As much as I enjoyed my week in San Diego, I was quite ready to head to Minnesota. Even though I hadn’t been there yet, I already saw it as somewhat of a home base. I knew that Mitch had already set up a studio I could stream from, and had done what he could to make me comfortable, but I was not aware at how much detail this incredible man put into that task. It was beyond anything I could’ve imagined. I had a tea station, snacks from both Australian and American origins (as I took quite a liking to a box of Reece’s Pieces I’d tried once), fairy lights lining the whole bedroom, and the studio was as similar in as many details possible from the pink backdrop curtain, to the white plates I use for paint, to the same ringlight I use at home. Plus some extra details that made things more *aesthetic* like the flower garland that sits behind me, and two frames containing photos of my beautiful kitties.
As excited as I was to use the studio, I needed some time to relax after TwitchCon and adjust to a new schedule. I had been in several time zones throughout the week, and even though the adjustment within the States was slight, I was so tired from my trip that I found myself getting sleepy by 10pm. My streams started off short and sweet but I gradually got into the swing of things with my 10:30pm start and streaming later and later into the night as I got accustomed to my new Timezone.
It was much colder in Minnesota but I was thankful to be out of the humid heat of San Diego. Soon after arriving, we took a trip to Duluth which is several hours drive from where I’m staying. This is when I got to see my first snow along the drive, although since it was just white frost on the ground and not witnessing snowfall from the sky, I don’t think it quite counts. The best way to describe the town of Duluth is like that one level of Banjo Kazooie, Rusty Bucket Bay. I could practically hear its theme music as I looked around at the browned metal of the harbours and boats in the township of Duluth, but we weren’t there to visit the town, we were heading further up to a hiking trail, Gooseberry Falls.
I consider myself quite lucky to have been able to see the colours of the leaves in Fall. My original plans before being accepted into TwitchCon would’ve had me arrive late in October, and miss all of these beautiful colours. I walked through this incredible landscape, watching the Autumn leaves whoosh in front of me with each gust of wind, and I was so in love with it, soaking up every colour my eyes could see, and every magical twist and turn of the paths of Gooseberry Falls.
The end of the trail here took us to Lake Superior and goodness is that one huge lake. A lake in my head is a small body of water that I can see to the other side, but this lake is like an ocean. It has boats and docks and water as far as the eye can see. It was quite spectacular!
Heading to and from Duluth showed us endless colourful trees. There is nothing quite like this in Australia, where many of our trees are evergreen. Perhaps there are a few small towns around, such as Hahndorf, which will have the streets lined with Maple Trees, but this was hours on end where I could witness hundreds and hundreds of them, turning exquisite shades of greens, yellows, oranges, reds, and browns as the seasons changed right before my eyes.
The small town I am staying in with Mitch and his family also bestowed this incredible sight of endless trees upon my eyes. I was already so in awe over this place. Along with the vibrancy of the leaves whooshing past through the slight breeze on our regular walks, the paths were also filled with the scuttling of squirrels stocking up for winter. I’d never seen a squirrel before so I was fascinated every time one darted in front of us or chased another up a tree, much like my cats at home would chase one another. Along with squirrels came acorns, which I was quite excited to go looking for. One park in particular had many of them, still falling from the branches. I've not seen an acorn before, so I was overjoyed to be able to collect a small handful of them. Where I live in Australia, there are no acorns! I also thoroughly enjoyed kicking and jumping in piles of leaves that had began to accumulate over the past few weeks.
Aside from the beautiful sights of nature, we did go on adventures to man made wonders too. The Candy Store near where I'm staying was quite spectacular to behold. Adorned with life sized figures of characters from popular movies such as Harry Potter, Disney, Marvel, and so many others, this Candy Store also had countless sweets from all over the world; we even found genuine Tim Tams! Snacks and chocolate bars in America are somewhat lacking, so it was good to know there was a place nearby that sold a wide variety. Grocery stores will have chocolate, sure, but all their chocolate bars are up near the registers where you pay, and comprise of Twix, Snickers, approximately 3 variations of Kit Kat, 3 Musketeers, and probably a bunch more caramel filled confections. They LOVE caramel here, and practically every sweet food has a variation containing caramel.
We took a trip to the Mall of America, which has an entire theme park inside! Unfortunately we didn't have time to go on the rides. We spent most of the day exploring as much of the mall as we could, so by the time we got around to the rides, they were closing for a special event. I was able to explore all the stores we don't have in Australia, and some that looked quite familiar such as Cotton On, which I was surprised to see there. It was interesting to notice the prices of clothing and general homewares here, I did not expect things to be so expensive. Even without the exchange rate, the clothing seemed more expensive here than in Australia! I was lucky enough to find a nice shop I really enjoyed though which wasn't as expensive and had great deals, so was able to purchase a few nice things I could wear here.
Another surprising thing about shopping in malls, is that there doesn't seem to be any general grocery stores. All the places you may shop in a mall are either clothing, accessories, or homewares, and then you will have your fast food options, or stores selling candy. There's nowhere do do your weekly shopping, you'll need to go to another place for that. This leaves your only option for buying a drink to accompany you on your journey at either a fast food place or at a vending machine, most of which ONLY have soda or Gatorade, not water. The one vending machine we found containing water at the Mall of America was out of order!
I've been trying many different food places too, and in contrast to clothing and homewares, the fast food seems vastly cheaper here than at home, but it seems about the only thing that is. One of my favourites that we don't have in Australia was Chick Fil A. Their wraps are divine! I'd love to hear anyone's recommendations for me to try too!
My pure excitement over these small details has been likened to that of a child or puppy dog. The people around me are seeing their home and things they witness on a yearly basis in a whole new light as they watch my fascination at things I've never seen before, and I'm so happy to be able to share that excitement in whichever ways I can, whether it be through my TikTok's, YouTube, the Blog you're currently reading, or in real life, I hope I can spread that joy to all who are following my journey!
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