Taylor Baez – Vietnam, Cambodia, & Thailand (2013) †

In April 2012, Mount St. Mary’s College’s Professor Lagrimas announced summer 2013’s Cultural Immersion Tour to Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia.  I had applied for the 2012 summer trip to Australia and New Zealand, however I was forced to withdraw myself soon after when the costs of the trip were made clear; given the time frame before the 2012 trip, I simply could not pay for the trip.  When the 2013 trip was announced, I realized that if I dedicated my summer job’s earnings to this trip, I would be able to go.  I sacrificed a care-free summer so that I could pay my already existing bills, the monthly payments for the trip, and save the remainder of the balance that I would be faced with after I left my summer job.  With my very last paycheck from that job, I was able to say that I had successfully saved enough money to pay off the initial trip fees in entirety.

On May 13, 2013, I will drive to Los Angeles from my hometown in San Diego and meet my group at LAX.  On day two, we will see sights such as the Vietnam War Cu Chi Tunnels, the Reunification Palace, and the Notre Dame Cathedral.  Days four and five we will go on a jungle cruise and visit floating villages and their temples.  Days seven and eight we will explore Bangkok, seeing sights such as the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace.  Days nine and ten we will see caves and palaces in Thailand.  In every city we will be a part of guided sight seeing tours and still have time to explore on our own.  With this exploration time, I hope to see the true, authentic lives of the citizens of these countries.  After twelve days immersed in completely new and beautiful cultures, we will fly from Bangkok to Los Angeles on May 24, 2013.

The total fees for organization we are traveling through are $3,451.  These fees are for airplane tickets, all hotel costs, daily breakfast and dinner, a full-time tour director, the guided sightseeing tours and attractions listed on our itinerary, and our online tour diary to share our trip with our friends and family back home.  However, this leaves me to acquire other funds for daily lunches, snacks, and souvenir and gift purchases.  Soon, Professor Lagrimas will announce what additional activities we can experience while we are in Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia, and I have no idea what kind of costs to expect for these.  Although simply being able to visit these countries is more than enough to make me happy, I would also like to enhance this experience as much as possible.

Like many other people, I have always wanted to travel the world.  That desire seems to be a basic want that most people have.  I know that my hometown is not at all representative of the world.  It was entirely too conservative for my liking, everybody was connected to everybody else, and there were no real opportunities for me there.  That is why I wanted to spend my college years in Los Angeles.  Big cities, jumping into the unknown, building your life from scratch – these have always appealed to me, causing my secret desire to live in New York one day.  However, the main motivating factor for my joining this trip was when my cousin decided to work in Afghanistan.  As an emergency paramedic, a program had been available to him to work as a paramedic and guard at the United States Embassy.  He wanted to take this job for a long time, but he was worried about how his family would take the news, especially while there is still conflict in Afghanistan.  One day however, he decided to just go for it and add to his life experiences.  The stories he came back with, combined with his month long trip to Ireland several years ago, made me realize that it is time for me to grow and become the worldly, well-rounded person I have always wanted to become; his courage and spontaneity inspired me to make my life memorable too.

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