There are only a few people in the world I have had the pleasure and honor of doing really stupid shit with, and Matty Akka was one of them. He was definitely one of my favorite people to do stupid, totally fun, should-have-instant-regret-but-didn’t, break the rules, kinda shit with! He also was one of my favorite people to talk travel, music, festivals, and have awesome life moments with, so it really hurts to write that the travel and festival world lost an amazing family member the other day. Just a few weeks ago my friend Matty, requested I give his new travel blog, Stiffy’s Travel Blog, a shout out on mine. It pains me that this “shout out” is now in remembrance of him, but I thought you should know that when I found out he wasn’t going to make it, and when I found out he wasn’t “here” anymore, I didn’t cry once. I am gutted, please understand, yes I am sad, and my heart and thoughts are channelling out across the world for those truly and deeply affected by this loss. In all honesty, when I found out about Matty, I smiled, and yes, afterwards I laughed. I have laughed a whole lot, because I have been reminiscing on all the hilarious good times I have had with him.
If there was one thing Matty was good at, it was making people laugh, so I know he’ll be happy to see me smile while I write this post about him and our memories shared. I’m fairly confident I can speak for a lot of people when saying, he made our lives better with his humor, honesty, and true Aussie demeanor. For those of you reading, who don’t know who I’m writing about, or for those of you reading who knew Matty but don’t know me, I’ll explain to you how I crossed paths with him. I’m hoping through this blog post, friends and family of Matty can now be included in some of the memories I have with him, and know that he definitely will be missed by me, and many others. I hope this post makes you smile!
Working for Awake Tours has really brought some amazing individuals into my life. A lot of people often ask me, you’re American, how did you land a job working for an Australian tour company? Better yet, how did you land a job that allows you to travel and takes you to some of the best music festivals on the planet? Well my friends, I’ll let you in on the secret…
The internet, that’s what happened. Quite literally, I got my tour job because of a strong Google search, combined with the combination of my experience I had with solo travel, having a massive music festival obsession helped a little, and believe it or not, a lot of hard work. If you don’t know what I mean by that, then think of everything you would do while applying to a massive multi-billion dollar company. How you would present yourself to them? That is how I presented myself to Awake Tours. I did work, put my skills out there and showed that I truly cared about this job. That’s when I was hired as a part time Tour Guide, and it has been one of the best things life has gifted me with.
My first tour with Awake was for Coachella in 2014. I wrote about the trip in this blog post, but I really didn’t write about what really went down, or who I experienced my first Coachella with. I didn’t write about whoreally was important. Matt was one of the boys on the first tour I was a part of with this company. He was one of the people I became very close with. He also was a secret sisters co-founder, the leader of finding bulk D, and an original member of Team Anita. All of this will make sense once you learn the rules. Oddly enough, it took Matt breaking the #1 RULE, the only rule, you’re not suppose to break, for me to finally write the truth about this trip, and some of the best people I have in my life. It’s a wonder, would I have ever wrote all this if he didn’t break the rule? Here’s all the stupid shit, that really happened on the Coachella 2014 Tour.
“FIRST LEARN THE RULES, THEN BREAK THEM.”
DON’T TRUST STRANGERS
So, the reality of it is, just like I said, I landed this job through the internet. There were a lot of e-mail’s but more importantly there was A LOT of trust involved! Complete trust, of total strangers. Everyone knows you shouldn’t trust strangers. Before the tour started, Anita (Tour Operator) and myself (Tour Guide) had never met each other. Nope, never. No Skype, nadda. All we knew, was that we had to work as a team together. From my perspective, I knew that she was in charge, the boss lady, also young, smart, well educated about travel. From her perspective, she didn’t know if I’d actually show up, but she knew I was well educated about travel and attended a lot of festivals around the world. She trusted me enough to fly me across the country, for my first ever time on the West Coast, to help run this tour, to a festival I’d never been to before. I guess you can say we are both absolutely insane.
