How solo travel = self healing

Solo travel personal discoveries – How solo travel = self healing.

 

Why this blog?

A recent message, from a splendid travelling friend, stated that I am a “philosophical walkabout”… Another close friend, whom I met at the Vipassana retreat, has started calling me a Dervish. Meaning; a wanderer that has chosen poverty over possessions in the search of ‘faith’ – or something (in my case).

Both of which has prompted me to write the story of how I reached this point.

Plus everything web based tells me I need to show that I’m human in the eyes of internet land if I’m to make a difference in this world. This, possibly over-sharing, quite personal story about “How solo travel = self healing” scares the bejeezuz out of me because I am generally a very private person..

So, here it is.. honest, raw, vulnerable me.

 

fibromyalgia + travel

self healing

Yoga Instructor, yeaaahhh!!

 

What’s with all this travel / soul / self searching?

The beginning…

Let’s roll back about 10 years ago. I met a man. It was the single most stressful 5 year start to any relationship I have dealt with.

Without going into too much detail, just imagine the most horribly angry and manipulative ex-wife (even 13 years post-divorce), a very troublesome teenager that broke in to and stole everything from our house (amongst other things), and fighting to keep a relationship alive – single handedly.

Add to this mix somehow gaining glandular fever, along with working in a high stress job at the time.

I have been through plenty of shit before and classify myself as pretty good at going with the flow, truly knowing that everything will turn out ok.. however, all the above broke me. (Now I couldn’t be more grateful).

My physical and mental state completely crashed.

 

 

 

 

What is Fibromyalgia?

My mental state turned into a physical illness – Fibromyalgia.

For those that don’t know about fibromyalgia yet, here’s a brief and basic run down.

The best description I’ve ever read is this;

Imagine body aching flu symptoms x 100; add some fire ants to all your joints plus biting your already sensitive skin / nerve endings; the inability to retain anything in the brain longer than a nano-second; and the mental anguish of a very bad PMS sufferer.

For about 4 years my physical state was so bad that I couldn’t even walk to the letterbox without causing excruciating pain and needing to sleep for many hours afterwards. I also lost friends because I couldn’t commit to anything due to body and mental flare ups… and most likely forgetting that I was invited to events.

I’d always been proud of my memory, so I really struggled with the memory loss. I was constantly beating myself up about it.

Having to give up full time work because I became an angry, forgetful boss and when I returned home of an evening all I could do was crash on the couch in pain which wasn’t easy for someone that is super motivated in work and play.

Anger was my go to emotion (which is completely out of character for me usually). To the point that just about everyone in my path was called a c-bomb. I was fuming at cars cutting me off, people making little mistakes at work, strangers even looking at me, and my friends for not being there for me.

That’s not living, let me tell you.

Let’s not forget that I have epilepsy and debilitating migraines on top of this.

 

 

How and what made me change?

I have a step-mother who has suffered with life-halting issues (including fibromyalgia) pretty much since she joined our family about 30+ years ago. (Coincidence?)

Due to her being confined to her house most days, she was my motivation for not settling for a life of living house, lounge or bedroom bound. Her vitality dissolved, sadly. NO FREAKING WAY WAS I GOING TO CONTINUE LIKE THAT! I truly mean no disrespect towards this poor, pained lady, I purely found her situation motivational.

Plus, I assume I inherited the superpower of inner strength from my Ma.

 

My expectation of people understanding the pain I went through mentally and physically doesn’t matter, but I’m sure everyone that knew me before, during and after can see that my inner light is shining brighter every day now. Which I attribute to all the work other naturalists have consummated (including my inner work).

 

 

 

solo travel = self healing

Dr Himali & your new Ayurvedic Therapist

 

Natural Therapy healing

Psychological appointments, General Practitioner appointments at least twice weekly, many blood tests and Rheumatologist appointments – all in the name of finding out what was wrong with me.

There was a lot of trial and error with Doctors and Naturopaths for me over 3-4 years.

Until I met Kylie Stabler – an Aussie Chinese Medicine specialist from Natural Therapeutics in Brunswick. Coming off pharmaceutical anti-depressants, ceasing pshychological therapy and opting for healthy eating, acupuncture and natural herbs (the winner being in the form of Metagenics NeuroCalm) changed my life. 

As did the unwavering support from Kylie – she gave me her personal phone number in case I just needed to talk. Which I did.

Admittedly it would take me 2 days to recover from each acupuncture session, but when I did recover – I was gaining in strength and mental clarity, very slowly.

(Kylie also helped one of my besties get pregnant later in life)

My gratitude also extends to Sudi De Winter from Inner North Osteopathy for his continued support for my pained back and neck.

I didn’t drink alcohol for about 2-3 years either. I was refusing to let this Fibromyalgia beat me.

As you can see, I gave “conventional” medicine a fair go, but what actually helped was Natural Therapies.

Hopefully that explains my search for alternative therapy education so that I can offer benefits to other psychological and physical sufferers.

 

 

self healing

Torres del Paine Towers trek – My Everest with Fibromyalgia

fibromyalgia + travel

Total of 26 gruelling kilometres to reach 875m

 

Coming out of the Fibromyalgia haze

So, fast forward a few years of all the natural therapies plus delicately finding the balance between forcing myself to exercise and resting my body to help decrease the symptoms of Fibromyalgia… 

…and I’m set to do the Torres Del Paine hike in Chile. Sadly my Achilles gave way and I wasn’t able to even start the hike let alone finish it.

This hike, to me, was my personal Everest after the hell my body and mind had been through. I was incredibly upset. In fact, I cried all the way back to the camp on my own. 

The opportunity came up to go back and attempt this the following year. I just had to do it.

And I did.

Ever since then I have been increasingly proud of my mental strength and physical ability. Above all else, I have been listening to my body and gut instinct more.

 

solo travel = self healing

 

 

Fibromyalgia

Even with Fibromyalgia I became the fittest, calmest and happiest I have ever been – through Yoga

Travelling & Studying

  • I’ve learned what a Yogic life is about whilst studying in Rishikesh, India – It’s not just about posting pretzel-like yoga poses on Social Media.

 

  • Ayurvedic therapies with a Doctor 1:1 in Sri Lanka. Enabling me to help people with physical and mental ailments. When practicing on the Doc herself, she said “You were a healer in a past life.” And.. “You are in my top 3 students out of thousands.” The Doc proceeded to show me her book of previous students to cement this generous compliment.

 

  • Reiki – I was attuned a few years ago, but I’m enhancing that on a daily basis. Giving distant Reiki to friends and family has been healing for all involved.

 

 

What I have learned about myself

  • I am resilient AF!
  • My Fibromyalgia is almost non-existent now.
  • My spirituality has grown tenfold and I trust my instinct more than ever – with success.
  • The road of fewest obstructions is directing me to share my knowledge on how dealing with my past got me to where I am now. 
  • My main intent is to do things that make myself (primarily) and others happy. 
  • I am kind to myself both physically and emotionally when I need it most.
  • Aiming to be kind to those that try showing they don’t need kindness. (Ok, there are occasions when I slip, but my heart is in the right place most of the time)
  • No longer attempting perfection reduces stress and pressure.
  • Trying to rid oneself of ego is hard, but imperative for self healing.
  • You can love those close to you, but from a distance, in order to heal.
  • Personal boundaries are my best friend.
  • Being in nature, especially water, restores energy and aids in self healing.

 

We are all one – no exceptions.

 

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

Why did I embark on this philosophical walkabout for the last 1.5-2 years?

 

I can literally feel the emotional pain the whole planet is in.

