2015. What a year eh?

Right so let’s just say this; I’m not going to go through everything that has happened in 2015 because: 1) it would take too long, 2) I can’t remember everything without looking at my diary, 3) I can’t be arsed and need to get to sleep soon as I have a 5.30am alarm call and 4) I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine (I’m currently staying in South Africa in the WINE region, COME ON…) and it’s taking all my energy to type properly.

BUT.

What I can say is that 2015 has been pretty fucking awesome. A bit of a rollercoaster at times, but hey, isn’t that just life?

On 2nd January 2015 I moved myself and my meagre belongings in a van (first time driving a big van, and 9 hours driving in one day, the same 3 hour route 3 FUCKING times, ouch) to a place called Cheltenham. I didn’t really know the place, and only knew one person there. I figured it would be an adventure and it seemed like a place I’d like to live, and it wasn’t Lincoln. I actually didn’t think much further that than. It had hills and outdoor stuff, that seemed like generally enough to pique my interest.

And it has lived up to it’s expectations. To be fair, I didn’t have many. I was just pleased to be living by myself again and having my own place. After 2 years of travelling around and staying with people, it became pretty damn important to have a front door I could shut on the world. And I did when I first moved, I didn’t want to talk to anyone new for a couple of months. I was actually quite happy to not be doing this but it got to about March and I figured I really should. And I did, and I’m glad I did. I finish this year thinking about all the people I have met along the way, and there’s a lot, and it’s been, well, interesting. And special. I made more friends than I maybe thought, and I’ve met some pretty amazing people.

Because people are what make the world go round. Before I went travelling I used to read travel blogs that would always say “it’s the people you meet”. And I wondered what they meant. But now I know. When I was travelling, I DID meet some incredible people, and they’re some of my best memories of my year away. And this year, it’s been the same. I’ve done some cool stuff, but I’ve also met some cool people. Them, and their stories, is what life is all about.

Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my alone time (not to be confused with quiet time Donna, that’s different, although I obviously enjoy that too) and in fact, I really, really, really needed this bit of time right now where I’m travelling by myself and spending the majority of time alone. Yep, I love it and need it, and if I’ve been too busy and sociable I have to make sure I get some. 22 hours travelling to another country? YES – BLISS because I sit on a plane by myself and don’t have to speak to anyone. Yay.

But also I love people, I love being sociable. I love the more the merrier nights and bringing people together. I love a good chat, laugh and a beer. Standard.

So I guess I want to end 2015 saying a massive THANK YOU to everyone I know that touches my life in one way or another. And I think there’s a lot of people that maybe don’t realise they do. And I should tell them. Maybe not publicly here, or on Faceache or similar, but if there’s someone in your life that makes a difference, then tell them. I will be doing. You’ve made my 2015 special and brilliant.

I was looking to see what I posted last December but I didn’t write anything, I was having a blogging break if I remember. I did post in early February though. I even made some kind of plans and stuff to do in 2015. Ha, I’d totally forgotten those, and never looked back over them. Hmm, I didn’t get round to doing them all but I gave it a good crack. Some were a bit of pipe dream, and maybe stay on the list for next year. There’s some new stuff too. Should I write it down? Nah, I’ll leave it for later.

I end 2015 in South Africa; not somewhere I thought I’d be for a while (although I knew I’d be back, I kept the plug adaptor in the divorce settlement, haha) and spent New Years Eve taking a drive down to the coast and to the southernmost tip of Africa. Keeping my travelling itchy feet at bay for a little bit I hope, and getting some Africa sunsets. Not sure where I will end up in 2016 or what will happen but that’s all part of the adventure, and keeps my life interesting. I’ve got a few ideas but a year is a long time and a lot can change. So we’ll see.

I’m a change-anything-you’re-not-happy-with-any-time-you like person, but I do like the start of a new year to start some shit. Not resolutions as such, but just as good a time as any to punch the shit out of some stuff. This year, I start with the first few months dedicated to being healthier and getting fitter. I need to do some actual training for a bike ride I’m planning at Easter and if I don’t, then I’m going to suffer. So I better get my shizzle sorted. Anything else after that will be a bonus.

This is a bit of a rambly but short post, not quite with mega meaning or structure but I’m running out of time as I need to go to sleep as my alarm is going off tomorrow at 5.30am as I’m off on a big hike early to beat the fierce sun. This is probably the only year I’m starting as I mean to go on – healthy and not hungover!

