The Island

It often rained at night, but Shae loved it. The patter on the splintered windowsill reminded her of deep conversations with good friends.

It was 2am on a Thursday and she was wide awake. As she lay on her back, fingers laced and staring at the still ceiling fan, she tried hard not to think about the weekend before.

Where she lived, it was a small community. Most of her friends were fellow mainlanders living at the Resort. They worked during the day, cleaning the rooms, manning reception. Some of them would lifeguard or work the kitchens for a well-rounded experience. They were young, poorly paid and there for a good time.

It was Shae’s second summer at the Resort. Unlike most, she’d stayed for the winter too. The weather was milder and she had nowhere to be. Her father was long lost and she didn’t get along with her mother. As an only child she’d mainly raised herself, and moved away the second she turned eighteen. The Island was a refuge and the Resort was home.

She reached to the nightstand and flipped over her phone. The blue light glared back at her bronzed face. She pursed her lips. She had work in four hours and hadn’t slept a wink.

Shae rolled to her side and pulled her knees to her chest, wrapping her hands around her toes. She squeezed her eyes closed and stretched back restlessly to her former position. Dark brown hairs tickled her eyelashes. Sparkly blue eyes blinked at the ceiling as she blew her fringe away.

She knew she was attractive. Her eyes made for regular comment. Her colouring was so dark, how could she have such bright pupils. Shae didn’t know much about or care for her heritage. Her father had been a horrible man and she knew he was the one she looked like. As her meek and pale Irish mum lost herself to the bottle Shae found herself far away from her past.

Tonight, the main thought spinning around her mind was more recent; the weekend previous, in fact. A man had appeared on the island.

He was there to play acoustic for the dinner guests, and was staying across the hall from her. He was about late-twenties, a modest height. His hair was long and unruly, skin bronzed from many late morning spent with a surfboard. Everyone on the island was intrigued.

Friday night dinner was always an event. They all worked it. Shae wore a frangipani tucked behind her ear and served seafood with a smile. Their uniform was a crisp white shirt, black skirt and a vibrant tropical print apron. They had people from all walks of life staying on the Island. It truly was an affordable piece of heaven.

When the gentle sound of an acoustic guitar began drifting around the courtyard, Shae glanced over her shoulder. There he was; dark haired, serious and ridiculously skilled. It was his talent that caught her ear, not his face that caught her eye. Did he sense that?

~

Shae had a good group of friends in this little paradise. Five spectacular humans regularly gathered on her tiny, worn out balcony with a melting esky made of cardboard and stories galore.

Carlos and Lia arrived the same summer Shae had. The three of them had been super close, and slowly but surely a love for the ages began between the two of them. That was a story for another time.

James was a fun loving, long-haired yahoo who grew up on the south coast and came to the Island this summer for a change of scenery. He fit right in.

Simone was on another level. Her neurosis was rivalled only by her compassion. She was the first one at work every morning and the last to leave, ensuring every single box was ticked along the day. She’d bark cruelly at you mid-shift but tie your shoes for you right after.

Finally, there was sweet Leon. Italian born and raised, he wore his heart on his sleeve. Rarely would a single young lady pass through the dance hall without a hot and heavy experience with young Le. Shae loved him more than sense, but his overly affectionate nature had surely caused a lot of strife. They tend not to talk about the girl from the first week of summer. She said she liked me, he insisted. They nodded curtly like friends do, with only a shadow of doubt in their minds.

Together they were a family; that which none of them seemed to have left behind. Love flowed between them freely. They could be real and honest. Twelve hour work days take their toll on people, but as long as they had each other, they had a place to call home.

That’s why the events of Friday had been so incredibly unsettling for everyone.

~

The after-hours disco began promptly at 12am. A hut which used to house the Spa before it got upgraded to the top floor had been repurposed as a place for the young staff to blow off steam.

Shae turned up with her usual half-drank bottle of bourbon and Leon tossed a coke can to her from behind the makeshift bar.

The last few Fridays a new season guy called Callum had taken his place at the decks. He had the curliest hair she’d ever seen and a penchant for Trap. His remixed were far superior to a shitty little party such as this, but they were eternally grateful.

Taking Lia by the shoulder Shae lead, coke and Jack in hand, to the centre of the sweaty pack. Twenty or so workers would pack in to the tiny room every weekend, without fail. It was their one chance to party before the Sunday check-out rush and a new week began.

Most of them wore as little as possible, dripping their way through tank tops and denim shorts. Hands reached high, fingers spread towards the swaying exposed bulb above them. It danced with the bodies. The room always felt like it was alive, moving and breathing around them as they swivelled their hips and bounced up and down to the beat. Shae’s hair stuck to her face as she shook it from side to side, eyes closed and feeling the rhythm. Waiting for the bass to kick she opened her eyes briefly and spotted the acoustic playing stranger standing against the wall. He wasn’t looking at her. He seemed to have taken a deep interest in a spectacular and enthusiastic Simone. Her cropped blonde hair flew through the air, and mid length white dress clung to her enticingly. She moved like a mermaid, arms entwined.

Shae felt a pang of something. Thankfully she was distracted by James taking her firmly by the hips and redrawing her attention. He grinned wickedly at her and pulled her in for a kiss. Pushing her mouth open with his tongue, she tasted a familiar bitter pill and rolled her eyes. His mainland trip yesterday was productive then, she thought with a sigh. She didn’t need drugs to have a good time, but she wasn’t one to say no, either.

A bug eyed Lia gently tugged on Shae’s hair, pulling her away from James’ mouth. She swallowed and laughed at her excited friend. She had been there for a while already, it seemed.

By the time Carlos appeared, both girls were well and truly on their way to bliss. The music was getting better, and Shae had forgotten about the stranger, until he appeared in front of her. She stopped dancing as he raised his hand to her face and brushed her fringe from her forehead. She narrowed her eyes as he tilted his head, apparently seeing her for the first time. He grinned and moved his hand to her waist. Whatever, she thought. Life is good.

Hours passed; or was it minutes?

Shae and the stranger played a game, moving closer then further until they were nose to nose. As she raised her lips to his, he turned. Shae stepped back like she’d been stung. He moved past her towards an apparently now interested Simone, who raised her arm welcoming him. Then they kissed. It was a deep caress that went on a long moment. Shae felt repulsed. She moved through the crowd with urgency and slammed through the door just in time for her vomit to hit a nearby pot plant. Ugh. Her hand found the cold stone wall and she placed her forehead against it too. Things were spinning. She barely heard Carlos’ words of comfort when he placed his hand between her shoulder blades. Slowly she dropped to her knees and curled up on the concrete. Shae knew it was too much too quick. She had been swigging her Jacks while dancing and it wasn’t sitting too well with the pill in the pit of her tummy.

“Leave me a minute, hey” she groaned to her dear friend. He didn’t. In fact he took a seat between her and the stained plant and rubbed her arm affectionately.

“You, little lady, need to learn your limits.” His posh accent was only slightly condescending.

“I don’t have any,” Shae whispered back. She closed her eyes and sighed.

“Who’s the pretty fella with the hair? I haven’t seen him before. He seems to have a thing with our Simmy.” He laughed darkly. “You too, apparently.”

“Fuck off Carlos.” He always loved pushing buttons.

