Destination: Some Place Else

…to get away for if only a moment

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33. A Not Bad Birth Story

In many of the books and apps for pregnancy, they compare each new week that your baby grows, to a piece of fruit or vegetable…perhaps to slowly prepare you. To be honest, the idea of pushing a small sized watermelon through my Cha Cha scared the shit out of me. Having spent 33 years with my lady part, I’ve become quite fond of it. To have that potentially compromised for some screaming unknown thing had always been a little difficult for me to grasp.

As far back as I can remember when I heard stories of labour, more often than not they sounded downright horrific. Of course the end result was a beautiful baby, but the underlying message was that it was an experience they almost wish they could forget. Until I was actually pregnant myself, I had imagined the worst case scenario- with me being torn open to high heaven, only having to be stitched back to virginity. Ok, I know that’s not possible- but you get the picture. Or scrap that, try not to visualise, as that’s where the problem begins.

There seems to be such fear instilled in women around the birth experience. In many cultures, young girls witness their family members giving birth, breastfeeding (some women have their babes almost permanently attached for the first few months) and help their mothers as the babies grow. They are not scared by it. They embrace it. Amish women give birth to an average of 7 children and having such a close knit family setting, their children grow up being much more exposed to the birthing process. Especially since they often give birth at home. Ina May Gaskin who is described as the ‘mother of authentic midwifery’ stated ‘we are the only species of mammal that doubts our ability to give birth. It’s profitable to scare women about birth. But let’s stop it. I tell women: Your body is not a lemon.’ She did a lot of her midwifery training with Amish communities, saying they tended to grow up without the same fear of the birth process as many women have today.

So I tried to push all these scary stories away. I actively decided to be positive and excited about that fact that though there would be pain, it was where I would finally meet my baby. After all, women go back time and time again- even with those not so nice experiences, so there must be something about motherhood that is pretty rad. So after the fun part of deciding to have a baby was successful- we were pregnant. I know there are so many variables to every labour, so I will just reiterate that this is my story only. I am extremely grateful for such a positive experience, as I know things can go wrong. For me, the thing that helped me so much was going in with an open mind. I just had to trust the professionals to get my baby out safely and keep me safe too. That was my number one priority.

Now I won’t lie – I was so incredibly tired by the time I was in active labour. I now have a real understanding why many women use pain relief –often it is from shear exhaustion. I had been to the hospital once with contractions and sent home being told it was just pre labour (I had three days of contractions that would be strong then peter off). We tried the usual things to bring on labour: long walks, bouncing on the fit ball, raspberry leaf tea, eating curry and yes strongly advised by our midwife -even sex (which at that stage since I was so huge, was almost laughable). I was told not to worry so much about the timing, but to call the hospital when the contractions were so intense I couldn’t talk through them.

So on the Friday, as my mum took me down the street to get some jobs done, they finally began to be consistent and get much stronger. Once I got home, I strapped on my TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine which sends small electrical pulses to the body (I swear by this as didn’t end up needing any other pain relief). I called Lewy to come home and then again my sister; husband and I went into the hospital.

Again, they nearly sent me home as by the time I got there the contractions had lessened. I swear they thought I was making it up. But on discovering my waters had broken, they decided to keep me in (yes I was expecting the huge embarrassing gush too). We had an amazing midwife during the night that said the best thing to me. ‘Just welcome every contraction and know they are leading to something really beautiful.’ So as they got stronger and stronger I said to myself, love, compassion, peace, beauty, strength, humour, intelligence….all these qualities that I imagined and knew our baby would have. Sounds a bit hippy I know, but it made them that much easier to endure.

The midwife drew little acupressure points on me and told Lewy to start pressing them to activate the labour. Literally 30 mins after he did, it was on. I told my sister to rush back in and by 8am when she arrived, I was 5cm dilated and told I would probably have my baby that afternoon. I need to state how absolutely fabulous they both were. It must be so hard watching someone you love in such pain and not being able to help alleviate that. But they did their best. They cracked jokes when I needed it, rubbed my back when I wanted it or stayed away when i didn’t want it, made a calm setting, told me how proud they were of me and did not laugh when I was letting out these deep animalistic grunts (we can laugh about it now). It was so special ito have them both there. I am forever grateful to my A-team!

Thinking I wouldn’t be having my baby till much later, there were definitely instances of wholly shit, I am definitely going to need pain relief. I remember letting out this loud whimper and my sister said, ‘don’t you break’ and I held strong. Now when I talked about bad experiences, I don’t want to say that the pain for me was not bad. It was the most out of my mind pain I have ever experienced. But I knew it was leading to something so amazing that it would be worth it. I had imagined walking through the maternity ward listening to music, with Lewy holding my hand as I calmly worked through each contraction. But it literally all happened so fast. All of a sudden, they were one on top of each other, with no subsiding in between. I dilated 5cm in 1.5hrs (perhaps that really long pre labour was not such a bad thing). I had to go to a place I never knew existed within me so I could stand the overwhelming pain. Before I knew it the midwife was asking me if I needed to push.

