I’m starting to realise that an internet year is like dog years – now more than ever I am packing in more adventures than imaginable, travelling on hundreds of flights each year and meeting so many new faces along the way. This year was one of the toughest for me and we all know too well that endings are harder than beginnings, however after ending a four year relationship I feel more myself than I have for a long time, being back on the road full time and embracing every opportunity that comes my way.
This post shares a lot of the back story to this year – the highs and lows and downright weird things that happened. Beyond the photos I have so many memories that make this whole experience more human and real and in an age of the perfect Instagram photo I thought it would be both therapy for me and fun for you to read what really happens behind the images.
In 2019 I’m making a push to take my travels over to Youtube and share twice weekly videos of my adventures. I’m doing this because I don’t wholeheartedly believe in nice photos telling all of the story – I want to share more of the lows, more reality, and more of the crazy fun stuff that happens!
I started the year on an epic winter adventure in Alberta, Canada. I was travelling solo for some much needed time to “clear my head” (translation: my relationship was falling apart) and when I landed, was surprised to see a smiley faced Johnny Bierman at the arrivals hall. As it turns out the tourism board who I was working with on the adventure did not have confidence in my driving ability in winter conditions (which was later verified when I crashed a car in the snow in December this year) and had allocated me a full time guide/driver for my week in Alberta. At first I was a bit bummed because I wanted some alone time – but I’m starting to realise that we often don’t know what is best for ourselves. That week of fast-paced, high intensity fun was just what I needed and Johnny was the right man for the job. We spent the week snow-shoeing, skiing, ice-canyoning and ice skating and by the end of the week I could see how much happier I was being back on the road. I booked another trip as soon as I landed back in Australia. Johnny (my guide in Alberta) has become one of my close friends and I’ve visited in his hometown Vancouver since this trip.
A few weeks later I was boarding a flight back to the African continent – which, since my first visit, has captured such a big part of my heart. I was incredibly lost and confused as to why my relationship was failing. I had given up my career as a travel blogger/writer and in place of it had become a serial entrepreneur to stay busy and if I’m honest, busy enough to mask our problems while they only became worse. Willba and I were living in two different worlds when we meet – mine on airplanes and in hotels, his very grounded in the one place: on the farm. We tried so many ways to make it work but at the end of the day I’m an explorer. I’ll never forget the day he told me he didn’t want to hold me back and he felt like he was clipping my wings. I knew he was right but I still overstayed. I’ll never forget the words that struck me most at this time from Lorde’s new album: “when you’ve outgrown a lover, everyone knows but you.”
My time in Botswana was the solitude I needed. I started to see more sense in parting ways and like any coward would, I changed my flights to delay my return by six weeks. I knew what had to be done, I just couldn’t do it — yet.
I don’t know exactly how many times I changed my flight back to Australia but I’m gonna say it was more than I can count on one hand. I knew things weren’t working in my relationship and knew I needed to address it, but I chose to keep running because instant happiness was easier than dealing with a long sad period I knew was imminent. I hopped on flights all around South Africa – from Johannesburg to Cape Town, onwards to the Kruger and various lodges within it. I got to the end of my extended holiday and what did I do? Extended it again.
From South Africa I boarded a flight to Zanzibar, a decision that arose from searching flights from Johannesburg to “everywhere” and picking one of the cheapest destinations on offer. There was a budget airline flight from Joburg to Zanzibar and it was a direct flight so I booked it. From there I wound up working with one of my favourite lodges of all time [And Beyond] who had hosted me a couple of weeks earlier in Botswana. They let me stay for four nights on an *insane* private island off the coast of Zanzibar, which was the single most relaxed I have ever been in my entire life. Everything back home truly felt a world away and I realised my happiness comes from being a free spirit – and if anyone ever tried to change that rather than compliment it, it was never going to work out.
Shortly after returning home (and still avoiding the inevitable) I took my little brother to Dubai. The first time I travelled overseas I was thirteen years old and it is what sparked the adventurous side in me, so I have taken my younger brother on a couple of big international trips now to give him the same opportunity. He loved Dubai – but was more into the cars than anything. Hey, I tried. Here’s a video of our trip.
I’d love to say that when I got back from Dubai things didn’t feel the same – but if I’m honest with myself (which eventually I was), things hadn’t felt the same for a long time. A lot of things were left unsaid when I boarded my flight for France, knowing I would be overseas for the next two months. Neither of us wanted to break the other’s heart so we avoided the conversation and let it play its’ own course.
