A couple of weeks ago I was cycling around Vancouver when I pulled over at the entrance to a regional park info board to decide if I’d keep going or turn back. While pulled over a man wandered over and asked where we were on the map and how far you could walk. Having just looked at the map, and me being me, I gave him to full run down of the path system and, when asked, included estimated distances. “You must live around here then,” he said. “Yes, I suppose I do.” And then another day I was standing on a street corner downtown and a lady approached me looking for some directions. I didn’t know the answer immediately and although I could have pulled out my phone and worked it out for her, I responded: “Sorry, I’m not from around here.” It’s been 100 days since I’ve been back in Vancouver (YVR). It doesn’t feel quite like home yet but I also don’t know what the alternative is. So ‘home’ it has become. HOME After housesitting (and getting to know my some now very dear to me family) in North Vancouver, they helped me move into an apartment in the suburb of Kitsilano at the beginning of September. After warnings of bed bugs, the gloom of basement suites and reality of a <0.5% vacancy rate, I ended up in the first and only apartment I looked at. I prayed God would make it clear where I should live, and I’m thankful for this little abode until the end of January. (On a side note, I’m pretty certain my born and raised BC-housemate is the only Canadian around. The cafes and beach are full of Australians, Irish and Brits with a scattering of Kiwis and South American’s for good measure. We’re the only ones stupid enough to pay the exorbitant rent.) CHURCH You may remember I did a very strenuous search for churches when moving to Brisbane. I took those learnings and renewed prayers for wisdom and discernment into my new search. The process was made a little faster in YVR because of the sad truth that it’s a very dark city. Spiritual, yes. Christian, no. Despite my passive aversion for the denomination, I found a new-ish Anglican church St Pete’s Fireside meeting in the University of British Columbia’s downtown campus. The liturgy takes me back to my childhood church memories, but the teaching, community, music, evangelistic approach and strategy is right up my alley. Although the liturgy is a shock, I’m praying God changes my heart to see its beauty. I’m coming around. FRIENDS It’s often joked making friends was easier when we were Kindergarteners in the school playground. You walked straight up to someone or a group and started playing. 20+ years on I think the only difference is an increased sense of self-awareness. It’s walking across a room, it’s asking for someone’s number, it’s texting them and asking if they want to catch up. It’s actually a lot like dating… I boldly invited myself on a whale watching adventure which gifted me a friend soon to live 3 blocks from me. I’ve great times eating ice cream, hiking, paddling and even suffered through a few Saturday morning headaches. I’ve made several others and starting to get a little crew together. I’m hoping work will help soon. And my plans to join the local netball team were hindered from a certain broken metatarsal. WORK While I could financially continue this lady of leisure life into 2019, I started to long for structure, routine and a sense of productivity. It’s been a privilege to enjoy this season. It’s also been a lesson in patience. It’s been pretty anxiety-ridden but really it’s been 8 weeks. Job hunting (and apparently dating too…) is about the numbers. From 20 applications I had 6 phone interviews which progressed to 3 in-person interviews (I withdrew from one) and 2 job offers – a pretty good conversion rate. I accepted a job a my dream company in this past week and now I’ve had all the necessary ‘dodgy foreigner’ checks, I start this coming week! DATING Because why not do everything at once…I decided to throw in some casual (?) dating into the mix. I’m in awe of anyone who can manage multiple dates in a week, (KBH I’m looking at you!), I have managed 4 in 3 months with another lined up for next week. Write me direct and I’ll share the fun bits. These first 100 days have been characterised by a deepened love of mountains, the pain of a stupidly broken toe and the rollercoaster ride of finding work. I said before I left, life is best lived on the edge of our comfort zone. And that’s exactly what life in Vancouver has become. It has little structure and even less certainty. But throughout I’ve found myself drawing closer to God, or when I haven’t, running back when I realise I was relying on my own strengths. 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)
