When the Mitchell family took a vacation to Europe in 2006, soccer-loving brothers Garrett and Andrew found paradise in Germany.
Garrett, who will soon be a sophomore on the Dominican University soccer and golf teams, and his younger brother were amazed watching all of the passion surrounding the World Cup, which was going on in Germany when the Mitchells visited.
At that moment, the brothers decided to save money however they could so they could go to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. About two years ago, Garrett received the best text message to come through his phone — that he and his brother secured tickets for five games through the FIFA lottery.
After 40 hours on an airplane, and a layover in London, Garrett and Andrew arrived in Cape Town on June 10. The 12 days spent abroad were an eye-opening experience for the brothers, who live in Helena, Mont.
"Nothing but excitement as we got off the plane," he said. "It was fun to see so many world stars. We didn't ever want to go to sleep."
Garrett said that initially, he was a bit scared of South Africa, with people telling him that it wouldn't be safe. But once the brothers stepped foot off the plane, they found South Africans to be warm and inviting. Garrett said that while they took proper precautions, they never felt unsafe.
"South African people couldn't be nicer," he said. "Every person we saw greeted us with a smile and a hello."
Garrett blogged about his experiences in soccer's epicenter for Dominican, keeping readers updated on his journey and what it was like down south. The brothers stayed in a bed-and-breakfast place within walking distance of Cape Town Stadium.
"My ears are still ringing from all the vuvuzela horns and my jaw hurts from laughing and smiling so much," he wrote on June 12, after watching a match between South Korea and Greece. "Everybody here is just as excited as I am and we have made tons of friends."
The experience was one that Garrett said he'll never forget. In between watching soccer games in person and at various hangouts, the brothers took some time for sightseeing, as well. They went to wine tastings, a chocolate factory, and saw animals some Americans have only seen in zoos.
"It has been nothing less than perfect here for a week and I couldn't have imagined a better trip in my wildest dreams," Garrett wrote on June 16, as he and his brother prepared to fly to England after staying in South Africa. "We have seen all different parts of Africa and it has really been an amazing cultural experience."
But it was a trip to a cardboard village that really left a lasting impression on Garrett. Because of unreliable public transportation, he said that he and Andrew paid for a taxi driver to take them to different stadiums and other destinations. After a while, they got to know their driver, who took them to his neighborhood, away from the comfort near the stadium.
Garrett was shocked that a man, who could speak seven languages and looked like he just came from a business meeting, was living in a rundown village where he had to pay for electricity before he used it, similar to a "pay-as-you-go" cell phone plan.
He also saw barefoot kids in the village who were more than happy to kick around a makeshift soccer ball composed of tarp and garbage bags. This was a far cry from the lush, green soccer pitches the brothers had seen at World Cup games.
"That really just opened our eyes," Garrett said. "I don't have a full-time job, but I have more clothes than I could want on my back. … It gave me such a great appreciation for what I have now."