An Epic Ending

I’m going to start this one with a brief explanation for those who might not know me very well about just why the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio was such a spiritual experience for me.

I was raised on music. My most vivid memories from childhood are my first album (B*witched) and how bashed up my Spice Girls one got. I heard Lighthouse Family croon as we drove the Yorkshire countryside in search of adventure. I heard Papi singing Paul Weller to perfection at the top of his lungs. Mumma loved Simply Red and Style Council, Sade and real soulful RnB. Papi put Eminem’s Encore album in the car and I cheekily learnt all the lyrics in my room at night while I drew and Mumma questioned the language. My sister bopped in her walker to Will Smith and my Nan taught me about the incredible Tina Turner and Elvis Presley. Papi heard about England’s next big thing, Arctic Monkeys. That album is part of my life story, man. As well as everyone one that followed.

I love music. When I lost myself music found me. I fell in love with the Beatles, INXS, the Stones, Plan B, Steely Dan, Prince, Bowie, Sticky Fingers, Johnny Cash, Elton John, The Specials. Too many more to mention.

I found my bands and learned what it’s all about to live and breathe it. I connected with people who showed me even more new magic and let me share in the love of theirs.

My favourite guitar solo of all time is Prince during While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Paul’s speech for John, again for Ringo. Mick’s for the Beatles. Epic Clapton declaring ‘Music is all you really need. Love and music is all we need’.

I love travel, but music is the love of my life.

And this is the home of music.

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Johnny Cash was the featured artist. His old tour bus was sitting outside. It made me long for days I never spent on tours I never witnessed. I must have been a GTO in a past life… there’s just something in this soul longing for it all and I can’t explain it.

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I could have spent days there but I was emotionally vulnerable and feeling incredibly overwhelmed with love when I walked out (20 minutes late, but I did navigate the gift shop at record speed.)

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Cleveland was a beautiful city, and to top off my best day I got to go see one of the best films I’ve seen in years. The last time a movie I watched jumped instantly in to my top five it was Lost in Translation.

Baby Driver was a musically driven, beautifully written and actioned packed dream from start to finish, taking place in a world I wish I belonged. The gentle dialog and tune connection between Baby and Deborah is the stuff of my wildest fantasies. I could curl up and live in this film. Watch it, please.

Moving far away from my whimsical reminiscences let’s jump right in to next destination.

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We stopped briefly at an Amish village for lunch on the way to Chicago which honestly creeped me out. It’s just so isolated. It hurts my heart every time someone looks in my eyes with longing when I tell them I’m from Australia. I know I am beyond lucky, but I made a choice to dedicate my life to travel. To me, to travel is to live. I really hope some of these lovely people get to explore my home one day the way I am with theirs.

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Happy 4th!

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We spent the day the most perfect way, at the baseball! The beers went down too smoothly, and everyone was in the highest of spirits. Especially our Contiki team.

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It was like walking around with minor celebrities.

That evening we all relaxed in a park by the beach with chilly bins (hah) and lots of American apparel. We danced and drank and laughed as we waited for the fireworks. It was a very memorable experience.

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Our drive from Chicago to Madison was one of my favourite drive days. We went to a fresh food market, and I found my future husband.

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That afternoon we got merry at the Coopers brewery which had the most fantastically camp and fun presentation. I’ve switched beer loyalty purely based on it.

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I dug Maddison. I was super unwell while we were there but the dinner spot had one of my main men on the wall, a fabulous play list, and there was a Beatles themed bar there! I am returning when I come back to cover the middle states, that’s for sure.

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The next night we spent in a cute little spot called Sioux Falls. This began the beautiful run of mellow country towns.

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Apparently corn worship is a thing in this place.

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One of the coolest places we checked out was Badlands national park. This was the first of many incredible natural wonders we were about to explore.

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Mount Rushmore was next on the agenda. The town we stayed in was so picturesque. I loved it. Night one was spend curled up in the spa.

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Mount Rushmore is just as spectacular as you’d imagine. It really took my breathe away seeing it in real life.

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The highlight of the day for me though was witnessing to the gradual progress of the Crazy Horse memorial. It’s a gigantic tribute to a hugely important Native American war leader and historical figure. A multigenerational family have dedicated their lives to carving him in to the rock face on native land. It’s no small feat and who knows if it’ll be finished in our life time, but they accept no government funding. Tourism is the main income for this project, and they also run a school for local native kids on site. It’s all pretty incredible.

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That afternoon we had a family picnic by the lake. It’s so special to be out in nature and relaxing with friends.

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That night was movie night! Spot batman pants.

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Next we headed to the cowboy town of Cody. I gracefully bowed out of the rodeo this time but the next day was without a doubt one of the best of my life. Yellowstone National Park.

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The pictures speak for themselves. Certain spots smelled like Rotorua but the natural beauty of these formations was unparalleled. This is my favourite National Park.

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We even saw a bear!

The next day was a treat and a lot like popping over to Switzerland, Teton National Park!

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We had lunch at the tiniest brewery ever.

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That afternoon I made a bold choice and went for a trail ride. My horse was called Toughie and was a total gentleman.

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This was followed by an epic cook out and some interesting party games.

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It was a truly stunning place.

A brief city stop brought us to Salt Lake City, and we got to check out how the Mormons do things. Most of the state of Utah are Mormon!

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Kanab was our next stop and along the way we checked out Bryce National Park. We wandered the rim and wondered at her beauty. Each park is so unique.

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I loved the next. This was my third time at the Grand Canyon in just over a year but first time at the North Rim. I spent most of the day with my tunes on relaxing and absorbing the serenity. It’s way more chilled on the North end so it was perfect for just being for a while.

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The next day was wild. Zion National Park blew my mind. We did a few little hikes to pretty running rocks and drank in the fresh water. This was our final day with nature so we enjoyed her fully.

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Finally, here we were. Almost two months down and well and truly ready to go out with a bang. Hello Vegas!

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I absolutely love Las Vegas. Every time I’ve been (which is now four times) I have a different and brilliant experience. I love the happy people on holiday, the bright and vibrant casinos, the shows that leave you on the edge of your seat, the next level night life. Night one we played on Fremont street as we were staying downtown.

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I was in groupie heaven as we discovered two excellent 80s tribute bands, one for the pop hits and one for the spandex boys with long curls and rocker voices. Oh my.

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Safe to say the free day was a rest day. We checked out a few bars but it was aaaaall about day three for me.

We started with the Neon Museum, a collection of old Vegas neon signs. They all had a story and the place was magical.

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Next it was my favourite things, Bubba Gumps and fried chicken before a second viewing of the greatest show of all time… Love by Cirque Du Soleil. Rin and I toe tapped and gasped and swayed to the best songs remixed to perfection and yet again I danced giddily out with some merch.

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Our final night on Contiki involved party buses and the one and only Ghost Bar. I even ran in to one of my gorgeous NSW agents from my Brissie days. Only in Vegas.

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We danced and cuddled and tried not to get emotional about the end of our epic journey. Ten of us started this together. It’s a long time and there’s a lot of love there.

Our last day was hungover and sad, but it’s okay. I’ll be seeing you.

My flights home were entirely uneventful, unlike the ones there, so that was a relief.

I’m in heaven being at home with my family. I missed them, as I always do. Especially my little man.

~

So now we begin my transformation year. I have worked my bum off and now I’m allowed to work from home. This means I can smash the savings and get back to Brissie as soon as possible (one year is the goal). Until then, it’s me time.