I may have only told you in recent weeks or perhaps you’ve known for a few months, but I’ve known I’d be ‘leaving’ for about 9 months.  My visa was approved waaayy faster than I ever anticipated and since then I’ve been making intentional decisions that enabled me to leave. I signed a short lease, I chose to stick out the time in a challenging work environment, I stopped seeking any significant relationships and I stopped buying stuff (okay, perhaps that last one happened a little later than it should have). I was leaving. But most of those were just decisions for convenience sake. Leaving has been about more than that and more than about just me. Yes, I am going off on an adventure. But life is about relationships and my leaving for a grandiose adventure means leaving people behind – for better or for worse. I am surrounded by people who love me, who challenge me, who inspire me and who laugh with me. And I (hopefully) reciprocate that for those around me. And so, 9 months ago I decided I was going to try and leave well. I had no idea what that would look like, but for more than 8 months now I’ve been trying. Pretty early on it got exhausting keeping this exciting (and terrifying) impending adventure to myself. Life is supposed to be shared. So leaving well meant telling people early, particularly those I see most often: my close friends, the girls at work, and then later my managers, my pastor and then later my church family.  I gave them months of notice. To me it felt like ages, but for others the 3 (and even up to 6) months’ notice was not enough. I hate to think my leaving impacts others, it suggests I have a self-inflated sense of self. Perhaps so, but I think back to when a friend left Brisbane 12 months ago and the sense of loneliness I had following. Change is hard and loss hurts. Knowing it’s coming and preparing for it can only ease that challenge. (Or perhaps not, they’re like “Mel, get going already!” Perhaps I should have gone for the bandaid approach. Rip it off, mic drop and leave. Alas. Sorry if that was you!) I think leaving well for me has been about closure. Reflecting on this Brisbane chapter of my life, my mid-20s and the learnings I had and then moving forward again. A couple of weeks ago I wandered along a Sunshine Coast beach just reflecting and being thankful for blessings + learnings from it. I’ve spent time scrolling through Instagram, reminscing on Queensland adventures I’ve had. I know I’m the strongest physically I’ve been (despite 12 months of on and off again injuries). I’m also thankful I waited until I was mentally strong and not running away as I would had been 9 months ago. It’s also been saying goodbye to and acknowledging the significance of the people who I’ve done even just a short part of these 3 years with. Although I love a party, I have filled the past 6 weeks individually catching up with people + small groups. I’ve had meals with old managers and laughed with dear friends. I stopped by my old running group (despite the fact I had to break up with them 3 months ago because a girl who can’t run ain’t much good). I thanked the gym trainers who have taught the classes I’ve attended. I met with work suppliers and gave notice to others. Leaving well was about pouring into the relationships that I made in this chapter. Perhaps a favourite component of leaving well has involved stopping by old haunts, favourite cafes and finally getting to the places still left on the list. From Moreton Bay bug dumplings, to gingerbread pancakes, sweet potato waffles, a whole lotta tacos and plenty of vino + my tequila vice, leaving made its mark…for which I’m thankful I’ve had a trainer to motivate me to counter all the excess (but not at all regreted) sugar + fat + booze. I wrote a mental bucket list of the things I wanted to do before I left. This largely involved physical challenges – climbing mountains, exploring Brisbane on my bike, and in Saturday’s case, riding up Brisbane’s Mount Coot-tha. Sadly I didn’t make it out to Girraween NP, but perhaps it’s a reason to come back. I’m most thankful for the time a few key people made to help me leave well. To pray with me and for me, to check in on how I was doing, to challenge me to think about what the Canada chapter of my life could look like…and to offer North American-based family members and friends to call in case of emergency, even if it’s a jail bail out. Sunday was my last week at church where I have spent 2 years trying to help people connect with our community. And I was also moved by some of the newer people at church, many of whom I hardly know well, stopping by and saying goodbye. I was sad that I would have likely overlooked them in my leaving well process. I hope in taking time to try and leave well, I have provided an opportunity for a sense of closure. I don’t know if I’ll return. Many of those I’ve mentioned above have begged me to return or reminded me how quickly