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

#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 Noah La’ulu

#NKinNA16: Part 4 – National Park Mayhem

Previously on #NKinNA16…

I’m just kidding. You love me. You know what we’re up to.

So we left Keystone and Mount Rushmore behind, and we were on our way to Cody, Wyoming, which was our stop near Yellowstone National Park (not to be confused with Jellystone Park). On the way to Cody, we had a scenic tour through Bighorn National Forest, and we had a cute stop by a river. “Oh it’s just a short hike down,” they said, “you’ll enjoy it”, they said.

They lied. The hike down was terrible. The hike up was worse. No amount of beautiful creek streaming goodness was worth that hike. I will say no more on the matter.

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We reached our hotel in Cody, aptly named the Buffalo Bill Antler Inn. This hotel was quite charming in the fact that it had actual keys for the rooms. Like, the silver edgy key. What even.

Our first night had an included dinner of sorts, in that we were given $15 to spend on dinner, and given that most dinner options were more than $15, I didn’t understand. But yolo. The best part about this dinner place was that they had this kind of butcher’s paper for a tablecloth and encouraged us to graffiti it with crayons. My table, being the old children that we were, requested another tablecloth because we had filled ours quickly. Please enjoy my Picasso masterpiece below.

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Having been drained all day from hiking down and up that stupid hill, Angela and I called it a night while everyone else went out. Apparently we didn’t even miss a good night, so whatevs.

We were told to dress warm for Yellowstone National Park – and to also wear hiking appropriate clothing – neither of which I packed. So, I went to Yellowstone National Park in bloody cold weather dressed like this…

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We spent all day at Yellowstone – ALL day – and did not see a bloody bear. My sister and I are obsessed with bears and I was dying to see one, but it wasn’t meant to be. I mean, not like I was going to shoot it with a sleeping dart, bring it back to Australia with me, and adopt it as my own child…

If you’re a hiker, I’m sure you’ll enjoy Yellowstone National Park. Alas, I’m not a hiker, and I prefer the physical exercise of shopping, so I can’t honestly say I particularly enjoyed it. Also, the smell of fucking rotten egg sandwich sulphur that seemed to be on every possible hike you could do in Yellowstone National Park didn’t help either. I did manage to snap this really cute picture of me by the canyon though.

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The second night in Cody was also quite uneventful. We had dinner at a cute Italian restaurant that had a whopping size cheese pizza that even I, the infamous cheese pizza eating machine, could not finish; then we trotted on over to the laundromat to do our washing. Full of excitement, right?

Bags were to the coach at 7:45am as per usual and we were off to our next stop: Jackson (Hole), Wyoming. On the way to Jackson, we were blessed with probably the most beautiful view I have ever seen. The Teton Mountains (which is some other language for titties. There’s your fact for the day) provided us with postcard that-can’t-be-real views, and I snapped this really cute picture of myself in front of it.

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Jackson was probably one of my favourite stops due to the optional here (that pretty much everyone did): the Teton Trail Ride and Cookout. Basically, we were going on a horseback trail ride and getting fed “typical cookout” food. I had never ridden a horse before, so I was instructed not to wear the above outfit to sit on a horse, and it was recommended that I wear long pants. All my long pants were either A) dirty and needing to be washed or B) MIA, so I rode a horse in white jeans. And a Harley Quinn top.

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This was my favourite optional by far. My horse – his name was Kopenhagen and he was beautiful and he loved me – took me through this beautiful scenic trail (which got a bit narrow at times but yolo), and by the time Kopenhagen and I had to be separated, I began crying. #Kopenhagenikki 5eva.

The cookout dinner afterwards did the job, and we were also given a free beer for our troubles. Wait… scratch that… Ben was given my free beer for our troubles. After our cookout dinner, we were taken back to the ranch/farm/whatever you call it, and we were taught how to play some “traditional farm games”, like throwing an axe into a piece of wood, and properly using a lasso to rope up a fake bull made out of some metal. Because I’m iconic af, I managed to get the wrong end of the axe into the wood… oops.

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That night, my favourite underagers weren’t allowed into the bar, so I went with them back to the hotel and we opted to watch Sully at the movie theater across the road. Because I love Tom Hanks. Purse so heavy, gettin’ Oprah dollars.

The following day, we were off to Park City, Utah, which also included the obligatory “This is Mormon state, lemme tell you about dem Mormons” speech. We arrived to Park City in the evo (looks @ Genevieve Schwartz) with free time on our hands, so of course being the greatest f’in Grand Northern Contiki group ever, we opted to have a pool party – and we definitely did not have room parties along the way either. Nods head.