I’m going to read, play my instruments, write my stories and enjoy my family. Most of all I’m going to focus on my health and happiness. When I figure out a miracle cure for a fucked up relationship with food I’ll let you know! 24 and 25 were magical exploration years, now at 26 I’ll cocoon before the butterfly returns.

Thank you to everyone who was a part of my adventure.

An important message I want to put out there is that if you want to travel, explore and live a nomad life, just do it! Don’t succumb to the pressure of getting on the property market or buying expensive things you don’t need if that’s not where your heart is. You don’t have to study something you aren’t passionate about. You don’t have to have a brand new car or expensive clothes.

Make a choice, and then go after it with everything you have. It’s the only way to live. Never do anything by half.

I’m not doing anything that you can’t. 

Remember, our stories are only just beginning…

Harleigh Q

Xo

 

 

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Oh, Canada! and Other Stories

Despite the title this post actually begins in the beautiful Boston. You guys know how I feel about this place.

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Like last time we hit up my least favourite restaurant in the world, in a city full of epic Italian food. It was is an ice breaker, to say the least.

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We enjoyed many bevvies, hit up a beautiful little Irish pub and bonded with our new friends. Only ten of us were doing The Epic and the bus  was almost full again, so that meant myself and the family had 40 new people to get to know.

The next morning was a very wet Harvard tour with the cutest guide of all time.

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That afternoon I headed for another adventure, a solo feast on Hanover St, aka Little Italy. By chance I happened upon the beautiful little restaurant I ate at last year and headed back in to reacquaint myself with the lovely host Tony. We bonded over the Beatles and vintage cars while I ate my weight in Calamari Marinara, chased with Pinot Noir and espresso. Heaven!

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I followed that up by using every fibre of my being not to buy every manga and comic book in an awesome pop culture store and then wandered the fresh food market.

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Boston has my heart, but something incredible happened that night.

I have always wanted to see Salem. It’s known primarily for being the location of the Witch Trials. It’s a spooky little town about forty five minutes north of Boston.

We discussed it’s history and the devastation mass hysteria can cause before visiting the memorial to our fallen sisters. Their last words etched on the ground, it’s located next to the cemetery and gave me chills.

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My evening became even more magical when I was the only one who wanted Indian food. Stubborn and determined as I am, off I ventured. When I walked in to the restaurant I saw I could sit at the bar and eat surrounded by locals, so I did. After placing my wine order the lady next to me asked me about my accent. What proceeded was one hell of a meet cute. I met Rachel.

She’s just a normal lady, a friendly person, but with one of the warmest hearts I’ve ever encountered. Within seconds of talking to me she guessed my star sign. I found myself opening up about my life, friends, family and she did the same. We bonded over shared experiences, opinions and struggles as we clinked our wine glasses. We laughed at the cute waiter giving me the eye, and she told him firmly he was not to hit on me, embarrassing both of us, but making me feel incredibly safe.

As I shovelled chicken tikka masala in to my mouth she handed her card over and paid for my meal. I was absolutely blown away. She didn’t even know me. Money has been a constant struggle for me on this trip. That act of kindness made me well up. She just smiled and told me she knew I would do it for someone else one day. I really will.

We held each other close and she gave me some excellent advice: always carry a little umbrella in a bag big enough to conceal it, always carry a pen and change my drink to whisky ginger.

With one last cuddle and me declaring the Boston jumper I purchased that day would forever be my Rachel jumper, we parted ways. We agreed not to keep in touch, because what we had was enough. She told me she would have a wonderful night, having met me. I thought, I will have a wonderful life, having met you.

Human beings are incredible. Kindness is everywhere. Don’t be scared.

Also, Salem is a must see for any one of my spook loving friends.

~

The next day we heading up to the border, and because Braden is a legend we made one hell of a stop, Maine. I’ve driven through before, but this coastal heaven gave me a huge rush of love for my home. It’s spectacular rocks, waves and lighthouse gave me a moment of longing for our own gorgeous Margaret River Region. We are so lucky.

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We left the USA behind for a little while and made our way to our first Canadian stop, the spectacular Quebec City.

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This is my darling Tony and I Romeo et Juliet-ing in the restaurant on night one.

The place is so charming you could be in regional France. I mean just look at it.

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We tried our first poutine (it’s addictive) and wandered the little streets. Lou and I found some swings to play on. It was a perfect day.

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That night we had a pretty wild pool party.

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Next stop, a place in which I hold very fond memories, Montreal.

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This city has it all. She’s a hub of love. The gay district was vibrant, colourful and wild. The nightlife is epic. The locals are fun and friendly (and French speaking). I also got to spend my birthday here! The big two six.

Day one we waited for a thunderstorm to pass before jetboating the rapids and swallowing a lot of fresh water. Probably the most hydration I’ve had all trip.

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That night was mine! Hippie themed, of course, we glittered up and made our way to a bar with $2.50 drinks and that’s all I have to say about that.

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Actually, no it’s not. Here’s the highlights: commanding the Dfoor with my wand, sobbing alone at the bar because people were writing nice things on my wall, downing three beers, getting called homophobic because I don’t hate Muslims by a random local on the street (I swear people smell the lefty on me), an old rose selling man who looked like the crypt keeper kissing me, somehow navigating us to poutine and finally, leaving my purse in the restaurant and not realising until we got to the hotel. Thank God for the sweetest cab driver putting on the Beatles station for me to cheer me up while we went back to get it.

Once sober and a bit less emotional on my actual birthday, I had the best dinner ever, and then hit up the jazz festival. It was beyond expectation, crazy busy, full of beautiful people (men with long dark hair sharply dressed) enjoying great music. I won’t ever forget this day.

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Our final Canadian spot, and where we would spend Canada Day, was Toronto!

On our way we had a very important stop that involved an apple pie eating contest and me making a new friend.

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A few magical things happened while we spent three nights in this epic city. The first night we watched the Toronto Blue Jays lose.

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Then went to the huge bar I partied in last time with my Eastern Escapade friends, and I found this:

Be still, my beating heart!

Day two was a bit blurry thanks to this place:

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As is tradition. Crisp and yum as ever. We attempted to sober ourselves up with a delicious market lunch by the dog fountain.

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After all that excitement we giggled at dinner making up life stories for fellow diners and continued the laughs at Second City comedy show. Then, somehow, because I’ve got the stamina of an ox when I need it, a few of us ventured to a special spot known as the Lockhart.

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All was well.

Our last full day in Canada was perfection. It was her 150th birthday! We road tripped down to Niagara Falls for the day, which is always incredible.

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Decked in our patriotic best, we partied the night away, Canadian style!

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Apparently there were fireworks..?

And so, I’ll go out with a bang and leave it at that! We have the whole North to cover last, which will begin with, without a single doubt, my absolute favourite part of this trip.

For those wondering, I’ll be landing back in Perth on 21st July. So see you soon!

Harleigh Q

xo

Moving On Up The East

I’m going to be real honest with you guys. For the first time in my life, on our way from New Orleans to Orlando, I got homesick. I got it bad. I just lost a couple of really beautiful new friends as their part of the tour came to an end (miss you always Elise and Mariana!). I had barely had chance to speak to my family in weeks, I was stressed about finances and just felt really overwhelmed.

I started to get sick, so Panama City Beach was a blur, and our first night in Orlando I went to bed as soon as we got back from dinner and snoozed for 14 hours straight. Impressive right?

