The following editorial is written by Eric McAleer, founder and General Manager of WorldStrides Excel Sports Programs, who specializes in taking North American teams abroad to compete internationally.
The first time I traveled was to Switzerland as a 12-year old with my high school soccer team. We traveled for 27 hours on a bus from Glasgow to Switzerland and spent five days participating in games against Swiss high school teams.
The 27-hour bus journey was a novelty; we entertained ourselves and got to know our teammates. We sang, slept, ate, played games and made the journey fly by quickly. After arriving, we played many soccer games against local Swiss high schools, enjoyed post-match social gatherings, did some daily sightseeing, and enjoyed the beauty of Switzerland.
Endless games of table tennis were played at night, we were busy during the day, and we embraced all that the local culture had to offer. I ate my first piece of rare meat there and vividly remember that first sight of blood squirting from my food. We took hikes and daily walks and discovered the beautiful little town of "Les Arses."
My eyes had been opened and my curiosity levels were kick-started. With soccer being the world’s global sport, a common “language” spoken in every country in the world, my journey had begun. It continues to this day, and my curiosity factor – and my “why” – just keeps going.
In 1998, I started Excel with the goal of showing how international travel can benefit every player. I was determined to give each child a lifelong experience like I had been so fortunate to have had. I wanted to make international travel achievable, affordable and a reality for all.
The varying levels of passion for the game intertwined with the cultural differences throughout the world make this journey nothing short of fascinating. Soccer breaks down the barriers of language, race, creed and color. Soccer gives hope to millions and brings people together like no other sport.
Since then, I have called this my “why” moment. This is the moment that inspired my love for travel and reinforced my passion for competitive sports. This is the moment when my friendship with my teammates became a brotherhood.
Find your “why” and enjoy the journey. Click here to tell us what’s on your bucket list and see if you qualify for a free International trip!