The Day I’ve Been Waiting For

It’s amazing how quickly the utter exhaustion I felt after a 20 hour bus ride from Louisiana, through Arkansas, and into Oklahoma (followed by a one hour wait for a taxi and a two hour wait for my hotel room) dissipated once I attended the storm chasing tour meeting that brought me to Oklahoma.

This is the day I’ve been waiting for since I first booked the tour, over a year ago. But it’s a day I’ve been dreaming about for many, many years. Ever since I was eight years old and I bought a book about storms from the school book club, I have been fascinated by wild weather.

Understandably, not many people back home have understood the appeal of chasing storms in Tornado Alley, so it was nice to meet my tour group and find there are like-minded storm enthusiasts out there in the world, who are as mad as I am!

We were asked about what we are most excited for during our week long tour chasing storms across the great plains of America. My answer? Everything. I’m looking forward to learning more about the science behind weather forecasting. I’m excited to drive through the open plains and view those vast landscapes. I can’t wait to take photos of stunning storm-filled skies.

Of course, it would be absolutely awesome to see a tornado. But I know I’ll be more than happy just to witness the incredible supercell thunderstorms that produce them. We just don’t get cloud action like that in Perth.

So without further ado, I’m signing off. It’s time to go storm chasing, baby!!!

1 Week ‘Til America

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I knew the hour was early when I opened my eyes and was greeted by a feeble grey light filtering through my window. I stumbled blearily into the kitchen and the clock showed six oh five. But a sudden realisation woke me right up. This time next week, I’ll be sitting on a plane, about to depart my home for six weeks, and ready to see what there is to see in the USA.

Despite my love of travelling, it’s been a long time since I’ve been so cognizant of an upcoming holiday. It doesn’t usually hit me until the day before, and then it usually feels like a huge inconvenience because of all the effort involved.

This time, it’s different. For the first time in a long time, I feel really excited. Almost like a newbie traveller again. Perhaps it’s because my trip to America has been in the pipeline for so long now- practically a year- that it’s surreal to think that a countdown of 365 days has dwindled down to seven. I’ve waited a long time for this trip and now it’s almost upon me.

***

In the hour of transformation between silver dawn and golden day, time seems to take on another dimension. It stretches out before me, like a piece of elastic. I see the 29 years of my life that have led to this moment, and they seem like nothing at all.

And yet six weeks stretches out of sight, and trying to decipher what it encompasses feels like looking into eternity. It’s vague and grey, like the early morning, appearing unpredictable yet feeling like fate.

Let’s just wander through the hours, undecided about directions but confident we will get to where we need to go. And when it all eventually falls into place, something will have shifted and life will be different. I will appear the same but feel changed.

***

Let America slumber in her final dreams. The silver dawn approaches, and with it, a golden horizon of opportunities.

When Stars Align

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So, I’m feeling mega excited right now. I have just booked tickets to see Billy Joel when I am in America. His ‘Turnstiles’ album has always made me dream about the big American cities, and I just thought, how cool would it be to see him in concert when I finally visit the USA for the first time. My dream would be to see him at Madison Square Garden, his iconic performance arena.

When I finally figured out my plan for America a few weeks back, I decided I would visit New York in mid-May, between my storm chasing tour and my G Adventures tour. But when I checked Billy’s tour dates, his May performance was scheduled for the 25th- a week too late. I was so bummed that the stars hadn’t aligned.

The other night, I was lying in bed, listening to ‘Turnstiles’, and still wishing I could attend one of his concerts. It just seemed like one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and I just really, really wanted to go. It was 2am, and I’d settled into bed an hour and a half ago, but instead of sleeping, I couldn’t stop thinking, there’s got to be a way.

I checked the next concert date. June 6th. By that time, I’d be on the other side of the country, in San Francisco. Maybe I could just fly over for the concert? It was a half-hearted idea, as I knew it would be bloody expensive, and, sure enough, when I saw the price of the flights, the idea was quickly dismissed.

It wasn’t all in vain, though, because it got me thinking of an alternative idea. Aside from my two tours, nothing else is actually booked yet. Yes, there’s a proposed itinerary of where I want to go and when, but nothing is actually set in stone. So, why not change the itinerary? Why not visit New York after my two tours? That way, I’d be in the Big Apple on June 6th.

