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

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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

Three Weeks in Wonderland

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

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

I feel like I woke up that day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GHOULS – VAUDEVILLE SMASH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you soon B.

✌️️

With love

Harleigh Q

Xo

To The Everyday Adventurers

What does it mean to be an adventurous person?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With love from Thailand

Harleigh Q

Xo

Life and Times of a Band Aid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

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

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It was an eventful pre drinks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a ride.

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

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

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

Ah man. Talk about off the Richter scale.

Just another weekend in the life of Penny Lane!

Harleigh Q

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

xo

The Truth About Flighty Life

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

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

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

Truth 1: You need to be passionate.

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

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

Truth 2: It’s all sales.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truth 3: You work a lot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Truth 5: You get what you give.

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

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

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

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

Truth 6: It’s fucking awesome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My advice?

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

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

Harleigh Q

xo

The Adventures of Snow Bun

Okay cats, first thing’s first.

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

It was such a good decision.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dinner was a clear choice.

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Still the best burger I’ve ever had.

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

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

Day three and our final snow day: Coronet Peak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a great adventure.

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Now just one more month until Melbourne and Adelaide!

Harleigh Q

xo

My 100 Things

1. Speak fluent Italian
2. Do a Thai cooking class 
3. Complete a half marathon
4. Visit Yellowstone national park
5. Do an overnight hike with Nat
6. Go to a surf and yoga retreat
7. Publish a book
8. Attend a rally for something I’m passionate about
9. Attend a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto
10. Get to Everest Base Camp
11. Visit a host club in Tokyo
12. Sing on stage again
13. Learn to ballroom dance
14. Tattoo someone
15. Meet an A list celebrity
16. Watch sunrise over the Grand Canyon
17. Do a Northern Lights cruise
18. Become a decent surfer
19. Change someone’s life
20. Get inverted
21. Spend a week in silence
22. Camp on a beach
23. Introduce someone to a new passion
24. Hold a new born baby
25. Make pasta from scratch
26. Complete a piece of art
27. Dance in the streets of Cuba
28. Find a salsa club in Argentina
29. Hike the Inca trail
30. Raise money for charity
31. Teach someone something
32. Get another tattoo
33. Get married in Vegas
34. See the West Coast Eagles play
35. See a rocket launch
36. Kiss in the rain
37. Host a themed dinner party
38. Soul dance at a gig
39. Create my own signature cocktail
40. Get another piercing
41. See The Last Shadow Puppets live
42. Attend Comic-con in San Diego
43. Cosplay as Harley Quinn again
44. Meet Joe Gilgun
45. See a movie being filmed
46. Read the entire works of F Scott Fitzgerald
47. Be on the radio
48. Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower (not just level 2 this time)
49. Zip line
50. Record a song
51. Attend another NUFC game
52. Go vegan for a month
53. Decorate my own home
54. Have my own signature dish (not cob dip!)
55. Live overseas
56. Be a tour guide
57. Stay in a country to learn their language
58. Be able to confidently lift weights with the big boys
59. See a wild guerrilla
60. Join a sports team
61. See the Red Sox play
62. Visit all 50 states in the US
63. Touch a big spider
64. Visit a psychic
65. Find a Perth band I love
66. Meet my soulmate
67. Adopt an orangutang
68. Do a Caribbean cruise
69. Sail the Mediterranean
70. Have a big family
71. Own a vintage scooter/car
72. Live in Melbourne
73. Do Vodkatrain
74. Give something away for free
75. Party on a beach in Thailand 
76. Attend a sundowner dinner in Dubai
77. Visit every Aussie state
78. Have curry in India
79. Walk part of the Great Wall of China
80. Swim in Maya Bay 
81. Wear a proper Kimono
82. Visit the temple of Zeus
83. See a Broadway show
84. Have another white Christmas
85. Go to camping hippy festival
86. Take a burlesque course
87. Go in a hot air balloon
88. Learn the Thriller dance
89. Be a maid of honour
90. Enter an Egyptian tomb
91. Attend carnival in Rio
92. Longboard in Iceland
93. Meet a serial killer
94. Be someone’s date to an event
95. Ride a Harley
96. Stay in a beach shack in Hawaii
97. Fly business class
98. Watch turtles hatch and run to the ocean
99. Learn how to play something on piano
100. Have Papi give me away at my wedding

What are yours?

Harleigh Q

xo

A Living Project

This week three things happened; the only three things that didn’t involve copious alcohol on my part.

1. I watched the Graceland Happiness Project on the plane to Brisbane.

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I have been wanting to watch this SBS doco ever since I first heard about it. but being such a Netflix junkie and with no illegal download capabilities (anymore) I just hadn’t got around to it.

