#NKinNA16: Part 5 – All Good Things

“Flames to dust, lovers to friends, why do all good things come to an end?”

Yaaassss Nelly Furtado, speak the truth.

Welcome back to #NKinNA16, and we’ve unfortunately reached the end of the tunnel. That’s right; my six week journey is winding down and reaching the end of the track, and I am not the slightest bit happy about it. But the show must go on, so let’s continue.

After leaving Kanab the place we do not speak of, we were headed to probably the pinnacle of this tour, especially for those who joined us in Chicago: Las Vegas, Nevada. Now, if you haven’t been to Sin City before, it might surprise you that Las Vegas – the world’s busiest 24/7 city – is literally just placed in the middle of a desert. You’ll be driving through sand and road, and you’ll sneeze and all of a sudden see all the bright lights of Vegas.

After all of the sightseeing, national parks, and unforgiven hotel room parties, the crew were excited to be in civilization again, let alone Sin City. It was a bittersweet moment forever: this was the stop everyone was waiting for, but it was also the last stop, but let’s not dwell on the latter just yet…

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We got to Harrah’s Las Vegas (our hotel for the next three nights), and after getting settled in our rooms, we got ready for our included dinner at Planet Hollywood. I’ve been here before and knew what was coming – a delicious blue alcoholic concoction served to you in a bloody fishbowl – but because the restaurant weren’t expecting so many fishbowl orders, they had run out of fishbowls. So we had two normally-huge-sized cocktail glasses full of this delicious blue drink, and here’s the picture to prove it.

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Afterwards, we were taken to the Grand Norther Contiki SURPRISE optional. Just in case anyone is reading this and is thinking of doing this tour, I won’t spoil it mention what the surprise is, but I will say that you will enjoy it.

What soon followed was a trip to the Old School Vegas, AKA Fremont Street, which featured a pretty awesome Imagine Dragons light show. I love my Imagine Dragons, so I really got into it. Oh, and Fremont Street also played host to some giant ass alcoholic slushies, so seeing the size of them, Jacko and I decided to share one. I still don’t know how we managed to finish it. It was neverending.

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Our first night out in Vegas soon followed, and we hit up a place called Ghost Bar. Now, I enjoy my nights out just like every other Joe Blow does, but what I really don’t like about partying in Vegas is the long, painful process to simply get into a nightclub. We had VIP treatment thanks to these two wanky douchebags who don’t look like they’ve done a proper day’s work in their life VIP club promoter guys, and we were still waiting in line for like half an hour. Also, the sexism in Vegas is so real.

After some dancing, drinks, and all around fun with the crew, I finished my night a bit early and returned back to the hotel. Not without some excitement and drama at 2am in a hotel corridor, but whatever.

The following day – after Kate and some others were denied entry to the Chainsmokers Pool Party because the tickets they rightfully purchased weren’t sent to them on time like it bloody should have – Kate and I decided to walk around Vegas and hit the Fashion Show mall. We also looked around the Strip to see what else it had to offer, which is pretty much everything.

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Dinner was fend-for-yourself, so Kate, Angela, Russell and I caught up with our Grand Canadian friends Courtney, Georgia and Ashley and had dinner at Hard Rock Cafe. I stan portabello mushroom burgers so much, and boy do Hard Rock Cafe do a mean ass portabello mushroom burger.

My year-long goal was about to be accomplished, because JJ, Tarni, Veegz, Angela and I waltzed on over to the Excalibur where we would attend our first Thunder from Down Under show. If you have no idea what that is, just picture Magic Mike but with Aussie men (so basically sexier, less mannequiny looking men).

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It was definitely an experience to be had, and it was also marginally better than the traumatising experience I had in the Montreal strip club with the “shake shake shake” girl. The dancing wasn’t too crash hot – or maybe that’s because I have a dance background and am judgmental about it – but the guys were nice to look at… at least from afar. Once they got close and started gyrating their genitals in my face, my mind changed. And they took that as a challenge.

This picture accurately shows you what I saw…

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Anywho, after our successful second night out in Vegas, JJ and I played a couple of games downstairs in Harrah’s before calling it a night and heading to bed.

