Hollywood, Californian Roads & Camping at Lake Havasu | #siantreksamerica
It's day one. The day I meet everyone. It's currently 6:42am, and I've been awake and up since 4am. I managed just over seven hours, even if I did keep waking up in between. I can hear other guests moving around - bumping furniture and closing doors - and I'm starting to get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. My throat feels a little coarse and phlegmy, like it's starting to close up, but there's no turning back now.
I can feel my breath wobbling, my hands shaking a little and I have a slight headache now too. I am reminding myself that nerves are totally normal; even if I do currently feel like I may throw up and shit myself in unison.
In a couple of minutes I'm going to head down for breakfast in the hopes I'll bump into a fellow trekker who will introduce themselves. It's always the initial awkward "Hello's", and the thought of actually partaking in them, that are the most daunting. Especially if I don't know anything about a person other than their name - and in this case, I don't even know that!
The temptation to stay locked in my room right now is strong, but it's deep breaths and sitting with the thoughts from here on out. Even though I know it's wildly unlikely I'll offend someone and I'm terribly conscious of shelling up, I must try not to make myself live it all twice through worrying. And all preferably without tears!
Okay. Here we go.
I grabbed a couple of croissants, and wasted the half an hour before the allotted time to meet up with the other trekkers. During breakfast I texted Luke, laughing and joking as usual, but also voicing my temptation to hide. I knew it was unlikely that I would actually hide myself away, but alas, it definitely crossed my mind.
Pushing past the feeling that I was tied to the chair and couldn't move, I disposed of my plate and headed over to the lobby where I noticed a group was starting to form. I nervously sat behind the group, continuing to text when I overheard a couple of people talking about the trip. With a bit of encouragement from Luke, I asked one of the group if they were here for the trek. Considering how nervous I felt, I already felt pretty chuffed I'd managed to say something at this point.
I sat quietly, consumed in my own thoughts that I should say more and do more, but then Nik (our Tour Leader) arrived and I suddenly felt so much more at ease. He is a ball of endearing, bubbly energy, and he quickly led us in introducing ourselves. Whilst I couldn't help darting my eyes all over the place, I let the group know my name, age, job, that I worked from home and that Barcelona was the last cool place I visited - as instructed.
I sensed myself overthinking about saying I work from home, and as everyone else mentioned huge countries I awkwardly tried to downplay visiting Barcelona as it's a fairly small city (or something along those lines...), to find out another Trekker was from there.
Sorry lovely Laura!
Why didn't I just shh?! Why did I feel the need to embellish the story with unneeded information?!
But nothing bad came of it, and instead I tried to look at the positive side that I didn't sit there planning exactly what I was going to say beforehand - like I normally would. Mini victories!
At this point I was already forgetting names, but tried to concentrate on Nik as he went through the in's and out's of everything we needed to know, and what we would be up to. From this point I have felt myself continuously easing. I haven't found it difficult to talk to anyone, despite experiencing reluctance to talk initially; mostly when I had a question or wanted to add to a conversation. I have managed to say everything in a roundabout way though, even if that means bringing something up in talks later on.
To kick off the trip, we bundled into the van and headed to Hollywood. I rode shotgun from the Fairfield Inn and Marriott, to just off Hollywood Boulevard. I didn't take too many pictures in Hollywood, as I feel like I must have an SD card full of pictures from the last time I visited, but it was really neat to retrace old steps. Just seeing the TCL Chinese Theatre, the stars and Hollywood sign transported me back to 2013, which was magical.
After we had walked up and down the strip a couple of times, we piled back into the van and headed for camp. As we will be exploring the Grand Canyon tomorrow, we had quite a drive ahead of us, and this was the perfect opportunity to get to know each other. My tour group is a fab mix. There are trekkers from across Australia, Germany, South Korea, Spain, and the UK, and everyone I have had the chance to chat with so far I've found really easy to talk to. They have all been SO friendly, which has been a total dream for me. It honestly could not be more perfect.
Nik and I spoke about our interests, hobbies and jobs. Feeling comfortable, I swallowed any worries and told him about why I was doing the trip. He quickly commended my efforts - giving me "Major props" - which I thanked him for. I'm also really pleased to say that later on I was able to speak to a couple of other trekkers about suffering with mental illness too, and that was really fantastic.
Both of them were incredibly understanding, and even bravely spoke of their own connections to it too. Thinking back to it now really strikes a chord with me. It makes me feel safe in my own skin to know there are other people around me that just get it. Knowing that if I need to take a minute, I wouldn't be bombarded with a million questions or made to feel uncomfortable, means the world. On top of reminiscing this morning, this has made me feel so much more at home too.
Time flew on the way to our first ever spot of parking lot lunch. We started playing a game to find number plates from all the States in order to win a prize at the end of the tour too. I'm pretty pumped to say I managed to see a fair few from the copilot seat, including Mexico and Canada to score us four extra points. I did feel really sorry for Emily, who came down with a bout of travel sickness along the way - I hope she feels better soon!
We stopped a couple of times after our lunch, and one of the stops gave me the opportunity to drink in some amazing views along Route 62 after we had passed Joshua Tree National Park. I must admit that I absolutely loved the element of risk that came with snapping photos in the middle of the road, haha. If I was ever to hire my own van and complete the same journey, or any journey across the USA for that matter, I don't think I would get too far without pulling over every five minutes. That being said, there has been barely any traffic along this route so far, which has made getting in and out of lay-bys easy peasy.
I've just been informed that we have roughly forty-five minutes until we reach the Crazy Horse Campground site in Lake Havasu City, Arizona; which will be our campsite for the evening. There we will be setting up our tents alongside Lake Havasu, enjoying tacos together and settling in for a night under the stars. Even though I'm itching to get snapping properly when we stop, at the moment I'm enjoying studying the rock faces as they pass - and not from behind a screen. The way the glorious red and brown spikes cut shapes out of the blue sky is truly mesmerising.