An Epic Ending

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this is the home of music.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Happy 4th!

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

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It was like walking around with minor celebrities.

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

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

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

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

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

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Apparently corn worship is a thing in this place.

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

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

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

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

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

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That night was movie night! Spot batman pants.

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

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

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We even saw a bear!

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

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We had lunch at the tiniest brewery ever.

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

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

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It was a truly stunning place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember, our stories are only just beginning…

Harleigh Q

Xo

 

 

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Oh, Canada! and Other Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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That night we had a pretty wild pool party.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be still, my beating heart!

Day two was a bit blurry thanks to this place:

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

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

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All was well.

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

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

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Apparently there were fireworks..?

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

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

Harleigh Q

xo

The Nitty Gritty and the Heart and Soul

NOLA NOLA NOLA… Where do I start?

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The weather God’s blessed us with warm nights and stormy mornings which worked out perfectly for our nocturnal selves.

I must admit Bourbon street during the day is a slightly intimidating place. I really wasn’t sure what to make of it and spent day one hauled up in bed fighting off a cold.

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Everything changed when we ventured to a little place known as Saints and Sinners.

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The Channing Tatum fans out there will know it as the bar he owns and occasionally visits. Sadly no such luck for us but we did make friends with our lovely bartenders (as per) and smashed a cocktail or three.

After that I had already picked out our next stop, one of the best blues venues on the strip, The Funky Pirate. Oh man. I was feeling that soul. We were loving our personal serenade as we gazed awestruck from the bar. We tried the world famous ‘hand grenade’ cocktails and I think there may have been acid in that secret recipe because I couldn’t eat the next day. Cheers!

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It was such a blur and I was loving the beeds getting thrown around from the balconies lining the street. Jess felt like she was in a war zone where as I felt like I was on stage. Shower me with gifts please.

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Now being the spontaneous kid I am, once the hangover subsided I dragged Jessie a few kilometres up the road in to what I would describe as the Freo to Bourbon street’s Northbridge. What an absolute kookville. I adored it.

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There were pirates, people in top hats, the coolest looking rocker chicks I have ever seen, superb moustaches and so much more with guitar cases slung over their shoulders as they made their way to their respective gigs.

We passed a few venues with young jazz bands free-styling and the packed in crowd going wild. The vibe in this area was absolutely incredible and my favourite (new favourite) street so far.

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Tattoo time! I already knew what I wanted and cause I’m tough as nails and wanted a memento from such a special place, I went for it.

I was sad to leave. I think you could spend a few weeks in New Orleans and still have a million stones left unturned. The service there is so top notch it made up for the kooks walking around with machetes (I’m not trying to put you off going or anything, I felt safer here than most places we have been!). I look forward to coming back one day for a few more wild nights and some further soul music appreciation.

Memphis

How could you possibly top New Orleans? Memphis. That’s how.

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To be completely honest I wasn’t sure what there was to do in Memphis aside from Graceland at the time of booking. That’s why I opted for only 2 nights. I’ll own it. I fucked up guys.

I have never been to a place with more heart than Memphis. Every single person we met was so kind and friendly and couldn’t do enough for us. There was that southern hospitality we’d been hearing about! We met a lovely family in the Harley shop who offered to take us in to town if we got stuck, because they didn’t want us drink driving! Clearly Aussies have a reputation. We met people in the hallway of our hotel who ended up joining us for dinner.

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A hot tip from our sales lady led us to a brilliant (and free) Elvis tribute show where Jess and I saw our very first greaser boy. He looked like he had walked out of the Outsiders. Safe to say our eyes were momentarily diverted from gyrating Elvis.

We had spent the day learning all about our King. Graceland was up there with NASA for me on my unmissables list. I was so much more emotional that I expected. I teared up walking through his halls and glimpsing in to his life. Taking a moment to step back and look around the room, I was in awe of sharing this experiences with so many other fans. His music danced around each room and the hall of records blew my mind. What an absolute God of music.

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That night after our show we ventured to a little place called Beale Street. The home of blues. We started at BB Kings Club after a few laps of the pedestrian area. All sorts of different kinds of music poured from each venue. We invested in a pair of light up bunny ears each and a street beer before opting to enter Silky O’Sullivan’s. Accused of being an Irish bar it still felt more like an outdoor rock and roll venue. They also had goats. They live there. I don’t know.

