Update post!

Hello friends, it’s been a hot minute! Lord have I been busy.

I’ve got a blog post coming soon about my most recent job, working for Matt Wright the celebrity croc hunter, but in the meantime I just wanted to tap out a quick update while I wait for approval to post that big one.

Being home has been great, I’ve hit the ground running on replenishing the ol’ Gypsy bank account, and have a few jobs right now, well four to be exact – ha! I just can’t stop working. As soon as an opportunity to make money comes along I take it, so days off have been few and far between but thats generally how I am when my mind is set on a goal. HUSTLE ALL DAY!

I’m living with a long-time buddy who’s helping me out so I can save enough money to move, as this is still my big goal for 2018 – In just under a couple months I’ll be packing up my amazing little car, and going on a one-way road trip to the east coast of Australia. My focus on this goal has been razor-sharp, nothing is getting in the way and that’s exactly how I like it. This goal has been brewing for years and each morning I wake up so grateful that I’m one day closer to it. In the meantime I’m spending as much time as possible with the fam while I’m home, catching up with old friends and their new babies/friends… It’s been great to be home, no doubt. But the more I grow the more I know, and these months being back in Australia has really shown me that I can land on my feet ANYWHERE. I’m so lucky to have so many people who’ve offered me jobs, recommended and referred me to their associates for further work opportunities, and even had people who’ve met me for just a day offer me jobs outside of Darwin when I move. It’s going to be a big year with lots of risks and chasing the unknown but I’m more than ready. I’m enjoying the moment of being home but it’s definitely time for me to move on and create some new memories outside of Darwin while being back in Australia. So exciting!

I’m also taking this time to really meditate on what my best skills and attributes are, and how I can use them to pivot in a new direction with my career. I’m never satisfied doing “what I’ve always done”. There’s nothing I enjoy more than learning a new skill, and I’m at a point in my life where I’m really ready to zero in on what it is exactly that lights my creative fire and I’m putting all my energy into expanding those horizons and following up on leads to make it happen. A few big things in the works, stay tuned – I’m never satisfied with the mediocre and this year it’s all coming together. Exciting times indeed.

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Also switched up my hair: lighter for the summer weather up in here Darwin

Working for Matt Wright and hosting guests at his safari camp has opened a few doors too, as the high profile guests I’ve hosted have seen how I work and offered me jobs in a range of industries in both Queensland and Sydney, so I haven’t locked myself in to exactly where I’ll move to this year; I’m staying open to any direction the universe wants to pull me in, as long as it’s a new adventure outside of what I’ve already done. I’ve lived all over the world yet never lived outside of Darwin in my own country, so this year that changes!

It wouldn’t be possible without all the great humans who’ve given me a home, a job, a free meal or a sounding board for my big dreams so THANK YOU to the people in my life who’ve taken a chance on me and hooked a sister up. It’s been a great few months being home, life just keeps getting better and better so I can’t wait to see what’s up next. Stay tuned!

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Vidya yoga retreat – Part 3 (Final days)

Day 5

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Each morning before we commence yoga, Verity lays out a spread of chakra oracle cards facedown for us to choose a card that speaks to us, and it’s fast becoming a favourite ritual of mine. The card I chose today was “dream“, which is crazy to me as I had a vivid dream about finally moving away from Darwin last night that really excited me. Not only did this dream show me that I’m on the path to manifesting my heart’s desire, but in my dream I’m about to depart for my flight to Queensland and the stressful delays I had rushing to my flight were all simply a product of me not being sufficiently prepared, and not taking responsibility for that which is truly my hearts’ desire; this dream showed me that if I really want this, the only thing in the way is myself. And it’s true; in the past when I’ve wanted to move, I’ve talked about it (a lot) but not done it; allowing men, family guilt or job offers to sway or justify my choices to stay and then blaming them – if I want this desire to become a reality, it’s up to me. After we choose a card, Verity reads an explanation from her oracle book to correlate and my whole body tingles. The next person has a card that resonates deeply with him too, so much so that he’s moved to tears in front of us all. I LOVE that this simple exercise has such an affect on us all, and Verity includes a confirming statement to each of us during shivasna at the end of class to remind us of the card’s intention, to help us remain focussed on its meaning throughout the day. I feel leaps and bounds closer to that move already.

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I’m curious to find out what the pre-lunch activity is, and stoked to find out we get to paint today. A year ago I listened to a podcast with Brene Brown, one of my favourite authors, where she discussed the fact that when we were kids, we were ALL artists; children happily and frequently paint/dance/sing and express their artistic abilities but somewhere along the path to adulthood we label ourselves as ‘not artistic‘ and compare ourselves to others and we lose that joyful innocence and confidence. I found that really interesting, but was still hesitant to go out and buy paint supplies just to half-ass some sort of artwork once in a blue moon. But it was something that has resurfaced in my thoughts from time to time and I’m not sure how Verity knew it, but we were all stoked for this activity. We painted our feelings, we painted our surroundings, some of us just painted swirls and love hearts. It was nice to be creative in a way that so many of us block and label ourselves as “bad at”.

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Breakfast for the non-vegans!

Today for lunch we had a choice between homemade meat or vegetarian spring rolls, stir fried veggies and rice – I initially chose the meat option but when offered a bite of the veggie ones, I switched up my order. They can do things with veggies here like I’ve never tried, and  I can tell Verity is stoked that so many of us are loving the cuisine that she had put so much thought into. I commit to telling the kitchen staff that I only want the vegan option for the rest of the day – fuck it, I’m going all in.

