Summer 2018

Summer 2k18 was the best summer of my life because of Trip of a Lifetime. Summer is always the season teens look forward to because we get out of school, days become longer, and new friendships form. Never did I ever think that this was the summer I

would have a chance to travel and recreate photos I had only wished to
experience in real life. I traveled all over the west coast and was exposed to
everything from hiking the Grand Canyon to getting to feed dolphins and
giraffes which wouldn't have happened if I had stayed in New York City. 

In school, all I talk about is getting the chance to one day travel the world. I always tell my

teachers what I would like to see or do in different countries. Therefore,
along with my friends, they know I would like to travel and explore what’s
beyond the walls of New York City. I am usually the student that you would go
to if you had nothing to do after school. I live in the South Bronx and
although it is a place I call home, I don’t really spend much time there.
Between being in extracurricular clubs and exploring the city, I only ever go
there because that’s where I happen to live. Anyway, if there is a day where
clubs are not in session in school, that is my time to shine. I gather people
that don’t want to go straight home after school and we go cycling around
Central Park or even look for a new restaurant and see how new food tastes. I
explore because I know New York City is not a place you get bored at, it’s a
place to see and experience new things.

One of my teachers, who also happens to be one of my softball coaches and health teacher, saw that

I had ambition and had heard me talking with a group of my friends about how
much I love to explore and travel. He then told all the students in the school
about a program called Trip of a Lifetime. He explained it as being a program
where you travel to many places and adventure things you would never think of
doing. I told him I would love to apply but I knew I wasn’t going to have money
to do it. Once he told me it was going to be free of charge, that’s when I knew
I had to apply. I learned that hundreds of students from all over were going to
apply so I kept myself as humble as possible. I knew there was a chance I
wouldn’t be accepted but I tried my best on the application and taking that
chance was the best decision I had ever made. I received an acceptance email
that I couldn’t believe even looking at which later ended up being a fantastic

I only have ever traveled to Ecuador because

that's where my parents are from and where most of my family live. I was
thrilled to hear that I was heading west and traveling the west coast to go to
places I had only dreamed of going to. However, I was also nervous. I was the
only one in my school who had gotten accepted this year which meant I would be
traveling with people I had never met before. But I realized it was a chance to
meet people that would soon become more than strangers.

Heading to the

airport, it hit me that I would be spending almost a month without my parents
and traveling alone with people I had never met before. Despite that, I was
still so happy and excited. I arrived at the airport and saw a lot of teenagers
with their parents. Most teens were traveling with a friend or someone they
knew so I felt left out. However, as soon as everyone was checked in and their
parents were gone, it was time to get to know each other. Of course, like every
conversation between you and someone you have never met before, it was awkward
but we all got through it. Our counselor Kat even had already planned
activities to get to know each other so we would get rid of the awkwardness. It
worked and once we arrived at our destination, everyone knew who each other

Our first stop was

Salt Lake City where we went to the Lagoon Amusement Park and visited the Utah
Olympic Park Action Center. Then we hiked two national parks, those being Bryce
Canyon and Grand Canyon. After that we went to Sedona, Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe,
San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and finally, Los Angeles. Out of those various
places, my favorites definitely had to be Sedona, San Francisco and Santa
Barbara. Although all those places now have a special place in my heart, these
specific three locations changed my mindset of what I thought was possible and
impossible to experience. In Sedona, Arizona, we went on an Off- Road Jeep Trip
with the famous Pink Jeep Tours. I remember looking at the sky and the
mountains and thinking that it just looked like I was in some sort of perfect
wallpaper. While all the hills and views were amazing, I would say the
highlight of the day was the bus ride to Las Vegas. It was about six hours and
it may sound long but with getting to know everyone, it wasn’t. We spent hours
playing card games and playing trivia or even quizzing everyone on who knew
each other better. My next favorite destination was San Francisco. Before
arriving to the hotel, we went to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom where I got the
opportunity to feed a giraffe and dolphin. I only dreamed of doing those things
and I finally got to do them in real life. Then, the next day we went on cable
cars which I loved because it felt like I was in the movies trying to get from
place to place. The last destination that really got to my heart was Santa
Barbara. There, we stood at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I
shared a dorm suite with three other people who I became almost sisters with. I
experienced a little bit of college life with also doing community service. In
Unity Shoppe, before opening, I had to bag food, check if anything was bad or
arrange clothing. Once we opened, people came to us for help. We showed them
what food they could get, how much of something they could take, and offered
them clothes or toys if they needed it. It was like working in Santa’s
Workshop. We would see people that came in very saddened by their situation of
not having enough money to live and then once they left, they just had big
bright smiles of happiness on their faces because we helped them get something
they needed. These places changed me. They showed me how the ability of getting
to know new people can be rewarding and how you can change someone's mood with
just having a helpful hand.

 I think what surprised me was seeing how

people just like me lived in places I had only seen in photos and dreamed of
going to. Yet, while I thought these people where in the perfect conditions,
they also experienced some obstacles of living where they did. Some people said
where they lived was too expensive. Others would say that they lived in the
middle of nowhere, but they didn’t like to experience new things. I didn’t
think they experienced challenges, but I know now. A lot of people also said
they didn’t live in the most diverse places. Then I came to realize that while
I envied where they lived I didn’t know how they felt about it. I also faced a
challenge similar to the last one. While I am a person who is outgoing and
adapts quickly to different situations, my trip had some close-minded teens. My
trip consisted of forty-eight teens and although most of them were very social
and open to talk to everyone, I came across some that didn’t want to do the
same. In every new hotel we arrived at, we had the option to pick who we wanted
to room with. I always tried to get different roommates because I wanted to
have a chance to get to know everyone one on one. I came across some people who
only wanted to room with the people they came on the trip with which is fine,
but others were just harsh and judged me on my appearances. For some teens, I
was too big or dark to hang out or room with them. Although I paid no mind to
them, it still hurt that while I was trying to become friends with everyone,
they didn’t want to do the same because of their close-minded thinking.

Going back to the

overall trip itself, it was fun and very informative. I learned that you could
always find light in the darkest places with the help of others. I also learned
that although people may not seem to like you, you must know how to deal with
it because soon, you will experience a situation like that in your life.
Furthermore, I learned to appreciate what you have even if you think it’s not
enough because others don’t have the same. With what I learned, I am going to
use these new skills to build a difference in the community. I will simply
participate in things I have never done before. I will join a new program in my
neighborhood that helps kids struggling with school. In my own school, I would
be a part of fundraisers that would help different causes like helping the
homeless get food or something of that sort.

Trip of a Lifetime has

showed me that I am more powerful and smarter than I think. Even if you think

one person can't make a difference, once you put in the work and believe the
result will surprise you. I might live in the South Bronx but that doesn’t mean
I can’t help a cause. The overall trip has made me realize how much you can
see, learn, and experience in such a short amount of time. I learned how to
enjoy the unexpected. Thank You Trip of a Lifetime!