When Vanja asked me to write about my summer in the States I was very honored, since I’m not a writer per say and I don’t have much experience doing it. Then I thought to myself how can I limit the adventure to one post, so I decided to split it in two parts. It was a four-month affair after all.
It all started in October 2015 when I decided to apply for the Work and Travel program for students. This program gives college students the opportunity to live, work and travel the United States. I won’t write about the process of it at all, I’ll just tell you to look up all the information on the Internet and to find an agency in your city where you will get all the important information. I’ll just tell you that my decision was in the spur of the moment kind of thing, and it was the best decision I could have made.
So, I applied, decided on the place in the States, which was Lake Placid, which is located in the State of New York, about six hours drive from New York City.
My journey started in Belgrade, at the airport Nikola Tesla. From there we had a layover in Amsterdam and finally landed in New York City. From there we had the six-hour drive to Lake Placid, which I spent sleeping since I was exhausted. But I did manage to see a glimpse of the most amazing city in the world, I managed to see the sun setting over Manhattan which was breathtaking.
Lake Placid is a completely magical place surrounded by trees, nature and lakes. It’s located in the Adirondack mountains, and that whole region is actually the biggest national park in the United States. Lake Placid is best known for the winter Olympic games which were held there two times, first in 1932 and in 1980. It’s a really small town which has everything you need, from restaurants of all kinds, grills, bars, pubs and especially if you are an outdoors person a lot of hiking trails and outdoor activities. It has two lakes, Mirror Lake and Lake Placid after which it was named. It has a high school, a huge Olympic center with a museum which is open to visitors, as well as a place for hockey games and ice skating competitions whole year round. One of the most interesting attractions definitely is the Olympic Sky Jump Complex, which is open even during the summer. You can climb up the complex and experience what the jumpers experience while preparing for the jump. I’ve been told by the locals that even during the summer there are ski jumps from the complex, but in water.
My first impression of Lake Placid, well it’s difficult to describe, I couldn’t believe I was in USA because I was surrounded by trees and nature. The first thing you think of when thinking about the States are huge cities, skyscrapers and maybe even pollution. But this place was completely different, with breathtaking sunrises and sunsets and lakes. My primary reason for visiting was work, and that’s what I spent most of my time doing. I had 3 jobs, so as you can imagine, that didn’t leave me much free time. But the free time I had I spent exploring that small, charming town.
I have to say that the people who live there are really nice, and you have that sense of community, they all look after each other, they all know each other since, when it’s not tourist season, the population is around four thousand people.
When I came there in June the season was just starting so the town wasn’t that crowded with tourists as it ended up being near the end of my stay there. They have a couple of major tourist events in the season. First one being the horse show which brings in all the, let’s say, people with deeper pockets in town from all over the country, and Canada as well since the Canadian border is close by. One of my jobs was working in a hotel, and mine all the hotels in town were booked full during that time. Since I worked at the bar, I have to say that people with deeper pockets are really stingy when it comes to tips, just saying.
The major event of the season is the Iron Man race which is basically a triathlon where athletes begin with a two-loop swim in clear Mirror Lake, with the famous sight line at the bottom of the lake to guide them. Transitioning in the Olympic Speed Skating Oval to the bike. Two loops of 56 miles bring competitors back to the Oval once again, where they begin their 26.2-mile run through the town and around the lake. This event is something that all the locals get ready for, all the hotels get ready for because it brings thousands of people in town, and the town almost shuts down for it. I have to say I was really impressed with the people participating since not all of them are professional athletes, some are just regular people doing it for their own reasons. I met a man who told me he was participating in the name of his son who was in a wheelchair and whose dream was to do the Iron Man race. That left a real impact on me. After all of the Iron Man circus is over, the town goes back to normal, but the flow of tourists is constant. The dying down of the season can be felt starting September, when people are slowly going back home and school is starting again. But the main tourist season in that complete region is in the winter, and I hope to maybe visit the town during that period.
The night life in Lake Placid isn’t that great, you have three or four pubs and one nightclub, but considering the size of the town it’s quite adequate. The thing I was unpleasantly surprised by was that you were not allowed to drink in the open, meaning if you wanted to go to the lake with your friends and have a beer or two, you were not allowed. That kind of behavior is actually illegal and it could get you in trouble with the police. And the police were constantly patrolling, which was nice since it gave you a sense of security.
As for the day to day life in Lake Placid, it’s not cheap, I can say that. I remember one time going to the store and buying maybe three or four groceries and spending almost 40 dollars. The food in general was expensive, especially if you wanted to eat “organic” or really healthy. Of course, there were always ways around that, especially for us that worked in hotels, we could always grab something in the kitchen. And I tried a 30-dollar hamburger which I could barely eat and move afterwards. It was so big that they had to stick a knife into it to stick the buns together.
I definitely must say that I’ll remember Lake Placid for the people I met there, for their kindness and strangely enough for their openness toward strangers, considering it’s a small town. They helped me get rid of some prejudices I had about Americans and I hope I helped them in the same way when it comes to their opinions about people from Bosnia. I’ll remember Lake Placid for all the laughter I had there, all the rough moments but most of all I’ll remember it for making me finally get to know myself and my capabilities. And for what will I remember San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City? Well, you’ll have to read about it in part II of my Big Fat American Adventure.