Dear Sydney…

Dear Sydney,

The past week has been overflowing with more reflection than usual for me. If I gave you an hour inside of my brain I assume you would be quite exhausted and possibly terrified. I am celebrating a year of living here in Sydney. I moved to Australia at the end of July 2015 but I went backpacking for two months up the East coast and I landed in Sydney at the end of September 2015, for what I thought was a few weeks. When I moved to Australia it was my intention to live in Melbourne. My teacher besties I met in Thailand moved there and when I visited the fall before I fell in love. I came to Australia not knowing exactly where I would end up, but I had an open mind and an open heart. After a few weeks in the hostel I was running out of money, so I knew it was time to get another job. My job search began and I made the Library of New South Wales my go-to spot. Something about being in a library makes me feel safe and at home.  It was while I was living in this cheap hostel, searching for a job, checking my bank account after every purchase, exploring the city on my own, that I began stressing about the future and if I really made the right decision. I struggled with loneliness and intense anxiety.  I wrote in my blog a year ago how I took myself out to dinner for the first time at a fancy restaurant and forced myself to enjoy my own company, without my phone or any hesitation. It felt weird and uncomfortable but overall, it was liberating.

A year ago I had no idea that at this hostel I would meet the man that I am now in love and happily living with. I had no idea that my passion for health and wellness, helping others, and sharing my journey would turn into such a huge driving force in my career and my life. For all my travelers out there, I know you can understand why traveling makes you so reflective but if you don’t travel much, I would love to explain why. When you travel or live abroad, especially for long periods of time, your life goes into a time warp and months seem like years and days seem like minutes. It feels like you just left home but it also feels as if you have existed in this universe forever. You develop a routine in your new turf because despite the need for freedom and adventure, human beings are all creatures of habits. When you move away from everything you’ve ever known, you are left with yourself. You are left to define yourself, in whatever manner you desire. The people you meet may learn about your past from stories, photographs and Facebook stalking, but a traveler meets everyone at face value, as the person they are today. It’s a beautiful way to approach life and a particularly comforting way to approach people.

The whole concept of the travel bug sounded silly to me at first. It sounded cliche and overused and quite frankly, trite. But a harsh reality you face in this world, is that cliches only construct meaning in your life when they are relevant to you. The travel bug isn’t a creature you want to take lightly. Now that I have lived abroad for 2 out of the last 3 years of my 20’s, I am heavily addicted. I am in love with the way it feels to explore new cities and look at every minute moment as something special and worth remembering. I am in love with the feeling of coming and going because it constantly reminds you how good you have it. When I travel home, I see the same city I grew up in with fresh eyes. All my favorites of home become that much more divine and sacred. Even though I have lived in Sydney for a year now, it still feels fresh and exciting to me. When I got my teaching job, experienced a few weeks of summer in Sydney and met my handsome Englishman, I felt an overwhelming feeling of contentment. I felt satisfied, grounded and “home” in a way that is difficult to verbalize. I asked myself out-loud, and many of my friends, “Why would you ever choose to leave this?”

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NEWS FLASH: I’M FOUND

It has been a while since I’ve checked in. Consistency does not seem to be my middle name these days. One of the problems of constantly living in the moment is picking and choosing what moments are worth living in and what moments I need to save for someone else. Technology has the power to connect us but sometimes I like to withdraw and unplug to gain perspective. Maybe that is not the best quality for a blogger to have but we’re all a work in progress…right?

When I last updated you I was living at a hostel in a small beach town in Northern Australia. I was participating in my self-proclaimed detox and doing sunrise yoga on the beach in the morning and exercising every afternoon. I spent my days reading, exploring the beaches and hiking areas or laying by the pool. I spent my evenings working at a local restaurant that needed extra help for the end of tourist season. It was a very simple lifestyle but my favorite part about it was the friends that I made there. It was a living/working hostel so most of my friends were there semi-permanently to complete their farm work for their second year visa. I spent so much time with these individuals they quickly turned into friends. It was much different than staying at a hostel and meeting a fun crew for a few nights. We bonded and did everything together and I truly miss each and every one of them now that I am in Sydney on my own. I especially miss my girls who did my detox program with me (shout out to my most loyal students Shona and Sibell) you ladies gave me such motivation to keep going and helping you helped me! I miss having my little minions to terrorize daily. You reminded me why I became a health and fitness coach in the first place! And my roomie, Amy, who helped inspire this blog post. This one is for you girlfriend. Can’t wait until you move to Sydney so we can do it all over again!

