Last summer, I got to go across the country and see some of the most popular places in America. I went on a camping tour called Teens Camping Tour of the West (TCTW). I got in a van in Davidson, NC, with strangers I had never met before and left my parents for 23 days. While I was having the best summer of my life, I bet most teenagers wasted away their summer sitting on the couch, partying and getting wasted or doing absolutely nothing.
When I left on that day last summer, we went to the coast of California and back over 23 days. I sat there, nervous and scared that I wouldn’t make friends and hate the entire trip. I had no idea that the people I was leaving with would become some of my best friends. I learned some of the most valuable life lessons.
I experienced some of the most beautiful places in our country with some of the most amazing people. Most people haven’t seen some of the biggest sites to see in their own country like the Grand Canyon, St. Louis Arch, Redwoods, Yosemite, San Francisco, Disney Land, Las Vegas, Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, the Tetons and many more sites. One of the most memorable sites I remember is watching the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. After this trip, I’ve now been to 34 states.
This trip lets you off your leash and the staff treats you more like an adult. Throughout the trip, I was given jobs to complete. For a couple of days I was the van cleaner, trailer packer, cook, dishwasher or tent setter and I would switch jobs every few days. Most places we stopped, they let us go where we wanted and we had the responsibility to be back on time.
This trip wasn’t just about seeing what is out west, but it was also a pretty big life lesson. I learned how to act like an adult and be responsible. We also had a lot of special moments, where the staff talked to us and asked us questions about life. They would ask if we were happy with what we are doing in life, would we want to change anything about us, or if the people we love, know we love them. I realized that sometimes I don’t always express my feelings to the ones I love and I wasn’t completely happy with the things I was doing in my life.
This trip was an eye-opener and definitely changed me for the better. TCTW tries to help teenagers with leadership and spiritual development. They incorporate God into the experience as part of their six principles for the program, but they don’t force Him on you. I personally don’t go to church and I never felt pushed to praise the Lord. They just tried to have us look at the world and ourselves differently after the experience.
We all get caught up in all our daily struggles, technology, homework, stress, work and our parents and teachers telling us what to do, but this experience was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I was actually able to enjoy my surroundings and the moment I was in. When I got in that van, I left all my drama from home behind and got to be free of all stress for about three weeks.
I believe this trip changed me for the better. I definitely got my money’s worth. You may not be able to afford the trip, but that gives you no reason to sit on your butt all summer. So quit complaining about not having anything to do during the summer, and quit wasting it away and actually do something that will help you. Go on an adventure this summer, and get to enjoy an experience like I did.
– By Tori Nothnagel