A Travellerspoint blog

Australia Part Deux- Sailing the Whitsundays


sunny 24 °F

“Bucket List" defined by Google (GTS) is "a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime." Urban Dictionary defines it as, "a list of things to do before you die. Comes from the term "kicked the bucket".

I haven't necessarily been too keen on adding things to a so called "bucket list" but if I did, traveling to Australia for an extended period of time would have been the first drop. Check.

And more specificly I have always dreamed of scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef. When I was still in primary school I was so mesmerized by Jacque Cousteau and his unparalleled adventures in the underwater world. So much that I was inspired at a young age to be a marine biologist. This was all well and good until I discovered that my fascination and love of the deep blue was matched only by my intense fear of being underwater. Not the best combination you might say. So I gave up my young aspirations of pursuing a water based career and continued a land locked education. All good, although the fascination of the ocean never left. I accepted at the time, the limitation.

Fast forward 20 years. My second trip to the Land Down Unda. After last year's debacle I was bound and determined to get to The Reef. To finally experience the underwater world I had had a love affair with for ages. A two night sailing trip in the Whitsundays booked, including one night spent under the stars anchored on the Outter Reef. Check.
Bait_Reef.jpg Bait Reef- Great Barrier Reef, Whitsundays, Queensland Australia

Adventure and excitement where the order of the week. Embarking on the flight from Sydney to Airlie Beach I knew it would be a stretch for me, but I wanted it so bad. So bad, I could taste the salt from the air. I was sure that 20 years of age and maturity, not to mention countless yoga classes and breathing exercises that I could overcome the voice of panic in my head and silence the fear.

It was a stunning trip of a lifetime. Perfect weather, confirmed by our Skipper Brent that it only happens 5 percent of the time. Smooth, crystal clear water and warm, beautiful Australian sun. We had a spent the previous day sailing and playing at Whitehaven Beach.

Outrageous. Legendary really. Snorkeling in the water that put to shame all the other snorkeling I had done in world renowned places as Malaysia, Costa Rica and Hawaii. I found a keen peacefulness from the surface of the water; gliding along the reef with schools of colorful fish, sea turtles and heaps of vibrant coral. I was sure I was ready to go down. To go under the surface and see what I had only witnessed on TV and National Geographic magazines.
coral_clownfish.jpgcorals.jpgmore_coral.jpgmore_fish.jpgturtle.jpgwhitetipped_shark.jpg ari.jpg
Previous photos courtesy of Ariana Tetai an awesome Kiwi, Chef and Photographer Extrodanaire. Thanks heaps Ari!

brent_tuna.jpg Skipper Brent...fresh tuna anyone? chris.jpg Chris, ever so patient diving instructor.

The next morning we geared up after a review of our technical scuba skills and it was time for the beginners to give it a go. Still at this point I had the best of intentions; I was all in. I wanted it so bad.
I wanted it so bad that I was sure my physical body would cooperate with the desires of my heart. But even in the hands of an incredibly capable and darling Aussie dive instructor I could not silence the panic. I couldn't even get my knees on the sand five feet below the surface. He gently pulled me under via my vest and I wouldn't even begin to sink. He added more weight, nice try. The bubbles rushing past my mask were extremely unsettling. What is this rubbish; I thought this was supposed to be peaceful? Everything but.

Yoga breath I coached myself...woosaba...

No chance, the panic had set in and my breath was intensely shallow and erratic. Frankly, I don't recall a specific barrage of thoughts about what could go wrong, it was literally like my body said, "woman, we bloody do not belong below the surface and there is no way you're gonna take me there!"
But I wanted it so bad.
After the third try I came up, I'm sure spewing four letter words. Chris was amazingly patient and after I gave the defeated nod he whistled for the skipper to come and fetch me in the tinder.

Salt. Tears. Defeat.

It was a tough disappointment to accept. After all, hadn't I lived for this moment?

In the weeks following this experience I found myself reliving the disappointment as if there was something deeper attached to it. As if I had been here before and this crushing defeat wasn't so unfamiliar and finally it dawned on me. I recognized that tightness in my solar plexus. The pang of disappointment in my heart. The gut wrenching reality of not getting what I wanted.

I had wanted my marriage to work so badly.

I had wanted to live happily ever after to the man I had committed to as my life partner. Till. Death. Do. Us. Part. Bloody hell.

