Αντίο and Arrivederci – Backpack Greece, the Islands & Italy

Αντίο and Arrivederci – Backpack Greece, the Islands & Italy

After two weeks in Italy and Greece, the trip members were looking forward to the final leg of our backpacking adventure which took us to the Greek islands of Naxos and Santorini. The following morning we boarded an early morning ferry that took us to Naxos.

Naxos proved to be a destination full of seaside activities and sport, including days at the beach, scuba diving and a guided bike tour of the island. The trip members were very enthusiastic to participate in the scuba diving excursion which allowed many of us to explore life under the sea for the very first time. We were first instructed on the proper use of our dive equipment before performing underwater skills for our scuba instructors. Once we adequately performed the series of skills, we were lead on a dive excursion that brought us face to face with a variety of ocean life- fish, starfish, sea cucumbers and sea urchins to name a few. Trip members Sam, Gabby and Mackenzie even touched an octopus after it crawled around on their dive instructor’s face. Trip member Moriah identified scuba diving as the highlight of her trip and many of us hope to have the opportunity to scuba dive again in the future.

Our last stop of the trip brought us to Santorini, an island that is often pictured on postcards of Greece as it is famous for its beautiful sunsets. The trip members witnessed their first Santorini sunset the evening of their arrival. As we were walking
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Off To A Great Start! – California Spring

Off To A Great Start! – California Spring

Our trip has finally begun!

As we started our adventure in San Francisco, our first excursion on the famous cable car was more exciting than we could have imagined! A relentless runner decided to play some fun with our cable car and challenge us to a race! We were surprised at how well this runner could sprint up and down the very hilly streets of San Francisco. The following day we explored Lombard street, where the trip members learned that they were standing on the curviest street in the world! Some of our trip members got into fairly deep conversations about the process it might take to build houses on this street due to the steep slope and constant, sharp turns. We continued viewing famous sites when we walked across the Golden Gate bridge amongst the many cyclists. During some time in Sausalito, some of our trip members and staff got moving with some yoga poses, gymnastics and handstands. We even had a few trip members show off some of their gymnastics skills! That night, Brody stole the show when he achieved the highest score in bowling out of all the trip members and staff!

This morning things got interesting when we visited the famous Alcatraz penitentiary. The trip members learned a lot about its history and experienced what it may have been like to live on Alcatraz through a vivid audio and visual tour through the penitentiary. Many trip members expressed empathy towards the living conditions and terrors the prisoners, correctional
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Soaking Up the Sun – Costa Rica Community Service

Soaking Up the Sun – Costa Rica Community Service

Hola!

Our first day in Rincon started off fabulously as we had empty roads arriving early from our cross country journey. This gave us some time to check out the eco-lodge we were staying at, which included a very nice pool area and a great restaurant with an awesome buffet. This set us up for our afternoon of zip lining! We zipped and soared through 12 different zip lines which spanned the rain forest, took us over waterfalls and streams, and even in some cave-like areas. Some of us even took on the extra challenge of repelling down a cliff and rock climbing up the other side. Everyone on our trip had an amazing time and had huge smiles on at the end, although some of us may have been a tad dizzy from zip lining upside down with our hands dangling below us!

The following day, although a tad more relaxing, was just as fun! We spent the day hiking to a waterfall and getting some skin therapy in the mud baths and hot springs.  The waterfall was beautiful with baby blue coloured water and even a small channel to swim in which felt like swimming in a cave. At the mud baths everyone was excited to get down and dirty in the mud as they lathered their paint brushes in the brown slimy substance and painted themselves and their friends from head to toe. The scenery was beautiful and the hot springs ranged from hot to very hot which
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Island in the Sun – Hawaii Community Service

