All posts by Serial Nomad

Writer & Wanderer

The Victorian vacation

My recent nights sleep haven’t been too dissimilar from trail life. I haven’t slept more than two nights in any one location and I’ve been using a variety of sleeping apparatuses including my tent, a fold out mattress, a friend’s van, and the sleeping bag/yoga mat/quilt contraption I’ve got going this evening. I’ve been sleeping extremely well and felt most at home watching the lightning flash through the sky the other night from the comfort of my trusty Tarptent.

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I’ve got insane hay fever tonight, and have been self medicating myself over the last few days with a mixture of cough medicine, cold and flu tablets, herbal remedies and Telfast to try and rid myself of the dry cough and nasal congestion I’ve been experiencing. Nothing’s working tonight. I think I’m allergic to the state of Victoria which is mighty upsetting considering it’s as close to home as anywhere in this world gets. Maybe there’s just a lot of cats around. I can detect cat hair from freakish distances. Maybe it’s just my childhood allergies to house dust resurfacing. Or maybe I’m just allergic to houses?

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We thought Armageddon might hit last night when crazy winds reduced my tent to a rolled up ball and the grey skies came thundering in. From the look of the weather radar we’d soon be under attack from the menacing colour tones clouding the skies, but after a few measly drops of rain spilled the grey skies soon turned to blue. Not only were our efforts to bunker down in vain, but my last opportunity to sleep outdoors had also vanished.

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I’m nearing the end of my visit to Victoria. I’ve got a few more catch ups with friends and family, I have my full motorcycle license test tomorrow after very limited riding this year (it’s also expected to rain tomorrow), then after my dentist appointment on Monday I’m driving back to Sydney with some friends for New Years. I’ve manage to squeeze quite a lot into this short timeframe. The whole needing a holiday after a holiday scenario will apply once I’m back on the plane to Abu Dhabi in just over a week. Hopefully I’ll be rid of my mystery illness by then. Strange that I didn’t have allergies over in the city of cats? Must be a different breed over there.

Below is a recap of the days leading up to Christmas. I have to say it’s great to see the old crew again on this site. Thanks for hanging in there and transferring over to the new address!


Music: The Rubens, Lay it down

Time to clean out the shed

Today while tackling my yearly possession clean out/shuffle, I again pondered the concept of modern day nomad living. I’ve got the moving around bit sorted, but not the living out of one suitcase scenario. If anyone has figured this out, please do enlighten me. I’m standing in my sister’s shed surrounded by boxes, backpacks and bags, and I’m simply overwhelmed by the sight of stuff. I have the worst quality a person like me could ever have. I’m a hoarder. To regular standards I’m probably not that bad, but to my brother in law who’s been storing my ‘stuff’ for over 5 years now I’ve got WAY too many things.

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Every year I whittle down my collection of books, clothes, Olympic paraphernalia (which is so comprehensive now I could open a museum), paintings, ornaments and personal collectibles. The problem is each year I repeat the same song, ‘when I have my own place I’ll want these’, and as the years go by, my brother in law’s doubt is starting to wear off on me.

I think my clean up has actually had an adverse affect on the amount of items I’m hoping to take back to Abu Dhabi. After reuniting with the better half of my wardrobe which mainly consists of hand-me-downs or second hand clothing, I now have an extra pile of stuff to pack into my already full suitcase. The issue of packing always seems to fall back on the question, ‘where am I going next?’, or ‘what am I doing next?’, ‘what season will it be?’, oh and ‘how long will I be there?’ Australia is a long way to pop back to simply pick up a few bits and pieces. I need some kind of central storage location (that isn’t my sister’s) that can simply post me things when I need them. Let me know if this exists, otherwise let me know when you get this new business venture up and running!

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For someone with self diagnosed OCD it’s difficult to live with my worldly possession strewn across so many locations. For 99% of the year I don’t think twice about it, but when I’m back home it’s always here waiting for me. I had dinner with a friend of mine last week who reminded me that my bicycle was still in his backyard. He’d also moved my bed he was borrowing to his girlfriend’s parents house but still had my grandfather’s painting he was looking after in my absence. I might deal with all of that next year, ‘when I have my own place!’

