Last Updated on May 13, 2020 by AIFS Abroad
Hayden Jauregui didn’t always picture himself living a life of travel. In fact, studying abroad was hardly a blip on his radar when he first started college at California State University – Fullerton. But the AIFS in London alum and founder of The Hostel Group will be the first to tell you that travel is imperative. All it took was one friend to inspire him to take a leap of faith, and his life’s trajectory would be forever changed.
Hayden was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions about his study abroad experience and how going overseas for a semester led to the travel-bug, a career change and a huge entrepreneurial endeavor.
When and where did you study abroad?
I studied abroad with AIFS in 2012 in London, England. I never knew I was going to study abroad until my roommate Brennan started telling me about how he wanted to study somewhere. His excitement for travel was contagious and he helped push me to make studying abroad a reality.
What is one of your favorite moments from your study abroad experience?
I think traveling to Scotland was one of my favorite experiences; more specifically Edinburgh. I had zero expectations and honestly did not think it was going to be that amazing. The natural green environment was so beautiful, and the locals there were so nice that I instantly knew this was a place that I wanted to revisit. I like natural environments, and the beautiful farmlands were amazing.
I played golf in high school, so while in Scotland I took a trip to St. Andrews. It was open to the public and locals to walk on Sunday. I found myself at age 20 with a Cuban cigar and Scottish Whisky walking the most famous golf course in the world from start to finish. I could not have felt more blessed. Travel and you will see!
I always feel that you do not need to wait until you retire to do the things you want. You do not even need to be rich. Enjoy each day to the fullest, always.
How did your study abroad experience impact your career choice and/or lead you to your current job?
Throughout high school and the beginning of college, I worked at golf courses washing carts and then working in the pro shop. After I got back from studying abroad, I knew that I wanted to be around the travel environment. The best way for me was to work for a hotel, because people are constantly visiting from all over the world. I was a bellman at the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach, California and met so many different types of people that were visiting for vacation and business. This was a perfect job for me to make good money, meet different people and finish my degree.
My long term goals have always been to own my own business, and studying abroad helped shape what business I wanted to create. I like travel blogs, but knew I could not create a great one because I was not traveling at the time. So I decided that I could create a hub for hostels to be on one network. So, during my last year at Cal State Fullerton, I created The Hostel Group. One thing that many do not know about booking agencies is that they take very high commission rates for each booking that a hostel receives through that channel. I personally love hostels and understand that many are “mom and pop” type establishments. The Hostel Group only has a one-time membership fee, and we direct travelers to the website of the hostel. The Hostel Group is essentially a voice for the hostel, and we are very proud of that.
Have you been back to your study abroad location since your time abroad as a student? If yes, what was that experience like for you?
I actually went back to London in 2014 to go to a hostel conference. There were many hostel operators, investors and bloggers there, and I was very happy to be representing myself with this dream of becoming a part of this community. Going back was such a great experience, because I was so comfortable in London. Even though it had been two years, I felt like it was my old stomping grounds, and I made my way around the city without a problem at all. If you travel, you will know what I mean when I say “travel gives you such confidence in yourself.” It is probably one of the best gifts you will receive from travel or studying abroad.
Are you still in contact with other students or anyone you met during your time abroad?
After we came back home, we created Facebook groups to all stay in touch. Many times people hosted reunion parties, and it was always nice to catch up with each other. If you are around someone you studied abroad with you instantly have a connection, because you have both experienced amazing sights in a different country.
Are there any activities or traditions from your time abroad that you have continued back in the US?
I grew up in San Diego, California, and went to California State University Fullerton in Orange County. Studying abroad completely opened my eyes, and I could not believe that I was living in such a “bubble.” I had never seen Santa Monica pier, never been to Santa Cruz, Tahoe, etc. These are all places that are just in the state I grew up in. Studying abroad helped me realize how awesome California is, and I wanted to travel and see it! Without studying abroad, I do not think I would have been able to even appreciate the state I grew up in. The more you travel, the more you want to see.
I personally love to travel, but also to experience a culture. Right now I am living in Maui, Hawaii, and am enjoying the island life. My girlfriend, Betty, and I moved out here knowing absolutely nobody, but soon made friends and are absolutely loving it. Remember how I said that traveling gives you confidence? Well, that is how I knew that I could travel out here and make the best out of it. Many people talk about moving to new places or traveling, but few actually have the courage to do it. I want everyone to be smart with their decisions, but also have confidence that travel is possible.
Where have you traveled abroad since your time as a student? What are your top destinations for future travel?
My main travel since my time as a student has been seeing California, Oregon, a little bit of Baja, Mexico, and Hawaii. We are planning to move to either Europe or Asia in about a year or two. What is amazing about living over there is that you have such accessibility to different countries and cultures. I took a bus from Paris to London for 9 Euros. Granted it was a very long bus ride, but still, where can you do that in the States? If I travel from San Diego to San Francisco, they will not be speaking different languages, have majorly different types of culture, and it will certainly cost me more than 9 Euro to get there!
My future travel plans:
- Go to South East Asia, and spend some time out there. The food, the culture and the price are hard to resist.
- I want to road trip through Italy and eat great food and enjoy their famous wine.
- See Japan and eat lots of ramen, and take the bullet trains to many of their unique cities.
- Go to Iceland and visit the Blue Lagoon.
The list goes on and on. Remember how I said that I grew up in California and never got out of my “bubble?” Well, even after visiting many parts, I still feel like there is more to see and that is just in California! It really is true, “the more you travel the more you want to see” and there are many places that I have already visited, but still left more to see.
Any advice for students who are considering studying abroad?
You must go and, in a way, be a little selfish out there. If you want to see something, or spend more time doing something, do it. I always like to enjoy coffee at a local café in the places I visit and take about an hour people-watching, and then just realizing where I am in the world. Even now I take a moment and think, I’m living in Maui!
Any advice for recently returned study abroad students?
Keep remembering how happy studying abroad and travel made you feel. Never lose it, because those feelings were real and you need to have that enjoyment in life.
The Hostel Group’s goal is to connect travelers and backpackers to hostel websites directly. For more information on who they are and what they do, please visit www.thehostelgroup.com.
Interested in starting your study abroad journey like Hayden? Visit the AIFS Study Abroad website today and get started on changing the way you see your world.