When I landed in France I had a day by myself to explore the South of France before embarking on a week-long cruise through Provence and Burgundy, eventually ending in Paris. I rented a vespa for around 50€ and rode at 70km per hour from Cannes to Monaco. For those of you who don’t know the route – this was a bad idea. I didn’t have cell service (I never do when I travel), so I relied on a pre-loaded map that soon it became evident was not loaded at all. I followed the road signs that led me to the highway (freeway for ye Americans) and got honked at by flying cars the entire journey until I could pull off. Just imagine driving at 110km down the highway as you pass a tiny vespa with a girl on it, in a dress, with the blinkers on to show I too was baffled by how I got here. Oh boy. It was fun – I laughed the whole way.
By the time I reached Paris after a two week journey North from the South of France, I was starting to practice a greater appreciation for and understanding of self love. Instead of seeking validation in another person, I sought it from myself by actively spending quality time alone – meditating, practicing a morning yoga flow, buying myself flowers and taking a picnic to a park to read a book or sit and watch the clouds. It’s amazing how much happiness you can bring yourself when you allow it.
While I was in France my friend Kim Kessler emailed me to see if I would like to join her and some girlfriends in Rome the following week. I booked a flight in minutes and before I knew it I was in the land of pizza, pasta, and a very upset stomach that still, despite my best efforts, will not make friends with gluten.
Myself, Kim and her two girlfriends from LA spent a few days eating and drinking our way around the city of Roma. I’ve visited twice before, but this time felt different. For the first time in years I really enjoyed and embraced hanging with the girls and spending life outside of couples groups (eek!) I was starting to really enjoy being alone and being with friends more than I was being in a relationship – which I suppose in retrospect was proof we had grown so far apart that it wasn’t enjoyable to be together anymore.
After Rome I spent a few days back in Paris with my friends Jasmina and Katrina (author of Paris Dreaming) before boarding a flight for Barcelona. I was really looking forward to some alone time if I’m completely honest, but was being joined by my friend Jessie for her 21st birthday celebrations which we stretched over Barcelona, Iceland, and New York (a product of me saying “choose anywhere you want to go” and Jessie taking that quite literally – ha!)
I absolutely adore Barcelona – the Gaudi architecture, the food, and bar hopping in El Borne. My friend David is a local and was in town when we were there, so he showed us around to some of his favourite places and I was reminded of how much better a city is through a local’s eyes. Rewriting this I’m also starting to realise how many friends I have in so many different cities around the world – THIS IS WHY WE TRAVEL!
From Barcelona we boarded a budget airline flight to Iceland because it was on Jessie’s birthday bucket list and in her words, “you’re the only friend I know reckless enough to spend any amount of money on travel – Iceland ain’t cheap”. She was right. I’m frugal at home and save as best I can, but when it comes to travelling I will happily spend any and every penny I have. She was also right in saying Iceland ain’t cheap.
By the time we reached New York we were both a little (okay a lot) tired of each other and I really started to crave some alone time. I’ve never really known if I’m an introvert or extrovert – but I do know I need my alone time to recharge my batteries sometimes. Jessie and I were walking down 7th ave when we came across a sign for a psychic. I’ve never been one to believe in this type of thing but in the spirit of saying yes (and as it was Jessie’s birthday week she was calling the shots), I went along and heard what could be said from the reading of my palm. I hated every minute of it (just not my thing) but a lot of what was said were things I needed to hear. The psychic spoke of heartache and my ongoing avoidance of letting go, which prompted me to finally be at peace with what was around the corner and a turning point I knew was coming for a while. At this point I was still technically in a relationship but when someone phones you twice in two months to see how you are, I’m not sure what kind of relationship we can call that? It takes two to tango – I didn’t check in either. We were both checked out.
In a turn of events, my next trip (4 days after New York) was a sporadic honeymoon-style vacation to Tahiti with my friend Abe. Abe and I have known of each other since the early days of Instagram when you’d follow a handful of people and with his insane(ly talented) ski photos, I loved keeping up with his adventures. Fast forward 5 or 6 years, we were meeting for the very first time in LAX airport and boarding a flight to Tahiti together. We spent the next week snorkelling, kayaking, (almost) skydiving, eating, watching Moana, and so many more things I’d write a book if I tried to fit it all in.
On our first night in Tahiti Abe introduced me to the Meyer’s Briggs personality test. I learned as much about myself as I did others from learning to discern a person’s personality type as a way of understanding why they act the way they do. If you haven’t heard of it before, I’d highly recommend learning more about the people close to you by finding out theirs. Abe and I are both INTJ’s.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
After Tahiti I had a short trip to Cabo booked and it would be my first visit to Mexico (ever – can you believe it!?) I was working with the tourism board so decided to drag a friend along – my lifelong friend Hayley who is also from Tasmania but now lives on the Gold Coast. We spent five days exploring the Baja Peninsula and boy was it nice to show someone from home this crazy whirlwind ride I’m on – five star hotels, butlers and all-you-can-eat ordering at fine dining restaurants. What is this life?!
