[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen I boarded the first of my flights from Washington DC to India, I had no clue that 6 months later I’d be living in a house in Australia with a nice fluffy bed, a big back yard, an oak desk to sit at and write, and a full time job. It’s even strange writing that, since for the past couple of years I’ve mainly crashed on friends couches.
I didn’t think I’d be writing to you from a hipster café in Fitzroy amongst the rusted warehouse windows, the cracked exposed brick, weather worn wood tables, and the waxed mustaches passing by on bicycles. But, I followed the signs and at the end of the Rickshaw Run in India, they were pointing me here. Not to a full time job again, not to this hipster enclave, and especially not to waiting tables — because that was the last thing I wanted to be doing right now. I followed the signs that pointed me to Australia. Have you ever followed a sign in some form? In the past I’ve written about a white butterfly that I always see when I know I’m on the right path.
What was the sign this time?
This time, it wasn’t the white butterfly I’ve seen so many times before. In all honesty, it was the smile of a cute girl and her bright blue eyes that swayed me. Inspired me. Yeah, I can be a sucker sometimes. But I wasn’t chasing a pretty girl to Australia if that’s what you’re thinking. She just happened to be the last person that had told me about living in Australia and how amazing it is. Specifically, how amazing living in Melbourne is. And she was the last, but one of 8 people I met in India, that randomly brought up Melbourne.
It was a sign in my mind.
I was at a loss as to what to do next a month after we survived the Rickshaw Run. Palolem Bay in Goa was the recuperation station — on a beach chair sipping long island ice teas and gazing zombie-like at the lapping waves of the ocean. Damn cliché right? Vegetating out vacationer style isn’t something I often do, but I was trying to recover after falling severely ill in India, and trying to regain some energy and focus that the race had drained. Sure, the long island ice teas weren’t the best for my crippled immune system and diet, but I didn’t have much energy to do anything else. I just had to be plopped somewhere nice.
At that point, it was around a month after the race and I had been traveling with a group of girls from another team. Getting to Nepal to meet with Derek since the earthquake had destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure became impossible, so I tagged along with the others around India. By the time we reached Goa, it was Miss Blue Eyes and I left and everyone else had gone different ways. Nightly we would grab dinner at some barely populated shack on the beach during the off season and talk about random things, but she would bring up living in Melbourne more often then not. And I would always hunger to hear more, because it sounded like a city I’d love to live in. It wouldn’t be until a month after that when I would apply for my year visa and take off to Australia on a whim, but the way she had described the city stuck.
So am I on the right path now?
I will say that I’m not on the wrong path, but I am still trying to grasp living in a city and working a normal job again while saving up for travel. It’s weird. When I left the United States and flew to India, I wrote about breaking the cycle of waiting tables to save for travel. I was sick of it. Up until now, after each adventure of 6-9 months, I’d always return to Washington DC to wait tables to save for the next trip. It was a convenient carousel to be on, and it’s been the reason I could travel. Fast money. But I could never chase more creative means of making a living while being on that carousel going round and round. I promised that I wouldn’t return to Washington DC again to wait tables this time. And I guess I kept that promise in a way, since I’m in Australia working a hospitality job. Though it still feels like the same old issue as before. I’m tired of resorting to that, so it feels like I’m on the right path doing the wrong thing.
Am I liking living in Melbourne?
120 days into my year visa and I have yet to leave the city limits of Melbourne. It’s not a bad thing, because the city is one that you can always find something to do in. But I am getting stir crazy. Melbourne, which has been voted “Most Livable City in the World” a few times is just that — it’s exciting and unique, delicious and artistic, accessible and convenient, pretty affordable and pretty friendly. I could see myself living here for the year and not kicking myself in the ass for doing so because it’s one of those cities that is hard not to love. And since I needed to replenish the coffers after my budget ran low in India, I’ll probably spend the majority of my year visa here. Not to say that I won’t explore Australia as a whole, because I’d hate to come all the way here and not see more, so at some point closer to when I have to leave I’m thinking of road tripping around the country for a couple of months.
