When wanderlust’ers don’t know where to wander

where next?

I’m the little blonde scruff with brown skin and bare feet and a shell tied round her neck, sleeping alone on the airport floor. I wear mosquito bites instead of make-up. My only brand is necessity. I’m clad in the veritable armour of K-Mart’s cheapest sleeping bag, with a bright yellow minion hat on my head, and a tatty backpack by my side. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Or the next day. Or any day.

This is my life, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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A wanderlust update

Three days ago I left a paradise island in the Indian Ocean. I had been living there for two and a half months to finish my working holiday visa extension work; and to tend bar, to learn to kite surf, to get very brown, and to have a million heady adventures atop crystal clear waters and palm fringed beaches.

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I have some stories to tell you (some will not be repeated), and I will post them very soon. Paradise was not conducive to being chained to my laptop, despite my best intentions, and, as per, I have much catch up to do.

Now, however, after three days back in Perth, I of course find myself thousands of kilometres across the country, curled up in a sleeping bag possessing similar qualities to tissue paper, on the floor, at Adelaide airport.

Surprise! Would you expect any less?

An absolute YOLO moment.

I feel alive with recklessness; despite being told several times that I would have to sleep outside (like, literally, outside) because the airport ‘closes’ at night.

I laughed.

Like, I thought they were joking. What airport ‘closes’ at night?! When you have an eight hour connection?

And then I did what any rational person would do.

I completely ignored them and ran away.

I hid.

I snuck off like (what I thought was) a ninja, and found (what I thought was) a good spot to avoid security.

Which worked for approximately 12.5 minutes.

Then they found me.

It probably doesn’t help matters that I’m wearing a bright yellow minion hat (it’s a bloody awesome hat though).

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Then I put on my biggest smile, my twinkliest eyes, and begged not to be turfed out into the cold like a hobo.

Luckily the manager (male, obvs) has bent the rules and permitted me to stay indoors, provided I ‘do not move from this spot’. Yes sir. Anything but the cold concrete of an Adelaide night. And no plug socket for my laptop. What’s a girl with word vomit to do, with a dead laptop and 8 hours to kill?

The only difficulty is that I’m ridiculously hungry, like I-might-actually-eat-my-boarding-pass hungry, and I’m sat next to a coffee shop that has neglected to lock their beautiful sandwiches and delicious looking wraps away. It’s a form of torture. They are lit up like Christmas and hellishly enticing.

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Cake is waving at me. I’m pretty sure a chocolate chip cookie just winked.

Anyway, for some absurd reason (it involves a bloke, I’m not gunna lie) I am flying to Sydney for a week of spontaneity. I have very little money and more than enough life admin, and friends, and long overdue blogging, to keep me occupied in Perth; yet here I am. I can’t resist a trip down the rabbit hole of adventure. Wanderlust.

I will return to Perth in a week, a mere few hours before my brother lands from the UK (let’s hope my flight isn’t delayed hey!). I am so utterly excited to see my brother, the first family member I will clap eyes on in ten months. I cannot wait to show off my current home to him, and show him the reasons I am so in love with this country.

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Australia feels like home

 

So that’s the latest- kiting in a tropical paradise, briefly partying till sunrise in Perth, now hiding out in Adelaide airport in a minion hat, then a week of YOLO’ing in Sydney with a fella I met on an island, then Perth with my bro (including a wicked camping trip down the South West and so many awesome activities). Phew.

After that… I will have about six weeks left on my Australian visa. And nothing left in my bank account.

I cannot believe it.

What next?

What indeed. That is the question of the moment. That is the question of my life.

And now I have updated you on the current situation, we can get down to what REALLY excites me: the unknown.

Read on for a more elaborate foray into the motivations and complexities of a wanderluster who doesn’t know where to wander…

 

Wanderlust life should be a page turner

Some people are scared of flying. Not me. If you want to really see me come alive, you need to sit next to me on a plane.

Do you know what I feel when a plane takes off and I’m on it? Exhilaration.

Pure, unfiltered, unrelenting, intoxicating… exhilaration. Serotonin just explodes all over the show.

It must be written on my face plain as day- wide eyes, an enormous smile, a cheeky expression of intrigue. I usually travel alone, and for this reason I’m glad. This is my moment.

What is next? What will happen? Who will I meet? Where will life take me? What adventure will I find? These questions rise up inside me. The unknown is kissing my curiosity, and it feels euphoric.

