Ten Years On: My Travel Diary From Trek America!

Ten years ago, I embarked on a journey that I suppose in some ways changed my life. The trip itself wasn’t particularly life-changing, but I made friends who I still have to this day. It was my first real “independent” trip, even though I was on a tour with twelve other people, all my age and mostly British. It was only my third time abroad, and my first time doing it by myself. It was both exciting and scary.

I travelled from New York City to LA, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, with TrekAmerica and had an absolute whale of a time. We hit up cities like Washington DC, Memphis, and Las Vegas, and explored national parks like Zion and the Grand Canyon. We camped in a Navajo hogan hut in Monument Valley, which easily remains one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. We had a barn party in Utah where we made dresses out of bin bags, and we dressed as cowgirls in Texas.

Honestly, it was the best. And it was probably the best way for me to explore a country when I was too inexperienced to do it myself.

Anyway, I also kept a travel journal, and as embarrassing as it is, I kind of want to share it with you.

So grab a cup of tea and let’s see what teenage me had to say about things…

Warning: copious amounts of swearing ahead!

Trekkers ahoy! [Aug. 29th, 2008]
[ currently in | Somewhere in Virginia ]

My trek hath beguneth! How exciting. 😀

Currently, we’re making our way to Tennessee, I think we’re somewhere in Virginia right now, but who knows.

So two days ago, I was up at 6am to get a bus to New Jersey where the trek was leaving from. Luckily I wasn’t the only one, so that was cool – and one of the girls on the bus went to the same camp as Kylie, which is very random!

Unfortunately, we were all split up into three treks, but our group is so awesome, there are people I didn’t think I’d get on with but they’re all great.

After over an hour of prep talk and paperwork etc, we set off for D.C., or rather a campsite in Maryland called Cherry Hill. We also did a shitload of food shopping, which included $75 of alcohol. Start as you mean to go on, I guess!

That night, we were supposed to do an illumination tour of D.C. but it rained. So instead, we went in the pool and jacuzzi, I killed my skin and then a few people went to Walmart for about 3 hours, so the rest of us played drinking games, finding VERY interesting things out about each other… hahaha.

So it was a good laugh, but I was kind of pissed off about not going to D.C., because the other two treks did.

Anyway, yesterday we finally went, and it bloody rained for about half the day. We went to the White House, of course, the F.B.I. building, countless fountains and statues etc, tried to go to the Spy Museum but it cost $18, then had lunch in the gardens of the National Art Gallery I think, where sparrows begged us for bread. Then a starling or something joined them, so we knew it was getting serious… and then a squirrel bounded in the middle hahaha. It was great.

Then we went toooo the Air and Space Museum, we being me, Jenni, Toni, Holly, Sam, Michaela and Rick. That was pretty fun, although I kind of wish I’d gone on the interactive simulator. Ah well.

After a quick stop in Maccy D’s, we went to the Congress Building, which was way more impressive than the White House and had lots of people on segways! Amazing.

Next up was Arlington Cemetery. It was pretty incredible because there were literally graves for as far as you could see in every direction, but very sad too, obviously. We didn’t have time to go to the tomb of the unknown soldiers, and we were still late back to the rest of the group, whoops. And then when we got there, we couldn’t find them!

Oh well, we did eventually, and had a pizza eating competition, which was awesome and hilarious. Afterwards, we went to the Lincoln Memorial to have a big talk while we waited for it to get dark.

The illumination tour was amazing, but my camera is shit in the dark, so I’m counting on Julian and his big-ass camera for good pictures.

We all went to the statues by the Washington Monument, walked along beside the Reflection Pool, and went to the Korean War Museum, which was probably the creepiest experience of my life.

Other than that, there’s not too much to say. I’m sharing a tent with Jenni, which is awesome because I think out of everyone here, she’s the one I get on with most. We stay in a tent called Yarm. Yarm got very wet this morning because it was absolutely pissing it down yet a-fucking-GAIN.

Oh, and a hurricane is heading to New Orleans for Tuesday, and guess where we are on Tuesday. Sigh. Nathan’s probably wondering if the sun exists in America haha.

Anyway… it’s Jenni’s birthday today! Woo hoo! 🙂 Happy birthday!!

And… I’m out.

Tennessee and more Tennessee. [Aug. 31st, 2008]
[ currently in | Nashville (or thereabouts), TN ]

We’re not going to New Orleans at all now, because the hurricane will be pretty severe. Instead, we’re now on our way to Memphis, which is cool but now we’re spending four days in Tennessee and missing out at least Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. So much for my 20 state goal, there’s no point even trying now.

We just passed a sign saying ‘We Buy Ugly Houses . com’ … and we’re in Nashville, yay!

So where was I? … After our D.C. tour, we had an early departure in the morning and an 8 hour drive to Tennessee. We stopped in Natural Bridge in Virginia for lunch and partied at the front of the van (me, Holly & Michaela :-)), got a lot of lorry honks… awesome.

Our campsite in Bristol was cool, it had a nice swimming pool which we had no time to swim in, and we got free pancakes in the morning. We also had a birthday party all evening, most people got very drunk and some slept on the roof of the van because their tents were too wet.

