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:

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

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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.

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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

Life and Times of a Band Aid

Today happens to be the 16th birthday of one of my favourite movies, Almost Famous, so appropriately titled here’s the story of my brief adventure to Melbourne and Adelaide last week.

~

I was bedriddenly sick the week leading up to my trip, and awesomely enough I am now again only this time it’s tonsillitis. I just love this time of year! Thankfully though I did start to recover as I caught my overnight flight to Melbourne. I generally love a red-eye. My body seems to go in to sleep mode as soon as I snuggle in to the not-so-comfy leather seat. Neck pillow at the ready (I recommend memory foam) I then spent the entire three hours wide awake. The veggie pie didn’t go down well either.

Upon arrival I retrieved my bag and hobbled through the darkness to the taxi rank. My driver was excellent. Not only did he know all the short cuts, regularly disagreeing with the satnav, but he was telling me the most fascinating stories.

He was from Africa, and when we passed a large tanker he pointed to it and said, ‘every time I see one of these I think of my friend’. I asked him why. He went on to tell me about a man in his late 20s that would do business by transporting cloth between countries. He wasn’t supposed to stop in Kenya but they needed supplies, so he did. It was dark when he arrived, so he climbed in to the back of the tank and lit his lighter. The entire thing exploded. He left behind a wife and little boy.

Its a tradition, he told me, for a wife to marry the brother of their deceased husband so they and their children can be taken care of. He said it’s good because they can choose to leave, but the children must be left with the family. She has to give them up. He said it was okay though because they were very happy together. What an incredible thing to share with me. He was such an interesting man.

After a few more stories and him laughing at me referring to my singleness as ‘sweet freedom’ we arrived at my beautiful Tori’s house.

I met Tori on my last contiki in the States and we just clicked. She was kind enough to offer her home to me while I explored my possible future home. As it was 6am we both went back to bed and I slept away most of the day. I was definitely starting to feel a bit more human in the afternoon when she showed me Chapel St (probably my new favourite place) and that night we dined on Brunswick St.

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My mission for this trip was to experience the eastern suburbs more as, from what I’ve heard (and seen on Offspring, my latest obsession. Seriously do any of you watch it? Message me cause I need to vent!) it sounds like the kind of place I’d fit right in to. Sadly it did rain the whole time so I didn’t take any photos, but the real adventure began the next morning.

~

We were heading to Adelaide to see my favourite Aussie funkmeisters on their album tour. I’d had it on repeat constantly. Thankfully Torz is also a fan and so I whisked her away on Tiger to the city of churches.

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I have such a soft spot for Rads having explored there just over a year ago on my Topdeck. It’s where I bought my first pair of cowboy boots!

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Tori and I had a stunning 2 bedroom apartment on North Terrace so we were easy walking distance to everything. Including the bottle shop. We loaded up on snacks and booze, I somehow made myself presentable and the night began!

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It was an eventful pre drinks.

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Two hours became three and we arrived just in time for the boys going on. Now I was lucky enough to meet three of them previously back in my wild Brisbane days so I was thrilled to get big hugs from them. Always nice to be remembered!

Their set was perfection and I got most of my favourite songs. I think my favourite part was Tori getting cut off from the bar after downing three tequila shots. How I was still serviceable after a week of antibiotics I’ll never know.

We continued on to a karaoke bar where Marc took over the mic and I had the D’est of M’s with each of the boys. Don’t ask me what we were talking about. I have no idea. Somehow we got to the casino and then this happened.

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So it was back to our apartment for even more beverages, Michael Jackson and Earth, Wind and Fire.

You know it’s been an excellent evening when your company leaves and you follow a few minutes later to check out. Good job team.

Tori and I spent the next day on another planet and I managed a handful of chips. The boys came to see us off at our gate. Honestly, I’ve never met a lovelier group of men in my life. One of the many reasons they’re my favourite!

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By the time we got home I’d lost my speaking ability and after the greatest shower ever I slept for 15 hours.

What a ride.

For my last day Tori took me to my new favourite place, Soda Rock Diner. I donned my pinup gear and nommed hard on my curly fries and vanilla shake.

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I had the most incredible time over the long weekend. It was hard to leave Melbourne. I feel like it’s my soul mate in city form. It was hard to leave my beautiful Tori too. She absolutely made it for me and I couldn’t pick a better adventure partner.

I’ll be back beautiful city. I’m still yet to decide if it’s you or Brisbane that takes priority, but I know I’ll be living there eventually.

Ah man. Talk about off the Richter scale.

Just another weekend in the life of Penny Lane!

Harleigh Q

P.S. ch-ch-check em out:

xo

The Truth About Flighty Life

People ask me about my job all the time. Usually all I can muster is an ‘I love it’ or ‘it’s amazing’ and we don’t really delve in to it further.

