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!