Boot Scootin’ into the New Year

I mentioned it in my last post, but I’m going to tell you all again. I love this time of year! While a lot of people find themselves in a 4-week state of stress, I always seem to find myself giddy with excitement. Even though I am 23, I am always in a gleeful headspace every year when the Christmas and New Year period rolls around.
Just like my love for all things Christmas related (I am known to make my friends do irrational Christmas related activities at all times of the year – like visiting Noël stores in Quebec City for hours on end during spring break ….in April, or prank calling friends with a rendition of Jingle Bells … in June and even blast Justin Bieber’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” on repeat year round), I’ve always loved to celebrate New Years. Admittedly, I’ve never quite understood why people place so much emphasis on this single day – it is after all only another day – but nonetheless, I am never one to turn down an excuse to celebrate and be happy whilst surrounded by those that I love.

In the years since turning 18, I’ve experienced all sorts of New Years Activities, including house parties, clubbing til 5 in the morning and even a few abroad. For this blog post I was going to talk about how I started 2015 in a friends apartment in Amsterdam. While it was a fun way to bring in the New Year, I kept getting flashbacks of the 2013/14 transition and how out-of-the-ordinary that particular celebration was. So, I’ve decided to keep my Dutch New Years for a later date and will instead tell ya’ll of how I spent the last moments of 2013 and first moments of 2014 boot scootin’ in a hall in middle-of-nowhere Montana.

Lets first set the scene. If you’ve been following my posts you’ll know that December of 2013 saw me pack a bag(s) with 7 months worth of gear and head to Montana, where I’d be participating in a student exchange for 5 months before travelling in the following months. My flight to America was long and exhausting – travelling to Montana is not an easy task. I flew from Sydney to Los Angeles to Salt Lake City and then finally touched ground in Great Falls some 30+ hours later. Initially, I was going to be met by some close family friends who I’d be staying with for the week over New Years before heading down to Bozeman to start my session abroad. Unfortunately, they had all fallen ill with a nasty flu, but luckily they had family in Helena (who I’d met and spent some time with on my last trip to the States) who were happy to pick me up and have me stay with them before uni began. When the small 25pax plane landed at Great Falls International Airport, I was delighted to see an abundance of snow! The small city was a large white blanket of it. Walking out of the airport, I was met by an icy -12C chill, to which I was informed was quite warm in comparison to the weeks prior, where temperatures had dropped to -23C (little did I realise that -22 was to become the daily average and the coldest temperature I’d feel would be -38 – did I mention it was cold?).

The next couple of days were spent getting used to being in a new time zone and acclimatising to the foreign, below freezing temperatures. I arrived in Montana on December 28, between then and the 31st there had been little talk about New Years activity, so I was possibly a little too excited when on New Years Eve I was asked if I’d like to go out that night. Of course, I said yes and hurried down to Wal-Mart to buy 2014 paraphernalia. I was ecstatic by the vision of shelves upon shelves stacked with oversized glasses, hats, vests, toys and even fake beards that had ‘2014’ written all over it. I managed to bite the urge to purchase all of it and came away with 2014 glasses, a blower and a weird toy that made a squealing noise when you zipped it in the air.

Whilst the sun set (in the winter it’s dark by 4pm), we all did our bit to prepare a big New Years Eve feast for dinner. There was meat slow roasting in the BBQ, salads and desserts being made in the kitchen. As we sat down and ate dinner, I was told what to expect over the course of the night. I quickly learnt that I was going to be having a real country Montana New Years.

We arrived at the hall a few hours later with a couple of drinks in hand. Walking towards the door I could hear chatter and live music. When we walked inside the hall I saw a decorated room, filled with people of all ages in their jeans, boots and cowboy hats socialising, drinking and dancing to the band that played live on stage. I found a table and sought refuge there for a while – I’d never done swing dancing before. I happily watched as the room revolved around me. It came as no surprise that I was pulled up from my seat and taught basic swing dance moves. I was reluctant at first, but I couldn’t deny the fun I was having.
Not too long after I’d sat back down after my quick lesson in swing dance 101, a man in his mid 40’s who could only be described as a cowboy approached me. He had on a red and white checked shirt which was tucked into a pair of dark blue jeans, leather boots and of course a big hat. He asked for my hand in a dance. I turned around and looked at the group I was with, who all nodded and smiled. I spent a few songs swing dancing around the hall with this man. I couldn’t help but laugh – this was a pure only-in-Montana moment!

