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Cultural Exchange

Au Pairs Explore the Sights Closer to Home

Over the past year, the opportunities to travel far have been limited. This new reality could have been especially disheartening to au pairs hoping to explore this huge country, but these limitations couldn’t didn’t stop our au pairs them. from exploring parts of America closer to their new homes. Instead of traveling great distances, they au pairs found interesting places closer to home and explored these local areas more deeply. When they couldn’t travel with others, they traveled solo. And they took advantage of opportunities to spend more time with their host families.

Big Solo Trips

Mountains were central to au pair Rita’s lockdown traveling experience. When she joined a California host family near Yosemite National Park, Rita – from Portugal – was excited to visit the park at some point during her stay. “I was so eager to go,” says Rita, “that I traveled during the chilly weather of the fall season. I had a week off and none of my friends were available to go, so I decided to go by myself. Yosemite was a priority on my travel list.”

“I was a bit nervous though,” she admits, “because it was the first time I was doing a solo trip.” But she found that the trip made her grow as a person, “Being alone made me trust myself and plan more. I am very distracted and I always lose things like the car keys, and knowing that I was the only one I could count on made me more aware of my surroundings and my things.”

Mountains and a lake in Yosemite National Park.
With views like this, Yosemite was worth the solo trip! Image courtesy of user “Brocken Inaglory” via Wikimedia Commons.

Yosemite wasn’t the only trip Rita took. “I love to drive around California. Driving alongside agricultural fields made me realize how much farming goes on in California. I also drove up to San Francisco, where I visited the different neighborhoods and learned about the incredible multicultural diversity that the city is built on. I also drove through Big Sur, where the view was stunning. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Through the trip, I learned about U.S. culture. One of the things I learned is that Americans value being outside.”

Trips closer to home

In contrast to Rita, Mexican au pair Dham was at first pessimistic that she’d be able to travel at all during the pandemic. However, her Philadelphia host family was very accommodating of her desire to travel. “They introduced me to the culture and cities around Philadelphia. We went to New York, New Jersey, and Washington.” says Dham. “We travel safely – with masks and sanitizer gel,” she adds.

A woman in a beige dress in front of a house with pink and green siding.
Dham enjoyed a very Instagrammable pink house in Georgetown, Washington D.C. Image courtesy of Dham.

Au pair Lucas, from Brazil, also spent time during the pandemic traveling closer to home with his Baltimore based host family. “We went to Pocono Pines in Pennsylvania for 3 days. It was really cool and exciting, because we did a lot of activities that I had never done before, not to mention that they always gave me the freedom to do what I wanted. The trip made us stay closer than we would have been!” 

The intersection of two streets in the Poconos, with mountains in the background.
Lucas loved the “small town America” feel of the Poconos! Image courtesy of Lucas.

Like Rita, Lucas’s trip also taught him about American culture: “It’s totally different from Brazil’s,” he says. “In the beginning, the differences were really shocking, but now I’m getting used to it.” Traveling with his host family helped him speed this process along.

Getting to know their own cities

Washington state au pair Rocío explored areas very close to her new home, traveling around the Seattle area. She now knows the city like a tourist guide, and can recommend that visitors see locations such as the Space Needle, the “gum wall,” and the local Farmers Market.

The travel limitations of the pandemic taught Rocío, from Costa Rica, that one can have fun in the simplest ways. “I spent a day at the University of Washington,” she says. “I just biked around campus with my friend, visiting the libraries, Drumheller Fountain, and Husky Stadium.”

Despite its challenges, the lockdown resulted in opportunities to think about travel in different ways. Whether they took solo trips, traveled locally with friends or their host families, or simply explored their own cities, our au pairs adapted to difficult circumstances while experiencing American culture. Want to learn more about the rare positive aspects of lockdown? Read about how it strengthened au pairs’ relationships with host families in other ways!

Matt Wallace

Matt Wallace is the Community & Digital Content Manager for the InterExchange Marketing team. He received a Master of Science in Global Affairs from New York University, and worked with the State Department and two New York organizations with missions to introduce young people to multiculturalism and international relations. He is excited to leverage this experience with InterExchange!

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