But a couple of messages before I finish. Firstly, THANK YOU for reading. I write this blog mainly for myself as I just enjoy writing about whatever is in my head but if you like to read it then thanks, it means a lot. Two, the photo a day project is returning! Starting from tomorrow, I’ll post a picture a day. Might be a bit late over the next few days because of Africa wifi #TIA issues but they will be there. I did my last one in 2012 which for some reason a lot of people enjoyed. I suspect it’s because it was my first single year and so I did a lot of stuff and it was a bit all over the place. In a way I suspect this year might be a bit more settled/rounded although I actually probably do a lot more crazy/interesting stuff now.

Three, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Whether 2015 was amazing or shit for you, I wish you all the best in 2016. May you make it a year to remember. May it be filled with love, laughter and happiness. May you weather the storms with a smile and a laugh, and a determination that life will not beat you. Grab life by the balls and if you’re not sure about something, then maybe using my mantra will help:

Fuck it, do it.

Live life, don’t just exist. Don’t be scared to do anything, it’s never as bad as you think, and there are ALWAYS people looking out for you.

Go smash the shit out of life!!

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Australia: the story so far.

I’ve been in Melbourne for a month now. A MONTH. How has that happened?!!

I adore it. I’ve not been doing the normal travelling stuff here. I’ve been staying in one place for a start. I’ve not done a lot of sightseeing stuff. Or any tours. I guess you could say I’ve been living here rather than travelling. Which suits me just fine. I was about ready for a break from all the moving about. It’s been like going home without actually going home.

I’ve been staying with some friends who have just been brilliant. Made me feel right at home and have done so much for me; from giving me a place to stay to taking me out and about, to feeding me copious amounts of amazing food, to buying me a Christmas present and lending me a bike and all the gear so I can get around. Amongst other things. Not sure how I will be able to repay them!

I’ve not just been sat on my bum for a month though. Oh no. I’ve actually been quite busy. It’s hard work this travelling lark. What have I been doing? Read on.

I said I’d be back on the fitness stuff when I got to Australia, and OH YES I HAVE. Just check out my Runkeeper stats for the proof!! I’ve been running, walking, biking and running some more. It’s been GREAT. The weather has been much better for it (cooler, no humidity and a bit unpredictable. Just how I realise I like it!) and there’s so much opportunity for it here; it’s not an abnormal thing. I have to be careful to not do too much too soon though, so I’ve been trying to take it a bit easy but I’ve been so excited to get out there and get moving I’ve probably done a bit more than I should. I have to remember I’m probably not quite at the fitness level I was back in May 2013 before I left! My left knee is a bit whingey at the moment, and I need it to be on top form the next few weeks so I need to keep an eye on that. But most days I’ve done some kind of exercise. Whoop! I’ve biked, ran or walked to and around Westerfolds Park (beautiful) and Bundoora Park, along the Yarra River and Darebin creek. There are hundreds of places to explore here, all along bike and walking trails, so no need to go along any roads really. It’s just wonderful.

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So, what else?

I’ve been into Melbourne city a few times. It’s only 20 minutes on the train so not far away at all. I’ve had a good wander around the streets looking at all the buildings, done a bit of window shopping (I have neither the spare funds, space in my backpack or inclination to do anything more than that to be fair), went to the Botanical Gardens, took the City Circle tram and went up to the top of the Eureka Tower. I ate my lunch in the Carlton Gardens, walked down by the river where I watched people eating and drinking on the outside BBQ’s there (BRILLIANT facility) and marvelled at the Melbourne street art. I watched live music in Federation Square, got lost in the laneways, visited the State Library of Victoria and saw the famous Myer Christmas window display with Bob and La.  Melbourne’s great because the CBD is small enough to wander round really easily, and on a grid system so if you do get a bit lost you just keep walking until you come to a main road and you can soon sort yourself out again.

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I’ve ran in the city too. The first run was with the Run Bird Crew, a running group from a running shop in the city not long after I arrived in Melbourne. A nice bunch of people, I ran around 7km with them, at a pretty fast pace. The guy from the shop (who incidentally was a better looking version of David Beckham – yes, I didn’t know there was such a thing either. Phew.) said it was faster than they normally go. Well, my body definitely felt it. Although, it was good to be pushed, and great to be running with other people again. Even if I didn’t actually run with anyone much, and was last to get back to the shop, haha! I also ran around Albert Park doing my very first parkrun – you can read about that here. Still on the list to do is to run around the Tan – a bit of an icon in Melbourne and something I have to do.

Albert Park, parkrun #110

Bob and La had a Christmas BBQ to celebrate with all their friends before they went on holiday, so I got to eat loads of scrummy food, drink beer, chat with lots of interesting people and make new friends. In the sun. In December. Very cool.

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I went cherry picking near Red Hill, south of Melbourne. It’s is a popular thing here (very similar to strawberry picking in the UK), and one of Bob and La’s Christmas traditions. It was great to see the countryside around the city, as well as have a picnic and eat lots of mage cherries straight off the trees. Yum. On the way back we stopped at Frankston beach which reminded me of South Africa – bright blue sea and golden beaches. Stunning.

