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

#LauluCruise2017

I only just realised that I hadn’t written about my first cruise ever. Tl;dr – it was amazing.

Along with going on an amazing six-week holiday with Miss Kate, I had another holiday to go on only a few months later. Daddy wanted all of my family to get together and go on a family holiday – our last official family holiday was in 2011 – so not only was it going to be a great bonding experience for everyone, but it was going to be my first time going on a cruise.

On February 14, my family and I boarded Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas, ready to spend the next eight nights on board. Not only was my immediately family attending – myself, my two parents, two brothers, two sisters, two sister-in-laws, a niece and a nephew – but we also had extended family and other friends with us, so in total, there were about 30 of us on board.

Instead of going through my days in chronological order and listing what I did daily, I’m just going to tell you everything I had done on the cruise in general.

First of all, it’s important to mention for anyone with a beating heart that food is free (with the exception of some specialty restaurants, but honestly, why would you pay to eat when almost everything else is free)! The only time I ever paid to eat was when I ate at Johnny Rocket’s, which was only a $7USD surcharge fee, and then everything on the menu was yours for the taking.

Each morning, I would go to the Windjammer Marketplace for breakfast, which is the Explorer’s version of a buffet. I can’t tell you about the variety of foods they had there for your first meal of the day, because I only ever ate hash browns and croissants; if I was feeling a bit adventurous, I’d chuck a tub of yoghurt on there as well.

While everyone in my family were free to do whatever they wanted during the day and night, we always got together at 6pm in the Sapphire Dining Room for family dinner. this was the Explorer’s version of fine dining. I’m not a fan of fine dining, really; I prefer a burger and fries over some overpriced salad that takes up a quarter of the plate. But God damn, the Sapphire Dining Room was outstanding! The food was great – and there was always one or more choices for vegetarians – but what made this dining experience really great was the service. My family had the absolute pleasure of dining with our waiters Ikomang and Imade, two lovely gentlemen from Indonesia who spared no expense in making sure our time with them was always 11/10.

The types of activities on board cater to everyone also: there is trivia and gallery viewings for the more introverted; there is ice skating and rock climbing for the physically adventurous; and there’s karaoke and outrageous game shows for the attention hogging types (me). I can’t even begin to describe the amount of fun I had on board, from playing putt putt with my nephew and niece, to playing as Novak Djokovic on Virtua Tennis in the arcade, the Explorer of the Seas had almost limitless amounts of activities to do. There were also different shows available, with ice-skating extravaganzas taking place on the ice skating rink, and broadway style shows in the Palace Theater. And if you were confused as to what you wanted to do that day, they gave out day sheets for everything that would be running that day.

I can’t speak for the other types of rooms available on board, but my two sisters and I shared a room with a balcony – because we can’t not have fresh air in our room. How gross. The room was pretty small, and the bathroom and shower left no room for me to effectively shave my legs, but when you consider the amount of time you would actually be spending in the room as opposed to everywhere else on the ship, then it was worth it. My sisters had the double bed whereas I had a hidden bunk bed that appeared from the ceiling. Great use of space, Royal Caribbean!

The island visits were also amazing! On my cruise, we were able to visit two countries and three islandsNouméa, New CaledoniaMystery Island, Vanuatu; and Maré, New Caledonia. Nouméa was beautiful in its own different way; it wasn’t what I expected it to be, but then five minutes down the street, it was… if that makes sense. My siblings all had ice cream from this place – which they said they had imported from France – and said it was the best dessert they’ve ever had, so there’s that? (I opted not to buy anything because why would you when the food on the ship is free). Mystery Island was actually paradise: the ocean was crystal clear and had this amazing shade of azure blue that it looked like I was staring at a postcard; the natives who visit the island to greet tourists were so adorable and friendly and had several goods and services for sale; and the sun was beaming down on the island as if we were the only place on earth. Admittedly, I didn’t get off at Maré, because I was too damn burnt from Mystery Island and everything hurt everywhere.

And finally, if you have read this far, there is the nightlife on board (yes there is nightlife on a cruise). Depending on which drink package you get – if you even choose to get one at all – then drinks on board can either be pricey, or already paid for.  The alcoholic drink package, which is around $45USD a day, guarantees virtually unlimited alcohol for the entire duration of your cruise. I suggest that if you’re a big drinker, or even if you can go through at least five cocktails a day, then this package is for you. The Explorer had several options for you if you were nocturnal or just liked a good night out – there was the casino (don’t ask me about it, I have no idea how to gamble other than playing Blackjack terribly), the Star Lounge (which was like a fancy music-playing bar) and Dizzy’s (the nightclub). Having experienced the latter two, I can say that the nightlife on the cruise was pretty damn good. And when Dizzy’s shut, you were free to head to the pool deck where the drinks would continue until the early morning.

