Speaking about traveling is so different than experiencing it. I heard about Trip of a Lifetime my Sophomore Year due to an email, the guidance counselor sent to all students. It caught my attention the first time I read the information behind it. I never thought that I would be granted the opportunity to go somewhere with the expenses paid for and being able to gain new insights about a different culture on a different continent. Since the email mentioned that all who were interested should attend a meeting, I went to the meeting with an exciting approach. Stan, who is one of the co-founders of the organization mentioned many benefits and reasons of why traveling is so life-changing. He also mentioned all the steps needed to be considered an applicant. There was this application which was needed to be filled out yet I never hesitated on doing it because it was something I was happy of doing. At the end of the day, it all paid out because I received an email from Trip of a Lifetime saying that I was considered being a part of the Thailand Trip. Never having the experience of being on an airplane before and now having the chance to be on one for 20 hours, was insane. I was in shocked. I was also pumped and ready for the journey to begin.
The day had finally come. I took some advice from friends telling me to download as many movies and music I can. I woke up and was so anxious about meeting new people and being away from my family for 3 weeks. I did not think about as much until I was at the airport. I arrived and saw a group of teens and three chaperones wearing orange shirts which was something the “drop off direction form” had mentioned so I can easily find who I was traveling with. After being there for 15 minutes, it was time to say goodbye to my parents and aunt who came to drop me off. After this, the group and I went through security. Everyone was checked through and then we went to the depart waiting area. We waited there for about 20 minutes. During the time we waited, the leaders of the group made everyone play games so everyone could get to know each other much better. We all sat in a circle according to our birthday and as we went around the circle, we said where we were from and an interesting fact about us. This was really fun because I found out that there were people from all over the United States. There were many people from London, Florida, New Jersey,Philadelphia, Ohio, and Georgia. I talked to two girls who I got to know better and they were really sweet and outgoing. The time had come to board the plane and I had never been so nervous in my life. It was not a bad feeling. Since there was no direct flight from NY, the first destination was going to be Taiwan and from Taiwan to Thailand. I looked out to see who was going to sit next to me on the airplane but I then found out I was going to sit by myself because the tickets were set up beforehand but I did not let that ruin my day because it was a 14 hour flight to Taiwan and on the bright side, I had more space. Sitting down and getting comfortable in my seat was so cool. The plane had given everyone a pillow and a blanket which I used the entire way to to the destination. There was also a mini screen to watch movies which I used during the time I was bored. Taking off felt like being on an amusement ride going up really fast. My head went back towards the seat and I knew that once my head felt normal, we had already been in the sky flying. Looking through my window at NY during the night being up so high was a phenomenal view. I knew from that moment, the journey was going to be filled with cherished moments. The entire flight was not as bad as I thought would be because I was asleep the majority of the time and had entertainment. When I woke up, on some occasions the flight attendants were giving everyone food and I was not expecting eating good food yet when they gave me my food and tasted it, it was good. After 14 hours of flying, we had reached the airport in Taiwan. Getting off the plane and walking for a good 10 minutes felt really great. We got off and had to be checked off to fly in an hour to Thailand. In the meantime, we had the chance to go eat somewhere and use the bathroom. I used that time to get to know people and it was a great start. It was to time to board again but for a flight about 6 hours which was way better than flying for 14. Since it was a shorter flight, there was no TV screen included but I did not mind it. I did get two seating partners and talked to them and tried to get to know them better .