If I can take away anything out of some of the books that I read-the image of the coffee plunger helped me in this moment. Sounds weird right? But a book called Birth Skills said to imagine you were pushing down a coffee plunger for that big moment, so that’s why I did. But also imagine it is mixed with drying cement and that’s how hard you have to push. You push till the vessels in your neck are bludging, till you’re straining every iota of yourself, till you think you cannot possibly push anymore and then some. But then they showed me a mirror and I could see a little head (yes I gave a look) and I knew the end was in sight. I think that’s why for me, the pain didn’t seem as bad as the contractions (and hey a small baby really helps too). The moment when the head finally pops out is the most amazing feeling of relief, and before I knew it she just slid out and was placed in my hands and then on my chest. I will never forget the love I felt for Lewy in that moment too. We didn’t need to say anything, it was a mutual, ‘look what we made’ moment.

I can easily say it was the most transformative, powerful and enlightening experience I have ever had. The overwhelming range of emotions I felt was incredible. I felt maternal and spiritual and beautiful and empowered and so incredibly strong. As soon as our little baby Bonnie was placed on my chest, everything I had just endured melted away. So that is why women go back for more. I now get it, as they get the most amazing gift at the end. I guess why I’m writing this is to encourage women not to be afraid. Yes of course it was bloody painful, but the female body is a remarkable thing and is made for giving birth. Ina May was right, my body wasn’t a lemon, it was pretty freaking amazing actually and that is something to own and be incredibly proud of it.

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32. The End of this Road

Well…..this is it, the last day of my work at Grand Designs Australia.
How do I summarise the past three years?

You think about how much time you spend with the people you work with, especially if you are full time. Day in and out, you see them more than your friends and family, so I’ve always had the mindset that I should really be passionate about that environment and my role. I have never been one of those ‘I live to work’ people; life has way too much to offer than just that. I was unfortunately not one of those people who had connections to get my foot in the door, so I’ve had to work really hard to be in this industry and get to where I am-maybe that is why I appreciate it that much more. The allure of a TV/film production job can at first seem glamorous, but the reality is you do long hours and it can be extremely demanding physically and emotionally. There have been times where I’ve worked for free, done over 70-80hr weeks, had to sacrifice a lot of personal commitments-but all that has been worth it, since it got me to working here.

I’m sure when I first started they thought who this weird chick. I never had to change or pretend to be anyone other than who I am. I felt accepted from the start and have never been made to feel like I am not good enough or incapable of my job. In fact, it has been the opposite-everyone is so encouraging that it is contagious. I have never not wanted to come in other than when I was sick and that is pretty awesome.

I can easily say that the charm and the reason everybody loves to work here, stems from the Executive Producer. She will probably deny and take none of the credit as she is so beautifully humble, but it is true. From day one, she would always take the time to listen to me, laugh at my silly jokes (when she smiles she smiles with her whole body) and she has become such a mentor. She nurtures all the employees and it shows. Her friendly, helpful, joking, easy going vibe just filters down-there is a reason why most of us have been here for at least a few years or even since its beginning.

I’ve been so used to working in a predominantly male environment that it was such a breath of fresh air coming here and being surrounded by amazingly talented women. Though the men are absolute sweethearts (with the odd day of doing my head in, but that is pretty normal). My production manager has become my confident and she is the definitely the resident psychologist for us all…she even has the couch in the office to match. She has the most beautiful nature, so easy going with this quick wit and sense of humour that is infectious. All of the producers and post producers give their everything to the show. They genuinely care about making it the best it can be and that is why so many love to watch it. I could describe every person here, with their little quirks that I absolutely adore but this would be pages long.

Though I am really sad to be leaving and fear that I will never find a job quite the same –I know it is time to move on and make time for my motherhood chapter. They are not going to get rid of me completely as I will show up with the bub from time to time, demanding we do baby chinos and set up that nursery in the corner. It has been such an amazing place to work, while so much has happened. When I first started it was all about me coming in on a Monday, telling tales of my uber busy weekends, probably with some silly drunken story or documenting the year of 30ths, weddings and me being a bridesmaid. Then it was onto my own wedding and now as they have watched me get bigger and bigger with my pregnancy. The whole time they have showed such love, warmth and generosity with these huge milestones. I am so incredibly grateful to have been surrounded by such ‘amazeballs peeps.’

The thing I really love about this industry is the close bonds you form with the crew-they become like a second family. I have met some lifelong friends and just think you are all rad. It really makes me think that if you get the opportunity to work in an industry that you are really passionate about, you should grab onto it with both hands and be thankful as there are so many people out there who are unemployed or hate what they do. So thank you to all the GD peeps for the last three years.

I did like what a lady I work with said to me the other day…your baby will be your most excellent production ever- what a nice way of thinking about it.

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31. The Shifting State of Self

What better time to reflect than as I was lying in bed with a book, alone. I know that this quality lonesome time will become few and far between as I’m moving towards a new chapter. So I will relish these times while I can. I am literally hurtling towards my due date. In 6 weeks, I am going to be a mother. Where did the time go, where did I go? I know when I first found out, even saying those words, ‘I am going to be a mother’ sounded foreign, like it was meant for someone else. When I was younger, I wasn’t even sure I ever wanted to be one. To be honest, the idea freaked me out. But as time has gone by and I’ve gotten older, with a beautiful niece and nephew around and finding a man I wanted to share that with, my feelings began to change.

I was always saying I’m not ready; I’m not ready. There was always something on top of my bucket list that I had to do first. Travelling and having a good time were definitely high on that list. I just couldn’t quite get my head around having to say no to certain things. I’ve always liked having the freedom to say ‘nah, let me shout you this’ or, ‘no probs, I’ll come out.’ As we move into one salary land that will have to change and that’s ok. I always put a lot of pressure on myself career wise too. I was always striving to work hard and be ambitious, setting goals of where I had to be by when. But then as I hit about 30, I had this realisation that I already was successful, I was just measuring it in the wrong way. I look to my friends and family and who I am as a person now to know I am successful. I still do want to have a great career and I will always work hard, but I also know I want to prioritise family life for a little while now too.

