All photos courtesy of the author.

Brave New Travelers: Becoming Somebody I've Always Wanted to Be

Nicaragua Travel Matador Youth Scholarship Essays
by Christina Craner Dec 5, 2011
Christina is sixteen years old and a junior at Oakland High School in Oakland, CA. She was one of six students who received the Matador Travel Scholarship and traveled to Nicaragua this summer with a non-profit organization called Global Glimpse.

BEING ONLY SIXTEEN, and having the opportunity to travel to a different part of the world was a life changing experience. As a junior attending Oakland High School, this past summer I was given the opportunity to travel to Leon, Nicaragua for three weeks through a program called Global Glimpse and a Matador Travel Scholarship.

The one-week countdown before leaving was when I was ready for life. I never wanted to travel and get out of Oakland so bad. I was ready to explore a new country, meet new people, and make memories that would stay with me for a lifetime. I had some mixed feelings days before the trip about leaving home for so long and being out of my comfort zone. But in the very last moments when I was zipping up my suitcase to leave for the airport, I had no regrets and was so happy to leave home.

July 27th came, the start of a trip that changed my life forever. It had to be the most emotional, and longest day I’ve gone through. Surprisingly enough, for the first time in my life I became homesick, and this was one of the hardest things I had to cope with during the whole trip.

Besides being homesick, I faced a lot of different challenges. I was faced with learning and speaking Spanish. Coming to a country, and not being able to speak their fluent language, is a big struggle. There wasn’t really a way to communicate with each other without body gestures.

Throughout this whole trip every day I encountered something new. Whether it was food, people, or pictures, it made me open my eyes to what’s real, and not being so closed in to one little part of the world in Oakland. Understanding, and living in the life of a family who only lives on a dollar a day like we did on this trip, made me appreciate my family, and what I have at home.

Having a first hand experience of poverty in the world, hit me in the heart.

Back in the States, I always hated my home, the food, and my family. I never appreciated the house over my head, and the people who will always be here for me. Having a firsthand experience of poverty in the world, hit me in the heart. What I have is so much compared to those who are a part of the kind of poverty we witnessed on our trip.

Along with learning about the poverty, culture, and history of Nicaragua, I had a lot of first time experiences as well. First time leaving the country, and being so far from my family; first time I ever encountered a volcano and climbed it, then sand boarded down; learned to surf, and went searching for turtles; saw fireflies and shooting stars for the first time in my life. I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for the experience I had on this trip.

My biggest overall accomplishment on this trip, was becoming somebody I’ve always wanted to be. It may seem strange, but before this trip I always wanted to do something big to help somebody, and spend life in someone else’s shoes.

Rebuilding a children’s room in a hospital in Leon, Nicaragua will leave a big impact on you. My team and I had only two days to get this project done. Through the fights, sweat, tears, and laughs we pulled through and finished off the room. This was something all the kids had been waiting for. Seeing the smiles across their faces, made me smile and feel good inside. I never felt so accomplished in my life.

Three weeks can change your life. I kept my eyes wide open, and lived a different life. This trip opened my eyes to a world that I never dreamed of. It is so different compared to back in the States. Every day I still think about our experience, the people I met, the memories I made, and the smiles I shared in Leon, Nicaragua. It takes a trip like this to let your mind explore the rest of the world that’s waiting for you.

Thank you to all those that helped make this opportunity possible!

Continue your support of Matador’s Youth Scholarship Fund while traveling smart by purchasing travel insurance from Waterman & Company, a Travel Guard Insurance Broker, who is donating 20% of the net revenue from each Travel Guard product purchased to Matador’s Youth Scholarship Fund. Click here to purchase.

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