If you’re looking to do a Grand Northern, let me just mention that the hotel in Park City – should it not be changed between now and whenever you do it – is probably one of the nicer hotels on the tour. Enjoy it while you can.

Also, I had dinner at Denny’s. I fucking stan Denny’s so much.

After a quick but ovely stop at Park City, we were on our way to Kanab, Utah, which was the stop that was central to a couple of the national parks we would visit. Kanab, which is a very small town that didn’t have neither a club nor a bar, would actually be one of the most eventful stops of the trip… but more on that later.

On the way to Park City, we stopped by Bryce Canyon National Park. I’m sure it was beautiful. By that, I mean I didn’t actually see the canyon or the view of the canyon, because it was so damn foggy there that I could barely see what was in front of me.

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I was also lowkey worried that someone would fall down the canyon, survive the fall, resort to cannibalism, turn into a wendigo, and then I would be dragged by said wendigo while standing outside in my underwear yelling at my friends. If you didn’t understand any of that, I suggest you go out and play Until Dawn on PlayStation 4…

Oh. And look at this cute picture of me at Bryce Canyon.

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Our included dinner in Kanab was a cute kind of buffet style dinner, which didn’t offer much for me the vegetarian or Veegz the vegan. So they compensated for our loss with a single veggie pattie… not on a burger or anything, just a single veggie pattie. I appreciate the sentiment, I really do.

With absolutely nothing to do in Kanab at night time, the crew and I had some super ultra mega room parties – I mean, no we didn’t – and got to bond a bit more with the other Contikians on our trip. Over alcohol. Lots of it.

Anyway…

The next day, we were off to the Grand Canyon! Now, I won’t mention how, on the coach, I was irritated to the point of mental breakdown because a certain someone wouldn’t shut up and sounded like a broken damn record… but the short ride to the Canyon was tainted.

Having been to the south rim before, I kind of knew what I was in for, but I was still blown away by the beautiful views that nature had created here. Like, check out this beautiful view I had of the Canyon simply sitting on a deck chair.

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A few of us – Kate, Russell, Ange, Bree, Sasha, Jacko, Big Red and I – went exploring along the rim of the Canyon and took some awesome pictures along the way. Some of them decided to risk their damn lives for a few likes on Insty (looks @ Russell, Sasha and Jacko) but all-in-all, it was probably one of my favourite moments of the entire tour.

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We were treated with a pretty darn good lunch at the Canyon restaurant or whatever you want to call it, and soon we were back on the road back to Kanab.

Also, I just wanna chuck this cute family selfie in here because it’s amazing.

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This following scene is probably one of my most favourite moments of the entire tour. Philip in all of his handsome Bostonian glory planned a picnic slash sports day fun bonanza for us in a really beautiful park in Kanab, and Hayley and Mish decided to make it a dress-up picnic slash sports day fun bonanza. While most of us weren’t prepared for costuming, I pulled out my regular every day wardrobe and dressed up as Nikki Bella. You’re welcome.

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The evening had lots of food, drinks, laughter and fun, with the high point being a game of American football pitting Team Philip against Team Ray Ray Nikki. Under the wise tutelage of Ray Ray me, my team took the victory, undoubtedly because of my stellar defence skills. Just ask Hayden.

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After probably the most fun involving me playing sport ever, we went back to the hotel. Now this is where things got messy. How did they get messy, you ask? With an old fashioned room party intimate nightly gathering, of course.

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Drinks were flowing, beats were playing, bodies were swaying… and then chaos. Okay, so I can’t actually tell you what happened, but just picture me rolling around on the floor, screaming “things” while poor Kienan is trying to calm me down on the phone, and JJ is there trying to explain to Kienan why I am chucking a corridor tantrum in Kanab. And that’s not even the bulk of it.

Rule number one of this tour: we do not speak of Kanab.

Saved by the bell. This is where this portion of the travel blog ends. We have two more cities to go on this wonderful journey of mine, but being two of the biggest and most talked about US cities ever, you’ll understand why two cities needs its own post.

Stay tuned for the story of how one of the dancers from Thunder from Down Under thought it’d be okay to violently spank me in front of a crowd of horny ladies. It was definitely not okay.

– by Noah La’ulu

#NKinNA16: Part 3 – Old Friends, New Friends

After bidding farewell to our Grand Canadian friends, the coach headed back into the USA.

Our first stop after our Canadian adventure was Cleveland, Ohio, which was our first one night stop of the trip. I had been looking forward to this stop for the entire trip, solely because I got to catch up with my handsome friend Nick.

But before I got in Nick’s pants to see him, the Contiki crew went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Now, as previously mentioned in Part One, I had been to the country  music version of this, so immediately I knew I was going to compare the two.

