Category Archives: Challenge

I Probably Should Be An Adult By Now

Yep. At 34, I probably should be an adult by now. That said, I don’t currently feel like an adult, nor do I feel like I am ever going to progress towards being one. I write this as I sit on a camp stool at my desk. My desk is not actually a desk, but a whole bunch of storage boxes that I stacked up, threw a piece of $5 MDF from Bunnings over the top of and then covered it over with some $2 a metre material from Spotlight. No. I didn’t sew it. I used a whole bunch of pins to keep it there because I couldn’t be bothered dealing with superglue. As you can see, I am at the height of adult bedroom decoration. I don’t even have a proper bed, just a mattress on the floor. And you know what? I am actually quite happy this way in my kiddie fort built out of non-adulting materials. For some reason, I find something comforting about it.

Maybe this has something to do with values. I spent quite an amount of time in the last few years pondering what all of the stuff actually means. I certainly can’t say, to quote Marie Kondo, that having a bookcase “sparks joy” for me. What “sparks joy” is being comfortable enough in an environment that is mine but without the feeling of being excessively tied down with stuff. That feeling makes me feel tied down to one place way too much. Maybe I am not quite ready to let go of nomad lifestyle just yet.

Adulting also requires a job. And I am about to start one. And that is scary. But not as scary as signing into a job forever because I have chosen for my job to be flexible and at times of my choosing. In any life adulting requires paying bills and that requires making money, but career focus is not something I can say that I give too much of a fuck about which is also strange for a 34 year old. As I always say, “was great at their job” said nobody’s tombstone ever. Mine will probably say “never effectively learned to adult”.

Dating is also an inherently adult trait and I have been doing a fair bit of it in recent months. I can’t much say I have the adult feeling of having to put up with many of them for too longer a period of time. The truth is, I just can’t see myself adulting enough to be in any kind of serious relationship. Especially if it requires adulting enough to look after another human. That is high level adulting and not something I am capable of while I am sleeping on mattresses on the floor and working at makeshift desks and stealing fruit to eat from trees down the road that overhang the sidewalk.

But then what is adulting? For the better part of my grown life I have made my own money, fed and looked after myself and travelled a very large proportion of the world. Sure I don’t have a lot of impressive furniture, I am fairly makeshift, I don’t have a permanent job but I still manage to pay the bills, and I haven’t found a person I consider worthy enough to keep around for a long period of time. But does that make me less of an adult? Just because I choose to do it differently from the everyday societal norms? So I pose to you….. What even is adulting anyway? Because screw it, I think we need to redefine.

 

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“6’2 because apparently it matters”

I was chatting to a guy on Tinder the other day who cleared this up for me. He asked me what I was looking for and I told him that I was looking to meet people and have some good conversations. He told me that this was the most loose answer to this question he had ever received and that most girls seem to have a long running checklist of things that they want and if you don’t have just one of them, see you later. And apparently size matters….. If you’re not tall enough to be a foot taller than her when she’s wearing her heels, then adios. No go. Even if you get along really well, have similar things in common, great sexual chemistry…. Too bad, you’re too short.

Well you know what I have to say to this? Fuck heels for one, you will never catch me wear them, but wow. How limiting? By attacking this question of what I want with a long standing checklist of physical, not even person attributes, I am limiting myself completely to the world of men with really great personalities that might be a bit on the short side. Some men, bless them, are owning their “Dad bods” these days and just don’t seem to give a shit, and to those men, I salute you. Well done for owning your shit, because confidence is far sexier than a hot, arrogant, 6-foot something-or-other wanker, of which many of the super good-looking, “I’m cool with all my muscles doing a shirtless gym selfie” are.

But the same also has to apply in reverse. I am no oil painting. In the land of Tinder, I am definitely not a hot-looking person with my tits all over the place, taking duck-face selfies for Instagram. My photos are fun and show that I am a real person with interests and a sense of humour. And many men check that and move on. But you know what? Good riddance, I don’t want to talk to you if you’re shallow.