I felt this when I left the Cocos Islands three days ago.

I felt sad to be leaving somewhere so beautiful and I felt sad to be saying goodbye to all the wonderful people I met. I felt sad that I would have to start wearing a bra and shoes and maybe even mascara again, and that I couldn’t just pad around among the palm trees in my bikini anymore, smashing open coconuts with a menacing machete and chasing giant land crabs…

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A`menace with a machete

 

Cocos, really, was a dream; and it changed me for the better (and I don’t just mean getting ridiculously brown and blonde). It mellowed me. It freed me. It hippied me. It challenged me. It changed me. The ocean claimed me once and for all. I was sad to leave.

And yet….

And yet, as always when I finish a chapter, excitement is the dominant emotion. Each goodbye signals a new hello. Each end signals a new beginning. Each triumph signals the need for fresh challenges. Every closing, is simply the blank canvas of life staring us in the face.

I get this same feeling whenever I leave it all behind and branch out again. My life is a tangent. A beautiful tangent, down an unmapped road. It is freedom. I feel it in the deepest recesses of my soul, and it manifests itself with fully physical, real, sensations.

I feel it first in the pit of my stomach as the engines start to churn, a bubbling excitement. The hairs on my neck stand on end. My pulse quickens as we gather speed down the runway. My eyes moisten. We’re up! Adrenaline courses through my veins and powerful emotion floods every receptor. I sit there and grin out the window like a lunatic, fidgeting like an ADHD child.

It’s just you again, Mel

I tell myself with satisfaction… and my freedom soars alongside the clouds as the plane pushes up into the unknown.

I draw up my knees, I sit back into freedom’s suggestive embrace, and I continue to Cheshire-cat out the window at the retreating paradise beneath me, like the absolute weirdo that I probably am.

I’m about to start the next instalment of my adventure, and I’m clawing at the pages of my life to turn to the next chapter.

What, indeed, is next?

I have absolutely no idea. Anything. Anything is next. And I surrender myself totally to that sensation, because it is the hallmark of my life, it is my drug, and it is an unparalleled feeling.

 

Two months left on my visa, how to use them?

So here are my options, and these next few weeks will be about soul searching. Staring out across my beloved Indian Ocean at sunrise and sunset and dreaming of what’s next. Considering what I want.

And what do I want? I haven’t the foggiest; my life is an absolute triumph of indecision and experimentation. And oh, I adore it…

 

Option 1) Stay in Perth

This one is kind of a no-brainer. I have an awesome house share with the best girls, five minutes from uber trendy Scarborough.

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My Perth family

 

I have a WA registered 4wd filled with camping gear and kite gear. I can find work easily. I have many friends. And now, thanks to my time on Cocos, I have many new friends from the kite scene whom I cannot wait to hang out with. The kite season is just about to start, and I could continue my new hobby with all the great people I met there. Extreme sport, new friends, house parties, beach, bbq’s…. And did I mention summer is just around the corner and I live 5 minutes from the best (in my opinion) beach in Perth?

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Scarborough beach, my local

 

In short, I have a good life in Perth and I adore it. Perth- the most isolated city in the world and all the better for it- will always have my heart as the first place I have chosen, really chosen, as my adult home.

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dancing till sunrise in Perth

 

The sentiments I feel flying back into Perth from my myriad adventures across Australia far exceed the warm and fuzzy’s I have ever (never) felt flying back into London. Descending into the damp greyness of Heathrow. Yuck. There is just no comparison.

People ask me,

So, where is home?

and I say with pride,

Right now, Perth

…. Followed guiltily by a mumble,

but, you know, originally England.

I’m not alone. Perth is crawling with Poms. The ones that got away, the ones that chose the good life. And it is just such a GOOD LIFE.

So… what’s making me hesitate? Option 2.

 

Option 2) Head East for a new adventure

I have this ‘problem’ that is the hallmark of my life. It’s an obsession that has propelled me around the world for 3.5 years, with no end in sight.

It’s the travel itch.

Two months seems to be my limit with any place I settle, and then I cease to function at my usual highly motivated level. I get restless, I get fidgety, I dream of new horizons and I start to live only in the future. What else is out there? What haven’t I tried yet? When can I start moving again? What plans can I dream about? What new reality can I construct for myself?

