Who Are You?

My darlings.

I'm starting this post having just rewatched the first ever episode of a show I feel I've grown up with, Catfish.

For anyone unfamiliar with concept, Catfish features two amazing men, Nev and Max, who help people who have started relationships online with people they have never met. Spoiler alert, more often than not, the people they are speaking to aren't who they say they are. Be it fake photos stolen from someone else on the internet or pretending to be someone they know personally, it's clear that the Catfishers are unhappy with who they are.

Often they've been bullied or have had a hard time and use this persona like a shield. They don't feel good enough.

I think it takes a pretty cruel person to bring someone in to your insecurity, and use them to boost your self esteem through deception. However… imagine if they channeled their negative life experiences in to making themselves better people. Instead of using a mask of someone else.. imagine the self love they could generate!

Dialling it back, let me tell you my story.

I remember starting high school. It was a big public one a half an hour walk from my house, just outside the Yorkshire village I grew up in. Almost all the kids I went to primary school with went with me. Masses off us trudged through the rain and the snow, across the train tracks to the intimidatingly massive new chapter.

In time I grew to love that school and it's long corridors and kids twice the size of me, shoving everyone around for fun. You had to have a drawstring bag otherwise someone was bound to unzip it and knock your stuff on the floor. You had to keep your hand down in class so no one could take the piss out of your answers. You also knew very quickly who the top dogs were and to remember your place.

Bullying is such a normal part of growing up. I put it down to trying to fit in to this new environment, and me being a bit of a bossy boots by nature, but my two best friends from primary school decided they didn't like me anymore. After that, I had a really hard time making friends.

When I did start to bond with someone, often a false rumour stating I'd said something behind their back quickly ended it. I guess that was the thing with me. If I took issue with someone, I would just say it to their face. Maybe that was my problem. Being too upfront made me a target for the whisperers. I was so scared of what I did say getting twisted that I just stopped speaking. It took me years to get the confidence to voice my opinion back. I make up for it now 😊.

I wound up having to go to a 'friendship group'. It was designed for myself and fellow lonely kids who were struggling a bit. We'd do quizzes and talk about our interests and hobbies. Everyone was weird and it was nice to have people to eat lunch with. Yes, there were a few sandwiches ate in a toilet cubicle. What a cliché.

A few long months in, having truly learned the importance of empathy, I reconnected with a couple of the girls from my primary school. We ended up in our own tight knit group.

Rarely a week went by without some of the five of us falling out, of course, but blissful were the lunch breaks spent giggling our heads off in the hot lunch room and getting kicked out for being too loud. Through many hours spent in the library, I discovered Louise Rennison's book series about the most relatable tween on the planet, Georgia Nicolson. I was proud of my new little Ace Gang.

Times got real tough again when I found out I was moving to Australia. Slowly but surely I felt the girls retreating from me, my closest friend especially. She became quite cruel, and though an adult brain understands self preservation and the primal need to lash out in order to protect ourselves, a scared thirteen year old did not. Some of my memories of this time are so vivid. One, I was sobbing at my work station in Food, not wanting anyone to see me. I'd been handed the notes some of the girls had been passing about me. I think it said something about me being a try hard and a made up thing I hadn't said. I'm pretty sure that was the day we made rice pudding.

In the very end they had tried to fix some of the damage caused, and there was a leaving party at my best friends house with Sing Star, baked goods and lots of trampolining. It felt like the end of the world.

Then I left England and didn't really look back.

As with most new kids, I found myself right back where I started in Australia, too.

This new high school was tiny, and I started week three of term three of year nine to be precise. I was buddied with one of the 'cool' girls. I think my teacher thought she was doing me a favour, but she and her friends were very uninterested in me. We were very different people.

In this school watched Napoleon Dynamite, I heard rumours about a boy getting a hand job behind a textbook in class, and got teased for my big shoes. I had to wear UGG boots and a miniskirt to be cool, and I definitely had to shave my legs and pluck my mad Wog eyebrows. What a different world this was!

Yet again, I had a hard time making friends. I'm a girl with a lot of passions. At the age of fourteen, it was Harry Potter and Home and Away. I could barely make eye contact with a boy without turning crimson and I was best friends with my family (and still am).

It was a long and lonely summer, but year 10 began my ascent in to one happy young lady. I made friends with four incredible girls. I can't remember how we found each other exactly, but I distinctly remember one incident in particular.

I was eating cheese and pickle sandwiches for lunch. English people reading this know what I am referring to I'm sure. The two Australian girls that would let me sit near them had no idea what the weird brown stuff I had was. They were loudly ridiculing me, for not the first time unfortunately, when a tiny, wonderful, sparkly eyed girl from southern England barked at them 'its Branston pickle?' With a level of sass I've yet to hear since. They soon shut up, and I soon changed who I sat with at lunch.

