Trip of a lifetime

Empowering students through summer travel experiences

Catalina Martinez

Summer 2013

This summer must have been one of the best summers of my life. It has definitely been memorable and years from now I will be able to tell it in vivid colors as if it was just yesterday that I returned from this amazing trip. It all started when the club coordinator of Latino Coalition told me about it. I was very curious because she told me the trip was all expenses paid. I went online to the website and printed out the application for both my counselor and me. Once both applications were completely filled out, I sent it out through fax. I was very nervous because the year before that I had filled out the same application and got into the finalists but unfortunately did not get in. This would have been my last year to have this chance. I waited for weeks and checked my email every time my phone vibrated or beeped. Finally I got the email I was waiting for. It came during study hall and I almost jumped out of my seat in happiness. The email said that I was a finalist and that I should call to make an appointment for the phone interview. Right when I got home I dialed the phone number given. One of the people who works there picked up and I told them when I would be available which was anytime. The person on the phone asked me if it was fine if he could interview me now. I was a bit nervous but I said sure. After the interview I felt like I ruined my chances because I stumbled on one question and was not sure how to respond to it but eventually did answer it but was not sure if it was good enough. Other than that one question, the others were easy to answer.

Once again every time I got a vibration or beep from my phone I would immediately check. Then one day I was at home on my computer and I had a feeling that I should check my email. The first thing I saw when it loaded was a message from Trip of a Lifetime and the subject was ¨Congratulations¨. I shrieked and ran into my parents’ room. All three of us were filled with joy. A week later I got an envelope that contained the name of the teen tour and company in which I would go on. The name of the company was American Trails West and the name of the trip was called Western Skies. I immediately went on the website and searched for Western Skies. The trip was 2 weeks and it started July 23 and ended August 5. The envelope contained the itinerary, tags for luggage, a checklist of things suggested to bring on the trip, and flight information. I bought the duffel bag that was suggested by American Trails West and the carry on was provided by Trip of a Lifetime.
Once summer vacation started I bought things that I did not have that was suggested on the checklist. I also started all of my summer assignments for school because I did not want to worry about it once I got back from the trip. My duffel bag started getting bigger and bigger until I was sure that I had everything I needed. I am an over packer so I was worried that my luggage was going to be over weight. I was counting the days left for the trip. One of the big worries I had was that I wouldn’t have any friends and that I would be isolated but I told myself not to be negative and that everything would be fine and that I would have tons of fun.

The day finally came and before I knew it I was at the airport waiting. I was the first one there and I tried finding the people with the shirts that say American Trails West but I could not find them. I was getting worried and was questioning whether I was in the right terminal. Forty-five minutes later another kid with the luggage tag from American Trails West walked in. I saw the two people from American Trails West who were there to help us check in. Slowly more and more kids came. The section in the terminal that we were in was getting more and more crowded. We started checking in our luggage and after I checked mine in, I started introducing myself to the others. We would talk for a while and then I would go to another group of kids. They were all extremely friendly and sweet which was very encouraging to me. When it was time to pass through security, we all said our goodbyes to our families. My parents and I hugged for a long time and then I was off. On the line I was talking to these two girls who were really funny and kind. They were the ones that I hung out with at the airport when we had 30 minutes to ourselves before we had to go to the gate. The main counselor shuffled all the tickets and gave each one of us a ticket that had another persons name on it so we could meet other kids on the flight that we did not talk to at the airport. Unfortunately for me I had a seat nowhere near any of the kids on the teen tour and I was sat in the middle of two older men who took up the both the armrests. There was also no screen to watch movies. Although there was Wi-Fi on the plane, when I tried to connect the website acted up so the whole plane ride I was listening to music or asleep. We landed in Phoenix, Arizona and had to wait for other kids that came from other states like California, Massachusetts, Maryland, Florida, and Illinois. Some of the kids came with friends so they were a bit harder to talk to because they were a bit more closed up but others were more open which were the ones I was talking to while waiting for the other kids from other states. We were all very tired and couldn’t wait to get to the hotel. Once everyone was united we hopped on the coach bus and left to the hotel. The hotel that we stayed at the first couple of nights was beautiful and all around us was cacti and cliffs the color of maroon. On the bus ride there, the counselors gave us the names of our roommates and told us that we will be able to choose our roommates eventually.

