How we quit our job and roamed across the USA
In America we went through a lot of crazy stories. After we gave notice we traveled for 50 days in a low-cost, punk way across the USA from the east to the west.
In New York we stayed in Bob the nudist´s place, who for a week hosted us in Manhattan for free. On an island in the Gulf of Mexico we slept in a tent on the beach for three days – alone. In New Mexico we accidentally entered the military base followed with two-hour interrogation. In beautiful mountains of Colorado local ranger offer us weed and we ended up drinking beer in Aspen. Few times we have nearly had it when in Wyoming we met huge wild beasts literally face-to-face or on the road in Utah truck crashed right into us and we escaped unhurt only with a small scratch. And most of these things were totally free. Since we didn´t have a lot of money and not at all after we quit, we decided to go low-cost. And at the same time we believe that the less we posses the more freedom we gain.
But first how it all started
To America we went through Work and Travel program (if you´re a student at a university, you can be granted temporary worker visa for cca 4 months). I (Klochy) have been in America this way in the summer of 2013 so I roughly knew what was ahead of us. This summer we went in a group of 4 boys, each from a different part of Slovakia but more or less we knew each other. First nearly three months we ´lifeguarded´ in a wealthy district nearby Washington D.C., where we went through a lot of great and weird experiences.
We had many disagreements with our employer who did not keep what he promised (although 2 years ago there wasn´t any problem) and we had this strange feeling about the district where we worked. Both of us (Klochy and Jurky) oversaw quite big swimming pool which was never boring and almost all the time with lot of people. However we couldn´t go along with some things. Well known American consumer society proved to be true in cases such as a wealthy family didn´t have a problem to buy a huge pizza and right after that throw out whole untouched half of it. This was happening all the time. And in this way they raise up their children. It is just one small example of them all, where people don´t appreciate what they have. Food which in Europe and North America ends up in dumpster is sufficient enough to feed all the starving people of the world, threefold. Nevertheless, Americans are rather well-educated, so the prejudice about every second American being obese and dumb proved not to be true. In the place where we stayed most of them knew Slovakia (even after the division) as well as our capital.
And so it somehow didn´t follow our ´plans´ which is actually great. We started thinking about alternative and then it hit us – we´ll quit. For students, program Work and Travel is a great opportunity how to get to our beautiful world and make it smaller, but what we didn´t want to be a part of what we experienced anymore. Most people advised us to stay longer till the end of the season but for us it wasn´t about money or bigger earnings. They didn´t get it. People are too bound to money and material world. We preferred more time for each other and for travelling. There is always a way to do it differently and so we went to seek the true adventures. Goodbye lifeguarding, welcome crazy America.
1. New York and moving to the west
One lovely August morning we went to the switchboard for the last time to pick up paycheck and from Washington we moved to New York by bus for 10 dollars (it´s possible to get there even cheaper, for example via megabus.com), where we searched for the checkroom. We didn´t want to travel with it, for each one of us one small backpack was enough and whilst travelling by plane we didn´t have to pay for the luggage (hand luggage or backpack is for free). And from New York we already had the return ticket to Europe in September.
At first we travelled only the two of us (Klochy and Jurky) the others meant to join us few weeks later. Official checkroom is pretty expensive and we needed to save the luggage of all four of us (three suitcases). And so by coincidence via couchsurfing (worldwide social networking community of two-way sleepover of people in their own houses) to Manhattan to Bob the nudist, who was recommended to us by other couchsurfer from different part of New York – the one who kept our luggage for nearly two months but couldn´t host us. And so we live in Manhattan with Bob, right next to the Central Park, our first two days of American adventure. We feel really comfy, all roomers take care of us very well, they cook for us, they even fulfilled the fridge with different kinds of Belgian and American beers. However, the day of our flight to the west is coming. We are though anytime welcomed here again.
2. Colorado and the drug trafficking to the west
We arrive to Denver, the capital of Colorado, the state where marijuana is legal for recreational use. The airport is quite far away from the city centre, where we are supposed to meet the next couchsurfer Dan. And so we make our simple idea to happen – we ask people at the car park if they can take us to the city. About half an hour later we ask three young students who are not willing to at first, but after a while they change their mind and come back for us. They say they had never picked up hitchhikers before and now is the high time to do something crazy. The boys came to pick up beautiful visit from California and so all five of us are already heading to the Mile-High City (because its official elevation is exactly one mile above sea level, approximately 1600 metres above sea level). They are quite cool persons and they even know Bratislava. Although they don´t go to the city center, they take us straight in front of the entrance of our couchsurfer Dan.
