13 unique and unusual places you NEED to stay in

We’re all about embracing the unusual here at STA Travel and when it comes to accommodation, the quirkier the better! Earn some serious travel street-cred and take your trip to a whole new level by calling a grounded plane, a rain forest canopy or a Japanese library home for the night…

1. Sleep in a plane (firmly on the ground) in Sweden

That’s right, a hostel made from a plane and this one is super cool. Next time you’re in Stockholm, make sure this jumbo jet is on your list.

Book your stay today!

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2. Sleep in a crane (firmly off the ground) in Amsterdam

Weird and wacky Amsterdam would have a hostel in a crane, wouldn’t they? And that’s why we love them! Anyone with a fear of heights/dangling above the ground, beware!

Book a night here…

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3. Sleep in the trees in Peru

Planning an Amazonian adventure? Sleep among the monkeys in your very own treehouse lodge – your mates will be green with envy at the lush rainforest within arm’s reach of your bedroom window.

Book a night in the trees…

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4. Sleep down, down, underground in Coober Pedy 

When where you live is this freakin’ HOT there’s only one way to go – underground. Find shops, restaurants, even hotels and hostels all burrowed below the earth’s surface. This quirky little town is not to be missed!

Book a stay here!

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5. Sleep in a silo in New Zealand

We never thought we’d say it, but yes, we really want to stay in a silo! No longer a tin structure to hold grain, this New Zealand offering now stores sleepy travellers.

Book a night here!

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6. Sleep in a library in Tokyo

Prepare for a night of bookworm paradise. Nestle yourself between shelves stocked full of literature in this quaint library hostel. Then get some epic Instagram pics before nodding off…

Book your stay!

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7. Sleep locked up overnight in Australia

The look on your mum’s face when you tell her you spent the night in a prison will be so, so worth it (plus, you can lie in luxury – don’t worry, you won’t actually get shackled up!)

Spend the night here!

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8. Sleep in a salt palace in Bolivia

Embrace royal life when you tell your mates you’re staying in a Palace. Even more unique, a palace made of salt (FYI licking the walls is not ok kids)! This place is uber chic and definitely won’t leave you feeling salty.

Book your stay!

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9. Sleep in a hotel made of ice in Sweden

Ice, ice babyyy – any excuse to get that line out and we’ll take it. This place is straight outta Narnia and will have your jaw trailing on the floor.

Spend the night…

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10. Sleep in a hotel made of sand in Egypt

Feel like the real Lawrence of Arabia with a night in a sand hotel. Just be careful not to huff and puff in case it all falls down (of course we’re joking… we think).

Book your stay!

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11. Sleep in an old bull-fighting ring in Mexico

Steeped in history and oozing Hispanic luxe, this accommodation will have you snapping at every turn.

Book a stay here!

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12. Sleep in a capsule in Hong Kong

These guys are known for their space-saving methods and this capsule hostel is no different! If you’re claustrophobic, this one isn’t for you…

Stay the night here…

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13. Sleep in a train carriage in California

All aboard!! Choo-choose a night in a train carriage next time you visit California (thanks Ralph Wiggum for that pun). Each one has its own theme from seaside vibes, Parisian boutiques to Harley Davidson shrines. Random? But of course.

Book your stay!

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If you want more regular accommodation, check out ALL of our hostels and hotels.

Top tips on surviving a long-haul flight

After a journey Down Under for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, Team England athletes shared their top travel tips with us to beat jet lag and make a 14+ hour flight comfortable (or as comfy as it can be…).

H2-oh yeah!

