Reminder to myself

I just saw a blog that reminded me what I had envisaged for my own blog when I first imagined it: a place for my thoughts and to record things that I came across that inspired me. Yes a place to share things about my trip but somehow, when I did write, I got caught up in sharing every little detail and editing to the max, as though I was back at Uni writing another essay… Maybe this is partly habit, but I also think it’s partly the pressure of a blog being a public space. It definitely ended up putting me off posting frequently and actually ended up steering me away from my initial aim.

Does this mean that I should make the blog private? Possibly. When you don’t have many viewers or followers, you might wonder if it really matters, but it’s also just the idea that someone could stumble across something you’ve posted at any time – just by chance – and pass judgement. I think this was also a personal experiment in dealing with this fact.

If no one is looking – is there a point? Part of me wants people to see what I write and post, since a big part of the writing and posting experience is about sharing and feedback. However, it’s easy to get so caught up in this idea that the other reasons for writing become forgotten. The key reason for me, was simply to write. To record things I found inspiring and my thoughts on them, whilst practicing something that I have always found therapeutic and engaging.

This was an experiment though and a learning experience and although I have clearly struggled recently to focus my writing on something long enough to be able to post about it, I am now reminded of the possible scope for my posts. I’d like to re-introduce my initial idea. So maybe not all posts will be edited to perfection, or lengthy and descriptive, or even glaringly relevant, but I’d like to get into the habit of sharing small and passing concepts and if I do want to explore something in more depth, I know I can.

Part of me feels that writing for other eyes should be succinct, complete and polished: only to be shared once the writer’s aim is thoroughly realised. However, this concept seems to have deterred me from writing and from sharing; wasn’t this the initial aim of the blog?

Ultimately, I think I need a place for me to record things, creating a place for me to reflect and to explore. So if no one’s looking, it doesn’t matter. It’s all part of the journey.

The Present Moment

Today I was thinking: why do I love travelling?

Aside from the obvious – discoveries of new places, people and culture – I think it is because travelling makes you live in the present moment. It allows you to appreciate the feeling of existing for no serious reason other than to exist.

You don’t have to worry about responsibilities or obligations, yet you can feel safe in the knowledge that you have a purpose – and that purpose is to exist and to experience. To simply soak up your surroundings and embrace the fact that you are here, and if you start to feel like you are wasting time, you can move on.

Travelling has challenged me in numerous ways, causing me to achieve things I had doubted I was capable of. It has made me try things that I consequently loved, but was initially almost too scared to even contemplate.

These moments are clearly pivotal and a crucial part of my travelling experience, but whilst I am quickly approaching a time when my return to the daily grind looms and I think to myself ‘why do I love travelling?’, I am still reminded of that incomparable feeling of simply existing.

Deciphering Home

Over the past few days, I went to visit a friend from back home, who is currently living here in Australia. I have known this person for many years and we share a lot of the same friends and memories. Apart from the now unusual experience of staying in a house and sleeping in an individual bedroom, with my own double bed, I was also struck by the familiar feeling of spending time with an old acquaintance.

As my friend drove us along, as she had so many times in the UK, I thought how strange it was to feel almost as though nothing had changed. The feeling of familiarity could almost trick me into believing I was at home again, but one look out of the window, even one look inside at the car, clearly showed that everything was different. The only thing that was familiar was the two of us.

At another time, during my stay in Sydney, I felt most at home after meeting a new friend. The hostel we were staying at actually had an oven and a freezer, along with a large cosy TV room and set of DVD’s. Baking banana bread, watching films and drinking a large amount of tea definitely helped to add to this feeling, but mostly it was the cosy and comfortable familiarity of having a friend I naturally clicked with that made me feel so settled and at home again. Yet there were still times that I missed the UK and this feeling of familiarity also reminded me of my own family that I was missing. Similarly, talking to my friend from the UK about people from back home made me wish that I could see them again.

This has made me wonder, how much feeling ‘at home’ relies on our surroundings and how much is transferable through the people we know and the feelings that they evoke? If we travelled half way across the world with all of our friends and family in tow, how homesick would we be?

Yet many people relocate, sometimes with friends and partners or starting a new family of their own, but sometimes people make this move completely alone. What makes us so drawn to a place that we feel this urge to completely relocate our lives? Undoubtedly people change and develop over time, often feeling that they have ‘outgrown’ a place and feeling the need for new challenges and change, but how do we deal with missing the people that we leave behind?

