29 April 2013

Documenting the fun times

I cannot express how much of an emotional rollercoaster it is to be back home in Australia again, with no end in sight. It's been a constant flux from anxiety about the fact that I have nothing figured out with no job or house to call my own, not to mention the challenge of adjusting to not being on the travel road anymore... to pure and uninterrupted joyous elation at being taken care of by my parents (I am staying with them for the time being), the amazingly fun time with my friends, and being able to enjoy the simple joys in life that I missed whilst traveling such as staying up late on your on computer and blogging.

The last 2 months have been a blur, a whirlwind, a fairytale and a nightmare. But regardless of the emotion I am feeling on any given day (or in any given hour really), it is one that will forever shape me, alas I want to write it down here.

First there was a camping trip with one of my very best friends. It was an absolute blast, just 3 simple and laid back days of fishing, chilling by the fire, beers, and chatting. It was the first time I have gotten away from home since my return, and it was the perfect way to leave all my stress behind.

Enjoying the blue skies and open fields!
I now get to spend time again with one of my favourite females in the world... Tessa! I try and see her every week, and with the weather still great of late, the beach is our favourite hang out.

My package containing some mosaic art works I did whilst in New York City that I have been expecting finally arrived, very cool! And I am glad they made it all this way in one piece. Wow... I still can't believe only two months ago I was living and working in Manhattan.

There has also been some amazing parties and drinking nights with my very best friends, one of which I am tempted to post some pictures of because of how ridiculously I was dressed! (It was a colourful dress-up themed party... yeah, things got wild!).

There was a second camping trip, this time with the same best friend that I went with the previous time, but also with two other friends as well (one being that girl that I am secretly crazy about...). It was... far out, it really was an amazing time really, one in which I think I need to dedicate a post to. Alas, another day perhaps.

And... well, just too much stuff really. I don't know, I am never writing on this blog to brag, or to try and convince you readers that 'my life is amazing' or something like that... far from it. In fact, my life is indeed far from amazing, I just choose not to write too much about the bad stuff, that's all. The reason I do write all this down however is for my own personal collection and archive, for I fear that, I don't know, like I will forget all these amazing times or something, and it scares me that I might forget about them. This of course makes little sense, because if they really were that amazing then I am sure my brain would remember them anyway, true?

I guess I just like being able to go back and read about times like this when I might be having a bad day, or feeling lonely, or lost, or anxious, or the myriad of other low points that come and go, as they do to everyone.

I hope you all are having your own memorable moments too, sincerely.

27 April 2013

Guest Post from Ashley Riordan

Today I am proud to present an awesome guest post written by one of my favourite bloggers, Ashley from Ashley Riordan! She has been having quite the adventurous year or two, and recently embarked on her first solo overseas trip last year to Germany. I was very interested in hearing on how she overcame her fears, dealt with the challenges, and traversed the unknowns that is travel, especially when done on ones own.


Traveling Alone in Germany

My name is Ashley and I blog at Ashley Riordan.  I recently traveled to Germany, which was my first trip outside of North America, and Aaron asked me to write about the fears I conquered, experiencing a different culture, traveling alone, and how this experience has changed me.  It hardly makes sense to me now, but I was really scared before I left.  I couldn’t even really place my fear.  It was ambiguous.  I just had no idea what to expect.  It was so bad that I was having trouble taking deep breaths.  That is, until the minute that I landed in Germany and felt completely fine.

I think the fear was just a natural part of doing something for the first time and doing it alone.  I didn’t conquer it in any magnificent way.  I just kept taking these small steps toward going until the only step left was to get on a plane. I’ve boarded a plane tons of times, so I knew how to take that last step, and then after a long and uncomfortable flight, I was there.  Once I was in Germany, I managed my fear and uncertainty by focusing only on one step at a time.  Things as simple as: find a place to stay, figure out how to get there from the airport, find something to eat, and figure out where you’re going next.

