MIDDLEBURG – A Middleburg eighth-grader and her mother won river cruise tickets where, among other places in Europe, they’ll visit Middleburg.
Last August, Hailey Adams, 13, received an email from her dad about a European river cruise contest being held by the travel arm of insurance company AAA. Three essay questions later, Adams now finds herself packing clothes for a week-long cruise through countries like Belgium with 55 other contest winners. Ironically enough, while touring through some of Europe, Adams and her mom, Lori Adams, will be visiting Middleburg, Netherlands.
“To go all the way to Europe and still be in Middleburg, that’s pretty fun and it’ll be fun to learn of the history of that place,” her mother, Lori Adams, said.
Lori has been to Europe once before. For Hailey, everything on this trip will be new to her and she hopes it’s the start of a future of traveling. When Hailey was 3 years old, her sister was diagnosed with a type of pediatric cancer with a softball-sized tumor on one of her kidneys. Hailey’s sister was selected to be a Hyundai’s Hope on Wheels National Youth Ambassador, and because of that, Hailey was able to travel with her sister while raising awareness for pediatric cancer.
Along the way, they stopped at a number of national monuments and locales such as the Grand Canyon. It was a visit to the Grand Canyon that showed Hailey how much there’s to see by traveling.
“One of my favorite places I’ve been to in the United States was when I got to see the Grand Canyon,” Hailey said. “It was my first time there, and I just remember being on that hike and seeing the view thinking, ‘this is so amazing. I never thought I’d see this so young,’. To be able to do that while in seventh grade was amazing and it was an amazing opportunity that sparked a true love of travel in me.”
As Hailey makes her way through school, she hopes to one day become a pediatric oncologist so that she can help find the cure for the cancer that her sister fought and beat years ago. She also hopes to serve as a missionary where she can unite her love of travel with her hopeful career in pediatric oncology.
“I’d love to be able to maybe one day be a missionary and take my medical field to places like Madagascar in Africa and all over the world,” Hailey said. “Just something like that where I can help other people not just in the United States.”
While Hailey still has some years ahead of her before tackling the study of cancer, she only has a few days until her flight to Europe. Hailey and her mom land in Amsterdam on March 28, where they’ll spend a day on the ship meeting all of the other kids from not just Florida, but from 10 other states, before embarking on a seven-day cruise.
AAA Travel is covering the cost of flights, the cruise and most incidentals, including the cost of passports for those flying out of the country for the first time.
“We’re really just so thankful for AAA,” Lori said. “This is an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Once the cruise departs, Hailey and her mom will enjoy legitimate Belgium waffles, tour and learn about the Anne Frank house, learn the history of Middleburg and stop to smell the roses. In this case, though, it won’t be roses but rather, tulips, one of Hailey’s favorite flowers.
“We learned that the tulips only bloom for about eight weeks and that they’re the best early in those eight weeks and it turns out that we’ll be seeing them at the perfect time,” Hailey said. “I can’t wait. I love tulips.”
Besides tulips, Hailey is excited to try some of the world’s best chocolate, her favorite sweet, in Belgium. The thing she and her mom are excited about most though, is the opportunity to meet people from a different culture.
“[AAA Travel] is really helping prepare us for everything which is super amazing,” Lori said. “The kids are able to watch webinars that teach them about the different cultures because you know, in Europe, they do things differently than here and we’re both so excited to witness that first-hand.”
Hailey will have the opportunity to meet students from Belgium and the Netherlands that are the same age as her, which is something she’s really looking forward to.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m so excited for all of it,” Hailey said. “Just a few more days ...”