Top Deck: Lafayette to New Orleans

I thought nothing could beat Austin for music and life just pulsing like a heartbeat on the streets but New Orleans was pretty damn close. We spent a night in Lafayette and stopped at the Bayou Rum Distillery on the Mississippi where we learnt how rum is made from molasses and then did some rum tasting. Let’s just say that after that I had to get back on the bus and go to bed. I woke up to Ellie jolting me awake with a panic stricken face. I had no idea what was going on and thought we were at our hotel already but turns out something in the bus was on fire and the bus broke down. After an hour of driving with breaks every 15 minutes we finally got to our hotel and turns out there was something very wrong with the bus. So we had to hire another bus for a day and Eddie stayed back to get the bus fixed. We had a Cajun Dinner at Pjeros in Lafayette and I tried Chicken and Sausage Gumbo and Crawfish Etoufee with rice and popcorn shrimp. Was really good. Then had a quiet night playing Uno by the swimming pool and did crunches and squats with Ellie before bed.

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It was an interesting day. We were on the bus for hours so I had a long time to reflect on things. I think when you don’t have things to keep you busy and you let your mind wander, it can take you to places you don’t want to go.

At times I am waxing lyrical, spouting long words like an armchair philosopher in an attempt to escape the fact that I lack the courage – conviction – to confront my own wants and needs.

Our New bus arrived in the morning and we drove to Avery Island Tabasco Factory and saw a video of how they make it. Bought some tabasco sauce for the parentals, was pretty good. Tasted heaps of different types of tabasco and my mouth was on fire by the end of it. Had my half sandwich for lunch and bought spicy chips which were really good. Then did a Swamp Tour which was pretty cool, got to hold a baby alligator and got some good photos of wildlife and freaky bugs.

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Got into New Orleans and Ellie and I raced off and went shopping straight away. Managed to get outfits for both of us to wear for the night as we were sick of wearing the same clothes every day. Had a fun night walking around bourbon Street and dancing, loved the attention and the music and the way people compliment you so openly. New Orleans is kinda like Vegas in that you can walk around with your drinks on the streets. Went to a few different places with live music and got very well acquainted with balustrade on the balcony in the bar haha. Finished the night at a Jazz bar that made me feel like I was freakin Nina Simone.

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Had a beaut breakfast the next day which beat our regular stale cornflakes and over-ripe bananas. Stuffed myself with bacon, eggs, cupcakes and then did a free walking historic tour with Ellie and Krystal. Saw some iconic buildings around the waterfront and then went shopping with Ellie at H &M and the Rainbow shop. Then split up and I went and got Beignets from Café Du Monde for lunch which was as good as it claimed to be. So yum and sugary I had a film of soft white sugar dusting all over my face and my shorts like I was a cupcake sitting on a wire rack being frosted. Stopped at the Herman Grimma House which is the House of the Rising Sun from the song.

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I’ve always loved that song so was amazing to see the house it was written about, was taking a photo of the house when a random guy from a bar came out and asked me what I wanted. He seemed amazed that I actually knew what it was and offered to buy me a drink. I should mention The Animals more often when I go out lol. Then went to the Marie Laveau Voodo Museum which was a bit of a disappointment. It was like three tiny rooms that were cluttered with random bric a brac stuff to do with her life and displayed in a vaguely spooky voodoo themed setting with dim red halogen lights. It was interesting but I think I prefer my museums a little less claustrophobic.

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Had dinner with Ellie, Krystal, Emma and Bec which was nice and I was pretty upset because I lost all my pics from San Fran, Carmel by the Sea, Monteray and Santa Barbara while transferring it from camera to Nats Mac. But Ellie cheered me up soon and we met up with the new Topdeck people who joined the tour which was nice. Went to Frenchman Street and bar was a bit boring so Ellie and I went to a market nearby and had a look around and then grabbed the new guys and took them to Bourbon Street which was really fun. Had a quieter night than the one before and went to some club with pretty good live music but newish stuff, danced for a bit and then headed back home. Michelle bought me and Ellie drinks all night and I had a footlong Daiquiri, and those cool syringe jelly shots. Also had a girl tip a shot into my mouth with her mouth which I think is more for the benefit of the guys watching than ours lol. Ended up stopping traffic on the way home – quite literally standing in front of cars and directing them. I was a woman of many talents that night.

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Was a good first day with the newbies and nice night before we headed on to PBC whoooo!

