I always knew that writing this post would never do my adventure any justice.
The pictures would never show quite how OH MY EFFING GOD, THAT VIEW *insert all the heart emojis* a view could be, that the vlogs wouldn’t show the tight friendships and silly ‘in’ jokes that formed in quite the heart warming, stay-with-me-for-life light that they deserved, that my words wouldn’t quite be able to explain the journey that I’d been on.
First of all, my two weeks on the other side of the world with Trek America was not a holiday. Anyone who’s ever done a trip with Trek knows that the time you spend away isn’t so much a vay-cay, but a life changing experience, a journey, something that alters you, as a person.
It’s not Instagram-worthy cocktails whilst you listen to Beyonce on your iPhone and let the sun carress you golden brown as you nap in your new Primark bikini. Nor is it about whacking on your false lashes and new Missguided playsuit for a night of wine and overly priced steak and chips before hitting a bar and taking stupid peace sign selfies with your gal pals.
Trek America is about pushing yourself. About doing all the things you’d never think yourself capable of. Of amazing yourself every day, of realising how damn incredible you are. It’s about allowing yourself to confront your fears, and allowing yourself to see how good you are, how strong, how brave, how worthy you are.
Whilst getting to tick a few more States off your bucket list obvs. Because why not.
I’ll be honest, as I swanned off to Gatwick airport a couple of weeks ago, I was totally unprepared for what awaited me. I had hopes of pulled pork and mac ‘n’ cheese. Dreams of wonderful drugstore buys and days spent just admiring my tan whilst I posed in one of the 12 (FOR REAL, WTF) dresses that I’d packed with me.
I was wary about the strangers I was travelling with. The 9 other internet ‘personalities’. I was scared that they would have these unbreakable egos, that I would ring Chris crying and telling him that they were being mean to me, like a 7-year-old away at Brownie Camp. Bless.
But these people have become some of my closest friends. These are people that have watched my wee in the desert and get it down my leg, seen me cry because I JUST WANT IT TO STOP RAINING, watched me wear the same jumper for a hike that I slept in the night before (and the night before that and the one before that), deleriously sing all the lyrics to Wannabe with me in a minibus, and pep talked me up a mountain. These people are everything.
I left on Saturday 16th (to stay at a friend’s flat close to Gatwick the night before) and spoke to Corrie from DizzyBrunette3 approximately every 3 minutes before I left the house. She told me that every time she kept looking at her dog she’d start crying, and then we made a pact that anytime we felt teary, we’d hide away from the film crew together and have a little sob. That we’d never be alone.
(Oh yeah, we had a film crew follow us around the entire time and it made us feel a *bit* like we were on Geordie Shore or summin – you can watch those videos here.)
So, on the 17th May, we jetted into the skies for an 11-hour flight to Las Vegas with a belly full of Pret and nerves.
I watched Interstellar, ate some weird calzone thing and picked off all my nail varnish because standard Hannah.
We spent the first night in the Golden Nugget hotel which is a budget hotel located on the old strip Fremont Street. IT HAD A FRICKING SHARK POOL. And a see-through water flume that shot you through the tank and into a different pool, not infested by dangerous water creatures.
We had a few hours to chill before experiencing a traditional Vegas buffet (a lot of fried chicken and pizza and happiness) and getting our itinarary for the next 10 days.
So what did we actually do?
Well, after an early night for most of us because ain’t nobody got time for jet lag, we headed off towards Zion National Park in Utah. We travelled in a mini bus along with our tour guides and had a snack box (all cars should definitely have snack boxes from here on out) and a trailer attached with all our luggage, tents and camping stuff.
Now, and maybe this is really searingly obvious to the rest of you, but I didn’t realise it was going to be so camp-y. We actually arrived during some freak bad weather which meant a lot of rain and freezing temperatures during the night, which, a great night’s sleep did not make.
