Local explorations

We are currently between overseas trips. We returned from The Netherlands in January and leave for New Zealand in April. We are both working hard in our jobs to save money for our future travels. We are also making time to explore South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales the way we explore foreign soils. It’s a mix of day hikes, paddles, day drives and overnight camping trips. It’s the balance that is keeping me sane as I dream of the next flight to foreign lands.

And we’re off – Cambodia trip 2016

Paul and I tied the knot on Monday night at our Halloween themed, non-government-sanctioned wedding ceremony. I don’t play the divisive and demeaning “commitment ceremony” game. While marriage equality is yet to occur in Australia (not for lack of public support), we don’t need some official government suit to recognise our relationship because 100 of our closest family and friends have (including their own certificate to recognise our union). 

Our wedding was amazing and an incredibly happy event. And I am blessed to have a kindred spirit as my husband. 

So now we’re off on our honeymoon to Cambodia. It’s the first trip where I can leave my laptop at home because I no longer work online. Sure, I now don’t get paid when I travel (I work casually) but boy will it be fantastic to just relax, explore, read and laugh without needing to make time to think. And this also means my 32L pack is half empty 🙂 .

Tonight we fly to Kuala Lumpur, arriving at 4am tomorrow morning. We have two days in magnificent KL before we continue on to Phnom Penh. Stay tuned for some stories from the road.

It’s been 10 months since we traveled together and we’ve both missed it. This will change moving forward, starting right now. 

A walk along the beach

I walk along the beach. The soft dry sand is cool against my bare feet. With most steps shells gently scratch the webbing between my toes. Tiny waves that stand barely four inches high crash on the shore as if they were Hawaiian monsters. The tide is coming in and each wave sets more sand than the last. 

I move slightly to my left and now the sand is coarser and more firm. There’s a marked difference between the fluffy dry sand up high and the coarse inter-tidal area below. It’s like the difference between icing sugar and coffee sugar, both in colour and texture. Up high the sand is almost white but along the water it is browner, almost having a tinge of red. 

Big blue jellyfish wash up on the shore with the tide. Sometimes I throw them. back into the bay. Most people hate them but I find their clear blue bodies appealing to my eye. My Instagram account has more than its share of jellyfish tags. Paul says not to bother throwing them back because they are already dead. I don’t know who is correct. 

I turn for home. Paul finishes work soon and I want to make steak, chips and veggies for tea. The chips will be store bought because I never cook my own chips and potatoes are expensive right now. I missed our simple home cooking the past months. I am slowly recommitting to this household task as I feel the inspiration and make the time. Not spending 2-2.5 hours a day in the car helps. 

The nor’-easterly is blowing towards me now. It cools the air. Summer is closing in and the days are warm. But the evenings are still lovely thanks to the sea breeze. It smells of salt and seaweed right now. Not as pungent as earlier today but still distinctly smelling of home. 

Yellow street lights compete with the stars. Over on Moreton Island the lights of Tangallooma stand out against the lumpy silhouette. A cruise liner bobs on the bay. It will have unloaded guests yesterday and reload tomorrow. By day it’s a white box on the horizon and by night a yellow blaze of lights. Planes circle over the Peninsula before landing at the airport; so close by eye but still an hour drive. Such is the deception of viewing the world over water. 

This is my home. A place where shoes are optional, lovers enjoy the quiet nights, families picnic by day and life feels breezy. I’m glad I’m continuing the sea change. 

Decompressing and starting again

It’s been almost two weeks since I left the family law job. And it’s taken that long to feel myself starting to decompress. Slowing down again and coming back to me is proving (ironically) a slow process. 

For the past five months I have felt like a tube of toothpaste that is being squeezed tight to extract the last splodge. Physically it left me with pounding heart and muscle tension throughout my body. Emotionally I was spent, feeling anxious and stressed most of the time. I’d lost connection with the person I became before: the writer, the lover, the uncle and the friend. 

Laughter and a slower pace are slowly returning to my life. This week I laughed spontaneously for the first time in months. That’s not to say I haven’t had times of laughter and happiness. But there is a difference between the laugh we allow ourselves between a busy life and the spontaneous playfulness of freedom. Slowing down too is a challenge again. It takes effort not to race around and be “productive” all the time. Sure, I don’t want to be a lazy slob but when I lived more slowly I was more in the moment, whatever the moment might be.

The patience is slower to return. Even this process of allowing myself to decompress and trusting that I will come back to my centre is an act of patience. I’ve been here before way back in 2014 when I first started this quest for 42. It took four weeks to start to feel slower then and twelve to meet myself for the first time. Fortunately, I have met myself now so I can recognise the differences. I can see the work me and the real me more clearly. So perhaps I’ll come back sooner. But I can’t rush. That’s the point. I just have to wait. 

