100 DAYS

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The countdown is on!

It’s officially 100 days until I embark on my next adventure. The thought is both exciting and depressing at the same time: exciting because I leave in 100 days, yet depressing because I still have 100 days to wait.

This got me thinking. Why is it that the prospect of travel is so magical, yet for some reason everyday life is not? Why do we count down the days until a trip, believing that the adventure only starts when we get on the plane? Why do we anticipate the future instead of living in the present?

Adventure, excitement and creativity are everywhere. These are not things that are reserved for travel. They can be found everyday in something as simple as a sunrise, a smile, a song, or a hike.

The idea of wanderlust has always captivated me, but it has only been recently that I’ve realised that it can be created. To wander is to be free, and as Tolkien so wisely put it, not all those who wander are lost. And lust does not have to come with the negative connotations that are so often attached. To have a lust for happiness, adventure and life is a wonderful thing. To create wanderlust is to embrace a lust for freedom, for adventure. Wanderlust is everywhere.

So rather than dwell in my depression for the next 100 days, I’ve decided to create wanderlust here at home. And I’m doing this through the #100HappyDays campaign. I’ll be searching for and documenting happiness everyday for the next 100 days. You can follow my journey on Instagram, and maybe even be inspired to sign up and start your own.

Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans. Don’t let life pass you by. Live in the moment, creating wanderlust every single day.

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TO MY 16-YEAR-OLD SELF…

Everything is always clearer through the lens of hindsight. You are able to see what you would’ve done differently, where you went wrong, or why things happened the way that they did. But you are also able to see what you have learned, either from the experiences themselves, or just through the passing of time.

These are some things that I wish I had known at sixteen. Some of them I did know, but didn’t believe; others, I have only learned by growing up. Sure, it wasn’t actually that long ago… But in the years that have gone by since then, I’ve become a completely different person to who I was as a 16-year-old.

So this is my letter to a younger version of myself. Things I wish that someone had told me while I was going through the chaos of my teenage years. And hopefully, it’ll be an encouragement to you if you’re still in them. They don’t last forever.

(If you were in my life at 16, please know that I really enjoyed my teenage years and I’m so thankful to everyone who was a part of them. You all really helped shape me into the person I am now. This is just a case of “if I had only known then what I know now…”. But learning from the past is all part of the adventure!)

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Validation is irrelevant 

Don’t ever let other people define your worth. My teenage years were filled with people trying to fit into a mould of what was considered normal. But I have some news for you: there is no normal. The status quo doesn’t exist. Everyone is unique – each person has their own likes and dislikes, their own interests, their own dreams and desires. Instead of suppressing what makes you different, embrace it because it makes you different! You don’t need other people to approve. Do what makes you happy. In the wise words of Dr. Seuss, “those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”.

Numbers do not define you

Society is constantly rating and ranking us, valuing us as people based on numbers on a page. Age. Height. Weight. IQ. ATAR score. Net worth. Income. I suppose at the forefront of my mind at sixteen was the ATAR. The score that determined your future. In reality, the only thing that the ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank – used for ranking students based on their performance in their final high school exams) determines is your university course. After your first semester, no one remembers their ATAR. It becomes irrelevant. And no matter how much pressure your schools and teachers will put on you, this score does NOT determine your future. So don’t let it rule your present.

It’s okay to feel

As a teenager, everything is up in the air – it’s a chaotic world, mentally, hormonally, and emotionally. Everything is magnified and intensified. But don’t try and suppress what you’re feeling. Embrace it, live it, the good times and the bad. Experiencing these emotions is what makes life so colourful. You need the dark times so that the highlights shine even brighter.

Heartbreak makes you stronger

Getting your heart broken is part of growing up. Whether it’s a relationship, a crush, or a friendship, people will let you down. Taking chances is important, but each time you do, you open yourself up to getting hurt. It’s scary. And it’s inevitable that some people will hurt you, whether it’s intentional or not. People will rip your heart to shreds, and then trample it into the dirt. But each time you have your heart torn in two, you learn to build walls – who to let in and what to let out. Being protective isn’t a bad thing. You’ll pick yourself up, carry on, and come out the other side so much stronger than you went in.