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Rosa Parks

27.09.2015

I was recently watching the USA Presidential debates and when asked which woman should go on the 10 Dollar bill, many candidates named Rosa Parks. This naturally piqued my curiosity and so I googled Rosa Parks straight away…lol jokes I’m old so I went and got a book out of the library. Anyway so after reading 200 pages from a beautiful old book that had that amazing old book smell (and probably heaps of germs from randoms at the library) I gleaned some info that I could’ve probably gotten from Wikipedia in 1/10th of that time, and that is that Rosa Parks was freakin amazing.

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Rosa Parks has been referred to as the Harriet Tubman of her time. She was a prim and proper 42 year old seamstress who refused to give up her seat on the Cleveland Avenue bus to a white man, sparking a 381 day boycott of the city’s buses. This in turn resulted in forty two other local movements in the South which tried to combat racial segregation.

While other women also refused to give up their seats in the same year as the Montgomery bus boycott, there was something about Rosa Parks, described as a ‘religious glow’ that made her stand out. Like Harriet Tubman who delivered more than 200 slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad, or Gandhi who also refused to give up his seat in a first-class train in Johannesburg, Rosa made a stand. Like Gandhi she also believed that sewing developed her inner strength and she was seen as a dangerous agitator.

Rosa Park’s heroic refusal was just one action in a life time of work dedicated towards the civil rights movement. It came just after two of the suspected murders of Emmett Till, a fourteen year old black kid, were acquitted. The jury was all white and Emmett was lunched for whistling at a white woman. Perhaps it was this that was the final straw on that December day.

All her life Rosa was a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was founded in Philadelphia. AME started the gospel tradition of singing and shouting in church services, trying to invoke the spirit of the Lord right within their congregations. She found comfort in Christian Hymns and she believed, like MLK, that a heart full of love could conquer anything. But she also believed that like the children of Israel stood up to the Pharaoh, so must people stand up for their rights. She was influenced by her grandfather at an early age, who took advantage of his white-looking appearance to do things that would embarrass or agitate white people like shaking their hands and introducing himself as ‘Edwards’ instead of calling them Mister. Through him she had her first taste of overt civil disobedience against discrimination. The rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan following WWI resulted in many black immigrating north to start new lives in urban centres further fuelling anti-black resentment due to scarcity of jobs. Between 1995 and 1918 about 250 blacks were lynched in Alabama, most of the murders overseen by the Klan.

As a child Rosa Parks saw her grandfather go to sleep with a double barrelled gun so that if the Klan came he could shoot them, and they went to bed with their clothes on so they could run if they had to. Despite her Christian teachings and faith, she realised that it wasn’t enough to just turn a cheek and be submissive. She felt the violence of white supremism as she had to work from ‘can to can’t, that is from when you can see sunup to when you can’t. The blisters on their feet made it too painful to stand and if a child got blood on the white cotton they were whipped for it. Yet despite it all, she had the strength to love her enemy.

Coming of age in Montgomery, Rosa Park grew up with the Jim Crow laws. Based on a song and dance routine called Jump Jim Crow, it developed into the official system of racial segregation that spread across the South after the Civil War. Beginning in 1875, blacks and whites were legally separated on public transport as well as schools, hospitals restaurants, etc even drinking fountains. In 1900, Montgomery experienced its first massive boycott when the electric trolley was introduced and African Americans walked instead of riding to show solidarity against the unfairness. For a while segregation ended but following the re-emergence of the Klan, Jim Crow returned to Montogomery. Imbued by the philosophy of Booker T Washington by her mother, and her grandfather standing up for his family, Rosa Parks decided one day she could take no more and no she was not going to give up her seat on a bus just because her skin was darker than that of a white man.

Its amazing to think of all the unspeakable acts, the amount of history, that took place not so long ago. From the Scottsboro Trials to Ballot Box Discrimination, and how these acts would have influenced young minds at the time. Raymond Parks was actively involved in the Scottsboro Trial were nine African American youths were kicked off a train and accused of raping two white prostitutes who were also on the train. All nine of them were found guilty and hung, except for the last who was 12 years old and spared by a hung jury. Raymond’s courage was admired by Rosa and they later married in December 1932. His civil rights heroism helped to radicalise her but he never wanted her to be the subject of white violence and so was reluctant for her to be such a big symbol of the Montgomery Bus boycott. He encouraged his wife to go back to High School and she finished her Diploma, helping to build her self-confluence. She became a nurses’ assistant at a hospital and also a seamstress. Her job at Maxwell Field opened her eyes to the racial segregation that existed outside it. It was extremely integrated as it was a US Military Base, as if it were above the Mason Dixon line. She saw what the alternative was to Jim Crow.

