#NKinNA16: Part 6 – The Credits

Six weeks seems like a long time, especially for a holiday.

But when you’re travelling with the best travel partner and the most amazing group of friends, then that time will just fly by, and soon you’ll be sitting back in your home, typing furiously away at your laptop keyboard about your experiences because you refuse to let go of what once was.

What I would like to do now is write about all the people who made this trip incredible. Without you, I wouldn’t be writing this #NKinNA16 travel blog, because my experience would have been horrible and I would have nothing to write home about.

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The obvious starter for my round of shout outs is Kate: for six weeks, I got to wake up to you every morning, travel the great continent of North America with you, eat a rotation of cheese pizza and portabello sandwiches with you, and overall have the greatest time on the other side of the world with you. You are truly an incredible person, an amazing friend, and the best travelling partner I could have ever asked for. Thank you for snuggling me after our nights out with the group so we could talk about our feelings. Thank you for bringing me meatless Big Mac meals even when I didn’t expect it. Thank you for “taking walks” at the last minute. And thank you for being as selfless as one can be. This has been the adventure of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to take more with you.

To my family ElleNate and Aidan: thank you for taking Kate and I around Salt Lake City and being the best hosts ever. I can’t wait to see you guys again, when all three of you eventually move (back) to Australia. I’m not giving you a choice.

To my friends on the other side of the world who took the time out to see me, Emma and Nick: I love you both. Nashville was great because I got to see you, Emma, and reminisce on how totally not innocent we both were. Nick, thank you for bending over backwards to accommodate me in Cleveland, but next time, we have to spoon.

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To my original Mean Girls, Angela and Eliza: we clicked from day one, and judging by how much I miss you, it’s clear to see why. You girls were the best, plain and simple. As a Regina, I couldn’t have asked for a better Gretchen and Karen. And to your respective room buddies Russell and Simon, it was a darn pleasure getting to know y’all, and I can’t wait to catch up with all four of you some time in the near future. Perhaps Kate and I will join you for another round at Cheesecake Factory somewhere? #squadgoals (Somehow, somewhere, I will get a recording of you in Kanab, Russell, and I will hold it over your head forever)

Mike and James: I got along with the both of you very quickly, and always felt at ease when surrounded by one or both of you. If you’re reading this on your current journeys, don’t have too much fun without me. I’ll get jealous. Also, I didn’t get to sing Touch-a Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me to you, so I guess that means I’ll have to see you when you get home.

To my bitches colloquially referred to as the “Adelaide Girls”, Courtney, Ashley and Georgia: keep Ashley in check. We all know how slutty rowdy she can get. I love you girls, and am glad I got to know you during the short time we had with each other. When I come to visit Kate, y’all better get Radelaide prepare for #CycloneNikki. Also just a sidenote to Ashley: shake shake shake shake shake.

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My two protectors on tour, Big Red and Micco: I could get away with 90% of the stuff I did on tour because I knew y’all were there to back me up if I needed it. Big Red, I loved my cuddles from you, and I think you’re a spectacular person that deserves the world. I just hate your grubby NRL team. I also miss saying “Big Red! Where are you? Aren’t you meant to carry me everywhere?”

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My rowdy Chicago taxi ride home crew Ally and Lauren: I miss y’all so much, and along with the boys from Melbourne and Eliza, missed you two the most from North by North East. Ally, we were destined to get along; after all, we are the Bottle Blonde Bitches together. Thank you for enduring the rape-by-water jet boat ride with me, and for being a vulgar nympho with me. Lauren, I can’t send you my sneaky pictures anymore for obvious reasons, but somehow I will keep our tradition alive.

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To both of my lovers on tour, Jacob and Esther: I love you both. Jacob, you are sensational in every sense of the word because you are not afraid to be true to yourself. You have this infectious personality that affects everyone around you, and people can’t help but want to be in your general vicinity. Esther, you are by far one of the most beautiful souls I have met. Your insides are as beautiful as your outsides (which is a lot). Can’t wait to see you somewhere in this small world of ours. Also, my mum is excited to meet her new daughter-in-law.

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My boys Brandon, Lochie and Rohan: catch you guys on the flipside. I loved meeting all three of you, and having the privilege of seeing you again after you got off tour. Lochie, you are one of the true gems of the world, and I will always love you for who you are. Rohan, I don’t know if you remember, but Kate entrusted a drunken Nikki to you one night in Boston, and you got me home safe and sound. I will never forget that. Brandon, McGregor is better than Diaz. Deal with it.