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Tim Dormer is one of my favourite Aussies. He’s a huge advocate for Australia Zoo and wildlife conservation, as well as being besties with the Irwins. He won Big Brother a few years ago and I’ve loved watching him grow.

Ben Zabel was a participant on the same season. The unlikely friendship between them was such a beautiful thing to watch. Where Tim is a kooky, calculated rock star, Ben is kind, sweet and fragile. Ben is the type of person you just want to watch on replay, because he’s so incredibly funny and unique. He admitted early on in the show that he struggles with depression.

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The basic story of GHP is a heartbreaking one. Years after the end of big brother, Ben had been really struggling. Tim decided he wanted to do something for him that would help this in some way: take him to Graceland. Ben was a huge Elvis fan and an old soul. This was to be his Disneyland, right?

I’m not going to ruin the way it all plays out for you but what I will say, and what affected me most, was seeing both of them trying to come to terms with Ben’s depression. I saw one man struggle to completely enjoy his own dream and another look on hopelessly, accepting this was something he couldn’t fix. People aren’t fixable.

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I feel I’ve sat on both sides of this fence. I’m incredibly lucky that my own bouts of depression have been few and far between but I’ve been there, as most of us have. It was such a real way to look at it. Sometimes living your dream won’t change anything. How could it? The demons are still inside your mind. The chemicals still aren’t balancing.

I really resonated with Tim’s struggle too. I just want everyone to be happy. I’m a self confessed ‘fixer’. I think everyone needs to care a hell of a lot more about each other than they do. I see this in him. I saw a reflection of my own face when he came to the realisation that Ben was going through the motions but he wasn’t about to have a big amazing breakthrough that would change the course of his life. He’s just Ben.

A beautiful line I’ll carry with me was when Tim ended up having his own epiphany. ‘Maybe I just need to be there‘. It’s as simple as that.

I cried on the plane. I’m absolutely hopeless. I’m so glad I know these two humans are out there and I will closely follow their journey for as long as they let us in to their lives. There are such good, real, genuine souls out there. Seeing that kind of love between friends was wonderful.

2. We had Sebastian Terry as our keynote speaker at conference.

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Working for Flight Centre for almost four years I’ve attended a lot of conferences and I’ve heard a lot of speeches. This one I connected with more than any other.

Seb is the pioneer of 100 Things. If you haven’t heard of him I shall explain:

At the age of twenty four he was backpacking around the world with an unused Uni degree in tow and had no idea who he was. One day he heard news of a good friend’s passing. They were only twenty four. He wondered, if his friend had known he’d only live for such a short period of time, would he change the way he’d done it?

Seb knew his friend was living his real, authentic life. He probably wouldn’t change a thing. Seb on the other hand, had no idea what he was doing.

What did he do next? He wrote a list: 100 things that would make him happy if he achieved them.

Then? He started doing them.

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As he explained his reasoning, and how his focus has now shifted to helping others complete their lists, because that’s where he found his fulfilment, again I tried not to sob. Very difficult after three hours sleep.

Here was a man perfectly articulating what I had been trying to put across to my people through this blog.

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Why don’t we live our lives in a way that makes us feel happy and fulfilled? Why do we get the half Uni degrees and house deposits and never look for a greater purpose? Just because society tells you money and security make the world go around doesn’t mean that’s right for everyone.

People are kind. Have faith in them. It’s other people’s kindness that have helped Seb in his journey and I can absolutely say the same about mine. Be it a place to stay, an adventure companion, a lift to the airport, a free meal, a big hug: kindness is all around us.

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I’ll be the first to admit I’m terrible with money, but because of the generosity of my family I’m okay. They didn’t turn my room in to a gym. It’s all good. I’ve had free accommodation all over the world, a stupid amount of free airport rides and city tours. I’ve had clothes to borrow and food to eat and stories to tell all because of these people who are absolutely everywhere.

Not knowing what’s around the corner is the greatest feeling in the world. As scary as being outside of your comfort zone is, fear let’s you know you’re alive. I live for that feeling now. It’s addictive. I hope I spend the rest of my life in a perpetual state of adventure and maybe one day have a person by my side who feels the same. We’ll see.

3. My sister lost yet another friend.

At almost twenty she has lost more people than anyone else I know. I can’t begin to explain or even comprehend why these young people are losing their lives.

You know what I take from that?

My sister is a stronger human than I am.

And we need to fucking live man. While we can.

