Category Archives: Outdoors
It’s usually played at remembrance ceremonies and funerals for soldiers. In some ways, this last post isn’t very different from that of a B bugle call playing in the distance as the sun rises to remember brave soldiers and battles fought.
Only this time around, it is my battle and not those I’d reflected on in remembrance.
In the past ten months, I found out I had cancer cells, had to sit around for six months waiting to hear if they got them all (which they did… I put it down to telling them to f#@* off), sustained an arm injury which tore me away from work and study for six months, was physically assaulted, someone deleted all my websites, I had to move house unexpectedly, couch and floor surfed for nearly four weeks and to put the cherry on top, was in my new house for two weeks and got broken into. And this list certainly doesn’t count all the other lemons, some of them just too damn bitter to recollect in an open forum.
Do you know what it’s like to feel like you’re losing your sanity? And you don’t even know why? To sit on a tram, only to turn around half way on the journey because you just couldn’t be around people? Finding every excuse in the world why you couldn’t, wouldn’t, just damn well didn’t want to see anyone. How going through a box of tissues in a day was normal and you became used to darkness descending at 7am, forcing a day under the covers in the hope you would wake up and it would all just be a bad dream.
I knocked back the anti-depressant prescriptions : I had a tried and tested tool of focussing on the small things that bring us to life. Besides, I didn’t need to add to the GDP to make Australia an even greater country. I withdrew from most of the world, including friends, was careful where I went, who I was with and what I was doing. I continued to sketch, write and outwardly seemed to be alive. Internally I was desperately trying to fight off the insanity of how I was feeling and it was only because I never forgot who was hidden inside that the embers kept alight.
Last year I celebrated my birthday by climbing Mt Agung in Bali, celebrating with friends on the coast and on returning home, had one fun karaoke night with some beautiful people, recognising the awesome of every page within my chapter 39.95. This year’s birthday, I struggled getting out of bed, I didn’t want to see anyone, managed to stretch myself for lunch and at the very last minute braved it in a room full of strangers at a story-telling night. The theme was turning points, and half way through the night, I decided to share a few of mine. You can’t have had a full life like mine and not had some turning points that have whipped your life 360°.
At the height of my stress levels and depression, the assault happened. Talk about hitting you when you’re down. Thank goodness #b03, a daily blog commitment, came along. Every day I sat, sometimes, all day, to pump out a post on something great that happened in the day or a reflection I had on the past. I credit this month, along with #MindfulinMay, for dragging me off the floor and keeping me focussed, on my writing, and my sanity. That, and a very humbling post from a wonderful friend who had taught me about purpose and owning your story and the comments from people when I made it to the final three of a blogging competition. They were all part of my turning point to understand the power of self-responsibility to take control. That and the realisation I was on a collision path.
This soldier was ready to stand up and start fighting. And again, whip my life 360°.
I started this blog when I accepted a challenge. I do have stories to share that could change the world, but this blog was always primarily to help me change my own world. Considering all the lemons that life had thrown at me, at first I wasn’t entirely sure I needed anymore challenges. So the preface was I would keep writing until I, or anyone else, didn’t need it anymore.
That time has come.
Over the past two years, I’ve never written for anyone else nor felt the need to promote my thoughts to the wider universe. It was my therapy. My passion. And my need to focus on the fact that life is unrelenting in its gifts of experience, people, opportunity and self.
I realised wealth and GDP prosperity are definitely not predictors of life satisfaction. We’re spending more money on ‘stuff’, making children’s hospital wards like first class resorts, building multi-million dollar social housing complexes and still don’t have enough, designing more prisons and detention centres, spending big on credit cards, destroying native forests with big trucks and large tools, spending more money on bicycles, house and car locks as theft increases, employing more police, consuming more food, alcohol and cigarettes, spending more money on pokies than on rates in many local council areas, donating more money to charities and yet have more social problems than ever before, destroying our natural wonders with mines and urban sprawl with excess for sale, earning more, still fighting the war in Afghanistan and our spending on anti-depressants is hitting all time highs. Yay : at 1371 billion dollars, we’ve got one of the highest GDPs on the planet. We should be so proud of ourselves spending all that cash so wisely… and happy.
As I reflect on my 158 bloody rippers over the past two years, I realise how so much of what makes life worthwhile is not measured : the innocence and joy of a young child, the strength of our relationships, the beauty of our art, digging out our courage, a breathe of fresh air in the midst of nature’s best, the setting of a sun. If our existence and success were measured by life’s joys, we’d all be abundant. And not just our country.
