Lucky to be Unlucky

In honor of this post, the song of the week is “Shout it Out” by Florence + the Machine (who I’m seeing in a few weeks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

And I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t
So here’s to drinks in the dark at the end of my rope
And I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope
It’s a shot in the dark aimed right at my throat
Cause looking for heaven, found the devil in me
Looking for heaven, found the devil in me
Well what the hell I’m gonna let it happen to me

As I come to the final moments of my trip, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on what has been, what could have been, and what might be as a result of this trip. I have a friend that I met in Fraser island that’s basically doing the same trip as me, give or take a few days, so we keep meeting up and hanging out. After my reef trip we had dinner and I relayed the many disasters that occurred in that thirty hours. He’d also been there to hear about the other little road bumps I’d encountered along the way so when I told him I couldn’t meet him in Cairns because I’d been stranded in Cape Trib he remarked, “Zan, you must be the unluckiest person I know.” I stared at his response dumbfounded because I’ve never felt unlucky this entire trip and would never have classified myself as such. Yes, things have gone wrong but out of all of the things that went “wrong” so many went right. Only twice, once when I got stuck in the jungle with no options, and another when I felt like I’d failed myself on the reef, did I get upset about anything that happened on my trip. I used to be really high strung about things and I’d get worked up quite easily when things didn’t go “according to plan” but then I realized that 99% of my plans don’t go accordingly and somehow I’m still alive and kicking.

To be quite honest though, life has been kicking me  pretty hard in the face since before I could walk and has continued to do so along the way. However, I could live my life believing that or I could look at the things that life has given me wake of tragedy and believe that I am actually quite lucky. Some of my biggest gifts in life have come from such “tragedies.” For example, this entire trip was born from something terrible and now look at where I am. If I hadn’t gone through everything that I had last year, I would never had had the courage to live abroad–I’d be in boring old California going through the motions living like a turn of the century factory worker. From the very beginning this trip was not according to any of my previous plans! The trip itself also had a plan, a plan that involved being in one quiet place for six months and traveling Asia. Did any of that happen? No. Instead, I got a new job and a new place where I met some of the most wonderful people. These things then led me up the coast where I met some of the soundest people I think I will ever meet and saw more beautiful things than I could have imagined. I don’t really believe in things being predestined, but I do believe that all of this happened for one reason or another so I’m no longer phased when things go wrong. When things went to shit, I came to Sydney. When my job wasn’t what I expected, I got two better jobs, an apartment full of friends, and ocean view. When I couldn’t find an improv class that fit my schedule, I joined a team and did better than I ever would have anticipated. When I didn’t know how to plan a trip to Asia, I ended up planning one up the coast. When my reef trip got pushed, it gave me two days to meet up with some of my friends, friends I would have missed entirely had I gone to the reef. The debacle on the reef taught me so much about myself, gave me perspective and gave me goals. Getting flooded in Cape Trib reintroduced me to the kindness and generosity of humanity. Then getting stranded in Sydney gave me adequate time to say goodbye to my second home and see other friends who suddenly decided to come earlier than anticipated. Do you see what I’m getting at now?

I don’t know what happened but it seems like a switch went off somewhere down the road. It now feels unnatural to feel sorry for myself or to be upset about setbacks. Setbacks don’t even seem like setbacks–they just seem like part of the plan. The greatest thing that I’ve learned from this trip is that it’s all part of something bigger, that something will work itself out, and everything will be more than just okay. I mean, just look at where I’ve been and what I’ve accomplished in the last seven months. I really think moving to the other side of the world was just the beginning of something beautiful.

And to be frank, I feel quite lucky to be so “unlucky” because when I look back at what I had planned, I realize that what has come of it all was far more beautiful than anything I could have come up with myself. So the next time you feel sorry for yourself and you’re crying, “WHY ME??” you can think of this. This isn’t anything really profound–in fact it’s common knowledge but isn’t so until you’ve experienced it yourself. Things could always be worse! So here’s to you, control freaks of the world, chill out and enjoy the ride because life is really short and it’s going to be a lot more miserable if you spend your days grasping at the crumbling foundations of your precious plans.