What is it with our society right now that is lending us to believe that our most worthy self is the one that looks good and that our other personality-based attributes count for nothing? I guess for the most part you can’t demonstrate real personality through the likes of social media for one, and this seems to be the way that people these days are putting themselves forward. And seriously, you need fuck all intelligence to be able to do this.

As I sit and chat with these frustrated dudes from Tinder, I wonder if they realise we, as women, feel the same way about them and their choosing. And often this isn’t even for a relationship but for whatever brief tryst the majority can get before they move on. Maybe I need to start seeking other dating sites that are not Tinder to do so…. Ah but heck, who am I kidding? It’s way too fun! I’ll just be chilling here swiping right and left. And you can rest assured, my height bias is non-existant. Let’s hope you throw some of your biases out too and let the nice people have some luck!

Trying to Retain Your Second Language

In the last year, I worked my arse off to become proficient in Spanish. Speaking another language was not something that was held in high regard as I was growing up because in rural, very white Australia, it was not something that people ever used or valued. But as I started travelling the world I learned that there was real value in learning a new language because it allowed you to communicate effectively with so many more new people in the world, and these people have so many different things that they can teach you. Not only this, but studies have shown that learning a new language can change your brain and help to ward off dementia and other issues later on in life. So off I went to Spanish school and I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could.

After four months of studying in the school and another eight months of travelling around Spanish-speaking countries, I would think in Spanish, eat, breath, and sleep Spanish and it came so naturally to me. I didn’t have to really concentrate too hard on what I was doing anymore because it became a habit. And then I went home……

After family members getting in my grill about not wanting to listen to Spanish music because it sucks and annoying me while I was trying to watch movies or TV in Spanish, I felt like my language skills were waning. My biggest fear of losing something I had worked so hard to gain was rearing its ugly head. It was most evident to me when I made the massive screw up in conversation talking to a friend of mine in Spanish. We were talking about me going out on the weekend and I said to him “No hay problema, voy a compartirme…. (There is no problem, I am going to share myself)” Comportirme in Spanish means ‘to share myself’. As opposed to ‘comportarme’ which means ‘to behave myself’. Which is what I meant. This was a monumental fuck up and one that I was aware of and I knew. As we continued to text, I realised just how many mistakes I was making because I wasn’t practicing. It made me sad and frustrated. So I set about a program to try and keep it. Here is what I have been doing:

Watching Television

I started out watching Money Heist on Netflix, also known as La Casa de Papel. It is originally in Spanish so I thought it would be great. However it is in Spanish from Spain so at first I found it super hard to decipher and found they were speaking too fast, so I had the subtitles on as well. There were a whole bunch of new words that I learned, having to stop the show all the time to look it up. For example ‘joder’ which means ‘fuck’, or ‘follar’ which means ‘fuck’ or ‘coger’ which means ‘to take’ but also ‘to fuck’. So I am now well-versed in the art of Spanish vulgarity. For listening purposes without subtitles, I find The Good Place a great one because the voice overs in Spanish are quite slow and easy to understand.

Reading Books

I got a bit ahead of myself before leaving Colombia and decided that I would buy a whole bunch of second-hand Gabriel Garcia Marquez books for about a dollar each. The only problem is that Gabo (as he is so affectionately called in Colombia) is a really difficult read in Spanish to a native reader let alone to somebody who has only been speaking Spanish for a year. I took to the online library and found a whole bunch of kids books and started reading about a kid that ran away from home. Great read….. I also recommend newspapers, online articles and reading books in Spanish that you have already read in English, such as Harry Potter because familiarity with the story helps when you get lost.

Online text conversations

One of the best ways to keep up the language skills is to have online text conversations with friends that you have made that speak the language also. These may be friends from language school, online communities or my personal favourite, boys I have met on Tinder that are just passing through or now live here. Talking online gives you time to be able to process what has been sent to you and then to have time to think about how you are going to structure your response. It also allows you time to look up words that you don’t know.

Meet-Up Groups

This I find is the best way to get involved in keeping your language skills. In this setting you actually have to think fast enough to speak and while having text conversations are great, the speed of thought involved with face-to-face conversations is much faster and it is one of the first things to go when you stop living in a place with native speakers. With the large abundance of people looking to meet one another, Meet-Up has become a great way to find communities online that allow you to go along and engage with people that speak the same languages and want to practice. I have met some great people in these groups and they also teach you different slang from their native language while you teach them the same for your native language. It is a great way to make friends and get involved with people who have the same passion in common.

