Thursday, 6 April 2017

Travel Diaries #1 - Vancouver Alone

This is part one of some travel diaries I wrote while in Canada and USA recently and didn't publish at the time...

Today has been one of those days where a poignant combination of jetlag, gratitude and awareness of privilege have rendered me particularly introspective and reflective. 

Firstly, my Sunday has been 35 hours long so far and is starting to feel a tad Groundhog Day-ish. I mean Sunday is a weird old day to start with, even when it is in its usual 24 hour format. I usually treat it with a mixture of derision and passive aggression. A need to "DO SOMETHING" with the day so that I can claim to have had a weekend, tempered with an inherent desire to DO NOTHING and stick the middle finger up to the world. 

Today, I got up at 5am Adelaide time, my amazing husband drove me to the airport, I flew to Brisbane on a Qantas flight which managed to irritate me by not providing a toastie for breakfast (I know, #firstworldproblems and all that but it is mindfuckery when the last 6 Qantas morning flights I have been on all had a toastie and this morning, the offering was FUCKING CORNFLAKES). 

A very disappointing breakfast.

I transferred to the International terminal at Brisbane and boarded a 13 hour flight to Vancouver, which was absolutely chock full and where I had the delightful experience of sitting in an aisle seat with a 6'5" dude in the middle seat who could not help but man-spread into my seat because he was far too tall and wide to stay within the acceptable boundaries of his own. Helpfully he fell asleep within 20 minutes of take off and therefore relaxed further into my space thus rendering any hope of snoozing myself completely untenable. 

I therefore did the only rational thing I could in the circumstances. I selected a wine from the trolley and started watching films. I watched (Oscar nominee) Manchester-By-The-Sea, Bridget Jones' Baby and Deepwater Horizon back to back. All three had me in tears at some point. Also, I can confirm for you right now that the best bit of Bridget Jones' Baby occurs during the opening titles when she mimes to House of Pain 'Jump Around' whilst pissed and in pyjamas and spilling wine everywhere. I experienced a strange sense of attachment to this scene. I also unconsciously found myself miming along with impressive accuracy and I am sure my nearest fellow passengers enjoyed this display of hip hop skillz before I realised and came to an abrupt halt.

Anyway, 13 hours later I was in Canada (ACTUAL CANADIA!) and ready to mingle with Mr Trudeau and his band of singing Mounties. Sadly, they were not in arrivals to meet me and I had to wrangle my suitcase on my own and other annoying shiz because of an annoying lack of amazeballs husband. Between getting off the plane and exiting the airport I checked that I had my passport at least 15 times. Such has it been drilled in to me not to lose the damn thing. 

Bizarrely, when we landed it was 7am. On the same day I had left Australia. I had actually done a Marty McFly and gone back in time. My brain could not deal. This also meant that I was VERY early for check in at my hotel. As my room was still a few hours off being ready I headed over the road to a Tim Horton's (Canadian coffee chain) and got a latte and free wifi #winning 

Vancouver city view

Thank goodness for my kindle, I managed to while away 3 hours before heading back over to see if a room was ready. The team at my hotel had awesomely found me a room on the back of the building and let me have it super early. I was relieved that it overlooks the back because the road out front is very busy, this room is relatively quiet. I fell into bed and slept for 3 hours but managed to then drag myself out to explore.

Wow. The air here is so crisp and cold and clean. Every lungful feels like it is almost burning with purity and it makes me nostalgic for the European winters I grew up with and chilly blue see-your-own-breath days. Vancouver is a pretty stunning city with proper snow capped mountains ringing the city centre. I walked along the edge of the water to a Craft beer place I had read about and just enjoyed the Sunday afternoon pace of the city, people out with their dogs and kids, all wrapped up in many layers. 

Cool beer house in Olympic Village, Vancouver

Beer offerings - so much choice!

There is something quite liberating and empowering about being alone in an unknown city and I am so lucky to get the chance to do this for work. Sure, I miss Stu and would love him to be here and sharing this with me, but being here alone will not stop me getting out and seeing things. 