As a 24 year old in a seemingly democratic society, I wonder if I would have the courage to stand up for my rights or the rights of others in this day and age. In a country like New Zealand that had a female Prime Minister, was the first country to give women the vote, and also legalised Same Sex Marriage, I feel like my rights and that of others have been asserted and heard. As a woman of colour, in most western countries I would be considered doubly marginalised but I certainly don’t feel it most of the time. There are odd instances, when I am aware of the stereotypes that are perpetuated due to my race, but that is mainly by old white men, who will soon die anyway. I hope that my generation, and the one that will follow, will be the ones who eradicate racial discrimination. Despite the fact that laws have been changed, it still raises its ugly head in subtle nuances at times. I was recently at an Interview where the Interviewer was surprised to learn that I moved to New Zealand at the age of eight, to which he remarked ‘Oh well, you seem like a normal Kiwi kid’. It’s not what you say –it’s what you don’t say that sticks.

I don’t know if I would have the courage to refuse my seat on a bus in Montgomery during the Jim Crow regime – actually let’s face it I wouldn’t. But I hope that with the increased transparency that exists in today’s society, and a greater guarantee for my safety in speaking my mind, I will be able to stand up for other minorities who are still marginalised and ensure that in the years to come they also have the rights to marry, have children, and live without fear of discrimination, just like we do.

I Saw The Sign

25.09.2015

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how as humans we communicate so much without speaking. We look for signals from others in eye contact, gestures, physical proximity and that ‘vibe’ that tells us if our presence in their lives is welcome or not. Our behaviour and hence our actions and words are all dependent on this unspoken communication which at its simplest is like the game hot and cold. We behave in a certain way and people respond in a way that indicates if it’s welcome or if it’s not. We reinforce the way others treat us by accepting their behaviour.

It goes further than that though. I wonder how all these subtle signs we send influence the course of our lives. For example, if someone hadn’t smiled at me in my first lecture at University, and I hadn’t taken that as sign of permission for me to go over and sit with her, we may not have become such close friends with a strong friendship for three years. It makes me wonder about all the people who may have had an impact on my life if I’d let them, how different could my life be right now, if I’d smiled at someone? If I hadn’t smiled at someone? If I hadn’t asked someone for the time in an airport or had gone up to that girl in line at Starbucks? There is a butterfly effect, a chain reaction. If a smile that I didn’t know would mean anything was a catalyst for a friendship that meant so much to me I wonder how much more the actions I dwell so much on affect the course of my life.

DSCF6026 Socialised to follow gendered norms, we take cues from our peers on how to behave around the opposite gender. As women there is a prevailing fear that if we show someone how much we care about them they will think we are too needy or clingy and get put off. And so we look for signs, for cues, on how much to reveal, on how much the other person cares about us, a safety net before we expose too much about our own feelings. I think men are equally pressured to adhere to gendered norms, if not more so. All this tiptoeing around the other makes me scared that I may not ever show how I feel about someone because I’m too busy waiting for a cue that I won’t be completely rejected, and vice versa. And if I don’t seize an opportunity, will I pass up what could be the greatest love of my life simply because I didn’t pick up on behaviour on their part that my feelings were reciprocated?

There’s an Ace of Base song I like called ‘I saw the Sign’ and it sounds so simple there, but signs are really so much harder to read in real life. It’s tempting to look at the smallest coincidences like music and shared interests but sometimes you really just need a grand gesture, and one person needs to be brave enough to say out loud the words you might both be waiting for someone else to say.

Returning

That first week when you get back from holiday is usually hard – going back to work, snapping out of that holiday lull and actually having a plan for your day. I say usually because it was completely the opposite for me. Coming back from my ‘holiday’ was like going on holiday again. First of all it helped that I wasn’t coming back to work straight away. While being unemployed for the last week and a half has made me feel oddly inefficient, I needed a break from the two months of crazy busy travelling – most of which was of my own volition. I never realised how much of a toll it took on my body while I was travelling – the late nights, drinking more often than I was used to, skipping meals and walking for hours. There were days in New York when I was so busy I had my first meal at 5:30pm or sometimes wouldn’t even eat until dinner just because there was so much to do and see. My first day in New York I was awake for 23 hours straight.

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As soon as I got back home, my body knew it could safely crash now and force its owner to recuperate in the comfort of her own home. I slept early, had naps, drank lemsips and finally got off that holiday adrenaline rush that I’d been on for the last two months. It has now been exactly eight days since I’ve come back home but it feels like a lot has happened even though I’ve let myself rest a lot. In those eight days I got sick, recovered, watched a couple of movies, got reacquainted with my guitar, applied for 50+ jobs, had 5 interviews in the last two days and accepted a contract for a short term role. It has been amazing to just be able to rest and wake up when my body wants to, and listen to what it’s telling me for once. I missed my family worrying about me and caring about me, asking me if I’ve eaten or not, and checking on me when I’m sleeping.

