Category Archives: Challenge

Shit I Learned On The Way To Adelaide

My friends were getting married and so I figured that instead of flying over, I would drive and spend the better part of the week hanging out and helping and this also meant that I could go to the wedding and the hens party. But in the grand tradition of “This could only ever happen to you, Dano”, life had other plans for me.

1. Fill your tank of petrol when  you’re half empty.

I decided that I would go via Mount Gambler to see a few of the sights and stop over for a night. So if that was as far as I  was going, I may as well take a detour to the start of the Great Ocean Road to the chocolaterie place that serves ice creams as big as your head and call it a double and has a giant bowl of free chocolate button samples. This was all well and good. I plugged Mount Gambler into the GPS and set off. But GPS at this location decided back roads and gravel were way more efficient and fun and I agreed up until the point where I hadn’t seen a petrol station in over 400km. I am about 60km put of Mount Gambler when my fuel light is on and I know I’m not making it so I Google petrol station in the nearest town and go there.

When I arrive I can’t find the fuel station and I hit the local pub to ask where it is, only to be told that I can’t get fuel without one of those cards specific to that station. “Fuck fuckity fuck….”. The man in the pub then mentions to me that he may have four litres of fuel in a jerry can in the back of his truck and that I could have it. Thank you to the kindness of strangers. If it weren’t for this man I’d be sleeping in my car til morning until someone came to open up the fuel station. Turns out 4L was more than sufficient to get me there.

2. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

Namely when you read that the hostel reception is open between 4 and 9pm and you get there at 7:30pm, pick up the phone on the wall to buzz in and get told they all went home an hour ago and you can’t stay there. Great. Time to go down the road to the local pub instead. In all honesty, five bucks more and my own space. Probably a good thing with what was to come next.

3. Never underestimate Murphy’s ability to fuck you over.

So I spent the night sweating through my bed until I drowned it and woke up with my throat clamped over and unable to swallow. Cool, it’s Thursday. The first one of the school holidays and like clockwork, I am sick. But like always, I think I can manage this fine and I set off on my way to go see the Umpherston Sinkhole, Blue Lake and the Naracoorte Caves and finally get myself to Adelaide.

This is what actually happens. I drive to Blue Lake in shit weather, get out of the car for thirty seconds to look at it and get back in the car. I drive to the  sinkhole, I stumble around the sinkhole for ten minutes feeling like I’m going to fall over and get back into the car and start driving. I get as far as twenty minutes down the road to Penola before I am shaking behind the wheel and concede that I need a doctor so I pull into their hospital/clinic and they have an appointment.

The doctor upon taking one look at me says “Yeah you look pretty septic right now and pills aren’t going to hit this quick enough and before you know it I’m on a table getting a penicillin injection in my arse and suffering a dead leg as a consequence. “No driving” he says “you will drive down the road in thirty minutes to get your pills and find somewhere to sleep and that’s it.”

Well fuck. So much for the hens night. Getting to Adelaide, or any of it. I got to the caravan park in Padthaway and passed out. The next day I spent most of the day in a state of unconsciousness. I missed the hens party. I missed the AFL grand final. I missed being able to consume water.

Three nights in Padthaway later and I was able to eat and had my energy up. I left to drive towards Adelaide.

4. Giant wombats and kangaroos are well fucking cool.

I hit the town of Naracoorte first, slightly backtracking as this is the home of some of the most impressive fossil remains of the megafauna that once roamed the Australian continent about fifty thousand years ago. They have about six football sized fields of fossil remains from where these animals fell through the cave holes and died in there. There were two-ton wombats, round-nosed kangaroos, all manner of super cool and massive animals. They assume their demise was based on an ice age and human hunting.

5. Galahs are evil mofos. 

Get out of the car to the bathroom in the national park after a nice walk around the Chinaman’s Well circuit to have a bunch of Galah’s swoop at you to the point where you can feel them grazing the side of your head and you’re yelling “alright, I get the fucking point. I don’t want to eat your goddamn babies so fuck off and leave me alone!” whilst calmly trying to navigate your way to the car without your brains getting spilled on the dirt path.