Next joined Shaz, a witty and cool as a cucumber girl whose best friend had recently changed school. Then there I was Bek, the green eyed and incredibly intelligent girl that I absolutely idolised (and still do). Thus, Ace Gang 2.0 began. We had sleepovers, long chats, giggles and an obsession with YouTube videos. We talked and sang and danced and we're allowed, encouraged, to be 100% ourselves with each other. We were not without our disagreements of course, teenage girls are a nightmare, but we thrived together. They saw me through my first kiss (literally) and all those other fun things 15 year olds do.

I got in to anime and started writing fan fiction and making music videos. I made the pilgrimage to the city for the final Harry Potter book with Abby and Danica, the two pickle-girl life savers, at 530am one brisk morning. I drew a lot, very averagely. I had a puppy Rio and two six month long crushes that went absolutely nowhere. Two others joined our crew, and soon we were going on adventures to Freo for Timezone photos and sushi train.

My second six month long crush, and first taste of heartbreak, got wind of my affections when I got up the courage to ask for his number on the school bus one day. 'I don't know it,' was his earth-shattering response. Lorraine, one of our new editions, heard from a mutual friend that he intended to pretend to like me and then thoroughly humiliate me in front of everyone on the bus the next day, so she decided to berate him in the hallway for all to hear. My heart was crushed but my friend was golden.

Of course, things changed over time. Boys, Abby moving back to England and just growing up different pulled us apart. By year 12 I was back to my lonely self, this time with two equally lonely companions, Jessie and Arran. Those cynical bastards are still my best friends to this day. God love them.

It wasn't until many years later, having lost all of the things that made me me, that I realised just how important it is for us to be true to ourselves.

I can pinpoint the time when I started to lose my kook. I was deep in a relationship where I didn't feel like myself anymore. It can be hard for natural born people-pleasers like myself and every other Cancerian in the world to stay true to ourselves when we're in love. Sometimes we go too far the other way.

For a lot of people it's their experiences with bullying at school that dilutes their colours. They're sparkling too brightly, and it seems to be in a lot of humans' nature to dim that rival sparkle as much as possible. But the thing is, if we don't care what other people think of us, it completely removes their power.

I am incredibly proud of baby Leigh, because my God did she stay true. I wore all of the nerdy, weird shit I loved on my sleeve for all the world to see and I never felt any shame for it. I surrounded myself with people who were proud of me, and I was proud of them. We lifted each other up and protected one another from the evil outside which slowly stopped mattering. My self preservation developed in to completely cutting people out who I feared would hurt me. It's served me quite well so far. I just can't do fake politeness. My face is too emotive. I give myself away.

As an adult I've gone through the cycle again. When I don't feel like I can be myself I tend to retreat. I look inwardly for that place of peace and power. I remind myself why I like me, regardless of if others do or not. I'm still a pleaser, and I still need validation, but I'm getting better. Maybe I need to ask baby Leigh how she did it. Through all the shit, I was always me.

In telling this story I'm hoping that others who have been shaken by self-doubt due of external factors realise that they were never ever the problem. If you have a good heart, that's all that matters. Let your freak flag fly! The most attractive people in the world to me are the passionate ones. I don't care what you love, if it matters that much to you then you're a dream come true. Tell me yours and I'll tell you mine.

At the ripe old age of 26 I know who I am and what makes me happy.

I love the Beatles, I love looking like I just walked out of the 70s, I love loud live music and I love writing. I love connecting with people, and I love talking about aliens and politics and nature. I love the ocean, and I love red wine and cheese platters.

Most of all I love all of the incredible people all over the world that I have met. Be they weird, loud, artistic, spiritual, gentle, wild, funny or my polar opposite, they are completely and unapologetically themselves.

Being a people pleaser isn't as good a quality as it sounds. It's easy to lose yourself, or change to fit an ideal instead of fulfilling who you really are. Being judged is scary. It's a constant battle not to care too much.

Two years ago I would never have walked down the street in my Rockabilly gear. I also didn't eat much and was overall pretty fucking lost.

Now I find myself curvaceous, sassy and proud of my wild outfits and huge smile. I am proud of myself for all I've done, and I love the person I have become very much. I still love all my nerdy things, and I will gladly talk about them to anyone with remote interest (glazed over eyes works too). If it wasn't for all of the negative experiences I've had, not fitting in, feeling lonely, having my heart broken, I wouldn't be who I am now.

None of us would be real without the shit. Don't let it change you, though.

There may be people who love you unconditionally, but it's you who needs to love you most. You're the cheerleader. You're the one whose been there through it all and lived to tell the tale. You're a bloody legend!

Talk about yourself, be proud. It's ok to blow your own horn sometimes. If the people around you don't want to listen, they aren't your people babe. We should all be rooting for each other. What are friends for?

We are all so unique and have so many stories and experiences. We are all part of this great big mad world, but there's only one YOU.

So be you, be free, be everything you've ever wanted to be. Let the love pour out of you. You'll attract the right people, this I promise you.

In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

So tell me, beautiful people, who are you?

Love your second biggest fan,

Harleigh Q

Xo

Advertisements

The Trouble With Social Media

Hello Millenials, Gen X & Y and Boomers.

