Someone at some point in time gave me some travelling advice to ease the transition back to reality. If it was you, thank you. Never go back to work for a full week after a holiday Within your budget, treat yourself on the final night. And so I write this from a cute Italian restaurant on Halifax’s waterfront. I’ve got a glass of French Rose, a bottle of sparkling water (because I ain’t fancy, but gosh I prefer it over tap) and I’ve got spaghetti ai frutti di mare on its way.   Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
This has been the worst kept secret, largely on my part because you can’t get me there fast enough (and it wasn’t really a secret)…but I’m moving to Canada. Yay! It’s been a long time coming. I almost mic-dropped about 9 months ago after some job contract dramas and an unhappy+stressful living situation. But relationships have always mattered to me and jumping ship and moving another 12,000km from ‘home’ didn’t give me time to leave well. That is, not running away from problems, having others get used to the idea + time to say goodbye and making good decisions about boring stuff like insurance, housing, banking rather than just winging it. (Although there will still be a lot of that!) I’ve officially given notice to work and I have a schedule so it’s time to press ‘go’. Unlike the last time I moved away, I’ve given many more of a heads up. If we haven’t spent time together lately, grab yourself a sparkling H2O, Pinot Gris or Noir or a big fat scoop of Messina Gelato and settle in for the conversation we would of had together. Think of this as my FAQs – because it really is. Why Canada? As one friend pointed out, it’s essentially a cold Australia. And it’s true. But it has mountains – mountains I can climb in summer and ski down in winter. I want to experience seasons and a winter where i won’t sweat when it’s finally cool enough to wear my largely aesthetic coat collection. Aside, I’ve always wanted to live overseas for a while. I’ve been out of school for 10 years now and 30 is now not too far away on the horizon. The original thought was Denmark or Norway, before its interior design took over the world. The Scandinavian world has a permanent home on the best liveability scales: education, healthcare, gender equality. Though many faults also, I wanted to know why. But with a bit of research I realised my language skills, or lack thereof, would hold me back significantly. Perhaps a cop out, but I pretty much got through 2 years of German classes from songs and flicking the exam back and forth hoping to figure it out comparing the English-Deutsch and Deutsch-English. I’ve decided, as ethnocentric (and perhaps egocentric) as it is, I’m going to focus my efforts of nailing English only. So next on the list was Canada. Where in Canada? Vancouver. I’d have more job prospects in Toronto, but I spent 10 years living a 6 hour drive from snow, and another 2.5 where it was easier to fly to New Zealand than get to the snow covered hills of NSW/VIC border. Toronto is too far away from mountains. But you never know, I may end up there for the second half of the adventure. I do like me some big cities. We’ll see. Have you been to Canada before? Yes. Twice. But not for long. I visited in 2008 for a weekend (from Seattle). We went to the aquarium to see the blubber whales. And again in 2012 for about 10 days split across Toronto (and Peterborough – hey Jen!) + Vancouver, on my 6 weeks travelling through North America. Do you have a job? Well that would make it less of an adventure! No. I have started to put out some feelers out but I’m likely going to need to wait until I get over there. I’m keen to stay in marketing within travel / tourism. But again, adventure. When do you leave? Short answer: June. Long answer: I finish work end of May, and start a month of annual leave…which will consist of moving majority of my stuff back to Sydney, a couple of weeks to say hello+goodbye and go to the dentist. I ship off 18 June for a couple of weeks of travel before settling down in Vancouver. For how long? I’m thinking ’til about 2020 at this stage – somewhere between 18months and 2 years. I have a 2 year working holiday VISA. Do you know anyone there? I’m from a large family and I’d struggle to find a corner of the world we don’t know someone. I have some family in BC and Toronto. But largely, no. I’ll be on friend hunt again. And after Canada? Sydney or Brisbane? I have a 2 year plan and about 2 x 15-20year plans. And the latter has more to do with world domination or making a big family really fat. Translation: I have no idea. I like Brisbane, particularly its laid back outdoor lifestyle, affordable living and 300 days of sunshine. But I don’t like to