Despite the lemons, me and life have managed to still walk hand in hand:
- Finding old memories
- Bucket lists
- Completing my first biathlon
- Fridge notes can change the world
- The power of courage
- My first tattoo
- Noticing everything around you
- Letters to Santa
- New found love for sketching
- Top ten travel experiences
- Ten things I value
- The nurture of nature
- New year wrap-ups
- A better planet
- All the bloody rippers
With the setting down of the sun, I will remember them. I may need to come back to this safe space at some stage. But unlike global wars over the centuries that we just don’t seem to be able to learn from, it’s time to hold that mirror up and use every one of my darn lemons to push me into neutral territory.
As much as I appreciate social media for its ability to connect me to so many amazing people I have had the pleasure to cross paths, the doors it has opened, the information it has made available, the world it allows you to explore, and the access it provides to new opportunities, events and people, our friendship is going to take a small hiatus. At its core, it is an incredible resource, but right now, I need to commit to my own projects and not learn about others. I need to open my own doors and not simply peep into others. I’ve explored the world and it’s now time to start exploring my visions. I want photos with my friends because we’re out doing things together. I want to be able to come back from my hiatus taking action on my loves and not simply liking everyone else’s.
It’s time to say goodbye to the external forces and hello to the internal power.
A few years ago, I had a dream about a domain name : www.give.com.au. As a direct result of my experiences overseas, I spent a lot of money and time to build a pretty big fair trade website, working with projects I had visited and researched. I wanted to change the world, or at least make a small imprint on some communities that had made a huge impact on me. Fail. External and internal forces were at play and it’s only recently I came to the understanding I was never going to be able to sell hand bags : I hate shopping.
By understanding the power of my story, it is now I truly understand that before you can give to others, you must begin with yourself. You must be able to stand up in your own power and at the end of your life, whenever that may be, be proud of what you did, what you didn’t do, who you loved, what you let go of, what you accepted, where you went, who you journeyed with and the person you were. All the ideas I have had over the last few years will now be married to create a new www.give.com.au : one that encourages you to give to self, and others. My journey has allowed me to meet the people I needed to meet to make this happen, and for once in my life, I’m putting my hand out to accept some help.
I want to give my writing purpose in a new way, leaving the scope of my life and the joy it brings to focus on some inspiring people that know what it’s like to find purpose. Before I never cared about who read what I wrote. Now I do. I want to start work on my biography. And I want to create some really fun projects allowing others the space to give to themselves… every little part of them and not just a glory box of stuff. www.thedinnertable.com.au is a big part of that : bringing people together to share, connect and create. I still want to change the world in a small way and everything I do will have that as its underlying glue.
The biggest opportunity we have on the planet right now is not to solve any of the world’s greatest problems. It is to inspire a society of change-makers. That change-maker starts with me.
Right now, I’m so glad I’ve had 43 jobs, travelled to 43 countries, have some amazing people in my life, have lost count of the amazing experiences I have had, stood up and fought the battles and now lay down my weapon of choice for the past two years to get on with it.
Three days ago, my friend Richard who had already done so much for me by allowing me to explore purpose in a three day retreat, again put out his helping hand and invited me to a Real Leadership workshop. One of the activities was to pull out from a large selection three pictures that represented three timeframes, one story. With a grin, Rich heckled me for doubling the selection, knowing only too well that in this case, I needed to own my story.
In short, the past is represented by the darkness of which I believe is an important part of my story as well as the strength to stand up from the battle and move forward. The loose threads of my life have been ripped apart to now allow me the ability to bring them all together as a conduit towards the future. I can’t do it alone, I need variety, and I welcome everyone else’s playlists to inform and inspire the future journey. No matter how far apart, how little time we spent together or how close we are, I thank those deeply who have travelled with me on the journey so far and welcome those who are yet to come. And as for the future? One of my favourite films is “Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring”. Through stunning cinematography, it is a journey through life’s lessons and at the moment I feel embedded in the contrast of those seasons. I want to continue that journey, knowing I have some handy tools to keep the weeds at bay and there’s going to be one garden I am now ready to focus on… and I want it to flourish.
As for right now, it’s off into the spring sunshine to sit and design “A Beautiful Day” and a gratitude project as required of my Masters in Wellness and then plan to make them happen. Who ever thought when you decided to study at university for the first time in your life, you would be allowed to write about what you’ve written about for two years… just when you’re playing the last post.
Life… it can be so
you bloody ripper!
To Richard, Angie, Glenda, Gregory, Michelle, Steph, Damien, Dani, Yvette, Nynke, Inge, Aaron, Carol, Adam, Diana, Jarrod, Kal, Mike, Annie, Linnet, Calm in the City, Mindful in May, #b03, SLAMALAMADINGDONG! Poetry Slam, Arts in Action, Stillwaters, Enchanted Evenings and The Holos Group. Thank you for being my brakes.
