Back in the saddle

 

Welcome to my very first blog.  I’m Mrs Robinson and I’ve decided its time to share my  interesting or maybe funny divorce journey.  There’s been a lot of infamous Mrs Robinson’s and one was even credited with a song, the naughty minx! Along the way, I will also be sharing some tips on having a happy positive life after divorce.  No, divorce doesn’t kill you although at some stage you actually think it might with all the ridiculous arguments that comes with it. Yes you can get through it and do all those things you always wanted to do.  I will also share some of my travel stories since divorce.  Yes you can backpack in your 30’s and visit those inspirational places you always wanted to see.

But let’s get back to divorce. With more and more people divorcing these days and I’m still not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. I mean, should we stay in an unhappy marriage for the sake of it and work at it for your children, or should you leave and work at repairing yourself and the people around you that have long suffered your moaning about your marriage for god knows how long.  If you’re like me and didn’t have any children, then the decision was far too easy.  I left.

Let me give you some background as to how I came to be where I am.  You see, I was married for 18 years, he was married for 6 months!  Yes the old infidelity strikes again.  I knew this from the start and still married him, but I was young and naive.  But please don’t get me wrong.  I’m not a woman scorned and I’m still amicable with my ex.  We did have some amazing years. I know, I know, that’s weird to some, but I don’t believe in holding grudges and I’m really to old to be bothered anyway.  At this age I can barely remember to put a bra on each day, let alone remember to be angry at someone.

So after divorce and having had my own business for 18 years I was completely lost.  What do I do!  I had no valid credentials on paper, even though I had been the CEO of a lucrative financially wealthy business for so long that we had started from nothing, I had no degree.  It seems no-one wants to employ you unless you have a degree.  But that’s a whole other story and please don’t get me started on that.  When I left I was completely broken and I was completely lacking in confidence on how to survive on my own.  To add to that, I was fairly well known through business and it seems everyone had something to say about the fact that I was ‘on the market’.

Now I hadn’t dated since I was 16 when I first met my ex hubby.  So this confident business woman was now trembling in her size 5 heels.

So that brings me to ‘what the hell am I doing next’.  I did what any self serving, business minded, intelligent woman would do.  I became a Real Estate agent.  Yes, I know, your laughing.  But this venture turned out to be a great one.  I had to promote myself, otherwise you didn’t make the sales.  And this was the best thing I could have ever done.  It built my self confidence and let people know I was still a serious business woman that can take care of herself and not have to rely on my man.

But I soon got bored of this and after a few years I decided the unthinkable and moved clean across the world to live.  A fresh start and I have never looked back.

So this brings me to another area of life.  Getting back in the saddle in the world of dating.  Actually perhaps saddle isn’t quite the right word, after all, we ride on saddles!

Right I’m Single!

Single, Invigorating, Naughty, Gorgeous, Lunatic, Erratic!

Heres ‘The Rule Book’

I teach myself happy and confidence methods all the time, but I still cant seem to get myself on the dating scene.  I’m at the peak of my life, lets say between 40 and 55 years old, because a woman never tells her age, but I look like I’m between 30 and 40 and have  been on four dates throughout my entire life.  I’m terrified of it.  I’ve never done it.  I don’t know if I can do it and the more I tell myself this the more terrified I become.  I can meet a man in a pub and chat for hours, maybe even enjoy it, but the second he asks to see me again I retreat faster than Custer’s last stand!

Now don’t get me wrong, a girl does have needs and the odd one night stand might have surfaced.  This was another completely new area for me.  I was young when I met my ex and my experience with men was limited. But guess what.  You CAN teach an old dog new tricks. Wink wink.  But the dating scene made me feel physically sick.

Note to self: I intend to meet my perfect man by falling in front of him, looking up and falling madly in love, he will then sweep me off my feet and whisk me away to some tropical destination to live happily ever after.

Simple.  That’s how it works isn’t it.  That chance encounter, you fall down, he picks you up, you look up into his eyes, that steamy look, love at first sight, everlasting love.  Right, perfect, here I go.

Step 1 – add myself to every dating website possible.

Result – a wink, hello gorgeous, hey sexy or your hot message from everyone of the most unsuitable men around the globe.  I only seem to attract 20-30yr olds looking for The Cougar, “an older woman experience”, or over 60’s men looking for a younger woman.  It seems to be an impossibility to meet a man my age when they all want are younger woman.  Am I doomed to be with Mr Retired at my age?

Step 2 – For the first time, I will actually let someone take my phone number instead of giving out a false one, blowing them off or disappearing before they get the chance to ask.  If I take their number, it’s a no goer from that moment, as I will never pluck up the courage to message them.

