Thursday, March 10, 2011

Eighth Floor Ruminations

Note: No new pictures yet… but check back in the “Australia: Up the East Coast” album periodically because that’s where I’ll put pictures until I get to Cairns (Sunday).

  • Thursday, 10 March: Went to the beach and alternately swam and tanned for a few hours; did 3.8km loop hike around peninsula head up to Byron Bay Lighthouse, stopping to watch dolphins and surfers along the way; lunch at the lighthouse, met Canadian and Australian couples and chatted; ventured back to Aquarius backpacker and showered, rested, ate lunch; wandered around town; realized that I’d lost my spare 4-Gig camera memory card; retraced previous day’s steps to see if I could find it, no luck; mood turned sour; had “free” dinner at backpacker and met a few girls to play trivia with, which cheered me up; flirted with a couple stupid Australian boys; went to bed feeling mildly better.
  • Friday, 11 March: Had breakfast out, poached eggs and toast, fruit salad with yoghurt and muesli, yum!; checked out, bought cheap bus ticket and waited around until the bus came; two hour trip to Tweed Heads, which is just a few minutes walk from Coolangatta, where a travel organizer at Aquarius recommended a slightly upscale backpacker; after wandering a bit, I found it and was pleasantly surprised; all-girl’s six-bed dorm room very nice, huge balcony looking out on clear blue ocean beach; met a few roommates, ate lunch, went to the beach with one of them; a few hours later we came back and spent the evening chilling out in the common area, computing and chatting. Mood much improved.

Amazing how a little distance can help improve one’s mood, isn’t it? This morning, I was disgruntled still at the loss of a few items in Byron Bay: my sunglasses, which I’d managed to forget about wearing when swimming in the ocean; and a four Gig spare memory card for my camera, which I’ve been carrying around in my pocket for months and planned to put somewhere safe… soon. As I' did yesterday, I retraced my steps from the past few days and asked at every establishment I’d been in whether they’d found it. No luck.

Once on the $11 bus to Tweed Heads, however, I felt like I could breathe. Byron Bay was just not the right place for me and whatever dark clouds I’d gathered around me from the beginnings of my trip north just wouldn’t be scattered while I was there. Amongst the young party crowd at the Aquarius (the backpacker I stayed at) and the trendy surfer crowd streaming through the rest of town, I couldn’t seem to feel comfortable. I stuck my nose into the pages of my book and rarely came up for air. Even the beach didn’t cheer me up, which is saying quite a bit!

Having chosen the bus to Tweed Heads was just the first of several decisions I made today that improved my situation and mood. The travel desk lady at Aquarius had told me that the best bus for me would be a $24 bus to Coolangatta, which is the town where my flight leaves from on Sunday. Luckily, I recalled that at the travel information center in town, there had been a sign for an $11 bus to Tweed Heads. I looked at a map and found that the two were walking distance from each other, so I ignored the Aquarius lady. Ding, point for me!

Another decision that turned out to be a very good one was to, oddly, listen to the Aquarius lady when it came to backpacker recommendations in Coolangatta. Brochure in hand, I toted all my gear plus a bag of food up one street and, when I realized that the street I wanted was parallel, back down the correct street. I was about to give up on the Kommune Beach Resort and Club when suddenly, there it was in front of me. It looked a bit posh and doubtfully I went inside, asked the price, and decided to splurge by paying $5 more per night than usual. The decision to look for, and then pay for, a spot in a six-bed girl’s dorm at Kommune parted those dark clouds. I got a room on the eighth floor, facing the beautiful beach just meters from the back door of the place. Although three bunk beds are crammed into what should be a small guest bedroom, the rest of the place is great. Basically, it’s a converted hotel room, complete with a kitchen (but weirdly incomplete because there’s no stove, microwave or toaster; there is a fridge, though), bathroom, washer and living room area. Oh, and a lovely balcony on which I can (and did) sit and gaze out at the water.

While not a decision, a third factor which has helped me blow those dark clouds into oblivion is that my roommates are mature, friendly and NOT partiers… at least, not for the time being. So far I have met an English girl, a French girl and a Canadian girl. I think that’s all of us, though I could be wrong.