There are things that I notice about myself every time I return from a trip. Even though I’m exhausted, somehow my energy and my confidence in myself as a functioning adult is renewed. There are things we all struggle with and finding my way to new places, reading maps, driving to new destinations – is one of them for me. After not driving for two months it was good to get behind the wheel – driving to new places with no data on my phone was not as much fun. But I’m glad it was that way because it forced me to go oldschool and get out the map book when I got lost – as will happen inevitably – and actually figure out how to get where I’m going and get a general sense of direction. Driving myself to interviews all over the city and surrounding areas was not as stressful as it would have been for me a couple of years ago. There are times when I get annoyed with myself for how panicky I am when I get lost – I’m always second guessing myself and thinking I’ve gone down the wrong road and often need to pull over just to keep checking the map – but you know what, progress is only meaningful when you compare it with your own achievements, not other peoples. While most people can probably get from Point A to B no issue, it is something I am not good at but I’m so much better than I used to be. I think being in foreign countries and getting used to constantly being lost and asking for directions acclimatises me for a while to an attitude of nonchalance towards being lost. It’s something that doesn’t faze me as much for now at least.

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There are other differences I notice now that I’m back. Going travelling renews my feistiness like a good haircut. This won’t make sense to most men, and women who have never had a drastic boy-cut for the first time, but a haircut can actually change my attitude completely. For the last 7 years I have gone between extreme boycuts and long hair and the part I like the most is going from Rapunzel long hair to a spikey pixie cut. Its that 100 to zero feeling of badassness that replenishes my dare-devil levels and gets me excited again for things that have become a little bit dull and despondent. It’s almost like my hair has a character of its own and a reputation to go with it and I, its wearer, must live up to that rep or I’m gonna ruin its street cred 😛 Travelling is exactly the same. I go off and experience so much in a short period of time with heightened awareness and my mind and body soaks it all up like a sponge that’s bursting at the seams and when I get back I have no choice but to squeeze out all that energy in short bursts. I like the person that I am when I’m travelling, that who-gives-a-shit-i-don’t-live-here girl I don’t know who she is at times but she’s pretty awesome. I adapt very easily to the people around me and it’s interesting to see what different facets of my personality are uncovered when I’m given the freedom to explore them in an environment where no one has any expectations of me. There are things I didn’t know I would enjoy, I say why not more than I say what if, and part of this carries on even after the holiday is over and I’m back on solid ground.

There is so much to be gained from travelling the world on your own or meeting new people along the way. When you travel alone it forces you to make friends quickly, and bond faster than you necessarily would in your home town. We are essentially social people and seeing new places is exciting and enriching but in the end its great to have people to share these experiences with. There were days when I would just chat with people sitting near me on a ferry, after a ride at the theme park, at the park while I was grabbing a hotdog, just to be able to share a thought or a feeling and have that human contact. It is all too easy to go through an entire day without talking to anyone. Trust me, I’ve done it. But life is so much more beautiful when you invite people into your world to share it with you. Over the last two months I talked to so many strangers, heard stories about their children and marriages and we said goodbye without knowing each other’s names. Perhaps there is a security in sharing personal stories when the other person doesn’t know your name.

While there are countless blogs and huffpost articles about how much travelling can benefit you, I think the returning is also important. The experiences you gain while you’re travelling don’t just end there. Its that cross-over enthusiasm, that ‘why not’ vibe, that you carry with you after and I hope continues to last long after your travels are over. I’d like to think that each time I travel to a new place and meet new people, I learn a bit more about the world, how people relate to each other, and become more culturally sensitive. I love absorbing the vibe of a place, eating streetfood with locals, hotdogs from the stands at Baseball games and just strolling through markets and taking it all in. But there is no point in breathing in that smell of meat cooking, children laughing, sweat and candy floss and roasting corn in the air, if you don’t store that within you somehow and take that warmth and love of embracing something new and carry it forward like an invisible gas spreading into every area of your life.

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It’s been eight days since I returned home and while I’m grateful for the time to pause and take stock, the security of being able to sleep in my own bed and not be in a different city every night, I hope the friendships that I made on my trip will be ones that I continue to nurture and that little child in me that wants to touch fire and jump on leaves that crunch continues to grow. I can sense that I’m a little bit braver, a little bit more resilient and I hope I keep on challenging the things life throws my way asking ‘Why not?’

