Help! I have a serious case of post-travel blues…

Quite possibly the most beautiful landscape I've ever seen 🇺🇸😍 @contiki @statravel_uk #monumentvalley

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


Hey everyone,

So I’m writing this post with a bit of a heavy heart. I have been feeling so so down lately, and a bit lost, and I just don’t know where to turn to or what to do about it really, other than write it all down a big long blog post and try to work out what the hell is wrong with me!

As most of you will know, I recently returned from the trip of a lifetime across America. I had the best time of my whole life and made friends with so many new people, most of whom are now lifelong friends. We have become so close and I miss them all dearly, every single day. They all live in Australia and New Zealand, which makes it even harder when you live the other side of the world in rainy old England! I talk to most of them as much as I can – thank god for FaceTime! – and we all keep in touch on our group Facebook, but it’s just not the same!



I’ve experienced travel blues before, I often feel a bit down when I’m back from a holiday or city break, I guess it’s only normal, but this is a whole different thing all together. I’m experiencing something I’ve never dealt with before, I’m sad all the time and I feel low even when I have other people around me, like my amazing family and my friends from home. I guess it’s the intensity of being with so many people for such a long time, living with them day in day out, sharing the same adventure and going on the same journey together which makes it such an intense experience – we all bonded and clicked, and maybe that’s why I’m finding it so hard to be without them all.

I think I’m also struggling because I haven’t had a ‘normal’ routine to go back to – I quit my job in order to travel and focus on my blog for the rest of this year, which I’m doing, and I’m so lucky to be in a position to be able to do so, but I’m finding it incredibly lonely and, at times, I’m struggling to adjust to my new life. So many people have said to me ‘oh you’re living the dream’ or ‘oh why are you moaning you don’t have work to get up for tomorrow’ and yeah, I get that, I see where they’re coming from, but at the same time I don’t have anyone around me during the days when I’m at my lowest point and I’m dwelling on the past. I don’t have anyone to have my lunch with, and I don’t have anyone to talk to if I’m feeling like things are getting on top of me.



Maybe I’m suffering from sort of mild depression, and I say that very very carefully, as I know depression is a terrible illness that affects so many people. I’ve dealt with a mild form of depression before; when I was 15 and I had eating problem and body issues, and then again when I was 21 and I dealt with my first heartbreak. At times I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, I went through darkness where I cried for hours every single day, for weeks on end, and it took months for me to get back to the real me, and to feel as I had done in happier times. So I’m not saying this on the same level, or in any way comparable to people who have suffered with and have been diagnosed with real depression, but it’s kind of the only thing that describes the way I’ve been feeling lately.


Even if it ain't all it seems, I've got a pocket full of dreams 🏙🇺🇸 #newyork #NYC #bigapple #tbt

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


I’m trying to cure my travel blues by keeping busy, focusing on my blog and developing my freelance writing jobs and of course by keeping active. I take my dog out for a walk every single day, and she keeps me company by sitting at my feet whilst I type away furiously on my laptop! I also see my friends as much as I can and I’m constantly texting/FaceTiming people so that keeps me busy, I guess I just need to fill my time and plan things to look forward to until I feel content enough to just relax and enjoy life. Maybe I’m just a bit nervous at the moment, what with not having a full time job and I’m wondering how I’m going to make a proper living, but I think I just need to take a step back and stop WORRYING! I find that so hard though, I worry about everything, I just can’t help it.


So exactly a whole month ago today I returned from my American adventure. My mum took this photo of me just as I had come through arrivals at Heathrow airport. Seconds earlier I had collapsed into my mum and dads arms and burst into tears. I sobbed so much and they both hugged me so tight and, in those few seconds, I realised nothing was more important than love. I felt overwhelmed with exhaustion, with relief that I'd made it home safe, and with emotion because my amazing adventure was over. But in those few seconds I realised that nothing is more important than being with people you love. Travelling has made me realise that, no matter how far you go or how long you're away for, you'll always come home to where you belong, and you'll always be loved no matter where you are in the world. It's also made me want to be a better person, live each day as if it's my last, and to never be afraid to act how I feel and to follow my heart. Have courage and believe in yourself. If you like someone, tell them. If you love someone, show them. Don't let anyone tell you you're being stupid or you can't do something you've always wanted to, who are they to judge? I guess since I've been home I've appreciated things a lot more, I've learnt to be content with who I am as a person, and to never doubt myself. I've also learnt to stop living in the past and start looking forward to the future. Be spontaneous, do things and see the world. Don't put things off, do them today, not tomorrow. Don't leave things unsaid. A lot can change in a day. Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer, please go and explore our beautiful planet, before it's too late. ✈️🌍

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


Sorry for the rant, it just helps sometimes for me to get things off my chest! Have any of you ever experienced post travel blues before, and have they ever been on this level? I’d be keen to know if such a thing actually exists, or if I’m just being plain stupid!