So much has happened in a year in terms of growing and changing as a person. I’ve moved through so many states of being. I think of all these models of self that I have presented throughout my life. Some have been transient, some have changed and some are the same as when I was young. I was never really thinking about what kind of parent I would be. Before Lewy it was just me I had to worry about. Then you get in a relationship and it becomes about you as individuals and as a couple. Now there is this huge change, where someone will rely solely and completely on us and that is damn scary. The fact that their life depends on you is massive.

I knew Lewy has wanted to be a dad for some time. Watching him with other kids, I always joke that he is a baby whisperer as they just tend to love him. I am pretty sure he is going to be a much better parent than me. This is not me waving some competitive flag; I just think he is much more patient than I am. But I guess until we are in that situation, neither of us knows just how we will react. All we can do is love and support each other and never stop communicating, even when we are sleep deprived and covered in baby poo.

Most parents have told me, you think you are ready and prepared and you think you know what you are in for, but when that time finally arrives, you realize you were completely kidding yourself. A guy at work said ‘it is like being hit by a truck, but in a good way.’ It is just so different to theorizing about it or all the practice you think you’ve had on your nieces and nephews. Because when it is just you, your partner and your baby at home for that first time alone with no help- all bets are off. I guess time will tell but I think I just need to know not to put pressure on myself to be perfect…hell to have it even half right. As long as I can get this baby out of me in the safest way, then that is the first step. Then comes the real test, parenthood.

I have moved through a gradient of emotions with my hormones –one minute I am laughing hysterically, then I am crying and confused. I’ve kind of loved that too-experiencing feelings so intensely. It has put pressure on our relationship at times, but then it has made us stronger because we have been able to talk about our fears and anxieties about this next massive step. My love for Lewy is just getting stronger and I think that is pretty rad. One minute it was us, then we were getting married and then you were there…our little pea. Yes that old, weekly comparison to a piece of fruit or vegetable has stuck….even though you are well and truly past the size of a pea. At first, though I was quietly freaking out on the inside….all that hesitation I had ever felt has just floated away.

So even though I have no idea what you look like or who you will be – I feel this beautiful connection with you. I guess it is a bit like what faith is. Though I can’t see you, I know you are there and it is such a powerful bond. It is like a higher presence is playing out, making me completely present. This pregnancy has made me more self aware and connected that I have felt in years, if not ever. Having something kicking you from the inside, moving around, knowing that they are feeding off you and you are keeping this little being alive spins me out. Heaps of people have said how happy I seem and I am. It makes me think, was I just wasting time and distracting myself from what was actually really important to me?

There are so many things that can be an obstacle in the parenthood journey. Just getting pregnant is the first step. For some couples, it takes years or unfortunately never happens and there is no other sentence for that other than it fucking sucks. Knowing this fact, has made me so incredibly grateful to get to this point and I hope I never take for granted the gift that having a child can be. I just hope I measure up. But you know what, I know this baby is going to be awesome because they are off to the best start at life. They will be completely and utterly adored by those around them and even though they are being born from two kinda crazy, quirky parents, that is also pretty cool too.


30. To be a woman

We are beautiful, we are sensual, we are limitless, we are intelligent, we are funny, we are emotional and sensitive, we are crazy, we are mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. We are loyal, we are proud; we are vessels of light and love, and hope and strength. We are fighters, we are survivors. We are so many things. But we can also be victims.

Ever since I was little, I always believed that I could do anything a man could do. I was the biggest tomboy. I would do things because I believed…. no actually it was because it wasn’t even in my vocabulary to think that I wasn’t allowed or wasn’t capable of doing what a man could do. I was lucky enough to be born to parents who nurtured that and in a society where the general view did think that women were the lesser sex. The older I get and more educated I have become, I have realized that living in a patriarchal society , there are so many systems in place where men have often had better opportunities. They are statistically paid higher wages and given better job opportunities ( I am not being a man hater here, I am just stating fact).

I read an interesting article ‘the hidden penalties of being a mother in the workforce‘, which looked at if you chose to have a child, their were certain penalties you would have to face when returning to work. ie less job opportunity, salary, responsibility. Yes, things are changing with men becoming stay at home dads, equal rights ….but there is still a long way to go. Really the issue I want to talk about is far more devastating.

A few days ago, I watched a BBC documentary that was aired on Four Corners last weekend called India’s Daughters. This documentary that took over two years to make, was actually banned in India, because it followed the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey, in Delhi in 2012. I urge you watch this if you can stomach the sheer horror of what happened, especially knowing that it is estimated that a woman is raped every 20 minutes in India. Jyoti came from a poor family who had sold their ancestral land to put her through medical school as all she wanted to do was be a doctor and help those who were less fortunate. When she was born, all the people in her village asked her parents why they were celebrating her birth as if she was born a boy. ‘Because they were happy either way’ they said. Like many countries, this view is still held strong, that to have a boy is the best gift one can have.

