Days 454-455

I left Sydney after learning about the convict history on a walking tour and drove south. I was headed back to Melbourne and decided to take the road along the coast instead of going through the capital of Canberra. While I was in Adelaide, I met the chief of staff to the finance minister, and he told me not to bother with visiting Canberra because there was nothing there except government buildings. 

I liked the idea of driving around the whole perimeter of Australia, so I stuck to the coast. A pull-over spot had a lookout balcony of the rolling green hills, towns, and ocean in the distance. It was incredible! 

I walked inside, and there was a small café. I needed something to help keep me awake, so I ordered a coffee and pastry for takeaway. The man behind the counter asked if I was American. He was American too but had lived in Australia for many years. It was nice talking with him, and it helped to wake me up. 

During my drive, I continued listing to the book 12 Rules For Life by Jordan Peterson. There were a few fascinating parts that stood out to me. In one chapter, he said, “We don’t think. We think we think. But we’re usually self-criticizing. In order to think, we need someone to bounce ideas off of. We need to be our collaborator and objector. Most people can’t. When talking, you get a collaborator and an objector.”

I thought that was interesting because it explains why we need to actually speak things to other people. When I talked with a mystery airplane man a year earlier, he said therapy had been invaluable to him because once he heard himself say something to the therapist, he couldn’t believe it. He said, “I didn’t want to be that guy. I didn’t want to think those things.”

What made him realize he thought those things was when he said it verbally. I have experienced this myself. I’ve said things and immediately thought, “Wow, that’s not true. I didn’t mean that.” It’s how our brains are wired. 

It’s why free speech is so important – even speech you don’t like. Even hate speech. Our brains cannot process our beliefs unless we speak them to someone and get a collaborator and an objector. It’s how we grow and how we change. Banning any speech will only result in our inability to think and to change.

There was another chapter that resonated with me. Peterson talked about a betrayed wife. He said, “Her theory of herself collapses too in the aftermath of the betrayal so that it’s not one stranger that’s the problem, it’s two. Her husband is not who she perceived him to be, but neither is she, the betrayed wife. She is no longer the well-loved secure wife and valued partner. Strangely enough, despite our belief in the permanent immutability of the past, she may never have been. The past is not necessarily what it was even though it has already been.”

He continued, “The present is chaotic and indeterminate. The ground shifts continually around her feet and ours. Equally, the future, not yet here, changes into something it was not supposed to be. Is the once reasonably content wife now a defined innocent? Or a gullible fool? Should she view herself as victim or co-conspirator in a shared delusion? Her husband is what? An unsatisfied lover? A target of seduction? A psychopathic liar? The very devil himself? How could he be so cruel? How could anyone? What is this home she’s been living in? How could she be so naive? How could anyone? She looks in the mirror. Who is she? What’s going on? Are any of her relationships real? Have any of them ever been? What has happened to the future? Everything is up for grabs when the deeper realities of the world unexpectedly manifest themselves.”

As someone who was married for ten years to a liar, I felt his words deeply. It was like he described everything I went through in my marriage. When I finally started to see a therapist to help me decide what to do with my marriage during our separation, she told me that being lied to was no different than being cheated on. Both were betrayals. I had trusted my ex-husband, and over and over again, I was lied to. He never admitted his lies unless I had proof, making me always afraid there were more lies that I didn’t know about. Were there other women? I don’t know, but I always feared there were. 

My therapist also pointed out that I was struggling so much during my divorce because I was grieving. I had to grieve the life that I thought I had – the future that no longer existed. 

For a long time, I thought something was wrong with me because my divorce seemed to affect me more than many others. But then I saw a video where Peterson talked about betrayal. 

In the video of a presentation, Peterson said, “The people that I’ve seen who have been really hurt have been hurt mostly by deceit. And that’s also worth thinking about. That you get walloped by life, there’s no doubt about that. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. But I’ve thought for a long time that maybe people can handle earthquakes and cancer, and even death, maybe, but they can’t handle betrayal, and then can’t handle deception. They can’t handle having the rug pulled out from underneath them by people they love and trust. That just does them in. It makes them ill, but where it hurts, psycho-physiologically, it damages them, but more than that, it makes them cynical and bitter and vicious and resentful. And then they also start to act all that out in the world, and that makes it worse.”

Shortly before listening to the chapters, I had seen my ex-husband’s new wife’s Instagram of them traveling the world for a year. I was angry. I didn’t understand how it was fair that he could lie to me for a decade and then be able to remarry almost instantly. Then use the money I had to pay him to travel the world for a year with this new woman. How is that fair? Where was the justice?

I saw on their Instagram that they went to the same places in Europe that Aaron and I had gone to a few years earlier. It was strange seeing pictures of them in places where I had identical images with him. Once they traveled for a year, they settled back in L.A., and she got pregnant. Just before my birthday a few weeks ago, she gave birth to their son. Aaron named him the same name we picked out if we were ever to have a son. We used to say his name when talking about our future son. That son now exists, only he isn’t mine.

It was like Aaron replaced me and continued the life we had built and the future we had dreamed of. The only difference was there was a new blonde in my place. 

I was angry at the injustice. The lies Aaron told for years, pretending to go to school, lying about being drunk at a bar, etc., tore me apart. Betrayal hit me in all of the ways that Jordan Peterson described. I had loved and trusted Aaron, and it was all stripped away with each lie that I discovered. 

While I had gone through a year of therapy, cried more times than I remember, and was afraid to trust anybody again, he wasn’t affected at all. He found a replacement before the divorce was final and continued living life. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that I had to pay him tens of thousands of dollars. It wasn’t fair that he is the one who broke the trust and broke the marriage, but I was the one who felt the pain and consequences from it. 

Hearing Jordan Peterson talk about betrayal made me feel better. I wasn’t so crazy – betrayal is the thing that breaks people. It’s the hardest to move past. I didn’t want to be cynical, bitter, vicious, and resentful. 

I cried and prayed to God that he would release me from the pain and feelings of anger and betrayal. It didn’t go away that day, but each day it’s gotten better. I still ask God for help in letting go. I don’t want to carry that pain around, and I am trying to trust again. I don’t know if I’ll ever be 100% over the betrayals, but I will try with God’s help. 

After driving for four and half hours, I arrived at Bateman’s Bay R.V. park in the dark. I had booked a basic cabin that was attached to several other cabins. The bathroom was shared, and I had to walk outside to access it. I walked down the street and ordered a takeaway pizza. 

Room the next morning
Drive-up liquor store

The next day, I walked to the beach and enjoyed the breeze. I was bummed that I didn’t get a chance the day before to enjoy the beach since it was within walking distance from the R.V. park, but at least I was able to go in the morning for a bit.

I continued driving because my time was running out to get the car back to Melbourne. The drive was beautiful. Like the day before, I passed farms and bright green rolling hills. 

I pulled over at Wagonga Inlet after I crossed the bridge. I walked along the path, checking out the blue and green ocean. I did my best to soak it all in. My time in Australia was almost over, and I wanted it to slow down. 

The drive alternated between tall eucalyptus trees, hills, and farms. The green started to fade into long brown grasses. 

I made a lunch stop in Bega at a cheese factory that had a visitor center. I ate a sandwich and rested. There was a whole section with vegemite merchandise, and I couldn’t help buy some to take back to the U.S. 

I continued driving and made stops when I saw a nice lookout spot. One spot was Eden Lookout and Rotary Park. It was on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean. There was even a lighthouse in the distance. I loved watching the waves crash. 

Shortly after that stop, I passed a sign welcoming me to Victoria. I was thrilled to have officially made it back to the state that I started in but was also a little sad. The time had gone so fast. 

By the time I arrived at Lakes Entrance, it was dark outside. I checked in to my motel and heated my leftover pizza. It was time for The Bachelor finale. At least I would get to watch that before leaving the country. I had to know if the bad or the good woman won. Thankfully, the good woman won – maybe justice prevails after all?

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Sydney’s Convict History

Day 454

I checked out of my Airbnb in Sydney and drove to the meeting location for a walking tour. I couldn’t find parking, so I ended up parking at the Sydney Opera House parking garage, which cost $44 for three hours. One of the worst things about cities is their expense and the difficulty finding parking.

Our tour guide was a woman in her late 20’s to early 30s named April. She was thin and had her hair pulled back in a ponytail. April was a history major and told stories with such passion that I was extremely entertained for the whole tour! She carried a book with laminated pictures, and she showed us various ones as we stopped along the route. 

There were just a handful of people on the tour, making it easy to hear all of the stories. As we walked through the older parts of the city, April told us about Sydney’s convict history. 

James Cook first landed in Botany Bay in 1770. He was going to call it Stingray Harbour, but he called it Botany Bay after he saw the number of plants. In 1788, the Navy arrived to set up the first convict settlement and deemed Botany Bay unsuitable. They moved five miles north and started the settlement there, which would become Sydney.

It was rough at the beginning because they were dependent on supplies coming from England. At one point, the governor sent a letter to England asking for more distinguished clothes because his clothes were deteriorating. He wondered how he was supposed to command a group of convicts while wearing torn clothes and shoes. 

The convicts wore regular clothes and lived in mixed housing with non-convicts, making it difficult to know who the convicts were.  The convicts built government buildings and roads. They quickly realized that they could use their skills as bargaining chips. April called it the “horse and carrot” situation. For example, if they worked on a farm, they would say, “I’ll work on your farm for eight hours, but I want the other two hours to myself.” Other times, they would negotiate extra pay to do a better job building the streets and buildings. 

Original bricks from the convicts

This tactic enabled convicts to earn extra money, which they’d spend on nicer clothes and then houses. When new convicts arrived, the Australian government told them that they could end up as respectable people with a house and a family if they worked hard for seven to fourteen years. 

One government official would show incoming convicts a beautiful house built by a former convict who was also an architect. The official would paint a picture of how great life could be if they worked hard during their time there. 

Word got back to England, and people started to intentionally commit small crimes so they would be sent to Australia. In England, they had no chance of improving their standing and weren’t able to buy land. But in Australia, they could own land and start their own business. England quickly put a stop to glamorizing Australia. 

It wasn’t all glamorous in Australia. One of the ships full of convicts en route to Australia was outsourced to a private company that promised a low price, and they received their payment upfront. Many men died on that ship because the conditions were atrocious. They were locked underneath, had limited food, and unsanitary conditions. That journey was so disastrous that England decided that payments would be made once Australia confirmed a safe arrival and fair treatment of the convicts. 

April told us some fascinating history about the area, like how George Barrington was a convict turned police chief. He was a pretty famous pickpocket from Ireland who used his acting skills and polished look to steal from wealthy people. After being sent to Australia, Barrington convinced them not to assign him hard labor but to be part of the guard unit. Once he served seven years, he was actually made police chief. 

We continued walking through old areas of the city. At one point, April took us to a section of old, tiny homes on the side of a rock mountain. It was sort of like small apartments built into the rock. Most of it was destroyed, but the city tried to refurbish it, even placing tables and chairs to see what it would have looked like to live there. This is where some of the poorest people lived. 