From Cabo we flew directly to Chicago for a few days where we would both fly back to Australia from. I’d now spent the better part of the last few months with a handful of different friends all who had the same advice: go home, deal with it, pack your bags and start again. My response was always “easier said than done”…….turns out it wasn’t too hard after all.
I’m trying to smile in this photo. It felt so weird.
Home for Heartache etc.
I landed home in the afternoon and the minute I landed I texted my best friend Emma to say I felt nauseous. Break ups SUCK. Within the first hour of my being home we decided to part ways officially and after a week I had moved all of my belongings (save for the furniture I left behind) in to my townhouse above my bakery. All I had wanted for the past few months was some alone time and now, in my little one bedroom apartment I had all the alone time I could ever need. I loved it. I hated it. I ordered take-out twice a day and some days didn’t eat at all. I watched the entire catalogue of Netflix. I spent days if not weeks on my couch, too afraid to have an empty space next to me in my bed. It was the end of four years working towards a future with someone and now I didn’t know who I was or where I was going.
My friend Sophie and I met in London 5 or 6 years ago when I was on my year overseas (the year my blog really took off and this became my full time job). We had met up a couple of times since when I was passing through Auckland, but hadn’t really kept in touch much at all. She saw I was in the midst of a big life change (a.k.a. the break up) and phoned me that night. “Do you want to go on an adventure in New Zealand?” she asked after we discussed the usual pleasantries. That night I had booked my flight for a few days time, written a list of supplies I needed – head torch, winter coat, ski goggles – and 3/4 packed my bag. We spent two weeks cruising around New Zealand in a van we rented and had the absolute time of our lives. I could feel myself already moving on and I felt bad for feeling so happy so quickly, but like any trauma in life or big change, the feelings came and went in waves. It was four good days followed by one bad day and to me that felt like a pretty good ratio to upkeep. When Sophie left I stayed for a week by myself and checked in to an all vegan yoga retreat. As cliche as it sounds, it cured me.
Only a few weeks after we were adventuring around in a van in New Zealand, both Sophie and I booked one-way flights to Los Angeles and spent two months there over the summer. I had found a room to rent with another Aussie girl in Beverly Hills – easily the dullest place to live in all of Los Angeles. I spent absolutely no time there and every spare minute darting around town to see my friends in Venice, Santa Monica, Echo Park and DTLA. I was testing out Los Angeles to see if I should move there as I knew a move was on the horizon, I just didn’t know where to. It wasn’t LA.
Upstate New York
Cutting our time in LA short, Sophie and I spent our third month in the States in New York City and Upstate New York. Fall was in full swing and not only did the leaves shed to make way for a new lease of life, but I could feel myself doing the same.
I had started dating again in Los Angeles and after a few “nope”s I had come across a nice young chap who stole my attention almost immediately. We made time for a handful of dates in Los Angeles before I boarded for New York and knowing that I wasn’t going to live in Los Angeles or be back there any time soon, I ruled it out as nothing more than some guy I dated a few times and figured it would fizzle as quickly as it began.
We kept in touch every day and it soon became pretty obvious this was more than a fling so we made plans to see each other before I flew back to Australia. He drove me to the airport on the very last day I could stay in the country without my visa (I was still working on it) and I could tell from the goodbye I’d be seeing him again sooner rather than later (read on…).
Six weeks flew by in Australia as I tidied up my affairs ready to make the move to New York City: I leased my apartment, had my credit cards renewed, renewed my driver’s licence, trained more staff at the bakery, sold nearly everything I owned and packed my bags and booked a one-way ticket to London.
If you’ve read my blog and followed my adventures for a while, you’ll know this isn’t the first time I’ve booked a one-way ticket to London (and the first time I did it was the beginning of my blog!)
I was waiting for my visa to process (update: still waiting) but impatiently booked a flight ahead of time so I could see Mr. Los Angeles and we were both willing to meet in London. We spent a few nights together and I stayed an extra few days to spend some solo time in the city. I adore London and especially the way it comes to live through the month of December for Christmas.
Very last minute I had an email pop up in my inbox inviting me on an “adventure of a lifetime” to drive 40 hours to the Arctic Ocean. I deleted it as spam. It was not spam. Some days later I was boarding a flight to Vancouver to embark on the craziest campaign yet – 40 hours in a car, 2,700 kilometres driving, 23 people in a convoy of 10 cars to the Arctic Ocean. Mazda had invited myself and a team of journalists, photographers, videographers and drivers on this crazy, wild adventure North. I crashed a car for the first time. Of course it would only be my first time on a campaign with Mazda. They were cool about it.