The Problem of Being a Princess Traveller

Three and a half stars is my absolute minimum.

If you can’t tell by the travel part of Widow’s Lure, I absolutely love to travel. Seeing new places, meeting new people, trying new things… it’s all such an incredible experience. But so far, as a 24-year-old man, I have only been able to visit four countries (five if you include Australia).

But if I’m going to be honest, my country count probably won’t increase so much because I am a self-confessed Princess. And that really hinders my opportunities of travel for several different reasons.

Hanging a spreadie on top of the Rockefeller Center like a Princess.

If you want proof, just ask the people I went on my two Contikis tours with. In both End of Tour Contiki Awards, I won the Princess award. By a landslide.

Young Australians, including many of my friends, can pick up and go and travel across Europe and South America and stay overseas for months or even years. How do they do it? They stay in hostels, volunteer at organizations looking for young workers, and visit less-fortunate countries where the Aussie dollar has more value over there. I can honestly say that I am comfortable doing none of the above.

If you haven’t gathered by now, I have expensive a very specific taste in life, and my taste in life comes at a very high cost. For starters, I cannot stay at a hostel. Like point blank refuse will not do ever don’t even think about it. I don’t care how cheap the accommodation is there, why on earth would I want to share a bathroom with people I don’t know when I could have a bathroom to myself. In saying that, I can’t even stay at motels or hotels that are less than three and a half stars. I was once booked in a two star hotel in Los Angeles, and it was that traumatic that I don’t even want to discuss the finer details of it. Needless to say, I am alive and well. Also, a couple of the hotels I stayed at on Contiki had more than one floor, and no elevator. Like. I just can’t.

My style of travelling also means I can’t do it as much as other young people do. The other style of traveller can find cheap plane tickets, stay in Europe for six to nine months, live at a hostel or volunteer at an organization that offers food and accommodation, and Bobsuruncle. It’s so cheap that they could probably go back to Europe in another month or so. Meanwhile, I get flights, stay in hotels everywhere I go, eat out for every meal, and can essentially only afford to travel for five or six weeks. And that’s me done for about a year or two. My style of travelling is expensive and doesn’t last as long, but at least I am comfortable with it. I wish I could travel as long as the hostel travellers, I really do, but contradictory to what some may believe, I fund my own lifestyle. I don’t have handouts from the Bank of Daddy, and I am not swimming in inheritance money.

While I am interested in experiencing different cultures, I can’t see myself visiting the less than fortunate countries. I would like to think I am a decent person, and would love to volunteer for charity organizations in third-world countries that would need help, but the small problem of “I would have to stay there in those poor living conditions” is a red light for me. And I can’t do it. I need a bed, a roof over my head, some clean stylish clothes, and a nice meal on a dinner plate with a fork and a knife. If that makes me a snob, then so be it. I am a snob.

Culture shock for me was going to Subway in Texas and finding out that they didn’t have veggie patties. Imagine this Princess going to a country like Bangladesh… the culture shock would be so overwhelming that I may pass out. Admittedly, I will only ever feel comfortable visiting other westernised countries, like England, New Zealand, Ireland and Wales.

There will be some avid travellers out there who could potentially read this and think that I am a piece of shit for pretty much saying I am too good to visit certain countries, but I don’t regret saying any of this. It’s the fascination of humans; every human is raised differently, and therefore grows up differently. My parents raised me to appreciate the finer things in life, which means that I am too precious to stay in a motel with a single bed and a kitchenette. You are free to live your volunteering in a third-world country, but it isn’t for me, as much as I would like it to be.

Now, something that frugal travellers and Princesses alike can appreciate. Contiki. I cannot recommend it enough, even if some of the hotels don’t have elevators, and you’re stuck standing there waiting for someone to carry your suitcase up the flight of stairs because you just don’t do that kind of thing. If you’re looking for a unique kind of travel experience, and an opportunity to meet some new people, visit the Contiki website and book through your travel agent immediately.

– by Noah La’ulu

Confessions of a Mean Girl: Part One

We’ve all seen the movies and read the stories of the ugly beautiful girl who enters a high school situation and is relentlessly bullied by the mean girls, but ends up turning into a beautiful swan, and the mean girls get their karma in the end, right?

Well, those are almost always from the “normal girl’s” perspective. There are two sides to every story. Now, I’m giving you the perspective of the mean girl*.

*NOTE: I am a man. This is just for lack of a better term.

I wonder how different my schooling would've been if I didn't have school uniforms.

I wonder how different my schooling would’ve been if I didn’t have school uniforms.

