Park It. Live It. Love It.

a story of a girl living in the Northern Hemisphere

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The Return.

Whilst waiting in line to board my flight home to Sydney I heard the first Aussie accents in way too long. I used the phrase “oh for crying out loud” for the first time in a long time. Queing with my fellow Australians had restored my bogan-esque vernacular and I was loving it.

On the flip side however I felt numb leaving this Northern Hemisphere. Scared, wondering what will I do? What is reality? How will I just slide back in with my family and friends that I have not seen for over five months?

I had been down the Rabbit Hole, had Tea with the Mad Hatter and now had to climb back to civilisation.
I have taken five hour bus rides, eight hour ferry trips, nine hour plane rides, 13 hour car trips and flights ranging from one to 26 hours. It is safe to say I will never get a job that requires international travel. Ever.

I have crossed six time zones and visited seven countries.

I have braved bitterly cold five degree mornings and sunbaked in scorching almost 40degree heat.

I have sampled and loved Moussaka, Gyros, Irish Stew, Texas Hots (fancy hot dog with Greek origins funnily enough), Candied Yams, Hush Puppies, Cornbread, Funnel Cake, Chicken Dumplings, Beef Brisket, Breakfast Burritos and Fish Ceviche.

I have slept in Deserts, on trains, in hostels, in Condos overlooking the sea and in Motels reminiscent of the movie ‘No Vacancy’ where I actually checked the bathroom floor for a trapdoor before I went to bed.

Based on the above alone, how the heck is this ‘coming home’ thing going to work? Ok, the sleeping in a comfortable bed and having hot water readily available is definitely a welcome change, but getting back to ‘normal’ will be a challenge.

I have had an amazing five months but it was time to say good-bye and come back Down Under. My body has been through it all and it was time to rest. I’ve missed my friends and family and now that im back im missing the friends and family who I had overseas – its not fair.

For those of you who have read and enjoyed my blog postings I thank you for your support. This will be the last post concerning my travels (for now) but it will not be the last post I ever write.

What comes next for Lana Hilton?

How the blimey, crikey, flamin’ galah should I know!

Ahh that felt good ūüôā


The Cross-Country.

Buffalo and Olean, New York State

From Niagara Falls to a local Fall Festival I did play,

Experiencing the changing of the golden autumn leaves every day.

Stuffed myself with brisket, pizza and donuts in the streets,

Spent time with a beautiful family and friends I am glad I did meet.

Bradford, Pennsylvania

Over the years the Zippo Factory has drawn quite a crowd,

Being the only one in the world, to visit it I was proud.

‘What souvineer shall I purchase?’ I did have the desire,

But alas, I do not smoke so saw no need for pocket-fire.

St Louis, Missouri

Our first stop after an exhausting 13 hour drive,

Cooped up in a car it was truely amazing we were still alive.

A ‘Bodies in Motion’ Cadavar exhibit and the Golden Arch – ‘the gateway to the west’,

But honestly, America’s largest Vacuum Museum blew away all the rest.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

The Firefighters Museum was quite the highlight,

Dalmation dogs riding on the red engines would have been a sight!

I wondered why people do what they do and when will we be alright,

As I shed a tear and said a prayer at the Oklahoma Bombing site.

Alberquerce, New Mexico

Straight through Texas and the desert did rise,

The amount of Casinos in this state was indeed a surprise.

Dry, baron land with lots of ‘are they dead?’ trees,

We only stayed the one night then were gone with the breeze.

Phoenix, Arizona

From desert plain to mountains the scenery change was quick,

We saw a mini-tornado come down from the stormy sky…or was it a trick?

A beautiful city with loads to see and do,

Hundreds of Cactii lining the roads, be careful wont you.

San Diego, California

At last our pilgrimage comes to an end,

I drove through nine states, up hills and over bends.

I enjoyed traditional Mexican – Tomales anyone?

A brilliant road-trip of which I am sad to be done.

The Fall(s).

My first two days in the big U.S.of.A certainly set the bar for my remaining two weeks.

A surprise trip to Niagara Falls absolutely took the cake. Having only seen the Falls in movies I did not expect the sheer size and power of the cascading water. And on a beautiful sun-kissed day. We boarded the original ‘Maid of the Mist’, donned plastic ponchos – and yes, I kept mine as a¬†souvineer – and were among the many who were drenched head-to-toe by the famous natural wonder of the world.

Sitting between America and Canada meant I could take in the magnificent beauty from two countries within half an hour. Amazing.

Day Two was the opening of the annual ‘Falls Festival’ in Ellicottville, New York. Streets close and overnight are setup with various stalls filled with food, jewellery and even hand-made Amish furniture. Pubs are full to the brim as are its patrons, full of beer.