Because I did Universal last year I decided to bow out and have some well needed chill time. I ended up going to the movies to see Wonder Woman with my lovely tour running team. You guys know how I feel about DC, and after the overwhelming averageness that was Suicide Squad, this movie blew my socks off. I cried, as usual, as I watched a genre I have long loved but struggled to identify with be completely flipped on its head. No gratuitous up-skirt shots, no weak-woman-rescued-by-strong-man dynamic. It was incredible. I hope my future daughters continue to have incredible movies like this to seek inspiration from.

After that, feeling a lot better, I hit the pool with my gorgeous friends Geri and Justine for far too many tequila cans.

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After our impressive display at the pool that afternoon I had completely and utterly written myself off for night one in Miami. We got pretty, and I went to bed straight after dinner again.

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The next day I knew I well and truly needed a me day. Let me say this again for those in the back, there is absolutely nothing wrong with lying in bed with a picnic and Netflix when you’re on holiday. The idea is that it’s a holiday, so you do you gang! Sometimes a girl needs her crime shows and three naps. I also got to hear my parents voices and the gentle gurgling of my perfect nephew. Self imposed isolation worked a treat, because that night was party boat night.

Contiki hire a private boat for two hours, on which we got a sick DJ, four free drinks and a stunning view of the Miami skyline.

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I didn’t party too hard because the next day would be one of my absolute highlights… Kennedy Space Centre!

I love space. I find it completely fascinating and mind-boggling. Last year my visit to NASA Houston was one of my favourite days. This year I powered away from the group the moment we got inside so I could cover as much as possible.

First I headed straight to the hall of fame for a truly awesome presentation.

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This was followed by a tour of the whole facility and a recreation of the moon mission, over looking mission control.

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Next I made my pilgrimage to the gift shop and met an astronaut!

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Finally I watched a stunning presentation about our beautiful planet. It was an epic day.

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That night we stayed at Daytona Beach, which was so peaceful and made my heart ache for my Goldie a little.

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Our final stop in Florida was brief and magical, St Augustine.

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The town is old, stunning and has all of the appeal and charm of somewhere like the Shambles in York or Old Town San Diego. Loren and I found ourselves lost in the hand crafted jewellery shops and quirky gift stores. I also had the best fried chicken of my life. BIG CALL. This was followed by an epic family BBQ.

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After leaving Florida we had another stop that I fell in love with. Mi sonna innamorata. As usual!

I didn’t know much about Savannah, Georgia. For context, when Forrest goes to see Jenny in the cafe, it was filmed there! We saw the church, the square and even the cafe itself. Sadly the bench is chained away in the visitor’s centre.

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We spent the day eating oysters and drinking alcoholic slushies.

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That night had one of the best authentic experiences, a home cooked Southern meal with far too much to go around.

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After that it was rooftop cocktails as the sun went down, extremely competitive Trivial Pursuit and the dive-iest gay bar I’ve ever been in for bad karaoke and dollar Jell-O shots.

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The next day we had a lunch stop in Charleston. A lot of the group preferred it here, and though I loved the market and southern mansions, my heart remains with Savannah!

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We had one whirlwind night in Raleigh of which I remember a great buffet and some really pretty looking bars, but it was really just a rest stop on our way to the one and only… Washington DC!

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First on our agenda was a visit to Arlington Cemetery to pay our respects to the countless men and women lost to conflict. It’s always going to hurt, but they did it for their country. That bravery has to be honoured.

Now because I was in DC near on a year ago with another bunch of legends, I had already covered the main touristy bits. I’m not a museum person unless it’s related to a passion of mine, so I decided to dedicate the next two days to pure Leigh time.

This did mean about 70% of it was spent hungover.

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Us lucky Contiki kids get a $10 open bar at an Irish pub called Shenanigans on our second night in the nation’s capital. I remember how badly this ended last time, and honestly, this time was even worse. No details needed. I just couldn’t open my eyes until 3pm the next day. It’s the free pour, I swear! The next night wasn’t a whole lot better. Geri and I ate our weight in Japanese food before a family night at the Italian next door. I was super classy with my white wine and we boogied around the beer pong table (I’ll never get the appeal of that game, but I suppose you need hand-eye coordination, that which I do not possess).

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This was our last official night with the crew. This group had been so massive and wild it was definitely a challenge to connect with everyone, but I made some incredible friends who I know I’ll be seeing back home.

On our way up to NYC we made a stop in a city I will always have heavy affection for, Philadelphia.

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I mean of course I love the Rocky story but it’s setting really is wildly appealing to me. I love the brashness of the locals, the accent, the food, the whole vibe of the place is pretty magnetic. It’s real and raw; just how I like my cities. It was an awesome stop that I honestly wish we stayed in longer.

Finally we made it to the end of the Grand Southern, and I lost my two special girls (and Trent) to Toronto and Boston. I don’t do goodbyes, just see you laters.

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Thus began four nights in New York!

I definitely covered off the main things I wanted to see last time I was there, so this was going to be pure enjoyment.

Day one we met Dan, who would be taking care of us for the NY portion of our adventure. We had a pretty awesome city tour.

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The next day Rachel and I headed out for one of my best days yet… Show day!

First we saw the darkest play I have ever seen, and one of the best books ever written, 1984.

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The cast were spectacular, the stage direction flawless and I don’t think I breathed for most of the second half.

After a quick stop at Bubba Gumps to compose ourselves and cleanse our thoughts, we joined Louise and headed to see the magnificent Anastasia.

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I have been following the progression of this show ever since it was announced last year, and it was just as magical as I’d hoped. It was one of my favourite films as a kiddo, I vividly remembered singing the songs at the top of my lungs around the house. We got all the classics and more, and the sexiest villain of all time.

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I can’t recommend either of them enough!

That brought us to our final full day in the big apple, aka Leigh’s perfect day.

We had a picnic in Strawberry Fields. It’s the part of Central Park opposite The Dakota, the hotel John Lennon lived in and was murdered outside of. It’s a globally recognised garden of peace, it’s a memorial to genius and of course, has a stream of acoustic players jamming out the Beatles’ greatest hits. Heaven.

 

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The next day is also the next chapter… the beginning of the Grand Northern! Boston baby, here I come…

Tune in next time.

Harleigh Q

xo

Country & Western to Rock & Roll

I know I often praise the effects of sleeping tablets for assisting in long flight survival, however, I woke up so groggy when we landed in LA that I proceeded to leave my iPad tucked in the seat pocket; and I didn’t realise until I went to use it after my shower at the hotel.

Tears ensued and I missed my Contiki pre-start meeting, BUT after an hour of back and forthing between lost property and the check in gates, a rogue Swiss employee appeared and produced my dearest possession. As I writer, I type away on this thing constantly. I use it to go to sleep (Netflix downloads are my new favourite thing). It’s my babe and let’s never ever talk about that terrible 24 hours of my life ever again.

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The next morning I met my crew, or at least laid eyes on most of 54 of us. I’m still nailing names. Is that bad? Day one, Vegas bound. Sin City for the third (and forth by the end of this trip) time in two years. Magic!

This time we stayed on Fremont street, downtown at the Golden Nugget. I love this area. It’s close to the mob museum, neon museum and the dazzling light and sound show on the largest screen in the world.

 

The first evening we went from ‘just one drink’ to dancing on the podium around the VIP area and left fifteen minutes before Zedd’s DJ set because we got bored and needed fried food.

