In this latest series, I will be going through all the countries I’ve travelled to from my personal experience with country #3: USA. If you haven’t gotten a chance already, read this story first to find out why I’m trying to visit all 193 UN recognized countries.
The United States of America is hands down one of my favourite countries I have ever visited in the world. I know many snobby travellers out there look down on travelling to the USA in favour of going to places like Europe instead. However, from my personal experience, I would definitely pick travelling to the US over many other travel destinations in the world.
The US is an easy travel destination to reach by Canadians because it is literally our only neighbouring country. Thankfully, there are tons of fun adventurous trips you can do in this country which I’m thankful to have been able to explore.
VIDEO – Country #3: USA
Early days travelling to the USA
In my younger days, I first travelled to the USA when I was about 11 years old. I think Seattle was my first travel destination where my family did a day trip from Vancouver.
When I was a teenager, I also gotten a chance to go to California to go to Disneyland with my mother and sisters.
However, it wasn’t until I was much older that I got a chance to really explore this beautiful country.
My first real trip to the USA was when Karen and myself was less than a year into dating. It was in December 2013 and we decided to take time off work and drive to Portland, Oregon.
Our trip took us not only to Portland but to Seaside and Astoria in the Oregon State. This was our first appetizer to travelling further away from Canada. Since this moment, we decided that someday, we’d like to fly somewhere in the United States.
The next year, after quitting my job working for GoodLife Fitness (I hated working for that company), Karen and myself booked our first flight ever to go to Las Vegas. We booked our flight with Allegiant Air and I think we paid around $273 for a round trip flight departing from Bellingham.
After arriving at Las Vegas, we rented a car and drove to Springdale, Utah, where we would be doing some hiking. Our first hike was on the sketchy Angel’s Landing. Karen freaked out (the hike has lots of exposed ledges) just shy of reaching the end point so we ended up turning back.
After hiking Angel’s Landing, we also got a chance to visit the Zion Narrows. We didn’t hike the whole Narrows at this time but we vowed to return one day to complete the top-down hike.
After exploring Zion National Park, our next destination is Bryce Canyon where we got a chance to see the famous rock pillars.
It was truly spectacular. However, the place we stayed at was this creepy little town called Tropic. The whole town is populated by Mormons who gives you a weird stare. I vividly remember being inside this store and the eyeballs of the people in the store all shifted to look at Karen and myself. It’s like a scene from a horror film. As you can see, we left very early the next morning away from this scary little town.
After coming back from our awesome trip to the Utah area, we set our eyes on our next vacation. One of my friend taught me the concept of travel hacking and it was the beginning of a new era for me.
Soon after, Karen and myself signed up for the AMEX Gold, AMEX Business Gold, and AMEX Aeroplan Plus card and earned around 90,000 Aeroplan miles.
We used those miles to book our next trip which was to Florida in December 2014.
Florida, USA trip
I wrote a more detailed article on my trip to Florida when I first started this blog. If you want to read a more detailed account on what happened in this trip, read this article first:
My trip to Florida was awesome. Karen and myself redeemed 25,000 Aeroplan miles each for this trip. Our taxes came out to be around $140 per person for a round trip flight from Vancouver to Orlando.
At first, we weren’t sure this trip was going to happen because we were going through a rough patch in our relationship. We’ve broken up a few times at this point and our future just seemed uncertain. Thankfully, we did go on this trip and we were able to have those hard talks that eventually helped with saving our relationship.
In Orlando Florida, we visited Harry Potterland which was Karen’s bucket list destination since we first started dating. We met a seemingly sketchy Colombian lady outside the amusement park who was selling tickets for $50 a piece. Taking a risk, we decided to go with her and turns out her tickets were legitimate!
We ended up paying $40 USD each (she gave us even more discount) instead of the $80 USD for tickets to one park.
Karen made some bad decisions in this trip and she got us to go on this watery barge ride that caused us to be soaking wet after. This would have been fine except it was Winter and we were freezing cold. Originally, we were going to take a bus to the Greyhound station but Karen was shivering.
An unmarked black vehicle parked itself outside the amusement park and asked if we wanted a ride for $20 USD. This seemed like a sketchy arrangement but my gut told me it was okay. We got in the vehicle and turns out he was a friendly African man who’s trying to make some side money outside his barber business. He dropped us off at the Greyhound station and off we went to Miami.
Unfortunately for us, when we got to Miami, someone accidentally took my luggage. We waited about 2 hours to sort it out as the person that took my luggage came back. Turns out we had the exact same looking luggage.
Dead exhausted, we got a taxi to take us to our hotel. We had a certificate for a free night stay at Courtyard Marriott in Miami which helped us save some money.
