Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Travel As A Lifestyle

Since we arrived on the Gold Coast, I've known that our time in Australia was growing short and we'd soon be back en route to the US of A, bringing our 5 1/2 month trip to a close. Up until now, I've approached that fact with very little emotion--its always seemed like such a long way off! "Home" began as an abstract conversation topic back in January when we started compiling a To-Do list upon arrival, but the closer it gets the more frequent it comes up in discussion and the more real it becomes. Now that April is just around the corner, the reality of our departure on the 5th (as well as the 30 hours we'll spend in transit - UGH!) has finally hit me.

I spent a bit of time trying to figure out how I feel about my imminent homecoming. David has been quick to point out that the trip isn't over when we get home. We'll only be back in Tennessee for about three weeks before heading back out to Colorado for the summer to play (aka "work") on the river. In all likelihood, we won't rent an apartment and we'll end up buying a camper to live out of which is basically what we've been doing for the last 3 months anyway. So, besides the fact that we'll be in one location for at least 4 months, we'll both be earning paychecks and I'll have my puppy back with me, things won't be too much different from the way they are right now. For David, travel is a lifestyle and the only thing constant in his life is change.

This trip has taught me to share his values much more than I did before we started. He's been an awesome traveling partner and an overwhelmingly positive influence on me as a person. But, to me, leaving Australia has slightly more significance. I began this trip with all sorts of goals in mind: experiencing other cultures, seeing major tourist attractions, delving into Eastern medicine and religion, and being able to understand and have shared experiences with a greater number of people than before the trip.

I feel good about the progress I've made during my travels. I've seen new parts of the world, found new places I love and could call home, met some new and wonderful people and, most importantly, realized that traveling as a lifestyle is both acceptable but also possible. Where I go and what I do is entirely up to me. The only limitations are my own. I've had the time of my life making these realizations and find myself a bit sad to be wrapping it all up. I'm scared to let it all go--it might just slip away on me and never return and then this time and money spent would have been for naught. That idea is something I'm starting to struggle with as I count down the days until we board our plane. I've already realized many ways this trip has changed me but it won't be until I'm home and back into a routine that we'll see the extent of these new lessons learned. I'm wondering how many will stick and how many will get pushed aside. I like who I've become and hope that I'm still the same person when I return. Time will tell...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise!

Surfing is something Dave and I have always wanted to try. But growing up in a land-locked state makes beach trips few and far between. And, while surfing on the Atlantic Ocean is manageable for the seriously dedicated, its not something either of us readily sought out since the conditions are less than stellar.

So here we are in Paradise. Surfers Paradise, to be exact! And man is it ever! Gorgeous beaches, no jellyfish, warm water, and weather that hovers in the high 70s/low 80s all year long. We're staying with a friend of ours, Adam, who grew up surfing around here and he toured us around all the hot spots. I don't know much about the sport but I could tell how beautiful, even and regular these waves form. They hold professional competitions for Quicksilver and Rip Curl on a set of waves called Rainbow, which are the cream of the crop.

We started our foray into surfing at Kirra Beach, just west of Coolangatta, which is supposedly a great learning area. We borrowed a few boards from Adam and he took us out and showed us the basics, helping us catch a few waves and then he turned us loose so he could head further down the beach to some harder waves.

Adam's "beginner" boards were surprisingly short, though at least one of them was thick enough to be called a Mini Mal, which is a stubby version of a long board. The other board, the one I got stuck with since Dave is taller and heavier than me, was a less aggressive short board, which was easy to catch waves with but impossible to stand up on. We were out there for over an hour, getting pounded by 3-4 foot swells (some learner area!!), severely burning the backs of our legs while waiting for waves. Once Dave and I traded boards I was able to stand up almost immediately, although that must have been beginners luck because it was never easy like that again. Dave, on the other hand, equated the small board I'd given him to "surfing a brick." He had almost no float and did nothing but grow increasingly frustrated. We called it a day shortly thereafter, determined to give it another go the following day. However, Dave's stomach rash (from not wearing a rash guard) and the bruises I got all along my rib cage were enough to encourage us to wait at least another day.