Most of us had only packed pretty blogger-style dresses hoping to shoot a few outfit posts whilst we were away, along with a cute pair of denim shorts for walking and some hip and happening Nike trainers. What we didn’t bring were waterproofs and layers and camping things, because bloggers. Unprepared bloggers.
We did a 2-3 mile hike in Zion to visit the Emerald Pools which were pretty, and then told riddles as we made our way back down in a torrential downpour and tried our hardest not to fall off a cliff on any of the slippery walk ways.
So yeah, that set me up for the rest of the trip.
We set up our tents (honestly, I’m a pro now) and cracked open a few cans of sexy alcohol that we’d bought in Walmart (these were my poison of choice, so flippin’ good) and then ate spag bol and made some cracking s’mores around the fire.
It felt like the American childhood I’d never had.
The next day was the most gruelling but also the most rewarding. We trekked up to Angel’s Landing which is basically a 2-mile hike uphill followed by another half a mile of hiking using chains to support yourself because it’s seriously narrow and rocky. Like honestly, it was terrifying and the UK health and safety board would no way let people do it, but that’s what made it so insanely amazing – the adrenaline high. Just LOOK AT THESE PICTURES OF IT HERE.
The next day my whole body felt like I’d been run over by the Trek minibus, and my arms were basically dead from pulling myself up and over rocks using the chains. I’m basically a size 8 now, honestly.
Whilst at the campsite in Zion we also made use of the hot tub and swimming pools, if only for an hour. After you’ve nearly died on the side of a mountain, jumping into ice cold pools for funsies feels like nothing, so erm, yeah. We rode down the slide over and over again and split beers with strangers and watched their faces evolve into a state of confusion as a camera crew turned up to film us living pool life.
Next up we headed to Bryce Canyon and rode on horseback. Although looking back at pictures now, it’s clear to see that my bae Winchester was actually a mule, bless.
The thing with a canyon is that you have to trek down first and then come back up. And I’ll tell you now, there’s no trust that compares to the trust you have in another species of animal taking you along a cliff face trail. There were so many damn times the horse/mule thought it was a right funsie old game to teeter on the edge of a cliff and I’d just have to plead with it to not kill me right now because I kinda loved Chris and Rudey and wanted to see them again.
I’m still alive, so Winchester obvs listened to my wails. Bae.
I won’t go into too much more detail about the walks and the different national parks because to you it will all blur into a lot of red coloured rocks (and some orange ones – looking at you bryce). I totes get it. I mean, at times all I could see and think about was red-coloured rocks. It’s all I have photos of. Rocks. And rocks. And oh, is that another rock? I EVEN BOUGHT A SWEATSHIRT WITH PICTURES OF ROCKS ON, I’m basically Ross Gellar.
It’s also mildly amusing that whilst I was living amongst rocks, Chris was sitting a Geology exam. Lol.
We moved on to Moab (still in Utah) and ate the BEST GOD DAMN PIES I’VE EVER EATEN from a little shop on the side of the road on the journey over to our hotel. We did a sunset hike and ate a dreamboatin’ picnic and discussed life, and then? Then we got drunk and stayed up til 3am and drunk whiskey and tried to sneak into the hot tub room and ordered nachos from a 24-hour Mexican food place across the street. Oh, and tried to order an Uber to Vegas which is just a casual 458 mile drive. Oh.
We also did a Hummer tour which is nice because you get the fear-factor of hiking across rocks except y’know, without any of the sweatyness associated with said hikes.
Then we moved on to Monument Valley which is where the Navajos live. Navajos just FYI are a Native American tribe. They cooked us tacos and made us dance round a fire in the rain and choose warriors and it all sounds a bit weird and surreal because it totally was. There was no phone signal, no electricity, just people and it was such a rare glimpse into how our lives could be without civilisation and the internet.
Didn’t mean to get so philosophical there. My bad.
