Daniel Wyles, 22, from Derby had the summer of his life sleeping under the stars in the Grand Canyon and hitting the casinos of Las Vegas. He tells us how Volunteer USA introduced him to the ‘real’ USA!
I never thought I’d imagine myself jumping 60 feet off a cliff into freezing water on my first road trip with a bunch of people I had only just met. But that was one of several spontaneous and exciting things to do on an amazing summer volunteering in America!
I jetted off from London, excited at the prospect of working in beautiful surroundings and meeting really cool people, all eager to travel and explore the USA. Our living accommodation was in Flagstaff, Arizona, a university town with a chilled out atmosphere and a warm but comfortable climate.
After orientation, pizza and a trip to the local Wal-Mart, we were soon off on our first project. This would be in Zion National Park, a 5 hour drive away in Utah. The work was on the edge of the park removing old fences and putting up new ones and attaching the wire so as to keep specific wildlife in and others out. Camping was something I hadn’t done much before, but a really good group made me overlook the basic conditions and having to use a portaloo!
Each project was 8 days long, including the drive, and returning to Flagstaff was something we always looked forward to, so we could have a nice hot shower and meet up with all the volunteers for a crew dinner and a few drinks, which gave us the chance to exchange interesting stories of our experiences on project.
We always had 6 days off to do whatever we pleased after each project. This gave us a chance to explore more of America- from San Diego, L.A, and Vegas to other places I didn’t have on my list, such as Sedona, Dallas and Tijuana in Mexico.
Several other projects came and went, including two trips to the Grand Canyon - working with spectacular views, complete with a few nights sleeping under the stars and a swim in Lake Powell while the sun was coming up!
I also had 3 awesome weeks in Texas that involved camping at 8,000ft, where we experienced intense thunderstorms but got to see plenty of creatures from scorpions to black widows and rattlesnakes! It was these unexpected things that make volunteering so enjoyable; not only do you get to see great sights but you also have an experience off the beaten track that no one else would probably have had. We also got to see the trails and fencing in use by the public as we worked, and hearing the positive feedback they gave us helped motivate us to work hard and get the job done!
Personal highlights from this trip include hiking to the highest points in both Texas and Arizona, gambling in Vegas, watching my first NFL game and doing all of this with some great friends that I’m sure I will see again in the near future.
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