But for the 16 Taieri College pupils on a recent World Challenge expedition to Botswana and Namibia, the most sobering experience was seeing children with little more than the clothes on their backs.
Christine Cleave (15) said visiting the Salmon Boois Junior Primary School in Aranos, Namibia was "a real eye-opener".
"They have so little, but they don't know any different and they're happy with the lives they have. It was sad."
She said it provided inspiration for the main purpose of their trip: to paint four hostel buildings at the school and replace more than 40 broken windows. The pupils also gave each classroom a stationery pack and left 16 sports balls and a set of netball bibs.
The time spent playing with the children and making a small difference to their lives was the trip highlight, she said.
The month-long expedition aimed to teach the Taieri pupils life skills and expand their minds outside the classroom.
They spent four days in the Kalahari Desert learning the skills of the bushmen, before spending another four days trekking from village to village, being hosted by families who provided traditional food (mostly maize and beef curry), and sleeping in traditional huts.
Sam Kirk (15) said life was much more "cautious" there.
"We had to put iodine in our water to make sure it was clean.
"We had to keep everything nice and closed so that bugs like scorpions couldn't get [in].
"And going to the toilet in the desert - all we got was a roll of toilet paper and we had to dig a hole to do it in.
"We had to take someone with us to make sure there were no dangerous animals about."
The trip included a visit to the Okavango Delta in northeastern Botswana, where they were taken in mokoros (dugout canoes) to see zebras, giraffes, elephants, hippos and many species of birds.
Kate Piper (16) said they spent the night on the Delta listening to lions roaring, hippos growling, and a herd of elephants walking past their campsite.
They also spent a day on safari at Etosha National Park, where there were more wild animals, including lions and their cubs, vultures, and rhinoceroses.
"It was cool. You don't get a feel for how big a lion is until you see one in real life."
Christine said experiencing the cultures of Botswana and Namibia, and seeing how other people live, was both humbling and a major adventure.
"The amount of rubbish on the streets - it was everywhere. And there were heaps of goats and cattle wandering the streets.
"It wasn't anything like walking up George St in Dunedin."