The night continued in this fashion. People were dancing and chatting; having a genuinely good time. When midnight came around, the room fell silent. The band counted us down. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. The hall erupted into a huge cheer, people were popping party confetti and there was the sound of fireworks from outside. I was happily wearing my 2014 brandished glasses, with a popper hanging out of my mouth and flying a squealing toy around my head, beyond excited for what the coming months had in store for me.

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New Years in Helena, MT in my 2014 getup.

Thanksgiving. An American tradition that I’m sure anyone who’s seen any American TV series will have knowledge of. Being a fan of many American TV and film productions, I was aware of this annual national holiday and curious as to what attending a Thanksgiving dinner would be like and if it matched the hype that is displayed in Hollywood productions.

 

As you may be aware, 2011 was the year that I spent abroad. Travelling the world, experiencing new things and learning what I could before knuckling down at University. I spent two months of 2011 travelling around North America, visiting new places and revisiting old friends. Luckily for me, my timing of this trip coincided with Thanksgiving – even more so exciting was the fact that I would be in Chinook, MT (aka Home #2/Home-away-from-home) for a couple of weeks either side of the holiday!
Whilst travelling around the States in the weeks prior to Thanksgiving, I didn’t notice anything too out of the ordinary. Until, what literally felt like overnight, every town I visited seemed to be decked out in warm coloured decorations, pictures of turkeys were everywhere and everything consumable became pumpkin flavoured! I was in New York City at the time and I can remember my friend telling me it was a shame that I’d be missing out on the famous NYC Thanksgiving Parade.

 

I arrived in Montana only a few days before Thanksgiving and was given the lowdown on what to expect at the big family lunch that would take place at the family Ranch. I asked eagerly about what foods there’d be, and much to my delight, everything I’d been hoping for would be there for me to try!
Wanting to participate in the preparation and bring a little bit of Australia to the menu, I asked if I could add to the dessert menu. Their response was an excitable YES! I decided to make lamingtons – both chocolate and strawberry ones. Everyone was excited to try the famous Australian delicacy and although my recreation ended with the lamingtons looking like spongy blobs of cake covered in icing and coconut (I learnt that lamingtons are incredibly hard to make!), they were all devoured in a matter of minutes.

 

When it came to the actual celebration of Thanksgiving, I was surprised in that I had no idea what to expect. I first noticed the huge amount of food (!!!!) and the state of panic in the kitchen. When the prized Turkey was finished cooking, we all stood around the island in the kitchen and held hands as someone said grace, then it was straight to loading up our plates with as much food as possible and taking it to the table where everyone happily chatted and watched the football.
In case you were wondering, the food was amazing! The Turkey and homemade cranberry sauce was delicious, the pumpkin pie didn’t taste like pumpkin, but rather cinnamon. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the rum and eggnog that was placed in front of me. It must have been known that I wouldn’t like eggnog, as when I went to take my first sip, everyone stopped at watched (just like how we love to watch people try vegemite for the first time in Australia) and laughed as I choked on the grotesque flavour and poured more alcohol into the mix.

 

The afternoon was spent in a somewhat comatose state in front of the TV as the football played. Almost everyone there tried explaining to me how NFL works, much to everyone’s dismay I just didn’t get it – those shoulder pads are just too distracting!

 

Overall, my experience with Thanksgiving was good fun. I’ve been abroad for many national celebrations all over the world; there’s nothing quite like experiencing something that is so special to a nation with locals.

I hope all of my American readers and friends have a happy and safe Thanksgiving this year. Have some pie for me!

 

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30 Turkey hands later … handmade by Nina and myself.

Imagine you’re all snuggled up with your special someone, in a nice King-sized bed. Inside the room is toasty warm, and for now, you don’t even care about how it is outside, you’re just happy where you are.
Suddenly, there’s a loud blasting of horns and the sound of cars screeching.

That’s how day 2 began.

 

Peering outside from behind the drawn curtains revealed a few things. First, the noisy car culprits appeared to be what looked like a Hot Rod festival. The street was filled with people cheering as different cars tore down the road. Secondly, the weather was shite. Grey, rainy and bleak.
Turning around and seeing the huge bed I’d just hopped out of really did seem like a much better idea. And if I’m being totally honest, after the previous days ride, the motivation to continue was almost non-existent.

