Staff Spotlight: Odessa Armstrong

Title:
International Educator & Trip Leader

Photos

Odessa is devoted to transformational learning and has worked in diverse classrooms throughout the US and across the globe for 12 years. Her educator journey has included living and teaching at a tribal run school in South Dakota serving students from over 15 different tribal nations, Chaiyaphum and Phuket, Thailand and her roots in Baltimore City.

Adventures with Odessa often involve spontaneity, photography, laughter, beekeeping, live music, empowering others and meeting community members.

What is your favorite travel memory?

A highlight of our time in Lauders was the chance to experience dinner with different families in the community every Monday through Thursday. Each night we split up into groups and walked through the lush mountain roads of Lauders, Grieggs and Lowmans in the warm evening air and spent hours engaging with our hosts, asking questions, cooking and sharing delicious Vincy meals together. Beyond eating and cooking, our evenings were often filled with music, dancing, games of cricket and many conversations where we got to know our lovely hosts more and more with each visit.

After our first week at camp, we had the opportunity to hike La Soufriere, an active volcano and the tallest peak on the island, where we pushed ourselves physically and mentally to hike through the clouds to the top of the mountain. We were joined by some local members of the community as well, some of whom had never climbed the volcano themselves! It was awesome to share that experience with them.

Once we reached the top, high above the clouds (and in them), we were treated with a glorious view into the depths of the crater. Upon arriving back home we were surprised by a big home-cooked lunch prepared by Mama Cupid to congratulate us on our first successful week at camp!

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

I have grown in so many ways working with Global Routes, more so than I could have ever imagined. Global Routes has helped me to deepen my learning of experiential education, has allowed me to leap even further from my comfort zones, has renewed a sense of joy and passion for serving in the world.

I feel so empowered, loved, inspired and supported by this organization and am beyond grateful to work with the Global Routes team.

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

One of the students, who had a difficult time during the first half of the Caribbean program, was able to break her facade and make incredible self-growth. Demonstrating empathy, shining as a leader, becoming a big source of encouragement where previously was acting like a bully.

Additionally, she went on her second program the next summer to Nepal and made major transformations to the thriving and serving the community without any idea of expecting things in return. Bringing joy to the local kids and creating lots of opportunities to have fun together as a community.

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

I would love to go on our Tanzania program because the relationships we have built there in part through the incredible heart, and the efforts of our Africa Program Coordinator are authentic and deeply rooted.

I have wanted to travel to the continent in an intentional way that empowers and respects the communities in which are visited and learn from the folks there. This program is a gift and an amazing way to experience Tanzania.

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

Global Routes strongly maintains authenticity, intentionality, and realness in a competitive sea of student travel companies that are more concerned with making money.

Global Routes truly holds itself accountable for striving to do right in all aspects of programming, including ethical travel & photography, equity in access to opportunities, and considering the best practices in experiential education from a holistic frame.

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

Global Routes is an incredibly empowering company to work for and truly values every single member. Allowing for the creation of a team with vast, dynamic skills and experiences to come together in order to develop meaningful relationships with our communities and to create deeply powerful programs.

Every single person working for Global Routes is cared for and given the best environment to thrive so that we can uplift others and offer unique program experiences that help every individual grow.