If you know me at all or have read any of the blogs, it is no surprise that I fly by the seat of my pants. For the most part, I land on my feet or at the very least, end up with a great story.
Simultaneous to writing this blog, I started reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. It is about a woman, 26, who sets out on a three month solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. She sets off completely unprepared but filled with hope this will piece back together her life that had come undone and left holes in her heart. I have never felt so connected to a book in my life.
In October 1995, I set out on a similar trip but I was headed to Sydney, Australia. I had $800 in traveler’s checks and everything I would need crammed into my new back pack. I landed in Sydney with absolutely no plan, no expectations and no idea how this was going to be change my life.
Luckily, my sister Megan had met a few Royal Australian Air Force generals at a pub crawl in DC and they knew when I was arriving. I was handed a telegram when I was deplaning and it stated they would meet me at the gate and bring me back to the base.
How perfect is that? I went back with complete strangers to a military base in a foreign country and they proceeded to help me map out a plan to travel the east coast of Australia. While planning my route, purchasing an unlimited bus pass, selecting the best youth hostels, etc , I toured Sydney with my new local friends and operated a flight simulator at the base. I remember sitting in the dark cock pit overwhelmed by how delicately and precisely this massive aircraft needed to be handled. I would never have that kind of focus, but then again, my life did not depend on it.
I traveled along the coast visiting Byron Bay, Harvey Bay, Brisbane, Airlie Beach, Cairns and the most northern point, Cape Tribulation. It was the middle of November when I arrived in Airlie beach. I became a certified scuba diver and completed my course with a three day, private charter, sailing trip around the Whitsunday islands. An absolutely wonderful experience leaving me completely broke in the middle of my journey. It was time for a plan.
I arrived in Cairns with a phone number that would save my life. A patron I knew from the bar where I worked in Philadelphia knew a couple and told them I might be calling. Thank God they invited me over and opened their house to me. The next day I walked around the marina looking for work. I took a job on a dive boat as the cook, the bartender and manager of the passenger manifest. I couldn’t fly a fighter jet, but I could do this.
I had a few days off in between my week-long work shifts. Again, conspiring at a local pub with other back packers, we decided to go bungee jumping. I realize now I approach life in a cyclical manner, the same exact way I approached the bungee jump. I make decisions without a lot of thought, I impassively approach the moment, I make a mental note of the scene, I dive in at which point fear floods every molecule of my being and finally I soar upward, thrilled that I have survived and continue on.
A few of the same holes remain in my heart almost 20 years later, others have healed and new ones have settled in. I learned the art of compartmentalization early on, a survival skill everyone should master. I also learned and live every day with the understanding that I am responsible for my own flying pig adventures.
Found a great quote to back up Pig Pen’s mantra: “A creative mess is better than idle tidiness.” Michael J. Fox
Entertaining tip of the week: best Paella recipe http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Seafood-Paella-102991