On Cocos my friends used the term FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out. It’s a powerful motivator. In bed and everyone is at the bar? FOMO will get you out. Tired and don’t want to go to the beach with everyone? FOMO will make you go. A crowd over there? FOMO means you gotta check it out. You get the drift.

Well I am cursed with travel FOMO. I really really love Perth and my life there, but I can’t contain my curiosity and stop wondering what else is out there? What if I’m missing out on fabulous adventures in Melbourne or Sydney? What if I’ve gotten everything I can out of Perth, and it’s time to strike out again, driven by travel FOMO and relentless curiosity?

So it is entirely tempting to spend my last six weeks over East, because I was going to head there on a tourist visa come December anyway.

Which naturally gives me a further two options…

 

Option 3) Drive across the Nullarboor

My brother is coming out to visit me in Australia next week. He will spend two weeks in Perth (I have big plans, I cannot wait  to show off my beloved Perth to him, and take him on a true Aussie camping trip down the South West) and then he will fly over East and spend a few weeks in Melbourne and Sydney.

On our camping trip we will visit Esperance. Esperance is tantalisingly close to the road that leads East, across the heart of Australia, the ultimate road trip across the Nullarboor. We could get to Melbourne in three days. Oh, it is so tempting to get in my car and just go, and show my brother the REAL Australia on the way. Two more Gumtree randoms and we’re all set. And then who knows; I find a house and a job and I start over in a new city.

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A good old Aussie road trip

But oh, I love a good road trip. And I would love to drive across Australia again.

 

Option 4) Sell my car and fly instead

This may not sound like a big deal, but I LOVE my car. And I love all the junk that’s now contained within it. I love the freedom, the independence. I love the thousands of kilometres we have covered together. That 4wd symbolises so much to me.

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Freedom of the open road

 

And… I’m not even sure all my stuff would fit on a plane. I’m not even sure I want it to. Do I really want to be a backpacker again and start lugging all my crap around? Not really. I’m past that. I’m a different type of traveller now.

However, if I take the car over East with me, with WA plates, I’m going to have a hard time selling the beast. It’s a bit of a ball ache for someone to change the rego. A further factor is that a 4wd will undoubtedly sell better in WA- rugged, wild, off-roady WA. Who wants a 4wd in a city like Sydney? Not only that, but it will sell for more in the west. WA has a stronger economy and I could demand a higher price. I need the money when I leave for sure, so it pays to be smart about these things.

 

Option 5) Take my second year now

This was never the plan. Never never never. There is a whole world out there and the thought of spending two years in one country is inconceivable to me. WAS inconceivable to me. But as always on the road, plans change. You change.

I always wanted to save my second year and come back years later, with a view to settle for good. I envisage that I will be about 30 and ready to nest in my beloved Australia, which I think I knew was ‘home’ when I first came here seven years ago at the ripe young age of 18 (why else was I so overcome with emotion that I cried ACTUAL tears of joy to be back when my plane touched down ten months ago?).

I envisage a future Mel that is ready to stay somewhere for good and will use her second year visa to find sponsorship and a ‘proper job’. I don’t know that Mel, I just assume in five years maybe I’ll be at that place.

But people tell me you’re never done. People tell me it just gets worse. Once itchy feet, always itchy feet. You never stop being restless.

Regardless, I never considered that I would take my second year straight away. But where has my time gone? The months have flown by in a neon flash of seductive contentment. A whirlwind of fast-paced spontaneous movement. A pulsating explosion of euphoric self-discovery and adventure. It has been utterly intoxicating, and now, after my brother leaves, I am faced with six silly little weeks to make and save as much money as I can for the next adventure.

The next adventure was going to be a week in Bali, so that I could come back on a tourist visa and spend December / Christmas / New Year with a good friend in Sydney- the wonderful Amy whom I worked a season with in Croatia and backpacked around Eastern Europe with over three years ago.

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In Bosnia with Amy in 2011

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Greek island-hopping with Amy, 2011

 

But as always, it all comes down to money. Can I really save enough in six weeks to fund tourist visa living? Tourist visa living that, realistically, will stretch far beyond December. I know I will end up staying for the full three months till the end of Feb. I just have too many people to go and visit all over Australia. And even if I sell my car now, it will still be tight. I could do it, I always do, but it leaves me with nothing for the next NEXT adventure.

