Verity’s Vidya retreat – A year later

Have you ever felt that feeling that there was a moment in your life that was a real turning point for you? Like there was a line drawn in the sand, and on one side was the old you, and on this; the new you. The most recent time I felt it, was at Verity’s yoga & surf retreat in Rote Island, Indonesia, this time last year. And it feels only fitting that with the one year anniversary of this moment coming up, and her next retreat about to occur, that I share the changes I’ve felt since this lady changed my life, once again, for the better. 

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If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you know this girl is a fucking warrior, and I’m fortunate enough to call her one of my best mates. In early January 2018 when I was living in Florida working on mega yachts and utterly undecided on the direction of my life after that month, she called to say she was starting wellness retreats in Bali from April and she wanted me to attend her maiden retreat. I booked the flight almost instantly, knowing full well that whatever this woman had planned, would be magnificent. I knew it’d be fun and worth every dollar, but it truly changed my life.

On the retreat, we ate enriching vegan food, meditated, practiced yoga twice a day in paradise, and did all sorts of really fun activities. But we also did the tougher mental work on healing our souls, mending our broken pieces, and learned to lean into the uncomfortable parts of ourselves that were holding us back from our greatness. We shared what we hoped to get out of this experience, and what we truly wanted for our lives in the future, and how to reach our true purpose – we journaled our answers and shared with the group, and felt the warm energy and positive vibrations among our little group of happy yogis. We bonded; strangers who were united in their desire to be their best self, all seeking answers from this beautiful soul with the calming energy. I’m still great friends with the other attendees from this week.

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For me, I wanted some direction. I was coming off the end of a three and a half year “get lost and find yourself” life-break overseas, and coming back to Australia was always a particularly daunting experience for me. I was returning to my hometown of Darwin to spend time with my much-loved family and friends, and although I missed them all terribly, Darwin was no longer where I wanted to live, and hadn’t been for quite some time. However, in the past, every time I made plans to leave Darwin and move to the east coast like I’d wanted to for over a decade, I’d allow others’ wants and needs to be a priority over my own and stuck around instead of moving on, to my own detriment. I made excuses (“My family are here”, “I met a boy”, “Job opportunities are too good”, “I’ll leave after the dry season”… and more) but deep down I was resentful and sick of it. Yet as that plane touched down in Darwin after being gone for more than 3 years, the anxiety that maybe I’d once again let the same excuses keep me stuck in the same place I’d outgrown crept up. I spent three days in Darwin with my family, then hopped on the plane to Bali to let Verity do her magic on me. 

When I was in Bali talking about all these excuses I had for not moving interstate previously with the group, I realized I’d been in my own way the whole time. It’s up to me, motherfucker! I’m in control of this ship now. So we did a bunch of activities on the retreat that set out real plans, directions and intentions, for how we were going to step up and achieve all that we’d been wanting for in our lives. We turned inward to work out what insecurities or fears we had which held us back, and overcame them. With each passing day, I felt a fire burning brighter and brighter. I knew there was no turning back now I’d made this promise to myself.

And I’m pleased to say, I fucking did it. As I write this post in my wonderful home in beautiful Gold Coast, I’m literally living my best life since this retreat. I got back from Bali a different person, first of all – I didn’t want to touch any booze! The party girl in me was tapping out and focussing on her priorities, and I was ALL about this change. Within days I got a call offering me a once-in-a-lifetime job working for a celebrity croc hunter, and more job offers kept pouring in. I met a guy and we really hit it off, dated for most of my time in Darwin, and could have been more if I wasn’t so focussed on nothing interfering with this goal. I reconnected with my family after being away for so long, and it was magic. All those excuses that I had made previously – “My family are here”, “I met a boy”, “Job opportunities are too good” – were all still there, yet this time, something inside me was finally different. I wasn’t in my own way any more, and despite all of the great memories I made being back in Darwin for 6 months, I could not WAIT to manifest everything I’d hoped for at that retreat. I put myself first this time, and it felt amazing. 

