I first found out about Trip of a Lifetime through my high school counselor. My friends and I among other students had fit the criteria to apply for an all expenses paid trip. Receiving this news was an awesome way to end an otherwise regular school day. Filling out the application was okay. However, when the interview came around I was nervous. After the whole application process was done there was the long wait to find out are travel destination. I was not alone in the wait however because two of my other friends had also been accepted. Though we all knew that the likelihood of all us going together was slim we still hoped it would happen. When we did finally receive our trip places we were sad that we were not together but at the same time we were giddy and excited to plan our part of the trip. The weeks leading up to my departure contained a few trips to the mall and a lot of tying up loose ends because I would be gone for a full month! Finally July 1st came around and it was time to leave for California. Everything seems to take so long when you have a 6am flight and have to wake up at 3am. The rush and stress of last minute packing was not the best feeling but finally getting on the plane and sleeping was great. When we arrived many of us were jet lagged and hungry. Afterwards, we took a 2hr bus ride from LA to Santa Barbara which allowed for us to meet new people.
Our first day in California was spent traveling and participating in ice breakers. In one of the many ice breakers we did I found my birthday twin who is 2 years younger than me. Each day was jam packed with activities. One of my favorite places that we visited is known as Catalina Island. To get there we took a ferry and we spent the day at the beach looking at the scenic island. In addition to this I enjoyed going to Hollywood and seeing the walk of fame. I also enjoyed our bike and trolly rides around downtown Santa barbara because of the nice weather and beautiful views. Furthermore, making new friends with whom I could share these memories added to the fun. I enjoyed making new friends however in the beginning it was not easy because I felt like I didn’t fit in being the only hispanic person. However, that did not matter because I soon found that everyone on the trip had come for similar reasons. Those reasons included making an impact through community service and enjoying some quality sun exposure from home. I’m also very glad that I am still currently in touch with those friends.
Although waking up early in the morning to start a day full of activities was tiring it always paid off. One of the many things that I participated in while in California was a community service project called Unity Shoppe. The Unity Shoppe was a center very much like a grocery store where people who were low income, homeless, or affected by natural disasters could come in and get clothing and food for free. Having done things like food and can drives back home I thought it would be similar but I was wrong. The director of Unity Shoppe came in and explained to us that unlike other food distributing places in the world they did not simply hand out crates or bags of food. Their mission was to bring dignity to the people who found themselves in such situations. The set up was just like a grocery store with fridges, freezers, counters, cashiers, and a bonus kitchen to wash all the incoming vegetables which would later in the day pack. Although many things came pre packaged it was our job to check expiration dates, wash, and pack food. Being able to learn job skills was one of the many perks of volunteering here. Everyday was routinely yet somehow different. Seeing families come in and having the choice of picking out their meals showed me that there is always room for improvement. I say this because of the system used at the Unity Shoppe that is yet to be found elsewhere and because of the meaningful impact that I forwarded to these people. Their gratitude could be seen all over their faces and being able to interact with them was a pleasure. I hope to someday bring a similar sense of hope and happiness through my future career in medicine. Although it may seem a little cheesy this really was the trip of a lifetime and I am forever grateful that I got this opportunity.