The life of an expat always sounded glamorous but somewhat artificial to me. Living in a high rise or hotel, expensive company dinners, weekends on the beach, chauffeurs, live in nannies, swimming pools, glitz.
Tonight while I walked along the corniche I came to the realisation that I am in fact an ‘expat’, a word I associate with business men who wear expensive suits or women who sunbathe while the nanny nurses the kids.
Everyone in the working world in Abu Dhabi is an expat. I ran into a woman in the lift the other morning who asked if I was American because she heard me speaking English. She seemed desperate for contact with someone from a familiar land telling me how weird this place seems to her. In some ways I agree, but on the other hand this place feels just as much home right now as anywhere else on the planet.
Tonight was my second evening stroll along the Corniche. Walking is my sole activity outside of work. It brings me such joy to simply be outdoors amongst the life of the city. It also gives me time to think outside of my ever growing task list and refocus on why I’m actually here and what I want to be doing.
When I reached the beach I sat and reflected on this fascinating expat lifestyle I’m currently living. It certainly ain’t champagne breakfasts and lazy days on the sand…
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been swimming in the world of work and desperately trying to tread water while the waves of deadlines and requests have been hitting me from all sides.
I had a few breakthroughs today, and although the tide seems to keep dragging me back, I know eventually I’ll reach a point where I hit the shore again.
This morning I spoke to my four year old nephew to wish him happy birthday, and other than a recent five minute conversation with my dad for his birthday, I’ve been completely cut off from society outside of the Fort walls where the festival I’m working on will take place in just under 4 weeks! Frightening!
As I stared at my computer screen just before 10pm this evening I decided it was time to resurface and give a brief update on where I currently stand. I’m sure a few of you might have thought I’d vanished into the ether, but I’m still alive and kicking, keeping myself afloat and my head above water.
This is the one question Google doesn’t have a decent answer for. I know this because I Googled it a few years back only to discover numerous listings on Monty Python’s film from the 80’s. Is this the most accurate source we have for spiritual guidance concerning this topic? For some reason while sitting in a lonely cafe sipping coffee and eating rhubarb pie I once again I contemplated this quandary. Strangely enough I seemed to stumble across the answer. It actually came from a parallel I was drawing with the trail. Enjoy what it provides for you and leave it in better shape for the next person. Could the world be that simple?
When I got home I completed packing for my evening flight to Abu Dhabi. As I was about I leave the apartment the handle of my suitcase completely snapped off. The following is what transpired. I guess it’s true what they say: ‘it’s about the journey not the destination!’
Music: Radical Face, All is well (goodbye, goodbye)
It was a long flight but for the first in a long time I enjoyed a lengthy conversation with the person next to me. A German school teacher called Mr Wild. How does one get a name like that!? We chatted like old friends until I had to force myself into a sleep coma to be able to get up and go straight to work upon arrival, ergh! After 11 hours in the office I was done, and I’m now sitting eating room service ready to crash for a decent nights sleep.
I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face having just watched the video of my arrival at the Northern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m not sure what made me do it. I was scrolling through the videos from that final treacherous day, finding it hard to believe that the person walking through the snow was actually me. Maybe it’s because I spoke to Fuller tonight and he mentioned that final thrilling day, and just how frightening those videos were. I guess I had to see them again for myself, which naturally brought back so many emotions and encouraged me to go the whole hog and watch the one I knew would bring a tear to my eye.
Speaking to Fuller brought back the reality of the trail. We both agreed that sometimes it’s hard to believe it really happened, that we did in fact walk from Mexico to Canada. We’ve both reached a point where it’s hard to talk about now. I think I’m in the process of filing away the memories and emotions, and each time I bring them up, I need to repack them neatly away again. Fuller came up with a good analogy about the trail being a little like an ex-lover. The experiences you share with the trail will never be known or understood by other people and it will forever hold a place in your heart.