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Despite my looooove for country music, I actually really enjoyed the rock and roll version much better. For starters, THE ACTUAL RV THAT JOHNNY CASH USED TO TOUR THE COUNTRY WAS JUST CASUALLY SITTING HERE. And there were other cool things there, I guess.

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On a serious note, though, there is so much culture and history and cool artifacts in this museum that you’d be stupid not to visit here at least once in your life. I know Cleveland may not be on top of many people’s hit lists, but you’ll have to stop here even if it’s just for the museum.

After getting settled into our accommodation, I was greeted by my friend Nick – dressed in his finest Nikki Bella attire, no less – and he showed me around Cleveland before showering me with sugar, food, and more sugar. We went back to his place to eat dinner and watch WWE’s Backlash pay-per-view, which was Smackdown Live’s first solo pay-per-view.

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A cute cuddle sesh and short drive later, and I was back in my bed after having a good chat with Kate and Big Red. The following morning, bags were to the coach to depart to Chicago, Illinois. This would be the last stop for our Contiki North by North East friends, and so I would have to re-live the pain of bidding farewell to our Contiki family just like I did with the Grand Canadians.

In between Cleveland and Chicago, we stopped by an Amish county town for lunch, and I had never felt so out of place before in my life. It didn’t help that I was wearing a very skimpy outfit… and the heavily clothed Amish looked at me as if I were the devil.

Just like I did in Boston, as soon as we arrived in Chicago, I took a bloody nap. Our included dinner was at a place called Giordano’s, which played home to some traditional deep dish Chicago pizza. Okay, so at home, I can clean up a whole cheese pizza from Pizza Hut by myself, no questions asked. So I talked up a big game when it came to this deep dish pizza. But then I actually got a slice… and two slices later, I was sooooo full.

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After dinner, we had the opportunity to go up one of the highest towers in Chicago to get the most blissful view of the Windy City ever. Include the night sky and the bright lights, and it was definitely a sight to be seen.

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The following day, Kate, Ally and I set off to do a bit of shopping and some general sightseeing around Chicago. Today also played host to the most confusing lunch I have ever had in my life – I had asked for a salad sandwich, and when I opened my burger box, I was greeted with a slice of meat. Nothing else. Just a slice of meat. After telling the workers about their slight mishap, they replaced it with bread and lettuce… I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

On a brighter note, at least I got to see the firehouse from Chicago Fire in person for the first time. Keeping the taxi driver’s meter running at this point, I literally ran out of the cab, posed, got pictures taken, and ran back into the cab about ten seconds later. So worth it.

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Dinner tonight was an optional dinner, which also included an improv comedy show. The kind fella at the restaurant offered to make me a pasta dish since the options going around weren’t meatless, which kind of makes up for the fact that their cocktails weren’t too great.

The comedy show was okay. I’m sure someone would appreciate their style of humour, but it wasn’t my personal thing. What did make the show better, though, was their skit “The First Date”, which featured the cutest, funniest and definitely most authentic fake relationship between Lochie and Esther (lucky man he is).

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Afterwards, the Contiki crew found a bar that was completely empty to spend the night, and the drinks quickly flew around as this would be our last night with our North by North East friends. I had grown very close to some leaving us in Chicago, so this was an emotional evening for me already.

The owner of the bar, who was grateful for the sudden burst of sales from all these rowdy Australians, told me that she was going to give everyone from Contiki a free shot for the business. Being the natural born leader that I am, I got up onto the bar and announced the good news to everyone. Unfortunately for me, however, the shot was tequila and I wasn’t aware of it. (For future reference, I cannot stomach tequila. Like, absolutely not.) My stomach soon realised its mistake, and I ran outside to throw up (after getting some on my hand. Yuck!) This was apparently a sight to behold, as a flock of Contikians followed me outside to watch. In between hurls, I looked over at everyone screaming “STOP LOOKING AT ME”. It was a classy moment.

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I’d rather not mention what followed the above picture being taken…

Those of us on the Grand Northern bid farewell to our North by North East friends and were soon joined by our Contiki Northern Adventure friends, who would spend the next 14 days with us. While we lost a significant number of people, we only gained seven people on the second half, so our once full coach was now almost halved.

Our first stop on the second half of tour was Madison, Wisconsin. On the way to Madison, we had a Miller Lite Brewery Tour (which I guess kind of makes up for the brewery tour we missed in Toronto). I’m not a fan of beer, or tours of beer, so I didn’t particularly enjoy this stop, but to each their own I guess. We did get a cute group picture from here though, so that’s a plus.