Please tell me if it’s real, or if it’s all in my head…

Love Jess x

Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game ⚾️⚾️

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on



The ULTIMATE Contiki Q&A session! (Grand Southern Adventure)


Hey everyone,

So last week on social media I asked you to put your Contiki Grand Southern questions across to me and I promised to answer each and every one of them! I’ve been receiving tonnes of messages lately from people who have booked trips in the next 12 months asking what to pack, how much to budget for and other general queries so I thought it would be fun to do a Q & A session! This post is tailored to the Grand Southern Adventure I have just come back from (and many of you are booking the same trip by the sounds of it!) but some of the answers will be useful if you are planning a Contiki trip anywhere in the world.

I have to say I wasn’t expecting this amount of interaction and my inboxes have been absolutely FLOODED with messages from people on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook with loads of fab questions. So here are all my answers for you – if you’re thinking of going on a Contiki trip, or if you already have one booked, I hope this will help a little to ease your first time travel nerves or will help with your packing woes! Lets get this show on the road….

Question: How strict are Contiki on their luggage limits, and would you recommend a suitcase or a backpack?

Answer: According to the paperwork in the Contiki Welcome Pack, the standard luggage allowance per person is 1x 20kg bag in hold (under the bus) and 1x small day bag on board. The official Contiki size guide is 1x suitcase or bag measuring a max of 73cm x 50cm x 25cm although some of the people on our tour did have bigger cases! I guess it depends on your driver and how lenient they are, but this is the recommended size for all luggage. Oh and I would 1000% recommend a suitcase over a backpack ANYDAY of the week! Suitcases are sooo much more convenient in terms of wheeling them to and from the bus each day, and to and from each hotel!

One more sleep!!!!! 🇺🇸✈️🇺🇸✈️ @contiki #noregrets #USA

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


Question: How often do you get chance to do laundry?

Answer: The choice of hotels on the Grand Southern is so good, most of them have free WIFI and laundry facilities and they’re all in great locations. Not every hotel had laundry, but I’d say about every 4th one did, so there was a chance to do some washing at least once a week. I pitched in with some of my tour mates and did washing together so we got usage out of the washing powder and saved some of our pennies!

Question: Did you need to buy a separate US sim card for your phone, or did you just use WIFI?

Answer: The States is notoriously expensive for non US residents so, naturally, I was a little worried about using my phone over there! Contiki actually provide you with a USA and Canada sim card which is pre activated and ready to use on your trip. You’ll get this in your little Welcome Pack which is posted out to you before you fly – cute! Most people bought sim cards from the nearest Walmart though and used these as I think it gave you a bit more value for money. I was fortunate enough to switch phone providers just before I flew out, so Three Network allowed me to use my phone in the same way I would if I was at home, and I was texting and phoning home normally without having to pay any extra – AMAZING!! If however you can’t take advantage of this, or you’re not keen on getting a sim card, then I’d just stick to the WIFI, there’s plenty of it in the restaurants, hotels, shops and bars at each of the Grand Southern destinations so you should be fine!

Ahhh my last day at home before my big American adventure tomorrow!! ✈️🇺🇸@contiki #noregrets

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


Question: Is there anything you brought that you thought you’d need but didn’t end up using?

Answer: This is a GREAT question – I wish I’d asked someone this before I went on my trip! I took quite a few clothes that I thought I’d use but didn’t; I wore tops and shorts over and over again just cos it was easy and I was too lazy to root through my suitcase. I brought magazines in case I had some downtime and was bored – I didn’t read them, they were chucked out in Miami as they were weighing down my day bag (sorry OK mag). I also brought about 20 pairs of socks which I didn’t use AT ALL! I guess it depends what type of shoes you wear, but I was in flip flops and pumps most days so didn’t need them.

Question: Did you have the same roommate the whole tour?

Answer: Yes I did have the same roomie the whole tour, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way! My roomie Poppy was so amazing, she was like me in the sense that she likes to party but doesn’t want to roll home with a random stranger at 5 o clock in the morning! We got on really well the entire trip and I was so lucky to have her as my roomie – miss you Pop!! <3 Some people did switch roomies midway through the Grand Southern, as those who left/joined in New Orleans affected the pairings. If you’re reeaaally unhappy with your roomie you could always ask your Tour Manager if you can switch with someone, it messes up the hotel names but other than that it doesn’t really matter.

I miss my #Contiki roomie too much 😭😭 @poppy_sparrow #noregrets #roomies #girls #love 💖💖

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


Question: How strict are Contiki with their age policy and can someone over 35 travel if they are with someone under 35?

Answer: I actually contacted Contiki for the answer to this as I wanted to get it 100% correct! Here’s their official statement: “We are proud to be the best in class and like to uphold our promises to our travelers, one being our 18-35 year policy. We would not be able to accommodate anyone over 35 travelling with us.” I think that’s pretty clear!

Question: Did you bring a beach towel with you and did you need to use it?

Answer: Yes, I brought one with me. No, I didn’t use it! I did want to use it on the beaches we stopped at in Florida, but we were able to take the hotel ones which I guess made it easier as I didn’t have to wash my towel before we left etc. If I were doing another trip I wouldn’t bring a beach towel with me. Don’t forget your swim stuff though, there’s plenty of opportunities for pool parties whilst on Contiki!

