Life The Past Few Months

I got a message from my sister today that said “You haven’t blogged since February??” So here I am. Funny how siblings can echo an already nagging voice in your head. I’ve been meaning to write, I really have, it’s just…

Life has been so freaking crazy. The last blog I wrote was on February 25th, meaning I would have been in Hobart, Tasmania. Sitting in a wooden booth at The Pickled Frog Hostel, to be more specific.

Since that time I have:

  • Roadtripped around Tasmania- including Bruny Island, Wineglass Bay and Bay of Fire– with three friends I made at the hostel
  • Roadtripped through the South Island of New Zealand (Arthur’s pass, Fox Glacier, Lake Wanaka, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Lake Tekapo, Mt. Cook and Kaikora) with my sister, Amy, and friend, Jenn
  • Roadtripped through the North Island of New Zealand (Auckland, Bay of Islands, and Rotorua) with Jenn
  • Traveled back to Sydney and started working as an au pair again
  • Continued freelance writing
  • Started an online bootcamp/course for user experience design

So life has felt a bit hectic these past few months. It’s been a whirlwind of travel, starting this random side career of freelance writing, beginning a journey towards another potential career of UX design, getting back to life as an au pair, trying to keep up my yoga practice….all while attempting to stay present and enjoy each fleeting moment. Because my time abroad is quickly coming to an end.

In less than two weeks I fly home. A few people have asked me if I am excited or dreading it. The true answer is both.

I am excited to see my family. To dance at my cousin’s wedding and celebrate my grandpa’s 90th birthday. I am excited to sleep in my bed and to have a closet full of clothes, as opposed to rotating through the same eight outfits. I am excited to eat Chipotle and Cracker Barrel. Don’t judge me, their pancakes are delicious. So buttery.

Anywho, yes, I am excited to come home.

But I am also dreading saying goodbye to the new family and friends I have here. I am dreading not being within five meters of amazing sushi at all times. Or really any denomination of Asian food, for that matter. I am apprehensive about drinking coffee in the States because I think Australia might have made me a bit of a coffee snob. I don’t know where I will be able to buy a soy flat white every day? And I am not looking forward to readjusting to driving on the right side of the road.

But the biggest feeling isn’t excitement or dread. It’s just that I have changed. And it’s always hard going home after traveling since few people, if anyone, can relate to the experience. I’ll try explain what I have seen and done, but there is really no conceivable way to do it justice. It’s all too far from normal to make sense.

And that’s the struggle. Going home different and thinking anything will be the same.

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Explore More 2017

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain

I’ve started this post, or some version of it, probably half a dozen times since coming to Australia last November. Every time I delete it because what I really want to say never comes out right. Let me try again…

 

I really dislike Donald Trump and his policies. He doesn’t have the qualities I consider important in a good leader such as:

  • Transparency (Tax returns, anyone?)
  • Integrity (We’ve all heard that audio clip)
  • Authenticity (Orange spray tan)
  • Communication (See every speech he’s ever made- he says so much and yet nothing at all)
  • Accountability (He never apologizes for anything. Ever. Even making fun of a disabled person)

Etc, etc. The way he has talked about women bothers me. Him not allowing the New York Times and CNN into a White House press briefing really bothers me. His travel ban really really bothers me.

I’ve tried not subscribing to overly one-sided media. I’ve tried to ignore media completely and just not care. I’ve tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. That one lasted about two seconds. Nothing has helped me find peace- until this.

I found exploremore2017.com. It’s a community of travelers that have come together and pledged to help bring the world together through travel. Their tagline hits home for me: “In a world that feels more divided than ever, travel brings people together.” It’s just a simple pledge, nothing that will save the world or stop Trump in his tracks. But it reminds me of a very basic learned from traveling: most people, not all, but most people are good. Most people want the same thing in life and that is for them and their families to be happy and safe.

Nothing is accomplished by building walls. Or banning people because they have citizenship in a certain country. Or subscribing to fear when there is no evidence that there is anything to be afraid of. Evil isn’t specific to one religion or one nationality or one race. And I wish my country had leadership that reflected this very basic understanding.

It’s a small thing, this pledge, but it helped me. I thought maybe it will help others who might be feeling helpless too.

 

I Just Got Stood Up On Valentine’s Day

I woke up this morning with butterflies in my stomach. Today, for the very first time, I was scheduled to teach someone a private  2-hour yoga and meditation session. I was nervous but so freaking excited.