In December 2012, 6 months away from graduating, she went to see a movie with a male friend. Afterwards, she boarded a bus and was brutally gang raped. What I still can’t fathom is that they also butchered her like a cow, pulling her intestines out and left her for dead on the side of the road. I am really sorry to be so graphic but it is that part where I had to stop the film as wasn’t sure I could continue watching. These are the times when my usual upbeat personality, who tries to see the best in any situation, just simply cannot and do not wish to. That this type of atrocity can happen in the world is horrible and what makes it so much worse is that the perpetrators and defense lawyers and many people within that society believed she deserved it. One lawyer actually said that if his daughter went out like this woman did (and all she did was go see a movie. Even if she was dressed in the shortest of skirts with a male friend, that NEVER EVER should warrant it ok to be raped or assaulted), then he would take her to a barn and set her alight with gasoline. It is so backwards thinking, but definitely not the only country that holds these views (I would definitely like to point out, it is not the opinion of every single person in these countries and it is far more than just the role of women in a household, it is about their place in society).

But something did happen and this is what is worth something. There was an outcry amongst universities, women and men of India after this happened, and they began to riot. The following week, while Jyoti’s poor parents sat with her in hospital, knowing that she would not survive, there was a change. It got worldwide attention, as the article below states ‘ it quickly became clear that the protests were about far more than cruelty and the issue of police security for women in public places.’ The only thing that the family can take away is that she has now become a symbol of change in India and hopefully throughout the world. That does not change the fact that they have to learn to live life without her.

The human condition should be of love and acceptance, not of fear and shame. Men and women have fought throughout the ages for freedom of speech, of equality and it is still an endless struggle. I say this all from a lens of watching, from news and stories I have read and seen, from visiting countries that are poor and uneducated and different. Every single country has their own beautiful environments and people and structures and belief systems, but I don’t think there is one country that shouldn’t have these types of things challenged either, including my own. The rights and sufferings of women have long been documented and fought for. The more we do nothing, the more these sorts of acts continue. It is not only the judicial systems in place; it is the educators, the corporations, the men and women who are part of the solution.

Stop and think about your right as a man and as a woman and how education about these issues can lead to empowerment and movement for change. I am about to become a mother so maybe that is why this has resonated with me so much more. No one should ever have to live in fear, no one should have to not speak up because they might lose honour because these types of acts are happening. On the same day this documentary was aired, a NSW school teacher went missing the week before her wedding and there is now a hunt for her body. It was like with the rape and murder of Gill Meagher, these types of things happen everywhere. But the differences are the attitudes of the general society in which they happen that makes all the difference.

If only it was as simple as saying I love and accept myself, now why can’t I do the same of others.

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29. The art of listening

It doesn’t matter where you are from, what gender, sexuality, race, social status you are, there is one thing that we all have in common and it is a beautiful thing. As they say, stories are what connect us and we all have many to tell. Storytelling after all is history, the present and it is the future. As far back as I can remember I have always loved stories. Even better, I have relished the idea of one’s imagination because it is vast and your very own to create. Our own capacity to create stories from words spoken, pictures, shapes, colours, photos, people-inspiration can be anywhere-and we all have that in common. Sometimes people forget or lose the ability to use their minds in that way and honestly, I am scared shitless of that possibility. Being able to escape or unwind or be captivated or moved by a story, be that real or fiction is one of my greatest passions.

Again, stories are what connect……I believe that. You might hear something and it might anger you, compel you to action, change you, sober you, sadden you or excite you. Stories are what makes you want to listen and be a better person, it can make us strive for more, reassess our own lives, it can make us cry or be happy. As I sit and I watch this generation pass by all looking down into their phones or various devices, I worry that are we forgetting one of our most important abilities-the art of listening?

We often text, or facebook message rather than ring each other and we have stopped our face to face or person to person interactions. Some people become so wrapped up in their own worlds that they forget to stop and truly listen to what another person may be saying. I’ve met people along my journey and realized as much as they are essentially good people, that they never have stopped to ask much about me and my story, who I am. Yet I can know so much about them. It is like any relationship you have in life, it should be a two way thing, it shouldn’t be one sided. If you ask a question of someone, you should want to know the answer.

I mean I haven’t forgotten the true beauty of reading either. What a wonderful way to learn and grow. Everyone gets their information differently. Often when I am on the tram or train and watch those people looking into their phones (and yes I can be the same at times too), I have realized that people don’t read books as much anymore. Maybe they are reading their Kindle, but the hard copy kind, one where you can smell the dust on the pages, that is my favourite. As much as I love creating my own stories, or watching amazing films, I will always take solace in curling up with a book and losing myself to the story that someone else has written. I can still use my imagination to create the visual world that they are creating. That can never be replaced with the latest visual technology to offer. If someone ever says ‘I’m bored,’ I am baffled as for me, there is simply not enough time in this life for all the stories. That is why I have spent years trying to read many of the classics.

Recently, I’ve been listening to ‘This American Life’ which is a weekly public radio show broadcast. This is definitely not a new concept; millions of people download the podcast around the world, for one reason; to listen. It brings back the joy of the radio broadcasts that my grandparents and parents would listen to when they were younger. Running since about 1995, TAL, is a testament to the fact that many people haven’t forgot to listen, in fact, they embrace it. My boss who has been a fan of it for years, told me about it. More recently, with my annoyance with commercial radio stations, I decided to listen elsewhere (I am still a fan of PBS and 774 with the odd RRR/JJJ thrown in as I haven’t forgotten the joy of listening to music either). With us living in such a visual world, it is a special thing when you can close your eyes, and be taken on a spectacular journey. Some of the stories are fictional, but most are real, served with a journalistic style that makes you waiting for the next piece of the puzzle. Usually, the weekly themes are broken into acts, but they all have one thing in common. They captivate you and intrigue you; they evoke some kind of emotion, which really is the pure essence of storytelling. Where you can realize that what some people think of as an ordinary story, can actually be quite extraordinary.

