Meet Our Featured TFT Traveler: Natalie H!

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

I’m 18 and in my freshman year at Santa Barbara City College.

What TFT programs have you gone on?

Europe for Older Teens: Florence, Cinque Terre, Interlaken, and Paris and I’m going on the Thailand Elephant Island trip this summer!

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Three fun facts about yourself.
  1. I love to perform, make short films, and take pictures.
  2. I paid for all my trips on my own.
  3. I have a food instagram of everything I make! @backyard_eats

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What does being a part of TFT mean to you and why have you made TFT a part of your life by being a Brand Ambassador?

Being a part of TFT means that I get to help bring adventure to kids in the future with the same craving for travel and cultural immersion that I have. I had never felt so prioritized and free when traveling with a group, something that’s not easy for a travel company to achieve. My ultimate goal is to become a counselor for TFT and actually lead the trips. This company led me to have the best experiences of my life in just a few short weeks. I believe providing that same experience to others will give me the same feeling.

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What do you travel for?

I travel for the joy. I travel to feel the excitement of finding thing I never knew existed. To me, that gives me more thrill than any rollercoaster in the world. I find happiness in experiencing other people’s everyday reality, especially when it’s completely foreign to mine.

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How have you grown as a person though travel?

I’ve felt my mind expand so much with each country I’ve explored. In each new country, I try to immerse myself in the local culture and try to  connect with the mindset of the people whose world I’m entering. I’ve developed so much awareness and appreciation for new cultures, which is something not everyone can say they’ve done in their life.

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What are some interesting things about different countries you’ve been to that other people may not know?

In Italy, there is something known as a “passeggiata” that refers to an after dinner stroll to digest and socialize, although historically, it was meant for the men to show off their newly-wed wives or for fathers to display their eligible daughters. It’s led to the tradition of people changing into their fancy dinner clothes after being out during the day as well.

In Switzerland, it seems like everything is executed to perfection. There is no trash on the streets (at least not in Interlaken), each house is brightly painted and new, and there was no evidence of an extreme upper or lower class.

In France, the bread, cheese, and pastries are made with much fresher ingredients and without the American preservatives. This means that the lifespan of a baguette or croissant is about the length of one day, however, eaten fresh, this food is absolutely incredible and unlike anything made in America.

In Costa Rica, the trails are covered with large leaves where fer-de-lances, common small poisonous snakes, tend to hide. Also, one of the most common flowers seen in Costa Rica are Camellias, are used in Chanel perfume.

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Tell us about one person you have met and how they impacted you.

I met some of the most amazing people on TFT’s Europe trip, all of whom I still keep in touch with until this day. One person who I can safely say became one of my closest friends was Dylan Rothstein. He and I immediately bonded in Italy, and he opened up to me like nobody else has in my life, so naturally I opened up to him like I never had to anyone else. Dylan came to stay with me in California about a month ago and it was like we never left Europe. He has an appreciation for art, culture, and music that was almost as enthusiastic as me. Like me, he also has an understanding of solitary admiration of beautiful places because sometimes a group of people can take away from realizing the soul of some of these places we visited.  

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What has travel taught you?

Travel has taught me that no one person, culture, or identity is above or more important than anyone else. People learn their own values from the roots they came from but that doesn’t make anyone wrong or right.

If there was one thing you wish you knew and would tell others about traveling abroad before you went on your first trip, what would it be?

Accept everything for what it is and stay positive! No matter how tired you are or where you end up, find the value and beauty in each moment. If you’re traveling in a group, be someone who craves adventure as opposed to someone who has complaints; it will lift everyone else up and give you such a better experience.

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Favorite ice breaker game and why?

Someone starts with a ball and passes it to someone and asks a question of their choice. The receiver says their name and answers and then that person passes to someone else with a question of their choice. And so on… This gives the kids freedom to ask what they want to ask as opposed to the facilitator coming up with generic questions that people might not care about.

Give some advice to a first time TFTer.

Trust your counselors! They are showing you the best parts of the world and the more excitement and positivity you show, the more they will want to make happen for you! Soak in the people you meet, places you go, and food you eat every second with gratitude!!!

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