Thursday, 6 December 2012

Life Is Easier When We Smile


I took a quick walk this evening over to the gas station to pick up a few things for my mother. Considering my recent sourness towards failing attempts to make my life go as I planned (shouldn't I know better by now?), I probably didn’t have a joyous holiday smile on my face. Regardless, I was my polite and friendly self greeting the attendant at the counter and left the station without letting my glum mood affect anyone else’s evening. But, oh, how the simplest things can erect happy feelings when you least expect it.

Upon leaving, the second attendant, a younger man who was servicing a car at the pump, decided to infect me with his outstanding positive mood. “Have a good night, eh?!” he recites to me in a very genuine, cheery, thick Canadian accent that is so indicative of my hometown region. He followed this with another simple and genuine statement that quite unexpectedly turned my week long morose around – “Life is so much easier when we smile.” This was simultaneous with a quick wink. My mother insists he was simply flirting, but however this attitude came to be, I am infinitely grateful.

http://www.thesmileepidemic.com/

Beyond the truth found in this man’s statement (whatever his hidden agenda may have been), his optimism for the simple do-good facial expression brought to mind a number of my long-forgotten ideas about how our attitudes affect our lives.

When I first arrived home from Ghana, I was obsessed with not letting my reverse culture shock tackle my gratitude for life. I remember having coffee with a mentor of sorts and conversing about gratitude. I was firm believer that my life was good and I was happy because I was so grateful for things around me. Being quick to play devil’s advocate, my experienced friend reminded me that I had a lot more to be grateful for than most people.

Years have passed since that conversation and my stringent mindset of life and gratitude has fluctuated constantly; most days since then I've been convinced my mentor was right in assuming my gratitude came from the wonderful gifts my life had handed to me. Now, I find myself realizing how spot on my 22 year old self actually was.

While dealing with the concerns and stresses that life is currently handing me is definitely unavoidable, recognizing the ability to be grateful for all the aspects life is offering me is much more important. Thanksgiving should not be the one sacred time of year we recite our appreciation; it should be every day. And not because we owe it to the world or God, but because we owe it to ourselves. Because being grateful means finding contentment in the life we have made for ourselves in the everyday bustle.

Thus...

I am grateful for the opportunity of peace and family connections I've been given for the holidays. And I am grateful for the opportunities of travel, career and friends that the past has always afforded me. 

And more than anything, I am grateful for the possibility of opportunities I have yet to discover.


And I’m grateful for a smile... and someone to remind me of them.

Life really is easier when we smile.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Hippies Unite!


So, I want to be a hippy.

Well, kind of. Not the pot smoking, unshaven, off-in-space, society-mooching hippy, but a modern day one.

I’ve fallen in love with the idea of having my own garden, so one day my kids will know how real, fresh, home-grown tomatoes taste. And I want to bake my own bread, because that way I know it is preservative free.


And I want to re-make old furniture and art so that my house looks modern and stylish without contributing to the world of commercialism and waste.

http://www.designmom.com/2010/06/project-repurpose/
I want to redesign old clothes that I treasure hunt for at thrift stores and consignment shops so I can still be “in-fashion” without spending an entire paycheck at Banana Republic or Guess.



But more than all the financially frugal benefits and the do-good-for-the-world mentality, I actually just want to make things with my own two hands. I’m sure many of you have heard of the “Ikea Effect” (if not, watch the video below.)


To some, it may sound ridiculous. Perhaps you are so caught up in a world where having more and measuring success by the price of the items you own can counteract your insecurity and need for meaning in life, but that’s just not the case for me.

While I would not turn away a $50 million lottery winning, I feel like all that money would take away part of the challenge, fun and learning in life. As though, being able to buy and do anything I want without having to earn it, build it, or create it could leave me feeling empty inside. The process and journey of achieving a goal and constructing the items I enjoy would completely disappear. Some may view it simply as having what you want while avoiding the frustration and stress that it takes to get it, but to me, that frustration and stress, the sweat, blood and tears, and the constant overcoming of an obstacle is what makes life exciting and meaningful. It’s what makes you appreciate what you have and be grateful for the gifts and opportunities that life presents to you.