The people you meet on board are pretty amazing as well, and if you’re lucky like me, you’ll take some friends away from your short trip. Everyone… meet my new little brother Alex.

Oh, and there was also a gym on board.

If you’re interested in doing a cruise – or you’ve done one with another company – I highly recommend cruising with Royal Caribbean. It was a pleasant 10/10 experience for everyone in my family, and I am more than excited to do another one with them.

– by Noah La’ulu

#NoahTakesAmerica2015 Part 3: Black Widow Mourning

Alas, all good things must come to an end. Even the great things like my Contiki tour.

I didn’t really plan this effectively because flying into Nashville, Tennessee (which is like my most favourite city in the world) should’ve been the time of my life. Due to my Post Contiki Depression (shortened to PCD), I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have.

Nashville was everything I pictured it to be. It really is a beautiful city and seeing it in person reminded me of why I loved this place so much.

So, funny story, the CMAs were on the night after I flew into Nashville but because I’m dopey af, I wasn’t aware of this until the day I left Sydney. Naturally, there were no tickets left, so I watched the CMAs from the comfort of my hotel room while the real thing happened a few minutes down the road from me. Thanks a lot, Country Music Association.

After settling into my room, I went across the road to get some dinner at a nice pub called the Tin Roof. The service there was lovely and the food wasn’t too bad either. What really amazed me, however, was when I looked up from my phone and casually saw Chris Young standing in front of me. I’ve been a big fan of his for who knows how long, and all I could muster up was a giggle. Or several giggles. Okay so I just sat there laughing as Chris Young spoke to some other people. He then walked past me and looked at me and right there was the perfect opportunity to strike and ask him for an autograph and/or a picture. But no. I kept staring with a stupid look on my face and laughed again. And then he had left the pub. And my opportunity had left me.

Oh, and they had this cute ass sign in the pub as well.

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The next day, to deal with my PCD, I went shopping at the fancy mall in Green Hills. Sadness and a credit card does not equal great things. I bought more than I should have.

Thankfully, there was a Tiffany’s there and after some begging, they were ordering in my double chain charm bracelet to be delivered the day before I flew out. And with that, #Tiffanys has come to a peaceful rest.

After eating at the Cheesecake Factory, I watched The Intern at the cinemas (tickets were just under $10… that is outrageous!) which was a cute af movie. I returned to my room and sat in my PCD and sadness and went to bed at like 9.

I spent the day after to accomplish all my touristy goals: I went on a tour of the Grand Ole Opry which was absolutely amazing. We got to walk around backstage and even went through the artist’s entrance into the Opry AKA the entrance all the stars take when they come to perform. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing this tour was, and ot make it better, my tour guide was amazing. God bless her I can’t remember her name.

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After the Opry I went to the Johnny Cash Museum, and if you know me well, you are aware that I lurrrrrve Johnny Cash, so this small museum blew my mind. I thought I knew everything about the Man in Black but this taught me a lot about my country idol. DID YOU KNOW that he voiced the coyote in that Simpsons episode where Homer’s wiggin’ out and he’s sitting on top of a pyramid looking for his spirit guide which turns out to be a coyote which turns out to be Johnny Cash? Mindblowing.

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A cheese pizza and cheesy garlic bread slices later, I waltzed on over to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which was a bit different than I thought it would be; notably, it was a lot more interactive and child friendly than I imagined it was. It was great to see so much country music culture in one building, and then standing in the physical Hall of Fame was ridic.

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The day after was my final day in America, so naturally I spent most of it sulking about my holiday finishing. I went to another bar across the road from me for lunch called Two Bits, which turned out to be the greatest bar I’ve ever been to. Its a bar that has free arcade and console games inside and the staff there encourage you to play and get your game on as you eat and drink to your heart’s content. Umm, amazing, right?

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I made a friend there who later invited me out for drinks and dinner. He paid for everything. And I gave him a fake name. I kind of feel bad, but at the same time, I don’t.

Oh, and I picked up my Tiffany’s bracelet. It’s beautiful. I have a love affair with it.

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Free drinks and dinner ended my holiday and it was unfortunately time to head back home.

I won’t bore you with the details of my 28 hour travels back home (including the sweet old man sitting next to me on the plane who snored directly into my ear) but I will leave you with my final thoughts and shout outs to those who made my holiday as magical as it was.