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I chilled the eff out the next day for the first time since I started this mad adventure, and that night we went to old faithful Ghost Bar. It’s a super high and super funky bar, and they may not play my music but I always seem to work with it anyway. Alcohol, hey?

Our next destination was the ever spectacular Grand Canyon.

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We stayed in different accommodation to last time which was much cosier, and Wild Western fam you may be proud to know I chose not to have wine for dinner this time. Instead, I did a bike tour around the rim! Not all the way round, that would be ridiculous, but 9kms! Not bad for someone who hasn’t touched a bike in years.

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I also ran in to my gorgeous tour leader from last year, Kiran, and met a couple of the sweeties in her crew. Man I love fellow travel people. We’re all so gainlessly friendly and it’s beautiful.

That evening we had a picnic by the ledge with views that take my breath away every time. The goon and fireball came out, as did the cheese cubes. Life was good. Life is good.

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For my first unfamiliar destination we crossed the border to Colorado, new state! It’s an interesting place, that’s for sure. Weed is pretty much legal there, not that I partake because I’m a paranoid mess on a good day, but it did make for some local characters. That night we had a delicious dinner at a brewery and I got my first sip of pale ale since I left dear Aussie land. We followed it up with bar and booth dancing and fierce beer pong at a funky bar that reminds me of Mojos (Perth kid reference). A strange American man questioned us on the street about whether we hook up with locals (not really sir) and if we would like to kiss an American (no, but thank you for the offer). I think he thought he was doing us a service as he did strop off up the street before coming back for one more attempt. Been there, done that, thanks mate.

 

It was a bright and early start for an activity I’d been dying to do since I conquered the Swiss Alps (hah) many moons ago, white water rafting! This Rapids were only grade 2/3 so super chilled compared to what I experienced last time, which made it way more fun. Excellent banter with what I can only describe as a rafting version of surf rats made my day. I don’t know how anyone can memorise that many dirty jokes. If you ever find yourself in Dorango, give it a go. What a wicked experience and the scenery was next level. Greenery and snowy mountains? Go on then.

Sorry for the lack of photos of this one, but I’ll make up for it with the next!

Which was Albuquerque, a spot I barely grazed through last year. I continued my tradition of doing things that scare the shit out of me for absolutely no reason and decided to hit up a sunrise hot air balloon ride.

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I was totally fine while we cruised low, but as soon as we got up high, I was not fine.

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Once we hit the ground, I was fine again.

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Buck’s Fizz for all!

Little did we know the next night on tour was going to be one of the best so far. We rolled in to a town called Amarillo in North Texas and had a lot of steak and a lot of fun. Big Texan was a super quirky spot and adored by my super quirky heart. There was even a mega steak challenge.

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We played bar games until the wee hours and then set off the next morning for one of my favourites, Dallas!

Quick side note, an awesome art installation to check out just outside of Amarilllo is Cadillac Ranch.

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We stayed in Fortworth, a smaller city about thirty minutes out. We had a BBQ dinner and headed to a local bar for ladies night. $1 champagne! The night ended up a little wilder than planned.

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A really heavy but incredible experience was checking out the Sixth Floor Museum the next morning. I really didn’t know much about JFK’s assassination. It was haunting to see the big cross in the road where he was killed. I highly recommend it for anyone heaving in the Dallas.

That night was big. I went to my first Rodeo.

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Now I can say ‘this isn’t my first Rodeo’.

There were parts I liked and parts I didn’t like. I love community based nights out like that, but being as far from a farm girl as can be I found the calf wrangling a little hard to stomach.

After that adventure it was off to one epic venue, Billy Bob’s, for a country concert. Apparently Chase Rice is a big deal but I can’t really get past the name. I hugged his super sexy long haired guitarist though. You can take Miss Leigh away from her bands…

 

Next we were Memphis bound. We stopped in to Little Rock, Arkansas and learned a lot about the Civil Rights movement. This was another topic I wasn’t too familiar with. I’m really loving learning about these incredible parts of American history. People really can change the world.

Now you all know how much I adore Memphis, but this stop added a whole new layer of adoration. We stayed close to Beale St and I fell in love with the area. Murals and walking distance to some of the greatest musical venues and museums in history? Yeah go on then.

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Our first night was spent at my first minor league baseball game. Go Redbirds!

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After that I got to experience BB King’s for a second time and I haven’t grooved that hard in a while. Now THAT was soul.

Graceland time!

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They have refurbished since I was last there so I was loving the new shops. A little too much some might say. Then we headed to my favourite museum of all time: Sun Studios. The guide played us hit after hit created within those walls and I got to hold Elvis’ old mic. I couldn’t breathe. It’s still a functioning recording studio today. I am so proud of modern artists for honouring what came before them and recognising the magic of Sun Studios. Maybe one day I’ll record there (hah).

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After what might be the world’s best fried chicken at Gus’ we chilled. We knew what was coming next..

New Orleans baby!

Now I’m not much of a jazz girl so I was pretty heart broken to leave Memphis and her soul. I could easily spend a week there gig hopping. On the other hand , NOLA is wild. Just like last time it was mainly a blur, but I was pretty happy I ticked off the main touristy things last time so I could dedicate these nights to the party.

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And we did.

Next stop Florida! Read about it next time…

All my loving

Harleigh Q

xo

A Mediterranean Escape

I spent the beginning of my journey fighting tears over flat whites with Papi in the airport, because I’m a massive softy. Without fail, every time I’ve gone on a big big trip I enter panic mode the day before I leave. What if something bad happens? What if I miss something good? What if I get lost forever? Stupid anxiety. But you know what I do? I take a deep breathe, get a big cuddle and I march through that door to customs like I own the place. Life is all about being outside of our comfort zone.

I did my usual shit planning and took out some euros at the airport, hopped across to Singers on a flash as Qantas plane and snoozed at the transit hotel for five hours. Transit hotels are God’s gift to weary travellers. Sometimes, you just gotta nap.

Then it was the big bad twelve hour flight to Zurich of which I slept eight hours. Sleeping tablets are fab.

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A small leap South brought me to my final destination, twenty seven hours later, Roma!!!

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Last time I visited Rome it was 2012 and my first overseas trip since we moved to Aus seven years earlier. I remember a lot of arguing and getting lost. I did not have the fondest memories. I was in for one hell of a treat.

I arrived at our hotel and immediately showered and changed in to my Elvis nighty. I had to be appropriately dressed for Martina’s arrival, you see. Safe to say she loved it.

Martina and I met last year on my West Coast USA Contiki. Along with a wonderful fella called Will we formed our own tight little squad.

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She taught me bits of Italian and I began her Aussie slang education. One year later, and she’s one of my closest friends. Martina lives in the Italian speaking quarter of Switzerland. She’s gorgeous and hilarious and madly intelligent, speaking four languages fluently. I made it my mission to train her on advanced English, and by that I mean showing her how to casually swear in every sentence.

That afternoon we joined our Contiki group for our first night of the Mediterranean Escape. We had dinner at a stunning underground restaurant with some of the best wine I’ve ever tasted. Let me tell you a well kept secret, Italian booze doesn’t give you a hangover. It’s fucking magical. I was blotto 9/10 nights and I never once woke up any more than a little groggy after a couple of hours sleep, but always raring to go.