Disagree? I’m sure you do! But I challenge you to be open-minded. Moreover, I challenge you to think about something you really want to buy. (Perhaps an item your were thinking about picking up this week – it could be a cake for a friend’s birthday party, a new chair for your desk, or maybe a picture frame for your family Christmas photo.) And then consider whether maybe this is an item you make or re-create. Find an interesting recipe online and have your grandmother help you bake the cake; or pick up an old chair from a scrap yard, sand it down and refurnish it; or perhaps take an old book  you’ve stuck in storage and get creative making a picture frame out of it! Just try something! If you do, and hate it, feel free to tell me how wrong I am. But I have a pretty strong intuition that you may just absolutely love it... and possibly find a new sense of meaning that doesn’t involve making more money.

Hippies Unite!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Because the Indolent Generation is All Your Fault... And How to Fix It.


*Sigh*

This topic again. But it’s just never-ending. The discouragement, the negativity, the fear: Why can people not see that their pessimism towards our generation’s lack of work ethic only makes it worse?

Now, I understand the perspective. As a generalization, there is a significant difference in the effort and trying that my generation puts into a job or task as compared to an older age bracket. But I think it’s finally time to recognize that the derogatory comments are only making us defensive. And as with most adults, defensiveness leads to closed mindedness, and close mindedness means no one is improving. I must ask, if you really are that concerned and distraught that your rant regarding our indolence is never ending, then why not use your creative intelligence and energy (which we so apparently lack) to motivate us?

Why should you be bothered? How is it your problem to fix?

Well... you made us this way. Multiple decisions you made during our upbringing created us to be the lacklustre cohort as you view us. But I’m going to focus on just one of these decisions.

Naturally, we want to protect our children and want what’s best for them. No one likes suffering. No one likes seeing their kids endure grief and frustration.

But life is difficult*. There will always be problems, fighting, anger, despair, sadness, and hurt, - the list goes on. Responsibility as a parent is to teach your kids about life and how to deal with it. So I must ask, in taking all measures to avoid the discomfort that life so readily delivers, what are you really teaching your children?

Are you teaching them how to be problem solvers? Are you teaching them the concept of delayed gratification (i.e., work before play?) Are you teaching them about over-coming challenge and frustration to grow and learn maturely? Are you teaching them about work ethic?

No. You are teaching them to avoid suffering and problems. But, this is not how we grow and learn. We need to go through the suffering, not around it*. And teaching this to your children is an extremely important part of growing up. As a child, when you witness an over-protective parent, or a parent who they themselves do what they can to avoid dealing with their problems and finding solutions, then that is what you learn about how to live life.

Now, don’t twist my words. You know I’m not saying that you should put your child through undue harm or just let them do things that could hurt them. I shouldn’t even have to explain that there is a necessary balance.

The next time little Tommy hits little sister Sally, rather than screaming ‘No!’ and running to a psychologist as to why your child could possibly behave this way, how about sitting down and going through the suffering and the problem solving WITH your kids. Teaching them that issues and problems are something to face and work through.

Because in those moments of problems, fighting, anger, despair, sadness, and hurt, the opportunity of solutions, peace, calm, joy and relief are ready to shine through.

Anyway, this blog isn’t meant to be “how to parent your kids,” or even finger-pointing at all the parents of my so-called non-working generation. It’s something to think about regarding possibly why we have become this way, and maybe what we can learn about how to make it better;  about how we can learn some self-discipline, delayed gratification, and the concept of valuing our time through valuing ourselves*.

So now, I encourage us all (my peers included), to put our heads together and work through the problem of our current lethargic nature. Don’t ignore it and pretend it’s not there. Don’t become exasperated and pass the trouble on to someone else.

Please, if you love us, take some portion of responsibility, and be willing to go through the suffering and the problem solving with us.



