“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking landscapes, but in having eyes” – Marcel Proust. The summer of 2015 hands down, has been one of the most memorable summers thus far.
My Trip of a Lifetime journey began in February of 2015. I had just returned from school and my mom emailed me various links about summer opportunities. One, being “Trip of a Lifetime”, knowing that I am very interested in travelling and learning more about the world. I immediately began to read about these trips and within two minutes of doing so, I began filling out an application. I was highly excited about the opportunities being presented, to go on a trip for FREE between two- four weeks. I quickly completed the application and sent it in while, hoping for the best.
Two weeks later, I checked my email in my school library right before class started. It stated that I had been accepted, but had to move on onto the second step ---- a phone interview. I was not too nervous to go on the interview, but I got some help from my mother to prep me for the process, as she is a recruiter. A week or so on my way to school I had my interview, I was somewhat nervous and excited about the interview. It went well and I became super excited about going on my trip and meeting other people from diverse backgrounds and culture. Stan told me I would hear back soon, to see if I made it to being a fully accepted student into the program. Everyday afterwards I checked my email. Finally one day in April after coming home from school, I checked my email in the car and saw that I had made it into the program. I now just had to fill out an application so they could place me on a trip. Also that we would have an accepted students call and a kickoff event. I later found out that I was going on the American Trails West, Western Skies teen tour during July 1-16. Words could not explain how I felt, at that moment I realized this really was my chance. My chance to travel and explore the world—all at no cost what so ever.
Prior to my trip, Trip of a Lifetime had conference calls, a Facebook page, a buddy system and the kickoff event for accepted students. The kickoff event only amplified my excitement for my trip, meeting everyone was great and I was just ready to leave for my trip. And before I knew it June 30th came the night before my trip. I had been packing for days, going to the store every night for last minute items. That night I only received two hours of sleep and woke up to thunder and lightning. I really prayed that the storm would blow over before the flight so it would not get delayed. Luckily my answers were answered and the storm ended before our flight. When I arrived at the airport I realized that everyone knew at least one other person. I was a little discouraged at first but then I remembered my motto “new faces, new places”. Then I met Alicia, she also did not know anyone else and lived nearby me. We instantly became friends. Everyone then at that point began introducing themselves to one another, everyone was friendly and just full of energy.
We all then boarded the plane, and before we knew it we all knocked out. I woke up ten minutes before we landed in Arizona and boy was I anxious to land already. Anxious to get off the plane and meet all the other students from the other flight. But once we were off the plane and outside I suddenly realized how scorching hot it was. It was 110 degrees when we arrived, I felt as though I was melting but I was still happy to have arrived. Alicia a few other kids and I decided to be a part of luggage crew. Which soon became one of my favorite parts of the trip. I built so many friendships with the people from luggage crew. We then went to the mall nearby for food and then to the hotel. Which was where we spent playing games and other ice breaking activities to get to know one another. I met someone who had the same birthday as me (December 26). After we went upstairs to our rooms, getting there was such a hassle the hotel had a weird layout. But the view of Arizona from our rooms was breath taking. Later that evening we went to a baseball game and came back around 10pm, everyone was completely exhausted. On the bus ride to the hotel, we were told about the activities for the following day and then went off to bed. The following next two weeks were spent doing various activities and coming back to the hotel late at night exhausted, but it was all worth it.
We visited the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Wet n’ Wild, Bryce Canyon where we did a 3.8 mile hike, although I was extremely tired after it, the view was beautiful and I had never hiked before. The experience was invigorating, I truly enjoyed it and look forward to doing it again. Even the simplest things such as, getting ice-cream from dairy queen, bowling or ice-skating (for the first time) was truly enjoyable. Everyone felt really comfortable in each other’s presence and uninhabited. Every day and night was different and better than the last. We were always having fun, participating in activities, sharing jokes, laughing and making memories to keep with us forever. When we went to Las Vegas, we went on the roller coaster, it was so much fun and I cried a little bit during the ride. Las Vegas felt as though I was back in New York, especially during the night. The street performers, dancers, the costumes were great, we also put up a show one night, it was so much fun. Then we spilt into groups and my group had a blast with our counselor. In California we went to Rodeo Drive and saw Brandon from ‘Rich kids of Beverly Hills’ and UCLA, Universal Studios, Disneyland and much more. If I could go this trip again, I would so without any hesitation or reservations.
Going on this trip taught me more than I could have ever imagined. In the broader scheme of things, I have become more open minded. On the pink jeep tour in Sedona, Arizona (one of my favorite parts of the tour). Our tour guide said some things that really changed my perspective on life. He said “his children’s names are Slyss, Kodac and Time. He chose Time because we never truly value time, and once that moment is gone you can never get it back”. I had known this before but it never really dawned upon me. The tour became more surreal at that moment. Everyone in this world needs to leave their mark on this earth, enjoy every moment while making a difference in the lives of others. I met two of the most amazing people on this tour, one was Victoria (a cancer survivor) and the other was our counselor, Lauren. Victoria made me have a bigger appreciation for life. Any day could be one’s last, so we need to appreciate every moment and use it wisely. Lauren during our walk in the Grand Canyon), said to Victoria and I "what you put out in this world is what you shall receive". Those words have stayed with me since then and I meditate on them daily. Lauren provided us with a lot of guidance and advice on various issues such as dating, religion, education. Victoria became my hero, hearing her story on dealing with and overcoming such a tough battle was phenomenal. I got a lot out of this trip, I came in and left a different person. I learned to appreciate the little things in life, seize opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others and make memories. This trip made me forget all of my problems and I truly enjoyed every moment spent.
I realized that no matter where I go or who I meet, I have to be open-minded and pleasantly disposed towards others. On this trip, I encountered people from different backgrounds, I became more open to learning from them as well as imparting them with my knowledge. Also, I realized that people lack information within my community and as a result lack in various areas. I want to be able to inform others about traveling, and making a difference wherever they are. Going on this trip further increased my desire to travel the world and gain more knowledge and experience so I can also impart others. My new goal is to travel and do a service/excursion trip in Fiji in the summer of 2017. I always knew I had a love for traveling but this trip further made me realize it. Meeting new faces and going to new places, making memories with these people, hearing their stories, taking all of these and making a difference in the lives of others through these experiences is what traveling is about. Stan said it all “travel does change you”.
On our last night we all stayed up and did secret Santa amongst each other in the hotel and exchanged gifts. We shared our favorite moments from the trip, played games, finished our color war, put up a show and overall, just enjoyed each other’s company. And it was not until our flight home from L.A. the next day, that I realized how much I would miss everyone. I would miss eating all our meals together like one big family, putting on street shows in Las Vegas, making jokes on the bus. We had become a family over the course of two weeks. I had made friends and memories to last a lifetime, summer 2015 was definitely one that could not be forgotten. All thanks to Trip of a Lifetime.