When I returned home from my first volleyball tour to Nicaragua in 2013, I told my parents that I left pieces of my heart in many places. That initial self-realization continues to ring true the more I travel internationally.
I had the unique opportunity to start my overseas travel experience in 2011, when I was just 16 years old. I was asked to play in the 7th Annual Global Challenge by my club volleyball coach at the time, BIP Midwest coach Eric Schulze. I could not have been more excited. I, along with 3 of my club teammates, traveled to Rome, Vatican City, Florence, Venice, Italy and Pula, Croatia. Before this trip, I had never been outside of the United States. This 2011 tour in particular was exciting for multiple reasons. One: I was going to major cities in Europe, places I only thought I would see in my school textbooks. Two: This was the first time I was exposed to playing highly competitive, international volleyball. Three: This was the first volleyball trip and tournament that I played in since tearing my ACL.
In 2012, my club volleyball team decided to travel to Europe for two weeks in May. We visited Milan, Italy, Munich, Germany, Prague, Czech Republic, and Innsbruck, Austria. This trip was special because my teammates were seniors in high school. These girls were my sisters and best friends for past 5 years of my life. Most of the team was moving on to college after this trip. We were able to make so many lifetime memories; memories that we still talk about today.
In 2013, my senior year in high school, my club team decided to take another BIP tour, this time to Nicaragua. This trip changed my life. We visited San Juan Del Sur, Managua, and Granada, Nicaragua. The experience was so more than a volleyball tour. My teammates and I were asked to bring an extra suitcase full of clothes, shoes, school supplies, toiletries and other daily necessities to donate to the local community. During our visit, we helped rebuild and repaint a school in San Juan del Sur. We also donated our suitcases to the kids and their families who attended the school. We read books and played games with the kids, which offered us a little glimpse into their daily lives. I was reminded of everything I take for granted like paper and shoes. There is something so humbling when an 11-year-old boy gets so excited and happy about seeing bubbles for the very first time. The feeling of helping and bringing joy into those kid’s lives still resonates with me today.
Nicaragua was where I surfed for the first time and saw baby turtles return to the sea. I played volleyball on a concrete court next to the beach, while a local DJ played music in front of hundreds of locals. This trip was one of my favorites because it was more than just volleyball. We were living alongside locals. We experienced their daily routine thus opening my eyes to how fortunate I am in my day-to-day life in the States.
Finally, in 2017, I was asked to return to the 13th Annual Global Challenge. This trip was unique because I was no longer playing on the team; I was coaching the team. Team Westside u17 and Team BIP Midwest u23 teams combined to tour Vienna, Austria and Maribor, Slovenia. Within the week, we traveled to Pula, Croatia and Venice, Italy all with BIP. Now, as a coach, I was able to gain a new perspective on touring for volleyball. I am traveling as a peer to the coach that I have taken my first 3 trips with as a player, Eric. I have experienced a different dynamic on this trip, one of leading the way instead of following along. I am able to see their joys differently because I once walked in their shoes. I am excited for their futures in volleyball and travel since they are able to see the world at an early age, just like me.
Each trip has been exciting and different, from the unique cities, people, culture, and team dynamics. Each city has had an immense amount of history and diverse local populations. On every international volleyball tour, BIP provides a bi-lingual tour guide that knows volleyball and insider details of each city that we are visiting. Each trip is loaded with sightseeing, delicious local food and the flexibility to explore the city by foot. Best of all, our teams gained valuable international volleyball experience.
We played volleyball every single day either before sightseeing or after. I either practiced with or played against a national team in each country. I was able to see how others from around the world trained and played the same sport that I played. Even though each team was different in nationality, customs, and language, we all shared the same love…volleyball.
I could not be more grateful towards the BIP family. I have seen parts of the world that I never imagined I would experience. These trips prepared me for my college volleyball career at Western Michigan University and Boise State University. BIP trips have changed my life for the better. They ignited a sense of life and purpose that I’m not sure I would have gained otherwise. I am able to go outside of my comfort zone to not be afraid of working with and meeting new people. I learned how to present myself appropriately to others who may be different than me. I was also introduced to many cultures and histories; learning life and world lessons that I will never forget. The international volleyball tours with BIP ignited my passion to travel and seek adventures abroad.
-Guest Post from Erienne Barry. Erienne earned her degree from Boise State University and currently works for a domestic based travel agency. She has been on 4 international tours with Bring It Promotions as both a player and a coach. We asked her to recount some of her favorite memories and how each tour made a lasting impact on her life.
[Additional Editor Credit: Melanie Gorter]