“I’m just saying that if it were up to me, I’d choose you. But each to their own.”

Shae pushed herself to a sitting position and glared at him. His sparkling white smile was dashing and exasperating. Her nausea had passed, so with a shake of her head she stumbled to her feet. “I’m getting water, and then we’re getting out of here.”

“Beach walk?” Carlos exclaimed.

“Go find Lia.”

They pulled open the doors to the dive of a dance and straight away Shae spotted Sim with her fingers entwined in the singer’s mane. I don’t compete. She chanted mentally over and over as she rooted through a box esky for a bottle of water. I also don’t often find anyone even remotely attractive. Her frustration at herself was growing. She was embarrassed and wanted nothing more than to disappear in to the night with a couple of people who made her feel loved.

~

As they strolled along the beach, Shae, and a swaying Carlos and Lia, she tried hard not to overanalyse the situation. Not really her strong point.

She didn’t notice when they collapsed in to the sand behind her and kept walking until the sun started creeping over the finish line of the ocean beside her. The island was so small she knew it would take her twenty minutes max to get back. Having long realised she was alone, she pulled off her near-dry singlet and shorts. Shae was wearing her favourite blue bikini bottoms. Her clothes discarded in a bundle, she stepped in to the wonderfully warm water and once deep enough, dove in head first. She often went for a dip before work, when the sun was still waking along with the rest of camp. The water was so still she could float on her back, salt soothing her tingling skin.

The problem with the Island was that when people came, it took them a long time to leave. The disharmony she felt in her bones right now wasn’t just embarrassment; she was feeling protective of her family. We don’t hurt each other here. She had spent a consensual night between Lia and Carlos before and many a beach tumble with Leon in the wee hours, but they all came from love; a love of each other, their home, their stories. They just wanted a good story. Who was this guy to come along and fuck it up?

Full of a new found fire, Shae dipped below the surface and swam towards shore. When her feet found the sand below her, she rose and flicked her drenched hair overhead. Her eyes began to focus on the shore, leading her to catch sight of something that turned her cold.

Simone was stumbling up the beach towards her from the opposite direction Shae had come. Her white dress wasn’t white anymore; it was red. She was clutching her stomach, and fell to her knees.

Shae had never moved so fast. She sprinted up the beach towards her friend and felt overtaken by horror as she absorbed the scene. Taking Simone’s face in both hands, Shae collapsed to the sand. The blood dripping from the stab wound in Sim’s torso was unstoppable. She tried covering the hole with her hand and holding her friend’s head up with the other, but it wasn’t working. The heat of the blood pouring between her fingers was the most sickening of sensations. She could actually feel the life leaving her.

“Help!” Shae screamed at the top of her lungs, knowing that no one would be around at this time. Helplessly she glanced down in to glazed green eyes. “Sim I have to go get someone. I can’t help you here.”

Simone groaned. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. The last thing Shae ever wanted to do was leave her alone like this, but she would die if she didn’t at least try. She glanced back towards her pile of clothes.

“I’m going to give you my shorts which you need to hold down as hard as you can and I will be back, okay?” the only emotion Sim could express was shock. Her mouth hung open, she wasn’t making noise anymore. Shae placed her head down gently and ran to her clothes. Getting back as quick as she could, she wrapped the shorts in to a big compression pad. “Please try,” she pleaded “Please try to hold this.”

The world became a blur as Shae pounded up the sand bank and along the boardwalk. She knew it would take her at least five minutes running to get back to reception and alert the emergency medic. How long does it take for someone to bleed out?

All she could hear was her heart pounding. Her lungs were stinging as reception finally came in to view.

Some guests were already out laying their towels to come back to later. Leon had just entered the pool area in his guard shirt, setting up for the day. He caught sight of Shae’s blood soaked singlet and freaked.

“Shae! What the Jesus?” she stopped short of the door and ran back to him, bright red and panting, and collapsed against the pool fence.

“Leon, Sim’s hurt. Beach by the hammock,” was all she managed before dropping to the floor and sobbing. Le knew he didn’t have time to comfort her, and he ran as fast as his feet would carry him towards the beach.

The boardwalk was an easy path and he had been a runner in high school, back in his home town of Pisa. His long strides found him there in minutes and a tiny heap of red and white in the sand gave the girl away. As he moved towards her, she was motionless. He skidded to a halt in the sand and lifted the lifeless body in to his arms. She was a small girl, smaller than him and he wasn’t the broadest. He knew he could make it back to the Resort with her. He had no choice.

~

Shae screamed when she saw them approaching.

“Why is she like that? Why is she hanging like that?” She used the fence to pull herself to her feet and moved ahead of them, opening the door for Leon to rush inside.

The reception manager, Margot, was already on shift in her immaculate suit and physically recoiled when she saw the state of the three of them.

“What in the hell are you – Jesus no.” As they got closer she saw the blood stained dress of Simone, her favourite receptionist. Her trembling left hand picked up the phone receiver while her right pointed to the door of staff quarters behind the desk. She hit zero and voice quivering, said to the operator “Tony. We need a medic.”

~

On Wednesday morning a memorial was held for Simone.

Some people said some things and white lilies were lined along the shore.

As a three year vet, her absence was felt everywhere. She had worked every area, met every person. Hushed conversations were had in every area of the Resort. It ran on skeleton staff, relocated from a sister island, as everyone was told to take a few days off.

No one knew what really happened on the beach that night.

Many guests left, shaken by the horror of being so close to death on their holiday. Though there were no witnesses, everyone had their theories.

Some said it was suicide. It’s always the ones you least expect. A few had noticed her getting hot and heavy with Mr Acoustic but apparently she’d left the party alone before him. The worst rumour of all, though, was that it has been Shae. Driven by jealousy, she had hurt her friend.

And we all know who her dad is.

Shae didn’t leave her room until the memorial. She had stared at that ceiling fan and cried until there wasn’t a droplet left. She was empty.

By Thursday, everyone was expected to return to work. Shae and Leon had both been offered longer if they felt like they needed it, but they mutually agreed that any longer with their thoughts would drive them insane.

Lia knocked on Shae’s door at 5am sharp with a freshly cut mango.

“I need you to eat this, and I’ve got you working kitchens today.”

Lia had taken over Sim’s coordinator role. She was in charge of rostering the junior staff. Having done a roll similar at the old mainland hotel she worked at, she was enjoying the power again. She wouldn’t dare admit that to anyone though. The Island had become a game of Cluedo and she was not the one in the library with the candlestick.

Shae looked like shit, which was saying a lot for a very naturally pretty girl. It was a good job she wasn’t public facing that day, but kitchens require cleanliness; forced sponge bath it was.

Half an hour later Carlos arrived at the door and smiled at them both.

“Come on, poppets. We’re going to miss morning brief.”

When the three of them arrived in the staff room, they made their way towards Leon and James. Both of the boys wrapped their arms around Shae as a show of solidarity. She was cold to their touch. The tension in the room could be cut with a knife.

They had their roles and lunches read and the day began. Everyone who had been at the party on Friday was giving Shae the once over. She had never wanted to disappear more in her life. No one had a kind word for her. She was ignored, shoved and glared at until a buxom girl called Pam had actually grabbed her by the hair and threw her in to the freezer room.

