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Trek America’s #Blog4Trek Competition – Final Post

By 13 April 2014 Life, Lifestyle, Travel

Wow! I’m in the final! If you’ve been following along with my blog over the last few weeks you’ll know it’s been an exciting time. I was shortlisted into the top 10 for Trek America’s #Blog4Trek competition.

Monument Valley blog4trek post

The next stage was to submit a photograph that represented the all-American theme of ‘red, white and blue’. That’s my entry above. Thanks to all those who voted for my photo by liking it on Facebook. I was lucky enough to be chosen by the judges to go through to the next (and final) round! Woo hoo!!

For this final round, the challenge is to write a post explaining why I should be Trek America’s next top blogger and win a place on the 2-week Westerner 2 tour. My colleague suggested that I simply write ‘BECAUSE I’M AWESOME!’ in massive writing and be done with it! Now I can’t say the thought hadn’t cross my mind but I figured that, however awesome I am, that’s probably not what the esteemed judging panel are actually looking for. So without further ado, here’s why they should pick me…

Winning this trip would be an amazing opportunity. It’s not just winning a fantastic holiday in America but the accomplishment of actually winning the competition. Even getting through to the final has made me immensely proud. To have been chosen from the other entrants on the merits of my writing and photography makes me very happy.

If I was to be chosen as Trek America’s next top blogger I would be over the moon! In fact, if you were a fly on the wall you’d see me jumping around the room like a mad thing! Probably a bit like this…

Whenever I even think about the possibility of winning, a massive grin creeps onto my face and I look a bit like a lunatic. Luckily my husband doesn’t seem to mind!

Another reason to pick me is so I can relive the travel adventures of my youth. When I was 22 I set off on a round the world adventure. I may ‘only’ be 28 now but so much has happened since then that 6 years seems like a lifetime ago. There’s nothing more exhilarating than landing in a new country. Seeing a new place for the first time as you come into land, the anticipation while praying your luggage is on the carousel, the weird guilty feeling that falls upon you as you go through customs, sure that you’re going to get pulled over, and the emotion of arrivals with teary relatives awaiting loved ones and bored looking drivers with names on boards. I’d love to feel all of that again and share it by writing all about it, here on my blog.

Just the journey is exciting for me. I don’t get bored on long road trips, which is handy since it takes ages to get anywhere in the US. It’s a big country with wide, mostly empty roads and low speed limits. I am content with staring out the window looking at the countryside roll past. Yesterday I spent 7 hours on buses and trains going to and from Brighton for a Pinterest community event! I would use the time on the minibus writing notes for my blog posts and dreaming of the next destination.

I’d also like to win so I can make hubby very jealous! Does that count as a valid reason? He’s always wanted to go to the States so would be very jealous indeed. I’d make it up to him by buying him lots of presents before boring him with the hundreds of photos I’d take.

The main reason I want to win is so that I can inspire others to travel. I’ve always been a pretty independent person so it surprises me when people say I’m brave for going travelling by myself. I really don’t see that I was brave. I simply decided I wanted to see some of the world, but didn’t have anyone to go with so went on my own. Since then, I’ve taken myself to Paris (romantic trip for, er, one?) And I spent a long weekend in Bath a fews years ago. Now I’m married, I have someone to share my travels with but finances don’t allow for far flung trips abroad.

I’ve taken part in many Twitter chats with people who say they’d be too nervous to go it alone, and when I was a travel agent, one of my colleagues said she couldn’t go on an educational trip because she wouldn’t want to travel without her other half! I have to admit, I find it difficult to understand. Perhaps it’s because travel is just in my nature. Oddly, it’s when I’m not at home that I can feel most at home. I don’t suffer with homesickness and have always had a ‘wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home’ kind of attitude. When I was away for 9 months, I think it was about 6 months before I called my family! Of course, now I have hubby, I’d miss him terribly but I’m sure I’d cope with 2 weeks without him. I’m not so sure about him though…

You should never let not having anyone to go with put you off travelling. On my travels I met so many who were by themselves. You soon make friends. Sure, there were days when I wouldn’t say a word to anyone except ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in shops, etc. but I also met some amazing people.

Travel Friends Collage

One of the best things about travelling is the people you meet. On a flight from Vancouver to LA I was sat next to a guy who worked for the PGA (Professional Golf Association), which was pretty cool, and sharing my dorm in Vancouver was a girl who writes the subtitles for the BBC. Who knew real people actually sat there watching all the programmes transcribing them?!

Choosing a small group tour like Trek means you can take the leap into travel adventures without having to be alone. Most people go on Trek America by themselves so everyone is in the same boat on the first morning. You can be sure that everyone else is just as nervous and excited as you. Trek America gives you a new group of friends to explore with.