Our third day was full of shopping – like, full of it. Thinking I would be able to fend off everything and not spend a cent, I ended up leaving with MORE Harley Quinn merchandise, some clothes for my niece and nephew, and this wicked ass Jordan’s that I only really bought because Nikki Bella would wear them. They’re pretty cute, I guess.

As it was our last night together as a family, we went out to the XS Nightclub after an included limo ride down the strip with free terrible, terrible tasting champagne. XS Nightclub is a bit fancy… and by a bit, I mean a lot. It was a bit too uptight for my liking, so I didn’t last long there. (What’s with my hating the nightlife in Vegas?) I did befriend these really lovely Samoan gentlemen though. All around the world, right?

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Not wanting to end my last night in Vegas on a sour note, a few of us went back to the casino in Harrah’s and played some roulette and table blackjack. I’ve never played blackjack at a table before, so I’m glad I got to break that virginity in Sin City. Also, I lost all of the money I stole borrowed from Hayden and Big Red. Oops.

The following morning – after a stellar buffet breakfast in Harrah’s – we went back onto the coach for our last trip together forever. We farewelled Hayden and Shaun, who were staying in Vegas for the remainder of their trip, and boarded the coach to Los Angeles, California. Despite desperately needing sleep, I wasn’t going to sleep on our last journey ever.

The coach trip was spent sharing favourite memories, talking among our new family members, and all-around general banter. Near the end of our ride, we were allowed to dedicate songs to other people on tour, so of course I got up and dedicated All In My Head (Flex) by Fifth Harmony to Kate. She knows what’s up.

We arrived at our destination in LA – where we were surprised by four of our former Contiki friends – and the goodbyes soon followed. I cried. A lot. I loved my Contiki Grand Northern family so much. I couldn’t have asked for a better group… but I’m getting too ahead of myself. That’s what part five is for. I’m going to miss my banter with Philip as well; one of the few men who can call me a slut and live to tell the tale.

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After saying our goodbyes, Kate and I headed on over to Burbank (a cute suburb of LA) to join our Contiki tour manager from last year Serena, who hosted us for the last three nights of our American trip. After dinner and some quick grocery shopping, we settled for an innocent girl’s night with second-attempt popcorn, Harry Potter, and chats catching each other up over the last year.

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Our first proper day in LA was standard: we went to Disneyland! Serena, who wasn’t even “on duty” as they say, was the best tour guide around Disneyland, and told us where everything was, showed us where we could buy what, and made sure we went on every ride and show possible.

Story time: so I wanted to crack one of the Disney actors and make them break character, so my first target was Gaston. Serena asked him for a selfie, and in perfect Gaston character, he turned her down. After this, I asked him if he wanted to make out later, to which he swiftly replied “I’m taken!” Disney – 1, Nikki – 0. We went to go see the Princesses afterwards (Cinderella, Snow White and Ariel), and I tried each of them. Told Ariel I was going to dress up as Nicki Minaj for Halloween, to which she says “Is she a Princess?” Although when I said “Waddup Ariel”, she did reply “Waddup”, so that’s like half a point to me. Disney – 2, Nikki – 0.5. When Snow White asked what kind of pie she should make the dwarves, I said “Apple pie, although you don’t really have a good track record with apples, do you?” She giggled and shook her head, and suggested some other form of pie. Disney – 3, Nikki – 0.5. Said “Sup Cindy” to Cinderella, and she says in her sick, sweetly voice “Oh hello there!” Not only that, but when I mentioned the plane ride from hell from Australia, she said “Did you fly by pumpkin carriage?” Disney – 4, Nikki – 0.5. Winner: Disney.

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Anywho… the rides were great. Disneyland isn’t as great as Disneyworld in Orlando, but it did the job. Splash Mountain was my favourite, and not just because of Kate’s face in this mid-ride shot.

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Serena had to leave to go to a hockey game, so we met up with our Contiki friends who were also at Disneyland and spent the rest of the day with them, including a nice Italian dinner in Downtown Disney. Being drained from all of the walking around Disney that day, Kate and I were out like a light that evening.