Pool party 👙💦 #Dallas

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


Question: How many outfits did you bring?

Answer: TOO MANY is the answer to that! I’m a typical over packer anyway, I once went to Spain for a week and took 8 bikinis :O What can I say, I like to have a bit of choice!! You really don’t need to take too many clothes though, especially as you can do laundry every few days and you can reuse lots of things. The Grand Southern lasts for 27 days so I took 5-6 pairs of shorts, 12 tops (vests & t-shirts), a couple of skirts, a few day dresses and 2 evening dresses. Oh and don’t forget your essentials like pants etc (I literally took about 30 pairs of knickers!) and footwear, like I said before I was mainly in flip flops and pumps but you can wear whatever you’re comfy in.

Question: How many ‘going out’ clothes do you need? ie for clubbing etc

Answer: I actually only bought two going out dresses, one for Vegas and one for Miami, but I forgot that we had two nights in each (duuhh Jess) so I went and bought a few other dressy outfits at various shops and outlet centres so I could wear them to go clubbing! The big cities we stopped at on the Grand Southern are pretty laid back when it comes to night time attire, especially for the ladies, but for boys it’s a bit stricter – think shirts, trousers and shoes, not vests, shorts and sandals! The only thing I WISH I took more than anything was one pair of heels! Clubbing in Vegas & Miami without my heels on just didn’t feel right – who’s with me girls?!

Miami rooftops 🎉🇺🇸 #saturdaynight

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


Question: Are there any mobile device charging points on the bus?

Answer: I think it depends which bus you get; our first one had just a handful of charging points at the rear of the bus only, but we swapped buses towards the end and there were chargers on every seat!

Question: Does the bus have free WIFI?

Answer: Yes and no, again it depends on which bus you get. Our first one did have WIFI but it was very limited, and my phone would never connect to it! The second bus had no WIFI at all. The bus is a place to chill and relax though (and sleep, like I did constantly) and it’s fun to join in with group games instead of being on the internet all the time!

Question: Do the hotels have free WIFI?

Answer: Yes, most of the ones on the Grand Southern had some sort of free WIFI, either in the rooms or downstairs in the reception area. There were often computers in the lobby to if you wanted to make use of them. I actually used one of the PC’s in our Washington hotel to write a blog post for all you lovely lot! 🙂

Question: What optional extras would you do, and what ones would you skip? (Grand Southern only)

Answer: If you can, do them ALL!! I did pretty much all of them bar a few, just because of money etc. I made sure I took enough spends with me though so I could enjoy myself and be fully immersed in the Contiki spirit! Must do’s (in my opinion) are the Cirque Du Soleil in Vegas, the Grand Canyon helicopter, white water rafting in Durango, speed-boating in Miami, baseball games in Memphis & Washington, swamp boating in New Orleans, Universal/Disney in Orlando & parasailing on Daytona Beach. I also saw the hot air ballooning in Albuquerque was pretty special, although I didn’t take part in this. Make sure you take part in the group surprise and the group photos too, such lovely memories of your time together! If I was to skip any I’d say the Dallas Cowboy stadium tour is the least exciting – especially as I thought I was going to see a Dallas RODEO show instead of some football stadium! #oops – but yeah, if you’re into American sports then it’s cool but otherwise it’s a bit boring.


Question: Do I need a US VISA for a Contiki trip?

Answer: Yes, you will need a US VISA for the Grand Southern, or any other US & Canada trip if you are not a US resident. I think this costs around £25 and your travel agent can sort this for you, or you can do it yourself online.

Question: How many nights pre/post tour would you recommend to stay?

Answer: I would definitely stay for at least 3 nights pre trip and 3 nights post trip, if you can afford it! I literally landed in LA the night before the tour started so unfortunately didn’t have chance to see ANYTHING of La La Land which I was pretty gutted about. If you’re an avid reader of my blog you’ll know that I paid a lot of money to change my flights and stay an extra night in New York at the end of the trip, but that’s because it was 4th July and I wanted to celebrate with my new Contiki family! If I were to go again I’d 100% stay a couple of nights extra at either end of the trip so you can make the most of your time in both LA and NYC as you don’t get any included time at these destinations on the Grand Southern.


L.A L.A L.A ✈️🇺🇸✈️🇺🇸

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

Last day on tour 🇺🇸🎉 #NYC #timessquare #america #USA @contiki @statravel_uk #contiki #noregrets

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


Question: Did you meet anyone from your trip online before you went? How do the Contiki MeetUps work?

Answer: Yep, I found the online MeetUps fairly easily via the Contiki website, and more and more people started to join in the run up to the trip starting. We also then made a group Facebook page and added everyone to it as it was a much easier way of keeping in touch with everyone. I found that this group really helped us to bond, I spoke to quite a few people quite a lot before the trip started so it felt as if I knew them before we even met on that first night in LA!

Question: Did you get to stop off much on long drive days?