Reading it on paper (oh alright, on a glass screen) makes it sound exactly like something I’d hate. Dancing. Rain. Dark. People in ‘fancy dress’. But it was exhilirating and I think when life and social media and the internet gets just too flippin’ much it’s something I’ll look back at for perspective and reassurance.
We all stayed in a Hogan which is what the Navajo people still sleep in – basically a mud hut in the desert with no toilets or electricity. We had a log burner in the centre which made it actually a really comfy, warm night, and we would have all had such a damn good night’s sleep together all crammed into this little rustic spot if it hadn’t been for Evan’s damn snoring that sounded like a broken foghorn. I threw a lot of things at him to make him shut the flip up – including my bra, which he woke up clutching. For realz.
It was a sweatshirt that finally got him to pipe down and yes, there was a teeny tiny fear that he was suffocating under such sweatshirt, but y’know, I was more concerned about getting enough sleep so that I could move on with my life.
Then we moved on to the Grand Canyon. Set up camp, changed up our dollar bills into quarters so that we could shower and change our pants for the first time in about 48 hours (legit true – I ‘washed’ myself using baby wipes in a gift shop toilet en route to the Arizon’a big GC). WHAT HAVE I BECOME? WHO AM I?
And then we did, what is EAAAAAAASILY one of my trip highlights – the helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. This is one of those things that won’t ever look or sound as incredible and OMFG IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING as real life, it’s something that you have to do yourself.
Sure, there’s the fear that the helicopter is flying too close to trees and OHMYGOD YOU MIGHT GO DOWN – or worse, that you might nosedive the two miles down into the Grand Canyon and rot at the bottom – but our pilot assured us it was safer than an airplane. And everyone knows that airplanes are safer than cars, so maybe we should all buy helicopters, just sayin’.
Three of the machines of our group decided to spend our second to last day doing a 12 mile trek into the canyon (resulting in one cactus incident and a $350 hospital bill), but myself, Corrie, Lily and Emma opted for a girl’s day with a seriously sassy lunch, a short stroll arond the south rim, and a lotta lot of gossip. Oh and pie. Because pie <3<3<3
It felt like we’d had a really full on week, and just chilling in the first day of real sunshine was exactly what we all needed, and is probs the reason my shoulders are peeling so much I feel like a snake. Like for real, no body scrub or moisturiser seems to be even doing anything. Soon I’ll have no skin left and I’ll just be a mass of bones and organs.
We ended our final day of being hiking campers that were at one with the planet by eating Jambalaya on a part of the canyon which jutted out and gave us an insane view of the sun as it set behind the cliffs and rock faces. It’s a spot that isn’t known by tourists and so it was just us, eating our spicy sausage and rice and Frank’s hot sauce, because always Frank’s hot sauce, together, with the rocks, for the last time.
Two important things I’ve already missed out from this post are the fact that a) THEY SERVE TRIPLE CHEESEBURGERS IN UTAH BRANCHES OF MCDONALDS and b) I had my first Wendy’s and it was a-OK, aside from the burgers being square, that was weird.
And then suddenly it was day 10. We were almost done. It was almost over and OMG HOW WILL I SURVIVE WITHOUT THIS MUCH HUMAN INTERACTION EVERY DAMN DAY?
We drove on over to Vegas, making pitstops at both In-N-Out burger (I’m sensing a food theme to this trip? Anyone?) and the Hoover Dam. Which, and no-one smack me for saying this, didn’t look *that* big. I mean considering it’s the second biggest in the world it didn’t look that much different to one I’ve walked along in Poland a few times. Just saying.
And then the night that nearly broke me happened. We got dolled up, we put on actual sparkly eyeshadow and contour powder for the first time since we’d left the UK. We used curling tongs. We wore bright lipstick. And I slipped into THAT New Look culotte jumpsuit of dreams.
Then hopped into a party bus and downed 8 bottles of champagne in 15 minutes. Ahem.
And sung Spice Girls until our lungs wheezed a little bit.