Result – Cheeky buggers who are just after a bit of fun and whom I had obviously had met when I had ridiculously ginormous beer goggles on the night before, which also results in them consistently texting me in the middle of the night when they are suitably tanked for a, ahem, “booty call”.  Now I know I can be cheeky but come on, 3am and I will pop my eyes open and say why of course, come round and jump into bed with me.

Step 3 – Let my friends set me up with a friend

Result – My friends taste in men are nothing like mine and moving forward I awkwardly have to see these men I have rejected, every time we go out as a group.

Result for this is an all round uncomfortable time….
Result for that is to drink more…..

Result for that is a drunken night…

Result for that is back to Step 2 results of ginormous beer goggles

Step 4 – Get a hobby.

Result – still trying to find a man that likes knitting.

But in all seriousness, I would love to hear from some other divorcees, male and female on their experiences.

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Not a Cloud in the Sky

Greece, the home of ancient ruins and every inch of it with reminders. We came from chilly winds to 40 degrees plus. What a culture shock. I arrived on the small island of Kos, just off the coast of Bodrum, Turkey with three Australian friends on this tropical island. Palm trees lining the beaches and blue skys, (and I mean blue, every single day for three months, I never saw one single cloud.) After two weeks of partying and lazing at the beach it was time to find a job. Very, Very easy. Every pub needing P.R people (Kamakis) and bar people. The only trouble is the hours. We worked 8pm till 6am and had one day of a week. Which was usually spent at your bar or any of the others.

Drinks were always free for staff and there was no rule on how much you could drink. Every single morning you staggered home intoxicated. FOR THREE MONTHS. I never missed a sunrise. Unbelievable what the human body can cope with. Each town has a bar street. In the main Kos town were I worked it was a small square with intertwining streets. Not big enough for vehicles.  The small streets packed every night with people from every nationality. Mostly Swedish, Danish and Swiss. Most of the bars catered for them. There was even a smaller version of bar street called, funnily enough, small  bar street, that only had Scandinavian bars. We worked, we drank, we slept. That was about all you could do.

Awaking at around 2pm, to hot to go anywhere except the beach or our swimming pool. Our complex had over 300 apartments, all full of workers. The antics that happened every day an eye opener. Constant pool parties and visitors to your apartment. The rest of the complex for some reason taking a liking to ours. A 4 bed apartment only 25euro each per week. Earning only 30euro a night was plenty. You could also get up to 20euros a night in tips.  You could eat for around 4-5euros a day and of course the alcohol free. In fact the bosses preferred you to be drunk so that you would have a good laugh with the paying customers. Everywhere you walked there were some kind of roman ruins to look at. Magnificent cities, crumbling. Some of the bars had once been ancient bath houses made of stone. Amazing! I visited the tree that Socrates` practiced his medicine under. Huge, but split in two over time. Still growing thanks to some helpful scaffolding. A huge castle overlooked the sea across to Turkey.

Our harbor was lined with magnificent boats. They looked like they were hundreds of years old. Built from glorious timber and massive sails. But upon speaking to a captain, most were a little over 5-10 years old. I took a boat trip to other islands, so close and very small. Just one day and I had visited 3 different ones. Another short 40 minute day trip and I was in Turkey. Visible from our island waterfront.

The markets there unbelievable. Dolce` gabana handbags, 6euros, Nike shoes 10euros. All copies of course. Thousands of people yelling, bartering for a better deal. 40degrees plus and you can‟t move for the people. The heat was unbearable and I felt faint the whole day. We sometimes dragged ourselves out of bed early and hired motorbikes. Four- wheelers for the girls, two for the boys. This is the most popular form of transport. How funny it is to see a family of 5 people of one scooter. Sometimes a child less than 2 standing in front of the driver holding the handlebars, as natural as can be. No helmets, these weren‟t even considered. Somehow it‟s a completely different feeling riding around on a motorbike in front of tropical beaches with just a bikini and a pair of sunglasses on.

The beaches were jam packed with rows and rows of sun lounges. Music blasting through loud speakers and cute men and woman who were there to serve you food and drinks. Most women not knowing what a bikini top was.

The entire place is full of tourist shops, and bars and restaurants. All the restaurants serve the same food, the same looking menu and the same two for the price of one deal on cocktails and a free shot of some ungodly concoction. Every bar has an offer. Up to 6 kamakis pulling at you to join there bar. Offering several free shots if you enter. You could simple walk to every bar and get drunk on the entrance drink. Woman dancing on every bar, as did we the bar staff. Every night there were tour groups that came through in groups of up to 60. Each bar connected with a different travel agency for their business. And as usual, trays and trays of free shots ready to hand out for every person in the tour.

Every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday was change over day. New groups arrived and the old left. You said goodbye to your regulars and made friends with the new ones. Each week we were told how many were arriving. Surprising to hear, 600 Swedish today, 1500 English tomorrow. This small island, so small that you could drive from one end to the other in couple of hours.