~

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I’m going to go back to my bucket list and scrap that term. As Seb said its associated with dying. These aren’t my dying wishes, they’re my living goals.

I’ve written my 100 things and I would love it if some of you would do it too. I know a lot of you read this. WordPress dobs you in 😉

Write a list, even if it’s just 10 things, and write it in the comments of this post. Let’s see if any of us can help each other tick some boxes. I’ll bet we can!

My 100 Things

Thank you this weekend for helping me make some decisions that I have been mulling over. Thank you for putting a bit of life back in to this blue girl. Even if I can’t travel as much as I’d like this next year I’m going to complete some home grown goals and hopefully pick up some new friends along the way. I can’t wait to meet you.

I love you all

Harleigh Q

Xo

An Eastern Escapade

Boston

I may have originally picked Padres/Yankees as my team(s) (check the baseball references – and I lied about staying loyal… Go Red Sox!) but Boston is BRILLIANT.

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I felt like I’d landed in London in some parts. A clean, friendly and warm version… Filled with fellow Italian and Irish blooded folks with excellent taste in both music and food.

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Its one of the oldest cities in America so the architecture is stunning. The parks and fountains give her such a European feel. We walked from one end to the other a couple of times in our four days there and it was such a great way to get around.

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When we first arrived we stayed in China Town so naturally stuffed our faces with local cuisine. This was our first share room but our roomies were great and that staff at the hostel were next level. Jess loved it when I debated the merits of Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy by comparison to Suicide Squad previews with our darling receptionist. He also told me I have a name that sounds like it’s out of a Steinbeck novel. Way to win my heart!!

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We started our Contiki on day three in Boston and what a group we had! Twenty odd of the most friendly, mellow kids out. We felt right at home. Our first day was spent with a tour of the one and only Harvard.

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Our tour guide was definitely a Ravenclaw.

For dinner we finally experienced somewhere I’ve been avoiding like the plague, Dick’s Last Resort. Named appropriately!

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It says ‘fake blonde, real dumb’. Way harsh.

Walking Boston at night was one of my favourite experiences. It’s just so alive and interesting. There were so many beautiful little Irish pubs with live bands playing and dancing groups of street performers. Lush.

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Next we were on to the one and only…

New York City

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To to be completely honest I had really low expectations of NYC. We had been told over and over how unfriendly people are and how dirty it is. I’m glad because it made our love of it a complete surprise.

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Of all the places we have been, I would say I felt almost the safest in Manhattan. There were so many people around so you didn’t really have to worry about people bothering you, the service standard was excellent, the food was delicious… Speaking of which, I did a food cart tour.

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My hangover was loving it. It was really interesting to learn about the pride the vendors take in their hard earned businesses. It’s no easy feat getting a license so they ensure their food speaks for itself. Some of them are family businesses running for 20+ years!

The night life was impeccable as expected. We even made it to the top of the One World Observation Tower. I just closed my eyes in the lift. It’s all good.

Two big nights later we hitched a ride to my number one bucket list item spot:

Philadelphia

Those close to me know of my love for the Rocky franchise and slight obsession with Sylvester Stallone. Running up the Rocky steps like my hero absolutely made my life. I went completely prepared. Ultimate fan girl mode engaged.

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During our city tour we got rather rained on but I can’t wait to head back and explore more of what Philly has on offer.

After our one night Philly stand we popped in to an Amish village for a little tour. Quite the eye opener! They live without electricity and as independent from the outside world as possible.  The families usually have 7/8 kids who leave school at 14 to work. The men grow moustache-less beards to signify that they are married and single ladies wear a certain type of dress to all special occasions to let the fellas know they’re available. I should get me one of those.

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Fascinating but I won’t be converting any time soon. They have one mirror in the house for hair brushing, they aren’t allowed cosmetics of any kind and they only have four dresses. Four. I could dress seven seperate communities with my dress collection alone. No thanks.

A quick stop in Baltimore for lunch, home of Hairspray and riots, before reaching the nation’s capitol…

Washington DC

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Canberra on steroids.

First we honoured those who have fought for the US in the last century. The sight seeing in DC was next level. As were the food carts.

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As were the alcoholic beverages.

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There was so much more to see and do there than I had expected. I actually really loved the place and would definitely go back!

With banging hangovers we made our way to one of the most important sites from the Civil War, Gettsburg. Suddenly life didn’t seem to bad!

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Ive really enjoyed learning more about American history. British has always held my heart but it’s very interesting to compare the different versions of events. It’s safe to say the Yanks and the Limes didn’t share much love back in the day.