So stop, look up, smell the roses and listen to all that surrounds you. Know that every person you meet has a potential for greatness and that you can be affected by their stories. Yes, some people are great storytellers, others are better listeners, but searching for ways to harness these ideas are just part of the big picture. Even though I love my movie/TV marathons, I also encourage you to pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read or stream an interesting podcast. Or if you are sick of the meaningless chatter or ads that fill our radio content, feel yourself being brought down by road ragers, or like something to listen to whilst dining alone, click onto an audio book and feel inspired instead.

Check these out:

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28. My 20c of taxi wisdom was what he said

I’m not sure if it is just me, but I always seem to be able to pick the taxi drivers who are up for a chat. Whatever the country, they seem to hone in on the fact that I will listen if they are willing to talk, or is it they really need to talk and I am willing to listen. Yes, there are times when I want to switch off during my ride, but I guess you need to be prepared that if you say hi, how are you, this might instigate a full blown retelling of their life story. Possibly from too much time alone, or maybe they know that the likelihood of you ever meeting again is slim, some will go on to reveal the most intimate and personal stories. For some people, this is just too much coming from a complete stranger, or at least way too much during a 15 minute car trip. I’ve certainly had those moments….but then there are some insights worth listening to.

I often find that taxi drivers can give little pearls of wisdom or the most interesting insight into human nature. How could they not when driving for a living, literally watching all wakes of life enter their vehicle for short spans. With this, these passengers can bring any number of moods or state of minds: drunk or sober, stressed, ready for a big trip, angry, sick, upset, really happy, really horny-the drivers have probably seen it all.

The last trip I took with a taxi driver was heading to Singapore International airport and was hands down the best driver I’ve ever had. I’m sure we’ve all got our tales of horrible drivers-those ones where you feared for your life as they were really tired or weirdly wired- narrowly missing traffic; ignorant or angered drivers; those with tales of woe that you really don’t want to listen to. I’ve even had a driver who wanted to share his spliff whilst driving…. we did drive really slowly; listening to reggae beats the whole way, so it wasn’t all bad. But on this occasion, Fandli, was a 35 year old Muslim Malay driver, who covered topics from the decline in radio content, to differences in driver behaviours in each country during peak hour, to subliminal messaging in Marvel comic movies.

He mentioned he hardly watched the news on TV as he thinks the government, media and certain organizations who control this information, can sway opinion. That people tend to become devoid of being able to think with their own minds, never questioning what information they are being presented with. Instead, he would read and learn from a variety of different sources and always question it. I agree that we can be all too willing to soak up certain information as gospel. We are offered advice on what to eat, how to love, where to travel, how to be-surely some of it is wrong and some of it just bogus. At the end of the day, it should be about finding what works for you. I loved when he said how ridiculous it is that we now have apps that can track the location of our phones, yet we can’t track a plane that goes missing. This guy was full of conspiracy theories, but not without research or intelligence.

Instead of watching crap on TV, he would read and open his mind. He chose to wake up, look up and talk and learn from people he met throughout his day. Ok, yes there are times where I love to switch off my mind after a long day at work and watch a bad chick flick or reality TV-but I certainly mix it up with insightful shows, documentaries, news and worthwhile films. Fandli was frustrated with everyone glued to their phones, never really actively participating in life. Well, we all know this is a problem. We are incredibly lucky to be in a generation where we literally have information at our fingertips. We can communicate with ease to friends and family across the globe, we can learn about the extraordinary or the mundane within seconds. Though we also need to think about the huge amount of people who don’t have this luxury of access or wealth to purchase the technology-we should remember that part of living, is being present and not stuck to the screen of whatever medium you are choosing to use in that moment.

Fandli also wished that the media wouldn’t create fear by generalizing factions ie. that ALL Muslims are terrorists for example. Fandli is Muslim and during our 30 minute ride, he seemed like a good natured, kind and generous man, which fits the description of many Muslims and Catholics and atheists and others. It is just unfortunate that ignorance and lack of information can lead people to believe the media’s scare mongering. After all of this, he then turned around and said ‘look all I’m giving you is my 20c worth of taxi wisdom so you don’t have to agree, but it is nice that you have stopped to listen.’ Isn’t that what this world should be about, listening to other people’s opinions from all ethnicities, religions, genders and sexuality, because even if you might not always agree, you are giving them the freedom of speech and you the right to listen. In many countries, this is not a liberty, it is a censorship issue.

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27. Keep calm & surrender

Only you and me.
We drift above and under each passing wave,
with a slow and beautiful repetition, like we both
were supposed to be here all along.
Once I was a child, counting clouds in the sky.
There was nothing but the ocean,
and my body existing in that space.
Nothing but a world full of possibilities,
and a big, open future to come.
But here, now, there is so much more.
I keep thinking that since there is only the sound of my heartbeat,
Then I might hear yours too, beating softly within me.
I close my eyes and try to imagine you there,
Thinking about who you will be in this world.
Who I will become too.
I wonder that as I grow bigger and continue to float,
will the weightlessness that we both feel,
connect us even more so or will I have to wait
till I meet you in my arms.
16/1/14 1.15pm

I can’t even remember the last time I spent three full days on a beach doing absolutely nothing. I mean literally getting up, finding my position for the day and settling in. Moving to go sit in a hammock, maybe have some lunch on the beach and then back to the highest state of comfortable pleasure. Gawd, was it really as long as ago as my big trip overseas over 8 years ago…..yikes, it was.

