Archive for the ‘Then and now’ Category

PostHeaderIcon New beginnings.

NY_SYDAs another year draws to an end I can’t help but wonder where that time went and what on earth did I do? I haven’t spoken to you during that year but as usual actually do have a lot to tell!

Oh well, I’ll have to save that for another day as I’m just about to get ready for my own New Year’s celebration. I’m still in London so of course there’s something interesting to do, apart from the fireworks that is (been there, seen those!).

This year I’m off to a 1920’s themed Gangster Murder Mystery night and yes, I do have an appropriately fringed dress and fur stole – you’ll have to wait for those pics…I’m not ready yet!

For now, I’ll leave you with with some words of wisdom from one of my favourite gals. They not only seem appropriate as we end one year and begin another, they reflect my own thoughts and how I strive to live.

I wish you all a wonderful, happy, healthy New Year that brings you everything you dream of and will be talking to you next year for sure!484197_564654626885285_1247923765_n

PostHeaderIcon Wishing you all…

A Happy and Safe New Year – make all your dreams come true

PostHeaderIcon Pay it forward

When I was travelling full-time my outlook on many things changed. One of those was the concept of kindness to others; you know, being kind and helpful to those around us whether we know them well or not. Whether we feel we have the time to spare or not.

The term random acts of kindness is often used to describe what I’m talking about. Someone performing an act of kindness for no apparent reason, being kind for the sake of being kind. Perhaps it’s become a popular topic for discussion because so many of us feel the lack of it. I know I did but then I decided to go travelling alone.

I expected to spend a lot of time being wary of strangers. We’re taught that as children and in fact, wariness is not foolish but it is a problem if we close ourselves off from every stranger that approaches. I also expected to spend time alone while other pairs or groups of people shared their good times.

A sign on my 2nd day out of Australia - Japanese tea garden, San Francisco
A sign on my 2nd day out of Australia – Japanese tea garden, San Francisco

I knew I’d meet people but understood (or assumed) they might not want a stranger intruding on their space although I hoped I’d make new friends.

In spite of those misgivings, I knew I wanted to see the world so away I went. Off to discover the world AND, a lot of people performing random acts of kindness!

Before I continue I should let you know I’m not a cynic and often put more faith in the good nature of people than they can live up to. I am however, a realist most of the time and my expectations had come from living in the day-to-day world that we all find ourselves stuck in at times. The boring treadmill that has people doing the same thing from day to day and being too caught up in that to really see those around them and notice an “opportunity” for kindness.

It may feel bad to acknowledge it but we’ve all been there, impatience at the supermarket when someone is short of cash and must remove items, or maybe they’re slow at packing up because they’re trying to keep hold of a small child and pack groceries. How many of us have given that person the cash or helped them pack? The examples go on but you get the idea?

I don’t believe most of us are unkind, just busy and caught up in our own world. I saw it every day, so the first time someone approached me and offered kindness when I was out on my own, I was not only surprised but a little (to say the least) wary.

On my 2nd day away from Australia a man offered me his seat on a tram in San Francisco. When I replied he asked where my accent was from; when I told him he then proceeded to tell me about the city and what I “must” see. I thanked him for all the info and then was shocked and a little worried when he decided to get off with me and show me around! Although I kept insisting I was fine and that he must have things to do he spent 4hours wandering around with me and in the end wouldn’t even let me buy him a drink to say thanks. His explanation was I’d come so far he just wanted me to enjoy his city!

On a tram in San Fran with Israel - Day 2 & 1st random act of kindness
Israel; Day 2, 1st act of kindness

That experience was to be the first of many that were random not just in their occurrence but often also in that they were not simple things but acts that took people’s time, effort and often money.

I had strangers strike up conversations with me and then pay for my meals telling me they hoped that meant I could travel for longer, others showed me around, gave me rides to save fares and even invited me to stay in their homes – which I did and was treated like a family member. I was constantly amazed at how much effort people put into being kind for no reason other than, they are the type of people we all hope to meet.