Her friend Kayla was along for the ride with us and we decided we would take a bus out to Vegas to check it out before we were with our group for the next two weeks. We wanted to get everything sorted, make sure that everything would run smoothly once we got there with the group, you know, check it out. Much to my dismay, the rumors we’re true, LA traffic blows. Trying to get from our hotel to the bus station, just didn’t happen and we missed our bus. Now what? I suggested we rent a car, even though at the time I couldn’t drive. Go figure, I was the only citizen of the country and I couldn’t drive a rental car. What a dick move. All good though! Anita was so down to take a road trip and drive.
Another level of trust has been born. I trusted her to drive for the first time ever in the states from LA to Vegas. If you’re wondering why I had a lingering concern flowing through my body it was because I remember when I went to Australia, and I remember how bugged out I was being a passenger in a car down there, driving on the opposite side of the road, and sitting in typically what would be the drivers seat back home, as a passanger (everything is reversed). I never actually drove when I was down there, but thought, how hard can it be to drive on the opposite side of the road that you’re use to? Well, if you want to know the answer, take a look at the above picture again. That is my experience of knowing Anita for maybe one day, within the first five minutes of her driving on the 10 in California.
If that wasn’t enough, our trust levels were immediately validated when we both agreed to tell the State Trooper that pulled us over, only 20 minutes from Las Vegas, that Anita thought MPH was actually KM/h. Yup, 90mph in a 50mph zone and a $200 ticket later, our stupid plan didn’t work, but our mutual agreements and trust were now highly valued, bringing us together more than ever, and we finally made it to the strip. Fucking V.E.G.A.S baby..for the first time together… as complete strangers. Now although it’s Vegas, we were on a mission to make sure our group would be all set up the following week, we weren’t going to party too hard. Besides, we had a flight back to LA the following day, who goes hard in Vegas anyway?
Break Rule #10: Strangers, they become some of your most trusted friends.
DON’T BREAK YOUR ANKLE
Seems like a simple task, especially when your plan is to “not go hard” in Vegas. I sound like an idiot! You don’t go to Vegas and not go hard. I was proven so wrong when I woke up the following morning, with my ankle the size of a softball, my head pounding, and had to re-trace my steps (literally) from the night before. Here’s what I remember. Anita, Kayla, and I went to the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign. We then drank and checked out some casinos and headed over to Marquee. 3LAU was the DJ and I was pretty pumped to be at Marquee Mondays for him! We get up to the door and Kayla, didn’t have her passport, she couldn’t enter the club and it didn’t really faze her cause we were pretty drunk already, so she went back to our hotel.
Anita and I went to the club and successfully became the most beautiful bottle rats you’ve ever laid your eyes on. From this point on it’s all a blur. I know I fell off the side of VIP, where I was sitting, onto the dance floor. I had bruises on my ass and my legs for sure (I know this because I have pictures that can’t be posted). Then after that, I basically remember trying to get into this circle of people that were dancing. A big dance off and I wanted to be a part of it, because I love to dance! Someone pushed me out of the circle, and I think this is where I rolled my ankle. Who goes to a club, starts a dance circle and doesn’t want to battle other people? Assholes, that’s who. I’m convinced these people were from LA. Regardless, I’m pretty sure that’s when my ankle was rolled. It didn’t matter though. Hell, it didn’t matter that Anita wasn’t even there anymore! She apparently told me she was leaving but, shocker, I don’t remember. I just kept dancing until they shut the club down, then I WALKED the strip back to our hotel at 6am. Three hours later I wake up and my ankle looks like above picture. Keep in mind, our Tour hasn’t even started yet! The next two weeks I need to walk around LA, walk and dance at Coachella, and then go back to Vegas… At this point I’m just happy we have a flight back to LA…
Break Rule #9: Ankles, fuck em’, you don’t need them as a Tour Guide.