People don’t need to suffer as much as they currently are.

I want to emanate the change that I want to see in this world. You can too by taking steps in the right direction.

My past shows that I have always tried to help all living beings – maybe not ants and mosquitos so much – but now I am on a serious mission to heal the world. And not in my usual style of “One person at a time.”

solo travel = self healing

Our world is in trouble and I don’t just mean in a climate way. People. People need more help than ever – and FAST.

Everyone is greedier, angrier, sadder, sicker, easily stressed. It’s up to us to change all of this.

We can’t go blaming anyone else for our choices.

An increasing number of male suicides / people taking their own lives is beyond comprehension and those people left behind feel helpless. My plan is to help change this.

I truly want to help others with chronic pain, mental angst and relationships with self & others…  including us scary menopausal women.

I’m not saying that everything in the world is bad, on the contrary actually. I want people to see all the good there is out there. I guess my travel show off images and little tales of fun are my way of showing that life is awesome and not to always believe what you see on the news.

 

fibromyalgia + travel

 

How about you?!

Surely you don’t believe that working a meaningless or stressful job just so you can afford material things is all that life is supposed to be? I know we need funds to be able to live (also part of the reason I’m writing this is to get more exposure for my website). But is what you’re doing to earn money feeding your soul and making you happy?

What kindness do you give yourself on a regular basis to help you deal with everything life throws at you?

How often do you mentally abuse yourself for making minor and major mistakes?

Are you kind to everyone? Even those that aren’t kind to you?

How often do you smile or laugh?

Do you use substances to help you deal with your daily life?

 

 

 

 

How I can help you

I plan to create a space with more blogs about following our true life path so we can all lead a permanently happy life.

In nearly 2 years of solo travel = self healing I have chosen to learn things that will benefit not only myself, but many others. The learning wasn’t purely a schoolroom environment by the way; I also mean listening to and talking with so many humans that are either enlightened, on their way or struggling with life.

Prior to my travel I was attuned to level 2 reiki and plan on enhancing that even further. There are other studies coming that you will all benefit from. So stay tuned my friends, we are going to make life easier, happier and healthier in no time… as long as we do this together.

Also dealing with personal deep issues has been the best thing I have done for myself (and others) – emotionally and physically. Thanks to the very knowledgeable, wise and kind, holistic guide and friend – Dr Nikki Staley from Staley Health.

When (or IF) I grow up, I want to be just like Nikki. She’s an enlightened inspiration.

 

How solo travel = self healing

 

I’m going to create a cult where we all live harmoniously and have little people running around naked. 😉

 

I’m not after a pity party here by the way, I purely want to share my story as to why I have chosen this new fruitful life. I’ve always been different to most and tried too hard to fit in. Now it all makes sense. I just wasnt built for a ‘normal’ societally acceptable life.

 

fibromyalgia + travel

It’s all about education of the mind, body and soul…. and being ok with vulnerability.

 

I’d love to hear from others that are dealing with pain, anxiety, depression etc.. I am here for you. xx

Diary from a Vispassana retreat reject

What is a Vipassana retreat?

For those that haven’t heard what a Vipassana retreat / silent retreat / noble silence is all about, I’ll give you a brief explanation:

Vipassana = to see things as they really are.

 To self transform.

Firstly, please note that not all Vipassana retreats are created equal, nor is everyone’s Vipassana experience identical.

vipassana

Brahma Vihara Arama entrance

 

Rules of Vipassana retreat / Silent retreat / Noble silence

The plan is; to be silent, reflective and completely present and mindful for 10 days straight. Without distraction.

A few days before this silent retreat started we were all sent a very extensive list of conditions to abide by.

 

NO…

Communication what-so-ever.

Phone

Music… No Music?… NO MUSIIIC!?

Reading

Writing (oops)

Talking (to self or others)

Eye contact (again, with others or self – insert cross-eyed emoji here)

Alcohol

Yoga or any exercise

Smoking (Incl. internal combustion?)

Murdering of any living being

Food after 12pm

Shorts, singlets (or anything that allows heat to be released from our bodies, basically)

 

There are more rules, but I’m sure you get the idea. There is to be nothingness.

Sounds like a walk in the park, right?! I believe this to be the most extreme version of Vipassana retreat / Noble Silence / Silent retreat.

 

 

silent retreat

Buddha & Bodhi tree

 

 

 

 

Silent retreat diary entries verbatim

This Vipassana retreat was from 16th -25th November 2019.

You know me, always rebellious from the start….These are my (retyped) hand written notes below.

 

Day 1: 16th Nov 2019

Arrived for the silent retreat registration at Brahma Vihara Arama in Lovina, Bali at 4pm. Scootered there by my very kind friend, Surya. I really want to call him Namaskar. (Yoga joke) I left my arrival as late as possible because I was actually nervous and questioning “Why The Fk?” someone would willingly do this Noble silence / Silent retreat / Vipassana retreat.

Why was I so nervous about coming here?

Is my concern about not coming out of this Vipassana retreat the same person I went in as? If that’s all it is, then why did you come here Dufus?!

Vipassana retreats should be about an inner, mindful journey – that I believe I have already been embarking on for a few years now.

The weather is, surprisingly, pretty darn hot up here in the hills. Maybe only a touch cooler – possibly because it’s nearing dusk and there’s a breeze. (Clearly gave me a false sense of security)

Katja and I are roommates and we have made the most of the time we have left to use our voices. We covered all the important details – literally talking at each other – where we are from, do we snore/fart, why the hell we are doing this.. etc. How grateful I am having met this wonderfully mindful German lady – who also is a solo female traveller.

We are offered some food at registration – as we all reluctantly hand over any communication devices to the temple staff. Then we are treated to an opening ceremony with the Burmese Buddhist Monk – Pembling Sayadaw U Oshada – we shall call him U-O from now on. At this stage we are given more rules and how to’s. 

Then….. Silence.

Will Katja and I not talk at all?

Include no airconditioning or fan in our tiny box room with 2 single beds and it’s better than a gym steam room.

It feels odd knowing that I’ll not be talking to any friends and family back home or abroad.

 

 

Noble silence

Brahma Vihara Arama gates overlooking Lovina – Also where I was told not to sit during walking meditation

 

 

Day 2: 17th November 2019

Morning:

It’s 3:50am – we are up, Katja and I, but we haven’t heard the wake up bell yet. Maybe, when we were told that a bell will sound 5 times at 3:45am to wake us ready for first meditation, was all a big in-joke made by the buddhist monks.

Fingers crossed that these weary legs will get used to sitting for so long each day.

Last night was a severe case of Monkey Brain (termed by U-O as erratic thoughts) as I attempted to drift off to sleep – unaided by reading, music or meditation sounds. Got there eventually.

First up we walk around in silence, the slower the better. Already I’m giggling internally at how we all look like a bunch of brown (sarong) and white (shirt) zombies – quietly, aimlessly, meandering the temple.

Yes, it’s a 4am start. At least the Balinese roosters that never sleep are making us feel as though we should actually be awake at this hour – without alcohol and party music.

 

 

Afternoon:

It’s the first full day of our Vipassana retreat and I couldn’t complete it. I hobbled away at 7:30pm.

Why?

Ok, here’s how our days are supposed to go;

Wake at 3:45am

Walking meditation at 4am for 1 hour (walking really REALLY slow – focussing on our foot movements only)

Sitting meditation in the stupa for one hour (no movements unless absolutely necessary)

Breakfast from 6-7am

Walking meditation

Sitting meditation

Blah blah blah

Lunch at 11am – 12pm… No eating AT ALL from midday until the following day’s breakfast.