A Reflection on ‘The Breakfast Club’

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The ending scene of The Breakfast Club is referenced in many modern chick flicks and comedys like Easy A and Pitch Perfect. Indeed Emilio Estevez walking across the high school field with his fist pumping in the air is an iconic scene that many a teenager in the 80s probably shed a tear to. But The Breakfast Club is so much more than that.

I finally watched it and no I did not cry at the end, which is surprising as I tend to cry in movies more often than I don’t. But I finished with a feeling of completeness, like their lives made sense, that they would get it together and be happy, have families, find what it was that made them content and go on to be functioning adults. I felt safe for the characters in the movie.

The movie starts off with a group of students being dropped off to detention on a Saturday, they are unlikely friends but by the end of the film they have shared their deepest secrets with each other and seen the best and worst of who they are. Indeed Brian’s letter to the controlling Mr. Vernon voices what we are all thinking, or hopefully what the movie makes us think by the end of it – that we are all so much more than the stereotypes society pegs on us. We all have parts of the rebel, the princess, the nerd, the basket-case and the jock in us. The labels we were are ones that society imposes on us to make us fit into its neat little boxes.

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Like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Breakfast Club is one of this iconic coming of age movies that makes you think long and hard about what it means to grow up and the disillusionment we all face at different stages. What makes children stay children? What forces them to grow up? How do we know what goes on behind closed doors in a family, in a home – what is supposed to be a place that we feel safe in. I wonder how many sad kids there are with a gun in their locker and the only thing that stops them is they don’t know how to shoot it properly. It’s interesting to think about how even though each of these characters is so different they all have different pressures on them that make them conform to a set of ideals and the failure to meet these expectations can affect us all differently.

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I’m trying to imagine myself in an 80’s movie and I know exactly who I’d want there with me, smoking weed in a locker room. I have no diamond earrings to give away but I’d give you the ones I’m wearing, metal birds and all. It’s strange that I immediately assume I’m Claire but that’s more to do with her naivety than her popular status. Sometimes I wish I could be in an 80s movie for just two hours and do everything stupid I want to do without it having repercussions on my life….wait that does sound oddly like a very bad 80’s movie.

I like thinking about things. I like thinking about movies and people and what would I do in different situations. Like what if this was a situation? And I was sitting here writing this at 1:12am because I’m crazy and I don’t want to sleep. Would you write back to me? I hope so.

Sometimes swapping earrings is not enough.

QUALITY: 3RD  GENERATION-- THE BREAKFAST CLUB-- FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT THE UKTV PRESS OFFICE ON 0171 299 5000.

QUALITY: 3RD GENERATION–
THE BREAKFAST CLUB–
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT THE UKTV PRESS OFFICE ON 0171 299 5000.

Top Deck: Monument Valley to Texas

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Had a fun night in Grand Canyon drinking by the pool last night and woke up early at 5am because I couldn’t sleep. We left at 7am for Monument Valley and watched Forest Gump on the bus which had me crying like a baby. Monument Valley was another natural beauty, a set of rock formations carved by wind and water like the Grand Canyon. It was the land of the Navajo Indians and several films were shot there, lots of westerns including John Ford’s ‘The Searchers’ starring John Wayne. There were huge cliffs, green and blue bush which was tumbleweed, and juniper trees all over the place that blended in softly with the red cliffs.

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We had a traditional Navajo meal for lunch which was puffed bread with salsa, beans, and fresh cream. We got driven around in a Jeep over the sand dunes and then all ran up one and ran down like crazy, almost face-planted was so much fun! Also saw this huge cave like rock with a hole in the top which is called the Eagles eye. A Navajo man played us a song on a tin whistle I think, it was really haunting and beautiful out there in the desert with nothing but rock caves and tumble weed. It’s at times like these I wish I had someone to share this with. Lots of rock formations are named after what they look like the Praying Hands, Mittens and Totem Pole. It was really cool talking to the Navajo Indians and learning more about their culture, we went into a house and talked to a woman who was making cloth and teaching young girls about their ways. She tied Michelle’s hair up in a traditional Navajo hair style.

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On the way stopped at the road that Forest Gump ran on when he was running from one end of the country to the other after his mother died. Epic.

