‘The only journey is the one within‘ – Rainer Maria Rilke

My plan after visiting the US was to head south to South America, however, it just didn’t feel right and I think I was ready to move closer to home. I made a decision to go to Bali (which I had never been to) and visit a friend who lives on an island near Lombok. She had invited me to visit some time ago and although I thought it would be nice, I didn’t really think that I would make it. However, it felt like the right way to go so I decided to change the direction I was taking and then go back to Australia to spend Christmas with my sister in Adelaide, drop into Sydney to catch up with friends and my ‘mum’, then head back to my home town in late January. It’s funny but part of me felt like a failure for not sticking the 12 months out overseas, however, if I did continue I feel that I would have been going through the motions rather than actually enjoying the journey. The other thing is that this journey has taught me to go with my instincts instead of expectations. Everywhere else had ‘opened up’ to me and was basically a smooth flow, however, there was nothing happening for me in relation to heading to South America so I decided it wasn’t the way to go, And at any rate, by the time I landed in Australia I had been overseas for over 10 months which is not a bad innings!

I actually have never been to Indonesia as I was put off by the thought of Australians behaving badly in Bali. I only ended up spending 3 nights in Bali, in Samur (I avoided Kuta!) and then got the boat over to Gili Meno. Gili Meno is a tiny island which it takes 1 1/2 hours to walk around. There are no motor vehicles so you get around by either walking, bicycling or horse and cart. Gili Meno was basically just a farming area where no one lived until the 90’s when somebody realised that it could be a great tourist destination. It mostly caters to tourists and there are about 500 living on the island including ex-pats (like my friend).

Meno (and Lombok) was devastated by an earthquake in August 2018 which impacted greatly on tourism. Gili Meno is starting to rebuild however the evidence of the earthquake is clearly evident. We spent one day in Lombok visiting my friend’s partner’s mother who lived in the jungle in the mountains. She is an amazing 74 year old living on her own in a tin shed which was built after the earthquake destroyed her home. I had planned to explore Bali and Lombok further but ended up staying in Meno and just enjoying relaxing in this little slice of paradise. What I loved most about the island was the simple lifestyle. I would have no trouble living the lifestyle although I would have trouble not being occupied with something other than snorkeling and swimming. In saying that, the snorkeling was amazing. I haven’t done much snorkeling so I don’t have a lot to compare it to but there was so many different beautifully coloured fish and coral there and I saw a heap of turtles too! The 2 weeks I spent in Meno were magic! It was a lovely way to finish my journey.

I then headed back to Australia. It was really weird going back to my home country. It was really weird finishing my journey. I didn’t go straight back home, as I went to my sister’s for Christmas, so I suppose the journey was sort of continuing. One huge thing I have learnt from this journey is to really appreciate the people in my life. I didn’t grow up with my sister as we had different fathers and we lived in different states. I didn’t really get to know her until I was an adult. However, the relationship I have with her now is beautiful and I am so grateful she is in my life. I think she may have become a little tired of me hugging her and telling her how much I love her!

Gratitude for everything and everyone I have in my life has been one of the most profound outcomes of this journey and one I hope to continue cultivating. Travelling such diverse countries and seeing what other people’s lives are like can do nothing but kick in the gratitude for how much we actually do have. I think every Australian young person (and older) needs to travel outside of their middle class comfort zone to ‘see how the other half lives’ so they have an understanding and empathy for others and a recognition of how good we actually have it. The people in our lives are absolutely fundamental to our sense of happiness. Historically I struggled with allowing myself to be open to people as I was scared of being hurt. That is a mistake. We may get hurt now and then and sometimes feel that we could die from the pain, however, being open to giving and accepting love is such a rewarding and beneficial space to be in and totally outweighs the risk of being hurt. The lightness I feel due to my feelings of love and compassion and gratefulness has changed my life and the way I see my world.

I deem myself a bit of a minimalist however travelling for 10 months with 17 kilos of luggage (some of which I didn’t actually use!) made me very aware of how little we really need. I didn’t ‘rough it’ as such (except maybe in India) but I needed very little to make my life comfortable on the road. I had been heading that way before I left on my journey, however, this journey has strengthened my resolve to ensure that my footprint is as light as possible. Consumerism is a trap. We buy things we don’t need and, in some cases, can’t afford, and continue to want more. It’s like a drug which people use in an attempt to fill a void. It impacts on our purse, our happiness and our environment. Gratitude is the antidote as far as I’m concerned. It enables us to appreciate what we have and not feel the need to have stuff that doesn’t matter.

So in the closing chapter of this journey, I reflect on my experiences and what the takeaways will be. There are so many! I have slept in around 70 beds in 11 very different countries – developed and developing; English speaking and non-English speaking; Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Catholic and Christian, and very different cultures. I have met so many people from so many different walks of life and have learnt so much from them. I have had bad experiences however the good experiences totally outweighed them. I have become more courageous and confident however every now and then those embedded fears raise their heads, but that’s ok as it is part of living. Nothing is ever perfect and only we can choose to see the beautiful or the ugly in life. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, life is basically about attitude. Notwithstanding chemical depression etc, and the impact it has on people’s lives, life is simply impacted on by the way we view things. Tragedy hits all of us in one form or another. We have the choice to allow that tragedy to define us or for us to take something from that tragedy to grow and moving forward. I will never move on from the loss of my son, but I will continue to move forward and enjoy the life that I have been given. I have so much to be grateful for and the last 10 1/2 months has not been an exception. It has been an amazing journey and I’m grateful that I have been able to share it with you.

Thank you for sharing my journey with me. 💜

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