Answer: You’re driving on average around 8 hours a day on the Grand Southern, sometimes a little longer, sometimes a little shorter, and there were plenty of opportunities to stop. We’d stop at Walmarts, or large retail parks, to do some shopping and to grab some proper lunch and stock up on snacks etc. The stops were interesting and varied, one was Monument Valley, Utah (INSANE!), one was Seligman, Arizona- an official Route 66 stop, and one was Little Rock High School, Arkansas; a museum/exhibiton about the desegregation of public schools in the US. We also made longer stops at Santa Fe (New Mexico), Charleston (South Carolina) & Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) where we had plenty of free-time to explore. The stops really help to break up the driving days and allow you to visit lots of new states before you reach your destinations.


A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


Question: How much do you recommend to tip your tour manager/driver?

Answer: The recommended suggestion from Contiki is $3 per day for driver and for your TM, or more if you think they’ve gone above and beyond. I tipped both John, our TM and Ray, our driver, $100 each for the full 27 days as I thought they were truly amazing and they looked after me during my time on tour. It really depends how generous you’re feeling, but they do a dam good job and I felt they really earned their tips so I was happy to pay a little extra! Miss you guys! X

Missing #NYC and my @contiki team John & Ray-Ray! 🎉 @jnavarro467 #tbt #contiki #noregrets

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


So there we have it! I feel EXHAUSTED but not in a bad way, in a good way. Like a really, really good way and hopefully this may have helped those of you who are going on Contiki in the not too distant future. Dammm I wish I had seen this blog post before I did my first Contiki trip 😉 Just kidding, hindsight is a wonderful thing!

So you should now be ready to jump on to your first Contiki bus fully armed with knowledge and able to survive your trips! Please tell me where you are going as I’d love to hear all your fab itineraries (and cry myself to sleep because I won’t be joining you) – tell me your travel plans! Oh and if you think I’ve missed aaaaanything at all (I bloody hope not!) then just shout, I’m honestly here to help!

Love Jess x

So after 28 amazing days the time has come for me to leave the US of A and travel home from my first solo adventure! I've white water rafted in Durango, helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, parasailed on Daytona Beach, been speed boating in Miami and celebrated Independence Day in New York! I've had the time of my life with the most amazing people making 52 new friends as well as hundreds of new memories that will last a lifetime! Honestly the best thing I've ever done and I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. Now it's time for me to fly home from NYC in my contiki top and cowboy boots in true tourist style! Til next time America… Mum I'm coming homeeee 🇺🇸🎉💖 #noregrets @contiki @statravel_uk @travelstarwarsjoe

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

July Newsletter! Back down to earth with a bump…

My little work helper! 🐶💖 #bloglife

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


Hey everyone,

Well this feels rather strange.. I haven’t written a monthly newsletter since May!! MAY!! Yes you heard me right, May seems like FOREVER ago now, but I was out of the country for the whole of June and the start of July and then the rest of the month was over with in a flash! Now that we’re in August though (saywhatttt) I thought I’d summarise what I’ve been up to over these past few weeks…

I came back from my American adventure

So after 28 amazing days the time has come for me to leave the US of A and travel home from my first solo adventure! I've white water rafted in Durango, helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, parasailed on Daytona Beach, been speed boating in Miami and celebrated Independence Day in New York! I've had the time of my life with the most amazing people making 52 new friends as well as hundreds of new memories that will last a lifetime! Honestly the best thing I've ever done and I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. Now it's time for me to fly home from NYC in my contiki top and cowboy boots in true tourist style! Til next time America… Mum I'm coming homeeee 🇺🇸🎉💖 #noregrets @contiki @statravel_uk @travelstarwarsjoe

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


So unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month (or, ya know, you could just have been doing something else with your time other than reading my blog, it’s possible) you’ll know that I’ve just got back from the adventure of a LIFETIME! Yep, I’ve just spent the past month road tripping across America from LA to NYC on my first Contiki tour! Find out how my trip has literally changed my life, and why I think America is the best place on earth, by reading some of my previous posts.

I’m taking some time out for ME

Sometimes I just like to sit on fences and pose 📷🍃 #Cotswolds #oxfordshire #happymonday #countryside

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

So, as you can imagine, I’m pretty damn gutted about being back home after my amazingly epic American adventure. Post travel blues generally suck but, this time, I’m feeling a whole other level of sadness and I don’t know why, I just can’t explain it. I’ve drafted something which kinda puts across my feelings, but I’ll post it when I’m good and ready as things are still a bit raw at the moment. Besides that I’ve been taking time out for ME and focusing on myself, which is something totally alien to me. Now that I’m not working it’s weird to adjust to not having a routine, so I’m trying to keep myself busy by enjoying long countryside dog walks, family days out and catch ups with my friends. For the first time in my adult life I don’t have to do ANYTHING I don’t want to do, and I’m just trying to embrace it!

I’m re-launching my blog


Yayyy, I’m so excited to be in the middle of a rebrand for my blog and I can’t wait to share the end result with you! It’s still a work in progress, but by now you should have noticed a few changes on the blog in terms of layout and theme, and I FINALLY have my own shiny new domain name – woooo! I’ve wanted to change my site for so long but work, life and America got in the way so, now that I’m back, this is my number one priority. Keep an eye out for further updates, but the finished project will be launched soon I promise!