There was also a shitload of spiders. Nice.

We had quite an early start yesterday as well, we went to the bottom of Tennessee to quite a rustic camp in Ocoee. Except it was cool because in the afternoon we went WHITE WATER RAFTING! It was awesome, at one point we were stuck in the middle of I think a class 4 rapid with no way of getting off the rock and rushing water coming up to our chests. Kind of intense.

Our guide was awesome as well, Dawn. Fun times although I wish I’d bought some photos. In the evening, we had a barbecue with the other treks and then went to Polk County Fair, hahaha. It was awesome, there were loads of rides so me, Sam, Holly, Evan and Avery went on a bunch, it was so much fun!

The best was the last ride me and Sam went on, where she shoved her face in my lap and screamed for the entire ride… mid-sentence hahahaha.

And then we had another early start this morning, but at least we’ve been to effing NASHVILLE! A gospel church in Nashville, no less.

“What happens in Memphis stays in Memphis.” [Sep. 2nd, 2008]
[ currently in | Memphis, TN -> Austin, TX ]

Argh, it’s September! Memphis was awesome, on Sunday night we all went out to a bar called BB Kings and got pretty drunk. Everyone danced a lot and Holly woke up with no underwear on and with a missing wallet, which she eventually found. It was an interesting night lol, Beale Street is pretty amazing too, it’s just music everywhere.

Our campsite was right next to Elvis’s Heartbreak Hotel and opposite his mansion, so that was really cool. Yesterday, we did the Graceland tour through the mansion and grounds plus the car museum, planes and all that jazz.

Me, Jenni and Toni had lunch in the Graceland Plaza or whatever, the whole morning was pretty awesome and I’m not even that big an Elvis fan, hah.

After a while, we went to the Rock n’ Soul Museum, which was cool because there was stuff about old culture, how people ended up in Memphis and how the music came about. There should have been more things in the museum though, really. And the guy at the desk was like, well fit innit. [oh my God, really Clazz?!]

We explored Beale Street for a while, spent ages looking for an ice cream place, finally got ice cream, then went to get our bus back.

Except it was fucking full and the next one wasn’t until we were supposed to go back to the campsite. So we were harrassed by a strange guy with a leaflet (fit museum guy came out and had a go at him lol), then went to a bar where the guy behind the bar was rather funny.

Anyway, we got back to the camp and the others weren’t even back yet. Eventually, we all went to a barbeque place for dinner, and I got pissed off because I had to pay over double for what I had.

Never mind. Today is a nice, short 13 hour journey. Fuck’s sake, first our longest one would be that 8 hour stretch, then we did 10 hours and now fucking 13. The other two were alright but this is just too much. We didn’t even get to stop in Dallas… just Arkansas. ARKANSAS! Oh well, we’re in cabins instead of tents for the next three nights, woo hoo!

Drunken lesbians, cowgirls and Dick’s… [Sep. 5th, 2008]
[ currently in | Austin, TX -> Bandera, TX ]

Texas has been surprisingly good, it was one of the places I’ve been less excited to visit. Our first proper day here, we went to San Antonio, which is a beautiful city, especially along the Riverwalk. We went to the Alamo for a while, I bought a wooden postcard… it was a pretty interesting place, really, although a lot of people didn’t agree lol.

Then on the Riverwalk, we went to an awesome bar slash restaurant called Dick’s, with hilarious owners. They kept insulting us and doing totally random things like throwing a baseball at a beer bottle to knock it off the fence and then running onto a bridge and yelling… and saying things like ‘I bet that’s not the first time you’ve had white stuff in your face.’

After that adventure, we went to a Mexican market for souvenirs. We all wanted cowboy hats, but they were kind of expensive for gimmicks, so none of us bothered.

Oh, and we went on one of those awesome trolleys, I was very excited! Only $1 as well, amazing. We ended up getting back to the campsite pretty late because of food shopping, which took fucking forever. Then of course we had to cook, and it was me, Rick and Bec’s turn, but we were only cooking tacos, so it wasn’t too bad.

Eventually, we were ready to hit the clubs. First, we went to Broken Spoke, where there was awesome, authentic Western dancing, woop! The first club we went to had a shit band playing, was pretty strict on underage drinking and cost $8 to get in. It was dark, dingy and not too nice overall, but it had a cool upstairs bit where we all hung out.

Then we went to another club, which was free to get in, called Vice. I managed to have one drink without being caught but they were walking around taking drinks from people. But we danced a lot, it was proper dance music… and then Don’t Stop Believing came on.

And there was a drunken lesbian trying to dance with everyone, especially Sam. Nathan pulled one of the girls from the other group, and Rick scared one of the other girls away HAHA. And a big fight broke out while we were waiting for the bus, that was quite entertaining.

Most of us stayed up until something like 5am, after getting back at around 3.30am… good times.

Needless to say, most of us didn’t get up until about midday. Which meant we only got about 3 hours to explore Austin by the time we got into town, but it was okay. We missed the last duck tour so we went to the Capitol building and discovered we could explore it for free, w00t. It was really pretty inside… and high.