The next morning, we made our way to the cruise port to go on a 5-day Caribbean Cruise for $270 including tax that we found from Vacations2Go. This cruise would take me to my country #5 which I’ll talk about in a future blog post.
Booking our next trip to the USA
Our trip to Florida was awesome and Karen, myself, and my sisters planned our next trip. This time, we would be going back to Zion National Park to complete the top-down Zion Narrows hike. We would also be doing a road trip that would take us to Zion National Park, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, the Grand Canyon, and Sedona, Arizona.
Because we are using our points and miles for this trip, we will also be flying to Kauai, Hawaii to do the Kalalau Trail hike.
This trip was the first demonstration of the power of Points and Miles. We managed to book our flights going from Seattle to Las Vegas to Kauai and back to Seattle for just 40,000 Aeroplan miles and $36 in taxes and fees.
Utah, Arizona, and Kauai – Three States in the USA
Zion Narrows part 2
I’ve written a more detailed and accurate journal of this trip from one of my earlier blog post. You can read it here:
The Zion Narrows, in my memory, is one of the scariest hike I’ve ever done. Definitely read the link to the article I wrote long time ago. Long story short, we hiked during a period where there was a 50% chance of a flash flood. It was very scary and I think we lucked out that nothing happened to us.
I would not take that risk again knowing what I know now but I have no regrets and we did complete this amazing overnight trek.
Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend
After the brutal Zion Narrows hike, my sisters flew in Utah and joined Karen and myself on the next part of our road trip. This time we visited the beautiful Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend located in Page Arizona. Here is an older articles with pictures from Antelope Canyon
Despite Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend being really beautiful, we didn’t quite like the town of Page, Arizona.
It just felt very touristy and it lacked soul. We were happy to stay just that one night and head for the Grand Canyon the very next day.
The Grand Canyon
I wrote this trip report of the Grand Canyon many years ago, check it out here:
The Grand Canyon is one of those places that everyone will probably visit at least once in their life. It’s really beautiful even though my sisters and Karen didn’t really appreciate it as much as I did.
I even think it should be in the list of the 7 New Wonders of the World. My sisters and Karen got really restless during our time here so we quickly went to Sedona, Arizona which was our next destination.
Sedona, Arizona, USA
Sedona is one of my favourite places in the world. At one point, I even thought about living there! Perhaps it’s not too late and I can still do that.
What I loved about Sedona is how peaceful and beautiful this place is. All the red rocks really made Sedona look very scenic. People were also very friendly, and the place has tons of cool things to do, especially if you are adventurous.
We stayed here for 2 nights and 3 days and we felt that it was just the perfect place to relax.
After an awesome time in Sedona, we drove back to Las Vegas and flew to Kauai, Hawaii where our next segment of our adventure would begin.
We only had one mission when we travelled to Kauai, Hawaii and that’s to conquer the Kalalau Trail. Several years ago when this blog was new, I wrote this article on my journey to the hardest hike I have ever done in my life. You can read them here:
- Kalalau Trail Day 1
- Kalalau Trail Day 2
- Arriving and staying at Kalalau Beach
- Kalalau Trail Day 3
- Kalalau Trail Day 4
As mentioned, the Kalalau Trail is the single hardest hike I have ever done in my life. Other hikes that I’ve done that I would say was nearly as painful as the Kalalau Trail also includes the Mount Nyiragongo Volcano Trek in DR Congo.
What made the Kalalau Trail so hard was the heat, never ending incline hikes, the humidity, and the mosquito swarms.
I think all these factors actually made the Kalalau Trail very miserable.
Thankfully, the Kalalau Beach was totally worth the trek. To be honest, this beach is really weird because of the people who left civilization to live in this beach permanently. I mean, they’re doing it illegally but the authorities doesn’t seem to be stopping them from doing it.
I got a chance to hang out to these locals who live here full time and listened to their stories foraging food from the land. They ate the avocados, bananas, guavas, and other fruits that grew in the wild naturally. And they also hunted goats, chickens, and caught fishes, shellfish, and shrimps from the river. Their lifestyle seemed so fascinating to me that I was even tempted to live here myself!
Unfortunately for us, we actually ran out of food during our time here. We ended up asking other campers if they can sell us some of their foods. Lucky for us, many campers gave us a bunch of their foods and this really helped us get enough nutrients for the hike out.
I will never do this hike ever again but I don’t regret this amazing journey one bit.
My type of travelling is very much the adventure type. And lucky for me and everyone else who likes a good adventure, the United States of America has plenty to offer.
In the future, I’d really like to visit as many of the beautiful National Parks in the USA as possible. And of course, I will definitely go on more cruises!
Every time I travel through unfriendly countries and I connect through the USA on my way back home, I always have this sigh of relief. I actually find Americans very friendly in general. And every time I’m back in American soil after travelling abroad, I always say to myself: “God Bless America!”.
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