To my love

Fifteen years ago, I took myself off to Greece.

I’d been single for several years, dating occasionally but nothing serious as, after two back-to-back relationships with cheaters, I was convinced that all men should f*ck off and die. My status as a late-30s singleton was a concern to many of my family members and well-meaning friends and the topic of far too many conversations. In fact, when I booked the trip, I lost count of the number of time I heard ‘Oh, you might meet someone’.

But I didn’t want to meet someone. At 37, I had met enough someones to know that relationships were not for me. I would lose sight of myself, pretending to be someone I wasn’t just to keep them going.

So imagine my surprise when I said goodbye to two of my oldest and dearest friends, Greek-Australian siblings I’d just spent the week with in Athens and Santorini, and boarded a rickety bus to ride dusty roads to the small port on the southern tip of Santorini – Vlychada – and when I stepped off that bus, I met someone.

‘Are you on the sailing trip,’ said the tall, cute American I’d been watching on the bus.

‘Yep.’

‘Oh, thank god I’m in the right place.’ I smiled at him. ‘Sorry, I’m Ben.’ He held out his hand for me to shake it.

‘Sandy.’ He had a firm handshake and a friendly smile.

‘Should we go find our boat?’ he asked.

‘Sounds good.’

We found the right boat, met the people we’d be sailing with for the next 10 days and embarked on a remarkable friendship. I say ‘remarkable’ because despite have a 10-year age difference, living on different continents and having a vastly different upbringings, professions, and life experiences, I’d met someone who saw the world through similar eyes to mine.

And he was super cute too. See?

Me and Ben, Mykonos 2006

Our friendship turned romantic and by the end of the trip, I knew I wanted him in my life. But how would that work? I lived in Sydney and he lived in St Paul.

Well, we did make it work. We met up to travel together for more than 2 years – Hawaii, New Zealand, a road trip up the West Coast of the US – and then in 2008, we made the (exciting and terrifying) decision to move together to Seattle. There was a ‘hard-to-get’ visa to come by (mine), a job to leave (mine), a job to transfer (Ben’s), and an apartment to find and set up (both of us). There was also a MASSIVE LEAP OF FAITH for Ben to move across the country and me across the world to move in with someone we’d only spent (collectively) 3 months with, face to face.

Cut to 2021.

We’ve lived together in 4 apartments in 2 cities (not counting our 2018 sabbatical, which takes that tally to double digits).

We’ve added dozens more trips to our repertoire (longer international trips, interstate trips to see family and friends and to explore, and shorter local trips to ‘get away’). We’ve taken a year-long sabbatical, living and working in WA, Bali, Seattle, Minnesota, the UK, Edinburgh, and Portugal, and visiting LA, Chicago, Ireland, Wales and Amsterdam.

We’ve tasted wine in regions around the world – Australia, New Zealand, California, the Pacific Northwest, Italy, and Portugal – with many more on our wine tasting bucket list. We’ve been sailing, boating, white water rafting, sky diving, ziplining, abseiling, hiking, water skiing, glacier climbing, snowshoeing, skiing, and paddle-boarding. Ben learnt to surf in Hawaii, but I stayed (safe) on the beach.

We’ve loved 2 kitties – Lucy (sadly, she died in 2015) and Rocky (he found his forever home in 2017)- and are about to bring home a 3rd (disclaimer: no pet’s names have been used in passwords😉). We’ve had several career changes each, and I’ve published 5 books and am about to finish writing my 8th. I’ve gone from being a brunette to a (dark) blonde (really a silver vixen, but not quite ready to embrace that yet) and Ben has gone from a curly-haired cutie to a smooth-headed hottie.

We’ve made lifelong friends together.

We’ve changed, we’ve grown, we’ve evolved and we’ve stayed ourselves.

And the past 2 years, we have spent every day and every night together. And through a pandemic, he is still my person, my someone. There is no other person I could have gotten through this with, babe.