We got back out on the waves after borrowing another beginner board from Adam's sister so that neither of us would have the decided advantage and set out again, our friend Tsz (who we'd met in China and who happened to be in the area) in tow. Dave, again, took the larger of the two boards and we both had much greater success than the first time. We were both able to catch waves much more consistently, though most of Dave's attempts ended in a spectacular face plant from being too far forward on the board. Neither of us was having much luck with standing, though we could both pull ourselves up, wobble uncontrollably and then fall off. Dave fell off once, landed on his butt on top of the board, and rode the rest of the way to the beach!

I was having a difficult time fighting the surge and swells, towing a huge anchor on my foot as I tried to walk through the water, and trying not to get seasick as the turbulent water in the shallows made me disoriented. We took a lunch break and gave it another go, this time at the "whitewash" (3 foot waves do NOT qualify as whitewash in my book!) area of Rainbow. Dave and I traded boards, which I immediately recognized as a mistake. I spent the next half hour trying to wrangle the larger board through the current, trying not to face plant myself (though I had my own spectacular plunge), and attempting to avoid swimmers as the current pushed us amazingly fast down the coast and into areas where surfing isn't allowed. I ended up frustrated and exhausted and could barely haul myself and the board out of the water. I plopped down just outside the water mark and sat watching the other guys as the tide rolled in around me and filled my shorts with sand.

We came back from our long day on the beach and caught the news about all the bait fish that are making their way north along the coast being pursued by thousands of hungry sharks. The news crew had used their helicopter to track the sharks down the coast and take photos and video footage (you can watch it here without commentary or commercials), which was shown over and over for shock value. They'd interviewed a few surfers to get their take about what it was like to be in the water surrounded by a feeding frenzy and one guy was so shaken up that he was hardly coherent. I've looked for the interview online but can't find it yet. But here's one of the photos taken from the new helicopter of a pack of sharks swimming just beyond the breakers south of Brunswick Heads at Tyagarah, which is about 35 miles south of where we've been surfing.

According to the report, sharks are starting to be seen in our area as well! We'd noticed a few news helicopters flying by as we'd been surfing after lunch. It makes sense now that they were tracking the sharks. Glad I didn't know that at the time!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

You're Doing It All Wrong!!

Dave and I went last night to have an Iridology session and blood typing done to identify our ailments and get advice on dietary supplements and changes that need to occur to achieve optimum health. I've taken an interest in Chinese medicine over the last few years and have been keen to try out new things to see what interests me the most. I really like Iridology!

Turns out that the photo the lady took of my eyeball was extremely telling--there's lots of stuff wrong with me (surprise, surprise). She was able to identify all sorts of things that I'd never have really believed possible, such as my hypoglycemia, knee problems, and constipation, among many, many other things. She recommended a whole host of things to take like B-6 for my carpal tunnel, B-12 for improved memory, iodine for my knee troubles, zinc to help keep my insulin levels regular, and magnesium for my heart, as well as things like journaling to relieve some pent-up resentment and jumping on a trampoline for 5 minutes a day to get my lymphatic system moving. Lots of things that were tailored just for me based on her findings.

Then she pricked my finger, did a quick test and pulled out a sheet of recommendations that are tailor-made for people with my blood type (you can find out more information here, if you know your blood type). Here's where the news got a lot harder to hear.

For those of you who don't know, food is my life. I love to eat, not eat to live. Its part of the culture I grew up in and its a huge part of my relationships with friends and family. Food is how people show love. At the start of this trip, I "joked" that part of my motivation for traveling was to eat my way across Asia. And it turns out that for my whole life I've been doing things all wrong for my body.

I was kind of a picky eater and grew up practically living on chicken fingers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pizza, soda and sweet tea. What picky kid doesn't stick to their favorites? On this trip I've also had a few staples including hummus with pretzels, chicken, canned tuna, pasta, pizza (when I can convince Dave to go out for dinner), peanut butter and fruit. We've both been light on the veggies because we've had no way of refrigerating things to make them keep for longer than a few hours. Not the healthiest way to be, but we're doing the best with what we've got.