So this is my life. It’s pretty badass and I’m grateful for it every single day.

I know I’m young and I don’t know much about life, but I do know that I am happy, that I am healthy, and that I am much more than alive–but let’s be real, that’s probably because I’m an immortal vampire.

EDIT

I was doing some quick browsing of the things I posted recently and I am beyond horrified that I posted any of that without editing. I wish I could tell you that I was drunk when I posted all of those things, or that I wrote them when I was ten, because that’s what it sounds like but none of the above are true. SO UNFORTUNATE. I’ve had limited amounts of internet here and there at various places along my travel route so I’ve just put something out so you all know I wasn’t eaten by anything and then gone off to do whatever I need to do. Um. Anyway. I’ll have a lot more time to write much more coherent pieces. I’m legitimately embarrassed for myself. Brb while I go edit those posts. Sorry if I offended you with my seemingly terrible writing skillz.

Great Barrier Reef

The entire point of my trip was to go to the Reef. Originally I was just going to go to the Reef for a few days then go around Asia for the rest of my time. I was later convinced to do other things up the coast and I’m so so so  grateful I did. When I finally got to the reef it was not what I expected, though I have to say it wasn’t all bad.

The weather here has been unbelievably terrible. I was meant to go on the boat Thursday but because of the terrible weather it got pushed to yesterday, Saturday. I get on the boat at like half seven, which is far too early for me to ever be doing anything so I was fairly miserable to start. It’s raining again but I am told it will clear up so I have some faith. This faith is short lived because it never got better. In fact, it was so choppy I actually got seasick for the first time in my entire life. Me, the girl who reads in cars for 8 hours at a time and can’t even remember the last time she threw up, puked her brains out. I’m pretty sure I threw up more than a freshman girl at a frat party. The best part? I was sitting on the wrong side of the boat and couldn’t make it so I threw up in the wind and ultimately all over myself. Embarrassing, right?. Then the boat looked like it was going to tip over every five seconds because it would lean so far that the deck was starting to dip in the ocean. Have I mentioned that my biggest fear is drowning? Ya. I lost my shit (to say the least) and clutched on to something on the boat ready for my imminent death and the loss of my beautiful photos. SPEAKING OF PHOTOS. The boat rocked so much earlier that my camera flew out of my hand as I fell over in my cabin, smashed into a wall and broke the lens into smithereens. Yes, that happened, mom & dad. I hope you’re proud because I am!

We finally made it to our first dive site after three hours of this bs. I had a free introductory dive and decided to do it here. I dived at the Whitsundays and did perfectly fine. Remember this fear of drowning? I figured I’d freak out and not be able to breathe underwater but I was fine. In fact I was more than fine. I was able to do the practice exercises where I took out the mouthpiece, had to keep exhaling, find the piece, put it back in and continue breathing. I did it a few times without panicking so I figured when I got to the reef everything would work out. It didn’t. I jumped off the boat, found myself in open water and panicked. I don’t know what I was thinking. I get anxiety watching effing Nemo swim out into open water and that’s a cartoon. I had to get back on the boat to calm down before doing anything else and sat out on the dive. At the next site, it was shallow enough that I felt ok so I snorkeled for a bit to see the sights. I swam among some fish and even saw a little tiny sand ray poke out from under a big piece of coral! However the visibility wasn’t the best. Because I felt like I had gotten my nerves in check after a mellow snorkel, I decided to try a dive again and it went well. I swam with all of these cool fish and saw a giant fish under the boat! It was like 3ft long! So cool!

Aside from that, the people on my boat were mostly older, certified divers, who were all really nice. The food was good as well, though nobody ate much for fear of throwing everything up. That night the certified divers all went on a night dive and apparently they saw squid and cool things. It  actually sounded absolutely terrifying to me. I probably would have done it…then cried…then told everyone it was awesome.

This morning we were up at half six to do a dive an hour later. I decided to try the dive again but the water was even choppier than it was the first day so I lost it again and had to get back on the boat. I don’t know what my problem is. Well, I do–I’m beyond terrified of drowning and/or getting eaten by a shark, but usually I can buck up and get through it. I knew that in the end nothing would happen to me but until I didn’t want to have to deal with the journey from point A to point B so I went snorkeling instead and actually saw some amazing coral. There was so so so much of it! Then as we were eating lunch a sea turtle swam by our boat! After that little bit of excitement we headed back to shore.

