I'm already a few days in America and I haven't even had a chance to post. Why? Well it involved some crazy last-minute busyness, a short trip to LA hospital (everything is okay. Just needed a little IV assistance) and a whole load of jet-lag sleeping. So these posts may be a little scattered while I catch-up.
Leading up to leaving were the traditional chaos - farewell picnics, last-minute check-ups and check-ins, packing, purchasing, studying, wrapping up work in the day job, work for our passion project Vida, and 'Dates with Aunty Kate' were all happening.
Three and a half weeks out from leaving, someone ran into my car and took it off the road. This could have been a huge inconvenience with the amount I needed to do. But I am lucky enough to live in a coastal community. In our village, news travels fast. In our village, we help each other. Before I even had a chance to look up a hire car or bus, I was offered a car for the entire month before I left (thanks Lexie Lou! That was truly amazing).
As much as I try to be one of those organised packers who has everything sorted three weeks out. I am not. I have, however, made improvements. This trip I was semi-organised a little earlier thanks to my awesome sponsors, Kathmandu. I am completely kitted out now - from socks to luggage locks, backpacks to camelbaks. In the process of trying on all my gear at the Adamstown store - it looks as though I may have also gained an adventure buddy as one of the staff in the store will be in Washington State when I am coming back through from Chilko. I am so excited!
ON ASSIGNMENT //
Even though I am only going for a relatively short amount of time - five and a half months is still a long time when it involves little people. I had promised my niece and nephew 'A Date with Aunty Kate' before I left. Their biggest request was to go on a 'photographic assignment together to capture wildlife and to capture the unusual'. You can imagine how stoked and proud I was when they said this! I love that they are enchanted and entranced by the natural world, by science, by adventure and by the arts. I also squeezed in some precious songs, smiles and snuggles with my nephew, Bailey, who is only two months old. My nephew Byron and I share our birthday celebrations each year and since I am away for ours this year, it was also essential to share an early birthday dinner together the night before I left.
Took a short stopover in New Zealand to see my family across the pond, The Bucklands. The plane trip from Auckland to America started getting interesting when some random man from the rows behind started Seat Chatting me (did you know you could do this?? I didn't!). It should have been called MileHigher, as it appears some customers are using it like Tinder for the Sky. I got a straight out 'Do you want to have sex?' pop up on my screen.
Of which I kindly replied 'Not Really. I am watching The Martian'.
Wild Kate, not that wild, it turns out.
Once I arrived in LA, I ended up staying at the Orange Drive Manor, a restored 1920s manor. If you ever want to go to Hollywood...this. is. the. place! A few steps down to Madame Tussauds and the Walk of Fame, this place is a little oasis that Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Tarzan and Clark Gable all called home while in Tinseltown.
Not only is it a bit of old world Hollywood Glamour, it's also home to some of the nicest hostel staff you will ever meet. I soon found out how nice!
HELLO HOSPITAL //GOODBYE MONEY
When I arrived, I wasn't feeling the best and over the next three days, went downhill pretty fast. So much so that I ended up in a LA hospital. An experience I do not wish to ever repeat. My body was going numb, then I was aching all over, delirious and dehydrated. Lara on the front desk was checking on me, giving me hugs and bringing me water and food. When I started vomiting, she convinced me it was time to go to hospital (of which I am very grateful!). After some IV assistance and blood tests, I was discharged with a friendly 50 per cent discount and a US$500 fee.
This is when I cried. I cried for my bank account. I cried for America's healthcare system. I cried in gratitude for Australia's healthcare system. I realised how badly i do not want to see it take this pathway. And how badly I want to protect it. I cried being thankful that it wasn't anything too serious and that I do have travel insurance. I cried because I still felt like shit. Then I slept. Non-stop for about 20 hours. Then another 20-hour block.
It was while I was lying there - listening to people shouting at the nurses, feeling fearful that I would actually receive medical care that I would be billed for, that I felt my mind switch. I was actually truly travelling again. We go expecting the promised version of our travels. The highs and the beautiful moments. We don't go expecting the lows, the moments not shown in the travel brochures. This though is where we learn the most about the places we visit.
In that moment, I was feeling fearful of receiving medical care and I understood what it must feel like for people who can't afford medical care. At home I have access to affordable and state-of-the-art care. The concern is the health first. Here you have another concern - finances. And it is not a nice thing to feel. I had a barcode wrapped around my wrist and every time anything was done to me, or any procedure was performed, I was scanned. I felt like a number.
I was contemplating flying home because something felt very wrong and I also felt very alone. It is in those moments where we learn gratitude and appreciation.
I also now realise at that point in time, I was slightly delirious.
DELIRIOUS DECISION-MAKING IS THE BEST! //
The silver lining of that delirium, however, was while lying in bed (before I realised how sick I actually was), I booked a trip to Galápagos Islands for 2017!
From Brazil! For US$99.
So I guess I am heading to South America next year. Haha!
Luckily, this is a trip in my 'Top 5' and one I've wanted to do most of my life. I feel this is one of the best decisions I have made. Thank you delirium.
Feeling a lot better now after lots of rest and water - so the pre-adventure begins, heading towards Huntington Beach and my friend and previous American road-tripping buddy, Corey.