August 2, 2016
Trip Of A Lifetime: Reflection
My name is Genesis Hernandez and this summer I went on Trip of a Lifetime: Western Skies 2. I am very thankful for my 13-day trip because I experienced a journey I would have not been otherwise able to had it not been for Trip of A Lifetime. On my journey I saw amazing sights, met amazing people, and ate delicious food. Making friends made the trip way better and certainly was a highlight of my trip.
On my first day, I woke up earlier than necessary. I only slept two hours because I was so excited and anxious at the same time. I was so eager to meet my fellow campers from Rein Teen Tours and also my companion from Trip of A Lifetime. I arrived to JFK at 4 am, two hours before we were supposed to meet up. I was way too early. Slowly all of my campmates started to arrive at 6, and we proceed to check in, and we got on our airplane after we had gotten snacks. Once I got on the plane, I started to get butterflies in my stomach. I wasn't afraid of the planes but I was anxious for my first task on this trip, making friends.
I must admit that the task was easier than expected. I was seated next to my other TOAL teammate and then another student that wasn't a part of TOAL. I introduced myself before to my TOAL teammate, Alex, so Alex and I had introduced ourselves to the other camper Bryan. We learned his age, the city he comes from and what he likes to do in his spare time. It wasn't daunting as I had imagined it in my head. We talked about school and academics and things about the internet. Then after talking for about an hour, all three of us went to do our own stuff; Alex, an aspiring artist, started to draw, Bryan began to play on the tv screen in front of him, and I started to play music on my phone. Shortly, we all went to sleep for the majority of the flight and woke up an hour before landing in Phoenix.
Once we stepped out of the Phoenix airport, the sun was blazing, and the heat hit me like a pile of bricks to my face. I looked around, and the skies barely had clouds, and floors were covered with red dirt and cactuses: it was really not what I'm used to at all in New York City. We walked to our charter bus, and quickly we participated in icebreakers. We moved around the bus and introduced ourselves, and we asked each other such as “ what is your favorite ice cream flavor” and other fun questions. We got to our resort quickly, and it was incredibly beautiful. It had a sparkly water fountain at the entrance, palm trees surrounding the entrance as well and the buildings looked like castles built out of red clay. Once we checked in, we went to a whole group meeting, and we went through another round of ice breakers. I was warming up to the kids I would be with for the following two weeks. We closed out the day by going to a beautiful pristine pool surrounded by views of mountains and palm trees. The next day we spent the whole day at “ Wet ‘n’ Wild” Water park. I spent it with Alex and Lauren, my new friend from Israel. We went on a bunch of rides and made the best of the day. At the end of the day, we were exhausted and we had a big day ahead of us because the next day was when we were set to travel to Sedona and go on the famous Pink Jeep Tours.
The Pink Jeep Tours were the part of the trip that I enjoyed the most. I was with my best friends on the journey, and we were screaming at the top of our lungs and scared for the life of us while driving through the rocky paths. We were also in awe because of the breathtaking views of the Broken Arrow Trail and the “ Road of No Return.” After our tour, we had a very calm day. The sun was still blazing, and the wind was thick but after our day we went to eat, and all of the food we ate on this trip was fantastic. At every restaurant, I always tried to taste something I haven't tasted, for example at “ The Good Egg” I ate crêpes and at “California Pizza Kitchen” I ate dumplings- these were weird experiences for me.
The next following days were very similar since we hiked and walked in national parks which is familiar to me. We went to the Grand Canyon, and it was utterly beautiful. It seemed like an optical illusion because of how unreal the beauty was. Afterwards, we went to Zion and Bryce. These places were familiar to me, and they we fun to revisit because I saw a different beauty than what I saw last time. I went to these locations two years ago and back then I didn't pay attention to the fact that these opportunities only come once in a lifetime, and I took it for granted.
After all of the hikes were done, we headed out to Las Vegas where I've never been before and stayed at the marvelous Monte Carlo Resort and Casino. Once we got off the bus, the heat got more intense drastically but when we stepped into that hotel, my face lit up. There were so many people there and the air conditioning was on full blast and we could have a clear view of the casinos but we were not allowed to go. However seeing all the vibrant colors and the aura of it all was just exciting. We went upstairs to change and have dinner at Planet Hollywood where we ate giant cups of ice cream for dessert and we couldn't finish it all. The next day, we went on the New York City rollercoaster that was in the middle of the city and it was in a giant arcade. I rode next to my friend Alex and she was scared for her life while I was keeping a straight face. Then, we went to the pool for many hours and there were three pools at this hotel, a wave pool, a regular pool, and a lazy river and I spent time in all three. Also in the hotel, they were various shops, such as a sunglasses store, clothing stores, a food court, a candy store and so many more and I spent a fair amount of time browsing in each.
We had an excruciating long ride from Las Vegas to San Diego but it was worth it. In San Diego, I learned to surf and I surfed for the first time. However, when the instructor asked our group who had surfed before, a good amount of kids had said they had and it had me thinking about how hard working kids like me should be given the chances that these other kids. Going to Disneyland and Universal is something that not everyone can afford and not everyone gets to experience and I know various people who would want the opportunity to do so like I did. I am extremely grateful because there's kids all over the United States that aren't as privileged as I was, to be able to experience what I experienced and they are definitely deserving of a life changing experience like this.
In order to give back to my community, I will invigorate others to get out of their comfort zones. I would say getting out of your comfort zone will give you many lenses to look at life through.The importance of travel should be stressed especially to children because they should get used being away from home. When another student is given the opportunity to travel, I will always tell them to experience something wonderful the way that I did. I will suggest TOAL to other students who are interested in travel and community service. When school starts, I will go to the Career Office and try to form a leadership/volunteer group where we would meet once a week to volunteer and find activities in which we will give back to our community in the South Bronx and Harlem. This experience was very eye opening to me and it made me more grateful of the opportunities that I have been given at such a young age. I will certainly apply again and tell others as well because everyone deserves a life changing experience.