As I bustled my way through the crowds I paid attention to what was being served and my heart practically stopped beating just looking at them Рpulled pork, kansas chicken, smokey beans and funnel cake Рa delicious fried donut dough creation, covered in icing sugar. Just when I thought it was too much to bear, a single stall was graciously serving vegetables Рyay! 

Fried Mushroom, Fried Eggplant, Fried Onion, Fried Cauliflower and of course a combo pack if you wanted to get your hearty vegetable requirement all in one go. Only in America.

The local ski resort was open with bands and barbeques and we walked up a 3000ft mountain trail to admire the view whilst munching on a hot dog. Ellicottville is a small town built within mountains and woods and the dense trees and shrubbery beginning their autumn change was just magical.

No words can describe the beauty and variations of reds, pinks, browns, yellows and greens strewn across the mountains as well as lining the streets. I felt sad that I couldn’t capture this stunning scenery¬†with my camera, but also happy and fulfilled that I was able to be part of this season change in a place I had never heard of, in a country I am unfamiliar with. In fact, people from other states actually drive here to witness mother nature at her finest. The locals call them ‘Leaf Peepers’!

The rest of the day consisted of fatty foods, drinking, meeting new people, drinking, dancing, drinking, talking to strangers and getting busted by cops for drinking in the street. I was let off with a warning once they learned I was Australian – the best excuse!

The people were so friendly and just as loud as me and the scenery was vivid and breathtaking. I definitely had Fall Fever and it wasn’t just a sugar rush from the Funnel Cake.

A person who I’d met and had been hanging out with that night bid me farewell with the following – “Well, enjoy America, take care, and…um…what else can I say that’s American…Go F**k Yourself!”

Yes, I’m in!

The Below Zero.

I’d already been to London twice and had ticked the popular tourist sites off my list, so when a friend and I headed to London for a weekend away I wasn’t expecting to try anything new.

Lucky for me my friend was not about to let me off so easily. She’d done her research and we were off to London’s Ice Bar in most-expensive-property-on-the-Monopoly-board, Mayfair.

The dress code was non-existent as we donned over-sized ponchos with fur-lined hoods  and were herded into the Bar.

As my breath shallowed and my nose was on its way to turning red, my eyes took in the surprisingly small bar.

Surrounded by walls of cool, clean ice with the occasional carving of a (slightly horror-esque) man with a chainsaw, we made our way to the bar for our free drink.

Our pre-mixed cocktail was served in a rectangular glass made of ice. The bar on which we leant against was made of ice. When we needed to roam around to regain feeling in our extremities we passed seats and stools – all made of ice.

The world of Narnia suddenly appeared before me as I grazed next to a lamppost encased in ice and giving out an eery orange glow. Random but somehow fitting in a place you’d probably only visit once but remember for a while. Mr Tumnus never came.

Each session is 40 minutes long (although we didn’t ask what happens if you stay for fourty-one minutes in the -5degree weather) and as the minutes counted down we chatted, took photos and even crashed a group hug to lift our spirits and our heart rates. We attempted dancing but only managed to resemble over-sized penguins waddling from side-to-side.

The last few minutes crawled by and you began to notice that the gloves weren’t all that effective, and the gaping sides of the poncho made me glad I decided to wear stockings and boots. My lips were well numb and I needed a translator to make conversation.

We counted down the remaining 10 seconds with ¬†‘New Years Eve’ enthusiasm and then finally we emerged into what felt like Summer!

It was a great idea and something a little out of the ordinary, but I believe I will lose sleep over a question my friend put to me – ‘How do they wash the glasses?’

The Learning.

I was lucky enough to be in Dublin, Ireland during its annual ‘Culture Night’. In short, the city of Dublin and a few surrounding areas open their doors to all the cultural and artistic attractions this grand city has to offer.

Even with the free shuttle buses, information points and free booklets you are immersed and lost in lights, music, colour and crowds as you dive into the country’s capital.

It was exciting to be a part of the community spirit as the young and old took on the cobblestone streets of Temple Bar, the undeniably cool quarter of the city of Dublin, excited about where to go next for a piece of Irish culture.

We found many old characteristic buildings with twisted winding staircases, carved high ceilings and wafts of cheap wine through the halls where all the students would cluster not expecting to be touched by the artworks and only after a free drink on a friday night.

Some places held the buzz of comparing notes and opinions, people giggling over wine and speaking with artists. Whereas other locations were very quiet, letting the art do the talking and creating an atmosphere reminiscent of the fancy dining room of your parents house where they entertained guests and you were told ‘don’t touch and keep to yourself’.

Clearly some artists were just having a laugh and YOU were in fact the art as they stood hidden, watching you attempt to interpret their piece and taking bets on how long before you gave up in disgust slash pretended to understand and just walked away.

I wish I could have taken a picture of the piece this comment referred to – imagine a grey misshapen chicken made of clay and covered in pockmarks, set in front of a curtain. My point exactly.