Carols under starlight

For the first time since October 6 2013 I set up my tent to once again sleep beneath the stars. This time I’m looking up at an entire new galaxy of twinkling lights in the Southern Hemisphere. I’m elated despite my deep chest cough and runny nose which almost prevented me from sleeping outdoors tonight. It is Christmas Eve though, and if there’s one way I haven’t woken up on Christmas morning it’s in a tent alone in the front yard of my sister’s new property.

I set up as the sun was setting after story time with my four year old nephew. If he saw the tent in the daylight he would have insisted on accompanying me overnight. I found some old sleeping mats in the shed as I left my 6 month old Thermarest in Vancouver post PCT. Despite it being thinner than cardboard I still couldn’t part with it completely, but as it didn’t make the journey south I needed an alternative. In the midst of unrolling my new acquired sleeping mats (yes plural, I’m using two), a handful of dirt sprayed across my tent floor. On closer inspection and from the sensation in my nostrils I soon discovered this ‘dirt’ was in fact mouse or perhaps even rat poop. I’m just glad it was dark because by the time I discovered what I’d been sweeping out with my hands, the tent floor was clean enough for entry.

I’ve cheated a little tonight by bringing a pillow from inside for extra comfort. Everything else remains the same and I’m glad mum was able to fix my zippers enough so they close to keep out the army of bugs spying at me from the other side of the mesh. It’s hard to believe its Christmas tomorrow and almost the start of yet another year. Instead of New Year resolutions, I usually name the year ahead on December 31st. 2013 was the year of ‘Adventure’, and that certainly rang true. I haven’t thought of a name for 2014 just yet. I know it will have elements of adventure and many other novelties along the way. I still have a few days to figure it out.

Tonight is not just a first for again sleeping outdoors, but it’s the first time I’ve laid down with my iPhone at night and actually written a new blog entry. There’s so many transitions and changes taking place this month that I’ve let this world go in order to find a new path to tell my stories. I’ve finally stepped foot on that new path. I don’t know exactly where it’s going to take us, but if there’s one good lesson I’ve learned this year it’s to take things one step, one day, one trail at a time.

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A new chapter down under

I’ve been back in Australia just over two weeks now and although I’ve been compelled to write, I’ve also been experiencing internal debate as to whether or not I should start a new blog; and if I did, what I would write about.

Being home brought back a flood of trail emotions I must have buried while in Abu Dhabi. Being back in the environment where I was planning to set off on one of the most exciting adventures of my lifetime was difficult with the realisation that I no longer have the PCT to look forward to anymore. It now only exists as a memory.

Keeping active filled that dark empty hole when it surfaced, and having some real time to relax has done the body and mind wonders. It’s going to be a bit of a whirlwind as I’m heading back to Abu Dhabi post New Years where I hope to have some time to develop a new blog to illustrate a new chapter. It may take some time but it’s coming.

For now here’s a quick insight into my 11 hour road trip from Sydney to Melbourne. Merry Christmas to all and hope to be back in the New Year!

Heading Home

The whole notion of ‘home’ has never felt quite so foreign to me as it does right now. I’ve never not had a physical address which I call home despite flit floating across the globe for the last 8 years. But for the first time flying back to Australia is giving me such mixed emotions it’s really hard to gauge exactly how I’m feeling. Out of touch is probably the best way to describe my position in the world right now. I’ve lived in two very separate bubbles this year. The trail being the most significant and then Abu Dhabi which was like a whirlwind of hard work, amazing people, stress, anxiety and fun all blended into 5 weeks.

I have absolutely no idea how my friends are, my new niece is already 4 months old, my sister and her husband have moved to the country, and as a result the only address on my drivers licence and every other registered identity now belongs to a complete stranger. On the top of my list of things to do when I return to Australia is to change my address. The question is, what do I change it to?

I’m not often phased by long flights, but I made the huge mistake of not selecting my seat when I checked in this morning and now I’m sandwiched in the middle of middle seats between a rather large hyperactive gentleman and a more subdued guy on my right. I can’t even use the arm rests and I’m scared if I fall asleep I’ll wake up drooling on one of their shoulders. There’s also an un identified person passing gas close by who should be put into isolation.

My biggest fear heading back to Oz is the sudden loss of independence and relying on others for a place to stay. Loss of purpose is another one, and shifting down a few gears to a possible state of laziness. Having averaged 4 hours sleep for the last week I think some decent rest is on the cards, but I’m also adamant to maintain some form of momentum.

