Feeling the fear and doing it anyway (with a little helping hand).

falls 8

The sensible side of my brain suggested I just ‘sit this one out’ as we pulled up for a swim at Josephine Falls in Cairns, Australia.

Because ‘I had just washed my hair’ and ‘I’ll be damp for the rest of the car journey’ and ‘I have just gotten over a cold,’ as well as other things your mother might say.

But, as I’m all over this ‘living in the moment’ thing, off I went to give it a try.

I cautiously stumbled my way along the wet, slippery rocks and, after tripping over twice (gravity has a way of messing with me like that) I dipped my toes into the ice cold water before deciding that ‘nope, I don’t want to do this.’

Here I am, being helped across a rock. They were REALLY slippy, really!

Here I am, being helped across a rock. They were REALLY slippy, really!

I did not want to swim in the ice cold, not so clear, waters. I did not want to drag my so pale and cold it was nearly blue body any further than I’d already made it. And I sure as hell didn’t want to join those crazy kids whizzing down that collection of rocks and water that they were calling a slide.

The 'Slide'.

The ‘Slide’.

My boyfriend, my friends and every other tourist in the world hopped into the water, totally not phased, while I stood and wondered why an earth I was so worried?

Well, I was so worried because fear and anxiety have a way of catching you out like that. When you least expect it, they’ll just creep up on you and say ‘by the way, you’re not up for this!’ and there’s not much you can do, apart from maybe cry.

So yep, I was standing half-naked, clinging to a rock, in front of a bunch of happy splashy swimmers and my eyes began to fill with tears. (I did have to take another look around to confirm that, no, it was not 1995 and, no, I was not on a primary school swimming trip.)

A man’s persistent shout finally drew the ever-growing attention away from me. (OK, so the happy splashers were more interested in enjoying their holiday than in little miss weepy, but it felt like they were staring.)

“Violet!” he shouted, over and over again.

He was trying to coax his daughter down the ‘slide’.

She was five years old and she was scared too.

I could almost hear her thoughts as she sat at the top of the rocks looking around and assessing the situation.

What if those rocks fall on my head? What if I scrape my bum on the way down? What if I can’t swim once I reach the bottom? And how cold is it EXACTLY?

Violet looked over to her Mum to gain some sort of approval that this was OK to be doing (she’d obviously already worked out that Dad’s ideas were not always to be trusted) and Mum responded with a big thumbs up. (Note that Mum was intent however on not taking part in the sliding. I imagine it was something to do with the fact that she’d just washed her hair, or didn’t want to be damp in the car, or was just getting over a cold.)

But just as little still unconvinced five year old Violet was about to give up, to forget all about this silly idea and to spend the rest of her day warm and with freshly washed hair, her big sister stood close and held out her hand.

Violet took a long look at it, and then, just like that, she smiled, grasped it tightly and let her sister guide her to the starting point. And finally, off they went, hands entwined, giggling and squealing and spluttering with excitement all the way down.

“At last Violet!” I thought. And then I stopped, and took a long hard look at my 25 year old self.

And, as I continued to assess the entire situation, my lovely, patient (SO. VERY. PATIENT.) friends held their hands out to me too.

I grabbed them. They led the way to the top of the rocks and I grasped on tightly, screamed A LOT, and we all giggled and squealed and spluttered our way down with even more glee than the actual kids.

There I am at the back, screaming and clinging on for my life.

There I am at the back, screaming and clinging on for my life.

And it got me to thinking about the difference a helping hand or three can make when you’re feeling a bit wobbly.

Just knowing that someone gets your worry is big enough. But having a person, or even people(!), that are willing to grab you by the hand, to tell you it’ll all be OK, that you might even have some FUN, and even to drag you through the scary, slippy, rocky bits if they have to. Well, that’s bound to have you squealing and giggling with excitement once you make it out the other side!

So next time something, anything, (going down a slide for Christ sakes) makes you feel all swirly in the bottom of your tummy, and your brain tells you all the reasons why you shouldn’t: Grab hold of those precious helping hands and jump right in!

Start feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

Take the plunge. Into the deep end. And make a splash.

You’ll be glad you did.

Splashing and I think...smiling!

Splashing and I think…smiling!

 

 

Advertisements

On getting lost: even when you know exactly where you are.

let's get lostSo I was standing in the middle of an Australian street, sweating in the 35 degree heat, with a map in my hand and a puzzled look on my face, when a lady – a total stranger – bothered to turn her car around in busy traffic, pull over beside me and ask where I was looking for.

Being a newbie to the country, I had no phone, no internet, and absolutely no sense of direction (though the last bit isn’t technically the fault of the whole new country thing.)