As the fourth fastest English swimmer of all time, we weren’t surprised when David Cumberlidge’s advice was: “Water! You’ve got to stay hydrated so make sure you drink as much as you can before, during and after a long flight to help keep you feeling fresh.” Just maybe take an aisle seat to avoid evil glares from Bob as you pop to and from the loo…

A post shared by David Cumberlidge (@davidcumberlidge) on

Tick, tock, body clock

There’s nothing worse than finally reaching your holiday destination and wanting to crash straight away. Wheelchair triathlete Jade Jones-Hall suggests getting a head start on the jetlag by adjusting to the new time zone early: “Do what you can to adjust your body clock before and during the flight, that way it’s less of a shock when you get there and you don’t spend your first few days collapsed in bed!”.

A post shared by Jade Jones-Hall (@jade_jones11) on

Move those tiger feet!

One of the more unusual tips we’ve heard, but parasport swimmer Tom Hamer has a couple of hand-luggage musts he swears by. Tom says: “It’s important to stay active and keep moving whilst you’re on a long flight so I always pack a hockey ball and foam roller, so I can stretch on the plane.” Each to their own!

A post shared by Thomas B. Hamer (@tomhamer14) on

Shut the world out

Planes aren’t your first thought for a good night’s sleep, but swimmer James Wilby is onto something with his top tip: “Noise-cancelling headphones have been a game changer for me! I sleep so much better when I wear them.” Either get the tunes on or just block out the background noise as your journey literally… flies by…

A post shared by James Wilby (@jameswilby) on

Pack Comfy

Swimmer Jessica Fullalove had her own thoughts on packing and in-flight outfits: “I always try to pack a lot of nice-smelling things; you really appreciate it after a long flight. Make sure you dress comfy as well – you’re there to relax!”

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So there you have it, rules to live by for your next long-haul flight and beyond! Congrats to all of the Team England athletes who competed at the Commonwealth Games, bring on the next lot in Birmingham!

 

Feeling up for a long-haul flight Down Under? Check out our flights to Australia here! 

48-hour fling with Amsterdam

Just an hour and a bit away by plane (or even the train), this is one short-distance love affair waiting to happen. Here’s 7 reasons why the Netherlands capital will have you saying Amsterdaaaaaaaamn.

1. Cyclist heaven

Love being on two wheels? Amsterdam is a cycling utopia, just be careful as bike lanes are also shared with motorbikes… If you’re not keen on hopping on the saddle, walking around this picturesque city couldn’t be easier.

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2. Food, glorious food

You’d be hard pressed to find a bad place to eat in Amsterdam to be honest. If you’re feeling lazy, don’t worry about researching the best restaurants for each meal, take a walk on the wild side and just… walk on in! If you are looking for some shout outs, we highly recommend Bakers and Roasters and the Foodhallen.

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3. Cheaper Saturday nights

Or Monday nights, or Tuesday nights, we won’t judge whatever day you choose to hit the town, but when you do go out, make sure you order yourself a Heineken for the ultimate payback in change. Enjoy that beer hangover!

A post shared by Mariapia Mazzone (@piamazz) on

4. Cat ladies rejoice!

If you’re a fan of the feline, then you NEED to visit the illustrious cat boat. Yep, you heard us right. There is a boat, full of cats. A local charity sat on the water decided to open its doors to the homeless cats of Amsterdam and now their doors are open to the public too! Get ready for furry cuddles and purring galore.

A post shared by De Poezenboot (@depoezenboot.amsterdam) on

5. Art and history

Rouse your inner nerd with a tour around the Van Gogh museum, Moco Museum or take a step back in time at Anne Frank’s house. Whatever your preference, you’re sure to find an attraction for you.

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6. Pack your walking boots

Amsterdam doesn’t just have cheap Heineken, it has plenty of free sights you should get on your checklist. Whether it’s escaping the city’s hustle and bustle in the scenic Vondelpark, exploring the Red-Light district, getting your picture taken at the I Amsterdam sign or checking out the floating flower market, make time to just wander the streets – they’re pretty photogenic after all.