Unlike Melbourne, Sydney was designed and built by convicts. April said, “Sydney was never supposed to work out. Not much thought was put into it.” Once gold was discovered in 1851, England started to build cities. Melbourne has more of a modern grid because England sent engineers to build it, while Sydney still has a bit of an unorganized layout from convicts. 

One way they built such beautiful structures was using one convict’s architectural abilities. Francis Greenway was convicted of forging a financial document and sent to Australia. He was encouraged to plead guilty, and they still don’t know why that was the case. They made use of Greenway’s skills, and he designed any of the buildings in Sydney. His work was admired by many. 

The last story that April told us was my favorite. There was a ship called, The Juliana. The government officials realized that there were too many men in Australia, and they didn’t want them to “turn gay.” They also need to populate the area. 

England gathered up all of the prostitutes and sent them to Australia on The Juliana. The captain quickly realized that all of the convicts were women, while the entire crew was men. To stop fights from breaking out, he told the men they could each pick one woman, which was their woman for the whole journey. 

The women realized they were providing a service, and they get paid for their services. The ships would always stop in Brazil and South Africa on their way to Australia to pick up supplies. The women convinced the crew to stay in the Caribbean and South Africa, where the men bought the women silk dresses and other items. 

They all had a great time with the rum in the Caribbean. The ship took several extra months to arrive and broke the record for the slowest ship. It’s rumored that when they arrived in Sydney, the women stood on the deck in silk dresses and hats, waving to the men. They later would become wives, mothers, and respected women. 

We finished the tour at a café, and April recommended eating there if we were hungry. I stayed to eat with Fiona and her dad, Robert, from the tour. Fiona lived in Sydney with her husband and children. Robert lived in Perth and was visiting Fiona. 

Fiona had short, blonde hair, and she carried herself like a businesswoman. She was surprised at how much she learned from the tour but said she hadn’t gotten around to doing many tours there because she worked a lot. 

I was having a great time with Robert and Fiona as we talked about my favorite parts of Australia. We also talked about the U.S. I ate my food really fast because I knew my parking ticket was about to expire. I said my goodbyes and rushed off. 

I ran through the city on the sidewalk that runs along the harbor. People looked at me like I was a weirdo, but I didn’t care. I didn’t want to pay even more for parking. I arrived at the parking garage and inserted my ticket to pay (you have 15 minutes to leave the garage once you pay). I was ten seconds late, and my $44 ticket went up to $59.

I hit the intercom button and told the man that I was ten seconds late and asked if he could please change my ticket back to $44. I was out of breath, and thankfully, the man reduced it to $44. 

I drove away from Sydney, feeling satisfied that I was able to learn about the history, climb the bridge, visit the Opera House, and experience the nightlife. It felt strange to be heading towards Melbourne because my loop around the country was almost complete. But I was also happy to be leaving behind a crowded and expensive city. 

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Hero or Villain?

Days 451-453

I had a busy couple of days in Sydney and decided to take a day to rest and write. It was cold and raining outside, which is why I tried to do lots of stuff the previous two days before. I called the company that I had a walking tour with the following day to see if it would still occur because the weather forecast showed the wind, rain, and cold would continue. They assured me that the tour would go on.

However, the next morning, I got a call saying, “Remember how you called the other day asking about the rain…” It turns out the other person who was signed up canceled because of the rain, so they rescheduled. 

I had a hard time sleeping in the Airbnb because the mattress was extremely hard, and I could feel coils through it. I finally caved and messaged the owner, asking if they had a mattress pad. They operate a few units in the complex, so they brought me a new mattress, to my surprise. 

I cooked breakfast and decided I needed to go out and explore, even in the rain. I had already wasted a day, and my time was running out in Sydney. I grabbed my umbrella and started walking to the Maritime Museum.

It was pouring rain, and the wind made my umbrella of little use. The neighborhood was charming, with shops inside older buildings. I was cold and soaking wet by the time I arrived at the museum. 

I wandered around, and there was a large section about William Bligh. A giant sign read, “Hero or Villian?’ Intrigued, I walked into the area. 

It was well put together. Each picture and story had a yellow plaque saying Bligh was a hero, explaining why, and a red plaque describing why he was a villain. I thought, “That’s how our society should work. Show both sides.” Too often in America, people will say they support a political candidate because they oppose the other. That’s a terrible reason to support someone. 

Each plaque had a short and to-the-point description supporting their case of whether Bligh was a hero or a villain. The hero and villain signs had the same sentences if it was just fact. For example, both opening signs read, “Mentored by Cook, Bligh was at the forefront of Pacific exploration with every prospect of a glittering career when he was given command of an expedition to Tahiti, to collect and transplant breadfruit plants to the West Indies.”

However, the opening sign for the “villain” case read, “William Bligh is still regarded as one of the most controversial naval officers of his day. What should have been a simple mission became the stuff of legend when aggravated and abused beyond endurance, the crew mutinied against Bligh. History repeated itself years later when, as governor of New South Wales, the colony’s troops mutinied against his leadership. Tenacity and determination to overcome all opposition were hallmarks of Bligh’s life that earned him loathing.”

The opening sign supporting the case that Bligh was a hero read, “William Bligh is still regarded as one of the most accomplished naval officers of his day. What should have been a simple mission became the stuff of legend when, following a mutiny aboard the Bounty, Bligh and part of the crew were cast adrift in an open boat. Bligh’s no-nonsense approach later rewarded him with the governorship of New South Wales.”

This is exactly what our news media does to us. One station paints a politician out as the hero while another paints out a villain. The problem is most people only listen to one side. 

There was a telescope in a case with a yellow plaque that read, “This telescope helped Bligh see what was ahead.” The red plaque read, “But he never really saw what was coming.” Another section had a yellow sign, “Bligh bought the best silver for his family.” The red sign read, “But was he ever home to use it?” 

I loved this approach, and I was fascinated by how much you can change the impression of history based on someone’s opinion. 

The mutiny was interesting, and I found myself torn on whether Bligh was a hero or a villain. At the end of the exhibit, there was an opportunity to vote by adding a plastic chip to one of several buckets: 

  • Mostly Villain
  • Villain
  • Neutral, he was a man of his time
  • Mostly Hero
  • Hero

The buckets were transparent, so we could see how people were voting. The buckets were all pretty even, but there seemed to be a bit more in the neutral bucket. 

The moral of the story is that we can all learn the same facts and come to different conclusions. It all depends on our own life experiences. 

It was pouring rain outside with the wind causing the rain to go sideways. There was a bridge near the museum that connected other parts of the city. It was adorned with many different flags. I walked a few minutes to catch the ferry and hopped on. 

The ferry ride provided great views of the Sydney harbor and the bridge. The rain and gray skies made the city have a completely different vibe than the blue-sky days. 

I got off at the Opera House stop and went inside to see about tours. I lucked out, and a tour was just beginning. The Opera House is so iconic; it was hard to believe that I was there. The ceilings were works of art with jagged points all around. 

The tour guide told us that a Danish man, Jørn Utzon, designed the Opera House after winning an international design competition in 1957. He was relatively unknown and was only 38 years old. Unfortunately, Utzon was way over schedule and over budget. In 1966, seven years into the construction, a new political party got power and ousted him. 

Another architect, Peter Hall, had to design the inside because Utzon took his designs and drawings with him. The citizens protested and wanted Utzon back, but the city stuck with Hall. Utzon left Australia and never saw the finished product in person. 

The Opera House opened in 1973 and has a total of six theaters. In 2002, Utzon published design principles to be used for future modifications. In 2003, Utzon was awarded the Pritzker Prize for Architecture, which he accepted. In 2007, the Sydney Opera House was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

During the tour, we had the opportunity to sit in a theater where some people set up for a concert. I really wished that I bought a ticket for a show in the beautiful building. 

When the tour was complete, I walked outside, and it was pouring rain. My umbrella was no match against the wind, soaking my shoes and the lower half of my jeans. 

I walked to a café and walked in to warm up. I ordered a dessert and coffee. The storm was intense, and every time someone opened the nearby door, I felt the cold air. I couldn’t seem to get warm, likely because of my wet clothes. 

I kept walking until I noticed a happy hour special at a restaurant. I walked inside and ordered a drink and oysters. The rain ceased, and I was able to continue walking around. I made a stop at the Hard Rock Café so I could get a shot glass that I collect. When the rain started to pour again, I found places to duck under and wait it out a bit. 

The next day, I was signed up for a hike in the Blue Mountains. The weather forecast said it would rain all day, and it was only 50°F (10°C). The mountain was even colder because of the elevation. 

I wasn’t feeling well and felt exhausted. I seldom miss a tour if I’m already signed up and have paid. However, it was through Airbnb Experiences, and the $50 that I paid was being donated anyway. I decided not to go on the tour. 

I spent the day writing and watched the storm that lasted the entire day. I am a little sad that I never got to see the Blue Mountains, but I drove close to where they are and saw other mountains around Australia. I also didn’t mind leaving a few things unseen because it would give me a reason to go back one day. 

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It’s Easier to Talk to Strangers

Day 450 (part 2)

Bondi Beach was overcrowded and put me in a bad mood, but a few people in a restaurant brightened my spirits when I ordered a takeaway coffee. I was so caught up in conversation with them that I didn’t realize the time. 

I was now running late to the Pylon lookout. My bridge climb ticket the day prior included the tower lookout, and the last entry was 4:45 pm. I drove for 30 minutes to the tower, and after paying for parking, I had four minutes to get there. I ran around the base up a hill but realized that the entry was farther away because you have to climb up the bridge first. I was below the bridge. 

I knew I wouldn’t make it, so I decided to enjoy the park at the bottom of the bridge. A few cannons and ruins described the history of the area. The sun was starting to set, and it was beautiful. I had paid for parking until 6:20 pm, so I walked around the area enjoying the nice weather.

I saw climbers on different bridge sections, making me realize just how high up I was when I climbed it. The area was beautiful. I walked along the shoreline and had views of the Opera House, boats, and the skyscrapers towering above. 

I walked around the harbor, passing restaurants with live music and people enjoying their Sunday evening. There was even a group of people learning how to dance. After a while, I sat down on a concrete ledge near the water. I put my headphones in my ears and started to update the map of my trip to Australia on my phone. 

All of a sudden, a guy approached me and asked me if I knew where something was. I thought maybe I could help, so I listened. Unfortunately, I didn’t know where he was talking about. He asked if I was from Sydney, and I explained that I was from the U.S. and had only been in Sydney for two days. 

The guy was looking around, desperate for help with directions. Then he showed me the text message from his friend, telling him where to meet. There were two different places listed. One was a restaurant right behind me, but the other was a few kilometers away. 

In his early 20s, Ashish was wearing a suit, had black-framed glasses, and was from India. While he waited for more instructions from his friend, he told me that he was meeting for drinks with the friend and an assistant to a Minister of Australia. 

Ashish told me that he was studying communications and public relations at a University, but he was also interested in politics. He was networking with some political figures in Australia. That explained the suit. 

