My experience was a balance between fun and adventure, socially responsible tourism, and clinical experience.
Traveling with USSA was a great experience. I went to Puerto Vallarta during my final year of graduate school, studying for my MSW. My experience was a balance between fun and adventure, socially responsible tourism, and clinical experience.The fun was staying at a great resort, enjoying nights out and great meals. Our USSA guides had local knowledge as well as local hosts to take our group off the beaten path to local spots. The best was going to a tiny restaurant on a small river in a tight jungle canyon (up a bumpy dirt road) and swimming and jumping off rocks into the river with local families. This spot was definitely not a typical tourist experience!
I was doing something to engage in the community rather than typical tourist experiences.
Our local hosts allowed our group access to other locations not available to tourists. We were able to visit an orphanage and play with the kids a few times. That is me on the floor making origami ninja stars with the kids! We were able to help the kids with English and the kids helped me with Spanish. The orphanage ran on a shoestring budget so it was a big deal for the kids to have "one on one" attention and play time. I felt great because I was doing something to engage in the community rather than typical tourist experiences.
We learned how the people and government struggles at times to meet challenges.We learned about some of the social problems in Mexico first hand with visits to a mission in the slums and a private women's shelter. We learned how the people and government struggles at times to meet challenges. Issues included psychological diagnosis and care, access to medication, care for the homeless, and work with victims of domestic violence. I highly recommend this program to anyone interested in a foreign adventure with a social conscience and the opportunity for clinical experience.