On Life.

It’s May. MAY. That’s nearly halfway through the year. Remember this post? Re-reading it reminds me of all of the experiences I had last year. Experiences that feel like they just happened, but then I read back and I feel so distant from that person. Not all that much has changed. I still work at the social media agency. Still love my workmates. Still have fun nearly every day there. I’m still single. I’m still not acting my age. I moved. In with a friend in North Bondi. Into a huge, open-plan flat with hardwood floors. I inherited a cat. He peed on my bed as a welcoming gesture. I’m going to Uluru in June. And the States in September. It’s been nearly two and a half years since I’ve been home and I cannot wait to see how grown up my twin niece and nephew are. Somewhere along the way, I’m trying to remind myself that I wanted to write a book this year. No, I wanted to finish a book. One I haven’t touched since quite possibly January. I want to become a photographer so badly, but I’m afraid to fail. I want to paint again, but I’m afraid to fail. So I colour in an adult colouring book. I do it to calm myself or shut off my brain instead of watching mindless TV. Also, because I know I won’t fail. What do I want? I think I know, but then there’s a hint of uncertainty that I can’t quite shake. My favourite pastime is still spending Saturday mornings at Bondi Farmer’s Market. Diving under the surf after a long run still makes me feel like a brand new person. When my friends talk about their new relationships, it gives me a kind of deep-seated content I’ve never experienced before; the kind of happy that washes over you like an evening breeze on a warm summer night. I need to find out how to tell the rest of the Central America story. But, it really ended in that hostel for me. That was what I needed. Then there was Bali. There are stories there too – motorbikes and rooftops and days I wasn’t so sure I would survive at all. I’m in the final stages of applying for permanent residency. Nothing will make that feel real until I’m holding the grant letter in my hands. After all of…

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2015: travel, dating, and psychic tales.

Everyone keeps saying the same thing. I can’t believe it’s the end of 2015.  I can’t believe it either. I still remember vividly standing on the beach in Midigama, Sri Lanka as the clock rolled lazily around to midnight and the locals banged beer bottles and buckets in celebration. I stopped in the midst of the chaos and I thought: fuck you, 2014. I’m ready for 2015. I was excited. I was smack in the middle of my first-ever solo trip, I was in a country that made me feel like a badass for getting there first, I was harbouring the hope in my heart that this year things were going to be really different. I had an amazing job with people I truly loved and I enjoyed every day there. I had the sparkle of a potential new relationship. And I felt more confident and comfortable than I ever had before. That was January. In January, I travelled in Sri Lanka. Solo. I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about Sri Lanka. I even made a few friends. I came home to find the boy I’d left behind had waited for me. And January was filled with all of the fun and shenanigans of a Sydney summer. February I was officially six months into my new job, and it was time for the big move. We uprooted an entire agency from a long residency in North Sydney (a place I said I never wanted to work), and we moved into the middle of Sy dney CBD. Our brand new office, in an old heritage building, was shiny and new. So much so that it felt stale and I found myself saying what I never thought I would: I missed North Sydney. March At the end of the month, we took a leap of faith and decided to have a little fun with a visit to a psychic down in Wollongong. One Sunday, we piled five girls into Katie’s roommate’s car and we were off. I was the second one through the door, as anxious as if I were going on a first date. What kind of predictions would she make about my future? And was I supposed to believe her anyway? She smiled at me and called me ‘angel’. She touched my hands and told me how intuitive I was, and that my heart was my weakness.…

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Nicaragua: That hostel.

I was running. Sort of. I was planning to travel anyway, but I booked that trip in the days that followed the break-up if I can even call it that. And in those same days that I had an intense desire to jump out of an airplane. To really feel something that wasn’t heartache. At first, I didn’t think I would find it. I couldn’t ever imagine what would actually happen on my travels that could change me. You never can. Three weeks later, as the rain pounded down onto the only paved roads I’d walked in all of Central America, I wrapped my arms a little bit tighter around him and I smiled because I knew that I’d found it. His face wasn’t particularly friendly, but I’d struck up the conversation anyway. He looked like someone who could tell me where to surf. As we rode together, just the two of us, in the bed of that white truck along the bumpy dirt and gravel road that would take us to Playa Maderas, we talked about kids. He wasn’t sure he wanted them, I was afraid mine would turn out all wrong. He admitted he was only twenty; a kid himself. But I already knew it wouldn’t matter to me. From him, I took what I needed. I felt more than he did, but that fact didn’t hurt the way it did all the times before. He put his arm around me as he walked me home from the party only two short nights later and he told me all of the best things about myself. He marvelled at the way that I let everyone in, the way that I found commonality and built friendships around it. The way that I smiled, all the time. Without knowing what he was doing, he continued to describe the heart that was inside of me. The thing I was trying so hard to protect. The best moments we spent together were sitting in the kitchen of that hostel. That hostel that would become the catalyst to my story, the kind of special that can’t be put into words, forever engrained in my memory. I watched him stick out his tongue and bite down on his lower lip as he chopped onions at 10 o’clock at night, and I fell completely in love with him. I smiled for the entire time we were in that…

