Which is mainly terrible life choices with a dash of brilliancy and intuition:)
Darwin has been the most incredible experience one could ask for. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I have made beautiful friendships, fallen for unavailable men, and have drank enough alcohol for a small country. Or maybe even Australia…
Reflecting on these past 3 months has been something I’ve been trying to avoid for some time. The reality of leaving this little bubble is something I am not ready to face. Because here in Darwin I am safe. I am surrounded by my close friends, my work, and perfect weather. Leaving Australia just hasn’t been a concept I’m willing to grasp just yet. In Darwin I let myself be on holiday. For once I didn’t care about my appearance. I developed a habit of eating once a day. I learned how to make a poached egg. I realized I really don’t enjoy cooking or handling food at all (good thing I work in hospitality). I like being around my friends more than being by myself. My thoughts still drift to the past and I’m okay with that. I’ve learned to keep my eyes forward and my vision vast.
Living in a hostel has reminded me of living in dorms my freshman year at University. New strangers to make into friends. Always having someone around. Access to pools and lounge chairs (I went to uni in California, I am a walking cliche). Picnics at the esplanade with friends drinking champagne out of bottles. Eating cheese with Europeans because I’m in love with both (watch out Holland, I’m coming for you in April). The pure chaos of daily life has been something I have learned to love. I’ve always liked having my own space yet now, living out of a bag where it looks like a rainbow threw up (aka my wardrobe in a messy pile) and sleeping in a bunk bed doesn’t bother me as I thought it would. Granted I am looking forward to a proper bed and having my own room again, I haven’t felt uncomfortable in hostel life as I thought I would. Amusing how I thought I would get an apartment once getting a job and now I’m still in a bunk bed in the CBD (downtown area) of Darwin.
Always expect the unexpected and you’ll never be disappointed. It’s when you make plans that disappointment surfaces because nothing ever will go according to a plan. Case in point: I thought I would be off to
South America come October. Reality? California and Costa Rica. So not exactly where I thought I would be, but I know Costa Rica is where the true self belongs for awhile. Back into volunteering, learning Spanish, swimming in warm waters, lying in hammocks.
It’s a rough life I live sometimes. And it’s crazy to think that 3 years has passed since I decided to walk away from everything I knew. To a country I couldn’t locate on a map, read or speak the language, or know anyone when I arrived. Wasn’t even sure someone would be there to meet me at the airport. I still remmeber my dad shaking his head while driving me to sfo, “cailin, you’re insane.” I still remember how my dad couldn’t watch me get through security because it was too hard for him to see his daughter leave home on a one way ticket to a foreign country. Later I found out he didn’t want me to see him cry. I was surprised I wasn’t crying. Maybe I was still in shock and disbelief that this was actually happening. After 6 months of applying for the teaching job in Chiang Mai, visa paperwork galore, paying a ridiculous amount of money to get everything in order, to getting rid of almost everything I owned, taking a road trip up the coast of California to say farewell to my friends since I had no idea when I would be back. I remember arriving at my parents house with my car full of my life and asking for a ride to SFO to get my flight to Thailand. My parents love Europe- where did Thailand come from?!
Little did I know that while on a 21 hour bus ride coming from Cusco to Lima with my new friend Claire that that was where Thailand would spark my interest. August 2012 my friend told me to go there, that the way I travel and with my personality, Thailand was where I should go (we always discussed travel adventures as she just got back from SE Asia). I never gave it the time of day, I only wanted to see south America and live in Peru (I was born in Lima) and swore that Peru was the best and only country I really needed to explore (I was a dumb 24 year old, who isn’t at that age).
Once back in California I had my heart set to work and save and go back. Well corporate America found me and I couldn’t refuse the opportunity it presented. I put my Lonely Planet travel books away and filled my shelves with novels. My mother sent me a Thailand travel book with a journal with a quote “and so she began, where to next?” I smiled, but never opened them – just put them in a desk drawer and continued my San Diego life.
Which isn’t to say it was boring. I sailed on weekends, got my scuba diving certification and swam with hundreds of sharks every chance I got. I brunched with friends on the beach with bottomless mimosas. I did hot yoga daily and rarely ate gluten (see: California girl). I had a lovely house with my friend and a job that supported my little life.