Those are the people that changed my outlook and inspired me, many of them are now old friends. I now know there are people out there who will help a stranger and all the time I travelled I promised myself I would keep that lesson with me and pay it forward somehow. I hoped especially to do something unexpected for people travelling in a strange country as I know how much that meant to me and how in truth, those acts of kindness are what make my travels such fantastic experiences.

I’ve had a few opportunities to offer help to strangers – yes, even in the supermarket and today I had the opportunity to pay one of those travel kindnesses forward. Not only do I feel good, I also made a couple of new friends who I hope will be able to travel a little longer because someone was unexpectedly nice to strangers today.

Alexandra_Megan_NottingHillAug2011

My new travelling friends from Vegas

For inspiration;

Pay It Forward – the movie

Help Others.org

1,000,000 Acts of Kindness

The Kindness Offensive

Australian Kindness Movement

PostHeaderIcon What, when, why and HOW?

Not so long ago I was looking at some of my (many) photos as I wanted to make an online birthday card for a friend. Of course I got side-tracked and started going through all my photos, including those without that friend in them; heading further off task and down memory lane.

Usually there’s no harm in reminiscing; it’s fun. However this time it sent my mind down the wrong path. The path with weeds growing through it’s cracked, litter-strewn surface. The path just waiting to trip each of us as we tread hesitantly along. The path of discontent.

You see, as I looked at photos of great times with friends or new faces, in places I know well and places I was enthusiastically learning about, I could clearly see how happy and relaxed I looked and started to wonder why I wasn’t feeling that way. Why wasn’t I doing the things I loved doing every day and why was I feeling trapped in “routine?” A place I’d promised myself I’d never be in.

This path was one I didn’t want to stay on!

As it happens, I’m a believer in positivity and attraction, you know – what we focus on we draw to us so we should try to see everything in a positive manner rather than focussing on the negative. As a result I thought about all the things I love doing and the lifestyle I want to live and how I could get back on track with that.

Then as usually happens; an opportunity appeared in the form of coincidence. I received an email containing information about a  networking event that was promoting a life coach as their guest speaker. That triggered something held on the back-burner of my brain – an interest I’d had for a few years but done nothing about due to my somewhat itinerant lifestyle. It’s been a while since I’ve stayed anywhere long enough to take on a study course.

I did a web search on coaching and and found the opportunity to do an introduction course so I enrolled immediately – before I could procrastinate! I’m so glad I did as I spent two days learning about coaching, learning some tools used in decision making and basically benefitting from some free coaching!

WHAT did the free coaching achieve?

  • A clearer focus on what I want and how I can achieve it

WHEN will that happen?

  • It’s already started; I’m now doing a six month course in personal coaching

WHY have I decided to study coaching?

  • This fits my personality, areas of strength and the lifestyle I want to live

HOW will it take away my feeling of discontent?

  • It already has, I now feel I’m on track to doing something I’ll enjoy and find satisfaction with

The great thing is; I’m focussed again and feeling good – good enough to tell you about it, good enough to ask you to think about WHAT you want, WHEN can you make a start, WHY do you want it and HOW great will you feel when you start the journey?

 

PostHeaderIcon Time to think

Lately I’ve started thinking I must have too much time on my hands. Although I know that’s just not true I kind of hope it is. Why else would I be thinking about so many things that are just too difficult to answer? I mean really – what is the meaning of life and more importantly; where oh where is the fountain of youth?!

Perhaps the problem isn’t too much time, I sometimes feel I’m running out of time. As each year passes it seems I have less time to do the things I really want to do, achieve the lifestyle I want and fit all the people that are important to me into that equation.

Not so long ago I made what most people saw as drastic changes. I went from having a well-paid job, high community profile and being located close enough to family and friends to spend time with them whenever I wanted; to becoming a ‘homeless’ backpacker on the move without a care in the world. My biggest decisions were where to go next and how long to stay.

I miss that life and can’t explain the freedom to you if you haven’t experienced it. Most people tell me they believe it must be a scary existence with so much uncertainty, those who’ve done it know it’s exactly the opposite. I met so many interesting people and experienced something new every day.

That was the life I’d dreamed of but now I find myself doing what I promised myself I wouldn’t do. While I was  out there seeing glaciers in Alaska, doing yoga at an ashram in India and learning Thai cooking on an island in Thailand, I told myself that I wouldn’t get caught up again in the lifestyle that comes with earning a living.

