A journey through my notebooks

I am sure all my fellow-bloggers will see a little of themselves in Julie Powell. What project can we take on to get us through the next year and serendipitously land us a literary agent and a book contract? Are we not all writers in waiting? Artists in our own residence? Yes, my passion is cooking, I've thousands of recipes in (yet) uncooked from books and magazines...but that's been done now. It still amazes me, that whether people read your blog or not, you are still in a way, published. Self published. For years now I have been writing, filling notebooks and taking one with me wherever I go. But nothing has inspired me more than travel.

I used to sit on my bed in my parents house, tearing out articles on Morocco and India, dying at the mounds of colourful spices and the alien brightness of women swathed in saris. Where golden jewels pierced through noses and ears were commonplace and beautiful rather than a symbol of non-conformism as it is here. I used to pore through them in the privacy of my bedroom when my boyfriend was at football training or out with the boys. He didn't want these adventures. They belonged to me. I wanted more.

I could almost smell the headiness of the souks through the pages and in some way, I think I escaped into them then and there for just a little while. I naively, never thought it a waste to methodically tear and squirrel away these pages. I just knew, one day, I would be there. I didn't know when or how (then again, I've never been into practicalities). I used to rank my top three places, revise them and re-rank them and I settled on these...Paris, Morocco, India.

I invite you to come on a journey with me...through the best years of my life. I knew it then just as I know it now.

"They will be the best years of your life," he said. I wasn't convinced.

"You wait until I get back, I am going to be so wordly".
"You think because you haven't seen the world that I don't think you're wordly?"

I thought I loved that boy and that's why I left.

Berlin - A City Under Construction

I'm not sure why I have less and less to write when I travel now. Perhaps after the initial awe of grand old Europe, I've become a little blase about the already seen.

So Berlin, to be kind, is an unfinished symphony. Under construction.

I admire the impassioned youth making their mark, creating afresh, expressing their anger and confusion at the history they have found themselves a part of. A city wears its scars and Berliners wear them well. They are all so open about their history, embracing education and information and sharing it without shame or hostility, and why should they? They are blameless after all and they were victims as well. The taxi driver takes us from the stoic cold concrete of the East to the colourful, creative civilised West.

But for the exceptional shops and cutting edge cafes, there's a lot of nothing in between and anything that is finds itself crumbled and covered in graffiti.

What was the highlight of the trip for you?" Mum asked
"Paris. And you?"
"Leaving Berlin."

First impressions

London from the sky.
It looks different. Lots of little terrace houses and narrow streets. The tar on the road is dark...wet. The sky grey...drizzly. For some reason so many cars are red. I'm in the little land of Noddy.
A slight hiccup upon arrival. I exit the gates sans baggage (such the independent traveller). Fear not, the backpack and I reunite and off we go. Following Brie's instructions I take the tube headed for Cockfosters and change at Earls Court. By the time I arrive at Fulham Broadway I'm already so over backpacking.

I meet her at Starbucks. I spotted my funky little sister with her punk do, long and spiky on top. Donning excess blue eye make up, jeans and a blazer, "repulsive", she calls herself. She passes the burden of me over to her friend Carla and runs after a double decker bus, jumping on the back gripping the pole with one hand and turning to wave with the other and disappears into the life she's created for herself.

Come night, she adds her pointed elfin shoes and the 5 Aussies she shares with house with head out looking 'so London'. Rolled up jeans, pointy boots, hair and attitudes. I feel like a just-stepped-off-the-plane-ignorant-hippie in jeans, beaded thongs and dark pools sinking into my cheeks. I’m still so tired. I remind myself it’s good to remember what lack-of-sleep tired feels like. The kind that closing your eyes fixes as opposed to the incurable exhaustion I’ve been harbouring.

It's like another world. After dinner we descend past huge carved doors into a Turkish/Moroccan bar trying not to drown beneath the haze of jet lag, cocktails, apple and watermelon hookah smoke.

I took a Big Red Bus tour the nest day and disembarked at Covent Garden. It reminded me of Pacific Fair shopping centre on the Gold Coast, and the streets and lanes, street performers and never ending strips of shops and cafes reminded me of Melbourne. And well, that’s all I can liken it to. Melbourne. Different trains but easy enough to follow and cool shops in cool areas. I could live here, yeah, but that’s not why I’m here. It’s not different enough. I had a terrible coffee from CaffĂ© Nero and sat in a comfy leather chair and wished I were alone so I could write and think and be and absorb.
Then to Knightsbridge and Harrods. Not that different to David Jones, the seafood display was something else in the food court though, mermaids and real fish on the wall and waterfalls. A Vie en Rose cocktail followed at the Mandarin Hotel Bar and a bowl of crisp coated peanuts. I'm currently unemployed so I take note for later...free bar snacks.