Years ago I might have felt a bit intimidated by walking into a heaving, vibrant bar on my own and sitting on my own, amusing myself. These days, it actually feels like a rare privilege and opportunity to legitimately people watch and the fact that I am alone bothers me not one jot. I think one of the best things about getting older is feeling far more confident in ones own skin and giving far fewer fucks what anyone thinks. 

Anyway, I passed a wonderful few hours and chatted on and off to a barman and sampled a few ales. All very civilised. Then I wandered back to my hotel and collapsed into the kind of sleep that can only happen when you have been travelling; un-moving, deep and restorative - ready for the crazy schedule I would be on for the next few days.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Happy New Year?

Happy new year one and all.

Wasn’t 2016 just a joy? Actually, I can logically and rationally see that many positive things happened in 2016, including, for me personally, the below:

The birth of my niece Lydia in January.

A new job with University of Adelaide which finally found me happy and sufficiently challenged in my work life in Australia.

An awesome visit by my aunt and uncle in May with much reminiscing and happy time together.

A new car which has finally given us security and freedom to explore the state further.

An AMAZING trip to Africa and Mauritius in August/Sept which took in some incredible safari experiences and concluded with the wedding of my little brother. We met an incredible bunch of people on our G adventures tour and I know that many of them will be friends for life.

This beautiful bunch of awesome people was a highlight. Africa 2016.

Some great QT with my mom in October/Nov when she stayed with us whilst doing a course.

An exciting visit to the NT with my folks and Stu for Christmas which included memories I will treasure for years.

About to fly over Kakadu - utterly wonderful!

So, there you go, on balance some good things really did happen. Sadly, we also had our fair share of sadness and heartache and it felt like the world had lost its collective shit with some of the unbelievable political decisions and global acts of terrorism which also occurred.

I have stalled in blogging about the Africa trip due to us having an unexpected and completely shocking family bereavement which, to be honest, we are still kind of reeling from and which has prevented me from being able to concentrate on much else.

You see, my lovely father-in-law passed away suddenly in early November and it has rocked our world on its axis in a way I never could have predicted. I guess I should be thankful to have got to the age of 37 before experiencing a bereavement like this. Supporting a spouse through the loss of a parent is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It is not something there is any guide book for and the hardest part is not being able to heal their pain in any visible or rapid way. Add to this my closeness to my brother and mother in-law, both fully in the grips of overwhelming loss and shock and pain, and who I also cannot help in any real, tangible way. The helplessness is crippling.

I miss my father in law greatly and am grieving myself too, though I can appreciate I am one level removed from the intensity of the grief for Stu and his mum and brother. I have been part of this family for 18 years this year and he has always been this incredibly kind and warm personality in my life, so welcoming of a “daughter” into his family. He has left a huge hole in our collective lives and I am still finding myself regularly shocked to remember he will not be with us for various family plans and special days. New Year was incredibly hard. I do not feel ready to draw any kind of metaphorical line under last year because that feels like we are drawing a line under him and it feels so wrong. I know it needs time but it breaks my heart on a regular basis and I guess will continue to do so for many months yet. 

I will pick the Africa blog posts back up soon, I just need to get back in the mental head space to be able to do it justice.

Other things on the horizon for 2017 are helping me to think positively but I am considering some CBT for a few things (including the grief) which I can’t seem to process at the moment.

Anyway, Stu has booked a weekend in Moonta for my birthday which includes the beloved pooch and so for now I am just aiming for that, mid-February. I refuse to feel in any way defeated by 2016 because it was just an extreme year and one which included many things I never thought I would have to see or deal with at the age of 37. It taught me a lot. 

The sun is out here in Adelaide, our dog is a constant source of joy and the best therapy is walking him on the beach with the sand between my toes. A book I received for my birthday is called "May you live a life you love" and I intend to do just that this year, more of the good stuff and less of the crappy stuff I feel obliged to do. That, I think, is the extent of my "resolutions" for 2017.