I was sure I could work, earn some cash to fund the next trip and keep going that way until I found the place I wanted to settle in. Somehow the reality is far from that as I find that if I’m working I need a place to live then I need to keep working to fund that. It seems I’m being dragged kicking and screaming back into the world of 9-5 (at least) and limited travel time.

In truth I haven’t sold my dreams out just modified them so they’ll continue to be funded!  I’m now living in a place that enables shorter more frequent trips so I’m really working to fund those but as each day goes by and I get (a little) older, I find myself thinking I must get a move on and do MORE of the things I want to do before time steals those opportunities away. Yes, I’ll be signing up for Tango lessons soon…

Today I found myself looking at everyone around me on the train home and wondering how many of them were doing things they really wanted to do and how many of them were just ‘existing.’ A sad thought but enough to inspire me again to keep taking my worklife less seriously than many people around me think I should, continue doing whatever seems interesting and fun and most of all, keep walking to the beat of my own drum whether it’s playing rock n roll, blues, jazz or pop – I like a bit of variety! 

PostHeaderIcon Where is patriotism?

The dictionary defines a patriot as; “a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.”

Although I love Australia and like to see us do well, I’ve never been fanatical and like most Aussies, I’ve taken it in my stride if we don’t come 1st at something. Most of us don’t know all the words to our National Anthem or even like the song – compared to many others it’s not that uplifting and the topic of what should be our National Anthem is one that still causes debates today.

Having said all that, there’s been a subtle change in my level of patriotism since I left Australia. I’m now willing to watch sport on TV if the Aussies are playing or even attend a match for the same reason. My recent trip to Silverstone for the 2010 British Grand Prix was partially because it’s something I’ve never done but; when you consider I’ve never had any interest in Formula 1 racing, you could say the fact that an Aussie (Mark Webber) was a major contender was the deciding factor in my decision to pay the ticket price!

Once there, I felt a strong need to wave an Aussie flag to support Webber and let everyone else know there  was  an Aussie amongst them…I saw quite a few actually. I even managed to get my Kiwi friend to wave an Aussie flag. This isn’t something I (or she) would normally do but then again, I guess if I was in Australia I might not feel such a need to display my ‘identity’ and support for my fellow countrymen, we’d all be ‘home.’

From knowing nothing about this sport I quickly learnt the background (they have a good commentary during the lead-up) that Webber had not been treated as well as his team-mate in the week prior to this race and had basically said he’d win anyway.

Of course that stirred my camraderie and I pointed out to my friend it was a very Aussie attitude and that he would win for sure.

I never doubted it and must admit my interest in the race was certainly tied to the fact that Webber took the lead  from the start and never let it go. I wanted him to win and show he could do it against the odds, with all my Aussie heart.

Can you imagine my excitement (pride) when that Aussie guy led for the entire race and became the first Australian to win a Formula 1  Grand Prix since Alan Jones, roughly 30 years prior – Go Aussie Go!

This experience made me think about patriotism and how us Aussies don’t seem to display it much at home. Some nationalities feel the need to display patriotism for their country all the time, almost forcing people not to doubt it. I’ve learnt that the famous Aussie laid-back, don’t give a damn attitude doesn’t come from a lack of patriotism at all. It’s more about that other Australian idiosyncrasy whereby we don’t like to ‘blow our own trumpets’ rather from an actual lack of caring.

Perhaps being away from your homeland makes it more acceptable to take pride in the achievements of your countrymen. Being away has made me more patriotic than I ever feel the need to be in Australia and I’m thinking that’s not a bad thing…how about you?

PostHeaderIcon To share or not to share???

It’s been way too long since I’ve been here, I feel disappointed and annoyed at myself but more than that, totally peeved at the circumstance that steals my time!

I’m house-hunting again. It feels like a deja-vu experience of the worst kind. I’ve been in my current place around 3 1/2 months and actually really like it but can’t bear the flat-mate.