lock myself in. My goal in life is to love God with all my heart, with love invite others to experience the joy of a restored relationship with the Creator God + seek to serve him and his church. I tried to do that in Sydney, I have been trying to do that in Brisbane, I will seek to do so in Canada and what ever comes after that. How do your family feel? My parents have encouraged us to pursue everything we put our minds to. They’ve also moved a certain sister to 4 cities in 8 years. I’m sure they’d love to find out where their children will settle so they can start research retirement, alas. For the moment they’re more excited for a holiday to Canada under the guise of visiting me. Are you going to find Canadian man to marry? Look, i’m sure there are easier ways to find a husband than moving 12,000km away. I’d be lying if it didn’t cross my mind. But I also really like Australia. If I’ve learnt from friends, marriage across countries complicates things. Another aside…a treat indeed! I don’t talk about this often, or perhaps not in public pixels on the inter webs, but I have always hoped that my life involves sharing it with big fat family (I really love cooking!) I always thought my mum was an ‘older’ mum growing up — and she was 30 when she had me. I laugh at the thought of that now! 10 years on from school, I was going to have a house, a chubby baby and kicking butt in my career. But here I am – a 27 year old Christian lady – putting me at the upper end of the eligible Christian + unmarried spectrum with a strong attendance record at baby-faced Christian weddings. It is hard to not be swayed by the (let’s face it, counter-)culture that surrounds us. I had thought that maybe my near 3 years in Brisbane may have involved a significant relationship and put my back on my unrealistic perfect family + career goal. Alas, it hasn’t. And I’m absolutely okay with that – better than okay really. My time in Brisbane and my life is way more than seeking for a significant other. And Canada will be the same.  But if that happens in Canada, sure. We can look back at this musing and chuckle. Strong. Independent. Loves Jesus. I’m sure there are few of them across the Pacific. Do you want any contacts for people in Canada? Yes. If you have a friend / friend of friend in Vancouver, I’d like to have someone to have a drink with once I settle down. If you have a friend in marketing/professional services, I’m keen to understand the industry a little better. Applying to jobs is different in every city, particularly countries. Recruiter or not? CV formats etc. When can we see you before you go? April is a collection of friends + family visiting BNE. May is largely vacant at the moment and will likely involve packing up my awesome apartment + enjoying the last of my time in the Sunshine State. I plan to be in Sydney from 4-18 June. I’ll probably organise some kind of drop-in drinks thing. I’ll keep you informed. Beyond that, follow @DiscoverCanada @HelloBC or @VisitAlberta and I’ll see you where the sun shines a little less.   How was the Messina? The vino? I’m off both at the moment, so I would probably be giving you envy eyes if I were with you. Shoot any other Qs you have and I’ll answer them. One of the hardest things about moving away is losing touch with people I wish i could spend more time with. I hope this helps you feel a little more included in my life. Comment. Email. Facebook. I’m on all the channels. Tell me your news! BONUS Question not because of the number of people who have asked it, but rather the number of times a few people have asked it. What about bible college? It’s crossed my mind. If I were to study, Regent College is the kind of theological study I would do it at. I’m not saying no, but it would also be my entire house deposit…and I’m not quite ready to give that up yet. I need more convincing + vision for what women in the conservative church can do with a theological degree…mic drop and with that I’m out. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
