A former AAU student has disproved the common opinion that successful travelling across the US is only possible with lots of money in your pocket.
Pavel Mareš, who graduated with a BA in International Relations in 2015, is your guide for colorful adventure stories and relevant information about the States that will help those planning to travel low-budget.
The trip idea hit Mareš after graduation. “I wanted to do something big and new that I’ve never done before,” he says. “Graduation is kind of the end of a part of your life – so I decided to go on a road trip around the US.”
Last summer Mareš and his friend from Mexico visited 14 states in approximately 60 days – but only for 40 did they have a car. They captured the sights and sounds with a GoPro camera and then turned the footage into a YouTube series.
The sojourn began with renting a 2012 Dodge Charger – the cheapest option available – and a drive from Los Angeles towards the adventures. Mareš’ first idea was to have only $100 for the entire trip but after a few days in the US he realized this would never cover the goal of visiting different states.
But Mareš and his friend did stay remarkably efficient, each of them spent on average $30 per day on food and gas, their only expenses. Instead of hotel beds they crashed at friends’ houses. Most were former AAU exchange students but they also used Couch Surfing, international web site where people provide housing for free. It’s also a fine method to meet new friends.
Mareš was dying to go to Nebraska. “There is nothing, only fields, so it’s going to be totally awesome or totally terrible,” he recalls. According to Jamie Jensen’s book Road trip USA, the whole state is an open landscape. “Towns are few and far between, and come and go in the blink of an eye.”
In the state with a population of just over 1.5 million, Mareš managed to find a host who had Czech roots. It was a surprise for both, although the man explained there is a sizable community of Czechs in the state – slightly more than 5 percent of the inhabitants. He showed Mareš a village called Prague with 300 residents and took him down. Moravia Street with Czech flags flying all over. The American was so excited to host Czech that he took Mareš and his friend to a wine tasting and a family dinner, where everyone asked about Czech traditions.
“It was such a unique experience,” says Mareš. “I could have never expected that.”
Wyoming – the least populous of the 50 states with slightly more than 500,000 residents. As they reached the state it meant heading for Yellowstone National Park. There Mareš met a man who later gave them a telescope to see light pollution, the Milky Way and, most amazingly, the rings of Saturn.
California was a dream state for Mareš before the trip, he said, because “I was brainwashed by all the Hollywood movies and celebrities, and I loved the semester that I spent there.”
The duo pulled into Santa Cruz, and stayed with a former AAU exchange student from there. One day they were pedal-boarding a mile from the shore and saw something that looked like a shark and freaked out. A lifeguard they consulted nodded and said, “Yes, you probably saw a shark. I just didn’t want you to go crazy.”
In New Mexico, Mareš and his friend were asked to pull over and show their passports. Pavel had an electronic visa completely in Czech, which confused the officer for 20 minutes. After, he warned them that he had already arrested a few people with similar papers.
Finally back home, Mareš is turning the trip into a 20-episode YouTube series with five parts online so far. He works on each video for more than a week with a friend Alexander Vashkeba(aka WhizzerDee). Alexander is a music producer – he is creating upbeat soundtracks for the series.
Mareš’ plan is to post one or two videos a month. The series catch an eye with colorful footage of sites and daily fails. The videos prominently feature a clothing brand, DGAFASAP (Don’t Give A Fuck As Soon As Possible), which was created by Mareš and a couple of friends from the US, when he was studying there in high school. They use the videos for promotion and the company helped sponsor the trip.
In every episode, Mareš asks an American what they like/dislike about the place they live and what is their best DGAFASAP moment, an absolutely spontaneous and might be even careless moment in someone’s life.
Some answers surprise: a 60-year-old man who looked thoroughly badass at a classic car show in San Diego said his DGAFASAP was marrying his wife 40 days ago. Some just say they quit their job and moved to a different state. During the trip travelers’ perspective shifted. They first fell in love with California but then, it has changed. “Mainly because of friendliness and warm welcomes by people from states like Nebraska and Texas,” says Mareš.
The lesson he took from the road trip was that the real exploring happens best by getting in touch with locals and visiting unpopular states. “You can travel the world, but you have to remember where you are coming from,” says Mareš.