At the retreat, Verity would ask us to envision in our mind what it would look like to have everything that we wanted for ourselves, and keep that firmly at the front of our minds; and I did it, every day. Now I look around, and see that everything that I wrote in my journal during that retreat has come true, or is on its way. I’m back in Australia and settled down, about to start a new career, and I’m without a doubt the healthiest version of myself that I’ve ever been. My old vices and tactics I used to numb myself from the uncomfortable emotions no longer hold their old appeal, I’m good being sober and wake up at 5am to exercise – who the fuck am I? I ripped that band-aid off, and finally did what so many of us struggle to do in that tiny alcohol-soaked town… I left Darwin. And no disrespect to the place, I love it and Darwin will always be home! But I was long overdue to spread my wings and have a new experience in Australia, and that’s exactly what I’ve done.

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I’ve heard people make excuses for why they can’t do a retreat like this, but what price can you actually put on achieving all that you have ever truly wanted for yourself? Are you too, in your own way like I was? Prioritize yourself, your dreams, and your future. If I wasn’t about to start this dream job that she helped me manifest into reality, I’d be there in a heartbeat! She really knows her shit and she practices what she preaches.

THANK YOU VERITY – You have changed my life more than you know ❤

Love and light, 

Belle

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Working for the croc wrangler

So, this is a post I know a few of you are interested in hearing about… Who the bloody hell gets to quit their life for 3.5 years and travel the world, only to come back to their home town and walk into an experience like this? Me, apparently.

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I had just returned to Australia from a soul-enriching 3 weeks in Indonesia in March 2018, doing yoga and surrounding myself with amazing food and even better company, and I was ready to kick some ass. I was back in my hometown of Darwin, NT, and although in the past it had felt like a “step back” to return to Darwin, this time I was ready and willing to be home. I got up nice and early on a Monday morning after a very well behaved weekend (those retreat-wellness vibes still running strong) and sat down to start updating my resume when I received a text from a long-time friend. She asked if I had work now I was back in town, and if not, give her a call. Great, I thought – trying to spin this 3 year gap in my professional government career and walk back into a job at the level I knew I was capable of doing, was going to be a bit of a hard sell anyway. Whats the plan B?

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The flight to Melville Island

My friend said it was a hostess/cooking gig at a camp her boss runs on Melville Island, one of the two major Tiwi Islands about 80 kilometres out of Darwin, and mostly inhabited by indigenous Tiwi people (and a lot of crocodiles). I’d never been there before, and as it turns out my week was wide open so who was I to turn down a paying job? I thought it would be super low key, a bit boring and very rough, as I had no idea she worked for a celebrity – Matt Wright has a very popular TV show on National Geographic all about his job wrangling crocodiles in Australia called “Outback Wrangler”, which is now onto its fourth season; a successful book, and a bunch of other endeavours (notably a smoking hot wife Kaia who is an absolute gem, and together they are idolized by many Australians). And here’s me; a gypsy who had just returned from spending most of the last 5 years overseas and completely unaware of this guy. I basically got handed this job on a silver platter, and initially I had no idea what I was in for. I was just excited for my first chopper ride the following day!

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So I went to Matt’s house, met him and his beautiful wife, we chatted and locked it down. Just a couple of hours before we were due to fly out, I got the menu from his assistant, and we set out on our mission to get all the groceries and supplies for the trip. By now I’d spoken to some people about this opportunity and been informed just who the fuck I was going to be working for, and the high calibre of guests’ I’d be cooking for out there (I can’t give away any names, but some very prominent business people and celebrities especially in the cooking world), and I was starting to get a bit nervous. I had cooked fish maybe twice in my life (I’m a meat and veggies girl more than seafood, but that’s all changed now), hadn’t cooked on a camp stove in years and would be flying blind with no wifi or phone signal at the camp. No worries though, I was assured we’d have a full working kitchen, everything good to go. (Cue suspenseful plot twist music….)

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Our resident mascot and pet at Safari lodge – TRIPOD

The chopper arrived, we loaded up the shopping and supplies and headed over to the islands. The scenery from up there is breathtaking; I’ve never taken a flight over this part of my state so I was elated to get to explore more of my great country and get paid to do it – who the hell gets this life? I was mentally pinching myself for the whole 45 minute flight over. We arrived at the camp just before sunset, and got busy unpacking and setting up the camp for the guests arriving the following day. Once the big jobs were done, Matt, myself and his colleague sat down for a glass of red wine and a chin-wag (aussie slang for a chat), and we got to know each other a bit better. Matt is exactly how he appears on TV and his videos: laid back, easy going, a super Australian lad and reminds me of my guy mates growing up so we got along right from the start. I was aware that tomorrow was gonna be a big day with an early start so we called it a night pretty early and headed off to our air-conditioned rooms and passed out immediately. There’s nothing like that quality sleep in the bush.