Last night I went through my journal from the yoga teacher training course. I reread my notes from our first classes on meditation. I searched through the Radiance Sutras and picked two techniques I thought would be perfect for a first-timer. I mentally rehearsed how the meeting would go. We’d spend the first hour diving into meditation: what he already knew about it, what meditation is versus what it isn’t, and then into the Sutra techniques we would go.

The second hour would be for asana. I planned to teach a sequence on forward folds, perfect for opening up hamstrings and hips- notoriously tight areas on everyone but especially men. It was going to be a simple, straightforward practice with plenty of variations for someone new to yoga. I was so amped at the thought of introducing someone to these poses, just like I’d spent 28 days straight practicing for. Finally, it was going to happen!

So I showed up for our meeting 10 minutes before our agreed upon time. 10 minutes later, no sign of him. 10 more minutes later I sent him a quick email letting him know where I was within the park we’d planned to meet at. 10 minutes after that I rolled out my mat and started my own practice. Well, damn.

I heard from him 30 minutes after we planned to meet and he claimed he was on his way. I agreed to wait until I finished my own practice. Then I continued to wait, at this point practicing more patience than yoga.

Finally, I gave up. Today is not the day I’ll get to teach my first yoga student but that’s ok. The buzz from the possibility of even getting to teach someone has me even more excited for when a student actually shows up. Whenever that happens.

Why I’ll Never “Travel Solo” Again

Since completing the yoga teacher training last week I have: dived with sharks in the Great Barrier Reef, searched for crocodiles in the Daintree Rainforest, toured the street art scene in Melbourne, road tripped to the 12 Apostles, and encountered kangaroos, wallabies, koalas and fairy penguins. All of these things were done with two of my best friends, Katie and Erin, by my side. It was an exciting, coffee-fueled, “holy shit we are in Australia” kind of week.

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I have to say, it’s a really bizarre experience to be driving along the Great Ocean Road with two of my best friends, singing Taylor Swift at the top of our lungs as the ocean flew by outside the windows. We used to the exact same thing when we were sixteen, except instead of the ocean it was cornfields flying by. Life is funny and amazing.

Anyways, about two days into the trip I started to realize something. I took my first “solo” trip two years ago when I backpacked through Southeast Asia. I use quotes around the word solo because it’s virtually impossible to travel solo. Technically, I am traveling solo at this very second but if I look up from my laptop I see ten people lounging around the same hostel common room. I could easily strike up a conversation with any of them. Or I could video chat someone back home. I am only ever as “solo” as I want to be. This is important because one of the only downfalls of traveling alone is, at times, feeling lonely or feeling really far away from home.

Part two of my realization was that since my first trip two years ago I have been joined on every subsequent trip I’ve been on. My cousin Brett and I went to Peru last January. My friends Jenn and Emma joined me on a trip to Ireland last summer. Katie and Erin gave up a week and half to join me in Australia. And in three weeks I’ll meet my sister and Jenn in New Zealand. It’s like I can’t get away from these people! (I kid, I kid).

I remember feeling a little sad when I was planning my first backpacking trip to Southeast Asia. Of course, I was scared to go by myself but nobody I knew was willing/able/crazy enough to put their lives on hold for two months and traipse around Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. At the end of the day, I decided the downfalls of going alone were heavily outweighed by the benefits of going at all. And I was right.

But like parts one and two of my realization prove, I’ve never really traveled solo. I’ve made new friends from all over the world as I’ve gone, old friends and relatives now join me when they can, and I have a team of people back home rooting me on from afar. I feel so grateful. So deeply grateful for all of these wonderful people in my life. How did I get so lucky?

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Sitting on top of Machu Picchu with my cousin, Brett
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Walking through Galway with Jenn and Emma

200 Hours Later- Expectations Be Damned

28 days later and I realize I did yoga teacher training for all of the wrong reasons. Oops.

Being totally honest with myself, I hoped yoga teacher training would “change my life.” In what ways? I suppose I hoped it would help me figure out my next move in life. And make me skinnier. And help me find peace with the direction my life is going. Just those three minor things, no big deal.