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My favourite lunch: veggies with shredded coconut, dahl and roti bread

Today we also have the choice between two free time activities, sailing or fishing – it’s a hard choice but being the Darwin girl I am, I chose fishing. It’s been about four years since I put a line in, I’m embarrassed to admit, but I’m keen to get back to the past time I’ve enjoyed since being a kid going out on my Dad’s boat. The Australian owner of the villa is somewhat of a big celebrity in the fishing world, and his fishing boat has all the bells and whistles you’d expect from someone who knows what he’s doing and likes his boat set up just so. We take turns jumping off the third tier of the boat to cool off in the water, then get down to business. The boat crew have been daily fishermen since kids and quickly set up fishing lines to trawl as we cruise over the crystal clear waters en route to the locals’ secret spots. I have been practicing my manifesting skills, and in my head focus on manifesting the feeling of elation when I catch three fish. Well, it was a slow start, and I almost started to doubt myself, but once I successfully caught one fish, I was on fire! I had four (albeit small) fish in the boat by the end of the days’ fishing, and my friends had the same if not more. I was elated, and couldn’t help but think how proud my Dad would be to see me out here. I have been feeling his spirit everywhere here this week: he spent a lot of in Indonesia and all around this part of the world before he died in Lombok when I was 20, and what used to cause me so much pain now fills me with happiness. I know he’d be so proud to see me here, enjoying everything he loved most about this beautiful country. I was offered a beer and decided it was time for my first Bintang of the trip, and tipped one to my old man up in the sky. If he played any part in helping the universe to get me here to heal, I was eternally grateful. 

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Had to throw this TINY fish back.. but he was the one who broke my drought hence the grin! haha

We made it back to the villa in time for one of the sensational sunsets that have been blowing my mind all week – they really are as amazing as we were told – and the villa has a perfect sunset view from the beach.

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I get my last cold coconut and head to the sand, and we all pose for photos together in front of the setting sun, perfecting our best yoga poses. My heart is full with love for the people I’ve spent this week with; we’ve all shared our deepest fears, insecurities, tears and laughter, and connected through all the activities and moments that will stay with me forever.

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The staff have built a massive bonfire on the sand for us, and Verity is super excited as she’s prepared some special treats for this moment. I don’t want to give her secrets away, I loved that we didn’t know what was to come but rest assured, this woman has thought of everything. Finally, as were all hugging and savouring our final night together, she produces the cards we wrote on earlier in the week – 3 things we each wanted to release on the retreat. I had forgotten all about them, but it was powerful to look back and realize I’d worked through all those issues holding me back, and so many more. We each took turns discussing the changes we were feeling, then tossed the cards in the fire. Gone for good, and changed forever. We were offered beers, but at the risk of sounding like a loser I was “high on island life”, and wasn’t even tempted. We all sat together around the fire sipping on our coconuts, talking about our high points of the retreat, stargazing and sharing stories about life, love, growth – everything. I felt so open to share anything and everything about myself to these people, and I almost didn’t want to go to bed and have the day end. Cue the contented sigh.

Day 6

Well, it’s the last day of the retreat. I set an alarm to wake me up, but I’m naturally waking up just before 6am most days here anyway and today was no different. I go for a walk along the beach on my own for half an hour, swishing coconut oil around my mouth as I go, focussed on my breathing. All week Verity has been teaching us so many healthy habits we can adopt, and I’ve learnt so much about what best serves my body from here on. Granted, other friends have told me previously about “oil pulling” as a means to detoxify, whiten teeth and prevent gingivitis in the mouth (which I’m grossed out to learn is the most bacteria-heavy place in your body. Ewww), but there’s something different about starting these routines here, enjoying the benefits firsthand and keeping them going each day instead of just dismissing it; “yeah yeah I’ll try it one day”. I’m also enjoying the added benefit of going twenty minutes without speaking upon rising as my mouth is full with coconut oil; it’s the perfect excuse to meditate and be alone to start my day right. I find a quiet spot on the beach to meditate and do my gratitude practice, then head back to the villa to brush my teeth and scrape the build up of crap from my tongue. Who knew your mouth was so filthy?!

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Next in my new morning routine is a capful of apple cider vinegar to aid digestion, and a green juice. I told myself last nights’ sunset coconut would be my last, but the friendly staff don’t hesitate to bring me just one more and I swear it’s the best damn coconut of my life. We pull our oracle cards, this time Verity has laid out three piles of cards for us to select one from each – three cards instead of one today, yay! I choose three very poignant cards for myself and feel totally at peace, knowing I’m on track to manifesting my desires and the cards correlate to confirm that which I already know. Inspired, creative, and forgiveness. My favourite creative outlet is definitely my writing, and although it has been haltered in the last couple of years due to a lesser sense of worth in myself, all week I’ve been writing non-stop and feeling inspired like I haven’t in years. Earlier in the week, about day four here, I accidentally synced and deleted all the pages I’d written about this experience thus far (which was a lot). Normally, I’d see red over losing it all to the computer cyberspace *shakes angry fist*. But it happened just before bed one night and I just looked at it, all gone except for the basics I’d written from the flight over, took a deep breath and closed my iPad and just went to bed. In the morning I checked again, and it was gone for good just like I feared. I whipped out my gratitude journal and wrote that I was grateful for the opportunity to re-write it better than before (I did sit down after lunch to start over and had a moment of frustration that this isn’t better than before!, but I’m pleased to say now it’s done, it is in fact better). Being able to manage that situation calmly and not let it piss me off was a great feeling. My mind is racing with all the new ideas I have, the creativity I feel inside, and the surety of my path this year. I’m going back to Darwin ready to kick ass. 