Yet every now and then I would end up on skyscanner, just to see ticket prices and where I could go. I wasn’t allowed a lot of holiday time off with my job (America doesn’t believe in time off) so when January rolled around and I was told I needed to decide when I would take my days off for the entire YEAR. I had a bit of a panic attack. I was 25 years old, just out of a stressful relationship, most of my friends had seemed like they were in careers they loved and engagement announcements were drowning my mailbox.
I asked if I could have a day to decide. I was told to hurry up and so that night I bought a plane ticket to Honduras for 10 days in October. I had to use my other days off for friends weddings (I had 4 that year). My housemate was so excited for me once I entered my info and got the confirmation – I couldn’t believe I had done that. It was so easy and felt so natural.
Then the anxiety started to surface. How was I going to tell my parents? My friends will think I’m nuts. Work will worry about me. Is it even safe? So I went to a yoga class and calmed down and when I went to work the next day I just casually told them my days off. They didn’t ask for awhile where I was planning to go, but know when they did they were speechless. Some of my coworkers don’t leave San Diego on days off. My work director had never left California before. She actually had never been to the beach before. We live in San Diego, avoiding the beach takes effort. But she’s a sweet woman so on one of our lunch breaks we drove to La Jolla beach to have a picnic lunch. I usually went every day and she always laughed at my desk because I would have a small pile of sand under my chair (I love putting my toes in the ocean).
I guess I was always meant to be the odd duck. The odd one out. The black sheep. I knew my job couldn’t be “it.” At work I was surrounded by suits and computers. I worked 6 days a week and sometimes wouldn’t see the sun for longer than an hour (my lunch break). I was going to yoga 2-3 times a day to handle my stress. I was scared to sleep at times because I would grind my jaws at night. I pick at my eyebrows in my sleep (weird, maybe too much tmi?) And would have to color them in. I started seeing my friends less and less because when I did have time off all I wanted to do was sleep, do laundry, and drink wine and watch a movie.
I knew that this couldn’t be my life. I was 25 years old and this wasn’t what I was cut out to do. I threw myself into my yoga because I didn’t know where else to turn. I also didn’t realise that yoga was my teacher and my home. That my mat always supported me.
I signed up for yoga teacher training and that night I applied for a teaching job in Thailand. Little did I know that 6 months later I would be boarding a flight knowing no one to start a new chapter.
And it was and continue to be the best decision I ever made. After I finished my teaching certification I went to this backpackers paradise called Pai with my Dutch lover (we are still really good friends and I can’t wait to see him in Holland next year). I remember throwing random clothes into a small bag, getting a van at 7am to a place I had never been to and to have him waiting at the bus stop for me on a motorbike. We lived in a bamboo shack together for a week and had perfect moments together. He was the one that first sparked my interest in the work and holiday visa in Australia- October 2014. Only took me 2 years to actually follow through on it 🙂
I learned how to teach children that had no background of English whatsoever. I developed patience and grew to learn how to interact with kids of all ages as I’ve only been in an industry with adults and I was almost always the youngest. I traveled to beautiful countries and swam in countless seas. I have kissed princes and toads. Have had my heart full and crushed. I have made hundreds of friends and have new places to travel to. Have filled up a passport and now have a 52 page one. I’ve had two work permits in two different countries. I have learned a lot in the hospitality industry (I’ve never worked hospo in my life until December).
I am exactly where I need to be. Albeit I never exactly pictured sleeping in a bunk bed at 29 years old, but my life has been full and new opportunities are always on the horizon.
I will be back on American soil in September and I am beyond nervous about it. I’ve been avoiding the news and Facebook, but customers are always asking about America. I just tell them there’s a reason I’ve been abroad for 3 years now. My parents know this and some of my close friends, but I really have zero desire to ever live in the states again. I’m not ashamed of America (okay maybe a bit), and I am so thankful that I am allowed to disagree with our government (living in Thailand where it’s illegal to disrespect the royal family and you’ll get jail time for it – I grew to really appreciate the freedom of speech), but I just can’t live there. I love and miss my family and friends, but I am just not meant to live there. Maybe subconsciously I never thought I would since I was born in another country. I was always destined to live somewhere else. My aunt is from Barcelona and I’ve always wanted to go there.