Yet, even though it’s an amazing city and would probably go into my top favorite cities along with the likes of New Orleans and Rome, it’s still pretty normal. Normal as in familiar. Normal as in easy. Yes, it is one of the quirkiest cities I’ve ever been in with their crazy sculptures and graffiti strewn walls and the hidden café or bars. With all of that, it’s still a big ole’ city that one can quickly become comfortable and settled into. And settling down has always freaked me out. There’s a part of me that whenever I’m living in a city that’s modern and connected and similar to “home” aches for the hot nights beside a wheezing fan on a crappy mattress in some bungalow, listening to the monstrous jungle bugs crying in the night. It’s a feeling that has me yearning for the times like sleeping in a loft of a Roman theater broke and living on crusty bread. I guess it is the lack of adventurous experiences in “livable” cities that has been bugging me.
Right now, whether I like it or not, it is necessary to be here.
Melbourne is great to live in, and I really do like it. I’m happy transitioning into finding a way to support traveling without waiting tables by waiting tables in Australia and not in Washington DC. It’s a decent give and take, and hospitality is one of the only types of jobs a backpacker can land here. It’s allowed me to start putting money away for those grandiose adventures where I live on a daily budget and take off to a new place on a whim. I’ve also been able to recover my health after I lost 20lbs in India, and start focusing on fitness and nutrition so I can be 100% for the next trip and be conscious of how to stay that way.
Since working in Australia can pay a pretty good amount, I was able to purchase a new Macbook Pro which I’ve been wanting to do for years, since my aging Macbook pro from 2010 has been struggling to keep up with my editing of travel videos. Though I’m one that has almost no possessions except what is in my backpack, my weakness is technology. But the new laptop, and potentially new camera that I’m saving for, are all creative tools for me.
Besides making money and saving, what else have I been up to?
Graffiti. No, I haven’t been running around Melbourne in the witching hour hooded and tagging buildings. The walls around Melbourne bleed graffiti and street art everywhere, and given that I’ve been known to search out cities specifically known for their street art, Melbourne has some of the best I’ve seen. On my days off, I wander all around the city through alleys and side streets discovering more and more art that blows my mind. Melbourne is a city that embraces expression through art and majority of the time, has no problem with it being public. Around the city on corporate buildings you’ll spot murals 10 stories high. Back alleys you’ll find a masked artist spray painting their latest piece in broad daylight because Melbourne has a lot of walls in the city dedicate to legal graffiti and street art.
On any given day in Melbourne you’ll also stumble upon the most eclectic street performers — from a beatboxing flute player, to an artist painting with coffee, to the 80 year old Chinese mandolin player. And when I have time, that’s all I do is wander. Melbourne is one of those cities you can and should get lost in. I spent the first two months here not just job searching, but wandering 5-10km a day on foot coming across one fascinating aspect of the city to another. It’s a city that’s alive and cranking, and every day of the week there is some live musical performance or festival.
There is a lot to gawk and gaze at in Melbourne artistically, but it’s also been inspiring my creative side.
Living here is such a vibrant city has allowed me to begin focusing on writing and editing videos once again. Back home in Washington DC, I’ve never felt a sense of inspiration while waiting tables. I get in this funk where I’m physically and mentally and emotionally…blah. That’s a good way to sum it up. The creative mojo just isn’t there. And then I start traveling again and suddenly BAM, the creative juices are flowing once again. Here in Melbourne, it hasn’t been the same issue as I face working the same gig at home. I’ve been feeling driven to jump back into writing and collaging, and now that I have a laptop that can handle it, I’ve been amped to churn out travel videos. At least lately.
What was it like first arriving in Australia?
Besides not understanding half of the things Australian say at first? It has taken months to catch onto the Straya’ lingo, and I’m still finding myself going confused. It isn’t the accent problem, because though I have a hard time understanding Australians on occasion, it’s more of the abbreviations. Abbrevs. Abs. Australians, at least in Melbourne, seem to love to abbreviate words until they exist as two or three letters, with some not making any sense at all. One day, a woman asked me “What’s on this arvo?” and I proceeded to just stare like an idiot not knowing how to respond. She politely elaborated, “What are you doing this afternoon?” and I replied with a length “ooooooooooooooh”.
