Marni.

Black coffee was all Marni drank these days. Saturday mornings usually began slowly, groggily, in her pajamas, but she was almost ready to get on the road to Caloundra.

8.34am

Because Ri would be there, the drive ahead felt less arduous. She’d still rushed to get out the door – quick shower, hair bundled up, lashings of perfume – getting ready at the last minute still a habit she held onto. Adrienne was so relaxed, and it rubbed off on her in a way she wasn’t familiar with. It was easy with her, simple. She felt safe.

Not the way she’d been with Leo, unsure if he was coming or going, fighting for time in his jam-packed weekends.

But still, this was all so new to her. She’d held such an idea of divide in her head between women and men, this idea that she could only be attracted to one. Even though she knew it was bullshit.

When she’d introduced herself at Emma’s place that night – “Adrienne”, in her effortlessly chic blue skinny jeans – something new had sparked in Marni, a sudden and bold intrigue. She could tell there was a mutual awareness of this tension, and had wanted to let go of the idea of this divide immediately.

10.54am

“It’s good to see you again pretty lady,” she said, pulling her close.

It was funny she wore the same perfume as Leo. But when she smelled it on Ri it was so much sexier.

Pulling back, she held her shoulders and looked into Marni’s eyes a moment, cracking that tilted grin. She was in a white singlet and loose linen pants, her sandy hair flipped back, curled behind her right ear, her nose ring a bright silver-white against her tan. She seemed so comfortable in her own skin. A trait that made Marni’s heart race – partly out of a desire to know what that felt like and partly because it was so attractive.

Adrienne went to put her togs on. It had been a week since they’d seen each other, and maybe four weeks since they’d been “hanging out” like this, Marni thought. She huddled around Marni’s surf-shack-of-an-apartment kitchen table – one of the old round, wooden ones like her grandma had from the 70’s, the edges smooth from years of tea and the occasional lamington in the afternoon light.

Ri had good taste. This time, it was much messier than the last few times she’d visited – a cluster of canvases rested on one wall, a surfboard took over the lounge area, where multiple glasses, a few with liquid at the bottom, sat on the tiny coffee table.

It looked like she’d had company last night and Marni wondered what kind. Were they exclusive?

They’d only kissed, she thought, shutting herself down but surprised at the pang of desperation she felt.

She had the sudden urge to go into Ri’s room right now and close the door, forget the beach. Then, stunted at the thought of how that would go, she cleared some glasses instead.

11.42am

They went to a rougher, foamier part of the sea than she was hoping for. The ocean wasn’t really her place. Unless it was a flat, calm inlet, she generally felt like she got pushed around by waves, and sometimes she’d panic if she couldn’t feel the bottom, convincing herself of dark shapes beneath her feet.

Learning to surf was flirty and fun. Ri’s arms were much more toned than hers, but she liked feeling petite next to her, if only a little.

She put some effort in to trying to catch a wave at first, and made it to her knees shakily. It did feel good, that moment, but she lost interest quickly.

She didn’t want Ri to see that though. Eager to be as confident as her, but equally wanting to flounder a little, she handed the board back. “I’ll go and read for a bit,” she laughed.

1.45pm

Self-consciousness kicked in, she was instantly nervous. She didn’t want to seem ‘boring’ or ‘weak’ – more bullshit, but she let her mind get the better of her. Truthfully though, she was more comfortable watching Ri catch waves.

The day ran long, the air sunburnt and enveloping. A bubble she wouldn’t burst until the very last moment.

7.04pm

That moment came after two whiskeys – which she never drank – and a vegetarian dinner Adrienne expertly pulled together.

In that moment, she realised how much she wanted this. She wanted to be here more – sunset conversations, her home cooked meals, her shabby, incense-soaked abode.

9.07pm

She tasted of the whiskey, her lips undoubtedly softer than anyone’s she’d ever kissed. It was electric and sensual and she didn’t want their lips to part, but when they did, it was only to connect with other parts of her body.

Hadn’t she been here hundreds of times before, she’d thought in a flash, as Ri rolled up her cami.

But it hadn’t felt like this before.

She made her mind up. Adrienne’s were the only hands she wanted holding hers, squeezing her; her’s the only lips she wanted kissing her neck, trailing her stomach.