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I had an afternoon of solo scooter adventuring before we left

So we started the voyage back to Bali: this time we caught the two hour ferry which was a nice change after all the flights. Next was Kupang to Denpasar, where I was happily going to get another five days to relax before I really join the real world again. We all said our goodbyes, hugged and made plans to meet up again; we all couldn’t wait to see each other go onto achieve everything we’ve now become so sure is coming our way. I didn’t want it to be over, but I just KNOW this is the start of a big shift in my life, and there is some serious greatness to come this year… stay tuned.

If you’re interested in knowing more about these retreats, go to:

www.vidyayogaretreat.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vidyayogaretreat/

Instagram: @vidyayogaretreat

Vidya yoga retreat – Part 2

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Day 3

I’m drinking and eating so many coconuts lately that I think my body must be 90% coconut at this point, and I ain’t even mad about it. I’m addicted to how refreshing they are. They’re so sweet & tasty over here on picturesque Rote Island, plucked right from the trees I’m shaded under each day. I get one handed to me served ice cold as often as I ask, and that first sip after a warm yoga practice is like walking into an air conditioned room – just that ‘AHHH’ feeling.

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Getting spoon fed coconut flesh in the pool… Got the life!

Coconuts are my FAVOURITE and there’s an abundance right here on the property, much to my delight. And the kitchen staff aren’t wasting any of it; the flesh is chopped up and served for us to snack on, or used in our lunch today: stir-fried veggies with garlic and onion, mixed with shredded coconut with a side of rice and coconut-oil fried tempeh (never tried this before, but I’m in love).

I had an interesting yoga class this morning. Not only am I finding that I’m getting a damn good stretch, working up a solid sweat AND feeling amazing by the end, but I’m starting to have some surprising emotional responses too. As I held the open-legged butterfly pose I felt a surge of emotions today. Verity must have been inside my brain at the time, because as it came up I was quite resistant – but she soothed with her finest liquid smooth yogi voice, “If you find some uncomfortable emotions coming up, let them come, as most of us carry a lot of emotion in our hips…” And next thing I know there’s a few tears springing from my eyes. I negotiated with my stubborn ego and we agreed that if I let this go I’d allow myself to be alone and bawl my eyes out after class if I needed to, but by the end of class I felt energized and overjoyed, no tears.

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Morning yoga with these lovely ladies

I truly feel comfortable with our group so I let the tears fall without hiding it (but after class I brought it up and nobody had noticed anyway haha). I was bewildered as to where they came from but I’m learning to understand that we carry a range of emotions in different places in our bodies, and this is a healthy release. Two for one deal if you ask me. So yes, I cried in yoga today, so what. It felt right so I let it come, and go, simple as that. I also love that Verity uses doTERRA essential oils in her yoga practice, and as we wrap up with shivasna each day she gives us a super quick massage and applies some beautiful scented oils to our temple and neck. I need to get me some of these oils!

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I’m all zen and calm from yoga, so it seems like the perfect time to take up the offer for a masseuse to come to the villa and give us each a one hour full body massage. I love that I don’t have to leave the villa for a thing if I don’t want to! I even get to choose my own music so I fill the peaceful quiet with some soothing nature sounds, and focus on my breath. My ability to quickly settle into a meditative state has improved in leaps and bounds this week, and I already thought my meditation skills were pretty good. Getting my value from this retreat indeed.

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After lunch we needed a break from working on our golden tans, so Verity led us through an exercise she called “Manifesting your desires”. She asked us to first write down a few notes about what we hope to get out of this retreat, then what we truly want from life and told us to get specific about what it would look like to have this achieved. For me, my biggest goal this year is to not get stuck in Darwin again after my 3 years abroad, so I visualized the drive to the east coast, setting up my room and life in Queensland; everything down to the decorations on my new walls. Next, we had to think of someone with a similar goal whom we can help achieve theirs – I thought instantly of my friend who is already stuck in Darwin and longing to escape to the east coast as well. Helping others creates a buddy system, keeping us on track and makes us feel good, and as someone who loves to help others I could definitely see how keeping this person on track would help me stay on track. It’s like having a friend to meet at the gym to train together rather than going alone when you feel unmotivated. Boom – I felt a surge of excitement already.

She told us to keep this goal in mind all week, and relive the vision in our mind as often as possible. Then she asked us to each write on a piece of card, three things we wanted to release during this retreat, and took the cards from us without reading them (not sure what this part is all about, by she seems to have everything planned out just so, so I’m sure I’ll find out in due time). I’m feeling super excited about this goal; just talking about it and sharing it with the group, and sensing the excitement in my new friends as they share theirs is a great step towards achieving this goal.

Todays free time activity is surfing, and I’m PUMPED! I’m no pro, and its admittedly been years since I was in the water but we had our local surf pro Alfred on the water with us today. A large fishing boat places us out in the ocean where the best breaks are, and even as a rookie I manage to catch more than a handful of waves, and perfect my posture to make for more efficient paddling, thanks to Alfred’s advice. The water is so pristine and clear here, and when we were done the boat was nearby to fetch us and take us back to shore. This is living.

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Later in the afternoon we completed a “Polar type” nutrition assessment quiz to learn better eating habits for each of our body types and got advice for optimal digestion from our qualified holistic health coach. Some of the questions seemed a bit odd or required a bit of thought, but the end result had my full attention. All of the questions summarized my habits into a particular group of body type, and I got some great tips for how to eat for that body type. I already knew all about fats/proteins/carbs, but now I know for my body type which food group I should be eating, at what time for optimal digestion and sleep, and some other great info. She also did a one-on-one sit-down with each of us to discuss any questions we had after that, which I wasn’t aware was on offer.