“We all know you did it,” she spat at her before slamming the door. A laugh echoed from the others present, and then it fell silent. Shae couldn’t feel much anyway, but she wasn’t there long before James appeared to rescue her.

He pulled open the door and sighed at her. “Come on babe, we’ve had enough deaths on this island.” She usually enjoyed his dark humour, but she couldn’t even muster up a smile today. She almost felt like she deserved the barrage of hate, and she couldn’t work out why.

Is this just killer kid guilt? Is this a delayed punishment for being the child of a monster?

James placed his arm around her shoulders and almost carried her to the back lot pool. It was a lot quieter, covered by shade for most of the day. A woman lay reading on a sunbed and an older man was doing laps. Other than them, they were alone. James lowered Shae to the edge of the pool and she dipped her legs in to the cold water. She felt tears brewing as her feet swayed. Aside from a couple of very reluctant showers and the sponge bath Lia forced on her that morning, she hadn’t been near the water since Saturday morning.

“I know you didn’t do it,” said James lightly. He stretched and lay on his back, feet dangling.

Shae didn’t want to hear it. It wasn’t her friend’s opinions she was worried about.

“I have a theory. I think it was Lia. She wanted that coordinator job. Told me so herself.” Shae scoffed.

“Don’t be stupid. And don’t talk about our friend what way. You don’t know whose listening.” She glanced cautiously over her shoulder. The lady reading had stood and was pulling on a kaftan, making her exit.

James pulled one of his legs out of the water and stared at her.

“Maybe it was me.”

“You’re so deadly.”

“I’m serious Shae. I don’t know what the shit was that we had, but I can’t remember any of that night.” She bore deeply in to his eyes, searching for a hint of a joke. There wasn’t one. Then she felt a shudder. Was he looking for reassurance or trying to confess something?

“Please James. I can’t handle this. You would know if you hurt someone. You’d have been covered in blood. Let’s not talk about this anymore.”

“Right.”

Shae pushed herself to her feet and walked towards the pile of Resort towels to dry off. She fought hard against the visions swimming around her mind. It was all getting to be too much. She couldn’t talk about it with her friends. It wasn’t her first time seeing a dead body, but she didn’t want them knowing that. It would just make the conjecture worse. Tossing the towel in to the large laundry basket, she caught sight of someone new entering the area. Her heart skipped a beat.

The long haired acoustic player moved to the corner of the pool. He was fully clothed, jeans and a white vest. When he felt someone staring at him, he looked up at Shae and smiled. It was a very big smile.

That’s when everything when black.

 

To be continued…

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Band Aid – A Short Story

Trigger warning: this story contains references to some heavy shit. I’m not going to say exactly what because I don’t want to ruin it, but you get the idea. There is also time hopping, and neither the characters nor the story are based on personal experiences.

Enjoy xo

~

The scream of the crowd was so coarse it almost sounded like waves crashing in to rocks.

P’s knee-high boot heels clacked and echoed through the empty hallway. Everyone was watching the show, and she was on her way out. Her once soft blonde locks were pulled back in to a messy bun. Her chiffon maxi was fraying at the bottom and torn at the knee. She hiked it up and slung the oversized denim jacket she stole over her shoulder. One of her three lighters fell from the pocket to the tiles below. She didn’t stop to collect it.

~

The tour had been grand, to say the least; twenty five shows in thirty days.

The bus stank of stale cigarettes, spilled bourbon and sweat. It was dirty and it was home.

P usually slept on the top bunk, far right. Reuben was on the bottom. He was always on the bottom.

He wasn’t married, which was a bonus. He was one of the few she knew who let the life consume him without pretending to be a human outside of it. The only person he was hurting in the process was himself. He had a bad habit involving injectables and could fall asleep anywhere, guitar laid gently in his lap.

Smith was the daddy. He would carry the boys both figuratively and literally from time to time. He always had time to talk because he was the singer. Making noise with his mouth was his favourite pass time, and he especially loved the sound of it. He tried to be sober once and it lasted three weeks. In P’s mind, that was an excellent effort. His bunk was always immaculate.

Mick, the bassist with the permanent chip on his shoulder, was the polar opposite. Purposefully destructive, his anger was palpable. Everyone but Smith wanted him to leave. Even he wanted to leave. Coke doesn’t pay for itself, however, and he wasn’t going to get girls outside of his rock star persona. Matted brown hair hanging in his face, deep set green eyes and a forever furrowed brow; P thought he would almost be attractive if only he’d lighten up. Smith and Mick had known each other since they were four years old. Smith was the kind of man who made family out of anyone. Mick knew he wasn’t going anywhere without destroying the only long term relationship he had.

Shane was the happy-go-lucky drummer with a permanent grin and glint in his eye. He was just happy, man. He knew how good he had it. His sandy blonde hair sat in a Beatles’ style mop. Often compared to a young Ringo, there was a constant stream of giggling fans in his presence. The girl he’d married at twenty one only ever made an appearance when they approached places she found interesting. She flew to Sydney last week for a two day shopping and fighting spree. The rest of the group avoided the bus like the plague in that time. The usual complaint was the fact that Shane refused to book them a hotel. P suspected she knew exactly what ghosts were haunting that bed.

Lastly there was Matthew; Matthew the Manager. Matt was kind and intuitive, older and a gentleman. He was P’s favourite person. He was British. His thick Yorkshire accent could calm anyone. His hair was long and grey, often in a neat pony tail. His beard was trimmed, beer belly was prominent and hairline was receding, though no one would ever say that out loud. His shirts were always pressed to perfection.

Matthew had been big in the 70s. He was part of a folk trio who had taken off in the hippie community. Their songs about love and unity still struck a chord today with many wandering music fans, and he often had groupies of his own after each show. He’d always take time for a chat and an autograph. He never lost patience with anyone. It was a gift.

The other boys were less inclined to be so accommodating, though that depended on how short the skirt was.

P shivered as she used her modest body weight to press open the emergency exit door. The air was bitter cold. Their tour was ending in Melbourne, and at 11pm this August night the atmosphere was unkind. A speck of rain tapped her nose, and she pushed her glasses further up the bridge. She wouldn’t normally wear them at night, but she wasn’t in the mood for answering questions and her eyes always betrayed her.

Passing a pack of huddling fans in fur coats and Doc Martens she made her way towards the main road. She felt the looming tour bus presence behind her, but daren’t chance a glance at it. The events from the night before still brought a heap of bile to her throat.

She shook her head firmly to remove the thought and pulled the denim jacket tighter around her shoulders.

A taxi with their light off wizzed past her. Her phone screen was too damaged to order an Uber. She could barely receive a phone call.

On the corner she waited, for a touch too long. The cold was creeping its way in to her bones. The shallow breath escaping her mouth appeared in small clouds before her.

The girl had been young; too young, P had known from first glance. Buried beneath the layer of beautifully applied mac products was a child, no more than fifteen. Her gold halter neck hung loose at her undeveloped chest, but she supposed the boys were more likely looking at the shapely thighs on full display under her barely-existent mini. P had watched her carefully from her perch on Reuben’s lap. She had won her way in with her armful of flowers and gram of cocaine poking out of the wrapping. Where the fuck did she get that? was all P thought at the time. P was very used to sharing the group with other women, but she hadn’t expected this girl to hang around. The young ones get a bit giggly and see themselves to the door when the hard stuff comes out. Not this one though. She knew what she was doing, and it was equal parts mesmerising and terrifying.

