What is the most powerful experience in your memories?
There were really many strong experiences, that’s why I’m glad that I have the habit of carrying a travel notebook with me, where I write down all the events, and I like to leaf through it now and often have fun thinking about the experiences that I’ve forgotten about in the meantime. Among those that I will never forget is the moment when, after three working months, our plane landed in Hawaii and I realized in the airport terminal that I really managed to get there. And I also fondly remember camping on the north side of Oahu, where there was no electricity and roosters running around among the palm trees. Or when my friends and I hitchhiked all summer on the island where we worked (San Juan in Washington State) and we rode in the back of a truck or with a lady who wanted to convince us to join the local Christian band.
Is there anything unexpected that the program brought you?
The first year I traveled alone and I was quite worried about how I would cope, I expected to have to get used to life across the ocean, but I was surprised how quickly I acclimated and found a lot of great people with the same interests. The great thing about Work and Travel is that it connects like-minded people, which is why it’s quite easy to find long-term friendships. I also did not expect the Americans to be so friendly. I knew they were known for their openness, but it actually shocked me, I wasn’t used to strangers from Slovakia complimenting my clothes, just talking to me on the street, or offering a ride when I’m walking around with full bags. I also learned to better manage stressful situations and work with people, which I consider a big plus. And I learned to recognize about 15 different accents in English.
Would you do anything differently if you had to travel again?
So I had to think hard about this question. I don’t think I would have done anything differently. Both summers in the USA were completely different, full of very different experiences, and I do not regret that I decided to do it. Maybe I would have been less stressed about leaving the first year, everything went quickly, smoothly, I didn’t even get lost anywhere, which I consider a win in and of itself. It is certainly good to find out information about the place where you will work in advance, to see the surroundings, what the weather is like there, what are the sights in the area, what to see. That makes it easier after arrival.
Would you prepare something else for the trip?
I would definitely have brought less things from Slovakia and would rather take only one half-empty suitcase, because when leaving it was quite a problem to pack the pile of clothes and gifts that I had accumulated in the room in three months. I would also bring more small gifts for American colleagues and friends, because their joy from Horalky and Tatratea was indescribable.
Any travel tips or practical advice for the trip?
The less, the better – I would use that as the golden rule for packing abroad. You can buy really everything in the USA, so you won’t miss anything. As for useful things, when I travel, I never miss a power bank and two wallets – in one I have ordinary things, in the other, which I take out when paying, I carry a smaller amount of money. When I travel alone or in a small group, I usually stay in hostels. They are great places where there is a large concentration of young people and there is always something to do. They usually offer a lot of free activities and a different program every night, such as themed parties, cooking classes, dance workshops. I have already taught many acquaintances to live in hostels, who rejected them before. I’m a big fan of the free walking tour concept, which are tours of the city in groups that are led by locals, and I always learn a lot of interesting things there. One of the best tours was in San Francisco, where we visited hidden rooftop parks on two skyscrapers for three hours, saw how traditional Chinese fortune cookies are made, and were taken to the underground bank where they had a huge safe. In this way, a person learns interesting things about which he would otherwise have no idea.