I mean yes, I’ve gone to tropical destinations since then, but in between lazy beach sessions, I’ve been 4WD or hiking up mountains, going on fishing expeditions, sky diving or some crazy adventure. But in Phu Quoc, Vietnam, at the remote and beautiful Peppercorn Resort (highly recommend-have to head down a bumpy, dirt road for 15 mins to get there but well worth it), we enjoyed the middle part of our honeymoon. We completely relaxed and surrendered to the serenity. The first day we did an 8 hour island tour, visiting a pepper farm, fish sauce factory, temples, a jail, beautiful coastlines & waterfalls-all of this was amazing.

But what we really yearned for was a time to switch off our phone, cut off from facebook, emails & the internet. A complete movement away from our hectic lifestyles back in Melbourne. I definitely know I don’t have nearly enough days where I do nothing but read and listen to music. There is always some pull to do something, be somewhere or at home, the never ending chores that daily life entails.

But as I looked out to the blue ocean unraveling before me- I was brought back to how completely at one I feel when I’m near water, especially the beach. The gentle breeze in my hair, watching the fishing boats in the distance. I am lost to the elements, I am free from thought. I spent a long time just floating in the water, a feeling that always brings me back to when I was a child. Complete surrender, only my heartbeat, as I would watch fluffy clouds float past in the sky. No thoughts or fear in that moment, just a purity that water gives me, cleansing me like a baptism. If only you could bottle the calmness of these moments. Instead, I yearn to find ways to recreate this at home. Swim more, breathe deeply in yoga, sit outside in a park and do read and listen to music, watching the world go by. I may not have the beach on an island every day, but there are ways of creating my own little island when I need to.

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26. The Vietnamese right of passage

Worker bee’s swarm,
grinding their way through the daily slog.
Weaving in and out of obstacles,
all with fluid motion and purpose.
Each alleyway and road like the veins of the hive,
its pure energy, is its mother.
Foreigners stand nearby with fear and hesitation,
often finding solace by following the
footsteps of the locals surrounding.
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What I love most about travelling is to be challenged and put out of my comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong, I do adore chilling out on the comfort of a beach, partying in an overseas club or seeing beautiful architecture. But the trips where I have come away thinking, I have now grown as a person; well that is the definition of travel for me. It is a journey of space and time, of self discovery and learning about human nature. I have felt this is many places; Turkey, Cambodia, Bosnia, Japan, Peru –this list can go on. I never for a day will forget just how lucky I am to have travelled so much. It is a part of who I am now- a nomad at heart, an observer, a participant and a lover of all things different. As they say, life would be damn dull if we were all the same so why not embrace going to new places and experiencing that first hand.

When visiting Vietnam 6 years ago, that was my first thought. Whoa, this is so different to Melbourne. For if you have ever ventured to Ho Chi Mihn especially, you have to agree that their idea of safe driving practices, are just not held to the same standard as many other Western countries. I really can’t decide if the drivers there are amazing, the worst ever, absolutely crazy or a combination of the three. Not much has changed since then, as on my recent trip this month, though there may be slightly more traffic lights, there are even more drivers to compete for the dwindling space. But I have to say, I just love it. Their ability to navigate in and out of lanes with no sudden or erratic moves when coming head on into oncoming traffic still astounds me. It is pure chaos to the untrained eye, but for the Vietnamese, it just works and is beautiful to watch.


I especially love just how much they can fit onto one motorbike or bicycle. Maybe it is a freestanding dog on the back, or an entire family (yes I saw 5 people on a motorbike) with babies squished between parents and siblings. I can’t even imagine what our road law officers would say if they saw this. There would surely be a citizen’s arrest if a fellow Melbournian witnessed a toddler standing up at the front of any moving vehicle, constantly swallowing down the mass of pollution from all the vehicles. Bicycles carrying other bicycles, cement, food supplies, your laundry, a mattress, you name it, they have probably tried getting it on there. Quite amazing really. Crossing the road as a foreigner is almost a rite of passage when visiting Vietnam. The first time I visited, I literally stood at a busy intersection for 5 minutes working out how on earth I would cross, as the cars just never stopped. But as a local crossed slowly but with purpose, I realised I would have to do the same. Sure enough, the vehicles did slow and move around me as if I was the parting the Red Sea.


If you can peel you eyes away from this madness and follow the street corners, that is where you will notice the real magic of side stalls and shop owners, cyclo drivers, exotic fragrances wafting and enticing you’re your senses for the amazing Vietnamese dishes…..which moves me to my next favourite thing about travelling, the food!! My god, the food in Vietnam is so fresh and mouth watering. Part of the experience is to go crazy and try or the specialties as each region usually has one. For example, in Hoi An, it is Cao Lao, a pork and noodle dish that is famous as it uses is water from the oldest well in the town. No this does not equal, food poisoning either-it is beautiful. If you can go a little wild and venture to the street stalls, you will probably eat the best pho you’ve ever tried and mix with the locals (my other favourite thing). On this trip, I have to admit though, since I am carrying a certain little bebe, I had to contain myself just in case. Though there was never any shortage of choices to try out.