Travelling broadens the mind. Travelling takes one to new places. Travelling allows new experiences. But for some, a journey abroad is part of an inner journey – a journey that takes one deeper than that into an exotic jungle or into the narrow alleyways of a new city. It is a journey taken within. It is a journey of inner growth, personal motivation and inspiration.
A few years ago, I had the incredible privilege of taking people on challenge trips around the globe, away from their comforts, their securities and their every day lives.
Vicki’s story is one that I lived, heard and researched, both during the trip and after, particularly as I taped her feet each night and encouraged her to push through whatever it was that was holding her back.
Not only did Vicki embark on a journey to a foreign land, but she took a journey within and come back inspired, determined and with a new found belief in what she could achieve.
I thought it was about time to share her story, particularly as I plan on writing more bios of some inspirational change-makers.
Through this journey, it is hoped that you too will find your inner strengths, follow your dreams, harness your potential, find your passion and live every day vividly.
Be inspired by this journey within to live a life less ordinary, for the extraordinary is within us all.
There once was a woman named Vicki who for the first 15 years of her adult life spent it home alone. Work, then home, then bed, too scared to even go out to the pub for a drink with her work mates. Vicki used her family and her dog as an excuse to go home. Until no one asked anymore.
In January 2005, Vicki decided to undertake a challenge – to fundraise $5000 for Guide Dogs and complete a challenge trip in China. In May 2006, Vicki travelled 80km on the Great Wall of China and climbed one of China’s five holy Tao Mountains, Hua Shan. The following are five chapters of Vicki’s journey within.
My life has always been unremarkable. In fact, it was boring. If I were to describe myself before the trip, it would definitely have to be lifeless. I have lived in Perth all my life, and worked in the same job for eight years. A self confessed couch potato weighing in at 140kg, I didn’t know what the word exercise meant. I was afraid to go out and mix with others. Why would I when I didn’t like myself?
On reflection, I am not sure why I didn’t like myself. I have always been extremely shy. I grew up in a very isolated environment, looking after my pop and grandma. They were my world. I guess I never developed on the social level like most people. So I simply shut myself off from everyone, becoming more isolated and insecure the older I got.
I decided to go on the Challenge after seeing it advertised through Guide Dogs. It seemed like a great way to see a part of the world I had always wanted to go, the pictures made it look easy and it seemed like a worthwhile reason to support a very worthy cause. However, not only did I find the fundraising was a lot of hard work, but the hardest part was yet to come.
I’d gone and booked myself on a Challenge, and I couldn’t hide anymore. I had to get out and meet people. I had to be the one doing the inviting. I organised wine tours, dinners and auctions. I had to force myself to go and talk to people, to open myself up, to not be afraid of being seen and to come out of hiding. My challenge had started before I’d even set foot out of the country. It became even more painful when I got to China and realised I no longer had a valid reason to hide away. I had to conquer my insecurities. I had to become someone I had never been in my life.
Physically, the trip was extremely difficult for me. At 140kg, walking such long distances during the day with little training hurt with each step. Every night I would tape my swollen feet and knees and cover the new blisters and sores appearing all over my feet with padding and bandages. This wasn’t a holiday. This was torture.
Aside from the trip being physically difficult, the greatest pain came from me acknowledging what my life had been like prior to the trip and the fact that for its entirety, I had hidden myself away. Most people I knew thought I had a great life and just didn’t have any time for them. Little did they know I kept myself prisoner behind the barriers of my own fear and insecurities.
I still get so nervous that I am sick before I go out. I still drive around and around before I can make myself get out and go in. But there is a difference. I don’t turn around anymore and go home. I go in. I am enjoying myself more. I don’t let myself stop and think too much or I will talk myself out of doing and going places. I don’t want to go back to the way I was. It would be too easy. It would have been easy to stop walking. The pain would have eased. But I would not have felt the sense of achievement, and the sense of self worth that I now feel.
Now, when I reflect on the trip and think about the Wall, the physical pain seems but a distant memory. I find myself remembering the beauty of the wall instead. I guess it has taught me that we have to go through pain in our lives to appreciate the beauty around us.
The pain from the mountain is a little different. There have been many things in my life that I didn’t think I could do. At 39, climbing the mountain is one of the first major things I have accomplished in my life, so the pain should stay with me forever. And I don’t really want it to go. It’s a constant reminder that no matter how bad a situation I am in, there are many others worse off than myself, and to get on with my own life. I guess it has taught me that when we go through pain in our lives and come out the other side with a smile, that we will be much better people for it, as I am now.
The pain was worth it. And I no longer fear it.
