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Over the New Year break, this is what Sarah did

Every three years or so, Justin and I and a whole bunch of our Aussie friends, go to the states for a white Christmas.

The tradition started because of a family. Long story short…when I was 17 I did a student exchange to the USA and got placed in New York. I ended up living with a host mum and dad and two host sisters. One was older, and one was younger (my entire growing up I’d longed for a sister, so I got doubly lucky) and by the end of my time in New York, they were…well…my sisters.

So of course once I got back to Australia I COULD NOT SHUT UP ABOUT THEM. Or New York (it’s a condition and you have it for life, I swear).

Two of my best mates (actually) loved my never-ending tales of New York and my American family, and so we planned a white Christmas so they could meet them.

We flew in really late at night, and I insisted we go to see my host family immediately. The boys were jet-lagged and not that keen, but I was adamant. We arrived at their apartment around midnight. My younger host sister opened the door and (I’m not even joking) my best mate John fell instantly in love with her. (My other friend Christopher was also in love with her but it was agreed that because Christopher was gay, John naturally had first dibs).

Eight years on, and scores of Australians have now spent a white Christmas with my host family. My little host sister lives in Sydney with John and they’re getting married next year, and I’m currently trying to set my older host sister up with another Aussie mate. What can I say? I have a sickness knack.

Because we’ve spent so much time in New York, Justin and I always make an effort to tick a few new places off as well. This trip we decided to hit Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine in the north, and DC, Virginia, and the Carolinas in the south.

In New Hampshire we rented a massive house in the gorgeous little town of North Conway that fit all fourteen Aussies and Americans perfectly (if anyone is trying to find a perfect winter-wonderland-snow-globe of a Christmas destination, we highly recommend it!). From there we did day trips to the Ben and Jerry’s factory in Vermont, went skiing and mountain-coastering, and visited Portland Maine for its famous clam chowder.

Down south the landscape totally changed. Palm trees popped up along the roadside, the sun was shining and the skies were blue. We heard the word ‘Y’all’ a LOT. Being a teenager of the late 90’s, I was giddy when I realised we’d be driving through the fictional Dawson’s Creek town of Capeside (which is actually a town called Wilmington in North Carolina, referred to as ‘Wilmywood’ because of all the films and TV shows which have been made there – Blue Velvet, East Bound and Down, Empire Records…). Justin (a teenager of the 80’s) thought it was absolutely hilarious when, every few metres or so, I would exclaim “THAT’S WHERE JOEY WORKED!” or “THAT’S WHERE ABBY DROWNED!”

Justin’s lovely aunt lives part of the year in in Charleston South Carolina, and we had an absolute ball taking peach iced tea on the porch, and exploring the cobbled laneways lined with stunning historic homes. We attended a southern cocktail party with Justin’s aunt, ate shrimp ‘n grits at every available opportunity, and lapped up the easy sea breeze before heading back up to NYC and flying home.

As always, America in all her star spangled glory proved to be a country of extremes. By night, the TV was either filled with programming on the gun debate…or Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. By day we might be running around a 6 level warehouse participating in an avant-garde theatre show in Chelsea…or driving through tiny towns in West Virginia that time completely forgot.

My biggest tip for anyone thinking of taking a road-trip across the states? Get off the main highways, venture through the tiny towns, stay with locals wherever possible and you will see and breathe the real America.

One of my favourite moments came when we stayed with my friend Beth and her family on our way down south. She contacted me, somewhat nervously, before we arrived to say “I’m putting you in my son’s old room. But I need to warn you about something. I haven’t touched it since he moved out, and there are still posters of Kathy Ireland on the walls!”. It was one of the most spectacularly American lodging experiences I have ever had.

We’re already planning the next trip back.

Love Sarah xo