 

But, knowing that we had somewhere to be and loved ones to see was enough to get Henry and I up and running. Given the crappy weather we had to come up with some new plans so that our belongings wouldn’t be getting ruined on our upcoming ride. Unsure of why we hadn’t thought of it earlier, we took out the bike cover and wrapped it around our gear on the rear rack. We’d packed the bike in decent time and were in out wet weather clothes, but were still hesitant to start the looming 4-hour ride. We procrastinated our leaving time by visiting a bike shop and buying some supplies (better gloves for myself and anti-fog shield for the both of us) and enjoyed a prolonged breakfast at DQ.

 

At some point it became evident that the weather wasn’t going to get any better, so we began our second day of riding. We were heading up to a small country town near the Canadian border called Chinook – a town that I’ve spent a lot of time visiting since I was a little girl. I was very excited to be taking Henry to my second home and to introduce him to my adopted American family. The ride to Chinook from Great Falls is a fairly standard drive; the only part that we were worried about was the final half hour, where the road enters the windy Montanan plains.

 

Unfortunately, the conditions of the road weren’t as expected, and ten minutes into the ride we found ourselves driving on a gravel highway. Just in case you’d forgotten, we were riding a little 450cc Honda. The fact that the bike was able to function with two people and their luggage was amazing. However, as we approached the recently ripped up highway, it became very evident that the bike was not off-road equipped, so we wobbled our way down the road worked highway. When we finally made it to the end of the gravel road, we very happily pulled over for a quick recoup and took in the glorious sight that we were surrounded by. Montana is a state filled with endless beauty!

 

Luckily, the rest of the ride to Chinook went as planned. It was a bitterly cold day and the wind made it even more cold, but the ride was totally worth it when we arrived home, were greeted with cuddles and warmed up with cups of tea.

 

Henry and I enjoyed a few days in Chinook before heading back to Bozeman, via Helena. Where I’d be flying out East for a week, while Henry continued the motorbike trip solo until we were due to meet up in Portland.

 

Driving through beautiful Montana.

Driving through Montana

~ ~ ~

I hope you’re enjoying the tales of our first motorbike trip. The next instalment will feature a guest post by Henry, as he retells the week he spent riding from Bozeman to Portland alone.

 

Safe Travels,

Kachina

So my last motorcycle post ended with me telling you guys where exactly Henry and I went on our great-American-two-wheeled-adventure. If only re-telling a story could be as simple as just stating the basics. I wish I could actually just take you guys all there, give you direct insight into my brain, kind of like the pensieve in Harry Potter. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting on my acceptance letter from Hogwarts, so can’t invite you to review my memories, so I shall begin to share them with you via written words and hope that they will take you somewhere else, as if we were using a pensieve.

The day that we left Bozeman was an absolute mess. Both Henry and I were feeling excruciating pains from the night before. Having a huge night on the town with all of our new closest friends to celebrate the time that we’d all experienced before going our own ways before having to take off on a motorcycle for several hours the following day turned out not to be such a great idea. On top of that, I also had a 7am alarm set for a room inspection. The last time I would ever step foot in my humble Bozeman abode again. Once you also factor in good-byes, packing and time limits, it makes for a very emotional, tiring day.

We’d hoped to be out of Bozeman by no later than 2pm, but due to finding packing the motorbike really difficult, we didn’t end up leaving until close to 4pm. We were only riding to Great Falls (approximately 3 hours north) so we figured leaving a little bit late wasn’t a big deal. Boy, what a mistake that was!

Having failed in practice packing the bike, we’d also failed in riding the bike with extra weight on it. We wobbled out of Bozeman, becoming the victims of several confused stares and headed onto the I90. We’d driven on the highway several times before in a car, so we never realised how bad the wind was on that stretch of road. What should’ve only taken 30 minutes by car took us almost and hour and a half on the bike. Not only was poor Henry getting used to riding the motorbike with all of this added weight on it, he was also fighting against the crazy winds that were trying so hard to tip us over in all directions!
The relief we both felt when we finally made it to the I15 Helena exit can’t be put into words. We were both exhausted from that first stretch of the ride, getting off of the tunnel-winded highway and onto open plains was like a godsend. We stopped at a small gas station just outside of Helena to have a quick drink and buy some more duct tape (did I mention that everything was attached to the bike with duct tape and rope – we had it down to an art). We finished our drinks off fairly quickly and applied more duct tape to our few belongings and realised that it was almost 5:30! Shit! We were still 2.5 hours away from Great Falls via car; we didn’t even want to think how much time would be added because of the bike. Luckily the weather that day was really nice; we’d left Bozeman wearing just our protective gear over our t-shirts.
Realising how struck for time we were we quickly skulled the last of our drinks, mounted the bike and zoomed off, down the long, winding Montanan highway.

