Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On home soil.....where to/what next?

Although I’m still in the process of writing over 3 months worth of belated blog posts, I thought it might be good to post a current one about our return to Oz:

It was a strange feeling to be back in Australia when only the day before we were in northern Thailand, trying to process that our time overseas had come to an end. Which reminds me….there was no time to process anything in Bangkok, as we ran 1km to the boarding gate, listening to our names being called over the loud speaker. Funny thing is that I’ve secretly always wanted my name called at an airport (much to Tim’s disgust)….not that I really wanted to miss my plane as a result! Thankfully we made it to the gate just in the nick of time and as I slumped into my seat puffing and laughing at the movie scene that had just played out, Tim landed into his puffing and cursing me for my obsession with getting all our postcards sent before leaving Thailand. Yep, despite already being at the airport four hours before departure, this is what made us late, forcing us to run to board our plane. The most important point….we made it!

So after being away for just over 19 months, we set foot on Aussie soil 3 weeks ago in Sydney. We spent almost 24 hours in transit from Chiang Mai, Thailand and arrived bleary eyed and a little disoriented. At first it seemed like any other random airport, until we heard that distinct accent all around us and saw in big bold letters, the words ‘G’day, welcome home!’ It was a surreal and indescribable feeling that we experienced in that moment…..one that caused me to seriously well up. We were home and there was no going back….not right now at least. 

We spent a week in Sydney with good friends and the plan to cope with being back was to check out Sydney and keep the travel bug at bay.....to become a tourist in our own country I guess. Since being away, it had become extremely apparent that we may have seen a lot of the world, but we were yet to experience many of the wonders on our home turf. Once we arrived though, we realised we just needed to stop and rest for a bit. We had jam packed so much into our last week in Thailand, we were exhausted! We couldn't avoid the fact that we were indeed back in Australia, but the thought of trying was slightly appealing. We were both feeling a bit numb and although it was great to see friends, in some ways we wanted to turn around and get back on that plane. Already, we were faced with the questions of 'where to/what next?' and we wanted to run a mile! Of course it is a completely logical inquiry, but all the clarity we could muster was 'we are taking one day at a time'.  Life has been so good living with no plan but continuing to remain open to the opportunities that arise. A lot of people might say 'well you can't live like that forever', but maybe it is possible.....without being a complete bum of course! hehe! Have we been so conditioned to have our future worked out and if we haven't there must be something wrong?

After our time in Sydney, we flew to Darwin where we've been catching up with Tim's Dad. We've had a lot of time on our hands....in some ways too much and we've been feeling fidgety to say the least. It's the longest we've stopped anywhere since May last year so I guess that's to be expected.  It's given us time though to contemplate what life might be like if we continued living without too much of a plan. If we set clear goals, would we be cutting ourselves off mentally from other possibilities? I read a post from another blog recently titled 'The best goal is no goal' and it really resonated with what Tim and I have been discussing. Click on the link to view the article. We're keen to hear your thoughts....do you think a fulfilling life can be lived without goals? You can add your comments below.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Now that this chapter is drawing to a close.....

There are many blog entries that I am still to post to bring you up to date with our adventure....I got so behind while we were in Italy in October, battling with 'writer's block' and losing motivation to write, because all I wanted to be doing was experiencing every moment of being in such an incredible country!

Much has happened since we were in Italy and I will fill in those missing pieces later. Now that we are in Thailand though and this chapter of our lives is drawing to a close, I have had several people ask me how I'm feeling about returning home after such a long time away. It has been such a difficult thing to articulate, but I did try a couple of days ago, to write down some thoughts. These thoughts will ebb and flow as we continue to process our experience as well as work out our next steps in life. Hopefully, I have enough motivation to keep this blog going so we can continue to share them. Anyway, what I wrote a couple of days ago was:

How easy it is to see the world’s beauty when you’re lazing on the white sand of a Thai beach, wandering the cobblestone alleyways of Europe or standing at a cliff edge gazing out into the Grand Canyon. But the question that’s going through my head right now, is how do we continue to see the beauty that is all around us when we return home? How can we hold onto that sense of adventure, anticipation and appreciation for life, that has been with us since the day that we began this journey?