I met some of the most incredible people during this project. It’s not unusual for the team to feel like family because you spend every waking hour together, but in such a short space of time it was amazing how well we all gelled. I think this project was a god send to me. Nothing can or will ever top the life I experienced this year between April and September. There’s still much to process, but I was blessed with this timely distraction which showed me once again that there is so much to discover across this crazy planet, and so many incredible characters to be found. I’ve realised my true fascination in life are people, and it amazes me that no matter what our background, race, religion or sex, how similar our minds really do work.

I feel a bit like a caged animal on this plane waiting for the hostesses to come around and feed me. For some reason I’m absolutely starving, and I just received a bag of sliced apple which I wish I could trade for cookies or chocolate. The lights have been off forever, and my body just isn’t cooperating with this forced night time during the afternoon. The little plane on the person’s screen in front of me has been crawling ever so slowly over the Indian Ocean and has just touched the edge of Western Australia. Why does this country have to be so wide? We spent two hours sitting on the tarmac this morning after missing our take off slot. It was so misty this morning in Abu Dhabi that a lot of flights were delayed, which meant people that landed in Abu Dhabi late were still able to board our plane more than an hour after it should have left. Great for them, not so good for poor middle seat me. Those two hours were actually the only part of the flight where I actually slept, so I guess it could have been a lot worse.

I’ve watched The Great Gatsby, The Internship and Lost in translation. My eyes are stinging from the screen and my ears hurt from the headphones. For not watching TV most of the year this is an absolute overload, but I have to watch another one, otherwise I may literally lose my mind. I’m going to watch Monsters University and hope that the food trolley comes back around soon!!

Flying is such an unusual activity. Firstly the act of sitting, sleeping, eating and watching movies next to a complete stranger for 13 hours is odd, especially when you don’t say more than two words to the person. I often find on flights that most words are exchanged at the end after landing. Once you open the door of conversation it’s impossible to close, so I think a lot of people hold out until the plane’s landed and they know there’s a quick escape. The busybody on my left is looking for any excuse to talk. Every time I move he looks over as if it’s an invitation to talk. I’ve avoided all unnecessary movements because of this. I think he’s staring me down as I’m typing this. Is it possible he can read what I’m typing? Let me do a test! If you can read this man on my left raise your hand and cough twice… No reaction… I guess not. Well only a few more hours to go and at least one movie and hopefully a little snooze! See you in Oz!

My birthday surprise

It’s the second last day of the event and it’s got to the point where I can participate playing limbo and bounce around on space hoppers because the crew have got it all under control! At the end of the first day I’d been running around for so many hours I’d completely forgotten it was my birthday. After debriefing the event staff my boss Flora pulled me towards the stage saying there was an issue with security. Suddenly the stage lit up, music started playing and my team emerged with UAE flags singing happy birthday!

It has been an eye opening experience. The kids here are a different breed and the language barrier has been a challenge, especially with lost crying children who don’t know what you’re saying when you ask them their name. I’ve seen some very creative parenting during the event. One father buried his kid in the sand to 1. Keep her warm and 2. Stop her from running away.

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I’ve completely lost my voice from talking on the radio and briefing my 40 event staff at the start and end of each day. The team have been incredible, and we’ve somehow made setting up and packing down 200 rugs and cushions at the start and end of each day a bit of a game. Today we’ll try and beat out record of 20 minutes.

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It’s National Day today and we’re expecting a huge crowd. We had over 22,000 people yesterday with a peak during the fireworks which are 300 meters off shore from the beach. We’re so close we had cardboard falling on us from the sky but as long as it’s not on fire we’ve been told not to worry. We do have Civil Defence and all of our fire extinguishes on the ready though just in case!

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I’m having a ball and will actually be quite sad once it’s all over. It’s hard to believe in a few days I’ll be back on a plane to Australia. What a whirlwind!