One of my greatest weaknesses in life has always been that I feel I have to do anything to get a friend. I think it manifested itself in the way I have always been passionate about helping other people. It was the only way I received any recognition or appreciation in my otherwise unenthusiastic life. Considering the protective barrier I placed around myself, I don’t think I even had a real idea what a true friend was. Since the trip to China, I believe I am starting to realise. I believe that I have had many friends with me all my life, but I just didn’t know how to see or appreciate them.
On the trip, I constantly didn’t want to let anyone down because I saw myself as an embarrassment to others on the trip. I was very self-conscious about always being last and always being in so much pain. My insecurities were discernible every day in the nos, the I cant dos, the anguish and the tears.
However, there were a few special people who supported me on the entire walk. Although continually embarrassed, I was extremely grateful to have their company. Even when I cried and said I couldn’t do it, they believed in me. Even when I begged to stop, they didn’t doubt me. They kept me laughing and singing. They kept pushing me. They made me push myself. I was happy that for the first time in my life, other people thought I could do it, and I am forever grateful they wouldn’t let me stop.
I am now feeling a little more comfortable in asking other people for help. I realise that it isn’t embarrassing. I realise that to have people around me and having friends support me through the hard times is not something I should fear or be ashamed of. No longer do I just try and make friends with people so it gives me a feeling of self worth. No longer do I think I need to put on a face so that people like me. No longer am I afraid of what people think of me. I make friends with people so I can be there for them, knowing that they will be there for me when I need them. I have learnt not to take friends for granted. And I have also learnt that it’s okay to ask for help, be helped and not to be embarrassed.
Even though I may never again see some of the people I shared this journey with, it has highlighted to me that people do come into our lives for a reason. There were people on the trip who will always be a big part of my life, for without them being there during the hard times, I know I would never have made it. Not just in China. But in my future.
Thank you my angels.
Quite often we rush through life and miss out on special things, or even just the simple things. I realised this especially while walking on the Wall one day when the tour leader reminded us that the walk was not a race. That we would never be there again and that we should enjoy and savour every moment. I took the time to sit down and enjoy the view, soaking up the remarkable history in front of me.
Back in Perth, I find I want to enjoy my life more and I want to try new things. For the first time in my life I am inviting myself to places and events. I am reflecting more on what I want to achieve in my life and am setting goals to ensure these happen. All things I had never even tried in the past.
One of the greatest lessons I learnt from the trip is that I can get through the hard way and feel a total sense of achievement once I have completed it. No longer am I doing what is expected of me. Not in my work, nor in my personal life. I now have more control over my emotions.
I’m learning about myself. I’m trying to make decisions and stick with them so I don’t slip back into bad habits. I don’t want to go back to the way I was.
I am talking about the experience to anyone who wants to listen. Even to the ones who don’t. I have taken up a newspaper drop with my sister and walking every day. In two months, I have already lost 10 kg since arriving back home.
Now I am planning my next challenge to Ladakh in northern India in May 2007. One of the goals for next year’s trip is to help someone like myself to make it to the finish.
There is so much to be achieved by having a dream, and then living it.
Before leaving home, I didn’t believe I would complete the challenge. In fact, I never believed I could do many things in my life. No one else believed I could either. My upbringing did not encourage self confidence, and I guess the gene pool just doesn’t take into account our looks.
Looking at the photos of the mountain scared me shitless. I had a terrible fear of heights, unable to even climb a step ladder. Getting me to go up the Wall on day one was a challenge in itself as it was an extreme effort to even leave my room. I woke up every morning feeling physically ill and worried.
I remember a point on the mountain when I begged to stop. I didn’t want to let anyone down. But I was pushed until it was too far to go back. I dug deep as I figured that I hadn’t died yet so it wasn’t going to kill me, and I pushed myself to keep on going.
I’m not afraid of trying anymore, and am more open to giving things a go. I even mowed the lawn on the weekend, something I had never done before. It wasn’t so scary after all. I used to worry so much in the past about doing everything that I didn’t even give things a go because I was scared of failing or of being embarrassed.
But courage can take us to places that we never thought we might reach. I know. I’ve sat atop a mountain.
On the trip to China, I met someone who not only knew I could climb the mountain, but knew I had to climb that mountain. Somehow they knew that I needed to do this more than anything I’ve ever done in my life, for if I didn’t, I would never achieve anything.
They were right. For not only have I found the courage to give things a go, but I have an inner belief that I can do what looks impossible.
I still get scared, but I have learnt to not think things over as much as I did in the past. I make decisions a little easier. I don’t spend too much time anymore thinking about what others are thinking.
I like myself now. Most of my work colleagues think I’ve gotten tougher since China. I say no more often. That’s a start. I am more out there and going out more. I’m starting to put myself first.
