Read four travel tales from our talented Stowaway contest winners.
The Ever-Eccentric Matt
I should have known that who you take to an amusement park can make or break your day. I learned this lesson when three friends and I went to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. We decided to visit Magic Kingdom to see the Main Street Electrical Parade.
Little did I expect my friend Matt’s intentions. He decided that it would be the best thing ever to make eye contact with as many characters in the parade as possible.
As we sat by the ropes that surrounded the parade, we discussed what had to be done. Matt told us not to worry about getting the attention of the characters on the floats. My roommates and I looked at each other, knowing how silly he could be. We had experienced Matt’s eccentricity at another theme park earlier in the summer.
As we waited for the parade to begin, the rest of us to decided what to do when certain characters approached. We had our game plan and nothing would deter us—except for Matt.
The music for the parade began, and so did Matt. He announced, “Okay, guys, get ready for the awesomeness that is about to happen.”
The first sections of the parade slowly made their way down the walkway. When they were within screaming distance—
It never occurred to me that Matt could reach the volume he did. Hysterical laughter flooded from the rest of us as we watched Matt make a complete fool of himself. He waved his arms as high and as fast as he could while he screamed at the top of his lungs. As the parade continued he kept the same volume and began to slur his words into one homogenous mass.
Matt did this for every character during the entire 45 minutes of the parade. Most of the characters either stared or smiled while other onlookers giggled to themselves. The best reaction came from a donkey boy that proceeded to have a grunting competition with Matt until he conceded to Matt’s ferociousness.
Matt successfully got the attention of about 80 percent of the characters and floats. They smiled, waved, and spoke to us. More often than not, they forgot other vacationers that tried to outshine Matt.
I was glad that we decided to go together that night. Since then I still don’t think of Walt Disney World parades the same way. I don’t think I ever will.
Part of Something
It’s a little past one o’clock in the morning, and the sky is heavily sprinkled with stars. This is the second night we’ve patrolled the beach, and the first and only time I’m granted the opportunity to see a giant leatherback sea turtle. This one is about five feet long, and one of the most beautiful creatures I’ve seen.
My group isn’t the one that found her, so we are only able to witness the very end of her burying her eggs. Everyone stands a couple feet away to avoid being pelted with the sand she’s kicking with her powerful flippers. They are nearly the length of my torso. For her safety, we stand behind her, out of sight.
Once she’s finished, she begins the slow trek back into the water. It is now that we are permitted to touch her thick, leathery skin. As my fingers lightly brush her grey hide, I feel a grainy layer of sea salt and sand. She finally makes it out to sea and disappears beneath the water with a grace that belies her previous blundering gait. By now the guides have safely collected the eggs that she just laid. The guides have been digging up the eggs so they can re-bury them in a hatchery. There they will be monitored for safety so no poachers can take them or other animals eat them.
Leatherback sea turtles are on the critically endangered species list, yet numerous conservation programs have been initiated, with the village of Parismina in Costa Rica at the forefront. I was lucky enough to spend three days there as part of my ecological trip. Of all my time in Costa Rica, my experience in the village of Parismina will forever remain most memorable because it was there that I was able to truly be a part of something. It’s an empowering feeling.
The View from the Top
I visited Hawaii last semester and, of course, went on a few stunning hikes. Trails took us into the rain forest, through lava tunnels, across petroglyph fields, and along the beach. The most memorable hike was on the Koko Head Trail near Hawaii Kai on Oahu. The trail goes straight up to the very top of a crater. The trail itself is made up of more than a thousand stairs, which are actually worn slabs of wood that were once part of a railway.
We left at five in the morning, blasting music and singing for the half-hour drive. When we got to the bottom of the trail, we were some of the only hikers there. Perhaps our loneliness was due to the early hour. Though the sun wasn’t up, the moon was full, and we hiked by its light.
At first, the hike seemed like a breeze, but the trail quickly became steeper. During the frequent rests on the way up, we turned to watch the city wake up. We could hear the roosters’ crows and distant sound of cars, but overall the air was peaceful.
When there were maybe a hundred stairs left, the incline increased, and I ended up climbing more than walking. When I finally made it to the top, I was rewarded not only with a sense of accomplishment but also with an incredible view of the sunrise over the ocean, mountains, and city. I was awed by the beauty of the earth and could have stayed there for many hours.
Although the hike was tough for me, I would do it again and again just for the view from the top.
A Price for Fandom
When we were in Spain, we decided to go to a Real Madrid soccer game. I was really excited! The stadium was right there in the city, and they were to play against team Atlético, the other Madrid team. I donned my Real Madrid jersey and headed out. While we were walking to the game, I noticed that there were a lot of Atlético fans all around us. I could not spot one Real Madrid shirt except for mine.
One of the Atlético fans saw us and angrily yelled at us from across the street. Then right as we were passing, he spit on me, directly hitting me in the face. Disgusted, I kept walking. What else can you do when surrounded by a bunch of blood-thirsty soccer fans? They seemed to be just waiting for an excuse to put a Real Madrid fan in his place.
For the rest of the night, I wore a jacket and didn’t let anyone see my jersey. My jacket probably saved my life!