Reality check, just because we want something with all our being does not make it so. There, I said it. Shall I say it again? Just because we want something with all our being will not will it into existence. I'm still working on accepting this limitation.

But all was not lost for either life experience. I've found a very keen sense of peace on the surface snorkeling and have even learned to dive down 3 meters to take a looksee at something fascinating and come up and clear my snorkel as if it were second nature. A trip to Rottnest Island, multiple snorkeling excursions and the patience of a cute Aussie bloke introduced me to these excellent adventures.
I'm concurring my fear of the ocean and replacing it with the awe and wonder I always anticipated. Slowly but surely I'm partaking of the adventures I always wanted; even though they look different than my cheeky expectations.

I'm satisfied beyond belief.

And the same goes for the broken relationship in my life. I have no regret, regardless of the heartache, grief and disappointment. Because this I know is true, nothing ventured nothing gained. I'm a risk taker, an adventurer and an eternal optimist. Even in the face of excruciating loss of the two things I've held dearest thus far in life: my dear Mum and my marriage.

Still. I. Rise.


Posted by Charlea 20:26 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Australian Slang


sunny 80 °F

Learning the Australian slang has been one of my favorite parts of my time in OZ. The newest addition to my repertoire, "tank slapper over the high side." I would like to say that this is some delicious new cocktail I sampled at the local pub, but alas it is not. This lovely colloquialism is used to describe when the rider of a pushy or motorcycle looses control and the tank slaps between the insides of the thighs and then dismounts over the high side of the bike. I learned this term in the most unfortunate way...first hand. Not 24 hours after I landed in Perth four weeks ago to visit a mate I met earlier on my travels; I was introduced to this slang which resulted in a fractured left collar bone and four fractured vertebrate. Not exactly the Yank style I meant to roll with on this adventure, most certainly not...insert several four letter words!

Thus I have experienced parts of the Aussie culture I hadn't intended to in any way, namely the ER and an overnight stay in Rockingham General Hospital. I will spare the gritty details but it was by far the worst pain I have ever experienced not to mention being stranded in a completely different hemisphere. As I lay in the ER, I am not sure which was worse, the actual physical pain or the realization that I had come all the way to Australia only to return home without seeing Uluru or the Great Barrier Reef. Due to the seasonal weather I had left the Northern Territory and Queensland for the end of my trip. The disappointment was overwhelming to say the least. I was devastated and I am still daily accepting that which I cannot change. I am already planning my return to the Land Down Under.

The one redeeming quality I can say for this experience is that I have lived in Australia, I'm not just a traveler anymore. I live in a real house and not a hostel or Airbnb. I walk on the beach and swim in the crystal clear aqua water just five minutes from the house everyday,large_IMG_4754.jpg
I take care of the 3 chooks who are now laying eggs, pick fresh figs from the garden for breakfast and even made fig jam yesterday. I am a willing passenger in the Ute to the shops for groceries and out to eat to the local pubs with the boys from work. We nipped up to Perth last Friday for an overnight and then a quick road trip down to the Margaret River wine region for the long weekend. I have been looked after better than I could have ever possibly imagined and been given the ideal place in which to begin healing the repercussions of my inability to successfully ride a pushy. Seriously, of all the dangers I had mulled over in my preparation for this trip, deadly snakes and spiders, sharks, saltwater crocs and box jellyfish just to name a few, wrecking on a peddle bike never even entered into my mind. They say 99% of what we worry about never happens...apparently its that one percent you have to look out for...(insert four letter expletives again!)

It has been a wild ride these past few weeks, no pun intended. I have struggled both physically and emotionally to accept the circumstances at hand. At first I could do very little for myself and had to rely on the gracious hospitality of virtually a complete stranger. Forever grateful and outrageously intense. And then there are those damned limited visions we give ourselves...expectations. Cheeky little bastards. I've recently read that expectations are just premeditated disappointments...don't I know. The internal dialogue I have had about what I had expected out of my trip and the process of relinquishing the anger from being diminished from an independent, competent world traveler with an agenda the size of Australia to a dependent, captive sook in someone else's space has been an emotional battle unlike I've encountered before. Welcome to Straya mate...how's that blind date going?