We had finally reached Thailand and it was surreal. We got off and got checked off. We got our luggage and met the tour guides from Thailand who were going to show us around. I found out that Bangkok was not the only city, we were going to see but many others as well. Since it was a long flight and process, we went to the Hotel and it a relaxing day. Relax day was just a day in the hotel to chill and rest. We were able to go to the Gym or pool with the other kids from the group. First, we had to organize our luggage in our rooms and meet our roommate. My first roommate turned out to be the person I was the closest to the trip. The good thing about being close to her was that she was from the New York City so it was really easy to relate with her. The days in Bangkok were for about a week and we did so many activities. We went to many different temples, Thai markets, a mall that was in the city, a boat ride to see how certain Thai people lived, we went on a Ferris wheel and visited a daycare for kids who were for 6-year-olds. The temples in Bangkok were so eye-catching due to the structure and the material used to build them. It was such a sacred place that everyone who visited the temples had to take their shoes off. We saw monks who were praying and it was really interesting to see them because they live with really strict rules. The markets and the mall in Thailand are amazing! Everything in the market was so affordable and everyone selling was so nice and helped explain how the money worked but I made sure to download a converter on my phone to help me where I went all the time. They were filled with clothes, perfumes, and jewelry that were made by hand. I used that day to buy many souvenirs and gifts to take for people back home. We even went on a boat ride on a lake where many Thai people used to sell and travel using their own boats or canoes home. It is like going to a neighborhood with their own parking but instead it was it was area meant for their canoe.We also went to a daycare that was filled with children who were about 6 years old and we spent the day playing with them and reading them books. It was such a wonderful experience because it made me grateful for the things I had back home. During one of the market visits, there was a huge Ferris wheel that everyone was able to get on and it was really fun because it t had a great view of the city of Bangkok in the night. From Bangkok, we took another plane to another city in Thailand that was called Chiang Rai. Chiang Rai was very different than the city due to its rural setting. It had many different types of animals that were seen nut most noticeable were the elephants. We did many similar things we did in Bangkok such as going to markets and temples but we also went water rafting, biked a long trail at a farm, visited an orphanage, and spent an entire day with elephants. The temples in Chiang Rai was so colorful. There was this temple called Rimkok and it was a temple we visited in the night and it had a relaxed setting due to its quietness and blue color. One activity that I had never done before was water rafting and it was a great experience. We had an instructor of the program who told what to do and it was fun because we had to follow the different directions he was calling out. I made sure to follow every direction since I was scared of falling out but I reached to the destination safely. We also went bike riding in an area that showcased the rural side of Thailand. We went on a bike ride for about 2 hours. The activity that really touched my heart the entire trip was when we got the chance to visit an orphanage for kids ages from 5 to 17 years old. We played with them and ate with them. They spoke few words in English but they showed me a game they played and it did not require communicating . They seemed happy and so eager to play which made me so happy. Lastly, we spent the entire day with elephants. We fed them, bathed them, and rode on them. It was so scary to get on top of their back since they are big animals but once you are up there, the fear starts to fade away because they knew where they were going. Since they were hungry when we arrived, we gave them bananas and some sort of bamboo. It was a unique experience because elephants in America do not have as much human interaction with the public as they do in Thailand. From Chiang Rai, we rode a bus for 6 hours to Chiang Mai. In Chiang Mai, we had a meeting with a monk to tell us about his experience as a monk and his background story. We learned many interesting facts about him. During one of the days there, we went to a high school where we met different high school students who spoke with us and did a art craft with us. They showed us how to dance and play drums. They even had different performances that they had prepared for us.After the high school event, we went to an illusion museum to have fun. The workers informed us to download an app on our phones to see the illusion and take pictures of each other with the funny movement of the stand. After these activities, we took an airplane to Phuket and stayed at a beach resort. We went to different cultural shows and visited a Buddha temple. The beach resort was so beautiful because the beach was at the hotel we were staying. There was a game room, gym, pool, and smoothie shops. The last place we still had to visit was Cambodia. We had to take to take an airplane for about 5 hours but I got used to the flight duration.
When we got to Cambodia, the first thing we did was get on a van and jam to music while getting to a waterpark. This made everyone so happy since it was a very humid day. I was so nervous because I was afraid of big water rides that I decided to get out my shell and enjoy the day because when would be the next time I would be in Cambodia enjoying rides at 16 years old. The next day we went zip lining which was something I never did before. I was afraid in the beginning because it was so high in the air but I eventually got the hang of it when everyone else in my group had gone their turn. We also had the chance to visit one of the seven wonders of the worlds. There was a big Buddha in the center and we had to hike all the way up to it. It was so tiring but the view once being there was so worth it. It is one of the seven wonders in the world. The other days we were historical days which were days meant to educate us on the history of Cambodia. We went to different kingdoms which were used by different Cambodians in the earlier years. On the last day, we went to a concentration camp where the government made up false lies to the innocent people in Cambodia and locked them up to force them to do labor and tell the truth of certain situations that were occurring in the place. Since it was the last day, we all went on a boat ride to enjoy dinner with the friends we had all made.
Overall, it was a trip I will always be grateful for and there are no words to describe the gratitude. Like any new obstacle a teen faces, there are always challenges to overcome. One challenge for me was socializing with other people in the group due to how they would think of me in a negative way. This should not have prevented me interacting with the rest but at the same time, it made me realize that in order to meet people, you just need to be yourself without thinking that you are different than others.. Another minor challenge I faced was jet lag but I got used to the time adjustment as more time had passed. This trip made me face things I was afraid of doing that I was able to get through them with a smile at the end of the day because I did them. It made value the things and people I had back at home. It just opened my eyes for the better and made me grow socially. I am going to use the skills I learned to approach people who seem to have the same struggle I had and make them as comfortable to the environment if I see they are not used to it. I want to help younger kids who are afraid of coming out of their shell and explain to them that everyone goes through it one point of their life and it is something not impossible to do.