About Us

Our Mission – Travel the World, Break the Cage

The mission of Zugunruhe Experience is simple – to deliver student travel programs that provide our youth travelers with unique opportunities to learn more about the places they go, converse with the people they meet, and discover the person who they truly are. With this, we understand the expense involved with traveling, especially for students from underserved populations who don’t possess the same opportunities as others.

We believe that education through travel has the power to be the most influential factor in inspiring a life filled with meaning. To understand the world, you have to see the world and at Zugunruhe Experience our purpose is to deliver student travel programs that not only make a lasting impact on a student’s life, but also make a lasting impact on the lives of others. We offer student travel programs that immerse students within communities that enrich their education and the world they live in. Adventure is education at Zugunruhe Experience and traveling with purpose is education.

Our Core Principals

On a Zugunruhe Experience student travel journey, students will pursue these four principals that are the core of our educational platform:


  • Develop a mindset devoted to the service of others
  • Creative problem solving in a community environment
  • Gain independence and self-sufficiency

Zugunruhe Experience will provide opportunities for students to develop a more globally centered mindset with a focus on service. Zugunruhe Experience recognizes the value of creative problem solving in modern society. Our goal is to create opportunities and experiences that foster the development of creative problem solving skills that will translate to students lives and futures. Through this, students will gain the skills they need to become stronger leaders upon returning to their own community.


  • Communicate with team members in the field
  • Discuss thought-provoking topics to meaningful discussions
  • Implement key dialogue and communication skills

Zugunruhe Experience wishes to encourage and promote opportunities to learn alternative methods of communication. We recognize that in a world that is more interconnected than ever before, the ability to effectively communicate is essential for future success. Through meaningful group discussions, we implement key dialogue and communication strategies that allow cohesive teamwork throughout the duration of a student’s trip that they will carry with them long after the trip is over.

Hard Skills

  • Navigation through the Wilderness
  • Outdoor Survival
  • Budgeting

Zugunruhe Experience believes in developing students rational and reasonable skills that they will carry with themselves for the rest of their lives. Our trips provide opportunities for students to learn skills related to planning, budgeting, communication, problem solving, teamwork and navigation. These skills are essential to making a Zugunruhe Experience trip successful.

World View

  • Develop world-wide empathy
  • Create open-minded perspectives
  • Challenge the status quo

We encourage our students to see what’s beyond their own horizon; to not only imagine, but empathize with the world they will travel through on a Zugunruhe Experience student travel trip. Our trips focus on presenting students with experiences that allow them to look out at the world from a different window than their own. We believe that empathy is one of the most important factors in allowing students to develop a broader education outside of their own world.

Who We Serve

Our goal is to improve graduation rates among underserved youth populations through access to travel and outdoor opportunities that develop leadership, communication, hard skills and a broader worldview.

A journey with Zugunruhe Experience on our student travel programs doesn’t end when your trip ends. When students travel with Zugunruhe Experience, we don’t only impact the students that travel with us, we aim for their journey to impact every community that they travel through along the way.

Who We Are

Zugunruhe Experience is a community of teachers, outdoor educators, backpacking guides, world-shapers and adventure-seekers that have been working across the experiential travel industry for years. We all created Zugunruhe Experience with the same goal in mind – To make international and domestic group travel programs more accessible, educational, and affordable to all. We want to help everyone experience the world in the Zugunruhe way.

Zach Smelcer - Founder/Director
Zach Smelcer

I’ve had a passion for working with students from a young age. My desire to teach others was the driving force in becoming an education major. What really changed for me after acquiring my education degree, was discovering that the classroom isn’t the only place we can learn, grow, and develop.

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Will Early - Curriculum Coordinator
Amber-Rose Williams
Communications Director

I grew up in a small town outside of Toronto, Ontario, Canada called Bradford. There is nothing there, and the only thing to do on a Friday night was go to the movies in the next town over, or hang out in the parking lot of Tim Hortons (I know…stereotypes are real). It was a town you're supposed to leave. In my senior year of high school I was voted most likely to stay in Bradford forever. This label gave me the determination to get out.

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Danielle Smelcer - Curriculum Coordinator
Danielle Smelcer
Associate Director

When I was 16 years old I took a psychology class. On the first day of class the teacher asked everyone “who are you?” and then waited for someone to speak up. After a couple minutes of real awkward silence, I stood up and told her and my peers who I was. I included my family and where we came from, my favorite foods, my hobbies, my friends, where I worked, and finally that I aspired to someday become a teacher abroad.

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Dalton Charest
Leah Star
Development/Marketing Director

When I was 15 years old, in my last year as a camper at summer camp, I went on a week long canoe trip in Atikokan, Ontario, Canada, not far from the Boundary Waters. The trip started with a black bear sighting, and a thunderstorm after only about an hour of our full day of canoeing. In the seven days that followed I worked harder and laughed more than I ever had in my life and as we paddled on our last day of the trip,

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Break the Cage with Zugunruhe Experience

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