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That was also the night I discovered Italians don’t do music. Like… no music. Dinner noise was pure chatter and the same followed with the bars. Unless we went to a tourist spot we weren’t getting any tunes. It’s literally the only negative I can pick with that country though. You guys know how I feel about my tunes.

Dario gave us a sweet little walking tour of the city highlights at night.

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The next day we hit up the one and only magnificent Colosseum. This time I got to go inside, and I am so glad I did.

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The guide’s knowledge is mind blowing, as is the sick shit they used to do for entertainment. Bloody Romans.

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Martina and I spent that afternoon chilling around the markets and eating at a gorgeous little cafe in the heart of one of the little outer ‘burbs recommended by our tour leader, the one and only Dario.

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It ended in some excellent bars with some excellent company, and that’s all I have to say about that.

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My personal favourite day in Rome began at the Vatican.

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That evening we attended an opera dinner. I’m a sucker for dinner theatre but this was raw talent man; helped along by our harmonies I’m sure.

Amalfi Coast time!!!

I already knew this area was one of my favourites in the world and it’s just as spectacular second time around.

I mean just look at it.

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We hit up Sorrento, Amalfi, Positano and stayed in a quiet and beautiful spot called Maiori.

My favourite part of this section was our cruise around Capri. We got the swim, laugh and chat shit. My favourite things.

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Also, the nights spent tipsy on the beach with some like minded individuals will stay in my mind for a life time, just like the camp fire night at Bass Lake last year. There’s nothing better than low key bonding by a body of water, really.

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We were notified that strikes were ongoing in Greece and so we had a change of schedule. We were supposed to take the overnight ferry to Athens but instead had an extra night in Sorrento and flew over the next evening. It was a bit of a wait.

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Athens is magnificent! I mentioned this in my post on instagram but I just have to reiterate, it’s not Rome, but it’s damn impressive. To me, the Acropolis shits on the Colusseum. But I’ve also been obsessed with Greek mythology since year five so I’m a little bias. It’s was one hell of a day.

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At this point we were all well and truly great friends within the group, so a feast, afternoon by the pool and evening at a tradition Greek restaurant was just what the doctor ordered.

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Except it was then I remembered I can’t eat Greek food. Am I just so deep seeded Italian that my body rejects it? Probably. Still gave it a good go though.

Our final night was filled with lots and lots of hugs and kisses, a roof top bar with a view of the Acropolis and some heavy ass rain. Also, naughty Greek drinks that gave us cranking hangovers.

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So there you have it, Italy is better in summary. I’m ruined for life when it comes to pasta though. Australia has a lot to learn. I think I’ll just move to the Italian quarter of Melbs. AL DENTEEEEE!!!

Martina and I had one final night together which we spent on the simply spectacular Greek island of Santorini.

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I slept off my hangover before we made our way to without a doubt the most spectacular dinner I have ever attended. Martina made a reservation for us at the Athenian House. The pictures speak for themselves.

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Another life list item ticked off!

The next day we *shopped* and wandered the pretty beach side town of Kamari. The hotel had lots of animals and let us have our room until we left for the airport at 10.30pm! That never happens. Greek legends.

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I can’t put in to words how much I adore Martina. We laugh so much, she’s 100% my cup of tea and shot of tequila all rolled in to one. It’s so hard living far from soul friends, but I’d rather that than have never met her. Marrrrtiiinaaaaa you make my life better and I love you.

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I’m currently snuggled on my twelve hour flight to Los Angeles. Now the real Epic Adventure begins…

With love from somewhere over France,

Harleigh Q

Xo

Magical Fairbridge Festival

On 20th April one of my favourite bands hit my coast. What was supposed to be a couple of wild nights around the city ended up being a five day long groupie adventure.

Their name?

Sex on Toast

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Much as I adore my band aid tales they are mine to cherish. This post isn’t about my honeys, it’s about the magic I discovered in a haunted little place called Fairbridge. I haven’t felt so connected to a hippy haven since my experience at Jungle Love last year.

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The first night I headed down, I was a little behind schedule due to the ridiculous appeal of my little nephew and his snuggles.

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The road was long, windy and dark. The dirt flicked up madly behind my little car and the trees loomed heavy at either side. I’m not going to lie, I was having heard palpitations. I am terrified of ghosts. James pointedly reminded me that they live inside my head the following day, but that didn’t stop me freaking the eff out on the way in.

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I managed to schmooze my way in to the artist camp ground and parked up perfectly a stones throw away from the Backlot stage. This meant each morning I awoke to a gentle acoustic set and fell asleep to heavy bongo beats. It was magnificent. Fairy lights lit the pathways. My favourite thing.

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They had a number of main stages set up around the camp grounds. The largest of which was in the centre, opposite a sweet little makeshift pub.

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Down one end there was a brewery style outdoor setting, next to my second favourite stage, Hoopla. At the far end, where I lived, was Backlot. This was an open air stage with large wooden dance floor below it. This one I dug hard core.

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During the day the centre was filled with every kind of healthy food truck you can think of. I unintentionally turned vegan for three days. My body was loving it!

Indian Mexican fusion?

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Vegan bagels?

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Each day I would wind my way around the markets, drifting from stage to stage, looking at the gorgeous patterns and resisting the urge to buy everything.

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I found a handful of excellent new bands I have been researching ever since.

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At one point I stumbled upon African dance lessons in a back hut shaped like a circus tent.

Later that night I found myself hip wiggling in my element to some stunning Cuban music.

The sense of love and community at Fairbridge was so intoxicating. I was there alone, aside from hanging out with my boys later in the evenings, but I never felt lonely. I would wander, munch, and sit admiring music I would never normally seek out. I discovered a Sicilian folk group, an all lady acapella gang, a wee family strumming out a 60s medley and a a clan of old navy-men singing sweets songs of love and loss on the high seas.

 

One night as I sat perched on the floor at the foot of the stage a young girl next to me turned and introduced herself. I got chatting to her and the girl at the other side of me and before I knew it I had my own groupies when they found out I knew the band. Sharing smiles and passions with strangers has got to be my favourite life experience. We’re all one and the same at the end of the day. I would love to connect with as many people as possible.

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I didn’t make it to all of the venues. Next year, if I can afford coming home from Brissie for it, I will absolutely be back. Knowing my honeys really was a massive highlight though. I do truly love the company of funny, conscious and weird musos. We are very much on the same wavelength. I just lack the skills, but I can make up for it in sick sense of humour and excellent taste.

Thank you Pinjarra for providing such a gem. I may have been the only person there bar performers in my 20s, but the teens, families and golden oldies were fantastic company.

Until next time fellow Bohemians.

Peace, love and Rock and Roll.

Harleigh Q

xo

Solid Gold Coast

I’m taking HarleighQ back to her roots with a true and traditional, good old fashioned travel post!

I recently spent the most perfect four days with a group of my West Australian based agents in the place I like to call ‘The Bali of Australia’.

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Particularly for the people of P Town, the Gold Coast can be seen as an alternative to their old faithful holiday destination. It’s four hours east rather than three hours north, so not much of a difference travel time-wise.  The airport is small and cosy, and very easy to navigate; even I managed to find the transfer information desk.

The easiest way to do the Goldie from Perth is to fly into Coolangatta airport. Jetstar offer direct flights most days. However, you can fly in to Brisbane if you would prefer. It’s about one hour from Brisbane airport to Surfers Paradise. Coolangatta is half an hour in the other direction.

