Experience the Travel For Teens Difference
Join the video winner of My TFT Summer, Grace Reppy, as she transports us to Thailand on her Elephant Service trip.
Grace’s video immerses us into the vibrant culture of Thailand, captures service work with the endearing elephants, and shows her flourishing friendships along the way. She truly encompassed the excitement and spirit of a TFT summer. We feel as if we are right by her side – as a traveler, not a tourist!
My TFT Summer Essay Winner | Dan Crimp-Musson
My Upside Down Winter in France
By Daniel Crimp-Musson
It was June 30th and I was just hours away from embarking on the farthest and longest trip I will have ever been on in my life. I was going to explore France for 21 days. To put it simply, I was scared stiff. I was excited to escape everyday life, but very nervous. I was nervous if I’d enjoy France, I was nervous as to what the people would be like and I was nervous if I’d miss my friends, my family and Australia. But even today I find it unbelievable that I was thinking this way. This is because I had such an unreal time.
Going into this trip I hadn’t the slightest clue as to what type of people I’d meet. I was about to spend nearly all of July with strangers, but fortunately, I wouldn’t be calling them “strangers” for long. My roommate on this trip, Jamie, said something on the second day that put this perfectly: “It’s been less than 2 days and I feel like I’ve known you guys for years.” Soon, he wasn’t just a guy I was sharing a room with, he was a true mate. These were some of the coolest people I’d ever met – they were so much fun to hang out with! Most of them were super chill and a blast to talk to.
The rest of the group was an all-American crew, and me, being an Aussie, made for something interesting. On the first night when we were getting ready to roam the streets of Paris to find dinner, one the girls came up to me and asked, “Hey, can you teach me an Aas-tre-lee-an accent?” Then somebody else said, “Yeah, can you teach us about Aas-tre-lee-a?”, to which I responded, “All I’ll say now is DO NOT SAY “throw another shrimp on the barbie” – we call them prawns!” (Seriously, don’t call them that.)
In the end I think I did a pretty good job teaching them about Australia. Things like Australian history, where the capital actually is (no, it’s not Sydney), and lots of slang such as esky, dunny, Holden, thongs, servo and fair dinkum. In return I learnt a lot about the US. I now know what a “tater-tot” is, that New York isn’t a capital and I can now name most of the 50 states.
Paris is a lot different to what I thought it’d be like. In my head, Paris is this glamorous city that’s home to the Eiffel tower, cheese, wine, baguettes, old buildings, rude locals and all the other clichés. But after spending two weeks in the city my perception has completely changed. While the old buildings part is true, Paris is a CITY, and it is very real. The streets aren’t always sparkling clean, it’s incredibly busy, eating is expensive and unfortunately, I found you must pay to use some of the bathrooms. But that didn’t stop me from having an awesome time.
Sure, we did all of the touristy things, like climb the Eiffel Tower, visit the Arc de Triomphe and explore the Louvre. But we also did some things I didn’t even know about. We went to Luxembourg Gardens, the Concorde (which is a war museum) and other places I’ve never heard of before. Did you know that Paris has a secret underground tunnel along the Seine? I didn’t! We also went on day trips to the beautiful gardens of Giverny, and Normandy to immerse ourselves in World War 2.
Some of my favourite things from Paris include the Catacombs, climbing the Eiffel Tower (which we did on my birthday!), taking in the view from the top of Notre Dame, cheering on France in the World Cup, visiting Versailles and topping it off with the Bastille Day fireworks on the last day.
I also found the food was consistently amazing. Wherever we went, the delicacies – such as snails – or meals you see every day back home – such as burgers and pizza – were incredible. Some of my favourite foods I tried in France were croque monsieurs, baguette meatball subs, macarons, steak-frites, le canard (duck) and different types of local cheeses. Yum.
After what felt like forever (but at the same time it went by so fast) we packed our bags and headed for Nice. Let me just say this: The French Riviera is beautiful, with dark-blue oceans meeting bright green hills. I was greeted by celebration, fireworks, airhorns, mopeds, crowds of people and splashes of blue, white and red, as France had won the World Cup the same day we arrived. I appreciated the change of pace from the hustle and bustle of Paris as we fully immersed ourselves in the Mediterranean lifestyle. A more relaxed pace didn’t take away from experiencing the South of France. Our days were filled with leisurely swims, plenty of sightseeing and lots of gelato.
A highlight of Nice was one of the day trips. Before this trip I had been overseas to three different countries, but here I was visiting three countries in one day. We hopped on the train in France and went to Monaco, then to Italy and back to France! Coming from Perth, the most isolated capital city in the world, it’s amazing to think that this was even possible.