I finished high school in 2010, so it’s been a while since I experienced the cliquey culture that I once participated in, but during the latter years of my secondary schooling, my group of friends were affectionately named “The Bitch Group” and for quite good reason as well. I will be the first to admit that we weren’t exactly the nicest group of friends, although I can say we were fiercely loyal to each other. There were about eight or nine of us together, and the more there were, the more powerful we felt.

We weren’t the stereotypical Mean Girl group: we weren’t all rich with our daddy’s credit cards and we didn’t attend wicked underage parties every weekend and hookup with random guys and we sure as hell didn’t co-ordinate our wardrobes to be pink every Wednesday (only because we had school uniforms). The pure foundation of the stereotype did stick, however; we were horrible to some people, sometimes blatantly and unprovoked, and we did commandeer a highly popular rank on the school hierarchy.

To others, it was simple: stay on our good side, or you will live to regret it.

I remember one time when a new girl started in year 11 at our school. She was nice and pretty enough and seemed like she’d fit in with us well. After finishing our first set of classes, I walked to my first lunch period and sat down in our usual area. This particular new girl walked past us, clearly with no real home location to go to. I invited her to sit with us… and she politely declined. I didn’t take that politely, however, and from that moment on, I would call out horrible things to her to the point that she’d cry. Everything was completely unprovoked and there was no real reason as to why I hated her. But rejecting an invitation to The Bitch Group was turning down popularity, and for a 16-year-old Black Widow, that thought was completely unfathomable. And I hated her for it.

That brings up one of the main reasons why “mean girls” act the way they do: they need control of everything, and when they lose a portion of that control, they lash out. I had already mapped out where this girl was going to sit in our circle and where she’d fit into our social gatherings, and by completely denying me of that painted out future, I felt as if I lost control of the situation, and I took it out on the independent variable in that situation.

Control is power, and in a tense environment like high school hierarchy, power is everything. I would get away with many of the vile things I did because I had control of the situation; I would smile sweetly to the teachers and staff at school while throwing verbal insults and sometimes physical rubbish at the “nerdy group” when they had their backs turned. To lose that control would literally send me into a spiral, so I guess I had to go to some extreme measures in some cases to make sure that control never waivered.

Do you remember in the original High School Musical where they were absolutely appalled that Troy and Gabriella were doing things outside of their high school archetypical interests? I mean, God forbid a basketball player wants to make crème brûlée. As ridiculous as that sounds, it really was true. As member of The Bitch Group, I felt like I was morally obligated to be mean to people with no real reason. There was an overwhelming sense of peer pressure I felt on a daily basis, yet no one was physically or verbally cajoling me to do so. So where did I find the motivation to do the horrible things I did?

I felt that being part of my group of friends meant that society thought I should do what I was “meant” to do, and that was be a bitch. I wasn’t allowed to talk video games and comics with the nerds (even though I was a HUGE closeted gamer and nerd) because that wasn’t my role in society, and I definitely wasn’t allowed to be nice to those who were lower than me on the social hierarchy. I even forced a few interests onto myself that fit my clique: fashion and make-up and all those typical girly things. Nowadays, I couldn’t tell you the difference between foundation and concealer, and the only fashion show I’ll willingly watch is Victoria’s Secret.

At the ripe ages of 15-17, that’s when people are at their most impressionable, so they’ll feel as if they have to play a specific role in a movie that isn’t even going on.

People may think that mean girls are mean because they want to be, but just like (almost) every other human being on this planet, they have souls, and sometimes it takes a deeper look into someone to see the real person behind their vicious words and iconic death stares.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, there’s one more mean girl stereotype we didn’t fit: contrary to most coming-of-age-teenage-girl stories, my group of friends stuck together through and after high school, and five years later, we are still the closest bunch of friends.

Part two of these confessions will be up before you can say “Watch out, Radioactive Man!”

– by Noah La’ulu

Confessions of a Thefthead

More specifically, should I say, confessions of a fangirling Thefthead.

On Saturday March 15 2014, I had the ultimate privilege of attending my second CMC Rocks the Hunter country music festival. Because of education engagements on Friday and work responsibilities on Sunday, I was only able to attend the three-day music festival on Saturday. That was completely fine by me. Why? Because my idols, Love and Theft, were performing on Saturday. Sure, country music greats like Gretchen Wilson were performing on Saturday as well, but I was no where near as excited for her as I was for Love and Theft.

Stephen and Eric, in the flesh.

Stephen and Eric, in the flesh.

