Author's Name: Ashleigh S. Traveled Age: 16 Written Age: 16
Hi! I’m Ashleigh, a wildlife photographer from New Jersey, and I spent eleven days in the arctic on a National Geographic Expedition this past summer.
I didn’t expect my trip to Churchill, Manitoba to be so memorable, and I definitely did not expect to share my experience with twenty-one other teens. I was expecting to meet maybe 10 others... 9 of them being boys.
I had assumed the trip would only focus on photography. If I’m being honest, I’ve always been the youngest person to attend photography workshops by maybe five or so decades. So, I was a little nervous going into this trip because I was actually going to be with kids my own age.
This trip was so memorable because it did not only focus on photography. I got to connect, room, talk, photograph, and share stories with twenty-one other kids from around the world, and they all had something in common with me! Not only that, but I learned so much from all of them about photography, friendships, and even myself. I have never laughed harder, stayed up longer, or had so much fun in my entire life, as cliche as that may sound.
We each got to know the true versions of ourselves. No one was trying to impress other people, most of us didn’t know each other, and we all got a clean slate.
We got to learn so much about different photography styles through each other. Some were incredible landscape photographers, others into people and portraits, and others into wildlife like me! Spending time shooting with the others expanded my interests too. Now I find myself wanting to take more photos of landscapes and people which I would never would have done before the trip. We were having fun, in one of the most incredible places on earth, while all sharing a passion we love.
Together we photographed polar bears, snorkeled and kayaked with belugas, screamed our lungs out to throwback songs on the bus, saw the northern lights, laughed until we cried (actually), pulled all nighters, polar plunged, played volleyball, bowled, and even got up extra early to walk each other to our gates at the airport to say goodbye. I have never seen so many people crying in the same room.
Every day since we have returned, we have done nothing but talk to each other, facetime each other, and meet up with the people who live close by. I regret assuming, expecting, or thinking about any negative possibilities this trip could’ve had. I never would have imagined that I would come home with a new family.
I strongly encourage those of you who love to travel to look into or sign up for one of the National Geographic high school or middle school expeditions. The trip really changed my life, and I’m so eager to apply for another one this upcoming summer! Travel the world while you can because opportunities like these can fly by. Coming out of this trip, I realized that my dream is to travel the world and to meet new people while documenting our stories. Don’t let assumptions stop you from trying new things!
Author's Name: Christeen J. Written Age: 15 Traveled Age: 13
I’m generally a nice person! Except, when someone wakes me up at three o’clock in the morning for a road trip. On July 1st, 2016, I awoke to two very excited younger sisters bouncing on my bed, trying to wake me up. Imagine an eight-year-old and a ten-year-old bouncing on your bed and disrupting your sleep. Yeah, I bet you wouldn’t be too happy to wake up either.
Anyway, when my sisters failed to wake me up, my mom came in with a huge cup of water threatening to douse me. I wasn’t particularly interested in cleaning up water or myself, so I quickly got dressed, did my usual morning routine, and packed everything I needed for our trip. We were only staying for a week, but my family over packs for every situation. I was sure that if the apocalypse happened during our trip, we would have been prepared with everything my mom packed in our suitcases. The one thing we didn’t bring was food for the road, which was okay since we could always get food there.
The car ride was long, and I slept for most of it. When I wasn’t sleeping I was car sick. If I even read a street sign my stomach says, “What is this??? Words? It must be time to feel like crap and throw up now!!” We only stopped three times on the way to Canada, the third stop was for lunch. None of us were particularly hungry, so we ate very little. Bad choice old me… very bad choice.
We crossed the border (don’t worry we did it legally… I think) and finally made it to Canada! Everyone was tired and famished. We decided to go to a restaurant for dinner. If only we knew...
We went almost everywhere to look for food. Everywhere we went was closed. I walked around confused, since I was super hungry. I also did not understand why celebrations were happening around me. I asked a random lady standing on the street. She so kindly informed me, “Oh it’s Canada Day. Good luck finding food here! Almost every store is closed.” Canada Day is the Canadian version of America’s Thanksgiving mixed with the Fourth of July. Ok, so maybe we would not be able to survive the apocalypse. The hunger was real.
The next day we ate a huge breakfast to make up for lost meals. My soul left my body after that breakfast. Canadian maple syrup is the real deal people. It looks like US maple syrup, but it tastes so much better! After stuffing our faces, my family decided it was time to sightsee, but Canada still had one more surprise in store for us.
We went to the CN Tower. I was super excited, and my excitement only grew as Canada’s second surprise for us was revealed. We could climb the tower, an experience only offered twice a year! Even though I’m not good with heights, I was ready to climb this thing. Climb the stairs that is, not the literal building.
The line to go up was almost as big as the tower itself. I was shocked. Two hours later we finally got our tickets. I wished I had brought a sweater. So much for summer weather.
I wanted to see exactly how long it took to walk to the top. My siblings wanted none of that and took the elevator. I convinced my mother to walk up with me. After all, this was a rare opportunity. We started to sweat after three flights of stairs. I guess I didn’t need the sweater. After six more flights, we turned back to take the elevator. My laziness won against my determination. (It often does). I mean, either way, I got to see the view. Toronto is a beautiful city.
Canada is so similar to America, yet so different in subtle ways. Next time I go I’ll make sure to prepare, for real this time. Canada can not blindside this girl twice!