The Local Connections

Local Connections with Andy Steves

In my years backpacking throughout Europe, I’m reminded time and again that it’s not the snapshots I take that make travel special, nor the destinations checked off a list. I’ve found it’s the locals you meet—and the interactions you have with them—while traveling, that’s when the magic happens. It could be anything from the mundane like sharing stories about a mutually favorite restaurant all the way to experiences you’ll never forget for the rest of your life, like exploring the favellas outside of Rio.

At the start of each tour season (Fall & Spring), we work hard to raise awareness about my little travel startup. An effective tool we’ve used is to seek out locals for promotions, offer a coffee or evening walk for free to give students a taste of genuine Rome, London or Madrid for example. Recently in Rome, I stopped by an interesting-looking granita stand just across the bridge into Trastevere with hopes of collaborating to run a promotion. At first the proprietor, proud Massimo, and his wife were a touch skeptical. Before long they understood that if a student showed up with a WSA ticket, they could redeem that for an icy treat in all the colors of the rainbow overflowing with fresh fruit, coconut slices and shishkebab’d cherries.

In the casual conversations that followed as we passed out tickets to students passing by, I learned about the history of this cute little  stand. And I began to understand why they had such pride over their refreshing shaved ice creations. At first I had tried to negotiate a smaller, or simpler version for a slightly cheaper price, as of course WSA was going to be footing the bill for these tickets. But he just wouldn’t compromise. It all became clear once he pulled out a postcard. It had a man in white coveralls, and Massimo explained that was his grandfather in front of the very same stand in 1913, a full 101 years ago. No wonder why he wasn’t going to curb his tradition for our sake!
It’s little interactions like these that really serve to calibrate your own perception of time, tradition and relationships. Get out there and create some of your own! What are some you’ve had while traveling?


Alle Fonte d’Oro


Cooper Cohen, University of Notre Dame

Happy Backpackers

The most fun, exciting, educational, and craziest weekend I had during my semester abroad. You definitely get the maximum bang for your buck with WSA. WSA provided me with an unbelieveable weekend in Budapest. After hearing from my friends about their amazing experiences on WSA trips, I had to see what all the hype was about. I chose to take part in a WSA weekend in Budapest, and I loved every minute of it. The guide, Bogi, was the best! WSA is the perfect blend of an educational/tourist expereince while also allowing for sites off the beaten path as well as kickass nightlife. You won't regret a trip with WSA.

Cooper Cohen, University of Notre Dame ~ University of Notre Dame, London, Spring 2015

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