Thank you for your good humour, your sometimes lame, but more often clever jokes, for hugs and laughs and dancing in the living room. Thank you for cleaning our windows so we can at least enjoy the view. Thank you for keeping track of seventy million streaming services and finding fun and interesting things for us to watch. Thank you for letting me teach you backgammon and for the games of gin rummy, even though you almost always beat me. Thank you for reading books about philosophy and thinking and how the mind works, broadening my knowledge and perception both by example and in our fascinating conversations. Thank you for enjoying my cooking, even when I’m phoning it in. Thank you for making the bed each morning, taking out the rubbish, and vacuuming to keep our home a sanctuary. Thank you for walks around the city and listening and understanding when it all gets too much. Thank you for celebrating every minor milestone of my publishing career – and thank you for keeping us well stocked in bubbles for those celebrations.

Thank you for being you. Thank you for being my someone. Happy 15th(!) anniversary.

Catching up with Author Samantha Tonge

The wonderful Samantha Tonge warmly welcomed me to the writing community when I was a debut author and it is a pleasure to welcome her to my blog for a catch up.

Her latest book The Summer Island Swap is a wonderful way to vicariously travel to a far off destination from the comfort of home. So, let’s find out more.

Tell us what inspired you to write The Summer Island Swap.

My son returned from a conservation volunteering trip in the rainforest and I was fascinated by his stories of the work they did there and the rescued animals. And then I saw a photo of him with a monkey virtually wrapped around his head! I knew, in that instant, that I wanted to write a story about rescue animals and the kind of people who saved their lives.

Although I have to admit, I did also listen to tales of tarantulas and basic showers with horror and thought what fun it would be to drop a character into that environment who was expecting a rather more luxurious type of holiday – cue Sarah!

When did you start writing seriously?

When my youngest started school in 2005. Life had been a bit full-on until then although – corny as it sounds – I always knew that, one day, I would write. I was in my late 30s and it took a while, but I finally got my first publishing deal in 2013.

What do you love most about being an author?

Feedback from readers means EVERYTHING. To know that my work might have cheered someone up means the world. And sometimes my books have inspired people to follow their dreams and move abroad, or get help for a health condition, and finding those things out is extremely special.

What are you working on now?

My Christmas 2020 novel. I’m super-excited about it, even though it’s been extremely challenging to concentrate and write during lockdown. The male protagonist – funnily enough, Sandy! – is from Sydney and I hope readers find him as mesmerising as Jess, the female lead, does.

What do you hope readers will take away from The Summer Island Swap?

It’s a story about following your dreams and letting go of the past and I hope readers perhaps get inspired, in some small way, to do that. I faced 8 years of rejection to get published and it was difficult – and Sarah, the main character of this book, has faced hard times too to fulfil her dream which is to be independent and have her own home and a job she loves. So if readers took something from that, it would be brilliant. But more than that, I learnt a great deal about conservation whilst writing this book and doing so increased my love, even more, of the natural world. I hope readers find that interesting as well. However, having said all of that, what matters most to me is that readers simply enjoy the story and manage to escape from the difficult circumstances we are all facing at the moment.

The Blurb

Sometimes the best holidays are the ones you least expect…

After a long and turbulent year, Sarah is dreaming of the five-star getaway her sister has booked them on. White sands, cocktails, massages, the Caribbean is calling to them.

But the sisters turn up to tatty beaches, basic wooden shacks, a compost toilet and outdoor cold water showers. It turns out that at the last minute Amy decided a conservation project would be much more fun than a luxury resort.

So now Sarah’s battling mosquitoes, trying to stomach fish soup and praying for a swift escape. Life on a desert island though isn’t all doom and gloom. They’re at one with nature, learning about each other and making new friends. And Sarah is distracted by the dishy, yet incredibly moody, island leader she’s sure is hiding a secret.

Buy Links

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo

Follow Samantha

Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

#ArmchairTravel is (literally) the only way to go

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So, we are in very strange times. The world has been sent to its room and now we must find a new kind of balance in all that we do, when all that we do is in the confines of our homes.

As a lifelong traveller, someone who longs to go, see, and do, this lockdown means I need to find a new way to travel. And to do that, I will be reaching for the books of my colleagues in the travel fiction and travel biography genres.

I’ll be picking up Frances Mayes and Julie Caplin, Kiley Dunbar, Linn B. Halton, and Paige Toon. There are dozens of us who write about faraway places and evoke just what it’s like to be there.