I arrived in Germany with only a vague geographical plan.  I had never traveled like this before, and I’m from the west coast of the United States where getting from one major city to another is no easy thing, so I didn’t know how realistic I was being in thinking that I could see so much in only a week.  This ended up being a great way to see the country.  I would love to go back and spend more time in each city, but I was able to see way more than I expected.

I told myself before I left that I shouldn’t fear looking like an idiot, because there was no reason to expect myself to know what I was doing in a foreign country traveling alone for the first time.  I was sitting in a restaurant in Seattle with my Dad just before I left when a Japanese girl approached us to ask about how she should tip, and after she walked away my dad said, “That’s going to be you in a week.”  As it turned out, for the first time in my life, I naturally felt that it was okay if I made mistakes.  I recently heard travel writer Andrew McCarthy say that when he’s at home, he would never think to ask for help from anyone, but when he’s traveling, he doesn’t hesitate.  I was far enough out of my element that I didn’t mind asking for help or admitting that I didn’t know things.  It didn’t even bother me when a German man yelled at me for not opening the train door fast enough.

I have done most of my traveling with friends, but it was really important for me to take this trip alone.  I had been thinking about it and working up the courage and saving the money for a long time, and this was something that I wanted to do on my own.  I’m a person who really likes to be alone a lot of the time, but I didn’t know how well that would translate into traveling alone for a week, and I worried that I would be lonely.  I never was.  I was traveling so much and seeing so many things that I was never sorry to be alone.  I did meet and talk to new people, but I’m not a particularly social person, so that really wasn’t the point of traveling alone for me.  Most of my down time I spent reading and writing, which was perfect for me.

I felt very safe in Germany, but there are some precautions to take when you’re traveling alone.  I gave my parents and close friends an itinerary of where I expected to be each day.  I also gave my friends the contact information of my parents in case they ever thought something might be wrong.  I tried to get in contact as often as I could, though my internet and phone access were somewhat limited.  I would just say where I was and where I was planning to go next.  I sent an email to a friend when I was in Munich saying that I was in the train station talking to a boy, and just joked that if she didn’t hear from me again then I had probably been kidnapped, and then I caught an early train toward the mountains where I had no internet access for more than 24 hours. I learned my lesson with that: no jokes about kidnapping unless you’re sure you will have internet access in the immediate future.

A week wasn’t really long enough to absorb much of the culture.  I spent less than 24 hours in each city, which just meant getting a glimpse of what each place had to offer.  But that was okay with me, because I have every intention of going back to Germany more than once in my life, and I would really love to live there for a while.  The most profound way this experience changed me was that it made me realize I could actually get on a plane and go experience a new place by myself.  Once you start traveling, that seems like the easiest thing in the world, but I had a lot of doubts before taking my first trip.  Now I am so impatient to travel internationally again that I am having a hard time being satisfied with my lovely but quiet life here in California.

23 April 2013

Midnight in Paris

I am far from being a Francophone at any stretch of the imagination, although I am slowly teaching myself to speak French. I live in Australia, perhaps one of the most geographically distant places from France as you could possibly be, although we do love our wines and fine dining here too. And despite myself I find myself quite moved as I sit here watching Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris.

I love Owen Wilson's character, he reminds me of myself; full of passion, rants, ideologies, all of which seem to fall on deaf ears when expressed to his friends and family. He is, of course, with the wrong woman, one who not only does not support these... eccentricities of his, but even shuns them! This to me is unacceptable, and depressing, for my biggest joy in life is the chance to just be myself, completely myself, and being able to do this with other people around me, ones who accept it all, or even support it.

I, of course, have not a woman of my own, but much like the character in the movie I like to live in a different time era, and dream of what my future might hold and how I wish to shape it. At 24 years old I have yet been lucky enough to find 'the one', but I guess I am still young, and there is still much learning to be done and adventurous to be had. Despite all the cities I have visited before, and the countless people I have already met, I still don't feel quite at home yet nor have I found the place where I feel I truly belong.

I do not think France is that place, but the idea of it does fill me with hope and inspiration to at the very least keep searching. To find that special place, and that special someone.