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I’m really loving the Yin yoga in the evening, nice slow stretches after dinner that just put me right into a sleep coma. I usually stay up until nearly midnight – and still need a little something extra to help knock me out – but I’m always so relaxed after yang yoga that I’m off to bed immediately and sleeping like a baby. At 9-10pm. Damn, Grandma-mode engaged.

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Day 4

I’m loving my new morning ritual of watching the same herd of goats pass by the villa’s beach each day. I have no idea where they come from, or where they’re going; I see no shepherd or time-keeping devices on any of these goats but somehow they always seem to pass at the same time each morning, like clockwork; Mother Nature has her own way of keeping time it seems, and this thought makes me smile to myself. Today is my first day without a morning coffee; partially because it’s only instant crap (maybe that’s their plan to wean us off artificial stimulants?), but also because I’m feeling so good & becoming more aware of what is truly good for my body and I know coffee on an empty stomach ain’t it.

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Vegan pancakes for breakfast… I dare you to stop at two!

I try Verity’s suggestion of a cacao drink instead; cacao is a superfood antioxidant (40 times more than blueberries, as well as high in both iron and magnesium) and it’s mixed with gelatin which helps digestion issues and improves gut health. It tastes like an unsweetened hot cocoa, and I definitely feel its probably an acquired taste… I’m not sold, but I wasn’t always a fan of black coffee and now its my preferred way to drink coffee. Jury is still out on that one, but Verity swears by it to wean off coffee and get a dose of goodness. So we’ll see.

This morning before yoga we went for a visit to the local market, to see where the fresh vegetables we eat each day come from. One of the guys on our retreat brought his drone video camera along to get some footage of all the colours and activity at the market, and the locals are so intrigued by it. “Helicopter, helicopter!”, they point, and we laugh; no doubt it confuses the heck out of them! As we wander through the stalls, all I see is beaming smiles from the crouching local women offering their wares,  vegetables looking so fresh like they were just pulled from the soil that morning.

One of our group is offered a sample of ‘betel nut’ and as he chews the red paste in his mouth and tries to hide his grimace, a group of locals surge around us, beaming with pride that a foreigner is trying their local delicacies.

I’m asked multiple times to pose for a photo with a saleswoman or child, and they couldn’t be happier to have us invade their market and buy their produce. Again, the happy feeling of returning their smiles non-stop during this visit stay with me all day. Smiling really is the best medicine, and I love the photos I got with the locals from our visit. We return to the villa in time for morning yoga and a green juice, made fresh with some of the vegetables we just purchased. Farm to table eating indeed!

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A few of us have been interested in the essential oils Verity diffuses around the villa and applies on us during yoga, so she gives us a demo today while we wait for lunch.

One of my favourite lunches: Day 3 – lentil dahl, shredded coconut and steamed veggies, and homemade roti. I ate an obscene number of these… No regrets!

We learn that doTERRA essential oils are all plant-derived and 100% natural, as well as being the most concentrated essential oils on the market – so much so that one drop of peppermint oil is equal to 28 cups of peppermint tea! Damn. The oregano, rosemary, cinnamon and many other herb oils can even be used in cooking, one drop goes a LONG way. I have suffered with headaches on and off for years, and used to live on paracetamol daily… but I’ve been rubbing the cooling peppermint oil to my temples whenever a headache hits this week and it vanishes.

She lets us sniff and experiment with her huge collection of oils, and I’m all in – I follow my gut and purchase the Home Essentials Kit from doTERRA’s website that includes a diffuser and a bunch of their most popular oils (YOLO). There’s so much I’m learning about how to treat my body’s ailments in a more natural way this week, and if I can get away from plugging my body with 2-6 paracetamol tablets every day I would love to.

After lunch (tasty tom yum soup) and a couple hours lounging in a hammock, we venture out to a pristine lagoon for a day of snorkelling. As a diver, snorkelling seems kind of underwhelming to me at times but it was the perfect afternoon for it. The water was warm, crystal clear, and bright colourful starfish are scattered everywhere so I’m anything but disappointed. We swim out to a seaweed farm stationed close to the shore, and try to identify all the marine life we see beneath us. We got lucky and came on a day where the water was calm with almost no waves, and not another soul in sight – I can’t believe we are here in this undisturbed paradise all by ourselves.

Undoubtedly, the secret will be out about Rote Island in no time but for now I’m so grateful I get to explore this island with a small group of equally respectful humans. We drive back to the villa for sunset in the back of a pick-up truck, waving and beaming smiles to all the local kids calling “HELLO!!” as we pass. Each day when we venture out, there’s always an abundance of super chilled animals lounging in the middle of the road without a care in the world; dogs curled up literally right in the middle of the road sleeping, well adjusted to drivers having to just go around them. Trails of fat Mama Pig’s with a full undercarriage almost scraping the ground cross the road while we wait, their adorable baby piglets following in a line. Clusters of goats and kids shoulder the road, cows are crossing, and tiny local kids walk around in small army’s cradling live hens in their arms like pets, waving at us with their free hand. Even in India, I’ve never seen anything like it.

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We made it back to the villa in time for an amazing sunset, and it is different from the other nights’ but equally as impressive – imagine a famous Darwin sunset if you’re from where I’m from! I automatically seek out a cold coconut as per tradition in my day now, and have a really wonderful chat with the lovely Gold Coast girl I’m on this ride with. We’ve really bonded over here and I deeply appreciate her openness and realness, as cool chicks can be a tough find. I have a long-time friend who was supposed to come on this retreat as well and I was disappointed when he had to pull out last minute due to work commitments, but I now understand this group were chosen to be here just as we are, and the tribe agrees. She echoes my feelings about how lucky we are to be here, and we share our most vulnerable sides easily, with total support from this group. I’m feeling so grateful it’s hard to put into words.

