I Got NekNominated

I suppose it was inevitable that the NekNomination trend would make its way to Amurrica. I’ve seen the articles and discussions circulating on my Facebook feed amongst my friends overseas for several weeks now. And today I got my first NekNomination.

What is NekNomination?

It’s an online drinking game. You basically post a video of yourself chugging a pint of something alcoholic and nominate someone else to do the same or to outdo you, usually in another country.

The game has taken on many forms, including Extreme NekNominating (which has claimed a couple lives already and has the UK in a tizzy) and its counterpart, A South African NekNomination which encourages you to do random acts of kindness instead.

NekNominating has blown up quickly, and has unfortunately evolved into a Jackass-style trend where people do the obligatory necking (chugging) of an alcoholic beverage followed by a completely outrageous act like jumping off a cliff or biting off the heads of baby chicks.

It’s been fodder for discussion and controversy over the last few weeks, as its popularity has grown rampant. Here are a couple quick reads:

NekNomination: The Rise and Fall of an Online Drinking Game
Fun New Social Media Game For Perpetually Drunk Australians

And of course, there’s the NekNominations Facebook page that has tons of ridiculous NekNomination videos.

My NekNomination

I’m pleased to say that my NekNomination was not actually a push to get belligerently drunk and stupid. What it was, was a toast. A sweet darling of a toast with sentimental intent. A sweet darling of a toast that celebrated beautiful memories with a beautiful person in a beautiful country.

That’s me on the left, being NekNominated!

My NekNomination was a “Cheers!” and a “Hey, I miss you old friend” and a “I can’t wait to make more memories with you someday when we’re on the same continent again.” It came from dear Provolone (pro-vo-LO-nay), a charming Italian backpacker with a zest and curiosity for life that hugely impacted my early travels.

I had met Provolone in Australia, and we would later meet again in Italy. I have incredibly fond memories of our time together, and it’s been years since I’ve heard his adorable Italian voice. The video NekNomination he sent made me giggle and sigh with nostalgia.

My NekNomination Response

Despite the warm fuzzies that my NekNomination gave me, I won’t be making a video or passing the notion forward. A couple reasons:

1) I couldn’t chug an entire alcoholic beverage even if I tried.
2) I’m trying to cut back on drinking.
3) I’m too chicken shit to post a video of myself on the internet.
4) Most importantly: My NekNomination transported me to another time and place that made my heart pitter patter.

Instead of chugging a drink, I’d like to use my NekNomination to take a trip down memory lane.

It was December 2009. I was six weeks into my two-year round-the-world trip. And incidentally, I was in Australia, where NekNominations are said to have originated.

I had arrived in Melbourne alone and disheveled after having split my head open in a freak accident back in New Zealand (long story!) and having just had two stitches removed from my forehead – the first of many lifelong travel scars, woo!

Black Eyed Me, 2009

I arrived at the Greenhouse Backpackers Hostel a bit tired and weary, loathing the backpack that was weighing me down…and feeling silly and insecure about the bandage on my head and the BLACK EYE on my face.

Oh yeah, did I mention I had a black eye? It’s funny in hindsight, but was not so funny at the time. It hurt, dammit!

Quite simply, I was in no mood to explore the city or socialize. It was like a thousand degrees outside and I just wanted to be on a beach. I checked into my hostel and asked how to get to St. Kilda.

As the front desk guy tore out a map to give me directions, a heavily accented Italian voice came from behind and said, “St. Kilda? I’m going there too. I can take you.” I turned around to find Provolone.

Provolone was a strapping young lad. I know that sounds funny, but really. He was a strapping young lad. Mid-20s, friendly boyish face with a warm, contagious smile, incredibly fit and toned physique. And he had this energy about him…this intense yet free-spirited energy, and an inquisitive, I-wanna-know-everything-about-everything approach to life. I dug it. And I wanted to be around it. My grumpiness was tossed out the window, and all of a sudden, I didn’t mind that half my face was a swollen mess of black and blue.

We left the hostel together and hopped on a bus headed for St. Kilda.

St. Kilda is a bohemian, artsy suburb of Melbourne and home to the closest beach you’ll find to the city. When Provolone and I arrived, the first thing we noticed was that the beach was littered with gigantic blobs of dead jellyfish. Bleck!

Neither of us wanted to get in the jellyfish-infested waters, so we plopped ourselves down on the sand and took in some sun and conversation. It was a 100-degree day though, so we did take the occasional, squeamish dip in the ocean to cool off, despite the jellyfish. Egh. *Goosebumps at the thought*

We talked at great length about travel, as he, too, was backpacking around Australia and beyond for an indefinite period of time. In fact, he’d been on the road for much longer than I had at that point, and it wasn’t until much, much later that I myself reached the level of mental freedom that I so admired about him as we sat on that beach.

I recall talking significantly about love. I’d only known this guy for an hour, and already we were philosophizing in depth about love – what it means to know love, to know pain, what it means to love another human being and what it takes to make love last. These types of conversations are commonplace in the life of a traveler, but it was the first that I’d had along the way, and it would inspire many more.

I came to realize that most people traveling the way I was – solo, long-term and open-ended – were recovering from heartache. Provolone shared with me a beautiful story of love and loss, and how he is reminded of it every day of his life. I, myself, was reeling from the pain of having broken up with the man I still, to this day, consider the greatest love of my life.

Un Bacio da Provolone

It wasn’t a sad conversation though. It was passionate and profound. It was inspiring and hopeful. It was two people understanding each other and having a connection that two people can only have in these chance travel encounters. I would later go on to have countless conversations like this with relative strangers – conversations that moved me, changed me throughout my travels – but this was my first. My first real human connection on my world travels, and it really stuck with me.

And I’m not talking romance. Sure, there would be hugs and smooches and snuggles (he’s Italian, for cryin’ out loud!). But what Provolone and I shared was time. Quality time, talking about our life stories, our families, our friends. Even politics and global issues.

We went all over the city. We walked the botanical gardens. We ate tapas. We went to the top of the Eureka Skydeck. We wandered around the Southbank and Federation Square.

We sat in the pews of St. Paul’s Cathedral hand-in-hand and listened to Christmas carols.

We explored the brilliant graffiti-painted laneways of Melbourne.

We did all that and more in about three days. I tell people often that Melbourne is one of my favorite cities in the world. It is definitely an impressive city in its own right, although the human connection I made there – which inspired so many more – might factor into that too.

Yes, our time together was brief, but I have warm, lasting memories of Provolone and that time in my life. A year and a half after we parted ways in Melbourne, my travels took me to Italy where I would meet Provolone again in his hometown of Trento. It’s been a couple years since then, and hearing his voice and seeing his face on his sweet NekNomination brought all of those memories back.

Granted, this is in no way a conventional NekNomination. This is a toast between old friends. It’s a human connection, something I am constantly craving. Family, friends, lovers…those human connections are what make me feel true joy and fulfillment at my very core. Without em, everything else in my life is worthless. Even my travels.

Dear Provolone,

Thank you and cheers.



  1. Hey Thy, I missed hearing about your adventures and love your writing style so I came back to your blog to read a story. It’s a all about the human connection, you can see so many nice beaches but you will never get tired of meeting and connecting with great people. I’m glad we met, hope to see you again some day :)

    • Hi Simon! It’s all about the human connection, indeed. So glad we met, and I hope our paths cross again someday. Your site looks great, by the way. Love your photography.

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