“I’m going to travel the world” five tiny insignificant words that meant nothing to anyone but me. When I touched down in Manchester airport the cold was bitter and the rain poured. I’m yet to arrive at Manchester airport without the heavens being open. I recall feeling the warmth of being back home but I also remember a heavy sense of realisation. My view of the world was now so very different from what it had been before I’d left for a USA adventure tour three weeks earlier.
My wanderlust was ignited back in 2015 when I took a solo trip to the USA with Trek America Tours. In this post, I’m reflecting on the very start of my relationship with travel and how I found my love for travel on a tour of the United States. This trip came packed with airport ‘disasters’, an overwhelming sense of fear and a huge bout of self-discovery.
How I ended up Finding My Love for Travel on a USA Adventure Tour
2015 was a year full of milestones. It was the year I graduated from university with a first class honours, in Paediatric nursing. I was about to be thrown into the adult world with a real pay-check and real-life responsibilities. It was the year I passed my driving test and it would also be the year that I’d take my first ever solo travel trip finding a love for travel that would stay forever. If you had asked me at the beginning of 2015 if I’d be going on a Trek America Tour then I’d have laughed in your face. I definitely did not see myself solo travelling or travelling with people I don’t know at any point, let alone just weeks after starting a new job. That’s right, in 2015 I started my first nursing job. I went to work for two weeks before taking my first bout of annual leave to travel the West Coast of America.
But I had travelled before 2015. I had always had a passion for travel or back then I’d refer to them as ‘holidays’ or ‘vacations’ to you Americans amongst us.
Travel Growing Up
I’ve been lucky enough to have international travel in my life ever since I was a little girl. My mother isn’t a camper and who can blame her? The English summer often graces us with unexpected days of rain and a cloud of uncertainty not knowing when or if the sun will shine. Since I was as young as I can remember we always took holidays to the Mediterranean, Europe, America and I was so so lucky to be able to visit Disneyland Florida twice. I honestly believe that being exposed to travel from such a young age planted the wanderlust seed early when it came to finding my own love for travel. As a family, we were always planning the next holiday in search of a week in the sun and a new adventure.
Side Note – Travel Sickness
The only bad memory of travel I have is getting motion sickness on the plane!! Which by the way, so many people say ‘it’s in your head’ but I remember puking violently on many a plane journey when I was as young as five. I have no idea how you can have it in your head at five years old. But anyway let’s not get off topic!
So as I grew up, left home and started to find my own place in the world I knew I wanted to travel. I’d been so used to going on all inclusive holidays relaxing in a villa or hotel with a pool. And as I started University I, of course, I then discovered the ‘party travel’ lifestyle. My girlfriends and I took holidays to the likes of Malia and Ibiza and we had a blast. But in 2015 as I came to the end of university life something hit me inside. I wanted to travel and discover new places and really explore. Not just jet off to a sunnier country and get a good tan. There was this huge feeling inside my heart to explore the world and culture. I don’t know if it was inspiration on the web that inspired the travel urge within or something else entirely.
All I knew was that I wanted to travel so I decided that was what I was going to do.
Booking My Trip to America
Sometimes I’ll admit when I get an idea in my head I’m like a dog with a bone, I won’t drop it. In my head and heart by March 2015, I’d already decided that I was going to go travelling somewhere that year. Travelling solo hadn’t even crossed my mind so I remember speaking to one of my closest friends about going on a trip somewhere. Of course, we were still at university at this point with no money and no real ‘plans’ for when we graduate. By that, I meant we hadn’t got jobs yet. I guess we were in no real position to be booking trips here there and everywhere. But something told me to keep going so I did. I booked myself on a USA adventure tour with Trek America to the West Coast of America for September 2015.
Little did I know that this would be the trip to ignite my true wanderlust and have me falling head over in heels in love with travelling.
Finding My Love for Travel on the Westerner 2 Trek America Tour didn’t take long. It was an experience so far from my comfort zone. Firstly, I’d never travelled anywhere alone in my life. Now I know what some people are thinking. You can’t class group tours as ‘solo travel’. Codswallop in opinion. As someone who hadn’t ever left the country alone let alone successful make a connecting flight, I truly think that going on a group travel tour classes as a solo trip. Especially when only you and one other girl on that USA adventure tour are by themselves.
From the moment I arrived at the airport, I was struck down by excitement and a whole lot of fear that left me it in total fluster until I touched down on American soil.
‘What Have You Done?’
So that was it. My USA adventure tour with Trek America was booked. As the departure day loomed I hadn’t given a second thought. I’d spent all my time googling the destinations covered on the tour and stalking other people online using the hashtag #trekamericatour. It wasn’t until I stood in the airport, by myself, that I realised this was really happening. The take-off from Manchester was sweet but I wasn’t ever worried about that part. The most daunting part about flying solo to me was the connection. I don’t think I’d ever experienced catching a connecting flight even with my parents. So this was going to be a whole new experience altogether and it certainly was.
Conquering the Flight
The first flight was incredible. If this was what it meant to travel then I was totally up for the travelling lifestyle. I flew with Delta and just remember the amount of food that I got fed! Being a total rookie on the flight I noticed people ordering drinks left right and centre, and not paying for them. I had no idea that these were included in the flight so after a while I plucked up the courage and asked. Well after that there was no stopping me – give me all the diet coke! I know it may seem boring to those who like a vino during the flight – not good for the sickness! And I still had to navigate my way through JFK to my connecting flight.
