A “Boomer” and Tripping My Brains Out!

Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty: Beautiful Beaches & Art Enclave

IMG_0024

Ohope Beach, voted NZ’s Most Loved Beach (AA Traveler poll 2014), sweeps 11 km along the Pacific!

New Zealand is in the process of completing a bike path (mountain biking is big here) that will run from the top of the North Island all the way down to the end of the South Island (NZ is comparable lengthwise to driving from Maine to Florida). It is no wonder why the tourism industry has overtaken dairy as New Zealand’s largest export earner. Every where there is public access to beaches, walking/hiking trails, and most them free with bathroom facilities that are plentiful, clean, and spacious. Kiwis Love the outdoors

Whakatane is no different with great sunny weather, extensive beaches, fantastic fishing, and a great arts and culture scene, which culminates with the popular Summer Arts Festival. A national art competition of painting and drawing mediums is held at the end of January, and in February there is Shakespeare in the Park under the stars at the Riverbank Amphitheater, and the Fresh Market Jazz in the Park at the Whakatane Gardens.  I was lucky to be there to see the annual stone carving symposium, where artists set up on the riverbank in town and have a week to complete a sculpture typically done in sandstone, which is then entered in a show where it can be purchased.  I got to meet sculptor Trevor Nathan and later visited his outdoor sculpture garden.

FullSizeRender

Section of artists working in sandstone during the Sculptor’s Symposium, Whakatane, NZ

IMG_0498

Sculpture from Trevor Nathan’s garden gallery

This area is the perfect place for Val, from Mt. Vernon, Maine, who along with her husband Gerry, have made NZ their home six months of the year since about 1989. Val and Gerry are artists who create intricate, hand- carved moose bone jewelry under the name Maine Bone Carving . It was Val who first took up traditional Maori bone carving from a local artist, and then Gerry, also a stone sculptor, followed suit. Val is a vivacious, quick-witted woman who sports a constant twinkle in her eyes.  She had to have been one of those naughty kids growing up who always encouraged you to try something daring! Introduced by a mutual friend back in Maine, I was scheduled to meet up with Val on my travels, but upon arriving in Auckland, I discovered she had suffered a foot injury, and Gerry was still in Maine until mid February. Fortunately, she was on the mend when I arrived with the help of her long-time Kiwi friends Jenny and Malcolm, who, as luck would have it, invited me after to their lake house in Rotorua.

IMG_0628

A welcome dinner with (left to right) Val, Malcolm, and Jenny.

Located in what’s called the Bay of Plenty, Whakatane is on a major fault line and is one of the most seismically active areas in New Zealand. I found that out firsthand Sunday night. At around 10 pm, Val and I were deep in conversation when there was a sudden knock on the door. It was a neighbor who asked if we had just heard the earthquake. We looked at each other both thinking what earthquake? when there was a sudden rumble then a loud bang!  Val let out a scream and we all jumped, stunned and saucer-eyed.  We decided to leave the house for the street and met another neighbor lingering outside. There continued to be several more tremors, and suddenly I remembered the big earthquake in Christchurch in 2011 that registered a 6.3 on the Richter scale. Lucky me.  I later went to bed that night–still staying in my room on the second floor–and heard one final shake and rumble.  The next morning it was reported that there had been 18 tremors/earthquakes, with the largest registering a 3.4.  The bang we heard was probably the chimney separating from then hitting the house. I wanted the full Kiwi experience. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for!

I had hit the road running since my arrival in New Zealand, so it was nice to relax and visit local landmarks, hike a little, and go to the beach. Whakatane was a Maori settlement that spanned hundreds of years, and many of the important historic sites can still be visited. Val and Gerry are lucky to have a beautiful beach a short walk from their home that stretches for several miles. The day I went there were only a handful of solitary souls–and this was their summer/school vacation season.  Maybe it’s because water is accessible everywhere here.

IMG_0129

Waterfall historic site that helped Maori identify Whafatane settlement.

