How Working in the Travel Industry Fed My Hunger for Exploring
I was lucky enough to spend two summers working in the travel industry in the United States. Here are my experiences:
Working in Orlando
In 2013, I had a great opportunity to work at a lovely hostel in Orlando, Florida. The hostel is designed as home-like as possible. It contains a four-person female room, a four-person male room, a six-person mixed room, a swimming pool, and a large living room. The owner of the hostel, Manny, used to be in the military and was passionate about hosting traveling students. An interesting man, he has endless stories to tell.
A hostel is a place where you can always meet cool travelers. People come and leave, chat, share stories, and have fun. While working there, I met and got to know many new friends, and introduced the city of Orlando to them.
Honestly, Orlando is not my type of city. People are drawn to this city because of Disney World and Universal Studios. Disney World in Orlando is regarded as the best in the world and Universal Studios is famous for its exciting rides. I have been to a few amusement parks, but they never impress me as much as nature does. When I had free time, I would find someone to go with me to some natural places. Luckily, I found some great companions and explored wonderful places around Orlando with them.
Exploring Orlando’s Outskirts
The most amazing place I want to recommend to travelers is the Blue Spring State Park. It is less than a one-hour drive from Orlando. The spring pool is like a shining emerald and it is a winter refuge for manatees. I did not bring a swimsuit with me, but could not resist the temptation, and jumped into this crystal clear spring water with my shirt and jeans. Being immersed in the cool and fresh water, with the pleasant sunlight, while swimming with big fish and watching kids swim in the spring cheerfully and noisily, was my idea of paradise.
Sometimes I feel that nature does not need to be unique or magnificent; the forest, the sky, and the tranquil atmosphere could easily satisfy me.
Near the park entrance, there was a hiking trail. I saw many different kinds of trees along the way, such as pines, oaks, and many other grotesque-style trees. Under the sun, the palm trees looked like it was made of gold. The Spanish pine tree was unique, and looked like an elderly lady who had white hair that was swaying with the wind. There were also many different kinds of ferns; some were smooth, others felt like a piece of paper. The green and white mosses thrived on the roots and trunks.
Walking in this primitive, winding trail, I rarely saw people and felt my friend and I blend into the wilderness. Sometimes I feel that nature does not need to be unique or magnificent; the forest, the sky, and the tranquil atmosphere could easily satisfy me.
Working in New York City
During my summer break of 2013, I also worked as a travel coordinator in the United States. I went to New York and welcomed lots of students; picked them up from the airport, helped them look for houses and organized trips for them. Every year during the summer break, many J1 students (Work & Travel Program) come to America. They look for jobs to make money and travel around the U.S.
In New York, everything is expensive. Therefore, finding housing arrangements is the first thing they have to deal with when they come to America. There are many house providers, who want to make big money on students. Many houses do not have any furniture, but are still expensive. Usually, six students share a small apartment without any formal furniture. I felt sorry for the students who could not find cheap housing and I tried my best to help them.
Exploring the 5 Boroughs
In my free time, I loved to explore the Big Apple. New York is a city that is too busy and energetic to sleep at night. I enjoyed exploring different areas of New York City by taking the subway, searching for the good dining places, and watching the handsome men in suits riding their Fixie bikes on Manhattan streets. My favorite place in New York City is Central Park, located at the heart of Manhattan. People lie on the grass, bathe in the sunlight, read books under the oak trees, play with dogs, go boating, biking, running, have picnics, and relax to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life.
Many people only go Manhattan when they travel in New York. For me, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island are also interesting to explore. New York has hundreds and thousands of immigrants, and you can see diverse populations, different neighborhoods, and hear many languages.
When I held hands with my favorite guy and wandered around on Time Square, I wished every minute could last a lifetime.
I once read a book written by Mike Gold, called Jews without Money. Gold writes about his childhood at the Lower East Side in New York City. During the Great Depression, Mike recounts his impoverished childhood, describes the diverse neighborhood, and writes about how his parents were barely able to make a living.
When I was in Lower East Side of New York City, it was no longer the place described in the book. Instead, I saw the tenement-style buildings, and many fancy restaurants, stores and art galleries along the streets.
In New York City, I tried Dominican food for the first time, visited Flushing, Queens’ Chinatown, and went to The Shins concert in Brooklyn Park. I am a big fan of this indie rock band, and that fantastic, dreamlike night fulfilled one of my dreams.
Many sweet memories of New York are imbedded in my mind. When I held hands with my favorite guy and wandered around on Time Square, I wished every minute could last a lifetime. In that sparkling night, we talked about our families, friends, and stories. He is the first guy I’ve met from Jordan. When he talked about his country, the culture and customs, I felt fascinated and had an impulse to go there. I could remember the days spent with him clearly; the way he looked at me, cuddled me tightly, and even his funny laughter; they are all so vivid in my mind. It’s like it just happened yesterday, but it was over a year ago. The memories have become much closer, but the person is actually further away.
Sometimes life can be disappointing, but when I think there are so many things to live for, the mountains, the forest, the dream, the hope, I feel cheerful again and do not blame the sorrows. Just like the great American poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.” That is the good life.