The beauty of the Gold Coast and Queensland in general is the kind nature of the locals. I’ve never met friendlier people than those you will come across with in the Sunshine State.  People know how to merge! This makes for very pleasant driving and that is why I will always recommend a car hire. Not only is it easier to get around, although the public transport system there is fantastic, you can come and go to the theme parks as you please rather than relying on transfer buses. You can check out the other beaches too. This is a massive highlight.

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I was really stoked when I found out that during free time, a group of my agents made their way to the surf club in Burleigh Heads upon my recommendation of ‘living like a local’ and checking one out.

The beaches come incredibly close to rivaling that of the ones that we have back here in Perth. They are beautiful and can be spectacular surf spots, most of the time.

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My personal favourite is Currumbin. I enjoy the vintage cars and old school surfies riding their bikes around the area. It is a very groovy place positioned between the main beaches (Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach) and Coolangatta (the airport).

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There’s a TAB and BWS on every corner too.

The Gold Coast has such a 70s holiday vibe. Some of the hotels are pushing that age but haven’t lost their charm. We were lucky enough to check out some of the ones scattered along the front of Surfers Paradise. The views from their ocean facing rooms were spectacular.  The value of these hotels is unparalleled.

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One of the things I love most about the Goldie is the fact that it appeals to all ages. There is a very healthy party scene, but families are heavily considered in all areas.  There are five star escapes dotted between huge family resorts. We saw pirate ships and lagoons, day spas and Jacuzzis. They show no bias in Australia’s favourite holiday destination!

As far as the theme parks go, they really are fun for everyone.

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I have officially visited all five now and I must say I can’t wait to go back. My personal favourite is Movie World, for the fact that I can hug the Joker, Batman and Harley. Having said that though, Shrek lives in Dreamworld. That’s a tough one.

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There are rides for all fear levels, but if you see a small child heading to a ride that you are too scared to go on, you know what you have to do. We let the wee ones give us pep talks before going on a lot of the them and it had to be the highlight of my day; especially when later on we ran into them again, and they asked us if we were still okay and having a good day. What little angels.

The theme parks are located inland from the main beaches. They are approximately 30 to 45 minutes away from Surfers Paradise, depending on your mode of transport. You can’t stay at them, but I wouldn’t recommend it even if you could. The beach is what makes the Gold Coast. Also, the parks can individually be knocked off in one day, quite easily.

Where Surfers has an incredible amount of family activities, excellent shops and a beach that is well guarded, Broadbeach is like her mellow older sister. Broadie is where you will find the spectacularly renovated Star casino, Dracula’s Cabaret (a superbly camp 18+ dinner show), and more restaurants then you can poke a stick at. The best part is it’s only one beach down and still super easy access to the theme parks and airport. Both places are connected by the very clean and incredibly easy to use tram line. Well, I managed it.

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I would recommend Broadbeach to the more seasoned crowd. If you’re a foodie, huge shopping centre fan, have done Surfers before or just want somewhere to chill, this is the spot for you.

A fun fact about most of the apartment hotels in Queensland is that they are half residential, half owned by the property itself and rented for holiday purposes. This means you really can live like a local.

I have to touch on one of my favourite things to do while living in Brissie that is super easy to do from the Goldie too, and that’s visit the northern New South Wales coast.

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Byron Bay and its surrounding towns are pure hippy heaven. If you enjoy that sort of vibe, it’s a must see, and barely a 45 minute drive from Surfers Paradise. I took my family down there for lunch one day while they were visiting, and they fell in love too. The view from the Lighthouse alone is enough to overwhelm anyone’s expectation. It’s spectacular.

As I’m sure you can tell by the tone of this article I am definitely more of a Gold Coast fan and the Sunshine Coast. I do enjoy both, however, the vintage and rockabilly scene down south is so heavily embraced by many of the locals. I can’t help but feel completely at home when I am there.

So, fellow Western Australians, if you are looking for an awesome value alternative to your usual Asia escape, you’ve found the perfect spot.

Explore your own backyard. I promise you, she’s a wonder. You won’t regret it.

Looking for some recommendations?

A few hotels I love:

1

QT Surfers Paradise 5* – Amazing for couples or groups of friends looking for somewhere funky and fun

2

Mantra Crown Towers 4* – One of the best family hotels, self catering apartment style

3

Breakfree Beachpoint/Imperial Surf 3* – they might look basic from the outside but those views

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Mantra Broadbeach on the Park 4* – quite possibly the most perfect location in Broadbeach

 

A few restaurants I love: 

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Cucina Vivo – incredible fresh Italian located in Star Casino

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– Chiangmai Thai Restaurant Surfers Paradise – award winning Thai located at Mantra Crown Towers

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Clifford’s Grill and Lounge – tapas style fine dining at the Watermark hotel Surfers Paradise

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Easy Street Diner – American style cuisine in Broadbeach (stop smirking, sideways crew!)

Have I missed anything? Let me know your top tips for the Goldie!

All my Queenslander love

Harleigh Q

xo

Three Weeks in Wonderland

The last three weeks I’ve felt a complete spiritual shift. I look down at the words ‘parallel universe’ permanently stamped on my forearm with an inflation of pride. Past Leigh got it, and she didn’t even know it yet.

~

A few weeks on from my life altering splash in Maya Bay I’m still spinning the things I felt over in my mind.

I feel like I woke up that day.

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I read a lot of interesting posts from very enlightened people these days, and much as I always thought I understood what they were saying, I marvelled at their courage but didn’t actually embrace it.

That all changed my first weekend in Brisbane when we attended Jungle Love.

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That Saturday morning I drove feeling rather worse for wear to a service station 45 minutes north of Brisbane. There I met my boss, essentially a male version of me, and his incredible girlfriend, and in my mystery machine we journeyed to a wonderland.

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Jungle Love is exactly that; a creek side creation of love, art and music, a celebration of life and happiness.

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When we arrived it poured of rain, so we sat in the boot of our car and bonded for a few hours over beer and any topic we met.

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Another wonderful friend arrived, Sib, and at that point we decided to make the trek through the rain to the music.

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We were met by people riding in floaties down the baby waterfall, a five piece of dressing gown-wearing kooks with an excellent organised dance routine, a pumping DJ set and a bunch of humans dancing freely in the rain. It was nothing short of magical and oh boy did we embrace it.

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After a few hours we decided to change in to some dryer clothes for the night’s festivities. We still had an abundance of drink tokens to burn. We made friends with the group of fellas in the van next to us, one of which turned out to be the organiser of Brisbane festival Red Deer. They were so fun and friendly. We all made our way to the roof top bar from which I got to see my favourite Aussie angel songstress Clea, and her new project with former Cairos singer Ali.

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Her voice is even more perfect in person and I really was blown away by their performance. The chemistry between them is electric. What a beautiful couple.

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Next came the build up to my boys, Vaudeville Smash. I was well and truly in the mode of free love and banter at that point. When Tijuana Cartel came on and rocked my world with their Americana dance fusion, I was fee-ling-it.

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One of the VS boys happened to pass by and I pulled him over for a catch up and boogie. By the time they hit the stage I had wiggled my way front and centre.

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They smashed it, playing hit after hit of funk which jams you right in the soul. I danced and sang and when they asked us all to get low I was thankful for the barrier to help me back up.