Then we drove to Durango and had a group dinner at this Irish Pub. Watched A Million ways to die in the West on the bus which was shot at Monument Valley and was one of the worst movies ever. AT the Irish pub it was hilarious cause Ellie and I were obsessed with the song Cheerleader and then it started playing and it was just the two of us waiting to go to the bathroom and she went in and then came out singing Cheerleader at the top of her voice but I was outside talking to the Cleaner Lady and she was like wtf these two are crazy hahahhahah. Went to a bar with the group and I tried a Bacon Martini which was the terrible idea. It was disgusting and I almost threw up. Whoever thought raw bacon and vodka was a good idea is seriously out of their mind. I feel sick just writing about it. Never mind. At least I can say I did it. Bargirl gave me my glass of wine for free cause I looked so sick after the martini. Was an interesting night standing in line for the bathroom while two women hooked up in the cubicle and god knows what else while their husbands – yes I repeat husbands – waited outside. Hilarity ensued. Went back earlyish and Ellie and I stayed up till 2am chatting about life and such.

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Woke up late the next day and went for breakfast at Durango Diner which was epic. Best breakfast ever – I had The Kitchen Sink which was like a spicy omelette with ham, mushrooms, bacon, beans, onions, have no idea what but it was amazing. Then Ellie and I walked down to the river and took off our shoes and went climbing over the rocks. The water was really cold and the sand was squishy. Went climbing all the way along to the bridge and then we couldn’t figure out how to get out. Some nice man with his kids on their bikes stopped and helped us climb back over the fence and carried our bags over the top. Was such a hot day, went and got a red velvet Milkshake and then walked along the shops and looked at antique stores, and art shops. Bought a salad and Chex mix for dinner from the super market and then went for a swim in the pool. Was really nice and there was a Jacuzzi as well which was cool.

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Ellie and I pre-drank in our room – blonde moment going across to the Applebees asking them to open our bottles for us and then realising they were Twist Top Smirnoffs lol whoops. Went out to the bar we were meant to be at and Ellie couldn’t get in so we walked around and ran into a group of guys crossing the lights with us. Conversation went something like this:

Ellie: Mhhmmm smells like boys *giggle giggle*
Me: What do boys smell like? S****.
Guys: You know we can hear you.

Friendship sealed.

Had a crazy night hanging out with them, went to a couple of bars and then saw this guy trying to climb up a wall so I did as well, using my back and my legs, had to be carried off because I couldn’t get down. One of the guys was the manager of a weed store and the others were around our age. Piggy backed one of the guys trying to prove how strong I was and then Dylan walked us home at the end of the night which was really nice of him. Started jay walking across the lights cause he said it was fine and then some cops pulled up and he freaked out.

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Woke up early and went to breakfast at Durango diner again and grabbed half of it to go and jumped on the bus to Santa Fe. Slept the whole way and had a nice lunch there – wedge salad with blue cheese. Then went to the New Mexico Museum of Art with Michelle which was pretty cool, some Georgia O’Keefe, Degas I think. Santa Fe was a really cool old place. A lot of people on the tour didn’t like it but I loved it. It was steeped in history, so much art, old buildings, churches, and Mexican themes present. I bought a place mat for $8.61 and walked around the old buildings. Went to the oldest house in the United States and the Cathedral of St Francsis Assissi, also an Old church that has a miraculous spiral staircase with no centre beam.

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I really loved all the jewellery on the streets, clothing out at the markets, and the art that is displayed on the streets. Not for the first time, I was slightly trigger happy with my phone and like Christopher McCandless I realised that it is love, and people, and sharing our lives that makes us human. It is people that we need. And while I always knew that, without going off into Alaska to ‘find myself’, I think it’s at times when your sense are overwhelmed, when your feelings are assaulted and you realise just how vulnerable you are to life and the experiences that we are confronted with, that we miss having people the most. I find that art, culture, history, and nature, can move me sometimes inexplicably and my sense of presence is submerged, diverged, by emotion. And it’s at times like these that I wish I had someone’s hand to grab and squeeze to say ‘hey, do you feel this too?’

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Had a really nice dinner at Tex Mex talking to everyone and then played spoons with a group downstairs. I really liked the dinner but other people didn’t which was funny. I think I lived in much shitter places and I have eaten at much much crappier places – think rats running along the floor in a little roadside place I was eating at in Chiang Mai – so my standards for good food are reasonably low. As long as I don’t get sick and the food is palatable I am more than happy. I think most people have higher expectations though lol. Afterwards Ellie and I did crunches and squats and talked till 2am, then went to bed.

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Got up the next morning and started the drive to Amarillo. Stopped at WalMart on the way – the first of many Wall Mart stops but the first time was crazy, couldn’t believe how big it was. Bought some blue hair dye, blue eyeliner and fruit and lunch. Then watched Step Brothers on the bus as we drove up to Amarillo and slept the rest of the time.