On the Wild Western I was lucky enough to meet another soul operating completely on my nerdy wave length, Will. As we rolled in to his home town I was blown away by the beauty.

Pittsburgh is just… Wow.

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See what I mean?

I got a totally VIP behind the scenes tour of the best spots, including where they filmed the big Bane vs Batman scene for Dark Knight Rises. Talk about breathtaking!

It was so absolutely wonderful to see him again. Summer in Switzerland with our Martina next time.

Niagara Falls

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I’m about to drop a bombshell for anyone who hasn’t been, but you know what Niagara Falls is? It’s Vegas for nine year olds (thanks Phil). There’s tourist attractions everywhere, from the usual wax museums and haunted houses to lights out on to the falls at night.

So of course, I loved it.

Freshly crowned boat captains the squad hit the the waters appropriately dressed and ready for a soaking. The view from the bottom really was something else.

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That night we had dinner with a spectacular outlook and topped it off with a wild time at the karaoke.

Toronto

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Toronto was a spectacular blur. Our first night we checked out a comedy club and though a lot of the Canada themed jokes went straight over my head I was wetting myself at the Trump and America piss takes. I feel Canadians and Aussies have a similar sense of humour.

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The next day was a very liquidated one. We went to Steam Whistle brewery and I don’t remember much else. Good job I took photos!

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Montreal

Our final and most memorable destination was Montreal, located in Quebec French is their first language. It was fun to try crack that out again!

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Its an absolutely beautiful city. The views spoke for themselves.

Our first night out featured $2.50 drinks so we were buying four at a time. I ran in to some old friends from the big Tiki and it was wonderful. I’ll never forget this place.

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The next day I was reunited with the love of my life, the ocean. We went jet boating in level 4 rapids and I’ve never been more soaked or laughed so hard. Goodbye hangover!

Je vais vous voir l’année prochaine. Thank you for being a perfect ending.

~

The drive back to Boston was heartbreaking. Of all the group tours I have done, I’ve never met a bunch of people who blended so well and laughed so much. Sometimes I felt like we were on an episode of Geordie Shore, then we’d spend afternoons lying in the sun catching up on events. We shopped, gossiped, laughed, danced and created memories that will last a lifetime. I know I’ll be seeing you guys again little squad. Thank you for being the most incredible family ever. #contikiphil #phillikes….

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Inside jokes galore.

After a very long long long bus ride Jessie and I arrived in New York for the second time. On the agenda: Shake the Contiki cough, picnic in Central Park, Empire State Building, musicals. Mission accomplished?

Well Jessie managed to rip our Empire State tickets, but we did have a view of it from our bedroom window.

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I’d much rather see it from the ground anyway…

Our hotel was the most beautiful old boutique ever and we found a stairwell to play on.

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Aladdin was sold out for our days but I did manage a beautiful picnic reunion with the one and only TORZAAA!

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It was a romantic afternoon of giggling at couples as they made out, gossiping about men and being general dickheads. The hotdogs went down a treat!

We didn’t want to move from the warm sunny spot but we figured we should probably cover a few more things before we got on to the beverages, so off to Times Square we dallied.

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That night was messy and wild just like the three of us and though most of it is a bourbon blur I do remember: having beautiful chats with my soul brother Philly, another nomad heart who feels the pain of travelling to live/living to travel, several spinnings of the Cupid Shuffle and the Wobble so we had one final chance to show off our anthem routines of the trip and of course, a big greasy slice of New York pizza.

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Cant wait to see you when I pop over to Melbs my darling girl.

This trip has been next level. I can’t compare it to others that have done because for the last 10 weeks we have lived and breathed American life. We learnt about their history, culture and political issues. We met locals and spent time getting to know how they live. We partied hard. We drove a lot. We laughed and cried and danced and sang. We fought over stupid things. We ate a lot.

I thought after this time I would feel quite done with America, at least for a while. I was wrong. I can’t wait to come back. I want to do the Grand Northern and add more to the 21 states we visited this time round. I want to see Chicago. I want to go back to Boston. I want to go back to Key West. I want to do a big Caribbean cruise.

With Brisbane, New Zealand, Melbourne and Thailand coming up and my unwavering desire to spend a month in Japan I know it won’t be soon that I return, but I absolutely will. Probably next summer!

America cannot be summed up in words. Everywhere you go is so completely different, everyone you meet has a story to tell. I will forever admire their diversity. I hope one day Australia can embrace the same.

If anyone wants to have a chat about their own plans to go and is willing to listen to me ramble for hours, you know where to find me.

Thank you for following my latest adventure. There are many, many more to come 😊❤️

 

Harleigh Q

xo