Adventures by Disney takes you to amazing destinations around the world, but for entertainment cast member, Megan Hamilton, she never dreamed it would introduce her to extended family.
Megan’s adoptive mom, Anne, booked a trip to Vietnam as part of the Southeast Asia itinerary. With multiple adopted children, Anne wants each of them to know the background of where they come from, so she always plans a trip to showcase their birthplace.
“When I booked our trip, I wanted to try to take Megan to the region where she was born. To show her the place where we became family,” Anne said.
Megan was adopted from a small village outside of Hanoi, Vietnam at a young age. Equipped with only a birth certificate and simple plans to see the place where they first met, she and her mom set off on the adventure of a lifetime.
“Since Megan was little and as she grew up, it was always her dream to return to Vietnam,” Anne shared. The goal was simple: “Eating the food she loves and having mother-daughter time together.”
The stop in Hanoi was midway through the itinerary and with the intimate nature of an Adventures by Disney trip, the entire group of guests and guides learned about Megan’s adoption story and were excited to see where their journey would take them.
Stephanie Rohlfs, the adventure guide on the trip, said, “Being even a small part of such a life changing story was special. Watching all of the guests witness Megan’s journey, and seeing it myself, was so moving.”
To ensure the authenticity of the trip, Adventures by Disney hires local guides who are trained by Disney and complete the picture of local language and culture. The local guide on this trip, Tony Pham, is from Hanoi, speaks the language, and immediately knew he wanted to help Megan and Anne learn more.
“We didn’t know what we would find, but I knew that the adventure would be meaningful, so I had to help,” Tony said.
On a free day of the trip, Tony helped to translate the birth certificate and locate Megan’s province in Hanoi. This led to a car rental, police stations, and the realization that, in a small town everyone knows everyone and with the bonds of family and friends so close, they never really leave. The police recognized the surname and directed them to the correct province.
They arrived at a local home and as Tony started to speak with a group, a woman’s eyes lit up. She recognized Megan.
Through a language barrier, Megan began to learn her story…
“I was so lost in the moment when we all met. We didn’t understand each other, but we were all crying and hugging. Without knowing the language, I knew how much she loved me when I was in her arms,” Megan said.
After Megan was born, her natural mother’s friend – who had recently given birth to a child of her own – took care of her. Another family, who was unable to conceive also fostered her during her toddler years.
“I’ve got my [adoptive] mom, stepmom, foster mom and natural mom,” Megan explained.
The whole village came out to greet Megan, sharing photos from when she was a baby and stories of what she was like as a mischievous toddler.
Her natural, step and foster families had to give her up because they did not have the means to care for her at the time. So, when Megan was around five years old, she was brought to the adoption agency. This is when Anne, who served in the military in Hanoi, met Megan.
The whereabouts of her natural mother are still unknown, but Megan plans to keep in touch with the woman she’s deemed her foster mom and the extended family. She’s even learning Vietnamese to trim down on the language barrier.
“Without the guides encouraging us to keep searching and translating, we would’ve never met my family,” Megan explained. “Now, I fully know who I am and where I come from. My world grew so much wider by finding my family.”
Stephanie explained that the connection and personalization of Adventure by Disney trips is why she loves her job.
“You get to do all these amazing things with Adventures by Disney, and that’s why people sign up – for the itinerary and the list of places, sights and activities,” Stephanie said. “But what they walk away with is so much more.”