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One more night

I’ve fallen off the radar these last couple of weeks and thought it time for a quick update. I’m going to stop posting on this blog once I get back to Oz in the hope to start up something new. But for now I wanted to say hi, let you know I’m still about, and share yet another random video of my walk back to the hotel this evening where I was told by a cranky driver ‘this isn’t your street’. I assume he was referring to the road. Unfortunately when the pavement’s been dug up there aren’t many other options…

A few pics from the event site:

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Chronically early

I’ve had a problem all my life where I’m always early to things. I’ve spent hours, days, months of my life waiting because there’s nothing I fear more than being late. I took it to a whole new level this morning because I thought my pick up time was 7:20am, and I’ve only just discovered it is in fact 7:45. Add in my early factor and I’ve wasted a good half hour. This wouldn’t be such an issue except for the fact I got home from work at 1:30am this morning, and could have used the extra 30 minutes sleep! At least it’s given me a chance to write.

With crew heading to the site today there’s much to be done in the short time frame left. This morning I’m off to renew my visa so I don’t get kicked out of the country before the event. Then we’re meeting with local police onsite to discuss security around the event on the Corniche.

I got an email from Timberline Lodge in Northern Oregon yesterday to say they’ve finally located my long sleeve smart wool top that I lost there. Where could it have been all this time? After a week I decided I’d never see that piece of clothing again, and was gutted that I didn’t have it through freezing cold Washington. But after two months it’s found it’s way back to the facilities team. Bizarre but fantastic!

After my crazy windy beach excursion on Friday I headed home to continue with some work. The sun did eventually come out at Al Bateen, and I ended up swimming and sitting in the sun until midday. A few more people populated the beach while I was there, but essentially it was me, four lifeguards, and a giant yellow floating car.

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There was a two hour gap in the evening where I was waiting for some documents to come through, so I decided to take a walk along the corniche. Because it was Friday it was busy on the walkway, and there was a science festival close to where we’re celebrating National Day so it was jam packed. Just as I’d used my last few dirhams to buy a frozen yogurt my phone beeped and the email with my floor plans arrived.

When I looked at the time I realised I only had 1 hour to complete my security plan and submit it to our health and safety experts. It took me an hour to get to the frozen yogurt stand, so walking wasn’t an option. As I had no money for a cab I knew I’d have to run. What surprised me most was the fact I could actually run. I haven’t jogged in about 5 years because my body doesn’t do well with the impact, but with a little urgency and my remaining trail fitness (which I thought was long gone), I was back at my hotel in 30 minutes and got my documents through just in time. I might keep up this whole jogging activity, it was the first time since the trail that my body actually had to physically work and it felt amazing!

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I’m now in the middle of my very intriguing visa renewal process. You go to a line of stores, with touts outside trying to get your business. You pick one, hand over your passport, then once registered head to another building. In the second building because I am a woman, I skipped the queue, handed over my passport, got a number written on a sticky note, then took it back to the first building where I started. I then handed my number and passport over, went to a third store to get my passport photo taken, and took my photo back to the first building. Thank goodness our driver George has been through this process hundreds of times, as it’s running smoothly so far. What could take an entire day will hopefully take us less than two hours.

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We then headed over to the health insurance building to get a certificate. I handed over my passport and forms and they worked their magic until I finally had a policy. Maybe I can get my teeth fixed here! From this point we got a little confused. We went back to building two which directed us to building three. Then the man at building three directed us upstairs to join yet another line to get a number. I wonder if this is the final step?

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When our number was called we handed over our passport, forms and health insurance policy. Papers were shuffled, forms were stamped, and our passports were handed back with a sticker inside! Halas!

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What a beach

I thought about skipping breakfast upstairs this morning and just having cereal out of a glass, but because my fridge doesn’t get cold enough my milk had turned to yogurt. It’s my final day of freedom before the 5th of December, and I thought instead of sleeping in I would make an early morning trip to the beach. I was the only one at breakfast this morning and had the whole gang making me tea and packing away my plates literally the second I’d finished my food. I was also the first one at the private section of the beach. I think I picked the only cloudy day of the year. In fact, I’m almost a little cold!

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Fast forward about 10 minutes and there seems to be a severe weather system coming through. The wind has picked up, the sky is grey and people are starting to leave. Since when did I need to start checking the weather of a morning? Hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, cold and windy, but only on the one day I want to go to the beach! 😦

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I’m determined to stick it out, and get my 50 dirhams worth of sun lounging. At this stage it may not be worth it. I’m still the only sucker here, the smart people who check the weather are still in their warm cosy beds!