Trip of a lifetime

Empowering students through summer travel experiences

Alex Torres

Summer 2014

Traveling is something I’ve always loved to do. When I do get the chance to travel, which isn’t that often, I take advantage of what that place has to offer and make the most out of it. This summer I traveled somewhere I’ve always hoped to go one day, California.

The night before my trip, I was both very nervous and very excited. I had a hard time sleeping, and honestly didn’t even get that much sleep. I’ve never traveled alone before, so the thought of traveling alone for two weeks was a bit nerve racking. The following day when I arrived at the airport, I was feeling more nervous than excited. Once I waited in line and checked in my luggage, I took a look around. Some of the kids that were also going on the trip, Project California, were already making new friends and talking to them. So I kept telling myself to just talk to some of the kids and make friends as I go. I thought this was going to be a bit hard for me because I tend to be a shy person at first. But then before I knew it, I found myself talking to the other kids, some that were also from Trip of a Lifetime. Once we got on the plane, mostly everyone fell asleep pretty quickly. I tried doing the same, since I only got 4 hours of sleep, but I couldn’t. All these thoughts filled up my mind, positive thoughts. I honestly couldn’t stop thinking about what the next two weeks would be like. I couldn’t wait to meet more people, to do all the activities, and especially to volunteer. It was crazy to believe that UC Santa Barbara was going to be my new home for the next two weeks. As soon as our flight was over and I stepped off the plane, I somehow knew I was going to have an unforgettable trip in California.

        That very night all 78 of us met in the Fiesta Room and introduced ourselves. It was pretty cool knowing the different places where everyone came from. One of the guys there lived two towns away from me while another one of the girls lived all the way in Brazil. Throughout the next few days it was kind of difficult adapting to different things. I had to wake up early and follow a structured schedule. In the mornings I would eat breakfast then go to my community service project. I volunteered at the Unity Shoppe, which is a non-profit organization. The Unity Shoppe is a place where customers who are homeless or in an economic crisis can shop for things they need and not have to pay at all. The place looks just like a grocery store and this is so that children that shop with their parents don’t notice the financial situation that they’re in. Customers, with our guidance through the store, can choose the food they need. It ranges from different vegetables, to different beans, to even different pastries. They even have a Job Smart section in which clients, with the show of proof, can choose different clothing items for an interview. And once that customer gets the job, they can come back and pick out more clothing items. Helping the customers was incredibly heart-warming. While guiding them through the store, sometimes they would open up to me and begin telling me the situation that they’re in. Sometimes it was hard for me to not shed a tear. That experience was remarkable, and it made me appreciate everything I have and everyone I have in my life a whole lot more. However, my community service project not only involved helping others, but also helping the store. I was able to learn merchandising skills, and inventory skills. Volunteering at the Unity Shoppe was incredible. I was able to become a lot closer with the friends I already made as well as make new friends from both Project California and with the staff from the Unity Shoppe. After I would finish volunteering, I would go straight to lunch. And right after I would go to my afternoon elective, Santa Barbara Days. Everyday we visited somewhere new in Santa Barbara. We went on a bike ride right by the beach, walked around Santa Barbara's beautiful streets, painted amazing sceneries, went on an incredible trolley tour, and much more. My favorite had to be going on a kayak ride with my friend Kristina. Although all the paddling tired my arms out, the view was amazing. And once we all got far in the ocean my friend Kelly and I wanted to do something daring, so we jumped off our kayaks together and swam around for a bit. Others joined in afterwards, which made it even more fun. When we would come back from our afternoon elective we would have two hours of free time. My friends, Wilmaris and Quetzal, and I would spend it almost everyday at the pool. Sometimes we tried to tan, but we would quickly get bored from tanning and just jumped into the pool. After getting all tired out from the pool it was time for dinner. The food at UCSB was amazing. There was such a variety and I couldn’t get enough of it. After dinner we would have our late afternoon activities in which all 78 of us would go do different fun activities like bowling, mini-golfing, go-karting, and shopping. When we got off the bus to head to Six Flags, it felt like we walked into an oven. It was so hot that day, but that didn’t stop me from riding roller coasters. Thankfully Kelly also loved roller coasters so I went on most of the rides with her. I remember every time we got to very top of a roller coaster we would yell out “this is a nice view” because indeed the view was nice. My other two friends, Avery and Kristina, weren’t roller coaster fans. However, Kelly and I were able to turn them into roller coaster lovers by the end of the night.

        Everyday was a new day, and an even better day in California. I was able to make unforgettable friendships with so many people. And that was something I was nervous about, but throughout it all I was able to truly act like myself and manage to have the time of my life with them. They all really made my trip even more wonderful. It was very upsetting leaving them and knowing I might not be able to see them again. Tears were shed when we all had to depart back to our homes. This trip has greatly impacted me. It has taught me to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way. Even when if at first I feel nervous or scared. I will now know to not be so hesitant and just go for it because I won’t know the outcome of things unless I try it. I also learned to be more appreciative about the things in life. And I really hope to help others in the future and greatly impact them just like how I was able to do in my community service project. I also know I’m going to be volunteering a lot more because it’s a fun way of helping others and meeting new people. This summer has been one of the best summers I’ve ever had. And I owe it all to Trip of A Lifetime. Thank you so so so much!!!

  • testimonialImg

    "I may be multiracial and I may be living in the ghetto but what I am going to do with my life is going to be historical."



    "I may be multiracial and I may be living in the ghetto but what I am going to do with my life is going to be historical."


    Alphonso

  • testimonialImg
    “This trip made me realize that there’s more to the world than the South Bronx.”
    “This trip made me realize that there’s more to the world than the South Bronx.”

    Selina

  • testimonialImg

    "I am really and forever will be thankful to Trip of a Lifetime for giving me such an exceptional experience this summer that will be forever remembered."

    "I am really and forever will be thankful to Trip of a Lifetime for giving me such an exceptional experience this summer that will be forever remembered."

    Jennifer

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