Image result for hi gif

How are you?

Good I hope.

This week I fell from my perch a bit. I have been making a shift in to profiting on this little talent for eloquent bull-shitting lately. I sponsored a couple of my posts to reach a vaster audience and started a little hub of love on Instagram named @HippieHarleighQ and my very own Facebook like page.

It’s a big stretch for me. You guys know I’m an open person, but I’m also extremely sensitive.

Like, very.

I guess I don’t care if people judge my selfies or photo shoots because I know I’m just a normal girl trying to love myself and inspire others to do the same, and the overconfidence is just my sense of humour. But when it comes to someone questioning my insides? Oh boy…

Someone that I don’t know commented under one of my posts ‘sponsored? Hahah’ and I was bubblingly upset for the rest of the day. Yeah. I’m that bad.

Image result for hurt feelings gif

I promptly deleted the ad for the day it had left.

One thing I don’t want to be is ‘Insta-famous’. However, I do want to connect with more people. I guess it’s the same thing, isn’t it?

As a result of my new found need for money, I’ve been spending more time analysing my online presence. I’ve been looking at other people’s pages, reading their captions and hashtags and working out just how they do it.

Due to my ridiculous hyper-sensitivity I’ve also been questioning myself a hell of a lot more than usual.

Image result for anxiety gif

Where my anxiety had become very manageable, suddenly I am opening myself up to the devil known as comparison; the thief of joy, they say.

Oh boy, they are right.

I’m not happy at the moment. I have stopped enjoying my moments and I have started caring way too much about other people’s opinions. It’s like being a looney teen again. I’m a 26 year old woman! I thought I was supposed to be over that by now!

Image result for love me gif

I’ve been working out, eating right and I’ve cut right back on the naughty drinking. I’ve practically quit smoking. I’ve also stopped reading, I’m struggling to write and I’m losing my connections with my friends. Why? Because I’m thinking too much.

One of my spectacularly beautiful and intelligent girls said to a few of us a while ago that she found Instagram depressing. I couldn’t relate.

Image result for cant relate gif

I loved Instagram. I loved the amazing #bopo pages I follow; the gorgeous vintage collections, artists and hippie clothing companies that fill my feed. Facebook was much the same; interesting news articles, friend’s hilarious titbits about their day to day and some cool travel photos. I thought it was maybe something she could control by changing who she follows.

I was so wrong.

When you’re in the headspace of comparison (aka: thief of joy) the things you were looking at before that made you smile suddenly cloud your mind in a dark way. I enviously analyse the photography skills of my #bopo girls. I skip over friends’ posts and seek out my target audience to see why they aren’t engaging with me more. I’ve picked people who aren’t giving me as much attention as they used to and I’m agonising over it.

I have stopped valuing the good in favour of the goal.

Specifically, artist friends, do you know what I mean? The success of something locally doesn’t mean much when your reach isn’t vast enough? Something you wrote is no longer measuring up because something from last month did way better?

I want us all to stop.

Stop stop stop.

Social media is not real. We also can’t control who is seeing our posts due to the very money-focused algorithms. Don’t think less likes means people aren’t loving you. They aren’t seeing you.

~

Today I scrolled back through my Instagram for photos that looked out of place (I’m notorious for archiving mismatching colours in favour of a flowing theme rather than honest expression).

I came across my America and Europe photos.

I zoomed in on my and Martina’s smiley faces on our way to the opera dinner in Rome. I remembered vividly how incredible that night was, and how none of us had had signal in that little underground restaurant so we just talked and talked and talked like it was going out of fashion.

I saw myself standing at the top of the Rocky steps, one of my biggest life goals, for the second time.

I scrolled a little further and saw the gorgeous beach photos I took when I went down the coast with my Kate for a sneaky getaway, and the Melbourne food market tour I went on when I was learning how to use my new DSLR.

Not a single one of these times did I have my fucking phone in my hand.

I then scrolled back up and looked at my tagged photos, and I saw my face hanging in an art gallery in Maryland.

No, no one has written a song about me and no, I haven’t appeared in a music video and no, I haven’t collaborated in writing a great song, but someone liked my face so much that they decided to stare at it for hours and create a beautiful work of art that is now selling for $650USD. One day I might be hanging on someone’s wall. Wow.

What the fuck is wrong with us? Why do we always strive for what we don’t have or feel discontented when our lives are filled with amazing things to be proud of?

We can’t blame the media for everything. It’s not going to change any time soon. I think it’s our own doing, in a lot of ways. When we don’t switch off, we don’t absorb.

Image result for iphone gif

Our phones are glued to our hands and life is witnessed through a screen instead of through our square little eyes.

~

I’m going to try to make a conscious effort to switch off more often and get out in to that big bad world without a shield of phone to guard me, and I’m going to see how my happiness level goes.

I have an inkling I might feel just that little bit lighter; and not just because my phone is a brick for the blind.

If we don’t get out there and do, how can we be?