While there, the island experience a number of earth quakes, not large but enough to scare you. We were warned were not to go. The old town, a town built hundreds of years ago. Small footpaths barely wide enough for two people with rows of stone shops joined together. The shops there full of tourist trinkets. From expensive jewellery to a 5euro pair of Nike sunglasses. Everything so cheap, no tax. Cigarettes, only two euros. Barely five dollars. One litre of vodka, £2.50. And no limit through customs on how much you can purchase when leaving.

I was also there for the final of the euro 2004 football. The night Greece won was full of emotion. Not a fight or angry voice in sight. Singing Greeks, Massive national flags laid on the ground and worshiped. Tears from full grow men just proud to be in their country. The Greeks are a very proud race. There small simple homes, immaculate. Not a speck of dirt in sight. The footpaths, very difficult to walk along for there are trees in the middle of them. Every Greek person that lived by a tree was out watering them everyday. Keeping there country breathtaking in every way.

The Olympics, another great experience. Erupting cheers as they won each gold medal. Every pub with a big screen T.V. Bar street is lined with thousands of cane chairs and tables, filled with people, every night. Beyond them, rows and rows of trees laden with ruby red flowers, and beyond that ancient ruins.

By the end of October most have closed down, the bars, the restaurants, the tourist shops. Boarded up for the winter. This beautiful island comes to a complete halt, the locals relieved that they can get some peace and take a rest after there hard working summer. And so, another amazing experience. Learning new cultures, small bits of foreign languages, and of course making many friends. I will definitely be back come 1st June for the new season and meet up with old bosses and friends.  Oh how I love, “The Life of a Backpacker”.

Chaos

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We all seem to live chaotic lives whether it is by choice or not.  Overworked, family life, social life, sports, relationships, whatever it may be we seem to have less time than we all would like.

“Chaos” can reflect on how we “think” 

“Thinking” reflects on how we “feel” 

“Feelings” reflect on how we “live”.

And “Living”! Is what we are here to do, aren’t we?? 

So my question to you all is, “WHY do we not live happier lives”

Here are six little words that changed my life a long time ago.  I said them to someone one day and they have stuck with me ever since.

ONLY YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR MOOD

WE!  Are the ones in control, there is no point waiting around for someone else to brighten our day, take some of your workload, clean the house, quieten the kids down, do that menial task you hate doing.  We are responsible for the way our mind thinks, We are responsible for what our minds focus on, so I say again,

ONLY YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR MOOD

Your thoughts are the most important asset you will ever have. Knowing how to change your focus will endeavor to change your lives.  Focusing on what is bad in your life will not only make you feel down and even depressed, it will also tend to bring even more circumstances and events into your life to feel bad about.

The reason is simply because we get what we focus on. You can have a ton of great things going on in your life but still feel miserable, if you keep focusing on the things that aren’t so great. So knowing how to change your focus is a critical skill to have.

Questions

Ask yourself this

What’s the biggest concern in your life right now?
What areas of your life aren’t going so well?
What are you most unhappy with your life currently?

I’m sure you could load up the answers

So now, ask yourself this

What “is” going well for you right now?
What areas of your life are you most proud of?
What are you happy or excited about right now?

Notice a change in feeling?  If you haven’t bothered and simply answered “I don’t know” or nothing, then you will feel little change.

But for those who did, “What has “really” changed exactly?  Even though the second set of questions made you better about your life than the first, in terms of “circumstances”, nothing has really changed at the moment”

Nothing, except your focus.  That means, “You control your focus” and I say again

“Only you can change your mood” 

Our focus changes by the “conscious” and “unconscious” questions we ask ourselves each day.  Think about how excited you get when something good happens or leading up to something you will enjoy.  A concert, day out, football match, your focus is very narrow, looking towards that event, but your mind is happy and your days become more enjoyable.

April 2011, I was made redundant.  To start with I asked

Disempowering Questions

Why me?

What have I done to deserve this?

How can they do that to me after my years of service and all I have done for them?

When you are in a disempowering state of mind, you spend most of your time complaining and blaming.  Even when you try to figure out how to get out of this mess, you do it in a negative cranky way and when things don’t work out, more complaining and blaming comes out and is generally directed to someone else.  We become discouraged and we lose our motivation.  It was interesting to note how so much of my daily conversation was so negative. The words I used and the body language I displayed was relentlessly downbeat.

So I changed my mood, My focus, My outlook

And I used Empowering Questions

What good will come from this?

Even though times are bad, what am I thankful for in my life right now?

Will I find a job that is even better?

Do you see the difference in what the two sets of questions can make? The empowering questions help to put you in a state of mind that is much more effective in finding solutions. These questions put you in control of the situation rather than making you a victim of it. You can either, focus on why you think your life is depressing and continue to whine about it or you can focus on the things that you are grateful and happy about and from that state, figure out how to improve your situation.

