Six Months in a Land Called Oz

A great place to pause & reflect . . .

I’ve been avoiding this particular post for some time now.  In fact as I write this I still don’t know where to begin.  I thought I would publish my first reflective post after my first month abroad, but I was busy enjoying life on the road with Heather & Adam & it was enough just to keep my notes up-to-date on all the things we were seeing & doing each day.  That’s alright, I thought – I was living in the moment, soaking it all in, there would be time for reflection later.

Heather & I enjoying a beautiful day at Perth City Beach in Western Australia

The end of my third month – a quarter of the way through my time in Australia – marked another important milestone, but at that point I was going through a bit of a transition – that from traveler to . . . well, for lack of a better word, resident! (don’t worry mom & dad I haven’t applied for permanent residency, hahaha ;))  I was in the midst of making what I would consider to be my second big decision of this journey (the first being to come to Australia at all) & that was whether I should spend the working part of my work & holiday visa in Melbourne or Sydney.

The Clocks at Flinders Street Station in Melbourne

Of course by now you know that Sydney won out & I am quite happy with that choice, as well as the initial choice to spend a year Down Under, BUT . . .

. . . six months in, what do I have to say about it all??

I suppose the best way to go about reflecting on my time in Oz thus far is to revisit the travel philosophy I wrote shortly before departing on my trip, specifically: Live in the Moment; Step Outside My Comfort Zone; Let My Heart Lead & My Mind be the Accompanist; and finally Seek Passion in all its Forms.

Let My Heart Lead & My Mind be the Accompanist

I will start here as it was this piece of my philosophy that finally enabled me to overcome my fears, rent out my house, quit my job & buy a one-way ticket to a country I had previously spent only two weeks visiting.  How did what initially seemed to be such a difficult decision suddenly become a no-brainer for me?

Goodbye Buffalo . . . Hello Australia!

It happened like this: I first came to Sydney to visit Heather in September/October 2010 while she was living here on the 12-month Work & Holiday Visa that I now also possess.  I had such a fabulous time that I (privately at first) started to flirt with the idea that maybe I could follow in her footsteps . . . but no, no, no, that was totally crazy!  Banish the thought!!  How could I just pack up & leave?  Very irresponsible indeed.  I think it seemed to some as if I was giving up the pieces of the American Dream I had worked so hard for – leaving a house, a job, family & friends to – to what, travel?  Was that a worthy enough goal?  After all, it’s not as if I hadn’t taken short-term vacations abroad before (while keeping the security of a full-time job back home) & I’d surely do so again – wasn’t that enough?  What was the point of leaving everything behind only to return to a life of uncertainty 12 months later?

I asked myself these questions & many others before I made my ultimate decision.  I searched for signs that I should take the leap so I wouldn’t have to bear the immense burden of making this choice all on my own . . . well, needless to say I started seeing signs everywhere.  I tried as hard as I could to turn anything & everything around me into a sign, but I knew in my heart that none of those occurrences were signs at all – they were mere coincidences & vague connections at best.  I only saw them as signs because I wanted them to be.

Searching the Skies for an Answer . . .

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was trying to turn everything around me into a sign!  I was trying to turn them into signs because I wanted them to be signs.  I wanted them to be signs because I wanted to go to Australia.

So I had my answer, simple as that: I wanted to go to Australia!  All along it was there, just under the surface, but I couldn’t acknowledge it, I was too blinded by fear.  Once I fully understood the strength of my heart’s desire, there was no going back.  I felt so empowered that I could make such a major life change & yet feel so relaxed, so relieved, so free!  I wanted to hold onto that feeling forever – the feeling that I am ultimately in control of my life & that I don’t have to follow a prescribed path in order to be happy or successful – I can create my own. 🙂

Sunset at Uluru - this is the life!

Now that’s not to say that the past six months living in Australia have always been easy, but if I could go back in time, would I do it all over again?  In a heartbeat.

And I’ve had at least one other opportunity to test out my philosophy on allowing my heart to rule.  Initially I had planned to live & work in Melbourne for a while, either instead of, or in addition to, Sydney.  By all accounts, Melbourne should have been my ideal city, known for its artistic vibe, culture & great cuisine.

One of the many lanes & arcades in Melbourne

But ultimately, it just didn’t feel right.  I’ve written a bit about this decision already & I will be writing about the two and a half weeks I spent visiting Melbourne soon in a separate post, so I won’t go into any more detail here.  Suffice it to say, my heart was right again – I should have trusted it all along.