Image result for it crowd gif

I hope this little shake up helps some of you guys too. I hadn’t been able to pinpoint my lull but now I have, I’m going to try to fix it as best I can.

One hour free of technology after work each day to focus on my other things e.g. pile of unread books and neglected keyboard and guitar.

You’re all beautiful, interesting people. That’s why you’re my friends.

Now let’s go and be that without validation (said the queen of needing validation). Life is short, don’t spend it sad because some people are cooler than you.

No one will ever be as cool as Ringo Starr. It’s time we accepted it.

Image result for ringo starr gif

Forever your honey,

Harleigh Q

Xo

Badges Earned in Faux Adulthood

Here’s a couple of stories buried in enlightening messages I have picked up in my 25 moons. Um, 25 new moons? Okay yep that’ll do. Here it is:

550ccae74a17a1ce58f41c6ed5916f0d

You can’t please everyone.

If there’s one thing I’ve always been, it’s a self confessed people-pleaser. I get it from my Papi. So sue us, we like being liked. However! Guess what happens when you get in to your mid 20s? If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably start getting tired of being a bit of a doormat.

Sadly something happens when you go through this period. Some associates may not like the new back-boned-of-steel you and jig their way backwards out of your life. Don’t despair. If someone truly loved you they would know you inside out and be proud of your transformation, not mad at you for changing and becoming a stronger you. Always remember that. If they aren’t happy for you they weren’t a good friend in the first place…

You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.
Dita Von Teese

I still care far too much what people think though, especially my friends. Overall I’m quite a nice kid, if I do say so myself. Maybe I’m a bit self indulgent. But I like talking and I like listening in equal parts. I know I’m not an easy friend to have in my over-dramatic and analytical state but in a heart beat I’m there to give advice and listen if needed.

I care a great deal about my friends. Very very much so. I like to tell them every chance I get and just to reiterate, I message you because I love you. Even if it’s meaningless crap, I love that bonding and the contact. You can tell me about your day, you know how I love to know everything about everything. I’ll fill the gaps with my own self-important rambles too. That’s friendship. It’s lovely.

Grazie mia caras for the bants and advice on a regular basis. It’s always appreciated, no matter how many miles away you are. Waking up to an inbox full of you makes my cold, dark and early mornings so much more bearable ❤️

~

ef770d350f45da2508d4a23598473b2ec60237bdaa4d22100109ae13964f00d4

Being opinionated is a good thing.

Tying in to the above, I’ve realised how important it is to have convictions and be not only a supporter but an activist when it comes to things you care about.

Never again will I sit back and listen to racist, homophobic or sexist comments without putting in my two cents. If people don’t like it they certainly aren’t my people to begin with.

I’ll never forget cringing at BBQs of friends of friends in my teenage years and listening to the awful jokes they’d make about women and indigenous Australians and being far too terrified to say anything. All I could muster was a ‘please don’t take me there again’ to my ex on the way home.

These days I live on my soapbox and I’m all for an adult debate about a topic but when it comes to things as basic as human rights and feminism you can bugger right off.

I think my favourite example of a run in I had was a night in Memphis, Jessie and I found ourselves entertaining a group of eight southern fellas. J of course thought it would be hilarious to ask them how they felt about Trump.

With a roar and animated banging of fists-on-table they announced they think he’s a hero. I audibly scoffed. Jess followed with ‘oh don’t talk to Leigh about it, she hates him.’

The gentleman closest to me turned in his chair, placed an elbow on his knee and scratched his chin. The line that followed will go down as my favourite in our American history.

‘So you’re telling me, you’re okay with pedophiles using the bathroom with little kids?’

I snorted in to my drink. ‘I’m sorry?’ I managed after a small coughing fit.

He repeated, and followed with: ‘those transgender people want to make bathrooms co-ed, so that these perverts can use the bathroom with little kids.’

Tears streamed down my face at this point as I tried desperately not to burst out laughing. You know those times when you’re trying really hard to comprehend what someone just said but you’re drawing a blank? Yeah, that. I glanced up and remembered that there were eight of them and rather than making an absolute fool out of him I chose to put on my most charming smile.

‘I think there are bigger issues at play than that… Don’t you?’

He did not. I think I offended them, because they left us within a few minutes. We exchanged head nods and ‘have a good night’s before I turned to Jessie and laughed harder than I had in a while.

Okay, so, aside from in his mind all transgender (at least he used the correct terminology?) people being pedophiles, I don’t quite know how he missed the part where pedophiles are already using the bathroom with children. There isn’t a separate pedophile toilet, nor do most of them have a preference for gender. That’s kind of the point. They like kids.

I was bamboozled.

I don’t like to laugh at people for lacking intelligence, but after my little fit it dawned on me that those people all have the ability to vote.

And if they do, they’ll vote for that vile human being.

Shit.

Ironically their political convictions can’t have been that strong as they returned looking for us an hour later. At that point we’d infiltrated a Contiki group and I was far too drunk to be so tactful. On your bikes, fellas.