It’s not the end of the world

This leads into my next point. No matter how crushed, torn, bruised and broken you feel, life goes on. At the time it may seem like the end of the world, but when you look back on it as a much older and wiser twenty-something-year-old (I know sarcasm doesn’t translate into print…), you’ll realise how small and insignificant that moment in your life actually was. Or, better yet, how much you grew as a person because of it. Not to take away from the pain that you’re feeling now: yes, it’s real; yes, it hurts. But one day you’ll look back on that pain in an entirely different light.

It gets better

I promise you that it gets better. I don’t mean that life will get easier, that it’ll be all sunshine and rainbows from here on out. But you’ll be able to cope so much better with what life throws at you. The bullshit teenage years will end, and your adult life will begin. You’ll get to decide what you want to do, and who you want to be, and no one can tell you that you can’t chase your dreams. Life will begin.

THE POWER OF SIMPLY BEING

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Last year was one of the most intense and chaotic years of my life (aside from the death-sentence that is VCE, but that’s a story for another time…). At the end of 2012, I went on a month-long university study trip to Italy. It was insanely amazing (I’m sure I’ll one day write a post about that experience and the incurable wanderlust that I incurred as a result). Upon returning home to Australia, I madly rushed to hand in all the work required of the 12-credit-point course, as, understandably, I hadn’t done much study abroad. First semester, I threw myself back into uni, whilst simultaneously working to try and resurrect my severely depleted bank account. During my second semester, I was extremely lucky to be accepted into a six-month acting course at the National Theatre Drama School. It was an incredible opportunity, and one I wouldn’t hesitate to take again. However, 9 hours of night school, plus a full-time uni load and a part-time job hardly left any time to eat or sleep. Following this crazy semester, I took off for Europe again, studying in Italy followed by a Portuguese Christmas and New Year with my extended family. Needless to say, I returned in January this year feeling exhausted – mentally, physically, and creatively.

Before I go on, I just want to clarify something: despite the crazy whirlwind that was 2013, I don’t regret any of the decisions I made. I would do it all again in a heartbeat – the acting, the travelling… I was extremely fortunate to have these opportunities, and worked my ass off for them! I don’t look back and wish I could change the things that were; I constantly look forward, learning from every experience and using the tough times to make me stronger. It’s the difficult times that have the greatest impact on our lives, for better or for worse. I just always decide to make it for the better, living life with no regrets.

I found myself about to head into the first semester of the final year of my degree, and I was absolutely dreading it. I had taken a long and hard look at my life, and decided that whatever I wanted to do, I couldn’t achieve it in school. Life will teach you so much more than you will ever learn in a classroom. So I put my degree on hold for a semester (reassuring and promising my extremely worried mother that I would go back after a six month hiatus and finish my degree), and decided to do something that I had never done, not once, in my 20+ years of life: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Of course, this isn’t quite true. I still had obligations. I worked full-time (financing my next round of travelling!). But for the first time in my life I had no extracurriculars – no training, no assignments, and no stress. And it was beautiful.

I learned the power of just being. I took up yoga. I meditated. I ran. I read (for pleasure!). I drew, painted, wrote, and played my guitar for the first time in probably about 4 years. I was extremely selfish, and took six months to focus 100% of my energy on me. And something amazing happened.

When you escape the distractions and stress of daily life, you tap into a world full of creativity, possibilities, and dreams. There are no limitations. You allow yourself to wander, to grow, and to simply be. Getting to know yourself is such an important thing, especially when you’re at a point in your life (like I was) where everything is changing, and when you’re questioning and searching for a purpose. I learned the importance of taking time out, and of allowing myself to breathe.

Unfortunately, not many people share the same outlook as I do. It surprised me how many people asked me what I was going to do with my semester off. When I replied with nothing, they tried to tell me that I had to do something with my time. But no, you don’t always have to be doing something. Doing nothing is perfectly acceptable – more than this, it is extremely powerful.

Now, clawing my way through my final semester of university (only because of the promises I made to some very important people in my life; if not for these, I’m certain I would have dropped out), working, and planning my next adventure, my outlook on life has completely changed. Sure, I still want to punch my lecturers in the face for wasting hours of my life that I will never ever get back. Sure, I still have to work, because I know that I need money to not only live, but also to fulfill my incurable wanderlust. But I take time out every day to connect with myself. I do this through running, through yoga, through meditation, and through creativity. For you it may be different. But for me, these things lead me to find inner serenity and peace, and to find myself.

