USA

We interrupt this broadcast with a brief message from the future….. (part one)

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While our blog is still galavanting around the USA’s West Coast, we in fact, have already travelled on to the East Coast, India and Nepal. But more to the point, (for those who don’t know), we find ourselves back home again in Australia – months ahead of when it should have been and under unexpected circumstances.

So in an attempt to digest it all, I thought it worthwhile to interrupt the chronological order of things and bring it up here and now. This is how it happened…

Part One: Michael and Emma.

Our plan was to travel for a year. At the six month mark, in the throes of trying to volunteer in Nepal, Michael came to me and said he was ready to go home and take Emma with him. Whoa, I was dumbfounded. But I shouldn’t have been so surprised, I knew we were having a hard time – we were tired, grumpy and had worn down the buffers of patience and understanding. We struggled to replenish ourselves and the homesickness that Emma had carried throughout the trip wasn’t waning, it was gaining ground. I guess I just figured we would keep going and eventually push through it – I mean, we had seen so many of those hard times already during our six months. Most of them had laboured forth priceless lessons and growth.

But as is one of his strengths, Michael could see it was time to let go – we had gotten to the stage where the downsides of this travelling were no longer healthy for us as a family, or for Michael and Emma as individuals. He has always been better at making the move to leave something when it seemed impossibly hard. And there was no trace of desperation or frustration – just his calm manner and evident consideration. So despite my shock, I knew it was best and there was nothing for it but acceptance. It was time for them to return to the safety, structure and relationships of home to begin the next chapter, implementing the outcomes of their experience. I understood and supported that without question.

It was the implications I was struggling to grapple with. Because while I knew they must return home, I also knew I couldn’t. I wasn’t ready to.

I still had so much work I wanted to do within myself. We had talked about it extensively and thus already had plans in place for me to stay on after our travels for some alone sabbatical time. It was to be a chance to really sit with myself and find out all the things I either didn’t know or had been avoiding. After all, as Michael pointed out to me, I had grown up with my family and moved straight into a serious relationship with him at age 17, followed by study, work and a family – I had never really been alone in my whole life. (now there’s a scary realisation….)’

So we had both seen this as a great opportunity for me to work on some of those things I skipped as an adolescent. But now, in the current scenario with Michael and Emma leaving, and me feeling like I must still take that opportunity, it left me dizzy with one question – what on Earth do I do now? I was having a hard time facing what it meant. We have to be apart, for a long time. I must do a whole bunch of challenging stuff on my own. And we’re doing it now. Oh boy.

So the plans had changed. Again. In a big way.

Over the next day or so I processed the new situation and Michael and I talked about how we might proceed. I decided I could and would stay on in Nepal – seeing out some of our volunteering commitments then moving onto sabbatical stuff. Michael and Emma would leave in two weeks, giving us a chance to spend some more family time together and do a few more local explorations. We booked flights out for them on April 15 and contemplated the reality of what had transpired.

The next couple of weeks were a confusing mix of lovely family holiday, overwhelmed-induced paralysis and irritated twiddle-thumb waiting. We each had times of struggling, joy or becoming impatient to move on. I do believe that all of us were also grateful –  we spent those last days together exploring the wonders of Kathmandu’s old cities and the quiet peacefulness of Nargakot’s elevated village views. Towards the end we all became nervy and on edge about the impending farewell. But eventually it gave way to the most wonderful of family days: the day of departure included cuddles, stories and breakfast in bed followed by a happy productive air of just generally getting on with it.

Interestingly, minutes before he was due, our previously faithful and frequently used taxi man rang to say he wasn’t coming. Okay then. Luckily taxis were not a rare commodity and so we made our way to the airport unperturbed. The nerves returned though and only grew as we tried to sit for a cup of chai together, realising two things: 1) this dinky little outdoor alcove with a couple of small stalls and grand total of 4 chairs was it in terms of a waiting or farewell area, and 2) it was probably time for them to go already anyway. It was incredibly hard and heart wrenching to say goodbye. Luckily we tempered it well with lots of hugs and kisses, smiles and cry-laughs. I waved until they disappeared into the ‘ticket-holders only’ area then attempted to find a bus home…

So that’s how Michael and Emma ended up back in Australia with me still in Nepal! I’ll wade through my own return shortly in a second part – until then…xx

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STATES ahoy!