Now I’m applying for teaching jobs in Spain so come May 2018 I might actually get over there. Or maybe I stay in Costa Rica. Meet a lover and travel with him (haha joke). I’m sure some of you (the 5 people that read this) are wondering why Costa Rica.
Good question, I’m still wondering why.
I was lying on the beach in Indonesia with my friend Brooke on my birthday and I was staring at the beautiful water (my life is terrible) and just said: I’m going to Costa Rica after California. She laughed and said that was random, but fully believed me. She’s a fellow traveler as well. I told my mom and she laughed and said “okay Cailin, whatever you say.”
Well now I’m going in October and my mom is coming with me for two weeks. That’s how my travels work. I will randomly decide on a country, tell myself yes, and then figure out the how. Turns out I have a friend that runs a volunteer organization there and so I shot him a message (we met volunteering on a reservation in the Amazon – I’m so exotic) asking for info. He sent me the website and I will be living there for 2 months. I’m able to work online as well so that’s a perk.
But in all honesty, that’s how my brain works. Once I decide on something, I make it happen. Once my mind it’s made up, it’s not a matter of if, just when. I’m impossibly stubborn that way. This also is how I work when it comes to relationships (both platonic and romantic ones).
And which is why I believe I’m making such strong friendships and zero in the romance department. I’m filling up my friendship cup first because when traveling solo, it’s really difficult to want to make friends when they end up leaving after a day. It can get exhausting. Since I’m working in Darwin I’ve made some really good friends that are also working in Darwin and we are all leaving around the same time. Just last night I sent out a group message to some friends letting them know I was leaving soon and we needed a get together stat. A few hours later we were lying on the esplanade having a picnic to catch the sunset and drank champagne under the stars. That is what I love about Darwin. To me that is Darwin. There’s always someone to be with, always someone to grab a drink (or a bottle) with (Darwin is also known for alcoholism). Someone there to talk to, who will actually listen.
But because I’ve spent so much of my subconscious energy into having these beautiful friendships, my romance department has been put on a shelf.
There have been times I wished I had someone to come home to, to cuddle with, to sleep next to. I miss the companionship I’ve had with previous partners. But I also know I won’t settle just to have that back. Maybe I have too much pride (where was my pride when I sang karaoke on stage last night?!) , or maybe I’m actually maturing (jk). I definitely have felt a shift with how I approach possible interests…oh wait, nope, I still love go mute and blush when my crush comes near me. How have I made it to 29. I literally don’t know how I’ve made it this far. I can’t help but laugh at how ridiculous my life can get.
Example: last Monday was my friends 29th birthday. We decided to try to be classy (we are anything but) so we put on dresses and got plastic glasses, a rainbow cake, and champagne and we had a wonderful breakfast. Then my friend shows up with 2 bottles of champagne and ciders so naturally we had to drink those. At this point we are taking a million selfies and my friend is climbing a tree. We decide that this is the time to go to the wave pool. The walk to the waterfront takes 20 minutes. On the way there the birthday girl decides she wants another bottle of wine so we pop into the bottle shop and she gets denied. She pouts and we continue on our way. The pool let’s us in (we were in no condition to be there, let alone be around children). And so we grab some inner tubes and float and pretend to be kids again. Well we begin to wrestle and we hear a whistle and we were asked to leave. The ages of the culprits: 29, 29, 34. We sulk and grab our things and meander back to the hostel for a much needed afternoon nap. 3 hours later we wake fresh. We shower and put on pretty dresses to go out again. We remembered we still had a bottle of champagne so we consume the bottle while getting ready (we shared with our roommate too). Feeling pretty we basically skip down the street to my work (discounts galore) and have some drinks with friends. After realizing we haven’t really had any food we inhale chips and gravy. At this point we are seriously considering why we are single. My friend gets a birthday cocktail, but then gets cut off. We try to go next door, but they require ID so I had to go home and get my passport which felt like it took a year. They finally let us in and the bar was dead. So we called it a night and went home and slept for like 12 hours. The next day we get some wine and do laundry and lie by the pool and contemplate our life decisions.
And that summarizes up my time in Darwin. Sorry for the long read, if you made it this far, I apologize 🙂
Until next time!
Photos of my little Dutchie Malou, Michael “bender” England, and Qays (my friend from Jordan)