Anyway, I’m feeling immensely better than when I last wrote, which is such a relief. Reflecting, I can find many reasons for my funk which lasted for quite awhile, although there were brief reprieves:

1. Traveling might be wearing me out. I list this one first not because I think it’s most likely, but because it scares me the most. Honestly, I’m not ready to go home yet. But I always keep in mind that this “year of travel” doesn’t have to be a year. It can end whenever I want… and stretch as long as I have the desire (and funds) to continue. There’s so much more I want to see: Bali is beckoning, a cultural and exotic island paradise; Nepal with its treks and complete change of atmosphere, food and locale; Israel where I’ll meet my parents; Turkey with its beauty and mysteriousness; and beyond. Anyway, in my heart I don’t want this adventure to be over yet. Sometimes I worry, though, that mentally and maybe even physically, I won’t be able to last.

2. Restlessness from not having any responsibilities. To some, this will sound silly, but given the fact that I’ve had a job and mission for the past eight years to throw myself into, and that for the past five months I’ve had absolutely no responsibilities besides ensuring the correct visas for whatever country I was in or going to, well… I think it’s understandable. Also, at various times throughout my travels different mediums have made me realize that I could do so much to help people if I just found the right field to throw myself into. The poverty and corruption in Cambodia; the natural disasters in Thailand and New Zealand; even the badly made film about land disputes in Latin America made me feel mad and then confused as to how I could contribute. So part of this restlessness, I’m sure, stems from the fact that I want to find my next purpose, or calling, or drive in life. Teaching English as a foreign language in some foreign country would be great for me; but I want to feel like what I do next is great for other people.

3. Budget concerns. Australia ain’t cheap, at least not for me, at the moment. The US dollar is worth less than the Australian dollar and to me, Australia’s prices for everyday things is incredibly high: two eggs and toast, $12; fresh bananas, $9.99 per kilogram; books, $28 for paperbacks; and so on. Of course, I’m running through touristy towns. But even traveling up the east coast has emptied my bank account a bit. I figure for my three weeks on mainland Australia I will have spent as much as my six weeks on both islands in New Zealand. And while overall, I’m still staying below my planned budget for this trip, it hurts when I spend over $600 purely on internal travel in Australia (airline tickets, bus tickets, petrol, etc).

4. Realization of bad planning, weather-wise. Originally I’d envisioned getting to Eastern Europe around June/July timeframe, spending two weeks apiece in several countries before heading to Western Europe. I now realize that two weeks per country is ridiculous, but am reluctant to delete any countries from my list. This would be all right, if autumn and then winter didn’t follow summer. As it stands, my itinerary is fairly fixed for the next few months: end of March to mid-April, Bali; mid-April to mid-May, Nepal; mid-May to mid- or end of June, Israel. I have struck Egypt from the itinerary for obvious reasons. So after Israel, I’ll head to Turkey, assuming I’ll spend the month of July there. Next up were Romania, Hungary, Austria and the Netherlands, but if I give each a month, that takes me well into winter (November). Even if I plan only three weeks apiece, that’s October. And I’m not interested in spending winter in someplace cold. What to do? I’m considering possibilities like southern Italy, where I may be able to visit and stay with Maria, whom I met in New Zealand. Or perhaps head directly to Spain and stay in Andalusia, the southern part, which reputedly stays warm. I’ve even toyed with the idea of heading back to Asia and visiting Laos and spending more time in Thailand. In any case, I anticipate that my travels will last later than originally anticipated (Oct 2011).

5. Things getting lost or broken. I’ve been quite bad about this lately. Since New Zealand, I’ve lost about a dozen things and broken at least two. I have a habit of rushing and whenever that happens, I forget something. Time to slow down, think about things and take stock. And actually, this probably isn’t a reason for my mood… it’s probably a result. In any case, hopefully I can take things a little more slowly and keep my mind clear so that I don’t have to buy new things (which leads to worries in #3).

Anyway, regarding the dark clouds, I’m sure they’ll visit me again for these or new reasons. Hopefully I’ll have the sense and the ability to simply move, or sleep, or treat myself to something nice, in order to help dispel them and remember that I AM on an adventure of my own choosing. And therefore, I should do whatever I need to in order to enjoy my time and not fret.

Someone remind me of that next time I write glum posts, ok?!


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