IMG_0131

Lone rider at the beach in Val’s neighborhood with volcano in the background.

My visit wouldn’t be complete without a day hike, and a particularly beautiful one is the Nga Tapuwai o Toi Track (forget Luminosity brain games; try pronouncing these Maori words), a stunning coastal walkway between Whakatane and Ohope.  We checked the tides because there is one section that can only be crossed when the tide is low. Val dropped me off and planned to pick me up at Ohope Beach three hours later where the track ended.

As I waved goodbye, I turned and noticed what neither of us had noticed before: a sign that read that the track had been closed due to rough seas.  And Val had no cell phone. And I was a little panicky. And I wondered what the hell I was going to do. Ah, one of those moments when your physical body registers a slight tremor –of a different kind. I was thrown out of my comfort zone but didn’t relish staying there for too long.  I had to look discomfort and uncertainty in the face and stare them down, and on some level, I knew it would be OK.

So, I started down the path and met up with two teenagers who gave me directions to Ohope Beach a few miles away. As I resigned myself to a long walk on a desolate road in the hot sun, a lone car drove up the dirt road. I waved it over, and inside was a young mother and her son who were probably wondering what I was doing. When I explained my predicament, and, without a moments hesitation, she offered to drive me down to Ohope Beach.  An angel perhaps?  I do remember invoking the protection of these divine beings at the onset of this trip. My St. Christopher medal, given to me by friends Chris and Julie is always in my bag, and my sister Gigi and devout Catholic mom have sent a guardian angel to travel with me.

I did meet Val later in the day, but not without another minor wrinkle in the plan. But don’t bad experiences often turn into good stories?  I think it was Frederich Neitzche who believed bad experiences are required for us to experience the good; we grow stronger for having them. He was probably right… and since traveling can have its mine-field moments, I’m sure I’ll be stepping on a few more along the way.

A “Boomer” and Tripping My Brains Out!

IMG_0013

                   View heading up the east coast of Coromandel near Whitianga

The Coromandel Peninsula

You do not visit New Zealand without taking a trip up the Coromandel Peninsula. This is what I’d been told by many, and here I was sitting in my sub compact, rental car ready to pull out onto the road for the first time.  I kinda sat there paralyzed for several minutes wondering if I was going to be able to handle this driving.  For extra support and peace of mind, I skulked back to the Thrifty office and got the extra insurance in case the worst happened–which it does. By the way, there are no more car accidents caused by tourists than there are caused by Kiwis; it’s about four percent either way.

Once I got over the initial fright and finally pulled out onto the highway, I was exhilarated and excited to be the master of my own little blue Suzuki.  As I’ve mentioned before, the roads are well marked and easy to navigate with lots of round-abouts (traffic circles) and big, blue double arrow signs at ground level pointing to stay left. No GPS for me. I’m using maps! And I’ve made a game of folding them back up again correctly.

The roads driving north beyond Waihi really become fun and at the same time harrowing. I was glad I was driving up the east side of the peninsula hugging the inside because on these narrow, winding, two lane roads there is relatively no shoulder and there are few sections of guard rails!  At the same time, as you round a sharp corner, there’s a quick in-take of breath as you gasp at the stunning view thrown at you! You gotta look–but you gotta keep your eyes on the road too!  Add to this the occasional cyclist. Cycling up these roads has got to be some form of extreme NZ sport– or a death wish. I’m not sure which.

I’ve also taken to talking –out loud– to myself a lot exclaiming “OMG! Look at that!  HOLY SHIT/COW  that’s incredible!”   Fortunately, there are places along the way that allow you to pull over and stare mesmerized at the surreal scenery in various shades of aquamarine, turquoise, and green.  To be honest, I’ve asked myself a few times why I’m doing this alone? I would so enjoy this with family and friends. When I’ve told people I’m doing this trip solo, I get two different reactions. One: That’s really cool, bold, and  exciting! Two: They just sort of stare blankly, and you know they’re probably thinking Why would anyone want to do that!? 