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My Grand Canadian girls Samantha, Jessica Lee and Ellie: all three of you are just great. There’s nothing more I can add to that. I will miss our bitchy messages to each other, Sam, but I think we’ll find a way to keep it going. Ellie, I will see your fine ass around. There’s no way a bond like ours can be broken by time.

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My breakfast buddies Ashleigh and Ashley: I apologise for not video chatting you when I had breakfast without you guys so I could keep our tradition alive, but lack of data got in the way. Alternatively, it was too awkward to do it in front of a bunch of old people. When I slather strawberry-flavoured cream cheese on my toasted bagel, I will think about our times together and smile.

To my Kiwi boys Johnny and Hadleigh: kia kaha. It was pre-determined that I would love you guys, and y’all didn’t let me down. Hadleigh – thank you for being mine and Sasha’s protector in the now infamous haunted house experience, and for being an all-around top bloke. Johnny – you stay true to yourself, because you’re a rare light in this dark world of ours.

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My Contiki Awards Committee 
JJ, Amber and Amy: I have no worries about you girls, because I know we’ll stay close friends in the future. I’m so glad I had the chance to get close with all three of you, and am happy about the experiences we shared together: from our near-death experience at Pie for the People, to mine and Amber’s “proposition” in Chicago. We truly lived Contiki with #noregrets.

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To the backbone of the tour Bree and Sasha: if you two weren’t on tour, I can guarantee it wouldn’t have been as near as fun as it was with you. Both of you clicked so naturally, and it was easy to see why; you both radiated this positive euphoric energy that was hard to miss. I’ll miss our intense grinding sessions on the DF, our late night hair dyeing sessions (Bree), and making seemingly-innocent-but-really-ditzy comments to the disappointment of others (Sasha).

469To the other members of the Thunder from Down Under crew Veegz and Tarni: it was such a delight having the opportunity to meet you and get to know the both of you. Veegz, stay as beautifully blunt as ever, and keep up your outspoken crusade against animal cruelty. Tarni, you’re just going to have to move to the east coast to catch up with those of us over here. It has to be done.

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To my handsome boys – whom I am now dubbing “The Three Musketeers – LukeMax and Jacko: getting to spend 14 of the 26 days with you boys was a pleasure. Luke, you’re a genuinely beautiful soul, and your girlfriend is lucky to have someone like you. Also, I need to mention the elephant in the room, which is your big, round, perky butt. Max AKA ‘Arry, probably one of the best people I’ve ever met. You’re an amazing guy, and I want to protect you from the world forever so you will never lose that smile of yours. Jacko, while we may have started off rocky (because you’re an asshole, but also because I’m a stubborn bitch), we ended up okay. I mean, we almost got married, so that’s saying something? As you may know, I’m a needy fiancee, so you’re gonna have to deal with that for the rest of your life. Soznotsoz.

To my true blue Aussie blokes Ben and Jeremy: we’re proof that polar opposites can still get along. I almost had nothing in common with the both of you, but grew to truly love you for who you were. Can’t wait to attend your 21st Jeremy, so you can introduce your father to the enigma that is Nikki.

Bec, Jess and Becky: thank you to the former two for teaching me how to play the wheel spinning game at Harrah’s. Bec, thank you for sharing your “experiences” with me so I could (happily) live vicariously through you. And Becky, you beautiful Geordie soul, thank you for giving me the most intense massage of my life, and for being a pure radgie like. Proper mint like you are.

The dynamic duo of Hayley and Mish: you girls were sent from the heavens to join this tour, and I’m glad I met the both of you. Hayley, thank you for helping me through my first experience playing blackjack at a table. Mish, thank you for dancing with me and promptly kissing me afterwards. It was great.

To my awesome Contiki leaders Phil and Ray: thank you for giving me the best Grand Northern experience I could have ever asked for, and for letting me be me. Even if Phil refused to play Clueless for me, I wouldn’t have changed anything about my tour. Plus, I will never forget to bring ma trash.

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And to my wonderful host and friend in LA Serena and your beautiful mother Beatrice: thank you for having Kate and I on our Contiki detox. You guys were the best and more than accommodating, and I’m glad that after meeting you last year, we were able to keep our friendship alive.

And to everyone else on tour who contributed to this awesome experience, simply thank you.