Life is busy, but you don’t have to be. It’s a choice. Live the way you wish to live, follow your heart, make your dreams your reality, and discover yourself.

Namaste.

MAXIMISE YOUR TRAVEL EXPERIENCE

When travelling, it is sometimes way too easy to become caught up in the excitement and chaos of exploring new cities and cultures. When this happens, you run the risk of becoming overwhelmed and exhausted, and your trip turns out to be one of rushing from one monument to the next, meeting deadlines and adhering to strict schedules. And this is NOT what travel is about! Here are my tips on how to maximise your travel experience – to get the most out of your journey, while also taking time to smell the roses.

(Although these tips are travel-based, you don’t have to be travelling to try them out. If you apply them to everyday life, I promise you will gain so much appreciation for every moment!)

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Explore the road less-travelled

While there is no particular order to what I’m about to present, this would definitely be my number one priority. I cannot stress enough how much more enriching your journey will be if you wander off the beaten track. Get away from the crowds, the tourists, the monuments, and explore the parts of a city that aren’t filled with obnoxious jean-and-runner clad tourists sporting fanny packs and neon caps. It is in the alley ways, in the local restaurants, that a city hides its charm. Don’t be afraid to explore.

Get away

Inevitably, there will be times of exhaustion and homesickness. The best cure is to escape – leave the city you’re in, and take to the countryside, the forest, the beach, the bush – somewhere where there are no people and no distractions. Climb a mountain, and take in the view. Swim in the ocean. Go hiking in a forest. Connect with Mother Nature, and you will come away feeling so rejuvenated and alive. A little break from playing tourist is not only good for you, but essential to ensure that you don’t become burned out.

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Eat like a local

Food is one of my favourite things about travelling. There are so many exciting and exotic cuisines around the world, and you are really doing yourself a disservice if you don’t try them all! Suss out where the locals eat, and you’ll avoid the nasty, overpriced tourist food that masquerades as authentic local cuisine. Try new things – you’ll be surprised! As a vegetarian, there are some things I will obviously never try. But experiment within your own beliefs and boundaries, and you won’t even care about the weight you’ll gain!

Document

The worst thing is to come home and not remember every single experience you had while away. Forgetting is inevitable, but it’s not unavoidable. The key is to document everything – photos, videos, journals. As an avid photographer, I’m never short on visual reminders about my experiences. A picture tells a thousand words, but it can’t tell you everything. It can’t always remind you how you were feeling, the story behind it, or the connections you made because of it. This is why I journal. It doesn’t have to be long and boring, just a few sentences about what happened that day, the people you met, and the conversations you had. Some days you’ll be able to write pages; others you’ll have merely a sentence or two. Length isn’t important. But you’ll thank yourself six months down the track when you’re reading through, nostalgic about the experiences you had.

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Be open to new experiences

It’s amazing how much more open to things you’ll become when you’re on the road. And this is a good thing! It’s so rewarding to force yourself out of your comfort zone. If you approach everything with an open mind, you’ll get so much more out of your travels. Eat new food, meet new people, ride a donkey, jump out of a plane, climb a mountain… Just do it. Conquer your fears, and live on the edge!

Connect with people

Meeting new people is one of the scariest but most rewarding things you can do. Make friends with locals, other travellers, Giuseppe the old pizza man… Listen to their stories, learn about their culture, and take an interest in their lives. Travel is meaningless if you don’t make these connections – it becomes a selfish, inwardly-focused act instead of a way to connect with and explore the world. Of course, you do have to use discretion – the man with the gun in the alleyway at night is probably not looking to make friends. But overwhelmingly, people are nice. People are interesting. Don’t judge people based on how they look, or what they’re doing. The people who don’t conform to the status quo often have the most exciting and unique lives and stories to tell!

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Connect with yourself

Travelling will tell you more about yourself than anything else in the world. It’s the only thing in the world that you can spend money on and actually come out richer. Learn about who you are, what makes you happy, what makes your heart break, and what makes you unique. Everyone has a story. Write yours.