Tales from a Trekker: Going big on the Grand Trek

  • Trek America Grand Trek

Fancy taking in 24 states in one epic round trip of the USA? Then the Grand Trek's for you! We spoke to Trekker Jess Jaime, who gave us the lowdown on her experience on this epic road trip! 

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It had always been my dream to travel around the USA.

I don't know how or where this desire started, but I feel like deep down, everyone has this curiosity about the great USA.

After finding TrekAmerica and leafing through their brochure, my heart was set. I had to do this. If I didn't do it now, I might never have the time or the chance again.

Picking the perfect trip was hard. There were so many choose from and they all sounded equally as good as each other. After much deliberation I settled with the Grand Trek, which is made up of two smaller treks and lasts for a total of 43 days.

If I was going to do America .. I was going to DO America. No expense spared. So I booked my trip in October, ready for July the following summer.

During the months and weeks leading up to my trek I was uncontrollably excited. Any spare minute I had I was reading through blog posts or watching YouTube videos from previous trekkers. I'd even perfected my packing list (or at least thought I had, turns out I didn't need two phone cases, or several pots of nail varnish whilst travelling .. who would have thought). My dream was finally going to come to life.

It was only when I was on my way to the hotel in New York - oh hello NYC, nice to finally meet you - that I started to panic. I was going to spend the next two months travelling across America .. with complete and utter strangers. Yikes.

I mean sure, they weren't 100% strangers. We'd all found each other on the Trek Community and subsequently added each other on Facebook. I'd even given everyone background check by sifting through their Instagram beforehand (for safety obv). But I was still nervous. What if they didn't like me? Or worse, what if I didn't like them? What if I'm left out completely? What if two months is too long?

And on top of that I was going to be camping. Yep, you heard that right - camping. When I first read that we'd be sleeping in tents for most nights I almost slammed the brochure shut and ran for the hills. My experience of camping as a child was being damp and cold all the time. And having absolutely no power. How was I going to cope?

The night before our trek was meant to start we all met downstairs in the lobby and it was apparent that we were all just as nervous as each other. We sat in a circle, all 13 of us, sipping drinks and fiddling with our phones anxiously. And then we started talking. I found out that around half of our group had booked onto this trip as a solo travelers.

The few of our group that knew each other already had all met on a previous trek and had decided to come back a few years later and try out another one. They told us a little about what to expect, reassured us about camping and that yes, there will definitely be somewhere to charge my phone whilst on the road (a priority...obviously). And I went to bed that night feeling a lot more at ease than I had been earlier.

The first day of the trek started at 7am, bright and early, back down in the lobby. Our leader introduced himself, dished out our itinerary, ran through a few important details and in less than an hour we were all sat, ready to go inside 'Abrah-van Lincoln'. Uh huh. Of course the van had a nickname. TrekAmerica takes this stuff seriously.

Our leader also had a mantra he would yell every time we got into the van too -"knucks for bucks" - to remind us to buckle up .. and obviously, we would all yell it back. And it was the small memories like this that made the trip what it was.

To speed up the getting to know each other process, we even came up with a little game to get to know each other called "15 minutes of fame", which we played whilst sat around the camp fire in the evenings. The rules were simple; everyone in the group was allowed to shoot whatever question the wanted at you, until your 15 minutes was up. This - as you can imagine - got absolutely hilarious as time went on and we became more comfortable with each other. Questions like "what's your favourite colour?" were quickly replaced by "snog, marry, avoid?" or "when was your first kiss?". So yeah. No dirty little secret was safe in this game!

By day four of the trip I had already built my tent several times, cooked dinner for the entire group, been DJ whilst riding shotgun in the van, had my first s'more .. and drank a few too many Straw-ber-ritas whilst in Chicago. And accidentally fallen asleep with my head on someone's shoulder whilst in the van. Oops.

Looking back, I can't even pinpoint my absolute favourite moment, there's too many to choose from; like getting to fly over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter, or managing to hike to the top of Angel's Landing (which I still have no idea how I managed). Having an insane night out in New Orleans accompanied by the infamous grenades, walking the Golden Gate bridge, eating my first In-N-Out burger and not being able to finish my iHop pancakes.

Or even collecting 'Junior Ranger' badges whilst exploring the national parks. And like I said earlier, the small things, like spending the evening playing flip-cup, or sitting around the fire toasting marshmallows and sharing stories. My trip with TrekAmerica is definitely something I'm never going to forget.

Trek America Grand Trek

By the time it got around to saying goodbye, I couldn't stop my eyes from spilling a few tears. It was heartbreaking to have such an incredible experience come to an end, and I don't know what was worse - having finished my American road trip, or having to say goodbye to the people I had met along the way. I'm leaning towards the latter.

I got to experience the most incredible moments of my life with these people, and that's not something you move on quickly from. Just over a month after our trek finished, we all decided to meet up again, this time on more familiar ground back in the UK. As soon as we saw each other we picked up exactly where we had left off, jokingly saying "knucks for bucks" as we climbed into each others cars, rolling our eyes and laughing at the homage to our summer.

We're already planning our next weekend away together.

So, if you're thinking of doing a TrekAmerica trip, even if you're just toying with the idea slightly - please PLEASE - do it. I promise you won't regret it.

I didn't.

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For more of Jess' adventures on the Grand Trek, check out her awesome blog!

Check out the Grand Trek

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