Starting out as a digital nomad – a lesson in living lightly

13 Apr

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This tiny bag will soon hold everything I own in the world.

 

I didn’t think I had a lot of stuff. I rarely buy anything and move around so much that I’ve purged piles of crap over the years (and probably a lot of stuff I shouldn’t have ditched. Oops, sorry Nanna.)

But I’ve just spent half an hour looking around my room, then at my teeny 50 litre backpack, then back to the room, then back to the backpack. How the HECK will I reduce all that stuff to the bare essentials? How will I have enough possessions to last 3, 6, 12, 150 months, as I roam around the globe? Can I take my beloved blender? Should I embrace the frizz and forget the hair straightener? Can I still satisfy my inner girl with just a few basic, bland outfits? Will I really wear wedges in Vietnam? What if I decide to flee Asia and explore Europe, but only have yoga pants and el cheapo market singlets? I only just bought some beautiful bed linen for my boudoir (which I can now call a boudoir thanks to said bed linen) – what a waste… 

Moving overseas is an epic lesson in living lightly. 

It’s so tempting to cling to things. To think we really need items that sit around collecting dust. To convince ourselves that survival is about having an outfit, a utensil, a guidebook for every destination, every situation. 

But it ain’t.

As I start to simmer down my belongings to what will fit into a baby-sized backpack, I’m realising that it’s important to strip back.

Even if you’re not planning an overseas adventure, it’s a great experiment to live with little. Get by with what you need – and not much else. We surround ourselves with stuff, security for the ‘what ifs’ that never arrive. We celebrate milestones by giving gifts bought in a hurry at vacuous malls. 

It reminds me of this quote by Dave Ramsey: 

“We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.”

A tad cynical, sure, but bloody true!

I’m still struggling to work out what to take on my travels. I’ll be hitting up a few digital nomad blogs in coming weeks for ideas – and will share my eventual packing list with you here.

What are you tips for travelling and living lightly? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Newcomer’s guide to Mantown…I mean Manly

11 Apr

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There’s a magical place brimming with sun-kissed surfers and gorgeous girls. A peninsula that’s packed on weekends with grinning tourists, and refreshingly quiet through the week.

You can knock back a cold one while watching the waves, sprint along the shoreline, get dumped under a swirling swell, sip a creamy coffee at a beachfront cafe, or don your heels and hit a nightclub for what’s sure to be a ridiculous, fun-filled evening.

If you’re open to it, you’ll find friends easily. One week after landing in Manly, I walked into a cafe and struck up a conversation with a stranger about grammar. He is now one my closest friends, part of my little local tribe (and he runs the uber cool 100Strong Training kettlebell studio in a back alley).

That place is Mantown. I mean Manly. I mean Mantown, as the laid-back locals call it. Cos there really are a lot of men.

What’s special about the northern beaches

If you’re visiting Sydney and have an extra day up your sleeve, hire a car or jump on a ferry and get yo ass over to the northern beaches. The seemingly endless stretch of coastline is simply stunning.

And while it’s not easy to hug the beaches as you drive north (not as easy as it is in Western Australia at least), since the roads are set back, cruising up the coast with the tunes pumping and a panting dog with its head out of the window is a must-do (dog optional).

The northern beaches are also sacred. Situated on the land of the Guringai people (the traditional land owners), Manly and surrounds are steeped in rich Indigenous history. Some say it’s one of the most spiritual spots in Australia. Maybe that’s why so many people feel at home here, almost immediately. I know I did.

Is Manly expensive?

Sydney is one of the most expensive cities in the world. And so, by default, Manly is a pricey place. Rent can cost anything from $500 for a two-bedroom apartment (I was paying $330 a week to flat-share a two-bedroom, top floor apartment with views of Sydney Harbour). You may be able to find cheaper rent in a larger flat-share, granny flat or surrounding suburb such as Manly Vale or Freshwater.

A weekly shop is likely to set you back at least $80-$100 per person. I skip the supermarkets and pick up fresh fruit, veg, seeds, nuts, eggs and superfoods at the Frenchs Forest Organic Markets. It’s always fun sampling produce, saying hi to new friends and tucking into fresh foods. And even though organic food can be expensive, it lasts longer in my fridge and tastes far better than supermarket stuff.

Manly also has a stack of cafes – a large soy latte is around $3.80 – $4.50, while a big breakfast can cost between $12 and $25, depending on where you go. Insitu crafts delicious breakys – and their Rocket Boost cacao and goji berry smoothie is unbeatable.

I also love Barefoot Coffee Traders. They have two spots, which I like to dub Big Foot (on Wentworth Street) and Little Foot (a popular hole-in-the-wall on Whistler St, next to the Council Carpark).

Three Beans on Darley Road is another fave. Be early to grab an outdoor table and people watch in the sunshine.

The only downside is that many Manly cafes are yet to offer free Wi-Fi. Actually, that’s an Oz-wide problem – internet speed and access is a little on the crappy side.

Is Manly safe?

If suburbs were schoolkids, Manly would be the popular kid who charms the teachers and causes havoc at the back of the bus.

It’s beautiful and serene during the day, but at night has a wild and reckless streak. As a result, there’s a 2am lockout on Friday and Saturday nights. That means that if you’re not inside a bar writhing and grinding, you’d better hop in a cab (if you can get one) and high-tail it home.

You’ll also notice hoardes of teenagers descend on the Corso (pedestrian area) on weekends. They’re usually pumped up with booze and out to let loose. As a woman, I’ve never felt unsafe – although a guy did grab me on the dance floor at the Manly Beach Club when I refused to dance with him (thankfully my seven-foot-tall glamazon friend grabbed his collar and threw him across the room. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but she did give him a what for).