I am starting to believe in who I am and what I can achieve in my life.
THE NEW PATH
So what has changed? After China, you can see I look at things very differently.
The biggest thing I gained from the journey is my new perspective on life. Through my own experience and journey I believe that we too often look at all the obstacles in our path to achieving our dreams. We make excuses. We believe it’s too hard. We blame our past. We don’t live enough in the now. We don’t appreciate the small things around us. We don’t ask for help when we should. We aren’t honest with our feelings.
But by having dreams and giving things a go, pushing through the pain when it happens, having the invaluable support of friends, finding our inner courage and believing we can do it, the summit of a mountain is achievable, even for a 140kg couch potato. Instead of looking at the bottom and considering all the obstacles in my way and saying I can’t do it, I remember what it was like to be at the top and looking back at what I had done. I know I can do it. Mowing the lawn was just the start.
I’m a work in progress. It’s why I’ve joined up to climb the Himalayas in 2007. I know that I climbed 5 500 steps in China and walked 80km of the Great Wall of China. I know I can walk plenty more on my journey within. It will be one step at a time.
My life is no longer lifeless. My life is now beginning.
you bloody ripper!
Your fingers run underneath me
Grains of your weariness
Long distances they have travelled.
When there is no protection
The wind and the tides
Become our matchmaker.
You come back
Only to leave me again.
I close my eyes
Observing the thoughts of my mind
Each time we touch
You take parts of me with you.
Seeps through the pores
Of my soul.
you bloody ripper!
I’ve just arrived home after watching three hours of home videos I’d never seen. While emptying out a box earlier in the day, I came across the footage from my first travelling stint through south-east Asia and Africa. They were from 1998 and I’d never seen them.
Memories of my African safari have begun to resurface after my decision to enter the #blogforgood competition. The winner has the opportunity to head to Tanzania and blog for CBMAustralia about the work they do improving the lives of people living with a disability.
As I have travelled extensively, the opportunity to travel back to Tanzania is not about ticking off another country on the list – I’ve had the pants scared off me by a tiger enroute to the loos one night in the Serengeti.
It’s about the ability to reconnect to a place that I longed to travel from a very early age, have always felt a calling to, and to see first hand the work of an organisation that is making change.
Travelling in extremely remote areas 14 years ago was not easy. Tonight reminded me of the depth of poverty, disease and malnutrition I came across. As parts of the film screened, I closed my eyes, and took myself back. I could describe the scenes before they happened. I could smell the fire, feel the water cascade over my body as I bathed under a waterfall, taste the beer, recall the hands of the young child as we walked to their home, feel the fear when the snake charmer danced, be overwhelmed by the weariness of three days stuck by the side of the road due to an accident and deny all knowledge of that Queensland accent. Did I really ever sound like that? Proof.
You see, ever since I watched Sigourney Weaver surrounded by gorillas in the mist, it was my ambition to be in that position.
With any goal, it means you have to work. No one was going to hand me an airline ticket to travel across the globe, trek up a mountain and spend all day clambering through dense jungle with the hope of spotting an elusive gorilla.
So I worked, hard. I saved, hard. I travelled for almost two years, hard. I worked a bit more, hard. And then I climbed that mountain, hard.
Tonight I was reminded that realisation of goals needs a very strong mix of desire, commitment and effort.
I recalled every ounce of pleasure that dripped through my veins as I sat within 3m of a mountain gorilla and observed the family interaction for more than an hour. In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would be so close, almost at one point feeling like I could reach out and join the throng of flea picking, cuddles and childish play.
The opportunity I had no longer exists. And yet, tonight in Angie’s room, it was as real as it was that day 16 years ago. The smile on my face expressed it all. Because it came deep from within.
Tonight, I was back in that mist.
I close my eyes. On opening, I can assure you that despite time, the joy of achieving a long-term goal never leaves you. The richness of the experience will be there forever.
Tonight, I am hungry to feel that way again. I’ve been reminded of what I need to do.
Keep writing. Hard. There’s magic to be found in getting up close and personal to your dreams.
you bloody ripper!
Last week I realised yesterday was a public holiday to commemorate the eight hour work day. As I’m struggling doing any work at the moment, thought it an ideal opportunity to celebrate by doing no work. It was time to rewire the frazzle of the past few months to ensure all connectors were back in the right place.
It’s been a while since I took a road trip. The only reason I keep my car is so I can take road trips on the odd occasion. Parked in the drive for most of the year, it provides me with a permanent sense of freedom, only a key turn away.