Come Sunday, the Aussie householders drag me along to Camden market. What a fabulous place. Cool fashion and fantastic food. A canal, a barn and African food galore (Moroccan tajines, stuffed peppers, black eyed bean & potato stews) and UFO sized pans of saffron stained potatoes. There was Asian food, Lebanese pocket breads with roasted veges and chilli chicken and carts stuffed with creamy donuts, chocolate covered pastries and cream filled buns. Whoever said the food in London was crap was going to all the wrong places. It's there it just isn’t cheap. Admittedly the fresh fruit and veges are wrinkled and old looking and what they have on display is what would never make it onto a Sydney shelf. But what would I know? I’m just a tourist.
Oh, yeah..there was cool vintage clothing and the usual market stuff too. A Pimms at The Westbourne, Notting Hill on the way home and happy days are ours. People spill onto the pavement and it's the trendiest place I am yet to know.

Journeys are the midwives of thought

"Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train".1

As your eyes come to rest on a landscape passing you by too fast to focus on, or too high to see detail or so monotonous it won’t change for hours beyond landless seas and cloudy skies or the blue of the seat in front, your thoughts are left to rest on all that is within. At least until they are rudely interrupted by the stench of humanity.

The back of my seat shares a common wall with that of the bathroom. The meal of red curry chicken did the smell emitting from not far enough beyond no favours. Blessedly there was an air-freshener wielding angel wrapped in Singaporean batik, red lipped, with surprisingly large boobs. She masks the smell that engulfs our oxygen. The first connecting flight boards in Singapore at eleven that night. Its twenty-nine degrees and I have time not enough even to piss.

‘Are you 28K?’ I ask the woman in my seat.
‘No, I’m 30, it goes 28, 29, 30,’ she points across the row. I hate how idiots try and justify themselves.

If ever I was to understand the thinking of an aristocrat De Botton refers to in The Art of Travel it is now. "He rarely went anywhere to avoid what he took as the ugliness and stupidity of others”.2

I don’t bother explaining the numbers are the rows, the letters the seats and that she’s in 28. She moves not without a huff and the boys beside me prefer me. My seat this time is the very first row as opposed to the last, so we have heaps of room at our feet, all of which is required by the three six foot something Germans beside me. I set up my legroom like my bedroom and my crap is sprawled on the ground about me. The guy next to me doesn’t use his pillow, so I have two and he helps me with my tray table, bless.

I see lots of German words and hear lots of German voices and I am not used to not understanding what is going on around me, but this is what excites me. I try to drill the new words into my head.

‘Turkey or Fish?’ I hear. Oh, I wish they’d serve sleep. I look out the window at God knows where and the stars in the sky are stunning, like tiny light bulbs poking through the ceiling of a black marquee and I am grateful for that.

This Frankfurt leg flies through a small scrap of turbulence with the unwelcome arrival of my ‘visitors’. At least that explains the emotional wreck I’ve been. Wrestling an unexpectedly required tampon from the depths of my backpack, I extracted my cleanser, toner and moisturiser while I was there. It was during turkey-fish time that I performed my ablutions so I wasn’t holding anyone up. Good on me. I was missing for a while though and those boys must have thought I was Miss Super-High-Maintenance.

It’s cold like Brie warned. My wise beyond her size little sister sent me a ‘what to pack’ list before I left to meet her in London. I put on the puffy pink socks my older sister bought and wrapped myself in the small plane blanket and $18 Miranda Fair pashmina. It ain’t quite doing the job, but what can one do? I’m left to wonder what else Brie told me that I didn’t heed, but reject retrospection in favour of sleep. Foul uncomfortable sleep. It’s 5am Frankfurt time and home would have just finished lunch. I left my clock on Sydney time because I like to know what my real life is doing without me.

I’ve decided I hate Lufthansa seats and what’s with breakfast? Sausages, spinach, potatoes boiled and little squares of fried potato, add to that a rock like raisin muffin, cold croissant, fruit yoghurt and bread roll – to think it all fits on a single plastic tray. The boy next to me was nice, let’s face it, he left me there asleep on his shoulder for much of the trip, but please can he stop yawning? That German morning breath is killing me.

I go and freshen up in the airport bathroom and realise the day has come that I always hoped never would…that I can’t leave the house without make up. I should have looked after my skin while it was good, now I have to resort to damage control. He told me I’d get lost at Frankfurt airport, so I was a little concerned when everyone went their own way and I was left with a pack of smokers who soon dispersed. I wait for the gate number to appear, even though I’ve already asked a member of staff and been given the answer, I like to see for myself (there I go again, never trust anyone).

I sit there and I think how I didn’t drink enough water, how I have a headache and how I don’t know where my hours went. I wonder if I’ll get served another breakfast on the onward flight and then when I land its only 8.25am and I can have another. This travelling midwife is really here for the long haul.

