The Southern Surprise - My Family Travels
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My heart was pounding, the music was blaring, but finally the announcer called, “2nd place team “Jessen, McAndrews.”” My partner and I had just taken 2nd place in a statewide business competition at the Oregon Career Development Conference for D.E.C.A. This marketing group is an international competitive marketing association that allows high school students to develop their career skills and travel the nation. With our 2nd place finish my partner and I had won a trip to Atlanta, Georgia to compete at the International Career Development Conference.

            When I won the state competition, I was ecstatic; I had worked for three years honing my skills and waiting to thrust that trophy in the air on stage.  To me, going to Atlanta to compete for the pride of my state meant the ability to enrich my whole life and build new experiences far from home. It was also the first time I went on a big trip without my parents. Any teenager can attest to the freedom one feels after the wheels of the plane lift off the ground. It is a soaring roar much like the plane itself, but even lighter and more open you have your choice and make your decision. This trip was my chance to strike it out, no parents, and succeed in life.

            Soon after take-off, the party started! I was headed to Atlanta with a group of seven of my best friends and we were determined to win at Internationals and have the most fun. We arrived at the hotel at three in the morning and they did not have our rooms ready! Some of the kids actually fell asleep in the lounge, but I could not stop looking at my surroundings. The Marriot Hotel was a forty-four story hollow building. Coming from a city with no four story buildings this was huge! All the rooms faced out on the side of the building wrapping around the edge like a ribbon; all connecting to a central column of glass elevators that shot up and down with break neck speed. We finally received rooms on the 29th floor with a breath taking view of all downtown Atlanta. I could see it all!

            During the trip, I met people from all over the country on walks to competition or long elevator rides. I came to know a girl from Nevada best. I went with the whole Nevada chapter to see the Atlanta Braves stadium and take the tour; we actually ran the bases! It was  the best day and the total envy of all my friends, who were too tired to go to the stadium. This girl taught me all about life in Nevada and surprised me at how different it was from my home town. She changed how I saw strangers on the street because two days before we were best friends, we did not even know each other. We still keep in contact over Myspace and phone conversation and she still continually teaches me new bits and pieces about a region of the country I hope to visit soon.

            Atlanta changed me. I had fun competing for my state, even though I did not win, and so did all the other contestants. I made new lifelong friends that have introduced me to even more opportunities of travel. I learned to never take the stairs in a forty story building and I learned that I want to see the whole country. Every tourist outlet, every back street ally, the whole world, I want to travel everywhere and see it all!

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