Up with People has 20,000 alumni who would in an instant tell you that they would instantly travel again as an "Uppie" if they had the opportunity. Why, do you think, would they go back to the early mornings, late nights, long rehearsals, small meals, no freedom, lifestyle that is Up with People? Because it is so much more than that.
Up with People is so much more than the challenges that it presents to participants. Through these challenges, Up with People breaks you down, but then builds you up again. It shows you how human you are, but then shows you how invincible you can be. It shows you how much more you can do as a human and it shows you how to embrace these challenges and conquer them.
My tour was the tour of challenges and plan changing. My first show on the road was in front of 3,000 alumni in Orlando, Florida at Walt Disney World. Then, we had to take two days to get the entire cast to Aguascalientes. I arrived late at night to my host family, but some cast members had to stay in a hostel that had limited beds so they slept in what we call a "cuddle puddle" on the floor. That same week, our stage caught on fire and our show was delayed by almost an hour - but during that entire time, my cast was playing games behind the stage in order to get pumped up for the show in the midst of the chaos. On the way to Zacatlan, Mexico, what was supposed to only be a 14 hour bus ride turned into an 18 hour bus ride that arrived at midnight to our host families, but we all put on a smile and enjoyed their performance for us when we arrived. In Liechenstein, we found out that we were no longer going to be able to go to Brussels because of safety concerns following the Paris attacks, so we put together a video project and impacted that city right where we were. We went to Antwerp and then woke up at 2:30 in the morning to go to Rome, Italy. This week, the entire cast combated a case of lice.
When I look back on these challenges of the past six months, I think of all the amazing stories and moments that came out of them. Looking out into the audience in Orlando. Greeting the hostel group with hugs the next morning to encourage them. Doing a mini-greenroom behind a burning stage. Singing "High School Musical" on the bus to pass the time. Showing the world that "We are Human." Seeing the Colosseum for the first time. Bonding with my roommate while I checked her head for lice.
These are all moments and feelings that you get to have in Up with People. Up with People is a monster, but not in a negative way. It is a monster that shows you who you are inside. Shows you that when a challenge comes, you can overcome it. Only in Up with People can you face these challenges with 100 of your best friends. When these things happen, there is a team who is there already problem solving. Already moving forward. Acting. Doing. Inspiring.
There has not been one day in Up with People that I was not inspired by someone in my cast. Up with People tears you down, builds you up, and gives you little gifts in the forms of your cast mates and staff members. These are people who I will remember for the rest of my life as a part of my family around the world. People like my Production Manager who inspires me every day with his patience and positivity. People like my cast mate from Arizona who never fails to greet others with a smile, even when she wants to fall asleep or is aggravated.
All in all, this is a hard program, but it is worth it. It is so worth it. Up with People is a program that if you survive, you will be on cloud nine. You will learn how to embrace the difficult things and life and will be able to pull out tools to change the things you don't like about your world.
There is a quote by Maya Angelou that goes "If you don't like your world, change it. If you can't change it, change your mind." This quote embodies Up with People because Up with People gives you a world. It gives you things that you're going to want to change, and the opportunity to change them. It also gives you the opportunity to practice patience and kindness if you cannot change them. Through this, you become a better person than when you first arrived. You become stronger, more patient, more kind, more thoughtful, and more passionate. You become yourself.