My next book, That Night in Paris, will take you on a whistle-stop tour of Europe, and the one after that, A Sunset in Sydney, to London, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Sydney. You could even catch up on my first book, One Summer in Santorini, which will whisk you off to the Greek Islands.

So in this unprecedented time when the only way to travel is from the comfort of home, seek out your travel adventures within the pages. And from me is a promise to keep taking my readers to wonderful locations.

See you amongst the pages.

Image by Hans Braxmeier.

Write what you know, right?

In the late 90s, I was a European Tour Manager for a company that specialised in tours for 18-35 year olds. See?

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Aside: Gotta love those ‘mom jeans’.

I always said I would never go on one of these tours, let alone work as a TM, but when you have a devastating breakup in Paris from a 5-year relationship and you still want to see all the places you were supposed to see on that trip with your now ex-boyfriend, you book a last-minute tour.

After said Parisian breakup, I arrived home (in London) on the Eurostar, got on the phone, and booked a 2-week trip that started the next morning at 7am. I was back in Paris within 24 hours of leaving and on that trip, I met 5 women who became my bus besties. I am still in touch with Michelle, the tall blonde.

Venice 1996

Months later, while I was living in London and doing day-to-day relief teaching, I saw that the tour company was hiring. “I could do that job,” I thought. I applied, along with a couple thousand others, and after an interview process that would NOT pass muster in this #metoo world, I got a spot on the 7-week training trip.

Surviving that was like getting to the final four of Survivor. It was something akin to bootcamp, but with less creature comforts. We averaged 4-5 hours of sleep a night and we slept in tents – in winter – in the snow. We were quizzed relentlessly on routes, opening times, history, currency conversion, places of interest, and architecture. I made lifelong friends, because, really, in the extreme circumstances, all we had some days were each other.

And then I was placed in charge of my own tour – a 5-week camper – the first of a long season that took me into November. It was one of the best and worst years of my life. The best because of the friendships I made, the places I saw, and the experiences I had. And the worst because … well, that’s another blog post.

But, one of the most incredible things about that time is the material it has given me for my writing.

In my 1st and 3rd books, the main character is Sarah Parsons, and like me, she once ran tours in Europe. When her sister, Cat (the main character is book #2), books a 2-week bus tour around around Europe to escape her lovelorn flatmate, Sarah is able to rattle off the full itinerary without hesitation.

And Cat booking that tour meant that I got to write a 2-week bus tour around Europe!

Cat’s 3 bus besties are inspired by my real life bus besties. Michelle inspired Mama Lou, Weyleen (far left above) inspired Jaelee, and Sophie (second from the left) inspired Danielle. I was able to write the places in great detail, because I’d been to them many (many) times. And I was able to write exactly what it’s like to travel on a bus tour – right down to the (ridiculously) early starts, the heinous ablution blocks, the tight schedules, the fast-but-firm friendships that are formed, and how wonderfully Europe excites and entices the senses.

Here’s a little peek into that world…

It was brilliant fun writing That Night in Paris. Early readers are loving it, and you can preorder now (April 15 for the ebook and June/July for the print version) – just follow the link above.

Ciao!

A love letter to Australia

It is Australia Day 2020. January 26th is a contentious date, because it marks the arrival of the First Fleet―the first European settlers who arrived in Australia in 1788.

Of course, by commemorating this date, Australia ignores that in 1788 we were already populated by hundreds of nations of Indigenous Australians forming the world’s oldest civilisation. January 26th marks the date of an invasion and the beginning of a genocide.

This post isn’t about whether or not we should change the date of Australia Day, although we absolutely should. This post is a love letter to my home, my country, my Australia.

My Australia

My Australia is the person at the tram stop who sees that you’re lost and points you in the right direction with a smile. My Australia is the person at the party who draws the introverts into conversation, and makes sure everyone is heard. My Australia has a hearty sense of humour―often bawdy, always self-deprecating, and sometimes a defence mechanism.

My Australia has skin, eyes, and hair of every colour, and is all genders, faiths, and identities, for My Australia is all of us. We have lived here 60 000 years and 6 days. Our roots are deep and just starting to grow. What we share is beyond cosmetic; it is a connection―to each other, to our land, to our country.