Ashish sat down, and we continued to talk as if we had known each other for years. He asked how long I was traveling, so I explained my situation (sold my house, quit my job, and traveled for the last 15 months). Ashish talked about politics and said he is a progressive and thinks he can learn from Australia’s politics. 

After talking about politics for a while, Ashish asked what I previously did for work. I explained that I worked in corporate America as an Operations Manager and a Recruiting Manager. He said, “That makes sense. You have a lot of GK.” I asked what that was, and he explained, “General knowledge. We abbreviate it in India.” 

Ashish opened up to me about his studies, life path, and life in India. He attended a boarding school in India, and the principal was from Scotland. She only directly taught three students in the whole high school, and Ashish was one of them.

He explained how she mentored him, corrected his English, and saw potential in him. Ashish tended to exaggerate (like saying his family had all sorts of nice cars), and she called him out on it. A couple of times, he was too tired and said he wasn’t going to class. The principal came to his dorm room and made him go to class. He appreciated all her efforts, and they still email each other to this day. 

Ashish told me that he wanted to be the Prime Minister one day. At one point, he met the CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi. Ashish admired her because she was the first female CEO of Pepsi, is from India, and was also the longest-running CEO.

When Ashish told Indra that he wanted to be the Prime Minister one day, she told him never to say such big goals. Indra never said she was going to become a CEO. She just focused on her work and what was in front of her. I thought it was an interesting perspective.

Ashish and I talked about having a goal and needing something to strive for. Maybe it’s not so bad to be bold and say you want to become the Prime Minister? But I advised him to work hard and be open to other paths. People often think the path to success is a straight line, but it never is. It’s also different for everyone. I explained to him that his path might lead him somewhere that he thinks is going astray (and it could be for years), only to prove beneficial to him later. 

Ashish comes from a middle-class family, so he has to work hard for what he has. I explained to him that I worked all through college (and two years in high school) and worked extremely hard for over 15 years after college before doing what I was doing – traveling full-time. Sometimes you need to put in the work. I don’t regret my time in corporate America at all. I worked with some of the most intelligent people in the world. I learned more than I can adequately summarize. 

Ashish attended a University in India for one year, but he wasn’t happy there. His English teacher would mispronounce English words, which frustrated him. He eventually started to correct her. Ashish laughed, “Kids looked at me like, You can’t correct a teacher.” He was proud of his boldness.

Ashish’s dad is an Engineer and wanted him to become the same. Eventually, Ashish asked his dad about communications and going to Australia. There was an entrance test, and he wanted to take it. His dad allowed him to take the test just once, and if he passed, he could attend. Ashish passed the test and had been in Sydney for just over a year. He sighed, “I know it’s easy to get visas if I study IT, which most people do, but I just don’t feel in my heart that’s what I should do.”

Ashish told me about a female coworker he recently had. They didn’t get along, and when it was brought up to his boss, they sided with the female. He was frustrated, saying, “I value women. I care about women’s issues. I have a sister and a mother. But it seems lately that workplaces side with women no matter what.” I explained to him that the #metoo movement had caused some “over-swinging,” unfortunately. What started as something good (uncovering a lot of criminal abuse against women) has turned into hearsay. He sighed in sadness.

We continued talking and Ashish mentioned the pro-life protest that was in the city that afternoon. He attended and asked if I knew about the new bill being proposed. I told him I knew about it. I had actually thought about attending to oppose the new bill but forgot about it. He explained, “The bill will allow abortion for any reason up until birth. That’s just wrong. It’s for New South Wales, and the Prime Minister needs to step up. I’m all for women’s rights, but I can’t get behind taking a life. I understand some women might be in a tough situation, but I still can’t justify taking a life.”

The controversial bill was eventually passed after 8 weeks of protests, but with some restrictions after 22 weeks gestation.

I was enjoying the conversation with Ashish. He reminded me of recent graduates that I used to hire and mentor when I was the Recruiting Manager. At the time, some of them told me that they accepted the job because of how helpful I was during the interview and offer stage. Talking with Ashish could have easily been one of my recent graduate hires. He was smart, motivated, articulate, and passionate. 

Ashish laughed about how much he was telling me, “I usually don’t tell anybody any of this. But I guess it’s easier to talk to someone you don’t know.” 

That’s just it – it is easier to talk with strangers. Strangers don’t have any preconceived opinions about us. Strangers focus on who we are now. When we have a history with someone, it’s difficult for them not to consider their past experiences with us. When we meet a stranger, we are free of any past mistakes we’ve made. It’s always a fresh start. 

Ashish’s friend messaged him, and he had to go. We spent about 30 minutes talking to each other and shook hands goodbye. We connected on Facebook and went our separate ways. The sun had set while we were talking. I walked back to my car, passing newlyweds posing for pictures with the Opera House in the background. 

I was so thrilled about the day. I had been pretty angry earlier and disgusted with humanity and their self-absorption. God knew that, and I believe he purposely put those people in my life – Maris, his nephew, the woman, and Ashish. They reminded me of the goodness in humanity. Hearing their stories ignited me. It reminded me of what motivates me in this world – people. 

Ashish and I have remained in contact over the last 17 months. He did research work for a political office in Sydney. Once that one finished, he accepted similar work with a different political office. I am always thrilled to hear about how it’s going and happy to offer any advice that might help.

Even though I am no longer a manager at my old job, I get fulfillment by mentoring Ashish and following his success. It reminds me of the parts of my job that I loved and that I was pretty good at. Who knows, maybe one day he’ll become the Prime Minister.

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Bondi Beach: Heaven or Hell?

Day 450

After not sleeping well in the bright Airbnb with a hard, coiled bed, I slowly got up. The massive windows had white, almost sheer curtains that didn’t block out much light. I took my time lying around while playing on my phone. 

After eating a bowl of cereal, I got myself to drive to Bondi Beach. I had been watching a TV show about Bondi Beach that focused on the lifeguards taking care of people in Australia’s busiest beach. According to the weather forecast, it was the warmest and clearest day of the week, so I decided it would be a good day to see the famous beach.

It took 30 minutes to drive through the city and get over to Bondi Beach. Once I was there, the traffic was at a standstill. I regretted going on a Sunday afternoon. I got more and more frustrated as I tried to find somewhere to park. Shops and restaurants lined the street across from the beach, and a residential neighborhood sat behind them. Cars filled every single parking spot along the roads.

I pulled into a parking lot and had to turn around when there was nowhere to park. On the slow drive out of the lot, a car started to back up. We had all been stopped, and when we started driving again, he put on his reverse lights. I put on my turn signal, and so did the car just past the spot. It wasn’t parallel parking, so I was confused about why that car thought this space was theirs. They already passed it. 

I started to pull in as soon as the car left the spot, but so did the car in front of me. I was halfway into the space, and the guy driving the car rolled down his window, saying he had his turn signal on. I rolled my window down and said the same thing. The guy was a meathead, and his girlfriend in the passenger seat sat there looking just as entitled as he did. Our cars almost hit as I kept trying to adjust my car so that I would fit. I didn’t make a wide enough turn when initially pulling in. 

The guy kept getting closer as he tried to back in, making it impossible for me to adjust and park. Cars were lined up behind me, and I didn’t want to deal with this mess, so I gave up and drove away while shouting back at the jerk who stole my spot. 

I continued to drive around, searching for parking while battling horrible traffic and pedestrians. A couple of blocks away in a neighborhood, I saw an SUV about to pull out of a spot on the street. I purposely passed the car so that I could back-in, and I put on my turn signal. Of course, another car came up behind me and also put on their turn signal. I couldn’t believe it. The SUV was large, and the street was small, so they struggled to get out of the spot with me in front. I didn’t want to deal with another horrible driver, so I drove away in frustration. 

It was like I was stuck in a loop of the Seinfeld episode where they fight over a parking spot. I spent 30 minutes searching and battling. The narrow streets full of parked cars reminded me of Second Street in Long beach. I drove up steep neighborhood one-way streets, only to be rejected once again. I was on the verge of saying “forget it” and driving away forever when I came across a spot on a hill where I had to parallel park. I didn’t do the best job, but it would do. 

I walked to the beach and saw hundreds of people sunbathing, swimming, surfing, and walking around. There was a path near me that led around a rock cliff, so I followed it. It was so crowded with tourists taking pictures and locals trying to get exercise, that I was getting more and more frustrated. 

The ocean and the rocks were beautiful, but I had seen just as beautiful (and often more beautiful) landscape in Australia that wasn’t crowded. The anxiety and anger hit me hard. I grumbled to myself about the idiots that I was surrounded by, making me miss the west coast, which was virtually empty.

As I walked up the paved walking path and around the cliff, I noticed several groups of people standing on the cliffs on the other side of the handrail. 

This infuriated me. I read stories every year about tourists who died on waterfalls, cliffs, and nature in general because of things like this. They go beyond the signs, beyond the rails, and beyond the warnings, all for a stupid picture. All because they desperately want likes on Instagram. 

Not supposed to be on that side of the railing for obvious reasons

They think they’re being original, but they’re all sheep. I watched as couples sat and stood on the edge of cliffs, acting as if they were a supermodel. I can’t comprehend the narcissism in these people. 

What would happen if they fell? Rescuers would risk their lives to save these idiots. If they died, they would crush their family and friends. All for a picture. I felt the anger boiling inside of me as I was being suffocated by tourists, narcissists, and attention whores.

When I take a picture of myself, I take one to three and move on. If I don’t like the images, so be it. Sometimes I’m having a bad day (maybe I’m just bloated), and it reminds me that I need to learn to accept myself as I am. I often feel like my face is too red, too many wrinkles, too fat, too oily, or too dry. 

Then I force myself to reflect on why I feel that way. I choose not to spend so much time trying to craft the perfect picture, and I choose not to photoshop myself. I don’t understand people who live through pictures. I prefer to experience life in the present and have the occasional photo to remind me of that moment. 

A few months later, I came across an article about a young woman who had just died less than five miles from where I was walking. It was titled, “Woman Dies After Falling Off Cliff at Popular Selfie Spot in Australia.” The article states, “Davis’s death comes after a 27-year-old woman died after falling from a cliff at Diamond Bay in August. Last year, tourists were warned against risking their lives for a picture at the dangerous cliff face made popular by Instagram influencers.”

I don’t mean to make light of these deaths; they are tragic reasons to die. No picture is worth your life. 

I felt more and more like I wanted to be a hermit and live alone in the woods. I don’t fit in with these people, and I don’t want to. I turned back and walked towards the main beach. 

I tried hard not to be angry. It was a beautiful place, and I should have felt grateful to be there. But I just couldn’t. I walked on the sidewalk between the grass and the beach. The crowds continued. 

It all reminded me of Santa Monica. I used to run there on Saturday mornings with a running group. It is a beautiful area, but thankfully we ran in the early morning before all the tourists were out. Living in LA for 15 years has made me numb to “tourist spots.” The hype is gone. The flare is annoying. 