*Select thoughts and points taken from “The Road Less Traveled“ (C)1978 – M. Scott Peck, M.D.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig


Well, I’m home. When I say ‘home,’ I want you to picture me making silly quotation marks with my fingers. Why? Because home is not home when you haven’t lived there in eight years.

Truthfully, I haven’t felt "at home” anywhere for a very long time. This past eleven and a half months in Australia was the longest period I’d spent in one country in over four years. Despite my constant moving about while being there, Oz felt more familiar than anywhere else.

I've been “home” for four days and I’m already feeling a wee bit antsy. More precisely,  I should describe it as a full-on anxiety attack rather than a simple travel bug. I knew this was going to be hard for me simply because it always is. (I can just hear the “woe is her” sarcasm now. “The poor thing had to TRAVEL for four and half years. How unlucky can you get?”)

So I’ve traveled the world in search of a home and am finally ready to just make one for myself. I want a puppy, and a garden, and a livingroom I decorated, and my own kitchen with my own groceries so Rylan and I can cook what WE want for dinner when we want it.

I want to invest in one little part of this massive world so that one day something feels like home...

Hmm, but let's be serious for a moment. Knowing me, staying still is not an option. Maybe I can just stay still Monday through Friday so my weekends can involve adventurous excursions with Rylan and friends. And my annual leave will take me as far overseas as my bank balance will allow. And if in a couple years I've had my fill of domesticated life, Japan awaits patiently on my bucket-list!

Now I just need my man to get his b-u-t-t over here so we can create this wonderful thing that I'm told is where our hearts have been kept all this time.



Thursday, 8 November 2012

The People Vs. The Money



I think people are more important than money. I don’t think this is a radical concept either. In fact, when faced with a rating people and money on level of importance, I’d like to think 99.9% of the world would agree with me. Life, in all its infinite wisdom, is showing me that when you phrase this question differently, that order of value is easily rearranged.

I think it’s well known in the business development world now that part of creating a successful corporation includes how employees are treated. Thus, HR departments are necessary, as are management training programs and team building exercises. That cohesiveness - that need to feel important and find meaning in a job - is very well recognized in this century. Companies like Google, Telus, Marriott Hotels and even McDonalds have this “better employees” concept down to a fine art. And no, they didn’t just get lucky picking great people; they created a great environment for people to shine. Like I said, there is no new, radical concept here, yet I’d say at least half the companies I work for refuse to acknowledge this concept (the other half were spectacular, but that’s not the point of this article). Or at least, they refused to critically look at how they are treating their employees and how it’s affecting their employees’ work ethic. Just so we agree I’ll summarize: treating your staff with respect, producing proper training, providing access to resources and further education to improve roles, and ensuring consistent feedback and accolades where needed are some of the many tools used to create a strong work foundation, and thus, a strong company.

We all agree? Ok! Now let’s think bigger…

The government (I know, I know. We just finished elections – do we really have to keep talking politics?) is essentially a big company, right? At least, I hear a lot of capitalist expressing that it’s a business and needs to be run just so. Personally, I’ve always just taken the stance that because people are more important than money it seemed shallow and greedy to place your vote in business mindset direction. However, I get money makes the world go-round these days. I know money is needed in order to take care of the people.

Now I ask, is it the chicken or the egg?

With my sad state of up and down financial fortunes these days, I’ve started getting smarter with my money. I’ve been reading a lot of books (and watching a lot of YouTube, the more opinionated less calculated approach) on how every day Joes make some money. See, I grew up thinking that the less you spent the more you would have. And I still hear people say this to me all the time. Funny how the people who say this to me are usually the ones most stressed about money. I’d have to say the most important way to have money is to make more. Don’t get me wrong, learning how to spend it/ invest it/ use it to your advantage is also a big part of the process of “having” money, but the first step, is learning how to make it. Or at least, make more of it.

