It is difficult to fathom that a mere two-hour plane ride can bring a traveler from a familiar location to another that enables him or her to experience a whole new way of life. Just two hours on a plane and passengers are flown through the air and dropped off in seemingly familiar surroundings. However, though the city may not feel so foreign and home may not seem so far away, no restraint exists to prevent the new-comer from creating enduring memories and lessons.
Relieved to step out of the plane, my best friend, Robert, and I were promptly picked up at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport by my grandparents and driven into the city for us to explore for our first time. I saw classy restaurants, towering buildings, and the highly-acclaimed school that is Arizona State University. However, I also caught sight of bohemian-styled skaters with dreadlocks and controversial shops. Being a San Francisco Bay Area resident my entire life, I was soon realized that, except for the ninety-degree November heat, my new surroundings were actually surprisingly similar to home. Robert and I stayed at my grandparents home in Sunlakes, Arizona for five days, planning to volunteer at TJ Pappas Elementary School in Phoenix.
It was at the school that I felt I was no longer at home. Surrounded by children less fortunate than I was at their age, I saw the direct connection between children, their family, and their education. Robert, my grandma, and I read with the students and assisted them in creating Thanksgiving cards to exercize their artistic abilities. The second-grade class we worked with became very excited when they saw my polaroid camera, begging to use it and take pictures with the “cool helpers.” Though the cards were intended to be given to the student’s whole families, several students still demanded permission to construct a second card for their parents. Aching to know the life stories of these young individuals, I held my tongue instead of inquiring about their living situations. Several boys entered the school as new students during the days of my volunteer work and I helped to package the donated items for students for the boys to take home. I gathered basic school materials, toiletries, shoes, socks, and correctly-sized clothes for the new boys. These items were also distributed to all of the families when we filled the lunch room with necessary, everyday household goods, but also frozen turkeys, canned cranberry sauce, vegetables and other traditional, Thanksgiving Day dinner essentials.
Aside from spending time at the school, we also visited tourist destinations. We paid a visit to the Phoenix Art Museum where I saw some of the most extraordinarily anomalous pieces of art I have seen to date. We spent a day in Tombstone. “The town too tough to die” provided us with plenty of entertainment and history all at once.
Staying at my grandparents’ house in the little downtime we had also provided lasting memories. Living with my best friend for five days had a significant impact on our friendship that I feel cannot be undone. Making deserts in the middle of the night and watching whatever was on television seemed to be the perfect combination for bringing us closer together.
During my trip to Arizona, I made discoveries about myself and the world I belong to. I found that the purpose of my trip, to help under-privileged children, could have been fulfilled in my hometown. I could have been awe-struck by art and entertained by history in my own state. It took a short, two-hour plane ride to take me from San Francisco, California to Phoenix, Arizona. It took a two-hour plane ride to take my mind places it had never been before.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.