P had shook her head as her brown leather boots found the floor. She lifted herself up and walked slowly around the circle that formed at the coffee table. The girl glanced up at P, and with a little smug smirk she made herself an enemy.

P marched from the room and found her way to the bathroom. A moment’s reflection in the mirror had her questioning her own motives. Do I want rid of her for her wellbeing, or because I think she’s a threat? She bit her lip. P was older when she hit the music scene, early 20s, passion before sense. She’d always been prone to hero worship in the place of love, but times were changing. These boys were now men in their 30s. She’d began following their tour three years earlier until eventually she’d become part of it. Every June she waited for the call, and this year it was Matthew instead of Reuben.

“’e needs you, Miss Thing,” he’d affectionately referred to her. It started the day they met. Her vintage Harrington had caught his eye and he nodded with fatherly approval and pride. You’ve really got it girl. You’ve got that thing they all want. Mystery.

Mystery is loneliness, thought P.

Apparently one bad trip too far, Reuben was on his final warning. Maybe his muse could fix the problems six months in the studio had festered. Maybe not.

The tour started wonderfully. Family nights, as P liked call them. They’d sit around and wax poetic about dreams and ideas, their solutions for all misery and corruption. Matthew would let out his billowing laughs and shake his head affectionately at the dreamy souls that surrounded him.

“You young ones, just you wait,” he’d say. “I once thought I could change the world too.”

P and Reuben were as close to love as two broken people can be. She sought therapy in his affections and he seemed to find his own in illegal substances.  He needed her physically, but mentally he was never quite there. In a way P never thought of herself as the type who would enjoy someone actually loving her, so this was easier; a story, with highs and lows and adventure and nothing else. It would end, as everything did, and she would go back to… what? Nothing. Sometimes nothing is better than the alternative.

Oh how her mind had changed. P used to dream of taming a wild musician, someone to share her passions, to dance and sing and dream with. Now she knew better. Artists can’t love. They’re too busy giving their all to their creativity. There’s nothing left but scraps.

A taxi pulled around the corner, yellow top light beaming. P raised her hand and it slowed before her. She wasn’t really sure where she was going, but it would be far away from here.

~

“Can you see with those glasses?” remarked the driver. He had a thick accent, it sounded Eastern European. P couldn’t manage a reply. Her gaze didn’t shift from the passing street lights.

A flash of big brown eyes returned to her mind, large and bewildered, pleading. P let out a heavy breath like she was trying to expel the memory. This time it wasn’t working. Her eyes welled painful but blinking away the tears just caused them to spill down her cheeks. Now she wanted to vomit.

That’s not my world, she told herself over and over. It’s not me. It’s not my fault.

The taxi stopped at a red light and P pushed open the door just in time for the puke to hit the pavement below.

“Hey!” growled the driver. “You can get out if you are sick. I will have no mess in my car. You will pay for it.”

P wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and slowly pulled the door closed with the other. “No,” she gasped, “I’m sorry, I’m okay now.”

He narrowed his eyes in the rear view mirror, but continued towards the city no less.

P pulled at some material in her hold-all and out came a t-shirt of Reubens. It was black, the band’s logo emblazoned on the back. She wiped her mouth and hand on it before throwing it on to the seat beside her.

~

When P returned to the room that night, the bouncers had already moved away. The music from inside was thumping. Smith had on Appetite for Destruction, his favourite post gig blow out album. Matthew pulled the door open just as she had reached for the handle. His face was paler than usual, and he avoided her gaze.

“I don’t think you should stay around, Miss Thing. Those boys don’t know what’s good for ‘em.” He bowed his head and gently moved past her, his hand grazing her shoulder as he went. P watched him go. The drugs are out, she guessed, before turning back to the door and letting herself in.

She wasn’t expecting the half-naked teenager to be even more naked than before, nor was she expecting Smith and Mick to be watching hungrily from the couch as she danced to Rocket Queen on the coffee table.

Shane had two slightly older but still young ladies perched on his knees at the far end of the room, joint hanging out of his mouth and eyes closed as he head banged to the beat.

Reuben was holding a pipe in one hand and reaching to the young one with the other.

She hopped off the table and bent over before him as he placed the pipe between her lips. The wind was knocked from P’s lungs.

“Reuben!” she snapped from across the room, but he wasn’t listening. A cloud of smoke shielded his face from her. When it dissolved she saw the wide smile once reserved for her. Every cell in her body wanted to rip him limb from limb, but something was holding her back. No, it was someone.

Mick had his arm wrapped tightly around her waist, holding her firmly in place. He had a good five inches on her, and was the only one in the group to frequent a gym. She saw his tattooed bicep flex as he pushed her backwards against the door, blocking her view.

“Don’t,” was all he said in his deep, intimidating way. P didn’t.

What felt like an eternity passed and Mick still hadn’t let her go. P found her words. “What are you doing?”

“What I was told to do. Reuben is busy. Why don’t we leave him to it?” It wasn’t a question, and he was standing so close she could barely catch a breath.

“What do you want?” came out as a whisper, which frustrated the shit out of her. She was strong; she wouldn’t be intimidated by this idiot. She tried to stand up taller, so his right hand closed around her arm.

“It’s almost the last night on tour, what do you think I want?”

“Fuck off Mick,” she snarled. “How dare you?”

“You think Reuben gives a shit?” he retorted with venom. He moved just far enough to the side for her to catch a glimpse of the girl now straddling the only man she’d ever let herself get close to. Her stomach dropped completely. Her throat went dry. Her words were gone again.

Mick didn’t speak this time either, he just yanked her forwards painfully, throwing open the door and tossing her outside of it in one fluid motion. She hit the floor with a thud and felt something sharp pierce her knee. He stepped out and closed the door behind him.

P looked down at a small pool of blood, a piece of glass. She pulled it out quickly and covered the wound with her other hand, her back to Mick the whole time. She had never liked him, but now? Now she hated him.

“He’ll fuck anyone, and I’ve heard the same about you.  I know what the fuck you do when you’re not with us. I know who you hang out with. You’ve got a reputation to uphold Miss Thing,” At that he pulled her up by the back of her shearling jacket. P spun and held the piece of glass up to his throat.

“You fucking touch me and I swear to God I’ll slice your neck and your wrists. You’re a shit bass player anyway and the boys would be a lot better off without you.”

Mick stepped back with his hands up, utter fury across his face. P lunged for the door.

It slammed hard against the wall when she flung it open. She saw the back of two heads, one blonde and one brunette, both messy and unkempt. Between them she saw wide, glazed over eyes and lips parted in an ‘oh’. The wild eyes fixed on hers and filled with tears, the girl was crushed beneath the weight of them both, but she didn’t make a sound. Reuben flicked his long dark hair over his shoulder and let out a howl of laughter, Smith took the girl’s chin in his hand and her eyes flicked to him. That was all P saw.