The next day, we were fortunate enough to get a free walking tour around the Warner Bros lot thanks to Serena’s beautiful mother. We got to ride a broomstick from Harry Potter, see the Suicide Squad costumes up close in the WB Museum, sit on the sofa from Friends and pretend to drink some form of coffee, and I also got to walk around Rosewood from Pretty Little Liars. All in all, I’d say it was a great experience.

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Serena then took us to Hollywood Boulevard, to which she warned me to “lower my expectations”. I did, and luckily I did, because Hollywood Boulevard is kinda underwhelming. Besides the long ass Walk of Fame and some other little tidbits, it wasn’t great, so we left Hollywood and took a scenic drive through LA, including Mulholland Drive where we happened to run into my pole goddess Hayley and her husband. WHAT ARE THE ODDS, RIGHT?

We dropped Kate off at Russell and Ange’s hotel, and Serena and I took off to do our own thang, which included Girls Night Part Two. With more snacks and more Harry Potter to watch, I’d say I spent my last night in LA very well. Oh, and we also had facial masks and more hair dye, so for about ten minutes, I looked like this.

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My last day in LA was spent in Santa Monica with my favourite people. Serena and I went on a walk along the pier, went on the rollercoaster (which GTA replica’d to a damn tee), and sat down on a swing and watched a very muscular, shirtless, attractive man work out the scenery at Mini Muscle Beach. As we were saying our goodbyes, we ran into Kate and our other Contiki friends, so Serena and I bid farewell to each other and I re-joined Kate, all the while tugging my luggage behind me up and down Santa Monica.

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Now, I’d rather not talk about the goodbyes and the journey home, so let me just leave you with this group shot of us before Kate, Russell, Ange and I headed to the airport for our loooooong flight home.

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What made the wait at the airport bearable was that us four also ran into Bree and Sasha, so all six of us sat around eating Panda Express and sharing our favourite (and unfavourite) moments of Contiki.

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And thus ends my #NKinNA16 trip. Six weeks, two countries, too many cities to count, all the amazing friends one could ask for, and the best travelling partner I could have. America and Canada 2016, you were the best, and I can’t wait to travel you once again in the future.

You might think my #NKinNA16 travel blog finishes here, but I’m not done. Not just yet. I’ve reserved part six for the most important part of any travel blog: the shoutouts. Because this trip wouldn’t have been so amazing without the awesome people who made it. For me, it’s not about the sights or the journey or trip, it’s about the people. The people really make your trip, and my new family certainly did.

Until then…

– by The Black Widow

#NoahTakesAmerica2015 Part 2: Contiki Craziness V1

And this is where the fun REALLY begins.

So after staying in a feral charming hotel in Los Angeles, California, it was time to head to my Contiki tour. I ordered an Uber to take me to the meeting place, and as I watched the driver pass me and then cancel my own trip on me, I started to wonder whether I was even going to make it onto the tour. Luckily, the second Uber driver didn’t drive passed me as if he didn’t see me and conveyed me to the meeting place.

Upon my nervous arrival, I was greeted by a beautiful blonde woman named Jodie from Sydney who would also be on my tour. I was also pleased to hear that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t attend the Kickstart meeting. She introduced me to her travelling companion Joey, and I instantly liked the duo. “Maybe this tour won’t be so bad,” I thought to myself.

After the awkward introductions had taken place, we loaded onto the coach and left LA for our first stop: Las Vegas, Nevada (yes, I flew from Vegas to LA just to go back to Vegas on a coach). It was on this coach that we were first introduced to our “day song” (literally a song you listen to first thing you step onto the coach every day): Beat of my Drum by Powers. The song was annoying. Little did I know I would grow to love it.

In my opinion, Vegas was Vegas: there were about 20 moving vehicles promoting hot babe escort services driving down the Strip, neon lights and batshit people lining the sidewalks, and you were allowed to casually drink alcohol on the streets. After having a look around with Jodie, Joey, Georgia (also now affectionately known as Nicole/Grobbies/Veronica), Feddo, James and Nathan (AKA Nate/Bae), it was time to go out for the night. After dinner and taking a sexy group picture at the famous Vegas sign, we went through the VIP line into Hakkasan’s, one of Vegas’ hottest and most jam packed nightclubs.