Driving up the peninsula only takes roughly two and a half hours, so I leisurely took my time stopping at a couple of beaches to… you know… just sit in the sun and sand and think how glad I was to be enjoying summer in January…  Before reaching my first day’s destination in Whitianga, I made sure I visited Hot Water Beach.  The tide was in, so no thermal hot water soaks, but it was beautiful just the same.  Also close by in Hahei is Cathedral Cove It’s about a thirty-five minute walk to the beach from the car park, or you can take a shuttle for 5 dollars. Although the day was cloudy, the beach and cave formations were worth seeing in any weather.

When arriving in Whitianga, I pulled into a Countdown grocery store to get directions to the YHA Backpackers Hostel.  I stopped the first person coming out of the store and asked directions, and the next thing I knew, he told me to just follow him, as he was going that way. Kiwis are amazing.

IMG_0436

My single room with slider to patio.

This was my first experience at a hostel, and for $40. ($26.US) a night, I was impressed. This place had such a friendly and happy feel to it, and to top it off, the beach with a lovely esplanade was right across the street. On the way to my private room with shared kitchen, bathroom, and sitting area, I passed a couch full of young German kids cuddling together watching a movie. It could have been a scene right out of my sister and brother-in-law’s home with their two daughters and posses after a long day of fun. My room was teeny-tiny with a single bed and resembled the kiddie room from a Playmobil vacation beach house. I loved it. The best place to access free WiFi was in the office, and I got to chat with other guests, who were, surprisingly, comprised of various ages, families, and older poor people (just kidding).

The next morning I headed west across the peninsula to the actual town of Coromandel and found a small and upbeat downtown (city center) with the iSite tourist center, stores, and several wonderful cafes. Small cafes are every where in NZ and most have free WiFi. I’ve learned to order my coffee–long black–a shot of espresso diluted with hot water, and then settle in for a while checking emails, observing people, and listening to the melodious sounds of accents and languages from all over the world. I checked into the Anchor Motel, where for about $60 ($44.US), I got another great single room, though this time much bigger with a double bed and sliders to a private porch area, along with a shared kitchen and huge separate bathrooms for men and women.  Recommended was the Driving Creek Railway and Potteries . I was lucky to catch a ride without a reservation at the last minute (a solo bene) and later visited one of the potter’s studios whose work was featured in the Railway gift shop. I was saddened to hear that Barry Brickel, New Zealand’s first Kiwi-born, fulltime handcraft-potter and creator of this inspiring narrow-guage railway track had died shortly after my trip there.

I finished the day with a two hour hike close by and a meal of steamed mussels, a Coromandel favorite.

IMG_0460

Mussels at The Kitchen Restaurant, Coromandel

This trip really helped me get into the groove. My heart was purring! I was feeling really good, except for the occasional reflection in a mirror or shop window of my upper crepey arms! When the hell did that happen?  The next day I headed south down the peninsula to the town of Thames for a cafe stop and got to meet Peter from France, who was on a four month work visa. We chatted and then took turns watching each others belongings for a quick loo visit.

IMG_0465

Solo Traveler Peter from France

After musing about why I’m doing this alone, a couple of things have occurred to me. First, I can see what “me” really looks like. The ego begins to fade, as I’m in my own little social vacuum.  And, Second, traveling alone also shines a light on the kindness of strangers: new friends are every where.

A “Boomer” and Tripping My Brains Out!

IMG_0412

View of the Emerald Lakes–Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Call of the Great Outdoors

How incredibly fortunate for me to have such a wonderful host on the first leg of my journey after leaving Auckland.  Janelle is a busy oncologist and mother of two grown daughters from Perth, Australia, who after 35 years in a busy private practice, decided to take a job in New Zealand for a couple of years.

