“Above and beyond Travel for Teens just being a job, it’s also a family…and a very close one at that.”
Truer words could not have been spoken by VP Ned Clark as the opening statement to our staff training weekend this past Saturday morning. I looked around me at the 30 some people who had given up their weekend all for the betterment of teen travel and I smiled. Some I had known for years and some I had just met, but I appreciated their company all the same. I consider myself extremely lucky to be part of a family that hails from all over the world, that spends every summer sharing their love and knowledge of travel with students who are eager to learn, and that is responsible for the smiling faces of many teens after they return home from the trip of a lifetime. As those who were not able to join us physically in Philadelphia introduced themselves via Skype to the group, I was humbled once again. This amazing group gathered together in our office had not only flown in from Italy, Switzerland, the UK, Costa Rica, Canada, and all over the US, it also extended to San Diego, Spain, the Czech Republic, Croatia, and even all the way to Australia (where it was already past midnight, mind you).
As the 14 out-of-towners began arriving at TFT headquarters, I thought back to my first summer at TFT when I was just a part-time
intern. I remember wondering why this Australian man would randomly come in from Europe for a week every May, and here I am three years later now joining in the excitement to see Seb when he is back in the office on that Monday morning. I also remember the happy reunions had by the office staff and the counselors, and now I too anticipated this week to both see my old friends and meet some new. With some Italian, French, a little bit of Spanish, and a whole lot of happiness being heard throughout the office, it was official: Staff Training 2014 had begun. In between new staff, trip director, and all staff training sessions we obviously had to make time for fun: a Phillies vs Mets baseball game for a little taste of America’s favorite past time as well as some cheesesteaks and the Devon Horse Show in true Philly fashion. Lastly and the highlight of every training weekend was the staff party at Ned’s house complete with corn hole, s’mores, and a battle over the iPod speakers with the Europeans playing house music and the Americans encouraging oldies and country sing-a-longs.
While most left the weekend CPR and first aid certified, others Lifeguard certified, and everyone fully prepared for a TFT summer and any situation that came their way, I think we all took away a lot more than that. From the ice breakers and name games to the story telling or get-to-know-you conversations at dinners, the charismatic dynamic of our group was undeniable. Though Nic, Ned, and Pat with the help of the whole office staff spent months planning a fun and effective staff training agenda, the overall attitude and feeling of the week could not have been manipulated even by all the team bonding activities in the world. It was a natural vibe that could come only from a team that works effortlessly well together. Since we typically spend our time apart working in smaller teams, having the whole TFT staff in the same place at the same time was a truly special event. I sat out back on the deck on Saturday night in my comfy new TFT staff sweatshirt, enjoyed a perfectly melted marshmallow thanks to the fire burning not far away, and just observed the scene around me. I saw a group of people who came from many different places, backgrounds, and each had their own story all genuinely enjoying themselves and each other’s company, whether they had met 10 years ago or just the day before. In that fleeting moment, a kind of in love with life feeling came over me. It was almost better than Christmas morning: the whole family was together again.
See you this summer!