Walking

Sitting etc etc

4pm Dhamma talks (or listening rather) with U-O – plus more rules to abide by

Walking

Sitting

Finish at 9:30pm

In other words, we are awake 19 out of 24 hours each day. 2 of those hours taken up with food.. the rest is sitting and walking in silence. Do you want me to do the math for you?

8 hours sitting cross legged – because anything aside from that is considered impolite.

8 hours walking like a bunch of Thunderbirds.

That other hour is for laundry, bathing, teeth brushing, bug extraction and trying to still the mind without any help and getting to sleep ASAP.

EVERY. DAY.

We are allotted time to talk to the monk to discuss our progress every second day. Can you imagine all the verbal diarrhoea that we’ve all pent up in our silence?

Not feeling the love from my achilles and knee right now.

Nicotine patches start on the shoulder, seem to be locating them in my underwear around midday due to excessive heat (mainly) and menopausal sweat.

There’s a Justin Bieber look alike as one of the fellow zombies here. Hey Biebs! 

 

 

Noble Silence

Wise words

 

 

Day 3: 18th November 2019

Morning:

Is today classified as the evil “day 2” blues day I’ve read about in other blogs about silent retreats / noble silences? Or was that yesterday?

My mindset is really happy and positive, but my friggen knee and achilles have something else in mind.

I can feel my heart rate has gone crazy high. Actually hit my target 2000 calories burnt before 7am according to my Fitbit Versa. (upon further research, it appears that my Fitbit conniption caused my heart increase, so don’t panic Ma.)

Couldn’t eat breakfast this morning, lacking appetite – even though my belly was rumbling like a mini earth tremor.

Mutant cockroach extracted by broom from bathroom. Poor Katja looked horrified or terrified – too hard to tell without words.

 

What am I doing here?

I’m still not getting the whole “Focus on the pain” – “Pain will lead us to Nibbana” (which I assume means Nirvana)

WTAF?! I don’t understand.

Oh! I was mildly lectured for two things yesterday… 

  1. Resting during walking meditation. Nun: “this is walking meditation, not sitting.” Ali to self: it’s at least 40 degrees plus I’m fully clothed, hot-flashing, without a beach and piña colada in sight, luv.”
  2. Walking outside the (unmarked) female only territory. 

C’monnnn! I’m just trying to escape…. V e r y   S  L  O  W  L  Y.  

Walking meditation

I’ve decided that walking meditation during noble silence now looks like a bunch of Cadbury’s Top Deck (chocolate) brides that are rehearsing walking dramatically slow down the aisle towards her future husband… while someone messes with the slow motion function on the TV remote.

Focus on the foot, not the hilarity of chocolate brides, Al.

Why is it we have to do so many hours of mindfulness?

Is this as simple as just being in the NOW? If so, I think I’m ok on that one, thanks – well, most of the time.

First interview with U-O today. I just know he’s going to tell me to focus on the pain without moving. FUCK THAT!! I was in tears last night because I’m not allowed to move this knee. (I’m laughing as I type this btw, so don’t feel sorry for me)

Today I’m walking like an 80 year old.

Did I mention the heat yesterday? Add to this some impromptu menopausal hot flushes at inconvenient sitting meditation times. Lost about 5kgs in sweat alone today. Geez I’d hate to be underwear for a middle aged woman.

OK! OK!

5 Things I’m grateful for:

Learning meditation from a buddhist monk from Myanmar

My rebellious nature creating funnies

Filtered water

Katja

Getting through this 10 days

 

silent retreat

Brahma Vihara Arama shrine

Afternoon:

Vipassana interview with Guru was at 9am. I wanted to unleash verbal chaos, but found I had little to say or ask. 

I have to focus on the pain. (Laugh and insert eye roll here)

Now, I know he’s said that numerous times already, however, I really tried it – it actually seems to work. My concentration… hey butterfly. Hey frog. Shhhhh. Did Beibs just look over here?…. Maybe needs some more work.

During one of the sitting meditations I had full comedic movies and funny cartoons playing in my mind. How did I not laugh out loud? Must go back to primary focus – observing the belly rise and fall with the breath… or the pain.

Fitbit having another conniption – complete loss of time knowledge and whether my heart is still beating.

 

 

 

 

Silent retreat

Oh! You’re quiet now, aren’t you! 😉

Day something… 19th November 2019

 

Morning:

I have no concept of time right now…

“And on the third day” they brought in the dogs and flies at breakfast to test our slow, mindful eating practices for our Vipassana retreat. Add the whining, needy cats and I think that gives you a clear understanding about how we’re feeling this morning.

I’m still internally chuckling at the slow walks, especially with the post-apocalyptic sunrises whilst watching the poo-brown-sarongs and white shirted zombies silently searching for brains. Perhaps it’s our own brain we are in search of? Have we lost them already? Here’s hoping.

So far this Vipassana isn’t at all what I anticipated. I know, I know – no expectation, Dufus.

Even though I am mildly amused and understand the required practice of being in the moment – I’m feeling that this Noble silence may be a tad primitive and very strict.

All previous thoughts I had about becoming a Buddhist Nun – GONE!

I can’t be fucked being mindful today. (Bahahahahaha)

Do I opt for a post breakfast nap – or save that for the heat of the day… or ditch the farken hot daylight completely today?

Currently sitting outside our room, mindfully snacking on my contraband sunflower seeds and cashews whilst breaking the rules of writing.

Ok, so maybe the mind is clearer? I feel like bursting with laughter at nothing. Maybe this is deliriousness or is it hysteria? Wasn’t the remedy for hysteria a vibrator centuries ago? You’re right, monkey brain hasn’t quite left me… yet.

Seriously, the slightest thing could trigger an outburst of uncontrollable laughter right now.

Tried to feed a grasshopper my breakfast prawn cracker. He’s not a fan either.

Mutant, tropical (human hand-sized) spidey in the bathroom is, so far, the only creepy that we haven’t extracted from our room. I think I’ll name him Wazza.

It’s so hard getting the flies to mindfully fuck off. Must. Not. Murder. Beasties.

I think my elbow bites have subsided a bit today. Unfortunately no escape via hospital visit today.

I wish I didn’t have hair.

 

Vipassana retreat

The detail at these temples ❤

5 Things I’m grateful for:

I’m still alive

Having rebellious whisper chats with Katja (I think our meeting was the reason we are both here – of which I couldn’t be more grateful) – we even got those “must-be-quiet-uncontrollable-giggles.”

Contraband snacks

Exceptional sunrises at the temple (that I shouldn’t be watching because I’m supposed to be indoors pretending I’m a pretzel, meditating)

3 or 4 days done already

FRESH MANGOES!

Afternoon:

I humbly apologise to anyone I may have spiritually distracted during noble silence meditation today. Seems the creative juices are flowing and I don’t want to stem that flow.

 

 

Vipassana retreat

Buddha & Pineapple

 

 

Questions about Silent retreats:

So what is the point of all this mindfulness?

Is it to open up our intuitive receptors?

Am I a silent pineapple?

Is it to have that control over everything in our sub & conscious minds?

To slow down everything?

To become completely present?

Observation and not reacting to our feelings? 

Learning loving kindness?

Is that silent guy really Justin Bieber?

Am I prettier when I don’t talk?

 

YES.

 

Diary Cont..

Katja and I are obviously trail blazers because I caught a few others not going to class and opting for sneaky whisper chats across beds.