We bumped into Evan and Nathan there and we all went to Subway, very cultural. And Julian was already in there, and then Rick walked past as well hahah.

Oh aaand all the girls apart from Jenni and Toni got $4 cowboy hats, excellent!

From Subway, we just got the bus back and I spent a while chatting to Evan before dinner… which took forever to cook, so I sat on the swings for a while as well.

So we ended up being a bit late for seeing millions of bats under a bridge, even though we all worked really hard to make it, but Avery still decided to be a bitch about it at the bus stop, being like ‘I don’t know if I should give into you guys and let you go’ as if it was our fault and we should be punished for it. Whatever.

She ended up running back to get the van, probably only because she really wanted to see the bats, and we got there late but it didn’t even matter because the bats just seem to fly around all night. It was pretty cool though, 1.5 million bats flying around – but they stunk.

We did some cool cowgirl shots, then went to yet another cowboy bar. There were like five different bars in there, so it was quite interesting, but underagers had a flourescent wristband so we had no chance of drinking. Oh well.

After a bit of dancing, and Jenni pulling some great faces after chewing on ice and then being grabbed by Evan HAHAHA classic moment… me, Stacy, Toni and Evan stayed up until about half midnight, and that… was that, really. [was it really a classic moment, though??? We’ll never know.]

This morning, I sorted out my suitcase finally, we watched a hilarious episode of Jerry Springer, and now we’re on our way to the “Cowboy Capital of the World”, Bandera. Yee-ha!

Dancing in restaurants, horseriding and tyre swings that are going to kill someone. [Sep. 8th, 2008]
[ currently in | Somewhere in Colorado ]

I’m not sure how much there is to say about the past few days, probably because we’ve done so much travelling.

Avery convinced us that going to Mexico for a day would be shit, so we went to Bandera instead. Of course, the next night, all the other Trekkers were raving about how amazing Mexico was and that it was one of the best parts of the trip.

Anyway, whatever. They left people behind who couldn’t cross the border, and we wouldn’t have wanted to do that.

We went horseriding instead, which was cool because it was proper Western style in Texas, but Avery managed to ruin that for some people as well by constantly doing her own thing, leading us the wrong way which eventually led to people falling off. Good job.

Plus the horses weren’t that good, especially the one Holly was riding, which I ended up riding instead. But it was a cool experience, and the owner had a cute dog called Mufasa (or Rabies as Evan named it). Oh, and there was a mule. Winner.

Saying that, I didn’t agree with the doubling up on horses. Pfft.

That night, we went to yet another bar where we still couldn’t get served, and then another one. They were quite cool though, apparently the second one is the oldest bar in America. We also saw the same matching couple in there as we saw in Austin, so me and Avery went over and chatted for a while, and it turns out they’re going to some of the same places we are.

When we got back to the campsite, I’m not sure what happened. One minute, me, Bec, Katie and Michaela were sitting at a table, the next we were spooning in Evan and Stacy’s tent. Except I wasn’t part of the spooning party, I just laid across the top lol. Thanks guys. We had a hilarious conversation about salad spoons, then me, Michaela and Katie left and slept in the van instead. For a whole three hours or something as we were leaving at 5am. Urgh, another reason we should have gone to Mexico.

Needless to say, we slept most of the way to New Mexico. But we also entered the desert, so it was all quite exciting and quite insane how much you could see in every direction.

We got to the Carlsbad Caverns at about 1pm and took the natural entrance into the caves. It was pretty incredible, really, but by the end I felt like there are only so many rocks you could look at. Me and Toni were the only ones who bothered going all the way to the end, I think, and the toilets at the end were cool, hah.

I think we did a food shop on the way to our campsite, which took for fucking ever as usual. But that night, me, Rick and Bec cooked macaroni cheese with bacon, mushrooms, sweetcorn and some grape tomatoes. There’s a reason I’m writing down exactly what we had. <3<3

I managed to spill macaroni everywhere though, brilliant.

The evening was really cool though, we went to see Tropic Thunder at a drive-in theatre with one of the other treks, laid out in front of a massive screen on mats, it was great. The film itself… was bizzare, I’m not sure how else to put it. It was good though, I liked the basic plot and Ben Stiller was actually a good actor in it. I’m not a Ben Stiller fan. Plus they just had so many big names making appearances, it was cool.

When we got back, it was pitch black. Me and Holly went to the toilets to charge our phones and got chatting to a girl from Emily’s trek, Laura. We also went on the lethal spinning tyre swings with a bunch of other Trekkers, and went to the games room with Rick, Nathan, Michaela and whoever else, I can’t remember. I remember chatting to Kim at one point as well about their amazing time in Mexico. Whatever, I’m not bitter.

And then I made the mistake of sleeping in the driver’s seat of the van. It was not comfortable in the slightest.

That was followed by a however-long journey to Santa Fe. We stopped briefly to look at the outside of the UFO museum in Roswell, visit an alien gift shop, and then we stopped again at Wal-Mart for yet more food shopping. The other trek left Sam and Julio in the centre of Roswell, which was nice of them. Bet there are some conflicts there now.