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Of course we are standing at the bar when we run in to the lovely driver from our last Contiki, Jeff, and end up infiltrating his accompanying group. Stories were swapped, buckets were drank, and somehow we ended up at our third Coyote Ugly of the trip. I always swear it won’t happen again and it always does. Needless to say I was not getting on that bar in my beautiful pinup dress. Especially not surrounded by the incredible locals who can actually dance.

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Speaking of which, pre street beer we decided to have a dig in the record store as we were loving their sweet sounds and I was on the hunt for my 645th snow globe. A lovely older gentleman complimented us on the way in and we ended up having a wee boogie in the aisles to some soul. It’s shit like that that reminds me why I love to travel so much. I even got compliments from a group of local chicks on my moves. Damn Daniel. Maybe there’s some rhythm in me after all.

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Before calling it a night we stumbled out on the the street to find a huge group of people doing what I believe to be the Cupid Shuffle (we have since learnt and nailed this on multiple occasion by the way) It was 2am, music was blaring. They were free, happy and loving it. What a sight. It took my breath away.

The next morning I woke up sad and sore and on the verge of tears because I could have stayed a month. What an absolutely magical place. I completely understand why Elvis loved it so much. It went above and beyond my expectations and apart from San Diego, this is the first place I absolutely cannot wait to come back to.

Nashville

Arriving rather late on a Saturday night with a Memphis hangover was not the best start, and when plunged directly in to the absolute madness that was Broadway on a weekend we realised very quickly: Nashville was not what we expected.

Not going to lie, country music did spill on to the streets from the scores of live music venues, but the masses of Hen and Stag parties also pouring out of them was quite the surprise. It reminded me of an American style Whitley Bay.

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Its a real pretty city but the greatest part of all: The Johnny Cash Museum.

Jessie and I developed a love for the legend while living in Brisbane. Our favourite local band West Texas Crude would croon his greatest hits and ah, we fell.

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His love story with June Carter is my absolute favourite.

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It was wonderful to learn about such a beautiful hearted man.

After my usual kooking around we took our several uber drivers’ recommendations and headed out to Gaylord Oprey Resort. It’s the largest hotel in America (not attached to a casino) and oh, she’s a sight!

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If I could pick her up and move her out of Nashville she’d be an incredible honeymoon destination. Pure tranquility.

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Caught a ride home with old mate. Jess paid him generously.

(Sorry family 😂😉)

Overall Nashville wasn’t one of my stand outs but it did give a great vibe as the Hollywood of Country music. I’m sure if you like that sort of thing it’d be right up your alley!

Atlanta

It was one of those days where google maps said four hours and we didn’t get there until 9.30pm.

Our first stop was the post office to send home about ten snow globes and the wild amount of clothes we have accumulated (side note: this is not a cost effective way to be. I’ll never learn). Of course the line was huge and we got the new guy. Two and a half hours later we hit the road for the final leg of our road trip: Nashville to Atlanta via Alabama.

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I am so glad we took the little detour in to Alabama. It’s without a doubt the prettiest place we’ve been. We drove past huge white houses on acres of land, up and down hills with views in to valleys… It’s green as green can be! I see why Forrest loves it so much. It’s like a dream.

Two years ago I had the pleasure of meeting the beautiful Ally on my first ever solo adventure. It was a Topdeck tour from Brisbane to Sydney. We bonded and spent the eve of my 23rd birthday stumbling around darling harbour and have kept up with each other through the miracle of social media.

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She has the most gorgeous home just outside Atlanta and upon arrival took us on a tour of the city. Local guides are the greatest! We had a beverage at a lovely bar with views of the skyline and though it was short and sweet, we had a wonderful time. Thank you again Ally for being a perfect host and beautiful soul.

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And so we napped (because our sleeping pattern is well and truly stuffed) and awoke at 5am for our airport run. We played all our day songs and hummed along sombrely. We didn’t want to give our baby back and grumbled about how we could have just driven to Orlando. Damn one way fees.

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We covered an incredible amount of ground and the Great American Roadtrip really should be on your list if you’re keen on the states. By driving we saw every kind of scenery and met all kinds of people. It’s been an absolute blast.