Post-performance high I wandered to the side for a smoke and then realised I’d lost my friends. Bum. Not to worry though, I was summoned back to the artists tent and got to hang with my darling friends. It’s all who you know, kids…

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I saw Michelle Xen fling about as she prepared for her mind bending performance. It’s definitely not my bag, but I can appreciate she’s one hell of a stand out artist.

The boys and I headed back to the roof top bar to catch her and smash some of my still left over drink tokens, before stumbling through the dark to check out the other stages.

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At one point we nearly tripped over a fella laying on the floor, still clutching the bike he’d clearly toppled sideways on. My ‘are you okay, my love?’ Was met by a groan and a thumb shot straight in the air. Loving it.

We came across a tent full of the mellowest group I have ever seen. There was a collection of wild woodwind instruments in the centre that I haven’t seen since primary school. I was pretty tempted to take a seat but I knew I’d end up waking up with drool down my shirt if I curled up on one of the rugs.

VS headed back to Brissie and I commenced my march back to camp. Lucky for me I knew exactly where I was going, it was just a lot further than I remembered. I made it, and rested with the door of my Mystery Machine wide open, the gentle beat of the all night tent soothing me to sleep.

~

In the morning I felt a lot fresher than expected, and was thankful because VS announced a gig at Leftys that afternoon. I managed a good nap and my darling Kate and I made it just in time.

Having two sets this time, the boys were able to jam out some of the hits I’ve been dying to hear them play live, but one in particular rocks my world:

GHOULS – VAUDEVILLE SMASH

I was up and grooving from that point on. Post gig the darlings came to us and we chatted passions and nonsense for the next 5 hours until it was well and truly time to go home. See you soon my loves. You blow my mind!

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I spent my week dancing around the ridiculous new head office. We have sky line views from the kitchen on our floor. I was honestly just enjoying having a window.

The roof top bar and cafe ‘MOFOs’ is heaven. I caught Skroo hanging out up there one morning. Our Christmas party took place there the following Saturday. You’ll all be proud to know I was my usual charming self and didn’t embarrass myself in the slightest; apart from sleazing on the Travelshoot guy. Girl can’t help herself. Kate is slowly teaching me to tricks of approaching men first though. I’m too old fashioned for my own good.

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Fast forward to this past weekend when the transformation was complete. That day at work was rough

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On Saturday night Kate took me to a party with some of her old friends and I just loved them. What a beautiful group of humans operating on a whole new wavelength.

We chatted about all sorts and when Kate wasn’t feeling well and needed to go, I requested the uber to drop me at my favourite place, Sonny’s House of Blues.

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Still riding the high of new experiences I danced with DJ Honey, the queen of soul music, and huddled at the bar with my old friends.

When I first moved to Brisbane and didn’t know a soul, Sonny’s was the first place I could call home. The people who work there are kind, interesting and I’m proud to call them my friends. I love going to visit whenever I’m back, like nothing has changed they remember my name. It’s etched on the VIP wall now too!

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I love the people at work from other teams who know my name, the people in mine who blow my mind with their warmth; I love every single person who loves me for me.

Life is so short. I want to spend mine letting people in. I’ll be honest and I’ll be kind. I just want to share the love I feel with everyone, and I will never again seek the approval of others to make me happy. It’s good to be strong and know who you are, to be confident and let everyone do their thing without it affecting you.

I have met some women through my life who I can only describe as absolutely magnetic. They were true, free and completely 100% themselves. They were different, they had their own style, they loved and didn’t expect anything in return. I’m pretty tired of apologising for being me. It was a long time coming, but I’m here now, and it’s golden. I am one of those women. I hope I can help breed a whole bunch more!

I know most people don’t care for what I have to say, or the epiphanies I’m having or what’s happening to me. Its just that I’ve been down and unsure and cripplingly lost within myself, and now that I’m back and strong, I just want everyone to find their own inner happiness; and when you do, we can share it around. It’s never too late to open youself up.

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I probably belong in a cult in the 70s, but hey, I’m fucking happy man.

See you soon B.

✌️️

With love

Harleigh Q

Xo

Parallel Universe

Going to Thailand and visiting Maya Bay has been my absolute top life list item ever since I was 15 years old and watched Danny Boyle’s ‘The Beach’ for the first time; after which I found a perfect little Penguin addition of Alex Garland’s novel and devoured it.

I have been putting the big adventures above it on my priority list while I’ve had the opportunity to go on them. When Elana moved to Darwin and we decided we would meet in Asia for a catch up Thai was an easy choice. There’s no one else I’d sooner party there with considering we met doing just that in Cambodia two and a half years ago.

The journey began with my first ever Air Asia flight. I’ll be the first to admit I’m an airline snob. I have my very set routine of salted chips, lime water and comedy shows on the in-flight entertainment until I fall asleep down to a fine art. When I got on board the very bare, very packed tin can I was a bit sad. Does this mean I have to read this book I’m not enjoying?

I had absolutely no reason to complain though; the book got better, I snoozed just fine after easing myself in with the smooth croon of Diz Frost (Just going to throw it out there that he totally briefly held my hand through a fence 6 days ago). The flights were cheap. We are talking $450 return with baggage. Maybe low cost carriers aren’t so bad after all!

Upon collecting my case in Phuket I took a seat in the transfer supplier waiting area (and fit right in) and we had our Love Actually moment when Ling appeared through the departure doors. I only briefly left my bag unattended…

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Our first hotel was The Kee Resort and Spa, expertly chosen by my travel agent and companion. I loved it. We were around the corner from Bangla Road (the main party street of Patong) and the pool bar was perfection.

We spent our first day incredibly day drunk on local beers and making friends at said bar, and the next day we got to do something we were both dying to try: a Thai cooking class. Being the curry fiends we are, learning how to make our own was pretty exciting.

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The lady who ran the class was the most gorgeous soul and actually hilarious. She had a young helper who she told us was from Myanmar. We asked if she goes to school, but were told that because she is in Thailand illegally as a refugee she is unable.

I swear I’ve never seen a sweeter face, and she picked us flowers out of the garden. I have never been so close to kidnapping a person. Adoption has seriously started to creep in to my mind now. I’ve thought about it a lot in the past, and having the topic in a few of the family dramas I love I think it’s definitely some I will look in to in future. There’s so many babies all over the world and I think I could give one of them my heart.

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As you can see, we are now master chefs.

That night we headed out for my favourite night of the year.. Halloween!!!

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Little Harleigh Quinn only wet herself a little bit when the headlining DJ came out dressed as Mista J. Safe to say I danced. A lot. The creepy themed mega mix was probably the best set I’ve ever heard. Cheers Aaron you legend!

We spent the next few days enjoying a well earned chill out with massages, food and street wandering, exploring beautiful Patong Beach. It was hard not to compare everything to Bali but I really think they are super similar. At this point I was definitely missing the friendly locals of Legian and Seminyak…

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Then the sun came out and I discovered how ridiculously perfect the Indian food is there. I’m talking death-row-last-meal level epic. Contiki, are you ready for us?

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We met at our hotel, Sawadi, in the afternoon for a group meeting where I was struck by just how many British peeps we had! It was quite nice to hear all the accents again. That night was fueled by cheap tequila and a ping pong show I’d like to never discuss again, thank you very much.

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The next day we did a day tour out to James Bond Island and a few other spectacular spots, and I suddenly saw the Thailand that’s all over my newsfeed on a daily basis; here was paradise.

We visited a floating village and a few of the group played soccer with some of the local school kiddies.

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Amazing to think that they actually live on a man made island. It reminded me of Lake Titicaca, another one on my life list.