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Also stopped at the Car Wash place where Breaking Bad was filmed and at the Cadillac Range which had all these old Cadillacs stuck in the mud and we spray painted them sloshing around in the mud – was really fun! Had dinner at Big Texan Ranch which was amazing, just next to the hotel. Had a huge steak, mashed potato, veges, etc. Paddy tried to do the 72 ounce Steak Challenge but he couldn’t finish it. Shared a drink with Ellie and played spoons for a bit with the others at the bar and then went to bed. I thought southern boys would be so much more approachable and confident but obviously not.

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I think I have fallen in love with San Antonio. I love the River Walk, the little cafes, arching bridges and hanging balconies overlooking the busy river. Started the day driving from Amarillo and walking through sunflower fields in my pjs, stopped at Walmart to get lunch and arrived at San Antonio at 5:15pm. I love the rainforest café, had a little Marilyn Monroe moment stepping over a grate in the footpath and found my dress flying up to my face. Had dinner at Pescanaes and walked along the river, then walked back to the hotel and swam for a bit, sat in the Jacuzzi and made friends with some little kids from somewhere else in Texas. Beautiful summer evening. Even though I was having a good time, there are still moments when I wish that I knew/ experienced more than I have.

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Went to The Alamo the next day and explored the place. It was at the Alamo that 189 soldiers fought against 3000 and tried to defend their land. Was really interesting seeing the museum and the fort. Then went Tubing in the San Marcos River and the water was really low so kept hitting my bum on rocks in the rapids was kinda scary. Got quite a few scrapes and bruises from the rocks and branches on the river. There were turtles swimming in the water and they freaked me out cause they looked like snakes when the lifted their heads out of the water and I screamed and freaked Nat out as well. Oh well.

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Had dinner really early at 4:30pm at a Texas BBQ place, was alright. Kinda overrated. Drove to the motel and went for a swim in the pool and tried to do handstands but failed. Then got ready and drank split a bottle of wine with Ellie before we headed out to Sixth Street. Vodka Cranberries were $1.25 each. That combined with awesome music meant it was a pretty badass night. We were at a shot bar so every kind of drink that existed you could do as a shot. We were getting a lot of crazies in there I think so we headed to another bar where there was live music and danced heaps. The bar staff gave us a bucket of champagne for free as long as we kept dancing. Paddy piggy-backed me for a while was pretty random and the guy playing the guitar was really good. Was a little bit trigger happy with my phone due to the amazing music and $1.25 Vodka Cranberries. We moved to another bar and let’s just say I had a pretty interesting night which resulted in me scoring a free CD before making it back home with Amy and Simon and I crashed. Fell asleep with the door open cause Ellie forgot about me and went out, and someone else came along and woke me up and closed the door. Then we both fell asleep with the lights on, only realised at 7:30am that we slept the whole nights with the lights on was hilarious.

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Woke up the next day at 9am feeling rather worse for wear and had breakfast and then walked into the city to the State Capitol Building where I did the free tour. Then walked down to the river through Lavaca Street and across to the Stevie Rae Vaugh Statue and saw heaps of music-related statues around the city – after all it is the Live Music Capital. Had a teriyaki bowl at some Asian place and then went to the University of Texas Longhorn which was an amazing campus. Walked around there for a while hoping to run into cool college kids but alack, it was still summer holidays. Then walked back to the motel, went for a swim, bought Cheetos and a strawberry drink got dressed to go out. We went to the Bat Bridge and waited for the bats to fly across which they do at 6:30 everyday, around sunset. Was crazy seeing 1.5 million bats flying out from under the bridge to feed at dusk. Then went to Rainey Street for dinner and had a Venison hotdog and Honey Cider at Bangers. Then Ellie and I walked around checking out the bars before we walked home along the state highway singing the whole way, was a really fun half an hour walk home.

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Awesome time in Texas, looking forward to more live music in New Orleans!

Top Deck: Vegas to Grand Canyon

Woke up earlyish and got a cab to Hotel Miyaki to begin my Top Deck Tour. Everyone was super nice and I sat with Paddy on the bus and met Ellie and Michelle in the morning. Stopped for lunch at a small road stop at Good Springs and had a burger. Was a completely different view driving down from the one from San Fran to LA. A lot drier, a lot more cacti, desert and rock. It kinda looked like something from a scene in No Country for Old Men (not that I could watch more than 15 mins of the movie but you know what I mean). There were lots of Harley Davidsons and rednecky people at the lunch place and they sang a song about being an assole to Nick which was funnily appropriate – jokes (lol Nick I hope you are reading this)!