Thank you to the countless wonderful, open-hearted and enlightened Americans I met along the rest of our journey who showed me, although there’s a serious issue with scaremongering in the media over there too, lots of us try our best to self educate and actually care about the people around us.

Oh Australia. I hope you learn one day that ‘stop the boats’ should not be a winning campaign slogan…

~

Celebrities are people too.

So this one time many moons ago I was in love with Geordie Shore. Say what you will, it’s brilliant. To this day Queen Vicky is still my role model and when Miranda and I heard that she would be appearing at the ever classy Eve Nightclub in the Casino we just knew we had to go.

image

Donning my blackest fake tan and hair piece, we pre drank and entered the den of seed.

The night started well. We gently elbowed our way to the front of the crowd and were the last in a chain of fifty to get a kiss from Scotty T. Like the ladies we are we turned our cheeks. We were there for Vicky.

Behind the DJ booth, there she was. My Geordie Icon. She was as beautiful as I’d imagined and pre-skinny Vicky looked lovely in her playsuit and huge hair piece. When photo time came I made sure to be memorable and told her how much I loved her and completely blanked Scotty.

We weren’t quite ready to leave our stars and so Mimi and I hovered near the bar and stared rather intensely at them. A gentleman who turned out to be their PR guy appeared next to us and asked ‘would you ladies like to party with Scotty T?’ Would we ever!

Half an hour later we sat awkwardly by the cordoned off and very average ‘VIP area’ and grinned eagerly as they were ushered in. We got the nod of approval from Mr PR and among fifteen other leggy blondes we were in!

We coolly took a seat at a table in the middle and watched the girls one by one twirl their hair at Scotty or marvel at Vick’s engagement ring (I told you it was a while ago!).

When the Queen took a seat on the lounge near by I seized my opportunity.

What did I do? I dropped to my knees and knee-walked up to her. I genuinely don’t remember why.

She grinned at me and offered me a seat next to her. For the next twenty minutes we chatted about who-knows-what, all I remember is announcing ‘my mums old best friend is your mums next door neighbour!’ (It’s a small Geordie world) and finishing off her drink for her. She was lovely. I didn’t mention her engagement to Ricci as, to be honest, I thought and still think he’s a complete bellend. It turns out at that time they had actually broken up and the ring was for keeping up appearances and avoiding spoilers. Poor thing.

After we got our photos they left and I knee-walked back to Miranda. We exchanged a giddy high-five.

There’s the tale of my one and only celebrity encounter. Here’s the photo evidence:

imageimageimageimage

~

55260555

People will always justify their actions to themselves.

This is one my Papi taught me a few years ago and nothing has ever rang truer. It’s really helped me in my quest for understanding other’s perspectives and maybe it will help you too.

When people do and say things, be it to you or about you or whatever, they do it because in their mind it’s the right thing to do. If they hurt you, they’ve convinced themselves of why they had to. If they lie to you, they have a reason in mind to justify it.

It doesn’t mean you’ll agree with their reasoning, but to get through each and every day do we not tell ourselves why we are doing what we are doing constantly?

I sent that email for these reasons, I bitched about that person because… I killed those people as… Okay maybe not that one but come on, we all know why we do things.

So next time someone hurts you and you can’t understand why, remember that they have their own reasons. They have made their actions right in their own heads. Try to remember that sometimes people say things because other things are influencing them. They’re unhappy so they’re lashing out. It’s not necessarily all about you. Take some time, take a breath, and please try to be the bigger person. At least on occasion. I’m the worst for rolling over and taking it when I shouldn’t. But hey, saves an argument. Let’s all just try to be kinder to each other hey? You can’t have too many friends.

But if someone is a constant dick feel free to get rid. You have my blessing to cleanse yourself of negativity.

Thanks for reading my tales!

There will be many more to come.

Harleigh Q

Xo

#LifeGoals.

 

1460076_10153555263960599_615856237_n

Today, as we do every day, Nat and I were chatting about life.

I told her I see her as #lifegoals. She has a beautiful little family and her home is incredible. Like, seriously. Ocean views from her living room. Wellington is a cold little dream.

Her response was ‘you don’t want to rush it my love!‘.

image

I love my Nat. We are on the same wave length. She has travelled extensively to some of the most mind blowing destinations. She’s a real traveller as I like to say. Off the grid, a proper backpacker. She’s been completely solo and her stories are my favourite. I will not repeat, they aren’t my stories to tell. But, one day, I’ll have lots of my own!

 

image

I’ve decided what my life goal is. It’s pretty simple and it’s pretty awesome.

I want to have lots of stories to tell, and I want to use them to inspire other people to pursue their travel dreams too. 

Of course I want the normal things too. One day I’ll (hopefully) meet a wonderful man who shares my passions, have my own big, loud woggy family who loves to sing and dance and laugh and eat just like mine. I dream of us all sitting around a big table with wine and curry and chatting about our days with some classic tunes on the turntable.