Learning a language and keeping it is hard. But if you put in the hard yards and keep plugging away at it little by little, you will be able to retain most of what you learned and then continue to progress. Good luck with it all!

 

Returning To The Time Of Your Life

A couple of years ago, I went to Budapest for New Years Eve with a friend. Post festivities I wound up with a serious bout of tonsillitis that rendered me flightless and going nowhere for two weeks. So I decided to stay in Budapest. And despite having no expectations I had the time of my life. I still remember the taste of the cottage cheese dumplings and paprika chicken from my favourite restaurant down the road, the awesomeness of the Roman baths, the incredible people that I met while I was there.

The thing is, it is never the same when you go back. After going back I walked through the place like a tourist of my own memories. The Starbucks where I bought mint tea everyday to soothe my throat. The cottage cheese dumplings that didn’t actually taste the same after going back. The charity shop where I bought the ridiculous wig that I wore to one of the hostel parties. The bars where I used to hang out. And none of it felt the same. I think that much of what you really love about a place that you visit has to do with the people that you meet when you are visiting the place.

The last time I was in Toronto, I walked around and it triggered the most amazing memories of times that I had when I lived there. But I chose to use it as a tourist exercise in re-exploring who I was and how far I had come since that point. That naïve girl had a whole lot of fun, but she also learned some really hard lessons. And truth be told, I wouldn’t want to recreate those times, knowing all that I do now.

There are some places in this world that I have decided to remember fondly and never go back to. One of these places is San Pedro La Laguna. The incredible people I met here and the amazing time that I had in such an emotional time in my life will never be able to be replicated (despite the fact I kept going back and did three stints there over as many months) and some things are better left alone as the memories that you have instead of tainting them with something that is not as good the next time around. A very large part of me came into who I was here. It holds such strong roots in my identity that I don’t want to re-visit. I also feel this way with a few other things, not just travel.

Returning to old relationships that have run their course for a reason despite your want to find your way back to the time when it was amazing. It is often in your best interest to accept the fact that it is gone and to sit back and look at it from a distance with fondness and embrace that it is over. Whether these be long term romantic relationships, passing flings or friendships. The point where we try to go back on something that is already too broken feeds into more distress and heartbreak. As hard as it is, it is best at times to just walk away.

Sometimes we remember something as being so good in the time that we had it, that it never quite lives up to the expectations you have of it when time rolls back around and the opportunity comes back to you. And sometimes things are exactly the way you remembered them, despite you trying your hardest to contort the memories to make them better than what they were. There are lessons to be learned. People change. Situations change. Feelings change. And sometimes they don’t. Wisdom is knowing what situation you’re looking at and following through with what you know you need to do. I have lived through these expectations so many times, and been burned so many times that I feel like maybe now, at thirty-four, I am starting to get it. Some things are worth fighting for, and others are worth leaving alone.

As humans we seem to spend so much time looking backwards and yearning for things that once were. Some people had the time of their lives in high school and long for those days back. We long for the glory days of our youth or when things were once better. I don’t want to spend time dwelling on trying to find what once was. To dwell on such things would be to ignore the ways that I have grown and the ways I have changed since those times. It would be to ignore the struggle. I look forward and want to embrace the things I haven’t yet done and keep moving. There is no point in looking back and trying to re-obtain it. The past is gone. It is a bundle of all the things good and bad that we should fondly look upon to help guide us forward. Because all we have is what is right now and what there is to come. And those things will never be amazing when you compare or try to get back what you had. Strive for something new. Strive for something better. Because that is who you are.