Island in the Sun – Hawaii Community Service
Let us begin with some catching up! Since we last touched base, the group began a new service project with Habitat for Humanity at their ReStore facility in Honolulu. Trip members divided and conquered! First being tasked with the organization and decluttering of a huge storehouse of materials that were to be sold, before having their creative appetites satisfied with various handy projects. As the Hawai’ian saying goes, ‘a‘ohe hana nui ke alu ‘ia’ – meaning, ‘no task is too big when done together by all.’ The difference made by our 24 members had an immediate impact, with customers and employees alike commenting on how well organized the showroom was, making building supplies more readily available to be sold to those in need. In addition, the shadowboxes, shelving units, dressers and Hawaiian themed signs they built, painted and put their creative touches on, were left for the ReStore to sell after our leave. Yet another successful community service project in the books for our group.   After arriving on Maui, the kids were eager for some rest and relaxation at Kanaha beach. We enjoyed the shimmering sun, and the view of the kite and wind surfers on the horizon. In Maui we were greeted to beautiful weather and serene beaches of white sand and bright blue ocean water. We headed back to the Maui Seaside Hotel to get ready for the Drums of the Pacific Luau. The drive to the Luau along the Honoapiilani highway offered coastal views of the sun setting over glistening water
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California & the Canyons – Parting Ways from Phoenix

California & the Canyons – Parting Ways from Phoenix

By now your intrepid travelers have returned home after saying their farewells to California & the Canyons.  The people we met in San Francisco have grown so much in such a little time, becoming more independent, more experienced, and more self-confident.

Our time in Sedona and Scottsdale was all too brief, as the end of the trip seemed to come closer by leaps and bounds every time someone took a moment to look at the time.  The Pink Jeep Tours through the beautiful red rocks of Sedona was the favorite of many, with scenic views, excellent photo opportunities, and fantastic thrills as the guides took us four-wheeling in the iconic Pink Jeeps.

We departed Sedona for our final hotel in Scottsdale, where we spent our time having fun at Dave and Buster’s, hanging by the pool side and enjoying each other’s company while reflecting on all the beautiful memories we have made together.  We ended our trip much like we started it by celebrating our second birthday on trip during our farewell banquet; our bus driver Ted turned 40 with many thanks and well wishes coming from everyone on the trip.

Farewells are always bittersweet; the emotional goodbyes show us just how close we have all come to one another in our time together.  But for every tear shed saying goodbye there were a dozen smiles, and uncountable laughs, and we are all the richer for each other’s friendship.  The trip leaders of California & the Canyons want to say thank you to each
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A Fantastic Finish! – Californian Extravaganza

A Fantastic Finish! – Californian Extravaganza

Wow what a trip!

Yesterday we wrapped up our 28 day California Extravaganza! From San Diego we blasted off to Las Vegas. Everyone filled themselves up at typical Vegas buffet. We took a short bus ride to the Venetian and as we rode up the escalator the trip members felt like they had just arrived in Venice. From there we walked the Strip and took in the light show of all the hotels and casinos. To cap the night off we witnessed the famous water show at the Bellagio. The following day trip members got to see all of Vegas from the top of the Stratosphere. After that we beat the heat in the Monte Carlo pool. The wave pool was a big hit!

That night at dinner a group of boys spotted NBA player Kelly Obrue, who allowed them to take pictures with him.

We left the heat of Vegas behind us and ventured to Bryce Canyon. Through Zion National Park the trip wanted to hike to the Emerald Pools. After the hike a surprise happened right before we got back on the bus…COLOR WAR! That’s right, the trip was split into two teams to compete at a variety of events. That night for dinner we had a cowboy style BBQ, but after dinner was the real show where all the trip members learned to line dance. Some of them also tried their hand at roping and almost everyone hit the target. The next day the hike down into Bryce Canyon was one they said
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Goodbye Beautiful Barcelona! – Pre-College Enrichment: Barcelona

Goodbye Beautiful Barcelona! – Pre-College Enrichment: Barcelona

¡Hola!

Our final week in Barcelona snuck up on us. We couldn’t believe how quickly time has flown! We started out this last week in our new favorite city by taking on some new adventures. While some of us explored Gaudi’s take on modernist architecture in Casa Batllo, others of us decided to make the journey to Mount Tibidabo to get to see one of the most beautiful views of the entire city. It was truly breathtaking and a memory that we will never forget.