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Orlando

Welcome to the theme park capital of the world!

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I had one mission and one mission only: Harry Potter World. I got superbly lucky that the beautiful Contiki tour leader Charity who I met in Memphis also happened to be a massive Potter nerd as did a few of the other girls, including my darling Perth chicka Ashleigh. I had myself a posse of geeks.

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We arrived bright and early and with hearts pounding entered the second most magical place I have ever been (for me, the Studio Tour in London just pipped it at the post). With Slytherin head girl badge and head band attached I was ready and repping. First on the agenda was a secret meeting at Grimmauld Place before butter beer and Cornish pasties, naturally.

 

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I got emotional in Gringotts and caught the actual mf HOGWARTS EXPRESS.

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Guys. I can’t. This was the ultimate for me and almost made up for my lack of letter at eleven years old.

The only way I could process all that excitement was a solo bevvie at Moe’s. I grabbed a Duff with Barney and we had a great time!

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I I really didn’t think my day could get any better. How could that be possible? Then I read the list of character photo opportunities and there he was. My ogre. My Shrek.

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Life. Complete. And it’s not ogre.

I found a deluxe edition of the Killing Joke and the latest Harley Quinn graphic novel.

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I finished the day with pool side beverages with my gorgeous and very welcoming new friends. Best day of my life.

So far.

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Also, Jess went to Gatorland and sat on an alligator. So there’s that.

Bahamas

Our darling angel Cloë managed a last minute booking on the same cruise as us and thus three days of drunken fun began. I’ve never been so full or heavily cocktailed in my life. Drinks packages are the best thing since sliced bread. As are double courses when you can’t choose. I ate for a small African village.

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Well lubricated and post Jess’s superb safety demonstration (snappers may have caught that excellence) we headed out to our first stop, Cococay.

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It’s essentially a tiny paradise reserved just for us. The Bahamas are just as spectacular as google images promises.

Not to mention the locals are so kind and friendly!

Now as far as cruising goes for anyone who is unfamiliar or unsure, it’s the best. We went with Royal Carribbean who are a brilliant 4* company who blew me away at every turn. From the level of service to the quality of food, the nightly activities to the layout of the ship – it was perfection. Three nights felt like far too short, but I don’t think we could keep up with the party life to be honest.

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on our last shore trip we arrived in Nassau and cocktail in tow, boogied with the locals. We now know two of the dances!

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We love our Cloë very much so when discussion turned to post cruise planning a little chat about the possibility of heading down the coast ended with us amending our Miami accommodation to make way for one night in Key West.

Key West

That turned out to be the greatest decision of all time.

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As a travel agent I’m forever aware of the risks of leaving things until last minute, but taking the opportunity for a spontaneous roadie to the most special place I’ve ever been panned out perfectly.

My jaw fell open as we crossed the many bridges to reach the southern-most island but it wasn’t until we drove the coast road to old town that I really realised what we had stumbled upon.
The sunset over the crystal clear ocean was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The buildings hold the beauty of NOLA’s but the streets have the calm quaintness that she’s starting to lose. The bars in their vast numbers are welcoming and intriguing. The seafood wafts through the air and palms lay in your path as you wander. Then we saw the ghost tour tram.

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Cloë and I jumped at the opportunity to be freaked out and learn about the history of this breathtaking place. It didn’t disappoint.
We heard stories of civil war tragedies, grave robbing, pirate activity and even that of a haunted toy known as Robert the Doll. He’s lovely. I didn’t take photos because I was too scared to ask his permission and risk offending him. Last thing I need is never ending bad luck with three weeks of travel to go!

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We topped off the night with a warm and wonderful walk home. Guys, I know I say this a lot, but this place is it. It’s my favourite. It tops the Amalfi Coast and Great Ocean Road. If you love history, heat, islands and clear waters look no further. I wished more than anything we could have stayed longer. I want to get married here. I want my honeymoon here!

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You’ll be in my heart special island!

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Miami

Still recovering from our binge on life while cruising, we rolled on to Miami at 8pm just in time to see a killer sunset and not much else.

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It’s safe to say I’ve already mentally planned my return to Key West and a big Caribbean cruise. Perhaps I’ll do that after Brisbane, Melbourne, Thailand, Bali and the month alone in Japan.

