Australia…the aftermath

I’m currently on a fifteen hour bus ride from Wollongong to Melbourne—my last stop in Australia. On one hand I feel like I’m cutting my love for Oz short as I intended on staying for a year and working on my holiday visa, but the other side of me is more than ready to move on after spending 3 months in a country so similar to home. I will tell you now this post will be long, probably a bit sappy and a lot matter-of-fact, maybe even boring [for you] at times, but it is more for me than anything to compile and organize the last few months…if you happen to learn a thing or two—bonus.

There was a period of time where I wasn’t happy about how long it was taking me to travel the east coast (in fact any regular readers probably remember my depressive state); I felt like I was investing too much money in an experience focused on the same priorities I had as a fresh eyed 18 year old in a culture far too similar to that of home (men..ahem…boys, and alcohol). I was a bit bitter that I was spending so much to see a place I had never really wanted to travel, and that I felt wasn’t very ‘impressive’ as would be the pyramids or the great wall.

I sit here though, re-reading blog posts and messages to and from friends to see that if I hadn’t come to Australia and did the things I did, spent the [gross] amount of money I spent, and met the specific people I did when I met them…the rest of my journey would be completely different. If I had gone to Asia first I would be looking at it from an entirely different lens (and certain escapades in Kings Cross would have left me dead had they been in Bangkok). Australia has woken me up in a lot of ways, which I will attempt to cover in this post that takes a look back at the joys and dramas of my life down under…not ‘down there’, living in Australia.

No plan > Plan Take that with a grain of salt…my lack of planning was merely ok because I was in Australia: literally warm Canada with accents (including Asian immigrants and binge drinking). I came wanting to get a job, make heaps of cash (without ‘heaps’ in my vocabulary) and be away from home as long as possible because I told people I’d be gone for a couple years (and god forbid I let others down).

I ended up deciding on a Monday that in 2 days I’d fly to Cairns and ‘do the East coast’ mostly because I couldn’t have been bothered to actually find a job that I would be okay with doing (not fruit picking or nannying). I arrived in Cairns where, based on my last post, I met everyone and the adventure began. Travelling the coast ended up being amazing, teaching me a heck of a lot, and had I not left exactly on that Wednesday I would’ve(maybe) met an entirely different set of travellers.

Honestly, my research of ‘the east coast’ was walking into a backpacker travel agency and asking ‘what do people come to Australia to see?’ getting a quote for a hop-on-hop off bus and flyers of every $300 ‘activity’ one could possibly get ripped off on. I figured (in my bitter, ‘australia is just warm canada’ voice) that I might as well go do all these things that make Australia ‘cool’ because I wouldn’t do it if I got a really good job I wouldn’t want to leave. Also, so that I would [hopefully] become enchanted with what I found to be a dull, wonderless country at the time. I really wanted to do the east coast to justify spending the money to come to Australia to be honest.

All of that lead in to say, because I had no plan, I wasn’t disappointed and I was able to do literally whatever I wanted. I lived 3 months on impulse, and I’ve never felt so in control of my life. I say I don’t do regrets because at any given moment in time it was what I wanted. Planning kind of negates that. Because living a plan made even yesterday isn’t necessarily what you want today. Every day, week, month, year, you learn new things, change your perspective and priorities, and have a slightly different opinion than the last. So, being able to make decisions for today, today I was constantly living in the moment. Constantly actively doing exactly what I wanted to do in that given moment. Having plans restrict you. Obviously in “real life” you have responsibilities and necessary un-fun things that need to get done (i.e. paying rent, going to work)…so as most of us can’t say, ‘I don’t wanna work today, not going’…I repeat, take it with a grain of salt.

So more relevant to ‘real life’, I’ve started to see that control and a plan aren’t necessarily synonymous, as this quarter year of chaos has led me to being more in control of my life than I ever have been before. Part of that comes with how I see others, but that’s the next lesson.

Be your crazy self
Namaste, Danny. Within 3 days of us meeting, Simon said with conviction “you are crazy”. Not only did I not care, but I embraced it because I knew he’d be my friend anyway, and I would go as far as saying it was part of what made him want to be my friend…but all of the sudden, when I have my eyes on a guy and somebody eludes to the fact that he might think I’m ‘crazy’ and implies that if he were to think that, it would be a deal breaker I create plans or justifications to ensure that he doesn’t ever think I’m crazy. If we eliminate the word ‘crazy’ and all of the dramas around that sentence it boils down to “what if he finds out who I really am and doesn’t like me”.