We were able to see some true Barcelona staples when we made the way to Camp Nou, the FC Barcelona Stadium, training facility and Museum. We couldn’t believe we were standing in the largest stadium in Europe! The soccer players on our program were especially excited to see the pitch where some of their favorite players had some sincerely memorable moments. To add to the excitement, later in the week, we spent the afternoon on the hilltop of Montjuic, where we visited the botanical gardens, the Olympic Stadium, and a re-creation of an old fashioned Spanish town, Poble Espanyol. 

Because it was our final week before we headed to the Mediterranean resort town of Sitges, we decided to work on our tans and hit up Barceloneta beach. While some of us enjoyed soaking up the sun and cooling off in the refreshing water, others of us bought some souvenirs for our friends and family back home while exploring the beach area. We bought friendship bracelets and some of
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Honorary Ticos – Costa Rica Community Service

Honorary Ticos – Costa Rica Community Service

Buenos Dias from Costa Rica!

Our service trip has been off to an amazing start! A group of incredible  teens have come together to challenge themselves physically, emotionally and socially with the goal of creating positive change in Costa Rica while also having a lot of fun! The work we are doing takes place in communities that are drastically different than anything any of us have ever seen before. But, before we talk about that, how did we get here?

Day One of the trip was a travel day. Many of the trip members met up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for our group flight. After a couple of card games, we boarded our flight and headed south. Once in Costa Rica, we checked into customs (alongside a local Costa Rican top level club soccer team…no big deal) and then made our way to the hotel. The hotel is beautiful, tucked in between the Cordillera Talamanca mountains of San Jose. Once at the hotel, we gathered as a group for our first ever team meeting, where we talked about trip expectations as well as the “Pura Vida” way that people live down here.

In Costa Rica, “Pura Vida” translates literally as “pure life,” but for the people here (the Ticos, as they call themselves) it means so much more. “Pura Vida” means to appreciate what you have, to live life to the fullest, and to generally just enjoy the world around you! Similar to “aloha” in Hawaii, it is used in a multitude of
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The Finale! – California Extravaganza

The Finale! – California Extravaganza

Hi from Californian Extravaganza!

It is hard to believe that we are already packing up our bags and heading into the last day of the trip.

It’s been an incredible four weeks full of adventures, great memories, and new friends.

This week, we entered the desert and experienced temperatures well above 100 degrees!  We spent time together laughing in the pool to cool off and create those life-long memories.  

We were able to enjoy more incredible views from great heights.  We took an elevator up to the 109th floor of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas and looked out at the strip and some of us even chose to ride the thrilling rides that hung off of the building.  We also saw three more national parks, including Zion, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon.  As we hiked each one, we took in the beautiful natural landscape around us, something that we do not get to see every day in the cities.  

It would not be a typical week without some birthday celebrations to add to the fun.  First, we sang happy birthday to Brooke F. and enjoyed some birthday treats at the Venetian Hotel right next to the indoor canal.  This time, we also had a double birthday, as both Adam and Andrew turned 15!  We enjoyed chocolate and vanilla cake together to help them celebrate.

We are looking forward to spending the last day together in Scottsdale and having a special night before we
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Storytellers of Costa Rica – Costa Rica Community Service

Storytellers of Costa Rica – Costa Rica Community Service

As we begin to wrap up our trip and head back home we cannot stop reminiscing over the memories we made throughout Costa Rica. We have turned into storytellers, each one of us having special moments to share about their journey on our community service trip.

We finished up our time in Central Valley and ended off with our final community service project. Through working with the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation, we led a kids sports camp. Trip members gave these children a day that they will never forget where laughter radiated and instant friendships were formed. In the evening, a lot of trip members impressed us with their suave Latin dance moves, it was as if they had been practicing all along!

We were thrilled to have our first sloth spotting in Manual Antonio, this had everyone extra excited for our next day spent at the National Park. It was truly a sloth spectacular day in the Manual Antonio National Park! We explored around spotting wildlife then stopped at two breathtaking beaches within the park. To finish off this day we went all aboard a catamaran boat cruise where we danced and enjoyed the Costa Rican water.

Everyone got back up on their surfboards in Dominical. Here we had some wonderful beach time and got to enjoy the waves with another surfing lesson. Trip members were all pros from their previous surfing experience on the trip!

As we head back to Central Valley we have our final banquet dinner to look
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