10.50pm

She left unwillingly, with the dizzied mind of a teenager who has just uncovered a secret part of themselves.

The drive home rushed by, feeling faster, as it always does.

Everything was different now.

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Limbo

I’ve been feeling neither here nor there for a while, and I’ve found the crux, weeks out from leaving the country indefinitely. I’m tipping my life on its head, and there’s a bunch of stuff falling out.

Stuff I’m holding up and scrutinising — in late night darkness, or 5am light encountered too early. Not the time to see clearly.

But perhaps even in the broad light of a sunny April day, it won’t be any clearer. My lesson is to trust much deeper in the timing and unfolding of my days, reminding myself that the panic and near-constant questioning are part of it.

This limbo has laid me bare too. I feel watched, questioned, scrutinised myself. But others are a mirror of ourselves, so this pulling apart of self and choices is really owned and orchestrated by me.

This 360 degree turn, this flip, is to be a turn inwards.

Pay attention to what you’re putting out to others, and what you perceive and feel coming back from them. They are a reflection of where you need to focus your attention internally.

“The cosmos will always mirror back to us whatever your inner state is. The greater the love we discover in ourselves, the greater the love will reflect back to us in the environment through others.” – Deepak Chopra.

Travelling deeper

An interview with Jessica Abraham of Tasi Travels and Travel with Purpose.

To write is to travel. To explore words like landscapes, characters like cities, storylines like an unfamiliar, rich cultural history. I relish what they bring to me – both can be uncomfortable and challenging, but there’s always so much room to learn, explore and grow.

So the idea of travelling deeper, “off the beaten track” if I may, sparks delight in me. I crave the unplanned, the lesser-known, the sometimes bizarre or even vulnerable, don’t you?

That’s where it happens – realisation, understanding, perseverance, change – the juicy, humble, good stuff of life! And that’s why I love that Jessica Abraham’s latest venture, Travel with Purpose, is all about more authentic travel.

I met Jess, who is also the owner and founder of Tasi Travels (clothing designed for practicality and travel, brilliant!), a year ago at a Vanlife Gathering in Byron Bay. Like so many people that inspire the heck out of me, Jess is fearlessly doing what she loves and feels driven to do,  despite the ups, downs, trials and uncertainties that come with starting your own business, or embracing freelance over a 9-5.

A lover of the ocean, Jess radiates surfy, salty, positivity, and calls the Sunshine Coast home. So it is fitting that the word ‘Tasi’ means ‘ocean’ in the local Tetun language of Timor-Leste, where Tasi was first dreamt up.

In fact, much of what Jess does seems to exist somewhere between the ocean and travel.  I chatted with this lovely lass to learn more about Travel with Purpose and her approach to work, travel and life.

Jess in wrap
Jess in a Tasi Travels wrap.

Vulnerable travel

Why do you travel? How does it make you feel? 

A vanlifer who is frequently exploring Australia on the road in her van, Jessica says she thinks we all travel to go deeper into life.

“For a lot of us, travel is one of the few times that we allow ourselves to be completely open to new experiences, people and ways of thinking.

Our everyday life, routine and expectation is stripped away and perhaps most importantly, we are vulnerable to things going wrong.

“We’ve all been there, when we’re travelling and the accommodation has double-booked you, or you got dates wrong or a flight is cancelled; it’s in these moments that we can’t control, when we are way out of our comfort zone that the most growth happens. I think ultimately we travel to learn, to grow.”

What is your number one travel tip for getting the most out of the experience? 

“Go in with a completely open mind, and as little pre-conceived ideas and expectations as possible. With information so easy to access digitally, many of us will have already researched the country thoroughly before we even arrive.

While it’s great to understand a country’s history and cultural norms prior to arriving, so much of an experience’s beauty is in the moments we never could have foreseen happening. It’s the people we meet, the things we learn, the places we stumble upon.”

“Personally I always try to keep myself completely open to whatever might be on the other side of that plane tarmac.”

Trusting the process

Before you were in Timor-Leste and were inspired to start Tasi, do you recall moments in your life or certain events that you can see now might have been a stepping-stone towards what the business has grown into?

Jessica says she definitely had moments in the months leading up to Tasi being born that indicated this idea wasn’t too far away. She’d known something big was coming for months, but can see now that until she had the space in her life to receive it, it wasn’t going to appear.