Anyway, we got to Santa Fe and instead of going to our campsite, we had lunch in a park and spent a few hours exploring. Which is all very well, but I needed a shower desperately. So I wore my cowboy hat to make myself slightly more respectable. After lunch, Avery took us on a mile-long walk while trying to find the visitors centre, which was “just across the road”. Yeah right. She also parked in a government employees only car park, and later on kept driving through “DO NOT ENTER” signs. O_O

Anyway… me, Evan and Avery had a look at (apparently) the oldest church in America, which was pretty cool but it was Sunday, so there was a service going on and we weren’t allowed inside.

Most of us went up to the Plaza area, but as soon as we were there, it ended up just being me, Jenni, Toni and Sam. And then we bumped into Evan and he and Toni disappeared into the crowd, too.

So the remaining three musketeers had a look around at some more of the jewellery etc stalls, I bought a necklace for myself, one for mum and a beaded bracelet for Toady… and we went to a Haagen-Dazs ice cream place, where an Asian man took a picture of me. Yeah, I thought that was weird too, but at least he asked………………?

Shortly after that expedition, we were at the weirdest campsite I’ve ever seen. There was no grass, just desert and mostly rocks, trees and shrubs. It was bizzare and really not very comfortable, but hey.

We went straight out again anyway, for a meal at a kind of Mexican restaurant. The food wasn’t amazing, but it was good fun, me, Avery and Holly danced in front of everyone, which was slightly embarrassing but funny. Oh dear.

And then we were all exhausted so we went to bed. Yay. And nowww we have an extra day because of New Orleans, so we’re in Colorado, very exciting!!

“Just kidding, heh heh heh” [Sep. 10th, 2008]
[ currently in | Somewhere in Arizona ]

Yesterday was one of the most amazing days of my life. In the words of Rick (sort of), you may have been to Monument Valley, but have you been driven around by a Navajo Indian in a jeep, visited the house of a 95-year-old woman who is known as the grandmother of the valley, learned some of the language, sat under a massive rock arch playing a wooden recorder and listening to the Navajo sing, eaten dinner made by the Navajos, danced with them around a campfire, slept in a hogan mud hut and then in the morning, see the sun rise over the valley?

Well… we didn’t see the sun rise either because there were clouds. Clouds in Monument Valley! However, we did see a rainbow there yesterday, so that was pretty damn cool. Not many people can say they’ve seen that.

We got there before any other treks for once – and then our tour left almost last. However, we had the most awesome guide you could ever, ever ask for. He constantly made jokes (hence the entry title), had the funniest laugh, and drove really fast everywhere (bearing in mind we were driving down dirt tracks in a jeep). When I said I want to go to a theme park some time soon, that wasn’t what I was expecting at all.

It was incredible, we got so many amazing views, and the other tours didn’t go to the old woman’s house. Susie was awesome, she didn’t speak a word of English, but she was so welcoming and did Sam and Avery’s hair. Most of us also bought jewellery from her, but Stacy beat me to a necklace I wanted and Jenni beat me to a bracelet I wanted, hah. The ironic thing is, I lent both of them the money for them! But I bought a necklace and bracelet pair anyway, for just $10, amazing.

The view from underneath the arch, with the moon above everything, was incredible as well, it scores up there with Manhattan. The whole day was fantastic, even though it rained a bit, and we hadn’t even got into the eveing.

After dinner, which was the best “tacos” ever (but with sort of fried dough instead of tortilla wraps), we sat around the camp fire with three other groups and had an albino Navajo called Harold sing to us while Marvin and another Indian, Jamie, danced in awesome Indian outfits.

Then Katie and a girl from another trek joined them and the fun really started because they would split and grab someone else from the benches, and so on until everyone was dancing, it was brilliant. And I was dancing with Jamie, so that was really cool.

After a while, we had a big showdown with everyone in a circle and one person at a time dancing inside it. Kind of embarrassing, but I had such a good time.

After the dancing, we got pictures with Marvin and Jamie, then had a Q&A session with Harold, which was really interesting. And then we went to bed, hoorah. In our little mud hut. 😀

This morning, we were woken up at 6.30am to see the sunrise, but when we got there, the sky was lighting up and all we could see in the sun’s direction was grey. Urgh, oh well, we had fun being driven around again, it was really nice.

And then we had breakfast and left. 😦 On the way back to the main visitors centre, Marvin picked flowers for some of us, Morning Glory. And then I was chatting to Marvin while some people went to the gift shop, and I complimented his necklace, and he gave me the part hanging from the main necklace. I felt so bad, but it’s so nice, I almost prefer it to all the jewellery I’ve bought haha. [would like to add that this is now one of my most treasured possessions!! You can see it in the picture of me with him at the top of this post.]

Right now, we’re on the way to the Grand Canyon. We’ve already taken an hour-long detour, hahahaha, but the scenery was amazing, and when we got back to where we’d been, we actually saw Marvin again, hah.

I’m ridiculously excited about the helicopter flight this afternoon, yeeeee! And I haven’t even written about Colorado yet.

Homesickness at the Grand Canyon [Sep. 10th, 2008]
[ currently in | Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona ]

Look at me with my two entries in one day.

