By Ivanka Northrop
On her trip to Australia and New Zealand in 2009, AP Psychology teacher Daria Schaffeld went bungee jumping where it was originally founded, Queenstown in the South Island of New Zealand. Not only did she jump off the bridge where people had first bungee-jumped, but she also went skydiving during her 35 day trip. Schaffeld said that this was the most daring thing she has ever done on vacation.
“New Zealand is considered the adventure capital of the world,” said Schaffeld. “And so it’s all about experiencing life and trying new things.”
She also did something called blackwater rafting during her time in the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Blackwater rafting is where you sit in a personal inner tube and float through dark caves that are only illuminated by the glow worms that live on the ceilings of the caves. She describes it as being in a cave with fireflies.
Along with that, Schaffeld did everything from parasailing, to snorkeling, to drinking fresh water out of New Zealand rivers, to hiking through rainforests and up glaciers. She saw all sorts of wildlife whether it was at Great Barrier Reef, the Dain Tree Rainforest, or in the outback.
There were kangaroos the size of Golden Retrievers right outside of her hotel, and koala bears in the trees. During part of the trip she even slept outside.
“Every day there was something new to see that I’d never seen before in my life,” Schaffeld said . “Beautiful, friendly people, different foods, a culture I knew very little about from both countries [Australia and New Zealand].”
Although seeing new sights is nice, Schaffeld feels that the most important part of traveling is learning about different cultures.
“I think that Americans don’t really get out of our bubbles very often,” said Schaffeld. “Especially I feel like in the Midwest, they go to their lake houses and we go back to the same Florida. I think it’s wonderful and it’s great family time, but it doesn’t really get you to be citizens of the world and to learn about different cultures, which I think is really important. I think that’s part of the journey of travel is expanding your mind, meeting new people, experiencing different cultures. The world has a lot to offer.”
The thing she loves most is the people she has met and the friends she’s made. Thanks to social media, she can stay in touch with them. She has traveled with Australians, and because of their different way of life, she has learned a lot from them.
However, Schaffeld hasn’t always been big on traveling. As a kid she didn’t travel too much. Her first big trip was to Paris in the summer after her sophomore year in high school when her French teacher took.
“I wouldn’t have considered myself a traveler then, I just went on some vacations,” Schaffeld said. “I would say that by the time I was in my late 20s, is when I really got the travel bug, if you will, and now it’s a pretty consistent part of my life.”
Freshman Dominika Wojtowicz has been to about 19 countries, and has traveled to Rome and Poland countless times, making her more aware of what Europe is like than the average person.
She’s met the pope John Paul the II twice, and been in Italy seven times. She’s been under the Pompeii volcano, bumped into wild bears in Alaska, seen humpback whales off of the coast of Alaska, and slept in a castle in Belgium.
She normally takes two vacations a year, sometimes over spring break, but usually over winter or summer break. One of those vacations is usually Colorado to go skiing.
According to Wojtowicz, out of all the vacations she’s been on, the most exotic was to Israel and Egypt, and a separate one to Brazil.
Wojtowicz states that her trips to Egypt and Israel, once when she was two years old, and then again when she was six, were completely out of the ordinary from what she was used to.
She doesn’t remember her first trip to Israel, but from what her parents have told her, it was nothing like Europe. They were there during a small war, and were constantly with soldiers. They drove around in busses that had windows covered with cloth or paper so nobody could see inside.
However, she does remember parts of her second trip. She went to the Wailing Wall, basilicas, and the Dead Sea.
Her most recent trip, which was to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was also eye-opening, but in a different way. She saw a sharp divide between the rich and the poor.
In Rio de Janeiro, the rich and the poor are usually right next to each other. The favelas/shantytowns are scattered, unorganized pockets of “houses” made of cardboard and scrap metal. However, right next to this, there can be a wealthier neighborhood.
The favelas produced crime everywhere she went. As she drove down streets she saw homeless people, and in the distance, heard gunshots.
“Rio is really a beautiful place, but it’s sad that such a beautiful place could be so poor and dangerous,” said Wojtowicz.
She saw all the sights like most people do, including the Christ the Redeemer statue, Sugarloaf Mountain, Copacabana beach, and the center of Rio de Janeiro. During her time sight-seeing, she stayed in a small hotel in the center of the city.
After the sight-seeing was over, Wojtowicz took part in something called World Youth Day, where millions of young people and families go and meet the Pope and pray together.
They didn’t stay in luxury hotels. Instead they stayed with different families. Wojtowicz feels that this was the part of the trip that she feels she truly got to know Rio.
In addition to all the places she’s traveled, Wojtowicz wishes to someday go to Thailand. She wants to experience the nature, hiking, and Asian culture.
Wojtowicz’s vacation plans don’t stop at Thailand. This summer she will be going to Mexico for the third time, with her Polish folk dance group. Later in the summer, she is going to Croatia, and swinging by Rome on her way back.
To her, the most important part of traveling is being able to understand other people’s culture.
“I think being able to understand someone else’s culture, and seeing how other people in other places of the world live, what they do, and how different it is from how we live. Other people don’t have as many things as we do, just being able to integrate yourself into other peoples’ societies [is important].” said Wojtowicz.