For me, I made myself get excited that I could choose a whole new direction, I could apply for anything I thought I could do, a complete change if I wanted to and I applied for a huge range of jobs that interested me and got me excited, some, even if I thought I wasn’t qualified for, but it still got me excited and surprisingly, I got a lot of interviews and down to the last two people on several occasions.

So, I had excitement in my life again and here I am now, with a company that I think is on the right track, a company that I think has attitude.  A company that is expanding worldwide and a company that has staff that have worked for them as their first and only job for years, (that tells me something alone) the longevity within this company was the first thing I noticed.  That must say it’s a great place to work.

Stress

Sometimes we just can’t help getting a bit frustrated about things.  I use the age old method of asking those that simple question when I feel myself getting like this.

Is there anything I can do right now to change this situation?

If the answer is yes, then I focus on what to do immediately to change it, but I tell myself to cool it and stop stressing and getting in a big angry fluster.  If the answer is no, then I focus on what I can do to amend it without that urgent frustration.

You can also use this when you are dealing with an overwhelming workload.  The hardest thing to do is to try to stop your mind from running in circles at 100 miles per hour. It’s exactly the same when you go to bed at night and your thoughts are racing.  You can’t sleep and when you have a ton of work to do and so little time to do it, a busy lifestyle, family to organise, etc, the pressure can cause you an incredible amount of stress. So here are some tips to help you complete your tasks without having to go insane.

Stop, Prioritize, TAKE A BREATH, Take Action

That’s right, just stop. Stop looking at the picture as a whole, panicking about what to do first and feeling like everything must be done immediately, NOW, TODAY.

Decide what needs to be done first, get that done, then the next, and so on.  But do it at a steady pace instead of a rushed maniac action, moaning and groaning to the world that you have no time to walk, talk, email, listen, eat and sleep.  Self pity –  No one possibly works harder than me, no one ever thanks me for what I do.  Honestly, everyone else doesn’t really care and you will only look silly to everyone else while you are ranting about the worlds end if you don’t get this done.

Just Stay Calm

Slowing your mind is a huge mountain to climb and once you do it, you’ve almost won.  When I ran my own company I use to have major problems with sleeping.  I was up all night and woke constantly even if I did manage to get to sleep and generally it was after working until midnight most nights.  I constantly thought about what I had to do the next day, went over and over and over the day I had just completed and what I had to do the next day.  The company was great, profits were high, staff were happy, all except me.  In the end, I went to a hypnotize with the notion that it was never going to work but I’ll give it a try and to this day, I can snap myself to sleep in the blink of an eye and I don’t wake nearly as much.  And all he did was tell me to slow my mind down.  That’s it, simple, I talk to myself in the slowest, most painstaking drivel I can.

But, you can use this in your every day life.  Not quite to that extent but it is all about learning to slowdown your mind.  Just slow your mind down when you feel yourself starting to stress.  Think slower, think about what you are doing and what you can do.

When you stress, you cause others to stress, your colleagues, your team, your friends and you cause everyone else’s day to be as bad as you’re making out that yours is.

Your Job

Never be too proud to ask for help.  It doesn’t mean you’re not capable, it just means you’re busy.   Other people CAN do it as good as you, don’t think you’re the only one that can get the job right.  Have some faith in others, your team, your family, friends.

The best feeling in the world is getting paid to do a job that you love.  But let’s face it, very few people say this.  No-one wants to work, but it’s a part of life.  So the sooner we accept that and we stop “Disempowering thoughts”   “god I have to go to work, “why do I have to do that”, Why cant I be rich, here we go again, then the sooner we will start enjoying what we do and the people we work with.

The People

 Your job and the people you work with are things that you will do and see more in your life than anything else.  You will probably spend more time with the people that you work with than you do with your family.  Therefore it makes sense for you to learn to accept it, love it and get excited about it.  It is not just a job.  It’s your living, it’s your security, it is your teacher, it is your extended family, it’s the biggest consumer of your time and its something that everyone does.

So stop Disempowering thoughts, like thinking you’re the only one that works this hard.  It is a massive part of your life and unless you win lotto, it wont change, you need to feel good about this thing that to rules most of your life, so why not change your focus on how you feel about work.

Perseverance will make you great

The people who will make the most difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money or the most awards and recognition. They are the ones who care, help, talk and laugh with you.  The ones that believe in you.

So it makes sense to not have Disempowering thoughts.

“Here we go again, another year and Im still here, nothing exciting ever happens to me.”

So why not start right now with some excitement.  Stress free, laughter, smile more for gods sake.  But only you can produce that feeling.  Think about what you want, new car, new diploma, healthier, happier, to earn more, anything that is a positive. Make your lips move upwards.  Yes you can smile and this one simple thing does change your mood.