In this post I’m going to try my best to explain it to you! Maybe some of you are reading to know how I can afford to travel as much as I do and others may be curious to join the gang themselves. The rest are because they want to make sure I’m not talking shit 😉 Either way, I hope this answers your questions.

Here are the truth bombs about choosing a career in the travel industry:

Truth 1: You need to be passionate.

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Love travel? Awesome. Have you travelled much? We can work on that. Can you reel off the top 5 most popular hotels in the Goldie? Of course you can’t and neither could I when I started. But do you care about these places? Can you tell a story about that time you visited Paris and had a picnic by the Eiffel Tower or spent a weekend drinking in Port Douglas? Fantastic.

In our industry you will be talking to people; constantly. Do you know what people respond to most? Passion. Think about your favourite customer service experience. I bet you don’t think of the grumpy ones who made no effort to connect with you. Was it a sales girl who told you about her own intention to buy the dress you just nabbed or gentleman who described the smooth ride as you gazed longingly at your new car? Those people told a story and you loved them for it. They were passionate about what they were selling. You need to love the world and be able to talk about her all day every day. It’s as simple as that!

Truth 2: It’s all sales.

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I’m not a competitive person in the slightest. What am I doing in sales? Good question. I wasn’t a particularly outstanding retail consultant. I was good, but not amazing. I’ll be the first to admit it! I had the passion but struggled to get out of my comfort zone and connect with my customers at the time. I often felt intimidated by the general public.

There are some really mean people out there. It’s generally directed at the uniform or their misunderstanding of your company and their preconceived ideas of what you represent but it’s hard to remember this sometimes, especially as they growl down the phone at you or walk out as you’re mid sentence. Some of the guys are incredible at turning people around. They love a challenge! I didn’t. I do love being able to give my agents over the phone cuddles and pep talks when I hear these things go down. We all have bad days.

So I have moved in to wholesale. My job now entails putting together holidays for agents who call through to me. They’re all Flight Centre group kids and I absolutely love it. I’m a very loyal family girl and I take such pride in taking care of my guys. We have a shared passion and I can get excited with them. I can swear (a little) and mess around and it’s such a fun environment. I try to better my call count every day and that’s about as competitive as I get.

I came to Infinity and in 6 months got my personal best figure to higher than most agents who have been there for years have ever hit. I’m super proud of that! I’ve made a name for myself and I intent to keep it that way.

I love wholesale because the enquiries come to me too. I don’t have to wait for people to walk in. There’s almost always calls! So I just pick up the phone, listen, make recommendations, sell my shit and if I’ve done a good job hopefully we get the booking!

At the end of the day, it’s your job to sell stuff. We each have our strong points and preferences. Mine just so happens to be in wholesale.

Truth 3: You work a lot.

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At the moment I’m doing 12 hour days with my hour each way commute. I get in to work at 815, get organised, attend our morning meeting and get on the phones at 9. We get an hour lunch break and officially we close at 6. Usually you’ll be finishing up a call and will leave a bit after.

It’s a long day, but I love it. I love the people around me, my team, my agents. I get to talk about travel all bloody day. I get to gush about my memories and help people create their own. Every single day is different too. There’s no such thing as boredom! It’s incredibly easy to keep yourself busy.

Our systems are amazing once you wrap your head around them, which usually takes a few months. In retail I’d say it’s 3 months to be able to do your job and 6 months to do it well. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination but I’ve always been the type to love a challenge. Even when you know it inside and out there’s still a lot of reports and procedures to stay on top of to ensure you don’t fuck up!

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There’s also commitments like our monthly buzz nights which is essentially an awards night with free food and booze where we get to celebrate being awesome. There’s a ball twice a year which is the same thing on a huge scale. One is a formal affair and the other is a theme. Last year it was zombies…

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Another perk is team getaway! Some do dinner, some go away for a long weekend. It all depends on your teams performance through the year. At Rocky it was always Bali Bali Bali! Those were the greatest weekends with my old second family. In A Team, my first wholesale team, we headed up to Noosa and again made some incredible memories.

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Truth 4: You will meet the greatest people of all time.

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My best friends in the entire world were brought to me by Flight Centre. I’ve worked with all of them at a time and they are my sisters. We are all similar kinds of people. It takes a certain something to be a Flighty! It’s not an easy lifestyle but it’s so worth it. There’s nothing better than blowing off steam with your incredible colleagues/best friends after a long day. They understand what you’re going on about when you mention TTLs and allotments and they’ll hold your hair when you puke in the toilets after a boozey team dinner. Legends!

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Truth 5: You get what you give.

There’s a high turnover in our industry. I think a lot of people come in with an idea of what it will be like, free travel, desk job etc. but don’t understand that there’s a lot of hard work and responsibility that comes with that.