6. But mosquitoes are the worst kind of mofos.

I pulled into a free campground a couple of hours out of Adelaide right before sundown and went about trying to set up my tent. I’ve got the hatch open and I’m pulling things out and getting the tent set up real quick when I realise I’m in a mosquito cloud and they are biting my arse through my pants. After getting it all set up, I jump into my car and shut all the doors to realise that my car is full of mosquitoes as well. And then all of a sudden I’m like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill slaughtering anything in the car that moves and screaming “dead body, dead body!” down the phone to my friend who is obsessed with murder shows. About three hundred dead bodies later and I feel I can rest easy in the car but am afraid to run to the tent. But when I got out they were gone. Turns out it was just a dusk affair.

7. The church on the fifty dollar bill is in Raukkan. 

Can’t get into it. I tried. But it was pretty to look at from the outside.

And then I got in my car and finished the leg to Adelaide. Arriving only five days later than I said I would, and with more stories to fuel the Stories nickname….

Is This All There Is?

Every single morning I wake up to a giant wall of photos that remind me of the adventures that I have had in my life. Facebook sends me memories spanning eleven years and majority of those notifications are of me being somewhere else in the world doing something amazing. Today’s memories consist of photos from hiking the Ciudad Perdida in Colombia a year ago, visiting Charles Darwin’s house three years ago, being drunk in my new cowboy hats and boots at Calgary Stampede singing away to Vance Joy four years ago as well as dressing up as Shaun and Timmy the Sheep for work and having kids pull my tail. Seven years ago I was standing under a bridge watching a free Cirque du Soleil show in Quebec as a part of their summer festival and eleven years ago I had uploaded photos from the night when I sang with Santa in front of 20,000 people at Carols By Candlelight. Every single day I see these things and I feel like I have nothing exciting right now to add to it. Nothing that would make me feel excited to see in a year’s time from now. It has left me with this horrid feeling; ‘Is this all there is? Did I sprint so hard at the beginning of my race that I forgot to leave something else in the tank to finish it?’

The truth is, nobody ever knows when their race is going to finish and I know of far too many who have had their races cut short and didn’t do half the things that they wanted with their lives. Me? I took heed and just went and did everything I could. And honestly, I regret nothing, because if I did die tomorrow at least it was a life lived fully. But looking back compared to now, I don’t know where to go. I have been so spoiled for experiences in my life, I don’t know what new ones to seek in a place that is settled.

In the last week I have taken up the new hobby of axe throwing in a hope to meet new people and hone a very fun but yet somewhat useless skill. My aim is to be as cool as Justin Timberlake throwing two axes at once, one in each hand, at two separate targets and hitting them both. My hero! I go salsa dancing every week. I go to my meet up group and speak Spanish. I box three days a week. There is no shortage in my life of things to do. But when I was doing this in England, school holidays consisted of the opportunity to offload every six to seven weeks on a new holiday somewhere to explore and Australia doesn’t really offer this opportunity from sheer size of the country and because of cost. This is the first school holidays I have ever had where I have stayed somewhere. I thought about driving somewhere random on my own and going camping and hiking, but then the busy schedule of things to do and the wretched holiday sickness set in and that put a stop to it.

I guess one of the things that I have learned and started to embrace since returning is the idea that I have to find new and wonderful things to do and people in one place and that will take a little more active effort on my behalf. If I am to continue living a life full of adventure and meeting new people, I need to actively go about seeking these things out and saying yes to every opportunity that comes my way, just like I did on the road. I need to find people like me who are willing to also seek out and say yes to all these crazy things with me…. like axe throwing.

At the end of the day, you get out what you put into it.  And so if I make the intrinsic decision to love hard, work hard and play hard, I can make this work. Maybe I can find more in a place where I have sat for so long wondering ‘Is this all there is? Is this as good as it gets?’ Because honestly. how good it gets, well that is up to me.

 

The Wasteful Society

In a time where combating climate change, managing resources and waste reduction are hot topics that will define the outcome of the future of our planet, I have never been more disgruntled. Everywhere I look driving down the suburban streets of Melbourne are piles and piles of shit that people are offloading onto the nature strip. This phenomenon is known as “hard rubbish”, and back in the day it was used to put out larger items of very broken things for the rubbish man to collect, such as couches, beds and bookcases. These days, people are so lazy that they are dumping all manner of things on the nature strip for people to illegally forage or because they can’t be fucked driving down the road to donate it to Vinnies or the Salvos.