Dan is a huge fan of sports who lives on his own for a couple of years in luxurious apartment right in the center next to the baseball stadium. He divorced his wife and as he is saying, now he wants to enjoy and he´s doing that pretty well in the recent years. He tells us to feel at home here, the first day he opens Colorado Vodka and we speak till late night when suddenly he invites us out to the bar, all at his expense (generously refuses to take our money). During the day he usually goes to the work and so he gives us the apartment key and so we explore likeable Denver. There is a widespread relaxed and colourful atmosphere, a lot of bikers everywhere every so often pretty smelling like weed. While 150 years ago Colorado was reputed due to the Gold Rush, these days people over here go through the Green Rush.
By pure coincidence we find one of these legal shops and so we go in there. Strict control of IDs, security guards, personal numbers, lift to the second floor and there – a nice neat room like in the pharmacy where we can choose from different kinds. They pack it all nicely into a white bag and we leave. However for a less than 20 dollars there is much more than we can use in three days and so … But first I have to mention that we rented a car for a week and decided to visit Yellowstone National Park which begins in neighboring state Wyoming … and as long as we couldn´t use such amount and we don´t want to waste it by throwing it out (or giving it to someone as a gift), we rather take it with us.
3. Wilderness of the states Wyoming, Montana and Idaho
We are crossing the borders and enjoying beautiful darkness of the night of unknown Wyoming while listening to an American radio. Enough of the city noise. Back in Denver we managed to buy one cheap tent and four sleeping bags, that´s why we are now for the first time searching for a place to camp during the night. We found a way to camp for free in America with great panoramas. We discover one city park. At the car park we get out of the car, walk farther to the park and suddenly we see some kind of local celebration where people dance on the camp tables weird and funny dances. Near to them we build our tent and contemplate. We came up with clever idea. We don´t want to traffic anymore since marijuana is not legal here and so we came to the decision, that today we need to simply get rid of it. I´m not going to describe the way how we did it, but we did it and it was truly magical night, the first in the open air.
In the morning we are moving on. We fully enjoy our big road trip, we tune the radio to the road trip radio channel and we gain this amazing feeling of freedom. Till we reach Yellowstone, we sleep over next to the gorgeous Grand Teton National Park one more time (those are the first mountains we can see after three months since we left our mountainous Slovakia). This is the seventh night in row when we don´t have to pay for the accommodation. Grand Teton in the rear-view mirror and we go on.
We are heading to the oldest national park of the world lying upon enormous supervolcano, which makes this country unique in the whole planet. And we even don´t have the faintest idea how fantastic encounter we are going to face soon. We go hiking through the south part of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone as it is named. Stunning views of waterfalls and yellow walls of the canyon, due to which the whole park is named. After some time we turn aside from the tourist trail to the wild forest. We met the last person two hours ago. Warning signs alert us to encounter with bears, we need to join the group of at least three people, have the bear spray and make noise. We only do the third one. We are observers of unspoiled ecosystem, we see the squirrels, elks, birds, deer and one huge owl. However, no bears – Yogi probably has different plans. We return back to the camp full of respect and positive emotions. Jurky walks to the toilets to charge the batteries. Suddenly frightened grizzly rushes out, only two metres separate them and a few thin trees. Jurky cries out, the bear roars and both of them jump to the left and run away, one of them to the toilets, the other one to the forest. Immense wave of adrenalin, just the way we like it. This is how it looks when there are no permissions to hunt the bears, the land pretty full of wilderness and we really like that. It´s their country and we are only visitors. After all, the Yellowstone Yogi does exist.
4. Picking up of the other two members of the crew in Texas
After northern adventures we go back to the south through Denver, where we again rent cheap car, now for the whole month (for 690 dollars including everything , taxes and insurance). Jurky, the experienced driver, who in one week in America has driven more than in his whole life up to now plows through dried-up Texas roads. In Dallas we finally meet the two other freaks (greetings to Španky and Kvietko), sleep over the first night in a typical American motel, where we swim in the locked pool in the night and the next day we head on towards the Gulf of Mexico.