After my last gig of ‘helping’ on Sunday morning, I headed out to the Kinglake National Park. I’d never been there before, and with 98% of the park destroyed during the Black Saturday fires, I had no idea what I would find. All I knew is there would be fresh air, space, regrowth and a chance for phase one rewiring to commence.
There’s nothing like that first breath of eucalypt forest to clear out the dust that has settled due to long gaps between escapes. As it was almost time for the sun to set, on arriving in Kinglake, it was time for a quick meal before heading deep into the Robertson State Forest for an elusive (and probably illegal) camping spot.
There is one part of the daily cycle that never fails to disappoint when you are in the country: it’s city cousin can never compete in the magic of a night sky. Tonight I felt in true awe of the power nature has to energise, reform and bring back from the dead. As I sat on the barren earth, I observed the new life pushing its way through the blackened trunks of a forest that had died, resurrecting itself into a maze of new life sprouting from any where it could find. The moon looked like it was swathed in a deep orange velvet cloak, ready to entertain the million sequinned dinner guests, and one willing observer.
There are more important things than what people do each day. Rewiring phase one complete.
Awaking refreshed the next morning, it was time for a walk. Unfortunately, most of the tracks and camping areas have not been rebuilt since the fires. Heading into Kinglake National Park, there was a small 3.5km track open to the peak of Mt Sugarloaf. Not exactly a 2000m plus mountain I was used to climbing, nonetheless, I threw on my boots and headed off to conquer Sugarloaf.
The view from the ridge of a sea of blackened trunks gave a clear indication of the extent of the fires. As I opened the air vents in my hiking pants and sat on a burned log, I closed my eyes and felt the power of nature’s force. On opening, I reflected on that force emulating the struggles of all humanity and the desire to not be destroyed, to co-exist, to survive, to create miracles.
When you find yourself in a dark place, if you wait for a while and listen, you will find yourself again. We are all born with the ability to create new life and survive. Rewiring phase two complete.
After waving at Melbourne in the distance, I began to head down the same path when I hit a crossroads. On investigation, I decided the awkwardly placed red tape and ‘this track is currently under restoration’ didn’t really tell me not to enter. Besides, as I too was under restoration, perhaps we could both test out how much we both needed work by a moderate – difficult 6.5km shared journey. The worst that could happen was I give up and head back to the top and hitch a ride down to the base of the mountain. Having broken my cardinal rule of always carrying enough water, I was more worried about the 100ml left in the bottle. So I opted for the tortoise and a slow and steady pace to win the race.
Three hours later, I hit the bottom carpark. I passed no one. I meditated for 20 minutes at the base of the valley surrounded by blackened trees on either side. I crossed paths with Mountain Creek, and on dipping in my fingers and meeting a surprisingly warm sensation, walked for 100m, stripped off and lay in the water for half an hour under the rays of a warming autumn sun. I was glad the ferns were reconquering land that had been theirs for centuries, I could shout out loud and feel so insignificantly powerful in a new landscape created by significant force.
After a very sweaty afternoon of 10km of hills and climbs, with the sun only having another 1 ½ hours of light, it was time to head to the only re-opened National Parks camp site in the area: the Gums. I’d read it was by a mountain stream, and with ½ hour of driving, it was time to head straight there and hopefully get in an evening bathe under the rays of the setting sun.
With no one else at the site, and having spent a day immersed in the power of nature, who was I not to get back to nature in its most simple form. Stepping into the freezing mountain stream, I found a spot to safely sit and convey my deepest thanks for a cleansing day of country air, silence broken only by the chorus of birds creating a symphony of shrills, the aching thighs and empty mind.
Nature has a way of stripping you bare. Rewiring complete.
You bloody ripper!
There is no doubt Melbourne is a city worth wandering. After living here for five years, I think I’ve caught a cab twice, worn out four pairs of walking shoes and I still don’t think twice about taking a long or random detour to get home.
So after a late meal with a friend, there was nothing unusual when I opted to bypass two train stations, countless tram stops, taxi queues and the offer of a lift, to take a long walk to the city.
You’re crazy. It’s raining. You could be at home in bed before you hop on the tram. It’s not safe. It’s freezing. Just let me take you.
I know this dissent was expressed out of love and concern, and most would have shunned the idea of pivoting a potential 40 minute journey on its head by opting for two hours in the dead of night. I guess alone, potentially wet, freezing one’s arse off and walking when there was perfectly good public transport and taxis nearby doesn’t exactly rate in the top ten things to do at 2am in the morning.
Having walked around many of the world’s largest cities, I wasn’t going to let a little water stop me. I had an umbrella. I had two feet. And with no work the next day, I had plenty of time to kill.
Besides, why sit on public transport filled with late night drunken revellers when I could be alone with the dulcet tones of my best Fred Astaire impersonation to support me in my meanderings through the puddles and drops.
