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Alumna explores the world

Madison+Meyer%2C+class+of+%2714%2C+poses+in+front+of+the+Vatican+in+Rome.+Meyer+has+been+traveling+Europe+for+the+past+3-4+months+through+an+agency+called+Workaway.
Madison Meyer, class of '14, poses in front of the Vatican in Rome. Meyer has been traveling Europe for the past 3-4 months through an agency called Workaway.

Madison Meyer, class of '14, poses in front of the Vatican in Rome. Meyer has been traveling Europe for the past 3-4 months through an agency called Workaway.

Photo Courtesy Madison Meyer

Photo Courtesy Madison Meyer

Madison Meyer, class of '14, poses in front of the Vatican in Rome. Meyer has been traveling Europe for the past 3-4 months through an agency called Workaway.

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Madison Meyer, class of ‘14, hunches her back, folds her fingers to resemble claws, and makes a high-pitched cackle. The little girl opposite her, wearing a tiara and princess costume, is confused. Meyer then runs to the closet to get a broomstick. She rides it around the house, cackling higher and louder. She is pretending to be a witch, but the little girl she is playing with only speaks Italian and German, so miming is the only way to play.

Meyer takes out her French phrasebook and tries to find the word for “witch,” which she hopes will be a cognate to the Italian word. Nothing. After extensive miming, the little girl finally understands and they play until it is time for a homemade Italian lunch.

Meyer will be given a room and food for babysitting, until she leaves for her next European city. Instead of sitting in a college classroom, cramming for her next test, Meyer is living out her dream of traveling.

Last spring, when college letters were rolling in and seniors were discovering where they would end up going to school in the fall, Meyer didn’t respond to any of her acceptance letters. Instead, she planned on taking a gap year.

“I always wanted to travel, but only recently did I realize that I might as well do it now, instead of waiting and continually saying ‘someday I’ll travel.’ Why not do it now? I wanted to ensure that it would happen,” Meyer said.

However, Meyer knew that, between finding a new place to stay every couple weeks and spending money on food, traveling is expensive. She would never be able to raise the money to do all that she wanted to do in a little under a year. So, after extensive research and reading blogs from people who were able to travel on a budget, Meyer found her answer: Workaway.

“Planning was the hard part, but Workaway was how I was going to make this dream viable,” Meyer said.

According to its website, Workaway provides food and accommodation for travelers in exchange for a few hours of work everyday.

“There isn’t really a selection process,” Meyer said. “You just send tons and tons and tons of emails. I think I sent an email to literally every Workaway near Paris. Just for the couple of workaways that I have lined up now, I sent close to 60 emails. With some people, they say they can take you, then they can’t. Some people just tell you no. Tons never respond.”

Meyer designed her trip around which Workaways she was invited to do. So, after a summer of saving up for her journey, Meyer was off. With only a blog, a dream, and her essentials, she set off for Europe.

Meyer flew into Paris, where she stayed at a friend’s house. Then, she traveled to a town outside of Toulon, where she started her first Workaway. Meyer worked in a chateau, where her duties ranged from organizing attics to cleaning the pool.

“I picked up French much better in the south of France than in Paris,” Meyer said. “In Paris, I was able to do everything that I needed to do, like ask for directions or get gas, but in the south, I was with two other English-speaking workers who wanted to learn French. They were constantly asking me questions. Every time I turned around, it was ‘how do you say this?’ It really started coming back to me.”

However, when Meyer traveled to Italy, she was faced with a somewhat-familiar language barrier. “Some words are the same, which makes things easier. But there are still a ton of things where I have no clue how to say them.”

Regardless, Meyer embraces her experiences in Europe.

“I feel more like a traveler than a tourist,” Meyer said. “I don’t have to go somewhere every day. It’s okay to sit at a cafe. I realized that I don’t have to see every monument in a city. I can stroll down little streets and a neighborhood, talking to people and taking pictures, and it’s fun. It’s tons of fun.”

After Italy, Meyer will travel to a town outside of Vienna, where she will work to improve a family’s English-speaking skills. She will then return to her home in Churchville to spend time with her family for the holidays.

“I am actually planning where I will go after Christmas right now. I think I’m going to do Thailand, Cambodia, and possibly Vietnam. But I could do Bulgaria, Croatia, [and] Romania,” Meyer said. “Right now, I really don’t know. I’m comfortable in Europe, but Asia is a new territory, so I want to do a lot.”

To Meyer, traveling is not a “what if,” but a “why not?” From strolling along the Champs-Elysees to eating fresh ravioli in Rome, Meyer is feeding the wanderlust that she has always had, one country at a time.

Madison Meyer updates her blog, gapyeargirl.com, regularly with information about her experiences traveling in Europe and her plans for future travels.

Billy Jump is an In-Depth Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.

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The School Newspaper of John Carroll School
Alumna explores the world