A “Boomer” and Tripping My Brains Out!

Australia’s Beautiful beaches: Ettalong Beach, a quaint vacation spot, just north of Sydney.


The 2016 Surf Life-Saving Championships at Umina/Ocean Beach, in Ettalong  just north of Sydney.

There is no shortage of beaches in this part of the world, and Australia is home to approximately 10,000!  Popular beaches to visit in Sydney are Manly and Bondi, both beautiful but very crowded. A little further north and just an hour’s drive from Sydney’s CBD is Ettalong Beach, a relaxed little enclave, and for many Sydney natives, a favorite summer vacation spot growing up.

I had plans to do some house sitting further north in Byron Bay, but I wasn’t expected for another week. A couple of friends confirmed that this was a nice place to visit, so I checked the BroadsAbroad.net site and found Ally.

My trip involved taking the train from Wynyard Station in Sydney to Woy Woy then  catching  a bus to Ocean Road in Ettalong.  Ally wasn’t expecting me until after 4pm, and always early, I had time to kill in Woy Woy.

A byproduct of this nine month adventure has been an exercise in patience– not one of my strong suits. Waiting for flights, trains, buses, hosts, check in times…waiting, waiting, waiting. It’s been a real lesson in acceptance and letting go.  I’ve also become quite comfortable dealing with new and novel situations.  That feral cat fear is slowly being tamed a little more each day.

When I did arrive, I was greeted by Vic, Ally’s husband,  who informed me that she was in  bed suffering from a severe migraine. An affable guy, we chatted a while, and then he showed me to my room with its own private bath.  Not wanting to be in the way, I decided to take a walk and explore the area.

The town of Ettalong is set right on the waterfront and a short walk from Vic and Ally’s place. The esplanade takes you along one side of a lovely cove where boats lazily cruise about. Enjoying this tranquil scene after the brash, noisy city of Sydney, and hearing the low, murmuring sounds of boat engines off in the distance, made me a little wistful and nostalgic for my long ago, childhood summers spent on Lake Cobbosseeconte in Maine.

When I returned, Ally materialized, and I was met with a tall, willowy blonde draped in brightly printed shorts and tank top–the proverbial surfer girl!  My first impression was a good one, as I found out that becoming a surfer is a long term goal of hers.  For many years, she and Vic longed to move from the colder climate west of Canberra to the warmer central coast of New South Wales, and they made that happen three years ago taking out a  substantial mortgage to realize their dream, yet not compromising their life style which includes working part-time. It’s worked for them.  They love it here.

I’m reminded of my brother Jake and sister-in-law Lauryn’s three life rules to live by: 1. always write a thank-you note; 2. always wear a good pair of shoes; and 3. never let money get in the way of what you really want.  I’ve embraced these rules myself (except my shoes at this writing are looking a little shoddy).  There’s never enough money, there’s never the right time. You have to listen to that voice deep inside and just DO IT!  And then prepare yourself to make new friends. They will appear.


Taken by Vic, a selfie of me, Tarni (Ally) and Vic.

True to her ever expanding self, Ally decided she wanted a new name and has chosen the Maori name Tarni, which means salty water. An array of interesting new friends have entered into Tarni’s life, and feeling better the next morning, she invited me to join her and her group, who call themselves Waves of Wisdom or WOW for short, for a swim at Avoca Beach, famous for its great surfing.

This golden, sandy beach is patrolled by members of the Avoca Beach Surf Life Saving Club who put up a set of flags each day indicating where it is safe to swim. On this day the seas were roiling, and we were only allowed to swim between a very narrow section.  While Tarni’s friend Chris, a life long surfer, tackled the high waves, a few of us went swimming and were not only dragged outward by the strong undertow but also pummeled by high breaking walls of water, tossed ashore like so much abandoned cargo. I’ve never taken in so much sand or had so much fun!  What a workout.


A shot of Avoca Beach and flags showing the safe swimming area.

After swimming, others joined us for coffee and conversation, reminding me of my own special group of dear friends back home dubbed The Coffee Girls.

Since Tarni had to take it easy for the rest of the day, her friend Nikki offered to take me to Bouddi National Park nearby for a hike and a picnic. Armed with great snacks and lots of sunscreen,  we climbed up to spectacular views of cliffs and more golden beaches below while Nikki educated me about the many different species of trees and the diverse landscape.

I was lucky that during my three day stay, the New South Wales Surf Life Saving Championships were going on in Ettalong on Umina Beach, another short walk away.