We reach the white beaches of the Texas Padre island, where we build the tent. It´s the longest unbuilt barrier island in the world and we all but alone enjoy relaxing, finally all four of us. We never managed to do that while lifeguarding. We swelter a bit, cut down our beer supplies a bit and I hit my leg so hard that I walk with a limp for the next three weeks. The sea however somehow releases the pain. But long term loafing around on one beach is not our cup of tea and so after two nights we go on to the west.
4. Direction Wild West, through New Mexico to Arizona
In New Mexico we wanted to visit White Sands National Park. Apart of that we didn´t have any plans, we prefer spontaneous travelling. National Park is a part of huge closed military area, in 1945 there was the first historical nuclear test of atomic bomb Trinity and up to now many secret experiments are under way. And so we get to the wonder place. Large country appears to be covered by freshly fallen white snow, however we walk barefooted and without shirts. Whilst examining the strange world we find out, that the white grains of sand are made up from fibrous variety of gypsum. Slowly it´s getting dark and the white country gets strange quiet atmosphere.
After the nightfall we search for the camp but accidentally we take the wrong turn not having a clue that we are entering military base. Right after we crossed the reception we cannot go back and there comes the two-hour interrogation right next to our car. What´s the colour of our eyes, shirts, pants, where do we come from, what are we doing here. We explain that we only search for the place to build our tent. After weird questions they let us go and one soldier recommends us to visit Las Vegas. It was fun but at least they could let us to sleep over in their place.
After few more hundreds of kilometres and several untold stories we appear to be in the Wild West. The regular American laws don´t apply to an Indian Reservation Monument Valley, all the laws are in account of the Navajo Tribe. If you ever happen to read somewhere that it´s not possible to buy a beer over here, that´s not completely true. In the southern city Kayenta we really couldn´t buy one, but the opposite direction to the north close to Mexican Hat is cool shop where they even sell cheap beer. That goes well with the stunning sunsets and sunrises and camping.
5. Through Route 66 to California
We go through the most famous of all American roads, Route 66. Here and there we camp in abandoned spots and sleep in motels where we meet interesting people such as our shamanic Indian who goes to Alaska for a season to make pretty packet but otherwise he spends his life in motels. He has five girlfriends (and they know about each other) and it seems that he has quite fine life. Before our morning departure he calls us to join the circle, we hold each other and he says nice prayer for us, so that the luck accompanies us on our journey. Maybe it has a point, since few weeks later we really have a huge luck…
We continue on and cross the Californian border, approaching Pacific. We have no clue about the time. We see the difference between the situation when we travel somewhere for a week and subconsciously count every single day till the last one. However here the time merges, we are only aware of the fact that it´s summer and we can go anywhere we want. We are only limited by the return flight ticket back home to Europe.
Through unusual dry country we are approaching the absolute south of California, San Diego. Using wifi of the fastfood car park we search for the cheap accommodation and at the same night we arrive to a motel situated only few metres from the big American-Mexican border. The closer the border – the highest the crime rate is, that´s how younger Arizona students warned us few days ago. But the price for the motel was unmatched. And so was the facilities. Nice clean rooms, swimming pool and breakfast included in the price. Here we go, the Pacific Ocean…
About the City of Angels maybe next time. I can only mention that for sure we avoided visiting the famous Walk of Fame. Our way of travelling in the recent years in changing rapidly and we don´t feel like watching thousands of tourists taking pictures of the names carved into the concrete. Los Angeles and San Francisco are connected by a highway. For the travellers, however there is marvelous Highway 1 which belongs to one of the most sexy roads of the world. Nearly for the whole time you have splendid views of the Pacific Ocean, one time alongside of the beach, next time from big cliffs. And exactly here we found a place for our tent. Sunny California, Californian wine, Californian Pacific and our million-star hotel.
We are facing one of the most interesting places of the world and the most European-like city in America. San Francisco, the city of bohemians, freethinkers, artists, marked by the era of beat and hippies generations welcomes us with cold wind that adds special atmosphere. For me personally the feeling of nostalgia. After two years to stand at the same place with the view of Golden Gate forces to think about how the time flies. In the city where emerged the idea of couchsurfing we cannot leave out this our favourite way of travelling. Online we find thousands of couchsurfers who are however not available anymore. At the last moment our request is confirmed by Linus from Hong Kong, who has lived here for a while and does to us familiar lifeguarding for living. We are showing him many pictures from our beautiful country. He is enchanted by our green and mountainous country and adds it to his list of places to visit in near future. And my holey sneakers are falling apart but due to the tape they must last till the end.