Live in the Moment

Actually, one more thing about the decision above . . . I wrote in my travel philosophy how stressed I was at the thought of having to decide how & where to spend my time in Australia & that was before I had even left home!  I wish I could go back & tell the “Me” from six months ago to relax a little – I couldn’t possibly have known what to do back then because I hadn’t experienced any of it yet.  I would figure it out when the time came – in the moment. 🙂

That very idea still freaks me out though; I’m still not quite comfortable with it.  In fact, now that I’m at the halfway point of my trip (OK, who am I kidding, since before I even made the decision to come here), I’ve been wondering what I’m going to do when this adventure is over.  It’s not that I’m ready to go home yet – although I do get homesick at times & very much miss family & friends – it’s just that it’s so hard to let go & trust that things will somehow work out in the end.  I want complete security as well as unmitigated freedom but unfortunately I can’t have 100% of both.  So much can change in a year, in six months even, & I can hope & dream & plan all I want today but there’s no telling what tomorrow will bring.  So I have to let go a little & let each moment lead into the next, until finally enough moments have passed that I am ready & able to make those next big life decisions.

Living in the moment is easier when you have a view like this to remind you of how magical each day can be

Fortunately, living in the moment tends to be a bit easier on a day-to-day basis.  By that I simply mean pausing every now & then to appreciate what you have, enjoy what you’re experiencing & let the wonder of it all sink in.  It’s a bit like meditating (or as close to meditating as I’ll probably ever come!)  Whenever I eat one of Zumbo’s delectable macarons or gaze at the incredible beauty of the Opera House, or even once in a while at work when I inch ever so much closer to making the perfect cup of coffee, I feel like I am truly living in the moment . . . OK, admittedly there are also moments when I just want to scream & curse & kick the espresso machine, but I won’t mention that here. 0:-)

Mouth-watering Macarons

Step Outside My Comfort Zone

I’ve actually surprised myself with this one in ways I never would have imagined before coming on this trip . . . I mean, come on, weeing in the bush?  ME?!  Not exactly something I had on my Oz to-do list, but it sure makes for an*ahem!* interesting blog post. 😉

Forget the animals crossing, this sign should read "No Toilets Next 96 km"

And then there’s the driving.  On the other side of the road.  With *me* in the driver’s seat.  Now if that’s not scary, I don’t know what is!  But I did it.  Not entirely sure I want to do it again, but I’m also not ruling it out just yet . . . 😉

Aussies, Beware: Niki is Behind the Wheel!

I have also had (& taken advantage of) the opportunity to try a few new foods during my time here.  Now, don’t get too excited, I’m not as adventurous as Heather, what with her feasts of ‘roo & croc & emu!  But I have had a few (vegetarian) foods that are indigenous to Australia, such as quandong & lemon myrtle.

Lemon Myrtle Pancakes with Quandong Sauce & Ice Cream

And I’ve also discovered a few other incredibly exotic foods that I somehow managed to miss out on previously – for example, avocados & poached eggs (I’ve always gotten my eggs scrambled or as an omelette) – I know, I know, this is really big stuff people!! 😉

Avocado, sourdough toast, Persian feta, poached egg, rocket & lemon infused olive oil from The Book Kitchen in Surry Hills

I did NOT, however, volunteer to go up on stage with George Calombaris & Gary Mehigan at the Good Food & Wine Show when they asked for a volunteer who was squeamish around oysters – I knew where that was heading!! 😉

As for traveling solo, it has been both challenging & rewarding.  Sometimes I enjoy having time to myself, free to wander about & see where the day leads; other times I’d prefer to be in the company of friends.  Having spent six months in Oz (only three of which have been in Sydney), it hasn’t always been easy to make new friends, but fortunately Heather introduced me to some great people she had met along the way & we’ve enjoyed some fun get-togethers, with hopefully more to come! 🙂

Me, Hannah & Lauren at an American ex-pat 4th of July Celebration (in case you were wondering, those are goofy American stickers on our faces)

Seek Passion in all its Forms

Alright, so I can’t claim to have had any international romances – yet!  But I have certainly been developing my passion for food . . . well, mostly just for eating good food, hahaha.  Hey, with patisseries like Adriano Zumbo, can you really blame me?  But don’t worry, I’m incorporating food into my life in other ways, not all of which impact my waistline. :-/  MasterChef Australia has become my favorite Aussie show . . . too bad season 3 just ended on Sunday, but hopefully another season of Masterchef (or maybe even Junior MasterChef!) will start up again soon.  I’ve landed a job at Ghermez Cupcakes (OK, admittedly this is *not* so good for my waistline as one of the perks includes free cupcakes!)  And finally, I am gearing myself up to hopefully take some baking & pastry arts short courses soon!  One course will definitely involve macaron-making (surprise, surprise) & perhaps I may find one or two other topics that pique my interest (without breaking the bank!)

Koala Cupcake I decorated at the Good Food & Wine Show

So all in all, I’d say my first six months of living abroad have been a success.  Here’s to another six months continuing on my great Australian adventure! 🙂

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12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Heather
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 13:24:06

    I love you, Niki!! So proud of you 🙂

    A couple of things you said stuck out to me — “I want complete security as well as unmitigated freedom but unfortunately I can’t have 100% of both.” — it’s the challenge I have no! I want that FREEDOM again but I need to make enough to cover all sorts of bills and responsibilities. I don’t need heaps but “enough” and even making “enough” is difficult without surrendering to a full-time, long-term job again. I don’t want that, but can I really have it all?