I acclimated to Brisbane’s very temperate conditions. It’s true. I have loved Brisbane. It has been very good for me. I have loved the outdoor lifestyle and how I settled into an even more active lifestyle I never expected for myself. I mean, padded Lycra pants and a road bike? A gym membership? I hardly recognise myself. I have also loved living life in a 3 kilometre radius and complaining about driving longer than 20 minutes into the suburbs. After years of commuting >2 hours a day, jumping in an Uber home from a night out, or the quick 8 minute bike ride to work, or a slow 40min meander home were so welcome. I have loved my river views apartment with a non-sarcastic pretty price tag. I might return. I might not. I don’t know what the future holds, but I could control how I left and how I move forward. I hope I’ve done it well. 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)
Life is full of seasons. You enjoy many of the same for a long while and then you hit your twenties and it starts to change. People get married. People buy houses. People have kids. Me? I chose to run move away. My friends? My Instagram feed is evidence enough: weddings + babies…or those delaying either/or = travel. I had a bit of a crew through my late-teens and early 20s. I was innocent, overconfident and opinionated. They were good to me (read:patient). But most were Christians and so they married young…and then bought houses. We had a place to hang out. Win! But two years ago, just before I was drawn in to the (sun)light, the first couple had an adorable baby. And in the two years I’ve been gone, the procreation has continued. Last week I spent a few days with 6 married couples and 4 babies under 2 (+ few extras). I abandoned plans to travel to Scandinavia ($15k on travel in 12 months is probably a bit too much) and instead took annual leave to spend time with 15 adults + 4 children + 1 teenager under 1 roof. And it wasn’t that chaotic. Although some things have changed. Because holidays (including those involving 2000km) = thinking time, and my friends love to feature in my little corner of the inter webs… here’s my not so comprehensive list of what happens when your friends have kids. New titles. Everyone becomes an Aunty or Uncle. You ignore your friends and greet their miniature humans first. Detailed bowel movement discussions. Birth stories. “Is that yours or mine?” is not referring to a mobile phone but baby monitor. You see the traits/personalities of your friends in minature form Movies are turned off half way. Surprisingly even babies can discern Jurassic Park isn’t as rosy the Peppa Pig farmyard. Noise travels. Noise matters. Driveways are filled with soccer mum mini SUVs instead of mum’s old, hand-me-down dinged early 2000s hatchbacks P plates parks are now pram park ups An afternoon where all 4 children were asleep at once was like all the planets aligning in a once-in-century occasion PDA is everpresent in kisses, hugs and sniffing nappies. You see patience in practice. Discipline in action. You get endless cuddles but freedom to hand them back when they poop, scream or fight you off. You’re watching who’s drinking to see who’s preggers on the sly. Baby line ups are mandatory. Along with ridiculous attempts to get all children looking remotely in the direction of the camera. Time schedules are fluid. Departures can be timed to either keep the baby awake, but also to ensure the baby sleeps. “How did you sleep?” will be answered as if this were the question: “how did <insert child’s name> sleep?” Did you say Wiggles? Yep, kid tunes reign. Of course they could most certainly comment on the child-less life too. I willingly woke early to exercise. I enjoy abs still joined at the centre. And my car was sans extensive miniature person paraphernalia. Moving away isn’t the easiest. I’ve missed pretty much all the baby showers, first birthdays, dedications etc – often by only a week. And being the single, childless one is often the topic of discussion (It took a grand total of 3.5 hours before I was asked about my dating life). The above is a list of largely funny takeouts from a relaxing week away. But really it’s a privilege to see my friends turn into parents. Life is best done together. I took joy recieving a face covered of saliva care of new raspberry blowing skills. And they enjoyed the extra set of hands. The village life. 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)