I went to the beach (yes, it was in England!)

Beautiful day at a beautiful place 🇬🇧 #Cotswolds #wanderlustwednesday #visitgreatbritain #uk

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


Okay, I know what you’re all thinking, why would you go to a beach in ENGLAND?! Wellll I’m happy to tell you that we experienced a somewhat freakishly hot heatwave last week across the UK and it was AMAZING, we haven’t felt heat like that in sooo long! What do us Brits do when we see some sun? We head for the beach of course! Instead of driving down the coast to all the tourist packed beaches though, me and my best friend drove the short 40 minutes to the beautiful Cotswold Water Park in Gloucestershire, our nearest manmade beach.

Row row row your boat ⚓️🚤 #Cotswolds #visitgreatbritain #uk #wanderlustwednesday

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


It’s not quite the same, there isn’t sand that stretches for miles, or there’s not beautiful blue seas, but it’s as good as we can hope for in the Cotswolds with nothing around but hills, fields and, of course, the Great British countryside! We had a lovely day sunbathing, paddling and rowing a boat across the lake, as you do. Sun please make another appearance so I can go back to this wonderful place before the summer is over!


I celebrated my mum and dads Silver Wedding Anniversary <3


July also gave us a reason to celebrate as it was my parents Silver Wedding Anniversary – 25 WHOLE YEARS OF MARRAIGE?!?! Crazy, right?! We had a lovely day celebrating and we went out for a gorgeous Italian meal in the evening, just the five of us, before coming home to settle down in our pjs and watch my mum and dad’s wedding video! I’m so lucky to have such a close, tight knit family and occasions like this really bring it home. Love you mum and dad, thank you for always supporting me and for encouraging me to believe in my dreams! <3

I booked my next trip!

Thanks to @easyjet my next trip is now booked! Roll on a 9 day tour of #Italy in September with my sister eek!! #traveltuesday ✈️🌍

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


Eeeek so probably the most exciting thing that happened in July was that I booked my next trip!! I know what you’re thinking, you’ve only just got back from America, right?! Yes, that’s right, but I also know that curing my travel blues is gonna take a lot more than pigging out on pizza and Ben & Jerry’s, so, I’ve booked my next trip! I’m off to Italy in September with my sister and we’re taking a full 9 day tour of the country visiting Venice, Florence and Rome. We are both SO EXCITED and are gonna be staying in boutique hotels, getting the train between each city and embracing the true history and culture of Italy during our time there. I’ll bring you more details once we’ve got everything fully booked, but if you have any city tips for either of the destinations we are visiting then PLEASE send them over to me- I want ALL your must sees and must dos!

So that’s pretty much it, my July wasn’t overly exciting compared to my June, but I’ve still been super busy and have had plenty to keep me going! How did your month go? Have you got much on for the rest of the summer? I’d love to hear your upcoming travel plans!

Love Jess x

☀️☀️ #happysaturday #sunshine #cotswolds #oxfordshire

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on



28 days, 23 states, 1 epic US road trip! How my first Contiki adventure totally changed my life!



Hey everyone,

Now that I’ve finally caught up with sleep and my routine is kinda back to normal I thought I’d share this honest and open post with you about my first solo adventure and how I feel it has totally changed my life.. I’m just gonna speak from the heart and see what happens so I apologise in advance for any typos/bad grammar but this is me just laying everything down on paper, or on a web page I should say! Here goes…

I grew so much in confidence

This is a little cliché, but for me it’s 100% true! I genuinely have gained so much confidence from my first solo adventure that I now feel fully able to travel anywhere in the world totally on my own. I loved being by myself at the airports, at the taxi ranks, at hotel bars – weirdly it was refreshing not to worry about someone else, and just to enjoy being by myself for abit. It also made it super easy to chat to other people and see if anyone else was in the same boat as me. I’m so so glad I travelled alone on this tour as I feel I got the best out of the whole trip by just being MYSELF the whole time!


When in #Vegas a pool party is a must! 🎉👙

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


Now when I think about taking my next trip I’m not going to worry if my sister or my best friend can’t take time off to come with me, I’m happy to go alone and create my OWN new experiences. Since I got back from my trip I’ve realised I’m also super happy and fully content to be SINGLE for the first time in ages – who needs a guy to hold you back?! #foreveralone #goodbyetinder


Trekked halfway down to the canyon and then back up again today 🏃🏃 @contiki #grandcanyon #USA #noregrets

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


I overcame my illnesses

This is probably the biggest thing for me that has really been lifechanging. I can’t believe I made it a whole month without getting ill!! Okay, I was sick on two separate occasions, around six or seven times each, BUT I wasn’t ill as in poorly like I have previously been, with endless trips to the doctors back home, I just threw up a few times and I dealt with it – no biggy! Usually, when I’m sick at home it wipes me out for days, gives me stomach cramps and I don’t eat for a week but for some unknown reason after I was sick each time I was able to just brush myself down and get on with things. That’s never happened to me before so I’ll definitely be better off next time I’m sick at home! I also get tired really quickly as I have anaemia, I can sleep literally anywhere and I sleep a LOT but it kind of became a running joke on the bus that I was the first to fall asleep first and the one to sleep through anything! It defo helped when we had long bus days!