Colorado was really cool, we went to Mesa Verde National Park and unlike the other groups, stayed actually in the mountains, really awesome.

Colorado’s definitely one of the prettiest states, I loved it. We saw lots of deer and went to Cliff Palace, a cliff dwelling that was occupied by Indians for 110 years and abandoned around 1300AD. It was really interesting, especially because we had an awesome guide called Ranger Jo who stomped her feet a lot. She explained how the rocks will fall one day, but really, it’s because she stomps like a loony.

We went to a few other places like a Sun Temple, where we took a load of awesome pictures and met someone called Ranger S.Long hahaha, then spent the evening around the campfire, sharing sex stories as usual… oh dear.

To be honest, I don’t think there’s anything else to say about that. I got a lie in in the morning, it was amazing. 8.30am wake up, yessss.

Then the Monument Valley stuff went down… and now we’re at the Grand Canyon! It’s amazing, I can’t decide if it’s better than Monument Valley. They’re just incomparable, in leagues of their own.

Our helicopter flight has been changed to the morning because there have been a few thunderstorms on the journey all the way here, I’m just praying that it doesn’t get screwed up by the weather again, because I would actually cry, it’s one of the things I’m most looking forward to on the entire trip.

After a bit of free time (well, Holly, Bec, Evan and Stacy went on a hike), we went to the South Rim to watch the sunset, which was so pretty with all the colours. We drank champagne and ate lots of snacks, and we were ridiculously close to the edge. I was actually scared that someone would fall because we were on a stoney slope down to the edge. Very safe.

Anyway, we actually survived, so it’s all good. Then me, Rick and Bec had to fucking clean up LOADS of shit, and now I feel homesick. I think this is the first time I’ve cried on the trek.

“What happens in Utah… goes on Facebook.” [Sep. 13th, 2008]
[ currently in | Zion Canyon, Utah ]

We did the helicopter flight! It was incredible, there was me, Holly, Jenni, Sam and Michaela in one and Bec, Katie, Evan, Stacy and Toni in the other.

We woke up at something like 6am, packed everything up, Avery drove us to McDonald’s and some guy took us to the heliport place.

The flight was so much fun, taking off was hilarious because the helicopter sort of leans forward and speeds off, so Sam started screaming (after insisting that she wouldn’t). We flew over trees for about ten minutes, then the canyon suddenly appeared out of nowhere, it was fantastic. We flew through and over the rocks for about half an hour before we headed back, but I think only my pictures can describe it, and even then they probably don’t do it justice at all. In fact, no, they wouldn’t.

And then we were off to Lake Powell, hoorah. We stopped at a place, I forget what it’s called. Something like Horseshoe Bend? I don’t know, but it was one of the coolest views ever, a massive, rocky, cliff overlooking a bluey green river, it was beautiful. It was SO hot though, and a bit of a trek, and Avery kindly didn’t warn us so none of us took water. I was literally on the verge of passing out, but luckily Avery appeared with water just before I did, but I was still a bit shaky when we did a shitload of food shopping shortly after.

That was fun, we bought so much that we didn’t have room for it. Ugh. So we spent a while there, and eventually we got to Lake Powell. And so did another trek that we’d never met before, so we all went swimming together. It turned out to be an interesting experience, to say the least, because all the guys in the other group got naked. O_O

It was a lot of fun, though, we just swam around for ages until we were bored, and it was a bit of a hike back up to the car park, but at least I had water that time so it was fine lol.

Then we went to our campsite, about half an hour away, decided to just sleep under a kind of canopy thing so we didn’t bother setting up tents, and pretty much started drinking straight away. Good times.

After dinner, we played a whole load of drinking games, like the fucking game, flip cup (I was awesome at that) and lifeboats, so by the time we got to the barn party with three other treks, we were all pretty drunk already.

It was a really good night, Sam got off with a gay man called Scott, Evan and Bec got together (surprise surprise) and Holly managed to sleep with one of the skinny dip guys.

Of which there were five, and they were mostly dicks. One of them came up to me and was like, “hey, you’re looking gorgeous tonight. I want to be on you.” Best chat up line EVER. I said, “that’s good” and walked away laughing.

Oh my God, and then someone fell over and his flip flop caught my toenail and snapped it up, but not off. Not even kidding, I was FREAKING OUT, totally in tears, and Rick bloody comes over and takes a picture of me. I’m still pretty mad about it, but it’s okay because he said he loves me.

Oh, I forgot the minor detail that we were dressed in white bin bags decorated with bright green, pink and orange duct tape. It was amazing, I had a smiley face with pink on my tits and a green smile across my crotch. Classy lady.

Going to bed was less fun, but we really won’t go into that. [okay, I’m intrigued!]

In the morning, we had a bit of a lie in, but not really, and set off for Zion. It was a pretty cool journey, we were on the edge of some cliffy bits for a while and went through a couple of cool tunnels.

We planned to relax for the whole day, but me and Sam ended up doing a hike to the Emerald Pools, which was pretty cool, but the Lower one was the best and the other two made me late back for cooking, so I felt really bad.