Acquire new skills, the chance to do this is at your fingertips and you are never to old.  Tell yourself your going to learn something new and make yourself invaluable.  The more you learn the closer in steps you will come to your goal. If you don’t have one, give yourself one, challenge and seek opportunities to push yourself. Paint a picture, jump out of a plane, learn to skateboard, but do something that gets you out of your comfort zone for once.  Get your butts out of that same chair you sit in every night watching telly.  It takes a little courage and a little nerve and a little energy, but no more than sitting on a bicycle without training wheels for the first time.

Lets not wait for someone to tell you that it’s your turn to decide,  because it’s your life and the decision is only yours. To believe it, when others tell you that you can’t, is also your decision.  I say to you, how would you know you can’t until you try and how would they know you can’t if you haven’t tried….and perhaps neither have they? Think about it and remember it!

Above all get yourself into the bigger picture of your success and self-belief. You were put on this earth “different” To Every. Single. Other. Person. In. the. World.

So make that difference, ACCEPT NOTHING LESS The sooner you start, the sooner you will succeed.  You should look out for life’s chances.  Get better at the things that you do.  Get better at the things you enjoy doing.  Work hard at improving yourself.

I say once again,

Only you can change your mood

Get some attitude!

 

Sweet Paris`

paris-tour-eiffel-at-night

The romance that is….

Paris, one of the most romantic destinations in the world.

We arrived (once again on cheap travel, 100 pound for three days accommodation and return train tickets) to find we didn’t understand a single sign or person. All we had to do was catch a train to our suburb, a simple task we thought. But not! Directions were just as hard to ask a local. In the end we caught the tube in the right direction and after mindlessly wandering the streets for an hour we found our hotel. Beautiful, but basic, that’s all we needed.

We woke the next morning with a dreadful hangover, we may not be able to understand anyone but we still managed to find a club and pronounce the word beer in French. After a few more drinks the barman just gave us what ever he thought we would like, laughing as we tasted the concoctions he had poured from their strange array of choices. Twigs and leaves in some.

We had booked a city tour for the next morning. Not in the best of spirits (due to the previous nights consumed spirits) we begrudgingly headed for the bus stop. It was a chilly but beautiful sunny day. Once again the architecture was mind boggling. It was so hard to comprehend that man had built such wonders, before a time of modern technology.
We drove through an arch, ‘Arc du Carrousel’, into a large square. The impact of the beauty hit my heart with a thud. I felt tears running down my face as I looked in amazement at the stunning constructions. Enormous golden statues towered the buildings. Four of the grandest art museums in the world were right here in front of me.

‘Musee d`Orsay’, ‘Musee du jeu de Paume’, the ‘Pompidou Centre’ in which the ‘Museum of Modern Art’ was housed and of course the most famous, ‘Musee du Louvre’. I had to get off the bus and sit, just to take it in. Beneath my feet the Louvre museum was an astonishing million square foot horseshoe chamber with a three mile perimeter. Housing one the most famous and priceless paintings, of course the Mona Lisa, but in front of my eyes among the historical site the entrance was a modern glass pyramid rising in its magnificence, seventy one feet above me. The contrast of old and new was hypnotic. The tour was well worth the 18 euros. Cheap in anyone’s mind. We visited Notre` Dame, and the finishing touch was the Eiffel tower on the Champ de Mars.  It is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower.

Constructed from 1887–89 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair, it was initially criticized by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but it has become a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognisable structures in the world. The Eiffel Tower is the most-visited paid monument in the world; 6.91 million people ascended it in 2015. The tower is 324 metres (1,063 ft) tall, about the same height as an 81-storey building, and the tallest structure in Paris. Its base is square, measuring 125 metres (410 ft) on each side.

We arrived at the tower around 4pm. By the time we got to the first level the sun was setting over Paris an words cannot explain this. The tower is built of entangled steel in a wrought iron lattice. You can actually see through to the bottom in some places and at times you actually feel like you are swaying. By the time we reached the top, it was nightfall. The lights over the city a moving and romantic sight.

It was time to eat, easy enough task, but not when you can’t read the menu. We managed to get the waiter to understand, steak and chips. The food in Paris lived up to its reputation for its pastries and delicacies and of course, the most romantic language in the world. My little book of French phrases never leaving my side.

We walked through the town and my friend burst into laughter. “Were actually in Paris, I can’t believe it” an unbelievable feeling.

These are some of the sights I could only imagine a little over two years ago. I would often joke about visiting Paris one day or Venice, Greece, Spain. A destination on the other side of the world seemingly a lifelong dream for most of us from down under.