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Christmas happened. I’ve already written about that though. And of course, New Year follows Christmas. This year, for New Year’s Eve I got invited by a new friend to join them and their neighbours in a 6 course Japanese banquet and after party. Oh my word. So much food. So much good food. So much amazing food. It was a great atmosphere and I love meeting new people. It was wonderful to see this real life, slightly unconventional, community of family, friends and neighbours in a Melbourne suburb. And I met Australian people! Hurrah!

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I went for a walk with a new friend in Warrandyte which was just stunning. All trees and river and lovely scenery. These places that are technically in the city of Melbourne are just cracking and could have you fooled that you’re out in the countryside. Definitely a green city here.

I went hiking up and around Mount Dandenong with some more new friends. Spectacular views and a bit of a challenging walk. More fresh air, good exercise, one of my favourite things to do and good company. Oh, and we finished with tea and scones. Not bad eh?

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I went to Brighton beach on a hot day, again with some new friends. Lovely to get to know people who live here as I can experience Melbourne like a local. Experience life here. How else will I figure out whether it’s for me or not, long term? 😉 On this day it was supposed to get to about 38 degrees, so what better thing to do than hit the beach in a bikini? We had about an hour and a half of hot weather before I got to witness the famous ‘Melbourne cool change’! Where the wind direction and temperature changes, and the air temperature drops significantly within the space of a few minutes. Cue everyone on the beach trying to hold onto their umbrellas and day tents, avoid being blasted in the face with sand while packing everything up. Beach abandoned, we did what anyone would do and decamped to a nearby trendy pub to drink afternoon cider.

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I’ve watched quite a lot of films. I don’t feel like I’ve seen any for months (apart from the odd one on a plane) so it was nice over Christmas to sit down and watch a few. Especially when they were accompanied by some chocolate. Mmm. Chocolate.

When I was in Zambia last year I made a friend who was from Melbourne. Of course we said we’d have to meet up when I got to Australia. Back then, that seemed like ages away. And all of a sudden it’s here. And we met up. Jenny took me to the Sherlock Holmes Inn. Very English. We had fish & chips. Very English. I had two glasses of rose wine. Not quite so English. They were £5 each. For a small glass. Australia is expensive.

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I went to St Kilda for a walk along the beach and a wander round the streets. It’s a quirky little place, with lots of bakeries (yes, I resisted all those lovely cakes as part of my trying-to-give-up-sugar thing I’ve got going on), cafe and little shops. There’s also an amusement park called Luna Park, which reminded me of the fair at Skegness. It even had a theatre right next to it. just like the Embassy Centre. I had a walk to the end of the pier – there’s a cracking view looking back towards the beach with the city in the background. I love the skyscrapers of Melbourne’s CBD. Hopefully I’ll get to go to a rooftop bar or cinema before I leave Australia.

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I saw kangaroos and koalas at Healsville Sanctuary. I’ve not seen any in the wild yet, so this was the next best thing. It’s not a zoo, more a wildlife sanctuary where native Australian animals are taken to be looked after, rehabilitated and breeding programs are carried out to fight extinction for some of the country’s most endangered animals. I loved seeing all the animals, especially a platypus (which is much smaller than I thought, and very cute), kangaroos, koalas, wombats and tasmanian devils. Mainly because I’ve never seen any of them in real life before. And there were so many amazing birds too. Birds over here are really colourful. Healsville is out in the Yarra Valley, which is a pretty nice part of Australia. Quite quaint, lots of countryside and green stuff and very pretty. A popular place for people to visit and live. It also has a place called Badger Creek. I liked this. I’d move there, just to have an address that had Badger Creek in it. Bob drove back round Mount Donna Buang and through the rainforest so I could stop and see it, which was pretty cool. Not quite like a tropical rainforest; this one was a bit chilly under the tree canopy for a start, and all mossy and damp.

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I went out for Afghan food one night with Bob and La on Brunswick Street. Brunswick Street is a famous trendy street in the Fitzroy suburb filled with bars, restaurants and quirky shops. Luckily since I’ve been in Melbourne I’ve bought some ‘normal’ clothes so I didn’t feel too out of place. Although I’m never going to completely fit in somewhere uber trendy. Because I’m just not, well, trendy enough. But the food here was great. Really great. Not had Afghan food before but now I have. Would recommend.