Part of travelling is to try different things too. Usually we go on some crazy tour-like the ghost tour in New Orleans, or we hiked the Inca trail in Peru, doing a cooking class or trying an exotic food like a scorpion….but again since we were trying to relax after a crazy year and since this was after all our honeymoon, one of things we tried was Tai Chi. Now many people would relate this to the oldies in the park on a Sunday morning, moving so slowly, that you can’t even imagine how they are getting the benefits of exercise. But right now, I can assure you, that this is not even remotely true.

We tried it on the windiest day, but it was actually perfect. We positioned ourselves in front of the beach and watched as our instructor, donning his white silk outfit, majestically maneuvered the most graceful of movements. I’d love to say that from the beginning, we copied these movements with the same ease and grace, but we looked damn awkward. Maybe it was his patience from all the years of practice that enabled him to show us slowly over and over again. These simple, delicate techniques that when watching a master, will transfix you. I now take my hat off to those oldies, practicing their Tai Chi as after an hour of repetition we were both depleted and my arms and hands were actually quite sore. I would definitely like to try it again….maybe just not in view of the other hotel patrons watching.

I always say to people who haven’t been able to travel much or at all, that if they ever get the chance, to seize it. For me, it has been the best education about life, history and people. I have worked three jobs just to save up enough to get me there, washing dishes, washing hair, whatever it took. I don’t want to say, I’ll wait till I have a mortgage and retire to travel, as how do I know I will make it that long. This is not me being morbid in any respect, far from it. It is me trying to live life in the moment, where I can. Yes, it is always important to also not be too reckless, to save for a house or a car if you want those things, or study for a brighter future. I just believe that any way you can expand your horizons is a good thing and something to wish for. You might realize that no one country has got it completely right too, they are all beautifully different. That like a good recipe, travel is full of wonderful flavours and variations and that by taking that first bite, you might realize you have found your favourite dish.

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25. A rad day…… From a former cynic

There are moments in life, where if you could hit the slow mo button, then you would. Not where you are all talking with a slow drawl and taking a really long, robotic time to get anywhere, but more like if you choose a moment that you could just hang out in when life gets a bit heavy, then that would be it.

Now if you had asked me many years ago, I would have said- oh I know, definitely that day we talked all day over that massive feast, or when we were out all night dancing up a storm, or even right now as I sit on a perfect beach in Phu Quoc, working on my tan. Never in a million years, did I think it would be my wedding day. Ok, this perfect beach is pretty amazing. Ok, and that night partying was super fun…well let’s just say, I have a catalogue. But as days would go, I think our wedding day was up there as the raddest day ever….and I’ve had some pretty rad days.

I was definitely never that little girl, dressing up her barbies in white frocks, picturing my dream wedding and the beautiful gown I would eventually get to wear myself. Instead, I was that tomboy playing with Lego and transformers, running round with no top on till way past the appropriate age. Back then, I didn’t think I was ever going to get married or even thought I would ever want to. I’m pretty sure due to my severe dislike in dresses till early/mid high school, my parents were just waiting for me to come out. But, time has a funny way of changing things.

My interest in boys toys, did eventually turn to dating boys, and as you date you have a series of firsts which can be beautiful, awkward and crushing. First playground crush where he hits you cause he likes you, leaving you uncertain about what love represents. The timid hand hold in the movie theatre, that sloppy first kiss where you keep bumping each other’s teeth and have to wipe your face afterwards, the first embarrassing boob grab where you are not sure if he is actually trying to grope your breast or rip it off. You know the other firsts, some you have tried to push to the back of your mind, some you are still reeling over (wow that was so hot! OR so not!), some we can now laugh about, some we are still experiencing. The list goes on.

But hopefully you find yourself in love or what you thought was your first and only love. Then you break up and think holy shit what was I thinking. Then you get older and things start to get more serious. You get your heart severely broken and you probably also really hurt someone else and either go on to make the same bad mistakes or learn to be different in the next time you put yourself out there. That is if you can scrape yourself back together and decide to date again. I know I’ve had moments of, seriously what is wrong with these men, and maybe that idea of being a lesbian, isn’t so bad…..but then ….I luckily found someone worth the wait.

I think a monumental part of my change was travelling overseas and having a good amount of single time, enjoying life and being free. I had the time to assess what I wanted from life, from a partner and get some carefree fun in too. Now I’m not saying you need to hike across the globe to go find yourself or be a raging slut. But I do think it’s important to know who you are, so when it comes time to settling down, you know you are also fine on your own, as well as in a relationship. When I first met Lewy I told him that for us to work, we had to have our own lives too, as that was something I once lost. I think that after nearly 7 years together, that is why we work so much…and he does everything I say.

Even after meeting Lewy, I was still sceptical about the idea of marriage, but that didn’t mean I loved him even less. I should have been fine with the idea as my parents are still happily married after 40 years, which is a pretty amazing feat in this day and age. I once read that over 50% of marriages end up in divorce, I’m not sure of the stats, but maybe that had been at the back of my mind. I always thought we are a great couple, we don’t need an piece of paper to warrant that. I still believe this. I never want the fact that now we are married means we change as a couple, or we forget how to respect and nurture each other. That just comes later when you have a baby doesn’t it?