Conquering the Connection
My flight connected in JFK, New York. Anyone that’s done a connecting flight via NY (it may be like this all over the states) will know that you have to collect your bags and re-check in. I’d kind of got my head around that. Until I saw the queuing time of three hours above my head as I approached the security desk. Knowing that my connecting flight was in just over one. I went into sheer panic mode. My first thought was to call my mum and ask her what to do! Luckily I could hear other backpackers chatting about the same problem.
I was mesmerised by this group of backpackers, who had obviously travelled before, so confidently waltz to the front of the queue and simply show their ticket. It was very kind of them to take me along with them. I remember analysing each traveller in the group. Two boys and a girl. One boy with long blonde hair who looked like my stereotypical backpacker that I had conjured in my head. The other couldn’t have been more different, bad boy looking wearing a snapback and grey tracksuit bottoms. And the girl was so beautiful. Her long blonde hair flowed down her back, a perfect tan and a smile so wide when she told me the story of how they’d all met on a trip to Thailand the year before. I was amazed that people led these kinds of lives. And here I was taking, what I didn’t know, would be the first of many similar adventures.
It didn’t quite end there. I made it through security and saw my lone backpack thrown to the side of the luggage carousel. I threw it onto my back (I saw threw, more like a struggled to get it on my bag for good 30 seconds) and headed to check-in for my next flight. I must say I was a little flustered at this point. So flustered that when I checked the screen for my gate number I saw my flight and read ‘Boarding Now’. I have literally never run so fast in my life only to arrive at the gate to realise it wasn’t my flight at all. There was one digit different in the flight number. I think at this point I threw my head into my hands laughing realising that I probably should’ve checked the time before sprinting the length of JFK at the speed of light.
Conquering the Transfer
The turmoil in the airport wasn’t the only ‘what have I done’ moment at the start of my USA adventure tour with Trek America. Nope, as I landed in my final destination of Los Angeles, picked up my bag and read the instructions to get my transfer I felt a huge bout of overwhelm. I was in a foreign country and knew nobody. I was about to be thrusted in with a group of people I had never met to travel the West Coast of America for three weeks. What the hell happens if nobody gets along? If people are ‘boring’? If nobody wants to participate in activities blah blah blah.
It had been over 14 hours since I left the UK and my mind was in overdrive. Luckily I managed to find my transfer and arrive at the hotel pretty easily. I was definitely ready for a shower and bed.
And The Rest is History
The stress at the airport was the last bit of stress that I would feel during this whole trip to the USA.
I was suddenly surrounded by a group of people who amazed me. I’m from a small village and in that village, not all but a lot, go to school, get a job, get married, have kids etc and never explore the world. Don’t get me wrong here, there is nothing wrong with doing that if it’s what you want, but I knew there was a bigger world out there for me and I knew I wanted more than what that tiny village could offer. The people that I met on this tour were some that I would admire for years to come. Our USA adventure tour leader had travelled the whole of the states, been married in Japan and divorced all before thirty. We had people who were travelling with no idea where they’d be this time next year. I was honestly captivated by each and every person.
This tour found me capitulated out of my comfort zone and it was on this trip that I really found myself and purpose. Despite being the youngest on the tour I was definitely one of the most vocal (sorry not sorry) and tried to bring people together which is the kind of person I am and have always been. But over the years at university, I had somewhat lost my confidence. The need to feel wanted and loved defined me and my years at university. During this trip, I realised just how okay I was on my own. I didn’t need anyone but myself. I had travelled so far from home, with people I had never met in a country I had never been.
Some people cringe when they hear someone say I found myself through travel. Once upon a time, I would’ve too but I honestly felt like I found a new sense of self during my time in America. I found friendships, not just with people but destinations. I felt happiness in my bones as I hiked the Grand Canyon that I’d never felt before. I spent a night out on the Las Vegas strip, in a party bus feeling free, alive and like I could conquer the world. I sat and cheered at a baseball game that I didn’t understand like a hardcore fan. Ate corndogs in San Francisco, Hiked Yosemite and laughed until my face hurt.
Side Note – Travel Sickness Update
I also conquered some of my motion sickness. Somehow I sat at the back of the van for most of the journey without feeling sick – I have no idea what the trick was, maybe true happiness or relaxation?
Exploring the West Coast of America with Trek America opened my heart to the world. I had merely scratched the surface of travel but I came home a totally different person. When I touched down at Manchester Airport I knew that I had to see the world. I didn’t know how I didn’t know when but I knew there was so much more out there to explore.
And my urge to see the world hasn’t stopped since. It’s now almost 4 years since this adventure tour of the USA and my first real travelling experience. It’s one I will never forget and be eternally grateful for. In the past four years, I saved hard and found myself on the other side of the world in Australia and as I type this on the 21st of June 2019 I’m about to leave the land down under in exchange for New Zealand. I’m slowly feeding my wanderlust and I don’t think my relationship with travel will ever end.
What Ignited your Wanderlust?
If you’re still here at the end of this post then I want to know, what ignited your wanderlust? Was a certain trip? The need to be free? Knowing that the world is there to be explored? I would love to hear your own experiences of falling in love with travel and if you have a blog post about it leave me the link!
Never stop exploring
For there is no time to be bored
In a world so beautiful as this
These are all my own photographs (yes I was no photographer back in 2015) but I haven’t shared any of the group as not everyone gave permission to feature on the blog!