I. Have. Never. Been. So. Happy. To. See. Land. In. My. Life.
To be honest, I felt pretty upset about the whole thing because my whole point in coming was to see the reef and I could barely do it. However, it wasn’t a total bust. I did see a lot of fish, I did see the reef, and I did at least do one dive. Now I know though that I want to become a certified diver when I get home so that I can get over this fear. So really, I haven’t given up. I just need another shot so I’m proud of myself for trying and recognizing this and am excited to get cracking on this license so that I can see other things. Next stop: Cenote diving in Mexico 🙂

Annnnnnnnnd tomorrow I’m off to a rainforest! Yes!

Ok I have a few minutes to post something. I can’t plug in my camera to upload proper photos but I can upload this one I have of the Carlo Sandblow at Rainbow Beach.

After Byron, I headed north to Rainbow Beach before embarking on my three day camping trip to Fraser Island. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. It’s like 120 miles around so you have to drive around the island to see everything. When I heard “island,” I thought it was going to be some tiny little thing but then again, the world always looks so much smaller on a map. Fraser Island is massive so you really can’t go anywhere without a car . Before I talk about Fraser though, I’m going talk about my quiet day at Rainbow Beach.

Rainbow Beach. Ahhhh. Such a quiet little place. Really though, there is absolutely nothing there. There’s literally a street with some hostels, a petrol station, a grocery store and a few little shops. There are houses all around but as far as a “town” goes, that’s pretty much it, at least from what I saw. I was feeling a bit out of place as I do when I go to new places since I don’t know where I am and I don’t know anyone there. My first order of business though was to attend an orientation on safety at Fraser since we’d be camping and driving around on sand and water. Afterwards I ran some errands and then went on this beautiful walk to the Carlo Sandblow, which is this huge sand dune about a thirty minute walk from our hostel. It was spectacular. You’ll die when you see the photos I took. It goes right down to the ocean so you have a great view. It’s spectacular.

The next morning, we had to be up and ready by 7. We all gathered round and were separated into four groups. The way this trip works is that there’s a guide who drives one car and then three other groups follow behind in their own cars. Each group had to check off their crate of food, camping equipment, cooking equipment etc. Once we were all set, we were off. A ferry took us across to the island and from there we went to set up camp. Our guide took us to a secluded little camping spot in the sand, away from the tourists so there wouldn’t be any noise complaints. Smart, right? From there, we made lunch, and then drove about thirty minutes to a cool little lake called Lake Wabby.

Like I said before, Fraser is so big you can’t walk anywhere. Everyone took turns driving through the sand and water but because it was manual, I couldn’t take a turn. The whole time I felt like I was on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland–we were definitely roughing it. Anywho, our first destination was Lake Wabby. Apparently the guide changed the order of our trip around because of the crazy weather we’d been having. When I left Sydney a week ago, there were these big storms and flood warnings etc. When I was leaving Byron, it was raining and someone said to me that I wouldn’t be able to get to Rainbow because everything north of Brisbane was flooded. I actually have a few friends who got stuck on their way to Rainbow because of it. I was incredibly fortunate that I didn’t have any problems. My trip is pretty packed so any setbacks would be horrible. Anyway it’d been pouring for days at Byron so I was scared that I’d have to go camp out in the pouring rain and not see anything but the weather warmed right up for us! Lake Wabby was beautiful–a huge emerald lake full of catfish. We all jumped in and had a great swim before going back to cook our own dinners. We made a chicken stir fry with rice, fended off the biggest flies I’ve ever seen in my life, and then washed dishes in the ocean…

The next morning we were up bright and early to go to Eli’s Creek which is a beautiful freshwater creek that goes out to the beach. After we had a nice shower in the creek, saw the wreck of the Mahena, headed over to the Champagne pools, crystal clear little pools next to the ocean, then hiked up to Indian Head, the highest point on the island. The view was unreal. Again, you’ll die when you see photos. After our trek we went back to make dinner before the sun went down. As we were making dinner we finally spotted some dingos lurking around. I’m not going to lie, I was definitely a little scared but they don’t really come to close if you’re being active. After we saw that first one, it was joined by a friend, who also lurked around fairly close to where we were eating. One actually ran towards all of the tents and my friend said after that he spotted three more. It made going to the bathroom a terrifying endeavor.