I can’t even remember when my fandom for Love and Theft even started. I just remember one moment I was Youtubing some of their stuff and listening to it, and the next, I had both of their albums (two copies of one) and a custom Love and Theft iPhone case. My friends can tell you that they are tired of seeing me gram pictures of Eric and Stephen (the men who comprise this awesome musical duo) instead of actual Instagram things, like pictures of what I had to eat that day, or awkward full length mirror selfies of my OOTD.

Love and Theft were scheduled to perform at last year’s CMC Rocks the Hunter, but due to circumstances – Eric’s gorgeous son Camden William Gunderson came a bit early – they were unable to play. I had bought them presents to give to them at the festival so this was a big blow to me. However, when you’re a Thefthead, where there’s a will, there’s a way. I posted to every LNT social media outlet I could until I found out their PO box, so I shipped their presents to them with a handwritten letter with one small request to let me know that they got their presents. What I got in return, however, was a picture of them with their gifts, holding my letter, and an e-mail saying that my package had made their day. When I saw this, I kid you not – I was running around the house, screaming and saying “OH MY GOD, NO THEY DIDN’T! OH MY GOD NO THEY DID NOT!”

The picture they sent me, with my letter in Stephen's hand.

The picture they sent me, with my letter in Stephen’s hand.

So, in 2014, this was my first time seeing them perform ever. Ever. I mean, like, ever. Needless to say, I was acting like a scared chook running for its life. With an extremely high pitched voice.

My best friend and I rocked up about a hour and a half before the boys were to perform. Why? Because I wanted to get a good spot at the front of the mosh and didn’t care how long I had to stand there for it. Fortunately for me, we got good spots at the front. The sun was blazing and I was in painted on jeans and cowboy boots, but I didn’t care. What was actually two hours later, the boys graced us with their presence. I screamed. I jumped. I waved. I screamed some more. I jumped some more.

My personalised autographed LNT merch.

My personalised autographed LNT merch.

All bias aside, Love and Theft were amazing. SIMPLY AMAZING. They were everything I ever expected them to be PLUS more. They sung several of their hit songs, a couple of covers, and interesting “duet” of sorts with Blackjack Billy, and Stephen even busted out a few Eminem lyrics to Lose Yourself – the latter of which can be found at this link. Excuse the shaking. I was a bit excited.

As I am familiar with how CMC Rocks works, I knew that right after their performance, they would be heading up to the CD tent to do a meet-and-greet and autograph signing. As soon as they had finished their set – which included running up and down past the gate slapping hands with the fans (me included, which provoked a “OMG I TOUCHED THEIR HANDS” comment) – my BFFL and I literally sprinted up the hill to the CD tent. We were still very far back in the line but it doesn’t matter. I was going to meet my idols for the very first time! Like last year, I bought Eric and Stephen a bag of presents. The catch? I left it in the car. In painted on jeans and cowboy boots, I sprinted to my car to pick up their presents and rush back to the line, and after all that cardio, we hadn’t moved in the line. It’ll be worth it, I thought to myself positively.

Two hours (LITERALLY) later in the line and I was at the front. CMC officials were coming around selling copies of their self-titled albums because they would only take a picture with you if you had official merch to sign, and I proudly boasted my three Love and Theft CDs from home. Bitches came prepared. I was at the front of the line. It was my turn. I literally felt as if I had to throw up because I was that excited. They turned around. I put on my best genuine smile and said “I bought presents for you guys.” Both Eric and Stephen responded with genuine gratitude and Stephen even hugged me. YES. STEPHEN BARKER LILES HUGGED ME. Stephen asked me what I bought them and I spat out a nervous rant on “how I didn’t want them to open it in front of me in case they didn’t like it and I saw their reactions and died.” Eric offered me a more reserved handshake and thanked me. Because of this, Stephen wanted to personalise my autographs for me so he asked my name. I replied with “Noah” whilst trying to remember how to stand up. I took my photo with them. Eric shook my hand again and both me thanked me for my gifts. We walked off so the people behind us could get their turn.

Serious contender for best day of my life.

Serious contender for best day of my life.

I was shaking. My best friend had to take the merch and my phone off me because I couldn’t hold it. I was literally shaking. “Oh my god, I just met Love and Theft. Oh my god, Stephen hugged me. Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.” The teenage girl in me had risen.

In what was originally supposed to be a short memoir of sorts, has turned into a 1000+ word spiel. I don’t know, I guess it’s what happens when you are an ultimate fan. Or in my case, the no#1 Thefthead in Australia (and the world!)

Oh, and did I mention Eric commented on my Instagram picture thanking me for the gifts? You can only imagine my screaming reply.

– by Noah La’ulu