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7. Weird and wonderful is totally normally

Want to go sit in the world’s smallest movie cinema (just one seat, sorry mates)? Hit up Amsterdam’s CINEMA41! Or maybe you want to spend an afternoon giggling with your mates (so immature) at animatronic dolls in risqué poses? Hello, Sex Museum! Or for those cat lovers (got you covered again) wanting to spend the day looking at cat art? KattenKabinet is the one for you…

A post shared by Best of Amsterdam (@best_of_amsterdam) on


Whatever your reason for visiting, you can be sure that a trip to Amsterdam will be like no other! So get this yummy European destination on your list, you won’t regret it!

Tips for getting a Japan Working Holiday Visa

Packing your life up and heading for ventures new can be a pretty daunting task. But fear not, consider us your cool, in-the-know older sib helping you make a smooth transition into Japanese working life.

From a week to a month’s arrival accommodation in Tokyo, help getting set up with the basics (health insurance and all that jazz) and being on hand for a whole year of support and advice; rest assured, we’ve got you with our Work Japan package!

So whether you want to get paid to sip coffee and chat in Tokyo or ride the slopes in Hokkaido, here are our top tips for getting visa ready and one step closer to working in Japan.

Starting your application for a Japan Working Holiday Visa

1. Make sure you fit the bill

Don’t get your hopes up as you dream of katsu curry and sashimi rolls. Before you even start the application process, make sure you’re eligible to apply. If you’re between 18 and 30, have never had a Japanese Working Holiday Visa before and you have a valid UK or Irish passport, get ready to pack your chopsticks!

2. Papers, papers, papers

Get ready to form fill like you’ve never filled forms before.

First up is the Working Holiday Visa application form. This has all the usual suspect questions; details about you, your work experience etc.

Top tip: Make sure you have some accommodation lined up at least for your arrival as you’ll need to state where you’re staying.

You’ll also be asked to outline your intended activities for first six months.

Top tip: Travel plans change so don’t worry too much if your plans aren’t set in stone. Be careful to mention you do not have organised work before entering, so suggest that you intend to look for work within a certain area.

Next is an A4 sheet on why you want to work and live in Japan. They basically want to see your passion for Japanese culture and way of life.

Top tip: Your answer could be that you’re snap happy and you’re itching to document your trip to Japan from geishas to epic landscapes atop Mount Fuji. Make it personal and relative to Japan.

3. Time to book, baby

Now it’s time to spend that dough. You’ll need to show your flight details and bank statements. If you have £2,500 cleared funds in your account from your last 3 bank statements, you WON’T need to purchase return flights. If you just have the minimum £1,500 in your account, you must have proof of an onward flight outta there.

4. Everybody wants to be a (Copy)cat

Make sure you keep a photocopy of every document you’ve sent over, so you know where you’re at. Once they’re all together, it’s time to hit the Embassy in London, Edinburgh or Dublin and get your documents sent off to be approved!


Feeling ready to start your application? Find out what else we can help you with for the first year of your Work Japan adventure and read our cheat sheet to Japan!

 

While you’re waiting for your visa to be approved, add these awesome places below onto your Japan bucket list or check out these 5 top spots outside of Tokyo!

Sing, baby, sing: Japan goes wild for karaoke, check out the twenty-storey karaoke hotel in Tokyo where you can sing you heart out dressed like a panda. Because, why not?

Give your Insta a boost: Japan is full of beautiful temples and epic scenery (especially in cherry blossom season!). One top pick is Fushimi Inari-taisha, the famous Shinto shrine gates – just be prepared for lots of other tourists!

A post shared by Laura Meats (@lem1990) on Mar 16, 2018 at 5:00pm PDT

Feline fun: Head to one of Japan’s many cat cafés where you can enjoy your matcha tea in the company of (lots of) cats. Sounds purr-fect to us!

A post shared by Becca Scott (@beccatron1) on Mar 23, 2018 at 6:58am PDT

Drum roll… win a trip to Queensland!