So, we have amazing people and a kickass trip, but none of this could have happened without our awesome counsellors: George, Taylor (TK), Heloise and Linda. These guys really knew what they were doing. At first, Paris seemed overwhelming – there was so much to see, do and hear – but the counsellors knew their way around and helped us navigate our new home for three weeks – I don’t think we got lost once. They took us to places we never would have found in a guidebook so we got to see the real France and live like locals. The counsellors were people you would want to talk to if you had any problems, but were easy going and friendly – you knew you could always have a good yarn (that’s Australian for “chat”) with them!
If after only two days it felt like I’d known everyone for years, by the end of the trip it felt like I’d had these mates for a lifetime. We’d seen and shared so much over the trip that it was hard to say hooroo (“goodbye”) and fly back to the cold-ish winter that waited for me in Australia. I had mentally prepared for my friends and family to ask me “what was your favourite part of the trip?”, but I didn’t realise how hard it would be to answer – simply because I couldn’t narrow it down to one thing. Even after being back for a couple of months, I can’t quite put my finger on what the best part of it was. All I know is that the friends I made on trip are friends I have made for life. And the confidence I gained from the experience has made me eager to see more of the world.
Video Category Honorable Mentions
Audrey Deutsch | Hawaii
Dive into our Hawaii Sea Turtle Service program with Audrey! Explore beneath the surface to experience the underwater world and mingle with the local sea life. Her positive energy radiates through her footage – an essential characteristic of a true traveler!
Katherine Beard | Peru
Jet off to the south-of-the-equator with Katherine as she immerses us in Peruvian culture, volunteers with locals, and seeks adventure on our Peru Service & Adventure program. Her story makes us want to hop on a flight to South America immediately!
Essay Category Honorable Mentions
By: Bridget McShane
My roommates had fallen asleep well before ten o’clock. Recumbent in my hotel bed, I listened to the commotion of the city streets of Madrid: a Spanish man yelling as he rushed to be alongside his friends, a Spanish song ringing continually in the back of my brain, and a Spanish girl gracefully singing along to the rhythm of the music. The animated voices and excitement outside my hotel window fueled my eagerness to observe what was unfamiliar to me. Invisibly escorted by the forces of fate, I stumbled out of my bed sheets and quietly tip-toed onto my minuscule balcony.
Although my trip sparked elation within me months prior, the universe seemed too big, and I longed for something to hold onto. Gazing up at the night sky, I could not even grasp the brightest star. Traveling was a dream of mine, but Spain was foreign to me. My conscience wrestled with a single thought: Could I handle the unfamiliarity of a new country? As my body slouched over the railing, my mind studied the line of yellow hotel windows where, inside, each resident concealed their humane secrets from the sharp-eyed watcher across the way. Yet, I was them. I perceived strangers, and they perceived me. I absorbed the country as they absorbed it themselves.
With feelings of apprehension and enthusiasm rising and swelling within me every now and then with other gusts of emotions, the once uproarious streets transformed into silence as I could hear my own heart beat.
My mind encouraged me to sleep and ignore my nervousness, but my heart encouraged my attentiveness and accepted the anticipated fear of traveling. Suddenly, the silence was interrupted by words, and my head turned left to notice a new face.
“What’s your name?” asked the Spanish girl on the balcony a few rooms down. She appeared to be the same age as me and spoke broken English. She was inarguably one of the most outgoing and inspiring people I have ever encountered.
I answered with hesitation, “Bridget.”
“Well, Bridget, you seem nervous. Don’t be. Madrid is my home.”
I nodded, smiled, thanked her, and returned back inside. After those words had left the tip of her tongue, the world on my shoulders became lighter. We had met by accident, but I knew it was no accident. For I was a stranger, yet I suddenly felt at home. What was once a sad, first night in my first foreign country became one of the most poignant and lovely nights of my young life. From her ad-lib words, I recognized the purpose in traveling: I needed to experience others’ homes in order to discover my own. It was when I had stopped trying to leave that I had arrived.
For the rest of my trip, I challenged my mind to remain open and unbolted. It was because of the young girl’s words that I was able to recognize the beauty of novelty and the unknown. Madrid was someone’s home – a place of culture and comfort. Traveling has invigorated my declinations of conventionality and has influenced my outlook on different ways of life. I went away for ten days and arrived home a different person; I will never come all the way back.
By: Asiyah Ball
Henry Miller once said, “ One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.” By far, my summer 2018 travel experience served as a window to self- discovery, personal growth and cultural understanding. Preparing for my journey was the beginning. I tried to teach myself small Swahili phrases off YouTube and Duolingo, so that I could try and truly immerse myself. Despite my deeply rooted fear in needles, getting the typhoid immunization was not what scared me the most. It was the pills. Taking the malaria pills was my biggest fear. Before this trip, I had never swallowed a pill before. Granted, there were many times I tried, but no attempts were successful. I realized that there was a mental barrier preventing me from allowing myself to swallow a pill, however, I knew it was something I had to do, and I challenged myself to do it. The moment when the pill went down my throat I learned I can do anything if want to, all I have to do is believe I can. It may seem like a small thing but this small win set the tome for a journey like none other. I was confident and ready.