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Now we are in Boston. The temps are closer to home’s current situation and I can already see the locals are much more my type… I’m sure you’ll hear all about it 😉

Ti voglio bene

xo

Getting Our Kicks on Route 66

Howdy y’all

We did it! We survived! We decided against driving off a cliff because we just have too much to live for (like running up the Rocky steps) so here we are, and here’s some stories…

Day One – LA to Lake Havasu

Oh my God. We got a Stang.

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This is Sherry (chosen as Jess’s doggie is named Cherry, which was our first choice).

She’s a purring Angel of machinery and I only feel like a slight traitor as I was converted to Holden a while back… But bugger it I drive a Ford at home anyway. She’s been with us through sing alongs, heated debates, deep discussions and heavy gossip. She’s part of the family and giving her back is going to be heart breaking… Alas! This was day one. The adventure begins.

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I picked London Bridge Resort because of my own sentimental attachment to the actual one and only, and also because it looked cool af and had a great spot on the Californian border.

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I cannot recommend this place enough. It had the coolest vibes, heated pools, a day spa, a candle shop (far more exciting than it sounds) and stunning views of the lake. I have no idea how we managed it but we got upgraded to a bridge view from our cheap little lead in. We still had to spoon but we are used to it by now. If you’re going to do Route 66, this stop is a must!

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Day Two – Lake Havasu to Flagstaff

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Talk about a contrast in scenery, we went from desert plains to forest and mountains in a few hours. The weather changed with it too and the jumpers came out. It certainly drops off at night here.

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Along the way we visited Seligman which we had dropped by with Contiki the week before. It was photo op time! It’s a brilliant little town for the classic 66 feel and right off the highway. Chuck it on your list please.

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Flagstaff itself is a gorgeous Uni town that felt like a movie set. It was completely idyllic and the view of the snowy mountains in the distance was just the cherry on the cake. Had to have a cheeky Starbucks surrounded by students and spend a small fortune in target to really feel at home.

Day Three – Flagstaff to Albuquerque

Second five hour journey in three days… We are Perth girls, we can handle this. Right?

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We passed the border in to our first new state, New Mexico! We passed a whole load of casinos and reservations on the way in as we crossed the Navajo desert. Yay desert! I was starting to miss her. It was getting too green for my liking.

Alb herself wasn’t too much to shout about but we had limited time to check it out. It’s a big place so I’m sure we left many stones unturned, but it was Santa Fe that really drew me to NM.

Day Four – Albuquerque to Dallas

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Because we are wild things we decided the most efficient course of action was to drive ten hours, via Santa Fe, all the way down to Dallas. We were tossing up between a night in Amarillo to break it up or doing two mega days and checking out Oklahoma City too. At this point we were so excited to not set an alarm in the morning that we figured a direct trip to D town was our best go.

I booked us a downtown hotel and got this lovely message upon confirmation:

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Oh Texas.

My favourite stop on Route 66 was brief and breathtaking. An hour north of Albuquerque is the beautiful town of Santa Fe. It’s filled with markets and old buildings. The parking situation is a nightmare but how I wish we had stayed there!

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At 12pm we hit the road again and didn’t actually get to Dallas until 2am… Efficiency is not our strong point. Those who followed us on Snapchat know it was an eventful journey.

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The next day we did what we do best, wandered aimlessly and shopped. Jessie found her version of heaven. I think the entire day was her perfect day.

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A strange homeless man decided to follow us ‘for six blocks’ in order to ask us if we were hippies. Interesting. I also did that thing I do where I injured myself for no particular reason and had to disinfect my entire body just in case. Ah downtown.

We topped off the day with a visit to Denim and Diamonds on steroids, Cowboy Red River. We made some lovely local friends and I finally learned to two step!

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I was also gifted a tequila shot, which here in America means spirit glass full of tequila. I’m not complaining. We tried Whataburger on our way back to our hotel, and 5am drunk Leigh thought it was the best burger of all time. I think I’m going to have to try it again sober, as I did make the rather bold statement that it was better than In n Out.

The next day Jessie did her thing and checked out South Fork Ranch while I prepared myself (slept all day) for a visit to Gass Monkey Bar n Grill! Papi and I love this show so I was super excited to see it and maybe run in to a familiar face.