Long sandy beaches, top surfing spots and over 300 days of sunshine, the Gold Coast is surely any beach worshipper’s dream destination. In April 2018, this sun-lit haven will be taken over by 12 days of action packed sport and culture to celebrate the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.  This month we’re giving away two chances to win a trip to Queensland where you’ll need to get your game face on so read on to find out how you could win a trip to Australia!

The Commonwealth Games kicks off with the opening ceremony on the 4th of April so whether you’re a budding gymnast, cyclist or table tennis player, there’s a sport waiting there for you. And with tickets starting at just $20, what are you waiting for?!

These athletes are knuckling down for a huge sporting challenge, so why not join in and conquer that challenge you sheepishly added to 2018’s bucket list (jumping out of a plane…what were you thinking)? We’re sending 4 lucky winners to Queensland to do an Aussie experience of their choice, so read on to see what’s on offer…

Which of these four experiences to challenge yourself in Queensland sounds most up your street?

  1. An adrenaline junkie adventure, for sure…You love nothing more than high octane activities that gets your blood pumping and your number one bucket list entry is throwing yourself out of a plane or off a bridge because, that’s totally normal, right? Take to the skies and get ready for a leap of faith above the golden beaches of Queensland.gold coast tandem skydive
  2. An eco-warrior mission of epic proportions…You cried at Blue Planet II, ok we all cried at Blue Planet II, but David Attenborough is your hero (he’s ours too, what are we saying?). You know the importance of the environment and you love nothing more than giving back and doing what you can to protect it.

    queensland great barrier reef scuba dive

  3. A gym bunny challenge, let’s pump some iron…You love getting physical, whether that’s hiking, biking or white-water rafting and in Queensland you’re going to be able to do all of that! So, strap on your walking boots and grab your sweat bands, things are going to get sweat-y!
  4. An intrepid exploration of unknown plains…Move over Indiana Jones, there’s a new chief in town! Don’t forget your fedora as you jet off down under for off the beaten track exploring in rainforests, beaches or even the open road –Queensland is one big place!queensland fraser island jeep 4x4

If one of these four challenges tickles your fancy, head here to enter.

If you don’t fancy throwing yourself off a bridge or getting down and dirty in the Australian bush but still fancy a free trip Down Under, then come along to our store relay on the 2nd of March to win a trip to you guessed it, Queensland! Hey, we’re even throwing in an exclusive behind the scenes experience with Team England! Sign up for that here

9 out of this world New Zealand experiences

Despite New Zealand’s petite size, this seemingly limitless land of ice capped mountains and open blue waters is packed to the brim with adventure! Are you up for the thrill?

Auckland

Go diving or snorkelling in Goat Island Marine Reserve, hike to the summit of Rangitoto, the black volcanic island or climb the Sky Tower’s 328 floors for a Sky Walk or Jump… Who’s feeling brave?!

London -> Auckland: 28 hours including stopovers

A mind blowing amount of king fish at Goat Island today… insane!

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Waiheke Island

The second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf, this slice of paradise is just what you need after a city break. Embrace the beach bum life, zipline through the forest and then get loose on a wine tasting tour!

Centre of Auckland -> Waiheke Island: 1/2-hour drive and 40 min ferry

Is it still considered wine tasting if I'm on my fourth glass….? 🤔🍇🍷🇳🇿 #vineyard #winetour #stoneyridge #waihekeisland #auckland #newzealand #nz

A post shared by Tracy 🇬🇧 (@tracylegsuk) on

Rotorua

Rafting in Rotorua is not only pleasingly alliterative, it’s also a hella lot of fun! If you’d rather immerse yourself in indigenous Maori culture head to the Mitai Maori village and once all that’s done, soak in a thermal mud spa as you look over Lake Rotorua.