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By chance, rather than design, our flight from Brisbane to San Francisco went through Honolulu. Oooh, we’re going to Hawaii!
Well, not really, but we were scheduled for a 6 hour layover. Surely long enough to duck out and see something nearby. We went outside, circled the terminals several times in an effort to find a bus that went into town. Nothing was really working and apparently we were all tired grumpy So with that, the new plan was to just wait for our next flight. We were clearly incapable of making it happen in our current states, but I was still bitterly disappointed. Begrudgingly I joined the others back in the terminal – where we all promptly fell asleep.
Some time later we woke up and wondered out through a different door to find a little courtyard and garden – perfect for streching out and letting Em have a run around. After recharging in the fresh air and sunlight we strolled over to the domestic terminal. Strangely, I found the surrounds and decor much more kitsch than I expected. A 70’s looking facade of browns, oranges and carved wood, . The culture of Hawaii seemed also characatured – it was also this way elsewhere in the USA. I would have liked to stay and experience some tradition of the islands.
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Upon the next plane, we headed for San Fran(cisco). Getting in late at night, we had summoned the forethought and investment to book a hotel room close by for the night. Boy, was that a good plan. We landed, stumbled upon the free airport shuttle bus (which arrived within minutes), ate at the 24 hour restaurant attached to the hotel then crashed into bed. While Michael and I woke up at a sprightly 7am, we had to wake Emma because she was getting close to missing our checkout deadline of 12 noon! 11 hours of sleep for a child that has never, ever, been a long sleeper = great start. Despite the rest, our stomachs were still in a strange place – thus our lovechild of a breakfast was born – pancakes and fried rice (eaten separately, not together – just so you know).
Fueled up and ready to go, we began the first – of what would be many – adventures in negotiating the local transit systems. A bus took us into town where we tried to find the first of our American food and outdoor gear. After all that, the sun was threatening to set so we got onto finding the next bus to our next destination – an Air bnb room that would be our home for a few days while we explored San Fran. We had successfully identified on our tourist map where to pick up the bus – but I have to say the walk there was unnerving, which crossed through a few different neighbourhoods of downtown San Fran. It wasn’t the homeless – although we did see lots of them and of course seeing others in such a predicament calls into question your own comfort. It was more the array of shifty looking characters just hanging around on the street with apparently nothing better to do. Anyway we made it, albeit edgy and irritable with each other, only to find when we jumped off we miss calculated the stop – we still had a long walk ahead of us. Much whining later from Emma, and maybe me – ok mostly me – we found our way to a charmingly quiet friendly neighbourhood and main street. We followed the air bnb host’s instructions and hey presto, the door unlocked – woop! We had a home 🙂
After failing to recognise the coloured tape system inside the strangely empty but partially lived in house, we relocated to what seemed the right room. It was with relief too – this one had a real bed, rather than one of those double blow up mattresses which suddenly turn into a catapult every time someone gets on or off. For the couple of days we were there, we didn’t see anybody. It felt awkward and wasn’t what we had expected. I think we pictured hanging out with some locals who could tell us about town and share dinners with. Neverthless, it was a lovely room, clean and well located for us to explore. We checked out the local main street – Clement street in Inner Richmond – which was healthily populated with Asian nationals, resulting in a wonderful selection of food and little supermarket offerings. However we skipped those for the first nights dinner – ironically had at a place specialising in dessert: sandwiches and chilli at the ‘Toy Boat Dessert Cafe’ – they were good. Then for some unknown reason we forewent dessert there and ended up with donuts from an asian bakery.
Having selected a rental nearby Golden Gate Park, (in another freak stroke of forethought), we walked on down, coming in from what felt like the back entrance on the northern side. We marvelled at a public park big enough to contain roads. Not only did they service cars and the local buses, but there were lanes for runners too – ha! We wondered through some manicured lawns to find the Koret Children’s Quarter playground and carousel.. The day we picked happened to be thanksgiving and so lots of families were out playing. The carousel however was closed, but Emma didn’t dwell on that for long – relishing the chance to hop on a playground full of kids. She meandered through some beach shaped climbing items, the expansive playground and concrete slide – Michael had a go too of course.
After another wonder down Clement Street yielded some yummy dahl ingredients, we cooked them back in the home kitchen and prepared ourselves to leave the next day. We used our last foggy morning to head downtown and explore the pier and ferry building areas, taking in a great walk and sights.
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Next, we would pick up a rental care and take off on a road trip through Northern California to Oregon (and back again)…
Bye for now San Fran – see you again soon 🙂

Welcome aaaaaand …… farewell (almost).

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As the title indicates, this is both a welcome and farewell. Hmmm, that’s odd you say – I shall explain……

This is our first ever post – hurrah! And thus, welcome to our blog!

We plan to use this section of our site to cover everyday happenings and info that seems relevant as we take on our new life.