SHOUT OUTS
Toni and Stacie: Thanks for breaking me into travelling and holding my hand as I got used to the wonders of airport security. I have been bitten by the travel bug and don’t plan on being home much anymore.
Tayla: Thank you for our drunken cousin night out. The D&M we had was one of the best I’ve ever had and I would not want to have that conversation with anyone else.
Brandon: My BFFL. Thank you for taking me all over Salt Lake to find my Edelman jersey, and thank you for being the devil on my shoulder and making me spend way more than I should have. And, also, thank you for being so understanding.
Jodie and Joey: My two first friends on Contiki! Thank you for being the first two to speak to me and make me feel comfortable. The times we had together were amazing, and if it weren’t for the nicknames we made, I wouldn’t have known who everyone was by the end of the trip. I’m glad you two don’t live too far away from me because I plan on hanging with you guys all the time. My holiday would not have been as great if I didn’t meet you guys.
Georgia: My bestie… what can I say? I broke down when I had to say bye to you because I was obviously closest to you and there was a reason to that. You are such a great person and I’m glad to have travelled with you for those 13 days. Thank you for being there to pick up the pieces for when I fell apart (twice) and thank you for your weird ass shoulder kisses and your antelope neck. I love you too Feddo.
Nate: Bae should really stand for “Best At Everything” when it comes to you because you’re so great at everything you do. Thank you for being my Contiki boyfriend and for warning off unwanted attention. And thank you for dancing with me in Dallas just so I felt included. You don’t know how much that meant to me. Love you always, my sexy awkward middle walk.
Hannah: My partner in crime. You’re just amazing. There’s nothing more to say. Your wit and sense of humour is as on point as your beautiful face. Thank you for all the good times we had together, and thank you for misreading the menu and ordering a salad wedge and providing me with the best memory I have of my holiday. See you at the inaugural Mac and Cheese Convention in Dallas.
Michelle and Andrew: PLESSSSS. STOP LOOKIN AT MEHH. WHY CAN’T I JUST BE NORMAL? I love you guys. Simply put, thank you for being you. Michelle, you are one of the greatest people I have ever met and I lowkey have a massive crush on you. Andrew, you now have to live with the fact that you have two other alter egos now: Carlos and Rear Exhaust Pipe. Oh, and thanks for letting me take your shirt off while dancing on a bar.
Genevieve: The Queen of the Planned Orgy. You are one of the kindest people I have ever met, and the most humble. Your spirit is as beautiful as your face and I am so glad to have met you. It feels like I’ve known you my entire life, and it has been like three weeks. Thanks for all the orgies as well, you saucy little minx you.
Tony and Mitch: My Enzo and Cass. Tony – thank you for walking me home in Durango and for keeping me warm. Thank you for dancing with me in Dallas and making me feel special. Thank you for holding my hand as I tried not to break down. Thank you for coming to my room and D&Ming with me as you cheered me up. Mitch – thank you for cuddling me on the coach when I was cold. Thank you for giving me your jumper in Dallas when I was cold (I see a pattern here). Thank you for carrying me and putting me to bed in New Orleans when I was too blind to do so myself. And thank you for reiterating that yes, I may be high maintenance, but everyone still loves me for it.
Elaine: Thank you for just being you, really. Your spirit really lit a fire into the group that we needed. And thank you for coming to my room after Halloween bearing french fries from Maccas and listening to me talk about why everyone pissed me off that night. You’re fantastic.
Tui and Memory: Thank you for assuming I can speak Samoan when I’m clearly white-washed af. The term “Memory Loss” doesn’t have the same meaning for me anymore. MEMORY, ALL ALONE IN THE MOONLIGHT. I love you guys.
Scott: The ultimate man of my dreams Scotty. Thank you for taking the time to get to know me, and for really listening when I spoke to you. Thank you for hunting me down that night in Amarillo to make sure I was okay, and thank you for holding my hand that night as I cried to you. You’re a top bloke, whether you want to see it or not.
Alex: The best roomie one could ask for… kind of. Thank you for being you. I thoroughly enjoyed picking up your pieces every night you came back to the hotel blind drunk and I’d have to take care of you. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. And thank you for knowing which bed was mine automatically.
Serena and Ricky: Queen Bee Serena and Big Daddy Ricky. Thank you for giving me the greatest fortnight of my life. There is nothing more I can add to that.
The rest of my Contiki group: You may not get your own individual shout out but you all meant so much to me. You have all left a lasting print in my life and I’m thankful for it. I know that I have taken 50 lifelong friendships with me, and I truly do consider you family. I love you all.
The guy in Nashville who paid for my drinks and dinner whose name I don’t know: What’s good.

I’m already starting to plan next year’s holiday in Europe. While I highly doubt it’ll be as great as this holiday, who knows?

After misplacing three pairs of sunglasses, missing a flight and crying to speed through the lines, breaking a pair of boots in Salt Lake, splitting a pair of jeans in Durango, leaving my niece’s snow globe in Fort Worth, and throwing a chair across a room in a fit of drunken rage in New Orleans, I am home.

Here’s to an end of a marvellous holiday and possibly the greatest five weeks I’ve ever had.

– by Noah La’ulu

#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 Noah La’ulu