As for this fasting bizzo to enhance our mindful eating… pffft! Don’t they realise they’re trying to stop a cow from what it does naturally?

Food definitely tastes better. Or is it that I appreciate it more due to lack of availability?

OH! Last night I dreamt I was a fighter pilot!!!! Not just your average flying dream. You may call me Maverick.

Before the retreat we also received a list of items that were recommended to be brought to the silent retreat.. One of the critically notable items to mention is toilet paper. This poses the question:

How much toilet paper does one person need over 10 days? Answer will be confirmed at the end of 10 days.

Can people hear me munching on my choc chip cookies right now?

Is the Nun going to send another of her creepy crawly army into our room to punish me? (as I sit here editing whilst indulging after midday, there’s just one fly testing my mindful eating – nearly 2 weeks later)

What do Monks and Nuns wear under their robes? Personally, I hope they are like the Scots with their kilts. And is this how all the bowing started – trying to get a sneak peak of what’s underneath?

“Initiate. Peel. Lift. Forward. Drop” (this is the mental mantra for each step as we gaze mindlessly 6ft in front of us) Every. Single. Step. Eight+. Hours. Per. Day.

Groundhog Day/hour/minute/second

 

Noble Silence

Brahma Vihara Arama

Another day begins… 20th November 2019

Morning:

My earworms upon waking are back. “I wanna walk with you on a cloudy day. In fields where the yellow grass grows knee high” Nora Jones. (Hello my Grangamite – that is my beloved Grandmother’s song)

Dream: In a resort/car fix place. I jumped into the tiny pool and was blamed by a very cranky female owner that I emptied the pool of too much water from my bomb. She used a folded towel to show me how much the water level had dropped. 

I’m guessing this has something to do with being in a delirious dehydration. 

New earworm: “Would I try a little tobacco, would I keep on hiking up my skirt?” “EVERYTHING’S FIIIINE!” – Tracey Bonham

I’m completely convinced that I’m done here. Perhaps I’ll talk to U-O to find out the full purpose of this Vipassana retreat / silent retreat.

Last night the large red ants crawling all over my bed was the last straw. I actually feel great mentally – physically not so much, but I’m ok with that.

I’ve realised a few things:

Hinduism is officially my favourite now.

There’s no chance I’ll be a buddhist nun.

I enjoy not talking/no phone/fasting.

Super rapt I met Katja – she’s hilarious, quietly – of course.

Nobody looks or “feels” happy here.

I’m better equipped to deal with pain now. Maybe this was my lesson.

Will they allow me to quietly escape?

I’m a non-conformist. I’ll continue my path of research to come to my own conclusions about living mindfully (and spiritually & mentally happy) instead of following a particular crowd.

I spoke with U-O and impressed him with my limited Burmese lingo. He tried to convince me to focus on the heat… DUDE! That’s all I am doing. Not helpful in this instance. Just ask my saturated clothing.

Just realised why there’s underwire in bras… fluid collection during crazy inner and external heat.

 

Afternoon:

I escaped…. SLOWLY.

I didn’t get the answer to the most important query – being how much toilet paper does one human need over 10 days of noble silence… but after 4 days I was well on my way to finishing the first roll.

Maybe Katja can provide the answer? I left her what was remaining of my poo tickets..

Answer: A vague recollection, a few weeks post-retreat has us thinking that 3 rolls of toilet paper between two of us over 10 days was just about right.. possibly only because I left early though. 

 

 

In addition, I wasn’t the only one that attempted or succeeded in escaping.

 

 

silent retreat

Looking out from the sitting temple.. just longing for aircon

 

 

How a Vipassana retreat should work

Do I need to mention that I meditate 2-3 hours every day? It’s not like this quietness and solitude is new to me.

If it takes 21 days to make or break a habit… so, why is it 10 days of noble silence?

According to Dhamma.org; “the prescribed code of discipline is to learn the basics of meditation and to practice sufficiently to experience its beneficial results.”

To learn abstination from:

  • killing
  • Stealing
  • Sexual activity
  • Speaking falsely
  • Intoxicants

 

The cost of Noble Silence / Vipassana retreat

We weren’t charged to do this silent retreat / Vipassana retreat, however we were encouraged to leave a donation.

  1. For the temple for accom & food
  2. For U-O and his mean nun

 

What now?

Above all else, (and post further research), it seems as though I feel most of the above practices are my every day life. I know I could do more, but I’m actually happy where I’m currently at – for now.

I will do another silent retreat, just maybe not as strict or hot or full of creepies.

Perhaps a visit back to Incredible India is on the cards.

 

It’s all about being zen as fuck, living in the present and being skinny… or something like that. 

 

Please talk with me about your experiences with Vipassana

Are there any other mid-life women out there that have tried this version of Vipassana retreat? Please tell me your thoughts.

!function(c,h,i,m,p){m=c.createElement(h),p=c.getElementsByTagName(h)[0],m.async=1,m.src=i,p.parentNode.insertBefore(m,p)}(document,”script”,”https://chimpstatic.com/mcjs-connected/js/users/b485f3ad5f3a79744c5eede77/e842f880a42010b0e02ca462b.js”);

6 reasons to travel light

Guest blog about how to travel light – by the inspirational, over 40 solo female traveller and 5kg travelling light-packer herself – Katherine

the 5kg traveller

An ideas woman 😉

 

 

Why packing light is so brilliant for solo travel

 

In 2017 I departed on my first (for many, many years) solo female travel adventure. I was super-excited to be spending four weeks exploring Croatia and Italy. I left behind my husband and two teenagers in New Zealand and launched myself into an amazing journey. However, I was nervous as hell at the start. Considering you are a follower of Ali at Blinked Travel, you’ll already have read how liberating and joyful solo travel really is. For me it was a life reboot!

 

However, because I was doing this solo female travel concept, I wanted to be self-contained. I didn’t have anyone who could carry my bag if I got tired, and I needed to be independent. How to pack light seemed to be the solution I needed. 

 

How I chose my 5kg travel backpack

The decision was sort-of by chance that I ended up with just over 5 kilos in my bag. I went to a sports shop and looked at the bags. I picked one that looked a nice, easy size to carry.

At this point I had not researched how much a 24L bag could carry but it looked the right size. Clearly there was no science to this part of my decision making.

In other words, quite possibly the need to travel light was not just about safety, but also that I didn’t want to buy another bag and things would just have to fit. With that rocky start I became a light travel convert and am now on a quest to save people’s backs and to teach people how to travel with less.

 

6 reasons why you should travel light  

For instance; how a day bag works for solo travellers

 

 

the 5kg traveller

Path of the Gods

 

1. One bag = security plus!

 

So, since I was doing the whole solo travel bit, security was my key motivator for packing light. I didn’t have my husband with me, or a friend with that extra set of eyes. It was just me, solo, completely responsible for my property and personal safety.

There was literally no one watching my back.

Learning how to pack light became a wee bit of an obsession with me. Indeed, I took this to quite the extreme, with only carrying 5.5 kilos (around 11 pounds). This is termed ultralight packing, but you would be surprised how easy it is to do.

With my bag securely strapped to my back, and my valuables in my over-shoulder bag I was as compact as possible.

 

5kg traveller

Lokrum Island – Dubrovnik

 

 

2. It’s easy on your back and knees 

 

I’m not so sure about you, but speaking only for myself, after 30 years of nursing, labour and childbirth, lounging on my couch on social media and watching telly, and just good old wear and tear… my back is not as strong as it once was.

The thought of lugging around a 20 kilo backpack makes me shrink in my boots. And when you’re 5 foot 1 (and a quarter!) this is not something I wish for.