This woman embodies the term “free spirit.” Since coming to New Zealand a year ago, Janelle typically jumps in her car on the weekends and heads to scenic destinations all over New Zealand, most often hiking and then camping overnight.  When back in Perth, her passion is four wheeling in the outback in her retrofitted Toyota SUV.  Joined by other like-minded friends, they journey together for weeks at a time staying in touch via car radios and established road rules. Not only is she accomplished, independent, generous, and fit, she’s also beautiful to boot in a natural, Cheryl Tiegs sort of way. Janelle overwhelmingly gets my award for “Coolest Person Ever!”

Not wanting to duplicate anything she had already seen, we decided to drive from her home in Tauranga in what’s called The Bay of Plenty, south to Tongariro National Park, about three and a half hours away, to do The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, considered the best one-day hike in New Zealand, 19.4 kilometers and 7-8 hours to complete.

Heading out early Saturday morning, we made our way south to Rotorua, down to Taupo, around one side of the immense Lake Taupo, the largest fresh water lake in Oceania and roughly the size of Singapore. One minute you are driving by rolling hills of greenery and pastures, and the next, the roads narrow–with no shoulder on either side– and sharply curve around deep gorges with huge silver fern. As we drove closer to the Tongariro National Park area, Mt. Ruapehu, the largest active volcano, came into view still covered with snow, flanked by two other volcanoes Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. Volcanoes.  There are Active volcanoes here!

I know this landscape has become famous for the filming of the  Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I somehow felt I was smack dab in the middle of Jurassic Park, albeit a benign one!

It’s hard to believe that there is skiing during the winter months here in New Zealand, so Janelle stopped to show me the Whakapapa Ski resort where she often comes.  Ski places often an otherworldly feel off season, but this place resembles a kind of mining town on steroids. The place is littered with huge black boulders and volcanic rock as far as the eye can see, and it’s hard to imagine there is enough snow in winter months to cover it all!

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a spectacular day hike not to be missed.  Although not a particularly difficult hike, there are sections of very steep climbing, but these climbing sections consist of staircases of packed earth.   As long as you’ve kept up regular squats or stair master, no problem.

IMG_0404

Heading for the Saddle section of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

One of the most beautiful and tricky sections is the steep descent down to the Emerald Lakes area, which is like skiing down an expert trail of very dark ,grey, volcanic sand. Janelle and I kept up a steady pace, stopping occasionally for a quick drink and rest, and managed to finish the trek in about six and a half hours. Tired but happy, we were met by a shuttle that took us back to the car park.  After spending another night in the small ski town of Ohakune, we headed back to Tauranga.

IMG_0426

On the Strand back in Tauranga

Janelle’s generosity with her free time was above and beyond the call of duty, and I knew it was time for me to: Strike. Out. On My. Own…  I had driven enough with her to feel acclimated. But driving up the Coromandel Peninsula–a must see destination–can be treacherous. I was a little fraught with worry.

Janelle assured me I’d be fine, and once I was on the road in my own car, I’d love the freedom of going at my own pace and stopping where ever my heart desired. I had to believe she was right. So after an uneasy night, Janelle dropped me off in town on her way to work the next morning.  I rented a car at tourist iSite Center for the next three days and then later got myself back to her place via the local bus. I realized I had no choice but to move forward and was reminded of a quote I’d recently read:

“It makes no sense to worry about things you have no control over because there’s nothing you can do about them, and why worry about things you do control?  The activity of worrying keeps you immobilized.”

Wayne Dyer

 

I have to bypass worry because I can’t be immobilized. I have to push on when it gets tough or uncertain trusting that this is the way.

A “Boomer” and Tripping My Brains Out

IMG_0371My airbnb home tucked away in the greenery

Welcome to New Zealand!

Do NOT fly to New Zealand the way I did! I guess I wanted my son, brother, and sister in NY to wish me farewell, and then have my brother drive me to the airport.  As a result, I booked my flight from JFK to Dubai, Dubai to Brisbane, Australia, and finally Brisbane to Auckland–a total of about 30 hours of travel time! Fortunately, the plentiful meals, three movies, and the seventh season of Mad Men saved me.