I like to think that I am destined for somewhat greatness. Not to become famous or a celebrity of course, as that is something I have no interest in, but greatness more in the sense of what greatness to me feels like. At peace, happy, productive, full of life accomplishments and adventures.

After recently returning from my 11 month solo trip around America I feel that it was just a test, a stepping stone, with the real challenges still ahead of me just waiting to be thought up, planned for, and then embarked upon. I want to live in a foreign country that speaks a foreign language, whether that be France, Taiwan, Japan or China. I want that challenge of learning the new language and culture, of starting a brand new life, to see the world through different eyes and customs.

And most importantly, well, there are two things that are most important to me, and they are this; to first and foremost find what my passion is, my calling, where my true skills and desires lie in life. In Midnight In Paris the protagonist called himself a writer. I do not have a title to call myself when someone asks me 'And what do you do?'. I do too many things, which is an answer yet not an answer to the question at the same time.

And secondly, of equal importance, and I fear I am repeating myself here but alas I want to state it clearly again; I want to find someone to do all this with, to share all these ideas with, and to learn from theirs as well. Life is too complicated and boring to traverse on ones own, and much like the movie where the main character realizes that he is with the wrong person who does not enhance his life, I too know that finding the right person to enhance your life is worth the risks, wait, and the courage.

Peut'etre, une jour bientot, je vais le trouver.

16 April 2013

2013 direction and goals

Every year I like to have a set goal, challenge or direction to work towards, it helps me plan my days and months better and is it always nice to accomplish something you set out for. Since returning from my trip away just over a month ago, my year is completely wide open with absolutely no commitments what so ever, meaning that I am free to shape this year (and my life at that) absolutely any way that I'd like!

In 2010 it was all about the challenge of completing my Honours thesis. 2011 was the year dedicated to planning and organizing for my big America trip, and to save money. And of course 2012 was when I embarked on said big America trip, and continued doing so before returning in February 2013.

Despite returning back to Australia 6 weeks ago I am only just now getting used to life again, and to the point where I feel ready to start planning for the next challenge of my life.

Oh, side topic: so it turns out, as I had suspected all along, that travel is indeed one of my biggest and main passions in life! So with that declared, I guess I should start revolving my life around that endeavor in some way shouldn't I, with travel requiring equal parts money, free time, and a thirst for adventure to achieve. At the moment I have a huge surplus of the latter two and am only lacking in the former, thus this year is all about saving money.

Well, to save money, but also to reconnect with my friends again. Being away from everyone while traveling was by far the worst experience of it all, to miss out on so many celebratory events such as birthdays, graduations and promotions, was terribly disheartening. But alas, moving on.

So, my first short term goals for the foreseeable future are:
- Gain sufficient employment
- Earn enough money to move out of my parents house and back to my favourite town as quickly as possible
- Have as much fun with my friends as I can

I am already off to a great start, having gained a permanent Friday employment last week, as well as some freelance programming work, I am certainly on the right track. I might even be ready to move out by the end of the month! And the having fun with friends part is easy.

Once the above are gaining motion and I am in a much better position, there are few personal directions I would like to start working towards, with the end of this year being my deadline:
- To finally get some iPhone apps onto the AppStore
- Get better at swing dancing, and my French (both of which are currently at a beginner level at best)
-  To improve upon my freelance programming portfolio and to gain more clients (currently I only have 1, although he does pay well at least)

This year really is all about just staying put, building my foundations again (with money, friendships, work portfolio), before embarking on more adventures in the near future. After the year I've just had, a slower, more evenly paced year is much welcomed.

And lastly... well, this one has been on my mind for quite some time, so I think it is time to... I don't know, put some effort into? In short, this is the year that I think I'd really like to get a nice girlfriend, to share my life with and be able to be involved in theirs as well. The timing feels right, and I know that I have mentioned this numerous times over the lifetime of this blog, especially in regards to how I'd love to travel with someone for a change instead of mostly solo like I currently do. I am turning 25 this year, and my last serious girlfriend was quite some time ago now... so, yeah, that'd be a nice additional goal to work on as well.

