Back to My Reality

Have you seen the 2010 movie Eat, Pray, Love? I loved that movie and its sceneries, totally identified with the love of Italy and its wine and food, a little less with the rest. It was always my aspiration to accomplish a bold move like the main character did, leave my real life for a prolonged adventure and come back a different person, with a new life.

When it came down to it though, I chose to establish a good financial and professional base for myself, then leave for a set period on an organised jaunt, and come back to the same life. No one makes movies about that.

Still, I couldn’t let go of the ideal of a fantastic personal transformation. Once back home though, I didn’t feel transformed in the least.

As I walked around for most of my trip with a sinus infection and a bum rib, I was in major need of rest, so I slept like crazy my first week back. I then started decluttering my apartment. I knew from the beginning that living so many days with a set number of clothing pieces would help me streamline my wardrobe. The same turned out to be true of living in hotel rooms with only functional furniture. My place looked way too full.

Doing this busied my body and left me with space to think and allowed me to distil the gains from my trip. Not having to worry about anything but what was happening today and tomorrow, or about anyone other than me, meant that I benefited from ample head space to think about what I wanted and needed. I can’t remember ever having that luxury before.

Over the past years reading specialized books and seeing therapists, I realized I had become completely blind to what was best for me. I just went through disappointments and hardships  repeating, like a mantra, “I can handle this”, “I’m strong enough to do this”, “I’ll make do”. It depleted me.

You know what helped me think differently throughout my trip? Being sick and injured – ha!

Early on, I made me let go of the idea of traipsing everywhere, and going on exerting adventures. I also made my peace with fact that everyone who travelled where I did would go: “You didn’t go there?! You didn’t do this?! But it’s the most important part of X!!” and not care. Pain has a way of letting go of needless thoughts. Had I been at home, I would’ve gone to work every day, and continued with my detrimental mantra.

On a poshier side, what also helped was the fantastic opportunity of being upgraded to business class on my longest flights for a minimal cost. (Air New Zealand and Hawaiian Airlines have a fantastic “bid to upgrade” system where, if you’re lucky, you bid an amount a fraction of the cost of purchasing a business class ticket.) Especially on ANZ, you feel so nicely catered to, and the food, and the drinks! It’s a feeling I’ve very rarely experienced and it opened my eyes.

My time away allowed me the space to get back to myself and take my rightful place at the head of my decisions table. I need to let go of the idea of adapting to all situations and muting my needs, and instead spend time asking for help, and for changes, even slight ones, to try and modify them to my benefit, instead of living through them to my detriment.

I may not be able to change all difficult circumstances coming my way, but I can try and what I can change, will leave me with a better life. I hope.


Trip Post #6

“Mistakes Make the Best Stories”

I saw that saying on a woman’s t-shirt in Melbourne, I really wish I had taken a picture because it seemed to represent my life trajectory so well.

I wound up staying a bit too long in Rotorua because I had no idea that the full bus going to Auckland was also the bus heading to Hamilton (sigh). During my wait though, I met this lovely lady who lived in a city nearby and was waiting for her returning home bus.

When I started being worried about my bus not coming, she offered to look after my luggage while I went it the bus ticket office. Sadly, the woman mending the desk told me my bus was coming in a few minutes. She was wrong. The “Auckland/Hamilton” bus had already been out there for 15 minutes and I let it leave without me. It would also mean missing my 4:30pm train to Auckland. I didn’t cry over that part though, due to issues with my Wellington to Hamilton trip.

Getting back to the lovely lady, she talked to me about what the city was like 50 years ago, and how she has been a widow for two years now and was travelling on her own for the first time, to see her brother in Rotorua. I told her she really appeared to me like a seasoned traveller (classy, walkable sandals, leather coat, rolling suitcase, etc.) and she got a kick out of that. She said that she looked at what her daughter was doing when she travelled, and then tried to imitate her. “I looked, and I learned”. [Ndlr. We need more of that in the world.]

I hope if she so chooses, that seeing me travel on my own will help convince her to do it again. We didn’t share our names, but it didn’t matter, she gave me a nice hug as she was leaving, and for a bit less than an hour, we had a nice meeting of the souls.

I was then stuck for 4 hours waiting for a 3-hour ride to Auckland, in an overheated bus. In the end, had I planned this ahead of time, it would’ve been the easiest way for me to get more time in lovely Rotorua and travel to Auckland. But I hadn’t. I was therefore not dressed for getting around in 30 Celsius weather, which led me to feel and smell like melted cheese for a good long while (sigh). Oh well.

Note: Do you know what happens when you get into an unknown city at 9pm? You wind up walking for 15 minutes to get to a neighbourhood grocery store, when there’s a big one on a cross street,5 minutes from the hotel [facepalm].

Trip Post #5

I spent three lovely days in Rotorua, NZ. I desperately needed to recharge and heal.

My hotel apartment was lovely, with a terrace and a jacuzzi. I also booked a mani-pedi appointment at a hotel spa.

The weather when I got in was rainy, but warm, and cleared up the next day giving us this scenery:

The lake front was my favourite place to walk.You could see white as well as black swans, and some in between too. Here are a few lounging around a pedestrian path:

I wound up staying a bit too long in Rotorua… More on this in my next post.

Trip Post #4

Hello from Hamilton, NZ!

It took 27 travel days and 15 hotels for me to get to this point, but now all I want are my bed, my bathroom, and my kitchen!!

Maybe it’s due to the fact that my dreamy train ride across the North Island turned into 8h30 hours of annoyances, all linked to being given the worst seat ever. A non-reclinable aisle seat, going in reverse, at a foursome table, with three strangers, including a curmudgeon lady. The seat was right next to the food carriage and I got (albeit slightly) hit every time a passenger went by.

Oh, and there was no wifi.

