One of the things I loved about my time in the US is how with hardly any planning on my behalf I kept having amazing experiences, in places I’d never known existed and with incredible people to top it all off. All I had to do it seemed, was to respect ‘the flow’ and just go with the opportunities that came my way. This was how I ended up in Neenah, Wisconsin of all places and also how I’d end up camping somewhere across the boarder of Minnesota and a week or so later be hanging out on tiny Bainbridge Island.
At the end of the road trip I took a bus out to Minneapolis to spend a week with Mark at the university campus. The bus arrived in the middle of Mark’s soccer game which lead Lauren, one of his friends to offer to pick me up, she was even kind enough to wait the 45 minutes that the bus was running late. Spending a week staying on a campus, something I didn’t get to do in my own university experience was a great chance to see a huge, old campus, filled with frat houses, old stone buildings and it’s own impressive sports stadiums. After a particularly bad hangover one day we went to the gymnasium, which was probably bigger than the library at JCU and took advantage of the steam room and olympic sized pool. Whilst the facilities and campus were amazing compared to what’s offered at JCU or QUT, I took solace in the fact that at least we have HEX to pay for it all.
Over the weekend we went on a camping trip organized as a combined birthday for two of his friends who were welcome to letting a token Aussie join the group. One of the girls, Emma had spent a semester in JCU Townsville which was a nice shock and conversation point. Over the camp fire that night I was able to enjoy my first smore, which was incredible. We seriously need to import those as part of campfire culture in Australia. It was only an overnight trip, interstate no less, but I had a great time getting to know everyone and in the morning before we left I was expected to prove my Australian heritage by being able to throw a boomerang (that Mark conveniently brought along) better than everyone else. Despite popular belief, there isn’t a class offered in this area at school and I turned out to be ashamedly worse than pretty much everyone else.
After yet another great week in the US, which was quickly climbing my favorite country ladder, I was on a plane to Seattle to spend a few weeks with Ashe. Ashe and I met on the way to a days trekking in Banaue (Philippines). both of our transports came to a stop at the same lookout point on the drive and her mum, in the typical Filipino hospitality that I love invited me to join them. We spent all day hiking and talking ahead of the others and then I went out to dinner and a Kareoke bar with them all that night. After going separate ways for a few days we organised to meet up in San Fernando for the Good Friday crucifixions and then a few more days in Manila together before she left to go back home. I’d never hit it off with someone that well before, and with only two weeks between my landing in the US and her graduating college, I figured why not spend a bit more time than the 5 days I had previously considered spending in the US and see how things go. Besides, the worst that could happen was that it would be weird and I’d just jump on the next plane to Mexico. As it turned out, it wasn’t weird at all and I’d spend nearly three weeks in the north west with her.
On the descent into Seattle my heart and nerves were churning like crazy. I hadn’t been nervous or anxious about anything all year (except for the drama surrounding my flight to the US), and even longer since I’d felt something strong for a girl. These emotions felt like a new experience again. Was flying across a country to see a girl too bold, too crazy? What if it didn’t work out? What if we had different expectations? Those and a thousand other thoughts were flying through my head and they certainly weren’t abated by a worrisome lack of Ashe’s presence in the terminal to pick me up. After 20 minutes of anxiously pacing the terminal it occurred to me that she was more of a tech person than I am and would probably have sent and email. So with the 15 minutes of battery power left on my laptop I was able to confirm that she was in fact on her way, just a little bit delayed. The moment I closed the lid of my laptop and looked up, there she was, petite and gorgeous with long black hair, cute glasses (I have a bit of a thing for glasses) and jeans that were perfectly tight in all the right places. Those anxious thoughts started to fade.
In those three weeks we spent together we had an amazing time and covered a fair amount of ground. We started off with a night in Olympia, catching up with each other and later with her friends, Dave and Nathan at different bars, including an amazing micro brew house. The north west, as I would soon come to realize, is home to some incredible beers and ciders. From Olympia we went to Seattle, where we spent a few days enjoying unseasonably pleasant weather hanging out with the hilarious Robin & Jake, as well as a couple of other people as the week went by. We visited the colossal Boeing factory, the biggest building in the world (by volume) and got a tour through the 747 and new 787 Dreamliner assembly lines. After checking out the fish market by the pier on a different day we took a ferry over to Bainbridge Island to see Brian. Bainbridge Island is a beautiful little island covered in forests and parks and we spent a few days soaking up the hard life with Brian and his very kind and hospitable family. We had a few fascinating talks on US politics, military spending and the upcoming election, all of which I found immensely fascinating.
After Bainbridge we decided to go up to Canada for a change of scenery. We spent a few days in beautiful Vancouver where we were able to catch up with Meg, who I went to high school with and hadn’t seen for almost a year, as well as spending a few days in Whistler. The drive to Whistler was gorgeous, as you drive down the new highway following the cool blue water you are constantly surrounded by beautiful snow capped mountains. We even got to see a few bears hanging out on the side of the road which was cute. Whistler was, as expected, stunning and being summer a lot of the snow had melted and the area had turned into a huge mountain bike park.
On the way back, with a boot full of delicious Canadian cider we essentially repeated the first week and half. We spendt a couple of days at Robins house, followed by a few more days hanging out on Bainbridge before getting down to the hipster city of Portland. Portland seemed to be a really nice city and it’s a bit of a shame we didn’t get more time down there but after two days I had a flight to catch.
If you’re wandering what happens next with Ashe and I, it’s a tough one. I’ve never really believed in long distance relationships before, but it’s funny how when you actually have to face it as an option, you tend to want to give it a go. The business grad in me tries to break through the emotional side by simply looking at it as a question of opportunity cost. If I don’t feel like I’m missing out on any opportunities by giving it a go, then I should do it whilst that holds true. I’m not the kind of backpacker that travels around looking for one night stands with locals or other backpackers so at least in that respect I don’t feel the weight of missed opportunities. Of course, relationships aren’t as clean cut as basic business principles and any long distance relationship is difficult. I do however plan on returning to the US to spend another few weeks with her before I fly home, so there is always that, and my adventures in Mexico and beyond to look forward to.