On that fateful hike over a year ago when Scott and I decided to dust off our dream of a year of travel with our kids and actually attempt to make it a reality, our conversation went in many directions with a lot of interrupting and laughing and excitement about the adventure that might be waiting for us. One of things we really laughed about was when Scott asked me, “But what will we do, what will our jobs be?” It came to me that I would be a writer for a year, blogging our journey for posterity’s sake and at the same time experimenting with something I’ve always been interested in but never took the time to try. He was enthusiastic about the idea and promised to do his part by taking care of us all, especially feeding us healthfully as my culinary interest has evaporated over the years. This new calling of mine led to a lot of fantasizing about how the blog would go and it usually had something to do with our really different personalities and the humor, hatred, joy, frustration, tears and laughter (had to mix up those positives and negatives and I guarantee that Scott will have something to say about this sentence) that comes with being married and having kids and getting way out of your comfort zone.
I was going to tell our story honestly from my impressively unbiased, yet slightly sarcastic point of view. I had a lot of energy to see the humor in us, even when I was tired, frustrated or in over my head mentally or physically because there is a lot of humor in being human if one is in the right place to find it. I wanted to record our journey for us mostly, but also for friends and family while exploring my creative side without the constraints of “what would so and so think.” I did well for a while, but somewhere along the way the blog became more of a scrapbook and less of a heartfelt memoir and at the moment, I am missing that voice that I had discovered. I stopped seeing the humor in our misadventure and just started recording the events of our days. This was okay until we spent four weeks in Australia and there were no mountains or glaciers or quirky towns (that we visited anyway) to disguise my lackluster blogging. I read somewhere that if you are bored reading your own writing then you can be certain that everyone else is too and I wrote some very boring blogs, blogs that were painful to proof read. Let me tell you what happened… (SKIP TO GOOD STUFF)
We spent eleven days in Coolangatta, a surfer’s mecca on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. The sun shines, the water sparkles and it is where Scott and I spent about six weeks a long time ago on our honeymoon. We have fond memories of that time. We showed up in Australia with not a lot of plans and discovered Coolangatta by accident. We rented an apartment and swam, surfed, bowled and ate a lot of pizza at the local Pizza Hut. We wanted to go back to Coolangatta and show the kids all of the places that we had told them stories about and see it again for ourselves.
It was fun to literally retrace our steps of seventeen years ago with the kids. We bowled almost every night at Coolangatta-Tweed Heads Tenpin, my favorite memory of Coolangatta (probably because I won a lot). We ate at the Pizza Hut on Kirra Beach which was not as good as I remember, but then maybe it’s just my older and more sophisticated taste buds. We walked along the paths and through the parks that we walked so long ago. We visited our old apartment and watched surfers enjoying the famous breaks at Greenmount Beach and Snapper Rocks. Scott even rode a few waves.
This is Kirra Beach, very near our apartment and the view that is enjoyed while eating the not so delicious Pizza Hut buffet.
Most days we walked along this path (the path we walked years ago) from our apartment to the beach, grocery store or the bowling alley.
Farther along the path and headed towards Greenmount Beach, our old hangout where we unknowingly swam out to the shark net and Scott first surfed.
…with its perfect break and hordes of surfers enjoying record breaking surf, compliments of Cyclone Winston. In the distance is Rainbow Beach and Snapper Rocks point break beyond, where Quicksilver and Roxy sponsor the Gold Coast Pro in March, first stop on the pro surfing calendar. We observed the progress of the temporary structures and buildings on our daily meanderings as the community prepared for the competition in a few weeks.
Snapper Rocks close up.
A frog keeps watch over the surfers at Snapper Rocks.
Grant and hundreds of other photographers lined the beach enjoying the waves as much as the surfers. Grant not only enjoyed taking pictures, but also visiting with other photographers and drooling over cameras he’s only read about on the internet.
We had a lot of fun playing Tenpin and felt like regulars by the time we left Coolangatta. Ashley was the most improved bowler.
Grant figured out how to spin the ball.
We would team up against Scott and Ashley to play two or three games a night often followed by a stop for ice cream or gelato on the long walk back to our apartment.
The kids spent a lot of time in the water. You can see Surfer’s Paradise in the background.
Scott surfed too.
Ashley’s goal was to surf every day and improve her surfing skills in the warm water and good waves.