Working in a restaurant has been fun in it’s own way. For example, besides someone saying, “Gimme a parmie and a tall mac, I’m gonna’ have a ciggie and after bring a spider for me.” I hope you can picture me just writing down parmie and mac and spider with question marks beside them without knowing what the hell they were talking about. When I asked my manager, he laughed at me and said, “They ordered the chicken parmesan, and a tall macchiato. After they have a cigarette, he wants a spider which is ice-cream in lemonade”.
It still doesn’t make a lot of sense to me but it’s a foreign country with a foreign lingo and I’m adapting. I’m “sussing” it out for myself and starting to understand.
My first 60 days here had it’s highs and lows.
When I arrived in Australia, I was ill and struggling from health issues in India. I eventually recovered, but it took the first 60-90 days to get my immune system and body healthy again, and now I’m still on a pretty strict diet. So the first 60 days were pretty rocky. I spent majority of the time searching for work, and I was working in a hostel for free accommodation. But after scoring a waiter job at a different restaurant, coming back to a cramped room with 8 people and no space of my own was too much. I love the hostel lifestyle while I’m bouncing from destination to destination every few days, but being somewhere long term it was making me frustrated and bitter. I needed to get out of there.
I now have my own room in an awesome house!
Now that I’ve been working full time and writing again, there was no way I could deal with living in a hostel. After a few weeks of house hunting, I have finally found a spot of my own. In North Melbourne inside an aging Victorian house, I have a large room with a big bed and a writing desk. The housemates are cool, and we are all creative heads who get along but are pretty independent. We almost never see each other. I know, it’s not much. But for someone who doesn’t own anything and hasn’t rented a room in a few years, it’s a big deal. It’s an odd feeling enjoying having a square space to call my own so much. I’ve bought plants. I’ve bought paintings and maps. I’ve bought things to decorate it with. I know it’s all temporary, but it’s a temporary space that I can put away the backpack for a while, get organized and inspired, and sleep in a comfortable bed.
Yes. I even have a lawn gnome.
Even though I’ve been feeling inspired lately, it has been a struggle creatively for the past few months.
This travel blog for years has been something I wanted to do full time, but I’m not there yet.
I like to think that I put a lot of my soul into this travel memoir — given the amount of personalization I put into the design and every blog post. Even the travel videos I’ve been getting back into takes hours upon hours to edit since I like to add little details and have it with a unique look. As always, I’m a perfectionist with my artistic endeavors, and that is my downfall. When I was in high school I gave up painting because though I was always complimented at my work, I could never finish a project. Last year I set out to write my memoir in November for National Novel Writing Month and spent more time biting my nails and correcting sentences then writing the damn thing. With video, I’ve recorded terabytes of footage since 2012 and always wanted to focus on video more — but I only have a handful of videos actually finished.
With this blog, it’s the same damn issue — I defeat myself.
I pour my heart into the words I write and the stories I share, and I have incredible interactions with all of you that have come along with the journey. But then I start to flounder, thinking about how all of the work has yet to pay off and allow me to be an independent traveler. I still haven’t accomplished my goal of being a permanent nomad who is able to make an income off of my passions. Granted, making an actual income off of travel blogging takes years of time, a little luck, a ton of hard work, and constancy. The last part is something I have lacked.
I get bummed.
I start to measure myself against other people’s success.
I get jealous and make excuses.
Ultimately, I hold myself back from accomplishing my goals because I let that all get the best of me. And then I stop blogging for a while.
Once again I am back at a restaurant waiting tables to save up for travels. And hey, it’s what I’ve done in the past few years and it’s allowed me to travel to 16+ countries. But it drains me. It drains my energy. It drains my drive. And it drains my confidence. Along with that, it takes time away that I should be putting toward finishing my book, writing, and videos.
I allow all of those things to hold me back. And I really don’t know what to do.
Lately I’ve been feeling a little bit inadequate. I have this immense passion and yearning to travel and tell the world about it and inspire others, but I feel like what I do isn’t good enough. Plus, being in a new city and not having many friends here, I see other people on big nights out with friends, or having big birthday parties, and I start to feel inadequate since I don’t have a group of friends here. I can’t remember the last time I had a birthday party, and I’ve never had a surprise party thrown for me ever. Yes, those are silly little things to get jealous over, and I haven’t been in Stateside for my birthday the past few years, but when you’re in a city for an extended period of time those things can start to affect you. And I start to realize that I don’t have great consistent connections with the people I love.