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That night in Madison, after having probably the greatest mac and cheese I’ve ever tasted in my 23 years of life, the crew went up to play trivia. I’m normally a huge fan of trivia, but the fatigue from the night before had caught up to us, and this game of trivia was neverending. By the end of it, my team was throwing the competition away, answering legitimate trivia questions with things like “Blinky Bill” and “Ariana Grande”.

 

After our time in Madison was done, we then went onto Sioux Falls, South Dakota. There was a random stop off at the Spam Museum along the way… yes, you read that correctly. The Spam Museum. As in a museum dedicated to spam… my facial expression in this picture says it all.

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Sioux Falls, in my sweet and humble opinion, was kind of underwhelming, but I guess after seeing the beauty that is Niagara, any kind of waterfall would be. There was a pop-up Victoria’s Secret shoot there though… I mean, it was just me, but still.

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While dinner wasn’t included here, our kind and oh so charming tour manager Phil organised a big dinner for us at Outback Steakhouse, we could get a totally authentic completely Americanised-attempt at Australian culture. I live right near an Outback Steakhouse. I knew what to expect. Following dinner, the crew opted to have a quiet night with drinks by the pool, and heading off to bed early.

Bags were to the coach and, with our first national park stop along the way, we were off to Keystone, South Dakota. Being told to dress appropriate for walking, hiking and other such fitness-requiring-exercises, I put on the most appropro thing I had… a mismatched-but-still-matchy tracksuit from Victoria’s Secret. Soz guys.

Badlands National Park was a sight to behold, and it was probably my favourite national park on the entire trip bar Yellowstone National Park, but more on that later. If you’re not going to take my word for it, look at this breathtaking picture… and then look at the scenery behind me.

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You might not have heard of Keystone, and that’s fine. People will stay there because it’s close to Mount Rushmore, where we were headed to the following day. After having an included buffet-style dinner at the restaurant next door to the hotel, a group of us gathered together to play the most deadly-yet-healthy game of Roxanne ever. The rules were simply: listen to Roxanne by the Police, squat every time he says “Roxanne”, and drink every time he says “put on the red light”. I was intoxicated veeeeery quickly.

The crew headed on over to a bar a short walk away for some drinks, pool, foozball and karaoke. Having been dubbed the official Nicki Minaj of the tour, I had to keep my reputation alive and performed my best version of Starships. I don’t know that song as well as Anaconda, so it wasn’t as iconic. But still. Rocked it like a mofo.

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The following day, the gang were off to see four guys heads carved in stone on a mountain. At the beginning, Mount Rushmore is quite breathtaking… but that will only last for about 15 minutes. And then you realise you’re just staring at four guys heads carved in stone on a mountain, and you’re wondering how long you’re meant to stand in awe before walking off. At least the scenic route I took with James and Mike was kinda okay?

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Not to be outdone by dem white folk, the native Americans are in the process of making their own version of Mount Rushmore, called “Crazy Horse”. Obviously, it’s still under construction, and I don’t want to seem like that negative person, but I don’t think it’ll ever be done. It has a nice backstory to it, I guess, and I adore anything to do with native American history and culture.

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At some point after seeing Crazy Horse, I also whooped Big Red’s ass in a game of checkers. No tea no shade.

The dinner we had this night was probably the most noteworthy dinner of the tour, and not for good reason. So a group of us – Amy, Amber, JJ, Analiese and I – went to a place called “Pie for the People” in Keystone, and it was the most bizarre experience I’ve ever had. For starters, the waitress asked if we wanted a slice of pizza or a full one, to which Amber replies “Do you only have pizza here?”, and the waitress says “No”, as if she didn’t know why Amber would think that. She finally gave us the menus, and Amber decided she wanted dessert. The waitress didn’t know what desserts they had, and told Amber to go find out for herself. But she couldn’t, because the guy who was in charge of dessert was also the delivery man, and he was currently out on a job. So, basically, Amber couldn’t get dessert until he came back. The food wasn’t too crash hot either, and in the wise words of Amber, “compared to Snow White’s apple, it’s not too bad”. I think, in total, we scared off eight other Contikians from eating here, because it was the worst dining experience I’ve ever had.

We had another quiet night drinking by the pool and having chats with our fellow Contikians before heading off to bed.

This ends part three of my #NKinNA16 adventures. We said goodbye to some of our friends who left us in Chicago (I miss your deliciousness, Eliza), but said hello to new friends who joined us in Chicago.

Stay tuned for more Grand Northern shenanigans, including my adventure through Yellowstone Park in Harley Quinn tights and a Fearless Nikki t-shirt.

– by Noah La’ulu