The next 40 minutes of the ride was all smooth sailing. We’d driven through Helena and were nearing the Mountainous National Park part of the highway. We were in awe at the sight of the mountains that we’d be riding through, such magnificent beauty we’d landed ourselves in! Although, the moment the mountains came into sight, the warmth from the sun disappeared. It was freezing! We quickly pulled off the highway and emptied our backpacks of all the warm clothing we’d stuffed in there. Luckily there were no friends about then to take photo’s of us looking absolutely ridiculous as we both looked like mini HR Puff ‘n’ Stuffs hopping onto the bike with all of our winter gear on. We continued riding through Helena’s great mountain range; the bike was struggling in the high altitude, but we had no other option but to keep on going. Mind you, I did have family friends in Helena who could’ve come to save our sorry asses, but we both had intact pride (and had already paid for one nights accommodation in Great Falls and were in no position to let that slide).

We eventually made it to the other side of the mountains and were happy that the road ahead seemed straight and flat. Having done the drive between Great Falls and Helena a lot over the last couple of years I was happy because I knew we were only about 30 minutes away from a warm room, cosy bed and a delivered dinner because I sure as hell was not going outside again that night!

By this point in time it had grown dark and night-time was all we could see along the dimly lit highway. Somewhere around this time, Henry took a wrong turn. I hadn’t noticed that he’d taking any turns; I’d been too busy caught in a hungover/what-the-hell-am-I-doing daydream. I had noticed that it seemed to be taking us forever to get from the Northern side of the pass to Great Falls. I also realised that I didn’t recognise my surroundings, but just passed that as being the dark playing with my mind. It wasn’t until we drove past a sign that said ‘Augusta ahead’ that I realised that we weren’t where we needed to be. I tapped Henry on the back and he pulled over – we communicated by a very particular tapping ‘Morse code’ whilst on the bike as we couldn’t afford to buy headpiece’s.
I remember asking Henry where exactly we were, to which he exasperatedly responded that we’d be there soon and we needed to hurry because we were running low on fuel.
For anyone who knows the roads of Montana well, you’d know that Augusta is not where you want to be at 8:30pm on a bitterly cold early spring evening on a motorbike. We made it to the Choteau turn off and pulled to the right, finally on a straight road to Great Falls! I still have no idea how we ended up taking the wrong turn.

About half way to Great Falls from the turn off the weather took another spin and was now absolutely freezing. Both Henry and I were so cold we’d gone numb, but wanting to get to Great Falls as quick as possible, we ignored how numb we were and continued riding. Until that is, the motorcycle’s engine cut out and we were left stranded on the side of an empty road, in the dark, numb from cold with no petrol in the engine. We were both so tired and irritated that we didn’t even speak at first. We just kind of stood, dumbfounded. Henry said he could set up the tent and we could just sleep on the side of the road. Furious, I snapped and said ‘No! We are going to the hotel!’
Henry passed me a torch and he started un-taping the jerry can. It was at this point a car slowly ambled up the long driveway that we were at the end of. A kind lady asked us if we needed any help. Stupid us replied ‘No thanks, we’re fine, just re-filling our tank.’ The lady drove off.
Once Henry had re-filled the engine and re-taped the now empty jerry can back onto the side of the bike, we got out some hand warmers from our make-do tank bag and slipped them down our shirts. Whilst they didn’t warm our bodies up completely, it was a comfort that motivated us to make it to Great Falls (I enjoyed the hand warmer a little too much and ended up with a burn on my chest – oops).

The most annoying thing about the motorbike running out of fuel when it did was the fact that we could see the glow of Great Falls not too far ahead of us. It was so close yet so far away! When we finally made it into the once distant glow of Great Falls, a blanket of happiness encompassed the both of us as we ‘wooped’ and high-fived each other down the highway and to the front door of the hotel we had booked a room at.