Hmm, so I guess that's it. I am quite excited about this year in fact. Being able to move house to be near my friends again will be a blast, and I do find the challenge of gaining employment quite exhilarating to be honest, to slowly bit by bit climb the ladder to where you hope to end up.

So now all that is left is to work towards it!

14 April 2013

Having fun rebuilding

After enjoying my unemployment immensely with days at the beach, golf, and catching up with all my friends again once more (wow I missed them while I was away!) I figured it was time to get serious with life once more. After getting some affairs in order (renewing my driver's license, reopening my bank account), the next thing to tackle of course was to find some employment, as disappointingly I can't continue on this holiday life-style forever haha.

My first attempt for employment was at my old University where I still have many great friends and contacts. I talked to a couple of my old lecturers to see if they had any work they'd be happy to pass on to me, and as my luck would have it they did!

Every Friday I am now teaching the Project Management class for 3rd year and Masters students, awesome! I absolutely love teaching the practical classes at my University, as I've conducted a class before whilst I was doing my Honours degree back in 2010, so to have the chance to do so again is fantastic. Not to mention that the income is most highly welcomed seeing as I've just spent the last 11 months traveling America off my savings account.

To add even further to my employment success I also got hired by one of the lecturers to do some computer programming for a project he is working on (I am a computer programmer if you were unaware), which means more income, yay!

Despite this win I still have a long way to go however, for the teaching is only on Fridays, and the programming is only a couple of days a week also, thus I will need some more solid employment soon if I am to get back on my feet. For now there is little urgency as I am staying at my parents house since my return from America, therefore (and thankfully!) accommodation and food is free, but I really do not wish to be at my parents house any longer than I have to be. The University is one hours drive away, and all my amazing friends whom I had to leave behind live near the University also. It is where my life is really, and I hate being away from it.

I am quite enjoying this 'rebuilding life' challenge that I have stepped into. To return from overseas after such a long time you can rarely just step into your old life again and continue on like nothing ever happened, and instead must kind of rebuild it all over again. It is awesome however when you think about it, it is almost like being able to start over again where you can begin from the base and build upwards in any way you like.

I have a grand idea on how I am hoping to shape my life, and now I get to have the fun of building it that way =)

08 April 2013

Enjoying my unemployment

Week three of my return to Australia after my 11 month travel abroad, and I know I must sound like a terribly broken these days with all this talk of being home, but seriously it is much more difficult to do than you may imagine! Unless of course you have also done it yourself, in which case I am sure you would agree with me here. Ha, anyways, slowly I am getting life back on track, and am curiously optimistic (and equally petrified) about what the future may hold.

And what's the first step you may ask? Applying for jobs to start saving again To enjoy some great times with my sorely missed friends of course!

Me looking for employment. I searched all day but couldn't find any!

My friends however, annoyingly, all either work full-time or study full-time. The downfall there is just that, it is full-time, meaning that when its midday on a Tuesday and I feel like going to the beach or a game of golf, I have no one to go with! Which then cheers me up as I realize that it is midday on a Tuesday and I am debating whether I'd prefer to sit by the beach or play some golf while all my friends are stuck at work, ha. In their moments of freedom from commitments however, we have had quite the fun since my return!

My great mate Brendan is an avid lawn bowls player (he is 23 years old, not 60, by the way), and organized a lawn bowls tournament for about 12 of our friends. Many beers were had, while also attempting to bowl, which is difficult to do even whilst sober so you can imagine the chaos that ensured. The thrill of the night got the best of me, and I got pretty hammered I admit, which thankfully was to the delight of my two team mates (my friends Liz and Isaac) who joined me with my new found enthusiasm for the game of lawn bowls, and we proceeded to be the loudest, most energetic team on the field haha! It was awesome.