It is also a talented little creature because it will morph before your very eyes, into a…… travel blog! Yup – that’s because, (for those who don’t already know – which is potentially very few, given these plans have been in the pipeline for over a year now!), we will be departing for a year long trip away. Woo-hoo! Hence the ‘farewell’ – but not until October 🙂

The decision to go away for a year was originally born out of a desire to do something and make a difference. It was at a time that we were kind of ‘waking up’ to the type of life we were living (as I explain in more detail here in our ‘Living Small’ article). I think we felt stuck and wanted to shake things off – do something positive. It seemed we could make more of a difference with our efforts in another country where life isn’t so gifted as here in Australia – so that the small offering we were able to make could be of bigger impact. Couple this with a wish to experience simpler cultures and Michael’s lifelong interest in the Himalaya, and suddenly the possible destinations became clearer. Our first thought was Pakistan (one of the villages in Kashmir actually). However, much to the relief of many family members, we decided we could probably reduce the safety risks and still meet our aspirations by going to Nepal instead. Did I mention that we are bringing our seven year old daughter with us? Then, with India so close by, it seemed a good idea to include it too – what an opportunity to see life in all it’s loud and colourful glory, as well as its despair. And we thought we would also take the opportunity to visit my mum who lives in the USA. So that became the plan.

Over the 14 months since the plan was initially hatched, it has seen some transformation. And I have to say I am sad for that in a way because the volunteering, which first set us on this path, had its spotlight shifted somewhat to also include opportunities for researching and seeing first-hand so many of the things we want to learn about – like intentional communities, tiny/small living and the myriad of different farming/growing techniques around. We still plan, as before, to volunteer in Nepal but we will also be using our time abroad to see the hotbed of activity going on in these areas. Don’t get me wrong, there is a bunch of stuff to see here in Oz too – its heartening to see just how much is happening. We plan to take some of it in as we drive up the East Coast to visit my dad on our way out! That said though, the more we look at what we want to learn – the more we realise we can do so in the countries we’ll be visiting. And so it shall be. In fact, Michael aptly likened this transition to a little quote that I not so long ago read, and consequently put up on our wall:

 

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It must be said that I have had some doubts cross my mind – like, it’s a really expensive thing to do – is it worth it? Would the money be better spent setting up our own place here? Or just donating it to someone else directly? Those are all valid questions, but in the end, it feels like this trip is just something we have to do – you know that feeling? You might not be able to rationalise it, or explain it enough for others to understand – but you know it is on your path. It seems this is a learning and life opportunity not to be missed for us. Its taking shape as a trip to inform and guide our future ambitions – I think these experiences will help us decide specifically what we want to pursue when we return.

As an aside, I have been struggling with what to call this ‘trip’ – largely because there are so many aspects to it – research, volunteering, sight seeing, family visits, mind expansion!. We have referred to it as a ‘holiday’, which just seemed a poor description really, given that it won’t be your average kind of holiday  and we aren’t planning to be typical tourists (although we are totally reserving the right to still do some touristy things that take our fancy!). We will however, be leaving behind daily life and sharing some wonderful experiences as a family, so I guess it’s a holiday in that respect. This ‘family’ aspect is a point I want to touch on and say that for us, bringing our daughter Emma to take part in the experiences is critical – it was another major reason for doing this trip. We want Emma to know that not everyone lives as we do, there are many ways to do things and that happiness is not equated with ‘stuff’. Having been lucky enough myself to briefly visit a few countries to see my dad when I was younger, I know just how much seeing these places affected me. There is nothing quite like seeing another culture for yourself. I remember it feeling, literally, like another world. For that, I am very grateful. What better way to open your mind, build understanding and tolerance and become a better person?

So if you have a more apt description for this adventure, perhaps you could suggest it in a comment below!

In the meantime, here is the itinerary as it currently stands:

  • October 2014: driving from Adelaide to Queensland’s sunshine coast – likely to be taking in some Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane
  • November 2014: Staying in Qld – sunshine coast and its hinterland
  • December 2014 to February 2015: USA – visiting California, New York, Virginia & North Carolina (also train-tripping from the West to East Coast so potentially stopping along the way also)
  • March to May 2015: India – starting in the North West (Uttarakhand & Uttar Pradesh) then heading across to the North East (West Bengal)
  • June to November-ish 2015: Nepal – starting in Kathmandu then it’s open after that

We would like to put the word out about where we are going and hear what others think would be good to see/places to go/people to meet – if you have such wisdom, please let us know! If not, please spread this around in any relevant circles 🙂

Until then, as Michael would say, enjoy today!

Mel x IMAG0570