#NoahTakesAmerica2015 Part 2: Contiki Craziness V2

Disappointed that I’d have to wait longer to get my double chain charm bracelet from Tiffany’s, we left Santa Fe and headed to the final destination for the night: Amarillo, Texas. What seemed like a seemingly unusual pitstop turned out to be one the most fun nights, much like Durango.

Before we reached our weird ass mofo uncomfortable lodge motel where each room had a fucking fly swat for no apparent reason, Big Daddy Ricky took us to Cadillac Ranch which, as you would imagine, is a ranch area with Cadillacs sprouting from the ground. The idea behind this is it’s absolutely free (and legal) to grafitti on these vertical half-Cadillacs so you can leave your mark in the US of A. Proving the theory that when one is given a pen to test, an exremely high percentage will write their name, I left this:

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This dinner joint was special, in that it had a massive steak eating challenge that was once featured on the show Man vs. Food. Three of our guys signed up to cut and masticate that poor, slain cow and after all their hard efforts, two of them were successful (one also won me $70 in a bet we made). I would say congratulations, but the animal activist in me says otherwise.

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After dinner, it was time to dance and get down like a real Texan. One of the workers there taught us a snazzy line dance – after effectively telling Georgia to move her ass because she was in his way, despite him having the worst eyebrows I’ve ever seen – and cheap drinks were plenty as our family bonded together for our first night in the state where everything’s bigger.

There was also this snazzy little rifle shooting game which gives you 20 shots to hit as many targets as you can. Not understanding the rules, and shooting as wildly as I could, I managed to hit about like two or three. Whatevs.

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After an early breakfast and an early departure, we were officially on our way to Dallas, Texas, the home of next year’s WrestleMania… and the Cowboys as well, I guess. I don’t even want to discuss the arsepain that was the long ass coach ride in between, but we made it unharmed. That’s all that matters.

Some of the group separated from us to watch an NHL game, but Hannah and I were adamant that we were going to eat the dinner that was included in our Contiki price, so the other half went to dinner to a cute little restaurant around the corner.

After dinner, we went to one of the most Texan places I think I’ll ever see – a bar called Cowboys Red River, which is described as a country music nightclub, which features a large bar in the middle of a dancing circle where couples were outdancing the shit out of us. I’m a dancer and I was embarrassed by how little I knew about partner dancing compared to these wild Texans. My bae Nate and Tony both asked me to dance as the conservative gun-wielding Texans watched us in amazement, and both of the men led very well.

It also featured a mechanical bull that most of our group attempted, but no one made the party machine look as sexual as I did. Flips hair. Struts.

SIDENOTE: on the Uber ride to Cowboys Red River, the English-clearly-as-a-second-language driver asked what brought us to Dallas, and so lovely Jack casually replied “the sights, the food, the dancing” and everything else that makes Texas Texas, right? The driver didn’t understand what we meant by that, so then we twisted the story and told him we were in town for a Mac and Cheese Convention. And he understood that and believed us. Okay…

This was also home to vodka mixes for $2.50. Yes. Drink that in, everyone. $2.50. That’s like… 10 quarters for a drink. It was probably for this reason that upon my return to the hotel, I found my wonderful roommate Alex almost passed out on the sidewalk as the taxi driver begged him to pay his fare. He eventually did and I carried my friend up to our room where I sat him near the toilet to empty out his stomach. Two minutes later I return to find him actually fast asleep while sitting on the bathtub.

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Whatever floats your boat, I guess. (I took that photo for evidence in case he wanted to deny any of the nights events happening)

I eventually got him to bed, and finally it was our second day in Dallas. Today’s events included a visit to the Sixth Floor JFK Museum, a tour of the AT&T Stadium which will host WrestleMania in 2016 (and is also the home of the Dallas Cowboys apparently) and a visit to the evil evil rodeo.

The JFK Museum was amazing and it was quite awe inspiring to be standing in the same building where it was alleged the President was assassinated from. I even got to stand at the window on the sixth floor and had a clear view of the road outside where JFK was shot, and it was as if I could picture it right in front of me. It was crazy and moving, and I found myself shedding tears at some points of the museum.

The stadium tour was actually more fun than I had imagined. Hannah and I planned to have the inaugural Mac and Cheese Convention here, and we also wore our Patriots gear to rub it into the Cowboys fans that would undoubtedly be at the stadium also (by our gear, I mean mine; I just forced Hannah to wear the Brady top).

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After longing to run on the grass and do my best Edelman impression, after about an hour of touring the stadium, we got to run onto the field and it was definitely more exciting than it sounds. The boys kicked and tossed the ball around as if they were playing a real NFL game (Daniel’s quarterback skills were actually quite impressive) while the girls pretended to be cheerleaders.

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Michelle and I did our best to defend the opposing offensive team, which consisted of us politely asking “Can you not run past us please?” and doing absolutely nothing else to stop them.