Monday's got me feeling like this again.. I definitely didn't fall asleep in #Washington 😴😴

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


I also proved that I can travel with my health condition and that I was FINE! If you’re an avid reader of my blog you’ll know that from one of my previous posts that I have a small (benign) tumor in my brain which affects my eyesight and my general health. I get headaches and I get dizzy a lot, but my medication controls most of my symptoms so well that, for a few split seconds, sometimes I forget I even have a tumor! Anyway, I was determined that my condition wouldn’t get the better of me so that I could still travel like a ‘normal person’ and, you know what, apart from the ridiculously high charge for specialist travel insurance, I didn’t feel any different! I took my medication, made sure I was eating and drinking enough and remembered to chill out if I felt a headache coming on. I’m so pleased I was able to travel for so long without my condition affecting me and this has given me the confidence to book other long-haul trips as I now know I can look after myself and still travel with my illness! Woooo #gojess #thistumorwillneverbeatme



I made lifelong friends and memories

So in a normal world and in normal everyday life you wouldn’t be best friends with someone you just met, or you wouldn’t sleep next to a stranger on a bus, right?! Well on Contiki, this happened and I wouldn’t change a thing! I became sooo close to my tour buddies that I now see them as FAMILY and I love them dearly. It’s so intense living with 52 other people day in, day out but it’s the best way to grow close and I’m so grateful to Contiki for allowing me to meet so many wonderful people!


White T-Shirt signing party on our last night in #Washington 👚👨‍👩‍👦‍👦 #Contiki #family #noregrets #stopcryingjess

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


Special shoutouts to Jess- my partner in crime, Wadey – my first Contiki friend, Poppy – my roomie, Daz – my dance partner, Bel, Kath and Kim – my little cuties, Amy, Alana, Tamara and Megan- my musketeers, Ray and John – our amazing Contiki team and James, Matt, Richard, Chris, Corey and Dalton – my boys! I love and miss each and every one of you so so much and can’t wait to visit you all in Australia next year to be reunited! I 100% know we will remain friends forever, thank you for making my Contiki experience the best <3


Another #baseball game last night with my #contiki fam ⚾️⚾️ #Washington #DC #noregrets

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


I ticked so much off my bucketlist

From white water rafting in Durango and speed boating in Miami to helicoptering over the Grand Canyon and parasailing across Daytona Beach I ticked SO MUCH off my bucketlist on this trip, and that’s just the optional activities! Contiki also helped me get the best American experience possible by visiting hidden gems including local foodie spots and cute little bars. We had fajitas in Santa Fe and Hurricanes in New Orleans. We saw New York street parades on 4th July and watched baseball games in Washington & Memphis.



We gambled in Vegas, we line danced in Amarillo, we road tripped across Route 66, we ghost hunted in Savannah and we went to infinity and beyond at NASA HQ. Everything I did I loved every single second and I’m so glad I could experience so much of America in such a short space of time. The optional extras were worth every penny and I’d do them all again in a heartbeat!


Don't think I could look more tiny if I tried! @nasa @contiki @statravel_uk #contiki #grandsouthern #america #USA #noregrets #NASA

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


I made crazy decisions and became super spontaneous

I spent money on crappy souvenirs, I gambled my dollars and I bought drink after drink in the clubs but perhaps the craziest decision I’ve ever made is when I extended my stay in NYC, delayed my flight by 24hours and paid £471 for the privilege!!!! I know, crazy right?!



It cost so much money I wanted to cry, but I remember thinking that I wasn’t born to just have money sitting in the bank. I’m on this planet to enjoy life, spend my hard earned cash, make stupid decisions and have the best memories in the world! I don’t regret my decision at all as, although it cost me a fortune, I got to spend 4th July in NYC with my new family and we were able to have one last night together – to me, that’s worth more than money in my bank account!

Most importantly…I have NO REGRETS!!

This is our Contiki saying!  If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from my time away it’s that you’ve got to live in the moment, take every day as it comes, seize new opportunities and just have the time of your life – I know I have and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat! #noregrets <3

Unless you’ve been on a similar Contiki trip I don’t expect any of you lovely lot to understand the way I feel, but I can honestly say I’ve had the most amazing 28 days of my life with the most wonderful people and have made memories that I will cherish forever. I have been through a rollercoaster of emotions; I’ve laughed so hard my ribs hurt for days, and I’ve also cried so much I had constant panda eyes and looked horrendous! I can’t describe the way I’ve been feeling but it’s 100% changed the person I was before to the person I am now.



Since I’ve been back I’ve received lots of lovely messages from people thinking about booking a Contiki trip and asking me how I got on etc. People have also been asking me if I’m likely to do another Contiki trip and I honestly don’t know whether to or not.. I’d love to do the Grand Northern across America and Canada, but part of me is reluctant to do another month long tour for fear of it not living up to the Grand Southern! It won’t be the same people, the same places or the same journey and I’m worried I’ll compare it and it won’t be as good as this trip.