There was too much to miss.
With a view.
And the chance to feel alive.
You bloody ripper
Blank page. Strange considering the thousands of thoughts wandering my brain – space, freedom, and silence have a tendency of doing that. It is New Year’s Eve after all: a time for reflection, resolution and promises.
What makes 01 January such a special day? Why is it that this day provides us with an excuse to make change, be a better person, remove old habits, release old pain and plan new beginnings? Is tomorrow just another day, like the other 364? Isn’t every moment the beginning of the rest of our life?
Having spent the last five days appreciating the fresh air, tranquility and beauty of the Australian Alps, I have enjoyed not only the visual space the mountains provide, but the space to lose oneself in selfish retrospection, appreciation for all that is strong and belief that within us all, lays a powerful spirit that when unleashed, can move mountains.
Having walked 37km over a couple of days and with the final 22km walk to the peak of Victoria’s second highest mountain still on the agenda, there has been plenty of time to dispel redundant thoughts with each step. It’s why I came. To allow oneself the opportunity to feel insignificant amongst the momentous, certainly helps to put things into perspective.
Three days ago, I stood at the 1897m peak of Mt Loch and surveyed the dots below indicating ski huts, hotels, lodges and people. I fully appreciated the power of self and reflected on the insignificance of the dots that follow us through our lives: the patterns, the stories, the broken lines, the inability to recognise, the beauty reduced to a chaotic sketch where nothing is clear.
As I turned 360, I saw the peak of Feathertop beckoning my footsteps to greet it. In its exposed face, reflected the challenges, obstacles, shadows, scars and pain of my own life. As I allowed myself to reconnect with the familiarity of the physical and emotional qualities of any demanding journey, I was also reminded of the courage, perseverance, commitment and ultimate reward of one step at a time.
As I began to write this story, I thought its message would be the need for us to dismiss the insignificant from our lives – the dots, the stories, the fuzzy lines, the small stuff. But as I sit in the comfort of my lodge and look across the valley to the same peak I felt so powerful on reaching, my view, once again, has turned 360. You see, I now need the binoculars to clearly identify the peak. Yes, the same peak that made me feel powerful, courageous and committed, is now merely an insignificant dot in the distance.
I have always been one to focus on my successes, to strive for success, to push myself to extreme limits, both to prove to myself and others that I can climb mountains. However, looking back at the mountain right now, I realize that all that has been small in my life has also been a big part of shaping the person that I have become. For the first time in years, I have an overwhelming sense of serenity.
From 2004 to 2006, I took a sabbatical from the normality of life, finding total fulfillment in a journey that not only allowed me to travel the world, but an inner journey that brought me total joy, inner peace, fun, freedom and a new found belief in self. On returning to Australia and moving to a new city, I felt lost in the vastness of an energy that pushes away rather than attracts. Not to say I didn’t have some wonderful friends, but I also found myself unable to deeply connect with anyone – I was trying to fit in to a world that I did not.
And so for the past three years while overcoming illness, removing demons, shaking monkeys and reconnecting with myself, I have also been forever hopeful of a magical answer, a potion of solution, perhaps even a person of strength to come into my life and provide a cure to fill all that was missing.
The last year has been particularly difficult: the emotion, the people, the decisions, the lack of action, the failure, the circumstance. Three months ago, I was on the verge of emotional, physical and financial exhaustion. Never had I felt so alone, uncertain of the direction in which to take my life, a deep sense of sadness for the lack of family in my life, the lack of balance and my profound desire for community and connection.
At a point of absolute desperation, I took myself away to a place of healing and painfully dissected all that had held me back, caused me pain and given me courage. I battled with myself like never before, but instead of heavy scars, found myself adorned with a sense of new direction and inner peace. My life has turned 360, and I finally feel I have reached my own peak.
I began this story with the aim of erasing the dots scattered throughout the past 38 years. However, sitting in the safety and comfort of what was a dot three days ago, appreciate that they can and do, in the future, provide us with comfort, safety and fond memories.
Looking back at the mountain, I recognise that we need to enjoy and place value on the small things and realise the significance they do and will play in our lives. We also need to have commitment and resilience to overcome challenges and not be afraid to push through the pain in order to achieve success and the rewards that are granted once we reach the peak. Even our angst, darkest moments, concerns and deepest fears are significant. They form part of who we are and without them, we would not learn to fully appreciate the greatest joys, loves and moments in our lives. Our life would be filled with the ordinary rather than an opportunity for the extraordinary to exist, even in a single moment.