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Sadly no sign of Richard but after dinner we did find what turned out to be my version of heaven, the coolest dive bar since Sonny’s.

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Austin

Oh man. What can I say about Austin? It was wild.

We stayed in one of my favourite of places so far, the Firehouse Hostel which was downtown. It was a converted firehouse from the 1800s, hence the name, and apparently we are super likeable at 4pm because we got upgraded to the top level room. No neighbours, just us on our own floor living it large. It was glorious.

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There were three beds in there and we still opted to share. I think because neither of us wanted to give up the proper bed, not because we like each other or anything.

So apparently in Austin, Sixth Street is a thing. It’s the equivalent or Northbridge/the Valley and we were right around the corner. Awesome!

There were more bars that you could poke a stick at with every kind of theme you could think of. We started at a country bar and moved to a dive. We’ve got the compromising thing down! Then we ended up at a place I can only describe as a poor man’s Coyote Ugly. Lots of bar dancing, lots of seedy people. Jess loved it of course. As soon as we end up somewhere that plays RnB I tend to tap out but I did my best to keep up with my loon of a best mate.

That night we made friends with a homeless man who told us a whole bunch of filthy jokes. We had some jock hit us up for naughty things (managed to restrain myself from knocking his block off) and the rest was a blur of free tequila!

My favourite spot in Austin had to be the gorgeous hidden bar at the bottom of our hostel. It was literally behind a book case. It felt like you were walking in to Bugsy Malone. I was in love!

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So far we had done a lot of drinking and not a lot of sight seeing. This was about to change in…

San Antonio

We had a few people describe SA to us as ‘too busy, too touristy…’ Etc. so I suppose our expectations were a little low.

Those people were wrong!

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It’s absolutely beautiful. The Riverwalk is one of my favourite spots so far on this trip. They have restaurants all along the banks and you can do a little cruise up and down and learn about the history too. The food was excellent and we shared our seats with some hungry ducklings.

There’s a few touristy things you can do like the house of wax and haunted ride if you feel like it, but it certainly wasn’t trashy like Hollywood Bldv.

We did a spot of shopping and just wandered. We stumbled upon the Alamo and did a bit of self educating.

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Its a really beautiful place I highly recommend to anyone heading to Texas. It’s not a state I would say is unmissable… (Jess will kill me for that) but SA is worth the trip.

Houston

Oh my Houston. I absolutely fell in love. We stayed South East of the city, across the road from NASA. Best location by far. I have an awesome travel agent (my travel agent is me. I’m awesome).

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It took a long time to get through the city traffic (a 3.5 hour drive took 6) so we didn’t really see much of Houston itself, but considering the Space Centre is one of my major bucket list items this really didn’t bother me.

It did not disappoint.

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I had my mind blown on multiple occasions that day and part of me wishes I could live there just to get the annual membership.

I’m a big big nerd in case any of you fell for my cool girl act, so getting to watch the incredible presentations and walk through an actual spacecraft, touch a piece of moon rock and learn about the Mars mission had me on a total high. What a universe we live in!

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I even got a spaceglobe. I’ll have to post a photo of my mass collection when I get home.

Thank you Houston for seeing us merrily out of Texas. Thank you Shez for still running beautifully.

Next chapter… New Orleans!

The next post is sure to be a fun one.

Thanks for reading my loves ❤️

Xo

The Wild Wild West

Ciao amici e la famiglia!

I’m going to do my USA posts in four parts, Wild West, Road Trip, South East and Eastern Escapade. We have officially completed part one so while we drive to our first stop along Route 66, I’m going to tell you all about it!

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I feel calling Hollywood ‘interesting’ would be a gross understatement. When I picked to stay there my main motivation was finding somewhere within walking distance of a few attractions, as I knew jet lag would be a killer.

We landed safely and royally buggered after a 24 hour journey with my old faithful, Virgin Australia. We had a lovely videographer sat with us on the way. His name was Daniel and told us tales of the documentaries he’s filmed in Central America, and being held at gunpoint by a farmer. It was an incredible way to pass the time and a very cool introduction to the interesting people we would be encountering in LA.

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Our hostel, USA Hostel Hollywood, was literally around the corner from the boulevard. We arrived too early to check in so crashed out in their lounge. When we woke up groggy in our room at 11pm after a long and full snooze, we realised we may have stuffed up. It took us four days to fix our vampyrism.