After a quick restroom break, I headed back towards the car but decided to take the street to see some shops. I found a fast food place selling chicken bowls and ordered one for a late lunch. I sat outside on a bench and tried to convince myself that it wasn’t that bad there, but I couldn’t help and compare it to most of my time in Australia – the outback, the small towns, and medium-sized cities that weren’t nearly as crowded with locals or tourists. 

As I continued to walk to my car, I passed a small Italian restaurant, Cento per Centro. A man outside said they had take-away coffee. I hadn’t had coffee that day yet, so I went inside. A man in the kitchen area walked over to help me. He was middle-aged, and we briefly chatted while he started my flat white. He asked where I was from and when I said LA, he pointed to his uncle sitting in the corner and said, “My uncle lived in San Francisco!”

An older man in his 70s-80s was reading the newspaper in the corner and peaked his head up. The music was pretty loud, so he asked what was going on. When he found out I was from LA, he got very excited. All of the customers enjoyed food and drinks outside, and he was the only one inside. The man (wearing a baseball hat that proudly read Australia) walked towards me at the counter and started talking to me about America.

Maris attended a university in San Francisco and lived there decades ago. He has some family there as well as LA, and he goes back occasionally. Maris raved about America. He loves our freedom and said, “You’re the only country in the world that allows you to say anything you want! It’s wonderful!”

Maris was from Latvia and escaped the Russian invasion 30 years ago. He told me how he was so grateful to get out and come to Australia. He loves Australia, but he also loves America. I laughed, “Right?! People seem confused when I tell them I love America and Australia. They think in order to love one; you have to not love the other.” 

He pointed out that Trump only takes $1 for a salary and the usual salary is $400,000. He said, “You guys get to elect your president, which is wonderful. In Australia, we only vote for a party, and they select the person. And the Prime Minister here makes $500,000 a year! More than the U.S. President! How crazy is that?”

I asked Maris why he loved the U.S. so much. He told me, “You know, the U.S. is the only country which has helped to fight wars and never colonized. You guys helped Australia fight against Japan when Britain bailed on us, but you didn’t take us over. You guys fought for freedom for Vietnam but didn’t take them over. You have fought all over the world for freedom but never colonized. England has always colonized all over the world. China, Japan, Russia …they all went to war and colonized those areas. No other country fights so hard for freedom. I know if Australia is in trouble, if we’re invaded, the U.S. will help us again. Everyone wants to go to the U.S., and it’s because it’s the greatest country in the world!” 

Maris was enthusiastic, and I smiled as he told me about his love for the U.S. He went on to talk about immigration, visas, and other political topics. Maris was disappointed that the U.S. has started to become offended by so much, like saying “Merry Christmas.” He said he didn’t understand why it was offensive. I agreed, “I know. I don’t get offended when someone tells me Happy Hanukkah. They’re just trying to give me well-wishes.” He patted me on the shoulder and appreciated that we were both Christian. 

All of my anger from the day disappeared as I talked with Maris. He kept apologizing for taking up my time (my coffee was sitting on the counter waiting for me). I told him not to worry because I loved the conversation. After 15 minutes, he had to be somewhere so I paid for my coffee and said goodbye to Maris. 

I turned towards the young blonde woman listening to our discussion while cleaning up and Maris’ nephew through the half-wall divide to the kitchen.

The woman apologized for eavesdropping and said, “I just love your accent. It’s so much easier for me to understand it over the British accent. It has a nice rhythm to it. The British accent fluctuates in strange places. And Australians have so much slang!” 

The woman told me that she was from the Czech Republic. The man in the kitchen was from Italy. I asked them what they thought about Trump because they mentioned him right before I started talking with Maris. They both shrugged their shoulders and said they didn’t care for him, based on what they heard on the news. After talking with them briefly, I left so that they could focus on the other customers. They told me to come back and eat some pizza sometime. 

I was so happy to have that experience. I was feeling so angry with humanity most of the day. Furious with what humans have become and how overpopulated the world is. The three of them reminded me that people can also be fantastic. 

It reminded me that what I need in this life is great conversation. I absolutely love talking to people about their perspectives and life experience because we’re all different. Sometimes people annoy me, and I don’t particularly appreciate being smothered by crowds, but I love getting to know people on an individual level. In the end, Bondi Beach wasn’t so bad. 

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Exploring Sydney by Bridge Walk & Bar Tour

Days 448-449

I left Newcastle after eating a tasty breakfast and drove south to Sydney. I went through some rock formations on the short two and half hour drive. 

I arrived at the famous city of Sydney, Australia, after more than five months of road-tripping around the country. As I approached, traffic significantly increased. There are five million people in Sydney, making it the largest city in Australia. I was excited to see the high-rise buildings and finally see this iconic city. 

At 3:00 pm, I pulled up to the apartment complex where my Airbnb was located. I followed the instructions and went to the unit where a management company was operating. They managed multiple units and gave me a key and a parking pass. I parked in the underground parking garage and took the elevator to my room. 

My studio apartment was new with modern fixtures. The large windows let in a lot of light, and it was a cozy place to stay for the week. I got some writing done and made some plans for the next few days. There was rain in the forecast, so I did my best to plan around the bad weather. 

The next day, I signed up for an 11:00 am tour of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. The icon bridge connects the city and overlooks the Sydney Opera House. They offer tours where you can climb the bridge to the top! 

I drove to the bridge tour but made a wrong turn and accidentally crossed the bridge. I took the bridge back to the central part of the city and was now running late. I parked and raced inside. The man behind the counter said they just took the group of ten to the back, but I could still join them after filling out a form. 

Their system was extremely organized. The large warehouse-type room had multiple sections divided for each part of the tour preparation. Numerous groups were there, each in a different stage of the tour. The tour guide had us walk up and down a narrow staircase to make sure we knew how to traverse it safely. 

Our guide was a short girl in her late 20s, with blonde hair. She was friendly, organized, and took control. We went into separate changing rooms and put a jumpsuit on over our clothes. It can get cold and windy on the bridge. Once we had our jumpsuits on, they gave us cables to attach around our waists and then on the rails. We didn’t have to worry much about attaching or detaching the cord because they ensured it was a continuous rail throughout. Next, we lined up in a single-file line. 

I was in front of a woman from India. She traveled with her husband and in-laws, but they didn’t want to do the bridge climb. Three years earlier, she came to Sydney on her honeymoon, which was also during New Year’s Eve. 

That day, her family was touring the opera house, but she had already seen it. Even though she was afraid of heights, she decided to do the bridge tour. 

We headed out to the bridge, following the guide in a line. We were under the bridge and had to walk on narrow wooden planks while staring at the ground below. I held on to the bars tightly and tried to look ahead of me. That was the scariest part. 

Once we walked across the first section, we had to climb up four narrow, steep staircases. The guides had us test this earlier because the staircases can be tricky. The whole area was industrial, and the cars on the bridge raced around us. 

Once we were on top of the staircase, we started the climb on the bridge’s top section. We were on the top of the bridge that is shaped like a rainbow. I wasn’t scared because it was wide and wasn’t super steep. We were connected to handrails the whole time, just in case we slipped. 

There was a group farther up the bridge, and they took pictures, so our guide let us take breaks and soak up the views. It was a beautiful day with a cool breeze and a bright blue sky. 

When we reached the top, the guide took pictures of us one at a time. I felt on top of the world! I marveled at the Sydney Opera House. I have seen it so many times in movies and pictures. It felt surreal to see it in real life. 

I looked around and took in the 360° views. There were boats driving around the harbor and leaving white waves in their path. The high-rise buildings went on forever. 

Once everyone had their pictures taken, we crossed to the other side for a few more pictures. The tour guide pointed out a small platform where they shoot fireworks from on New Year’s Eve. She said sometimes they have events at the top, which was nuts to me because the platform was so small!  

It was hard work getting up and back down. There was a lot of climbing and paying attention to my footing. We climbed back down the staircase and under the bridge back to the building attached to it. We took off all of our gear and had the opportunity to buy our pictures. 

I drove back to my Airbnb, ate, and freshened up. Unfortunately, a horrendous headache was creeping in, and within an hour, it felt like a migraine. I took Excedrin and felt sick to my stomach. I didn’t want to miss the secret bar tour that I already paid for, so I sucked it up and took an Uber to the meeting place. 

I was running late because I had a hard time getting my headache to get to a place where I didn’t feel like dying. I arrived at the first bar in Surrey Hills and met the handful of other tourists and the tour guide, Justin. Justin was from Brisbane, appeared to be in his 30s, and had light brown hair. He used to be a corporate lawyer, but left that world a few years earlier and started a tourism business. I found his secret bar tour on Airbnb Experiences. 

As we drank a beer and ate chicken wings, Justin told us about Aussie slang. I had already heard a lot of it, but the one that he highlighted was, “We’re not here to fuck spiders.” It basically means, “I’m not here to mess around. I’m here to get the job done.” Justin even gave us a small card with everyday Aussie slang. 

Once we finished at the first bar, we walked down the street to the next place. During the walk, Justin told us about the old razor blade gangs from the 1920s. The crews were run by women (Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh) because men couldn’t make money from prostitution. It was organized crime, and the four major crimes were: drugs, alcohol, gambling, and prostitution. Prohibition limited alcohol after 6:00 pm, so people used to get wasted from 5:00 pm-6:00 pm. I heard this same thing when I was on a tour in Melbourne

Handguns were criminalized, so they took up razors as their weapon. They estimate that more than 500 slashings occurred during that period. In 1929, two significant battles between the gangs ensued, “Battle of Blood Alley,” and “Battle of Kellett Street.” Justin stopped at one corner where a battle took place. It was wild to think about what it was like back then. 

At the second bar, I had the chance to talk with some other people on the tour. Nine was from the Philippines and was traveling solo. It was her second time traveling by herself, and she was in Australia for a few weeks on holiday. Nine told me it was her first time in an English-speaking country, making it easy for her to navigate. She had traveled to Japan a few times, Korea, and India. 

Sky was from China and was in Australia with a one-year working visa. She had been there for three weeks and already completed a week and a half of the required farm work. So far, she had seen Melbourne, Sydney, and the farm. Sky recently got a job in food processing. 

Noah was from New York and Connecticut (USA). He worked at a corporate location for Door Dash for two years. He was able to transfer to Australia and help get them up and running there. Noah spent two months in Melbourne, and his time was almost over. Before leaving, he was attempting to see Sydney and Cairns. 

Brett was from South Africa. His sister had lived in Melbourne for the last six months. Brett visited his sister and then went to Cairns before arriving in Sydney. He really liked Sydney and the nightlife. He told me that South Africa had political and economic problems, so many people were leaving. Brett didn’t see a long-term future there. 

Byron was from Vienna, Austria. He was visiting Sydney for work. I can’t remember exactly what he did for work, but it had something to do with trains. He was sightseeing now that he finished his work. 

We ended up going to four different bars. Most of them felt American, but I had a great time. It was Saturday night, and I was glad to have people to hang out with. I tried various drinks at the bars and was able to get to know people from around the world. 