The highlight of the night of course was being greeted via a gigantic hug by Polly... the girl who I was crazy about before I left for my trip, and whom now that I am back and despite it being over a year since I had last seen her, it appears I am still crazy about? But that is for another post.

As for my previous posts about struggling to cope with being home again? Well, they definitely still apply, for despite all this free time and the fun times with my friends I am still constantly on edge, and worried that things won't work out and that I'll be unemployed for far too long or that things won't be how I remember them or... I don't know. I guess it is the unknown in life that gets to me at times despite how it also excites me at the same time. For now, I will enjoy the good times while they come.

Hmm... maybe there is employment opportunities out here?

05 April 2013

Post-travel slump

After traveling for such a long time, it is hard to put into words how being back is like.

On one side it is simply amazing, I've just had an awesome night out with my very best friends, I started up swing dance classes again, and am really enjoying being surrounded by friends and family. Not to mention how blissful being unemployed can truly be! I've been chilling by the beach, playing golf, going to friends for dinner and drinks constantly, and just being having a real blast living life without the dread that is a work day.

Unemployment rocks, yet... well, it does make me realize that the future is wide open, and after the challenges and exhaustion of travel you'd thing I'd be flying with wings, exuberant at all the possibilities and good times that are now at my fingertips once more. But no, that is not the reality at all.

Despite the freedom and relaxation, I feel flat. Confused. Scared. I traveled for so long that I am having a tough time shaking off the mannerisms and habits that I acquired along the way, and continue to do them even now at home. Without thinking I subconsciously ensure that my possessions are within my sight at all times, even if I am sitting amongst a group of friends with no strangers around. I plan in my head how I am to be returning home, forgetting that I now have my own car to drive and don't have to rely on public transport anymore. And at times I feel lonely, and have to remind myself that I not in a foreign country anymore and that friends and family are only minutes away now.

Then there is a whole 'returning to reality'. Money spent on the road was money dedicated for the trip. Money spent whilst at home is money that is coming out of a bank account that has no money coming into it until I sort myself out and get a job. Getting a job takes responsibility, maturity, and commitment... skills not necessarily required when backpacking around a foreign country, which is one of the many reasons that makes traveling so appealing to be honest!

I guess I am just having a tough time adapting to what life was like before I left. 11 months on the road is quite the feat, and it is no surprise that it would be a challenge to return. But the thing I have realized is that it isn't home that has changed, because really it is identical to how I left it, but it is in fact I who has changed. My perspective on life, my habits, likes and  judgements have all been altered, and unless someone around me has traveled as well, my friends really have no idea what it was really like. I have to explain to them that it wasn't a holiday, that is was at times very tough, sometimes lonely, and scary, and that it makes you miss home quite a lot.

It's been not quite 2 weeks since I have returned home, and I am still struggling to find any kind of groove to fall into. I've been told it just takes time. For now I will slowly continue completing things on my 'returning to normal life to-do list', and hopefully will fall into some recognizable routine soon enough.

01 April 2013

It didn't get easier

A week ago now I returned to my home of Australia after 11 months backpacking around America, and one of the biggest things I have taken away from that trip was this: Travel is damn tough!

Physically, mentally and emotionally you are stretched to your absolute limits, and despite being away for 11 months, I was honestly ready to go home after 6. But that was okay, I pushed through, stuck it all out, and managed to walk away with more memories, achievements and experiences than I ever planned or dreamed of really, all the while keeping in mind that it is temporary and once I am home things will become easier once more.

Well, it turns out, life is damn tough where ever you are.

Being home was a huge shock, and even now I have one foot in my house in Australia and the other carrying my backpack about to board another bus ride to who knows where. I'm restless and stressed. I am loving being back in my old room and surrounded by friends and family, whilst also wandering around aimlessly during the days as I have forgotten what the old me used to do before the travel lifestyle.

In short, I thought things would get easier.

I need a job. Turns out they are difficult to get, made more so by the fact that I have absolutely no willpower nor desire to obtain one.

When does life get easier? When do I get even the slightest of breaks?