As I boarded the plane to Denver, Colorado on June 28, 2009, I could feel the twisting and turning of nervousness in my stomach. Before I knew it, the plane had landed in Denver International Airport and my adventure across the west coast had officially begun.
Grabbing my bag of a whopping forty-nine pounds, I lugged my suitcase to the group of teenagers seated in the airport. The only one from the Sunshine State, I casted my eyes upon a crowd of silent teens, awkwardly staring at each other from across the tables. Soon, I was embraced by my best friend Laura and the anxiety soon subsided. We loaded the busses and soon we were off to explore the vast plains of the west.
I felt like Lewis and Clark, commissioned to explore and encounter new places and people. We started our journey at the Loveland Campgrounds in Colorado. After a few icebreakers, we pitched our tents, got into our sleeping bags, and dreamt about the wonderful voyage ahead. The next morning, our counselors woke us up at the crack of dawn, instructing us on how to cook breakfast and clean up the campsite. As a suburban girl, I had never experienced living without the help of my parents or without basic amenities like doing laundry, cooking, and cleaning. However, I soon became adept at whipping up a thirty minute meal and washing and folding clothing.
As we made our way across the states, we stopped in South Dakota, Cody, Wyoming, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, encountering Wall Drug, the world’s biggest pharmacy of the west, the world famous Cody Rodeo, Mount Rushmore, and Yellowstone National Park. Finally after a week of roughing it in sleeping bags and tents, we made it to our first hotel in Park City, Utah. We ran into our hotel rooms, enjoying the softness of the sheets, the warmth of the showers, and the feeling of carpet between our toes. After enjoying zip lining, alpine sliding, and an alpine coaster, we made our way across the nation to California.
Lake Tahoe, our first stop in California, was purely magnificent. The lush vegetation and the beautiful snow-capped mountains captivated my senses as I solemn skied across the pristine lake. Soon, it was time to depart Tahoe and begin our city portion of the trip. San Francisco and Los Angeles brought many exciting activities including a teen’s only dance club, a trip to Alcatraz, a journey across the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Rodeo Drive, a tour of UCLA, trips to Disneyland and Universal Studios, and private surfing lessons.
Our last leg of the trip was the most exciting part of the escapade. Sin City brought one of the most memorable moments of the expedition. As my roommates and I lay in our beds fast asleep, two intoxicated men stumbled into our room. When I heard the voices of these men, I panicked, sat up in my bed, and screamed, “What are you doing in here?”. The men, clearly confused, said that they were in the “wrong room” and ran out of our hotel room. Although I was scared out of my mind, I learned a valuable lesson- always lock your hotel room door.
Unfortunately, Arizona was the last stop of the tour before heading home. Although I was sad to leave my newly acquired friends, I felt like I had grown significantly over the tour and was ready to start my junior year in high school. Because of my increase in independence, I gained self-confidence and knowledge that could only be acquired from this type of experience.
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