I am committed to climb all mountains I may find myself at the base of, but I no longer feel the necessity to do it with everything in my life – there is no need to prove to anyone anymore, especially myself. I am no longer afraid to open up the dots that form my life to those who bring meaning to my life: the significance and impact they have had are just as important as any mountains I have climbed.
I finally understand that what may give us strength today, may not exist tomorrow. What may at one point in our life, allow us to feel the might and power of success and completion, may be insignificant tomorrow. I comprehend there is no longer need to attach myself to the meaning or irrelevance of mountains or dots.
Too often we stand, paintbrush in hand, with the ability to design our life with all the colour, acquisitions and accomplishments we desire. Is there not as much, if not more pleasure in, the sharing of the journey, the value of our thoughts, the sensations that arise, the blending of the hues? Perhaps small dots compared to the consequence of attainment, but definitely necessary to experience and appreciate if we are to ever create balance in our lives.
The strength gained from the depths of depression can be as powerful as an 1897m climb. The significance of a glance, a touch, a simple word, the sharing of thought can be just as meaningful as a wedding portrait.
As I look out the window at a sun setting not only on this day, but on one difficult year, I have no desire to be a better person, ask for anything, release anything, remove any habits or plan any new beginnings. After many years trying to find it, I am merely thankful to have come to the realisation that balance in one’s life exists within us every day. It is simply a matter of perspective.
you bloody ripper
written New Years Eve 2009
Almost drowning myself with copious amounts of water to help with rehydration, enroute to my seaside rehabilitation deck chair I was desperately in need of a pee stop.
Dilemma! Warung (local cafe) squat loo or should I stretch the 500 metres extra to the five star luxury of seat sanitiser, fresh flowers… and a toilet seat?
Usually one to shy away from the excess of luxury, I considered the potential trauma to my already aching body, and opted to sit. Squats weren’t going to help me today.
Aaaahhhhh…. when you’re happy and you know it, shake your hands…. with your personal attendant as she hands you a fresh clean towell.
you bloody ripper!
When you’ve travelled to 42 countries, there are a lot of travel stories bundled up in the memory banks that have never been able to escape for fear of beating the ear drums and glazing the eyes of anyone who will listen.
16 years ago, I lived on a very remote peninsula in Crete, Greece for a year. In 16 years, I have never met anyone who has been to Crete.
This means my stories of mountain tracks, lots of dancing and frivolities in remote villages, delicious clay pot yoghurt, motorbike rides around spectacular coastlines (with no helmet), deep dives with giant rays, swimming in crystal clear water, freshly caught seafood dinners, kayaking with large turtles to work, wandering through ancient ruins… have never been shared.
Last night I went out. I didn’t plan for it to be a late night, but it ended up that way. After 16 years, I finally met someone who had come from Crete. Then it got better. And then there were three… all talking about the magic of this beautiful island and recollecting some of our favourite times. How grateful I was for being able to pull out the memory card that had long been filed away, and reflect on a remarkable year of my life.
I’m often asked of all the countries I have travelled, where is my favourite? My response is that I don’t have one. People and experiences from each country are etched into my memory banks and it is not possible for me to pull a culprit from the line up.
Living in a place, as opposed to passing through, certainly brings with it a different experience. You get to know the locals: Stavros the local baker knew how to put on a wonderful night of food, dancing, drinking and laughter. I can smell the fresh bread being pulled out of his wood oven and sharing stories of his childhood over olives lovingly marinated by his wife, Katerina. I often went olive picking with the family, have crushed a few grapes in my time and sucked way too many delicious Cretan oranges after pulling them off the trees scattered around my house.
Managing a few holiday villas, running kids activities and organising chilled evenings for the parents, I learned how to cook the best octopus, revelled in the delight of children as they took their first ever snorkel over the local rock pools, went diving twice a week, and swam across a very large open water bay in the clearest, warmest water I have ever experienced. I tried my first fish head and goat testicles and learned how to make retsina. I drank too much ouzo, never had enough siestas, climbed to the peaks of mountains and went diving in the darkest, deepest crevices of underground caves.
As I reflect, it’s a wonder I even managed to make it out alive with all the adventure and daring that crept into my year.
Considering last night I was heading home to bed, I think there were other plans afoot with my opportunity to dig into the files and recollect on some Grade A memories.
I’d never told anyone some of the stories I recalled and as I now close my eyes and meditate on the experience of Crete, my eyes are glazing over with the recognition I have a lot to thank this magical island for.
I may have no favourites. But yiamas (cheers) to you Crete. For in your magic, I fell in love with life.
I’m glad I talked to strangers. My estranged relationship with simple joys have been rekindled. It’s time to renew my vows to daring. And flirtation is definitely allowed. The realisation of our dreams depends on it.
I do believe I’ve fallen in love all over again.