Much to our surprise, the lady at reception didn’t greet us with an odd look as we entered the building looking like we’d just walked from Alaska. She was very kind and understood that we wanted to get to our room and warm up. We opened the door to the King Suite we’d booked for the night and were ecstatic. We blasted the heating and I jumped in the shower. I had been so cold that my whole body was red and it took about 5 minutes of just standing under the water for me to warm up.

Once Henry and I were all cozied up and not numb anymore, we had pizza delivered to our room; we devoured it in the comfort of our king bed and fell asleep almost instantly.

We had survived Day 1.

In ‘2 Months. North America. Motorbike. 8000 Miles.’ I gave you a short introduction into how this trip came about. In this post I will be relaying how we prepared and planned for the trip.

Living for a short time in another country didn’t make preparing for this trip an easy task. Although, given the hindsight we have now, both Henry and I realise that no matter how prepared you think you may be for a trip like this, there is absolutely nothing that can prepare you for what happens on the road and the experiences you gain.

Nothing can prepare you for the assortment of weather, road conditions and nights so cold that hypothermia actually seems possible. There is also no preparing you for the new connection you make with the world. When you ride on two wheels, you becomes one with nature. It’s a feeling that can only really be explained through experience. You can feel, smell and touch your surroundings in a way that isn’t possible through other means of transportation.

Preparation (or lack there-of) aside, when Henry and I had committed to the idea of travelling and camping around North America on a motorcycle for two months, we quickly realised how much we didn’t have in order for this to work and how much luggage we had with us at current!
The first (very apparent) item that we didn’t have was a motorbike. Traveling around a chunk of a continent on the back of a bike without said vehicle would have been very challenging indeed. As I don’t have a bike licence (something I’m hoping to gain soon!) the riding of the bike was going to be done by Henry who had got his license only 2 weeks before leaving for America when he envisioned himself travelling the States on the back of a classic motorcycle. So Henry quickly started trolling craigslist for motorcycles and a few weeks later purchased our baby/mode of transportation, a 1981 Honda CM400T. A vintage American motorcycle that isn’t sold in Australia; our dream was quickly becoming a reality.

In between bike searches, we both organised for the majority of our luggage to be shipped back to our homes in Australia. We both used Seven Seas, who I’d recommend for any overseas shipping. Decent prices and door-to-door pick up/delivery makes what could have been a very stressful task, stress free.

One mistake that we did make in regards to luggage is the fact that we neglected to do practice packing before shipping our big bits of luggage and before leaving. Something that we very quickly regretted! If you’re planning on doing a trip where the luggage you will be bringing with you is limited, make sure you practice pack! Packing the bike up on the day that we left Bozeman was very stressful and resulted in us looking like the families you see on motorbikes in parts of Asia – a look that stands out immensely in Montana. Luckily our first stop was at some family friends of mine in Chinook. So we were able to ditch a lot of items that very quickly became apparent that we weren’t going to be using them over the coming months.
Had we done the practice packs that we said we would (but failed to do so), we would have saved ourselves a lot of stress, time (it took us hours to pack the bike on that first day) and we would’ve been able to add what we threw away to our luggage that was being shipped back home.
Lesson learnt!

Once we had the luggage and transportation sorted, it was time to get a few last things including motorbike gear (shoes, jackets, helmets, gloves etc) and camping gear (Tent, sleeping bags, cooker etc). Henry bought an Alpinestar jacket, Gaerne boots and had gloves gifted to him for Christmas. I bought a pair of no-name leather boots online, got a leather jacket from an op shop and bought gloves from a motorcycle store clearance bin. We both used Bell helmets.

For our camping gear, we bought a North Face Rock 22 Bx Tent, MSR cooking equipment (stove, gas bottle, crockery and cutlery), Henry had bought over his Deuter Sleeping Bag, and I bought a small, roll up sleeping bag from Wal-Mart.
Take note that we didn’t buy mattresses. We relied on nice grassy patches in the ground. Although, we did end up buying a cheap $5 yoga mat and extra blankets from Wal-Mart after being uncomfortable and cold for about a week.

