P.A. Youth Travel Club members discuss European trip

Matt Gardner
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For the novice traveller in an unfamiliar country, a knowledgeable guide can prove indispensable -- a fact the Prince Albert Youth Travel Club (PAYTC) can attest to.

Fresh from their recent trip to Europe with the PAYTC, young travellers from the Prince Albert area were full of praise for their tour directors from the company EF Education First, which helps facilitate educational trips.

With their knowledge of the local area and skill in multiple languages, the EF tour directors underscored the value of knowing your travel destination.

“If you were going (on a trip) on your own or with a couple friends, do a little bit of research before you go,” St. Mary High School student Skylar Ursu advised.

“Read up on a couple things, because you see buildings or ruins and you can look at it and have no idea what it is … We had a tour director, so when she would give us information, getting home and telling my parents about pictures, flipping through them, I could actually say some of the things that she said.”

Ursu, 17, was one of 108 local youth who took part in this year’s PAYTC trip alongside 11 adult chaperones. As part of their excursion, the travellers visited cities in Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

Besides getting a glimpse of popular tourist destinations, the students also gained an understanding of cultural differences, not least through their accommodations.

“Each place was really different,” Ursu said.

“Germany was really modern and close to what our hotels are like, but at the same time not,” fellow traveller and St. Mary High School student Victoria Newman added.

“The toilet wasn’t in the bathroom -- it was like a separate door and everything was really open. You could see into the bathroom and there were holes in the door. It was really weird.”

“This type of travelling offers acceptance and understanding,” PATYC founder and president Donna Dalziel noted.

“They have to accept that the towels in Europe aren’t as we know them here, that the bathrooms in Europe are so different than they are here, that the people in Europe know how to push and shove … We need to accept, embrace and take away the things we like and leave the things that we don’t like, and I hope that when young people come back to P.A., that acceptance and embracing continues.”

Both Ursu and Carlton Comprehensive Public High School student Logan Hobson, 17, previously took part in last year’s PAYTC trip to Thailand.

Describing the experience of herself and another friend who signed up for the Thai trip, Hobson noted, “We met a whole bunch of new people and had a really, really good time … Then we found out that the next year was Europe, and lots more people were interested in going to that one. So we’re like, ‘Well, we may as well keep going, because when is that opportunity going to arise again?’”

Initially arriving in Germany, the group split up into three buses, each with a different EF tour director.

During the course of the journey, the travellers visited such scenic European locations as Lucerne, Munich, Venice, Florence, Rome, Pisa, Capri and the Vatican City.

Venice was a highlight for many, as the Prince Albert youth enjoyed trips through the city in gondolas -- a form of transportation they also used to more nerve-racking effect.

“You had to go in gondolas up the mountain to Mount Pilatus (near Lucerne),” Newman said.

“I’m really claustrophobic and the one gondola ride was like 20 minutes … But then the other one, it was like 40 people in one gondola and it was … almost a 75-degree angle and you’re going through mountain peaks and it was really sketchy and I was scared.”

“It was worth it in the end,” she added. “But yeah, for sure it was scary. I was like, ‘I don’t want to get on here,’ and our tour director’s just pushing us on. I was like, ‘Ahhh, OK, I’ll go!’”

We had a tour director, so when she would give us information, getting home and telling my parents about pictures, flipping through them, I could actually say some of the things that she said. Skylar Ursu

Capri was a favourite locale for Ursu and Newman, who marvelled at the white buildings along the shore and the remarkable blue colour of the water.

In Switzerland, an alphorn player serenaded the group with the sound of the enormous musical instrument.

But it was a swim near their beachside hotel in Sorrento, Italy that Newman cited as a particular highlight.

“That was probably my favourite moment of the whole trip … We all went and all these Italians are looking at us like we’re crazy because we’re swimming in this water and it’s freezing cold,” she recalled. “But we’re like, ‘We’re only going to be here once, so we’re swimming in the Mediterranean and we don’t care.’

“There were a bunch of Italian men and women standing up like on a ledge kind of thing where the road was and looking down to the beach where we all were and there were like 80 of us out there just swimming and having fun … It was funny.”

While their European trip provided plenty of fun memories, the travellers also learned some valuable life lessons.

Topping the list was the importance of careful budgeting, as Hobson noted the difference in exchange rates between Thailand and Europe.

“The year before going to Thailand, you had so much money for your dollar, and there (in Europe) you were losing it … We had to pay for our lunches this time, so it’s like having to take that into consideration and how everything’s more expensive … Then it’s like, ‘I’m out of money already. It’s Day 4.’”

Pointing to her own method of limiting her spending, Newman noted, “I put a certain amount away every day for lunch. So I took my lunch money out of my spending money so I wouldn’t go hungry.”

Another lesson the travellers learned was making sure to pack everything one will need for the trip.

Despite their excitement at travelling abroad, the experience has also deepened the students’ thankfulness for things closer to home.

“I kind of appreciate my parents more, because there I had to do everything on my own and I had to budget myself,” Hobson said.

Yet she noted she is also eager to continue expanding her horizons.

“Now I have the travel bug … After school I want to go travelling and just kind of see the world.”

The next PAYTC trip, scheduled to take place in the spring of 2015, will take Prince Albert youth to China, including many veterans of this year’s European jaunt.

The club will be taking a maximum of 80 youth on the China trip, with 58 having already registered.

In most years, the number of spots is maxed out by the end of June, after which anyone else who signs up is put on a waiting list.

“China is going to be huge,” Dalziel said. “I’ve been to China and I only put trips in again if they’ve been a hit … We went to China just three years ago, so that tells you how valuable we thought that trip is.”

Anyone interested in registering for the China tour may find more information at www.paytc.ca or by calling Dalziel at 306-961-5101.

See also:

P.A. Youth Travel Club returns from Thailand trip

Organizations: Prince Albert, Mary High School, Ursu and Carlton Comprehensive Public High School

Geographic location: Europe, Germany, Switzerland Italy Thailand China Venice Lucerne Munich Florence Rome Vatican City Sorrento

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