So, the lady – Cindy, FYI – googled the address on her phone for me. She even called the location to check the address details. And THEN she offered to drive me there.

No sooner had I hopped in, we’d arrived at my destination and she was wishing me ‘a great day!’ before smiling, pulling away, and continuing with the rest of her life.

My first thought: I hope she doesn’t notice that I sweated all over her seat.

My second thought: That would never happen in England!

But then, what if it would?

See, while I was praising the kindness of Australians (obviously this one kind act was a reflection of the entire population) and cursing my hometown for its apparent rudeness and ignorance, it got me to thinking that actually:

I’ve never let myself get lost enough to find out.

Back home, in my little town, in my little bubble, everything is in the same place it’s been for all of the other 25 years I’ve been there. My car would get me from A to B and sometimes C and then back to A again. And I’d never get to speak to strangers (mainly because that was the NUMBER ONE rule of life according to everything we were ever taught from ages 1-18), but also because everyone was so familiar, and I didn’t need to.

(OK, so there was this one time where I picked up a hitch hiker called Len because I was having a ‘why not’ moment. And, although Len was a very nice chap, with funny ‘on the road’ stories that he seemed delighted to share, it was such a spontaneous trip in such close proximity to a stranger that it turned out feeling more weird than exciting. And my friends and family have since informed me that it’s just not the done thing.)

BUT, how about, without necessarily having to let any strangers into any cars, we just start popping our little bubbles from time to time.

Why don’t we get a little bit lost, so we can discover the kind people or pretty places or quirky things we mightn’t have known otherwise…all the way back.

And who knows, you might even get to meet Len!

Note to self: have a little faith in your decisions. Because, WHAT IF?!

I’ve been busy getting lost..but now I’m back!

And have I got some stories to tell you?!

It’s been a crazy, gorgeous, wild few months full of adventure and LOADSA COOL NEW STUFF! There’s so much to say, and, luckily, I’ve left months worth of absent blog space to fill you in on. So, I’ll start from the top.

Remember when I said I was going to give up my job and jump on a plane to the other side of the world and see what happens?

Well, I did it! I mean, I’m doing it! Right now! Hello, here I am, doing the big huge thing I said I would.

Bon Voyage

And as much as I wish wish wish I’d have blogged about all the cool stuff I was up to along the way when I first set off, to be totally, brutally, honest: I was too shit scared that it all just wouldn’t work out. So I kept quiet. Just. In. Case.

I created an imaginary story in my head A LOT about how terribly wrong it might go. A story where my boyfriend had to drag me to the airport while I screeched ‘don’t let them take me’ over and over again. A story where I’d have an imaginary breakdown on the plane because it turned out that I did want a desk job and a routine and security after all. A big fat made up story where I imaginary wailed that I’d be stuck with a boy for too long (and he with me, finding out how actually awful and unbearable I really am) and we’d have an imaginary break up and he’d send me straight home, which in fact was fine because I was imaginary guaranteed to hate every second of the trip anyway.

My cheeks physically flushed when I imagined that after all the ‘guess what I’m doing’ facebrags, Twitter announcements and smug conversations, that I’d have to report back that: hey guys, I’m home, I lasted three days.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, as always. Because I now know that even if my year long plan I’d smugly told the world about time and time again did go tits up and fail, there’d always be something to learn from it, something to laugh about, a great story to tell.

But, guess what: it didn’t fail! That’s right, I’m still here, on the other side of the world, and I’m only bloody loving life!

In fact, I’ve been so busy loving life that I’ve not given myself any time to reflect on it or to think about what I’ve learnt, or to tell you about it.

So, now I’m all kinda settled in my new little life by the beach with my boyfriend and my friends and a new job and a new apartment and not a sign of failure in sight, it’s time I started telling you about all THE STUFF!

About the people and the feelings and the friends and the changes and the newness and the world and and and..

But, in the meantime, a little reminder to myself, and to anyone else who needs it: have a little faith in your decisions.

Because the only way to know is to give it a go. And what if, WHAT IF, it turns out to be the best decision you ever made?

What if I fall?

On saying ‘yes’ to…oh just a LIFE CHANGE!

Remember how I started to say ‘yes’ to life? Well, I may have gotten a little carried away and decided to say yes to quitting my job and travelling the world!

Oops.

Deciding to pack up my desk and spend life on a beach for a year might seem like the easiest decision in the world to make, but ducking out on a great and more importantly safe career, well that’s just crazy isn’t it?

I mean, to go from living at home with my family, a ten minute drive from work and my best friends, twice weekly date nights with the boy and a familiar face at every corner of my little world, to the other side of the big wide world, where everything will be different, is madness right?

At first I definitely thought so.

But you see, now that this is ACTUALLY HAPPENING, I’m beginning to wonder if it would be even crazier for me to stay exactly where I am.

Whilst I do love a routine – work, gym, friends, shopping, date night, drinks, staying in with a good book, repeat – I also love to be spontaneous, to meet new people, to be curious about the world, to do as little as possible for hours on end, to try new things and to be completely inspired, but my lovely little routine just has this habit of getting in the way.

So I’ve just gone and said ‘yes, go on then!’, and now me and the boyf will be heading for hot springs in New Zealand and island hopping in Fiji, for a cruise along the Australian coast without a single routine in sight. Sure, we’ll be in a tiny hot campervan for a while, just the two of us, every day, on a budget, where there’s snakes and spiders and scariest of all a suitcase for a wardrobe (OK, can I change my mind now?) But the thought of doing something I never thought I would or could? Well to put it lightly, I’m so excited I could bloody pop!

I know it’s not for everyone, HELL it might not be for me, but I’ll never know unless I give it a try. That’s why in 60 days from now (nope, not counting) I’ll be jumping on a plane for a big adventure down under, and hey, maybe even out of one too! (Sorry Mum.)

And, apart from the time I turned up to a hotel and I’d actually booked it for the previous night, oh and the one where I left my suitcase on a train and had to buy face wipes, pants and a toothbrush from the station, oh and that time in Paris where the tube doors shut on me before I could leap on to my friends and I had to wait for them to come back and get me, yeah, apart from those things, I’m all set for travel!

10 bikinis - that's enough, right?

10 bikinis – that’s enough, right?

Any words of support would be greatly appreciated – I’m sure you’ll agree I’m going to need them!

The apple of my eye: New York City

Times Square

It was everything I had imagined and more.

Stepping out of the subway station and on to Times Square, I stood frozen for a minute and took it all in; the flashing lights were so bright and flashy and flooded the entire street as far down as I could see, I gawped up at the tall concrete block buildings that reached into the clouds, and then I was knocked sideways by a costume Elmo – yes, I hadn’t imagined that bit.

Before I left for the big city, once new passport was safe and bags were packed, my Grandpa told me how much he’d have loved to have gone to New York but that he’d never had the chance. I hate that, when old people talk about things they didn’t get to do, in that tone of voice where they resign themselves to the fact they’ll never get to experience something in their lifetime, that it’s probably too late. Well then Gramps, I thought, it’s time for me to make some big fat memories for the both of us!

Here’s a few of my memory making moments:

Ground Zero

Ground Zero

This was pretty amazing; the two huge fountains that represented each tower were breathtaking, and the names of all those lost in 9/11 engraved on a gold panel around the fountains only added to that emotion. It was fascinating to walk around the surrounding area and see pictures of destruction against the fantastic re-builds.

  • Tickets were free to enter the memorial but a donation of $5-$10 was suggested at the desk.

Central Park

Central Park Skating1

Central Park Skating

What a beautiful place, particularly in the winter time, although it’s the coldest I’ve ever been, the frost and snow made it even prettier and more magical. My favourite memory of the whole trip has to be ice skating in Central Park. It was New Year’s Eve, the sun was well on its way down and I was skating around – once I’d eventually let go of the sides, that is – I looked up at the grand buildings that surrounded the park and I realised I didn’t have a single care in the world, it was one of those ‘wow’ moments where you just breathe it all in – in fact, it was bloody perfect.

  • It was around $18 to skate and $8 for skate hire, but these were Christmas and New Year prices so it does vary dependent on timing.

Broadway Show

Avenue Q

We’d stood in the discounted ticket line for far too long to turn back at the last hurdle, so our only option was to buy tickets for a ‘technically’ ‘off Broadway’ show, called Avenue Q – (though one of my very favourites so I didn’t much mind personally, can’t say the rest of the group were overly thrilled having never heard of it!) But, I was confident it would be enjoyed and, thank god, it was. It was absolutely fantastic. It was hilarious, the singing was amazing and the acting was too. Avenue Q is a show that covers all sorts of social struggles/taboos, from money, class, love and sexuality to careers, marriage, race, and a bit of porn thrown in too, all hysterically portrayed by puppets and their incredibly talented puppeteer partners – what’s not to love?!

  • We queued by the red steps in Times Square for around an hour in a bid to get discount show tickets. We had four of the available options in mind as the stewards had advised us to do, but none of our four options were available by the time we reached the front of the line. If you do have your heart set on a particular show or a classic at least, I’d definitely suggest paying full price to buy from the box office as they didn’t appear a huge percentage cheaper anyway. However, if you’re feeling open-minded and willing to take a chance on any amazing show on Broadway at a discount price then the red steps queue is for you!