We were very lucky in that all the gear that we purchased for this trip were exceptional! I’d definitely recommend all of the products that we used. The only encounter that we had whilst travelling was to do with a loose bolt on the bike. So whether you’re looking for quality camping gear or bike gear, I’d definitely recommend the above listed items!

Whilst we were in the process of organising/purchasing necessities, we were also caught up in planning a travel route. Which proved to be quite the challenge. Before coming to America, Henry had mentally planned to head straight to Canada, travel East then South back into America at North Dakota, head into South Dakota and out to New York. When I had planned my after-college travels, I’d planned to head straight to my family in Chinook before flying out to Boston to spend time with a friend there and was then going to fly to LA where I was originally meant to be meeting my Australian friend, from which we’d hoped to travel around California, making the trip to Vegas before heading north into British Columbia.

With our separate plans being so different, we’d figured that we’d both have to completely scratch what we’d earlier planned and make a new travel route. A compromise. As I’d already planned to spend time with my family in Chinook and had bought my flight to Boston, that part of the trip wasn’t changing. Being family, they were very eager to meet Henry, so it was decided that we’d head North of Bozeman together on the bike, returning again to Bozeman a week later, so that I could catch my flight out East. My flight to Boston returned to Portland, OR a week later. So Portland was the official starting ground of our bike trip. Whilst I was on the East coast, Henry spent the week travelling from Bozeman MT to Portland OR, travelling through Idaho and Washington State to get there.
We’d booked accommodation in Portland and hadn’t really set anything in stone from there. We thought we’d head west to the Ocean, taking our time in Oregon before having to be in Canada by June 6 (the date my American Visa expired).
Our travel route was rather spontaneous and our destinations and length of stays were mainly dependent on what we felt like doing.

Our final route (which was decided as we went) ended up being Portland – Lincoln City – Newport – Florence – Crater Lake – Eugene – Portland – Seattle – Vancouver – Nanaimo – Victoria – Lake Cowichan – Qualicum Beach – Vancouver. From there, I flew home and Henry continued to travel.

Travelling without knowing where we were going was something new to me and at times stressed me out too. But I don’t regret a thing, it was a whirlwind trip that I’d happily do again and again!

In my next post I’ll share with you how our first ride to Great Falls MT went and begin detailing the early days of the trip.
Happy Travels,