Dinner, yoga, bed… I’m loving this new simple routine. Still no Bintang beers  for me and I’m super proud of that achievement (If you know me, you know I love to tip a cold one…)

Stay tuned for part 3! Again, if you’re interested in finding out more about the retreats, contact Verity at www.vidyayogaretreat.com

Shout out to Jaran from JUCHEY PRODUCTIONS for all the snaps! https://www.jucheyproductions.com/

My week on Rote Island paradise: Vidya Yoga Retreat

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Our Nebrala Now! villa home on Rote Island – Paradise amongst the palm trees

So, quite a few of you have been enquiring about the retreat I went on recently in picturesque Rote Island in East Timor, so I thought I’d keep a blog each day to record what we did and what I got out of it. I tried to keep it brief but we achieved so much in such a short space of time, and I’ve still not revealed everything. I write this on the final day, fly out day, and I have to commend Verity for such a well-thought out retreat. You can tell this woman is truly and whole-heartedly passionate about trying to help everyone she meets to live their best life, and she starts with the most important task to achieving greatness; loving yourself. Every little detail has been meticulously planned; each day’s poses tie in with which chakra she wants you to give your attention to that day, and even the seemingly casual activities we do waiting for lunch to be served all correlate to bringing forth your true self, loving yourself, and performing at your optimal level. Each meal has been prepared with love by a specialised chef, using all natural and 100% organic produce, and she’s spared no expense when it comes to the foods that fuel our bodies during your time here.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say she even rigged the wifi up to be spotty so we all had a break from being glued to our smart phones all week!

But seriously, if you’ve ever considered a yoga retreat in Bali, consider this one. Better than the hustle of Bali, this go-slow island in Timor (the southern-most island of Indonesia) is just a quick flight away and is undisturbed paradise, sure to be overpopulated in years to come but right now it’s just smiling locals and a handful of foreigners. So much more than just yoga, she incorporates surfing, fishing, snorkelling and many more activities to recharge, reset and replenish your soul. Soak up the island vibes, eat a rainbow of organic fresh produce direct from the local source and feel the changes, calmness and love shine from within you. #vidyavibes

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Me with Vidya Yoga Retreat organiser Verity arriving at Rote Island airport

Day 1

We rendezvoused at Denpasar Airport at 9am and meet our fellow “Vidya tribe gang”; a gorgeous sun kissed couple from the Gold Coast, a local Balinese surf instructor recovering from a major motorbike accident, and me. We’d already exchanged a few excited texts in our WhatsApp messenger app group, but it was nice to put a face to the names. We boarded our 2-hour flight to Kupang, and later a 20 minute flight to Rote Island; this flight was delayed by over 1 1/2 hours due to a massive storm, but you can’t help these things. Once I saw the size of the plane I was more than willing to wait for the storm to pass, and in the meantime we found an airport lounge that for AUD$10 offered air conditioned comfort, buffet lunch, and better wifi than we’d have all week. Verity had already let us know that wifi was pretty spotty on the island so we used the free time to get any “admin jobs” done so we could relax for the week ahead and stay present at the retreat.

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We arrived at the villa later in the evening than expected, disappointed to have missed the first of the sunsets we’d heard so much about, but we’d enjoyed the drive through the island nonetheless. However, any lingering disappointment dissipated as our van entered the sprawling villa resort property, and we caught our first glimpse of our “home” for the next week. The huge villa welcomed us with wide wooden doors stretched open, and the smiling faces of the local staff rushed to our van to greet us. They each gripped Verity in a warm hug and squeals of “We missed you!” told me that these guys were more than just staff, they all saw her and each other as family. Rini, the beaming villa manager was first to introduce herself, followed by Any the chef who’d been carefully chosen by Verity to prepare our holistic, mostly plant based meals for the retreat. As we began our tour, we were each handed a champagne flute filled with an oddly delicious avocado smoothie; I couldn’t believe there was no sugar in it, or that drinking avocados could taste so good!

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My ocean-front view bedroom
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Outdoor shower, with a gorgeous view of the moon and stars

The villa itself is breathtaking, and I understand now why accommodation makes up a large chunk of the package price of this retreat – this ain’t no regular house. Four large ocean-front bedrooms comprises one long stretch of the building, each with its own gorgeous Balinese-style outdoor shower and bathroom. They are each air-conditioned and equipped with ceiling fans, but when we arrived at 7:30pm the ocean breeze was more than enough. The staff spoke in surprisingly great English, and told us that new smaller “surf rooms” had just been built on the other side the villa near the entrance, but we could tell the ocean-front rooms were the main attraction. So we each chose a room and compared the unique decorations, then were treated to a complimentary welcome massage before dinner. Heaven.

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Breakfast was always a surprise! Chia seed pudding with coconut cream, dragonfruit, toasted almonds and buttery avocados

Dinner was, pardon my French, fucking delicious. I’m normally a “meat & three veg” type of girl, but the lentil burgers on homemade wheat and almond flour buns were perfectly toasted, tasty and oh so moorish. One of the girls couldn’t eat wheat due to her diet so like the glutton I am, I couldn’t resist eating both of her buns as they were SO good. Dessert wasn’t on the menu, but the staff prepared some tasty Javanese style fried banana with ice cream for us. The vegans couldn’t eat theirs, but I managed to find that sneaky extra dessert pocket and inhaled mine. Full is an understatement.