  Twelve months on and I’m in exactly the same place I was last year – a Surfers Paradise beachfront apartment. I’m even with the same four friends. We are again front and centre for the New Year fireworks. But although I’m physically in the same place, a year on I’m very much in a different place to where I was last year. 2015 was a tough year. But 2016 has been a year of restoration. It was also year of new friendships, adventures and learning. Here’s to the year that was: 1. A newfound love of dancing I was the girl who sat on the outskirts of the room as soon as the dancing began. But this year, I decided I didn’t care what I looked like I was going to enjoy dancing. And like that, I now do. The Melanie of 2015 would not have danced the night away in a Cuban Government run bar in rural Vinales with two sweaty, hands-y Cuban men with gorgeous blue eyes that melted my heart. 2. A nostalgia for my long locks but the excitement of short hair Oh how lovely it was…10% of the time. 3. A love of running Two years ago I couldn’t run 2km, but this year I ran 14km (on a swollen bruised ankle because I wasn’t giving up!). I push myself to get to a weekly community running group and once there I’m pushed to keep running. The burn of my legs is soon forgotten on reflection and achievement of the distance they’ve carried me. 4. A Growth Group who point each other to Jesus We become a conglomerate of the people we hang out with and I’m thankful for my gospel-focussed community. Over delicious food and vino, we’ve talked pride, elections, sex, and supported each other through illness, homesickness, death, farewells and welcome together. Thank you for pointing me to the grace and hope found in Christ. 5. A new church I arrived at Creek Road with a pretty rocky foundation and trust in ‘church’. But this year, through transparent and empowering pastors and persistent prayer, by grace the brokenness and hurt is healed. I look forward to church. 6. New friends New friendships formed over mutual love of TV shows + good food + wine (Did I hear you say ‘Tapas and Tequila Tuesday?’) 7. A patience with professional work I had 4 managers in 2016. I also had 9 team members in my immediate 3-4 person team. Change is constant and with patience and persistence I’ve learnt to push myself forward, learning from all those around me – whoever it is. Work life is a jungle gym and it’s the adventure and the challenge climbing it that brings contentment. 8. Appreciation for solo time (but still a craving for people) A perfect Friday night is either drinking and laughing with friends at a great bar in town or enjoying a glass of vino on the couch watching Netflix. I enjoy both equally and I have no qualms choosing one over the other. I’ve come to enjoy the small moments of solitude. 9. My family history In May I visited Bundaberg and toured my great, great grandparents house. I later started reading my family history book going back to the 18th Century. Through trials and successes, generations have gone forward putting Christ at the centre of their lives. However, it also served as a reminder for how quickly a generation can slip from the faith and serve their own interests. 10. Friendship with sisters For the first time in five years, Jen was in the same city as me. Weekend BBQs, Monday night netball, shopping adventures. As for Laura, we enjoyed another negative temperature snuggle session in Jindy and wrestling matches that now end with me begging for mercy. 11. The rejuvenation of weekend adventures Until October, it has been 1.5 years since I’d had more than 3 days away (a week off for the rite of passage: wisdom teeth doesn’t count). Here’s to weekends at Cabarita Beach, Straddie, Rainbow Beach, Kangaroo Valley, Bundaberg, Lady Musgrave Island, Perisher, Springbrook NP, Lamington NP, Tamborine NP, Glasshouse Mountains, Gold Coast. 12. BNE visitors Shout out to Lanes + Sutherlands, Lisa, Rachel + Lydia, USYD gang, Kelsey, Laura, Anna, Ashleigh for visiting. 13. Home? I drove home from 2 weeks in Sydney this week. It had been 6 months since I’d visited and I longed for it. But visiting and then driving back, I’ve realised Sydney doesn’t feel like home anymore. But I’m not sure Brisbane is yet either? 14. World travels  “Why Cuba?” they asked. “Be safe,” they said. “Why not?” I said. “How much,” I didn’t ask. It was an expensive holiday, but it’s a huge reward to plan, save, book and then escape to a far away land. And Cuba, well it’s just a fascinating place. As for Mexico, take me back. Tomorrow. 15. Dyson There’s a point in life when you realise you’re getting old. That moment for me has come. In addition to my growing family of kitchen appliances, washing machine and a comfortable (brand) new couch, I really want a Dyson vacuum cleaner. Preferably one of those stand up cordless ones. 16. “So I guess we’ll be in touch” Thanks to 2016 I have learnt some good ways and some bad ways to end a first date. And “So I guess we’ll be in touch” is not favourable. And with that, and the Tweed Heads fireworks in the background #daylightsavings, I say thank you and good bye 2016!     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)