I thought after living in hostels for so long while travelling, it would be easy to share. I’ve learnt how to ignore things that are foibles, we all have them. I’ve learnt how to judge when bathrooms will be free and race in! I do things with the thought in mind that the next person may be following straight after me…..think; washing your dishes, not leaving clothes in washers or dryers or staying in the bathroom for hours.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared for a person who can best be described as ‘creepy!’

That may sound cruel but when you’re a single female and move into a share situation with a supposedly mature male, you don’t expect him to immediately start acting as if you’re a couple. It’s actually quite hilarious and has provided moments of entertainment for my friends however, immediately after their laughter ends they’re telling me to get out….NOW!

Of course, I am an IWOM therefore I decided I must honour my agreement to the landlord and must also toughen up and assert my rights as an individual.  For heaven’s sake, I’m not married, don’t have a partner and so can’t see why some strange man I barely know should be sarcastic about my friends for taking up time he thought I’d be with him (why???) or demanding that I give him notice of my next visit to friends in France so that he can come! Oh la la………yes, very creepy when you consider these things happened during the first week I moved in!

So; I made a stand and made a statement about how I was renting a room and not ‘living with’ anyone and wouldn’t ever be! Since then there have been dirty dishes with food on them left for days, no taking a turn in cleaning the place and very loud TV til the early hours – I’m guessing it’s a form of revenge.

Needless to say, I stay out a lot – good for the social life and sightseeing, not so good for the budget :-)

Avatar; tree of life

Sightseeing in London - standing under the "Avatar" tree of life...looking for my mojo

I have loads of notes for things I want to write but my mind won’t work when I walk in the door to the atmosphere here – you could say I lose my mojo every time I get home. Apart from that, it’s really not so funny when you’re living it however, I do see the bright side and know this will make a hilarious if somewhat unbelievable chapter in my best-seller someday!

So as I was before, I am once again, searching for a place to live. I’m totally over the idea of sharing but unless I want to travel a long way each day it’s looking like the best option……….how many of you have lived in share-houses/flats? How many of you have made great friends and how many of you have similar horror stories of freaky, creepy, lazy or otherwise just awful sharers?

I know I’m not the only one and I know there’s nice people out there too………..anyone know of some nice people looking for a friendly, tidy house-mate?

PostHeaderIcon My sissy’s birthday

May 3, it’s my sister’s birthday and once again we’re apart.

A rare occasion - in India together

A rare occasion - in India together

It’s my fault. I always seem to move too far away or take a holiday and haven’t spent many of her

birthdays with her. In fact, I don’t get to see that much of her but we’re still close and I often wish things were different. Today is one of those times.

When we were growing up we had our ‘moments’ of course. Sometimes we made up plays or dances, swam together, even buried treasure and made a map – until of course we started to fight over who’s treasure it was! We often fought, she was always too young and I was always being told to look after her or set a good example for her.

The bright side, she was always there. If there was no-one else, there she was. That may sound callous but in fact, it’s the truth…she’s always there. I have the best friends in the world but I also have my sister – two of them actually and yes, they’re always there but on this day; it’s only one of their birthdays and now that we’re all grown up, we don’t fight anymore.

We grew up together and for a while it was just us two. She’s almost opposite to me in many ways but also, so similar in many ways. I think of her always and know a two minute phone call will bring us together as easily as two hours together.

When I think of her, I smile…and that’s the way it should be.

Two naughty little girls again

Two naughty little girls again

Happy Birthday Jilly – I hope you have a wonderful day, I’ll be calling you.

XXX

PostHeaderIcon In for a penny, in for a pound

Well, I’ve been back in the workforce for about a month – how time flies! Have I saved my fortune yet, ready to travel?

Um, no. Unfortunately not quite but then again, I have taken a quick trip to the north of France for a weekend (the novelty of being able to go to another country for the weekend may NEVER wear off!) and spent Easter in Brighton.

Yes, so far I’ve spent almost all that I’ve earned but as I’m an IWOM, I can explain; since I started work I’ve only worked 3 or 4 day weeks due to Easter and bank holidays and a bout of food poisoning (another story). I’ve managed to pay my rent and phone bill, buy some work-clothes and food, eat out with friends AND have my couple of weekends away…did I mention one weekend was in another country?! Told you I can’t get over that one.