After dinner we showered and unpacked, then Verity led us through a guided meditation on yoga mats on the grass; it was like the perfect bedtime story in paradise. I floated to bed, calm and excited for what tomorrow would hold.

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Day 2

Rise & shine: 5:45am.

I can’t believe I’m up this early without a) not having slept the night before, or b) getting paid to be up. Normally you won’t see me awake before 8am, but the calming energy in this paradise had me not wanting to waste a precious minute of the day today. When my alarm went off, I sprung out of my snug cozy bed and didn’t feel tired at all. And for a change, I was the only person up; the only other soul was the night-shift security guard cutting down fresh coconuts on the beach for us (not all superheroes wear capes, I couldn’t wait to slurp back one of those bad boys for breakfast). I watch the sunrise over the beach in front of me, and joyfully observe all the wildlife in my line of sight. To my left, a cluster of baby piglets scurry for their Mama Pig’s attention and thirst for her nipple, while she sniffs her way around the palm trees on the beach, seemingly oblivious.

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The “goat train” as I liked to call it

To the right, a herd of goats are slowly making their pilgrimage along the path, walking single file with lazy purpose yet absent of any human to guide them. I quietly watch the sunrise, and am soon joined by a new friend also on the retreat, but she respectfully observes my quiet, gives me a smiling nod and we sit together in comfortable silence, grateful for all that is coming for the day. I feel a calm I haven’t felt in months.

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After the sunrise, I sit in a wooden bali hut on the villa property and do my daily gratitude practice. I write down five things I’m grateful for in my personal life; five things I’m grateful for in my professional life; and five things I love about myself. This has always been my routine, and a major source of my daily happiness over the past few years. After taking some quiet time to myself, I head back to the villa house and greet Verity and the other “tribe members”. I’m handed a cold coconut, offered a coffee (I know our tribe leader would prefer we limit our caffeine intake but she doesn’t push the issue, some of us need the coffee to get our brains started but mostly for me I think it’s just out of habit, one I’d like to break if I’m honest).

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8am and its time for our first yoga class of the retreat. I’ve done a bit of yoga here and there over the years, but as someone who usually prefers weight training & intense workouts, the point of yoga has kind of been lost on me. Someone once called it “doing regular things slowly” and I must admit I kind of agreed; but I have a feeling I just need to stick it out, hence my attendance here. I think of ‘exercise’ as getting sweaty and burning lots of calories but I was surprised to find I did work up a decent sweat during our Vinyasa yoga class. We held some of the poses for longer than I’m used to, and as someone who regretfully doesn’t prioritise stretching as much as I should, I was tighter than I realised and really needed it. In the past I’ve been able to hold the crow pose pretty easily, but I crumbled over and over today, much to my frustration. Guess I do need this damn yoga stuff after all.

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As we awaken from the calming final pose of savasna, I notice I have gifts on the end of my yoga mat. A multi-coloured pen and journal with printed spaces for recording 7 things I’m grateful for each day, meals I’ve eaten, when and how they made me feel, water intake, exercises, feelings and more. As someone who already fanatically believes in the power of practicing gratitude to enhance your life, I’m overjoyed to see this is prioritised every day on the retreat. Verity also included a block of organic chocolate which reminds me it’s Easter! I have a laugh to myself as normally over Easter long weekend I’m drunk for 4 days straight yet I’ve been in Indonesia for nearly a week and haven’t had a single drink yet. Maybe it’s called growing up, or maybe it’s just a break for my party-weary body, but either way I am yet to be tempted for a Bintang beer. I want to stay clear headed to absorb every minute of this experience.

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O.D.’ing on coconuts!

After yoga we all have a dip in the pool, and as we relax with yet another cold coconut we discuss our desires, expectations and outcomes for the retreat. Initially I just wanted to lounge by the pool and work on my tan every day, but when I heard all the options of activities on offer my ears perked up. Surfing? Of course! Fishing? Sailing? Scooter adventures around the island? Damn, sign me up! And just as well, as after just two hours in the hot sun I was starting to roast. We are able to pick and choose what we want to do, but I’m down to see as much of the island as we can. It doesn’t even feel like Indonesia around here, that foul Bali smell that I’m used to in Kuta or Seminyak doesn’t compare to the fresh ocean air over here.

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Verity’s friend Alfred gives us an Indonesian lesson in the pool, and we get to learn any phrases we may find useful during our trip to connect with the villa staff. My brain has been reprogrammed to default to Spanish in a foreign country so this was helpful to remember all my Indonesian from school (sure was nice not having to get out of the pool for the class too). After a swim and some free time, we hired scooters and whipped around the island for a tour. As it was Easter weekend and this is a mostly-Christian population, there was excitement and gatherings all over the island. We drove to a spot on the beach where a party of about fifty local families were celebrating. We were instant celebrities! This island doesn’t see a lot of white foreigners so we were greeted with a lot of smiles and requests for photos, which we happily obliged. It was super cute, and we all beamed with smiles to them and to each other; the beach view for sunset was gorgeous. And something about all that smiling, we were all on such a high after that afternoon. Rote Island was starting to steal my heart.