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Nicaragua: the denim onesie.

The alarm vibrated underneath my pillow. I’d purposely set it that way so as not to wake up my one other bunkmate whom I’d grown quite accustomed to even in the one short evening that I’d spent listening to her story. To me, it seemed like there wasn’t a single soul stirring in the entire hostel. I shuffled to the shower, hoping the lack of hot water would shock me out of that creeping feeling of a tequila/Toña hangover waking to greet me. The boys weren’t even awake. They’d made me promise to be up and waiting at 7:30 am. I quickly dressed and made a mad dash for the free coffee station before we’d have to pile into the tour van. Central America taught me a lot about travel, about being solo, about what I was looking for and who I could find when I wasn’t looking at all. But maybe one of the most important things that Central America taught me were the basic comforts of being a traveller: free water, free coffee, and free WiFi. If payment is not required for these three things, you will forever go down in the history of people and places that have immensely helped a backpacker get through. I stood on the red cement in the common courtyard of the hostel, staring longingly into my coffee cup as I waited or it to be cool enough to drink in the sweltering Nicaraguan morning. I was already sweating in spite of my cold shower. I heard the shuffle of Will’s runners, which caused me to look up from the vortex of my coffee cup. He looked at me from across the courtyard. Put some shoes on.  I had really only known Will and Mike for two or three days, but it was just one of those things. We just got each other, so his look of disapproval was met with my usual sass, well-known by those closest to me. I was confused. For one of the first times on my entire trip, I actually had shoes on. I raised my eyebrows in question. I do have shoes.  Real shoes… Oh, right. We weren’t very well going to climb a volcano in rubber thongs were we. Silly girl. I swapped my favourite jean shorts with the embroidered flowers {more on those later} for my yoga leggings, and my thongs for my faithful old blue…

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Nicaragua: Gringa’s definitely on the wrong bus.

That’s definitely what she was thinking. I sat there huddled into the back corner of the mini-bus. The only backpacker. The only non-Spanish speaker. When I’d flown out of Honduras, I was determined I’d be a better backpacker in Nicaragua. We’d lived in luxury in Honduras mostly because we were there for a wedding, but also because the choice was between money and desperation. In Guate, I took the easy route. I paid for taxis and a nice hotel. I told myself it was because I was short on time, but maybe I was a little scared too. In Nicaragua, I was going to rough it. I started by promising myself that, although I’d have to take a {$20} taxi to the bus station, I was getting on that public bus. Where he dropped me was not the place I’d researched online. They said there was a sign with a lion on it. Lion, León… get it? But every single person in that long line, snaking through the bus shelter, assured me that this was the bus for León. After about thirty minutes, I was halfway through the line when I realised I only had U.S. dollars. I carefully negotiated the conversation in my head before tapping the girl in front of me. Can I pay in U.S. dollars? Yes, I think so. How much? 33 Córdoba. Something like $2? I relaxed a bit. I quickly did the calculation on my money conversion app. $1.99. I had 2 one-dollar bills. Phew. It was another thirty minutes or so until I finally got to the front of the line; I handed my pack off to the driver and quickly, purposefully crawled to my hiding spot in the back corner of the bus. I had noted about forty-five minutes prior that there was a definite lack of gringos around the bus station. I’d been sure this would be the backpackers preferred mode of transport, but it seemed to be just me. I was all in. The driver came around the back to collect our money and as I shakily pushed my two one-dollar bills over the back of my seat he began grumbling loudly in Spanish, throwing his hands around dramatically. Is it enough? It was the old women next to me. Yes, exactly. Then it’s FINE. She waved her hand in an equally dramatic gesture. A series of Spanish conversation followed in…