First, let’s address the body expectation. Yes, that was in the back of my mind when I signed up. I hadn’t exactly made working out a priority since moving to Australia and was looking forward to getting back into a routine.  But it was disturbing to me when people only attributed getting a hot body with going through a yoga teacher training course. “You’ll have a hot yoga bod after.” Or now that am finished “Did your body change? Are you toned now?”

Not that it’s anybody’s damn business, but no. My body isn’t any better or worse than it was before the training. My chaturangas feel stronger. I can hold plank longer. And I don’t cringe quite as much when holding dolphin pose. Thanks for asking. Chalk my experience up with thousands of other women’s because for some reason an experience like yoga teacher training is only valuable if I come out at the end with a six pack? I just went through a shit ton of mental and emotional stuff too, people. But all you’re going to ask me about is if my abs are more toned? Come on now, ya’ll.

Have I figured out what to do next in life? Yeah, I have a pretty good idea of what’s on deck. And it’s the same thing I was thinking when I started the training. The difference is now I realize I am capable of more than I thought. I proved that I can lead a class of people through a series of poses, meditation, or even mantra. Coming from someone who thought chanting mantra was weird af four weeks ago, that just goes to show what’s possible when you open your mind to new possibilities.

I am still processing what just happened over the last 28 days. Meditation is still a new practice for me. Chanting mantra a new practice for me. The concept of dharma is something I am exploring further. But, as it has done many times in the past, yoga continues to deeply enrich this weird experience called life. It’s reminded me again to connect to breath and body. To live radically. And to never lose wonder for all of the “little” moments.

Perhaps most importantly, I learned the significance of acting for action’s sake, without attachment to the fruit’s of my labor. Thank you to a small Italian man named Andrea and the Bhagavad Gita for that lesson. In other words, enjoy the journey, not the destination. And expectations be damned.

Thank you to my teacher, Emily, and the rest of my kula for making it such a fun journey. Namaste.

 

Saying “See You Later” to Sydney

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Here I am again- in a new city, new country, new continent. Two months after settling in Sydney I repacked my 65 L backpack and am now sitting at a very nice hostel/digital collective in Ubud, Bali. It was difficult to make the decision to come to Bali for yoga teacher training, for a few reasons.

I had only just gotten to Sydney when, due to a perfect storm of circumstances, I ended up signing up for a yoga teacher training in Bali this January, though I’d hoped to schedule it in July. This meant saying goodbye to the family I au paired for and the new friends I made. Well not “goodbye” really, but at least “see you later.” That was harder than I thought it would be. Unlike backpacking, my time in Sydney was more living than just traveling so that made leaving a bit sadder. But thinking of all of the wonderful experiences I had, it’s hard to feel anything but grateful. Some top moments I am taking with me from Sydney:

  • Ringing in New Year’s Eve directly across from the Sydney Opera House
  • Learning to surf in Manly
  • Drinking champagne at the Opera Bar
  • Spending Christmas Eve boating near Balmoral
  • Having my future read in Newtown
  • Inventing the “cornament” and other corn-related jokes with my Aussie family
  • Doing the walk from Coogee to Bondi
  • Doing the walk from Spit to Manly
  • Getting to be a part of an Aussie family- so lucky to have met Dan, Kate, Maisie, Dixie and Kayleigh!

Though I was sad to leave my new home, I am very excited for the month to come. Having the opportunity to dive deeper into my yoga practice and be surrounded by people that are eager to do the same will be amazing. I’ve only been in Ubud for a few hours but can already feel what people mean when they say it’s magic. Call it vibes, frequencies, energy, feels- whatever it is, Ubud has good ones. I  meet the rest of the students in a few hours and then it begins. 28 days of intensive practice, meditation, anatomy, history and yogic principles. I. could. NOT. be. more. excited.

From there I will return to Australia. I am meeting two of my best friends- Katie and Erin- in Cairns, where we will spend a few days snorkeling in the reef. Then we will all travel down to Melbourne to see Philips island and explore the city. They’ll fly home and then my plans end. I might stay in Melbourne to jump off to places like Tasmania and Adelaide. Or I might miss Sydney so much I have to go back. Too soon to tell but, for now, I am just feeling happy and present in Ubud.

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My home for the next month
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Pools and puppies- don’t need much else.

New Year’s Intentions

I’m not usually one to set New Year’s resolutions. Like statistics prove, I usually fail to uphold my resolution after a couple of weeks-old habits always die hard. For 2016, I decided to take a different approach based on something yoga has taught me.