My Australia bears scars―from when we went to wars and defended our shores, from being ravaged by fires, floods, cyclones, and drought, from dark times of hatred, anger, and entitlement, bearing those scars with humility, pride, or shame.

My Australia reaches out when someone is in need. We rally, we show up, we dig into our pockets―we care. We weep together, lean on each other, support and cajole each other. We extend our hands willingly, not afraid of the blisters or back-breaking pain we’ll incur as we rebuild.

My Australia is not the scurrilous and self-serving politicians who banter obscenities at each other and extol the virtues of ‘clean coal’. It is not the hatemongers or nationalists or the bigots. These people are the minority, one that is slowly dying out.

My Australia is adventurous and intrepid, both at home and abroad, with well-stamped passports and battered luggage, with postcards that loved ones have sent from the corners of the earth taped to the fridge, with plans for trips and getaways and long weekends and stay-cations. We must go, see, and do.

My Australia loves the sea, the sun, and the sand, we love the deserts and sunrises and sunsets, we love the rain forests and eucalypts, our native animals* and red, rocky monoliths. We love the bustle and energy of our cities with their sky-scraping towers, and the warm friendly welcome of our country towns, where the local pub feels like home.

My Australia is brilliant, with an intelligent mind, a creative spirit, grit, athleticism, and the ability to see the future. We are doctors, scientists, artists, teachers, communicators, technicians, builders, athletes, and change-makers. We are on the edge of the future, speaking up, taking risks, saving lives with medical breakthroughs and art that feeds the soul. We build, create, and solve. We are―as always―batting far above our average on the world stage, a tiny nation of 25 million achieving wondrous things. We also make the best wine and coffee in the world.

My Australia is home―my home, our home.

And though she is being ravaged as I write this, I have to believe she will recover, wearing her scars with pride as we come together and rebuild.

And on our current bushfire and climate crisis, this image by artist, Melina, evokes what I struggle to put into words.

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*Except maybe the spiders―we have some really, scary spiders.

The home stretch of sabbatical life

In 1979 and 1980, my dad and his then-partner embarked on long-term travel. Their trip included a 3-month drive from Cape Town to Cairo on a giant pink truck with a handful of other travellers, working on a Kibbutz in Israel, and buying a camper van and travelling in the UK and Europe while they picked up intermittent teaching work.

Essentially, they took a sabbatical, only when I think about what they did and when they did it, theirs was quite a bit more bad-ass than ours. Just quietly, my dad is one of my heroes. This is him.

We are ten months into a year-long sabbatical, and I recently posted on Facebook that I was having a ‘travel weary’ day, that I knew the funk wouldn’t last, but at that moment, I just wanted to go home.

One friend asked, “Where’s that?” and it was a good question. I have talked a lot this year about home being wherever lay my head (and where Ben is). I replied, “Just Australia.”

My dad’s comment on the post drew on his own long-term travel. “Once you sense the finish line, you just want to go. Hang in there.”

A friend, who last year completed a year’s sabbatical with her husband, posted, “Been there. Sending love.”

I don’t post this to complain.

This year has been brilliant. When Ben and I look back on the last ten months and all we’ve seen, the people we have met and reconnected with, the places we’ve been to, and all we’ve done and accomplished, it brings us a lot of happiness – even some pride.

But there are two months left, and I do not want to fritter those away by wallowing in homesickness. Ben and I are united in the belief that we are privileged and brave and must make the absolute most of every day for the next two months.

So, with that in mind, we will continue to get out and see Porto and enjoy the beauty and wonder it has to offer us. We will have a brilliant time with our family in the UK over Christmas and New Year. We will add a side trip or two – Wales looks likely, as does a return to London. We will plan out something spectacular for January (our swan song). And I will finish my third novel.

So again, I do not write this to complain, but to share the reality of sabbatical life. Sometimes, you just want to be home.

 

Traveller vs Tourist: Things that make you go, hmmm

I have long subscribed to being a traveller over being a tourist.