It‟s funny how a backpacker can do this quite simple and cheaply, yet if we planned this from home it could be a lifetimes savings. In every country we visit we see Scottish & Irish pubs, Indian restaurants, Chinese takeaways.  The world is merging.  Is this a good thing, I say yes!

And so, with this in my mind, I will travel on and perhaps bring a little more of me to each country.

Roughing it…

The travel continues…

Italy                       Colosseum_in_Rome_Italy_-_April_2007

How I love that feeling of packing your backpack. Each time knowing it is because I am off to a wondrous new country. This time, a tour through Italy. On a bus for 12 days with 53 people. I didn’t know what to expect. I would probably be the eldest as it was a 18-35 age limit. But thanks to a very helpful travel agent and a few phone calls, I was able to make the trip.

Arriving in Italy with a friend (on our cheap flight) was a day of excitement. Meeting the rest of the tour group, was equally as pleasant. Especially when the age was such a varied mixed and I wasn’t the oldest.

The weather was cold and at times we had snow. Somehow hopping off the bus to take the usual snap of my friend holding up ‘The Leaning Tower of Pisa’ wasn’t quite what I had expected. We were hung over, sleep deprived and it was bloody snowing. It probably didn’t help that we had been checking out the local nightlife and hadn’t been to bed. Leaving the clubs just in time to get back to our motel, pack our bags and hop on the bus. 12 days of very early mornings, long hours on the bus and lots of late nights. Exhaustion was just part of life. This country was far to stimulating to miss a thing.

This passion for exploring is growing day by day. The travel bug, as it is so often referred to. I am very lucky to have my four year ancestry work visa for the U.K. I can take my time and breathe. If I didn’t have this I wouldn’t have been able to travel as there is an age discrimination on normal work visas and I was way over the limit. The beauty on this side of the world can stir anyone’s soul.

Italy is a country of beautiful sites and amazing experiences. The food is glorious. Before I left home I was probably one of the fussiest eaters you could have possibly met. I could never go out for a meal and not rearrange the menu when ordering. Now, I eat more types of food than ever before. I think because you live on such a basic diet while traveling, that when you do finally eat, you are tired and ready to consume anything that is put before you. Each evening meal consisted of five courses. The Italians believe meal times should be slow and relaxing, taking at least three hours to receive your courses with as much wine as we could drink, accompanying our meals for free. We visited vineyards and tasted some of the world’s best wines and olive oils. What more could you ask for.

People in other countries seem to be more vocal than ours. Perhaps because in a foreign country like Italy, English is not their native language so expressing themselves to us in English proves quite difficult. The woman, not afraid to let you know if you irritate them and the men, well, I don’t quit know what to say except they are extremely forward. At times quite nerve wracking. But all the same, I had to remember I was an intruder in their country. Always polite and courteous. Especially when needing there help.

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We traveled from one end of Italy to the other and then back again on the other side. Taking in every tour that was available in each city. The Vatican City, the most amazing churches and buildings. The coliseum, a crumbling monument of history right in the city center. It was hard to imagine the grueling games they played there in a time gone by. I couldn’t help think of the movie Gladiator. Pompeii, acres of ruins to wonder through at our own leisure. I saw fossilized people and animals from the eruption of Mt Vesuvius. I touched the statue of Juliet and watched people pay to go and stand on the balcony where Romeo called to her. They say that if you rubbed the breast of Juliet you will find your true love. This dull bronze statue was a sight to see. Lines of people waiting to rub her breast. The giggles from each and every one as they cupped the one shiny golden breast (from so many hands) and posed for their photo. We floated down the canals of Venice. Even in the winter the murky green waters smelled terrible. I hate to think what they smell like in the heat of the summer. Our gondola captain was dressed in his traditional attire, complete with Panama hat, singing at the top of his voice. Even though it was cold and smelly, it was still captivating at the same time. What broke the spell was his mobile phone ringing.

This remarkable city, a close knit of over 200 islands, all joined by small walk bridges. There are no vehicles. The roads only wide enough for foot traffic and the islands are believed to be sinking. There are wooden walkways, just wide enough for two people, about one meter off the ground, everywhere. The rising tides flooding the city at times. It was so easy to lose your way through the maize of paths. It was a thriving city and we were chilled to the bone from the snow. But there was just too much to see.

Once again the architecture unbelievable. We entered one of the most amazing churches I have ever seen, hundreds of years old. No photos were allowed, the flashes from our cameras can deteriorate the color out of the most incredible mosaics I have ever seen. How they ever managed to build them I don’t know. There were giant statues that towered all the buildings, angels, roman figures, animals. Far from anything I have ever experienced or seen. Thank god for digital cameras.

The weather was extremely cold but it made no difference to us. We explored, slept on the bus, partied at night and moved onto the next city to start again. The tour guides were amazing. There are some people that constantly need care and attention and our tour-guide was only to happy to accommodate them and solve any problem quickly and efficiently. It was a fantastic time and highly recommended to anyone. There is nothing left unorganized and your days are filled with fun. Even our bathroom breaks were in the program.