Every time I get on my yoga mat I set an intention for my practice. Yoga teaches you to set an intention so you can come back to it in a difficult pose or if your mind is wandering off the mat. In 2016, I applied this and set two intentions for year: to be grateful and to be present.

At the beginning of 2016 I was living with my mom. A year and half out of college, I had a full-time job in my hometown and was living at home to save money. I wanted to travel. I wanted to apply to graduate school. I wanted to move out of my mom’s and away from my hometown. I just wanted- no, needed a change. I didn’t like where I was, but I didn’t know which way to go next.

Within a week of New Year’s I moved into my own tiny rental house. Later that month, I traveled to Peru with my cousin Brett. That spring I took trips to Washington DC, California, and Nashville with some of my closest friends. In June, I applied and got accepted to Northwestern University’s Masters of Health Communications program. I took a trip to Ireland and London with two best friends from college. In November, I moved to Australia to work as an au pair until I return to the states for grad school. It was a year full of adventures and more fun then I could have possibly imagined. I achieved everything I’d hoped and I fully believe my intentions guided me to them.

By focusing on what I was grateful for I found more joy in the little parts of each day, which  helped me stop worrying about things that I can’t control. I appreciated close friendships I’ve had since highschool and college. I appreciated having family close by and having a job working with so many wonderful people. I appreciated having my own home, that was in a perfect location and gave me my first expereince living alone. By appreciating the things that were right in my life and stopped focusing on all of things that felt wrong.

For 2017, my intentions are again to stay present- I need more work on that one- and to let go. Let go of things that aren’t meant for me. Let go of relationships that aren’t healthy. Let go of fear of what the future may or may not hold. Let go of expectations- mine and other people’s. Hopefully these intentions will lead to a year that is just as amazing as the last.

I hope everyone has a blessed and happy 2017. Cheers!

 

Christmas Abroad

This is the first Christmas I’ve spent away from my family and hometown. For the most part, I’ve not been homesick since coming to Australia. I think because I’ve traveled a fair amount in the past, homesickness isn’t something that gets to me anymore. Of course, I think of my family and friends often but I also know that I am here for a reason. Thinking of home too much will only make my experience abroad sad and lonely.

With the holidays, it was difficult to keep thoughts of home at bay. I often thought of my parents, my sister and all the traditions we usually share on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I thought of my grandparents, my aunts, uncles, and cousins. My extended family still celebrates Christmas together so it was difficult to think of not seeing them this year. I saw Snapchats and video chatted with my parents but, of course, it’s not the same as actually hugging and seeing the people you love.

Christmas in Australia is just a bit weird for someone that’s always lived in the Northern hemisphere. Christmas day was in the 80’s. I spent a couple of hours in the morning laying by the pool and swimming with the girls- not a normal part of my Christmas itinerary. Even leading up to Christmas day it didn’t feel Christmas-y. Shops weren’t blaring Christmas tunes. Decorations were not as over-the-top as they seem to be in America. There were no extravagant Christmas displays in shop windows. It was low-key by American standards, which I didn’t mind. I don’t usually get very hyped around Christmas time anyways. I’m more of a Thanksgiving fan- more time eating, less time shopping!

My Australian family was very kind in inviting me into their Christmas celebrations this year. They normally travel to Brisbane for Christmas so it was an anomaly for them to be in Sydney this year too. Their previous au pair, Kayleigh, and her friend, Sandra, also celebrated with us. On Christmas Eve night the six of us helped wrap presents from Santa and listened to Christmas music. I don’t usually spend Christmas morning with kids, so it was fun getting to see the excitement on the girls’ faces as they opened their presents. Later on Christmas day, we went to a friends’s home for Christmas lunch. Though it felt a bit strange to be celebrating Christmas with people I’d never met before, I felt welcomed by everyone’s kindness. It’s a humbling experience to be an “outsider” on the biggest family holiday of the year. I was the only person in my twenties and the only American among 25 people. Besides Kate, Dan, the girls, and I, everyone was related. It’s a challenging situation, to be a non-family member celebrating together and I will forever have an appreciation for those who travel or away from family during the holidays. I felt included in the celebration, though. I participated in a white elephant game, had lovely conversations with many of the host’s relatives, and, as the host welcomed everyone around the table, received cheers when he welcomed me to my first non-American Christmas.

