As an Au Pair in the US, you have to have a J1-Visa, which allows you to stay in the States for a whole year. The best part about it: after this year is over, the US government gives you an additional month during which you can say goodbye to your friends and Host Family. Since most Au Pairs explore the country during this month, it is usually called the “Travel Month”. Here’s how I spent mine:
You might already know that I spent my Au Pair year in New York
. So I had already seen a lot of the USA’s east coast. For this reason, I really wanted to explore the west coast.
I started my journey in Portland, Oregon. Portland’s motto is “keep Portland weird” and I wanted to see for myself what the fuss was all about. Portland did not disappoint. As I walked through the city, I discovered a whole block of food trucks, a park called “Couch Park” and my favorite part: the world’s smallest park. I almost didn’t find it (it’s literally that small).
About half an hour outside of Portland is Columbia River Gorge. It’s a beautiful canyon surrounded by lots and lots of trees. I took a guided tour through the woods and came across a lot of gorgeous waterfalls, including Multnomah Fall.
The next day, I flew to San Francisco, where I met a friend I knew from New York. I knew I wanted to see Alcatraz and since I would always walk in New York, I decided I would walk there, too. It was only about three kilometers, but I had really underestimated San Francisco. The hills were so steep, I felt as if I was moving backwards. I arrived at Alcatraz exhausted and 100% sure that I would take an Uber back to the hotel.
Yosemite National Park
The next morning my friend and I joined a group of Au Pairs on the Au Pair Adventures’ Western Sun Tour. It started in San Francisco and would take us to Los Angeles in eight days. All 14 of us hopped onto the van and drove off to Yosemite National Park for some beautiful nature. We spent the night camping, laughing and getting to know each other.
Death Valley National Park
With about 43 degrees Celsius, Death Valley holds the record for hottest place on Earth. The National Park offers sand, sand and more sand. There are also salt flats and Bad Water, the lowest place in the western hemisphere. It was incredibly hot and I have never been more grateful for sunscreen.
I know, I know: what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. But I’m going to make an exception for you. During the day we admired the fabulous hotels Las Vegas has to offer. At night, we partied on a red bus we rented. Most of us were underage, so we didn’t spend much time gambling at the casinos. Las Vegas felt like Disneyland for adults: there were crazy buildings and blinking lights everywhere and even some roller coasters!
From the bustling city of Las Vegas to the tranquility of the Grand Canyon. Shortly before we arrived at Grand Canyon, our tour guide handed out paper bags and markers and instructed us to draw faces on the bags. When we were done, she told us to put them on our heads. Slightly confused, we followed her instructions and drove in the dark for about 10 minutes before the van came to a stop. Still blind, we got out of the van and stood in a line.
When it was finally time to take off the bags, we couldn’t believe our eyes. We were standing right on the edge of Grand Canyon! The view was breathtaking and simply unforgettable. That evening we ordered pizza and had a picnic watching the sunset over Grand Canyon.
Route 66 & Lake Havasu
Next stop: Lake Havasu! On our way there we stopped in Seligman, Arizona, which is also known as “the birthplace of route 66”. We spent the afternoon swimming, Stand Up Paddling and relaxing in the sun. It was so warm at Lake Havasu that we didn’t set up a tent. Instead, we spent the night sleeping under the stars.
We finally came to our last stop with the group: Los Angeles. The city of the rich and famous. We did a lot of sightseeing, looked for familiar names on the Walk of Fame, hiked up to the Hollywood sign and strolled along the beach of Santa Monica. On our last day, we went to Universal Studios to spend some action-filled hours together.
The tour might have ended, but I still hadn’t seen everything I had wanted to see. There was still one very important monument missing: Mount Rushmore. So I flew to South Dakota to see some presidents’ faces carved into a mountain. And I would certainly do it again.
After my trip I flew back to New York to say goodbye to my Host Family. I was sad I had to leave, but I was also looking forward to seeing my family and friends again.
I hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane!
Until next time,