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Stay tuned for day 3 and 4, coming early next week! In the meantime if you would like to know more about Vidya Yoga retreats, check out:

www.vidyayogaretreat.com or instagram: @vidyayogaretreat

Thought of the Day

Sharing your emotional pain: Choosing courage over comfortable

“The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness – even our wholeheartedness – actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, even the falls.” – Brene Brown

If you’ve been following my blog for a while (thanks legends), you know I’m a big advocate for sharing your story, warts and all, and being honest and authentic about your feelings and emotions. It started out as terrifying for me: I wondered if people would read the deeper stuff I write and screw their faces up, or treat me differently thinking to themselves, “that’s the girl who is all fucked up from XYZ events”. Or when I talk about a difficult break-up and how it affected me, I’d worry some people would think I’m not “over him”; but these days I’m much more comfortable with myself as I know I’m just allowing myself to freely feel and grow through all I go through. The only ones judging are the ones who haven’t yet learnt to accept and understand their own emotions, and I don’t need to concern myself with that energy. I’ma do me, boo.

But eventually I noticed that with every vulnerability I shared, I’d get more than a few messages from people who read my posts & reached out privately to pour their hearts out to me about their own pain, and even more beautifully; eventually they grew courageous enough to publicly share their own story to empower others out of the darkness (I’m looking at you Ryan, my amazing buddy who is now heavily involved with an organization “A Chance for Change” to support Australian men quietly suffering from depression). I’ll always face my fears & share to get those “me too” messages, and to know another person on this earth has started their journey to heal their emotional pain because of me.

It took a while to get to this place though; like all the important lessons I learnt this one the hard way. After my dad passed away when I was 20 from a drug overdose, the grief engulfed me; yet I was too “proud” to let it out or talk about it. Everyone else had moved on from their grief, or so it felt – but I was still deep in it. As soon as I was alone anywhere, often driving in my car, I couldn’t help sobbing quietly behind my sunglasses. It was almost a game to me at one point – how “normal” I could look on the outside to other drivers as the tears rolled down my pokerface. I’d get to my destination and slap the fake smile back on, and over-compensate by being extra “fake happy” so no-one knew how much I was hurting. I was a burden on others by talking about it, or so I felt, and so I ‘functioned’ like this for over a year. But I became so sick of crying, and often I would get frustrated myself for being weak and tried my hardest to push the emotions aside… But uncomfortable feelings don’t just disappear, they go deeper and poison your day, your mood, sometimes even your health. I suffered terrible headaches every day during those years, and my drinking was outta control, my body a toxic mess. I didn’t know how to healthily process my pain, so I masked it. It took me years to finally transcend that suffering, but I’m so grateful I now know everything I do, and I’m no longer hiding or running from the bad stuff anymore.

I’m so proud to see a change in people’s perception of mental illness and suffering these days, especially on social media. Those courageous people talking about their fight with cancer, postpartum depression, burying their young child, body dysmorphia, death, anything that causes you suffering. TALK ABOUT YOUR PAIN. I’m not talking about just on social media, if anything I’d suggest the opposite until you’re in a place where you’re comfortable with where you’re at, because one wrong comment from a keyboard warrior can do more harm than good. But talk to a trusted friend, support person, counsellor; just get it off your chest and be real with how you feel and where you’re at. Later on if you want to share to help others, great. But first help yourself, heal yourself, and begin to truly understand and accept how you feel.

I’m on a plane to Kupang right now, where I’m about to start a yoga & surf retreat with my amazing friend who has also transcended her own emotional pain & grief. She found a way to transform her struggle into a strength, and now wants to share her secrets with the world. And just before I boarded this plane I read a Facebook post from another courageous young friend in Canada who has also put her pain out there to help others, and I love knowing these kinds of humans are out there inspiring others, myself included. Thank you, you amazing creatures. You are the change we need in this world during these difficult times.

Plane is descending… Time to explore a new city, my favourite pastime!

– Belle

<By the way, if you find this blog touches a nerve, pick up ANY book by Brene Brown. She is a true authentic badass and her books are life-changing for me>

Back to the Mother country

So, it finally happened. Australia, I’m baaaaaaaack 😆

I left in 2014 and I’ve had an unbelievably blessed 3.5 years working, volunteering & travelling across 4 continents. I’ve grown so much on this solo voyage that it blows my mind to think about it all – what started out as a quick “break-up bender” turned into a life changing experience.

More than just party party, this trip was all about growth. Along this trip, I read loads of books to educate myself about my emotional reactions/behaviour and tried to tap into my true self, true emotions and intuition. When I left home I was running from some heavy emotional pain, triggered right back to my childhood and I just felt overwhelmingly sure that I had to break away and heal this pain on my own in order to grow. I had to learn how to be whole again and I felt the best way to do this was to escape all reminders of love lost & childhood stuff and go do what makes me happiest; travel. So I waved goodbye for “2 months” in 2014 and we all know how that ended 😛 I partied, I was single and wild, sure. But I also invested a lot of time sitting alone with myself in my “safe place” of my Canadian Grandma’s spare bedroom for 2 years, and went back to face all the demons I’d been running from for so long. I wrote, I meditated, I cried, I unlearnt truths I had based my worth on for so long. I healed. I learnt to let go of so many emotions that weren’t serving me. I now know the parts of myself that I’d like to work on, and I’m actively working towards improving in these areas at whatever rate of time it takes.

I came overseas to learn how to be “whole” again after ending a big relationship, but what I gained far exceeded that. I’ve since learnt & understand I was whole all along; I just put a label on myself, an identity, and when that identity crumbled it led to an awakening inside me. In the past I’ve struggled to merge the “travel belle” and “real life belle”, or work out who is the better version of me; “relationship belle” or “single belle” but I now understand that I am neither of these labels. I am just ME, having these experiences, and none of them are defining or changing the real me, so there’s no need to feel limited by these labels that I don’t even need to put on myself. I have nothing to fear, and I’m ready for whatever comes next with arms wide open.