I think this outlook is spot on. Paying attention to the signs and synchronicities in your life, as subtle as they sometimes are, and consciously allowing space to let things flow in your life.

“The trip to Timor was actually a lot of release for me, I went there struggling with some big decisions and was finally able to find clarity and peace with them; as soon as I made those decisions the idea for Tasi appeared. I’m a really big believer in listening to your intuition and trusting the process.”

I love what you say about trusting the process. It can be hard to let go sometimes, especially when there’s a big decision to make or things get tough. What do you say to those – in work, life or travel – who are struggling with that?

“I think this comes down to whether or not you’re aware of what you really want and if you are living in alignment with these values and these intentions.”

“Over the last two years I have become really clear on the kind of life that I want, the person that I want to be, the things and people I need in my life in order to make this happen. Since I’ve become really clear on these intentions, I have complete trust that whatever is happening in my life, whether that’s good or bad, is something that I need to go through in order to get to that place.

“When things go askew, I have learnt to trust. It’s only when we’re out of alignment with ourselves that things start to get messy.

She reiterates trust here – in the process, and in yourself. That’s easier said than done, because we humans love to have an answer outright when life seemingly isn’t going so well.

But I would say if you’re struggling to trust in a process or to let go of something, check in with yourself; are you clear on where you want to be? Are the things, people and situations in your life right now reflective of that? What is this situation trying to teach you?”

Adara
Adara in Timor-Leste (via @sophiematterson)

Travel with Purpose

Tell us about Travel with Purpose and wanting to help people to have authentic adventures, away from the mainstream. Why do you think this is important? 

The idea for Travel with Purpose originally occurred to Jess simply because it’s how she herself likes to travel and become immersed in an experience.

“But then I found myself talking to more and more people who were saying the same thing, it was the kind of experience they were looking for too. It seemed to me that an increasing number of young people were moving away from the traditional back-packing/hostel route and looking for something more – to connect more with a culture, spend more time with locals and have a positive impact on the places they visit. I think it’s all part of a shift towards a more authentic life.”

Do you foresee a certain demographic being drawn to this sort of travel or way of life? If so, why? 

Travel with Purpose trips are targeted at younger people, mid 20’s plus.

“I think there’s a massive gap in the market here for unique travel experiences; those in their late teens or early 20’s are likely still interested in doing the party or Contiki tour thing, while the older generations also look for group-lead tours to look after their trip for them.”

“This leaves a big gap in the middle, people who want a bit more adventure, who are often also looking for like-minded people to travel with.”

Learn more

Travel with Purpose is currently taking expressions of interest for their first trip. The activities on the trip will vary depending on where you adventure. They recently announced that one of the locations they’ll visit in July is Adara, an island in Timor-Leste, where it all began for Jess.

If you’d like to be a part of this adventure, you can fill out your details on their website and the team will be in touch with more details.

So very belonging to me

Heading overseas at 28 to start fresh, to try ‘new’ and different. I’ve said its now or never from a visa perspective. And it hasn’t all come together like this before – when I’d mused, countless times, over leaving, adventuring, settling somewhere foreign, thanks to various provocations.

So here I am, almost 29 by the time I’ll find myself in a place that’s ‘ours’, where I’ll stop living out of a suitcase for a while and crawl into bed next to my darling, after five months apart – where I’ll feel a different and replenished kind of ‘home’ to the quintessential Australian one I know. A home of simple, quiet nights and home cooked meals, cobbled roads to the local market and sweet kisses as we nod off. All so very desirable (even in their undeniably movie-esque kind of way).

Yet, testament to the only way I know how to be, I question and critique what’s to come. Ruthlessly.

I look at my age, and worry whether I’ll lose what is finally a career that’s picking up, where I’m coming into my own. I wonder, “if this isn’t it, how old will I be when it is?”

Then I see a sign, a reminder of my adventure ahead – it could be a location that continuously reappears, or a conversation that seems to be perfectly placed into my day, to remind me of my path through the mind of another who’s been there, done that, or just that I should do it, rather than not.

So I snap out of it, throw it all to the wind, and carry on knowing the present moment is where my head should be.

As corny as it will sound, at this crossroads in my tiny, insignificant-in-the-scheme-of-things life, I’ve been looking to the likes of solo travellers and seekers like me. Cheryl Strayed and Elizabeth Gilbert (oh, yes).

