Written by: Nandi Edwards

I have always been in love with the idea of exploring the world. That is why it was a dream come true when I found a camp that was solely for this purpose – to enrich my life through travelling. They say the best knowledge gained is through travelling adventures; and I discovered that first-hand this summer with Travel For Teens’ London, Paris, French Riviera & Barcelona trip. This twelve-day summer trip was truly a gift that keeps giving – one that I will forever cherish.

On the first and second day of my trip, TFT gave to me…

It was July 9th and I was with my mom waiting for the group’s arrival, for I was already in London. Prior to this day I was quite nervous as to what to expect and many questions were racing through my mind: “Will this trip be fun, traveling with strangers?”, “What if I don’t make friends?”, “Have the other group members ever met a girl from a tiny Caribbean island before?”, “Would I feel weird being the youngest in the group?” However, rest assured these worries were quickly dissolved minutes after meeting the other travellers. I probably should have given my mom a better ‘goodbye’, but I was already engrossed in conversations with my newly made friends. Sorry mom :). There was in no way, shape or form any feeling of exclusion; only feelings of belonging. After a short and enjoyable meet and greet in the hotel with the amazing travellers and counsellors, we dove straight into the adventure! Downtown London was just as enchanting as people say, if not more. We visited all the well-known sights including the Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and we even took a spin on the London Eye. The beauty of the attractions was mesmerizing. However, my day’s highlight would have to be on the park by the pond when we all sat in a circle on the grass – a simple activity, yet impactful. That was a true bonding moment where we all introduced ourselves, went through trip guidelines and learned more about each other – a great trip kick-off. Have you ever seen an authentic royal crown in person? I didn’t, until this day, July 10th. We toured the Tower of London, which was home of gruesome history stories and the Queen’s Crown Jewels! Although the Yeoman Warder shared many fun facts with us that day, it seemed like Alex, one of the counsellors was running a close competition, because she shared just as many facts about London, which were both amusing and amazing at the same time:). The exciting day continued with a haunted house experience that shared some of London’s intriguing history. The day ended with me sharing laughs with my new friends while watching “The Play That Goes Wrong” in London’s famous theatre district in The West End.

On the third, fourth and fifth day of my trip, TFT gave to me…

Off to the land of art and pastries! My notion of Paris was limited to these two delicacies until I experienced this intriguing city for myself. The cityscape scenery, the friendliness of the Parisians, and the salivating cuisine were indeed too good to be true! The trek up thousands of steps to reach the top of the Eiffel Tower was well worth the sweat because my breath was taken away at the stunning view. I felt on top of the world both physically and emotionally. The gentle breeze blowing on the River Seine cruise was the perfect night time activity. I learned many interesting facts about Paris on this tour. Did you know the River Seine runs directly through the middle of Paris and splits the city into the Right Bank and Left Bank? I was fascinated by the artwork in the Louvre and Ned’s unending knowledge of the concepts of art displayed. His passion for Paris was infectious and truly sparked our love for this city. We definitely got some cardio on this trip with the amazing bike tour we did. I felt like a local biking on the French stoned streets with my travel group. The Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame were captivating monuments that I will forever value. Actually, during our visit, many TV shows and movies were being filmed in various public spaces and we found it cool that one of our own counsellors, Natalie, had previously appeared on a show herself! A Paris visit is never complete without a fondue dinner! The aromas from a French-made cuisine are like none other. They say Paris is the city of love; well, I indeed fell in love with Paris this summer.

On the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth day of my trip TFT gave to me…

Happy Bastille Day! Although my homeland is surrounded by beautiful beaches, I was captivated by the deep-ocean blue water and the elegant yachts that floated above it. The French Riviera was a complete environment change from the cities we toured the prior days. It had a more easy-going vibe and brought a change from the city life. Celebrating a holiday in France was exciting! At our dinner, we were entertained by a group of “flippers” (persons doing front and backflips) around the restaurants and locals selling souvenirs of France. We took some commemorative photos with the serene sunset that evening. The following day, a true highlight was watching the process of perfume and bar soap making. I also purchased some authentic French perfume to return home. That same day we also visited the cute little hilltop village of Èze and roamed around. This trip was full of new experiences, one being bunking at a hostel. I felt like a real European backpacker staying at this humble home. The caretakers were very sweet, and their meals were made with love. I have to make special mention of our river rafting adventure. This was my favourite group bonding activity because we all worked together to complete and raft through kilometres of gentle flows complemented by rough rapids. This journey was filled with jumps, laughter and rowing chants! This fantastic excursion was followed by a ropes course that tested our coordination skills and endurance. The view from the final zipline course was simply surreal. Our visit to France ended beautifully with a roam through a lavender field – nature sure knows how to amaze!

On the tenth and eleventh day of my trip TFT gave to me…

From England to France and now in Spain! I enjoyed experiencing three different languages on this trip which truly justifies how culturally enriching it was. The exhibition of culture in Barcelona was unreal. Strolling around the hotel into different markets and stores was so new but amazing. The subways here were faster-paced than the ones in France and England as well. We attended an evening Flamenco performance and I hadn’t yet experienced anything quite like it. It was so fascinating watching the dancers contour their bodies at such speed, while singers belted out high and low notes with such grace. A few of us did a guided tour of the Sagrada Familia. Learning more about Spain’s history and architecture was so inspiring and captivating. Learning to cook seafood Paella was by far one of the most intriguing activities on this trip. I could tell the preparation process fascinated everyone! With a little slice of peppers and some peeling of squid and a pinch of salt, magic was done in that kitchen and we were all proud of the result. Thanks to the help of the wonderful chef who guided us step-by-step, we made two delicious paella dishes. A few of us also visited Camp Nou, which is home to the FC Barcelona! Being a part of a family who enjoys watching football, this tour was so incredible. Our final dinner was one of joy and sorrow. We were cherishing each other’s company for the last night and the beautiful view we had at the restaurant. It overlooked the entire city of Barcelona! This, in my opinion was some of the best food savoured on the trip. Each course was very appetising to the eye and even kinder to the tongue. In these moments, some shared their views and experiences from the trip and a few tears were even shed. I could not have asked for a better travelling group. We united through diverse personalities, cultures and backgrounds on a journey of twelve days. The lifetime moments we shared will be a bond that we will forever treasure.

On the twelfth day of my trip, TFT gave to me…

All good things come to an end, but the memories and new life perspectives stay with us forever. At the airport we sadly said our goodbyes and parted ways. This day, July 20, I reflected on the trip and how it shaped me into a better person with even more fire in my soul for travel.

I have become more independent and confident in myself in terms of travelling and navigating new spaces. I have learnt to be open-minded and accepting of others’ traditions and cultural practices. I shared with others about my island and in turn learned about their homes. I can better cooperate with others, even if we hold different opinions. I developed so much by doing something I am passionate about-travelling. I gained an appreciation for European culture on this trip. It also taught me to embrace my own Caribbean roots and culture, just as the Europeans do with pride, a true pleasure to see unfold. I extend a thank you to the counsellors Natalie, Alex and Ned who were supportive and considerate – the trip would not have been as memorable or meaningful without them. Also, my twenty newly acquired friends from the trip added laughter and enjoyment and made my experience unforgettable. From the languages, to the people, to the music, cuisine and overall culture, it was such a memorable experience and I would love the opportunity to explore another part of the world next summer.

Thank you TFT!

~A Small Island Girl Hoping to Explore a Big Exciting World~

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