I was going on a trip out of the country without my parents. During the flight, I struggled with my feelings of excitement and anxiousness. I was eager to experience what was awaiting me. Getting off of the plane was one of the best experiences of my life. I immediately felt like my life was about to truly change, and I would return to my family a changed woman. My first stop to Arusha allowed me my first visual experience of Tanzanian culture. I was so excited that I wanted to take pictures of everything. I wanted to capture every moment. This is when the cultural understanding truly began. I learn about the many different tribes that make up Tanzania and their importance in Tanzanian culture and history. Being able to meet with the different tribes like the Hadzabe, the Chagga, the Masai, and the Datonga was amazing. I was able to experience what hunting for food is like for the Hadzabe men. I was able to learn what it is like to be a part of a nomadic tribe. One of my favorite aspects about meeting the many different tribes was that they allowed us inside of their homes. This was very important to me because they were allowing complete strangers into an intimate and personal space, a place where they lay their heads and where their families stay. It showed me how many of the tribes were willing to let us in and let us experience a small portion of their culture. They taught, and I eagerly learned and absorbed. Going to the Maasai Boma was one of the best experiences of my life because it was the beginning to my immersion of Tanzanian culture. I was able to sing and dance with the women of the Maasai tribe. They gave me a beaded necklace as if to dub me with a little bit of the Maasai culture. Through dance and song, I was able to create my first connection with a tribe of Tanzania. The other reason going to the Maasai was very important to me was that there I learned the important cultural aspect of bargaining. I was able to negotiate and exchange my shillings for the very well known and beautiful beaded jewelry of the Maasai. At the Maasai, I made my first purchase in a new country. I felt a sense of independence. I was beginning to love and understand Tanzanian culture.
One of my favorite moments on this trip was observing Islam in another country. I loved waking up to the adhan some mornings and seeing Muslims walking down the street. I celebrated Eid for the first time in another country, and I loved it. I was able to see the beautiful materials the women had their abayas and hijabs made out of.
My first night at the SEGA School, an all girls’ school in Tanzania, I met Zainab. She too was Muslim. We talked about Islam and how it differed in both of our countries. We wrote each other’s names in Arabic and talked about wearing the hijab. One of the most important moments of this trip was when she asked me to recite Qur’an to her. I was both honored and flattered. She asked me if I could recite surah-al-Fatihah. One thing to note is that I am very self-conscious when I recite Quran aloud because it is something very intimate and personal for me, but I was willing to do it for her on the first night that we met because I thought it was important for both her and I. It was important because this was both of our first times being with a Muslim from another country. The other highlight was spending my sixteenth birthday with everyone at the SEGA School and with my traveling group. This was the most special birthday of my life. Having my birthday in Tanzania and sharing this experience, an experience, which represents a new year and a new beginning, was very special. It was special because I was able to have my fresh start with some of the most genuine girls ever.
I loved the cultural-exchanges that happened between the SEGA Girls and the girls from my group. I was able to learn about Tanzania and the girls through their stories and experiences, while they were able to learn about America through my stories and experiences. Many times, when I told people that I was from America and that I was Muslim, surprise and shock were expressions that I received. Hussein, a tailor I met in Tanzania, told me that he did not know that there were Muslims in America, and that was something I had heard from a lot of the SEGA girls as well. This is important because I was able to provide that confirmation that yes, we do exist, there are Muslims in America by just being present and interacting with people. Throughout this trip, songs and dances were very important. Many of the tribes I visited sang us songs of welcome. They allowed us to participate in their dances and learn about their culture by using their songs and dances.
Travelling to Tanzania was so important to me because I had to learn and see for myself the stories and experiences that were not being told. Going to the SEGA school was amazing because I was able to see what an all girls school in another country looks like and how it was similar and different from the all girls school I attend. Listening to the girls and hearing their stories, I was able to see that despite coming from different cultures and different countries, we all wanted similar things. I learned how dedicated and motivated the girls were, and how they were very passionate about their communities and their education. The girls that I met, like Zainab, Elena, Prisca, Taos, Fatimah, and so many more, inspired me. While in Tanzania, I bought a lot of beaded and brass jewelry, clothes, fabric, woodcarvings, and etc. I did not see me buying so much stuff as being a tourist; I saw it as me supporting local businesses and families. Before traveling to Tanzania, I learned that beaded jewelry is a very important means of income for the women of certain tribes, for example the women of the Maasai tribe. In my mind purchasing beaded jewelry was supporting women and mothers in another country. I wanted to support as many local tribes as I could, so I decided that every tribe we went to visit, I would buy something. I learned so much about myself as a person. I learned that in order to fully appreciate a different culture, you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone. You have to be willing to experience something that is different than you are used to. I think the best thing I could have brought on the trip with me was an open mind and duct tape.