My friend made a comment about a particular exhibition which put into perspective that art isn’t for everybody, ‘I don’t like this display, it’s a ‘Power and Priviledge’ theme and its just old photos of rich people. I don’t find that very inspiring’.

Music was playing in the streets – ranging from buskers to bands to djs – while people leafed through their culture booklets. We stumbled upon an Irish jig and joined in for a wee bit of dancing. Much merriment was had by all and it didn’t matter that although the steps were relatively easy, my feet weren’t as fast as they could be. I will work on it.

Our evening ended with a viewing of the Irish classic ‘The Committments’ on big screen ¬†underneath a brilliant full moon. We should have all been committed for staying out in 4degree weather to watch it. It was a great ‘filim’ (aka film) as the Irish say, a good end to the evening except for the sharp wind biting at my neck and nose – the 4.50 euro I spent on a pair of gloves and a beanie earlier on that evening will go down as the best buy ever.

Art and Culture makes you take a look at yourself and do an internal audit of your own skills where the end result is you realising you do not have a creative bone in your body…well only enough to be able to write about those who do.

The Goodbye.

I decided to sit on the top deck on my final ferry out of Santorini so that I could say goodbye to Santorini – my home for the past few months.

A book I’d once read described an ariel view of Greece as ‘bird droppings on a brown, rugged landscape’ (or something to that effect). It is sad this is the first thing I thought of as I watched the island grow smaller and smaller. I didn’t fully appreciate Santorini’s beauty sailing in. It is an extraordinary island.

What other place towers over you with thousands of white and blue houses perched precariously on high mountain cliffs?

I am feeling emotional and I can hear the violins playing as I recap the past three-and-a-half months living and working in Santorini.

I wonder if I’ll ever come back.¬†You know how sometimes you get a feeling that it isn’t the end and you will go back to a place or meet up with friends again? I am not getting that feeling. I am sad and for some unknown reason this feels like the last time I’ll ever see this island again.

I regret nothing that has happened to me since I’ve been here.

I’ve had loves, likes, crushes and only one strong disliking of someone.

I’ve partied enough to last me the next ten years and have danced to ‘We No Speak Americano’ at least five thousand times – and I’ll admit I still love it.

I’ve met amazing people who have showed me the sights, who listened and gave advice when I went crazy with ‘island fever’, who let me into their lives and taught me their cultures, who jumped off cliffs and rode around on Quad bikes like the crazy Greeks, and who generously invited me to visit them anytime, anyplace. Thank you.

I’ve realised I don’t need a career or money to be happy. I don’t need to have it all figured out yet.¬†All I need is a place I fit in, people I love to surround me and the occasional shot of Raki.

This all started when my friend Tammy said “Lana, I am going to Greece to work next year, do you want to come?” And the rest is history. I owe you alot Tammy, thank you.

I will be different when I return home. I will be even more carefree than when I left. I will spend more time with friends and family and less time working. I will do whatever it is that makes me happy.

My ipod has just played the Glee version of ‘Keep Holding On’and I am getting a little teary. I see it as a message not to let the effect this mystical island has had on me to disappear, and not to let the beautiful people I’ve learned to love out of my life.

I am so glad I decided to sit up top and postpone the painting of my nails.

Ya Sou Santorini.

The Getaway.

All these near-death episodes, the brilliant sun out everyday and the working six hours each night I felt I deserved a little holiday away from my holiday.

I was lucky enough to be invited to Egypt for a week, so I packed up and left – after I was fired from my job because I wanted some time off – with a new suitcase and hardly any money.

Egypt is breathtaking. It is very surreal anywhere you go. We had no immediate plans and had the staff at our hostel arrange a six-day trip for us.

It included; Giza Pyramids and the Sphinx, Overnight Camping in the White Desert and the East and West Banks of Luxor. All filled with statues, carvings, tombs, temples, rocks and even mummies.

It was go-go-go the entire time, resting only on overnight trains or five-hour bus trips through eternities of desert.

The Egyptian history I believe is one of the most fascinating in the world. They offered so much to their Gods and had a very dedicated belief system. What is even more incredible is that we are able to see and feel their rich history and culture now. Hats must go off to their architectural and building skills.

The people were lovely – if they weren’t haggling you – and except for Cairo we really enjoyed our stay.

My highlight was seeing an actual Mummy still in the place it was buried – untouched and unhindered by glass or protective measures.

Our guide took us to the Valley of Scribes which is a lesser known valley so there were no tourists at all. We bribed the guard and were allowed to take pictures and videos – if you did this anywhere else and you would be fined a lot of money.

I felt sorry for this Mummy. The reason it was not in a Museum was because they had enough already.

Another highlight was spending the night among billions of stars, camping in the White Desert. Dead quiet, sand stretching out in every direction, a tiny campfire cooking us dinner and the occasional fox creeping up to say hello. Unbelievable.