Sometimes the psychology behind our compulsions is clear: We want to eat because we are hungry, or perhaps we link the idea of food to comfort, or freedom or simply the chemical satisfaction of a sugar rush, however short-lived.
We want a cold shower because we are over-heated or feel uncomfortably dirty, or because for us it marks the end of another day; it has become a mental cue that we can relax and enjoy the remainder of our evening.
We want to fuck because millions of years of procreating tells our crocodile brains this is how we continue for another million. And because society tells us, relentlessly, that we should all constantly want sex (then slaps our wrist and calls us a slut for having it. Dick move, society).
But there are other things we feel compelled to do, and it can take us a long damn time to sort out the root (heh. Root. It’s funny if you’re in Australia) of the drive, if ever we do.
I feel compelled to share stories from my travels in a public forum, and it’s taken me a long time to figure out why. It finally came to me upon returning to Mellish Park, the North Queensland cattle station on which I worked four months of last year.
Photo credit to Bridget Webber. I feel this photo rather successfully portrays exactly how fully in the middle of absolutely nowhere I am right now. (Let’s ignore, for the moment, the sequence of events that led me back here and focus on the epiphany regarding my desire to blog.)
This is not news to anyone that has known me for some time but, because I move around a lot, there are some people I’m currently close with who have not known me for some time. This message is for you.
I haven’t celebrated Xmas for a number of years now. I used to be quite (read: very) soap-boxy about my hatred of all things yuletide but throughout the years that fanaticism (like most of my fanaticism) has relaxed to more of a dulled disdain.
There are facets of holiday celebration I’m more than happy to partake in; the parties and get-togethers and the like. I like spending time with people I like so, really, whatever the excuse – boom hells yeah lets go.
I will not decorate. I feel for the Earth, poor struggling whelp that she is. It does not bring me joy to string sparkly reminders of our diminishing rainforests from one corner of the room to the other.
I don’t do carols. They are terrible and make me want to kill myself. Or at least stab myself in the ears.
But above all else – I don’t do gifts. This is not exclusive to Xmas. I do not do gifts for any calendar occasion. I do do gifts, occasionally. . . just not when I’m supposed to.
I was living in Melbourne, Australia. At first I was working in a cafe but eventually got sacked for no other reason than everyone got sacked when the owner decided to hire all of his friends to replace us. Which, as is becoming a recurring theme with most shit things that happen to me, turned out to actually be good: it meant that I ended up getting hired on at Absolute MMA and Conditioning, where I’d been training to fight in Mixed Martial Arts. Because becoming a cage fighter is totally a legitimate career change for a 30 year old woman. Continue reading →
Several months back I was given a stellar piece of advice from a friend who has, throughout the years, given me many stellar pieces of advice. I was attempting to write a submission for a travel writing scholarship that I badly wanted and was having a lot of difficulty with it. When I would write casually, words would come easily, and I’d enjoy the process. But, in striving towards perfection with this submission on which so much was riding, I found myself staring at the screen of my computer with a head full of useless static. Words blurred, sentences ceased to make sense and the harder I tried to focus the more my brain responded with a chorus of ‘no no no no CAN’T’. I was upset and disheartened that the times I most needed my fancy wording skills seemed to be the times they saw fit to wage a surly strike.
My friend, a writer herself, sympathized. She knew the feeling of wanting to polish the shit out of something, to do the absolute best you could with it and, in putting that pressure on yourself, ironically strip yourself of the confidence and focus necessary to do so. The trick, she pointed out, was to relax, and to accept the fine art of ‘good enough’. Which boiled down to her very quotable conclusion – “Care deeply. Then let it go.”
I am not good at letting things go. I am good at wanting things. Fiercely. Continue reading →
Some of you may have noticed the discrepancy between the date on which the events of the last post occurred, and when it was actually posted. That 3 month gap has been, I’ll admit, a bit of a digital thorn in my side.
I am waiting in line at immigration. The power in the airport fails and a collective groan sounds from the line. Several minutes later, I am in conversation with an Irishman just returning from a trip home, and he is giving me tips on finding a flat in Melbourne.