It’s the same way a new company invests bucket loads into a really good marketing campaign to ensure initial business. Or how when a store starts going under they hire a business developer to reset them and get them back on the right track. That old adage, “you have to spend money to make money” I guess. Well, with all this new knowledge, I’m starting to find it quite silly how when some companies think they may be losing profit in the upcoming quarter, the first place they choose to cut corners and tighten the budget is with the staff; less money in training, cut out the perks and team building expenses, put a hold on salary raises, and where able, show some people the door. Can’t they be a bit more creative? Why not look for an avenue to invest in and make changes that can bring more money in rather than look for avenues that they assume will keep money from going out? I truly believe that the “corner-cutting exercise” is a slippery slope: shortly thereafter service standards will drop, company loyalty starts to slide, and the next thing you know the company reputation starts to diminish. It’s not looking so good for business now.

Before this blog turns into a novel I will tie it all together.

Say for instance, We, the people of a government, are all staff. View for a moment that us paying taxes is how the company makes it’s profit. Without analogy, I can easily say that the more successful we are at our jobs, the more taxes we pay. Therefore, when we are successful, the government has more money. So let’s say that as a company, they provide us with proper training (you know what I mean, proper grade school education by ensuring our teachers are looked after and happy, and subsidizing college) and because of our proper training we are good in our role and therefore successful for it. Ah ha! Making more money so paying more taxes – happy government! And let’s say they provide us with proper health benefits (which includes ensuring our preventative care through educating us on healthy lifestyles, and ensuring our mental and emotional stability through proper care facilities) so that we are able to stay employed longer, they have to spend less money insuring us and paying out of pocket when we are sick. We make more money (ie, more tax to them) and… well, we just make more money (yay for us!). And lets say they government, our company, spends a little of that extra money to ensure we are happy, to ensure we feel community, so that we can, again, feel fulfillment in our roles in society and cause less havoc on the world and push harder to move forward.

That sounds like a successful employee business model to me. So, if I agree with the capitalist approach that money is needed to move forward, than I find myself back at my original position that people are always more important. The people should always come first.

So why then, do governments think that cutting corners by decreasing budgets on education, health care and community building is the efficient thing to do? How do they not see that it can only cause a company to fail?

So is it that we need the money to keep the people happy, or do we need the people happy to make the money?

Saturday, 3 November 2012

How to be nice to your Waitress - for Dummies.


It’s been seven long years of off-and-on work in the restaurant industry. Obviously, I now have quite a few “pet peeves” (to put it nicely) regarding service and how guests treat servers. I feel as though many people who have never worked in the service industry are absolutely clueless about how their behaviour can be seen as rude, disrespectful and downright inconsiderate towards the person bringing you your meal. While no one will ever spit on your burger or urinate in your coffee, your “under cooked” steak (which you order rare) may end up in the deep fryer, or your “too-strong” martini will simply be filled with soda water.

There are reasons other than feared culinary punishment to treat your waiter or waitress with dignity. Beyond simple Karma and the “do unto others” golden rule, I’m giving you the following list of “Restaurant Etiquette” rules simply so you don’t look like a total @%$hole  the next time you feel you are unhappy with your service or meal.

  1. Smile. At least once. And not one of those patronising, demeaning smirks; I mean a genuine, kind smile! For the sake of your servers nerves, if she greets you with a smile, meet her with one. This really simple, no-money transaction will make your experience with her 10x better. Why? If your server thinks you are already unhappy with them, or possible just not a very nice person, they are going to avoid your table. Well, at least make their trips past you as infrequent as possible. While really good servers may do the opposite in order to win your accolades eventually, I beg you, make my day a little bit easier and provide me with some body-language feedback that you are satisfied with your service.

  1. Don’t waive your server down or snap your fingers.  This one should be a given, and yet, I still feel I need to tell people this is considered rude!

  1. Mind your manners. This one is simple. You look like a spoiled brat when you don’t use them, and it makes me feel like a slave, not a person trying to make your dining experience enjoyable. Saying, “I want,” “I need,” “Gimme,” and “Are you competent enough…” makes me want to slap you and quit on the spot. Listen to your mother.

  1. Don’t get angry if your server comes by too often. Who in their right mind complains because someone wants to make sure you are enjoying yourself?