I’ve obviously had too much solo time on my hands today because I was also reading some of the notes I wrote on my return to Sydney before I started this new blog. I definitely hit a few low points in those first few days readjusting to ‘home’ life again. I remember many people encouraging me to write about ‘life after the trail’. I think this is a topic that will continue to resurface for me and every other thru-hiker as the post-trail experience runs its course. Although the piece below sounds incredibly depressing, re-reading it made me feel it was worthwhile to share so that others feeling a bit of the same will realise you’re not alone:
I feel like I’m suffocating. I have an incredible knot in my stomach knowing that my life will never be the same. I will never again be preparing to embark on the most exciting adventure of my life. I’ve just lived it. From extraordinary to ordinary. I’m short of breath. The physical effects of this feeling of loss are breathtaking. The trail is no longer a looming mystery filled with longing and excitement. The story is complete, and I must find a new beginning without repeating the past. How can I top that? Haven’t I had enough excitement for one year? Shouldn’t I be satisfied and fall back into society’s groove like all the other players? I’m sliding down a plughole into the dark tunnel of my own thoughts. Flashbacks of a time that was haunt me. Even the bad feels good. I want it back, I wish it wasn’t over. I’m not ready to move on. The highs and lows that were magnified on the trail have followed me into this world. I want to crawl up and sleep, or escape into the wilderness.
The roller coaster of emotions has certainly steadied from that day. I did struggle a lot getting back in the groove of this reality, but continuing to move forward and staying active has definitely been the key.
It’s been 3.5 years since I travelled to India to race an auto rickshaw 2000 kilometres across the country; but last night as part of my 2014 ‘let’s get things moving’ resolution, I finally put together a 5 minute snapshot of the experience after delving into old videos stored away on my external hard drive.
For anyone needing a little travel inspiration check out the video on my new 2010 – India video gallery page.
I’m staring into a fridge full of leftovers in a quiet apartment after four days of activity with friends. This may well be the first time I’ve experienced true solitude whilst being in Australia, other than camping in my sister’s backyard. All I can hear is the tapping of the keyboard and the gentle crashing of waves in the harbour outside. It’s peaceful and eerie at the same time. I’m rapidly shovelling quinoa salad into my mouth after consuming my fifth coffee for the day. I’ve decided it’s an anything goes kind of day. That’s also why I polished off a packet of pre-made popcorn, assorted salted nuts and the remaining beetroot dip in the fridge for dinner.
In two days I’ll be back on a plane to Abu Dhabi and 2014 will come to life. It’s weird as I’ve spent the last 4 weeks surrounded by friends and family, rushing from one place to another, and now I’m suddenly in an empty apartment for the next couple of days in complete solitude until my time runs out and I’m back in the air.
As 2013 came to an end, I felt a sense of relief that the book had finally closed on what has probably been the most intense year of my life. It’s been a year full of achievement, love, loss and life. When 2014 ticked over I immediately thought that this year would be one of no expectations. But as I sat chatting with a friend over coffee today, I realised that 2014 for me is the year to live. Not to say other years haven’t had that motivation behind them, but this year I’m really going to focus on taking in every moment of being alive and making full use of it. It’s also another year of unknowns, exploration and adventure; so I’m going to be conscious of being ‘alive’ during every moment of it.
There are a number of occurrences that often change my perspective on the world. Death is probably the most influential, when you realise how unimportant certain things are, but the start of a new year also has its way of encouraging reflection. I’ve been incredibly reflective post hike, as I’m sure many thru-hikers can relate to. Recently I discovered an entirely new way of looking at the world – underwater. Strangely enough just watching life occur in this foreign environment made me realise there’s so much going on around us that we don’t see. Maybe that’s another resolution for 2014 – always keep your eyes open!
Music: Memory Tapes, Swimming Field
Dentist – check,
Motorbike license – check,
Shed clean up – check,
Change of address – check.
I’m slowly ticking off the to do’s as I sit in the waiting room of the dentist this morning. They’re a bit of a grumpy bunch on reception. There’s been about 50 people call up for appointments today and all have been denied. They also wouldn’t let me tap into their wifi which seems a little unfair seeing it’s the season of giving and because they’ll probably be charging me a ridiculous amount for performing a basic task like brushing my teeth.
Between the activities mentioned above I’ve been trying my best to keep the body active and the mind entertained by going on a few short walks in various new locations.
On a recent bush walk down in Frankston, Victoria I came across two young girls who told me a tree had fallen across the path up ahead. They suggested I may not be able to get past and may want to turn back. I smiled, thanked them and carried on thinking, ‘they obviously don’t realise I just walked from Mexico to Canada, huh, how bad can this tree be?’
When I did reach the tree I realised their concerns were valid and was highly impressed that they managed to get past. Luckily I wasn’t wearing a pack because it required some fancy footwork and balance which I’ve obviously lost some of since the trail.
This is how an “experienced hiker” navigates a fallen tree… (in style)…
Wishing you all a Happy New Years Eve and see you in 2014!
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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!
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!’
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.