I get caught up in traveling — the sway and spontaneous matter of it all. I get swept up living in the now at that very moment that I lose touch with a lot of people back home. And though usually being 12+ hours apart and living completely different lives, I’d like to keep in touch better. It would probably help in moments like this where I get bummed out. I needed desperately to focus solely on myself the past couple years after my bout of extreme depression in 2012 and the aftermath. I couldn’t afford any energy put elsewhere except in repairing myself and becoming stable. In working on loving myself. But since then, I haven’t moved on to rebuilding relationships or maintaining relationships with others.
My lack of effort put forth in personal connections is mirrored by my lack of effort put forth toward my goals.
It comes back to feeling inadequate and becoming a recluse in different ways. Not entirely, and not like 2011-2012. I still have my days or weeks of it though.
I’ve been feeling trapped.
Yes I am still abroad in another country and I did come here with the intent of living and working for the year to experience Australia. Then I see other people in Asia or Europe or elsewhere and I feel like leaving, only to be reminded I am low on money. I’ve traveled so often on so little, but I still have to have something in the bank account.
How can I kick this bad mojo?
Number one, stop whining. Okay, I will say that I really needed to get this out of my system and it’s nice to write out what has been bothering me lately. Travel isn’t always fine and dandy and it’s nice not to just write about the amazing parts. It helps me put it out there and see the problems that stir in my head so hopefully I can fix it. Not to bottle it up.
There isn’t much I can do about the work for now, given that I need to replenish the bank account after the Rickshaw Run. But, I can still take time to focus on writing daily so I don’t get far behind and become overwhelmed. For travel, I’ll be hitting TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) in Bangkok in the middle of October, and that should cure my itchy travel feet for a while. Also, I’ve been actually doing more travel videos lately and I’m really digging the look and feel that I’ve fussed over to perfect for years.
And for the feelings of loneliness or inadequacy, I’ve just got to make some damn friends out here! And take the time to Skype people at home more often. That latter is an important one.
Traveling is still something I can see myself doing for many years to come, but I am still fresh at it and learning to deal with things like culture shock and creating my own path and learning to deal with traveling independently most of the time. It has it’s ups and downs and everyone has different experiences with the highs and lows — but you still have to accept it all into the travel lifestyle.
It can’t all be beautiful sunsets over a valley unless you fight your way up the mountain for that view.
Overall, the last 120 days living in Melbourne have been great.
Sure. there has been a lot to adjust to, especially the contrast of India to Australia. It wasn’t what I had planned to be doing, and I’m waiting tables to save, but it’s good. Melbourne has been an exciting place to live in, and with spring and summer coming up, it can only get better. I’m adjusting to this lifestyle and few other aspects, but I’m enjoying myself and that’s what matters.
I’m just excited to explore more of Australia soon, and I’m sure once I’m on the open road, even on a small day trip to the coast, the trapped feeling will subside.
Want more updates on the past couple months? Catch up with these articles!
What Almost Getting Hit By a Car Today Reminded Me Of
BAM! It can happen like that. Luckily, I wasn’t hit by a car. But I almost was. It’s easy to become comfortable and complacent in a big city like Melbourne, but this experience reminded me that I should still be remembering to live to the fullest every day.
Watch What You Eat: I Lost 20lbs in India and Was Nearly Hospitalized
It’s easy to gobble down the delicious and exotic local foods when you arrive to a new destination. Sometimes it results in foodgasms, other times it lands you stranded in a bathroom for hours. While in India, I was;t conscious of what I ate, and I nearly ended up hospitalized.
My Memoir Rough Chapter 1: Fragments of Nostalgia
Last year I began writing a memoir that documents my journey from childhood into adulthood battling depression and how travel helped change that. But not dealing with old wounds tainted my travels. Here is the first chapter which begins in the darkest period of my life.
Have you ever lived abroad in another country? How was your experience? What were your highlights and struggles?