Have you ever stared at the world map for so long all the countries start to blend and lose their borders? Have you imagined landing in the remotest desert, or floating down canopied rivers being supported by only an inner tube? What about packing a small bag, jumping in the car, no destination planned, just the thrill of the journey in your back pocket?
I am a traveler, I enjoy the journey as much as I enjoy the experience; being immersed in a land with new cultures and languages. City scapes and redwoods exhilarate me, I am drawn to the surf board and the reef. The smell of Pad Thai on the busy streets of Bangkok, the smooth texture of smoked swordfish in Cinque Terra, dining under the stars in the Outback. Iconic street signs and back alley graffiti ignite curiosity. Armories and castles are lessons in history.
This is your introduction to my obsession.
As a young adult the idea of regret was terrifying to me, the question "what if?" induced immediate nausea. One of the items on my wish list back then was to learn how to surf. Blue Crush had just opened in the theaters and I had rushed back to see it for a second time. The combination of the power of the waves, tranquility of the sea and effort of the body had me hooked. Being landlocked was proving to be my only obstacle. So I decided that if I was going to learn, I would learn with the best. To avoid bailing out and high costs I booked my flight a year in advance to the surfing capital of the universe, Australia.
I researched the east coast from Bondi Beach to Byron Bay, the alligator infested waters of Cairns and the diverse ecosystem of Fraser Island. I mapped out budget friendly hostels and transportation. A copy of Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country and new bathing suit in tow I was ready to become the surfer Kate Bosworth would be proud of.
My pilgrimage had come to an end, and after three flights and twenty two hours of being in the air I had arrived at my surfing headquarters. Throwing on my bathing suit I hurried down to the ocean in a Utopian high, making me oblivious to my surroundings, that is, until I was jolted back to reality when I confidently strutted into the water. The unthinkable had happened, I had not planned for this, it had not even crossed my mind for a moment. I was actually terrified of the water, ankle deep in sea foam I scouted the shark nets in the distance, the jelly fish stranded on the shore, and the large waves crashing down. Anxiety quickly set into grief as I realized in the land down under I would be learning how to not fear the ocean.
I did not surf. I went sea kayaking with turtles and dolphins on the East Australian Current, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, and white water rafted through an ancient rain forest on the Tully River. I ate kangaroo, held a Koala and avoided Huntsman spiders. I met up with one of my best friends and saw a movie in the night market in Brisbane, then ate Yum Cha in Chinatown. I walked the entire circumference of Uluru and listened to Bone Man under the night sky. I fell in love with Gloria Jean's and Lamingtons, and I still have not come across a meat pie quite like the one I had on the way to Caloundra.
I did not surf, on this journey, but I sure did discover a passion that only continues to intensify with time. I signed my sister and myself up for surf camp in Costa Rica a couple of years later and not only did I stand up on the board, I got to share that experience with my sister, at the time it was meant to happen.
2014 is just beginning and destinations are already lining up, stay tuned. Share with me your travel stories and where you want to go! Luv K8eG
Originally published January 21 2014