And I dropped my purchased sandwich on the floor.

Anyways, another hotel tomorrow (sounds like a country song) with, hopefully, better scenery. If only there wasn’t a 1h30 bus trip to get there… Wonder which seat I’ll get…;-)

Trip Post #3

A 40-day trip involves a fair amount of risk. Will the weather hold up? Will your health? Do you have everything you need and if not, can you easily acquire what you’re missing? Will you lose anything or be able to prevent being robbed?

Well, so far, I haven’t been robbed.

I made it to Wellington with all my luggage, an easy one-hour flight. That was great because after coughing every night for 22 days, I have badly pulled rib muscles, which got worse just before the flight. And just as my sinus infection symptoms were getting (slightly) better too.

I got groceries and the new Australian wine I liked and was all ready to relax. Then I attempted to do a load of laundry in the small combined washer/dryer of my hotel appartement room. Two pages of instruction and a bit, and hours later, all I seem to have managed to do was boil my clothes (!) Apparently the drying part is done by steam…?

I sit now on a rainy day, with an aching rib cage, surrounded by damp clothes until I get the energy to fight against the washer/dryer instrument of doom.

As I head out early to Hamilton tomorrow, I’m hoping to get out and gingerly walk a bit around the city which reminds me so much of San Francisco with its hills and beautiful Victorian looking houses, but it will rain and be cold all day. The weather and my health, just aren’t holding up today and I have to make my peace with this reality.

As the Buddhists say, “it is, what it is”.

Trip Post #2

Today is the last day of my 8-night North Island New Zealand organized tour. It was fantastic, and tiring, and boring, and amazing all in one. As great as the trip was though, it was a very good decision on my part to shrink the 16-day organized trip to the 9-day one. I just like to let things flow, relax, and not be too regimented. I would never covered as much terrain as I did with the tour though so I don’t regret going on it.

The glacier lake Tekapo, near Omarama, was magnificent:

As was the boat ride around and under the waterfalls in Milford Sound:

We also visited Larnarch Castle and it’s amazing sceneries:

With very few exceptions, the food was great, especially the scones and bread!

The repetitive 6:00 am wake-up calls were draining though, especially as most days had some nighttime events, and also because I got somewhat sicker. I also can’t wait to be free to roam around wherever I want, not having to follow a strict schedule. I will miss my new travel pals though.

As I was travelling solo, I was particularly focused on finding like-minded people I would enjoy doing activities with. This lead me to two fun sisters from Australia (Melbourne and Queensland region) and a couple from California. I also had good conversations with an Australian nun (again, who would think nuns go on these trips) and a retired astrophysicist who made sure he didn’t mansplain. I may, or may not have lead him gently to that realization. 😉 He told me: “(my name), you really do disturb the universe”. I’ll just take that as a compliment.

I was of course also one of two youngest people on this trip (sigh).

One of the best parts of my trip was meeting my lovely “soul sister”. Living in Queensland, I doubt I’ll meet up in person with her again, but we will definitely keep in touch. I just loved meeting her. It’s crazy how you can click with someone a world away.

Next stop, New Zealand North Island on my own – yeah!

Trip Post #1

I’m on my 6th flight and 6th time zone in just over two weeks. Day 16 of my 40-day trip heading to Christchurch, NZ from Melbourne, Australia.

For the most part, weather has been challenging (rare snow in downtown Seattle, rain in Honolulu and in Sydney) but Canberra, Beechworth and Melbourne weather was gloriously sunny.

My 4-night organized tour of a bit of South Australia was fine. I met some very nice people, but was surprised by the fact that my group was continuing on what was to them an 11-night tour. It made for awkward moments like the numerous “When are you leaving us?” And being awaken at 6:30am by the luggage handlers who were not notified your tour ended in Melbourne. Sleep was at a premium for me due to a nagging cough over 10 straight nights, but what can you do!

Throughout, I’ve come across some learned lessons.For instance, checking your staple clothing for signs of wear and tear. I learned this by being stabbed by one of my go-to bras, and getting blood blisters from my “they’re the only sandals I can walk in pain-free” sandals.

Lesson #1 No favourite item should be packed unless it passes strict inspection.

I was also mad at myself for a while, over forgetting an expensive pair of wool sockets in one of the hotels I stayed at. I also realized the loss too late to get them back.

That was nothing though to almost giving myself a heart attack by checking out and leaving my passport and a huge chunk of money in a hotel safe. Thanks to my travel guardians angels though, I was still staying in the city just at a different hotel, and figured it out before I was ready to fly out. The very nice and professional Tiara at Crowne Plaza Melbourne retrieved them and was extremely nice in chatting with me about the cities I visited and her experiences. It ended a stressful experience very well.

Lesson #3 – While visiting multiple locations, carry a short checklist of essentials and look at it before leaving.

Lesson #3a – only let clothing out to dry where you can always see it (and not say, the back of a door(!).

Lesson #3b – don’t put anything in the safe, if you can help it.

I realized also that I’m not much of a tour traveller. I prefer discovering things over being shown things (especially if the commentary is just someone reading wiki pages out loud (!)

I also crave relaxing in a park or a café, reading good books, eating good food, drinking lovely wine and engaging one-on-one with people over optional all-day trips.

I’m going into my 8-night North Island of New Zealand trip with an open mind though. It’ll be nice to chat with people you see every day for a while.

And here I am, forgetting to talk about my good luck in biding for upgrades to my Honolulu-Auckland flight and my Auckland to Sydney flight. I bid the lowest amount allowed (under the suggested bid amount) and got bumped to business class and the “pod”world where you get to sleep in a decent bead and get a lot of good food and real champagne! Not to mention you get to experience stellar service.

These opportunities may never come again, and if not, I’ll live vicariously through my memories.

Until next time my friends!