When I ran tours in Europe in the 90s, I’d start each one with the First Day Spiel. It took a couple of hours and ate up the time it took the coach to get from London to Dover. Much of it was around logistics – these were the days before (most people had) mobile phones and the Internet and the Euro. Travel in Europe was tricky at best and tetchy at worst. We changed money, we crossed actual borders, we used fax machines and phone cards. It was HARD.

But, I’d still finish my FDS with a little pontification about the value of being a traveller over being a tourist.

Travellers embrace differences – cultural, culinary, climate, cash. They are patient, observant, engaged and interested. They’ll understand when the Greek ferry is late and when the only thing to eat is day-old bread and iffy cheese. They will try to learn some of the local language, and will be equally thrilled to see locals zipping about Rome on Vespas as the Colosseum.

Tourists, on the other hand, should just stay home and watch Netflix – or perhaps the Travel Channel. They complain, whine, whinge and generally make life miserable for everyone around them.

For the most part, I had travellers on my tours – I am still friends with some of my former clients – but there were the odd tourists.

So, what category do I fit into this year? I have lived like a local, I have travelled, and I have visited family and friends. I’ve been a digital nomad and for most of the year have had my traveller hat pulled firmly over my brow. BUT, there have been a few tourist moments, when I have devolved into an ugly version of my travelling self – when it has all gotten a bit too much and I’ve indulged in a bit of a whinge.

Bali

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Campuhan Trail, Bali

Beach and pool clubs in Bali will try to rip you off when it comes to Happy Hour. It’s 2 for 1 drinks, right? Well, that means you get 4 drinks every time you order 2. So, when Ben and I would each order a cocktail, thinking that they were half-price, WRONG! 4 cocktails would show up and we’d be expected to pay for two (not one). It happened so many times, we started clarifying with staff what we were ordering and how much we’d be expected to pay – and even then, they’d still try to dupe us. We’d just send the drinks back – all 4 of them.

Ireland

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Cliffs of Kerry

I got sticker shock when I got to Ireland – and that was coming from England. Everything – and I mean everything – cost a lot more than what we’d typically pay in the US, the UK and Australia, especially public transport, food, drinks, coffee, groceries, accommodation and care hire – you know, basically everything.

I kept doing the conversions in my head – which travellers definitely don’t do – sending myself into the financial equivalent of a diabetic coma. A day-pass on public transit within the Dublin area capped out at 9 euros-something cents. The equivalent in London is 6 pounds-something pence – for London. By the way, that’s about 2 pounds cheaper to travel around London, one of the world’s largest and (I would argue) best cities.

England

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Prime Meridian, Greenwich

Ahhh, the land of inconvenience. That’s what my dad calls it and he’s English, so he’s allowed. As a half-English, half-American Aussie, I am also (technically) allowed to disparage the sometimes ridiculous inconveniences of England.

Going to the supermarket, for example, is an exercise in futility. Filling the basket or the cart is fine – there are a lot of choices – LOTS – but checking out is AWFUL. At ALDI – yes, the same discount box chain found all over the world – they won’t start scanning the items until you are fully unloaded, because there is literally nowhere to put them once they’re scanned. You must unload, then dash past the cashier with your bags at the ready, so you can catch your groceries as they fly off the conveyor belt. It’s like something out of a Japanese game show.

If this doesn’t appeal to you, try Tesco or Sainsbury’s or Waitrose, where you could gestate a brand new human being while you wait for the seated cashiers to slothenly (I’ve made up this word especially for them) pick up each item, examine it carefully to determine the whereabouts of the bar code, wave it over the scanner and then place it down with far more care than could possibly be required for a box of dishwasher tablets. They should have free WiFi so you can do your taxes while you wait.

The US

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Seattle

This probably won’t come as much of a surprise and I will risk getting slightly political, but entering trump’s America (note the on-purpose lack of proper noun capitalisation), is super NOT FUN for a non-American, especially one who is on sabbatical for a year, writes books, and doesn’t have a current employer.

I saw three immigration agents on the way into the US at LA. Three!

How long am I going to be here? 89 days (the visa waiver program allows 90 days and I am giving myself a day’s buffer). How did I get my employer to agree to let me travel for that long? I don’t have one. That’s when I was redirected to a supervisor.