The counselors gave us 15 minutes to get to our room, put our luggage in, and go downstairs to the lobby. In the lobby the counselors told us their names (Liz, Alex, Kate, Kevin, and Brianna). They went over the rules and said that they had the ability to send us back home if we broke the rules like going into other people´s rooms. They also said they were big on time so we should not tardy. After they finished talking about the rules they told us what our evening activity would be and that was a baseball game. They gave us 2 hours to rest before the game, which I was not looking forward to because I do not like baseball. My roommates and I talked and they were really nice. Both of them came together and were from Miami. On the bus ride to the baseball game we had an icebreaker, which was speed dating. People on the outside seat had to move around from chair and for 2 minutes we would talk about one another. The counselors gave us $15 to buy dinner. It was very long in my opinion but that’s just because I always thought baseball was boring. I was also very tired and could barely open my eyes because of the time difference. If it was 10 PM in Arizona, in New York it was 1 AM. The next day we all met at the lobby again and this time we were supposed to make walking groups. I joined a group of four and I´m glad that I made the decision to because they were the four girls who I hung out with for the rest of the trip and became very close to. That day we swam at the hotel´s pool and then went to a water park called Wet N´ Wild. We had a lot of fun and the four girls and I had a lot in common. After we got back to the hotel and finished getting ready, we headed to the Hard Rock Café. The girls and I got to talk even more and soon enough it was like we knew each other for a long time. That same night we all went ice-skating. I hadn’t gone ice-skating in two years so once I got on the ice I was very rusty but after 15 minutes I started to let go of the wall and skate normally.

On the third day was when we checked out of our hotels and headed to Sedona, Arizona. That day we did the Pink Jeep Tours. The Pink Jeep Tours was not what I expected it to be. I thought we were just going to ride around on a trail and see the canyons around us and it was kind of like that except we were not on a trail. It was going up and down bumpy rocks and feeling like we were going to tip over. It felt like a thrill ride at an amusement park. That was definitely one of my favorite activities. During the night went to bowling. The day after we got to choose our roommates for the next night so I went with 2 of the girls in my group since it was 3 girls per room.

The next day we headed to Flagstaff, Arizona. There we hiked the Grand Canyon, which I thought was beautiful. Going down we thought that we didn’t spend enough time there but once we started going up we noticed how much we really did go down. After the Grand Canyon we ate at Buffalo Wild Wings and then went to see Despicable Me 2. The next day we went to Bryce Canyon. Unfortunately we did not get to hike down because it was rainy that day so we just walked around it at the top but it was still very pretty. We ate at a dinner and show called Ebenezer’s. It was a western show where they sang country songs and did tricks with guns, whips, and lassos.

The following day we headed to Utah. In the morning we did our laundry and I found it to be very amusing because everyone had a very confused face on when they got there. I knew a little about laundry but I was still as confused as everyone else. Luckily there were other people at the laundry mat that day that helped some of us. After we did our laundry we headed to Zion National Park. It was a very nice nature walk and the waterfall we walked through was very refreshing and needed.
The next day we headed to Las Vegas. Everyone was very excited but for me the excitement didn’t kick in until we got there and passed by the Eiffel Tower. That night we went to ride on the Manhattan Coaster but I didn’t go on it as well as a couple other kids because we don’t like rollercoasters. The next day we hung out at the pool of the hotel that we were staying at which was the Monte Carlo. The pool area had a lazy river, hot tub, wave pool, and a regular pool. In the evening we walked down the strip, which was amazing. There were so many different things all around.

After Las Vegas, we headed to San Diego. We walked down Santa Monica and were allowed to shop for an hour and 30 minutes. At night we did laser tag, which is one of my favorite activities. The next day we went surfing, which was what I was looking forward to the whole trip. I was in the first group to go out into the water and I was able to stand up twice but I was a bit paranoid whenever something went up against my leg because the surf instructors warned us about stingrays and that we had to shuffle our feet to ware them off.

The next day we headed to Los Angeles. When we arrived we went directly to Disneyland. Disneyland was beautiful and a lot of fun. My favorite part was the fireworks towards the end. The following day was Rodeo Drive and I fell in love with the stores we walked into but they were way too expensive to buy even a simple keychain. After Rodeo Drive, we went to where the celebrities have their names on a sidewalk with a star on it and where they have put their hands and signature imprinted in cement. During the night we went to the Improv Comedy Club. All the comedians were hilarious and I laughed until my stomach hurt and I could barely breathe. The last day was bittersweet. We started the day off at UCLA and ended at Universal Studios. There we went on rides but before we all separated into our walking groups we all went on the Universal Studios Backlot Tour where a lot of TV shows and movies were-are filmed. The King Kong 3D stimulator and the process of how they make weather in movies (part of the Backlot Tour) were amazing. Once we came back to the hotel we were told to change in to our pajamas and go to the conference room. Once we were all there, the counselors gave us paper plate awards and I won the Best Camper Award. We all said our goodbyes in the morning and hugged each and every one of us.
Thank you Trip of a Lifetime and its founders for letting me have this amazing and once in a lifetime opportunity. I had so much fun and made so many nice friends thanks to you guys. There is no amount of thanks that could possibly show how grateful I am for being able to experience the trip of a lifetime.

  • 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."


  • 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.”


  • 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."


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