On the other hand though, I don’t want anything to be the same as the Grand Southern as nothing will ever compare to that and I would never want to replace those amazing memories! As we rolled into NYC on our 27th day, our tour guide John told us to keep travelling, keep going on journeys and keep exploring no matter what, so I’m going to travel and see the rest of this beautiful planet, but probably without 52 other crazy people keeping me company! Who knows what will happen next though… Watch this space!



Have any of you ever done a Contiki tour, or taken part in a similar journey either across the world or across the United States like me? I would LOVE to hear your experiences so please leave me a comment or get in touch with me on one of my many social media channels! Sorry that this is long and rambly but I just have sooo much to say on something that has been sooo big in my little life!

Love Jess x

PS. Don’t forget to read my official Contiki review of the Grand Southern adventure!


So after 28 amazing days the time has come for me to leave the US of A and travel home from my first solo adventure! I've white water rafted in Durango, helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, parasailed on Daytona Beach, been speed boating in Miami and celebrated Independence Day in New York! I've had the time of my life with the most amazing people making 52 new friends as well as hundreds of new memories that will last a lifetime! Honestly the best thing I've ever done and I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. Now it's time for me to fly home from NYC in my contiki top and cowboy boots in true tourist style! Til next time America… Mum I'm coming homeeee 🇺🇸🎉💖 #noregrets @contiki @statravel_uk @travelstarwarsjoe

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


Jumping in my last big yellow taxi 🇺🇸🚕 #newyork

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


Seven Things To Take With You on Contiki!


Hey y’all!

Sorry, I’ve defo turned more American since I’ve got back from the States… I NEED TO START BEING MORE BRITISH! As you all know, my recent Contiki Grand Southern American adventure was like totes amaze (is that British enough?!) and I had a ball, but one thing I wish I knew before I went is what on earth to bloody pack for 28 days on the road! I’ve had so many messages from fellow travellers, bloggers and friends asking what items I took, what clothes I wore and what shoes I packed. Now that I’m home I thought I should share my new found wisdom with you all in the hope that it may help those looking to book a Contiki trip, or any other kind of long-haul month long vacation, when it comes to those packing dilemmas!

1. Take a goddamn neck pillow – ESSENTIAL!!!

I literally cannot stress how important this is, and how much I relied on this thing EVERY SINGLE DAY whilst on tour! This neck pillow literally saved my life, well ok it didn’t save my life but you know what I mean, it was that good it has to be top of this list.. So I made the mistake of NOT buying one of these before I went (don’t do it people) and spent my 11 hour flight from London to LA being stupidly uncomfy and wishing I had bought one of the neck pillows that everyone on my flight had! Luckily BA were on hand to give me a tiny baby pillow but it just wasn’t the same.. thanks tho guys, you tried 😉



Anyways, I couldn’t wait for my first Walmart stop so I could run in and pick up a pillow and I was so relieved to find one at our first stop for the tiny sum of just $9 – best $9 I’ve ever spent! I can fall asleep literally anywhere, but it sure does help when you’ve got one of these round your neck and you’re sitting/sleeping on uncomfy bus seats for up to 9 hours a day! Don’t do what I did and forget to take it with you though.. pack it before you go and I promise you’ll be using it every single day!

2. Use a wheely suitcase, not a backpack!

Okay this is an absolute must – I cannot deal with backpacks and I’ve never attempted to carry one in my life BUT a wheely suitcase is sooo much more practical for Contiki and 99% of my tour-mates thought the same (see, I’m not alone). The suitcases are off and on the bus every day, shoved underneath in the storage space and then pushed into hotel room after hotel room for 28 days – poor things – but it’s so much easier to move them around when they are on WHEELS! They make such a difference and, although I still struggled cos I’m tiny, I know having my suitcase was ten times easier than trying to hoist a backpack around 24/7. Trust me – suitcases FTW.



If you’re not sure what bag to take during the day I’d recommend a decent sized rucksack that you can just shove on your back and carry around with you. I found this helpful during the days when I was taking water bottles, food and sunscreen etc with me but during the evenings I’d bring a small over the shoulder bag or a clutch bag depending on where we were heading off to!

We're going on a #riverwalk ⚓️ #Savannah

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


3. Bring sensible footwear

Thank God for Primark! I took two pairs of cheap canvas shoes with me and they were a godsend – I was able to walk around Vegas, hike in the Grand Canyon and stroll around Savannah in these lil beauties without my feet blistering to high heaven. At the end of the trip I chucked my shoes away as 1) I didn’t need them again and 2) they were damn filthy! I’d also recommend taking flip flops/sandals with you for beach days and the long bus days when all you wanna do is kick off those shoes. I actually bought two pairs of flip flops at our various supermarket stops (love you Walmart) they were the comfiest things ever and an absolute steal at just 98 cents each! Say whaaattt…

Trekked halfway down to the canyon and then back up again today 🏃🏃 @contiki #grandcanyon #USA #noregrets

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


One thing I also wish wish wish that I bought with me was a pair of HEELS! Girls, you’re going to want to take at least one pair with you as you’ll get plenty of opportunity to wear them on the trip. On the Grand Southern we partied in places like Vegas, Miami and New York and, although I had nice dresses to wear and I did my make up and hair, I felt sooo under dressed in my Primark sandals!! It wouldn’t matter so much if you were a normal height and not conscious about being under 5ft but this is me we’re talking about and I am TINY so, naturally, I wish I took just one pair of heels with me to give me a bit of height! It isn’t essential and clubs generally didn’t look at what you were wearing on your feet but, if I could do it again, I’d def take some heels to make me feel more glam!