I know I’ll have that one day. But I’m in no hurry. I know it’ll take someone really special to keep up with my itchy feet and mad family (love yous! But you are mental!) and I won’t settle for less than someone who adores me and them just as much as I do.

 

image

As per our discussion, here are some of mine and Nat’s favourite things about travel:

  • Watching sunsets and sunrises
  • Tasting truly good local food
  • Being nervous in big unfamiliar train stations
  • Sitting on your bed in a new hostel
  • Making eye contact with strangers and smiling
  • Kissing a foreigner
  • Getting lost in big cities
  • Drinking chai lattes and people watching
  • Reading in the airport
  • Trying to speak another language
  • Swapping stories with fellow travellers
  • Singalongs in hostels with the wankey guitar guy (we hate to love him)

Work is work and thankfully we fell in to an industry that will always be there, and we work really hard so that we know our jobs are secure for when we come back  (what a blessing!) but the best bits of life are definitely the in between bits; the bits where your mind isn’t anywhere else. You are completely in the moment, watching whats going on around you, and just being.

 

image

I hope everyone gets to experience the things on our little list at some point. For me, they are what makes life worth living. It’s so freeing to be completely alone and present. I’d never known that feeling before until Europe 2012. I was so excited the entire time, not knowing what’s going to happen next. Routine is great, but it’s not for me.

image

 

Here are a couple of travel stories I’ve accumulated so far!

  • Probably my favourite ever backpacker memory is from when I was travelling Europe in 2012. By the time we reached Berlin we’d been on the road for about 5 weeks. The hostel we stayed in was absolutely gorgeous. We walked in to a room with wood panelled floor and walls and the highest ceiling I’ve ever seen. The window was open to let in the breeze (it was a warm 35 degrees in Berlin that day!). As I unpacked my backpack I heard a gloriously familiar sound float up to our room. Australian accents; multiple Australian accents. I clambered on the bed to get a better view and spotted three bodies hanging in the courtyard. They didn’t appear to know each other and were giving introductions. ‘We’re in!’ We chorused and leapt down stairs as quickly as possible to introduce ourselves to a little slice of home. We met three lovely people that afternoon. I still have all three on Facebook. As much as I adore the anonymity of travel, there’s nothing more heart warming than that little piece of familiarity. We chatted a while and with 1 euro bottles of sangria on the go I can honestly say most of that afternoon was a blur. My all time favourite memory though? A beautifully bohemian young fellow with his accoustic guitar had set himself up in the corner of the common room. He started strumming and before long the entire room had erupted in to the chorus of ‘Piano Man’. To this day, still one of my favourite songs. How cliche and fabulous.

image

 

  • Now you have all heard my Craig Anderson story (if not, see my post ‘the greatest trip of my life so far!’), but that trip was full of brilliant little adventures. One that comes to mind as the most stand out evening would have to be ‘Swag Night’. I’m a sucker for an accoustic. After an expertly cooked up dinner, we found ourselves huddled around a camp fire drinking wine from classy plastic glasses, wearing UGGs and every layer of clothing we owned. Shorty pulled out his guitar and after the beautiful Frenchman played us a slightly painful set, complete with clackers, we were treated to the old faithful ‘It’s Business Time’ by Flight of the Concords. A few originals too! Only to be topped off by the coolest night of my life. Literally. I got to sleep in a swag in the middle of the bush, the sky littered with more stars than I’ve ever seen. Tick her off the bucket list. It was heaven. Summer would have been better however…. I think attempting to roll up the swag in my PJs and getting lost in the dark on our way to the toilets was another highlight of the experience. Oh Lea 2 how do I manage without your keen sense of direction and tiny bladder.

image

 

  • I’ll regale you with one final tale. This one goes out to fair Italia. In Verona I stayed in a stunning bed and breakfast, which was more like your idea of the most perfect Italian apartment of all time. It was big, classically decorated and more importantly, the kitchen table was littered with delicious food. You cannot beat that Italian hospitality. Upon arrival our host let us know that some Americans were also staying up the hallway from us. That evening we found them playing card games in the kitchen. This turned to drinking card games and 4am chats about politics. The next morning we all rose feeling a little worse for wear and decided to abandon previous plans and, upon our beautiful hosts advise, we caught the train out to lake Garda. Always listen to the locals! We made it, after getting off on the wrong stop and catching a rather expensive taxi, to a stunning ancient village. A castle sat perfectly content in what appeared to be the ocean (nope, just a really big lake). The place smelled like fresh baked goods and roses with a hint of salt in the air. Once we spotted the paddle boats for hire, we knew our day was sorted. Sun baking on the back of a paddle boat and swimming in Lake Garda has to be one of the most surreal and incredible experiences I’ve had. I can’t wait to return to Northern Italy and I cherish the amazing day we spent with our wickedly funny American friends, who I also have on Facebook! Thank you guys for one of my favourite memories, and for proving Americans are awesome.

image.jpg

image

I hope that one day someone says to me ‘you inspired me to go for it!’ – that would absolutely make my life. I want people to see that even when bad things happen and your heart’s a bit broken and all that jazz, life’s just beginning. It’s going to be so much better than you ever imagined. That I absolutely promise you.