And so that being said, maybe my Dutch friend was a little blunt, but perhaps I was, quote: “pathetic and desperate for attention”. Because who would go out of their way to be a person they think somebody else wants by suppressing who they really are because being accepted by that person is more important than being happy and freely themselves?….The truth is, a lot of us, some are in denial, some would never admit it anyway…but whether it was getting Seven jeans in grade 8 because the cool kids wore them, or learning to love hockey so you could impress ‘him’ by playing fantasy league…we’ve all been there in some sense or another. But in hyper-sensitive, politically correct, respect personal space North America, we would never, never, call somebody pathetic and desperate for attention even if, once put in plain text, that’s exactly what it is.

Danny said, would you rather be what he thinks he wants or have him fall in love with you. Initially I was like, “yeah! I would want him to fall for me”…but then I got to this funk of realizing that who I am is a product of the people I surround myself with and that I didn’t know who I was anymore…we’ll get to that next. What I want to say about what Danny said is that it goes to the rule of saying ‘Yes’ and losing the plan. Have faith that you are an awesome person…so awesome that you far surpass the ‘perfect woman checklist’ you think he’s created and are trying to be. Consider the notion that he/they don’t know how great you are, so great that you are holding yourself back by changing to fulfill their imaginary criteria…which I will have you know probably doesn’t even exist. Likewise, we are holding ourselves back in every aspect of our lives because we are trying so hard to be what we think others want, and that is what those who aren’t afraid to be who they are strive on to stay successful. If we weren’t all trying to fit the mold society has created, if we all capitalized on our strengths and true selves, the people on top wouldn’t have anyone to believe their strengths were so superior, that put them on top to begin with.

Yes, it took a pathetic [for lack of better word] situation about men to bring me to this realization. But if there is one thing Liz Gilbert had right in Eat Pray Love it’s that no matter where you are in the world, all women want to talk about is men. Once somebody has caved and told you about their love life, you know they trust you. That, or they think you are nice enough to assure them that the dreaded “he’s just not that into you” isn’t true. But honestly, the feelings of rejection and acceptance are never so clear and universal as in examples of romance.

Nobody likes being vulnerable, but as anything in life goes, high risk = high reward. If you are willing to put yourself out there 100% for anything: a job, man, team…and do so accepting your greatness, faults, and full on crazy (we all have it)…you could get shut down because ‘they’ didn’t want all of you. You could also win on the premise that who you are is actually unreal, unique, and worth investing in. A situation where creativity can be maximized, feelings can be expressed, and challenges can be discussed in open conversation all without a fear of rejection. That to me, is a bigger payoff than getting by on satisfying the status quo and walking on eggshells at work or in a relationship.

You are a product of THEM –so choose wisely. I would give up my thousand facebook friends…probably because I don’t see their awesomeness….but more so because they don’t perpetuate mine for the 15 or so that don’t need facebook to know where I am in the world or my Birthday (god forbid 100 people I haven’t seen in 10 years don’t remind me I’m older).

Sometimes it’s important to be selfish. I’ve been talking the talk on surrounding myself with good people for so long, but it’s about time I actually action it. Somebody once said to me, ‘you are a direct product of the 5 people you spend the most time with’. Which is terrifyingly true [ish]. I don’t say that because I don’t want to be like the people in my life, I say it because it is hard to think that who you are at any given time is merely a by-product of who you have selected to surround yourself with, and sequentially that they are a product of who you used to surround yourself with (and so on).

Surely it should be as simple as ‘surround yourself with great people and you will be great’…but it’s life, which means although in theory it’s simple, in reality it’s an absolute clusterfuck of extenuating circumstances and exceptions. How am I supposed to know who good people are if who I am today is based on who I surrounded myself with yesterday? How am I supposed to know who I am if I spent the first 18 years of my life being told what good people are and how I should be by my parents? And, what if I don’t want to pick just 5 or what happens if the people I want to be around are too far away?

Instead of looking at it all as a massive trap, I’ve decided to take the flighty hippie perspective and say it all happened for a reason. 5 is too exact to prove, but who you surround yourself with absolutely dictates who you show up as in your life. Note: Who you show up as, not who you are. What has shifted for me is realizing that those 5 (give or take) people affect you, but that you have the power to choose how.

