It’s hard to believe that this year’s 117 Tour is already over!
10 cities, 8 states, 7 flights, and 3 House Parties, with 1 goal: to share the story of Carry 117. There were so many awesome moments and wins for me personally and for Carry 117 throughout the tour.
Personally, my top three highlights would have to be:
- The fact that I got my first debit card! I have learned credit cards are a way of life here. And because I didn’t have one, I had trouble checking a bag at the airport because they only took cards not cash. Having it was great because I could do things like catch a Lyft from anywhere, especially being in D.C. It was so easy to be able to go anywhere without having to worry about having cash. I can’t wait to show Alem my new debit card, she is going to be excited for me because she got one a few weeks ago too!
- The second highlight for me has to be that I was learning to drive in the US. A big priority for me is gaining my independence so when I am in the States I feel like I know how to get around without depending on everyone. I have an international driver’s license, so it was a lot of fun to be able to actually drive during this tour. The hardest thing for me was having to think through all of the rules. I know what the signs mean, I am just not used to following them. I know what the lines on the roads mean, I am just not used to staying inside them.
- It was also fun to see all the friends I got to see. I got to see all my friends and staff in Atlanta, spend time with Joe and Ali in Missouri, hang out and play with Beah in Ohio (she is the cutest kid ever), talk guest house business stuff with Josh, see very good friends and family in California, and hang out with my friends in Maryland. And of course, have time with my father, Berhanu, in DC. It was all so much fun. These people all mean a lot to me.
I love being able to travel, because it means seeing people I love, learning new things, and having new opportunities. I feel like I am becoming more Americanized each time I come to the United States. I am driving now, I have a credit card, and I even used Lyft this time! I feel like I am starting to get the hang of things. I’m still learning how to communicate with people and just be in this culture. I am definitely getting used to American culture now!
My highlights for Carry 117 are a bit different. They all revolve around the opportunities and different avenues I had to share the story of Carry 117.
- Specifically, the Carry 117 House Parties were definitely my highlight of this tour. Like the number one highlight over everything personal. Ash had talked to me about her dreams of launching these, and I knew Nicole and Jessica and Adam were working hard to make it a reality. But honestly, I did not expect they would be as successful as they were. It was hard for me to picture because I had never been to something like that. So I was just trusting my USA Staff. I didn’t really think about how a room full of people not only meant we would sell product, but we would make connections and contacts with people in a totally different network and be invited to things like speaking in schools, selling our product in boutiques, and people wanting to come on a mission trip with us. I think House Parties are just a great idea on so many levels. For Carry 117, it’s a great opportunity to talk about the Carry 117 story. And also, it’s just a good way for people to come together for a good cause, to hang out and have a good time while supporting a good cause. I think it’s a win-win for everybody. I know not everyone is going to get on a plane and come to Ethiopia, life gets in the way. That’s why I love the idea of bringing the mission to them. Carry 117 benefits a lot from these House Parties, because more people are learning about Carry 117, people are buying products from Carry 117, and more people are becoming aware of what’s happening on the other side of the world. People are learning how to tell our story too.
- In addition to being blown away by the success and reach of House Parties, I had some really awesome opportunities. I was invited to record a podcast with the Rethinking Youth Ministry podcast team. We talked about short term mission trips, and I was able to talk about Carry 117 a lot! That was definitely a highlight, and a really neat opportunity to talk to youth pastors all over the world about Carry 117.
- We also got time in a professional studio in Atlanta to record some videos for Carry 117 too. One of our top priorities in 2018 is to get better at telling our story. We really want to make sure we tell the story of Carry 117 as concisely and clearly as possible. I really believe these videos are going to help take us as an organization to the next level. I am excited to see how those videos turn out. Remember, I am a rookie.
- And a million other things. Our top customer out in California, Sheryl, helped get the World Fair Trade Organization application process moving for Carry 117. I got to strategize with Josh about how the Light House Guest House can help tell the story of Carry 117 to the guests who stay there. We talked through building a marketing team who specialize in different markets with Joe. We added people to our USA Staff. Ashley and I were also able to sit down and spend a lot of time writing the book that we are currently working on together. It sure is easier to write a book when you are on the same continent and in the same time zone. The list goes on.
As this year’s 117 Tour has come to an end, I want to thank everyone in the United States who was a part of it. I had an amazing time! Thank you so much for taking the time to spend time with me, and have me at your homes. At every house that I went to I felt taken care of so well and I was loved so well. In all the places that I went, it was a blessing for me to know those people and spend time with those people and have them in my life. I am thankful for everybody that took the time to host me and spend time with me and encourage me. I am already looking forward to the 2019 117 Tour!
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