Honesty is always the best policy, so “Hablo poco Español” quickly became “No hablo Español” while travelling. But only after some awkward situations whereby my perfecto accent had clearly fooled and I’d panic in the wake of a string of Spanish dialogue. It seems a vocab of hello, good bye, please, thank you, sorry, toilet, apple, dog, cat, milk and water doesn’t count as ‘a little Spanish’. For the months leading up to my trip, I researched Spanish courses. They were pretty $$-y so I gave Duolingo a crack. I even printed a list of phrases and stuck them beside my computer at work. I had great intentions. While my morning walks had me blending in to the West End ‘furniture’, I eventually for bored of matching pairs and learning a gato (cat) from a pedro (dog). And although declaring “Salud” became much more fun than “Bless you!” at colleagues’ sneezes, the list became a casualty of 3 weeks of hot desk-ing before my trip. In a last ditch effort, I grabbed Lonely Planet’s Fast Talk Latin American Spanish: Guaranteed to get you talking phrasebook the night before I left and turned up on Danica and Yosef’s doorstep with little to say for myself. Spoilt is the best description of my first four days in Mexico. Personal translators, menu selectors and tutors. If there are two people who have mastered the art of broken bi-lingual conversation, it’s Danica and Yosef. They put Google Translate to shame. But Mexico City or Ciudad de Mexico, the largest Spanish speaking city in the world, was my first foray into Spanish self sufficiency. I’ll give you a heads up: what the Parisians are to non/little French speakers, is what Chilangos are to English speakers. Snobs. My 48 hours in CDMX can be best summarised by my Español skills, or lack thereof. The frustration One of the best things about travelling by yourself, or perhaps without a certain younger sister rolling her eyes, is exploring galleries and museums at your own pace. Behind this sharp witted fashionista (jks!) is really just a big nerd. And I could spend all day gathering new facts for the random collection of rarely useful (except for the old specific trivia question) info stored in my head. Enter stage right: Museo Nacional de Antropología. Possibly one of the coolest museums I’ve been to, I journeyed through ancient artefacts and life size ruin replicas from various Mexican eras. The frustration? Only about 10% of the museum was translated into English. Aztec Sunstone found in the centre of MXCD This guy could be super important, but unable to read about him, I just laughed. The surprise “Was it safe?” asks everyone of Mexico City. “Well considering I was staying in the Surry Hills or New Farm of Mexico City, yes.” And the bonus of good Airbnb research is finding a good host, and that I did. Staying in Condesa Roma, the rising gentrified ‘colonia’, great bars, cafes and restaurants were plentiful. My host, a food blogger #win, made a few suggestions and the closest one (within budget) was Merotoro – No 25 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurant: Latin America. I was greeted at the door. “Uno, por favor.” To which the maitre de responded with likely a standard follow on statement…in Spanish. Cue freak out by yours truly. “No hablo Español. Habla, Ingles?” “No. Uno momento.”  I stood awkwardly at the door as the maitre de shuffled around the restaurant. A few moments later, another charming staff member came over. “Hello. Would you like a table?” Alleluia! Seating me at the bar (top tip solo travellers!) he passed me the drinks and the food menu. And left. Politely I perused the menu. I had absolutely no idea what it said beyond a few translatable words: Queso. Pollo. Pescado. The barman with his zero English and my limited (?) Spanish surprised me with an amazing Mezcal y Jamaica before the ever lovely English speaker returned and upon request of his recommendation, translated the entire menu for me. I started with ceviche con cangrejo de aguacate de concha blanda (plus a main of rabbit ragu – sorry Cuddle Pie!).  It was the best dish I ate on my whole trip. The practical There are few things that make tourists stand out anywhere – even Brisbane. Hats. Backpacks. Cameras. In MXCD, shorts. And everywhere, paper maps. The less conspicuous Google Maps has saved me many a time travelling in new cities. However, getting between said places on public transport and taxis are an added challenge when you don’t speak or read the native language. Friends, that’s where Uber is only the most amazing startup ever. I typed “Frida Khalo Museum” and the app translated that to “Museo Frida Khalo” and sent me a driver with an epic moustache my way. It saved me thrusting phones + paper directions at my driver and comprehending how much it will all cost. Hello 28 degrees credit card. Even better, it came with a bottle (or 2) of water saving me a few pesos! If only 45 minute/10km Uber rides were only $7.80 in Australia! The hilarity A day and a half in, I had settled in to MXCD. I came to enjoy the chaotic roads with policemen coordinating traffic despite traffic lights, the amazing street food and cute dogs everywhere. But with an impending flight to Cuba I needed to get myself together. There would be no Uber, no corner 7/11’s with naranja juice and no Airbnb hosts. And like the start of all good holidays, I had burnt myself to a crisp on day 1 in Mexico. The non-greasy, face sunscreen didn’t cut in humid Mexico.  