One of the bars had label-maker stickers inside the lampshades. My two favorites were, “The good old days are now,” and “Cowboys never die. They just ride off into the sunset.” The cowboy sticker made me think of Damien and how he tipped my hat while saying, “It’s just like that, I ride off into the sunset.” Then I focused on the other sticker and realized now are the good old days, not the past. 

Justin got us drinks that came in shot glasses (and a beer on the side) at the final bar. Later, I walked to the counter to get another drink. There were only two bartenders, so it took me about 20 minutes to get the drink. I asked Justin why there were only two bartenders on a Saturday night, and he explained it’s because of the high minimum wage (highest in the world). The menu read, “midnight surcharge applies.” He said it’s also why restaurants close early. They can’t afford to pay a whole kitchen staff if the restaurant isn’t full. 

Justin told us more about the nightlife in Sydney and the lockout laws. In 2014, a teenager was killed with one punch in an alcohol-related fight at 9:00 pm. It was two years after another teenager was killed in a fight in the same area. In an attempt to reduce alcohol-related violence, the city implemented lockout laws in 2014. 

After 1:30 am, the lockouts applied, and the last call was at 3:00 am. I heard about their lockout laws when I was in Melbourne because Melbourne and Sydney have a rivalry. Melbourne has bars that don’t close until 5:00 am and some that don’t close at all. They mocked Sydney for having to close early. 

I told Justin that it seemed strange they’d change the laws after a single incident and one that happened at 9:00 pm. I wasn’t sure how preventing alcohol sales several hours later would make a difference, but it seemed like something Australia would do. He asked, “Are you referring to our gun control laws?” I laughed, “Yes.” 

A couple of months later, the city lifted its lockout laws after reviewing the economic impacts on the nightlife industry. As of January 2020, the lockout laws no longer apply. 

At the end of the tour, some of us were hungry. Justin took Sky, Nine, and me to a kebab place and ordered HSB fries, a popular halal snack in Australia. Lamb meat topped the fries, and unique sauces made it extra delicious. The four of us had a good time filling our bellies after a night of drinking. It was a great day exploring the city and nightlife. 

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No Place Is Perfect

Days 447-448

I left Byron Bay and continued driving south towards Sydney, Australia. The drive became flatter, and I was sad to be leaving the tropical mountains of Queensland. An announcer on the radio talked about the bush fires that were increasing by the day. 


The man said the bush fires were the worst they’ve experienced in Queensland and New South Wales; it was a national emergency. The man explained that the government and the Prime Minister started a new program that will give $50,000 – $60,000 to drug-addicted welfare recipients for treatment. The Prime Minister was surprised there was opposition. The announcer was upset because many people just lost their homes, and farmers needed that money. One woman wasn’t backing the new drug treatment program until she saw a solid plan.

I knew the fires were early for fire season; it was only mid-September. The fires were different than in the past. But I didn’t realize just how bad it was about to get. According to The Center For Disease Philanthropy, “The first major bushfires began even before the official arrival of spring in June and then new out-of-control fires sprung up at the beginning of Sept. 2019.”

The article continued, “The bushfires burned more than 46 million acres (72,000 square miles) – roughly the same area as the entire country of Syria. At least 3,500 homes and thousands of other buildings were lost and 34 people died in the thousands of fires between September 2019 and March 2020. The majority of deaths and destruction were in New South Wales (NSW), while the Northern Territory accounted for approximately 1/3 of the burned area. At least 80% of the Blue Mountains World Heritage area in NSW and 53% of the Gondwana world heritage rainforests in Queensland (QLD) were burned. Many of the other buildings that were lost were farm buildings, adding to the challenge of agricultural recovery that is already complex because of ash-covered farmland accompanied by historic levels of drought.”

It was also estimated that more than a billion animals were killed. Two months later, when the fires continued to rage in Australia, I was back in the U.S. My heart broke for the devastation. Many people on a travel Facebook group said they canceled their trips there because they didn’t want to burden the country going through such a crisis. Others didn’t want to go because the fires would impact their trip. 

The thing was – Australia was encouraging people to travel. Many people there rely on tourism, and the majority of the country was not on fire. The fires didn’t impact many of the cities. I saw pleas from Australians on the group asking people not to cancel their trips. As soon as the fires were out, Covid-19 struck. 

flat highway

I had a lot of driving to do that day, and I needed to take a break. I saw a massive plastic banana advertising The Big Banana shop and café. I had read that it was a nice place to stop, so I went inside. I ordered their famous banana split, and it was delicious! I savored the flavors and sipped my coffee. 

The big banana sign
banana split

After driving 620 kilometers (385 miles), I arrived at Newcastle (population 453,000). By the time I arrived in the city center, it was 6:40 pm. Newcastle is famous for having the largest coal exporting harbor in the world. 

flat highway
sunset on highway

I pulled over in the downtown area and used the public toilets near the harbor. I booked a motel on Orbitz at 7:00 pm, and it said the lobby was open until 9:00 pm. I was tired from driving all day and didn’t plan to spend much time in the area. 

I drove to Reign Inn and walked into the lobby at 7:20 pm. The motel was old but had new renovations. The entrance was small, dark, and basic.

A man in his 60s walked around the corner from the back, stared at me, and said, “Yes?”

“I’m here to check-in,” I replied. 

“Nope,” the man replied with a scowl on his face.

The man didn’t blink and just stood there with an angry look on his face. 

I explained, “Yes. I booked it 15 minutes ago.”

“Well, nothing has come through,” he insisted.

“Well, it’s booked,” I said, getting annoyed by his lack of customer service. 

The man was annoyed that I wouldn’t leave. “What’s your name again?”

“Christy Teglo.”

“Did you book on our website or elsewhere?”


“Hmmm, I see it. Sign this.”

I briefly skimmed the document the man asked me to sign. He was insulted, “What, you don’t trust your own booking?” I snarked back, “I read things that I sign.”

The man turned towards the board with all of the keys and grabbed one. Then he said, “Wait, what room? They put you in a room that is already occupied. Here, take this instead. This is what happens when you book through an American company.”

Now I was angry. I snapped back, “Well, I’ve used Expedia/Orbitz in Australia for over five months, and it’s never been a problem before.”

I moved my car 50 feet to park outside of my room. The motel was a U-shape and only had about 15 rooms. 

The room was smaller than what I paid for. There was not a desk like the pictures showed. Mosquitos and other flying bugs were hovering around the light. A pool of water was on the bathroom floor. The room smelled so strongly of chemical cleaning agents that I had to open the window. 

Reign Inn motel room
Reign Inn motel room
Reign Inn bathroom

I was exhausted and wasn’t about to address concerns with the grumpy man in the lobby. I sat on the bed, watching T.V. when I received an email from Orbitz asking how my check-in went. 

The email only gives two options, a smiley face or a sad face. I rarely fill those out, and the few times that I have, I’ve given great remarks. This time, I hit the sad face. 

A short survey popped up, asking for feedback. I gave a brief description of how I was treated and how I had to insist that I had a booking for the man to help me. I went back to watching T.V., and 15 minutes later, I got a nasty email from the man at the front, who was clearly the manager or the owner. 

The email was rude, condescending, and treated me like I was a child. He was upset that I gave a low rating for check-in and complained about the strong smell. The man said I didn’t tell him and instead went online to bash him. He also insisted that I had the same room that I booked. 

I was appalled. I wrote a short message back, explaining that Orbitz asked me how check-in went. I didn’t rush online to rate him. He wrote back, continuing to go off on me. I decided I wasn’t going to argue with the man over email. I was uncomfortable staying there, considering he was only 50 feet away in another room. 

I tried to brush it off, but I was furious at how I was treated. I didn’t do anything wrong, and I was afraid that he’d say I messed up the room or something and try to charge me extra. I couldn’t wait until I could leave. 

The next morning, I loaded my car and watched the angry man walk into different rooms, getting them ready to clean. I walked into the lobby, hoping to avoid the man. When I walked through the door, a bell rang. A woman in her 60s was around the corner and yelled, “Has that lady left?!” 

I shouted back, “I’m trying to check out.”

The woman walked into the lobby and took my key. I couldn’t help myself and said, “You should really talk with that man. He was unnecessarily rude to me.”

The woman got visibly angry and snapped at me, “He was joking! You just don’t get his sense of humor!” I thought she was going to attack me. 

That’s when I realized that she was most certainly his wife. I had been to many motels in Australia that were owned and operated by a husband/wife team. Sometimes they were working for a couple of months in exchange for living on-site while they traveled around the country. 

I tried to explain what happened, “Excuse me? Staring at someone who is trying to check-in and saying ‘nope’ is not funny.” The woman kept cutting me off and said, “just leave!,” while pointing at the door. 

I was stunned at the treatment. I said, “Wow, you’re going to double down on the rudeness?” I shook my head and left. I felt my blood boiling and started shaking from the anger. 

Certain people get under my skin. They were those people. I didn’t do anything to deserve their treatment, and when I called them out on their behavior, they treated me even worse. 

I sat in my car and wrote a review about what happened and to warn others. Two other reviews mentioned the poor service from that man, but there were many positive reviews. It was like when he had a bad day, those around him felt it. His wife wasn’t any better. 

I took some deep breathes and tried my best to let it go. I think I was in shock because I didn’t experience any treatment like that from Australians for more than five months. They were usually friendly and happy. But I guess no place is perfect. There are humans there, after all. 

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Hippy Beach Town

Days 445-446

I checked out of my hotel in the Gold Coast, took my friend Andy’s advice, and drove to the spit. I ate the famous crab sandwich, which was actually not very tasty.

Crab sandwich

It was a beautiful day with bright blue skies, and fluffy white clouds sprinkled around. I walked down the concrete path, stretching out into the ocean. There were rocks on both sides. I worried the mighty wind was going to knock me into the sea! 

sand with plant life
Spit with lighthouse
Ocean with rocks

The wind created powerful waves, especially at the end of the spit. There was a small lighthouse with some manmade rocks protecting it from waves. The square rocks were chunks of concrete. The waves crashed against them and up into the sky.

Wave crashing on rocks
Woman with wave behind her
Ocean splashing on rocks

The wind was so powerful that it pushed the waves into the spit, and I got wet. Thankfully, the wind also dried me off pretty quickly. Unfortunately, the salt didn’t come off me as well. 

Ocean with pier in the background
Long concrete spit

I needed to continue my drive south, but I made stops at various beaches, including Burleigh Heads and Tweed Heads. Andy had recommended that I see them, and they were incredible! 

Beach with city in background
Nature path
Rocks and ocean

The ocean was mostly turquoise as it got close to shore, but some sections were a deeper blue. I walked along paved paths on the cliffs with unique tree and plant life. The beaches were mostly empty with clean sand. 

Walking path with trees
Tree and ocean
Trees , ocean, and rocks
Sidewalk through nature

On my way back down, I saw surfers catching waves. The whole area reminded me of the image we typically see of Australia – surfers and pristine beaches. I enjoyed the beautiful nature and relaxed vibe. 