Surf Life Saving is one of Australia’s largest volunteer organizations. These volunteer, life guard groups help keep beaches safe. A whole sport has developed as a result, and for nine days every year, up to 7000 members from Australia’s 313 surf clubs, along with over 600 volunteer officials come together to compete. This uniquely Australian organization brings together people of all ages and looks like a great way to make new friends and do important work.

Making new friends has certainly been a hallmark of this trip.  I regretted leaving this relaxing paradise and saying goodbye to Tarni and Vic and their wonderful hospitality, but they assured me I was welcome anytime should I make my way back to the Sydney area.

I continue to stay in touch with Tarni on Facebook and was delighted to read recently that she caught her first “green wave,” an unbroken wave and not just white wash.  I wish I could have been there to witness her unbridled enthusiasm and excitement.  Once again, I end with a quote. This one is dedicated to Tarni:

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”




  1. Jane Burke · May 10, 2016

    Thanks Connie! Inspiring! XO, Jane


    • connieottmann · May 10, 2016

      Hi Jane! Thanks for the feedback! Great to hear from you. In Melbourne now–you’d love it–foodie capital, tons to do and I’m staying right around the corner from the arts center.


  2. Sharon deeves · May 12, 2016

    Hi Connie, what wonderful adventures ! Stay safe and have fun !


    • connieottmann · May 12, 2016

      Hi Sharon! Thanks for reading! I’m having such a great time and meeting wonderful people. In Melbourne right now and leaving for Tasmania on Tuesday! Say hi to Deek!


  3. Lynn · May 14, 2016

    Connie. Thank you for sharing your adventures. What a nice way to start my day. Love and hugs from Gardiner. Lynn.


    • connieottmann · May 14, 2016

      Thanks for the nice response! I love hearing from people. Do you have your house on the market? It’s such a beautiful place–it should sell and Gardiner is becoming quite the cool place to live–very active community. Leaving Melbourne on Tuesday–hate to say goodbye.


  4. Connie! I sent a Linkedin message to you ages ago. Not sure you got it.
    Congratulations on your terrific trip and blog.
    I’m still in NM, though the story has become an echo of HDHS, only more global. My nemesis is Pearson and the PARCC, not Educate and Virgel, and none of us here seem able to effectively fight either one. So proud of you for escaping with your integrity intact.

    Have you thought about posting links to your blog posts on Twitter? Although I know people say it’s dying, some of the most interesting people I read still use it faithfully, not just famous awesome writers like Margaret Atwood.

    Happy trails,




    • connieottmann · May 19, 2016

      Hi Lee!
      I guess I don’t do much on Linkedin,but I do think I read your message. Sorry to hear about your teaching scenario–sooooooo glad to be out of it. I went by a school the other day when kids were being let out and felt kinda sick! Having the most amazing time on this trip. Glad you’re reading my blog. I have posted on Twitter–and Facebook. I don’t think I’m posting correctly on Twitter–or posts just have a link–no picture etc. I’m on Medium.com-(great stuff on there) and have gotten lots of great feedback. Will you be coming back to Maine for the summer?


  5. Michela · May 22, 2016

    Lovely post about your Australia adventures! 🙂


  6. connieottmann · May 23, 2016

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting!


  7. Jenny McNicol · June 4, 2016

    Hi Connie,
    It’s great to see that you’re enjoying your Australian adventures as much as you enjoyed New Zealand. We were wondering where you were at present, just as we leave the Southern Hemsphere to head to the UK and France for the next 4 months to escape the worst of the winter weather.
    We’ll still look for updates on your blog to follow the rest if your trip.
    Ka kite ano,

    Jenny and Malcolm


  8. connieottmann · June 4, 2016

    Hi Jenny and Mal! I’ve been really getting around. I spent 5 weeks in Byron Bay area, then three weeks in Melbourne. From there I headed to Tasmania–Hobart and the MONA museum for three and a half days, then to Uluru, Alice Springs, Darwin–about three days each. I am now in the Kimberleys–east Kimberley–Kununurra for the next 5 weeks. Just got back from a camping trip to the Bungle Bungles–simply amazing. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some painting done and catch up on my Blog!!!House sitting for my friend Gayl’s daughter while she’s in Europe.. Gonna love it here!
    Where are you going in France? I can’t remember. Hope your time there is terrific!!
    Love hearing from you,
    Love, Connie


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