I’m damn proud of the woman that I am, authenticity over perfection everyday, growing and knowing myself more than ever. I share my story and raw emotions with every person I connect with either personally or on social media, and judging by some of the private messages, calls and friendships, you guys know I see you and I love that I can have that effect on people. I’ve made so many amazing connections with people these 3.5 years it gives me goosebumps just writing this. Beyond lucky to have crossed paths with you all.

But I’m home, finally! And for the first time, it was my own choice & I was damn excited to come back to Australia. Because when I sit with myself lately I can’t deny I am missing all you damn Aussies more than I ever have. I’m also missing having a home; belonging, not living by visa expiry dates constantly. I miss being close to the people that know the good the bad & the ugly of me and are still 100% in my corner. I want to see all your babies, help plan your weddings, oh my! I wanted to meet my niece so badly it hurt; and I can’t wait to see my nephew as the real-life superhero in her life. I wanted to see my little bro’s first crib & honour his request to be home for his 21st birthday. I wanna go out for a drink with my sisters & laugh till we cry. I want to eat ALL my Mum’s cooking & drink whiskey with my stepdad. I wanna get day drunk in a pool with all of you legends and hear about your lives. I’ve been holding you all in my heart for years but I can’t wait to squeeze you for real.

Incase it doesn’t show (lol) I’m extremely grateful that I was able to take this break from life and go heal – it has done wonders for turning me into the person I’m damn proud to be today. Not everybody can take this long away from their responsibilities, sure; but don’t under estimate how important it is to stare into that mirror, be still, and face those demons. Not to give up and tune out when the emotions rise; sit with it and go through it, so you can grow through it. And for gods sake, have fun. I had more fun than ever on this solo voyage. So go dance until sunrise at a music festival, laugh like a hyena, meet people who’s energy shines like unicorn piss and enjoy those vibrations as they flow through you. Those nights that turned into mornings during this adventure have been soul-enriching, to say the least. You’re never too old not to prioritize play, the vitality of our souls depends on it.

Damn, who the fuck gets to have this life eh. 26 new passport stamps in 40 months abroad. A guardian angel in the sky keeping me safe, no doubt. I just hope I have spread enough good vibes back to all the great people I’ve met, all the lessons I’ve learnt, and all the memories I’ll forever cherish. You guys all changed me for the best, for real. And the love, support and encouragement from everyone back home has been incredible.

I came to heal, to grow, to tick bucket list items and run free – but now I’m ready for a new chapter. Let’s see what happens 😉

Saying goodbye to Canada

Oh, Canada. Where to begin.

I came to this beautiful country expecting I’d last 6 months with the savings I had; instead I had 2.5 years on the stunning West Coast in British Columbia and saved a pretty nest egg under me, still no debt. I moved across the globe for a job nannying with the wrong family, 3 weeks later followed my gut to a new employer & found a lifelong family in Vancouver. I hoped to make a handful of friends since I moved there knowing only one person; instead I’ve made hundreds of amazing connections for life.

Sure, I haven’t visited many other provinces (yet) but I worked my butt off whilst also managing to have some of the best fun of my life in this city – and I give myself plenty of stuff to come back and do next year! I started out as a nanny for a kid who I absolutely adore, and got to live right next door to her and watch her grow up even after I stopped working for her family. Countless amazing friends who’ve made me feel loved & cherished for all my weirdness and impress me with their weirdness right back.

Thank you to everyone who has sat up laughing their asses off making amazing memories with me over those 2.5 years. I remember them all and my insides tingle when I think about our deep convos, live music shows at camping festivals, rap battle after-parties and alllll the dancing.

I came to Canada wanting to slow down after a year of backpacking and living in Colombia, and managed to do so for the first year as a nanny and with a wonderful 25 year old all-canadian boyfriend, and then the single & hospo life beckoned and boy did we have some fun! Workmates, playmates, soul mates; you guys & gals have all been my happy place, my family, my favourite people. Then when things couldn’t get any better but I was still somewhat stuck in a rut, I had the best summer of my life last year.

Wreck Beach, you may just be heaven on Earth cos I made some amazing memories down there this year. I met a group of golden-hearted humans who tirelessly invited me to any gig or party they could get me an invite to, just to help me meet more great humans and spread the good vibes.

You guys, that birthday of mine, that whole SUMMER – I could never expect that all the great memories I’d already made were about to get even better. I’m definitely back on the swing of “I need to take it easy now” but it was worth every sleepless night to sit up chatting & cuddling and all praising each other for being our authentic selves. This entire experience in Canada has been exceptional.

I’ve watched the little kids I met in 2015 learn to read, show compassion and grow, and I’ve enjoyed 3 years of holiday traditions with their families. I’ve watched my Canadian friends get married and make babies. I’ve fallen in love (or my shortened version of it) plenty of times, had amazing friendships bloom overnight & grow into something lifelong. I’ve had my limits tested and learnt that having a big heart means you also need a BIG fucking fence. Protect ya neck son.

I left for 3 months to South Florida but the poutine, caesers & chicken wings (ha, always about the food with me) kept me coming back for more so I couldn’t help but sneak in another visit on my way home to Australia. An amazing weekend with friends in the mountains was the perfect ending to this voyage, and come hell or high water I’ll be back again, in any capacity, as soon as I can.

CANADA EH! You changed me for the better & I’m beyond grateful that I followed my intuition and came to visit the country that beckoned ever since I was a young girl. It was fate!

Love the happiest Aussie of all…

Belle