DON’T MISS YOUR FLIGHT
I kid you not, our lives were an actual representation of the movie “The Hangover.” Kayla was hungover, and she didn’t even come to the club with us. If you can picture that, then you can sort of imagine the level Anita and I were on. She was puking in the bathroom, and I had what felt like a fucking broken ankle! Our room had shit everywhere, and our flight back to LA was leaving in less than two hours. WE WERE IN VEGAS FOR NOT EVEN 12 HOURS. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! So, we scramble to get our stuff together, fail miserably at pumping our own gas (I’m from New Jersey and we don’t pump gas in this state), get fined for not filling the gas tank, didn’t really matter, our morels and dignity were way far gone at this point, especially after we pull our rental car into the spot and Anita opens the door runs some where and pukes…again. We grab all our stuff, get onto the shuttle to the airport, get to the airport we have 45 minutes, we are gold, we got this. Considering our various conditions, we were moving rather quickly, and by moving rather quickly I mean, you could have probably compared me to a sluggish sloth with the way I was dragging my ankle. We get to check in, OK we’re good, awesome. The rest of my worries for the day are flying to LA, and doing absolutely nothing but ice and rest my ankle. That changed in the matter of a minute.
Anita looks at me and Kayla. We look at her. She looks at us again. Then she opens her luggage, frantically looking around. If anyone knows Anita, her suitcase is not organized. It’s a wonder this girl has traveled to so many countries, yet is such an amazing planner, because everything is just thrown, I mean literally, it looks like a war zone of laundry and documents in there. Her wallet, it’s missing. Now I feel like throwing up. Luckily we call the rental place and they have her wallet, which was left in the car. At least her passport and cards are safe, but now we miss our flight and have to drive the four hours back to LA. Four hours of driving… all tired, hungover, with broken ankles, and with thoughts of our first trip of Anita driving to Vegas in the back of my head. We we’re fucked.
Break Rule #8: Miss your flight, it gives you the true Vegas experience.
DON’T FIGHT CELEBRITIES
I’m sure you’re all wondering where breaking the rules with Matty comes into play? We have reached that part of the story. The first day of the Coachella 2014 Tour! The day I definitely, for sure, thought Anita was going to fire me. We have a group meet up, introduce ourselves and then we’re off for our full day in LA. If you’ve never been to LA, well, come with us on tour!! (You see what I did there). In all seriousness, if you haven’t been to Los Angeles, it is huge! You can spend the day or two or three, in one section of it, but we take the group on a full day tour, to see everything from Hollywood, to Venice, to Beverly Hills and everywhere in between. After our day tour, we freshen up, and head to downtown L.A. Whoever wishes to go to a basketball game can, and whoever doesn’t, gets to drink with me at one of the restaurants around L.A. LIVE! Afterwards, it is a free night to do whatever you wish!
So, I have a good friend from college, Anthony, who moved out to LA, and I always make it a point to go and see him or hang out with him. He was going out to a small dive bar in West Hollywood for karaoke night. I told Anita that was my plan for the night and she said to ask the group if anyone wanted to come. I thought to myself, “Sure of course! I bet no one wants to come. Who comes to America and of all things goes to Karaoke night with me?” So I get on the mic of the bus and announce I’m going to Karaoke if anyone wants to come, raise their hand. With the exception of Anita, her sister Karina, Kayla, and I think two other girls, everyone raised their hand. Well, I guess I’m bringing 20+ Australians to a dive bar for Karaoke! It actually was extremely fun, and we all got to mingle, get to know each other, drink and sing karaoke! I never realized how much Aussies love to sing, but they were singing, and they were singing a lot! We practically made their night there, because there was so many of us!