Cyclone Winston had other plans and while the professional surfers spent three days getting towed into monster waves, Scott hunted safe surfing options for Ashley. This is Currumbin Beach and at the mouth of Currumbin Creek which is usually very calm, but the conditions made it the only place that was fun and relatively safe for surfers even though it was officially closed. The beach is not deserted, only the frame for a few seconds.
To the very near right of the above photo, many people frolicked in the usually flat water. It was perfect for beginner surfers and Ashley had her best day.
Scott took his job seriously and stayed close to the kids. They actually saw a careless surfer get knocked off of some rocks by a wave farther out in open water. Horrible for the surfer, but the kids got to see what can happen if the ocean and its power isn’t respected. That is Scott with the pink boogie board, Ashley to his right and Grant to his left and Surfer’s Paradise in the background.
I walked to Currumbin Beach that day, about four miles from our apartment to take a few pictures of the kids surfing but I didn’t want to stay. I don’t like watching them bob about in the waves and so I stayed ten minutes and walked back along the path enjoying the scenery. I noticed that the crests of some of the waves were the same icy blue of the glaciers in New Zealand.
This is a view of Coolangatta, Greenmount Beach and Snapper Rocks and one of the many red flags that dotted the beaches for a few days.
We revisited Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, a favorite place from our first trip. Wild Lorikeets are fed twice a day at the entrance and it is a lot of fun to watch these colorful little fellows flit about and even participate in their meal.
They are fed a special formula that looks like milk.
I was holding this dish of birds!
Eastern Water Dragons are everywhere you go, and they come in many different sizes and funny poses. They are like a fun “I Spy” game. This one happened to be hunting for bugs near the Lorikeet feeding area.
There are also kangaroos to visit, feed and pet.
We continued our trip down memory lane with a visit to Fingal Head, a beautiful, but notoriously dangerous beach that we discovered on our first trip. The kids were so tired of us at this point that they flopped down on the beach and refused a family beach walk.
They perked up and we collected tiny sea shells for Grandma in the coffee cup.
Lastly and most importantly, Scott continued his healthy meal preparations for his family.
Reflection continued . . .
That is most of the story of how we spent our eleven days in Coolangatta. It was a lot like being at home, there was schoolwork and downtime and we did very normal things like a trip to the mall and a visit to the movie theater. Scott and I even went running for lack of hiking and let me tell you Germans may be tough with their beer drinking and hiking. The Basque are tougher with their wine drinking and hiking, but the Australians take the prize. All day long in the crushing heat and humidity there are runners (running fast and sweating a lot) on the the trails and I witnessed that from Noosa down to Coolangatta and even in Sydney. I digress, but case in point, the Australia that we visited lacked both interesting blog fodder and inspired blogger.
Sometimes when I am in a place, experiencing something or even making a purchase, I wonder if is the last time I will ever be in that place or do that thing (the thought most often crosses my mind when I buy a giant bottle of vanilla). Scott and I went for a long walk early one morning and I wondered aloud if it would be the last time we would visit Coolangatta. Scott thought maybe in another twenty years he’d want to come back just to see if it had changed, but other than that he wasn’t that inspired or energized by Australia, the Gold Coast area anyway. I felt the same way and here comes the reality check, so stop reading if you just want the scrapbook version of our time in Coolangatta.
What was it really like for me hanging out in out in paradise for almost two weeks? Let me tell you, I cried a lot. I know, I know, poor baby hanging out in Australia, visiting the kangaroos and walking miles of pristine beaches. I didn’t blog the whole time we were in Coolangatta . I felt no inspiration. It was, according to locals, unseasonably hot and humid and it was very bright (imagine that, hot, humid and bright in Australia in the summer). My get up and go had truly abandoned me in the “Land Down Under.” All of my energy reserves had been depleted by the time we made it to Coolangatta, about six weeks into our third trip of the year. Scott advised me to write a blog about how I was really feeling because he counseled, “people connect with authenticity and life is rarely easy and perfect.” I totally agree with that and at the same time I don’t want to be “Debbie Downer.” Still, I don’t want to pretend that real life can’t find you in paradise. I remember my first walk around Oberammergau, Germany, when I stopped to talk to a shop owner that Ashley had befriended and I was gushing about how gorgeous the town and the mountains were. She told me, “It’s still real life.” That shut me up for a minute. It all seemed too pretty for real life, but obviously life happens regardless of exotic locations or fairy tale surroundings.