What I Reckon: Consumerism

I stood in the mall the other day on the escalator and got overwhelmed. I had made a special trip with a friend to buy a specific thing and then that was it. I didn’t want anything other than the thing I needed. But as I slowly started to take note of what was happening around me I realised a few things. There were people everywhere loaded up with plastic shopping bags. Many of these people were shopping for the sake of actual shopping. Not because they actually need anything. But because they have nothing to do and some money to burn so why not just go see what is out there to spend money on for the sake of it. For someone who has sat on the side of the road with refugees that have nothing and yet still have a smile on their face, this general attitude towards consuming annoys me more than I can even express. I am from a country of incredibly lucky and yet entitled people. People who moan how tough they have it because they can’t afford rent this week because they had to buy that carton of beer because alcohol is a typical life ‘necessity’. People with 50″ televisions in their living rooms and more clothes than they know what to do with. And then after three months when it’s all “out of fashion” it’s back to the mall to buy more shit that is made by some poor slave for stuff all money in a developing country because we can’t be seen to not have the best or most fashionable things. That would clearly make us unhappy because that is what society tells us. That is what media manipulate us into believing. Things make us happy, and the more of them you have, the more updated everything is, the better the life you have.

I can’t deal with it. I just can’t. Because if there is one thing that I have learned in this life it is that I don’t need any of it. And neither do you. After returning from travel, I came back to so much shit sitting in the cupboard from my old life that taught me that ‘shopping’ was fun and having lots of stuff was required. I donated or threw half of my things away. I kept majority of my old clothes because I figure I will use them until they die, then use them as a rag and then move on to another item that I bought a long time ago that I have barely used. And even as I sit here, preparing to move, the weight of having more than just a backpack feels like it is so heavy that it could bore me a hole to the centre of the earth. But I am torn between my hatred of waste, and my hatred of owning too much.

The saddest thing of all is that we live in a society that is becoming more and more obsessed with demonstrating life successes through material possessions. You need to have the latest model phone. The largest television. The nicest car. The latest fashion in clothes. These things apparently demonstrate your worth to society, but unfortunately, with every new thing that you acquire, you are only going to need something greater, something grander, to get to the next step of being awesome. Everywhere you look, the media continues to propagate this idea to people so that you will go out and spend all your money on these things to keep the pockets of those who head corporations exploding with more money than they know what to do with. And for some of them, it would be enough to wipe out debts of entire countries, or eliminate hunger and poverty. But obviously, these things aren’t a priority compared to a luxury yacht and designer outfit that they can then post on Instagram to make everybody else feel inferior and depressed about the fact that they can’t do the same.

The backwards thing about this is that so many of these consumerist people are depressed and are not happy. Why? Because instead of focusing on being grateful for the things that they have, they focus on all the things that they don’t have and how obtaining these things will somehow make life better. I can tell you now, it doesn’t. Happiness is a choice you make everyday when you decide to be grateful for the things that you have. If there was one thing that I could have told my twelve-year old self, it would be that. None of it matters and you can’t take any of it with you when you die. It doesn’t define whether or not you are a good person. Your actions do. And it is the relationships you have with others that will define you, not all of the shit that you can put on display to others. Having more, does not make you more.

In a world that is already dying because of overpopulation and awful distribution of resources, buying and buying and buying exacerbates the problem. If we stop buying all the shit, then there will be no need to produce it. The destruction of our environment will lessen, and maybe we could live in a world where everybody has enough instead of a world where the large majority have nothing and the minority strive to take it all. The reality is, it is out of hand and snowballing big time. Eventually there will be nothing left and we will be living on top of a giant pile of trash. 

There needs to be a very large shift in the thinking of majority of the world. Shopping needs to be something that occurs out of necessity instead of as a fun hobby. People need to learn to accept who they are and define themselves by how they behave with others instead of how much stuff they have and can flaunt in the face of others. People need to realise that they are spending their entire lives being craftily manipulated by advertisements that very cleverly brainwash you into specific ways of thinking to make a small minority of people very large sums of money. They need to develop a consciousness of our environment and our planet and learn to preserve it for others instead of constantly thinking about instant gratification and comfort. It is killing our planet. And it is killing our self worth and self esteem. And I don’t know about you, but those things are worth more to me than a new Gucci handbag or the latest iPhone.