Once the penny dropped, the answer seemed so obvious, and I felt as thick as a brick that it had taken me so long to have this epiphany. My mind’s been racing ever since, though, and I’ve been organising my cross-country travel at such a rate that it’s surprised even me. It’s like some part of me already knew I was meant to go to this concert, and kept persisting with little clues, waiting patiently for my slow brain to catch up. Everything is falling into place now like a chain of dominoes. Being absorbed in this holiday planning has been so consuming the last couple of days that it almost feels like I’m already there.

I have a feeling, though, exactly three months from now, when I’m entering Madison Square Garden to watch the Piano Man, it will feel as though I’m in a dream.

2 Months Until America

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Today is the 1st of March, which means the start of autumn for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere. Not that you’d know it here in Perth, with temperatures reaching a sweltering 38 degrees today. I am feeling absolutely drained, and the air is still very hot and sticky at 7.30pm. Ugh. Looks like I’ll be holding off from pulling out my jumpers and making hearty soups for a while yet.

The thing I’m most excited about which is coming up this autumn, though, is my six week trip to America. In exactly two months from now, I’ll be on a plane, flying to San Francisco. (Well, actually, first I’ll be flying to Singapore. And then, Hong Kong. And THEN, San Francisco.) There are many things I’m looking forward to on my first ever visit to the mainland States, but, without a doubt, the one experience I absolutely can’t wait for is my storm chasing tour, on which I will also celebrate my 30th birthday.

When I tell people about my reason for going to America and how I’ve chosen to spend my 30th, many people look at me with incredulity, wondering what on earth is the appeal of such a tour. Isn’t chasing tornadoes akin to a death wish and risking the prospect of living to see another birthday? It’s true that I’ve signed a waiver that I accept I could die- but, in truth, is this not the very nature of life itself? Certainly, there is no waiver we can sign to guarantee that, when we wake up in the morning, we will live to see out the day.

All we can do is hope that there is still plenty of sand in our hourglass, and make the most of the time that is given to us.

Canyon Country Awaits

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This year will be the first time I visit mainland America. It’s been difficult deciding how I’m going to spend my six weeks while over there because, as I’ve come to realise while doing my holiday research, the United States is such a vast country with so much to see and do. My storm chasing tour which I booked last year is obviously a given- it’s my whole reason for going to the States in the first place. But it’s only a week long tour, which still left me with five weeks to plan for.

When I got back from Nepal at the end of October 2016, I had no more travel plans for the year so organising my America trip became my focus. Originally, I was thinking of doing a two month circle tour with Trek America after my storm chasing tour finished up, in order to see as much of the US as possible. However, my youngest brother is turning 18 this year and I want to be home for his birthday so I decided against it, as going on such a long tour would’ve meant missing his 18th. I was also conscious of the financial cost of such a long tour. Considering I don’t work full time and I still have lots of travel plans for the latter half of the year, spending an additional ten grand on top of my storm chasing tour seemed excessive.

While I was pondering these money matters in early November, some very cheap flights to the US opened up- $922 return from Perth to San Francisco, flying Singapore Airlines. It was an amazing deal, too good to pass up, and I wanted those flights! It was just the motivation I needed to at least figure out a time frame for my trip, even if I didn’t quite know the details of what I’d be doing yet.

I accepted the reality that I wouldn’t be able to ‘see it all’ this time around and decided I’d focus on exploring the southern states of America. I contemplated just doing my own thing but realised I still wanted to do some sort of tour so I could meet new people. There were a couple of shorter tours that still fit within the six week stint I’d now settled upon and my interest was piqued by the Southern Cross Country tour offered by G Adventures, a 23 day road trip from New York to San Fran.

It wasn’t until Christmas time, when the mum of a student I’d taught a couple of years ago posted a spectacular photo of the Lower Antelope Canyon in Arizona which she was visiting with her family, that I realised why I kept umm’ing and ahh’ing about booking the Southern Cross Country tour.

There’s no doubt the United States has some amazing cities and there’s certainly a few I want to visit. But I’d allowed myself to get blindsided by the typical touristy experiences that are recommended for a first time visitor to the States. Deep down, it’s America’s wildernesses that I most want to see: the rugged plains, the grand national parks, the wide open spaces.

Once I’d had this epiphany, my itinerary seemed to write itself. I would visit the cities I was interested in for a couple of days on my own, in between tours. But my main focus would be exploring and wandering through the natural landscapes that speak to my heart.

Now my second tour is finally booked! On the 19th of May, I’ll be starting the Canyon Country and Coasts tour, a 16 day adventure in America’s south-west run by G Adventures. I’ve gone from a tour encompassing 30 states around America to one that will only venture to four of them but I know that my experiences will be no less richer for it.