Isabella Varney - 2017 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I wanted to celebrate my high school graduation by traveling someplace I had never been before. I thought it would be a good bridge between the end of my high school career and the start of my college experience.

Zip-lining in France

Ziplining in France

Why did you choose your Travel For Teens?

I chose Travel for Teens because I really like the programs they offered and that other students my age would be on the trip with me. I looked at other companies similar to TFT, but I chose them because I thought the cost was reasonable, the trip itineraries were more full and exciting, and I was able to visit more than one country in the one trip. The program I ended up choosing was Alpine Adventure: Switzerland, France, and Italy because I liked how action-packed and adrenaline pumping the trip was. It also seemed like a great cultural experience to visit three different countries in the same trip.

What was your favorite part the countries you visited?

While all the countries and cities we visited were beautiful and exciting, my favorite was Saas-Fe, Switzerland. We were able to stay in a real Swiss chalet in the middle of the Alps. I loved that I could step outside and see mountains surrounding me in every direction. It was even better that all of our activities were in the mountains too.  Whether it be skiing, mountain biking, or doing a via ferrata, we were able to enjoy the Alps in all of its glory.

What made your experience abroad unique?

One of the main things that made this trip unique was the people I was on it with. I think the people you are traveling with really have the ability to make your trip better or worse and the other teenagers and counselors on the trip with me definitely made it better. Without going into too much detail, the trip would not have been the same without any of them. The trip was also unique to me because it was my first time traveling abroad without knowing anyone on the trip with me beforehand.

On top of a mountain in Switzerland

At the top of a mountain in Switzerland

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

One member of the local staff that stuck out to me specifically was our mountain bike guide. I was initially hesitant going but he made me feel very relaxed and I ended up having a great time. He made sure we knew how to operate the bikes beforehand and even tried to teach us some tricks while we were practicing in the street. As we went down the mountain, he was very talkative and made the experience even more fun. I originally went with the beginner's group but he encouraged me to join him again with the advanced group later that day, so I did. Had he not been so supportive and warming, I don't think I would have had as great of a time mountain biking, and I definitely wouldn't have gone twice in one day, so I thank him for pushing me out of my comfort zone.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I definitely would have packed some dramamine. To get from place to place on this trip, you have to take quite a few bus rides which are great for bonding and chatting with your fellow travelers, but not so much if you get motion sickness. I was able to buy some in France though, so it worked out fine.

Via Ferrata in France

Via Ferrata in France

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

Wake up early, eat breakfast, get on the bus or walk to our destination for the day, have a fun adventure at a said destination, get free time to explore and eat lunch, shower, meet up with everyone and walk to a restaurant for dinner, have some more free time, sleep

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

I liked exploring the cities we were in and doing some shopping with the friends I made on the trip. It was fun finding new places we hadn't seen in the city and getting to know our way around without a guide or GPS. When we had free time after dinner, we would go get gelato which was always nice.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best it?

In France we stayed in a hostel and I shared a room with one other girl from the trip, breakfast was included which featured very nice croissants. In Switzerland we stayed in a chalet as I said before. All the girls stayed on the second floor and had double rooms and the boys were on the lower level and had a mix of triples and doubles. This was my favorite place we stayed, there was a volleyball net outside and a lounge in the basement so we had things to do in our free time while waiting for dinner, for example. Breakfast and dinner were also included. The dinner were especially nice because they were four courses of salad, soup, real meal, and dessert. In Italy we stayed in another hostel that had three to four of us in each room and breakfast was included again.

View from a hostel in Italy

View from the hostel in Italy

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

Be prepared for adventure and exercise. There are some challenging hikes and ropes courses on this trip. If you're afraid of heights then it may not be the best trip for you but if you want adrenaline pumping adventure then it's perfect.

Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?

I made friends on this trip that I still talk to today and I'm now more interested in having a career that involves traveling.

Would you recommend Travel For Teens to others? Why?

Absolutely, I had the time of my life. The counselors were friendly, fun, and knowledgeable, the places were beautiful, the activities were exciting, the food was delicious, and the people were great.