In Mission Beach, I woke up every single day like clockwork at 6am and marched down to the beach to do my yoga. The first sunrise took my breath away and I knew that I wanted to start my day like that for as long as I was living at the beach. After a week or two I found myself focusing more on my yoga practice than the sunrise. I stopped taking photos because I was used to the beauty. But then one day it hit me, and I was in awe at how symbolic the sunrise is for life. Every single day there is a gorgeous sunrise but most people miss it because they are still asleep. Even if no one is there to watch it, the sun still rises just as beautifully. If you are lucky enough to see it, you may become jaded to its beauty, but the truly wise take time to acknowledge its beauty every single day. Life has so many beautiful moments and opportunities but people often miss them because they are subconsciously sleeping or they take the splendor for granted. Ask any happy person why they are so happy and I guarantee they will have a simple answer. When we appreciate little things it gives us room to welcome big blessings in our lives. When we focus on the basics and acknowledge how little we need to truly be happy, a whole new freedom opens up in front of our eyes. If you choose to watch the sunrise or you choose to sleep, it still rises. Beauty is everywhere and it is up to us to not only go out and find it, but to go out and appreciate it. Not once, but continually, as a habit not a happenstance.

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Simply Straya& Serendipity

It’s been a while but I’m back with a ridiculous surplus of adventures to share from the past two months of my life. I’ve felt more alive in the past two months then I can ever remember. I feel as if I have said that before on my blog but with little fear of redundancy I dare say it again. I must be doing something right if I continue to feel more and more alive with each chapter of my journey. As if moving to Australia wasn’t exciting enough I also stumbled into what still feels like a fairytale right before I left home. There are so many clichés that can make you crazy, especially about love, more specifically about love when you are doing everything in your power to not be tied to anyone or anywhere. But the old cliché that “it always happens when you stop looking for it” has reared its ironic little head into my life. I had no idea who I would find, staggering through Benjamin’s with more wine than blood in my veins, but I couldn’t be happier that I did. Our circumstance seems impossible but as always I am a firm believer that everything works out the way it is supposed to. I am trusting in my gut, the universe, whatever you want to call it and I’m sure everything will fall into place. Thanks to my new partner in crime my last month in America was kicked into overdrive with lots of new friends, good food, long nights, surprises, Coronas and heart to hearts and the grand finale of jumping out of a plane for the first time. We went skydiving the day before I left for Australia and it epitomized how the last month felt; intimidating but extremely exciting, vulnerable but free, anxious but genuinely joyful. I guess it’s most easily explained as serendipity, finding something good without looking for it. And honestly, I still can’t stop smiling.

The next day I hopped in the minivan with my parents, my ridiculously stuffed backpack(s) and boarded the plane with my new traveling partner, and lifetime partner in crime, my older brother Nick. We started off strong by being dropped off at the wrong terminal at JFK. After 27 hours, lots of bickering, and an exploded beard oil can (leading to an extreme drug dog scare at customs) we finally arrived in Australia(or Straya…what we lovingly call it now). We got a shuttle to our hostel in Brisbane, which is the center of the east coast of Australia. We had one night booked at our hostel and absolutely no further plans. I am not exaggerating. We explored the city all day, hit up a street food market and called it an early night. We decided to book another night and wait for the arrival of the final member of the #Wandernuts trio, Jackie, to arrive from Fiji. The owner of the hostel just laughed as we came down to reception the next morning and asked to book another night. He said, “Yeah I planned on coming to Brisbane for a week… 9 years later…” Nick and I looked at each other with an “OH SHIT” kind of glare and #9yearslater became a running joke for the rest of the trip.