Oh yes the backpacker’s life. Taking time for travel and then having to find somewhere to settle for another few months and earn some money so we can do it all over again. Sometimes feeling so lonely even though you are surrounded by many, and then sometimes wandering how you could possibly have such an exceptional life. Making new friends, one moment rich, then broke, happy, then unhappy. A roller coaster of emotions. We love this life and yet at times we hate it. We long to come home, but deep down we know that if we come home, we probably won’t get the chance to do this again. We stay in beautiful hotels one day and then dark and dirty hostels the next. I have endured living with mice running over my pillow while I sleep, (actually trapping three in one night, as they were munching one of my cup of soup sachets until it drove me insane in the quiet of the night,) cockroaches crawling through your clothes, mould running down the walls of your room, buckets in the hallways to catch the falling rain and even a toilet in the above room over flowing into mine. But I have also had glorious rooms overlooking tropical island seas, lazing beside the swimming pool each day and room service to stunning rooms.

Still, I love the atmosphere in a hostel. The lounge room a place of recreational heaven. 20-30 people from all over the world gathering to meet, drink or simply snuggle together on the small couches to watch a movie. At any time you can walk into the lounge and there will always be someone who would like to join you for a coffee or a beer. Like a huge family outing for the day, we would contemplate what to do and then set off for the park to play football or head down to the pub in a mass group. Oh, how the pub owners love backpackers. The kebab shops that stays open all night just to feed the hordes of drunken groups that will overflow through their shops at three in the morning. We can live like kings or paupers from one moment to the next and we never know when that moment is going to be….

The Big O.E

Feeling rather nostalgic about my travels since I divorced. I decided to write about where it has taken me and the actual truth about backpacking. Firstly and most importantly DO NOT BUY A BACKPACK! Unless you are climbing a mountain there is no need, a suitcase on wheels goes anywhere.

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Yes, I am woman! I am brave or am I crazy.  I decided to rent my home and packed up all my belongings.  I even re-homed the cats!  Here’s my story…

September 2003

London

I am leaving my homeland!  For how long?  Not even I know the answer to that.  I am off on “The big O.E.” (Overseas Experience).  Every backpacker has a journey and a tale which must be told and for most, the excitement begins from the second they make that decision to leave their homeland.  The second, they hand over their precious savings for that ticket.  The second, they realize, “home is not enough”.  A backpack, a work visa and a big thanks to my Scottish grandfather, as he has also secured my citizenship.  The law prevents anyone over the age of 35 the normal two year work visa.  This will be a life changing experience, good or bad is still to be determined.  I leave behind, all my securities, family, and friends.

Arriving in London was probably as nerve racking as my first day at school.  I am two days flight, away from home!  Arriving in a hostel, full of young people was equally as chilling, for I was a Senior Backpacker! At the tender young age of 37, I had now stepped dexterously into a new life, alone!

Every Backpacker has a different reason for being there. Most of them were looking for excitement and just maybe, to make their fortune.  During 2009, holiday visits to the UK increased by 4.6 per cent to 11.4 million.

Aaah, the cheap labor of a Backpacker!  An inquisitive breed. Eager to work, to take any employment they can find.  Bar work, Telephone sales, Leaflet distribution, (promotion as they call it), or simply waiting tables.  The rate of pay is extremely low and most backpackers arrive in a foreign country with little funds.

Then there are the hostels, definitely the best place to begin your journey and also to dry up every bit of your meager wage.  What’s left over each week, is swiftly donated to the local pubs and clubs.   Pint after pint of liquid gold!  This is the thriving heart of a Backpackers life.

The mix of nationalities adds to the excitement of the journey.  The non-stop parties happen every night, the creeping of shoes to different dormitories, lovers, lost and found in the blink of an eye.  But each and every person is growing within themselves, taking on a much different personality to what they were at home.

The busy bustle of the average Londoner is barley noticeable by the Backpacker.  These English men and woman are a person who’s understanding of a backpacker is wearing thin.  We clog their cities and cause havoc in their quiet local pubs.  Noisy youngsters, (except me of course) who have no respect for most things although they know they won’t be hanging around in this vast concrete jungle, overflowing with people from all over the world.  So many, that I actually struggled to meet an English resident.  I met so many Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans there, that I actually started to wonder who was still living back in our own countries.   The friendly rivalry between the Aussie and the Kiwi is swiftly out the door the second you meet.  There is something different about being half way around the world and meeting someone from Down Under, someone close to your home, someone that understands your humor, your reasons for travelling so far.  You feel that little glow in your heart, a reminder of your native soil and I only wish I had learnt more about it before I left home.  The life of a backpacker can be a truly stimulating adventure.

