Name: Louise Knight
Place Travelled: US OF A
What was your favourite city and why?
While I came to the States to study at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, I arrived two weeks earlier to do a little travelling. Sedona was one of the stops of the tour I was on. Just two hours away from the Grand Canyon, Sedona is a town surrounded by huge red rock formations and steep canyon walls. While Wikipedia says it’s a city, it has more of a country town feel, especially when you talk to the residents.
Sedona is very unique not just because of its stunning views but also because of the area’s Native American history. While the Apache and Yavapai tribes were forcibly removed in the 1870s, a small group moved back in 1900 and have been keeping their history and culture alive ever since. Where ever you go in the town, there are shops selling handmade Native American products, healing crystals, and art. Sedona was completely different to anything I had ever experienced and I really enjoyed my time there, even thought it was just a day.
Five items that were absolute must have on your trip? (dot point form, briefly include why)
- MONEY: Because America is expensive and you’ll be buying lots of crappy souvenirs.
- MOISTURISER: I found that some places in the US were really dry and with all the activities we were doing, my skin became really dry. The Nivea travel size moisturiser is my life.
- RAINCOAT: If you’re up north then you will definitely be rained on and the harsh wind will completely demolish your umbrella. Give up and just invest in a raincoat already.
- A CAMERA: Because if you didn’t take a picture, did it really even happen?
- WARM CLOTHES: Even if it’s summer! The minute we arrived in San Francisco, I knew I was screwed; it was 20 degrees with wind and cloud, and I didn’t even have a cardigan.
- If you’re going to be walking around in winter with snow everywhere then GET SNOW BOOTS: Snow boots are so nice to have if you’re spending an extended period of time walking around in snow or even a really cold and wet place. They’re really warm and waterproof so you don’t have to worry about your shoes turning into a swimming pool.
Did you find any sights or activities down the road less travelled?
It’s hard to find cool and undiscovered things in the US when so many tourists visit the country and write about their experiences online. However, while we were out in San Francisco’s Chinatown for dinner, we came across the most hilarious fortune cookie shop. They were ‘well known’ for their sexy fortune cookies; the paper inside had a raunchy fortune printed on it. After buying a packet we found that our meaning of ‘raunchy’ was a little different to theirs, but they were definitely the sweetest and most delicious fortune cookies I have ever had! Just don’t pay the extra two dollars for the ‘sexy version’ because ‘Tonight you will meet hot man’ is as sexy as it gets.
#TBT to the weirdest thing to happen to you on the trip?
When my friend and I first got off the plane from Australia, we were in Los Angeles and it was 6:30 in the morning on a sunny Saturday. By about 8am we were heading out of the hotel to find some food and go to Urban Outfitters (of course) but when we got out onto the street, it was like a ghost town. No cars on the road, no people walking around, and no shops with their doors open. One of the busiest cities in the US was totally dead and it was all because most shops don’t open before 10am. So we had to go to Walgreens and buy muesli bars and old fruit.
Moral of the story: don’t expect anything good before 10am.
Mandatory student austerity question: What was the budget like?
The US is not cheap. While I was there, 1 Australian dollar was equal to about 73 US cents, which is a bit of a blow to the bank. As of today, it’s not that much better at 77 US cents.
But there are lots of ways to do the things you want and keep the prices down! There are cheap souvenir shops in every city, you just have to go look for them, and you can usually get a good deal on some attractions if you book your ticket in advance online. There are also coupons that you can find on google for just about everything in America.
Or if you’re looking to see a show on Broadway, just turn up at the box office on the day and get the discounted seats. Sure, you might be in the very last row or sitting away from your friends but you still get to see the show and at fraction of the price.
If you’re studying in the US like I was and you’re spending too much money on food, take a trip to the happiest place on Earth – Olive Garden. At this restaurant, you can buy a main meal and get FREE AND UNLIMITED SOUP OR SALAD. So binge on the free soup at the restaurant and then take home your massive main meal.
#Foodbucketlist: Best eats?
One of my favourite meals was also one of the strangest but most American: a basket of deep-fried pickles from Buffalo Wild Wings. There’s just something about breaded dill pickles slices, fried and covered in ranch dressing that really gets me going. I also really enjoyed all the fatty and artery clogging foods you could get during baseball games and hockey games like totally synthetic hot dogs and deep fried funnel cake.
Olive Garden is my one true love though, so shout out to those Cucina Mia pasta’s and breadsticks, I wouldn’t have been able to make it without you.
What advice would you give to other people who are traveling?
- Say ‘Yes’ to everything! If someone says “Hey, want to go to Peru next week?” SAY YES! Agree even if you’re not that keen. I had so many great experiences I would have never had if I didn’t just say yes and give it a go.
- Don’t let the people you meet while travelling be just your ‘travel friends’. Make long lasting friendships and your life back home will be so much richer.
- You don’t need to be dressed to the nines or stay in expensive hotels. You’ll be upset when the amount of money you spend on pointless things starts to affect what places you can go to and what experiences you can have.
My travel mantra is…
Take every opportunity that comes your way and don’t be afraid to look like a lame tourist! I proudly wore my Grand Canyon t-shirt around Sedona and I would do it again any day of the week.
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