We did a short bar crawl and then all the burgers caught up with me and my zip exploded off me and erm yeah, jumpsuit was a gonner.
So I slipped off back to the hotel with Corrie and put on ANOTHER outfit before heading out again – this time that dreamy tropical print shirt dress from Warehouse that I super love, aside from the fact it’s shrunk a bit in the wash and sort of doesn’t fit over my thighs anymore, but whatcha gonna do.
We ended up at a pool party at 1am overlooking the strip, which was nice and made me feel a *bit* like I was in Made In Chelsea. Tyson back flipped into the pool and got us all kicked out (cheers pal), just seconds after Steve had stumbled backwards into the pool and got me and Corrie issued with warnings for ‘pushing’ him in. Yeah alright, sure thang.
I then headed home. Desperate for food. I’d spent all my money on $15 drinks (seriously Vegas, you really flippin’ hurt my bank balance) and had a seriously hungry belly because I’d got carried away by the fact that THEY STILL HAVE PINKBERRY IN THE USA (still mourning the departure of that heavenly froyo place from London, sob) and had only eaten vanila froyo, fruit and caramel sauce for dinner.
I found $2 left in my bag and gave it to a homeless girl and her dog which is really out of character for me because I really don’t like dogs. But it legit upset me that there was no more money in my bag to give her and I didn’t have my bankcard on me. I hope she’s OK.
Then I crawled into bed and cry-texted Chris (who was probs just rolling out of bed for work) about the fact I was so hungry but had no money. I’m a cute drunk, right?
The next day was spent trying to cram IHOP down my throat to stop me hungover vomming, and feeling completely overwhelmed by the waves of sadness that these people who knew everything about me, were leaving me.
I’d checked in for two extra nights in Vegas, but more about that in another post, and they were heading home, back to their boyfriends and girlfriends and pets, without me.
I won’t lie, me and Corrie exchanged a few tears by the taxi rank before they all headed to the airport. She became my Trek America rock (aha, see what I did there?) before we’d even left the UK, thanks to a bit of Twitter DMing, despite having never met. She was my minibus buddy, my vlog buddy, my singing buddy, my ‘shall we just eff all this off and find a drugstore?’ buddy. She made my trip the insanely overwhelming memory it will always be.
Coming home is weird to adjust to. Going back to normality and routine and the quietness of working alone from home. I’m getting to the end of this post (finally – I know it’s been my longest one ever, but there was just so much I needed to say) and I’m feeling emotional.
I have jet lag and America has scuppered my bank balance more than I’d have liked, but it’s the being without these people and looking back on everything we’ve overcome together that makes my eyes feel the weepiest.
Some of you will recognise my travel pals, some of them are huge YouTubers with 6-figure followings. But to me they are just people. Twenty-something pals that I shared an adventure and a whole lot of stories with, people I know I will see again. People that I am bonded with forever.
I miss you guys. Like srsly. And I don’t even like people that much. Esepcially not people I’m forced to spend that much time with.
Trek America operates tours for young people all across the States and Canada (we’re already planning a reunion tour of California because duh – this trip was tailored to us, but was based on this trip which you can book onto), and they’re a great way to explore a part of the world you probably wouldn’t otherwise, and sure, it makes for some seriously sassy Instgaram shots, but the real reason you should go is for the people.
The people and the memories and that overwhelming belief that you can do anything.
Because Hannah Gale do 5 mile uphill hikes in the rain after sleeping in a tent? Nah, I didn’t think so either.
But I can, and you can, and we all can. We can prove to ourselves that we’ve got way more damn strength than we’ve ever given ourselves credit for.
Trek America, thank you for everything. It’s been an absolute bloody honour and a delight. And I’m sorry for crying. And moaning that I had too many photos of rocks. I take it all back.
And, on a final note, you should totes go check out my Trek America vlogs over on YouTube. Ain’t nothing like a bit of self promotion. BYE.