I have plenty of friends who will never get married and that is their choice, or others that would love to, but our stupid laws about same sex marriage, forbids it (hopefully not for much longer), but whatever the decision is, every relationship is different and that is what makes it special to those involved. As more of my friends started to get married, it was never a matter of, wow that looks like a fun fad, let’s do that. I still went through moments of trepidation. I’m pretty sure I told Lewy on several occasions that I wasn’t ready or even sure I wanted to.

But then, something changed. Maybe it was the fact that I knew he really wanted to, maybe it was the pressure from my mum (just kidding, sort of), or maybe I was just finally ready. When Lewy proposed, for once, I had no doubt in my mind. Yes it was about the commitment to each other, but foremost we decided it was about having a party where we could celebrate our love for each other in a way that reflected us as individuals and as a couple. Something personal and intimate, fun and relaxing- so what better place than where Lewy grew up to have it, than in Little River at his parent’s pad. We had paella, hay bails, games, a band and we even camped. I think we can look back when we are old and wrinkly, and think we were once pretty cool.

In reflection though, it was much more than that. I look at every single thing that our loved ones did for us leading up to, on the day and afterwards and we will never forget it. It was truly a beautiful bonding experience for both our families and friends and amazing to know everything they did, was all for the love of us. You are not only joining each other, you are joining your families. There is never a time when you can bring two families together in such a loving environment. Only at a funeral, and there is certainly not the open hearted, warm spirit created. Especially over that amount of booze to get the guests there. I’ve got to say our wedding was an absolute love fest, even with the customary hook up between singles at the end of the night.

There is always ways to do it that won’t cost the end of the earth, or ways to do it that really reflects who you are. Some people opt to have all that taken care of and go to a venue, and there were definitely times when we were knee deep in making bunting for decorations when I thought, why did we start this. But on the day, when I looked around and took it all in, I have forever frozen that day in my mind. I also know that when I was walking towards Lewy, I have never felt more sure and happy about getting hitched than I did on that day!

Disclaimer: On the other side, eloping or not getting married will save you a lot of time, money and stress. But where is the fun and good times in that.

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24. A treasure hunt

If you are a film fanatic, literary lover, china collector, music maniac, home decorator/ hoarder, aspiring artist, sports savant, car crazed, tool toter, equestrian enthusiast, vintage votary, furniture freak, pre loved partisan, then maybe just maybe, you will like visiting the many amazing auction houses, garage sales, markets, second hand warehouses and op shops this country has on offer.

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For me, there is nothing quite like the feeling of stepping into these types of places, as it is literally like walking through time. Fragments of history all piled together haphazardly, often looking like there is no structure-but the owners of these stores would disagree. Smooth symmetry, ordered chaos-there is a plan for these little pieces of nostalgia. All laid out with purpose and vision for its next life.

I could spend hours browsing the shelves filled with anything from vintage toys, sporting or car memorabilia, avant-garde art work, suitcases and clothes, medicine bottles to electronics, furniture to signage to tool boxes. When you enter these places, you get to travel the world. Every single item has a beautiful story attached to it. Maybe that old medicine bottle was used during the war in Germany, then was packed away in a worn down suitcase, migrated to Australia and helped the sick, become well. I always love opening the front cover of old books and seeing what is written. I wonder if whoever wrote that special message would realize that one day it would end up in the hands of a stranger. So many lost messages that many will never care to hear or read. There is a sadness to this, but also something quite poetic.

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As we passed through post modernism, where nothing was considered as new anymore-maybe this is why these places of bric a brac have soured. I always liked this quote by Jim Jarmuch “nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.” So everything I now write, is it just some weird mash up of things that I have read or learnt, can one ever be truly original?

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If they can’t, maybe this is why people have gone bat shit crazy for pre loved relics and the smart ones are making a very lucrative lifestyle out of selling this stuff. Since the founding of consumer-consumer or business-business sales services like ebay in 1995, the idea of just ‘throwing out’ our rubbish has taken an interesting turn. My grandmother and I always used to have conversations about this. Her generation had the one TV for 30-40 years; whereas she couldn’t understand how my generation-one of disposable incomes & materialism would say- if it breaks, I’ll just buy a new one. After all, with technology racing ahead at warp speed, as soon as you buy, it’s value immediately depreciates. So what happens when we live in a world of such throwaway mentality? Do we all forget to value these items and take pride in them for the life they have lived and travelled?

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As I visit places like Chapel Street Bizarre, Camberwell Market on a Sunday, the Hock Inn Garage Sales in Horsham, to the local St Vinnies op around the corner, I wonder why all these ‘things’ were given away and the travel they took to come to its resting place. Was it for money, because someone died, a reminder of a past love, a broken dream, a revenge throw-out, a childhood plaything no longer loved or maybe the owner just thought it was junk. When I was moving a few years ago, I had to pack away a whole lot of my stuff into boxes and for over a year they stayed contained. When I opened them up to move into a bigger home, I thought how strange that these items were so special to me at the time, but then became, well, nothing in the end. It just made me take stock off all the crap people can buy because you think at the time it might make you look smarter or cooler, or make life more meaningful or efficient.

Are we really helping the economy by buying worthless crap or just assisting in clogging up in the landfills? I know I try to be more mindful of these things….or at least by visiting these places and buying something that was once someone else’s-I can find value and worth in my very own little piece of history and not always buy the newest version of whatever it is I think I need. Even if it is a tobacco jar or old piano stand. Or maybe I just browse those shelves, sift through the pieces, take a moment to appreciate its story and then move on.