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Definitely one of the most Australian places I’ve eaten my Vegemite toast!
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Learning how to descale a fish from the pro

I woke up early, but not as early as Matt – he was already in the kitchen and made me a coffee before heading off on the chopper to collect our guests. I got busy making the beds up for the guests, prepping food and tidying up the camp. When it came time to prepare lunch, I noticed the hose which connects the stove/oven to the gas bottle was nowhere to be found. Then I noticed the Webber BBQ wasn’t working either – oh dear. Panic was starting to rise but I told myself it’ll all be fine and I’ll figure it out. In the end, I didn’t – I just made a plan B and chucked some chicken tenders in the deep fryer and prepped some chicken salad wraps. Our guests returned from a hot afternoon of fishing, but they didn’t feel like chicken wraps today – the panic was back. What the eff was I going to feed them then?! Matt jumped in the kitchen and tried to help get the stove working but it was a no-go. We hustled something together, the guests got fed – but it definitely wasn’t the smooth sailing start I was hoping for. 

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Bone crusher, a wild crocodile

Day two with the guests started better; I can multitask on cooking breakfast like a machine so I knew they had more than enough to eat, and they headed out for another day of fishing with full bellies and plenty of cold beers. By this point we’d managed to get a BBQ grill hooked up, and I got to work on perfecting lunch for the second day… Only to discover the hard way that the knobs on the grill were all on wrong, and what I thought was low heat was actually high heat and I’d overcooked the simplest of meals – a rookie mistake. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but internally I was sure I was failing terribly and convinced I was getting the sack as soon as the trip was over. I’m usually pretty level-headed and can manage that “catastrophising” tendency but lord, I was convinced I was fucking it all up. Oh well, I told myself – at least you’ve had a fun few days out in the bush and have a cool story to tell. Whatever will be will be.

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Turns out, apparently I did a pretty decent job for what we were working with. Matt was happy with how I did (or happy with my cheese platters and OCD cleaning, one of the two), and I was shocked when the guests tipped me at the end of the trip, which sent me home on such a high. On the helicopter ride home Matt started discussing the details for the next trip in a few days time and my spirits soared – holy fuck, I’m not getting fired! It’s laughable to me now how your mind can play such tricks on you, and make you believe in whatever truth you feed it – I was so sure I was going to fail, that I almost did. In fact on the second last day I was so sure I was going to get fired that I mentally gave up; then I had a pep talk with myself and said yo, you didn’t get hired for your abilities to cook chicken skewers! You got hired for your personality, your attention to detail, yes your cooking skills but there’s more to it than that. Stop giving up and start acting like you belong in this job! And so I did, and I’m proud to say I’ve nailed every trip I’ve been on since. Getting paid to see new parts of my country, going fishing and riding in helicopters and airboats is a wonderful way to earn a crust in the Territory during the dry season, and I’m super lucky. Also had the chance to meet some pretty cool people, and spend some quality time with Matt & Kaia’s cute pooch Apollo so no complaints!

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My sister works for local radio and they did a live broadcast out here – Her happy face says it all!
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Showing off the “Glamping” tents to my sister

The rest of the season has now been at the Safari Lodge about an hour out of town with some beautiful glamping (glamorous camping) tents, and I’ve gotten to know the staff in Matt’s crew much better and really enjoy the work; especially when we get to go fishing and croc-spotting on the job. If only I could live down that massive Barra that I missed out on reeling in during my first month, as the boys are still heckling me for it…. Not that I’d blame them. I need to work on my fishing skills stat!

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Watching monster croc eat smaller prey from the chopper
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Just SOME of the leftover barra from our first trip!

What a life, what a country. It’s so good to be home and enjoying the great outdoors in my backyard!

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!

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>