On day 3, I woke up completely covered in sand. I tried to wipe the sand from my mouth but my sweatshirt was also covered. No showers, just sand for three days. I didn’t know how I’d make it the rest of the day! After packing up our tents and having a quick breakfast we headed to what was supposed to be the best part of the trip–Lake Mackenzie. I’d seen pictures of Lake Mackenzie but nothing compares to actually being there. We got there at about 8 am, yes AM and all went swimming. The water was so warm and  a perfect blue. I felt like I was in Fiji or something. We played around for a few hours, some guy picked up some turtles while snorkeling and gave us a mini turtle lesson, and then we were off. We had lunch on the beach and then went back to the hostel. After that we all raced for the showers then had a great dinner together laughing about the crazy three days we’d just had. I know this was only the second part of my trip, but this has by far been my favorite just because of the group of sound people that I met here. Usually it’s really hit or miss with such big groups but this group was unreal. It’s sad that we only had a few days together. A few of us are here at the Whitsundays but we’re all going on different boats so I’m sad to see everyone go, but that’s the traveler’s life. Anyway, I have to get myself sorted because my boat leaves in about an hour or so. Until next time, friends, family, lurkers.

The Beginning of the End

About a week and a half ago I booked a three week trip up the east coast of Oz. On Saturday my journey began. If I had limited Internet access before, I have even less of it now and I’ll most likely be doing this all from my iPod as I didn’t want to bring my laptop. I don’t really know how the format of the photos works either so they might just all be at the end. I don’t know.

Right. So. My trip.

My first stop is Byron Bay just a few hours drive from Brisbane. This place is magical. My friend recommended this cool hostel just under a kilometer from the center of town. It’s basically just a big commune to be honest. Most people are living in tents and most people came for a few days and are now going on months, one guy over a year. It’s not like other hostels either. Ya there are dorms but because most people are in the tents it’s a very hippie feel. I actually feel like I’m at the Oregon Country Fair every day. There’s a really relaxed energy in the air and it’s not like other hostels where people just party and get crazy. People here party but it’s never out of hand. Mostly people are just really chilled out about everything.

I’ve been staying in a ten person teepee the last few nights. Yes. A teepee. It’s amazing. Byron is a really funky place. It reminds me a lot of Oregon but with a real beach with water warm enough to swim in. Maybe that’s why I’m so partial to this place. Anyway it’s so beautiful here. There’s a lot of nature and art around here. In fact, my hostel has an art gallery next door with a recording studio. There’s a small lake here and a forest around. There’s also a great pub next door that’s a lot of fun. The atmosphere is unreal here.

I arrived around 11 am on Sunday, dropped my things off, showered and went off to explore. I didn’t really know what see or do so I just started walking. I found a market down the road with delicious food and beautiful crafts. It reminded me a lot of the Saturday Markets in downtown Portland. It was unbelievably hot though–upwards of 80 with high humidity. It was such a change from Sydney with its downpour and flood warnings. Coldest summer in 50 years…After the markets I went to check into my room and put my stuff away then headed to the beach for a bit. When I got back in the evening they were having a big farewell for a guy who’d come for a week and stayed for fifteen months so there was food, drinks, music etc. I met a lot of people that night from all over the world–the most unique place being Mauritius. After everybody ate people started playing guitar and drums and we basically had a big music circle in the common room before heading to bed.

