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Travelling With Lee: United States

Without doubt, May 15th 2016 was the longest day of my life. Flying from Auckland, New Zealand to Honolulu, Hawaii involves a three hour flight to Sydney followed by a three hour stopover. The ten hour flight to Hawaii subsequently commences but upon arrival you have to put your clocks back by twenty two hours! By the time I went to bed that night in Honolulu, I believe I had three breakfasts, three lunches, and three dinners!

Days elapsed before my body recovered from the lengthy journey. My hostel was one block from Waikiki Beach which is situated in the heart of Honolulu. The Pacific Ocean’s turquoise blue waters were crystal clear and swimming within them was a delight. Although Hawaii embodies the image of paradise for many, on December 7th 1941, this image was shattered. This was the day in which the Japanese attacked the U.S. Navy. Within hours, 2400 people were dead, scores were maimed and the United States had entered World War II. Exploring museums which contextualised the attacks and informed you of the events chronologically was fascinating and added to my knowledge and interest in this period of American History. The U.S.S. Arizona was hit by several bombs from the Japanese on that fateful day leading to the ship tilting on its side. 1177 men remained trapped and rescue attempts proved futile. Today a memorial stretches the bow of the ship. Upon entry to this memorial, I felt very claustrophobic and nauseous when I see that survivors of the Pearl Harbour attacks have their ashes placed alongside of their perished comrades.

Another excursion during my week in Hawaii involved a bus tour to the North Shore where Lost and Jurassic Park was filmed. Here I attempted stand up paddle boarding which involved me standing on a surf board whilst trying to steer it with an oar. This activity requires balance, coordination, and a good sense of direction. Although lacking these, I eventually got into the swing of things.

Los Angeles was my second stop in the U.S., where I stayed for three nights. My hostel was located on the iconic Hollywood Boulevard and I spent hours exploring the names of the rich and famous on the sidewalk. A bus tour escorted me around a handful of celebrities’ homes which we eagerly photographed from the bus. We also saw shops and restaurants frequented by the Hollywood Hobnobs. After meeting up with my childhood friend Daniel who now lives in L.A., I took his advice to escape the hustle and bustle by hiking up to Griffith Park Observatory. This provided me with panoramic views of the city as well as the quintessential image of the area – the Hollywood Sign.

New York catered to many of my interests in life. The 911 Memorial Museum was my highlight. 3000 people were indiscriminately and callously slain on that day. Within the galleries of the recently opened museum are damaged fire engines, remains of the antennas and fragments of the actual planes which ploughed into the towers. Five people from the Republic of Ireland died that day including a mother and daughter on board one of the planes. Unbeknownst to her, her brother escaped from the tower that their plane hit. From the museum, I walked to Times Square and Broadway where large billboards of Saoirse Ronan, who is currently on stage, made me feel proud to be Irish. The Dakota is an apartment block overlooking Central Park and it is here where John Lennon was assassinated in 1980. He and his wife Yoko Ono lived in this building for many years before his untimely, senseless death. I was reliably informed that Yoko Ono still lives here by a chirpy doorman. Across the road, a memorial to Lennon called Strawberry Fields with the word Imagine engraved on it is located. This site is a place where Beatles fans and Pacifists alike congregate and contemplate. The silence provided me with a moment or two of tranquillity within the heart of this vast and fast moving metropolis.

After eight months in eleven countries across three continents, my career break had come to an end. Miraculously, I didn’t exceed my budget, I didn’t experience any illnesses or any accidents or injuries and the only thing I broke was a few girls’ hearts! My flight home arrived into Dublin on May 29th 2016 – a year to the day that I passed my driving test! What a year it had been my friends!!

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