Brayden's trip of a lifetime

Embracing new experiences: Seventeen-year-old Brayden Curtis will leave for Denmark on January 18 on a year-long Rotary Youth Exchange. Photo: Jesinta Burton.
Embracing new experiences: Seventeen-year-old Brayden Curtis will leave for Denmark on January 18 on a year-long Rotary Youth Exchange. Photo: Jesinta Burton.

In just a matter of days, Busselton boy Brayden Curtis will fly to Denmark to embark on a year-long exchange - thanks to the Busselton Rotary Club.

Having never been to Europe, the recent high school graduate said he was excited about the prospect of learning a new language, discovering a new culture and developing life-long friendships.

The 17-year-old said he was inspired by his brother Lochlan, who undertook the very same Rotary Youth Exchange program in Brazil in 2018.

"Originally, I wasn't planning to follow in my brother's footsteps," Brayden said.

"But I saw how much it changed him, how much it made him grow.

"I'm very excited. I'm really looking forward to it.

"Given the issues that I've experienced, particularly over the last few years, I thought 'if I'm not going to do it now, when am I going to do it?'."

The timing of the trip is almost serendipitous for the 17-year-old, who knows to seize opportunities when they come his way.

For more than half of his life, Brayden has been living with Crohn's Disease - a chronic autoimmune disease which wreaks havoc on the digestive tract.

Brayden admits he doesn't remember life before his diagnosis at the age of eight, undergoing a number of different treatments and trialling countless medications as doctors struggled to address his severe case.

In 2018, after almost five years in remission, the disease returned.

In October of that same year, Brayden underwent major surgery to have his bowel removed.

Brayden has since experienced further complications, being diagnosed with a secondary autoimmune disease following his surgery.

But, for Brayden, being stuck in hospital only fed his desire to get out and experience life.

"It [being ill] has made life harder in many ways, especially socially," he said.

"But being stuck in hospital for long periods of time has changed me in that I just want to make the most of every situation, every opportunity.

"This is something I am probably going to have to live with for the rest of my life.

"It definitely had an impact on my decision to participate in the exchange."

Although the surgery didn't entirely go to plan, Brayden admits that it had improved his symptoms and given him the opportunity to fly.

On January 18, he'll do just that.

The 17-year-old extended thanks to the Busselton Rotary Club for their sponsorship of the program and for giving him the opportunity of a lifetime.

"I would really like to thank the Rotary Club here in Busselton," he said.

"They're the ones that have sponsored me to go and made all of this possible.

"I am really grateful, and they make it possible for hundreds of kids to have these experiences."