Her head was ripped backwards as Mick grabbed her by the hair. He pulled her so hard that she hit the floor again, this time with her head catching a badly placed amp on the way down. He entered the room and clicked the lock behind him.

“Who invited that cunt anyway?” he barked, but that’s all she heard. Welcome to the Jungle was playing now. Her vision went blurry, and then it went completely.

~

When P awoke she was still in the hallway. Her head was in someone’s lap, and her hair was being stroked. When the haze subsided, she saw the young girl gazing down at her. Her cheeks were streaked with mascara and dry tears, but when P’s eyes flickered open she had smiled.

“I’m Isa,” she whispered.

P couldn’t move, her head was still pounding, so she stayed in Isa’s lap. “I’m P,” she replied eventually.

“Oh, I know who you are,” the girl grinned back. “You’re my hero.”

What a bizarre thing to say, thought P. But the pit of her stomach was still churning, and what she had witnessed came flooding back to mind.

“Are you okay?” she asked meagrely, knowing what stupid question it was.

“I’m better than you,” Isa giggled. Her youthful jubilance seemed betrayed by the state of her hair and makeup. P had no idea what to make of her.

“I’ll take you to the hospital,” P said, slowly forcing herself up in to a seated position. The aching inside her skull was almost intolerable, so she lowered her head in to her hand to block the light. They were alone, and it was silent.

“Why would you do that?” Isa asked quietly. “I’ve been having fun.” Fuck, thought P. That’s not what it looked like. She turned one squinty eye towards the girl, who in turn raised her eyebrows at her. “I’m here because I want to be, and they wanted me to be, and you are lucky I am.” That petulant smugness had returned. P lost a few sympathy points.

“Fine,” she muttered. “Help me up then.”

The girls struggled to their feet. P looked down at her bloody knee and sighed. It looked worse than it felt. “Are you going home now?”

“Smith said I could stay the night, actually. He said there’s a free bed on the bus and my mum thinks I’m at a sleepover anyway.” She was proud of herself.

P knew the free bed was hers.

Both girls stood in silence for a moment. Isa shuffled awkwardly.

“Well, I think they’re waiting for me in the bus so… I don’t know if you’re invited.”

P wanted to spit. Her whole world was being torn apart by a Lolita. “Fuck off then,” she barked.

Isa sighed heavily. “I don’t want you to hate me.” P turned to look at her fully.

“You have no idea what you are getting yourself in to. I just hope for your sake they treat you better than they have me,” and with that she bolted down the hallway, never looking back.

Sitting outside the emergency exit door was Matthew. He had on two knitted jumpers and a parka, and was holding a cigar. He jumped to his feet the moment P appeared, and within seconds she found herself in one of the tightest, warmest hugs of her life. The tears weren’t voluntary but they came anyway, like a flood gate giving way after a long, wet winter.

Several minutes later, when the weeping subsidised to sniffs, Matthew placed his hands on her shoulders and pulled her back to see her face.

“P you’re one in a million darlin’. I really can’t ‘elp this. It’s the life they want to live and I’ve got to let them live it. If they aren’t ‘appy, we don’t get a record and then we’re all finished.” He brushed a limp blonde strand behind her ear and lifted her chin, so she would meet his eyes.

“Matt you’ve got no idea. She’s a child and they’re disgusting.” He looked hard at her for a moment.

“No one forced her to be ‘ere.”

Those were not the words P was expecting. Her world began spinning. They’re all as bad as each other.

~

Matthew begged P to stay for the last night on tour. “We’re in’t middle of nowhere,” he’d pointed out. Out of a sick sense of desperation for that not to be the end of her story, she agreed. One more day, she told herself; one more night.

When P returned to the bus at 4am, all was dark and silent. Isa was not in her bunk, nor anyone else’s.

The sun rose a few hours after, and having not slept a wink, so did she.

She ambled in the brisk morning air to what looked like a tradesman’s deli and bought herself a black coffee that tasted like tar. She just needed a purpose at that moment, and a morning coffee seemed appropriate.

After staring in to nothingness and smoking three cigarettes, P wandered back. She passed Shane’s ladies of the evening on her way in to the car park. Their hushed whispers rung heavy with excitement. Smith was standing by the door of the bus, cigarette in hand.

“Good morning beautiful,” he purred. P narrowed her eyes at him. Are we really just going to behave like normal? He furrowed his brow at her.

“Get out of the wrong side of the bunk this morning?”

P made a decision in that moment. She reminded herself why she was still there, she needed to get to civilisation, she didn’t want her adventure to fall to pieces, and from then on it was quite easy for her to pretend like the night before never happened. In fact, it was almost as if it didn’t.

Mick ignored her like always, and Reuben had given her cheek an affectionate stroke as he passed her on the way to the bathroom. They dozed through the four hour drive, interests only peeking when the Melbourne skyline came in to view.

“Honey, I’m home!” cooed Smith as he gazed out the window. Reuben wrapped his arm around P and kissed her gently on the top of her head. She tingled from the spot his lips touched to the tips of her toes. “It’s almost the end,” he sighed in her ear. She leaned back to look him in the eyes. He grinned that same old grin at her and her heart melted just a little less than usual.

~

The show was due to start at ten but the supporting act was running over. It gave the boys time for one more beer. As she followed them on their purposeful march to the stage she felt her heart break in to a million tiny pieces that she wasn’t sure she would ever be able to put back together again.

One by one they pulled back the curtain. The excited screams from the crowd grew louder each time. Reuben was the last to enter, and this time, he didn’t look back.

Neither would P.

Defining Success

The term ‘success’ has come up a few times in my world lately.

I was having a really interesting chat with my Sarah over a daytime cocktail bowl. We realised that many people have a pretty standard view of what makes a person successful.

I’m starting to realise that my definition is quite different from the norm. I thought I’d analyse a few of the definitions I know to help me better understand the different perspectives.

Do we really all judge ourselves and each other by these standards?
~

Money

Let’s start with the thing we have been trained to value above all else since the day we could count: moola.

It makes the world go round, there’s no denying it. I know people who can’t breathe unless they have several thousands nestled deep within their untouchable savings account.

They have the freedom to buy the nicer things, treat themselves on occasion. But there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing those numbers tick up and up every payday.

It’s starting with nothing and making decisions each day that get you to a place of calm and comfort.

That self control is impressive to say the least. While others blow it all in an online shopping spree over a glass of wine (guilty) the knowledge that no matter what life throws at you, you’re prepared and on top of it. You’re not a slave to a bank or in debt to anyone, that’s success.

Career

The driving force, the crowning jewel. Oh, to be a boss!

It’s not just about power, though it feels damn good to take control, it’s about having a reason to get out of bed everyday.

There’s a fire in your belly, a drive, a force pushing you to give your chosen path your whole heart and soul.

Lunches ate at a desk between phone calls, balls with awards and glamour and recognition. Seeing your name on the leader board, a thank you email, a cuddle from someone you helped. There are so many reasons to be proud.

Degrees, commutes, essays, studies. Getting to work and leaving in darkness. A sense of total achievement. Glory, recognition, importance; maybe even fame.

A career is a purpose alright. It’s the highest highs and the lowest lows with the people you spend more time with than friends and family.

Putting your heart in to your work? That’s success.

Knowledge

What an overwhelming thirst it is, to understand, to comprehend the world and her wonders.