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I had prior notice that the first two nights in Vegas were the vital group bonding nights so I was expecting lots of drunk dancing, friendship making and family bonding. I was right. On day one, I knew that I loved my group. Every single one of them.

Day two in Vegas was relatively chill. A group of us went to a fancy ass mofo pool party (complete with hot foreign waitresses in bikinis and attractive people lying around in swimwear not actually getting wet) and despite the unusual cost for chair hire, it was actually really fun. After some free time exploring with Grobbies, it was time for our included limo ride down the strip with champagne (that tasted like donkey piss) and we were either dropped at the club for the night or back to the hotel. I opted for the latter because I was tired, and apparently I made a bad decision. People had fun. Without me. How rude.

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Vegas was officially over and we were headed to Grand Canyon, Arizona. We were promptly informed by our sexpot wonderful tour manager Serena that there was no nightlife in Grand Canyon and to use it as “rehab”. Fair enough. We got to take in the lovely view that was the Grand Canyon (trust me when I say pictures do not do this place justice) and have family dinner. It was also the lovely Sonja’s birthday so we also got to serenade her with the boganest version of Happy Birthday ever.

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The next day, we were invited to either: A) Take a helicopter ride over the Canyon, B) Take a bike ride around it or C) Hike it ourselves. Since I don’t like helicopters or bikes, hiking was the best option… even though I don’t like hiking either. It was up until this point that I had done well to conceal my “precious” traits. And then I went on a Canyon hike with a group of others, and the Princess qualities in me came spilling out. Whatevs.

I will say that it was an experience to be had, and once and once only will do me for a lifetime. I don’t hike. Like, I just don’t.

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That evening we went out for a family picnic on the rim of the Grand Canyon and it was here that I accomplished an amazing feat: I touched the edge of the Canyon (after much hand holding, prodding and cat crawling to the edge)! Those who know me are well aware I can’t stand heights, so this was a deadset achievement.

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After all the hard partying in Canyon had finished, we were off to our third stop: Durango, Colorado. Before we reached Colorado, we made a stop by Monument Valley in Utah AKA the place where Forrest Gump finishes his run because he’s decided he’s tired. We even recreated the running scene with handsome bearded Jarrod taking the role as Forrest.

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OMG how did my modelling portfolio shots get in there. My friends tell me I look like Mischa Barton. I so don’t.

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As soon as we had crossed the state border, Serena was quick to inform us that most people tend to enjoy the small town of Durango the most, and often get “Durango’d”; because of the high altitude and overall cheap price of alcohol, it was quick and easy to get drunk in Durango and go a bit too hard. Turns out she was right. Not only was my amazing roommate Alex completely off his face before dinner had even started, everyone was drunk and wild and ready to party as soon as we hit the local bar Moe’s.

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Drinking with the family in Durango was by far one of the biggest highlights of my trip, and I truly understand the meaning of getting Durango’d. It was this night that I really bonded with two guys that would become absolutely dear to me by the end of the tour, Tony and Mitch (otherwise known as the Enzo and Cass to my Carmella), despite the latter constantly accusing me of being high maintenance. Like, I’m so not.

After exploring the town of Durango the morning after, our fourth stop on day six was Albuquerque, New Mexico. Known to some pop culture addicts as the location for Breaking Bad, it was also a stop with laundry (one does not know how glorious laundry is until one is running out of clean underwear). After a long night at Durango, everyone used this as another rehab stop, so with that in mind, I organised a pool party for everyone to attend at the hotel. Although I stand by my original statement that Genevieve was the one who wanted to turn it into a Sexy Pool Party Orgy Extravaganza…

Besides the wild orgy rather tame pool party and doing a load of laundry, not much else was done in Albuquerque since I point blank refused to get on a hot air balloon.