I just finished Wild, by Cheryl, and then re-watched the film, before dovetailing into Eat, Pray, Love (the latter, my mum told me cast Liz as “a little too self-indulgent for me”).

Anyway, both draw such eloquent and relevant conclusions, which resonate with ol’ must-be-slightly-self-indulgent me.

Here are some of the parts that made me feel warm, grateful, full of energy, and often, so very part of something so expansive and common to us all – gritty, honest, bare and unencumbered human-ness – desire, intention, growth. (The same parts that have turned my book into a special, dog-eared keepsake).

“It had only to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles for no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way…It was what I knew before I even really did, before I could have known how truly hard and glorious the PCT would be, how profoundly the trail would both shatter and shelter me.”

“…the thing that was so profound to me that summer–and yet also, like most things, so very simple–was how few choices I had and how often I had to do the thing I least wanted to do…I considered my options. There were only two and they were essentially the same. I could go back in the direction I had come from, or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go. The bull, I acknowledged grimly, could be in either direction, since I hadn’t seen where he’d run once I’d closed my eyes. I could only choose between the bull that would take me back and the bull that would take me forward. And so I walked on.

I really revelled in the last few pages of Wild, knowing it was coming to a close.

It was all unknown to me then, as I sat on that white bench on the day I finished my hike. Everything except the fact that I didn’t have to know. That it was enough to trust that what I’d done was true. To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was…To believe that I didn’t need to reach with my bare hands anymore. To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. That it was everything. It was my life–like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me.

How wild it was, to let it be.

This, in one way or another, is something I find I have to remind myself of a lot lately. That the unknown is very much a part of the path we each tread, and that it’s actually beautiful, inspiring, humbling and necessary.

A tiny, non-PCT-like (but love) trek I did in North Carolina

Everyday things, and love.

The direction of my life has felt in a flux for more than a year. And I guess that’s not really news – who hasn’t felt directionless or confused about next steps?

Decisions have felt arduous and unclear at times, and even when they’ve been ‘made’, an army of questions has whirled in my head, eager to poke holes in my plans. But I seem to have landed solidly on moving overseas this year, despite nearly talking myself out of it for the umpteenth time.

Mostly, because I know that as challenging as it will be at times, it will be much more extraordinary. This direction might be the making of me. Nevertheless, I’ll be leaving security and familiarity, home, for places I know very few, and know little of. And that’s all in really only a few months time.

It occurred to me this weekend that even though I’ve been dreaming of an adventure like this one since I was in high school, that I’ve been spending an awful lot of time wondering and worrying, losing sleep, over all the change – at times, cursing my need for ‘adventure’ and ‘spontaneity’.

So I’ve been trying to focus on preparing for what I’m about to do instead of questioning it. Part of that comes with accepting uncertainties, and that embarking on a journey out of one’s ‘safe’ place is in fact about those unknowns.

One such preparation has been downsizing. Getting rid of lots of my belongings and making minimal (suitcase size) room for the items I’ll need over there has been liberating, once I reminded myself that it is just ‘stuff’ I can replace if I really need.

Bigger still, has been the idea of detaching from places and people – the familiar ones that enter in and out of my life regularly, but more so, a near and dear few that I hold in my heart of hearts. I might be gone for six months, but I could be gone for six years, and the thought of those who understand me, soothe me, inspire me not being a daily part of my life brings out a selfish and conflicting part in me. Perhaps I have everything I need within, but these few show me the most honest reflections of myself, the glowing and the ugly. I feel I’ll lose a part of me when I leave here.

So aside from reminding myself that Skype is a thing, I remind myself that the love and connection I have for them does not grow strained and thin, stretched by distance. It remains whole and intact, it fills me up.

It isn’t a thing we have to have less or more of, love. We can take it wherever we go.

Everything you want lies on the other side of learning to trust yourself. Take a chance. Have faith. You already know who you are, what you want and where you want to go.”

Slowest

You were the slow drip

Entering my veins

I let you wash through me, stain me with a new colour

Lines at my navel, to my chest, approaching my lips

A ravishing feast we were – to delight in and devour

One morsel at a time

No need to hurry, we thought

But now we are the hourglass stuck, dreary sands held fast

Now we beg for spare change

For a taste from the plate of the knowing and divine