Centre of Auckland -> Rotorua: 3-hour drive

Amazing cultural evening at Mitai Maori Village #newzealand #northisland #travels #wanderlust #rotoura #mitaimaorivillage #maori #haka #newzealandculture

A post shared by Olivia Coyle (@livyyc) on

Hamilton – Waikato

Go caving with the glow worms in Waitomo, walk in the miniature footsteps of a hobbit in Matamata or grab a board and practice your surf game in Raglan. Hamilton; you’re spoiling us!

Centre of Auckland -> Hamilton: 2-hour drive

Bucket list adventure abseiling into the glow worm abyss! Photos taken by our tour guide highly recommend this. #abseiling #zipline #cavediving #gloworms

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Queenstown

An adrenaline junkie’s haven! If you can throw yourself off it, raft through it, swing over it or dive out of it, Queenstown’s got it. While you’re in town you HAVE to get your lips around the legendary Fergburger, the ultimate yum and a total must if you find yourself a spare minute between jumps.

when in Queenstown.. must try the best burger in NZ ! 😋#fergburger #queenstown #newzealand #nzyenta4 #ttroubleinnz

A post shared by .toey (@ttroubletaker) on

Franz Josef Glaciers

Aside from having names any indie band would consider; the West Coast’s Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers are the perfect spots to release that inner explorer. Take a helicopter to the top, hike through ice tunnels, enjoy incredible views and generally pretend to be a woolly mammoth.

Queenstown -> Franz Josef Glacier: 4-hour 40-minute drive

Gotta get one last cheeky picture in before descending down into the glacier. . . . #travel #Travelgram #traveling #traveladdict #travellife #travelphoto #newzealand #newzealandguide #nz #purenewzealand #nzmustdo #island #isalndlife #hike #hiking #camp #camping #explore #adventure #optoutdoors #mountains #mountain #backpacker #backpacking #glacier #franzjosef #franzjosefglacierguides #franzjosefglacier #ice #winter

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Milford Sound

Part of the Fiordland National Park we’re pretty sure you’ll have seen snaps of Milford Sound (and dreamt about it, it’s that freakin’ beaut). Get ready for jaw-dropping views at every turn and make like David Attenborough as you spot seal colonies, penguins and dolphins!

Queenstown -> Milford Sound: 3-hour 30-minute drive

Milford Sound in a brief moment of blue sky. Fiordland National Park, South Island, New Zealand. • • Shot with Sony a7rII + 16-35 2.8 GM • • #clickalps #main_vision #roam #roamtheplanet #wondermore #in2nature #moodygrams #travelstoke #outdooradventurephotos #modernoutdoors

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Wanaka

If you’re on the hunt for ski slopes, the South Island has a few options to tempt you. Wanaka is your best bet for good snowfall, uncrowded slopes and the natural beauty of the Southern Alps. Wrap up warm and cosy and carve tracks on those snowy peaks. Mmmmm yeah.

Queenstown -> Wanaka: 1 hour drive

That feeling you get when your days are Treble Cone look like this 🙌🙌 📸: Little Difference . . . . . . #nz #newzealand #treblecone #skiing #skier #amazingviews #southernalps #breathtaking #bluebird #snow #pow #southislandski #stunning #ski #wanaka #skiwanaka #skiresort #freeski #wintersports #hiker #snowcapped #skiexpress

A post shared by Ski Express (@skiexpress) on

Have we wet your New Zealand appetite? Whether you’ve got a spare week, month or year – you’re going to find endless possibilities in New Zealand! Head to our New Zealand Travel Guide for even more advice and inspo.

 

Travel Crush : 6 Reasons why New York State should be on your 2018 bucket list

Stop thinking small: forget the CITY that never sleeps, it’s all about the STATE that never sleeps; New York State! Here’s why we’re crushing on the Empire State.

Sail away with me

Bellow “just around the riverbend” as you kayak along the Hudson River and soak up all the surrounding sights. Be sure to cruise under Pollepel Island’s abandoned and Instagram-worthy Bannerman’s Castle.