 

In addition, carrying heavy weights is hard on your body, especially when you’re an over 40 solo female traveller.

In Italy and Croatia I had no idea of the steps I would be hiking up and down to my accommodation. With a well-fitted, ergonomically designed day bag, your gear is balanced comfortably on your back. You are balanced. 

 

Which brings me to my third reason… 

 

 

3. Hands-free travelling 

 

With a light pack on your back you can focus on what’s in front of you. You can be mindful of what’s happening around you. And your hands are free to reach out, pull up, hold on, wave… 

 

And there’s no twisting to pull a suitcase behind you. 

 

 

the 5kg traveller

Rarely do I miss any transport due to packing light

 

4. Transfers on trains, boats, buses and flights are a breeze 

 

Zipping between terminals, avoiding luggage carousels, jumping in a taxi or on a bus, getting on a ferry, trying to catch that train.. these are all made incredibly easy when you solo travel and have a ‘pack light’ bag on your back. 

With little time between connections I had to race down some concourses to meet my next train. Travelling light makes this possible.

 

Probably my favourite “wohoo” moment is when I am off a plane, through customs, and on a train heading to my destination; all whilst others are probably still waiting for their luggage to be off-loaded. Quite possibly I have a smug look on my face too!

 

 

5. It really makes you plan a multi-purpose, minimal, mix & match wardrobe 

 

A capsule travel wardrobe is a must for light travel. It does away with the “I don’t know what to wear” issue. Therefore, your wardrobe will be so well planned and organised that everything works well together. Tops, bottoms and shoes that all go stylishly together, really make it easy. 

 

 

6 reasons to travel light

The BIG hike with all possessions attached

 

6. You’ve always got everything you need with you

 

  • It’s not necessary to think about what I will need on the flight because my bag is with me. 

 

  • I don’t need to put my bags in the boot of a taxi, or in an overhead locker. 

 

  • No need to leave someone guarding it when I go to the toilet. Although I do laugh when I see people trying to squeeze their suitcase into a toilet cubicle… forgetting that the door still needs to close.

 

 

 

In conclusion

So, there you have it, my 6 reasons to pack light when travelling solo. 

Once you’ve tried travelling lighter you’ll just want to keep improving on it. Clearly I can’t rave enough about it! Since my first trip I’ve now travelled with my 5 kilo bag into the North Western Australia outback (including Sydney, Darwin and Perth).

I travelled solo to South East China for two weeks, a romantic holiday in Fiji, a family week in Queenstown NZ over winter, and many local trips in New Zealand. It really is fun, and I just love the freedom it gives me.

You’ll find more of my travel and pack light strategies here.

 

Being able to travel light is different for everyone. For some solo travel females it may be 15 kilos or 10 kilos. Whatever weight you decide to carry there are some really easy tricks on how to reduce the weight in your pack. 

 

If you want to read more on how to pack light;

Follow Katherine’s Facebook page The 5 kilo traveller or on Instagram @the5kilotraveller and her website. Above all, you will quickly learn how easy and important light travel packing is once you read through her socials and website.

 

!function(c,h,i,m,p){m=c.createElement(h),p=c.getElementsByTagName(h)[0],m.async=1,m.src=i,p.parentNode.insertBefore(m,p)}(document,”script”,”https://chimpstatic.com/mcjs-connected/js/users/b485f3ad5f3a79744c5eede77/e842f880a42010b0e02ca462b.js”);

Filipine Frenzy

 

Manila – Pollution central

International arrivals – the Smart (local sim) people were so darn helpful, they even organised my Grab taxi (like Uber) to my hotel. I think it took about 45 mins to travel 6kms. 

Traffic is almost permanently gridlocked. I think the traffic is officially putting Bangkok and Vietnam cities to shame. The excessive volume of cars is helping the Grab/taxi drivers lose a lot of money I’m told.

A very poor public transport system adds to the chaos.

One day I was busy editing photos in my room then all of a sudden there’s an almighty siren, that was reminiscent of WW2 Air raid sirens (I’m not that old but I’ve seen movies). I go out to my little balcony to watch two large street blocks of businesses and appartments being evacuated. Surely, not again?! Loads of emergency services turned up surrounding the blocks, but I couldn’t quite figure out what was happening. I can only assume it was a bomb threat. Thankfully I wasn’t too close, but I was wondering how far a bomb blast would reach as I was only a block away from the action. Poor Ma, I keep texting her when these things happen. All these “events” are becoming a big joke to me now. There will be a blog on the events I’ve had along my travels.. it is funny and I’m one hell of a lucky solo traveller.

Domestic airport – terminal 4 is possibly THE worst airport I’ve encountered so far. What makes a bad airport?

Long fucking queues – there’s even a queue to get into the airport!

Slow operating personnel at check in, security checks (and there’s 3 of those), food stalls and the waiting area… blah! Many of us sat on the floor due to lack of space and delayed flights.

 

IMG_7783

Palawan – Puerto Princesa

A huge sigh of relief as soon as I exit the plane.. that was until the herd of sheep all decided to stand on top of me whilst I awaited my backpack. Whyyyyy? There was one man, a non Asian, who desperately tried to push in right beside me and 50 of my close friends. I suggested standing on the other side of the conveyer belt where the luggage was actually coming from and no people were standing.. but nope.. he just HAD to be where it was most inconvenient. Lucky my strong suit in basketball was defence. I kept blocking that dude – but he wasn’t giving up that easily.. so I moved. Is this an Australian thing where we are used to having plenty of space? I don’t understand the need to push and shove when there’s more accessible space close by.

Palawan Seaview Resort is pleasant. Again, I feel it’s pricey for such simplistic rooms but I’m guessing that’s because I was so spoilt for choice and quality at decent rates in Indonesia. The staff are forthcoming with incredibly helpful travel info. 

I was very sweetly sent a note to go out for dinner with an older gentleman that is residing at the hotel. Very old school letter invitation.. quite rare these days and very thoughtful.

We went to dinner in a food court at the local shopping centre (please try not to laugh – he paid). Interesting man – he is a law professor in Japan and predominantly deals with people (mainly women) whom have been wrongly incarcerated. FYI, he thinks there’s no doubt Schapelle Corby was innocent. I’m still not convinced.

Anyway, this guy (and numerous predecessors) prompted my new disclaimer that needs to be signed by EVERY male I meet…

 

Yes, I’m travelling solo.
No, I’m not interested.
Yes, I DO love being on my own. Lots.
No, I’ve never been married or had children.
Because I’ve never wanted to, simple.. no, you won’t change my mind – google menopause.
Yes, I am really 46 (mentally 26).
Just because I’m travelling solo doesn’t mean I’m desperate to find Mr Right or Mr You’ll Do.
Yes, I’m happy. Very!
Please don’t take my compliments or kindness as a green light.
I am a positive person and believe others (male or female) should be made aware of their positive traits.
This still doesn’t mean I’m interested in forming an everlasting relationship with you.
If you need viagra, you’re too old for me.
If you don’t need viagra, you’re too young for me.
Nope! Still not interested.
Don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re going to be told to back off – you are making me uncomfortable and I will throat punch you – Read my warning signs. 
You don’t need to tell me how good you are, I can figure it out for myself.
You are taking your life in your hands if you call me babe, bae, honey, darling etc etc….
Chew with your mouth closed or expect another throat punch.
Just NO!
Still want to talk to me? 
Sign here ______________________________________

 

 

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0322.JPG

Away from Puerto Princesa city

Once again, it pays to talk to the locals. I was given directions to Nagtabon Beach and the beach was perfect. All the way over on the west coast of the island (I’m sleeping east side) and it’s more of a surf beach with only locals hanging out eating Sunday picnic lunches and squealing with pure delight while playing in the waves. Watch out for the sand flies though. Thanks Jerrold, you get a mention in the exclusive blog called Blinked Travel – just because he’s a hottie and gave me loads of insightful info. 

