When my guidance counselor told me about Trip of a Lifetime, I almost didn’t believe her; it sounded way too good to be true. Even as I went through the application process, phone interview, and group meeting, I still couldn’t believe how amazing Trip of a Lifetime is. It wasn’t until the day before my trip that I began to realize what I would be doing. For 25 days I would be far away from home in places I never imagined going. I even wrote out a list of how far away from home I would be and I got nervous. (The numbers were: Salt Lake City= 2,170.2 mi, Zion= 2,409.5 mi, Bryce= 2,399.6 mi, Sedona= 2,337.6 mi, Las Vegas= 2,525.6 mi, Lake Tahoe= 2,721.4 mi, San Francisco= 2,905.3 mi, Santa Barbara= 2,878.1 mi, and Los Angeles= 2,789.8 mi. These numbers became a personal motivation to enjoy my new surroundings, even with home being so far away.) Even as I joined the other campers and left my parents behind, it didn’t quite hit me until we were in Utah and my phone reset. Instead of New York, my phone now said Salt Lake City, and was two hours behind my watch. It was scorching hot and I felt the sun on my face, but it wasn’t humid like it had been at home. I got on a bus with 28 other kids who I didn’t know, and with that my life changed. Strangers became best friends and best friends became family. I feel that my life is better just because Corel, Randi, Chloe, Ali, Emily, Ryan, Matt, Joshua, Robbie, Alex, Annie, Ethan, Jordan, Danni, Saliana, David, Gerad, Sam (girl), Sam (boy), Gabby, Lauren, Sarah, Zoey, Adam, Zac, Patrick, Jill, Talia, Juliana (we all call her Julie, and she was on Project California last year), Andrew, Jason, Joey, Randy, Dana, and Amanda have each shown me a different paradigm of the same world.
Out of the many places we went, it’s nearly impossible to choose a favorite. It was amazing to see the natural beauty of Zion, Bryce, Sedona and the Grand Canyon, as well as the man-made beauty in the enchanting lights and architecture of Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. I was also shown the value of volunteering, as I participated at different environment related volunteer locations, and the beauty in people as I got to know people more and more on the trip. In the beginning, I thought there were some girls on the trip that I wouldn’t get along with because of some gossip flying back and forth between two cliques. There was the big group of eleven girls, and then there were the six. I was technically the twelfth member of the larger group, but I spoke to everyone on the tour. Because I spoke to everyone, I noticed that both groups had more in common than they thought. We ended up having a night where everyone talked it out and everyone became friends so there were no more cliques! I’m thinking of using this tactic to help some of my friends here at home how to respect each other’s differences and realize that we’re all not so different after all.
Even though the tour component of Rein Teen Tour’s Tour and Service 2013 was an amazing experience I will never forget, I have to say that it’s the Service part that made me feel good. The environmental group had its ups and downs, and we showed each other different things about our lives. For example, on one of the last days of Service, I had one of the greatest experiences of my life. When we were taking non-native plants out of a field, we came across two dead owls. They had golden and white feathers, and they looked like they had passed away mid-flight, and plummeted to the ground. It was a cloudy day, but we were all warm from being active. We took some time to bury Tootsie and Hooter (we decided it was a good idea to name them) and we held a funeral service for them. I know it sounds morbid, but it’s the service we had that made it a heartwarming moment. The majority of people on the tour were of Jewish faith, while I’m a Christian. When we said grace, we read both things from the Torah, and the Bible. It meant a lot to me because it’s not very often that I feel religiously understood, and it’s even less often that I see people of different faiths respecting and understanding each other in such a seamless manner. We even drew a star of David as well as a cross on the new resting place of the owls. That feeling of welcoming and respect is something I will remember vividly for the rest of my life. If were to suddenly forget everything from my trip, with the exception of one moment, that would be the one thing I would like to remember because I never want to forget how open we were to each other, so that I can become a better person by being that open with everyone I meet.
I would just like to say a huge THANK YOU for giving me the opportunity to learn more about the world, become more open to people around me, and to discover more about myself than I ever could have at home. Thank you for giving me the Trip of a Lifetime!!!!!!