7. Through desert Vegas in Nevada to the edge of chasm
We are crossing the Death Valley, one of the most inhospitable places of our planet. Desert Valley is the place of lowest elevation in North America (86 metres under the sea level). They measured record 57°C, we only experience 42°C. The cans in our luggage start to boil. We are alive leaving the Death Valley.
Our way is intersected by the Sin City Las Vegas, which has a problem to admit that natural resources are not unlimited, most of all the problem with intolerable waste of water. Some experts say that Las Vegas has only few tens of years left. We release the Hangover Genie out of the bottle and since we are aware of the water problem, we drink Whiskey instead.
We continue and the road is getting narrower and suddenly we stray from the way to the dusty road. That´s because we are heading towards the Grand Canyon. We want to find a place just for ourselves, no public views. After few hours of dusty road we stop nearby magnificent chasm. We build the tent right on the edge of the canyon where we stay for three days completely alone, only accompanied by stunning views, fresh breeze and nearly extinct condors. We start a fire and begin to meditate.
8. With the car crash in Utah to the Aspen
On the road we already feel like home, experienced adventurers with no danger ahead of us. And there we go. On the road in Utah a coyote jumps in our way, we sharply apply the brakes but the truck behind us doesn´t have such effective brakes and crashes right into us. All of it happens so fast. In the rear-view mirrors we see a lot of dust and the truck falling down to the ditch. Yet we are extremely lucky, it wasn´t fully loaded and we are only scraped. Our lifeguard bandage solves it. We take everything with humor, the truck driver starts making fun and the coyote is also alive. The driver is well-experienced and this is the first time in 44 years of his career that his truck ends up in the ditch. He is our big hero.
Through more national parks we continue the way to Colorado where we must return the car (it´s cheaper to give the rented car back in the same place where we rented it). Just to give it a try we search couchsurfing, we would like to visit Rocky Mountains. We get answer from a ranger Ken from Aspen, who has a free place for us in otherwise overcrowded camp because we are coming in one of the most beautiful periods of the year when the tree leaves turn to the diverse colours of the nature. We meet him in the morning in the place according to his words the most beautiful in whole Colorado, lake Maroon Bells. He takes us hiking to different hidden paths, we are enjoying the views, he offers the thing which is legal here… and we enjoy the view more and more. We end up with him in Aspen drinking dark beer in city park.
The big return to the crazy Manhattan and …
After this jumbo western adventure we are on the way from Denver to New York returning back again to Bob the nudist (this time all four of us) for crazy week full of insanity, which didn´t cost us anything, in interesting New York society. But about this some other time…
After the tens of national parks, hundreds of one-dollar tasty cans and thousands of kilometres we finish our 50-day homeless, low-cost adventure across the United States. We learned a lot of stuff on the way that we´ll never forget. We visited only few big cities, most of the time we wanted to come closer to the nature which is unbelievably delightful and mysterious. We´ve met many amazing people who helped us selflessly for many times. After all, people are the same in their hearts all over the world, they have the same feelings and they are glad to help. Thanks to low costs and couchsurfing we got closer and deeper to the daily lives of Americans and therefore our journey was more authentic, even though for someone it could be less comfortable. And we haven´t seen so many wild animals in our whole previous lives.
We moved by car, subway, plane, hitchhiking, ship, bike, kraul? Ako plávanie? swimming, skateboard and of course by barefoot walking. On the ground we enjoyed views of long 15 000 kilometres across 15 states. Of the total 50 days we payed for the accomodation 15 times (the rest was open-air camping and couchsurfing, where 8 people accepted our requests). North America is quite expensive, but overall budget per person was less than 2000 dollars (two boys travelling for 35 days – about 1500 euros per person), which is quite under the average, even though i tis possible to travel cheaper, but we rented a car for over a month and we spent considerable amount for the beer boxes. So we are looking forward to the next even bigger and really low-cost adventure, this time to quite different part of the world.
It´s great that you´ve made it to the end of our long introductory article. If you have any questions, post them into comments. Thank goes to all good people and animals who we´ve met on our journey. And the same goes to our super 4-member crew. Peace, love and crazy travelling. #