I was experiencing some “real life” on this trip, the reality of which I wasn’t handling well. I did attempt a totally depressing and a bit too “getting in touch with my feelings” blog in New Zealand weeks before, outlining my “real life” issues but I never published it. Maybe I should have (or maybe I will someday) but the reality of the “adventure part” of this New Zealand/Australia quest had taken a whole new direction for me and one that I had zero interest in dealing with or writing about. Even this fresh attempt at reality is proving difficult. Long story bearable (one of my favorite sayings) I was dealing with a health issue that resulted in taking some crazy drugs that were making me feel like crap. One of the many possible side effects, and I kid you not, is “feeling discouraged.” I was also checking in with very nice, New Zealand based ophthalmologists to monitor the situation. I did feel discouraged and tired and lethargic and anxious.
And at the same time, I wanted to be a good sport and enjoy my family and the beauty and fun of our adventure, but it was a real battle to quiet the screaming voices in my head and be in the moment. It was not pretty. At first I thought I needed to “treat it like a sport.” I compared my situation to crying in frustration on a hike when I am far behind, tired, struggling up a rock face or lost on the trail behind my family. I thought it was like getting on a plane over and over even when it scares me and I have to down a couple of glasses of wine and have my back up Valium just in case for the really long haul flights. It’s just getting it done without looking graceful or pretty, organized or put together. It’s pulling up your bootstraps, donning your big boy (or girl) pants and gutting it out and never giving up.
I finally realized that regardless of all of the go get em’ and give em’ hell platitudes, the difference was that this “adventure” didn’t have any redeeming qualities. It was neither fun nor rewarding. There was no trail head to leave behind or look forward to, no kilometer or time markers to gauge progress (or lack there of), no snacks to look forward to and no feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day. There wasn’t rehashing the funny parts over dinner or carrying on a conversation in my head about what I was learning and certainly no opportunity to make fun of Scott’s adventure quotes and quips. The kids were not singing and jumping down the trail and there were no endless camera discussions with Grant or pleas for made up stories from Ashley. My feet didn’t even hurt as proof of my exertions. I was a bit paralyzed and I had no energy to look for the adventure or the humor in this part of our journey, and I wasn’t doing a good job of employing my own tips and tricks for slogging it out. I stopped writing blogs in my head and stopped being open to all of the discovery that comes with new experiences.
Scott and I spent a lot of time walking in Coolangatta and true to form he would throw out a nugget of wisdom occasionally. One day he said, “I really miss you complaining all of the time on our hikes. Remember your Bad Boyfriend? Don’t you miss those days?” He had a point. I did long for those days of feeling open to the joy of discovery along the way and I missed my Bad Boyfriend, Hoher Fricken, the trail that would not be conquered (Meet Hoher Fricken, My Bad Boyfriend). I hated that hike and yet it really made me think. I reread the blog and it had some eerie parallels to my current mental state, especially the fact that it is hard to keep going when you are disoriented and lacking direction. One needs a whole bag of tools and sleeves full of tricks to get through the challenging bits of this life, but what happens when they don’t work? Is that when faith kicks in or as a friend commented on that particular blog, some journeys are all about endurance. Maybe this was one of them.
This time what did I learn and how did it all turn out? Well, I still don’t know how it will turn out for me, but I have a new found respect for those struggling with health issues and all the “adventure” that those issues have to offer. I know that I have so much to be thankful for and things can always be much worse, but it is important to remember that one’s life is personal and unique and we all have our own challenges. I learned that reality has no respect for beautiful and exotic locals, but having an authentic voice is probably more interesting than having a seemingly perfect trip. I also realized that as important as perspective is, it is a wily creature and can come and go silently when you least expect it. I googled “Fingal Head” ( the beach where we collected tiny seashells) to check the spelling and quite a few news articles popped up from just the day before. They told the tragic story of a drowning at the beach of a man rescuing a seven-year-old girl and her mother. He handed the girl over to rescuers before being washed onto sharp rocks. In my mind, photos of rescuers milling around and people stunned with grief and disbelief were superimposed over pictures of my family smiling on the beach in the very same spot. Now, what was I complaining about? Life is truly a mystery and I will try to keep my Bad Boyfriend close to my heart and front and center in my thoughts because that attitude of humor, tenacity and contemplation in and of life is something that I need, along with a hard smack from perspective now and then.