I decided not to head straight back to the hotel, instead in search of more secluded locations.. headed further North only to be met by big black rolling and thunderous clouds. I did a quick u-turn and flew like the wind. I even got up to 80kmph on my little 110cc scooter. I know! Such a speed demon.

As I got closer to home I noticed more big black clouds and that the roads were wet. Somehow, this time, Mother Nature wasn’t trying to kill me and I avoided all storms out on scooter.

2 hour Asian combination massage at the hotel was kinda brutal but feeling better for it now.. especially considering it only cost me $25 AUD – WIN!

I’m noticing lots of basketball courts around this island. For once, an Asian country that isn’t obsessed with football (soccer). Seeing Cavs and Warriors singlets are happiness to my basketball brain. I’m tempted to go play with some of these young fit basket ballers – only because they’re shorter than I am and I (wrongly) believe my body is still 26.

I joined a tour group to visit the underground river and whilst I was waiting for all the young softies to do a mangrove boat tour I jumped on the 750mt zip line across the crystal clear water. 🤘🏽

Surrounded by perfect azure beach on one side and lush green forest the other – we arrive at the underground river via boat just before the brief tropical downpour hit.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River – a more recent addition to the natural wonders of the world and listed under UNESCO Heritage. Established/discovered in 1999, this underground river is its own eco system. She covers around 22,000 hectares but not all of it is accessible – mainly due to lack of oxygen further inland. Filled with marine life, bats and snakes (saw one swimming and eyeing me as its next victim) and some of the highest cathedral-esque ceilings complete with water carved statues of Mary and other Christian “mythical” creatures.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Now I’m at 4 (out of 7 listed) natural wonders visited… but really, countless numbers yet to be seen and some that should be listed. 

 

Kay’s Hot Springs – only one pool that wasn’t going to cook me in seconds. Do people actually have no feeling in their skin and use those stupidly hot pools? Who doesn’t love the smell of boiled human flesh?!

 

Travelling back roads and met with surprised looks and smiles everywhere on my scooter. It’s taken a while to get used to being gawked at, but it’s fun now. I feel safe and if I smile at anyone they grin back and usually wave.

Out in town with locals – playing pool (potting balls from 1-14), drinking Red Horse beer.

Plus the tequila shot from 65 yo Rod, the Filipino visiting from Chicago (with his wife back in his hotel room) and offering me his services because he has needs not being met. Rod, please see above disclaimer!

 

IMG_7838

El Nido – I love you

Stayed at Lally and Abet… Location and breakfast great, large room with patio – simple accommodation. $70 AUD pn 

Nacpan beach – another perfect white sand and turquoise liquid filled location. A few more tourists than other beaches, but I didn’t have to fight for space in the water. Although, I had an entourage following to palm shaded spots on the sand. (Insert eye roll – my personal space is a fictional barrier apparently)

Snorkelling trip with a group of divers, instead of doing the tourist island hop tour with one small snorkelling opportunity, was the best decision. Note to self… pack sunscreen, dufus. My already noticeably large forehead looks like a red-light hookers beacon now.

Sava Beachside Restobar for beachside, sunset viewing PLUS 2 for 1 cocktails. Pina coladas served in coconut shells, both delivered at the one time. Nobody likes to rush these things, but when it’s this warm one needs to ensure drinks stay cool during consumption. My excuse, don’t judge.

IMG_7812

Filipinos can SING! Have seen many of them in Thailand, but I’m talking about staff and just about every local you walk past. They’re always singing.. and it’s beautiful to hear.

Meeting the lovely Al and having a private island hopping tour. Being taught to eat my rice and chicken like a local, using my hands as utensils, plus teaching Al to swim. All beaches secluded and empty.. except for some grouper, turtles and a vehemently protective fish – whom bit me twice (he even drew blood – dude, you’re no mosquito, I can’t help you with babies). I googled him.. I must have been too close to his house. It’s ok, I understand personal space, buddy. 

Food plentiful and ever so delicious. Wonderful Adobo spices (which I have just learned actually derive from the Spanish!) – in the sense of many flavours, not heat – is to die for, as was their bbq chicken that sat marinating in Asiatic spices for hours.

IMG_7819

 

Again, the giving Al looked after me by organising his friends to take me and my bags to the airport on motorbikes. Sorry Al, as beautifully kind as you are, you also need to read above disclaimer. (Al is the one wearing the white t-shirt below)

If you ever head to El Nido, I promise you that Al, Gregg and Regie will take the best care of you. I can’t wait until they have their own boat to do personalised tours.

 

Live music at Pukka Bar was great. A two piece ensemble – acoustic guitar and female singer with a hauntingly beautiful voice singing alternative tunes which melted my heart.

 

 

Is it only an Asian female thing to be that scantily clad and over friendly to entice the foreign men to buy them drinks and eventually marry, then take them back to new countries? I’ve seen it all too often in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar – and have asked why. It’s all about the perception of what fat, bald, western men offer. Money. Who cares if the ladies are unhappy – it’s easier selling your body to the same man each day, right? 

 

Cebu City

Its quite the industrial hub and waaaay bigger than I anticipated. Lots of traffic plus dilapidated housing for the happy and friendly locals.

Great thunderstorms here.

Didn’t get out much due to monsoonal rains. Ran back to Palawan instead.

There are many places to go on Cebu Island, but it’s just that wet time of year, sadly. On the upside, I will have to come back just to visit the other islands.

Back to Palawan just to be hauled up in my hotel room for days on end due to more rain. It’s that bad I’m contemplating popping home for a week or two. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! (Clearly I was THAT bored… I went home)

Estrella falls – a substantial 90km motorbike ride away (each way) from Puerto Princesa, but well worth it. Fresh, warmish water filled with slippery rocks and, I’m pretty sure, those little dead skin eating fish you see in tanks around Thailand and Bali. Cheeky buggers liked my feet.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ala Amid Bed & Breakfast – don’t be fooled by the “buffet” breakfast… its pretty dismal. But if you order a separate meal from reception it’s really tasty. Great, clean and comfortable corner room with handy undercover balcony over looking the pool – great for those rainy days.

Sesakot falls – too cold to swim this day, but still enjoyable relaxation sitting in a broken down hut listening to tunes and sipping Red Horse beer with my buddy, Jerrold.

Hanging with locals again out in town… STOP PLAYING THE NIGHT BEFORE FLIGHTS!

 

 

There are many reasons to love the Phillipines: 

It was once ruled by the Spanish – so many words derive from espanol, making signage and language possible to understand.

The women are stunning here.. I truly enjoy being insignificant. 

Even the boys and lady-boys are hot.

The importance doesn’t lie within how good a house looks, it lies within just having a roof over their heads. Happiness in simplicity.

Many parts of these islands are untouched, so you can have jungles, waterfalls and beaches all to yourself.

Perfect beaches that the locals care loads about. One of my local friends posted today on FB that El Nido boats aren’t allowed to carry plastic water bottles any longer! 👍🏽

A basketball obsessed nation. I believe Steph Curry was in Manila during my stay on Palawan. Had I known he was coming I would have stalked the poor boy.