I hope people don’t wait for other people. I hope people do what they want to do when they want to. You don’t have to answer to anybody… You’ve only got yourself at the end of the day, so make sure you love her or him, and make sure you do everything you can together.

All my love

Harleigh Q

xo

The greatest trip of my life, so far!

Hey everyone!

For post number three I’ve decided to tell you all about my favourite adventure so far.

There are a lot of reasons why my second trip with Topdeck holds the fondest memories. Firstly, it was the first future decision I made after my breakup with Tom. That was a very challenging time for me (and those around me who had to mop up the mess I was at the time!). It was March 2015 and I thought I was heading in one direction, which ironically I still did, but it certainly wasn’t in its original form.

I really wasn’t sure what my path was anymore. All plans I had made were now up in the air. So what does Leigh Leigh do when she’s going through trauma? Book a trip of course! But why did I choose this one?

I’d always had it in my head since starting Flight Centre that I would one day work at Infinity Domestic. I love talking to agents, I love our company, industry, and most of all – I love Australia! At that point I had only done most of Queensland and the coast from Brisbane all the way down to Melbourne.

Midway through my 567th viewing of Priscilla Queen of the Desert I had an epiphany: I needed to climb Kings Canyon.

I have always loved the red dirt. We all know I’m a girly girl but the idea of wearing my big boots and staring out in to the vast outback with the sun on my face was absolutely intoxicating. Australia is amazing. We literally have every landscape imaginable all in one country. I had to see it!

So I did my usual research, compared itineraries and came across the Down South and Outback.

aamrmu-aamrum

I had travelled with Topdeck the year before, after my first break up (Hmmm…) and did the Surfari from Brisbane to Sydney. I fell in love with the company; this had a lot to do with my beautiful tour leader Lauren who I’m still good friends with now.

It was an easy decision once I spotted this itinerary. Then the question became: How can I do this trip, get my dream job and start fresh in a new place all in one year?

Just do it. That’s how.

So I contacted my resources: the amazing Kate who I had boozed with recently in Tropical North Queensland, my wonderful bossman at the time, Mark, and my area leader, and essentially begged them to help me make it happen. They sure did deliver. I’ll never be able to thank them enough.

~

Moving swiftly on so this doesn’t end up being the longest post of all time, the count down began and four months later I was sat on a Qantas plane on my way to the outback.

11873460_10155963160010599_5782651795638504885_n

Alice was everything I hoped it would be and more: hot, dry and wild. After infiltrating the group the night before I was due to join them, the adventure began. First, we headed out to the most spectacularly spiritual place I have ever been.

11902260_10156003219345599_4888838189241376288_n

I shared bubbles and canapes with some of the best ladies I have ever met: Lea 2, Anita and Lisa. This is one of the billion reasons I love travel. You find soul sisters all over the place!

We did the full 10km base walk. The first of many hikes on this trip.

11831798_10155970750700599_1499417033607968969_n

11889474_10155975093755599_5634454101935447375_n

11141344_10156003067035599_4474327753416031360_n

I miss being this fitness level. Anyway….!

Next was my version of heaven. King Canyon.

I got to live my dream.

11891011_10156003268115599_8144034884756857055_n

Honestly, look at that. How can anybody not find this country beautiful?

11866425_10156004796035599_6450990505888603341_n

The outback is a wondrous place. I felt instantly at home. The locals were brash and funny, the hotels were basic and cosy, the sights were breathtaking.

I truly hope that every single person gets to experience what it’s like to truly be in the middle of nowhere. I feel like I found myself out there. I was alone with a bunch of other alone people and never felt lonely for a second. We bonded over our mutual love for Australia and the funny scenarios we found ourselves in.

My personal favourite was the time, right before the end of the tour, when Lisa, Anita, Emily and I walked in to a little tavern in Princetown on the Great Ocean Road for dinner. A group of long haired yahoos sat hovering around the fire and all looked our way as we sat down.

Oiled up after a few wines we invited them to play pool with us and a bunch of jokes about what they must do for a living ensued. Lisa insisted they must be tradies; most likely carpenters. They agreed we had guessed it and we felt rather proud.

It wasn’t until I sent Anita back in to grab one of their numbers (what are we, 12?) until we found out the one whose hair I had just finished plaiting happened to be the one and only Craig Anderson. Pro Surfer.

13_0224_ELECTRIC_AUSTRALIA-copy.jpg

Good job Leigh. Well done.

~

There were honestly so many highlights to this trip it would take me hours to write about it, but there’s one place in particular that really captured my heart. The Great Ocean Road.

 

From start to finish this segment of our trip took my breath away. My relief to hit the water again after ten days of bush outweighed the heavy shivering I would be doing for the next few days.

Yes English family. It gets really cold here! We were dealing with 8 degree days and strong arctic winds which is very fresh for a West Aussie like myself.

