Bennett Bruns works hard to pay for international travels
BY ED CULLEN
Advocate staff writer
August 16, 2012
A person flying to Australia could ask for no better seating companion than Bennett Bruns, 13.
What Bruns knows about former U.S. President Dwight David Eisenhower and the People to People Ambassador Program that “Ike” started comes from pre-trip seminars.
What the Episcopal High School eighth-grader knows about air travel and portion sizes in the world’s cafes he knows firsthand.
The son of dentists Robert E. Bruns and Krista Bennett-Bruns, Europe and Australia traveler Bruns mows yards and cleans his parents’ offices to pay for his trips.
“I clean the carpets and the floors, the bathrooms, around the front desk, NOT the patients’ rooms and NOT the instruments,” the teenager said.
Krista Bennett-Bruns laughed as she recited the things for which her son is responsible, as though she just remembered that he pays for his own dental work. He does.
“He washes cars. He mowed a neighbor’s ditch,” she said. “He paid for his own fillings. I mean, that’s time a patient would be in the chair.”
“I guess my parents give me independence,” Bruns said. “I guess they’re strict, sometimes, but not about flying off to look at other people’s cultures.”
Bruns has a Zen for work, but when it’s time to travel it’s goodbye to mom and dad, two little brothers and a little sister and hello Sydney opera house.
What does a 13-year-old think about on those long flying hours to Australia?
“A long flight gets to me,” he said. “My body’s telling me I’m nervous because I’m flying over water. You don’t know if you’re going to crash and if you do crash, where?
“I was more nervous flying to Europe. It was my first time overseas without my parents. We flew to Jamaica once.”
Meeting the pilot who flew the plane to Australia helped.
“We met the captain,” Bruns said, “so I knew I was in good hands.”
Bruns may need to meet some chefs or food servers on next summer’s trip to the British Isles.
The Australians eat from plates “a little bigger than this,” Bruns said, tapping the CD case holding some of his trip photos.
“They don’t take much food,” he said. “The Europeans’ plates are more like bread plates.
“In Europe, I was hungry after every meal,” he said. “Mostly salads, escargot, rarely meat. Some fish. A lot of snail in France.”
As his stomach growled away the hours, Bruns’ eyes feasted on the architecture in Europe.
“The architecture was why I wanted to go,” he said.
Katherine Brumund, who’ll be in the ninth grade at Episcopal, also made the trips to Europe and Australia with People to People. She’s the daughter of Drs. Traci and Michael Brumund.
“The trips were really different,” Brumund said. “Australia was laid back. You got to see how the people live. We went into homes in Germany, but I connected more with the people in Australia.”
The Louisiana travelers got to experience Australia’s dry season.
“They have to limit water usage,” Brumund said. “I can take 30 minute showers now, but I don’t.”
In Australia, Bruns and his People to People companions did some cultural comparison shopping between big city Down Under and such farm towns as Cairns more than 1,600 miles by road north of Sydney.
“We stayed with a family that raises cattle and kills them for beef,” he said. “We watched the cows graze. And branding. We saw the slaughter house, but we didn’t do anything there.”
The Australia trip was three weeks, Europe’s two. Last year, it was England and France. The Australia trip cost about $7,000, the Europe trip, $5,200.”
In Tamworth, “the Nashville of Australia,” Bruns went to school with his host family’s children.
“Tamworth was cold during the day, warming up at 1 or 2 p.m. in July. Our summer is their winter. We surfed at Bondi Beach in Sydney and learned about the lifeguards there.”
The beach and bordering neighborhoods are home to the Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club and the North Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club, each founded in 1907, formed to protect swimmers on the popular beach.
The lifeguards began competing against one another in organized games that tested their boating, swimming and lifesaving prowess as a way of staying in shape.
Bruns’ paying his own way isn’t unusual for People to People’s young ambassadors.
“I don’t want the cost to deter anyone,” said Krista Bennett-Bruns.
“There were kids in the group who held raffles and car washes to raise enough money for this trip and the next one. The program encourages the children to raise their own money.”
“Before Dwight D. Eisenhower became president of the United States of America, he was the Allied Commander in Europe during World War II,” says the People to People Ambassador website.
“The memories of warfare would haunt Eisenhower for the rest of this life … He believed that if people of different countries came together and learned from one another, they would promote peace better than governments could.”
For more information, go to http://peopletopeople.com.