When I left the UK last November, I was well overdue a change and I had long been craving the excitement and challenges of living in a new place. In no way do I regret my decision and I have no doubt that I did the right thing by making this move, but I frequently miss home and the familiarity of the UK and more than anything, I miss the people I am so used to seeing on a regular basis.

I do not doubt that the places we live in can play a strong part in making us feel at home; the feelings and memories evoked by returning to a specific place can be immense! However, it is the people we associate with that bring these places to life. Is it possible that by sharing our experiences in these places, we attach emotions to them, making us feel bonded not only to the person but also to the place? Or can our love for a place stand alone despite our relationships? How do you decide when to call a new place home?

A Taste of Melbourne

A few weeks before Christmas I decided to visit Melbourne. I had been in Sydney just too long to still comfortably feel like I was on holiday, but it also did not feel like the right time to start job hunting. I needed to expand my horizons slightly before returning to Sydney for Christmas and New Year’s.

One of the things I love about Melbourne is the sheer volume of Art that is on offer and with much of it being for free, this is perfect for backpacking on a budget.

Melbourne is renowned for its Graffiti Art and after a walk down to Hosier and Rutledge Lane, it became clear why. I was quickly drawn in to this varied and colourful street, absorbing as much detail as I possibly could.

Hosier and Rutledge Lane

Just across the road, on Federation Square, is the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. The ACMI was hosting the permanent exhibition Screen Worlds, plus a few other temporary exhibitions. Screen worlds presents a varied and eclectic depiction of the moving image. The exhibition is interactive and even offers the opportunity to create your own ‘Matrix video’.

One of the temporary exhibitions that I visited was Gaps by David Rosetzky. Much to my pleasure and comfort, the video installation Gaps featured movement and contemporary dance, along with spoken word and an uplifting composition. This installation deals with the theme of identity and I really appreciated the multi-disciplinary approach and the way the performers interacted with each other. Reminded of my own experience of contemporary dance, I let myself indulge in hints of the familiar with several twists of the unforeseen.

The National Gallery of Victoria hosts an extensive collection of exhibitions, covering art from all over the world and from different periods. I managed to view several different exhibitions during my visit; my favourite was the contemporary exhibition by Alex Prager, featuring the short film Face in the crowd.

I find the characters and style of the artwork compelling and the film delves into the characters’ minds, revealing glimpses of their thoughts and experiences.

There are other things I enjoyed about Melbourne: the bars, the dining, the Yarra River, The Astor Theatre, the Tram making its sleepy journey through the sunny streets, H&M! Over everything there was this sense of cultural togetherness and I quickly found myself comfortably drawn into the exploration of this city.

If I get the opportunity to return, I hope to discover some more of Melbourne’s layers, burrowing a little deeper into this colourful and diverse city.

Arriving in Australia – my first week in Oz!

On 26th September 2014, I finally took the plunge and booked my flights.

After toying with the idea for a few months and later realising that I wouldn’t be able to start volunteering abroad until the following year, I decided that I couldn’t bear to spend yet another winter in the cold. My friend Jess had suggested Australia and I had always liked the idea, plus my friend Emma was already out here and I only had a few years left to apply for the Working Holiday Visa.

I felt a rush of positivity and a surreal ‘out of body’ type experience after first booking – a moment of ‘I know I have done the right thing’… and then, I started to worry. It was my first long distance flight and my first venture into the experience of long term travel; I had gone from brief holidays in Spain and Portugal to a potential year across the other side of the world. Over the next coming weeks my thoughts and emotions were constantly dipping and rising between these two states, but the upside to making a relatively spur of the moment decision, was that I only had this suspense for 7 weeks – and they went quickly!

We landed in Sydney on 16th November to a slightly bleak looking sky and humid temperature. By the time we had made it out of the airport, it was raining! I had felt slightly ridiculous packing my umbrella, but I have come to learn that an umbrella is just as necessary here as it is back home in the UK! Luckily for us, the weather cleared up and the sun came out.

Determined to fight through the jetlag, we went for a wander down to Darling Harbour.

Jacarandas

Blue sky

Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour skies

After almost falling asleep in an internet café around 5pm, I decided it was time to give in. I bought some instant noodles for dinner on the way back to the hostel and eventually I found myself ready for bed. I slept straight through for twelve hours, until 8am the next morning. It was perfection.

The next day I awoke feeling completely refreshed; it seems that sleep was all I needed to completely re-raise my spirits!