Sun over ocean
Warning signs at beach
Crashing waves
Palm tree and surfers

On my drive south, I passed a couple of buildings that looked like something from The Jetsons. They were large, white circular domes that faced the ocean. I wasn’t sure if they were houses or other buildings, but they looked really cool! Shortly after that, I arrived in New South Wale, one of the six states in Australia. 

White dome buildings
New South Wales sign

I arrived at Byron Bay (population 9,700), where I planned to stay the night. I was near farms with beautiful landscaping all around. I pulled over to book a place and wanted to stay in nature. I found a cute Airbnb with a studio and booked it. The sunset with fiery red and orange set against the green landscape. 

Sunset with trees

I drove to town and parked in the main parking lot. Unfortunately, I received a notification from the homeowner that they canceled my reservation because it was too short of notice. That was frustrating; they didn’t have their settings correct. 

I booked another place that said check-in was available until 6:00 pm, and it was 5:30 pm. I messaged the owner and asked for a 6:30 pm check-in, which they agreed to. 

Sunset over ocean

I walked down the main street and found a restaurant with outdoor seating with heat lamps. There was live music while I enjoyed my dinner. 


I arrived at the Airbnb, and the house was off of a pretty busy two-lane road that snaked through the forest. Once I pulled into the driveway, it dipped down to a solid gate and fence. I messaged the owner, and he opened the gate for me. 

The huge house was modern, sleek, and upscale. It looked like something from a magazine. There was a pool with large glass windows from the main house overlooking it. I pulled my car next to the garage and met Peter and Julie. 

They appeared to be in their early 60s. Peter showed me my room while Julie walked down the road to get a table at a nearby restaurant for their steak night. 

My room was above the garage and had a separate outdoor staircase entrance. We walked inside, and Peter showed me my room with an attached bathroom. Outside of my room was a small section with a mini-fridge and sink. The main house was on the other side of the wall of the kitchenette space. 


My bedroom had windows on both sides of the outside corner walls. There was a balcony that overlooked the forest and road. A metal rolling shade was pulled down on the exterior balcony door. The designs were well done and appeared to be brand new. 

The bed was really comfortable, and I had a good night’s sleep. The next morning, I walked across the street and down to the coffee shop. Peter told me about a trail that started near the house. He said it would take me through the forest and eventually to the beach. 

I took his advice and walked through the path. I was the only person there, and I soaked up the quiet nature. It took me 45 minutes to arrive at the beach. 

nature path
wildlife corridor

The dark clouds and cooler weather meant the beach was mostly empty. It started to rain, and I didn’t bring my jacket or umbrella. I stood under a tree for a bit and enjoyed the views.

Beach with storm clouds
Crashing waves
Beach and forest

Byron Bay is known for being a hippy town, and a brightly multi-colored van in the parking lot fit that description perfectly. 

hippy bus

I walked back through the forest and said some prayers. Quiet time and reflection always help to recenter me. Being in nature also adds an inner peace.

Hiking path

My friend Debbie called towards the end of the walk, and we Facetimed. I arrived back at the Airbnb and continued to chat for a while. 

Next, I drove to a cafe that was at the beach. I didn’t have much time to spend in Byron Bay, and the weather wasn’t the best, but I wanted to get an overview of it at least. People had mixed feeling about the area. I heard from some people that they thought it was too touristy and full of stereotypical hippies. Others thought it was the most beautiful and fun place they had been. 

Ocean over cliffs

After eating my burger, I hiked around the cliffs to a lighthouse. One of the paths wrapped around a small mountain, and I had to climb many stairs to reach the top. A picturesque lighthouse was at the top, and I was treated to beautiful views. 

Ocean through trees
staircase by ocean
outdoor staircase

One of the signs read, “Most easterly point of the Australian mainland.” The combination of cliffs and the raging ocean below reminded me of driving The Great Ocean Road near Melbourne. 

Lighthouse with stairs
Forest and ocean
Raging ocean

As I walked around, I talked with my friend, Toni. It was nice having someone there with me, even if it were virtually. I turned back, and when I reached the bottom, I saw lots of surfers in the water. I love watching surfers catch a wave. I’ve never surfed before, but it looks like so much fun! 

sunset over ocean

To avoid getting a parking ticket, I drove to the main street with shops and restaurants. The cute shops were fun to browse and a lot that focused on natural health and healing. 

shops on main street
street art

Next, I drove to the local brewery about five minutes away from the center of town. The forest surrounded it, and I sat outside. I ordered dinner and a drink. The atmosphere was great, but it was too early and was mostly empty. 

A few months earlier, there was a missing person post on a Facebook group and the news. It was an 18-year-old Belgian backpacker (Theo Hayez) who was last seen walking on the road near the local hostel. There was video footage of him buying some alcohol at a liquor store the night of his disappearance. It was heartbreaking. He just vanished. The backpacker had been in Australia on a working holiday visa for seven months and was leaving in a week. 

After a few months of searching, they officially stopped their efforts, and he’s still missing. A year later, the searchers found a hat in the bush near the lighthouse with two hairs in it, which matched Theo’s. They believe he may have fallen off the cliffs. Those stories always bother me and are reminders of how short and fleeting life can be. I was saddened, knowing he likely spent his last moments in the area. 

The next day, I loaded up my car to check-out. I ran into Peter and talked to him about my travels. He told me that his son is a doctor and was living in Cairns for a few months for an internship. 

I told Peter that I walked through the forest to the beach, but it was mostly empty, with a few surfers. He explained that the beach is a nude men’s beach. I laughed at the thought, and thankfully I didn’t see any nude males. I’m entirely sure that I was at that beach, though. Peter told me that he likes living in Byron Bay, but he doesn’t like the town’s extreme hippy-ness. 

outdoor cafe

On my way out of town, I grabbed a coffee at the nearby café. Then I hit the road to continue driving south. A guy was riding a bicycle with a surfboard under his arm on the side of the road. I thought that was the perfect image to describe Byron Bay.

guy on bike with surfboard

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Outback Friends in the Gold Coast

Days 443-444

After five hours of restless sleep in my smelly motel in the Brisbane suburbs, I got out of bed to pack up and check out. I drove to the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, which is an elevated bridge in the forest. 

Sky bridge

The entrance fee was $20, which was disappointing considering all of the similar places in Australia that were free. The metal suspended bridge snaked through the forest and ended at an opening of a canyon. The thick green trees shaded the entire area. 

Forest with tall trees

The end section slightly shook when people walked, making me fearful of falling. A sign read, “Deliberate rocking of this structure is strictly prohibited.” Unfortunately, there were a few people purposely walking in a way that was causing shaking. 

One tall tree

The crowds of people ruined the experience for me. While I think it’s great to have a more accessible bridge and path through the forest, it destroyed why people usually go to nature in the first place. People rushed through the easy walk. At one point, I was able to get a small hike through the woods. 

End of sky bridge
Tree with markings

Next, I drove 10 minutes to a glowworm cave. The whole area was a thick forest in the mountains outside of the cities. The glowworm cave had a small shop nestled in the woods. I snagged the last ticket for a tour that was about to start. As I paid the woman at the small counter, she told me about the fires that were burning close by. Two of her friends had just lost their homes. The woman was keeping a close eye on the news, hoping they wouldn’t have to evacuate. 

I didn’t know it then, but that was the start of Australia’s most destructive fire season. It was September 2019, their springtime. I kept hearing people say they were concerned because it wasn’t summertime yet, and they were already getting a lot of bushfires. Fire season starts in August, but that year, they were warned it would be an earlier start because of the trend they saw in the Northern Territory. It was heartbreaking to watch the fires continue for months and months while the country went into a full-blown crisis. 


The tour was beginning, so I joined the group. The cave is man-made, and they’ve added the glowworms, so they don’t go extinct. The worms only live in southeast Australia and New Zealand. The tour guide explained that it’s better to give tours in man-made caves instead of natural caverns, so their cycles aren’t disrupted.  

cave entrance

We began the tour by sitting in a small, dark room attached to the cave and watched a video. Next, we walked inside the cave. It was almost pitch black, except for the glowing of thousands of glow worms all over the walls and ceiling. 

The cave had a narrow metal path with rails, and we were instructed to stay on it and not touch the worms or the walls, even though they were close enough to touch. The worms live for about a year, and they really do glow! The females are larger so that they can birth 120 to 130 babies. Their butts glow to attract insects. Then the insects get stuck in their stringy, dangling webs. I was fascinated by the strings – they were super fine and tiny. 

The nature center feeds the worms with 1,500 to 2,000 insects a day! To collect the insects, they scoop them up around a nearby lake and fruit trees using nets. 

The glowworms create their own circadian rhythm and only glow during the nighttime. Because the cave appeared to be nighttime, the worms were glowing. I looked around the cave, and the worms looked like stars. They slightly changed their brightness (like twinkling). 

The tour guide told us that many animals/insects/fish create their own light. Glowworms don’t generate any heat, though, just the light. 

I marveled at the tiny creatures suctioned to the walls and ceiling. When I was a kid, I had a glowworm toy that I slept with each night. I loved that guy, and now I was able to meet them in real life! 

Once the tour was finished, I tried to find a place to stay the night but struggled. I gave up and drove towards the Gold Coast. I passed a church that had a sign, “God had to break your heart to save your soul.” Maybe.

After 45 minutes, I arrived at the Gold Coast, with a population of 540,000. It’s home to Surfers Paradise. I drove past the beach and shops, and it reminded me of Los Angeles. I pulled over and booked a hotel in Broadbeach. 

The hotel was a complex of small apartments. I tried to check-in, but the office closed at noon. It was 4:00 pm, so I called the phone number. A man came over and gave me my key. 

I was exhausted from the previous night and fell asleep on the couch. Once I woke up, I did laundry, showered, and went to bed. I booked two nights there, and it would be my last two nights in Queensland. I was very close to the New South Wales border and would continue my trek south. 

I slept in the next morning and felt drained. I knew my body was likely fighting something. I had taken several antihistamines over the previous few nights because of allergic reactions that I was getting. Benadryl always wipes me out, but sometimes I need it to prevent my bad reactions. 

In the afternoon, I walked to the tram station, which would take me to Surfers Paradise, four miles away. I talked with a girl in her 20s from Brazil named Liza, who was traveling alone. We helped each other figure out the correct tram to take. Once we got on, we sat near each other and chatted. She had dark blonde hair, dark blue eyes, and was beautiful in her sundress. She was super sweet and easy to talk with. 

Liza was on the Gold Coast for three days, and the next day she was flying to Sydney. She had a six-month visa to travel around Australia and to help her learn English. We talked about our travels and traveling alone while figuring things out in a foreign country. Liza told me, “Your English is much easier to understand. I struggle with Australians who talk too fast.” I laughed, “I also have a hard time understanding Australians at times.” 