Outside the front of my apartment block sat a tub of plates, cups and bowls of a more olden style for a good week, getting rained on. The truth is, somebody less fortunate could have used those and they should have been taken to a charity organisation so that they could be given away to somebody in need. God knows there are enough homeless people on the streets of Melbourne right now that could use a hand with some free furniture, heaters, vacuum cleaners, kitchen ware, bookcases, chairs, prams and all other manner of quality things people are throwing away to “upgrade”.

Handbag, neck pillow, trolley to fucking carry them in… All things that could easily been walked ten minutes down the road to a charity bin instead of getting fucked on the side of the road in the rain and are now not usable.

I can now trot down the road and buy a shitty new bookcase at Kmart for twenty bucks, which is less than an hours worth of work, and when I’m bored of the colour or the shape or need a mix up in my house cause I’m bored as fuck and have nothing else meaningful to spend my money on that I work so hard for, I go to Kmart and buy another shitty bookcase, or better yet, I upgrade to another less shitty brand for the point of being seen to be more trendy. People are buying for the sake of buying instead of for need and then when they have too much shit, they chuck it and clear it all out for the next haul of shit to incorporate into their lives.

Gone are the days of darning holes in socks, reupholstering couches or even bothering to move most of your furniture to your new house when your lease is up. May as well toss that shit to the curb and get the Ikea man to deliver a new batch, because of course, it is a new chapter.

As someone who still wears underpants with holes in them and gets told off by my mother for it, the idea of getting rid of anything still functional to anywhere other than a charity shop appals me. It is the laziness and disregard for the resources that are becoming more and more limited to us each and every day. It is the constant need to feel like we aren’t a failure if everything we own is new and shiny so we can keep up appearances to others. It is the complacency of our easy lives where you don’t even have to drive to KFC to get it when hungover anymore because someone will just bring it to you. So why should I drive my junk to a charity shop for someone else’s benefit. If they want it, come and get it. I’m just going to leave it here, the shortest distance from my door away and if the council gets to it to dump it into landfill before you do then stiff shit. It can go to landfill with all the rest of the shit I turfed out last month.

More than ever before, we need to take action. And while people are up in arms about plastics and biodegradables and cutting waste, fighting the good fight, majority are too lazy to be bothered because of the selfishness of not seeing past themselves. And that right there is not just a sad thing to observe, but a waste of the fucking planet and a waste of the life that won’t exist in as short as a few thousand years because of it. As convenience replaces having a conscience, we collectively give less of a fuck about each other, the environment or the future outside of our direct selves. We waste our opportunities to have a positive mark on the world and our society with our complacent and lazy attitudes. And while it isn’t everybody, there are a number of people who fight the good fight, many can’t be bothered and procrastinate the now. Because I’m not going to know about it when I’m dead and then the waste can be someone else’s problem for good.

As someone who has travelled around the world and seen how little that others have globally, my frustration for the constant moaning by members of developed societies about how hard it is that they have it because they can’t upgrade to a larger television or get pissed this weekend without shelling over a hundred bucks is infuriating. Even students I used to teach in England would snap the pencils I loaned them in half and then tell me to get over it because I can replace it for ten pence. Smash their phones? Whatever, their parents will give them another new top of the line iPhone to replace it as long as they throw a large enough tantrum. There is no inherent value in the possessions that we have anymore and we are more than ever becoming consumption machines that are taking in as much as we can and spitting out what doesn’t suit us anymore without thought or consequence.

The biggest questions I guess from here are to what consequence? And exactly how long can we keep going at life like this until these consequences seriously set in. My friend has convinced me that to survive the impending apocalypse we should go and learn which native plants we can forage so that we will live when there is no food on supermarket shelves left over. My other friend who worked in natural land management suggested not to do so if I didn’t want to die of heavy metal poisoning. Apparently we are wasting our soil by dumping our toxic products into creek streams without stress of repercussions either.

Nothing makes us sit up and pay attention. Nothing makes us listen. And as our society becomes more and more involved in themselves and how to make themselves look good to millions of others on the internet, or how to make millions of dollars to not share with others, I am wondering what it will take to make this happen. I am wondering how far this is going to go before all hell breaks loose and our option to be so wasteful is taken from us. Maybe I will see it in my lifetime. Maybe I won’t. I fucking I hope I don’t. But somehow I feel this is a large possibility right now.

 

 

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.

 

“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.