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There she goes…

When I landed in Kuala Lumpur, I was definitely past the point of rational fatigue. That didn’t help the case. Eight hours of sleeping on a highly air conditioned airplane without a jumper or a blanket, plus a few more hours of sleeping on the floor of the highly air conditioned KL airport. It was a vulnerable situation, a glaringly lonely situation. So after the first five hours of that layover, as I moved to the departure gate and sat in a big, comfy chair outside the locked gate that I looked up from my book and straight into the face of my lonely reality. I took a deep breath, told myself I was doing this for a reason. I told myself I wasn’t going to cry; something I should always know better than to hold myself to. After a ten minutes of deep breathing with my eyes squeezed shut in a private stall of the women’s toilet, I picked myself back up and marched myself back to that big, comfy chair. As I sat there with my book open, I wasn’t reading many words, I was watching as the Sri Lankans filed in around me. I was observing these people that have likely lived among me and I’ve never taken notice of. I was suddenly hit with an overwhelmingly feeling of excitement and an unstoppable urge to smile at every man, woman and child that happened to look my way. I was doing this. Solo. Rather than burying my head in my book or my latest playlist addiction as other passengers boarded the plane, I caught myself observing every single person who passed me by. Is she alone too? Do they live in Sydney or in Colombo? There are so many couples here, maybe I should’ve travelled with someone.  I read ever single page of the newest issue of Frankie. Every story seemed meant for me. Young women talking about solo travel, about strength in the face of uncertainty, about taking big risks. I’m going to write a letter to the editor about how much this issue set me up for my first solo trip. Bet I’ll win letter of the month and get one of those really cool prizes.  I never wrote that letter, the words got lost in three weeks of chaos, of squeezing on buses, of tuk tuk rides in the rain, Sri Lankan hospitals, hours on end…

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The first 24.

Allow me to take you through a little throwback. For funsies. Kelie and I booked the tickets at 7am pre-dropping me off at the International Terminal of Sydney Airport for the first time in a what would be a very short 30 days. I boarded that long flight back to Seattle filled with all of the excitement that my new holiday could offer me. This was my YOLO trip, remember? I’ll never forget the first 24 hours of New Zealand. I mean, I’ll really never forget any of it {minus the moments I promptly forgot the next hungover day}, but those first 24 hours set the whole scene. Arriving with ample time to check-in for our ridiculous so-called international three hour flight, we parted ways with the boys with promises to connect on the other side of customs. What came next was far from what we had in mind. After a leisurely coffee we were confronted with a customs queue, which for the first time in my three years of international travel in Sydney, was not only out the door but miles out the door, snaking into the check-in area. Frantically scrambling for borrowed pens in a line which refused to let un-filled passenger cards to the other side, we finally made it through. At security, three frantically rushed girls didn’t seem to phase flirty security officers but finally, one water bottle down we were sprinting full-speed through the Sydney International Airport. I mean, I’m a runner, but, oh man I’m lucky I didn’t lose my latte on that one. Barely able to speak when we arrived at the empty gate, we boarded a massive transport bus to make six whole drastically late passengers. As we boarded that Air New Zealand flight I casually strolled down the endless aisle on a walk of shame far worse than any of those I recall from my four years of frats and Franzia. Finally, I arrived at my seat, the very last aisle seat in the very last row of that Air New Zealand flight at what I swear was 10:01am on a flight scheduled for a 10:05am departure. What I sat down to was 24 text messages from Katie, with a story all her own. That one needs supervision when it comes to booking travel.  Three hours of New Girl, How I Met Your Mother, and Portlandia {I don’t really get it…} and I didn’t…

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One for The Book.