However, some of the views were awesome, like we were surrounded by cliff walls in all directions… and we saw a tarantula. Which was hilarious because I was a bit ahead of Sam and suddenly I heard a blood-curdling scream so I thought she’d fallen off the cliff!! It was quite cool though.

It took a lot longer than we expected though, because the loop trail wasn’t really a loop at all, and we had to go ALL the way back the same way we’d come. By the time we got back, Rick and Bec had pretty much finished cooking. 😦 But to be fair, I’m probably more of a liability than anything lmao.

So it was okay, and after dinner, we did laundry and showered, and me and Sam spoke to a guy from another random trek called Lee Brennan, which I recognised as the name of the singer from 911. Unashamed.

Then we sat around the campfire for a bit before eventually going to bed. This morning, me and Sam didn’t get up until 9am, score. We were going to go on The Narrows hike after going on the internet, but we ended up spending a load of time on it and ran out of time. Well, we probably could have done some of it, but we just sat by the pool with the others instead.

The water was bloody cold, but oh well. And I feel bad because I hadn’t spoken to Mum or Toady for three weeks, and apparently Mum phoned Trek America asking if I was safe (because of the hurricane, mostly) and they said they had never heard of me so she was freaking out. Whoops!!

But it’s all good. I also finally sent some postcards, yay. Right now, Holly’s bra is sitting in front of me and it’s reminded me that Nathan had it over his eyes for the journey yesterday. It was amusing.

Julio from Emily’s trek is playing guitar across from me and I’ve just been talking to Sam from that trek. And… I think I’m done.

What happens in Vegas… well. [Sep. 16th, 2008|01:00 pm]
[ currently in | Las Vegas, NV -> Los Angeles, CA ]

It’s the last day of the trek, I really can’t believe it. As usual, I’m writing this in the van, except this time it’s our last journey together, ever. No more singing Don’t Stop Believing!

L.A. is 278 miles away, so it’s going to take a while. I’m also excited because I’m meeting up with Preston tomorrow, or even today. I need to phone him.

Vegas was pretty damn… awesome. Our first night was interesting to say the least, we were supposed to do a limo tour, but we ended up doing it in a party bus with a pole and Emily’s trek instead.

Unfortunately, I was very, very drunk and probably fortunately, I don’t really remember anything.

I do remember pole dancing a couple of times, and I remember sitting on Julio, and I vaguely remember being at the famous Vegas sign, and that I was annoyed that the C in ‘WELCOME’ wasn’t lit up. I’m kind of pissed off that I don’t remember more.

Then we got off the party bus and I really needed the toilet so I disappeared into a casino and got lost, and I remember Holly was helping me and then she lost me. Fun times, I’m just glad I found everyone again because I was far too drunk to look after myself and I knew it.

We all went to Margharitaville, but I think we kept getting lost because we were walking forever, and then most people left a bunch of us behind so Nathan was trying to get us there. At one point, Evan said his lips tasted of strawberry, so I licked them?! As you do.

There was a band playing in there, I think they played Lit – My Own Worst Enemy, but maybe I’m imagining that. They were pretty good anyway, but then I was drunk.

After that, a few people left, and the rest of us went to New York New York, but that didn’t last long because you pretty much had to be 21. So I ended up going back to the hotel with Kate, Stacy and Kim. Then I woke up with a purple beaded necklace on, I think Laura gave it to me?

And I felt like I’d probably pissed of Julio because I kept apologising to him for being a drunken idiot… while still acting like one.

For some reason, Jenni and Sam got up at 8am. We went to the Luxor Hotel for breakfast before making our way up the Strip.

I can’t remember what was in Excalibur, but we went to see the lions in MGM Grand, spent ages in New York New York, went on the awesome rollercoaster… then Sam got ripped off, paying $80 for two t shirts. That was annoying, but oh well. We ended up shopping for AGES in Caesers Palace – mostly Jenni’s fault, hahaha.

We also went to the Paris hotel, which had awesome bathrooms, The Mirage, where we would have to pay to see some dolphins so we didn’t bother, and then we spent a few hours in The Venetian because Sam had completely run out of money and had to make some emergency phone calls. So that was an experience.

We ended up not having time to go to the Stratosphere, and the whole thing was a bit of a nightmare, but we did get to see Treasure Island. I can’t even describe it, I have never seen anything quite like it. It was… ridiculous.

After that, we were pretty exhausted so we just got a taxi back to Alexis Park, where we didn’t sleep for about two hours anyway. Sam and I chatted for a while and then I spent an hour trying to get a drink. First, who should happen to be staying right next to the machine and also happened to be going into his room right at that moment but Julio. I apologised (yet again), he laughed and said it was fine, then invited me into his room where nothing dodgy happened.

We just chatted about our day, he played guitar (as usual) and then he kicked me out so he could go to bed, lol.

So attempt number two… the machine didn’t accept dollar bills, so I went to another machine where it was the same AND it didn’t have Dr. Pepper anyway. Eventually, a million hours later, I got some, woo hoo.

And then I went to sleep. But not before one of the biggest laughing fits ever, it was ridiculous. I have no idea what I was laughing at, either.