Miami rooftops 🎉🇺🇸 #saturdaynight

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


4. Remember your evening wear

This is juuuust as important as your day wear – okay so you’re going to be spending more time wearing your tops, shorts, skirts etc but your night time wear is crucial depending on where you are going! As I mentioned above, on the Grand Southern we clubbed in Vegas and Miami where the dress code is super strict; boys – you won’t get let in wearing trainers or flip flops! Girls can pretty much wear anything but most wear dresses or skirts and tops whilst boys are encouraged to wear tops/shirts (not tank tops) and generally speaking trousers rather than shorts. The clubby places were strict about their dress code but most of the other cities we visited, like Durango, Savannah, New Orleans and Dallas, are much more relaxed so you can kinda wear whatever you want!



5. Take a credit card & a photo identification card

Probably essential to bring your ID card with you (driving license only) as you’re not going to be wanting to carry your passport everywhere you go! If you’re buying alcohol remember that America operates a strict over 21 policy so you won’t be served or allowed entry to any clubs/pubs if you aren’t over this age limit. Again, it depends where you go but we experienced this and they were pretty strict with everything – rules are rules, right?!


Ahhh my last day at home before my big American adventure tomorrow!! ✈️🇺🇸@contiki #noregrets

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


A credit card was essential for me – it totally helped when I extended my stay and paid £471 in airline fees for the privilege!!! (I wouldn’t recommend doing that btw). In all seriousness though, credit cards a really useful thing to take with you. Depending on who you bank with you can use them like you would do at home and you don’t normally incur charges either. I took a prepaid card with US Dollars but also took my UK credit card for emergencies; I knew it would come in handy in case any of my money got lost or stolen (or in case I gambled it all in Vegas..) or if I was in a sticky situation and just needed more money. As credit cards are separate from your current account/debit card/pre paid card they are really handy to take with you, even if you don’t need to use it it’s nice to know it’s there just in case.

6. Bring at least one jacket/coat

I guess this depends on the destination(s) you’re travelling to, or the season you’ll be away for, but it really is useful to take at lease one form of jacket/coat with you! I was boiling hot in Vegas but flipping freezing during the evening at the Grand Canyon the next day and wish I had something to keep me warm, although I did take a thin hoody which kind of helped (almost). When we were in Savannah there was the thunderstorm of the century and we got soaked all the way through so I was glad my pac-a-mac came in handy! If you’re travelling across the States be prepared for ALL types of weather – it could be beautiful sunshine one minute and then pouring with rain the next, depending on where you are of course!


Got well and truly caught in the storm in #Savannah today… Knew that pacmac would come in handy dad 😉 ⛈⛈ #rainraingoaway

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


7. Take a camera!

I normally wouldn’t ever travel without taking a camera anyway as I LOVE taking photos of just about anything, but having one on Contiki is a must! There are sooo many photo ops, from famous landmarks and tourist attractions to the incredible optional extras and even silly selfies on the bus with your new friends! Lots of people on my tour were really into their photography and had expensive cameras with their kits and tripods, but I just took my digital camera and my iPhone and flitted between the two when I was taking my snaps. Don’t forget your SD card(s) and your chargers though!


When my cameras in my hand that's all I need 📸 #Vegas #america #USA #contiki #grandsouthern #noregrets

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on


So there we have it, my top tips on what to pack for Contiki! Obviously you’ll need to remember the basics like toiletries, any medication, sunscreen etc (duh), money (bring lots) and your travel documentation including your visas, ESTAs, passports and insurance stuff (goes without saying). Maybe invest in a US sim card as well for your phone as it can get ridiculously expensive contacting home unless you stick to the free WiFi! Once you’ve packed these items along with the other essentials you should be just about ready to jet off on your new adventure- eeeek! To anyone that’s going in the next month/year/decade I am INSANELY JEALOUS and might just book myself on another trip pronto…

Hope this helps a little, if any of you have found this list useful/insulting or if you just generally have any comments at all please do pop them in the box below – I’d love to hear what you took/are thinking of taking on Contiki!

Love Jess x

NB. Please remember that I visited America during the middle of summer when I did my Contiki tour, but if you’re travelling around Europe, Asia or Australia, or you’re travelling during autumn or winter as opposed to spring or summer, you’ll need to pack according to the weather and local climate! I’m sure you knew that though 😉


I left my heart in #Savannah 💖 @contiki @statravel_uk #contiki #grandsouthern #america #USA #noregrets #wanderlustwednesday

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on