By: Tomasz Paciorkowski, Work and Travel Summer 2014 Ambassador Scholar

Tomasz is a Work and Travel participant from Poland who volunteers as an English teacher and hopes to inspire his future students to have experiences like his own. Before you begin reading, be sure to watch his video below:

I’m glad to see you all sober again.

Today I’m supposed to tell you about my free time and travelling in the United States.

The topic seems very enjoyable, doesn’t it? I agree, it does, so let’s get straight down to all the stories I have for you.

1

While I was working in Beaver Creek I was lucky enough to meet some of the most amazing people on the planet. No kidding. I’m serious about that. Some of those people I got to like so much that we all decided to spend some time traveling around the United States together. The plan was quite simple, and we didn’t devote too much time to planning the trip.

I think we subconsciously decided to go all “Yes Man” during our journey. We would later on regret that attitude a bit, however, now in retrospect, it was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. Hopefully, they will agree with me on that one.

Here’s what we decided to do:

  1. Rent a car from a random car rental company.
  2. Go to California.
  3. …oh, and we need to stop by the Grand Canyon.
  4. The journey will take us to San Francisco.

That was honestly it. We didn’t plan for any accommodation whatsoever, apart from that one night we were supposed to spend in the Grand Canyon National Park. Nobody really thought about the consequences.

I suppose many fourteen-year olds would scream YOLO at this point but I don’t subscribe to that philosophy.  I mean, what a huge discovery – You live just once; who would have thought? It’s stupid, come on!

I guess I just wanted to have some cool stories to tell to some female strangers in all the pubs I am supposed to visit in Poland.

There were five of us. We left Beaver Creek on September 15th in a Ford F-150.

Yes, it was a pick-up truck. Yes, it was huge. Yes, I was driving the monster.

Yes, we felt American.

2

I guess there’re easier ways to start feeling American, some say it’s eating at McDonald’s. Let’s be frank here though, nothing can be as cool as driving a pick-up truck.

We found I-70 and headed towards Utah. On the first day of our journey, we were supposed to reach the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. It was quite a long way; however, it was extremely fun.

At around 2 AM, we arrived at our destination, put up a tent, and went to sleep.

In the morning we started for the Grand Canyon itself. The first time that I caught a glimpse of what is probably the biggest ditch that exists on the Earth, my mind went blank. I was awestruck by the magnitude of it. It took me some time to regain full control of my body. I think my brain just had to reboot after having seen what it saw, as it didn’t have to deal with anything like it ever before.

We wandered about the Grand Canyon pretty much all day. I wasn’t, and I still am not, really able to put my finger on it.

3

In the evening, we got back into our pick-up truck and headed for California. We decided to drive as far as we could. Completely by accident, we even found ourselves on the historic Route 66. I was beside myself with joy. It’d been my dream for a very long time.

We found accommodation in Barstow by Route 66 in a very cozy motel Sunset Inn.

4

We decided to spend some more time in Southern California before we’d drive to San Francisco.

Krzysiek, who was one of the amazing people I had the honor to be traveling with, had a dream to visit Michael Jackson’s Neverland, and that’s where we decided to go.

The drive was amazing. We passed places, such as Santa Barbara, which will basically take your breath away. There are mountains, palm trees, ocean, and the weather. There’s everything you need to be happy.

That night, after much searching, we also happily found a room at a motel in San Louis Obispo.

The very next day, we headed towards San Francisco. And after my nagging, we took the famous Highway 1.

5

It wasn’t the easiest of highways I’d ever driven on, especially in a pick-up truck. But it was all worth it. The scenery was breath-taking. Although, the gas prices on the highway were a rip-off.

At one of the gas stations, the owners put up a sign informing us that to find another gas station you need to drive for about 40 miles. Well, I think they need to get their facts straight because the next gas station we passed was about half a mile further down the road.

All I want to say is – I don’t like your marketing strategy, you random gas station.

…and $5.30 for a gallon. Are you serious?

Nonetheless, we reached San Francisco late at night. It was probably around 2 AM. We also didn’t have any place to stay there, therefore, we decided to stop by a Burger King, steal WI-FI, and check our options.

Fortunately, we found a motel room about 20 miles away from San Francisco.

6

We spent a few days in San Francisco, and then we had to go our separate ways.

Olga and I flew to New York City. Anita, Natalia, and Krzysiek stayed in California. It was quite an emotional moment for me. Don’t judge. I just get attached to people.

New York City is great. Probably everybody will tell you that. Manhattan is awesome. The skyscrapers are great, and tall, and great.

The city has an amazing buzz to it, a buzz that I loved.

It’s so busy, so intense, and yet, around the city, there are numerous parks that you can rest in.

7

It’d been my dream to see New York City for a very long time. My expectations were quite high, and I need to admit that New York met them all.

Maybe apart from Time Square. Time Square is awesome at night. However, in daylight, it’s just an ordinary junction. To be honest with you, I walked straight past it and I didn’t notice.

8

After a few days in New York City, we got on a plane, and flew to Poland.

If I were to quickly sum up the experience, I would say that the United States of America is an amazing place. It is full of surprises and warm people who are willing to help you. You just need to know where you’re going.

Also, small town America is the place to go. All the big cities are just big cities, maybe with the exception of New York City which, indeed, is the greatest city on Earth.