Last night I found out that I can't eat chicken. It contains a blood agglutinating lectin, which is bad for my blood type. And then it got worse. According to the good doc, I'm a meat-eater who should eat veggies (Dave is the opposite--a vegetarian who should eat only chicken and fish). I'm reduced to eating mostly red meats, which I've severely cut back on in the last 7 years as a personal choice, and fish. But I'm not supposed to eat ANY shellfish. I was crushed!! I LOVE crab, shrimp, oysters and lobster!!

I'm supposed to eat nuts (which I don't really like), just not peanuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds (the only kinds I like). I'm encouraged to eat beans too, just not lentils, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, pinto beans or black beans. Hummus is essentially only garbanzo beans and I've been subsisting largely off it for the last 2 months. UGH!!! I'm not supposed to eat tomatoes, corn, avocados (which largely rules out Mexican--BUMMER!), artichoke, olives, tofu, coconuts, distilled liquor or soda. All of these things are absolutely precious to me! But!! It turns out I can eat all white bread and white rice I want. And I can still drink lager beer. Go figure.

The plus side is that I can still eat all the fruits, veggies, and dairy I want with very few exceptions. I adore cheese, so this was at least a bit heartening. And if I stick to eating only the things my body wants, I know I'll start feeling quite a bit healthier. I always do when I start cleansing and cut loads of things out of my diets for weeks at a time. This will be similar, just much more tailored to my personal needs.

Its going to make the rest of the trip quite interesting because my dietary needs are almost the exact opposite of Dave's. I'm still mourning the loss of the foods I love and know that its going to take quite a while before I can entirely cut out hummus, chicken and popcorn. I'm determined to give it a real go once I get back to the States and I'll happily follow up to let you all know how I'm faring. Wish me luck! I'm going to need it!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Let's Go Outback Tonight!

So again, I'm horribly out of date with posting. But I have an excuse! We've been in the Outback for more than a week and the access to much of anything, as you can imagine, is very limited. We're talking hundreds of kilometers between gas stations, let alone anything else. We'll be on the road for hours sometimes and not see another car. Its great!

As remote a place as this is, its not as remote or barren as we'd expected. We purchased several extra days of food, water and an extra 5 gallon gas tank to put in the trunk for emergencies and planned our stops so we'd never be stranded with an empty tank. Turns out that the roadhouses along the way are usually decently equipped and we've never had a scare about running out of anything except money (we neglected to hit up an ATM before leaving civilization in the Adelaide vicinity). Luckily, we're not in a third world country or anything and everyone happily accepts our credit cards.

We've been touring around the vast nothingness that is the Australian Outback and haven't had as many difficulties as we'd expected. Finding an impromptu camp site next to the road is a cinch, the wildlife (kangaroos and cows) are not often along the road, so no worries there about hitting anything with the car and the weather has been awesome! Nice and warm and dry, with the evenings dipping into the low 70s. Perfect!

The only annoyance has been the flies. We're still not sure exactly how they can handle such dry climates and survive, but where there's a will there's a way. And these flies are certainly determined. They're much more annoying than anything we experienced in New Zealand because they try to creep into your eyes, nose, mouth and ears at any given opportunity to get the tiniest drops of moisture possible. Plus, they bite. Seriously annoying when you're trying to line up your camera for the money shot of Ayers Rock. They only go to sleep at night and they wake up with first light so there are only a blissful few hours of darkness that we get to enjoy outside the tent or the car without being harassed by swarms of hungry flies. It must have rained a few days before we arrived in the Outback because we started experiencing them when the winds would die down. They've gotten so bad that we've both bought fly hoods to wear whenever we're outside. It cranks up the heat factor a few degrees, but at least we're not doing the "Bush Walk"--constantly swatting, spitting and sneezing to keep the flies out of our face.

We're currently in the Parliament's library and I'm having trouble uploading some of the photos I took. I'll back-post as soon as I can so you can check out the amazing scenery. If you're my Facebook friend, you can check it out already, as for some reason I've had no problem uploading them there. Its a bit out of the way but the Australian Outback is highly recommended! Its got the most amazing sunsets I've ever seen in my life! David and I are both happy campers!

Ayers Rock during the day:

The Olgas:

Ayers Rock at sunset:

The Devil's Marbles: