easy one – these are places Cappel has spent the past five years building relationships with through FTLO, and which all tick. the boxes in terms of health and safety. in a post-pandemic world in 2021.
After choosing a chapter, clients are set up with accommodation and access to a network of partner cafes and coworking spaces, which have been considered “Sojrn spaces”. They are then put in touch with the other participants in their respective chapters via an online portal, where they will find a menu of activities and experiences designed to guide them in their studies.
“There is one activity included per week with the group to help you get to know people, but otherwise everything is self-managed, and you can choose what interests you most and what suits you best depending on your schedule. like, ”Cappel said.
Of course, there are even more hurdles and obligations to navigate as an adult than at 21, which makes the concept of studying abroad a bit more intimidating. But each chapter only lasts four weeks, and to make that time even more feasible, Cappel has teamed up with MyPlace – a company that helps travelers rent their homes to friends or family for the duration of their trip – to help offset the cost of the program. The cost of the chapters alone depends on the location, but is somewhere between $ 2,500 and $ 6,000 or so – less, in some cases, than a week in an all-inclusive in the Caribbean.
Austin native Petra Rupp, 36, interior designer and artist, says she took between three and five international trips a year before the pandemic, but – like everyone else – found herself entrenched during the major part of the past year.
“I had a sure feeling my wings were cut in 2020,” she says. Because Rupp has been on several FTLO trips to date, she is on their mailing list. Hearing about Sojrn, she signed up immediately.
“I’m recently engaged and plan to have a family in the next few years, so I love the idea of doing a few longer international stays in the meantime,” says Rupp. “Also, my business has moved to a more remote format with clients all over the country, so I’m not as tied to location as I was when I started.”
As a seasoned travel consultant, Cappel believes extended travel is the future, and although people are gradually starting to return to the office, there will always be room for it.
“I am not sure that everybody is going to become a digital nomad, but I think remote months or extended vacations will become a standard job benefit similar to vacations. There are going to be more obstacles to getting somewhere, so you really want to spend more time there. “
“And when you extend your trip and stay somewhere for four weeks, you stop focusing on the highlights and start noticing the details. That’s where the magic lies, ”she adds. “So I think extended trips will become more the norm. There will always be a place for the kind of fun and adventurous travel that FTLO offers, but I see Sojrn helping usher in this kind of new dawn of extended immersive and focused travel.
In a few weeks, Sojrn will officially launch reservations for the four existing chapters, but in the meantime, please feel free to join me on the waiting list here.
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