Love at first sight

By: Michele Heller, high school alumna High School Dive + Sail , Scuba Diving

If my trip to Australia could be summed up in one word it would be…amazing. I, along with thirteen other kids my age set across to the other side of the world, the great unknown, with nothing but a few bags filled with SCUBA gear, clothes, an airport map (courtesy of Broadreach), and a most positive attitude towards what could be thought of as the trip of the century. Schlepping our stuff through airport after airport, ADU 2 arrived in the Los Angeles airport where our story began.

“It was love at first sight” was the general consensus of the group upon first meeting each other. Well, maybe not to that extent, but there was just such a natural bond between us all that made that initial meeting in the airport so easy and not awkward. As we prepared for our brief 14 hour plane ride, we played duck duck goose, and hide and seek. It was awesome.

Fast forward now hours of flying and hours of zombie like wanderings due to jet lag and we arrive in the Outback. The Outback!! The real Australian Outback! Thanks to an Outback guide who gave us a run for our lives (literally) we developed a deep bond that couldn’t be broken by hundreds of feet of cliff jumping and multiple watering holes infested by crocodiles. We ran alongside dingoes and kangaroos, cried out with tropical birds, “flew” with bats, ran wild with wild horses…well you get the idea. The amount of wildlife we saw was mind-blowing and absolutely unforgettable.

The few days we spent in the Outback really helped me become aware of myself and the very different people around me. Our group, I noticed, was made up of the most diverse group of people I had been around in a long time. They were all from different parts of the country, with different ideas and beliefs and experiences under their belt. It was amazing how one simple goal, the goal to have the time of our lives in the most exotic wonderful country we could think of, brought us all together and threw all our differences out the window. There were, however, times when we disagreed with each other, but everyone worked really hard to come together as a team to have the best time they could possibly have.

From the Outback we headed out to the big cities and the rainforest. Activities such as hiking, white water rafting and kayaking once again brought our group closer together. We learned an immense amount of information about the land around us and the wildlife. We stopped to do some meaningful, if somewhat interesting and quirky community service at a bat rehabilitation center. We explored Darwin and Cairns on foot, accepting and learning more about the Australian culture with every footstep. It was with the help of these moments that really opened my eyes to the absolutely beauty and uniqueness of this country, and I’m proud to say that I feel deeply in love with it. I dream about the day when I can return.

Our last stretch of our trip was spent on the fantastically groovy marine research vessel, The Undersea Explorer. How can I possibly sum up this experience in words. Oh, I know, aboard the Undersea Explorer, we slept, ate and dove. There it is. A week on the famous Great Barrier Reef summed up in three words. Fantastic. But Alas, this part of the trip was so much more amazing then four words can ever explain. The amount of wildlife we saw was incredible, even ridiculous at times. I mean, Scuba diving with 40 something sharks, manta rays, a Minke whale, the most exotic fish and corals is an experience no one will or could ever forget.

Our time spent in Australia really opened our eyes to the world around us. No longer will be just a group of ignorant American kids trying to have a good time. We met various challenges head on and overcame them in a way we wouldn’t have been able to do had we stayed at home. We climbed mountains in record breaking times, we jumped off of cliffs of record breaking heights, we white water rafted and only our group leader fell out. We created friends that will last a life time and memories that will last even longer. Broadreach was the greatest experience I ever had and I’m sorry my three year career as a camper is over. But the lessons I learned are lessons I live my life by. I’m just glad I was able to end this experience with a bang. I went to Australia!