I wonder if I’ll even like travelling and if I’ll like travelling alone because sitting in airports isn’t all that fun. Then again, there is nothing to talk about at airports. Everyone feels crap and tired and at least if you’re on your own, you don’t have to listen to anyone else’s whinging. I've always thought there to be a mild deafness associated with airports. I find terminals surprisingly quiet. You rarely hear others speaking and there's a hum in this transient part of the world like an atmosphere on mute, like the ear-popping deafness you get when your thousands of miles in the sky yet you haven't left earth yet.

Oh, how could I forget? We got Magnum ice creams for dessert on Singapore Airlines. Mmm

1 De Botton, Alain, The Art of Travel, pg 57
2 De Botton,Alain, The Art of Travel, pg 10 cites Huysman, J.-K., A Rebours, referring to the behaviours of Duc des Esseintes.


I don’t want to need
Although I think letting someone be there, needing someone
Is a gift I am yet not yet generous enough to give?
For fear of what, I don’t know
Yes I do. I see it as a sign of weakness.
I wonder if I’ll come home and be a different person.
I guess I like to hurt alone.

The girl before the travel

Sitting on a jet plane, in the back fucking row, SMSing to the last. I am twenty-four years young and I feel every day of that youth right now.

I’m sorry
I couldn’t say thank you
For the lump in my throat
When you returned my boarding pass

The faces I won’t see for a year
The voices I won’t hear
The feeling people won’t be near if I need them
The provision of the cotton wool cloud around me is stripped

I feel alone.
It isn’t until
‘I miss you already’
Mum sends me a text
That I begin to shed

For whom am I crying?
I’m fine. My heart broke yesterday. But they do that, don’t they?


Mum arrived back home before take off. To my little blue car and my empty room.

The flight attendant asked me to turn my phone off. I go the adrenaline surge nerves like I do in an exam after ‘pens down.’ I snuck in a few letters to reply to his ‘u ready yet?’ with ‘as ill ever b x.’ No time for apostrophes and a kiss at the end. Sealed.

Of all people, my flatmate Rosa, in her infinite wisdom (of which she is completely oblivious to possessing) spoke with quiet conviction when we met for coffee one last time before my departure. She wore a pearl around her neck which she's never worn before. I remember feeling like she was giving me her bessing to go and discover the pearl in this world that was to become my oyster. From beneath her sensible square glasses she mumbled, ‘oh, the tyranny of distance.’

I wanted to see the world. I went thinking I knew who I was, thinking I wasn’t travelling to find myself. I wasn’t lost, or at least that’s what I believed. I started to wonder whether this girl on the outbound flight would recognise the one that someday would return on the inbound. I hoped I wouldn’t.


During a midweek lunch break in June of 2003 I took Him and a yellow Post-It note to a travel agent. It had only these few pencil scrawled words upon it:


So this is what the beginnings of an adventure of a lifetime look like.

I left Trailfinders that day with a ‘round the world ticket. I resigned from my job and left the country three weeks later, weighed down with a backpack I could barely carry and a heart I could hardly bear. The promise of the wait of the world shifted from my future to my present. I flew past cloud nine, across time zones and toward no date of return, holding on to the belief that I wouldn’t last more than three months.

I was going Away. Where? Away. It’s a place. It’s located anywhere but here. Why? To see the colours and the cultures, to taste the foods and to meet the friends I’d never meet if I stayed here. And I was hungry, starving for the new and the different and for the flavours of life I was yet to taste, the sounds of words I was yet to understand and rhythms of life I was yet to feel. The fork driving the wanting to go into going had three tines, one was the exhausted shadow of myself that I had become, two was the fact that my little sister had beaten me to it and the third was in the shape of a man. I needed to feel alive and inspired, I needed to chase what I really wanted and I needed to escape what was dragging me down. This friendship between Him & I had become an addiction of the most pleasurably destructive kind. One of us had to break the bond and that one was me. He never thanked me for that, or at least that’s what I thought then.

I’d spoken to people that had gone away for years at a time. Three months seemed an age to me. Away from your family! Your country! So many weeks, so many days. I knew I was not one of those people. I simply didn’t have a desire to live away from my life or my family as much as I thought I wanted to see the world. I remember when my older sister went to Switzerland, Paris, Germany and God only knows where else. She was away for my twenty first birthday, she was a way for a lot, the weeks seemed to last forever, well, a quarter of a year to be exact.

Years later I would learn that home misses you more than you miss home. What home sees as days lost, you see as days gained. Days stolen from the uncounted days of normal life. To get the fuck out of your everyday shucks the oyster’s shell for you. Being introduced into other peoples lives and just living on a daily basis in a different environment is the perfect way to evade the heavy and escape the petty. And this is but a fringe benefit of the exotic, carefree, fun-filled bubble you’ve flown into the core of.