In that time we managed a midnight feast at Hard Rock with enough nachos to feed a small village, we worked our way in to party with the DJ in a cool LA club and I smashed a snow globe within seconds of buying it.

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We met a few characters and hitting the Maccers is never a good idea, but it made for some good stories!

We did find an incredible place called Mel’s Diner which had duke boxes on the tables. For a quarter you could turn up your jam. We smashed a bit of Johnny Cash and I had the best milkshake of my life.

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After our nighttime adventures in the ‘wood it was time for Jess’ very first Contiki!

I love group tours with all my heart. This was to be my fifth, and my second Contiki.

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I have met some of my best friends on group tours that I am still super close with to this day. I was really looking forward to connecting with some fellow travellers and covering as much ground as possible while the pros take the lead for a couple of weeks.

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Day one we headed out to Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Oh how I fell in love with Venice. It helped that it was also the location of one of my favourite films, Romeo + Juliet. Vintage shops and markets mixed in with Muscle Beach, Arnie’s old stomping ground. Yes please!

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Next we hit up my absolute favourite spot of the tour, San Diego. It had everything I love the most. Shopping, nightlife, history, water and the best vibes.

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Our fearless leader went above and beyond and arranged a night at the baseball for us. This was without a doubt the biggest highlight for me. We got to see the San Diego Padres smash the Pittsburgh Pirates (sorry Will!) so I’ve picked them as my team. I will stay loyal.

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The next night we visited old town which was filled with gorgeous old buildings and markets. A very Mexican experience!

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I can’t wait to go back one day; for Comicon most likely.

Next we headed through the desert to our chilled out stop at the Golf Resort Arizona. I brought my trusty wagon along.

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We drank by the pool and at night headed out to our very first country bar. The line dancers were fascinating and it was a very cool mix of old and new. It reminded me of a skating rink from the 70s without the rollers.

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A great surprise for me was Sedona. Known for its rocks and crystals I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the breathtaking landscape and native American style really blew me away.

But then came… The Grand Canyon.

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I think it was more impressive than I’d expected. It doesn’t match my eternal fascination with Kings Canyon but I’m only slightly biased.

We got to experience a sunset by the rim, and for those of you who know of my extreme phobia of heights, check out this bad boy!

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Call me Leigh, conquerer of fears.

More bus selfies before…

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Vegas baby!

I fell in love with the place when I was there for Global ball last year. It’s mental. There’s really no where else like it. We had two wild nights out and it’s all a bit of an awesome blur.

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Without a doubt the highlight had to be the surprise marriage of two of our unsuspecting Contiki fam.

Jess and I were tempted to join when we saw Elvis was the celebrant but we wouldn’t be able to afford the inevitable divorce after three weeks in a car together.

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In a bus full of hangovers we made our way to the total tranquility of Bass Lake.

I’m astounded by the sheer contrasts in California’s landscape and this place really did it for me. It was heaven.

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My second favourite night on tour was spend around this bonfire with a bunch of cool people, beers and smores. Will and I nerdfested hard over our mutual love of all things pop culture, I learnt some more Italian from my beautiful Martina and it was overall one of my top nights ever. Sometimes all you need is a deck chair and good company.

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Yosemite has been on my list ever since I learnt how to pronounce it. It’s one of my goals to do an overnight hike with my angel Natalia one day here. The waterfalls were breathtaking. We went bear hunting and even just watching the hikers prepping was an experience in itself. Another one on the must return list.

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We spent that night dressed in our Walmart best singing karaoke to the locals (sadly I couldn’t partake in this. I lost my voice a week in to this trip and it’s still yet to return. I think it’s all the drunken yelling. We all know not speaking is not an option for me).

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Our final destination: San Francisco.

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I really didn’t know what to expect with this one. All I knew about it was what I’d seen in Mrs. Doubtfire and Milk so I wasn’t well prepared for the sheer wonder of the place.

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From the touristy and fun Fisherman’s Wharf, to the beautiful Golden Gate Park; from the iconic Castro to the Painted Ladies… I was honestly moved. I couldn’t live there, but I love what these incredible cities are doing for our planet. Everyone was free to be completely and unapologetically themselves. I had a great time, and I spent it with the best people.