I arrived in Auckland on Wednesday, Jan 13th, to pleasant sun, after which I’ve been told has been an unusually rainy, cloudy, and windy summer season.  I’ve quickly learned to chat it up and ask lots of questions.  It’s true what people say: Kiwis are some the friendliest people happy to assist and make recommendations.

After getting myself by bus and cab to my airbnb stay just outside Auckland city center, I had a chance to relax and take in the scenery.  New Zealand is a temperate rain forest. Every where you look are rounded hills and lush, emerald-green vegetation that appears velvety to the touch.  In the midst of this are the immaculate and well marked road ways seemingly pretty easy to navigate–with the exception of driving on the opposite side of the road–and all of this surrounded by water–everywhere.

I highly recommend using airbnb. I rented a lovely room from two young hosts–Rania a Kiwi, and Sebastian from France– for two nights, and they were extremely helpful with bus schedules, local shopping, sim cards, and morning coffee. The other guests were mostly young people from France curious about New York City.  It seemed that every time I opened the door to my room to head to the bathroom, I was met by a young, handsome twenty- something in boxers!

A short walk in the neighborhood led me up a path behind residential homes to hills and  elaborately paved walking and biking trails in the midst of rolling pastures dotted with cows and a panoramic view that stretched over Auckland out to the water.  Traveling truly slows down time and holds you spellbound in the present moment.

Two days later, while waiting for the bus to Tauranga, I sat next to a young teenager reading the John Greene novel, Paper Towns.  I exclaimed that I knew the author and stated how popular he was with young people in the United States.  He gave me a brilliant smile– braces flashing in the sun–and then asked me about New York City.

I’m a little sorry that I didn’t plan to spend an additional two days in what’s called Auckland City Center since I missed seeing both the Auckland Museum and the Auckland Art Gallery, but bus schedules fill quickly, and I needed to be off to meet a friend about three and a half hours away.

If I appear cool, calm, and collected, I can assure you it is only a facade. Under the surface, tiny bubbles of doubt arise here and there and I wonder if I can really do this.  I am reminded again of The Alchemist:

“Once you get into the desert, there’s no going back.  And when you can’t go back, you have to worry only about the best way of moving forward. The rest is up to Allah, including the danger.”

OKAY then….

A “Boomer” and Tripping My Brains Out! Traveling Solo at 63 in New Zealand and Australia…on a Budget!

photo-1444090542259-0af8fa96557e“Buy the ticket. Take the ride.”

                                                    Hunter S. Thompson

My departure is only two weeks away! Funny how the anticipation of a trip, or any adventure that requires us being out of our comfort zone, suddenly creeps up. It’s like the sudden tap from behind given in surprise by a long- awaited friend;  it startles you at first, and then the surprise of it only deepens the feeling of excitement of what is to come.  But… there’s also a wee bit of uncertainty too, and that’s a good thing because it means that we are venturing outside of the safety bubble we’ve been living in.  Suddenly it POPS!  The moment has come, we’re exposed to the unknown, and the question, Can I do this? has to be answered.

The older we get, we tend to like things a little predictable and safe. The older we get, we’re less likely to take risks, and we limit ourselves and potential opportunities.  This was made clear to me recently as I was staying in Brooklyn spending time with my son, who decided to stay in NYC after college and was lucky to find work in his field.  Watching him navigate this busy metropolis —even commuting by bicycle from Manhattan to Red Hook— is impressive.  Young people live life with passion.  It’s why we love their company.  So, fellow aging population–let’s not lend credence to the saying, Youth is wasted on the youth!  Instead, let’s embody the quote by Helen Keller: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

I’ve often thought I would like to live in Brooklyn for a year, but all the uncertainties about a move like this paved the way with pot holes of doubt and held me back. This trip, I’ve been implementing the practice of facing the unknown in little ways like driving my son to his job in Red Hook and finding my way back alone, taking the subway, switching trains, and arriving at the right place, learning you can’t be afraid to ask for help. People in New York love giving directions.  If you ask someone who doesn’t know the answer, nine times out of ten, someone else will over hear you and chime right in!  I’m rewarded with a small hit of dopamine each time I learn something new. If we cultivate curiosity, new things, and confidence, our lives will be enriched.