This morning, Avery went to a bank before we left and spent AGES there, so we all went into Evan and Stacy’s room to watch shit TV and Jerry Springer. Legendary.

And now we’re on the way to L.A., we stopped to go on an amazing rollercoaster but it was shut. Typical.

I can’t believe it’s the last day. :-(!

It’s all coming to an end… [Sep. 18th, 2008]
[ currently in | New York City, NY ]

I thought L.A. was supposed to be nice and glamorous and swanky and cool. Well apparently it’s not. I was pretty disappointed with it, really, most of it seemed very sketch and the few parts that weren’t (Hollywood, Beverly Hills, maybe Santa Monica) still weren’t that great.

We got to El Segundo at about 6pm, unloaded all our crap, which took quite a while, and bumped into Sam and Julio in the hotel, but they weren’t staying there so I didn’t get to say goodbye. 😦

My room was alright, but I didn’t have a balcony whereas the boys’ and Sam/Michaela/Toni’s did. Hmph! Not that it mattered because I spent most of the time in theirs anyway.

That night was cool, we all went out for a meal as our last ever night together, and Preston met up with us as well, which was really awesome. It turns out he pretty much did our trek in one week instead of three, without the national parks, so that was quite funny.

When we got back to the hotel, we all sat in the lobby and made little speeches about how we enjoyed the trek, it could have got quite emotional but I don’t think we wanted it to.

Most of us went up to the boys’ room and watched Chuck Norris Texas Ranger, which was pretty amusing until everyone fell asleep, so I left to try and find Holly as she was supposed to be crashing in my room.

It all got a bit confusing, I eventually found her but she had lost her bag, so she disappeared again, I fell asleep and she ended up sleeping in the boys’ room instead. Ah well.

We did a city bus tour in the morning, we being me, Jenni, Sam, Bec, Michaela, Kate, Holly and Nathan. It was pretty good, but not amazing and probably not worth $60. We went through a lot of posh parts of L.A., which was cool, and we stopped at Venice Beach, where me, Kate, Holly, Bec and Michaela did a Baywatch re-enactment… it was also a really dodgy area, quite run down with a man singing “help me to get drunk”. So subtle like the other fake homeless people then.

The next stop was… I can’t even remember, it’s where the Pretty Woman hotel was, and there was a weird “Ambassador of L.A.”, God knows if he was genuine but I suspect not. It was a pretty area though, lots of palm trees in the middle of the road, and lots of expensive shops.

Then we stopped for lunch at a farmers market place, which was nice, I bought some souvenirs.

And then we were off to Hollywood, very exciting. Except the sign was so far away, it was disappointing. I couldn’t get a picture of myself with it, and Holly went to extremes by taking a picture of her driving licence next to it, haha.

The Walk Of Fame was pretty cool though, Godzilla has a star, hahaha. And there are footprints of R2D2 and Darth Vader, that was cool. But to be honest, it really wasn’t that exciting.

We bumped into Susie, Kim and Mary so that was cool, and we went to a Hot Topic store, yays. [at age 29, I still get excited by Hot Topic, I’m afraid!!!]

“On the way” back to the hotel, we stopped at Universal Studios to drop some people off there, and we got to hang out there for about 20 minutes… obviously not inside the theme park but it was still cool.

So we eventually got back to the hotel to get ready for the beach, and Evan, Stacy, Toni and Rick were still there, so I’m not sure why me and Holly bothered going with everyone.

So we all got to Santa Monica at like 3.30pm and then everyone decided to meet at the beach after some internet and shopping time… so after getting a taxi all the way there to have a couple of extra hours everyone, me and Holly had to say goodbye to half of them as soon as we got there. 😦 That was really sad, especially because I don’t know if I’ll see Evan or Stacy again.

Nathan and Jenni both left at the hotel as well, so that was sad too. So me, Holly, Michaela, Bec and Kate went into one shop before me and Holly had to say goodbye to everyone and get a $55 taxi back to the hotel again. Turns out we could have stayed for a bit longer, but either way, it wasn’t really worth it! Oh well, hah.

We saw Laura at the hotel, so the three of us went to Ralphs to get some sweets, hoorah. Then Avery met us with my monster hoodie (YAY!!!) and we said goodbye to her… all these goodbyes get quite sad. 😦

And then it was off to the airport. Me and Holly turned out to be on the same flight after all, so that was a relief, but we were sitting quite far apart which kind of sucked, but at least it was overnight.

It was the most awesome flight ever, actually, or it would have been if I had worked out where the handset was. It was a brand new Virgin plane with really nice seats and a new entertainment system with not only movies (although you had to pay for those, ugh), but loads of music videos, albums, games, a chat with other passengers (!!! why couldn’t I find the handset for that!), live TV channels and GOOGLE MAPS.

Fuck yes. If I hadn’t been so tired, I would have spent the entire journey looking at that instead of sleeping. Oh, AND it had the option to order food and drink on it, amazing. It’s like room service.

Anyway, I woke up feeling dead, just as we landed in J.F.K. Holly also felt dead because she hadn’t slept, not good!