Two tall buildings

The tram arrived at Surfers Paradise, and we were going in opposite directions. Liza hugged me and then kissed me on my cheek. I only knew her for 10 minutes, but she was a sweet, beautiful soul. 

outdoor shops

I walked to Surfers Paradise through an outdoor plaza with shops. The beach was long, clean, and beautiful. It was a beautiful day, but a little chilly to be inside the water. People mostly lounged on the sand, soaking up the sun. 

beach with people
beach and buildings
buildings in the gold coast

There was a giant red sculpture, some trees, and birds looking for food. It reminded me of Huntington Beach, California. The highrise buildings were right next to the beach, giving a nice combination of city and nature. 

red sculpture
surfers paradise
australian flags
beach path
bird at beach

After enjoying the beach for a while, I walked to the Sky Deck. It’s a room at the top of a building that provides views in 360° direction. I bought a ticket and took the elevator to the top around 4:30 pm. 

gold coast skyline

The views were incredible and showed just how sprawling the city was! To the east was the ocean. I could see the waves and a few surfers in the water. The coastline stretched so far to the north and south that I couldn’t see the end of it. A sign pointing directly into the ocean said, “Los Angeles 11,555 kilometers.” I stared out into the vast ocean, thinking just how far that was (7,180 miles). 

ocean from high above
los angeles distance sign
woman in sky deck

The highrise buildings were new, modern, and clean. It was a small metropolis. The buildings were lined up against the coastline and behind them was an inlet of water that appeared to come from the ocean. It looked like a river snaking behind them. 

skyline view of gold coast
River snaking through city
buildings near beach

Houses lined the coastline around the river on the opposite side of the highrise buildings. There were small mountains in the distance. Suddenly, a thick pinkish layer of fog came barreling in from the ocean.

fog over ocean

The sun started to set at 5:30 pm, and I stayed to watch it. It was large and bright, and it disappeared behind the mountains. I loved watching the city lights turn on, illuminating the environment differently. 

sunset over city

I ordered a glass of wine and some potato wedges while I soaked in the views. There wasn’t a limit on how long I could stay up there, so I stayed for two hours! 

nighttime city lights

I had messaged Nik and Andy, who I met two months earlier on a rock climbing and abseiling tour in Karijini National Park. Nik was from Switzerland and had a working holiday visa for a year. He had spent most of his time in Perth working, and then his girlfriend joined him for several weeks. I met them during their outback excursions. 

I ran into both Andy and Nik in Broome at an outdoor festival, and then Andy once again in Darwin. Andy lived in Broadbeach, and Nik was staying at his house for a few nights. Nik rode Andy’s bike to Surfers Paradise to meet up with me. 

I met Nik at the bottom of the Sky Deck. It was cold and windy outside, and I was wearing shorts and a short-sleeve shirt! Once the sun went down, the cold really set in. We walked to an Italian restaurant and ordered some pasta. 

guy and girl
Nik and Me

Nik was in his 20s, had blonde hair and a small blonde goatee. I was so thrilled to see him again! He only had six weeks left on his visa, so his time was quickly coming to an end. When we first met, we were busy actively climbing and hiking in a gorge. This time, I had time to get to know him better. 

Nik was a car mechanic back in Switzerland, and that’s the job he did while in Australia. When he first arrived, he spent a couple of months in the Gold Coast and then several months in Perth. It was easier for Nik to get around in the Gold Coast because he could ride a bike everywhere. Perth is much more spread out, and he had to get a car. It took him an hour and a half in each direction to get to work because of the traffic. 

Nik told me that he didn’t know any English, just a tiny bit, before coming to Australia. In the area he is from in Switzerland, they speak German. He said, “But it’s Swiss German, so German’s can’t understand us.” His friends back home spoke English better than he did, and they made fun of you if you couldn’t speak it well. 

While Nik was in Perth, he enrolled in an English class and said he’s learned a lot. He felt much better about speaking it because he wasn’t teased if he got something wrong. Nik noted that his class had people from Japan, Saudi Arabia, and all over the world. He became friends with the people from Japan. Learning and speaking English enabled Nik to meet people from around the world, which he was grateful for. 

I assured Nik that his English was excellent! I always admire people who can speak more than one language. I am not gifted in that area and struggled to become bi-lingual even though I took several Spanish classes. Nik said, “You should feel lucky because if you know English, you can travel pretty much anywhere. There aren’t many places that speak German.”

Nik was dating Anita, who I also met on the rock climbing tour. She was adorable and a lot of fun. Nik really missed her, but he was happy that she came out for two and a half months. It was supposed to be for six weeks, but she stayed longer. They drove from Perth to Cairns together, and she flew home from there. 

Nik’s sister flew out for a little while and joined Nik on Fraser Island. I told him how I did a day tour of Fraser Island and swam with humpback whales on the way there. Because my tour was just for the day, I didn’t get to see much of the island. Nik and his sister were able to camp on the secluded beaches. He converted his Land Cruiser, so there was a bed in the back with a full-size mattress. 

Nik and I agreed that we didn’t like the number of people on the east coast. We were used to the sparse population in Western Australia. There was something extraordinary about that area of the country. 

I asked Nik if he was excited to return to Switzerland after being gone for almost a year. He missed the mountains, the snow, and Anita. He was looking forward to returning soon. 

A few years earlier, Nik went to the U.S for the first time because his uncle worked for an airline and got free flights. He went to New York and loved it. That’s what opened his eyes to travel. A year and a half later, Nik flew back to the U.S. with three friends. They each picked a place to visit and ended up seeing New York City first and then flew to Salt Lake City. From there, they rented a car and drove to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Finally, they flew to Hawaii. 

Nik explained that they got around okay because one of his friends knew English well. When they were at Lake Havasu, they rented a boat for an entire day. Nik was shocked that they were allowed to rent a boat without a license or any experience! 

We were finished eating dinner, and the restaurant was closing, so we walked towards a bar. Andy drove down to meet us, and it was so cold outside, he offered to give me a ride to the bar. I hoped inside, and Nik rode the bike. Andy was in his early 50s, had dark hair, and was really active. 

We grabbed beers and talked all about our travels over the last two months. Andy had driven through the Nullarbor to get his rental car back to Perth. Then he flew from there back to the east coast. We tried to convince Nik to drive to Uluru before leaving Australia. 

two men and a woman
Nik, Andy, and Me

Once we finished our beer, we went to Andy’s house. He lives in Broadbeach in a modern home that he’s fixed up perfectly. His parents lived in the bottom section of the house, and Andy lived upstairs. He created separate entrances, so they all had some privacy. 

I walked outside on the large balcony, and it was beautiful. There was a pool below us and a smaller house in the back, which he rented out on Airbnb. It was sort of like a mother-in-law suite. Andy was smart. He cared for his parents, had space for himself, and earned money from the addition of an Airbnb on his property. 

The house was modern, classy, and new. It looked like a magazine. The decorations were well done, and I was impressed. Andy made drinks for the three of us, and we sat around chatting. I showed them some funny videos about Australia, and Nik and I couldn’t stop laughing. Andy thought our reactions to the Australian culture were amusing. 

It was getting late, so Andy drove me back to my hotel. I was so glad to have the chance to meet up with them. It was so funny that we met on a 12-hour tour in the outback and randomly ran into each other in Broome and Darwin. Now halfway across the country, we all met up once again. 

The three of us could relate to each other because of what we had experienced. We loved the outback and the feeling that you get from the remoteness. It’s a unique experience, and you just bond quickly with the people you meet. Western Australia attracts an adventurous type of traveler. We all knew exactly what we each experienced. 

While we were now in a large city on the east coast, we connected with our desire to travel and have adventures. It was perfect timing. I was feeling lonely two days earlier and like I was losing friends back home. But I was gaining friends abroad. God always has a way of putting people in my life at the perfect time. I’m still in touch with them today and would be thrilled to meet up again – somewhere in the world. 

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Consequences of Long-Term Travel

Day 442

I finally got a noon check-out at my hotel. Almost all check-out times in Australia were 10:00 am. I didn’t want to leave the beautiful 4-star room, so I stayed until the last possible minute. I drove to the Brisbane suburbs because I needed to repair the screen on my iPhone. 

The colossal mall reminded me of a mall in Cerritos, California, near where I lived. It was massive, and the Apple store was super crowded – just like back home. An employee told me to wait for five minutes. He quickly returned, and I explained that the glass screen was cracked and shattered around the home button – a hazard of stargazing in the outback. 

The employee told me that it would take about three hours to repair. I was happy that they could fix it the same day because my phone is my lifeline. I told the guy that was fine because I could browse the mall and grab a bite to eat. The guy was surprised at my relaxed attitude and said they had a woman who yelled at them for saying it would take three hours. She stormed out in anger. I explained that I’m used to long wait times, and three hours was nothing compared to Los Angeles. 

I spent three hours eating lunch, buying a few items like a new phone case, and then I got my nails done. I kept reaching for my phone to research things or to take a picture. It made me realize that I was uncomfortably addicted to my phone. 

By the time I picked up my phone from Apple and put the new cover on it, it was 5:00 pm. Of course, the store was closing, even though it was a Saturday. Things always close ridiculously early in Australia. 

Shopping hour in Australia
Shopping hour in Australia mall

The couple of days that I had been in Brisbane, I had been messaging a guy from Tinder, Chris. It wasn’t the musician Chris who ghosted me months earlier, but for some reason, I match with guys named Chris often. Maybe the universe wanted a Christy and Chris pair.

I messaged Chris, asking if he wanted to hang out that evening. It was Saturday, and I wanted to see the city at night. While I waited for a reply, I drove to the grocery store and ate dinner at a nearby Chipotle-type place. I booked a motel close to where I was in the suburbs because hotels in the city were too expensive. 

Motel room
Motel bathroom

I arrived at the crappy 2-star motel, and the smell was overpowering. It was like a cleaning bomb went off, mixed with perfume. I didn’t hear from Chris, and I realized that I was being ghosted. Again.

I wasn’t going to ruin my evening, so I took a bus downtown. I didn’t want to worry about driving in the city, paying for parking, and could have some drinks. The bus cost $5.80 and took 45 minutes because traffic was so bad. A game had just finished, and people were everywhere. 

City lights

I made it downtown, and it was extremely windy outside. I walked to a rooftop bar, and it was mostly empty. I bought a beer and enjoyed the city lights. At 11:30 pm, the bar announced they were closing soon, so I left. I walked through Queen Street and an outdoor mall. I couldn’t believe how dead it was on a Saturday night. 

Rooftop bar
View from rooftop bar
Clock tower
Clock tower with lights
Queen Street Mall

I found a jazz bar that looked cool and had live music. Before they’d allow me inside, they asked for my I.D. The bouncer scanned it with a computer scanner and took my picture. I walked down a few steps, and the jazz bar was swanky. It had an old-timey feel, was classy, and it was dark inside. There were small, round tables in the middle of the room and a few square tables against the wall with booth-type seating. The seating all faced the stage where musicians played jazz music. 

There weren’t many people there either. The musicians looked like college kids, but they were outstanding! There was a young woman who sang beautifully with a classic jazz voice. She wore high-waisted blue jeans, popular for women her age. I ordered a beer and sat at a table. During the breaks, the musicians sat at a table with their friends and seemed like band nerds, but they were cute. Two of the guys had long hair pulled back in buns. 

Jazz bar

The other customers were on dates or with a group. I was afraid that I stood out sitting all by myself. 