At least you asked! Katie’s words. It’s not the first time I’ve heard them, or a variation of them. You’re so brave.  I think it’s awesome when a girl asks for what she wants. But now you know, there is no more what if.  I just want to stop right here and say this isn’t a pity party. So change the tone you’re reading this in right now. Rejection. It’s inherent in our lives. Our ideas, our words, our attempts at kindness, our attempts at rudeness; they get deflected. Someone looks the other way, someone pretends they didn’t hear you, they are too caught in their own world to even notice or register the dejected look on your face. The first time I got called brave, I was standing opposite an espresso machine. I was already shaking, both from withdrawals of the copious amounts of Rekorderlig and Corona consumed the previous night and from the adrenaline of the beautiful boy that stood on the other side of the machine, steaming milk for my latte. He was seeing someone he’d said. I gave him the out, I intentionally placed the clause into my advance so that I could save us both an awkward moment. Yet I felt so awkward I was shaking for at least thirty minutes after. I know he felt awkward too. I refused to avoid that coffee shop, I couldn’t let him think he was the only reason I was there. He moved away eventually and that was the end. We’ll never know what he really thought. You never know if you don’t try. I actually said those words. To him. My attempt to alleviate the situation. The pride of being told I was brave drastically outweighed the embarrassment of rejection. The subsequent times, in the face of failure, I got the same reassurance of my bravery, but each time there was an inkling of understanding of why these people standing on the sidelines and calling me brave were in fact, on the sidelines. The coffee date, ugh, what got me more was the intentional ignorance to my existence afterward. Living in the same suburb, bravery doesn’t always get you the upper hand. But this one, this one goes out to all of you. To the boy that made my coffee, to the boy who chose his lonely bed over mine, to the boy who was suddenly seeing someone…

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Straight Shenanigans.

It was a couple of weeks ago, I sat on the back of the bench seat at The Bucket List, close enough to the sea to smell the thick salty water. Melina was next to me and we were bobbing along to a free Cloud Control gig, a few buckets of Corona in, the sun shining down. She turned to me then and asked, ‘how much do you fucking love your life right now?’. It made me think about my birthday, and how we all took that photo together at the bowling club and I thought, these people are here for me. And all I could think was that the reason for birthdays is for an excuse to have all of your favourite people in one place. That’s what I thought of when she said it. The BBQ that day was perfectly planned and I was afraid no one would show up. I always worry no one will show up; turns out that’s normal. Anyway, this isn’t about that day, that was a few weeks ago now. It’s just that I remember that moment, and when I look back on the past few weeks, I keep hearing Melina’s voice because; I do fucking love my life. I can’t believe this is my life. It’s like that. Public holidays stand out in your mind, because they are continually celebrated dates. Many of them aren’t that memorable, I’ve had 26 fourth of Julys {in theory}, and I remember less than a handful of them. But there are these moments that you will never forget. Many of them fall on these memorable dates; holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. Sometimes you see it when you’re in it, sometimes it takes reflection. I stood with one foot on each side of the makeshift wooden barrier. I looked at the monopoly-bright bills in the air. I thought, always bet heads, but I didn’t bet at all. For the first time in three years, I didn’t bet. I just… forgot.  The first year I was in The Rocks, with Cailin. She was visiting for a few weeks and we bet, and we made a video about how you always bet heads. We laughed and we danced with marching banks in kilts {kilts?!}, we bought 4 beers per time; they came in plastic cups from the outdoor bar, which was really just a wooden lemonade stand. I don’t remember if I came…

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Stay

What brought you to Sydney? Do you think you’ll stay here? Those are the two questions I get asked all of the time. Even my closest friends and fellow expats have a tendency to ask. I suppose I’ll never stop getting asked those questions, although the context will change the more years I find myself still in this vibrant city. But that’s all still a bit of a mystery to me. A mystery that makes me anxious, but excited that years, months, and even weeks from now, there is so much unknown. There is so much left to discover, around each and every corner. What brought me here? School. What brought me back? My friends. And a city that I fell in love with. Maybe a love of my independent self. Maybe it was the ease of the English language, and those little lazy, nasally vowels that us Americans fawn over when in the presence of an Aussie. The ocean. The surf. The lifelong dream. I don’t even know what it was in the end, but from the moment I stepped on that return leg of a United Airlines flight back to Seattle, I was plotting my return. As fellow Americans head off on semi-annual trips back home and ask me what I want them to bring back for me. I don’t have an answer. I don’t miss much. I have all of the things I love to eat or wear here. And they can’t bring me my mom and dad, my brother and sister-in-law, my sister and her kids. They can’t bring back my best friends I’ve had since I was 12. I love the laid back lifestyle, you’ll never hear me complain about my doorstep being Bondi Beach, and yea, I’ve been known to favor an Aussie accent. Earlier this year, a casual text conversation with my dad enlightened me to the knowledge that he {and likely most of my immediate family and friends} have been fully aware of my Aussie preference since my first trip to Whistler in 2008. I suppose I’ve never been one to keep my smiles and daydreams to myself. But honestly, the realization that this was home came from a few different scenarios. Each one tested me more than the last. The stories have been told, more than once on these pages, on phone calls and text messages. It’s been the last year…

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