For me, Christmas abroad reinforced one of the most important lessons traveling has taught me: that people are good. No matter what corner of the world you are in, there is a very strong chance that you can find someone to show you kindness when you need it most. As a solo female traveler, this is not always the story I am told. Back home I don’t know many solo female travelers because it is seen as too dangerous.  Of course, there are very real dangers to solo female travelers and it’s important to be aware of them, but it’s also important not to let fear of unknown people and places dictate your life’s experiences. Christmas day abroad and alone could have been a miserable experience but thanks to the kindness and goodness of my Australian family and their friends, I had a lovely first Christmas abroad.

Beach Life for a Midwesterner

I grew up in the middle of corn fields. Literally, my house was surrounded on three sides by 500 acres of farmland. There was no water in site. Every year we would take a trip to Florida for spring break and I would spend all week reading on the beach, walking up and down the beach, and eating seafood. It was my favourite week of the year.

Now I live where there are dozens of beaches that can be driven to within the hour. Sydney is a beach city. Life revolves around the water, especially now that it’s summer. So far, I’ve been to about five beaches. There are the bigger, more touristy ones: Bondi and Manly. And then there’s the quaint, local beaches: Balmoral, Chinaman’s, Avalon. Avalon is about an hour north, but really lovely. Or there’s the Baths here in Northbridge, which isn’t a beach but more of a harbour with a roped off swimming area.

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Bondi

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Palm Beach- didn’t actually go on the beach, just saw it from a hill top.

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Balmoral- might be my favourite so far!

Families here spend as much time near the water as they can. They give their kids every opportunity to go swimming and play on the beach. It’s not unusual for the kids to get picked up after school and head down to the Baths for a swim, something I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams growing up in Indiana. I’m also not usually one to like big cities but Sydney has changed that. It is a big city, with a laid back beach town vibe. A perfect balance of urban and surf. It’s already less than a month before I’ll leave Sydney and I can feel my heart breaking a little…

So much room for activities

 

Ok, I have a lot of catching up to do. Since the last blog post I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving, taken a surf lesson, decided to do a yoga teacher training in Bali, had Sydney’s best milkshake, and spent my fair share of time at the beach. First topic- Thanksgiving.

Another au pair (Maddie) and I made Thanksgiving dinner for the girls that we watch. Maddie is from California and the girls she looks after are best friends with girls I look after. We served a roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, deviled eggs and pumpkin pie! The deviled eggs were weird because “American mustard” is sweeter here than home. We also made pumpkin pie from an actual pumpkin! That part kind of blew my mind because I had never cooked a pumpkin before. Of course, Phillips the cat was helpful. I didn’t lock him in the dishwasher this time!

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Thanksgiving weekend  took a surf lesson with three other au pairs. I wasn’t especially interested in learning to surf (I mean, there’s sharks out there) but they asked and I can’t say no to anything when I’m in a foreign country so…I learned to surf! I was able to get up a couple of times. It’s difficult to balance, pull yourself up and stay out of other surfers way all at the same time but the challenge is worth it! I love trying new things, even if I know I won’t be good at them. I felt alive and happy, even though I fell way more than I stood up. Definitely a humbling and fun experience.

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The day after surf lessons, Jess and I went on an adventure for Sydney’s best milkshake. According to the Googles, Foodcraft Espresso is the best milkshake in Sydney. So we went an hour by bus/train/walking to find this place. I ordered a salted carmel shake with a carmel filled donut on top. It was freaking amazing, especially the donut. The shake itself was more milk than shake but I wasn’t mad about it. Dipping the donut into the delicious carmel milk was delightful.

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Last thing I wanted to mention in this post, about two weeks ago I decided I am going to do a yoga teacher training in Bali during the month of January. It’s scary because 1. It’s expensive. 2. I don’t consider myself “good” at yoga. I still get very intimidated by other students so I am not sure if I am “good” enough to do it 3. It means leaving my au pair job and the family I live with. I could potentially come back but there’s other issues with timelines and wanting to see more of Australia so I can’t commit to moving back to Sydney. It’s hard because I really like the family and the new friends I’ve made. But I am listening to my inner voice and it’s telling me to go. I don’t feel ready. I don’t feel confident. I don’t feel very physically strong right now. But I am going to go anyway because it’s what my heart is telling me to do. We’ll see how that works out!