So, I’ve also figured out that all I’m going to bring on this adventure is a 25 inch suitcase and a Pacsafe shoulder bag that will house my Mac air, travel documents, iPhone etc.  There is lots of information out there on what to bring on a lengthy trip including these tips from How I Planned for Nine Months of Travel. Rolling your clothing also seems to be the best way to utilize limited packing space.

I arrive in Auckland, New Zealand, on January 13th and have a room reserved for two days through the Airbnb site. The hosts may even pick me up at the airport!  I”ll spend a day or so in Auckland before meeting up with friends who live in Tauranga  and Whakatane, also located in the north island.  I’ve been told that visiting the south island is a must, but I haven’t figured out this part of the trip yet. I will also be practicing to expect the unexpected. 

I thought it would be a good idea to reread Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist, the story of Santiago, the shepherd boy on a journey to find his “Personal Legend.” There are many life lessons to be realized from this story, but since I am trying to quell feelings of fear that rise up to overtake me as I bob to the surface for air, this lesson stands out: Fear is a bigger obstacle than the obstacle itself.

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”

I’ve read that great risks are rewarded with great rewards. My sister Janet has instructed me that nerves are excitement without the breath.   So with that said, I’ll leave you with, “See you on the other side!”

A “Boomer” and Tripping my Brains Out: Traveling Solo at 63 to New Zealand and Australia…On a Budget! Dreams of Ocher

The idea of taking a trip like this sounds so romantic and adventurous, but how the heck do you plan for this, especially if you’re on a budget and not a great planner or stickler for detail? My Meyer’s Briggs personality type is INFP–introvert, intuitive, feeling, perceptive–in a nut shell: I’m quiet, I go with my gut, I operate more on feelings than logic, and, finally, I like to “wing it.”  Could be in trouble here, but this is about growth, right?

My friend and travel mentor, Gayl, began by asking me a lot of questions. Questions bring on anxiety and a kind of “fight or flight,” panicky reaction in me. What do you want to do on this trip? Do you want to explore nature, study art, meet people, explore the culture, visit cities and rural areas? Although these questions were overwhelming at first, I realized that, (and what my friend knows) the best tools to unearth buried drives are questions. So after tackling these questions and with a few suggestions from Gayl, I started reading and hit the internet.

Remember the old days when we had to go to the library, study the card catalog, and pour over reference books? According to Daniel Pink, author of the very interesting book, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, the challenge today isn’t accessing information, the challenge is curating it. I took the book’s advice and put aside time every day to bookmark the best sources of information, then started taking notes in a journal of the things I needed to have (visas, round-the-world tickets, sim cards for my iPhone) and things  I wanted to do. The clincher is that this is a “practice,” which requires discipline.  Ouch! More growing pains!

The planning of this adventure has also enlightened me about the power of networking. I am currently working on other Workaway sites in New Zealand and Australia, and now hosts are contacting me, validating that we Boomers have much to offer.  My Aussie friend liked the profile I’d written for the Workaway site and suggested I make it a bit more chatty and add a few more pictures. She has since started “marketing” me to other friends and acquaintances.  And it’s working.  My friends and family here and in New York, too, have connected me to their friends Down Under, and all the synapses are firing and creating a rich network of travel stays with exotic names like Tauranga, Whakatane (pronounced fuck a ta ne!), and Kununurra.