I think the scenery speaks for itself:

11885260_10156008871765599_3245440628797471513_n

11914887_10156002869955599_632146337754265744_n

11225072_10156006367225599_5722318981524143440_n

 

In my humble opinion, it topped the Amalfi coast. Just.

So this, my loves, is my plea to you. Please see Australia. At some point in your life, designate a few weeks and instead of that annual Bali or Thailand trip, drive the coast from Brisbane to Sydney. Spend four nights in Ayres. Detour from that shopping trip in Melbourne and drive the Great Ocean Road.

Australia is not as expensive as you think it is. This tour costs about $2000 for two weeks, and my flights were $600. We had lots of meals and almost all activities included. I literally only spent money on snow globes and food (the usual).

Our country is the best in the world. I’m from overseas so I can say that without the mandatory Southern Cross tattoo.

I get excited every single day in my current job. It doesn’t matter how many I have put together that day, I still get excited every time an agent asks for Tropical North Queensland, Ayres rock or Great Ocean. I feel myself transport right back there. I literally relive my trips and share that passion with people who want to know all day. How lucky is that?

Moral of the story: Book a trip, find yourself, live your passion, see Australia.

~

Love you all

Harleigh Q

xo

It’s beginning to look a lot like… Adventure debt

Today Jess and I officially announced our 2016 USA trip.

Three months and counting until we’ll be roaming the desert in her cowboy boots and my circle skirts, searching for a cowboy or two to love; or maybe just a really good burger.

Now I am no stranger to the concept of saving money, nor am I a stranger to the concept of spending it it. I am what some may call a shopaholic. I’m not proud of the label, I prefer the term fashion enthusiast, however I recognise the reason I’ve gained it and understand that perhaps my actual NYR should be to simply stop buying clothes.

Hah.

In all seriousness it is my full intention to not spend a single dollar on clothes for the next three months. Mainly because I spent up in the Boxing Day sales. Sh.

Returning to what I intended to discuss in this post… Money vs travel.

I’ve got a lot of beautiful friends all over the world and we have all made very different choices in the directions of our lives. I know some who are incredibly well set up with their gorgeous homes and partners, babies or engagement rings. I really couldn’t be happier for them. If things had turned out differently I may have been one of them (perish the thought).

I, on the other hand, realised at the ripe old age of 20 that the only thing that I want to do with my life, with absolute certainty, is travel.

It all started while planning my first time venturing out of Western Australia after we had emigrated there six years previously. I nanny’d damn hard that summer and between the dirty nappies and spit sandwiches (let’s not go there) I felt the fire in my belly. I read and reread the Europe travel guide gifted to us by our lovely friends Shaniel, and created what was soon to be known as ‘the Bible’. Coined by my brilliant travel agent Tom, the Bible was my day by day, hostel by hostel, activity by activity, dollar by dollar folder that documented every last inch of our two month European galavant.

There was no going back after we sat excitedly in that Flight Centre store and he uttered the words ‘have you ever thought about being a travel agent?’ – thanks for recognising my calling old mate!

We saved desperately for six months, which honestly wasn’t too hard for a couple of video game loving hermits, and come April 2012 we were on our way.

Ever since that first trip, my entire life has revolved around travel. When I’m not spending my days planning it for other people I’m documenting and researching the places on my own bucket list.

I realise I must sound like a bit of an organisation freak at this point, but I think we’d all have a good laugh if you saw the state of my bedroom.

I have made decisions along the way that have enabled me to literally live my passion without too much financial hardship. I didn’t move out until last year, I didn’t get a credit card until last year (what was necessary at the time is now the devil’s temptation living in my purse), I don’t own a car nor have I ever, I don’t have a house deposit or any animals either (unless we count Jess).

I know I’ve been ridiculously lucky in that my family really are my best friends, and moving away from them was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I’m definitely not saying that this is a lifestyle anyone could afford with the right priorities. Some of us don’t have the option. We all have to make choices. We all have our own path. I thought I was on one and got very abruptly thrown off it, but that’s what I love about life. Just when you start to get off track, she’ll pull you right back again.

I just have lots of lovely people ask me regularly how I do it, and my honest answer is:

  • I’m very single
  • I’m very financial commitment free
  • I have access to cheap deals and the knowledge of the best time to book (which I’ll gladly pass on to anyone interested!)
  • I spend every penny of the savings I manage to accumulate on my next trip

My long term goal is to see as much of this planet as possible, and meet loads of amazing people.  I’m not worried about a house deposit or buying a car because future Leigh will take care of the grown up stuff when she is ready, provided I don’t get her in to too much debt.

You only live once, and who knows how long for? If you’re as passionate as me and you’ve got that rainy day money just sitting there… What the hell are you waiting for? Trust me, like a work out, travel is one thing you will never regret. You do not need someone to go with. Grow a vagina and find a tour itinerary you like and just be yourself for a while with a bunch of strangers. You’ll love each other by the end of it.

Well that’s it for my very first blog post! Sorry for the tangents, you’ll get used to it.

Lots of love

Harleigh Q

xo