TRAVELTEER: Where Travel Meets Volunteering

1 After such an amazing experience in Charleston, I could not wait to see what was in store for Travelteer in Florida! The next stop on my Southeastern trip was going to be Fort Lauderdale and the surrounding areas. After 9 hours of driving (and 3 cups of coffee) I had finally arrived at my friends’ house, and just in time for the last March Madness game of the night! Following the game (and my one step closer in bracket victory), I called it a night in eager anticipation to see what sort of impact Travelteer could have tomorrow!

2 The next morning I woke up early to start my drive to Miami, where I would be volunteering with Rescue Missions who have been helping fight homelessness and hunger since 1922! Arriving there around 10 AM, I met with Lian, who quickly gave me a tour and showed me all that the facility does, from managing a thrift store to providing dinner to men, women, and children in the area. Providing a program for individuals to get off the street and rehabilitation for those that suffer from substance abuse, Rescue Missions Miami makes such a vast impact in the Miami community. To start, I decided to dedicate my time helping out in the thrift store, where all of the proceeds go straight to funding their cause. Having a passion for thrift stores (and all things thrifty) I was so excited to see what goes on from the other side of the experience! I started with sorting through clothes, separating them by type, and then hanging them on hangers. A lot of the clothes were Macklemore approved – lively and colorful, prime resurgent 80s style that would be snagged in a second back home! We took the clothes out to the floor and put them on the shelf by style. Paul – the overseer of the thrift store, informed me that almost all of the positions are volunteer-based and without them it would not be able to run nearly as efficiently. Having such a fantastic time at Rescue Missions, I decided to come back on Tuesday to help make an impact in the kitchen by helping feed those in need!

3 Following my time with Rescue Missions, in attempt to really understand what makes the unique culture in such a vivacious place, I ventured to Little Havana and explored some of the area. Stopping in Domino Park, I witnessed a cutthroat game of Domino’s between some members of the local Cuban community. Although these guys were throwing down dominos like pros, a part of me knew if my grandma were here she would be running the table with her skills. I took a recommendation from one of my fellow volunteers, Mario, to find the ultimate Cuban sandwich experience in Miami – he suggested La Correta. Stepping into the bustle of the restaurant and not hearing any English at all, I knew I was in the right place. One sip of a coloda later, I was shaking my leg in anticipation (and caffeine overload) for my authentic Cuban sandwich! Biting into it for the first time I tasted a culinary joy that I could have only wished JFK experienced, knowing he would have never sanctioned an embargo.

4 On Saturday I ventured to Pompano Beach to work with Rebuilding Together Broward, who help improve the lives of those in the community through volunteer service work. I arrived at Ron and Donna’s house, determined to put my construction experience to the test. The task – paint the entire house aqua blue (my favorite color). With a handful of volunteers, we set out with rollers and trim brushes in hand. While painting the house and humming Eiffel 65’s Im Blue, I was lucky enough to get to know a few of my fellow volunteers and a chance to better understand the area. A lot of the members were apart of the military and a few had even been stationed at the Oceana base in my hometown of Virginia Beach, VA. After a few hours and a few paint cans later, we were ready to finalize the job by reapplying a flagpole on the front of the house and putting up the American Flag in honor of our local Veteran.

5 Leaving Pompano Beach, I headed back to Fort Lauderdale to hangout with my friends Kyle, Mackenzie, Megan, Kelsey, and of course their dog, Bear. We ventured to the local dog park, where Bear made some friends and in an attempt to meet an awesome local dog lover, set my Tinder radius to as short a distance as possible. We then went to the beach where there was a slight swell bouncing back from the Bahamas, enough to show off our prime Johnny Tsunami skills to the locals and body boarded some frothy waves by the slice (Fort Lauderdale surf lingo, no big deal). Taking a stroll and soaking in the gorgeous sunset, Kyle and I walked along the dock admiring some yachts along the intercoastal area and deciding which ones we would want to be the official Travelteer boat of the Atlantic. After only two days on this journey, I am consistently thrilled to see the impact Travelteer can have on an area with such a vibrant community. Whether it is the service work or meeting other volunteers, the culinary experiences or the cultural ones, I cannot wait to see what adventures await in Florida for Travelteer in the coming week!