I went to a BBQ at the next door neighbours. Hosted by Kieran, Anthea and their two kids. Oh, and a visit from Anthea’s mum Lorna who lives the other side. As my Film Club buddies pointed out, this was a real life ‘Neighbours’ situation. They were lovely. The food was great. Their house is beautiful; they built it themselves, so it’s all new, shiny and modern. Their kitchen island is to die for. Want. I’ll hopefully see them again when I get back from Tasmania as they are (or more specifically, Kieran is) convinced that this Pom will end up stranded or dead somewhere.

There’s been more. I’ve walked around the suburb of Ivanhoe and pretty much know where everything is now. I know short cuts to the shops and train station, and recognise where I am on the bike trails near the creek. I’ve taken the dog for many walks to Darebin Parklands where there’s a strange egg shaped sculpture near a hill and free dog poop bags. I’ve fallen asleep on the train but never missed my stop, bought a pear as a snack instead of a chocolate bar (progress) and woken up pretty much every day without an alarm. I’ve got to know my friends here more and have enjoyed seeing them in their everyday family life. I’m so pleased I’ve been able to meet their daughter, who is just the most wonderful little person. I’ve been made to feel so at home and welcome, which, after 6 months on the road, was so needed you have no idea.

My next adventure will hopefully start this weekend. I’m going to fly to Launceston in Tasmania with a bike, some clothes and a tent and spend a few weeks cycling down the east coast of the island. I’ve got a vague route planned out, but nothing booked or set in stone; keeping it flexible, baby. I’ll be covering an average of around 50km a day, which is around 30 miles. So not too far. I’ve got my padded shorts ready to go. I’m looking forward to combining some of my favourite things; a bit of fitness with a bit of adventure and travel. Excited? YOU BET. Bring it ON, mofo.

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Hello 2014.

For the past couple of years, the new year has kind of been a bit of a big deal. Not the actual celebrating, but the whole end of an old year, start of a new year shebang. I like looking back at what happened and what I did over the year, and I like looking forward to have a think about the kind of things I want to do or achieve in the next year. Although, I never used to ‘wait’ for new year to make a change or do something, I think if you want to do it, then whatever point you’re at is as good a time as any. But, I liked the definitive start and end point as an excuse to do a bit of reflecting.

This year is a bit different though, and I’m not really thinking about life in the same way this time. This year that kind of reflection and review is in line with my travel year. So, I’ll probably do my thinking when I finish my travelling in April/May. So much will happen or change by then anyway, there’s no point in planning or thinking too much. And I like that.

2013 has been a cracker of a year. A bit of a different year, but then I guess I could say that about the last couple of years for me too. So I guess there’s no such thing as a ‘normal’ year any more. I’ve learnt so much, done so much, experienced so much in 2013 I wouldn’t even know where to begin to start writing about it. So I’m not going to. Much easier that way. All I’ll say is that there’s been mainly ups. No real downs. I’m healthy and happy and haven’t managed to injure myself, get robbed or lose any of my stuff (well, apart from a few bits of clothes in Cambodia). I’ve seen more of the world in the last 6 months than I have in the years beforehand, and have learnt so much about it. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and I don’t regret it for a second. I’m having the time of my life and 2013 will be a year that stays with me for a long, long time. No doubt providing lots of great memories when I’m old and grey and can’t get out of a chair by myself.

 

Do I need to top that? There seems to be a bit of a view that each year should be bigger and better. Question is then, where and when do you stop? I’m not buying into that. I’m going to be happy with a 2014 that’s pretty much the same; filled with new experiences, new friends, good health, adventure, fun, laughs, exercise and all the other stuff that makes up my life. Which I’m pretty sure it will be, because after all, I’m the one that’s going to make it happen. Things aren’t just going to fall into my lap without me actually doing something about it.

I don’t really set myself resolutions, but I do like to have a think about things I might like to do or achieve, so I suppose you could call them goals, or targets. My only goals for 2014 at the moment are to:

  • Run more
  • Get back to the UK in one piece
  • Get a job/earn some money
  • Find somewhere to live

Enough to be getting on with I reckon. Once I stop travelling and figure out what to do next, I’m sure there will be new goals. Like I said, I don’t wait until new year to think about stuff like this. There’s a few fitness things I want to do, but I can’t really start thinking about or trying to do them properly until I’m in one place rather than bouncing around different places every few days. 2014 is also now the year that I get to go home. I’m loving travelling but I know that in a few months I’ll be looking forward to being in one place for longer than a few weeks. And looking forward to seeing friends and family again. I’m pretty excited about that, although not so that I’m wishing my time away. I want to make the most of this travel. And to not having a job, haha!

So, people out there, whatever you do, however you look at it, however you celebrate (if at all), I hope that 2014 will be happy and groovy for you all. If you’ve had a crap year, then I hope 2014 will be better. If you’ve had a great year, then make 2014 everything you want it to be.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!