The next NEXT adventure was going to be New Zealand, another year long working holiday visa, starting end of February. But, of course, these things are rarely easy. A further issue is that my passport runs out March 2016… so I can’t apply for the New Zealand visa on it as you need at least six months leeway on your passport. So at some point I need to be somewhere long enough to get a new passport. Which is tricky to guarantee when your financial situation remains in a constant state of flux.

With these passport complexities and a significant monetary restraint, AND a sense that I’m running out of time and don’t feel ready to leave yet… the obvious answer is just throw caution to the wind and take my second year now.

Stay longer, work harder, save more, see more friends, enjoy another summer with cash in my pocket. And then when I leave sometime next year, I will feel ready. And I will be cashed up. Six months on a mine site in the outback and I could be set for a year in Asia. Longer, probably.

So, this is the obvious answer.

But I don’t like obvious answers, and my travel FOMO kicks in big time when I even consider spending so long in one place.

How can I possibly risk putting down roots and settling here? I absolutely cannot get sucked in, there is a whole world out there and I’m chomping at the bit to taste it all. I want to feel, see, do, try, taste, touch, and experience every corner of the globe. I want to face plant variety, I want to belly-flop onto experimental living. This is how we find ourselves is it not? This is how we find out who we are and what we need from life, and where we should be?

So you see, my fear of getting stuck is pulling me onwards. My travel FOMO is driving me away.

Yet my love of Australia is keeping me. Indeed, what if I am already home?

But I don’t want the adventure to end here. I don’t want my travel story to read ‘and then she moved to Australia and never came back. The end’.

No! That cannot happen.

 

Follow your gut

There are endless questions and over-analysis to be had. Round and round these thoughts and day dreams chase themselves in my mind.

The what-if game is beautiful in this context.

These decisions do not stress me; they excite me. At such crossroads in my life I am truly alive. I am the author of my story. I am the designer of my journey. I am choosing exactly what I want to do and how I want to do it. I am master of my fate. I feel empowered and aspirational- and such sentiments flood my veins with adrenaline and zest.

How many times have I sat on a beach (it’s always a beach) and stared out at the glassy ocean infinity and asked myself…

what DO I want? I can go anywhere… but where?

There is no way to answer this question.

I just wait. I just wait for the answer to smack me in the face.

I know my gut, and this is the way my gut works.  I know I will churn things over, and talk them out, for weeks; and then… BOOM, snap decision. Impulsive movement. In an instant I will know, and then in an instant I will go. It will be sudden.

I know that probably I will not take the smart option. I know I cannot control my itchy feet, that I cannot refuse the many temptations of curiosity. I know the open road calls me, and I am powerless to refuse the lure.

Because once you have experienced what it is like to live like this, to follow the unknown wherever it calls you, you cannot go back.

That is my ‘problem’, my addiction. I am cursed with curiosity; addicted to the thrill of chasing the unknown.

Consequently, my life is somewhat a tangent, a triumph of raw impulse and spontaneity.

 

I don’t know where I’m going, but I promise it wont be boring

So here, let me tell you what I’m going to do with the last two months of my Australia visa:

I’m going to do what I always do, and I’m going to have an adventure.

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Perhaps that will be staying in Perth. Perhaps it will be working remotely. Perhaps it will be driving across the Nullarbor to head over East. Perhaps it will be driving tractors round the outback. Perhaps it will be a 9-5 with evening and weekend hedonism. Perhaps it will be a week in Bali to come back as a tourist, perhaps it will be a whole other year. It matters not; I will have an adventure.

Because adventure is not what you do, or where you go. Adventure is how you do it, and most importantly how you perceive, how you do it. Adventure is… a mindset.

Stay tuned to see how it pans out practically. It sure feels fun from here.

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3 Responses to When wanderlust’ers don’t know where to wander

  1. John Pierce October 15, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    Hi Mel. So you are having a slight problem getting a NZ visa. I travel a lot for fun and work. Getting visas could be a problem – until I got a second UK passport. I could then send one passport for a visa and travel with the other one. Not sure how easy it would be to get a second UK passport abroad though. I got mine in Liverpool passport office in 4 hours. It cost me £250 but it was worth it as it saved me sitting around for a week. I also needed a letter from my employer at the time explaining why I needed a second passport. Best of luck with your travels wherever they may lead you! John

    • Mel November 10, 2014 at 1:51 am #

      Thanks for the advice John… definitely something to consider!

  2. whileimyoungandskinny May 29, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    This post kinda made my heart beat faster. Love it!

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