Lone Star state or our time off in Texas

Patrycja and Dawid with Tolls - Rika, Nate, Addy, Jo Jo and dogs: Fennigan and Winston.

After two very intense weeks of traveling by car through 4 states in the US, we definitely needed a break or moment of silence and peace. We found Helotes to be the perfect place – a small town near San Antonio, Texas, where we spent over a week with sympathetic Toll family.

“Work and travel”

Have you ever heard about the Work&Travel program? As the name says, this is a program that helps young people see the world while gaining experience working in various positions. After fulfilling several conditions and qualifying for the program one receives periodic visa in order to work legally in the country. But what if you have only a tourist visa? There are several online portals such as HelpX or WWOOF, that offer to exchange work for accommodation and boarding.

Our four wheels, or the trailer in which we were staying in Helotes.
Our four wheels, or the trailer in which we were staying in Helotes.

We knew from the beginning that we don’t want to find employment during this trip. However, the option to spend a few days helping on the farm or in the household chores in exchange for the room and boarding was more interesting. Therefore, when we received a message from Rika, we decided that we have a “win-win” situation ;). Tolls moved from Australia to the US four months earlier and they needed help with working on a 5 acre farmstay and organizing their home. We needed a moment in a quiet place, where in a friendly atmosphere we would be able to “recharge our batteries” before continuing our trip.

"Sh*t happens" - our favourite advertisement in Helotes.
“Sh*t happens” – our favourite advertisement in Helotes.

Spending time with Tolls – sympathetic Rika and Nate, their lovely daughters Addy and Jo Jo and dogs – cuddly Fennigan and disarmingly funny Winston, we felt like we were visiting a family. Help which was expected from us, was very diverse, but never too heavy or beyond our strength. One day, we helped by securing the fence, another we were mowing grass, collecting stones/rocks and pulling out the weeds . Sometimes we had to do general cleaning in the house, or organize and classify yet unopened cartons in the garage. But on Saturday, our task was to prepare a dinner and spend the evening with the girls, so Rika and Nate could take part in a run organized by friends.

San Antonio

We weren’t only working all the days. If one day work took us more time, the next day we had time off. What’s more, Rika and Nate let us borrow their car, so we could explore the area. We happily agreed to their proposal and went for a Sunday stroll through San Antonio.

River Walk in San Antonio during the day.
River Walk during the day.

San Antonio is the second largest city in the state of Texas (which by the way is two times larger than Poland). Every year the city is visited by over 20 million tourists, placing it in the top 15 most visited cities in the US.

The biggest tourist attraction of San Antonio is Alamo Mission. This is the place where for 13 days a small group of residents of Texas defended themselves from Spanish invasion of General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Although ultimately the Alamo was captured on 6th March 1836, courage and dedication of defenders have become a symbol of the fight for freedom.

Alamo Mission in San Antonio.
Alamo Mission.

Alamo, along with five other missions located in the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, becoming the first of its kind in Texas.

River Walk in San Antonio at night.
River Walk at night.

The second most popular tourist destination in San Antonio is the River Walk. With a length of more than 20 km (13 miles), the pathway by San Antonio River leads from San Juan Capistrano Mission up to the Pearl Brewery. Along the River Walk route you can find many shops and restaurants, and you can use water taxi on the entire length of the path, if you’ll get tired of walking.

San Fernando cathedral in San Antonio.
San Fernando cathedral.

Other places worth visiting in San Antonio are San Fernando Cathedral, The Majestic Theatre and many historic hotels located in the old city center.

Government Canyon State Natural Area

One time we went to a nearby park facilities. Unfortunately, after visiting many National Parks and seeing so many different and spectacular canyons, visiting this park (in our opinion, quite boldly called “the canyon”) we had a bit too high expectations.

Government Canyon State Natural Area near San Antonio.
Government Canyon State Natural Area

The park is almost entirely flat, and would probably not even notice the dried-out river if there wasn’t an information board on one of the bridges. But you have to give that in the park, there’s a number of walking paths and bike trails.

Young vulture sitting on high voltage pole.
Young vulture.

Thus since we arrived to the place, we chose one of the routes and went on a 3 hour walk. Although the route and the views didn’t impress us much, and we couldn’t find the places marked as “interesting”, but we used the time to relax and talk about things that are important for us.

Practical tips:

  • If someone is interested in “Work&Travel” or “Working Holiday” program, there are many websites where you can find all the necessary information about the program, a list of countries, the exact requirements or the types of work that can be taken. Examples of these are: globalworkandtravel.com or www.interexchange.org. You can find the information also on government sites of countries you want to visit, for example New Zealand.
  • You’re off on a short trip and you would like to try to work on a farm in exchange for food and accommodation?You can find various offers on WWOOF or HelpX pages. The first of them focuses mainly on typical farms producing organic food. HelpX offers are much more varied – from work on a farm or vineyard, through helping with garden work, work in hotels, or even waxing the deck of the ship or babysitting.
  • If you’re visiting San Antonio, you cannot miss the Alamo Mission. It is located in the city center and it’s really easy to find. Alamo is open between 9:00 and 17:30, and admission is completely free – the Mission accepts voluntary donations and sales souvenirs in the gift shop to gather money for the costs of preservation.
  • If anyone wants to check and to tell us that we exaggerated our opinion about Government Canyon State Natural Area – admission to the park costs 6 USD. The official website of the park holds access map, track information and suggested activities in the park along with other useful information.