When I arrived in Perth I had not planned to spend the remaining five weeks of my trip here. But it has been an incredible blessing in disguise. Imagine that...life gave me something I hadn't planned, something completely out of my control and its turned out to be a gift. A gift wrapped in pain, disappointment, fear and confusion, but a tender and gracious gift nonetheless. In less than two weeks I will be on the plane back to America and my first trip to OZ will be over. Its not that I am not looking forward to coming home, its just that I don't want to leave, so I am doing my best to soak up each day I have left in this sun burned country, to suck the marrow out of life and bare witness to every last sunset I can.
As the Aussie's like to say, its heaps good. large_IMG_4862.jpg

Posted by Charlea 02:50 Archived in Australia Tagged #aussiesunset Comments (0)

Right Here... Right Now


sunny 90 °F

I'll admit that I thought keeping a blog would be easier than it has proved to be during my travels. Inspiration is everywhere and around every corner. Daily I contemplate what experience the next entry will reflect. By all means there is no lack of pen worthy moments and days. However, gradually it occurred to me that I was spending more time thinking about sharing what an amazing adventure I am having than I was just actually enjoying the moment and living in the now. How often I find myself thinking about tomorrow rather than just living today. How often I find myself judging the moment instead of living it.

Call it serendipitous, but I came across this quote on a recent wine tour into Hunter Valley a few hours outside Sydney.

It's amazing how often I catch myself thinking about the future. Not necessarily worry per say, but the habit of thinking about something else rather than living now. It has been a constant battle to continually bring myself back to the present, to continually remind myself that this present moment is the most important thing. How could this be that I am in Australia enjoying soul warming sun, beaches and the beauty of just taking one day at a time and I find myself back in Washington thinking about heaps of other things? Seriously, I must be demented. It occurs to me that I naively thought that my habit of "future tripping" had more to do with my current circumstances of crossing the finish line at work and preparing for my trip rather than the reality of the hard wired habit of my subconscious. It's not my circumstances that cause me to forget the present and live in the future. Rather I recognize it as another facade of my innate desire for control, to control the out come of everything. How incredibly ridiculous to think I know how it should all end, as if I know what is best? I know better. I do.

So as the days pass on this adventure of life it is my daily challenge to live one day at a time. To suck the marrow out of life, as if each day was my last. I know there is no guarantee of tomorrow; so today right here, right now, I live.

Posted by Charlea 23:27 Archived in Australia Tagged #allwehaveisnow Comments (1)


Anxiety and Excitement Feel a Lot Alike


Well...finally, here we are. You may be asking yourself, "who is we?" As my darling Mum would say, "me and the frog in my pocket." And that's about right, because that's all I've got right now...the courage and sense of adventure to embark on a #blinddatewithlife.

As I walked in the persistent tropical rain yesterday in Sydney; I came across Elizabeth's Bookshop and this was the window display. 90_IMG_3436__1_.jpg I thought to myself, what an unusual way to inspire a reader to by a particular book. Wrap it in brown paper, describe it in a few words and wait to see who is adventurous enough to pluck it from the shelf. Reminiscent of the choose your own ending books I read as a kid. Reminiscent of my current status in life, wrapped in it's own version of brown paper beckoning me on a blind date with life. I have no idea exactly what this three month journey holds for me, but that's the beauty. The beauty of relinquishing control and allowing oneself to be at the mercy of adventure. To show up fully present and let it all unfold as it should. That of course is not to say that it has not at times been wrought with heaps of anxiety. But as one of my very wise friend's reminded me, anxiety and excitement feel a lot alike.
Yes, yes they do.

This new found freedom is the result of an intentional choice, the choice to see the reality of my life and muster the courage to change. The courage to choose my own ending. For as long as I can remember growing up, the Serenity Prayer hung on a wooden plaque in my Mum's kitchen.

[i]God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change
the courage to the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference. [i]

Awe, yes the wisdom to know the difference, that has been an extremely painful but the most gracious blessing learned over the last three years. And to this day, I would make the same choices again. I would choose the deepest emotional pain and brokenness again and again if it meant I would be right here, right now. I've learned that life is not about avoiding pain or anxiety but about rising above our circumstances and finding the nugget of truth and grace in each experience. That is not to say that I am not still grieving the loss of my marriage, but the life lesson that has turned my world upside down is this: I am the only one that I can change, and the only one I have any business changing for that matter.
So here "we" are.

And that wooden plaque, it now hangs in my kitchen.

Posted by Charlea 20:41 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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