Shit I Am Going To Have To Relearn Going Home

Travelling through developing countries is a whole other world compared to the cushiness that you experience living in a country like Australia. For the last year or so, I have developed habits that I daresay are going to follow me around for a while. Some of the things that I am going to have to relearn when going home are as follows:

  1. Toilet paper belongs in a toilet, not a rubbish bin

It is fair to say that plumbing here is fairly shit. So shit in fact that if you throw toilet paper in the toilet and clog it up, you’re facing more shit than you could ever dream of. After my very first trip to Asia, I came wandering into the kitchen of my flat with my toilet paper and my housemate asked me what the fuck I was doing. That is a superb question really. After a year and a couple of months of this, it is going to be a hard habit to break.

2. Taking toilet paper with you everywhere you go

Because they bloody well don’t provide it anywhere. And if you’re lucky to get charged for a toilet that actually has paper you can be sure that they will give you four squares and look at you strange because you ask for more. The truth is, if you’re a woman peeing, you need more, sometimes that shit sprays. If you’re a woman on your period, four squares is also definitely not cutting it. And if you are anyone taking a shit, especially diarrhoea, a measly four squares isn’t going to do the job. As such, you find yourself resorting to the following; stealing napkins from restaurants you eat lunch at, or sitting on a hostel toilet with a cardboard roll and rolling that thing full of paper for ten minutes and then trying to sneak it out of the bathroom down your pants so that nobody sees you.

3. Toilets with actual plastic seats

Long gone will be the days of sitting your arse directly on a cold porcelain bowl or trying to squat over it because someone has kindly pissed all over it and hasn’t cleaned it up due to their lack of access to sufficient toilet paper.

4. You can drink water from the tap without having to boil or purify it.

The days of pouring yourself a glass of water from the tap ended long ago. The constant need to think about where you are going to source your water from and how you are going to purify it is a constant thought process. As one that hates constantly buying plastic bottles from shops as it is bad for the environment, planning for water is a constant thought that I will not have to worry about.

5. I do not need to keep and do surgeries on things that are broken

Everything I own is somehow broken. But when you have no money and having new things isn’t a priority, makeshift fixing is high on the list, when in ordinary life you would just throw it away. Surgeries that have been conducted on this trip include:

  • Using a hot metal spoon over fire to melt the plastic back together of my neck pillow
  • Duct taping around the strap of my backpack to try and hold it together long enough to get me home
  • Sewing holes in the crotches of my pants with patches
  • Wearing a garbage bag as a poncho because your rain jacket is totalled and no longer waterproof
  • Sticky-taping the screen of my iPad together so that the glass doesn’t fall out
  • Using stickytape to hold your shoelaces together so that they don’t fall apart
My engineering mate helping out with neck pillow surgery.

6. Using a telephone.

Broke the awful thing that had no battery life on the kitchen floor of my flat in Colombia….. yeah I don’t need another one of those. These days I function with good old fashioned paper maps and email. WhatsApp? What’s that?

7. Having keys

The current check is passport, wallet, water purifier, lip gloss. Keys don’t register in this because I haven’t had to deal with keys for a very long time. Incorporating them into the daily check is going to be interesting.

8. Sleeping in a room alone

When constantly sharing a room with up to twelve people having privacy is kind of weird. When you finally find yourself in a room alone you start freaking out because, well, where is everyone?

9. Sleeping in a double bed

That and you’re always in a single bed with a shitty mattress and pillow. I don’t know how I am going to survive fluffy doona covers and decent pillows. Life is going to be hard.

10. Not packing your bag everyday

This is a reality. Every single day, you pull shit out of the bag, you put shit back into the bag. You are on constant alert as to where everything you own is and trying to make sure that it is in a safe area where it won’t get mixed up with everyone else’s stuff. Watch out Mum, I’m spreading throughout the house.

11. Wearing nice clothes and doing hair and make up

Enough said. Some weeks, I don’t even look in a mirror. I don’t brush my hair. I never put on make up. I don’t care. All of my clothes have holes in them, are faded, and look like shit. It is going to take a bit of adjustment to get used to normal people clothes and feeling like I belong in them.

12. Not constantly saying goodbye to people

Of the most exciting things on this list, is that I will be able to keep in touch with people I meet. Saying goodbye constantly takes its toll and is something that I do on a daily basis. It makes you somewhat closed to meeting new people because you know that everyone is transient.