But it’s been a whirlwind couple of months. And through it all I was making notes, snapping shots and writing down post ideas like a good little blogger. But I arrived in Australia already lagging behind, a chunk of my time in India still left to upload and I just never. . .quite. . .caught up. Continue reading →
My head was screaming at me in a language of shrill white noise, a tangle of displaced emotion and swirling, half-finished thoughts. When I wasn’t fighting off the urge to go and sob uncontrollably in the corner or just stop and ragdoll in the middle of the floor, as though someone had flipped my emergency ‘off’ switch, I was drowning under the dual crushing weights of self-doubt and self-reproach (In the very moment I originally typed this, I was actually fighting off an insistent urge to just curse, and hurl the computer across the room. This is fucking useless. I suck at writing. I LOSE AT LIFE).
What catastrophe, might you ask, was looming on the horizon? What could compel such a strong, crushing emotional response from this shining example of human strength and stability?
Uh, well. . .sort of. Whether or not you can call On the Road to Ithaca a ‘travel blog’ depends a great deal on what you consider travel to be. I would call it a travel blog, for two main reasons.
One, the shoe fits. I am traveling. I am from Canada. I was in India. Now I am going to Australia. But what about once I arrive in Melbourne? Once I find an apartment and a job and settle in for a bit am I still traveling? How long can you stay in a foreign country before ‘travel’ becomes ‘immigration’? Continue reading →
As absurd as it sounds, there was a logical process of thought behind my decision to try prize fighting. I had reasons for choosing to do this, now.
First, there was sheer curiosity. Which is admittedly a stronger driving force for me than is perhaps healthy. But when I get a question in my mind it fucking burns until I get an answer, man. Especially when it’s a question of ‘Can I [insert task here]?’ I need to know. And this one had been nagging at me for a long time: could I hold my own in a cage fight?
I’d trained in martial arts before. But I’ll admit readily – not a lot. There was some Shotokan Karate back in my last year of high school and some half-assed Jeet Kun Do back in my short-lived university days. But the style I really loved was Muay Thai, in which I had trained during my early years of tattooing in Newfoundland, as well as for a while in Ireland back at the start of my travels.
5 years ago I made what, at the time, seemed a terribly difficult decision. At the tender age of 25, I had been preparing to leave the sheltered Canadian province of Newfoundland and go traveling overseas with the unequivocal love of my life. Unfortunately, one month prior to departure an ill-timed and particularly heart-wrenching break-up left me with an awkward choice: Should I still board that plane, even though ‘we’ had become just ‘I’? Or should I abandon plans and allow my limping heart time to heal before hurling it halfway across the world, over an ocean and into foreign lands and potentially disastrous situations?
In the end, it just seemed easier to go. Flights had been booked, visas arranged; momentum was behind me and it would have taken more effort to cancel plans rather than just follow through with them. Still, I deliberated the choice up until the very last moment, having approximately 4 panic attacks in the remaining interim. But in the end, I did board that plane.
Lil’ ol 25 year old me preparing to head off.
Making the decision may have been challenging as all hell but actually leaving my home and job to begin traveling with a broken heart actually turned out to be one of the easier things I’ve done. Continue reading →
I can, at times, be a slow learner, particularly when the lesson life is trying to drill into my head goes against any plans I’ve laid out for myself. But 4 seems to be the magic number.
Siliguri marked the fourth time that whatever is savaging my innards landed me in a hospital. And this particular hospital stay came at the end of an agonizing 10 hour train ride during which I’m fairly certain the Indians sitting across from us were curious as to why I was writhing on my bunk like a woman about to give birth, possibly to some parasitic, alien life-form.
The saline was slower acting this time and new symptoms had joined forces with the usual culprits of severe cramping, vomit, diarrhea, weakness and fatigue. . .I was running a fever that had me convinced the room was 50 degrees one minute and −10 the next. That led to shivering which bordered on convulsions, which in turn caused a rather severe migraine.
Which, in turn, led to the very difficult decision to cut bait, and leave India.
Hence the even-longer-then-usual gap between posts. Once the most recent bout of my body turning against me waned enough to move on again there was still the issue of making arrangements with my insurance provider, selling the bikes (I’ll always love you, Hrithik), arranging flights. . . .not to mention the physical process of actually getting back to Canada; a process that took a couple days in and of itself.
I’m writing now from a friend’s couch in Sydney, NS – a town I didn’t expect to see for another 2 years or so. And you know what? I’m okay with that. Continue reading →