When I was young, I’d say those 5 people consisted of 4 people I wish I was and one that I knew would be there to pick me up with I failed in my pursuit. As I started to screw my head on straight near the end of university I surrounded myself with people that were fun and had their life ‘together’ in my opinion…but still the focus was on people I wanted to be. In my travels I’ve come to realize that the goal may be different. The goal may be to surround myself with people who will challenge and accept me. People that make me see things differently, and let me do the same for them. Instead surrounding myself with personas to shadow, I am choosing to surround myself with people whose strengths compliment my weaknesses, whose perspectives are unique to mine, and who value our friendship for the same reason. This way, I basically always have the perspective, intelligence, and support of 5(ish)…which is way better than just me…I mean I’m sweet, but not that sweet.

I know it may sound cliche or sappy, but this has to be the most direct form of ‘growing up’ I’ve encountered. Time is a precious resource, and wasting it on changing who you fundamentally are to satisfy a popularity fad is immature. I look at the people I talk to on a regular basis now and I’m pretty proud of myself. I see them as my biggest prizes…I respect them so much and am so proud to say that they play such a massive part in my life. And I genuinely believe that by surrounding myself with them I am achieving my highest potential and contributing to them achieving theirs. Let me tell you…it is a lot more satisfying than getting invited to a ‘cool kid party’.

Accept or Change …I can’t remember if that’s landmark or just pure koolaid…but either way it’s true. My plans (there’s that evil word) changed weeks before I headed off on my adventure. I probably spent the first month of my trip being pissed that they changed, that I was alone half way across the world. The fact that circumstances beyond my control changed made me extra bitter that I had gotten eaten by sandflies, that it was expensive, and that I didn’t bring as many hair appliances as the English girls. The north Queensland coast of Australia didn’t suck less than the south, my attitude just changed.

For some reason this has come particularly clear to me after 3 situations.

1) The palm reader in Byron Bay who made me realize (yes I understand the subjectivity and probable bullshit of the practice of palm reading, but still..) that no matter my education, travel, or socioeconomic status there were certain cards I was dealt. Based on his analysis I was dealt some great ones, but that’s not the point. The point is that I heard this 75 year old, probably high as a kite, man speak about my best and worst qualities more frankly than I ever could based on something as uncontrollable as the wrinkles in my hand. For some reason, that made it click for me that there are things you cannot change about yourself. Things that don’t have to be bad, but that without awareness can become challenging elements of your personality.

2) Spot X, where my knee died on the first of 4 days. Probably for the first time in my life I’ve made the best of an injury as opposed to letting it define how bad my experience was at a given moment. I watched as my friend Steph, who had hurt her ankle, kept doing workouts and watching surf even though she couldn’t. I decided to give it a try and had probably an equally great experience (let’s be honest, the arm pain from 4 straight days of surf wouldn’t killed me). I was so amped up that I wrote a blog post that wound up getting me other sweet opportunities; the quickest turn around of having a good attitude and receiving good karma in return!

3) Melbourne. (PS… I’ve written the last 5 ish paragraphs since leaving to go to New Zealand) I went to the Australian Open…THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN…2 drinks turned to 10 and a 5am stumble home every night, I spent my time finding out people I merely knew from home could actually be great friends, went to Torquay beach, had AMAZING Mexican food at RadioMexico, went to Markets bigger than malls back home, slept in a laundry room couchsurfing, went to museums, watched ‘the fed’ play in Federation Square, ate a whole cheese tray as late night food in Brunswick, took part in a wine party with 40+ year olds…and went to the bar with 20 & 21 year olds, ate meat pies from 7-11 nightly, and stocked up on Soy, Linseed, and Chia seed Corn Thins Just in case they weren’t in NZ…in 4 nights. And for the first time I was sad to be leaving Australia. Yes, the people make the place, and I met virtually nobody knew which was comforting, but for the first time I actually decided my time in a place was going to be amazing. I actively chose to have a hell of a great time because it was my last city, most people’s favourite city in Australia, and because up to that point I thought I’d probably never go back to Oz. I decided there was no time to be tired or picky, that whatever was to come would come and I was going to have an unreal time…and I did. Of course now I’m all “shit, I should go back, I have my work visa, I could make more money”…we’ll see. Yes, I am sick as hell for my first days in NZ because walking home in Melbourne’s multiple-season weather disorder while drunk for the 4th day straight isn’t great on the immune system, but it was worth it. And yes, that was all I ‘m going to post about Melbourne.

Anyway… 14 cities, over 50 hours of bus rides, and likely 100L of goon later that’s where my head’s at. Now for NZ!

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