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P.S. We saw a whale under Golden Gate Bridge. What the actual.

We headed back to LA and said our ‘see you later’s and my heart broke a little bit, as always, but true love lasts a lifetime! And our next Contiki actually passes through Will’s home town of Pittsburgh. We’ve got ourselves a tour guide. I am beyond excited to be reunited. One month of self navigation to go first!

Here’s to the start of our next adventure…

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Meet Sherry ❤️

Another update to come from the dirty south in a few weeks time.

Love you all

xo

Perth: A Completely Non-Biased Guide to the Best Place in the World

They say home is where the heart is, and in July 2005 that is exactly what Perth became to me. I was 14 and terrified. It’s an absolute world away from the green and fresh and hill filled landscape I was used to.

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One of the first things I noticed: Perth is flat. Everywhere. Sometimes a road may be on a slight hill. Shocking, I know.

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I was so overwhelmed. Suddenly I had red dirt and bush land and a coastline worthy of any award. I got lucky.

Don’t get me wrong, it took a long time to settle, but I met some beautiful souls to help me along the way. Check out the sexy uniforms.

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Now one thing I must say, having not been born in Western Australia I have the unfair advantage of having lived somewhere else. England is beautiful, but there are things about the Australian way of life that are absolutely unbeatable. I’ve made a countdown of my top 5 favourite things about Perth. As previously stated, this is non-biased and completely subjective (yeah right) but for anyone who wonders about the most secluded city in the world, this is why I love her, and she will always be my home.

5.  The Outdoor Lifestyle

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One thing I have honestly struggled with on the East Coast has been the lifestyle. Of course here we are city chicks. Just call me mini Carrie. We haven’t had a car, we uber regularly or occasionally hire. We walk EVERYWHERE. In spite of all of that though, I never feel like I’m outside. Weird right? It must have something to do with the high-rises blocking the direct sunlight. I love the city, but my favourite thing to do at home is go for long walks with Papi. We walk straight down to the beach through our beautiful little piece of the world, the glorious Secret Harbour, and trek a few kms on the sand. Ruma likes to loop around and if it’s warm my toes are hitting that water.

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Even better; the 7am alarm, tea in a thermal cup, wettie on and board in the car. The air is pretty fresh and smells amazing. It’s not easy finding the motivation to crawl out of bed. It was actually around this time 2 years ago that I bought my baby board!

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You really can’t beat that time spent gasping for breath on the sand with a towel wrapped around your head. The ocean is powerful and scary and yet the most peaceful place I’ve ever been.

4. Australia Day

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Aussie flag facial tattoos: $2.00

Hot 100: Sharing excellent taste in music with fellow Australians? Priceless.

3. The Beaches

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From top to bottom the coastline here is breathtaking.

From Cottesloe

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To Shark Bay

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To Denmark

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To my home

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We. Are. Spoilt. Not a jelly fish or croc in sight. Maybe a couple of sharks though… She’ll be right!

2. The Sunsets

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And that’s all I have to say about that.

  1. Margaret River

If you’ve met me, ever, you’ve probably heard me talk of my love for my future home. It has absolutely everything I love and more.

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We have caves!

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We have surf breaks!

Also featuring as more wine than you can poke a stick at. You’re welcome.

I’m going to wait until I’m a little bit more travelled before I descend south. I plan on having a quirky little house with at least 2 dogs (Rottweiler and Boxer) and I’ll do yoga and go for morning runs; grow my own herbs; probably live off green juice and misery. Just kidding. Its my goal though so I’ll make it happen when I’m ready.

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If anyone ever wants to know more about WA, what to see, where to go, just ask! I know it’s far and I know it’s not cheap, but it’s worth every single penny. I sell it for a living and I know I’m only 6 months in, but my love and passion hasn’t wavered. I hope it never does.

Sometimes you need to leave to appreciate what you have. I did, and I do, and I always will.

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Mumma and Papi, thank you for doing the greatest thing you could ever have done for us. You’ve given us the best life possible. I’ll spend the rest of my days adoring you for it. More than life 😘.

Love to my family all over the world

Harleigh Q

xo

P.s. This blog also features the many incarnations of Leigh’s hair and a few more Google pictures than I usually like to use.

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