  1. Complain – but only when you actually want to be compensated. If you are unhappy with your service, your food, or the fact that your seat is covered in dessert from the previous guests, and you feel something should be done about it, make yourself heard! However, if you are just complaining because you like complaining, and your going to finish your complaint about how dry your turkey is with, “but it’s okay, I ate it,” or, “I don’t want to make a fuss, I’m just letting you know,” don’t bother saying anything. You might think you are doing the restaurant a service by letting them know, but most of the time (not all the time) the Chef really couldn’t give a rats-ass and you’ll just end up making the server feel awkward and overly apologetic. However, if you really feel something should be done about your watery tasting cocktail, or the fact that your food took over 40minutes to reach your table, let your server know in a nice way and tell them you’d appreciate it being brought to the manager’s attention.

  1. Don’t get mad that it’s busy. You can see it’s busy; you can therefore rationalize to yourself that everything will take a bit longer. No one is forcing you to eat there; you can go somewhere else! Why are you then complaining that service is slow? You look like a moron when you do this and everyone will be too busy and stressed to care that you are unhappy about it.

  1. If you are going to complain, make sure your server is the first one aware.  No one likes someone going over their head. Give your server a chance to amend the situation before taking it to the next level. You need to realize how much trouble that server will be in after you write a long email about how terrible everything was to the General Manager. There is nothing worse than being blindsided with a page of complaints and a lecture from your boss when you didn’t even know were problems. If you have brought it to the attention of the server, then the manager, and no one is addressing your concerns, write to your hearts content! But do not do it when you haven’t already addressed your concerns with the person who spent their evening trying to make sure your meal was enjoyable.

  1. Chefs are not servers; they don’t care. In fact, they’d probably flip you off if they were waiting your table. This is an over generalization, but I’ll easily say that 90% of the chefs I’ve worked with could really care less about your complaints. It falls in two categories of chefs: the ones that think their food is a work of art and you’ve just insulted it, and the ones that just follow a recipe and don’t care about their work or your enjoyment of it. Therefore, your little request to tweak something after you’ve ordered it may not be taken lightly. While the server genuinely has no problem amending your meal to make it more enjoyable for you, she secretly fears the repercussions of the kitchen staff upon timidly telling them that the French fries are soggy.

  1. Again, be nice when you complain.  Sometimes what seems like a very small request on your part cannot be accommodated for simply because of house policies. This includes things like free extra bread for a dip you ordered or no-charge side of cola for your $17 shot of whisky. I hate admitting it, but getting mad at your server, or expressing your distaste through sarcasm, bullying (which happens more than you think), and overall rudeness, will probably get you what you want. (Hey! What do you know! The spoiled brat approach works!). But I’d also like to let you know, that persistent complaint about it in a polite and respectful manner will also get you what you want. Whatever a manager will bend to in your rudeness, they will also bend to in your politeness. There is no need to cause a scene or ruin some ones day simply to look like an arrogant prick in-front of all your friends.

  1. Again, Chef’s don’t care. No matter how badly the server wants to please you, if the kitchen won’t do it, stop holding your breath. This especially counts if the kitchen is closed. If a server walks into the kitchen with an order while the chef’s are cleaning up, you aren’t getting your order. And if somehow you do manage to get your order, it’s because the server blackmailed, bribed or flat out ruined a friendship in order to avoid your complaint. So when this does happen, ensure your tip is big. She earned it.

  1. Don’t want to tip? Don’t eat out.  While this only applies to cultures that tip, it’s a big one. Servers have to tip-out on their sales. That means up to 7.5% above the cost of your meal goes to the hosts, kitchen hands, and servers assistants. I.e., Your bill is $100 and you tip $10, the server will only receive $2.50 after her tip out. So say you eat out by yourself, and your bill is only $20.00, so you decide it’s not worth tipping on, the server then has to take $1.50 out of their own money to pay the other staff for having served you. Not fair and again, you look like a prick. If you are not happy with your service, make it known to your server and the manager. If she went out of her way to piss you off, I can understand wanting a little revenge by not tipping. But if you are just being a cheapskate, make sure your tip at least reaches that 10% mark so the server does not have to pay for having served your cheap-ass.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Happy-Go-Lucky Efforts


