By: Joseph Graff, Greenheart Exchange Work and Travel Compliance Coordinator

When I dream of a beach vacation, Hawaii, California or Miami easily come to mind when considering where to spend serious quality time unwinding. Committed to nothing more than the pure enjoyment of warm weather, sunlight, a clean white sand beach, the smell of salt water, and the sound of waves crashing, I never thought that the Gulf Shores, Alabama would register as a go-to destination on my evolving list of places I’d like to explore!

But yes, it’s true! My next beach vacation might actually be in Gulf Shores, Alabama – resting, relaxing, and making my skin even more golden than it already is. All this in the Deep South! Visiting Orange Beach while on a Going Greenheart Tour (GGHT) this past June, I was struck by how beautiful the beaches were and how Southern hospitality, fresh local seafood, and welcoming family-owned restaurants added to the uniqueness of this place. There were bike paths amidst rivers, lakes, bayous, and forests, which provided refreshing alternatives to the beach and easy access to the birds and other wildlife that call the Gulf Shores home.

Meeting J-1 Summer Work Travel host organizations and participants with my Greenheart colleague, Haldis Toppen, was a major highlight of my short visit. The Gulf Shores community greeted us warmly. Their hospitality reflected just how eager they are to engage the many young people who come from abroad, participate in the program, and learn about the United States during their stay. Some local businesses even coordinated with local host organizations and provided J-1 Summer Work Travel program participants with the opportunity to visit their offices, meet with staff, and learn first-hand about a profession that aligns with their long-term career and academic interests.

As this was my first time ever visiting this part of my own country, I definitely learned a great deal and enjoyed all that the Gulf Shores had to offer! It’s opened up my eyes to a new great place in the United States, and I’m already looking forward to my next beach vacation Gulf Shores, Alabama.

If you want to explore new places around the United States, look into our Summer Work Travel program. Follow us on Instagram and see the adventures our participants are having across the country!