Kachina 🙂

2 Months. North America. Motorbike. 8000 Miles.

There’s been a noticeable gap between blog posts over the last month. Life certainly likes to show it has no limits when the semester is coming to an end! While I have been busy over the last four weeks, I have also been feeling way too nostalgic as I keep thinking of what I was doing/where I was this time last year. Life certainly is such a precious thing, and it seems that the most random of situations prove to prevail this point. For me, travelling is that one thing that motivates me to get up and move, to work hard and make the most of this gift known as life. Getting out there and pushing yourself well out of your comfort zone – that to me is carpe diem in a nutshell!
I’ve been lucky in that I have done a lot of travelling since I was a kid, so I’ve seen a lot and been to a lot of amazing places. I often get asked if I’m ever going to settle down and stop travelling. To be honest, that’s something I just can’t comprehend. For as long as I’m breathing there’s something out there for me to see! With this passion to be constantly moving in mind, the thought of finding someone to settle down with and who would understand (and hopefully share this passion) seemed pretty slim. I wasn’t being pessimistic, I had just come to a point in my life where I finally realised what exactly it is that I wanted, and a partner didn’t really seem to fit the mould well. However, like the saying always goes ‘you find someone when you least expect it’, and of course this came wonderfully true when I left Australian shores at the end of 2013 to embark on 7 months of travel (and a little bit of study :p ). I had no intentions of meeting anybody, in fact the only talk of the possibility of meeting someone prior to leaving was joking with my friends that I might have a Vegas wedding. Fast forward to my second day on the MSU campus; it was orientation day for all of the international students, I was meeting so many people who, in the coming weeks would become my new adopted family and best friends. Little did I realise that the boy who I sat next to at lunch who was wearing funny shoes would become someone so important and special to me! Over the next couple of weeks, Henry (funny shoes guy) and I became very close, we shared the same sense of humour and were constantly in fits of giggles, and shared the same passion for travel. It didn’t take very long for either of us to realise that we had something unique, and within a month of being in Bozeman we decided to take that leap and became a couple.
Since it had been set in stone that I would be attending University in America, I had made plans with a friend in Australia to meet up in California somewhere and spend 6 weeks travelling together. While I was in Bozeman the plans still seemed as if they were going ahead until a nasty knee injury meant that my friend had to spend the money she’d put aside for travel on surgery. I felt so bad for my friend knowing that she was in so much pain and I wasn’t around to give her support, but at the same time I was also put into a bit of a panic as I realised there were only 4 weeks left before uni was out, and I now had no idea what I was going to do with myself for 7 weeks. I’d already planned about 10 days worth of travel, meeting up with some of my new friends and catching up with other friends and family in the country, but I was still unsure of what to do with the remaining time.
Since November, Henry had been planning on travelling around America on a motorbike, utilising a tent as his accommodation for the entirety of his trip. While I thought the bike sounded cool, the 7 weeks of camping wasn’t entirely appealing for me and I had never thought of traveling with Henry on his motorcycle as I had too much luggage. One night in Bozeman, I was particularly worried about what I was going to do and Henry asked me if I’d like to travel with him on his bike. Initially, I thought he was joking, so I kind of shrugged it off, until he reassured me that he wasn’t joking. We’d just have to plan for me to ship most of my belongings back to Australia, and keep a small bag that would fit on the back of the bike and it’d be fine. It seemed easy enough to do, so without much further thinking we were both online, buying motorcycle and camping gear.
The saying is hindsight is always 20/20, and in regards to riding a motorcycle around North America for 2 months, this saying is definitely correct. In terms of technicality anyway. Even now, Henry and I still laugh at how ridiculous we must’ve looked with our two duffel bags and back pack each on the bike. Although, I do still argue that I think we did well to condense so much considering we had been living in such a cold climate for 6 months, and were  still traveling on the motorbike in cold climates too. The most important technical thing we have both taken from this experience is that packing is hard. Especially when you’re travelling through several different temperature zones.
Technicalities aside though, I think for the both of us, it is easy to say that this trip has definitely been the most adventurous trip that either of us had done. And the most crazy (After all, i’d only known this guy for 5 months and I was trusting him to drive with me on the back of a motorbike for 2 months)!
This trip is a great example of how spontaneity can bring so much fun and light into your life! While I would (and could) love to take you all through every step of this journey now, it would be very lengthy. So over the next couple of weeks I will continue to blog about this trip (the planning of it, where we went/what we did and the final leg of the trip). Can’t wait to continue sharing this story with all of you!
Happy Monday,

Kachina 🙂

Leaving Bozeman for the big motorbike adventure

Studying Abroad in America

While travelling around America at the age of fourteen, I became enchanted by the idea of going to an American school. I’d seen so many films based on high school in America and I thought that it just looked awesome and I had to be a part of it! Whilst visiting a friends house in Virginia, I told her of what interested me, and before finishing the conversation we were in the computer room together looking up local high schools that I could possibly attend on an exchange program. I was so excited by this idea that for the rest of the trip I was constantly scribbling down notes and ideas on what the future could have in store for me. Upon returning to Australia and back to the comparably boring Australian high school scene, I asked my year advisor how possible this opportunity would be. Much to my glee, he was all for it and encouraged me to go ahead with it, the only drawback though was that when I returned to Australia I’d have to repeat a year of schooling. That was very unappealing to me, so quite ignorantly I put that idea on the back-burner and promised myself that one day I’d get to an American school.

Fast forward eight years and I made it happen. I started university in 2012 and was immediately captured by the amount of international opportunities that the University of Wollongong had on offer. Listening to so many different people tell their stories of where they went and what they did had me in a trance and I quickly started changing (whoops grades) what needed to be done in order to make myself a candidate for University representation abroad. My dream for several years was to attend the University of California – Berkeley, but upon learning how competitive just getting a place at the University was made me rethink what I was really seeking in going to an American college. Honestly, all I wanted was to experience was the true American college experience that has been depicted in countless movies and TV shows, and to attend at least one Frat party and drink jungle juice out of a red cup ….. and to study of course …
So I booked an appointment and asked the Study Abroad office lady for a list of colleges that weren’t as competitive as UC, LA, Miami etc. She gave me a list of Universities, which included Montana State University. I’d previously decided that I’d like to go somewhere new, where I hadn’t been before and having grown up and the state of Montana being like a second home to me, I initially wrote MSU off as a possibility – even though the Office lady didn’t stop raving about how good of a university it was without me having said anything. So I went home with this list and thought hard about what choices I had to make. Montana kept popping into my mind. Whilst initially I was unsure of Montana as an option, Bozeman was one of the few ‘cities’ in Montana that I hadn’t been to and going to University there would be a little bit like going home. It meant that I could be the closest to my family in Montana than I’d ever been before when not travelling for an extended length of time. So I sent a text to my loved ones in the small town of Chinook (about 320 miles North-East of Bozeman) asking how it’d be if I lived only a drive away for six months. Needless to say the response was along the lines of ‘Oh my god!!’. My decision had been made.

