While many Cal Poly students look for summer internship opportunities, others take the summer to seek out adventure in any way possible. This four-part mini series will dive into the lives of students who took unique summer jobs to do the latter.
For two and a half months, the jungle was his restroom and the ocean, his shower.
Every night of the summer, materials engineering junior Matteo Del Giudice slept in a tent under a large mango tree with just a wooden pallet and a sleeping pad under him.
In the tent next to him was his childhood best friend Kawika Mau.
The two would nestle into their sleeping bags at night and get enveloped in all the sounds of the jungle. There were birds and insects chirping, and a breeze of wind that passed through the trees, making them sway into a symphony of sound, Mau said.
“It just felt like [we] got transported into the deepest jungle of the planet,” Mau said.
The rain came down in heavy amounts through the night, waking them up to what felt and looked like a hurricane of heavy downpour.
Day and night, this was the surrounding experience for Del Giudice and Mau as they worked and slept in a woman’s backyard in Maui.
In search of adventure
While many engineering students were filing into the career fair looking for internships last school year, Del Giudice was in search of something else for his summer – he wanted an adventure.
His roommate, mechanical engineering junior Andres Elzaurdi, conversely decided to go the internship route because the right opportunity came his way. Elzaurdi said he was in no rush for one, but when he was offered the position, he felt like it was a great stepping stone into his future career.
“Ideally I would have liked to have traveled the world and surfed everywhere, but realistically I needed money, so I knew I had to get a job somewhere,” Elzaurdi said.
Still, Del Giuduce and Mau opted to ditch the internship path and set off on their wild jungle explorations.
How they got to Maui
Growing up in Olympia, Washington, hours from the coastline, Del Giudice said he just wanted to be somewhere that he and Mau could surf every day.
They decided to go to Puerto Rico, Peru, Costa Rica or somewhere in Hawaii to be near a beach, Del Giudice said.
“[We] wanted to get really good at surfing,” Del Giudice said. “ And [we] wanted to see some real waves.”
When scrolling the internet in search of jobs to support their trip over the summer, they stumbled across a farming job in Maui, Hawaii. The advertisement read something along the lines of: sustainable farming, food collection, living off the grid — perfect for the two of them — a place to stay that was close to the ocean, fresh produce to eat and money to spend on the costs of the trip.
When Mau arrived at the farm, two weeks prior to Del Giudice, he called his friend to tell him it was not what they had expected.
The man who ran the farm, he said, had different political views and beliefs of how the world worked. He said that was something he could still cope with — it was the way the man worked him that he could not handle.
“It felt like we were being taken advantage of,” Mau said. “We were being worked into the ground.”
The farmer had the workers do “hardcore” landscape around his property and move heavy weighted structures and building materials, which was not a part of the original advertisement they had agreed upon.
And along with that, Mau said the man was unfriendly to the workers, mistreating them and using their hard work for his own benefit.
Mau contacted a woman living in Haiku, Maui, an old college friend of their friend’s mom, who said he and Del Giudice could live and work at her home.
The woman was a traveling musician, Del Giudice said. She was difficult to work with because of her constant smoking and complaints throughout the summer, but she played beautiful music for them.
Del Giudice described the woman as an eccentric character, but one open to having kids over at her home.
“She [saw] that [kids] needed somewhere to be when they’re young,” he said laughing. “They can’t just afford to live in Hawaii on their own.”
Del Giudice and Mau worked in the woman’s backyard building fences, collecting fruit, cleaning and clearing brush. They helped her maintain the giant mango tree they slept under, Del Giudice said, and did a lot of junk removal to take to the dump.
In exchange for the yard maintenance, the two boys had a place to sleep at night. They built an outdoor living area that was basically in the jungle, according to Del Giudice. They brought a refrigerator, a stove, a tent and their sleeping pads, and used the backyard as their restroom.
“We lived under a mango tree with an avocado tree right next to us, and we were just sleeping on a wooden pallet in a tent with a tarp for the rain,” Del Giudice said. “We didn’t have bathrooms. We only went into the house if [the woman who owned it] invited us in.”
Del Giudice said he now feels like he is able to be anywhere and be comfortable because of the “callus” he grew from sleeping on the ground for more than 70 consecutive nights.
There for the Surf
Aside from working to live at the woman’s property in Haiku, Del Giudice needed a main job to make money, so he worked at a vegan health bar in Paia, another town in Maui.
“That job basically funded the surfing — I bought a surfboard, a moped and gas and actually saved money over the summer,” Del Giudice said.
The beaches were where the two friends spent practically every day over the summer.
They did not shower for the entire first month there, except for at the beach showers, where Del Giudice said he washed the three pairs of shorts he had packed with him.
“I would compare it to van life, but I [didn’t] have a van,” Del Giudice said.
He and Mau were there to surf “real waves,” and each day consisted of just that: surf and work, surf and work.
By the end of the summer, both of the boys had improved in what they went to Maui for, and along their journey, they gained a new perspective of the ocean.
“Surfing is way different for me now than it was before,” Del Giudice said. “I love it because you feel like a child when you’re in the ocean – you just play all the time when you’re out there. It’s like you’re a little kid, and I love being a little kid.”
For Mau, living anywhere far from the ocean, he said, is not an option. After living in Washington, then Utah, then Hawaii, he discovered his passion for the “surf all day, every day” lifestyle, which is why he decided to stay on the island.
When Del Giudice returned to California to continue school, Mau moved from Haiku to Makawoa, a different town in Maui.
He currently lives in a bus that he renovated into a home on wheels and surfs every day.
“I think every day I fall in love with it more and more,” Mau said. “I am madly in love with surfing.”
To support this lifestyle, Mau works as a busboy at a restaurant and works on another farm, doing similar work as before with yard maintenance.
Mau said he has no plans for leaving the island any time soon. He said some day he will go home to Washington, but as of right now, it is too expensive to leave. He is living the surfer life he and Del Giudice dreamed of at the start of their summer.
A New Perspective
As Del Giudice finished telling the story of his adventures, remembering the two and a half months of salty hair and stenchy clothes, he smiled.
“Everything there was very aloha,” Del Giudice said.
In California, Del Giudice has to wear a wetsuit when he goes surfing, which he said restricts his movement in the water. He no longer has a moped to get to the beach, and the journey is not as simple as a walk or bike ride away like it was in Maui.
But besides the challenges that limit Del Giudice from surfing every morning, he still tries to get in the water and bring back “the kid” in him.
Next summer, Del Giudice said he would like to continue the surf, crossing off another place from his and Mau’s original list of either Peru, Costa Rica or Puerto Rico.
“I feel confident in my will,” Del Giudice said. “I feel like I can be anywhere at anytime,” after sleeping outside for more than 70 nights without a real bed or restroom.