Now, naturally, I was sitting down, because of my ankle. I’m flipping through the song books and some guy/girl (West Hollywood is known as the TLGB pride area) walks over with crutches on. I start to make small talk with him as we look through the song book and I joke around saying, “I need to borrow, your crutches!” He asked what had happened to my ankle and then immediately shifted the subject to my beloved group of Aussies, but not in a good way. To cut to the chase, as soon as I told him that they were all from Australia and I was their Tour Guide, things got super sour. After some of my group got done singing, this guy gets on the mic and starts giving a speech about proper tipping etiquette, basically degrading my group, ordering these “sheilas and blokes” to tip the bartender and karaoke staff! I saw one of the girls in my group, drop her mouth completely in awe, that this douche-bag was actually saying the words he was saying, on the mic, for the entire bar to hear! It was at this point that I was completely mortified to be associated as an American with this asshole. It all starting making sense, more reasons for people to hate us. So in my mind I’m thinking to myself, how this is some of this groups first time on a holiday overseas, but more importantly, it is a lot of their first time in America, and this guy is saying all of this to them!! It looked something like this…
That’s when it happened. I got up, went right into this guys face and said, “What did you say to them?” Mind you I had several drinks in me, and he really set me off. He repeated himself but then provoked me a little more, “Aw, the tour guide is getting upset.” I mean this all happened so quickly, I honestly don’t understand what his beef was with Aussies? They are some of the nicest people in the world! Being this group of people, we’re under my care, it was on! So now, I’m in this guys face, the microphone is held right between us, and this entire battle is being broadcasted to the entire bar. He actually had the nerve to give me a little chest bump, and I pushed him right back. This is when my entire group started to back me up and I actually think it was Matty who started chanting, “JESS! JESS! JESS!” I was so close to punching this guy in the face, that finally, security comes over, breaks it up, they escort this guy out and man, was I fuming! I just kept repeating to everyone, “Don’t tell Anita!” over and over again. I for sure thought after the drunken ankle incident and now on the first night of tour, I was fighting with someone, I was without a doubt never working for Awake again. Anthony comes over to me, while I’m frantically looking for a cigarette to calm my nerves and says, “Dude, you know who that was right?” My reaction was, “Who gives a fuck!!!” I was so heated. Well, turns out, it was Alexis Arquette, yes, the wedding singer, “who sucks.” I actually fought the wedding singer, at karaoke night, and won.
Break Rule #7: Definitely fight celebrities. “Wedding singer, you suck!!!!”
DON’T “DRESS UP” FOR COACHELLA
So interestingly enough, getting into a fight with a celebrity did not get me fired, in fact, it got me recognized and respected as odd as that seems. Everyone loved me from this point on. I was the group protector, and apparently the best tour guide ever? From this point on, I also would never live down that I “got into a fight with a tranny.” Everyone was cracking jokes, especially because it was a celebrity, and especially because I clearly showed how crazy I am within the first night of tour! Rookie mistake? Nah… all good, apparently! So now we are off to Palm Springs, to start our adventure in the desert for one of the biggest festivals in the world, Coachella! I think it was at this point where the friendships within the group truly started to form. A long bus ride from L.A. to the desert lead to mingling and a mandatory stop at a super Walmart, lead to who truly was on the same level of debauchery with each other.
This is something I think everyone does as their final stop before a music festival in the United States. You become people of Walmart. You stock up on alcohol, lots, and lots of alcohol. More importantly, you stock up on useless, completely unnecessary supplies, like riffle BB guns, and food you probably won’t eat. In some cases, if you’re having a serious bromance, you buy matching neon dresses little girls would wear, that you end up wearing to Coachella all three days. Coachella is known for it’s fashion, and these boys we’re on a mission to look their very best for the occasion. Now, I don’t want to say that my “fight with the tranny” encouraged these boys to get in touch with their inner feminine side, but, fuck it, I am totally taking the credit for inspiring them! Such beauties!
Break Rule #6: No one really cares how you look at Coachella.
DON’T PICK TEAMS
Let me put it to you this way. There are people that get the importance of connecting with people, learning, and sharing experiences when you travel. There are the people that understand the patience travel involves, especially in a large group of people and the differences we have as humans, our cultures, our personal traits, etc. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who don’t. Team Anita, they are the one’s who get it! Some of them are truly dedicated to the team’s effort of being so awesome, they make it a permanent reminder…
We had way too much fun together, and too this day we are all very close still. [[SHOUT OUT]] Anita, Jacinta, Brendo, Jezza, Leigh, Karina, Kayla, and of course Matty, thanks for becoming some of the best people in my life! I love you guys.
Break Rule #5: Pick your team. In this case, Team Anita or GTFO!