It is absolutely mind blowing how many people I have met in Australia in the past month who had no intentions of staying one place or the other but were enticed by the beauty, the freedom and the kindness that saturate every corner of this country. Brisbane served us well and who knows how long we would have been trapped there if it wasn’t for Nick & Jackie’s deadlines to get back to America. If you are visiting Brisbane be sure to check out the XXXX Brewery tour, Koala Sanctuary, rent bikes and tour the riverfront, botanical garden and lagoon. If you are looking for an amazing hostel check out Brisbane City Backpackers, awesome location, sweet set up and the staff was so helpful. The people we met in Brisbane truly made that city come alive. In the blink of an eye, we went from having no plan to having every single day, bus, hostel, ferry and boat trip planned for the next two and a half weeks. Shout out to Jake at Wicked Travel Brisbane, thanks for simplifying our lives and making our holiday experience perfect!

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Returning to My American Dream

Things that I will miss desperately about teaching in Thailand 

  1. Respect
  2. Adequate planning time
  3. Free delish lunch
  4. Valuing extra curricular
  5. A “family like” community of teachers and a group office
  6. Personal Teacher-student relationships
  7. Compliments
  8. Freedom of choice for curriculum (minimal standardized tests)
  9. Gratitude
  10. Laughter

Things I actually miss desperately about Thailand

  1. Friendly Strangers & Smiles
  2. A deep sense of value and gratitude
  3. SUNSHINE
  4. The food- especially Som Tam and Tom Kha Gai
  5. MY STUDENTS & MY JOB
  6. Simplicity
  7. Surprises
  8. All of my friends/coworkers
  9. Adventure around every corner
  10. Mai Pen Rai attitudes

Things I appreciate about America

  1. Familiar faces
  2. Quality time with family & friends
  3. My doggie/other doggies I can actually PET!
  4. The emphasis of HEALTH, NUTRITION & EXERCISE
  5. Having a car and a kitchen
  6. Good wine & coffee
  7. CLEANLINESS
  8. Customer Service
  9. Good music
  10. Comfortable beds

A few months before I left Thailand I jotted down a list of things that I believed I would miss the most about teaching there. After being home in America for nearly two months I wrote a list of what I actually miss, not just about teaching there but about living there in general. I miss it every single day.

That doesn’t mean that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed my time home in America. I am grateful for the luxuries of home and I am astonished by how much our country truly has at its fingertips. I am beyond grateful for the quality time I have spent with people who I love sharing stories, meals, dance parties, copious amounts of wine and more than a few laughs. I love sharing about my journey, my life, and the magical slice of South East Asia that captivated my soul and stretched me to my limits both in positive and negative respects. Many people I talk to have preconceived notions about what it would be like to live there and I never hesitate to prove them wrong.

I came home at by far my favorite time of year, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Now the rose colored holiday glasses are rapidly being clouded with SNOW. It’s -8 degrees right now. That just sounds like a sick joke. The temporary high of being back in America is wearing off and reality is setting in. Just like moving to Thailand, there is definitely a “vacation” period filled with adrenaline, reunions, and FUN and then you come to terms with the fact that you actually need to adjust to life here.

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The Most Beautiful People

Since my last post I have been busy teaching, binge watching Orange is the New Black, picking up a new workout and hobby (Muay Thai) and traveling. I realized I only wrote a draft for this but never posted it, so I will post two in a row to make things less confusing. I love my blog but I also love writing for myself. Blogs can be for yourself but I believe when you write with the knowledge that you have an audience you subconsciously change the way you present your thoughts and emotions. Some thoughts and emotions of this journey I have to hash out on my own…