You need to be good with systems, you need a good memory, you need to be friendly 100% of the time even when being yelled at. You especially need to be good at negotiating and giving people what they want (or make them want what you can give). All we ever do is multitask. The work trips come when you work hard and they are not a right, they’re a privilege.

The pay isn’t steady. We are commission based after all. Some months are hard and some are awesome. Keeping your attitude in check is the hardest thing in this world, but if you can still serve every single person to the best of your ability despite how quiet it has been or how stressed you are, you’ll be okay.

You’ll work some weekends. They’re great because that’s when people book anyway 😉

Truth 6: It’s fucking awesome.

The perks in this job are sickeningly good. I’ve already mentioned buzz night and balls, but did I tell you about global?

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I was blessed enough to be able to attend our global ball the last two years while working at Rocky. The first was Macau. Our team hitched a limo to the airport as treated by our incredible leader Mark. We flew Cathay to Hong Kong and caught a ferry across to the Vegas of Asia. What ensued were three of the wildest days of my life. We raved in onesies with Will.I.Am. Rove hosted our awards. Jessie J and Havana Brown performed. It was ridiculous. We had a  pool party; I passed out in the wrong tower of the Palazzo.

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The following year it was Vegas. For the weekend. No biggie. Now THAT was a pool party. This time Gwyneth Paltrow was our guest speaker, Carrot Top was out host. One Republic performed. We rode the rollercoaster at New York New York. I didn’t pass out in the wrong tower but I did get lost on the Strip.

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This year it was in Singapore and though I forfeited my chances of earning my spot by darting to the US for three months, I can’t put in to words how proud I am of every single person who was over there. You guys earned it. The performers this time were Peking Duk, Basement Jaxx, Jason Derulo and Fat Boy Slim. Hamish and Andy hosted the awards.

Global is reserved for the absolute best of the best. There are people who have been in the company for 10 years and never qualified and others who have been every year. You set your own limits. You’re only restricted by your own beliefs of your capabilities.

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Two weeks ago I was flown to New Zealand for four days to learn to ski. For free. In the last few years I’ve seen Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Cambodia, Macau, Vegas, Cairns, Port Douglas, Sydney, Noosa and Bali many times all through work. Not every agent is as lucky as I have been. Sometimes staffing doesn’t allow for us to take these trips when they come up and sometimes people haven’t done the figures to justify it either. You just have to roll with the punches, work hard and know it’ll come back around.

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I love my job. I love that all it took was some sales and travel experience to get me in. This is my career and I didn’t need a Uni degree to get here.

My advice?

If you live and breathe travel like I do, why the hell wouldn’t you?

If you’re interested, send me a message and I’ll hook you up!

Harleigh Q

xo

The Adventures of Snow Bun

Okay cats, first thing’s first.

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Dear snow, I’m so sorry for all the nasty things I said about you. I’m sorry I declared my hate for you based on negative experiences in my youth. I don’t hate you; in fact, I might like you a little bit… But don’t get too carried away. I won’t be hopping on the next plane to Banff. I remember vividly how awful living with you can be. But you sure are fun for a long weekend.

~

While still in America, somewhere around Memphis, I got a very exciting message from my new boss. A Queenstown ski famil was offered to me!

For those unfamiliar with the term, a famil is a trip through my work where suppliers send us to different destinations to check them out. They usually involve a lot of hotel inspections and activities to better our selling abilities. They’re amazing and you get about one a year, if you’re good and you’re lucky. My last was to Cambodia so I was very ready for it!

What I didn’t absorb at the time was just how much snow would be involved. On a ski trip. I know, but was in Memphis and drunk on life, what can I say?

If you’ve ever spoken to me about a cooler climate you’ve probably heard me utter the words ‘I hate snow’. I’d proudly announce it because after living in it for the first thirteen years of my life, walking to school in foot-deep sludge because the bus was at a stand still or having ice balls slipped down the back of my shirt, were not the fondest of memories.

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You probably also know just how horrendously accident prone I am. I don’t really have spatial awareness. I’ve always got my blinkers on, as Rooch says. But I’m a yes girl! I love new challenges! Come at me snow!

It was such a good decision.

I did feel a little guilty at first when I accepted it and then thought about those who love to ski that might have taken it in my place, but after evaluating the amazing opportunity I’ve been given to try something new, for free no less, and really challenge myself, I knew I’d do them proud. If there’s one thing I’m not, it’s ungrateful. I know so many people spend so much money to do this and I’m one of the luckiest people ever to get the opportunities I do. Hard work really does pay off in my job!

My last experience with snow was on my NZ Contiki three years ago. The Gods did not want us to go that day. When it turned out it was an optional I firmly shook my head but being the good kid I am I did bend in the end. When we slept through the alarm it really seemed like a sign. Then within five minutes of being there my ex broke his collarbone. I had just got my skis on. I proceeded to slide on my bum down the slope after him and spent the rest of the day in the medical bay. Better him than me… 😉

So! I printed my docs and packed an hour before heading to the airport for my overnight flight to Melbourne. I had a four hour layover in which I slept snuggled on a bench near my gate, in true traveller style, hogging the socket next to me. The flights were fine. I was in the middle each time but I was pretty small compared to the people around me so I didn’t mind. I have my routine of comedy show, eat, sleep until landing down now anyway.