I was in need of some heavy duty, sweat-proof sunscreen. Another easy translation: farmacias were fairly common around town. I walked into a few smaller shopfronts and browsed the shelves without luck. Eventually I found a sizeable farmacia and I was feeling confident. “Hola, bienvenido, señorita.”  The middle aged Mexican woman kept talking but I kept walking. My Spanish comprehension had max-ed out. I wandered the aisles and she approached and said something else. I smiled. I again had absolutely no clue and declared “no hablo Español” in a panic. I decided it was time for a round of charades. Too bad if you’re wanting to turn left… I motioned applying a cream to my arms and face. “Ah hidratante, sie!” the woman guessed. Again, a word that is close enough to English to work out. “No. Ahhh,” and indicated a sun coming down from above before repeating application of cream. I even slapped on a hat like a good Aussie. It wasn’t helping. I remembered I’d seen a 50+ on a bottle of something and pointed at the SPF rating. “Ahh sí.” She grabbed my arm and led me to a floor to roof wall of what may aswell have been Dr LeWinn’s. My halve and then halve again currency conversion (AU$1 = MXD$14) priced her recommendation at around $60. “No,” and I motioned a head cut and rubbed my thumb and forefingers. Too expensive. By this stage I now had 5-6 Mexican women suggesting products. It was amusing but overwhelming.  Cue knight in shining armour. Out of nowhere came a sweet, attractive, 20/30-odd guy and in American English asked “What are you after?” I laughed. “Sunscreen. But these look expensive.” He turned back to the women “Protector solar, por favor.”    Somewhat disappointed they pointed to a shelf some mere metres away. And there, in all it’s bright blue, orange and yellow glory was my precious white girl skin saving magic. “Thank you!” He smiled. Upon reflection, I really should have known sun in Spanish. There is sol beer and sols are days in Mars (thanks Martian!) and even a cafe down the road with a sun logo called ‘Sol breads.’ Alas. The joy And after all the above, there are just some words that you don’t need to translate. Churrería El Moro. And after the sunscreen episode, I devoured my cinch (5) churros with Canjeta o leche condensed (i did have to Google that…) at a bargain price of $1.40. Where street food meets gentrification. Mercado Roma. Loading ’em up at Pasteleria Ideal Tacos al pastor. A Mexican twist on the filthy kebab.     Mexico City was the shortest leg of my trip – a total of 49.5 hours. It wasn’t even on the original list.  I had to pass through on my way to Cuba, so I figured I’d stop. But after 26 days away, ask me my favourite part of my trip, and I’ll say the most surprising was Mexico City. Would I go back? Tomorrow… for a month! Pero capaz de hablar mucho más Español! (But able to speak much more Spanish!)  Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
The reality of holidays is no matter how long they are; they soon become a distant memory once one returns to reality. So it was with my recent Mexican + Cuban adventure. However, a positive of being slow on processing my photos is reliving the joy and remembering the fun I had. I’ll slowly post each stop on my trip over the coming weeks with a few thoughts/reflections. Feel free to read or just ignore, it’s largely so I have a record of my trip. (Ie. Like this one from my first solo adventure back in 2011). We all know that some of us plan things more than others. Me? Well, I think we all know which category I fall into…even if I’m a Microsoft Excel hater. But the thing about life, and travel, is things don’t always go to plan. I lost count of the number of times friends, colleagues and family said “be safe” in the weeks prior to jet setting. It usually came after I revealed I was largely travelling around Latin America alone with pocolito Español. I’m a planner but also a realist. “Things will go wrong,” I told them. Heck, last time I solo travelled I managed a hurricane, tornado warnings, an earthquake, a lockdown on my university campus and a stolen bag on a North Carolinian beach leaving 3 Australian girls stranded in bikinis for a few hours. In the trips that have followed with my hermana we’ve had lost passports, ran through our fair share of airports and locked ourselves out of our accommodation after leaving the key in the returned hire car. (She’ll tell you all of those were my fault…and she’d be 100% correct). But travelling is great because it throws you out of your comfort zone. We don’t want to live comfortable lives. Travel forces you to solve problems without your standard security net. Throw in a language barrier and you’re really in for a good time. I