So, how are you able to afford being here that long? I work for myself. Uh-oh. Back up the truck. Warning, Will Robinson. You’re working here???

That’s when I got to see the secure room where they take your phone off you.

Fortunately, the supervisor’s supervisor was a reasonable human being and he understood that a digital nomad is essentially self-funded, but may work for clients they have back home from time to time. I was released back into the wild that is LAX. 

New Zealand

Ben and Sandy 4

Nothing – it’s perfect. Duh.

Mid-way through our mid-career sabbatical

 

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Last day in Seattle

At the end of 2017, I posted about our 2018 sabbatical. Ben and I embarked at the beginning of February, so last week marked the mid-point of our year of living abroad. In that time, we have visited friends and family, explored new locations, lived life like a local and have worked remotely.

Here are some of my reflections and lessons learned from the mid-point of our sabbatical.

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Exploring northern MN with the Doctor

Home (really is) is a state of mind

Just before we left the US to begin our UK/EU stint, I fell very ill and had to spend a night in hospital. After 40 hours in a hospital gown, my vitals being checked every two hours, and being tethered to an IV stand, all I wanted to do was go home. At that stage in our travels, home was Ben’s grandmother’s house, and when I arrived back there – still, weak, tired, and yet to fully recover – I was ecstatic. I was home.

Home has been various places in our travels. With my bed count for the year sitting at 27 (Ben’s is 26, because he hasn’t sleep in a hospital bed), home really has become a state of mind. That’s not to say that all of those beds felt like home; it means that when we have taken side trips for a few days and returned to our longer-term accommodation, I have had an overwhelming sense of returning home – and that feeling is marvelous.

So, at our mid-way point I continue to subscribe to the ‘wherever I lay my head’ philosophy I posted about here.

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Chicago with our dear friend from Bali days, Kelley

It’s possible to get a lot done while you’re travelling

When we meet new people or catch up with family and friends, we invariably end up discussing the ins and outs of sabbatical life. The most frequent clarification during these conversations is that taking a sabbatical is not ‘being on holiday’ for a year.

Ben and I both have our own companies in Australia and consult for clients – Ben in an ongoing capacity and me on project-based work. There have been many weeks where we’ve worked full-time, or close to it. This type of work suits us both, as we can carve out the time to do it around our larger plans, we can take advantage of coffee-shop WiFi, we both enjoy working in a variety of environments, and – to be frank – it helps fund this year abroad.

Additionally, since we left Melbourne, I have written and published my second novel. And I am soon to start my third! I love writing, I love writing novels, and I love writing ‘on the road’. Plus, each new location, each new friend, each conversation with a loved one, each excursion and adventure could be the kernel of an idea for book #4 – and the ones after that.

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Meeting my favourite author, Lindsey Kelk (Birmingham, UK)

Things are just…things

When we left Bali in May, we left behind many of the things we’d bought to make Bali life a little easier – storage containers, coat hangers, food staples, Costco-sized toiletries. We did the same thing when we left Minnesota, with the addition of some red wine glasses, a life-time supply of sunflower seeds we barely made a dent in, and a yoga mat. We also filled a large bag with summer clothes which we dropped into a charity donation bin. Clothes I previously had ‘loved’ were tossed aside without any remorse.

It’s just stuff – and we’re travelling light.

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With my nephew, Alexander (UK)

It’s going fast

I truly cannot believe we’re half-way. Since leaving Melbourne, we’ve been to New Zealand, two other states in Australia, Bali, three states in the US, and the UK. Next week, we’re off to Ireland and we are starting to firm up our plans for Scotland, Amsterdam, Paris and Portugal.

I know that before we know it, we will be on our way back to Melbourne for Australia Day 2019 (January 26). That date is important, because Ben will be attending a citizenship ceremony to become a fully-fledged, dinky-di Aussie (I am so proud).

The speed with which this year away is rocketing by, means that we must continue to seek out and enjoy the small pleasures. We must continue to take every opportunity to explore, live like a local, see people who are dear to us, meet new friends, and accomplish great things.

Because, ultimately, that’s what this year is about – living life to the fullest.