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Go back in time

You’ll be feeling like a king or queen exploring the grounds of Staatsburgh State, that used to house the Governor of New York! Where’s my crown at?

A post shared by Diane Mall Sammarco (@dianeelizabethm) on

Or choo off

No more dull train journeys because in New York State they do things a little differently… Head to the Adirondack Scenic Railroad for a cute day or evening rolling your way through Oneida County as you try the local beer and wine! And when you’re ready to boogie, there’s a place for that ON BOARD. We’ll cheers to that!

A post shared by Katy Vineyard Lucas (Katydid) (@blobmcphearson) on

Get lost

Known as the Grand Canyon of the East, Letchworth State Park offers up epic landscapes and over 66 miles of hiking trails to choose from. Explore lush forests on horseback, bike and even snowmobile as you seek out the three-major waterfalls. Short on time? Make sure the Big Bend and Lower Falls are on your to-do list!

A post shared by Ashka (@ashkasaxena) on

Time to climb

You can find Breakneck Ridge Mountain sat along the Hudson River in New York State. Get ready for some challenging trails to the summit but don’t worry, it’ll all be worth it at the top for sweeping views across the river and an ‘I’m on top the world’ moment.

A post shared by Joshua Hughes (@jhughesq88) on

‘Fall’ in love

You can’t come all this way and not see Niagara Falls. Straddle Canada and the US as you float through the falls on the Maid of the Mist boat tour. Blue rain ponchos are optional but unless you want a good soaking, highly advisable!

If you don’t fancy getting wet and you’d rather get an aerial view, put aside time (and dollar) for a helicopter ride above the falls. It’s costly but the views are out of this world!

A post shared by robbie (@robotquetron) on

In an Empire State of mind? We sent two amazing film makers, Thibaud Lomenech and Leo Cannone to showcase just how much the state of New York has to offer! Head here to check it out.

7 alternative places to visit in the USA in 2018

Forget the Hollywood Sign, Empire State Building and Grand Canyon! We’re here to share with you those little, hidden gems you’ve never thought about visiting in the USA. From prisons housing the world’s most infamous criminals to speakeasies hidden behind telephone boxes, here’s our pick of 7 alternative places to visit in the USA in 2018…

1. Antelope Canyon

antelope canyon
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48-hour fling with New York City

The Big Apple will always have the key to our hearts. You could spend a month in NYC and have loads left to see, but here are our top tips for enjoying New York in 2880 glorious minutes.

The dollar slice

Everyone loves pizza, and you can bet your bottom dollar that New Yorkers know how to do it best. Get yourself a slice of the good stuff from dollar slice vendors across the city. 2 Bros Pizza is a great shout for doughy goodness, but if you can spare more than one dollar for your dinner, then head to Joe’s – the institution in pizza magic.

A post shared by That New York Blonde Eats (@thatnewyorkblondeeats) on Oct 27, 2017 at 8:50am PDT

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7 active adventures for the sporty (and not so sporty) traveller!

Is this you?

Can’t sit still when attempting to sunbathe.
If there’s a tree or rock ahead it MUST be climbed.
And why walk when you can run?!

If it’s a solid or even an affirmative YES, there’s only one way for you to travel and that’s an active adventure. Travelling doesn’t have to be all meandering slowly around the streets, drinking beers and lounging in the sun (although that does sound great). Let’s raise the tempo and get exploring, no matter what your fitness level. Here are our favourite activities, worldwide, to get that pulse rate elevated.

Lace up those boots and get hiking the globe!

Torres del Paine, Patagonia

Get back to nature and work those quads as you hike through one of the most magical corners of the world. This 4-day ‘W’ Trek has got the ‘X’ factor that’s for sure. Reflective turquoise lagoons, immense glaciers and a contrast of grassy fields with impressive grey mountains? That’s a yes from us!

A post shared by Carrie Hartsfield (@carriemeonmyway) on Nov 9, 2017 at 3:26pm PST

 

 

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