Jackie and I decided to explore Suphanburi again for a weekend. Teaching is extremely draining and we don’t want to wear ourselves out by pushing ourselves to explore too much, too soon. The last few weeks were all about getting back into a routine healthy lifestyle that I have somewhat neglected in my adjustment to this new world. I am an avid runner and gym-goer who enjoys eating a healthy diet with occasional splurges. I loved to cook for myself back in the US, so eating out every night was a huge adjustment. I also have been warned by just about every person I talk to that I should never run alone here, so that kind of cancels running out of the equation. Luckily, there are many alternatives to explore. I have been going to yoga class with foreign teachers from my school twice a week and I have started up the Insanity dvds (once again).  I swear it is an addiction…

One day on the songtow (mini bus) on my way to yoga, a young Thai girl asked me where I was going in an extremely Western sounding accent. Surprised, I told her I was going to yoga class and she asked if Jackie and I were interested in coming to Muay Thai class instead. Without hesitation… we both replied, “Sure!” Our impulsive attitudes are a great asset to traveling (but sometimes a burden to our bank accounts 😉 ) Muay Thai is martial arts/boxing style fighting that is famous all over Thailand and the world. It was extremely awkward walking into a huge open gym with dozens of half naked Thai children in silky high waisted boxing shorts.

The young girl explained to us that she studied abroad in the US two years ago (explained her impeccable English) and that she would translate for us. The Muay Thai instructor spoke very little English but he was very excited to have us there and paid a lot of attention to us throughout the workout. We worked on kicking, kneeing, elbows, push ups, sit ups and a variety of moves and by the end we felt tired, sweaty and accomplished.  He invited us back whenever we want and we have already been again a few times! It is a great workout and despite the stares burning through us as we awkwardly attempt the moves, it is a lot of fun too! Plus… it’s free… which is a great thing no matter what country or continent you are on.  I love working out and anything that makes you sweat. I love the challenge and I love endorphins. I am addicted to the way I feel after a great workout, no matter what that workout may be. I am so excited to have a variety of options to keep me active and release my hyperactive energy in a positive form.

School remains exciting and challenging everyday. Everyday I realize things about my students and about teaching EFL that I didn’t know the day before. It is frustrating but it is also motivating to discover the most affective ways to help our students better not only their English but also their lives! I enjoy the fact that my job is like a constant riddle or puzzle, which takes tons of patience, creativity, resilience and thinking to be successful. I feel stimulated by this task that others may find daunting. That’s how I know that teaching is the right job for me! I depend on my kids just as much as they depend on me. They are my constant in this new adventure and they give me purpose when I feel like a lonely traveler, when I miss home, when I struggle to maintain my old life and embrace my new one.

In today’s society we expect instant gratification for every aspect of life. We expect every question to have an answer that we can find from a quick Google search. We expect to understand our culture shock and moving away from the ones we love and care about the most. We expect for long distance love to be hard but we don’t really know how hard it will be. Life is messy, human beings are complex, no matter how much the world around us changes and advances, our minds and our hearts are primitive. Our pain is raw. Our love is powerful. Our sadness prevails. Our kindness prevails. Human beings and their emotions don’t fit into the Google search page. I wish I could read a book, “What to do when your life changes” but no advice in the world could prepare me for the emotional roller coaster that I have been on in this fresh chapter of my life. One day at a time… That is the only way to tackle this beast. You can’t break down the world’s wicked ways no matter how hard you try. Some days simply breathing should be enough to be grateful for. Now matter how hard I try, I know I can’t fix everything all at once, but I can fix the way I allow it to affect me. I can let it drive me to be better:  more compassionate, gentle, and mindful. Every single person fights their own battles and it only is easier if we lean on each other when we cannot stand on our own.Human beings hate being vulnerable but vulnerability is an exceptional part of being a human being.

For someone who loves to help and give advice to friends and family, it is difficult to admit I don’t have the answers or even the right questions. It is difficult to admit my utter vulnerability but I can’t escape it and  I am doing the best I can. “Even if things get heavy, we’ll all float on okay…”

“If you look closely at a tree you’ll notice it’s knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully. ” Matthew Fox

“It’s not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.”  Stephen Fry

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. “ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross