On turning a dream into reality

“People dream. They talk about escaping from it all. Their friends and family diligently listen and politely ignore it when the ruminations fade into oblivion. So quite a few eyebrows went up when I made this trip a reality.”
– Kristine K. Stevens

The objections people will come up with when you tell them you’re following your dream to escape it all are always the same. “What about your job?” “Who’ll pay your mortgage while you’re gone?” “Aren’t you a bit old? Isn’t it time you settled down?” All valid, responsible, grown up points that, ordinarily  I would take pause to consider. But, whether it was divine intervention, a quarter-life crisis, or the warning light of an imminent nervous breakdown, I finally hit my responsible adult threshold a few years ago and started taking my dreams a bit more seriously.

I think it was the sheer number of miserable ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’ people I saw around me that set it off. It is so easy to talk, so simple to say “if only,” “one day.” And its polite to smile and nod along when people talk about the fantasies you both know they’ll nevet fulfill. It’s the gracious thing to do, to raise a toast over the dinner table as your dear friend, fueled by a little liquid courage, announces their desire to quit their office job, escape the rat race, and finally pursue a career as a musician. We lift our wine glasses with a pitying smile for the poor fool.

But once in a while, a flight of fancy sprouts wings. Someone quietly works away on a dream when no one is paying attention. They’re planning out logistics, squirreling away money, formulating plans and contingency plans, all in the name of escaping it all. Maybe its a temporary escape, maybe its forever. Regardless, it does happen. It happens behind closed doors  with quiet confidence, while others go on belly-aching and complaining that it simply can’t be done.

For months I took great offense to everyone who doubted me when I said we were taking four months off life to travel the world. I got angry when they questioned the state of my career, finances and maturity. What I didn’t understand until we got on the road was that they weren’t actually questioning me at all.

They weren’t really losing sleep at the thought  that my husband and I might struggle to meet our mortgage repayments. They weren’t actually concerned that our jobs wouldn’t still be there for us when we got home. They in fact did not worry that we were being immature and irresponsible by up and leaving. They were suddenly very aware of the fact that they weren’t willing to do what it takes to turn their own dreams into reality. Their raises eyebrows weren’t about me at all.

Want to fail-proof your New Year’s Resolutions? Look to the moon.

So, it’s almost 2 weeks into January. I bet most of you set some resolutions, goals, aims, whatever you want to call them. I bet this isn’t the first year you’ve done it. And I bet some of you are already wavering on those lofty goals. That’s human nature – when we go all in and face a setback, it’s easy to throw in the towel. But it doesn’t have to be that way; I’ve found a way of setting my “resolutions” and goals that has meant that I’ve actually been achieving them, and it’s so much easier than I thought it’d be. Allow me to elaborate, because this might help you, too…

A little over a year ago, I came across this blog post written by the lovely Vanessa, and she instantly had my attention. She wrote beautifully about the meaning and importance of the cycles of the moon in her life, and it resonated with me incredibly strongly. After expressing interest in how she incorporated the moon phases in her life, Vanessa also kindly sent me an email, explaining a little more about how she lives by the moon. After a bit more reading of my own, I learned that as the moon goes through several phases while it orbits the earth, it is believed that each phase is a “good time” to do certain things or ask certain questions of yourself, starting on a new goal/dream/desire each new moon.

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It really hit me then – this was what I needed in my life. I’ve always been a goal setter, a list maker, a checker, someone who needs a target to aim for. I’m need my compass set in the directions of my dreams at all times, otherwise I’m totally lost. But it’s always been hard for me to know when to set aside to sit down and re-assess where I’m at – like most people, I tended not to do this until I was so lost and spun out of control, that 10 minutes of contemplation just wouldn’t cut it.

I’ve spent the last year living by the moon phases. And, unlike previous years, I’ve actually achieved a hell of a lot more than ever before; my typically unrealistic New Year’s resolutions hadn’t all fallen by the wayside a few weeks into 2016. By December 31st 2016, I had a lot to be proud of; physically, mentally, emotionally, materially, I’d made progress.

There is a truckload of information on meanings and methods available online (just Google “moon phases”), so I won’t give you all of the opinions and options out there – instead, I just wanted to write about what’s working for me.

 

First, I like to write each phase of the moon into my diary, so it’s front of mind. This will obviously be different depending on where you live, but I find this calendar to be pretty helpful.

Then, when I open my diary on January 12th and see I’ve written in there that it’s a full moon night, I set aside a bit of time before I go to bed to sit quietly (maybe outside under the moon if the weather is working with me, or up in my book nook), light some candles or incense, and reflect.

As I wrote before, it’s believed that specific moon phases align with specific situations and questions, and I did a lot of reading  about what was best to focus on in each phase. Again, there are a lot of different ideas out there, but I combined and condensed a few sources that made sense to me, and came up with the following list of questions; on each moon phase, I mull over the corresponding questions and write down anything I want to come back to…

NEW MOON
– a time of conception, new beginnings and starting new projects
what do you want to start? what are your goals? what do you desire?

 *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

CRESCENT MOON
– resolve is tested, time to grow and overcome fears
what do you fear? what do you need to guarantee the survival of your vision?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

FIRST QUARTER MOON
– a time to decide who you are and where you intend to go, time to reach a major turning point but facing outer resistance
– set your intentions and create an action plan

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

GIBBOUS MOON
– a time of waiting, a period of adjustment as you adapt to reality and limitations, time to gain perspective and see where changes can be made
–  what isn’t working? how can it be fixed?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

FULL MOON
– re-evaluate and come to a compromise between expectations and reality, any difficulties are learning opportunities whether you succeed or fail
– what difficulties have you encountered? what of your original goals have you manifested?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

DISSEMINATING MOON
– time for introspection and review, ask questions, share ideas, gain clarity, time to deal with the outcome whether you’ve achieved your goals or not
– review your original goal; are there any questions that need to be asked and answered? is there anything that no longer serves you that you can let go?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    * 

THIRD QUARTER MOON
– do you enlarge, rethink or replace your original vision? pull things apart and see them from a broader point of view, search for meaning
– review your original goal – enlarge, rethink or review? have you let go of the things you needed to?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

BALSAMIC MOON
– time to stop striving and rest/retreat, grieve any losses and let things come to their natural end
– spend some time alone to reflect on the cycle, consider what is coming to an end, clean your physical space, rest

 

And that’s the bare bones of it. If you’re really into it and astrology is your jam, you may want to create a more elaborate ritual. If you’re not really into the “hippy dippy” stuff, you may want to just use this more as a goal setting guide. But whichever way you want to look at it, I’ve found that being guided by the moon phases has made it so much easier to break down what I want and work out how to get it. It’s forced me to slow down, think things through, focus, ask the right questions of myself, and commit to my goals (after all, each moon cycle only lasts 4 weeks before you can “reset” your goals).

S2, Ep1: one year on, leaving my heart in New Orleans, and thanking you all

Don’t worry, you’re in the right place – it’s still me, I’ve just decided as a first birthday present to the blog, I’d honour the journey of the past 12 months a little better with a new and more fitting name, a facelift and a bit of a make over! A whole year… crazy!

I started this blog because I needed an outlet, and writing is what I’ve always turned to, as both a creative and emotional outlet. I’ve spent my whole life writing; even as a kid, I never went anywhere without a pencil and paper. When I started writing here 12 months ago, I was finally starting to find myself and what makes me happy instead of putting all of my energy into trying to conform to what I thought I was “supposed” to be. In short, I was feeling pretty ordinary. I had crazy dreams, but I, myself, felt an ordinary little thing. It’s a hard lesson to learn that you actually don’t need to give a damn about what other people think of your choices, nor do you need to justify what you’re doing to anyone else. The things I like doing are what this blog is all about – travelling and eating and cooking and reading and learning and exploring, hence the name change! It’ll also hopefully make things a little easier for people to find me in cyberspace amongst the plethora of other blogs out there.

I read something ages ago, and can’t remember where I read it, but someone had been interviewed and said that they thought of blogs as a sort of a high tech time capsule – once something’s on the internet, it’s there forever, like it or not. I like the idea that in 100 years, maybe someone else sees some of this, and knows what the world was like for me and my generation. How extraordinary our dreams were, what we worked for, what we ate and what we read. I don’t flatter myself that I’m interesting or important enough for that, but you never know…

So, even though I write this primarily for me (which is why I write and post pretty much every day; it is literally my outlet and keeps me sane!), THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to everyone who’s read what I’ve had to say over the past year. Thank you for taking time out of your day to look at my photos and read my stories and leave your comments and share it all with me – now, I’m writing for you guys, too!

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I’ve also given the site a little change in appearance and photos – I thought after a year it was time 🙂 This post explained a bit about why I chose that photo I took in Egypt as the photo you’d first see when you visited my blog. That’s changed now; the first image you’ll see now will be New Orleans. For the same reason that you saw Egypt for the first 12 months – that city changed me, again.

It’s hard to really explain why. It’s another world. It wasn’t America, it was something all it’s own. You couldn’t pigeon hole it or really pin it down. It didn’t really conform to anything or fit any one definite box. That’s how I felt as a person when I got to New Orleans. Which, ironically enough, made me feel like I finally did fit and belong. People there did their thing, their own thing, without any fear. They were free. As someone who’s spent the best part of her life held back by fear, I was hypnotised by the thought of it. I had a lot of time to sit and think, over a cup of tea and some Café du Monde beignets. I wanted to make some changes in this new year. I felt like 2014 was my warm up, my pre-game. I was preparing myself, mentally, for shit to get real. I had all these things I wanted to do, but was too scared to actually just try them. I might fail. People might judge me. It might be the wrong thing. Maybe I’ll regret it later. Maybe I’ll regret not doing it…

I saw a psychic in New Orleans. We’d never met, obviously, but she was disturbingly accurate on everything she told me. It wasn’t a case of “you’re doing to die at this time and win the lotto with these numbers;” rather, she put a voice to my inner thoughts. Things I’d been thinking for a long time and hadn’t shared with anyone, not my sister or best friend or husband. She confirmed everything I had been thinking about. It was almost like she was my way out of fear, the “it’s meant to happen for you, so just get on with it” that I needed. I bought myself a silver ring at a little silversmith on a tiny street to remind me of that.

I’m back home now and, having taken her advice seriously, things are changing. Or, rather, I’m changing things. I’m starting a new job next week. I’ve booked a trip to Japan for later in the year. I’m making time for real friendships and letting go of toxic ones. I’m trying to trust more and love more, despite the possible consequences. I’m looking after my body a little better. I’m making time to read and write and draw again and tinker on my piano. And the hardest part of all, cliche be damned, I am trying to follow my heart and disregard the preconceptions and judgments of others.

I might have only been there a few days, but New Orleans was so good for me. It changed my soul. I felt like a completely different person there, and I’ll never be able to fully understand why. Maybe it was being around musicians and cooks and writers and artists and bohemians – I’m a bit of all of those at heart. It gave me the one thing I desperately needed. I can’t tell you exactly what that was, but I got it there, and my soul feels so much happier now  : )  So, thanks for sticking with me this long, I hope you guys hang around for a bit longer, because even though I started this for me, it wouldn’t be the same without all of you! On that note, let the adventure continue!

Photo Journal: Winter wonderland in Central Park, New York City

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But seriously, how is it possible for a place like this to actually exist? Walking through Central Park a month ago felt like walking through an impossibly big movie set… everything was perfect. Every snowflake looked like it was exactly where it was meant to be, every leaf blown to just the right spot on the ground, every reflection off the frozen lake shining like it was unnaturally lit up.

I know you guys who live in New York must absolutely freakin hate this weather, I can only imagine how insanely inconvenient the weather has been of late, and I do feel for you – putting on that many layers of clothing is tedious, at best. But as a visitor, even a visitor who fell in the snow + ice + rain and tore her rotator cuff a little bit (yeah, I was that clumsy peanut), it was like walking through the most perfect winter dream

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So, how about those pyramids?!

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It seems only right that I start this venture with the main event that was the catalyst for the change in course of my life…

I was a dork of a kid, truly. While the other kids were out shooting hoops and jumping rope at lunch time, I was sitting on the side lines, either nose-deep in a book, or scribbling furiously in a note book. Even as a little 5 year old, grade prep. In fact, the only way mum could get me over my separation anxiety and back to school in prep was with a cool, spiral, sticky-note pad and some equally cool pencils. I took them with me, like a security blanket, and wrote and drew while the other kids were playing.

In, I think it may have been grade 3 or 4, I learnt for the first time about Ancient Egypt.  We learnt a basic little of the history and mythology, that they had gods and goddesses who governed all facets of life. It was a truly modern civilization that outdated anything else I’d ever heard of (which, at around 8 years old, was basically just the “Jesus era” we learnt about in Sunday school). We saw some pictures in books and on a projector, and something clicked inside of me. I was going to go there. Buggered if I knew how or when, but as sure as I knew the sky was blue, I knew I’d be going.

Over the next few years, I read more than a primary school aged child had any right to on Ancient Egypt. I distinctly remember one afternoon, mum, dad and my sisters going out with family friends, and I politely declining the outing to the park, as I’d just checked out a new book on Egypt from the library, and, devoid of any copiers, scanners, or other such devices (hey, it was the 90s!), I wanted to stay at home and copy information, diagrams, maps and pictures onto lined paper that I kept in a folder, along with the other information I was slowly collecting. I was 11 years old at the time.

Flash forward 14 years; I was 25 years old, had been married 6 months, and we’d been living in our new house all of 16 months. We went on a camping trip at Easter time in 2011, just the two of us, just two nights, just somewhere fairly local. We’d been a bit on edge for a few months, neither of us really knowing why. Over the camping trip, a completely life-changing conversation occurred. Lying on our blow up mattress in our tent one night, talking non-stop, we discovered that neither of us were happy; we didn’t want to be living in a big, beautiful 4 bedroom home on a third of an acre. We wanted a smaller house, closer to the city, that we could leave to travel at will. We both thought the other were happy in our big, beautiful, new home. Neither of us were. Our lives changed from that point.

We spent the next few hours talking about where we wanted to travel to, and the next day coming up with a budget and savings plan to get us on our way. We tossed up between a big USA trip and an Egypt/Euro trip; because I’m a stubborn little Italian and my husband is a saint, I won out, and we started saving in April 2011 for what was dubbed “EuroTrip 2013.”

We saved an absolute truckload of money over the next two years, put our house on the market to downsize, and I started work as a travel agent, and on March 15th 2013, we departed Melbourne for a four week trip around Egypt, Italy, Barcelona, London and Paris. My husband and I had been together for 8 and a half years at this point, and he knew what this trip meant to me – it had been my life dream for almost 20 years, and I’d saved and sacrificed, planned and studied my ass off to get us here.

No doubt I’ll write a lot more about my time in Cairo and Egypt in general in later posts, but this one has to be about the pyramids. They are Egypt. They are the first image conjured in the minds of the masses when they hear the word “Egypt.” And I was going to see them.

Driving through Cairo, we passed piles of garbage, stacked in gutters along the sides of the roads. The government and politics were shaky at the time of our visit, and our guide, Medo, told us that the government had shut down the garbage collection service at that point. Still driving through what seemed to be suburbs, he asked us what our first impressions were of the pyramids. “What are you on about?! We haven’t seen them yet!” He pointed out the window of our cosy little minibus. Our five jaws dropped in unison. There they were, towering over the now pathetic, small bridges and buildings we were passing. Holy crap… there they were.

Approaching the pyramids was surreal. Husband kept asking if I was ok because I was so quiet. Yup, I was ok. I was in shock, but I was ok. Was I seriously doing this? Me, who has been mediocre, average, extraordinarily and definitely NOT special my whole life, was I seriously here achieving my life goal? Yeah, I’m ok honey…

After viewing and photographing them from the viewing plateau, we made our way down through the maze of tour buses and sock-and-sandle clad tourists, to come up close with these … I’m not actually sure what word would sum them up to be honest! The individual blocks they were built from were bigger than me but an extraordinarily long way… they were truly something to behold.

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We were both speechless, as we stood before these monstrous monuments of a time long past. Long past, but still so vivid and clear. Made even clearer upon entering one of them… the small, precisely cut tunnels, the exact, right-angled corners of the rooms and inner sanctums, the elegant simplicity of the alter we saw.. Conspiracy jokes aside, maybe they did have some help from the aliens! How these magnificent structures were built by hand is truly incomprehensible.

Nothing could take away from this incredible experience for me – not the stinky camels, the pushy salesmen, the children looking for your money, not a damn thing.

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We climbed up a few blocks into one of the beauties, just sat there quietly, taking it all in… it was one of those incredibly rare moments in my life, maybe one of the first true moments, that I felt like I was exactly where I was meant to be, and that in that moment, everything was perfect.

There I was, on the other side of the world, at the age of 27, having truly achieved the dream that started at 8 years old… Against all the odds, I’d done it. And in that moment, endless possibilities opened up…