Directly after the stadium tour, we headed to Fort Worth, Texas for a rodeo that I point blank refused to attend. Like, I attend protests that are against this kind of thing. Before that, though, we went to steakhouse that offered all you can eat ribs for a very cheap price.

STORY TIME: so Hannah and I being close vegetarian friends sat next to each other so we could compare animal friendly items on the menu. Hannah decided she was going to have a plate of wedges. After an excruciatingly long wait for her food (mine came out pretty quickly), she looks over at a plate with what appeared to be a quarter of a lettuce head and says “Who ordered the half a cabbage?” with a laugh. It turns out it was hers. She ordered a salad wedge, not a plate of wedges, and I had not laughed like that in a very long time.

God bless you, Hannah.

As everyone else went into the rodeo – including my Bae who originally didn’t want to attend but changed his mind, just to spite me –I was left to walk around Fort Worth by myself. I ended up at a bar that seemed okay because it was populated by many, and had a few bevs and watched some locals perform. Genevieve and Hannah had alerted me that they couldn’t handle the evil evil rodeo and soon joined me at the bar. After being aggressively hit on by a man I can only accurately describe as a one/two at best, we left the seedy ass bar and joined the rest of the group to head back to the hotel. (I had previously purchased my niece a snow globe as she likes to collect them, and accidentally left it in the bar. It was that seedy of a place that I refused to go back and get it)

The last night in Dallas was a quiet one for the family as people were too tired to do anything else. The girls, however, had other plans, and Hannah and Elaine hosted the inaugural Contiki Girls Night in their room, which included awesome temporary tattoos by Gilded Ink, and a naughty game of Ten Fingers, where the seemingly innocent Memory showed her true colours (Genevieve and I fell in love with Memory this night, and it was then that the term “Memory Loss” truly earned its meaning).

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These Gilded Ink tattoos ranged from the golden wings you see here to other awesome ones like bees, funky ring designs and other various tattoos.

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After bidding farewell to Dallas, we headed to our next destination: Memphis, Tennessee. This long ass coach trip included a stop at Little Rock, Arkansas, where we learned about the Little Rock Nine and other civil rights movements that led the world to what it is today. This stop sent shivers up my spine as I am very passionate about civil rights and it was interesting to learn about the struggles the Little Rock Nine had to face just to do something as simple as get an education.

We also had a stop at the Texarkana state line, which to me was very fascinating. Naturally, I took this as an opportunity to be F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S.

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The day was Halloween, and many rushed to get a last minute Halloween costume before we reached Memphis. There was only time for a quick dinner (which included the largest mofo cocktail I’ve ever had in my life) before we walked down the legendary Beale Street for late night Halloween celebrations.

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This was my first American Halloween (obviously) and it did not disappoint. There were scary and sexy costumes a plenty up and down the street, and most of us ended up in an outside courtyard bar which had good music, great drinks and even better company.

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Speaking of the drinks, they had these massive share buckets which had… I still don’t know what was in them to be completely honest. (Ignore the ultimate shade in my eyes)

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The second day in Memphis was spent doing the real tourist things. We all made our first stop at Graceland, the home of Elvis. This tour included a walkthrough of his mansion which really suited the King of Rock and Roll and around the grounds of Graceland. We also got to see Elvis’ automobile museum which included all of the vehicles he called his. My Daddy is one of the biggest Elvis fans in the world so it was great to see some of the culture that really entertained my father when he was young. (It was also quite difficult trying to find a Graceland shirt that would fit my father’s large, muscular frame)

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After the rather emotional visit to Graceland, some of us headed to Sun Studios, where my favourite Johnny Cash made his start in the music industry. The AMAZING tour guide told us about the history of Sun Studios in a very entertaining forum, and then led us down to the recording room where legendary greats such as Cash and Elvis made some of their hit songs. I even got to take a picture with the very microphone Elvis used when he was at Sun Studios. So much history in the one room. It was mindblowing. (This is my best attempt at an Ariana Grande pose)

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It was from there that I went to the Rock and Soul Museum, which will only get one sentence because it was that disappointing.

After watching the amazingly awesome and cute Duck Parade at Peabody Hotel, the family went out for a quick bar hop around Memphis. A few others and I decided to call it an early night after Halloween’s shenanigans, so I ended Memphis on a rather high note.

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The final stop of my Contiki tour was New Orleans, Louisiana, which to me is home of two things: Bourbon Street, and Taryn Terrell. I only had one night in New Orleans so it was this night that I had to say goodbye to the family members I had met on this awesome trip.

Bear with me as I don’t remember much from New Orleans (I was carried to bed, if that’s any indication of how blurry my night was), but what I do remember is that this city seemed to be more party central than Vegas itself. Yes. I said it. After many drunken goodbyes, tears, and tumbles onto the street, my Contiki tour had come to an end.

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Some people say that they are no longer in contact with their Contiki friends after a while, but I can safely say that I took away many lifelong friendships from this two week tour, and I am so lucky to have met these people.

Contiki, you were amazing, and I’ll be back to see you before you know it.

– 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