It was on the way to our next stop that one of the running gags of the tour would form. We made a quick stop by Santa Fe, New Mexico for a quick bite to eat and a quick look around. Being my first time in Santa Fe, I wasn’t aware of its shopping status, so stepping off the coach with the most innocent expression on my face, I casually asked Serena: “Is there a Tiffany’s here?”

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And thus, #Tiffanys was born, and from then on, I would ask if there was a Tiffany’s present at every stop we made, whether it be at a big city, or a servo in the middle of nowhere.

By the way, there isn’t a Tiffany’s in Santa Fe. Just FYI.

It was now that I realised my entire Contiki travels would not fit into one post, so stay tuned for the second half of my wild Contiki adventure with the friends that quickly became my family.

– by The Black Widow

#NoahTakesAmerica2015 Part 1: Family Bonding

To my subscribers/loyal followers/social stalkers, you may be wondering why I haven’t posted in a while. Well for the past five weeks I have been travelling the good ole US of A and have been absolutely loving it! You may also notice that I am using my given Christian name and not the Black Widow moniker, and that’s because I left the Black Widow at home as I (Noah) went on a much needed vacation.

I made it a point to not blog about my travels while travelling, because how are you supposed to enjoy your travels if you’ve set yourself a deadline for that night? So now, regrettably, I am home in bed and am now going to write down every thought and memory I have of my five weeks abroad and why they qualify to be the greatest times of my life.

My online travel diary will be separated into three parts: Family BondingContiki Craziness and Black Widow Mourning, as my travel was separated. For the first portion of my holiday, I travelled with my two sisters (Toni and Stacie) and my maternal cousin Tayla.

If you weren’t already aware, this was my first time travelling outside of Australia, and going into this holiday, I was absolutely frightened of flying. Combine that with my younge naïvety, general gullibility in life and dough-eyed expression, and you have yourself a very new, inexperienced traveller. Luckily, Toni and Stacie were expert travellers and they basically hand-held me through flying, customs and all of that jazz.

After experiencing the WORST flight of my life from Sydney direct to LA, more waiting around and a pretty breezy flight, we were in San Francisco, California. I had very limited knowledge of San Fran: it was one of the gay capitals of USA, was home to Alcatraz and the Halliwell Manor from Charmed, and reminded me of the film The Sweetest Thing starring Cameron Diaz. Other than that, I was open to surprise. I was still blown away by the fact that I was standing in a different country.

Tayla went off and did her own thing as the siblings went on a guided tour with a bunch of old people who were very hard to please. We saw a few of the sights that San Francisco had to offer, one being the Golden Gate Bridge, of course, which was breathtaking (and also reminded me of that X-Men film). The tour guide was very wise in his old age, and his voice was soothing (so much that I fell asleep on the bus). He gave us some great insider points of what to do and how to do it.

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Later that day, we got to tour Alcatraz, which admittedly I wasn’t too impressed with. Like, it’s a prison on an island. It can’t be that great, right? WRONG. Alcatraz was probably the highest point in San Fran for me. It had so much history and darkness on the one island and the helpful audio tour clearly illustrated the stories for me as it felt like I was witnessing them first hand. It might be a bit dorky to say, but I like learning about different things in different places.

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Another exciting part of the San Francisco experience (other than their giant Victoria’s Secret which had me frothing) was the cool cable car that we got to ride. You know those cool ones you see in the movies where people are standing up, kind of awkwardly hanging outside, holding onto a pole as they grind their crotch into a stranger’s face? Yes. That one. Minus the crotch grinding.

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Oh, and it was like Fleet Week or something in San Fran at the time as well, so there were lots of different kinds of officers in town and their ship thingies were darting around the sky. (I’m aware ship thingy isn’t the technical term for it, but bear with me). It was exciting to watch. Hella loud, but still exciting.

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The second stop on my family holiday was Orlando, Florida: the home of Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando. Admittedly, I’m not that much of a ride person because heights will be the death of me and I get motion sickness easily, so one can wonder why on earth did I choose to go to Orlando over New York, but I actually thoroughly enjoyed Orlando.