We had a week of activities and accommodation booked through OzIntro. This meant that we immediately met a new group of people and had some awesome trips and tours all planned out for us. This was out of the ordinary for me as I am usually very wary of guided tours and package holidays, preferring to just book things myself and see what happens, but I had decided to give this a go.

Here are some of the highlights of the week for me:

Jet Boating

This sounds quite simple, and I guess it is, but it was so much more fun than I was expecting and the views from Sydney Harbour were stunning! As we headed away from the harbour’s edge, music blasting and the sun beating down, I felt so happy that I had taken this step and made these changes.

The man driving the boat seemed to enjoy himself as much as we did. His favourite trick was spinning the boat around whilst coming to a kind of ’emergency stop’. He also liked driving directly towards the markers and swerving out of the way at the last possible moment and he made sure that by the end of the ride, everyone had gotten absolutely drenched.

Surfing

Wow. Once again, I had no idea what to expect but I did not imagine quite how invigorating this would be. This was my first time and everything about it felt like an awkward novelty. Struggling to carry my surf board down to the ocean, first dragging it and then paddling it out to sea, before clambering onto it, slightly panicked and looking behind me, desperately trying to get the timing right to catch a wave, so that maybe, this time, I could actually make it standing! I felt like a child again, learning something completely new.

I lost count of the amount of times that I lost balance and fell smack into the water, swallowing salty sea and feeling a bit stupid. This really didn’t stop me though, nor anyone else. There is something about the feeling of being lifted and carried along by a force outside of your control, and not just by any force, but a force of nature. It is so unique, so uplifting, I guess this is what makes it so addictive.

By the time we had finished for the day, I was completely exhausted and ever so slightly downtrodden – I’d only managed to stay standing a couple of times and then returned to falling – but I felt as though I’d been cleansed from the inside out. It was like the feeling you get when you listen to live music; it just takes over your whole being, grabs hold of your guts and drives you somewhere else. I’d definitely like to try surfing again.

Coastal Walk

We were lucky that despite the initial rain at the airport, the rest of the week was more like the weather that you’d imagine: opulent blue skies and powerful sunshine. This suited our coastal walk from Bondi beach perfectly. It was so beautiful, pure and magnificent; it just seemed to effortlessly fulfil all of my expectations.

Coastal Walk from Bondi

View

Open Sea

Walking

Blue Mountains

This was the day I had been most excited about: hiking amongst the beautiful nature of the Blue Mountains.

Our Australian guide struck a balance between being relaxed and enthusiastic, so I immediately took a liking to him and felt at ease. Throughout the day, he liked to point out when we might see kangaroos, spiders and the elusive Lyrebird. We didn’t manage to see any on this trip but we did hear a recording of these unusual birds. You might have heard this before, but if you haven’t, you should give it a listen. It never fails to astound me.

Blue Mountains

Three Sisters

Blue Mountains

The weekend brought a bit of time to ourselves and then a night out and a meal in the Sydney Tower.

View from Sydney Tower

Overall, I would say I am happy that I chose to book this. Apart from helping with practical tasks, such as setting up an Australian bank account, it also encouraged me to try activities like surfing, which I might never have done otherwise – or at least not in my first week anyway!

However, it is good to remain switched on and to remember that some things are best organised by yourself. If you are thinking of booking something like this, I would advise looking at all of the possibilities and costs. If you can’t afford to book through a company or just fancy ‘going it alone’, there are plenty of hostels who offer free tours and events and you are always going to meet lots of new people in hostels anyway!

I still think this was a pretty fun way to spend my first week though.

Surfing

Surf photo taken by Jess Pobjoy

Discovering Paris

For some strange reason, when I first arrive in a big city, I am always slightly taken aback by the dirt, grit and fumes. Maybe it is the fact that I am not used to living in the city, or maybe it is my inner romantic expecting only beautiful views and impressive sights! Either way, my first impression always seems to be a re-grounding one and in this sense, Paris was no different.

I really had no need to worry though; throughout my trip there was no doubt that Paris would elevate, fulfilling its reputation in my mind, becoming more tangible.

When we first arrived, the sun was hot and after walking to our hostel, we had a quick change and headed straight back out again. The hostel that we stayed at, Le Village Hostel, was a five minute walk to Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. Everything about the Sacré-Cœur is visually dramatic. Mounted upon a multitude of steps, rising up out of a regular Parisian street, it almost feels like it has simply been dropped in the middle of Paris. This juxtaposition only emphasises its scale and grandeur.

La Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre

The Sacré-Cœur is set high atop a hill in Montmartre

Almost at the top, we stopped to admire the surrounding views, before eventually making our way through the enormous open doors. Inside, the atmosphere was hushed and sombre. The only sounds were of religious music and people singing and we were strictly instructed, by the staff and several signs, to remain silent. I always feel slightly uncomfortable in religious settings such as these, but there is no denying the beauty of some of the architecture, decoration and artwork.

We took a wander along the cobbled streets which lay beyond the Sacré-Cœur and relaxed with a drink outside a small café. This area is one of the more quirky and quaint parts of Paris and I definitely need to explore this further when I next return. The sky started to cloud over and we decided to head back, just as we felt the first few drops of light rain.

On the way back down, I heard an unidentifiable hum of noise. As we got closer, I realised it was a large group of men, who had gathered down by the side of the entrance to the Sacré-Cœur. Concealed from apparent view, they seemed to be having their own private celebration, but the sounds of their singing and chanting were so startling and refreshing; the air was full of energy and electricity. Within a second the rain was coming down in torrents and we ran for cover into a nearby restaurant.

The next day we decided to visit one of Paris’ many galleries. Curious about its exterior and opting for contemporary art, we decided to head to the Centre Pompidou. The structure of the building is completely on display and the most unusual part of this, is the tubular staircase, which runs alongside the front of the framework.

Front of the Centre Pompidou - photo by Jess Pobjoy

Front of the Centre Pompidou – photograph by Jessica Pobjoy

I loved this gallery; the exhibitions were diverse and comprehensive and I found myself completely immersed. Everyone around me was taking photographs but unusually for me, I felt compelled not to and although I now wish I had some more photos to share, I actually think this helped me to fully appreciate my surroundings. The only downside was that I needed more time!

It was on the third day into our trip, that we met Fei and Patrick; two American guys who were taking a short tour around Europe. Fei and Patrick were so friendly and down to earth – I’m happy to say that they totally dashed any negative stereotypes that might have been suggested to me. We decided to join them on a random trip to a graffiti art exhibition and also stopped to visit the famous Cimetière du Père Lachaise.

As we wandered along the rows of unique and ornate tombs, a feeling of extreme peacefulness and wonder settled over me. The cemetery covers an expanse of land and documented history and its monuments and sculptures are set amidst a green, abundant garden. Le Cimetière du Père Lachaise is truly awe-inspiring.

Eery and unusual sculptures at Père-Lachaise cemetery

Eery and unusual sculptures at Père-Lachaise cemetery

Whilst we had managed to escape with just a few light drops at Père-Lachaise, by the time we had made it to the location of the exhibition, the sky was absolutely tipping it down. We hid in a nearby pizza place and watched as our gigantic mozzarella pancake was formed.

The rain showed no signs of stopping, although it had eased off a little, so we had no choice but to face it with one umbrella. Taking the job of ‘umbrella holder’, meant that once again, I did not manage to get any photos! Fail. For the purposes of this blog though, I have managed to borrow some :).

Kaleidoscope

Photograph by Patrick Lundquist

Van

Photograph by Patrick Lundquist

Photograph by Patrick Lundquist

Photograph by Patrick Lundquist

Photograph by Patrick Lundquist

Photograph by Patrick Lundquist

The next day came around too quickly; we were fast approaching the end of our trip. First we visited the extravagant department store, Galeries Lafayette, where I enjoyed the views and tasted what I believe to be the richest hot chocolate ever. Next we made our way to the Eiffel Tower and I witnessed up close, why this colossal structure has become so iconic. We finished the day with delicious Japanese food on rue Saint-Anne and then it was time to catch the Eurostar back home.

Close up of the Eiffel Tower

The sun made a brief appearance for us at la Tour Eiffel

During our four days, we experienced just a few of the highlights that Paris has to offer. We tried some delicious food and drink, stayed in basic yet friendly accommodation – I loved the fact that it included free breakfast – and met some cool new people in the process. I still managed to go home with some spending money left over, so even though people kept warning me about how expensive Paris would be, I still believe it is possible to enjoy a city break on a budget!

My resounding memory of Paris is of its intensity: although at times brooding and melancholy, it is strikingly full of beauty, contrast, inspiration and soul. So despite the frequent rain and the smell of urine inside the Metro, before I’d even left, I was already promising myself I’d return.