So what am I doing now? What does this post mean? Here’s the brief timeline:

I quit my job as a lawyer after five tough months. I worked hard to establish Men’s Legal Service for my boss but discovered I truly do hate the conventional 9-5 office existence. I could tell I was unhappy because I started to run long distances again – something painful that always means I am searching for something more. A warning sign I guess. 

I’ve taken a job as a casual support worker assisting people with disabilities. It’s meaningful work and I get about 20-30 hours a week spread over 7 days. Some days I work 8-10 hours while others I only work 2. It’s a nice mix. 

While my lawyering gig was a 65km commute by car or motorbike, my new job is local to home so I have started cycle commuting again. Not that I call 5km (1.5 miles) a commute. 

I feel connected with my work now too. It’s meaningful to me. Not to say family law isn’t a valuable profession but it wasn’t a calling for me. It was just a way to earn a pay cheque. Support work is more than that – it speaks to my heart. There’s something special about it that I can’t describe. 

My only sadness is that I sold my wheelchair bike and didn’t make a good go of that project. But cognitively I know it couldn’t work because I can’t afford the insurance. But it would have been nice to keep trying and to have followed my heart. Things happen for a reason though and the money I got for the bike is allowing us to travel to Holland for Christmas and New Year. And the project was a source of frustration too. So I am working on letting that go and being in the moment.

And the sea change is allowing me to be more connected with Paul and others in my life. I feel my old self coming back again. 

Day 1 of the next chapter

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I feel like today I started a new chapter of my story. I had my first shifts in my new job. I did a two hour morning shift and a four hour afternoon shift. I had 1.5 hours in between so I drove down to the beach and took a walk on the sand in bare feet. After work I went to my beach and lay on the sand enjoying the afternoon. I had the urge to read a good book but didn’t have one so that’s something I might need to fix. And then tonight I am cooking dinner. Paul is working late so I might walk to his work to bring him dinner before we go for a walk together along the waterfront taking in the stars and feeling the sea breeze.

I have to work out four weeks at my old job but that will be interspersed with work in my new job. I’m so proud of myself for finding a way forward to do something that is meaningful for me and to find a way to regain what I thought I had lost: flexibility and freedom.

Today is the first day of the next chapter and I just had to write a blog post.

Two years in review 

I’m home now. I arrived this morning. There’s no more flights booked. No temporary unpacking of bags. No research or planning for the next departure. And no foreign currency to buy. 

It would be easy to just keep traveling. Easy to keep working part time as a digital nomad in a job that pays enough for airfares, food and a place to sleep every night. I’ve only seen a dozen countries these past two years and my passport has plenty of space for more stamps. It doesn’t even expire for another five years. At times it’s tempting just to continue. To rack up the countries and admire the list as it grows. 

But I’ve never been one to take the easy road. My life has been coloured by one tough decision after another. Decisions that I know many wouldn’t choose to take because they are a departure from the comfortable. But decisions that have worked out well for me, even when I was scared at first. At 18 I moved in with a woman with whom I would live for 16 years. I raised her son as my own despite my youth. At 19 I transitioned from the female body I was born in to live as a man. I started a trade apprenticeship but realised I wasn’t going to be great at it so I simultaneously completed a degree. There were few job opportunities in my field so I studied another degree again while working full time. As a first year apprentice I bought my first house and later sold it to buy another. I worked hard and pushed the boundaries of my energy with study and sport. At 31 I jumped ship from a promising public service career to work in eLearning, a field I knew nothing about but in which I am now an expert. I studied education at university and have gained exceptional grades when merely passing would be enough. And then, at 34 I took a leap of faith to leave that life behind to travel the world. 

I’m 36 now. The past two years have been amazing and taught me things I never thought I’d learn. I’ve gained confidence and become even more determined than before. I’ve discovered that money isn’t everything but recognise that I need some to do the things that are important to me (like travel and eat). 

Two years on I’ve come home a different man to the one who left. Then I was idealistic and hoping to mimic the adventures of others whose blogs I followed and books I read. Fortunately, I quickly found my own style of travel and way of being. I was looking for a new place to call home. I’ve learned that home is the people in your life and the choices you make about how you will live every single day. 

I’m home now. I have a man who I love. We have fun together and share many laughs. I’ve started a social business that excites me and will offer a good combination of challenge and joy. And, of course, I still have plans to prioritise travel and adventure … Just not in a nomadic way. Until the next adventure worth blogging about …. 

Merry Christmas 

To all my blog readers who follow the Christian traditions I wish you a merry Christmas and fun holiday.

We’re celebrating with family today in the European tradition of partying on Christmas Eve. Tomorrow we’ll celebrate with friends at a massive salad feast.

And it’s not only two more sleeps until our big Winter in Europe adventure. That’s when the blog will get busy again.