What I’m trying to say is, upon reaching my four week anniversary of working for a living, I reckon I’ve done ok so far!

Haha, you could say I’m adjusting to my slightly less than totally foot-loose lifestyle reasonably well.

Back to the fun part – what did I do in France? I visited my famille Francais and attended their local Bal de Carnival. It’s an annual event that I attended last year and promised I’d return this year.

Dressed for the Bal

Dressed for the Bal

The Carnival is a time of celebration and remembering a local hero; Jean Bart but Bal (Ball in English) also links back to the time when fisherman leaving n long sea journeys farewelled their loved ones by having a huge celebration in the town – in case they didn’t return.

My explanation isn’t very good I know but it’s not bad when you consider my low level French skills.

Carol et Laure

Finishing off the evening

Where my friends live, in Brouckerque, the Bal  is loads of fun and lasts all night – a night of crazy costumes, delicious food, plenty of dancing and drinking and a great sense of community – the wine may have helped but I had some wonderful conversations in spite of my petit peu (little) French and mostly non-English speaking “new” friends!

Back to work for a few days and then it was Easter. You’ve gotta love short working weeks!

Easter kind of crept up on me so after assessing funds and the lack of planning or booking time I decided it would be cool to go to an English coastal spot. Where better than Brighton as a first experience of the UK coast? Even in Australia I’d heard of the Brighton Pier and then I found out about the historic Royal Pavillion so off I went – dragging some friends along too.

Brighton is full of interesting shops and characters – I loved the variety and funky feel of it.

We did the traditional thing as you must; and had fish and chips on the pier and wandered The Lanes which is a fabulous area filled with jewellery, clothing and antique shops, cafes and bars and has a great feel to it – very tempting. We had a couple of fun nights in and around there but “what happens in Brighton, stays in Brighton!”

Mermaids spotted in Brighton

Mermaids spotted in Brighton

We hadn’t booked accommodation (underestimating the popularity of Brighton even in winter) so were very lucky to find Kelvin’s, a lovely bed and breakfast that was beautifully clean, smelled lovely (a point worth mentioning after some we entered), served up a delicious brekky and gave us loads of inside info on what to do, where to eat or go for a drink. Well be back!

So now I’m back in London, back at work, saving my pounds and wondering where my next “weekender” should be.

Any suggestions?

PostHeaderIcon To Montreal and back

I’m back and better than ever.

I’ve added some skills to my list, survived what I’d call freezing temperatures and learned to love snow boots! For a girl who’s never owned a pair of Ugg boots and think the name is entirely fitting; Ugg-ly, I’ve grown more attached in 10 days to my Sorel’s (Canadian turbo-boosted uggs!) than a fish to water. They are actually too warm for London weather.

Sorel's rule

Walking on a frozen lake in snow boots - Sorel's rule!

Apart from having toasty toes I also went dog-sledding and had my first ever ski lesson in Montreal. Yes, I am now able to ski unassisted down a children’s slope – something I definitely hadn’t done before. I also drove a car across a frozen lake (the lake in the snowboot pic) – haven’t told the folks back home about that yet. It was a little scary but another thing I’d never done so I didn’t want to miss the chance. To be honest, I was glad to reach solid ground but hey, at least I can say I did it.

Dogs & sleds at Mont Gabriel

Dogs & sleds at Mont Gabriel

Skiing alone

Skiing like a champ - on the children's slope

Another interesting thing I learned was that I can survive in temperatures of minus 18 degrees celsius. I was wearing three jackets, a hat, scarf, ski gloves and of course; my snowboots but I survived! Oh, and ten days is not enough to raise my French speaking skills to conversational level. I can however point to things and name them to indicate what I want in roughly the same way a three year old would so all in all, you could say Montreal brought out my inner child.

So now I’m back in the UK and there’s a lot to tell. The accommodation I organised before leaving Australia hasn’t turned out to be exactly what I thought. I’m currently living with TEN other people which is not ideal and doesn’t allow much space or time to do anything let alone write to you. I’ve spent the majority of my time house hunting and traipsing all over London checking out various areas to find a great spot to live…I found it so will be telling you more about that and living in the UK from now on.

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