Cheap, cheap, cheap.

Mostly perfect weather… well, you know, besides the biggest typhoon Asia had in recorded history.

Red Horse beer – meaty and evil! 6.9% alcohol content is a bit of a panty dropper. And at $2.50 AUD for a litre, it’s asking for trouble.

E-Republic Bar, where the locals go, is waaaay better than the touristy Tiki Bar. Some funny lady-boys and a live band, along with Red Horse Beer makes for a chuckle a minute… even if I didn’t understand most of the words.

One month is not anywhere near enough time to explore all these pristine islands. I’m going back. Sorry Thailand, I have a new favourite.

Hopefully dodging the super typhoon. Yup, just escaped that nasty, destructive beast by only a few hours.

 

It’s all about education of the mind, body and spirit… ok, maybe not so much education here, but the island hopping is sublime.

Filippine Frenzy – Philippines solo travel

Here’s how solo travel in Philippines went down…

Manila

Pollution madness

International arrivals – the Smart (local sim) people were so darn helpful, they even organised my Grab taxi (like Uber) to my hotel. This taxi ride took about 45 mins to travel 6kms. 

Traffic almost permanently gridlocked. Traffic here in Manila is officially putting Bangkok and Vietnam cities to shame. The excessive volume of cars is forcing the Grab/taxi drivers lose a lot of money, so I’m told by my drivers.

A very poor public transport system adds to the chaos.

 

Discovering I still want to live:

So here I was, busy editing photos in the room when all of a sudden there’s an almighty siren that was reminiscent of WW2 Air raid sirens (I’m not that old but I’ve seen movies). From my little balcony I watched two large street blocks of businesses and appartments being evacuated.

Surely, not again?!

Plenty of emergency services turned up, enveloping the blocks, however, I couldn’t quite figure out what was happening. I can only assume it was a bomb threat. Thankfully I wasn’t too close, but I was wondering how far a bomb blast would reach as I was only a block away from the action.

Poor Ma, I keep texting her when these life threateners happen.

All these “events” are becoming a big joke to me now. There will be a blog on the chaos I’ve had along my travels.. Amusing (now) stories – let me say that I’m one hell of a lucky solo traveller.

 

 

Domestic travel

Terminal 4 is possibly THE worst airport I’ve encountered so far.

What makes a bad airport?

Long fucking queues – there’s even a queue to get into the airport.

Slow operating personnel at check in, security checks (there’s 3 of those), average food stalls, the waiting area… blah! Many of us sat on the floor due to lack of space and delayed flights.

 

Puerto Princessa

Puerto Princessa

Palawan – Puerto Princesa

Exit plane, big sigh of fresher air and relief from chaos..

..that was until the herd of sheep all decided to stand on top of me whilst I awaited my backpack. Whyyyyy?

There was one man, a non Asian, who desperately tried to push in right beside me and 50 of my close friends. I suggested standing on the other side of the conveyer belt where the luggage was actually coming from and no people were standing.. but nope.. it was a necessity for him to be where it was most inconvenient.

Lucky my strong suit in basketball was defence. I kept blocking that dude but he wasn’t giving up that easily.. so I moved.

Is this an Australian thing where we are used to having plenty of space? I don’t understand the need to push and shove when there’s more accessible space close by.

 

Accomodation Puerto Princessa

Palawan Seaview Resort is pleasant. I feel it’s pricey for such simplistic rooms although I’m convinced that’s because of being spoilt for choice and quality at decent rates in Indonesia. The staff here are forthcoming with incredibly helpful travel info. 

I was very sweetly sent a note to go out for dinner with an older gentleman that is residing at the hotel. Very old school letter invitation.. quite rare these days and very thoughtful.

Dinner  in the local food court at the local shopping centre (no chuckles – he paid). A really interesting man – he’s a law professor in Japan and predominantly deals with people (mainly women) whom have been wrongly incarcerated.

FYI, he thinks there’s no doubt Schapelle Corby was innocent. I’m still not convinced.

 

Anyway, this guy (and numerous predecessors) prompted my new disclaimer that needs to be signed by EVERY male I meet…

 

Solo female travel disclaimer

 

True story, I am travelling solo.
No, I’m not interested.
Yes, I DO love being on my own. Lots.
Seriously, I’ve never been married or had children.
Because I’ve never wanted to, simple.. no, you won’t change my mind – google menopause.
I truly am 46 (mentally 26).
Just because I’m travelling solo doesn’t mean I’m desperate to find Mr Right or Mr You’ll Do.
Yes, I’m happy. Very!
Please don’t take my compliments or kindness as a green light.
I am a positive person and believe others (male or female) should be made aware of their positive traits.
This still doesn’t mean I’m interested in forming an everlasting relationship with you.
If you need viagra, you’re too old for me.
If you don’t need viagra, you’re too young for me.
Nope! Still not interested.
Don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re going to be told to back off – you are making me uncomfortable and I will throat punch you – Read my warning signs. 
Please don’t tell me how good you are, I can figure it out for myself.
You are taking your life in your hands if you call me babe, bae, honey, darling etc etc….
Chew with your mouth closed or expect another throat punch.
Thanks for your kind offers, but just NO!
Still want to talk to me? 
Sign here ______________________________________

 

travel Philippines

 

 

 

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0322.JPG

Away from Puerto Princesa city

Once again, it pays to talk to the locals. I was given directions to Nagtabon Beach and the beach was perfect. All the way over on the west coast of the island (I’m sleeping east side) and it’s more of a surf beach with only locals hanging out eating Sunday picnic lunches and squealing with pure delight while playing in the waves. Watch out for the sand flies though.

Thanks Jerrold, you get a mention in the exclusive blog called Blinked Travel – just because he’s a hottie and gave me loads of insightful info about Philippines travel. 

 

As I return closer to home I noticed more big black clouds and that the roads were wet. Somehow, this time, Mother Nature wasn’t trying to kill me and I avoided all storms out on scooter.

2 hour Asian combination massage at the hotel was kinda brutal but feeling better for it now.. especially considering it only cost me $25 AUD – WIN!

I’m noticing lots of basketball courts around this island. For once, an Asian country that isn’t obsessed with football (soccer). Seeing Cavs and Warriors singlets are happiness to my basketball brain. I’m tempted to go play with some of these young fit basket ballers – only because they’re shorter than I am and I (wrongly) believe my body is still 26.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Underground River

No solo female travel in the Philippines would be complete without visiting the Subterranean River.

I joined a tour group to visit the underground river and whilst I was waiting for all the young softies to do a mangrove boat tour I jumped on the 750mt zip line across the crystal clear water. 🤘🏽

Surrounded by perfect azure beach on one side and lush green forest the other – we arrive at the underground river via boat just before the brief tropical downpour hit.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River – a more recent addition to the natural wonders of the world and listed under UNESCO Heritage. Established/discovered in 1999, this underground river is its own eco system. She covers around 22,000 hectares but not all of it is accessible – mainly due to lack of oxygen further inland. Filled with marine life, bats and snakes (saw one swimming and eyeing me as its next victim) and some of the highest cathedral-esque ceilings complete with water carved statues of Mary and other Christian “mythical” creatures.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Puerto Princessa’s Subteranean River now makes it 4 (out of 7 listed) natural wonders visited… but really, countless numbers yet to be seen and some that should be listed. 

 

Kay’s Hot Springs – only one pool that wasn’t going to cook flesh within in seconds. Do people actually have no feeling in their skin and use those stupidly hot pools? Who doesn’t love the smell of boiled skin?!