Have you ever had those times, where you know that you really shouldn’t be as stressed out as you are? And I don’t mean tired, or hormonal, or just having a bad day; I mean when the little things just build up so much you can’t help but let your frustration with the little things show through. Where you keep telling yourself to relax and enjoy the moment, but stupid little things keep getting to you? It’s not all the time, just small things. And you are smart enough to know that one day you will look back on this phase in your life, and will wish you hadn’t spent so much time concerned with the petty things. But in the moment, despite your past-experience wisdom, you still are stressed, and upset about those minor inconveniences.


That’s what this Ski Season has been about: A crazy balancing act of letting go of the little things to just enjoy the gifts, and trying to maintain a trace amount of work ethic to care that I still have a job to do. Albeit, there has been a lot of justified stress [that I won’t mention in too much detail] to put me off my happy-go-lucky efforts. For starters, I really should not have taken the promotion offered to me at the beginning of the season. I know promotions always sound like a good idea, but I think there are certain positions where having that extra responsibility and stress just isn’t needed. I’m here to have fun and become an awesome snowboarder! Not add “Restaurant Manager” to my resume.

Beyond that, living, eating, playing and working with a bunch of people you’ve never met before becomes a bit… excessive. Especially when some people don’t have the common courtesy of respecting others’ privacy and personal space. Needless to say, punches have been thrown, names have been called, and elementary school bully tactics have returned to the workplace. In most normal work environments, people would easily be fired for the “communication methods” used, however, for seasonal work in the world’s most expensive ski resort, you hold onto the staff you have and try to make it work.

To add to the equation, I work for a family owned company. It’s not like there is an HR department where I can confide my disapproval of staff treatment. If the Front Office Manager is behaving completely unprofessionally to me, I can’t go and make a formal complaint to my boss. Why not? Because it’s his wife. I don’t think he’ll take lightly to me complaining about his wife’s tone and work-place behaviour considering they’ve been doing this for 20 odd years. (I’ve talked to a lot of staff from previous seasons… everyone is appalled at her work-place communication with staff.)

Whatever the case I present, it’s been a hard 3 months, but I’ve had some of the best days of my life here, and have learned unsurpassable amounts about how certain environments affect different types of people (myself included.) And despite my struggles with maintaining a positive outlook - and remaining understanding of others - at times during the season, I’m proud to say I’m into the last 13 days of my 3.5 month contract, and my snowboarding skills have improved tenfold, my management skills are defined and practiced, my boyfriend and I have escaped the stress only to be stronger, and I’ve got a smile on my face.

I’d say that’s success. After all, it’s about direction, not perfection, right?

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Where's My Touque? Oops, I Mean Beanie

It only took 3 weeks being in the Perisher Mountains in New South Wales before the tan I worked so hard to keep even in the Whitsundays had completely disappeared. Soon I'll sport the ever-fashionable goggle tan, ice burns and bum bruises that come with daily snowboarding in Australian ski resorts. I feel like Australia is a really odd place to choose to do a ski season. You'd think if I was a really keen snow-sport lover I'd choose Austria, or at least New Zealand. Hell! I should just do one back in Canada - why overseas where the snow isn't as good?
Perisher - melting :-(

Funny enough, haven't met any other Canadians working up here. Obviously clever Canadians come to Oz to get away from the cold, not explore it. But lets be realistic, my traveling has kept me away from the winter cold for sometime, and boy have I ever missed it. Being back here is reminding me what a true Canadian I am - despite being poorly acclimatized.... What? -5 IS cold!

I'm loving the crisp air, fire places, hot chocolate, bundling up, making snowmen and having drunken snow fights! It's like being a child all over again! (Not including the "drunken" part.)