December of 2013 saw me pack 7 months worth of life in to two bags and fly to Montana – my home to be for the following 6 months. To write about the entire exchange in one blog post would be impossible. I could write a post per day. But in general, doing an exchange program has been one of the most fun, exciting, sometimes sad but mostly adventurous things I’ve ever done. It is definitely something that I’d recommend all University students do, given the opportunity! My first couple of days in Bozeman were spent on an absolute high. Everything was just how I’d imagined it – but better! Everywhere was covered in snow, my room and the cafeteria were quote “exactly like the movies”, and sporting events such as the Basketball were extreme! I immediately fell in love with the atmosphere and everything related to being in Bozeman.
One of the greatest things about studying abroad is the people you meet. The people you spend you’re time with whilst abroad become more than friends; they become your family. You see them every day and spend most of your time with them. The connection you make with these people is unbreakable and will last a lifetime. I still think about Bozeman and the people I met over there every day, and being back in Australia only makes me appreciate the simplicity of the relationship we all shared even more.
Being in Montana was escaping the everyday routine of being home in Australia. There was no work, only time for fun to be had! Typically, a week in Bozeman was class for a couple of hours during the day, any time surrounding either side of class was usually spent with friends, eating, drinking, watching movies, going for coffee or just hanging out. Weekends usually consisted of partying or just chilling watching movies, with occasional weekends away. Other people spent most of their time on the ski fields. Personally, the idea of skiing sounded like fun, but in reality, I sucked at it and having three year olds whiz pass you on the bunny slope while you are struggling to even stand up is a massive deterrent. Alternatively, I spent a lot of my time at Walmart. Seriously, that place is like a black hole that sucks you in for hours at a time, taking chunks of your money along with it.

While you’d think the Australian and American college lifestyles would be very similar, the reality is very different and the American college culture does not disappoint. The biggest difference I found between American and Australian universities is the college pride in the States. Everywhere you go in America, houses are swamped in the colours of their local University. Going to events, supporting your college really reinforces the pride there is. For me, the event that I most frequented whilst abroad was the basketball. It was never dull, the entire stadium would be decked out in Blue and Yellow (MSU colours), there’d be cheerleaders and the dance squad doing their thing, the school band (who would yell out to the opposition telling them they sucked, which was very amusing), Champ (the school mascot) would be walking around, sometimes there was even a blimp that would be floating about and when MSU would score a point, the crowd would jump up and down, cheering so loudly that feeling anything but pride for your University would be impossible.

It’s been over a year now since I did my study abroad, and there’s never a day where I don’t find myself reminiscing, or planning future trips back. If I could go back in time to change anything, there’s honestly not a single thing I’d do differently – except maybe stop time so that we could enjoy being in Bozeman forever.

I will post more about my student exchange in the future, but if there is anything that I’d hope you’ve taken away from this blogpost it’s to get up and go! Go on exchange and experience what else is out there! Experience what it’s like to live in another country!

Oh and also, just in case you were wondering, I did go to a FRAT party and drink out of a red cup. Although the party only lasted like half an hour before the cops came and busted it, I did finish my drink …. so mission completed!
If you’re reading this and just getting ready to go on an exchange to America, I have a challenge for you. My proudest accomplishment whilst abroad was that I managed to eat at least one slice of pizza everyday for three weeks (you may think that that sounds gross, but their pizza is so good you don’t understand until you’ve been somewhere where it’s on offer, for free, all you can eat, all day every day). If you can beat that, I will buy you a pizza of your choice in Australia! It’s an unresistible reward for a challenge that you know is worth it 😉

Happy Travels,
Kachina 🙂

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