New Day, New State

Senior Kendall Bland spent a month traveling the country with a group that she met for the first time upon departing for the trip.`

Emma Lewis, Editor-In Chief

This summer, senior Kendall Bland had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to 21 states in 23 days with a group of complete strangers.

Bland drove throughout the west in three vans with 41 teenagers from around the country on a trip called Teens Camping Tour of the West (TCTW). Her interest in going on the road trip stemmed from a cousin and sister going on it in past years.

“I had just heard a lot of the past participants talk about it and how close they became with everyone they went on the trip with. I saw the pictures and stuff, and there’s only one chance in your life that you get to take a trip like that, and I wanted to do it,” Bland said.

The group was able to embark on activities like going to Disneyland, driving up the Pacific Coastal Highway, visiting the Sequoia trees in California and hiking in Colorado.

“My favorite state was Wyoming. I really liked Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons; they were so pretty. Overall, my favorite part was riding in the vans because it’s like you and all your best friends in a car ride all over the entire country,” Bland said.

The teenagers that Bland was able to spend a month getting to know were an impactful and contrasting group.

“They were really cool. Everyone was really different, like it was really diverse personality-wise. There were people who the stories that they tell about the things that they’ve been through is crazy. It was really life-changing,” Bland said.

For some people, one condition of the western road trip might make or break their decision to go: no phones allowed. For Bland, this was actually an added positive for the month away from home.

“It was nice, and I really liked it. It was very refreshing because no one had their phones, so you create a much stronger bond with people when you’re not distracted by things at home. You also don’t get homesick as easily when you’re not constantly talking to your family,” Bland said.

Bland is still in contact with the 41 strangers who have now become lifelong friends, and she is also looking ahead at a reunion with everyone who has ever gone on a TCTW trip.

“There’s this thing coming up in October, and it’s called Stockholders. Every single person who has been on TCTW meets up, and the director organizes it. You all camp again with people from other trips. The people from my trip always get together at people’s houses. It is everyone who has ever been on TCTW, and all of the staff goes too,” Bland said.

While spending a month with lots of brand-new faces and no phone is sure to spark some inspirational lessons, Bland had one realization that will stick with her for a while.

Bland said, “One thing is I remember we were looking at the Grand Canyon, and the director of the trip was telling us a story. She was talking about the Grand Canyon and how she reflected on it, and she said it was crazy how a river made a canyon like that so beautiful. It wasn’t big or crazy or anything; it was persistence that did something like that. So I kind of took that like if I am persistent with something in my life, and I do it for a long time, and I am passionate about it, you can really create something amazing.”