DON’T TELL SECRETS
I’ll be completely honest. I don’t remember the back story behind the secret sister secrets. If you’re interested someone from Team Anita can fill you in on that one. I just know a lot of those secrets took place in my room. There is one secret I can definitely tell you about and that is the story of what I like to call, “The Victoria’s SECRET bra launch.” Something that was 100% my fault, but 100% Matty had to do with. At this point in the trip we had made it back to Vegas, completely ready to destroy any self respect we had for ourselves as humans. Coachella was done and dusted (literally) and we had a hell of a time! We had complementary access to XS (I think), and only Team Anita and a few others wanted to go. I was wearing a shirt that had a very deep see through plunge in between my boobs, and I had just bought a very expensive, custom, Victoria’s Secret bra to wear with it. It was my first time using it and at first it worked wonders, until I got drunk and hit the dance floor. I was dancing so much, and no I wasn’t doing the “Aussie Shuffle,” one of Matty’s signature dance moves. I was really dancing. I was really going hard. Remember RULE #9? Yeah, I was still going full mental on my broken ankle. Anyway, the bra which had no straps and only sticky material, started to not stick to me. That’s when I had a “Fuck this, I’m drunk” moment. I took the bra off and for no apparent reason, I handed it to Matty. I thought since he was just standing there, he would hold it for me, naturally, that’s what anyone would do right? Why would I EVER think that?! Well, as if it was perfectly planned, Matty launches my bra full throttle into the center of this massive dance floor simultaneously as a giant blast of confetti shoots off and everyone starts to scream in excitement. Except me. I just started screaming at Matty. I might as well have taken, fifty singles and given it to him to make it rain on people. Also, my apologies to the poor soul that probably got side swiped in the face with my sticky, sweaty Victoria’s Secret bra. I’m sorry for the problems my drunken stupidity has caused you. Now, it was only a matter of maybe, five minutes after I completely flipped out on Matty, that I came to the conclusion that this was really my fault, and I truly am a dumb ass. We hugged and made up and to this day, it still makes for a great story!
Break Rule #4: You don’t need to keep secrets, especially Victoria’s!
DON’T LOOK FOR THE D
Bulk D. Our entire mission on tour was to look for it and find it. There is not much to elaborate on here besides, no one will really understand the importance of finding the “D” unless you’re a Team Anita member. I think I’ll leave this one to keep for ourselves, just know Matty was the driving force behind this.
Break Rule #3: When all else fails, find the D.
DON’T PENT HOUSE PROPER
Pent house party in Vegas? Just because? OK, yup, check that one of the living life list. We decided (Anita and I, well, basically Anita, but I 100% agreed) to get a pent house suite at the MGM Grand on the last day of our trip, just so we could party in it, for no apparent reason because.. well… #TeamAnita. A ridiculous suite for only 10 or so of us. For the record, everyone was invited but you can revert back to RULE #5 if you’re wondering why we we’re the only ones who showed up, and truthfully, we didn’t care because that’s all we needed. This place was unreal and out of control ridiculous. I mean, I honestly could’t believe what I was seeing. The place was two floors, gorgeous decor, outside fireplace and lounge areas, sick view of the strip, just so much room for activities, and you could probably have 100 people there if you wanted to.
Don’t really remember much from the night, but you can kind of imagine from the above pictures how crazy it was and that we all had an amazing last night together. The next morning when I peaked open my one eye and finally regained consciousness from my black out, I was horizontal on the floor, next to the couch, and this place was destroyed. Really? I couldn’t even make it to a couch? I guess it’s safe to say Vegas truly lives up to the rumors of making your body want to shut down and never consume a single substance ever again.
Break Rule #2: Absolutely get a pent house in Vegas, or you’re doing it wrong.