We spent two days at Universal Studios, which was easy to get to as the resort we were staying at (Cabana Bay Beach Resort, definitely recommend) is a Universal resort and provides free shuttles to and from. Universal is magical: from Harry Potter World to Simpsons Land and then Marvel Land, the place was phenomenal. Motion sickness got the better of me on day one but by day two, I was ready to take it. We had fast passes to the rides so I had no real choice but to go on them whether I wanted to or not and, with my eyes shut on most of them, I can say I enjoyed them. The highlight of Universal, for me, was definitely Simpsons Land.

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See? How can you not love that?

Three of our Orlando days were spent at Disney World, hopping between the four parks: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and… Epcot. I don’t understand what an epcot is but whatever. To each their own. In my opinion, Universal had an edge over Disney World because the latter is obviously tailored to the children in attendance, so there’s me eyeing toddlers jealously as the hippy turtle from Finding Nemo has a conversation with them and not me.

The rides in Disney World were largely entertaining although I found a heap of them, especially in Epcot, to be educational. Like, I’m all for learning about new things and experiences, but probably not when I’m sitting on a ride expecting to be thrilled.

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My favourite park of the four was definitely Animal Kingdom, mainly because I’m an animal lover. The highlight for me in Disney World was seeing a beautiful, proud lioness sitting on her perch just overlooking everyone and everything. Seeing her for the three seconds that I had was magical. Lionesses are some of my favourite animals because they are the epitome of a boss ass bitch. Did you know that contrary to popular belief, lionesses are the ones that hunt while their male counterparts just sit there and wait for their women to do all the work? Bitch you better work.

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Oh, and I dragged everyone to the Frozen sing-a-long show and knew every word to every song, along with all the other four year old boys and girls. Unfortunately I did not get a photo with Elsa or Anna or Kristof or even Olaf. Let the tears flow.

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The third stop on our family trip was Salt Lake City, Utah. This wouldn’t be a stop on our trip if our grandfather didn’t live there, but he does, so we spent a few days here. There’s nothing really to do in Salt Lake so it acted as a rest stop after the madness that is Orlando.

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So, get this right, I get off the shuttle from my Orlando resort to the airport and I look down and… hey! My bag is still in the van! Long story short, he brought it back an hour later and I missed my flight. But it was a blessing in disguise, as it taught me how to navigate the horror of an airport by myself. Something I so sorely needed later in my holiday.

What Salt Lake lacked in fun, it had in family. It was great to see my handsome grandfather again and to catch up with uncles, aunts and cousins.

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I also attended my first college football game, which was definitely an experience. Australian sport is very different to American sport in that the latter is very stop-start. I’ve watched some NFL games before (GO THE PATS!) so I knew that what SHOULD take like two hours usually goes for six, but to sit there and actually witness it was some next level shit. I mean, some girl casually won a car in a first quarter break. No, not even during halftime, just a random break in the first quarter.

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Not only was I reunited with my family but I was also reunited with my long distance BFFL! He spent the whole day taking me around to different malls so I could find my Julian Edelman jersey (which I did). He also took me to some other places that I care not to mention, but spending time with him was present enough for me.

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Our final stop was Las Vegas, Nevada, which was for one night, but I was going to be there again like a day later so it didn’t bother me. Tayla and I got to sample the nightlife in Vegas which was AMAZING: we went to the ice bar which was fun had there been more people there, played a few rounds of Blackjack where I lost $40, drank drank drank and then went to the Coyote Ugly Bar and Saloon which was fun. But it was a Tuesday. Lots of places were shut, so our night ended early unfortunately.

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So after almost three weeks travelling with the family, it was time for them to fly back home and for me to continue by myself. We flew back to LA and I bid farewell as I made my way to my hotel in downtown LA which was hella povvo to be honest, but it had to do.

My Contiki journey was about to start, and I was really excited for it.

Let’s not talk about the hundreds and hundreds of dollars I spent in this first portion of my trip due to the bad influence of my sisters and Brandon. Such terrible, terrible influences they are.

Part 2 of my travel journey will be posted quicker than you can say “Brutus is just as cute as Caesar.”

Until then.

– by The Black Widow