News articles are beautiful things. The media can be a necessary evil at times but they’ve learned how to weed out the scare tactics and get to the heart of the facts.

Books are fuel. They’re an escape and a companion. Like two lives running simultaneously, there’s the conscious person and the person living inside the stories, past and present and everything in between.

Documentaries are relaxing viewing. Dates and events are stacking in mind, occasionally skewing but always sparking interest and pride.

Deep, stimulating conversations with companions who share your need to understand, to challenge, to explore. To hold your own with the passionate and intellectual alike, that’s success.

Possessions

I can’t count how many people I know with slabs, cars and engagement rings. They’re somewhere along the building time scale or checking out display homes. They’ve got a fat deposit in their bank account ready to burn. They’ve got a beautiful, brand new car. They’re living in their own self-designed haven.

They’ve worked damn hard, they’ve made sacrifices. They didn’t get to go out and play, go on the holidays. But, to buy the ultimate independence? That’s pretty incredible.

They’ve got beautiful things. They might have beautiful hair and makeup and jewellery or maybe it’s just a beautiful home, a well taken care of vehicle. They’ve dedicated years to it, they deserve it. Now, time is theirs. Life is pretty and peaceful. Work is necessary, but it’s a means to an end.

A home, a base, freedom. A sense of pride. That’s success.

Love

I’ve met an incredible bunch of men and women in my life, but there are a few of them who have had a small sadness in their eyes. These are the ones who tell me they’re failing. They mention a want for a person above all else. They are lonely. They don’t see life beginning until they find someone to share it’s ups and downs with. Nothing can begin until then.

This group value love above all else. A job is a job, and experiences aren’t as good unless there’s someone to share them with.

They seek a soul connection, and oh how their energy lifts and life sparkles when they find someone who feels the same.

Being single is a minefield at times, being single in your late twenties can be stressful, especially. Most of my people have found their partners in life. I’m surrounded by engagements and weddings.

Cementing the feelings, starting the story.

Love conquers all. That’s success.

Experiences

Finally we come to my personal measure of success. Stories.

To me and many others, a life spent in one place is a life half lived. The world is gigantic and magical and so full of dreams to be realised and lives to intersect.

We want to expand our minds through experiences. We want to see how everyone everywhere lives and breathes. We want to understand them. I love humans and I do think love is a great measure of success, but the stories I share with people and the memories I create are what I crave. They’re how I feel alive and satisfied.

I may not have any money in the bank, and I have to work damn hard to afford my own impulsiveness, but to me it’s all worth it.

A life lived on the edge of adventure, without fear or limits, that’s what it’s all about to me. Being able to jump in head first, that’s success.

~

I decided to ask some of my friends their thoughts. How do they define success? What are their goals? I think millennial success is a whole different ball game.

An angry Scot of the Highlands

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I just want to be happy and healthy in whatever I do. If I am comfortable to be able to fuck around and continue acting like the 10 year old I basically am mentally, whether at work or at home, I reckon that’s success. But also can’t get past the Ol’ material indicators of success too. House, car, job, family etc

A sassy Swedish feminist

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Success means destroying your opponents. We’re not here to make friends.

I want babies in a beautiful apartment and to be financially stable enough to take them for daily baby chinos in my Sportscraft shirts, chinos and loafers and spend the weekends getting fucked up on red wine whilst my babies are being cared for by the Swedish au pair (because she’s not a white supremacist she wanted me to add that the reason she wants a Swedish au pair is because she wants the baby to be duo lingo).

An angelic Kiwi vagabond

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I think to me it means waking up and going to sleep happy, having goals and a purpose to live for.

My life goal is to live in harmony with the land! Being self sufficient only taking what’s necessary to survive. Always has been – long way off that yet. But you know I’ve achieved some things like not eating animals.

A dreamy Brisbane fairy

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Success to me is that feeling of accomplishment and pure joy after realising you achieved something you were striving for. It fills you with courage and soaring pride. It makes you realise and relish your unlimited potential. It opens you up to the next challenge. Success fuels self-love.

My life goal is to be happy. I believe I’ll achieve this by continuing to grow, change and challenge myself.

A wild and wonderful full time Asia explorer

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Success is that feeling when you look back and realise how far you have come. success is consistently growing and changing as a person and knowing there is no finish line, it is consistent work and passion that isn’t always easy but nothing worth doing is easy.

My life goal is to always be learning and using my knowledge to bring others happiness and enjoyment, no matter what I might be doing, and to always be moving. I like being on the go and doing new things or visiting new places. I want to continue doing it as it keeps me content and happy.

A kind and loving Kiwi healer

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Success is finding love and someone to share life with.

My goal is actually less about my career and more about building a solid life long, committed loving relationship with someone and having babies. If you don’t have a family to share your life with then what do you have. Nothing means a lot if you don’t have someone to go home to.

A fierce and fabulous Pocahontas

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I guess I feel like I’ve achieved some of my dreams, but others I’m still working on (and I’ve certainly failed along the way!).

I am not sure about life goals but the next few years I’m focusing on education and finance so I have a foundation to work on my other dreams, which are more travel and one day starting a family of my own (i’d totally love to take my kids on adventures like living in a caravan or something crazy and whatever). Also, trying to reconnect with my creativity cause I’ve always wanted to write a novel but never taken myself seriously.

I do have two quotes I like that help me out though, can’t remember who said them:

“Ordinary things, done consistently, produce extraordinary results”

“Every accomplishment stars with the decision to try”

A mystifying and sensual lead singer

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I consider success to be doing the things that you are doing well, getting better and better at them by doing them a lot and then having something to show from it; maybe while attempting to maintain a level of sanity without slipping into complete poverty, and being good to others along the way.

My life goal? huge question.

One of them is to have a large and varied body of work.

A bush doof king

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Success? The first word that popped into my head was “happiness”.
The second word was fulfilment.

My goal is to leave a lasting impression on the people around me. That may sound silly from someone who shouts anti establishment because who cares what people think about you. But I do care about the people I love and trust. So that in turn would make me happy, fulfilled and therefore successful.

I think I could write a whole blog about what success means to me. (hmm me too)

A London style cat

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Success to me means: feeling like you have taken yourself to new levels, where you have excelled more than you though you would. Being full, not craving for more all the time because you are finally mentally, emotionally or financially happy and fulfilled.

My life goal is to stay alive, healthy & keep being happy. Influence & inspire however I can. Plus be successful by my definition.

A vintage Goddess

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To me success has never meant wealth, it’s not materialistic, it’s never meant fancy cars, homes, careers or acquiring ‘stuff’. Ugh! Gross! Living a successful life is in kindness, compassion, respect and becoming the best person you can. Always growing.

My life goal is to strive to be the best person I can be while I’m on this planet. Be bold and adventurous while being kind, compassionate, honest and hoping that the people I love feel my love. Oh and to dance… it’s cliche but always dance like nobody is watching.

This guy

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To me, success is recognition. It doesn’t really matter what you’re doing, but if other people are noticing then you’re probably pretty good at it. You could be the best painter in the world but if you don’t share your art, you’re not making anyone’s life better with it, you might have brightened your living room but where’s the fun in no one enjoying it? Being loved is success.

