TRAVELTEER: Where Travel Meets Volunteering

1 With Fort Lauderdale in my rearview mirror and the open road towards Tampa ahead, I was excited to go from one sunny, warm destination to the next! In order to make the journey, I was first forced to survive…THE EVERGLADES (DUN DUN DUN), home to giant pythons, gators, and other wild things (OH MY). I had heard dreaded tales from those back on the east coast of Florida, but was surprised to find that the most daunting task was getting through the Florida Turnpike tollbooth with a debit card. Arriving in Tampa, FL, I was so excited to be staying with my godparents. Yes, certainly because they are family, but more importantly (at least to my stomach) – HOME COOKED MEALS! Tampa also brought exciting news from Uber, who is allowing me to drive in the area to help fund my trip! As soon as I got to my godparents house in Tampa I was greeted with hugs and a warm plate of pasta and strawberry shortcake. We caught up and I went to sleep eager to see the impact Travelteer would have in the morning!
First up was Habitat for Humanity Restore. Having experienced the amazing impact Habitat makes through building homes in Richmond, I was super excited to see the other side of operations. Habitat’s Restores are all over the US and help fund their continuous effort to provide homes to families that need that extra boost. After meeting with the manager and getting a tour of the facilities, I immediately got to work with a crew from the local community college. Although the past few weeks have blessed non-profits with many volunteers on spring break seeking hours there is never a shortage of tasks to complete. We began work outside, cleaning up the tile area, but the unpredictable rainy weather of Florida had other ideas, which sent us back inside. Soon enough the stores tiles, chemicals, electronics and paint were in proper order and our job was complete! I took some recommendations from my fellow volunteers and headed downtown to explore Tampa!

2 I arrived downtown and started venturing around the Riverwalk, an area that sports an impressive array of museums, parks, and restaurants all along the Hillsborough River. Needing a caffeine refill, I decided to take one of the local volunteers advice and check out Buddy Brew Coffee in Hyde Park. The latte I ordered was not only delicious, but the barista was quite the artist with the design on the top, offering multiple interpretations (unfortunately, I doubt she intended the hearts I saw in the design). By chance, I ran into Zach, the very volunteer that recommended Buddy Brew! As we sat down and discussed coffee and other local areas to explore, I soon found out that he too had started his own non-profit, Little Red Wagon (at the age of 6!) Since a young age, he has been fighting youth homelessness, providing backpacks filled with blankets, toys, and toiletries to those in need. As we discussed all things non-profit, Zach helped challenge me even further on how to establish my dream and I am thankful for having heard his story and getting the opportunity to meet someone who is just as passionate about giving back!

3 As my weekend in Tampa began, with a lighter schedule around Easter Sunday, I was able to get some much neded rest and relax around the area. I met up with my friend Maegan in the beach town, St. Pete. Although I have a habit of holding Virginia Beach above all other beach towns, she definitely was set on changing my mind. We walked along the downtown area with an array of waterfront yachts, snazzy restaurants, and a small beach to boot. We checked out the St. Pete Sundial and technically were a part of multiple weddings having walked behind a few bride and groom parties having ceremonies along the water. We stumbled upon the Dali museum and frolicked through its outside garden of mustache sculptures and around it’s wish tree. With windows down and the sun in full effect, we drove down Central, a street thriving with nifty eats and breweries galore. We decided to meet up with friends at 3 Daughters, a lively brewery with live music and adult-sized kids games. As the sun set on St Pete, I decided to head back home to get a good nights rest for the feast that was to come on Sunday!

4 The next day was Easter Sunday and I was very blessed to be with my family to celebrate! We headed to my Uncle Alan’s sisters house, where I was able to meet the whole side of the family (Godfamily?) who had only met me as my moms plus-one for my Aunts wedding before I was born! I was able to share my journey as a Travelteer and get a lot of support from the extended family. I met Dino, who aside from having his own home brew (including an awesome espresso porter) also had his own non-profit in which he helped amputee children in Guatemala acquire prosthetics. After stocking up on dinner and desert (including homemade flan), I headed back home for my pre-induced food coma. After a full recovery, I went out and got to Ubering the rest of the night to keep my trip self-funded and continue to pursue my passion of launching Travelteer! With this incredible start to my week, I cannot wait to see what the rest of my Tampa journey will bring!