We had no idea what to do and spent ages lugging our baggage around wondering what to do with it all. Eventually, we found the baggage storage and now here we are, sitting outside the main post office in New York City, both writing in our journals.

It took ages to get here though, we waited forever for the bus to come, then slept on it. We’ve been to Grand Central, Maccy D’s (ugh, calories), a couple of shops and Starbucks, and we both feel like tramps. Very sleepy tramps. Good times.

Done. Finito. End. [Sep. 19th, 2008]
[ currently in | On a train to Uckfield ]

It’s all officially over. I’m back in the UK and it’s sunk in, but I don’t think it’s sunk in that the trip has actually finished. I might never see Evan or Stacy again, I’m sure I’ll see the others though. [Ironically, apart from Sam & Jenni who became very good friends, I’ve only met up with two others… and one of them was Evan in Australia!]

I got a bit confused with the underground etc, but I did surprisingly well considering I’m on about one hour’s sleep, and about four in the past two days… and then I was wondering how much something from Burger King would be with tax… yeah. Oh dear.

I’m going to be so depressed about how expensive everything is in the UK, especially petrol, argh. The last leg of the journey was pretty good, Holly and I made our way back to the airport, which is 30 stops away from Port Authority on the subway, it’s insane. Then we JUST managed to get seats together on the plane, but then one of her friends from camp appeared out of nowhere and she couldn’t sit with us. 😦

She was cool though, the three of us hung out for a couple of hours, then waited in a ridiculously long line for security, woo hoo. Eventually, we were on the plane, ready to go… I watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which was way better than I expected, but I didn’t think the ending was that great.

And now I feel so exhausted, but the train’s about to pull into Uckfield, eeee!

monument valley, "we made the brochure!" photo, trek america
I travelled on the Southern Sun tour with TrekAmerica and as you might have guessed from this post – it was AMAZING! Although I don’t normally travel with tours, it was the perfect way to see the USA as a solo teenage traveller (although I’m sure it would have been even better if I was over 21!).

Apologies for the terrible diary writing, but I really enjoyed reading this back! It’s brought back so many memories.

Related: #tbt Summer 2008: Living The American Dream

Do you ever keep travel journals? Have you ever read through them years later?!


9 thoughts on “Ten Years On: My Travel Diary From Trek America!

  1. Oh that’s too funny! We also went on a Trek America holiday (back in ’99) but just did the southwest tour. You partied way more than we did 😉 we were a pretty boring lot and we fell out big time with our tour guide who wasn’t used to the understated British approach to things. We had a similar Navajo tour, complete with the old woman and the wooden flute under the arch… Fortunately we did get to see sunrise – it was pretty cool, but our camera didn’t do it justice. Great fun though – thoroughly enjoyed it!

    And I can’t believe you stayed at the Cherry Hill campground – when we first moved to Maryland we lived in an apartment complex just a bit further down Cherry Hill Road from there 🙂 I agree with you about the Korean war memorial…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha, reading this back I was thinking “apparently we drank a lot!” but in reality we were a bunch of young whippersnappers (great word) who probably only had a couple of drinks each time! I’m about to embark on another US road trip and I bet you I’ll drink more but it’ll be a total non-event! Haha!

      That Navajo tour was just incredible, although interestingly I researched it for this trip and there was more about the old lady, so I wonder if that’s just a tourist ploy. The rest of it was absolutely amazing though. Really worth doing.

      Ha, how funny about Cherry Hill! What are the chances. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, looking back I wonder how much of it was staged for tourists (we went horse riding and slept in a teepee near Mexican Hat), but it was still great fun and I’m really glad we did it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I am just coming back to this comment because we did another tour of Monument Valley yesterday. Our guide pointed out Susie’s house, where we would have both gone last time, and I said “is that the grandmother of the valley?” She said yes and told us that she died 4 or 5 years ago at the ripe old age of 106! So she would have been about 90 when I visited, and 80 when you did. Amazing, huh?! I feel bad for speculating otherwise now.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Well it’s easy to be cynical about such things (especially in the US) but it definitely makes the original visit a bit more special to know that you met someone who was a real connection to an original way of life. That’s one of the things I like about living here, that connection with the history of the people – in Britain we have all the ancient buildings and monuments (which I do miss) but not the people.


  2. I love looking back at old travel diaries. It’s strange what you forget and what you remember – usually the opposite to what would have expected at the time! I’d like to do a road trip across the States one day, but I only want to do it with my own vehicle (when I was in my early 20s I would have loved a tour like this, but not any more!). How are you planning to do your next road trip?


    1. Haha I know, there are some really funny things that I remembered before reading this, and then some bigger things that I’d totally forgotten. There’s one bit where I’ve added that I have no idea what it’s about, and my friend Jenni actually messaged me and said “I don’t remember this?!” and I’m like “me neither!!?!” so I guess we’ll never know! lol

      We are hiring a car for a few weeks and we’ll hopefully sleep in it a lot, or hostels/hotels in cities, or with family in Canada, and we’ve got a tent for national parks where you’re not allowed to sleep in the car, too! Should be really fun!


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