    “So I have to let go a little & let each moment lead into the next” — one of my biggest lessons from Oz and one I have to remind myself of often.

    Reply

    • nicoleinoz
      Aug 11, 2011 @ 12:02:31

      Aw, thanks sweetie! 🙂 I think I will be learning these lessons over & over again for a lifetime! I remember having a conversation in grad school with some fellow students & professors & someone said something like “maybe you can have it all, just not all at the same time.” Not sure that’s ideal, but maybe more realistic than the way I usually think. 0:-) As for your current goal, I do believe it’s possible – keep at it long enough & I think you can find a way!

      And yes, this whole “living in the moment” thing is quite tricky – I still tend to be way too future-focused, trying to plan out things that I can’t possibly control at this point in time. Well, at least I am more aware of it now & trying not to be such a worry-wart all the time! 🙂

      Reply

  2. Rosi
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 15:27:34

    Dear Niki: Can’t believe it has been six month already. Can’t wait to see the “new you” — maybe you’ll even take up camping or backpacking now that you have learned to live without a toilet ;-} Seriously, just by your writing I can see changes — really good ones! — I know whatever endeavour you will choose – be it in Oz or the USA, I know you will be quite the success. Enjoy your “moments” they will make wonderful memories! Stay safe, Rosi =^..^=

    Reply

    • nicoleinoz
      Aug 11, 2011 @ 12:05:14

      Thanks Rosi! Actually my friend Heather & I have talked about doing a US road trip at some point so hopefully we’ll be able to make that happen eventually! 🙂 Still not 100% sure what I’ll want to do when I come home, but I guess that’s all part of the “living in the moment” philosophy – I’ll just have to wait & see where life leads!

      Reply

  3. Auntie Marilyn
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 16:53:56

    Niki – wonderful six month adventure 🙂 We all miss you and can’t wait to see you again in person instead of skype. So keep enjoying and looking forward to more of your posts – you make me laugh out loud and smile – love you lots !!!

    Reply

    • nicoleinoz
      Aug 11, 2011 @ 12:15:34

      I miss you all too! That’s the hardest part about being here. But ya know what? It’s summer here when it’s winter there . . . hint, hint. 😉 Glad my crazy adventures can make you laugh. 🙂 Love you!

      Reply

  4. Rebecca
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 21:31:24

    Such a great recap! Can so relate on so many levels as usual:-). I too, took it one day at a time, when even on a “bad” or lonely day was still better then most back home! You have such a small window to do this, take advantage of every day! And enjoy it while you can!

    I went to NZ on a WHV first and wasn’t sure at all what to expect. Maybe I’ll be back as early as April (having arrived in February!) but after landing a great job and then another one, next thing I knew, 2 years had flown by (in both NZ and OZ)! Every month my first 6 months there brought something new and it was hard not to look too far ahead at first. But after a while, it just became second nature!

    Here’s to another 6 awesome months!

    Reply

    • nicoleinoz
      Aug 11, 2011 @ 12:17:56

      Thanks Rebecca! I know what you mean – things aren’t always perfect here, but even on a bad day I remind myself of where I am & what I’m doing & I feel so glad & grateful for it all. I’m hoping to visit NZ before heading back to the States, but we’ll see how I do with time & money. That’s awesome that you were able to live abroad for 2 years!

      Reply

  5. Camille
    Aug 11, 2011 @ 01:39:32

    It is so obvious that you made the RIGHT decision and you are so right ” … let each moment lead into the next.”

    I still can’t believe all you have seen, all you have done, all you have learned about yourself – and all you have eaten!

    I can feel your passion and love for Australia in your six month reflection. Beautifully written post…continue to follow your heart – you’re in mine.
    Love,
    Mom

    Reply

    • nicoleinoz
      Aug 11, 2011 @ 12:20:12

      Hahaha – I guess I do post a lot of food pictures. 0:-) Funny since I am such a picky eater that I can still be so interested in food . . . well, mostly desserts! 😉

      Miss you so much! Hey, maybe if you don’t make it to Oz we can meet up in San Fran on my way home – you need to add more places to your travel repertoire besides Florida, hahaha! 🙂

      Reply

  6. Aunt Penny
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 04:27:46

    Hi Niki,
    I can’t believe you’ve been in Oz six months already, but you’ve seen and experienced so much. I’m sure the next six months will bring many new adventures you can look forward to. I hope you do come to California on your way home; maybe you’ll stay…:-) XOXO

    Reply

    • nicoleinoz
      Aug 13, 2011 @ 08:18:23

      I’ve definitely seen more already than I thought I would! So grateful to have been able to spend so much time traveling with my pal Heather at the beginning of my trip. 🙂 I don’t know how long I’ll stay in California, but I do hope I’ll be able to make a visit! Love you!

      Reply

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