From endless stretches of golden beaches to an adult playground in the middle of the desert, once you’ve experienced all the West Coast of America has to offer, it’s hard not to see why the west is commonly known as the best!
My name is Bec Jenkins, and I have just returned from the USA, where I travelled on a Western Highlights trip with Contiki, as their first official Travel Project ambassador (to see how you can become one too, read to the bottom). Don’t agree with me that west is best? Maybe I can convince you…
Beaches for days
Coming from Australia, where our coastline is laced with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, it’s pretty hard to be blown away at the sight of a golden, sandy beach, but stepping out onto almost any Californian beach and my breath was taken away. The likes of Santa Monica and Venice Beach are so beautiful it’s hard to compare to anything I have experienced back home.
If the white sand that stretches for miles along the coast, or the vision of the blue ocean waves rolling to the shore isn’t enough to make your soul happy, then try riding a rollercoaster with the ocean breeze in your hair, or watch locals tear up the skate park in Venice beach, or line the edges of a street performance show, and trust me, by the time you’ve immersed yourself in the true Californian beach culture, you will leave with a happy soul (and maybe a bit of a Californian glow, too).
Deserts, also for days
Just the word ‘desert’ used to be enough to put me off going anywhere near such a thing, that was until I experienced the true beauty of not only one, but 3 in all their glory (and heat) across Western USA. The landscape changes from beach, to city, to cactus country to red rock country and if you blink, you’ll miss the transition; each landscape as beautiful and diverse as the last.
The desert turns out to be so much more than just a barren wasteland of scorching temperatures and hallucinations of nearby water. It is everything from 50+ year old cactuses three times taller than me, mountain ranges and weird but wonderfully shaped giant red rocks. Besides all that, you can chill out in a cowboy restaurant and eat rattlesnakes, cactus fries and prickly-pear sauce…if you’re into that kind of thing! (Yep, I tried it all #noregrets!)
The Grand-est of Sunset views (& that big crack in the ground)
I’ve declared myself a bit of a sunset watcher, always setting out to see the sun set in some of the most beautiful places I can find on this earth, but to this day I have never seen a more stunning sunset than the one I watched while dangling my legs over the edge of the Grand Canyon.
I could use a bunch of fancy words to describe the view that day and the feeling it brings while having a beer with 30 new Contiki friends, but nothing, from photos to words, will ever do the Canyon the justice it deserves… You just need to go and see it for yourself. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.
Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough – except Yosemite!
Ok, we’ve all seen mountains and waterfalls, right? Well, get ready to have your mind blown, breath taken away and shivers sent down your spine at the site of one of the most incredible places on Earth – Yosemite.
Yosemite’s beauty is unfathomable. Waterfalls flow from miles high, cliff-faces tower into the sky and hiking trails wind through scenic forest full of wildlife (including bears, so keep an eye out!). Yosemite is the perfect place for outdoorsy people, so if you love chasing waterfalls into the sky, this is your ultimate destination!
What happens in Vegas… (Is a whole lot of fun!)
Vegas, Vegas, Vegas… The ultimate adult’s playground. Even if you’re not into gambling (like me), or even shopping (also me), Vegas is guaranteed to have something, somewhere, to keep you entertained. From a hotel & casino pool with a see-through waterslide through the middle of a shark tank (yes, you read that right, through the middle of a shark tank), to a zipline ride across the top of Fremont Street in downtown Vegas, adults everywhere are running around like kids in a candy shop enjoying all the city has to offer.
Naturally, the movie of choice on the Contiki bus rolling into Vegas was none other than ‘The Hangover’, to prepare us for the night ahead (minus the entire storyline of the movie, we hoped….). The concept of a city in the middle of the desert is hard to grasp, but it is everything you can imagine. Clubbing in Caesars Palace (no, the real Caesar didn’t actually live there), exploring different countries along the strip and gazing into the mind-blowing casinos is a must-do, even just once in your life.
If you’re like me and love the cliches in life, than you more than likely want to visit the most cinematically destroyed bridge in America – the Golden Gate!
Before I visited San Francisco, the one and only thing I truly knew about the city was the fact that the Golden Gate Bridge existed and that there is a weird island jail thing called Alcatraz, but upon arriving in the Bay Area, I realised there is so much more to the city than the little amount that I knew before-hand.
From a hippy neighbourhood with rainbow shopfronts to a colony of sea lions that call Pier 39 home, truly interesting architecture and some of the best seafood shops I have experienced, San Francisco has it all going on in one city. Of course, driving along the Golden Gate Bridge was a bucket list item I couldn’t wait to tick off, but the rest of the city had so much more to offer, and was well worth identifying new leg muscles wandering around the hills that shape the unique city (you can also get trams, buses and taxis – don’t panic!).
Become a Travel Project ambassador yourself
I got the chance to travel to the USA, simply because I shared a story about how travel changed me, with six-two. Their community contributor program is open to anyone – writers, photographers, film makers, dreamers – who has a travel story to tell, and wants to share it with the world. I was selected to become a Travel Project ambassador because of the way my article resonated with readers both here on six-two, and on Contiki’s Facebook page, and if you share a story, you too could win a trip with Contiki to a destination you’ve always dreamed of. To find out more, head here.
Read Bec’s winning article here.