As Fall Quarter winds up and they finish their finals, many students in the Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) program are preparing to travel over the holiday break. Here Brazilian alumni Ricardo Guiatoko, who studied Information Technology at Edmonds Community College in 2012-2013, explains how traveling gave him a new perspective on US culture and inspired him to explore his own country. He also advises current students on how to get along with fellow travelers as well as how to get the most out of their travel experience through careful planning.
I never really traveled when I was in Brazil, even though my dreams include traveling all around the globe. When I first heard that I was coming to the US to participate in the NWCCI program, I knew that it was my chance to start making my plan to travel a reality. My first flight was from the airport in Brazil to Dallas, and it was way better than what I had ever imagined. While I was in the United States, I took trips to Washington DC, New York City and San Francisco. When they say that one of the biggest investments we can make is traveling, they are right.
During the winter break, I took a 14-day long trip to Washington DC and New York City with three friends. What could possibly go wrong with only four people? Many things, we realized later. We learned in the hard way that every person is different and so are his or her needs. After a few days we started to find flaws in each other that we usually don’t see when we meet at school for a couple of hours. Also, as a group we couldn’t attend to everyone’s wishes, and it made some of us upset in certain situations. This could have ruined our trip, but we remained calm and kept trying to do what was better for most of us. In the end, after spending more than five hours in the streets to celebrate New Years, we were exhausted. Overall, it was a success. We didn’t fight, and we did everything we wanted to.
One tip to get along with your travel mates is to keep in mind that we should all respect each other, and to keep calm and discuss any problems that may come up. Sometimes you also might need a break from each other so it’s also OK to go and do something on your own but make sure you communicate with everyone about where you will be. Don’t turn off your cell phone, don’t forget to charge it (and bring your charger while traveling), and top up your minutes to stay in touch.
On the other hand, during Spring Break, I decided to take a trip to San Francisco, California, with only my girlfriend (she is Indonesian!). We stayed there for six days, and this time we planned each one of them. In United States, I found out that it is very easy to plan activities, since everything is almost always on time. In Brazil, this is not possible most of the time, because events tend to run late and usually don’t give a time estimation.
After these two trips inside the United States, I can tell that planning is fundamental to have a good trip. Research about the place, look for places to go (and how to get there, of course), what to eat, where to stay, and especially what the people there are like. This way, you have a notion of where to go, places to meet up in case you are lost, and how much you will spend.
However, even with planning, sometimes things don’t always go as expected. On my way back to Brazil we ended up missing our international flight, which happens only once a day. Well, what could we do in Dallas by ourselves? Thankfully we were all carrying some extra money to “survive” our last day in America, or else we would have starved. Even though we had checked out tickets before we left, delays and surprises can happen while traveling. But a way to try and avoid this kind of issue is by checking your flight times and the connections you may take!
In conclusion, I had a very good experience traveling in the US, even though I could have been to more places. It is not hard to plan a trip, and the main places offer good information to tourists, making it even easier. Traveling to both coasts gave me a new perspective about the United States, because not only the infrastructure of the cities is different, with very distinct feelings, the people are too. They think differently, even though they come from the same country. This experience made me realize this also happens a lot in my own country. I changed my mind here and I will definitely explore more of my home country, since Brazil has lots of attractions and marvelous places to go.