was recently chatting with someone who has had similar experiences and we joked our prayer life had a marked improvement when travelling. It’s not a good thing. Travelling makes me more aware of my tendency to think I can do things on my own, and it’s only when things leave my control that I turn to God. Dracula’s holiday home, Malecon Mazatlan Carpa Olivera, an ocean pool + slide built in 1914 in Olas Altas Airconditioning comes au natural in Mazatlan’s taxis aka pulmonias Four days into this trip I was acutely reminded of this once again. Crying on the floor of my dear friend’s shower in Mazatlan, Mexico. Already nursing a cut up face, an egg on my head and a collection of bruises on various limbs from an oh so dramatic (and not unsual) fainting episode. I now had pain shooting down my leg and across my lower back. Absolute agony. Although I had Internet, I had no contact email or number for my friend. Facetime audio wasn’t working for my sister (back in Brisbane…at 6am). I tried a Skype call. No credit. I managed to track down a number of the YWAM base on the inter webs and punched it into Skype again. Cue: dial tone. Praise God. With each ring, I prayed harder my friend would answer. Finally she picks up. If my initial mid-lunch prep fainting episode in the middle of the kitchen weren’t enough to scare everyone, my phone call would have. I’ll skip to the end because within 2 hours of being in complete air gasping, back clutching distress, it was 90% gone. The ‘international consultation’ with my sister diagnosed it as a muscle spasm likely caused from my collapse. I have no doubt in my mind God answered the prayers of many that Tuesday afternoon. (I’ll note, although I say ‘crying’, there were no tears. I’m pretty sure I’m unable to cry real tears. Crying is more akin to screaming.) I flew out the following morning at 6am to Mexico City. Thankfully that was the end of the disasters and beyond an actual breakdown when I was too short to lock the gate of my casa in Havana. For the obvious reasons, let it be known photos of me are limited from hereafter. Before: Cutting 50+ avocados After: A few cuts + bruises  Huge shout out to Danica and Yosef for being amazing hosts. And the team at YWAM Mazatlan. Check out their awesome worship session – in Spanish + English. (Your’s truly features at 3:49) Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
Chatting to people week-to-week I have to remind myself to be thankful for an awesome job that allows me to get out and appreciate our creator God. I’ve been fortunate to cover a fair of Queensland’s ground in my nine months, learning more and more about this northern land.  And slowly i’m building my fun facts collection, so the longer you wait to visit me, the better your personalised tour will be. Scenic Rim Mount Tamborine, is not famous for tamborines but rather being Queensland’s first national park declared in 1908. Brisbane Brisbane came about after needing more space for felons in the Sydney Colony. It was original named Edenglassie but renamed Brisbane after a governor of New South Wales Sir Thomas Brisbane. Brisbane received the first contingent of US soldiers in WW2 14 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. Within 12 months, sleepy Brisbane’s population of 300 000 had become 600 000. The well-paid soldiers made themselves at home in Fortitude Valley and with the Australian women. It didn’t go down so well and the little-known  Battle of Brisbane broke out among 5000 soldiers on Thanksgiving in 1942. North Stradbroke Island Rainbow Beach Lady Musgrave Island The tiny coral cay is literally made of bird poo and crushed coral. It’s a stopping ground for thousands of migrant birds. Thankfully it was pretty from the air, its neighbouring Fairfax Islands were almost obliterated during WW2 target practice. Bundaberg Famous for rum, sugar and ginger beer. Also, the home of my own family heritage. Town of 1770 Considered the birthplace of Queensland after Lieutenant Cook made his second landing in later known Australia, the first in Queensland. Rockhampton, Great Keppel Island Rocky is the beef capital of Australia with the ratio of people to cattle 1:4. Magnetic Island Affectionately called Maggie, it was named after Lieutenant Cook’s compass apparently went haywire while passing by. Substantial research has been undertaken to counter his claims. Townsville It’s 2 most notable landmarks are quite unfortunate. Firstly, Castle Hill that stands out from the rest of the geography is only a few metres short of mountain status. And second, the tallest building in town is the hideous but much loved sugar shaker building, currently the Holiday Inn. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)