Next morning I woke up at 530, yes, morning and took a shuttle up to the lighthouse near the easternmost point of Oz to see the sunrise. It was early but it was so worth it. It was too cloudy for the sunrise really but I got some great photos and it was still really beautiful. I came back, slept, then headed off to explore the area. My friend lent us his car and another friend and I drove around to explore. We were going to go to this other commune retreat place called Rainbow Temple where another friend lives but we ended up making a three hour detour to this forest we found on the map. It’s supposed to be a national park or something so we thought there’d be somewhere to park and walk around. There wasn’t. It’s basically a one lane road through a forest where there are a few houses spread out. It’s gorgeous around there though. It’s so green and there’s a small river that goes through there. My friend and I decided were going to start a yurt commune out there. Not even joking. Anyway…afterwards we went to get ingredients for a giant curry our friends were going to make. We all helped cook by chopping, washing, peeling, cooking etc and made the biggest curry I’ve ever seen. Everyone only put in a dollar or two, which covered the expenses perfectly and everyone had enough. I had a huge bowl of curry and rice and so did everyone else. I couldn’t believe there was enough to go around! It was a good feeling pitching in and eating for two dollars. I love the sense of community here. If I didn’t have a deadline for America so soon I’d definitely spend a lot more time here, maybe even a year haha.

Tonight I’m heading to Brisbane for a night before going to Fraser Island to camp for four days! I’m really excited!

Dreaming of a White After Labor Day Christmas

I’m dreaming of a white after labor day Christmas
Just like the ones I never knew 
Where the sweat beads glisten
and children listen to hear surfers going, “WHOA”

I’m living in a white after labor day Christmas
With every cool postcard I write
May these days be sunny and light
And may all your Christmases be bright

Umm so let’s be real. What hasn’t happened since I last posted? It seems like it’s been forever and a half but really it’s only been about two and a half months. Since then, I have worked almost every day and saved enough to buy a large Chanel bag…then spent it all. Before you have a heart attack (MOM) I’ll explain why later.

After Melbourne I moved into a little beach apartment in Bondi with a bunch of travelers. In case you didn’t know, Bondi is one of the most famous beaches here and it’s also a very large tourist trap. In fact, it’s mostly foreigners that live and work there. I did a few trials then got a job there and I think at each place there were tops one or two Aussies. The rest were travelers. It was cool getting to meet so many international people and hopefully when I travel I’ll just get to visit all of my friends!

Oh ya Christmas happened.

I spent Christmas Eve at my friend’s house in the morning. She made us some breakfast pancakes, we watched the Yule Log Chanel on Youtube, then went swimming! I  know that doesn’t sound unusual to most of you since Southern California winters are pretty much like summer, but here in Sydney it actually is Summer. However, Sydney just went through their coldest Summer in 50 years. The week up to Christmas was cold and rainy and then miraculously on Christmas weekend it got ridiculously hot! It was beautiful! After swimming, I went to my other friend’s house in North Sydney and had a very French dinner with her host family. It was pretty cool because apparently their house is right on the bush so as we were eating, we could hear all of these kookaburras laughing! I’d never heard one before! If you haven’t either, which most of you probably haven’t, you have to watch this video. It’s insane.

The next day, I spent at the beach having an orphan Christmas with all of the other travelers.  The beaches were jam packed and it was basically a giant party up and down the beaches of Sydney.

Boxing Day was spent with some Aussies and another LA orphan watching the Sydney to Hobart sailing race!

A beautiful view of the harbor from our stop!

Then, of course, there was the famed New Year’s Eve event! Sydney takes a lot of pride in the NYE events. In fact, they spend millions of dollars on their fireworks. I spent the morning working a big music festival near the Anzac Bridge, which was perfect because when I finished at 9pm, the first round of fireworks were on. 

They were beautiful! And that was just the first round. After that round my friend and I went to another friend’s house for food and drinks before celebrating midnight! The fireworks there were unreal. I’ve never seen anything like it before. There was a huge countdown on the bridge and when it hit midnight, the fireworks went off. It was seriously like a week’s worth of Disneyland fireworks all put together for one night. If you ever get the chance to be in Sydney at NYE, DO IT.

Anyway, there’s obviously a lot more to update but I’m trying to put them into separate posts. My trip is practically over. It’s insane. I booked my trip to the reef this week and before I know it, I’ll be coming home. Oh, there’s the explanation for why I have no money now, Mom. Please don’t have a heart attack.