I took this trip a few months ago but only got as far as writing notes for this review as my blog was sort of losing its way a little. I then decided that I would write about all the places I visited in separate posts and then do a review at the end of that, but then I thought that I didn’t want the year to end without reviewing this amazing trip so I’m doing it now (before I start the separate posts about each place I visited). You with me? Good! So, without further ado, here’s my review of the Westerner 2 BLT tour by Trek America:
I’m not really sure where to begin with this review as I found every moment of this two week trip to be wonderful, (and one blog post will not do it justice), so maybe I should begin by giving a little bit of info about the specifics of the Westerner 2 BLT tour? It began in LA where I had chosen to stay in Trek America’s Los Angeles gateway hotel, The Custom Hotel. From there we drove so many miles in a minivan but it didn’t seem that many miles because of all the amazing places we got to see. We drove from LA to San Diego, and then to Laughlin, Nevada (which we nicknamed ‘budget Vegas’), via Salvation mountain- a lovely mountain dedicated to God in the Californian desert that I wouldn’t even know existed if it wasn’t for this tour, and Route 66. Then we drove to the Grand Canyon, then to Vegas, and then swapped the bright lights of Vegas for the tranquility of Yosemite National Park. After Yosemite it was onto San Francisco- where we began with a walk across the Golden gate bridge. We then got to experience the stunning Californian coastline, Big Sur, McWay Canyon, Monterey, and San Luis Obispo (including its weird, disgusting, but must-see bubblegum alley), and Santa Barbara (via a vineyard and a lovely little Danish village called Solvang). Finally it was back to where it all began-Los Angeles- where I had to say some of the hardest goodbyes I’ve ever had to say.
I booked this tour during the summer sale so I bagged myself a lovely £300ish off, which made it only around £23 more than the same trip that involved camping instead of hotels. Bargain! Trek America are always offering discounts so it wasn’t difficult to do, but it meant I was getting an even better deal for my money than I would have had I paid full price. The tour involved a lot of driving in a cosy little van (cosy means small. I’d make a brill estate agent using code like that), but it didn’t feel like a lot because we made stops at lots of awesome places. Some of the stops were spontaneous such as when we took a nice little detour to the original route 66 sign, and we stopped to see the Hoover Dam (my A-level teacher would have been so proud of that one). The tour was also so stress-free as all we had to do was get in the van, get out again at the next stop, and decide what we wanted to explore on our guide’s days off. It’s the perfect way to have a holiday without the stress of organising every last detail.
The majority of tours Trek America do are camping ones but mine was a budget lodging tour (BLT), which was a mix of hotels and hostels, so naturally we all thought it would be hostels, but we were wrong; most of the places we stayed were actually hotels. Now, I don’t know about you but when I think of budget hotels I think of a broken lamp and a disappointing lack of miniature toiletries in the bathroom, but I was pleasantly surprised with the places we stayed at. I think this has a lot to do with the difference between what we consider budget and what Americans consider budget, but it goes to show Trek actually care; if they can get a hotel for a similar price as a hostel they’ll give you comfort. I mean, the place we stayed in Yosemite (Yosemite Bug) resembled a summer camp with the addition of a spa and memory foam mattresses, and the hotel in Vegas (the golden nugget) had a shark tank in the middle of the pool AND there was a waterslide going through the tank (an enclosed one, obv. We weren’t staying in Panem!). The only complaint I would have about the accommodation is that we stayed in a really dodgy area in San Francisco that even our cab driver said he wouldn’t go anywhere near (the doormen on the door of the hotel from around midday might give you some indication of the type of place it was).
I think what really made this trip though were the people I met along the way. For starters, Lillain (Lily) our tour guide, although not the perfect guide, was a lovely person and very knowledgeable about the places we saw. Although we all agreed we would have liked a bit more enthusiasm from her (especially about LA which she seemed to really dislike) she did make a lot of effort (even when she got ill in the second week), she took time to get to know us and we got to know her, she got up early on her day off to make sure we saw the sunrise over the grand canyon, and she even looked after me when I got ill in Vegas (*ahem*). I don’t even know what to say about the rest of the people on the tour. Never have I ever felt this included in a group of people before. There were eight of us who formed a great friendship and did practically everything together; we laughed together, spent far too long taking photos, chatting about anything and everything, and even shared a bowl of weird garlic ice-cream at a strange but wonderful garlic themed restaurant in San Fran. Two of the group were from Germany and one was from New Zealand so, not only have TA provided me with memories that’ll stay with me forever, but they’ve given me friends from across the world.
During these two weeks I was pushed to my limits & found out I had the strength to do things I would never have considered before (trekking five miles down into the Grand Canyon and back again, and a 9 mile trek into the Yosemite Valley are two that spring to mind), and I’ve seen some absolutely incredible places that I never, ever thought I would get to see with my own eyes and not through a screen. I was accepted into a group of strangers who I now consider friends and who I’ve shared these amazing experiences with, I fully let myself go and enjoyed myself in ways I never thought I would, thrown myself far out of my comfort zone, and gained bags of confidence (not to mention wonderful memories that will last a lifetime) along the way. Thank you, Trek America. This won’t be the last you see of me!