Since renting my house in October, I’ve pared down my belongings and have been living a kind of nomadic existence. My gypsy vardo is a 1993 Volvo 240 station wagon that houses a box filled with all my important papers, last minute odds and ends that didn’t get packed, and a blue, plastic tub filled with winter clothes.  Propped up by the kindness of friends and family, I stake my virtual tent from place to place and try not to overstay my welcome. There’s a tremendous feeling of freedom after being so responsible for so many years. The silver lining— there always is one— is that my dysfunctional upbringing has actually served me: I’m very adaptable and enjoying this!

I’ve been doing some travel reading too, and friends and family have suggested great titles like Bill Bryson’s Australian travel book In a Sunburned Country.  Bryson is a funny guy, and his outsider’s perspective evinces not only the quirkiness but also the history and vast beauty of this huge country and continent. It’s an engaging read! My brother-in-law James recommended Bruce Chatwin’s, The Songlines, a very different book, set in the desolate lands of the Australian Outback. A bestseller in 1987, Chatwin is credited with transforming travel writing. His book is part travel adventure and personal philosophy as he explores the meaning and origins of ancient Aboriginal “Dream Tracks,” invisible roadways left by the totem ancestors as they “sang” the natural world into existence. Chatwin postulates that we humans have a “nomadic instinct.”  Staying in one place, sedentary desk jobs, and our excessive accumulation of stuff are unnatural and don’t make us happy.  Hmmm….. Maybe to find yourself, you have to travel?

I’ve since purchased plane tickets.  It’s real now. To steal a couple of quotes from the Notebook section of Chatwin’s book, they read:
“You cannot travel on the path before you have become the path itself.” “Walk on!”

Gautama Buddha

 

Original oil painting, Connie Ottmann “Jack at Reid State Park” oil on canvas, 24″x 30″

 

A “Boomer” and Tripping My Brains Out!

After a couple of years of deep contemplation, I decided that I was tired of living a life of quiet desperation. So after 18 years of teaching English at a public high school, I took my retirement( probably not the best idea financially) and set myself free—free to do what??

I don’t like to use the word “retired” because I am far from being retired, but rather reinventing myself once again. As Of October 1, I rented my home for a year and have taken the advice of a well-traveled friend from Down Under and decided to do some solo traveling to New Zealand, Australia, and possibly Bali. Real traveling, where you go slowly, get to meet people, and explore the culture.

According to my friend, traveling solo is the way to go at our age. It seems like a gutsy move, yet on the other hand, you aren’t hindered by others’ schedules, quirks, and annoying habits; you’re only hindered by your own—and there’s the rub.  Can you live with yourself and your behaviors when faced with a stressful situation and no one else to rely on? That is part of the challenge and the thrill of adventure that is calling me–a real exercise in mindfullness.  I want to shake things up, I want to become more conscious of the beauty around me, I want to test the mettle.

I guess I was ready to undertake this. It was only one week into September when I decided to notify a few realtors about renting my home( my original mixed media painting above). The next thing I knew, the first people who looked at it wanted it, and I had to be out in two and a half weeks. One yard sale later and my belongings stored hither and thither, I find myself sharing the home of a generous girlfriend and making concrete plans. My new tenants even have a friend and connection living in Bali.  The universe is complying.

My Aussie friend has been a huge help sending lots of interesting web sites and putting me in touch with contacts in New Zealand and Australia. There are also an abundance of travel resources for solo women travelers. A particularly good one is Women on the Road, www.women-on-the-road.com. This site has everything from the 10 essentials you need to have ( Pacsafe Citysafe bag) to what and how to pack.  Another site of interest is Workaway.info where hosts from around the world offer food and lodging in exchange for 4 to 5 hours of work each day. It is probably geared more for the 18 to 30 crowd, but what the heck! I joined the site and created a profile. I have an interesting anecdote to tell but will save that for next time.

In the meantime, my friends are a bit blown away by my sudden plans, and a few are even inspired. When my 25 year-old son learned of my plans, he responded with “Go for it, Mom!” I’m going for it.