There is a vast array of facilities, all there for the taking.  Airlines that offer free trips throughout Europe, just so they can fill their seats.  In the blink of an eye you can take a trip to Sweden or Denmark for the weekend, a coffee in Paris, a beer in Amsterdam, or simply to check out the night life in Scotland.  Ridiculous as it seems, it is a fantastic way to see the world.

These countries have so much more history than anything we have, an entire nation of outdoor museums.  The architecture brings a realisation to me that we are such a new country.

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Even the public transport is a major part of the life here.  Thousand and thousands of people every day, jam packed like sardines, underneath the city, a sea of rivers that flow in every direction.  This is the tube. Every day that you take to the underground, you feel gritty and dirty.  The fumes, the dust, the closeness of other people, being wedged together in the train carriages.  Each year the filters are cleaned and a tonne of human hair is removed.  The black excrement that comes out of your nose each day when blown is beyond belief.  But it’s all part of the journey that backpackers thrive on.  Living from year to year in cramped conditions, in and out of hostels, job after job in a new country, and new friends to say goodbye to each time you travel to your next destination and how easy we do it.  It must be a worrying time for parents, their children on the other side of the world, phoning home only when they are feeling a little homesick or in need of some money.  There are so many emotions that a backpacker goes through.  I have seen the tears of frustration because they are broke, or arguing with long time friends that they have traveled here with. The unsettled living and the sudden change of not having your own space, sharing a bathroom with 300 people, sleeping with up to nine other people in your room. I have a love/hate relationship with my backpack, its heavy and cumbersome and definitely not designed for a lady and her shoes and makeup.  Moving from hotel to hotel or hostel to hostel and never being able to fully unpack.  I couldn’t even tell you what an iron looks like anymore, or what it is like to have the comforts of your home and at times, what a vegetable tastes like.   Gathering up your toilet bag and towel each day to wander down the hallways to the nearest bathroom, only to get there and realise that you have forgotten something or there is a cue down the hall.  It is truly a world of ups and downs.

The first three months being the hardest that everyone faces.    For some, they are back home again in six.  But still, what an amazing experience to have done.  Why London is such a popular destination I don’t know, but it is full of backpackers.  Perhaps, because like I have found, it is an easy place to base, an easy place to travel in and out of, although it is one of the most expensive places to live.

The winter is a very depressing time.  Dark by 4pm, cold and raining every day, winds that chill you to the bone.  Everywhere you go you find yourself wrapped in layers and layers of clothes.  Only to find that when you get to your destination the radiators are turned up so high you have to peel yourself like an orange.  Perhaps this is the reason that backpackers always find themselves sick, the mixture of hot and cold temperatures, never eating a decent meal because you are too broke or too busy to wait for an oven in the packed kitchens of the hostels and of course the large amounts of alcohol and sleep deprivation.

So, I sometimes wonder why we put ourselves through this.  I have talked with many people throughout my journeys, heard their experiences, comforted them, partied with them, and travelled with them.  But after all is said and done, I wouldn’t give up this experience for the world.  My eyes have seen such incredible things.  I have learnt of new cultures that you probably wouldn’t ever read about.  I have met people from all over the world and have so many contacts now, in so many different countries that my travelling will become easier and easier.   So I will keep on my journey for the next three years.  Perhaps travelling home for brief visits, and like most backpackers, I don’t know where I will be going next.  A life full of spur of the moment decisions.  What a wonderful way to live.

For now anyway!!!

International Poet!

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And I didn’t even know it!

As a divorcee I thought I should get all emotional on life, after all that’s what we tend to do when something large happens in our life.  We seem to reflect on all the wrong things and for me, I decided I was going to have my say.  That being said, I put pen to paper and wrote a poem about bullets! Yes you read that right, bullets.  I have a silent hate for them and believe all guns and any mechanical devices that inflict death, bombs or any such harm to another human being should be banned.  Lets go back to fighting with bows and arrows.

So, my amazing poem, well I thought so, actually won an International award and is somewhere in America, sitting on a coffee table collecting dust, in a coffee table book.

Here you go…Enjoy

 

Exploited Steel…

In darkness there is a flash

In daylight it comes silently

Life is taken, love is destroyed

Peace is accomplished

 

Shined and nurtured for future exploits

Dirty and lifeless its solemn figure

Peace is its reward

War is its reason

 

Good can prevail from target seeded

Evil will prosper in its shadow

Cold, hard, its appearance holds power

Hot, melted, a new foundation of hope

 

Those that cherish will not walk long

Those that fear will climb mountains

No place today for its creation

Need was imminent from its conception

 

In darkness there is a flash

In daylight it comes silently

Life is taken, love is destroyed

Peace is accomplished….war is created