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Until my next adventure…

– by The Black Widow

The Truth about Country Music

The genre of country music is, generally speaking, a path less travelled. It is a genre of music the regular Joe/Jill blow wouldn’t go out of their way to listen to. Many people view it as a genre of music that is difficult to get behind.

“Most young people don’t like to conform with society. In country towns like mine, country music is a big thing, but for every adult who likes country music, you’ll have 10 younger people who don’t,” Matthew Winter said when asked why he thought country was difficult to like.

As a country music fan and enthusiast, I can say that country music is probably the easiest genre of music to listen to because of its easy, uplifting sound and solidly-written lyrics.

The general stereotype of country music that is enforced in today’s culture is that of a toothless redneck strumming on a banjo on the front verandah of his outback residence singing about how fun it is to ride tractors, wear blue jeans and twirl around a lasso. This cringeworthy stereotype could not be further from the truth as the genre tackles a lot of different issues and angles other than horse riding and hat wearing.

Eric Gunderson and Stephen Barker Liles of Love and Theft.

Eric Gunderson and Stephen Barker Liles of Love and Theft (SOURCE: Taste of Country website)

Love and Theft, an American based country duo consisting of Eric Gunderson and Stephen Barker Liles, sing about a range of topics, none of which include “Yee-haw” or “Giddy up, cowgirl”. The song “Town Drunk” which can be heard on their self-titled album, is about the singer’s relationship with a girl “whose Daddy was the town drunk” and how both the singer and girl dealt with him. This song had even reportedly brought Stephen to tears when he first heard it.

Living in the city of Sydney, it’d be easier to find a purple tree sprouting pink leaves than it would be to find a dedicated country music fan in the ‘burbs, however I asked a friend of mine who is passionate about both metal and country (polar opposites on the music genre spectrum) why he loved country.

“Country music is more than just music. It’s a connection to life for many people out there, and not only does it relax the mind, but it puts a smile on your face, whether it be wanting to hang out with the guys and skull a couple of drinks, or just working hard in the backyard; country sets the mood for a hard working person who really does love life, family, friends, and country tradition. In many ways, I believe country music is the most influential genre out there today,’ Marcel Wehbe said.

I couldn’t have explained it better myself. Country music always sets the intended mood, whether that be happiness and a good time (‘Save Water, Drink Beer’ by Chris Young), sadness and grief (‘Over You’ by Miranda Lambert) or just plain country silliness (‘Honky Tonk Badonkadonk’ by Trace Adkins), country has no trouble eliciting any response from the listener and it does a damn good job of it as the listener can truly empathise with the mood being set by the music and lyrics.

I was born in a country town named Bathurst in New South Wales which is, unfortunately, not known for country music but for its car racing. Regardless, I asked one of my old Bathurst friends Heidi Luther what she liked about country music and what she thought set it apart from every other genre of music.

“I love that I can relate to a lot of country music. Whether it be love, heartbreak, loss, hard work, drinking, or being a proud woman.. I’ve been there! Nothing sets the dancer inside of us off, like a strong country beat! There is nothing quite like it in any other music,” she said.

While I am openly a “country head”, I am open to most genres of music and find myself listening to all kinds of songs, from old school RnB to alternative rock and even house. These popular contemporary songs can generally be found on the mainstream channels of music, if I may make a pay TV reference, while country has its own channel neatly tucked away in the form of the Country Music Channel. If I switch on one of the other generic channels, I could listen to a few songs in a row but then eventually one song will pop up that I’m not too fond of which will make me switch channels.

That isn’t the case with country music, or the CMC more specifically. I can leave that on and I am pretty much guaranteed that every song that will come on in a row, I will like and not have an issue listening to. Country is so dang easy to listen to; there is nothing too hardcore or too extreme about the genre that’ll turn off the more conservative and it’s not dull and bland to turn off the less conservative. If given a chance, country can appeal to most people out there because of its infectious nature.

The sad, unfortunate truth is just that, though: the general young adult will not give country the time of day because of the stereotypes enforced for the genre.

I’d like to think I’ve broken these stereotypes, put them back together just to break them again with a running bicycle kick by explaining the truth behind country music and why people should give it a chance. It’s really some great listening and the artists themselves are so damn loveable. I dare you to not like someone as down to earth as Lady Antebellum or as outrageously funny like Blake Shelton.

– by The Black Widow