I ordered fries and another beer and tried to focus on the music, but loneliness wouldn’t go away. I thought to myself, “Maybe going to places like this is bad for me. It reminds me of how alone I am. If I were watching T.V., I would zone out and not think about being with someone.”

I was frustrated that I was ghosted yet again. It’s such a toxic behavior, and so many people do it. Why can’t they just tell me they’re not interested after all? I always start to get my hopes up that there could be potential with someone, no matter how much I tell myself not to. 

Sitting there listening to jazz music, I said to myself, “I need to get off of Tinder. I shouldn’t date. I shouldn’t even think about dating.” I didn’t want to be cynical, but I also didn’t have it in me to keep going through those emotions and letdowns. 

I messaged a friend about how I was feeling and how depressed I was about the possibility of dating or lack thereof. I didn’t want to be in that beautiful city at a swanky jazz bar all alone. I wanted to get to know someone. I wanted someone to want to be with me. Because of the time difference, my friend was just starting her work day. I had nobody to talk with.

I stayed until almost 2:00 am and then tried to find the bus. After walking and searching for 15 minutes, I found one. I asked the bus driver about my stop and showed him where my motel was located on my phone’s map. He said he’d get me there, so I sat down. Then he said, “Keep an eye out for yourself too. We’ll get you there.” The man didn’t even charge me. Maybe I looked too sad. 

I didn’t get to my motel until 3:00 am, and then I showered. My right eye was burning like crazy, likely from the overbearing fragrance in the air. It hurt so bad, and the smell was so awful, I barely slept. 

I hoped that I’d wake up to some encouraging words from my friend, but there was no reply. Days went by before she responded, and it was to tell me that she could talk in a few days. When that time came, she talked about problems she was having with her new boyfriend. By the time she asked about that night, more than two weeks had gone by, and I no longer wanted to talk about it. This was someone I used to speak with daily.

This is one thing that I didn’t expect when traveling long-term. I didn’t expect to lose friends. The distance, both literally and metaphorically, was growing the longer that I was on the road. It was like people thought that I was living the high-life, traveling around the world, having a blast at all times. When I was feeling down or lonely, I reached out from time to time to friends and family, but I didn’t want to be a burden or a downer. 

But there were times I needed someone, and nobody was there. I was on the other side of the world and had been for almost nine months. It had been nearly 15 months since I sold my house and began my full-time travels. My friend had moved on, focused on her new boyfriend and the new life they were creating together. 

My friend and I had a couple of long discussions during the first six months of my travels. She felt that I was off having wild adventures, and she was still at home doing the same old and couldn’t relate. I found myself trying to downplay how exciting my adventures were. I felt powerless to stop the growing gap as our lives split into different lanes. 

I’ve been able to keep in regular touch with a few friends because we both make our phone calls and text messages a priority. And I get it. We all have different levels of friendships. Some friends we talk to every week. Others once a month, and others only every six months. But the times of talking and messaging were becoming less frequent.

I put a lot of effort into my friendships, and I always have. I moved around a lot as a kid from Missouri to Colorado and back again. I used to write hand-written letters to stay in touch back in those days. I know the life changes that result from moving, but I didn’t consider those changes with long-term travel. My stuff was still in storage in Los Angeles. I hadn’t moved anywhere; I just didn’t live there anymore.  

The longer that I was away, the more my friends moved on, making me feel forgotten. Their lives continued, and it wasn’t easy to talk across such long distances. Some felt that they couldn’t relate to me any longer, which I struggled to understand. I don’t have children but most of my friends do. I’ve never felt like we couldn’t relate just because we didn’t have identical lives. Perhaps my loneliness affected my feelings, but it was feeling more and more like I was losing my closest friends.

When I met up with friends a month later, once I was back home, they often thought life must be 100% perfect – I was living the dream. While that is true 90% of the time, 5% is lonely, and another 5% is hard, and things don’t go smoothly, like my $5,000 mistake.

When a friend of mine tells me how they’re losing sleep from a newborn or how their kids are difficult, I don’t think, “Many women can’t have children. You should be grateful that you have them and stop complaining.” I don’t believe that at all. I know that they are grateful for their children and that they wouldn’t change a thing with having them. That doesn’t change the fact that sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s exhausting. Sometimes they want to pull their hair out. 

Travel is the same. I have never regretted my decision to travel full-time, and I am beyond grateful to have had the experiences that I did. With Covid lockdowns, I’m even more thankful that I had those opportunities. But there were times, like that night at the jazz bar, where it was challenging. Times when I fought back the tears. Times when I gave in to my tears and cried myself to sleep. 

I never expected it to be 100% pure bliss. Life doesn’t work that way. I just never expected that friends would struggle to relate to me or be jealous. I realized more and more that my journey was leading me in a different direction and that I couldn’t keep fighting for people to be in my life who didn’t want to be in mine, whether it’s a ghost from Tinder or a friend. I needed to respect that sometimes people choose to drift away; sometimes, those are the consequences of leaving your life behind and beginning a new one. 

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Exploring Brisbane by Rope, Bike, and Ghost Tour

Days 440-441

I woke up in my plush, 4-star bed in Brisbane, Australia. I snuggled up as I searched for things to do in the area. I wanted to relax and enjoy the hotel while getting some writing done, but I was afraid of “wasting” my time in Brisbane, which was shorter than I would have preferred. 

I spent most of the day writing and relaxing, and then at 3:00 pm, I walked down to the riverfront for a tour of abseiling (rappelling). The first time that I had ever abseiled was two months earlier when I went deep into a canyon in Karijini National Park. That was a thrilling experience, with many life-lessons. 

This time, the tour offered abseiling but no climbing back up. Thankfully, we took the stairs. I arrived at the tour shop that was on the riverfront and signed the necessary paperwork. There were just two other people on the tour – a young couple from Japan who didn’t speak much English. 

Once I filled out my forms, I used the toilet one last time (didn’t want any accidents) and put my bag in a locker. The guide had us put some equipment on and carry the rest. Then we walked 10 minutes to the rock wall. 

Kangaroo Point Cliffs

The 20 meter (65 feet) wall was on the riverfront path, right in the city! It was a natural rock wall cliff, but the city added stairs to take people from top to bottom. It’s called Kangaroo Point Cliffs. We stood at the bottom, and I looked up the steep wall that seemed to reach the sky. It had jagged edges with a few lengthy kinds of grass and plants trying to grow. It was crazy to think that my dive certification is for 20 meters. I imagined that being the depth of the ocean.

20 meter rock wall

Our guide, Chris, appeared to be in his 30s. He gave us instructions while we were still at the bottom. We would abseil down one-by-one and then take the stairs back to the top. He would get us set up and stay at the top to ensure he could hold the rope in the event of a fall. We were each allowed to rappel down twice. Our group didn’t talk much, which seemed to annoy him. I was nervous and focused on his instructions. 

Stairs at Kangaroo Point Cliffs

We climbed the never-ending stairs, and once we were at the top, Chris gave us more instructions. There were a couple of men farther down the wall also abseiling, but other than those men, it was just us. Occasionally, runners and walkers passed below us on the walking path, looking up to see what we were doing. 

View of river

There was another walking path and views of the river and city skyline at the top of the wall. It was beautiful, and the sun shined brightly against the blue sky. 

Brisbane skyline

The first to go was the young guy from Japan. I stood there behind the two-foot barrier wall, watching. I am afraid of heights and don’t know why I keep doing things like this. When I worked at Target, I couldn’t go up more than two steps on a ladder, or I’d freeze and then start shaking and sweating. I freak out when I feel unstable. I’m ok on a mountain top because it feels sturdy. 

Abseiling rope on cliff

The young guy struggled to get from the first standing position to the L-shape that you need to be in. I had learned this two months earlier, which really helped me. The hardest part of abseiling (in my opinion) is getting into the seated position, allowing the rope to hold you. 

Guy hooked up to rope
Guy in position to abseil
Guy starting to abseil

The guy eventually made it down, and it was my turn. My adrenaline was pumping fast, and my heart was racing. Chris got my straps hooked up and assured me that I wouldn’t fall, and he was there in case something went wrong. 

Woman afraid to abseil

I stepped to the ledge, facing the rock wall and Chris. I needed to sit down and straighten my legs, shoulder-width apart. The hard part about leaning back is that it feels like you’re jumping off the wall until you feel the tension from the rope. I also knew that if I didn’t have my feet and legs positioned correctly, I’d fall sideways against the wall. 

I explained to Chris that I was having a hard time letting go (that could be said both literally and figuratively). He grabbed my left hand so I’d feel more comfortable. It helped, and I leaned back. Once I felt the tension, I got my body into an L shape. 

I had gloves on, and my right hand was holding the rope behind my back. That hand would slowly release the rope, allowing me to descend. Keeping it behind my back helped, so the rope didn’t slide too fast through the clip near my belly button. 

I started to slide down, using my feet to jump from rock to rock, keeping myself from hitting the wall. My arm began to hurt because I grabbed it so tightly and tried hard not to go too fast! As I descended, I only looked at the wall because I was afraid that I’d freak out if I looked down. I had good form and speed, which was giving me confidence. 

I told myself that I was Tom Cruise in a Mission Impossible movie. I pretended that I was on a mission and needed to repeal to save the world. My speed increased, mostly because my arm was struggling to slow my pace. 

View from bottom of cliff with rope dangling

I made it to the bottom, and my whole body was tense and sore. I looked back up the wall and couldn’t believe I just abseiled down! I felt accomplished and proud. 

View of brisbane and river

I climbed up the stairs, and the young girl from Japan was struggling to go down. She was all hooked up but couldn’t get herself to take that first bend to lower herself. The three of us tried to encourage her, but I’m not sure that she understood Chris and me. 

Girl afriad to abseil

It took a long time, so Chris said he would unhook her and have the guy and myself go down while the girl decided if she wanted to do it after all. Right after he unhooked everything, she decided she wanted to go down. The girl got herself into the position and very slowly abseiled down. 

Girl in position to abseil

The guy went next, and then it was time for my final descent. Chris took my picture, and I tried to look happy, but was also terrified! I was so tense that my arm was really hurting again. I lowered myself and began to go down. 

Woman ready to abseil

Halfway down, I stopped at a spot that Chris told us was an excellent opportunity to take a rest and take in the view. The ledge was about a foot deep, so I could stand on it. I looked around and saw some fantastic views! I was even able to take some pictures. 

Mid-way point abseiling on cliff
View looking down from cliff
woman on cliff while abseiling
Cliff edge with city views in background

It wasn’t easy to get back into position because I had to sit back down in the L shape, without the help of Chris’s hand. I was successful and decided to look around more as I descended. It was scary as I looked down and saw how far the bottom was! 

Kangaroo point cliffs walking path

I was thrilled that I did it! Chris told me that I did great and my form was perfect. I had wanted to abseil again to make sure I didn’t lose the training that I received in Karijini. Thankfully, the lessons stuck, and I pushed through the fear. 

Once Chris cleaned everything up, we walked ba