My life goal is to have a ground floor or first floor converted unit in Melbourne, some plants, a crate bed that I painted, fairy lights. I want a big record collection and someone to enjoy them with. I want to be known within my circle as an excellent cook and host, and I want to feed my huge family around a table outside where everyone helps themselves and we all talk too loud and dance after dinner.

~

In conclusion, I don’t think we can really attribute success to one thing. It’s subjective. If you’ve found what you want in life and you are going after it with all you have, you are on the road to one hell of a fulfilled life.

If you’re fighting some demons on the daily but putting those feet on the floor, one in front of the other, ticking gently on, you’re succeeding.

Good on you.

If you focus on the area that you don’t think you’re succeeding (e.g. me and my finances, lol), and compare yourself to others, but neglect the amazing things you have done (.e.g travel the world), you’re going to be very unhappy. Happiness is success. Be proud of yourself.

Don’t let anyone make you feel like you aren’t doing well just because you’re focussed on an area that they might not appreciate or value the same, either.

Life is short, do your thang.

Get it, my darling dreamers. I’m proud of you.

Harleigh Q

Xo

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

 

 

Oh, Canada! and Other Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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That night we had a pretty wild pool party.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be still, my beating heart!

Day two was a bit blurry thanks to this place:

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

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

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All was well.

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

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

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Apparently there were fireworks..?

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

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

Harleigh Q

xo

Moving On Up The East

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We spent the day eating oysters and drinking alcoholic slushies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thus began four nights in New York!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I can’t recommend either of them enough!

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

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

 

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

Tune in next time.

Harleigh Q

xo

Country & Western to Rock & Roll

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Our next destination was the ever spectacular Grand Canyon.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Once we hit the ground, I was fine again.

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Buck’s Fizz for all!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Graceland time!

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

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

New Orleans baby!

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

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And we did.

Next stop Florida! Read about it next time…

All my loving

Harleigh Q

xo

A Mediterranean Escape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My personal favourite day in Rome began at the Vatican.

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

Amalfi Coast time!!!

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

I mean just look at it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Another life list item ticked off!

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

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

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

With love from somewhere over France,

Harleigh Q

Xo

A Lady I Dig Called… Anazarac

I spent the evening catching up with an amazing woman I met while in America last year, called Michelle. As we leaned against the bar in Alabama Song, waiting for the band to appear behind the chicken wire, I could see her energy sapping. We had discussed everything from women in the work place to travel and life choices. We’d had our fix and I kissed my Croatian dove goodbye. She made her way home. I stayed. I’d only seen the band once before. I was determined.

I turned myself, half facing the bar, half casting an expectant gaze to the stage area. A girl with long thick black hair appeared in front of me. She apologised for stepping in to my space and complimented my look. I smiled at her unexpected friendliness and ten minutes later we were still chatting. Turns out we’re both in to astrology, Perth based and seeking something big.

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Ana has a magnetism. Ana is free and unapologetic; she’s everything you would want from your own daughter. She opens up with ease, self aware and honest. She seeks your advise and will talk it through. She’s a big fish.

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Ana and I shared a smoke and a couple of stories. The next day I received a text. Want to come to the movies with me? We’re even from the same area. Two southern girls a long way from home. We saw Split at lunch time and I got home at 930pm. Neither of us were in a hurry to go.

Ana moved back to London five days later; so here we are.

Soundtrack:

Who are you? 

My name is Ana, I’m 23 years of age. I started out in the fashion industry as an entrepreneur. I buy and sell vintage clothes and supply for stores back home in Australia. I’ve been doing that for several years. Now I live in London, the big smoke, trying to work as a buyer; potentially!

Describe yourself in 3 words

Honest. Trustworthy. Loyal.

Do you love what you do?

Do I love struggling? No, I don’t. But I’ve been doing it for so long trying to work in this field so my path is constantly changing. But every job I do and the people I meet get me to the next step in my life and future career.

Name an artist who changed your life.

That’s a really good question. A brand that’s influenced me… okay. Vivienne Westwood is one of my favourite designers but not so much for the clothes themselves, because some of it is very hard to pull off and is made for a certain type of person, but I just really idolise her. She’s very political and unapologetic.

Obviously I love a lot of other designers but at the moment I’m really not digging the way some of just ripping other things off. It’s getting a bit ridiculous. It’s like they’re running out of ideas.

Like the stuff you’ve been putting on Instagram.

Yeah! I mean Balenciaga for instance. Would I buy their new bag which looks like an IKEA bag? I would not. This is when I feel like I contradict myself in the industry I’ve chosen because of course I love fashion, but then people say to me you must support the bigger brands then. But no, I don’t. That’s bullshit. IKEA have laughed it off, but they’re trying to make everyday items fashionable for those who couldn’t normally afford it. It’s cool, but not cool to charge thousands of dollars for it. Girls have been rocking those weekend bags for yonks and paid 99c for them. I just don’t like what they’re doing at the moment.

What makes you smile?

Making other people smile.

What makes you frown?

Public affection. People who make out in public really annoy me. Autocorrect also annoys me. And the sun makes me frown when I don’t have my sunglasses.

Who do you admire?

My dad. My mum.

Why?

They are the perfect example of great parents and how someone should be brought up. I hate to use the world perfect but to me, they are.

I think they raised me really well and I’m extremely grateful for it. It’s because of them that I am the person I am now. My dads very social, my mum is very antisocial. It’s just worked well.

What’s your favourite film?

Probably Frances Ha. It’s a black and white film based in New York. She’s a struggling dancer and her friend is moving on with her life but she doesn’t have her shit together. I found it years ago and I still find it so relatable. I feel like I’ve grown with that movie because I’ll watch it and I identify with different things at different times in my life.

What’s your proudest achievement?

Fashion Week 2016. I’ve wanted to go since I can remember. When I first bought my ticket to London I didn’t know I was going to be able to. I told my mum I would go. She said, you don’t have a ticket. How? And I said, I’ll just rock up and it will happen!

And that’s exactly what happened. I was so overwhelmed. I was at the Fyodor Golan show, second row. The lights, the runway and people… it was so surreal. There was this moment when I was just smiling to myself and thinking, I’ve made it! I’m here! That show I ended up working in Paris and dressing the models in those clothes. It’s been mental in a good way.

What is your biggest fear?

Probably struggling for the rest of my life.

Not achieving your dream?

I feel like I’m close to it, like it’s at the tip of my fingers. I fear financially struggling in the future. I know what that’s like and it’s not fun.

I feel like not enough people talk about it. People pretend like they’re doing really well, especially here in London, but we’re all struggling. People might occasionally joke but that’s it. Just be real. We’re struggling artists. Unless you come from a privileged background, which I don’t, it’s going to be hard.

Especially when you move by yourself to the other side of the world!

Yeah, that’s too. That’s just asking for it.

Whats your favourite piece of advise?

Stay humble. Always.

Be yourself, find yourself. Love who you are.

And always have positive people around you!

Are you in love?

Right now in my life, possibly. I have this issue. I’ve never been in love. I like the idea. It’s intriguing to me. I’ve grown up like a tomboy. I remember in high school boys weren’t bothered with me, and I was more interested in Vogue than them anyway. Now that I’m getting older I want to know what the fuss is about.