We finished that day on a gorgeous beach, reading and chatting in the sun with my beautiful new American friend, Nina.

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I can’t recommend that day tour enough. I don’t even like James bond, but you gotta see those islands!

~

The excitement began to build when we caught the two hour ferry out to Phi Phi Island, where we would be staying for the next three nights. We strolled through the quirkiest little town, filled with markets, bars and diving shops. I hadn’t expected it to be so built up, but it made for some epic nightlife.

Our hotel was in a Tsunami safe zone. That’s all I have to say about that.

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The morning of our day trip to Maya Bay the heavens had well and truly opened. I’m talking backlash of the Vietnam Monsoon kinda rain.

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With heavy hearts we sat around the lobby waiting for the official word and our lovely leader Lisa made the decision to push our trip back to the afternoon. I found myself a comfy lounge in the lobby and read/snoozed until go time. Being that it was then high tide we didn’t have to trek to the other side of the island to get the marina and we got a private beach pick up. The rain cleared, the sun came out and the best day of my life began.

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To say that I felt emotional when we pulled in to the bay would be a massive understatement. I was trying so hard not to be a creep and start crying in front of all these people I didn’t know very well, but Richard and his adventures have helped me through so many hard times. The Beach completely changed my outlook on life. I didn’t really know of any stories of people who search for adventure, who spend their lives travelling place to place having experiences I could never dream of. The idea of paradise, of a community of people filled with that same love of a life free of financial responsibility was absolutely intoxicating to me and still is. Though of course I know, as demonstrated in the film and book, there’s no such thing as paradise, there certainly is such thing as a parallel universe. I think compared to the norm, I live in one too.

As I floated in the bath-warm water with a group of new friends, walked through the jungle-style pathways and relaxed on the sand, I felt completely at peace with the universe. This is the only physical representation of the story I try to live my life by, and I found it. I found my inner peace.

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I’ll carry it with me always.

~

The rest of that day was just as spectacular. We snorkeled for a while and then chilled in a hidden lagoon, wearing our life jacket nappies.

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God absolutely threw in an extra dash of sexy when he made me.

That night.. Oh that night.. I experienced my first beach party.

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I remember a dog that lived at the bar and it taking and hour and a half to get home. I also remember that Nina and I were the last ones standing… Geordie and San Fran represent!

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I loved Phi Phi with all my heart and I will definitely be back. You aren’t allowed to stay on Maya Bay beach but I have heard about a cruise that stays in the bay overnight so you get to be the last people there at night and first in the morning. On the list it goes!

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For our Final destination on the Island Hopper West, we spent two nights in Krabi. Unfortunately and in true Leigh style, at this point I was now very unwell and unable to get out and explore much. Room service and Netflix are a very important part of any holiday though.

The final night we had a ‘dress up your roommate’ theme and Elana and I both just so happened to have bandannas and flannos – who knew!

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Now heading to a more serious topic…

A word of warning to all of my beautiful traveller friends. Do not walk alone at night; especially after a few beverages. Something bad happened to someone we know, and although they are okay, it’s so important that we keep our wits about us. Bad things happen every day all over the world, but please be careful.

There are some beautiful, helpful and completely brilliant people out there, but there are also a lot of really bad people or people in desperate situations.

~

Elana and I spent the last two days of our trip doing what we do best, eating, snoozing and chilling. I got a few new additions…

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Thank you beautiful friend for sharing such an epic experience with me. I’m sure we’ll have many more surf pros and adventures to come. I love you long time Ling Ling.

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Another thank you to our amazing leader Lisa and all of the brilliantly funny people we explored Southern Thailand with. You guys really made it.

~

I’m not in a hurry to head back to Asia any time soon. I don’t know what’s happened to me, but I’m constantly craving fancy brunch, live bands and pretty layered outfits. You hear that Melbs friends? I’ll be back soon.

Brisbane bound tonight! Home, I’ve missed you. Brisfam, are you ready to get loose?

With love from a parallel universe,

Harleigh Q

xo

To The Everyday Adventurers

What does it mean to be an adventurous person?

I think from the outside I fit the bill of your typical adventurer.

I travel a lot, I push myself to try new things, I capture my moments in photos and blog posts and I share it with my world.

The thing about adventure though, is it’s not exclusive to travel. It’s not just about exploring new places, meeting new people. To me, adventures are anything outside of routine.

I really don’t cope well with routine. I lived a solid one for a lot of years, life was like a circle. Same restaurants, same meal. Same roads, same people.

It wasn’t until I chose to push myself out of my comfort zone that I discovered the feeling that I’m now addicted to: complete lack of control.

I booked my outback adventure, caught a solo flight to Alice Springs, infiltrated a friendly group of Topdeckers who I would be joining the next day and I let someone else take the reigns. I didn’t read my itinerary thoroughly, I didn’t look up our hotels. I bought a pile of books I’d been looking forward to reading and devoured them. I walked around the base of Uluru and tried to process the unsettling phone call I’d received the week before with a southerner who would go on to become one of my best friends. Love you Lea.

Despite not being out on my own at any point, for me that was the start of something. I learned how to be, how to endure, how to process and how to live in the moment.

I don’t think anyone really fits the mould of an ‘adventurer’ because there isn’t one specific definition.

I don’t like walking unfamiliar streets on my own. The biggest issue I have is that I have no sense of direction. In fact, I think God put it in backwards for fun. Does that fit an adventurer? Not really.

I still get anxiety sometimes when I know I’m going to have a difficult conversation with someone. I get it when I have to find a new building. I don’t really like meeting people places in case I’m not wearing my glasses and I can’t see them right away.

It’s ok to not be brave all the time. I dread it, but I do it anyway. You only regret the things you don’t do. One foot in front of the other, we can handle it!

One of my favourite things is to close myself alone in a room, be it mine or within the four walls of a hotel room, sit in the cool air and relax. I’ll watch documentaries or read my book. I particularly enjoy messaging my beautiful global network of friends and seeing how they are doing while I listen to a newly crafted Spotify playlist.

I think ‘me time’ is an adventure in itself. It’s learning how to be at peace when alone. It’s something that two-years-ago Leigh couldn’t cope with. I really used to hate being on my own, and now I struggle on a day without it.

I think finding inner peace is the biggest adventure at all, and you can do that anywhere.

Not everyone wants to travel, and that’s okay. When they do, some people like to relax and party, others like to explore. I’m a mix of the two. I have accepted that it’s impossible for me to see and do everything in my lifetime, so I’m going to put my inner peace first. I’ll eat the food, dance to the music and talk to the people, but I’m not going to judge anyone who does things differently. We’re all on our own journey. I’m proud of every single person outside of their routine.

There’s no ‘supposed to‘ when it comes to adventure. This is your story! Write it however you wish.

I have an exercise for anyone who wants to embrace my philosophy.

Find a coffee shop near your work that you’ve never been to. Go there on your lunch break. Keep your phone in your pocket and people watch for ten minutes while you enjoy. Learn to be ok in your own mind, free from the phone shield, in a place that’s unfamiliar. Smile at people when you catch their eye. It’s small but it feels good. That’s all I’m chasing; a little piece of the unfamiliar.

It’s nice to be reminded that we are all living and breathing together.

adventure
ədˈvɛntʃə/
noun
1. 1. 
an unusual and exciting or daring experience.

With love from Thailand

Harleigh Q

Xo