We landed and my jaw fell open. What a ridiculously beautiful airport Queenstown is. The view as you fly between mountains is spectacular.

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What I slowly began to realise is that our group was infiltrating a Haka Tour (typical travel agent not reading my docs). Haka are basically backpacker Contiki. We stayed at the Haka Lodge which is definitely my favourite hostel to date. It was barely a block from the centre of town. We had curtains and night lights and a heater!

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On our first night we got acquainted with our group and headed to the ski shop to hire our gear. Boots are hard. I knew I’d be layering upon layering so ended up with the most flatteringly large outfit ever. I loved my snazzy new skis though.

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With the practical stuff sorted we made our way to the best ice breaker ever (eyyyy) Minus 5 Bar! I’d been here previously with Contiki and it’s just a fun as I remembered. The cocktails go down a treat. Exhibit A:

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We then proceeded to eat more pizza than anyone could ever need and I began to realise we were essentially on a mini group tour. I was over the moon. My favourite thing! Not to mention the rest of our group were just awesome.

The next day was the big one: Cardrona. Two lessons. One day to become a ski master. Bring it on.

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I loved it there. I giggled as I made my way past the scene of my previous experience and, now knowing how to put skis on, was ready to learn the rest.

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I was really surprised at how quickly I picked it up. I put it down to years of being obsessed with my rollerblades. The one thing I couldn’t quite get the hang of was slowing myself down. Ever the speed demon.

Cardrona is the perfect all-rounder mountain. Their beginner section is just perfect and they’ve got slopes for all skill levels.

After completing both lessons we decided we were ready for the big boy slope.

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The visibility was really bad by the afternoon but we really wanted to give it a go before we left. What I hadn’t expected was just how quickly I could gain speed up there, and for some reason I lost all ability to stop myself. Several times I flew past our instructor and after a couple of stacks and a nice scenic shot, I did the damage.

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After a pretty aggressive turn with no slowing in sight I was now heading straight for a wall so decided to fall back on my butt. The only problem was I still wasn’t stopping. A few boarders were coming down the hill towards me so I decided grabbing to ground would be a good idea and sadly I was going a bit quick for that and my arm pulled backwards. It hurt but not enough to worry with all the adrenalin and I got myself all the way down before realising, hmm… I’ve done something here.

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But I made it all the way through the day! I didn’t fall at all! I was bitterly disappointed. I had the most incredible day, and now I could barely hold a pint.

We had a local beverage and some toasted marshmallows at the only pub in Cardrona before heading back to town.

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Dinner was a clear choice.

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Still the best burger I’ve ever had.

The next day was a tap out on my behalf. I’m pretty upset about not making it up to Remarkables as they look just that, but after a restless and painfilled night I just couldn’t do it.  So I watched a couple of series on Netflix including Obsessed (chillingly great) and Lovesick (fantastically British) and I was brought food by the incredible Kate and Al. I mean honestly, who goes on a backpacker famil and gets lunch and dinner in bed? Spoilt! But getting dressed wasn’t much of an option.

We tried Devil Burger and no, Ferg really is better.

Day three and our final snow day: Coronet Peak.

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I was Mumma that day and set up shop in the food court with a spectacular view and Mad Love to keep me company. The guys flitted in and out and I was so happy just to be up a mountain again, even if I couldn’t get out there.

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For our last night we headed out for a group dinner and a little taste of home at the Pig and Whistle! What followed was a mixing of all types of alcohol, an awesome dive bar, a terrible club and not remembering how I got home. Good job team!

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Our last morning Kate and I weren’t flying out until later so we recruited our beautiful new friend and fellow Haka tourist Nikki and went out for breakfast at Joe’s Garage. I sure love my quirky cafes and the food and coffee were delicious!

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We followed it with a walk along the lake and one last look at that breathtaking view. It’s just unreal.

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Then, with a heavy sigh, to the airport we ventured.

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I’m incredibly glad a sore arm is all that happened, and I am so so thankful for the opportunity I had to go on this trip. Not only do I now love and know how to sell the shit out of Haka Tours, but I’ve completely changed my mind about an activity I thought I would hate. I can’t wait to hit the snow again one day. Next time I might spend a little longer on the baby slope; at least until I’ve mastered the art of stopping.

Also, when did all the hot guys start snow boarding? My god…

Thank you Infinity Holidays for being the best company in the world, and Al for being the best host.

What a great adventure.

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Now just one more month until Melbourne and Adelaide!

Harleigh Q

xo