I like the idea of love. Everyone I like tends to live in another city or country.

What is your biggest passion in life?

Fashion. Other than that… no matter who I meet I want to always leave them with something; put a mark on them. My dad taught me that. Always be humble and kind, not because they can do anything for you, just be interested in humans and their story. When you’re like that and you’re open it brings the right people to you.

So I guess, my passion is to influence people. Brighten their day a little bit. I’ve always been very social. I put myself out there. I don’t judge people based on looks. I find I’ll go out my way to try and talk to anyone.

That’s how we connected.

Yes. That’s it! It’s how I’ve met all my friends. I’m so grateful for the powerful women around me.

I especially want to influence the younger generation of girls who feel like they need to look like Kylie Jenner.

What’s your favourite line from a song?

That’s another good one. I thought about this the other day. My favourite quote is William Shakespeare.

Hell is empty and all the devils are here.

It’s been my favourite since I first heard it when I was about 12 or 13. It just… represents our world and especially this generation so well. They are some really ugly bad souls in the world, and they’re amongst us. Heaven and hell exist on this planet right now.

As far as a song goes, Bring Me The Horizon. I think it’s a quote they were influenced by. The song is called Throne and the lyrics are: you can throw me to the wolves, tomorrow I will come back leader of the whole pack.

Why? No matter how much you are put down or bullied, in Perth it was a struggle, it pushes me to strive for more. Things won’t come easy.

You seem to respond a lot to the idea of strength and rising above difficulties. Did you have a hard time with bullying back in Perth? Did you feel a bit of an outsider?

Yeah. I feel like if I do get the point where I am successful one day, I would love to tell my story. One of my biggest struggles was moving from Sydney to Perth where I was comfortable. I was very young. I had big bushy eyebrows. I looked different to the other girls. Because I stood out I had the piss taken out of me a lot. By high school my attitude came in and I would always give it right back; fire up like an engine.

Now I’ve calmed down a lot. I know what not to say and do. I’m glad it’s happened though because that’s the reason that I am here. I wanted to prove everyone wrong. Now it’s for me. I’m going to achieve my dream.

But I’ve had people from home message me and tell me I’m doing so well, but I’m in the big city there’s always people doing more so I don’t really feel that way.

Some people will never leave Perth. They are scared, and they will live in their fear for their entire lives. This is why I fall in love with people like you because I think we’re on the same wavelength. We’re probably more scared of living inside our comfort zones than anything else. The idea of staying somewhere safe with your family being stuck in a box.

Free spirits.

I find I throw myself in to environments that are unfamiliar because that fear is kind of addictive. Do you find that? Situations that make you question who you are.

I’m always putting myself in those situations. I think you know that more than most. I live my everyday life so spontaneously. It’s almost like other people find it dangerous. How can you have no plan?

I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. When you are open to things happening, they do.

I know people who plan everything with schedules because their lives are busy but they miss out on opportunities because they say no to things that fall outside of it. That’s how my whole life has been here living in London this last year. I’ve just moved from place to place, meeting people, getting job offers, doing shoots. It’s mental. That’s worked for me though so I’ll keep doing it. I plan to an extent but I’m always open to deviation. I believe the universe will guide me. I’m very spiritual.

I like to have a plan. With moving, that’s my one big plan I’ll have in place and it may change 50 times but I have to know in my mind, I want to spend 6 months here then 6 in Brisbane then I’ll go to Melbourne. I just need to know I’m moving toward that because it’s my biggest goal.

But when friends ask me to make plans on the weekends and things I get anxious about it, because I don’t know if that’s going to be my vibe that day. I might not want to get up early or I might not want to go out that night. I don’t know. I prefer spontaneity but that’s hard in Perth. People tend to like advanced planning in my experience.

I think people are scared of spontaneous people.

People are scared of not having plans. When I was in Brisbane the other week I found my plans when to shit when I did lock people in, but then last minute everything ended up flipping and I still saw everyone. It just worked better last minute.

A lot of people put other people on a pedestal. The worst thing is having expectations of people. If you can learn not to life is so much better. It goes with being spontaneous. You can be pleasantly surprised all the time or..

Give people the opportunity to let you down.

Exactly. It’s a responsibility. That’s a lot for some people.

What’s your opinion of fame?

I met a lady the other day at a label launch party and she’s from LA. She’s dressed loads of people including the Kardashians. I asked her her opinion on them and she said they we were just normal people. She said the more you work in this business and people you meet you realise we are all the same. But I wouldn’t wish fame on anyone. Imagine not being able to go to the park with your friend and enjoy some cheap wine without the gossip mags writing about it?

Our celebrity culture is fucked. I obviously understand the concept of worshipping people, some people are just fabulous, but I don’t understand why we have to tear everyone down all the time; and I don’t understand why we have to stalk them. I usually worship someone because of their art, not because they go to the shops.

They’re normal people. I don’t get that. We put them on such a pedestal but they’re successful because normal people idolise them. It’s why they’re wealthy and successful, but it doesn’t last long.

And then how do you recover afterwards? Going from having a shit tonne of money and attention to being on your own again. You can never really go back to being a normal person.

I think that’s why I prefer people who are present in their scene but they’re not the main one in the spotlight. They’re still at the party. I think that’s what everyone needs to start thinking. They all want to be number one, the face of the brand. You’ll last a lot longer if you aren’t. You’re so replaceable.

People have a fear of being forgotten. That’s why I love what you said before about leaving a mark on people and being influential. You’ll always be remembered by someone in some capacity. You never know how much you’ve affected someone. You could be so important because you gave them that time or moment.

And you don’t have to be someone famous for that.

Not at all. Some of my favourite people in the universe are the one who look me in the eyes and tell me about their passion. I want to see that on their face. There’s nothing more beautiful than someone really opening up to you. That’s what I seek out and I try to give it back. I’m always going to have that connection with you and remember you for that.. then you can go out and find it again.

That’s it. I feel contradictory because I love this industry but at the same time I want to be influential in the way that I can say to girls, you don’t have to buy this. Style can’t be bought. Just be you. I want to be an idol in that you don’t have to wear someone to be someone.

I wear brands and if I do they are supporting local labels or my friends label. Plus if you see me wearing designer it’s rare and a charity shop piece 100%.

Even though I didn’t try to hard at fashion week, my outfit was a dollar tracksuit I got in Australia and a free tee shirt, my vans and stockings. That was it and I ended up in WWD, Elle and Vogue in the best dressed of the week. Other people probably spent a lot more money on a lot more brands. That in itself tells you a lot. Just dress how you want in your natural style people will notice.

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I’m so proud of you for that.

If you could have anything in the world right now what would it be?

Right now? A ticket to New York. If you ask me in an hour it’ll probably be something different.

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Follow Ana’s incredible journey on Instagram: @anazarac

She chose her path and is giving it her all until she achieves her dreams. What an inspiration. It’s possible guys, sometimes you just have to jump in, head first.

It’ll be worth it in the end.

Harleigh Q

xo

Magical Fairbridge Festival

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

Their name?

Sex on Toast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indian Mexican fusion?

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Vegan bagels?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Until next time fellow Bohemians.

Peace, love and Rock and Roll.

Harleigh Q

xo