Meet Our Featured TFT Traveler: Nataleena D!

How old are you, what grade are you finishing, and where do you go to school?

I’m 16 years old and I am currently a junior (11th grade) at Coquille Junior/Senior High School.

Which TFT programs have you traveled with? 

Feeding an elephant at an elephant shelter.

Costa Rica Animal Rescue Service and Thailand Elephant Service and the Islands.

How many countries have you been to? 

Eight.

Funniest travel moment?

Loading into boats in Costa Rica.

During my trip in Costa Rica we stayed in a hotel where each room was like its own individual hut. All the girls were in one hut, the counselors in another, and the one boy was in his own hut. The hut only had two keys, one for our CIT and the other for the oldest girl. Well, the CIT had training and the oldest girl was staying late at the center, so we are all sweaty and covered in grime from our day of volunteering and we all wanted to freshen up for dinner. Of course we tried our front door, but then we decided to see about the back door, so two girls and I went to the back to find the door also locked. Then we turned to the outdoor shower. It was a tall stone wall around a shower with no roof. So myself and another girl decide that would be the best way to get in. So we both try to climb it, boost each other up, and eventually I am lifted on the other girl’s shoulders and get to the top of the wall. Well as I’m sitting up there debating the best way to jump from what I now realize is a very tall height, the front door opens and all the girls come in to see me on top of the shower wall attempting a master break-in!

Tell us about a person you met through travel and how they impacted you.

My friend and I hanging out on our balcony.

Before my Thailand trip, I got in contact with one of the people going and we started texting, but only really had one conversation before the trip started. On the trip we instantly clicked and we hung out at every opportunity and were roomates at nearly every hotel until she went home because she wasn’t on the extended portion of the trip. However, we made it work and kept in contact even while I was still on the trip and I’m even planning to stay with her during the summer. She showed me that even just ten days with a person can make them your favorite person!

What is the biggest lesson travel has taught you?

On a boat in the Thai Islands.

Travel has taught me that things aren’t always going to go as planned, but you just have to roll with it. If, for some reason, you can’t do something, find an alternative, even if it’s something you might not normally do. It keeps me on my toes and helps me be open to suggestions and to problem solve!

What is the most touristy thing you’ve done that is definitely worth doing again?

Going on the London Eye was so amazing and I would definitely do it again. The lines were very long, but it was so beautiful and that’s coming from someone who absolutely loathes ferris wheels!

What is one thing you cannot travel without?

Some of my Thailand group and me.

A book or two and a good pair of work boots. A book is so nice for plane rides and waiting time and it can be nice to wind down after a long day with a book before heading to bed. And work boots because during any trip I have been on I have been thankful I had them or wished I did because of how nice they are. You can use them for working like you’re supposed to, or they work to just have a nice hike or even a walk through the city.

What is the most bizarre food you have ever eaten?

Durian. Definitely durian. Now if you don’t know what durian is, it is considered the stinkiest fruit in the world, like it’s so bad it’s banned in hotels and subway stations. Now some people like it, but to me it had a taste similar strawberries, quickly followed by straight up raw garlic and onions, not to mention the texture was something very…unique.

If you were a country, which one would you be and why?

Walking to the Bri Bri Village in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica. I felt very at home in the country for the time I was there, plus there was constant adventure and the food was amazing. Not to mention the people are very laid back and I like not worrying too much and just enjoying myself.

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