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Got back on the bus and drove straight to Vegas, saw heaps of the hotels on the bus and Downtown LA where they have a Mafia Museum that I kinda wanted to go to but ran out of time. Found out I was sharing with Ellie and was pretty happy, as I found out over the next 4 weeks we are almost the same person really so it was awesome 🙂 Left our stuff in our room and then went out with Paddy and checked out the Linq behind Flamingos, and went into Caesars Palace and got a bit lost. The painted sky ceiling looked amazing! So posh, like cobbled stone streets inside the casinos with arcades and canals with arches replicating Venice. I was a little bit awestruck at the sheer exaggeration of it all, the wastefulness was both beautiful and shocking at the same time. Grabbed some dinner at Tilted on Kilt, an Irish Pub kinda like Hooters with the waitresses wearing like nothing really. Saved half my wrap and chips and had that for breakfast the next day. Really surprised at how crap my appetite was at the start of my trip.

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Went back and had a shower and got ready for party bus. Split half a bottle of Rose with Ellie and we drank that on the party bus, was really fun just sitting-dancing if you get what I mean. Drove around on the party bus and stopped at this huge LA sign and then at the Little White Wedding Chapel where we got fake-married, then clubbing at Drais which was epic, such a huge club could easily get lost in there for days, cool as rooftop bar. Then walked past the intersection where Tupac got killed RIP and went to a Karaoke bar where Nick sang a Bruce Springsteen song and finally went to bed around 3am. Awesome first night in Vegas!

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Got up at 8:30 the next day and booked tickets at 1- for Circ du soleil the Mystere show which was really weird actually. Was really shocked at how slowly people walk and its made me realise how different peoples travelling styles are. I couldn’t wait to get out and do stuff and see things but I guess other people prefer a more laid back holiday. Only in Vegas once though, never know when I’ll be back again so I wanted to make the most of it. Went walking around with Ellie who is a great walker yay thank god and we saw Planet Hollywood, The Paris Hotel, Bellagio, and the Cosmopolitan. Went back to the hotel and went for a swim which was amazing like such a beautiful day and the water was really refreshing. Rested for a bit and then went back out and saw Treasure Island and The Venetian with Paddy.

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My favourite hotel was the Paris hotel. Loved the Cabaret Building, the gargoyles, the bridges and of course the Eiffel Tower. Bought a sandwich for lunch and saved half for lunch the next day. Again I repeat: wtf is up with my appetite. Had spaghetti and meatballs for dinner with Ellie in the Foodcourt, then went to Circe Du Soleil at the Treasure Island Hotel. Amazing colours and acrobatics, so imaginative and weird. I kinda didn’t really get it though. It was a great experience but I don’t think I’ll go again unless its Beatles: Love or the Abba one. Met up with Ellie, Simon and Amy at The Bellagio and walked around and saw the fountain playing American National An them and then went back to the hotel and packed my bags, slept at 1am. Really awesome day!

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Woke up at 7am the next morning and left at 8am for Colorado. Bought some juice and snacks at the Safeway for the way. Watched Hangover on the bus and laughed heaps – so many scenes that I recognise in Vegas now, like Caesars Palace etc. Stopped at Segailin for lunch and just had my leftover sandwich from the day before. Gotta eat more! Its actually the town on Route 66 that the movie Cars is based on. Really cute little place but sad that it was probably once so thriving and now so dependant on tourists going through there. Heaps of Route 66 signs, run down cars with gardens growing in them and old Western kinda touristy stuff.

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Drove straight to the Grand Canyon and Nick made us close our eyes and walk up to the edge so that the view took us by surprise. Was epic. How do I even describe it? I felt so overwhelmed and happy and just like the wind was knocked out of me that something like that could even exist. It made me believe that there has to be a God for how could something like that exist in a world like this. The colours were amazing, so many different shades of dusky red and muted orange, soft blues in the distance. It’s amazing that wind and water could create something so majestic and carved caverns into stone.

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I did the helicopter ride over Grand Canyon which was a huge chunk of my budget for the trip but it was so worth it. I feel like every lunch bought from the 7/11 and meal skipped was definitely worth the money I spent on my helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. I was awestruck and started tearing up at the immense vastness, there was a point when I had to grab Amy’s leg because I just wanted to feel someone to make sure that this was real. I felt so small and insignificant and blown away by how deep and wide the Canyon was. Saw features that the Helicopter guy pointed out like the Sleeping Dragon but honestly, I forgot all that as soon as he said it, it was just so intense being in that moment, here and now, and seeing the colours and the depths beneath me.

Did an upside down photo next to the Grand Canyon and had pizza for dinner. Drove to the Hotel, can’t even remember where it was. I just remember going to sleep feeling like this world is so much bigger than me and I will never see all of it or understand all the people in it, but that’s okay.