I wholeheartedly believe that an experience is what you make it. Any situation can turn into a memorable, even life-changing moment. The person. The place. The action. Any individual variable can be interacted with to get the most out of a moment – that includes embracing a city and its culture. Those who know me, know my love of Virginia Beach, my home. Yet many people aren’t the biggest fans of VA Beach, and despite my disdain for that opinion, what exactly can change their perception? I try my hardest to convince them, give the local’s perspective, but as long as they hold these biases, they can’t truly see and appreciate what I know and love about VA Beach.
As I have gone on this trip, I have tried my hardest to not fall into the same trap. I’ve tried to not let my presumptions of a city dictate and limit my experience. I delve into each area, trying to keep any preconceived opinions out of mind. I take the time to talk with my fellow volunteers, most of whom care about their city and community as much as I do VA Beach. I utilize any advice and recommendations about where to go and what to see to really know the city and see it through the eyes of an adoring local. I have to admit, there are plenty of times that I have felt myself falling into the presumption trap, relying far too heavily on my unfounded expectations of what any given area will be like. Yet still, I’m choosing not to give into it, but instead, view each person, place, or thing as an opportunity to understand the love for the area. I challenge myself to truly experience a city and pioneer my perception of each culture through the people who call it home.
As I finish my week in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida area, I can’t think of a more fitting example of how Travelteer has helped me experience a place, as something beyond the simple “vacation destination” many other people know. Beyond the magnificent beaches and the lively nightlife, there is a culture that is begging to be explored. Working with all the unique people involved in each charity has helped me piece together the foundation that lies beneath each cities culture and community. From Miami to Pompano Beach, Fort Lauderdale to Delray Beach, each area has the same tourist industry come in, but each also has their own way of life that you can choose to appreciate if you’re willing to find it.
As a Travelteer, choosing to pioneer my perception has given me such a unique experience. Every stop I am reminded that there is something to love about any community. From the culinary experiences, exploring local recommendations or simply the stories I hear from locals, I have found myself able to discover and appreciate each city for what it is. Each unique area has greeted me with a warm welcome and instilled a sense of discovery in me that will continue to grow as I venture to the next city on this trip. Not only has becoming a Travelteer offered me a wonderful outlet to give back to each community, but it is also starting to affect, for the better, how I interact with other cultures. Not to mention, on a personal note, it has made me realize just how many places I can see myself someday calling home. Gosh, I love being a Travelteer.