While I'm enjoying the long forgotten season of winter, I'll admit I'm quickly missing  reality. I have worse cabin fever in this little ski resort then I ever had on Cruise Ships. I'm really missing my friends back home, and having regular visits with them and my family. Just easy daily things like yoga classes, coffee dates, night-school and going to the cinema. I think it's all the same things I crave whenever I'm off traveling (which seems to be the only permanent in my life these days.) Every time I've gone "home" (...if I'm still allowed to call Canada that...) I get antsy and find a reason to leave. A travel bug yes, but I'm also coming to terms with the fact that I just have trouble adjusting to a non-traveler's culture. Its not that I find it boring, I just don't know my place in that world anymore, and I'm scared I'm not going to be me in that world. Ah well, a new challenge to over come for the next phase in my life.

I've still got 6+ months left of exploring the continents before I fulfill the promise I made to my Mother and return home for Christmas (I'll have to hit up South East Asia before then to re-claim my tan - no one will believe I spent a year living in Australia if I go home as pale as the average Canuck.) I think that is enough time yearning for stability and routine in my life to keep me anchored to one place for a while.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

I Still Covet the Greener Grass


I never intended to travel this much. It just sort of happened... and then kept happening. A visit to Africa and some well-earned reverse culture shock took me on a completely different path than I ever could have fantasized.

This month could be a month of reflection on choices I regret making. This month – had I stuck to my original ten year plans – I would be finishing the final year of my M.D. It’s almost impossible for me to imagine having spent the last four years in continuous study and stress, a life trapped in North American values with the consistent ache of wanting to finish something rather than enjoy the process.
In my reflection, there are no regrets. What a vivid and colourful life I’ve painted myself into.

Saying I’ve been to over forty countries, have lived on four continents and sailed half the world at sea could sound like boasting. (And that’s perhaps why I still enjoy exploiting those facts – because it just sounds cool.) But reality says it was just the way my life was meant to happen. Friends and family question my decisions to have kept “moving” the way I have; perhaps running away? chasing my own personal unattainable holy grail? commitment issues? Who cares? We each have our own way of buckling under similar pressures.

No. If anything, four years of travelling has taught me that I don’t have commitment issues; that I’m not chasing any sense of fulfilment from changing my environment every 6 months; and I’m most certainly not running away. We just have different paths, and this one is mine. Completely without plan, without fail and without false expectations.

There was a photo posted of me. In it I’m sitting on the beach alone; beautiful white sand, palm trees, light shining off the ocean making that picture perfect aqua blue that you can see straight into. Comments of envy and excitement for me lined up underneath it from friends and family back home. All of them were relaying their enthusiasm and expectations for the life I must be leading on this huge adventure I must be having in the wonderful warmth of the tropics. No one stops to consider that while my life doesn’t hold the same patterns and routines as a non-traveller, it still isn’t easy. It’s anything but easy (you try and navigate your way from Sydney to Brisbane on less than $100!) And it’s not always stimulating (I’ve officially caught up on every popular TV series and new book release since 2007.) And I still get depressed! I still get sad! I still get angry and frustrated and mad at God! I still get hurt and cry and fuck-up and deal with the consequences!

I still covet the greener grass.

It’s not better. It’s not an escape. It’s just different. And this different suits me… for now ;-)

So here is to the freedom of owning nothing other than my choices. And to many more years painting these vibrant, multi-coloured memories. 

Sunday, 26 February 2012

They DO Speak German in Australia

So, island life. It's... interesting.

There was a number some very specific moments where I realized that Lindeman Island was possibly the strangest place I'd ever "lived". We were just in someone"s room. Not a bar. It was just the 5 of us.I remember sitting on the couch with this 19 year old British boy  (he had quite the crush on me for a while - he used to bring me brownies and wine, it was nice) and watching these two Kiwi ladies (one 50 and the other nearly 60) dance to old country tunes that this boy was mixing up on his laptop. I joined a Philippino chef outside for a smoke and listened to him sing his own version of "Then I got high" on the topic of why he hadn't yet quite his job for something better. 

Let's just say everyone had had a bit too much to drink.This was an everyday occurrence.