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Secret Beach Day Trip (Bali)

 

When in ROAM…

We’ve spent the last two months living in Ubud, Bali at ROAM. And while we have explored Bali during our stay and done some short side trips, the majority of our time has been living and working in a co-living space that’s perfect for the digital nomad lifestyle.

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The ‘hood

We’ve enjoyed getting to know our neighbourhood of Penestanan, with it’s winding, busy roads and its pathways between the rice fields. We found our local coffee houses, A.R.A.K. (close to ROAM) and Dharma (close to Bintang), our spot for Happy Hour, Element (2 for 1 cocktails and they’re ridiculously tasty!), and some cheap and cheerful places to eat, such as Bayu’s kitchen, Ibu Putu’s Warung, Sri Ratih, Cafe Vespa, and Bamboo Spirit.

We found the ‘back way’ to Bintang supermarket via the pathways, as well as the ATMs that give out 2.5M rupiah (some max out at 1M or 1.5M). We’ve enjoyed some nicer meals at Pacha Mama, Bridges, Elephant, and Roots. We’ve frequently popped across the street to a little convenience store for snacks, Cokes, and cold Bintang. There is a yoga place 5 min away and a gym 15 min away, which is small but affordable and has enough equipment to get the job done. There is also a fantastic running trail, the Campuhan Ridge – the start of the trail is closer to Ubud, but it’s still part of our ‘hood.

The people

ROAM is about people. Since we’ve been here quite a while, we’ve met and said goodbye to many people who have become dear friends – people from all over the world – Greece, Austria, The Netherlands, Ireland, the US, Australia, the UK, Germany, Russia, Canada…and many more places around the world.

We’ve broken bread – both here at ROAM and at various restaurants around Ubud – we’ve taken day trips, sat by the beach, held workshops, done yoga together, hung out, shared drinks and stories, played Cards Against Humanity, and helped each other professionally and personally. We’ve been a family – and just like any family there are those you love, those that you find intriguing, those you learn from, and those who get on your last nerve. 😉 Think of a group of colleagues who work and live together. That’s the ROAMILY.

There also is an incredible team of locals who literally keep ROAM running, including a Community Manager who brings us together, handles any issues, and creates community events.

And last, but definitely not least, there is Lu (Princess Lu, LuLu, Miss Lu), our dog.

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She is not technically people, but please don’t tell her that. Unfortunately, there are those that want her gone. This is maddening and upsetting to many of us, as she is as much a part of this family as we are, but there is a plan to re-home her in California with a former ROAMIE. If you’re so inclined, you can donate to help get her there.

The work

While we’ve been here, Ben’s been building an app for a client – which just launched on iOS (Congrats!) and is soon to launch on Android, and I have been both writing and doing some contracted editing work. The writing is going extremely well and I have added nearly 70,000 words to my manuscript, which is the sequel to the book I published last year. It will be ready for a July publication!

There’s a shared work-space on the upper deck, a conference room for quiet and air conditioning, and it’s been fun to work from our little deck or poolside. I’ve also popped out to the coffee house for a few hours at a time for a change of scene. And, we have often taken our work with us when we’ve had day trips, which is a really lovely way to work.

The day-to-day

Certain domestic concerns have been taken off our hands here at ROAM. We don’t wash our towels and sheets, we don’t take out the rubbish and nor do we clean our rooms, which are serviced weekly. The pool, the grounds, the common areas and the plants are all taken care of. Alleviating these tasks frees up an enormous amount of time – at least for me.

We do wash our clothes, shop for and cook our own meals (if we want to eat in) and we clean up after ourselves in the kitchen. ROAM supplies bottled water, but the water in the rooms and kitchen is filtered, so we can brush our teeth with it and wash our fruit and veggies with it.

We share all the common areas – not just the work spaces – so try to be respectful of other people. Laundry is only done on a 20-min cycle, for instance. We each have our own shelves in the fridge and in the pantry, and we share some community food, such as fresh eggs daily, milk and fruit.

There are also weekly events organised by the Community Manager to ensure the community meets new arrivals, gets to see Ubud and other parts of Bali, and gets to experience the community feel that makes ROAM unique.

Would I come again?

In a heartbeat.

Sunset from ROAM

With thanks to Ben Reierson for additional photos, including ‘Sunset from ROAM’ above.