Grand Central Station

Whispering Wall

Well, regardless of the fact that I’m used to the, let’s say, slightly less glamorous buildings of where trains depart, this was the grandest train station I’ve ever seen. It had the tallest, most intricately detailed ceilings with the biggest atrium and dining concourse.The whole time I was there I was hoping for a flash mob to begin like in the film ‘Friends with Benefits’, but no such luck. We managed to find the whispering wall – one of the alcoves outside of the dining concourse which has great acoustics through the ceiling so you can talk into one corner of the wall and can be heard loudly and clearly in the other corner. There’s no sign that it’s there so you just have to look out for people whispering into a wall. And, when people walk past and look at you like you’re mad while you whisper into said wall, it kind of feels like an exclusive little secret for those in the know.

Times Square – New Year’s Eve

New Year's Eve

We knew we were crazy for joining the crowds of Times Square on New Year’s Eve, we were made certain of the fact we were crazy by many people’s general response to our plans being, ‘you are crazy,’ and our craziness was finally confirmed as we stood in a crowd of a million people, in minus 5 degrees Celsius, for 6 and a half hours, waiting for a sparkly ball to drop from the top of a pole to the bottom.

We arrived at around 5.30pm and were ushered through the barriers like cattle, undergoing various police checks and filing through to the next lot of barriers until there was nowhere else to go. We ordered pizza into the crowd which was a major highlight during the long wait for midnight, and ordered hot drinks too but daren’t drink much for fear of needing the toilet, as once you were out there was no getting back in. We watched, through the windows of the warm looking restaurants, the TV coverage of the stage that we could neither see or hear, and attempted to ‘make our own fun’ the rest of the time (though there’s only so much charades you can play when hands and nose and arms and toes are frozen to the core.)

I was so excited when it finally reached midnight that I forgot to actually watch the ball drop! Guess I’ll have to go again next year – no, that’s definitely a joke, as when people say ‘you’ll only do it once,’ they’re absolutely correct. I’m not saying the atmosphere at midnight wasn’t amazing, because it really was, and I can tick it off ‘the list’ too.

  • I’d say if you’re going to brave the long, cold night anyway, get to Times Square at around 3pm if not earlier, that way you’ll be able to see the stage entertainment, mainly to take your mind off your fingers and toes falling off. And wrap up warm, as a vest, a t-shirt, a long-sleeved top, a jumper, a hoody, a coat, three pairs of tights, one pair of leggings, one pair of jeans, two pairs of socks, some snow boots, a hat, a headband, some earmuffs, two scarves and two pairs of gloves only just cut it!

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller

The best New Year’s Day hangover cure I could ever recommend! I can’t remember a year where January 1st wasn’t spent on the sofa, in pyjamas, gorging on leftover Christmas chocolate and promising that New Year’s resolutions would eventually commence. To say this was different would be the biggest understatement. I must say I rather preferred standing at the top of one of the tallest buildings in New York and watching the sunset over the stunning city. This, was another ‘wow’ moment.

Speakeasy Bar

Speakeasy Bar

Raines Law Room Bar was one of the coolest places I’ve ever visited, once we managed to find the hidden underground drinking hole that is. Along an average street stood an inconspicuous black canopy which led down some steps to a little black door. On knocking, a little man opened the door by candlelight and poked his nose out with a whispered ‘can I help you’ – think Charles’ Dickens meets Harry Potter with a splash of The Borrowers. We were ushered quickly inside, our coats taken, and were shown to our very own booth surrounded by black curtains with a and an exposed brick wall, with a small chain attached to the wall to call for waitress assistance. The quirky dark alcove felt so secluded and the quiet hum of conversation and tinkling of glasses was such a far away atmosphere from the noisy hustle and bustle of the busy streets above. And the cocktails were pretty delicious too!

  • There are lots of speakeasy bars throughout the city, each with their very own distinctive decor theme and sense of character. The price to pay for the most unique and stylish hangouts in town is on average a mere $14 a cocktail – I’ll drink to that!

Doing something you could do at home and enjoying it so much more..

Friends

It’s so funny how you can travel across the world and have the biggest brightest city right on your doorstep, yet still find so much enjoyment, laughter and comfort from being in a warm house, in snug clothes, drinking (beer – reluctantly), chatting and playing silly games with friends. So I may not have had to take a 12 hour flight for that particular experience, but it was such a great addition to the memories.

Rockefeller Christmas Tree

There are so many more touristy top spots we managed to visit, especially when we got snowed in and our flight was cancelled so we had to stay in New York for four extra days (I know, poor us!) But once again, that’s a whole different story..!