The brilliant thing about blogs is that you can travel the world without leaving home. You can put yourself into the writer’s shoes, feel the heat on your back, smell the smells and see the sights through the photography. This is what I’d want my readers to feel. But I would also want them to realise that it’s totally different to see it through your own eyes.

Inspiring others to travel is the reason I started blogging in the first place, however writing about your past travels isn’t as interesting or as relevant as writing while you’re away or soon after you get back. It’s also not as fresh. I’d hope that winning this prize would give me the opportunity to be a better writer. I aspire to be a famous writer whose work is featured in Wanderlust magazine. One day, I’d love to write a book or contribute to guide books. Yes I’m old school – I still buy (and love) guidebooks! Although it concerned me the other day when I sat down to flick through my Rough Guide to The Lake District to find that it was published in 2003. 11 years ago!

I’d also love to tell people how amazing Trek America trips are. You get to meet a bunch of new people who’ll shortly become friends, and travel together across America, picking up the best souvenirs imaginable – memories. Camping in the wilderness, cooking together, eating together and exchanging stories around the campfire are back to basics experiences that you just can’t get when you stay in hotels. I love camping. Being in the middle of nowhere and able to see millions of stars is so inspiring. Staring up at those stars you realise just how small and insignificant you are.

Another reason to pick me is that otherwise I’ll be spending this summer in the dreary UK with the possibility of zero warmth whatsoever! The only camping I’ll be doing is in the Lake District in a 4 season sleeping bag, probably with chattering teeth and a grumpy husband. He hates camping, I’m bribing him to go camping by booking a week in a cottage with a hot tub for the following week!
Empty Backpacker Spot Travel Journal

So I hope that’s enough! Sorry to have prattled on for ages. I just really want to win this competition. It would really make my year. Getting to visit all those places, photographing them and documenting them with my trusty notepad and pen. Perhaps I’ll get to fill in this travel journal I won that the beginning of the year, which is still empty.

To get an idea of the places I could visit if I’m lucky enough to win, take a look at this Pinterest board I created!

Follow Rachel Birchley’s board Trek America Westerner 2 on Pinterest.

Wish me luck guys! I’m going to have all my fingers and toes crossed.

Rachel x

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Packing for a Weekend Away in the UK

By 13 February 2014 Travel, Travel Tips
Packing for a weekend away in the UK -

I’m going to be totally honest here. I am crap at packing! Well, that’s not quite true, I’m great at packing; packing everything and the kitchen sink! When I went travelling I had a massive backpack that I couldn’t actually carry. The longest distance I managed with it on my back was from a hostel in Hollywood to the Metro station half a mile away. I thought the shoulder straps were actually going to embed themselves into my shoulders.

Hubby and I are going away for the weekend for our first wedding anniversary in April. We’re hoping to go to Bristol, where neither of us have been before. I am determined to pack sensibly and want to pack one of those ‘capsule wardrobes’ I’ve read about for the past decade.

Weekend staple: skinny jeans

This is one item I won’t be going away without. I love my skinny jeans, and the great thing is you can wear them with Converse during the day and the switch up your outfit in the evening with a pair of heels. They go with everything! For exploring during the day, team your jeans and trainers with a cosy tee and a cute jumper. I love those with pretty collars because they stop you me looking scruffy.

Once you get back to the hotel you can simply pop on a pair of heels and re-do your make up for an evening look. Et voila, you’re ready to go out for dinner. Another great thing about jeans is that you can get away with wearing them for a few days.

Another bonus with skinny jeans, rather than other types of jeans, is that when it rains (and let’s face it that’s pretty likely in Blighty) they don’t drag in puddles so you don’t get that awful ‘rising damp’. Back in the 00’s, when baggy jeans were all the rage, sometimes my jeans would be soaked all the way up to my knees! Yuck!

I created this set on Polyvore (read – spent many hours creating outfits and browsing through shoes!) as inspiration for packing for a weekend away:

City break - day to night outfit


My plans for packing light:

  • Choose just two pairs of shoes, one for the day, the other for the evening.
  • Pick one handbag that can be used all weekend.
  • Wear my skinnies all weekend long (and hope that I don’t spill anything!).
  • Choose one colour palette so my accessories, nail colour, etc will match each outfit.
  • Remember that I probably won’t need 4 pairs of emergency knickers and 10 pairs of socks, just in case!
  • And last but not least, pick out a small weekend bag so I am actually forced to pack light! If it won’t fit in the bag, it’s not coming.

Do you have any tips for packing light for a weekend away? Is there anything I’ve forgotten?

Rachel x

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