What made these moments so strange wasn't necessarily the age differences, the nationalities, or all the booze, but more so, the reason we were all brought together to the same place. 

With the resort essentially running off of the backpackers that stop there for short contracts to work as housekeepers and public area cleaners, you can imagine there was a lot of us. And for the most part, I would say they were the people with the highest level of education and career aspirations; we were just taking a time out to enjoy travel.

I think I listened to more German and French in a day than English. In fact I even learned to speak quite a bit of German. I can imagine how that conversation will go...

"So, where did you learn to speak German?"
"In Australia."
"You mean Austria."
"No, Australia."
"Poor simple girl, she thinks they speak German in Australia."

Then there were the entertainers. Well, they were the ones that worked with the guests more often than not. Young, generally out of high school with very little career experience, and mostly Aussie. You could say this was the group with the most amount of drama and excitement - it was all about the experience and some fun! 

The permanents had a different vision. More so, were there because they had been there so long they just didn't know what else to do. They had it good, so they thought. The easy island life. Generally older, all having very interesting stories that brought them to this place, and all of them, really enjoyed to drink. (I'm not limiting that description to the permanents, I'm just saying, they seemed to enjoy that more often... and probably didn't do much else.)

It seemed that these groups were so different that they shouldn't meld well, but it did. We were a big family. Always someone to talk to, someone to lean on, some story to listen to (even if you'd heard it before), someone new to meet on your day off, and, always, a good time. And those strange moments, where I would stop and observe the interactions going on around me, were simply strange because they couldn't exist in many other places (at least, not that I've seen at this point on my travels.) What really shouldn't have worked, and sometimes was incredibly awkward, still flowed so well.

Imagine - cockatoos that eat peanut butter in front of my room, tropical beaches for a backyard, being bitten by spiders, the attack of the march flies, the best pool parties to exist on the planet, creative cane toad killings, free kegs, great food,  geckos for roommates, amazing people, interesting conversations, real friends, and going for runs with my brother to the beach...

... It was brilliant! 


Monday, 13 February 2012

It's a Love Story


I want my perfect days back. But I know I can't have them. I have to try something new. I have to try and be me on my own. Again. A place I never thought I'd see. At least, not until old age. Not until well after weddings, babies, anniversaries, family holidays, and funerals.

My brain is not always my friend. I over analyze and critique every decision my heart says to make, and it's only taken 25 years for me to understand that my heart knows best. To trust, that God and the Universe know best. I've had to make a lot of very difficult decisions over the last couple months that have literally turned everything in my world 180°. Every morning I wake up and - despite that it's been since Oct 29 - I still expect to see David next to me in bed. I still want to get up and make him breakfast and bring him a cup of coffee. I wake up every morning with the overwhelming vacancy in my heart, knowing it's a reality I'll never be able to get back.

So here I am.
Lost, but not directionless. A tad scared, and yet, more trusting and assured of Life then I have been for a long time. Dreams of just buying a ticket and flying to Switzerland to surprise him on his door step were washed away by financial reality (anyone want to lend me $1000 so I can chase down the man of my dreams?... again.) I have to trust the "if it's meant to be" philosophy right now or I'd go crazy trying to force square pegs into round holes (read the Tao of Pooh if you want to understand this better). And I think learning the dedication of sticking to a goal, to prove to someone that you will never stop loving them, must be one of the most important and valuable lessons ever to engage in.

But in learning lessons, sometimes you have to admit to ones you don't want to see. Despite the gut-wrenching heartache that provokes my daily sobbing sessions, I know I need to let him go. I can't live my days pretending I'm with him. I'm pretty sure he's with someone new. I'm quite happy to be on my own. Dating is bloody awkward, and the whole reason I'm not with him is because I need to be just me right now. No strings attached.Who knows - 6 weeks from now I could be playing detective in Europe to avenge my scars, but for now, I'm in Sydney, and I'm unavailably single.

How depressing was that love story?


Fear not - I have happy articles coming too, about fun times on remote islands and rebounds and roses. Stay tuned for more posts.