Well, five more weeks of this and then life changes. Until then, I better get back to brushing my teeth from the bottle and going to bed in my holey socks! Cheers!

 

Dear Boys of South America

For any of you who behave like real men, in a respectful and honest manner, then I am not talking to you. I do not have any problems with you whatsoever because many of you are lovely human beings that I have had fabulous interactions with. This letter is addressed to the “little boys”. The ones that haven’t grown up to realise their manners or civic responsibility. The ones who view women as property and objects and behave as though they are entitled because they were born with a Y chromosome. You. I’m talking to you. Because there are some things I would like you to know.

1. Honking your horn at me incessantly as you make your way down the street does not make me like you. It makes me annoyed. You are behaving like an ignored five year-old jumping up and down screaming “I’m here! I’m here!” Well guess what? That’s lovely, but I really don’t give a fuck. I give minus fucks when you are doing so with your girlfriend on the back of your motorbike or your mother.

2. Making comments about my appearance as I walk down the street whilst salivating all over your own chin is not a way to pick up women. It’s disgusting. You remind me of the salivating dogs in the street that roam around sniffing each others arses.

3. You are not entitled to touch my body because you have a Y chromosome. In fact, when I tell you to stop touching me, that does not translate to ‘please, put your hand on my boob or my vagina’.

4. Just because I am a solo, white, female traveller that is not married, does not mean that I want to marry you and I am here with the sole purpose of finding a husband. Unless you’re my old boss. Who is a man, by the way, and used to ask me every week as a joke. But at least he asked my name first and gave a shit about who I was as a person before he tried to put a ring on it (jokingly).

5. When I tell you I am not interested in talking to you, that is exactly what I mean. It does not mean that if you follow me down the street asking me questions that I am all of a sudden going to think to myself, ‘yeah, respectful human who respects the wishes of others by doing what they ask them to, I want to have a big long chat with that person’. Not going to happen.

6. I am not an object. I am not property that you can fight over or argue about. I am a person. I will do what I want, not what you decide for me among yourselves.

The truth is, I am sick of it. The amount of times I have been sexually harassed verbally and physically on this trip I cannot count on both my hands and my toes. Some of the stories would horrify you. And while there are some lovely and incredible men in this part of the world, the general culture of males here needs a serious looking at. As a western woman, this is confronting. What is more concerning is that to the women here, this is the normal. They accept this because it is such standard everyday fare. But it is not ok. And we need to make a united stand about how ‘not OK’ this is.

I know that currently in the world, there are many different cultures attacking this very issue. And progress is slow. It always is because it takes generations of good examples to raise respectful boys and nurture them into being respectful men. And when the constant example for every five year old boy is that yelling and screaming obscene shit at women down the street and touching them inappropriately is the standard thing to do, this is just going to continue to propagate. So please, boys, stop teaching your sons to behave like disrespectful arseholes and man up. Teach your sons how to be real men. Respectful. Considerate.

And to be honest, you are making it even more difficult for the nice guys who are respectful because I have gotten to the point where I assume that the majority of you men on the street are crotch-grabbing arseholes and I want to run away from all of you. I want to hide. I even felt uncomfortable laying on a beach the other day when I realised there weren’t many people around and there were three of you walking towards me. I was on high alert. This is not how I should feel in the middle of the day on a beach, and yet it is. Constantly on edge, constantly looking for who is around me and how to avoid people and situations, constantly getting ready to fight back. What a way to live in the world. Aren’t you lucky that you never have to think about these things?

But you know, I am a woman, and that is the price that I pay for being born with two X chromosomes. My genetic defect appears to give you rights that are so much more privileged than mine. But remember who grew you inside their body and then looked after you to make sure that you were alive in this world. That is right. Your mother. A woman. And just like every woman, she is having to deal with this shit too. Without women, you wouldn’t be here to behave like you do, so maybe you should show some more respect and stop behaving like such self-entitled, possessive and ignorant arseholes. So on behalf of all women in this world, man the fuck up, boys. I’ve had enough and so have the rest of the world’s women.

Thanks,

Dano