I often walk home alone after a night out. Even at 3am, the streets are packed with people buying greasy feeds or stumbling home. Up in Little Manly where I’ve been staying, it’s filled with families and I’ve never seen or heard anything dodgy.

Manly in a nutshell

So – in my experience – Manly is a magical place. It’s sunny, fun and the perfect escape from the city. It’s got a rocking surf break, fab food, quality coffee and it suits families, couples and singles.

It’s also a popular hub for tourists, and there are plenty of backpacker hostels to support the many transient travellers who pour in throughout summer.

Sure it’s expensive, and nights out can get loose, but Manly is a charmer.

Have you been to Manly? What was your experience?

 

 

Fighting the fear to travel

10 Apr

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I’m quitting my life.

In Sydney, everything is easy. A little tooooo easy. Too freakin’ comfortable. It’s beautiful, abundant, brimming with opportunities. But I’m bored. And edging on ungrateful…which ain’t good.

And after spending a month in Vietnam, I’m yearning to spread my flippers and sample more.

So off I go on my gray whale migration. Heading north to California, then Bali to check out the digital nomad community and get my body back into balance. Then I float across to Chiang Mai in Thailand, and finally Vietnam. The plan after that is…well…there kinda isn’t one.

Eep.

I’m scared.

Weally, weally fwightened.

Only really extroverted, confident people can pack up and make a red hot go as roamers. Right?

I’m a super sensitive soul. I’m not flamboyant, I take time to open up to people (after which time I am flamboyant. Just invite me to karaoke.) And I tend to worry about stuff.

One thing working in my favour is that I like my alone time. Of course I crave contact with others, but I’m genuinely happy in my own company. As a writer, it’s all part of the gig. I like time to reflect and think and feel deeply. So I’m not worried about being alone while I meander around.

Maybe I’m afraid of finding my self. Or not finding her. Or being in a dangerous situation. Winding up broke. Missing marriages and babies back home. Not putting down roots or making real, lasting connections with people.

But I know the only way I’ll make it as a gray whale is to JUST. GO.

I have a whiteboard with a million tasks scribbled on it. Each day, I pick a task and tick it off. It’s all I can do. If I give myself time to question my travel plans, it may not happen.

I’m here to prove that even we introverted folk, we sensitive souls, we can roam. We can do GREAT, GRAND things. We can have an EPIC existence. We can push and surprise and be alone and fall down and laugh about it…and then cry about it. We can do it while being a little bit weird.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. This mammoth migration.

Here are my flippers. They’re stretched out wide. Let’s go swimming!

The Sensitive Soul is morphing

7 Apr

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Ecstatic to be eating bánh xèo!

Yo sensitive souls. You may recall I just returned from an enlightening trip through Vietnam, and have decided to move there in…ooh…8 weeks!

Part of the not-so-planned plan is to be a roaming writer. I love writing about strange lands, surprising places, special people. 

So I’m going to transform this blog into a travel site. It will still have a ‘sensitive’ slant, as that’s just the way I see the world. Sensitively. But there will be tonnes of travel tips, destination guides and insights.

I hope you’re happy to experience this change with me. Who knows where it will lead…

Keep your eyes peeled as things start to morph around here. ;)

Peace x

Mother of pearl

5 Apr
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Lightning lit up the sea, as she slipped away…

Two nights ago, a sweet soul slipped away. She was young. Courageous. And she left behind a little one.

While we only met a few times, her departure made a mark.

My ex partner messaged while I was in Vietnam, to say she was fading. Alone in an empty cafe, I scribbled my sadness in this poem:

 

Mother of Pearl

Did you hear the news today?

She only has a week to go,

Darkness has descended,

Her goodbye – painful, slow.

 

I know I hardly knew her,

And that we barely talked,

But I’m in this cafe crying,

She’s consuming my every thought.

 

How will that baby be now,

His mother gone too soon,

I hope he’ll always sense

her presence in every room.

 

How cruel to take the sweetest soul,

And snatch her from this world,

Send peace and love,

To the babe, without his mother of pearl.

 

Rest in peace, beautiful Nicki xx

On being thankful for every moment

3 Apr

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This morning I met a beautiful friend for an early morning swim, at Fairy Bower in Manly.

The dawn sunlight pierced the crystal sea, as waves rocked across reef. Sparkles radiated around us, frightened fish flashed at our feet, and a paddleboarder glided across the horizon.

Salt sizzled on skin as we waded in the cool pool.

In that moment, I was deliriously happy. Grateful that I was alive to see and smell and sense such a special scene.

In 8 weeks, I’m moving to Asia! Vietnam stole my soul, peeled back the layers, and I’m itching to return.

And so I’m making a point to bask in every magical moment while I pack up my life in Sydney. 

The spectacular shoreline. Crisp air. Fresh drinking water. Sunrise over the sea. Quiet streets. Dips at dawn. Gorgeous friends.

We should do it every moment: look for the lining. Appreciate being alive right here, right now. Wish for nothing other than who we are in this very moment.

Will you join me?

 

Miss Saigon

25 Mar

They call her Miss Saigon,

Been here far too long,

Lonely nights in seedy holes,

Her innocence, the streets they stole.

 

Miss Saigon,

What’s your story,

Wrapped around a midnight glory.

 

Miss Saigon,

Why do you linger,

These empty souls,

Their calloused fingers.

 

Your country’s calling,

Hit the highlands,

Turn away,

From this endless nightmare.

 

They call her Miss Saigon,

But she doesn’t belong,

They call her Miss Saigon,

Been here far too long.

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