RULE # 1
DON’T LEAVE US
Anita wrote a post to Matty the other day. She said, “What have you gone and done? Rule #1 and the only rule, was be careful.” It’s true, we always tell everyone on our tours and after our tours end, to be careful while traveling on their journey through life. Yes, she’s right, we do want everyone to be careful. The truth is, that was a little sugarcoated. If you’ve ever been on one of our tours, then you know the truth about the rules. The #1 RULE and the only rule is, DON’T DIE! This is the first thing that we say to people, when we give our speech at the beginning of tour, and I am being completely serious. (I hope no one takes that the wrong way, cause my intentions are not to disrespect or hurt anyone). Lots of people think we are joking around when we say it, everyone laughs, but we’re not joking. Let me tell you something. Being a Tour Guide can sometimes be the most stressful job in the world! Everyone thinks its all traveling and partying or basically the equivalent of sparkles and rainbows and that it’s the best thing ever. Most of the time, yes, it is, but you also have a lot of responsibility lingering over you. You are responsible for caring for 30+ people, all of their thoughts, their concerns, their actions, their LIVES, and if something happens to them, you have to deal with it, you are the ones in charge and in control. The truth of the matter is, no one is ever in control. That’s whats so scary about life. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. I just want whoever is reading this to know that, I learned so much from Matty, and had some of the best times with him, and so many wonderful memories with him and our group of friends. This tragedy has only shown me how life can change so quickly. I can’t believe, and don’t want to believe that he was the first one to break this rule.
Break Rule #1: Because, life has no rules.
Now… there is one last thing I want to mention. The whole point of me writing this post about Matty and how he came into my life and made it a better time, was because I wanted to do something for him. Something, that I thought would be a great way for everyone that loves him to get involved and stay connected with one another. I personally want to stay connected with people that have met him through travel, a festival, a crazy party or anything that we both love and share a passion for. You’re probably wondering what the title of this blog post means right?
Well, if you look at the last picture I posted, of me and the boys, you can see Matty is looking at me a certain way. I look at that picture a lot, because for one, I love those boys in that picture! Reason two is, it’s just such a great picture of us! And lastly, I look at it a lot, because I love the way Matty is looking at me in it. I know exactly what he had just said to me in that picture and why he’s looking at me like that. So I’m going to fill everyone in about it…
If anyone knew my friendship with Matty, they know that if there was one thing he did to me, it was to constantly make it known, that he recognized when I wore short shorts. In fact, he constantly made fun of me for wearing the shortest shorts I could possibly fit into. I know deep down he did this because he loved the way my ass looked in them. (I’m finally putting him on blast, and I hope he is hysterical laughing, from where ever he is!) So, I have come up with an idea in hopes of meeting people who loved him and his humor just as much as me. I have come up with a hash tag for him, so that all the people that loved him or knew him can meet up around the world because of him. Through this hash tag I hope it will bring us laughs, or possibly some new stories, while remembering Matty! Even though he is no longer physically with us, he can and will still bring people together through travel, festivals, and fun, something we both love and live for!
If you have an Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter account, I would love for you to get involved! Please post your pictures wearing short shorts, with the hash tag #ShortShorts4Stiffy! The pictures can be group photos, personal photos, funny photos, sexy photos, or even photos of Matt wearing shorts, like this one…
I hope this brings us some laughs and connections during this tough time. I hope it brings me new friendships and interesting people into my life! More importantly, I hope it makes everyone smile! If you don’t wish to get involved in the hash tag for Matty, feel free to comment on this blog post with some memories you have with him. If you also wish to help the Atkinson Family at this time, there is a Go Fund Me, set up where you can donate money to help. In only four days, nearly $8,500 has been raised out of the $10,000 goal.
I’ll close the story out with a review Matty wrote about our tour company, which is ridiculously hilarious. I will miss him so much! This is written proof that everything I just wrote, actually happened… notice how all the “likes” are from Team Anita!
I am extremely sad that I will never get to link up with you at a festival as planned, or sneak in a cheeky beer on some foreign territory with you again, but none the less, I hope you and everyone knows how you have impacted my life in a wonderful way. I also think you were the one that got the thank you card for me, which really meant the world to me.
You always made me laugh, and that is one thing I will miss most about you. I’m not going to tell you to rest in peace, because if there is another world after this one, I know for sure you are not resting! I’ll meet you there one day…
Here’s to you!
Here’s to the True Blue…