As I write this I am currently 50 days away from taking the trip and although it’s not the furthest I’ve been, it’s definitely the biggest trip I have taken when you consider the sheer distance I’m going to be covering. Over the space of three weeks, me and my brother will be doing the Atlantic Dream Trek America tour, then ending our trip with a week in Orlando, Florida. We’re going to be visiting New York, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Shenandoah National Park, Ocoee, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, Destin Beach and Orlando. Basically, it’s one hell of a trip.
But why am I more excited than I have been for any other trip I’ve taken?
I think it’s time for a little story…
I haven’t really mentioned this a lot on my blog, but when I was 19 I moved to America as part of a work-abroad programme. I had just gone through a really bad break-up and having dreamed of living in America for as long as I could remember, I decided that there was no time like the present. I was very nervous but knew that if I didn’t do it now, I probably never would.
On the day that I decided I was definitely going to join the BUNAC Work America programme, I didn’t realise that just three and half weeks later I would be flying out to California to start my amazing adventure. Looking back now, I honestly don’t know how I managed to find a job, apply for a passport, get my visa and find somewhere to stay in such little time. Past Kirsty was clearly a lot more organised than I am now.
Although I only had a short amount of time, I was able to get myself a job working as a receptionist for a company in Newport Beach and accommodation in a rented student flat near the University of Irvine. I didn’t know it then, but I was going to meet some of the greatest people I’d ever met whilst living in that tiny little Ambrose flat.
I still remember the day that I left in so much detail. I had stayed at my friend’s University halls in London as I was flying from Heathrow and after a pep talk from some of my American friends, I grabbed my suitcase and made my way to the airport alone. Whilst I had been living alone for a while, this was the first time I had been ‘properly alone’ since my break up. I was scared, excited and incredibly nervous about what was to come.
I got to the desk to check my suitcase in and after an absolute nightmare with my ticket, I was finally able to board the plane, just in time. Only I could spell my name wrong and have to book a completely new ticket hours before my flight, right?
With my first hurdle out of the way, I say back and *enjoyed* the 11 hours flight to LAX.
I don’t remember a lot about the flight other than watching a lot of Big Bang Theory episodes as well as the movie In Her Shoes. We chased the sun a lot, as it felt as though it never really got dark.
Before I knew it, I was landing in California.
As a young girl, I had always dreamt about the moment I’d first visit America. I wanted to be a writer living in New York City and although California was almost 3,000 miles away, I still felt as though I was a little bit closer to my dream. I mean, living in Orange County for 4 months comes pretty close, right?
I spent my first night in an affordable hotel near to the airport and after a very fragmented sleep, I ate my first American breakfast. That is if you count toasted waffles and maple syrup as a viable breakfast choice?
After the worst waffles I have EVER eaten, I was ready to get in my shuttle transfer to Irvine. I’d booked it only a few hours before and surprisingly, it wasn’t as expensive as I’d have thought. I spent the whole journey watching outside the window, taking in everything I could. My first yellow school bus, my first American McDonalds and my first sighting of the beach.
When I think back to the whole experience now, I wish I could experience every single first for the first time again.
I don’t think the journey to Irvine was too long, perhaps around an hour or two. When we pulled up to the apartments I was going to be staying in I didn’t really know where to go, but thankfully one of the girls living in the same room as me noticed the van and came to get me. We chatted about my journey and my plans for the summer and before I knew it, we were on the way to Target to get me the essentials I needed for my stay. I bought a cheap smartphone, a grey comforter and some cheap pillows that I still regret buying. The essentials, right?
We ate at a place called Red Robin and I had my first REAL American burger.
After we got back to the flat I unpacked all of my things and it wasn’t until then that it hit me. I was in America. On my own. About to spend four whole months working and meeting new people. The reality of what I was doing sunk in and it was so so so overwhelming. For the first time in what felt like forever, I was happy.
The rest of my night was spent meeting the rest of my flatmates, who took me to their favourite Mexican place for carne asada burritos. We sat in the lounge chatting for hours and eventually, I went to sleep a very very happy person.
Although that was the LONGEST story ever, this blog post kind of spiralled away from what it was originally going to be. Whilst the point still very much stands there, this post shows exactly why America has a very special place in my heart. Having been through a tough few months, packing my bags and living my dream out in California made the person I am today.
It gave me the confidence to travel alone. It showed me that travelling can introduce you to some of the kindest people you’ll ever meet. It fuelled my love for travel and it proved to me that America really was the place I wanted to be.
Although I remember it so vividly, my first day living in America was almost 7 years ago and since then, I haven’t been back since. In 50 days from now, that is all going to change.
Whilst I won’t be visiting California this time, being back in the country I love is going to bring back so many emotions and honestly, I CAN’T WAIT.
America, I’m coming home <3