One of the biggest attractions of working in a summer camp is the opportunity to travel afterwards. On the J-1 visa, you have up to one month to travel around America after your work placement ends and you have to return home (or continue your travels in another country). This is an incredible chance to see America with new found friends and tick a number of things off the ol’ bucket list.
In my final year of camp, I went on a two and a half week road trip around the east coast of America and it was honestly one of the best trips of my life. With my camp being in Maine, one of the closest cities to visit was Boston. I’d actually visited Boston the previous year but this summer I stayed with one of my American friend’s family. The house was gorgeous and it was so lovely to relax and explore Boston at our leisure. We of course had to go and watch the Red Sox at Fenway Park (baseball is something that I don’t think I will ever understand but it was definitely worth going just for the atmosphere and the giant pretzels) and we had great fun going around Boston Tea Party Ship. We also visited the Old State House, did the Freedom Trial and explored Faneuil Hall- all of which I would highly recommend.
Next stop was Virginia and we went and stayed with a friend at Virginia University- I experienced my first (and possibly only) American frat party during their ‘Freshers Week’, ate a ridiculous amount of takeaways and explored the university campus with my friends. I would really encourage staying with an American friend at their uni if you can- it’s interesting seeing their uni culture compared to uni life in the UK.
From Virginia, we went onto Pennsylvanian and visited Philadelphia. Philadelphia was actually my least favourite stop on our little road trip. It’s the one place I didn’t feel particularly safe- although the hostel we stayed in was comfortable and the night life was quite good. There isn’t a huge amount to see in Philadelphia- we found that we covered almost everything in two days. My top picks would be the Liberty Bell, Rocky Steps (shamefully I still haven’t seen the movie Rocky), the Reading Terminal Market (you have to try the Philadelphia steak sandwich) and the Independence Hall.
We left Philadelphia and headed onto Washington DC- this was by far one of my biggest highlights of the trip. We stayed in a little motel just outside the city as the prices were considerably higher as you got nearer- on student budgets this motel ticked all our boxes.
On our first day we fully embraced being tourists, travelling around with an A3 map in an attempt to navigate our way around. The White House, Lincoln Memorial and a little memorial garden with famous Americans statues in it such as Elena Roosevelt were some of my favourite spots of the city.
If you have a keen interest in history and heritage like me, than the museums are definitely worth a visit. We visited an African-American one, aerospace one and although not a museum, The Capitol building which was so interesting- definitely had a museum feel in places.
Our final stop was New York City and we spent the longest amount of time here. There is so much to do and see in New York that even a week wasn’t long enough to see everything the city had to offer. We visited most of the iconic places, such as Central Park, Times Square, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Rockefeller Centre, Brooklyn Bridge, the Natural History Museum and September 11 Memorial.
We also saw a theater production of Matilda and then went onto Ellen’s Stardust Cafe- singing waiters and waitresses galore and superb food. We also spent an entire day shopping in a New York outlet center- this is definitely not something for everyone but sometimes I don’t think you can beat a girlie shopping trip!
All in all it was a fantastic trip, where I made some life-long friends and explored what is truly a very beautiful country. If you are unsure about whether or not to go for it, I hope this post gives you the courage to bite the bullet and book that trip of a lifetime.