As our return home approaches extremely fast, I feel giddy with these and many other questions about our future. I sit here wondering if the change in us will simply evaporate as we return to home, to a familiar environment, to familiar people and to a society where life more often than not, revolves around work. The experiences we’ve had and the people we’ve met along the way have changed us deeply, more than I think we even realize at this point. We have discussed and dissected many ideas about where to/what next, but we are more uncertain about our future than we ever have been. Guess that's what happens when you get rid of everything that is familiar in your life! What we do know for sure, is we've been given a new freedom and we want to change the way we live according to what we’ve learned. Right now, we’re not exactly sure what that will look like, maybe that’s just where the ongoing adventure and anticipation lies. The best option for us with so much uncertainty, is one day at a time! :-)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Leaving Beautiful Italy

Our last few days in Italy were spent delaying the inevitable. After 6 glorious weeks in this incredible country, we were definitely not ready to leave. If the weather was not significantly deteriorating (being November), we may have just found a way to stay. Italy made us swoon, but not only that…..it’s the number one country we had visited that made us feel completely at home and more relaxed than we had ever felt before. We loved the food (of course), the people, the landscape, the architecture, the character…..actually, it is pretty hard to think of anything about Italy that we didn’t fall in love with. Ok, so we had a little hiccup with our car being broken into, but thankfully we had nothing stolen and we were on our way to get that fixed. Besides, the glad wrap was doing a perfect job of performing a substitute window role.

Our last few days in the country were spent driving from Cinque Terre along the coast to France. We spent a night in Ravallo, where we sought ideas from locals about where we would be blown away by our last meal in Italy. The recommendation certainly didn’t disappoint and we gorged ourselves a little silly despite not having the appetite to match.
We also had the opportunity to wander around the stunning village of Portofino with its famous postcard layout of pastel houses in a row, lining the water’s edge. It was here that we saw the extent of the storm devastation along the coastline, with a huge amount of debris floating on the water and tired ducks that had obviously been injured trying to wade through it to get to dry land. I could tell they were looking for food and I was gutted to not have any bread or access to it with most stores being closed.
The atmosphere of the Italian coast was definitely dying down, with many stores and tourist oriented businesses closed for the season. We did enjoy the fact that there were very few tourists around, but we could also tell why…..it was really starting to get chilly now. As we drove across the Italian/French border the following day, I couldn’t help but shed a few tears because we were saying goodbye to probably the best time of our lives thus far. I suspect we will have an attachment to Italy for the remainder.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Pastel Stacked Houses and the Slow Life in Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre, translated as ‘Five Villages’ is up there with the most stunning stretch of coastline in the world I’m sure. It is mind baffling how these little villages of pastel houses have been built, piled on top of each other along the cliff face. No cars are allowed inside these villages because the houses are packed so tightly that there is only room for alleys and laneways. We wondered, not only how these houses were built like this, but how materials, furniture and items needed for every day living are transported and delivered locally. What we discovered, is that the locals here do life at a much slower pace and they seem to prefer it that way. We saw the odd piaggio (mini 3 wheeler ute), but other than that, it was men towing carts by foot and old fashioned baskets in arms. The locals in this part of the world are extremely active and appear to do so much more by hand than we could possibly imagine doing in our own technologically advanced society here in Australia. We watched fisherman as they finished up for the day, mooring their small boats and emptying their day’s catch from their nets into their big blue buckets. It was also fascinating to see two builders at work, one lowering rubble to the other down below from two or three levels above using a bucket and rope. Both guys were sweating profusely and it made me think about how good this work would be for their fitness. I wondered if we had lost so many opportunities for good health and fitness in our own culture, simply because of our use of machines and technology. Moreover, in a world that is forced to slow down simply because of the landscape, it really did seem to be a good thing – that maybe life could be somehow appreciated more. We have begun to openly question our own society where it seems that convenience, ‘efficiency’ and productivity are highly valued. In our endeavour to make life more convenient though, have we instead made it more complicated? Have we really freed up our time with all our technological advancements, or do we just fill our lives with more commitments and obligations? We have and are continuing to learn so much about simplicity from the Italian way of life.

The stunning village of Rio Maggiore

Fisherman in Rio Maggiore 

Lover's Lane

Just before we had arrived in Cinque Terre, a severe storm had battered the coastline and significant land slides resulted. No homes were lost that we know of, but part of the very famous walkway between the five villages had been severely damaged. The number one activity on our list while in the area was to do this beautiful walk and I was looking forward to challenging myself with the significant hike up and down the mountain sides.  Despite missing out on the complete 5km walk, a small section of the path was still open, otherwise known as ‘Lover’s Lane’. The path sweeped around from the last village – Rio Maggiore, following closely to the cliff edge. Although the day had been quite gloomy, we arrived in time for the most spectacular sunset and we no longer felt like we had missed out on anything. I also discovered that I had not escaped the fitness challenge because there were enough stairs and steep slopes in all five of these villages to give anyone a run for their money. 

Lover's Lane

The beautiful sunset