 

Philippines travel / solo female travel

Off the beaten path and safety

When you’re met with surprised looks and smiles everywhere whilst on scooter and it’s delightful. I confess that being gawked at in most countries has taken a while to get used to, but it’s entertaining now.

Safety is always important when you’re a solo female traveller. I can confirm that your security will rarely feel threatened here, consequently, make sure you smile at everyone as you will be met with such sweetness you won’t want to leave… ever.

Out in town with locals – playing pool (potting balls from 1-14), drinking Red Horse beer.

Include the tequila shot from 65 yo Rod, the Filipino visiting from Chicago (with his wife back in his hotel room), offering his services because he has needs not being met. Rod, please see above disclaimer!

 

IMG_7838

El Nido – I love you

Stayed at Lally and Abet… Location and breakfast great, large room with patio – simple accommodation. $70 AUD p/n. 

Nacpan beach – another perfect white sand and turquoise liquid filled location. A few more tourists than other beaches, but you won’t have to fight for space in the water. Although, there was an entourage following to palm shaded spots on the sand. (Insert eye roll – personal space is a fictional barrier apparently)

Snorkelling trip with a group of divers, instead of doing the tourist island hop tour with one small snorkelling opportunity, was the best decision. Note to self… pack sunscreen, dufus. My already noticeably large forehead looks like a red-light hookers beacon now.

Sava Beachside Restobar for beachside, sunset viewing includes 2 for 1 cocktails. Pina coladas served in coconut shells, both delivered at the one time. Nobody likes to rush these things, but when it’s this warm one needs to ensure drinks stay cool during consumption. My excuse, don’t judge.

 

 

IMG_7812

travel Philippines

 

 

 

Local humans are wonderful

Filipinos/Filipinas can SING! Have seen many of them in Thailand, however the staff and just about every local you walk past are sweetly singing and it’s fabulous to hear.

Thanks to Al for introducing himself to me to enable some of the best island hopping and local experience I could have hoped for when I travel Philippines.

There’s no requirement for eating utensils when you’re taught how to eat like a local, using hands only. As thanks I gave Al some swimming lessons.

All beaches secluded and empty.. except for some grouper, turtles and a vehemently protective fish – whom bit me twice (he even drew blood – dude, you’re no mosquito, I can’t help you with babies). I googled him.. it appears swimming near his house is tempting fate. It’s ok, buddy, I understand personal space. 

The food plentiful and ever so delicious during this solo travel expedition. Wonderful Adobo spices (which I have just learned actually derive from the Spanish!) – in the sense of many flavours, not heat – is to die for, as was their bbq chicken that sat marinating in Asiatic spices for hours.

IMG_7819

 

Once more the giving Al showed his true kindness by organising his friends to escort me and my bags to the airport on motorbikes. Sorry Al, as beautifully charitable as you are, you also need to read above disclaimer. (Al is the one wearing the white t-shirt below)

If you ever travel Philippines make sure you head to El Nido, I promise you that Al, Gregg and Regie will take the best care of you. By the time you get over there hopefully their operation will be even better once they buy their own boat to run these sensational private tours.

 

Live music at Pukka Bar was great. A two piece ensemble – acoustic guitar and female singer with a hauntingly beautiful voice singing alternative tunes which could melt even the coldest of hearts.

 

solo female travel

Cebu City

Its quite the industrial hub and substantially bigger than anticipated. Lots of traffic plus dilapidated housing for the happy and friendly locals.

Great thunderstorms here.

Didn’t get out much due to monsoonal rains therefore I ran back to Palawan instead.

There are many places to go on Cebu Island, but it’s just that wet time of year, sadly. I will have to come back just to visit the other islands.

 

Palawan again

Why come back to Palawan? Because I love it and Cebu had relentless rain. The rain is so heavy I’m contemplating popping home for a week or two. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! (Clearly I was THAT bored… I went home)

Estrella falls – a substantial 90km motorbike ride away (each way) from Puerto Princesa, but well worth it. Fresh, warmish water filled with slippery rocks and, I’m pretty sure, those little dead skin eating fish you see in tanks around Thailand and Bali. Cheeky buggers liked my feet.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ala Amid Bed & Breakfast – don’t be fooled by the “buffet” breakfast… its pretty dismal. But if you order a separate meal from reception it’s really tasty. Great, clean and comfortable corner room with handy undercover balcony over looking the pool – perfect for playing cards on those humid rainy days.

Sesakot falls – too cold to swim this day, but still enjoyable relaxation sitting in a broken down hut listening to tunes and sipping Red Horse beer with my buddy, Jerrold.

Hanging with locals again out in town… STOP PLAYING THE NIGHT BEFORE FLIGHTS!

 

travel Philippines

 

In conclusion:

There are many reasons to love the Phillipines: 

It was once ruled by the Spanish – so many words derive from espanol, making signage and language possible to understand.

The women are stunning here.. Insignificance is my new favourite feeling. 

Even the boys and lady-boys are hot.

The importance doesn’t lie within how good a house looks, it lies within just having a roof over their heads. Happiness in simplicity.

There are many places to visit that are crowd free. So you have jungles, waterfalls and beaches all to yourself.

Perfect beaches that the locals care loads about. One of my local friends posted today on FB that El Nido boats aren’t allowed to carry plastic water bottles any longer! 👍🏽

solo travel

A basketball obsessed nation.

Cheap, cheap, cheap.

Mostly perfect weather… well, you know, besides the biggest typhoon Asia had in recorded history.

Red Horse beer – meaty and evil! 6.9% alcohol content is a bit of a panty dropper. And at $2.50 AUD for a litre, it’s asking for trouble.

E-Republic Bar, where the locals go, is waaaay better than the touristy Tiki Bar. Some funny lady-boys and a live band, along with Red Horse Beer makes for a chuckle a minute… even if I didn’t understand most of the words.

One month is not anywhere near enough time to explore all these pristine islands. I’m going back. Sorry Thailand, I have a new favourite.

Escaping the destructive typhoon by 3 hours – Yes, I’m still that lucky solo female traveller.

travel Philippines

It’s all about education of the mind, body and spirit… ok, maybe not so much education here, but the island hopping is sublime.

!function(c,h,i,m,p){m=c.createElement(h),p=c.getElementsByTagName(h)[0],m.async=1,m.src=i,p.parentNode.insertBefore(m,p)}(document,”script”,”https://chimpstatic.com/mcjs-connected/js/users/b485f3ad5f3a79744c5eede77/e842f880a42010b0e02ca462b.js”);

F*ck Bali!

“Bali? Gawd no! I’ll never go there.”

It’s always been my mantra. Not founded on anything other than waaaay too many Australians go there… and usually cashed up bogans (red necks with money). I’m not saying I’m any better or worse, I just know that when I travel I want to be out of my comfort zone, so spending time with many fellow Australians isn’t my ideal holiday experience.

Stay with me though…

Here I am. That place I said I’d never go.

Only 5 days in and I’m yet to completely change that Fuck Bali attitude. However, many of my favourite people swear by Bali’s awesomeness and their enthusiasm towards this isle is infectious so I’ll give it my three chance policy.

Booked accomodation two nights before my arrival and they cancelled on the day of my flight here. Booked another one which, upon landing at Denpasar airport (easily navigated, albeit crazy busy), also cancelled. At least Nadi from Bella Apartments called me and apologised profusely then offered me a free dinner at her restaurant when she returned. So that’s two cancellations. Had to book an expensive villa in Seminyak because, due to Ramadan, nearly everywhere was booked out – in my price range anyway.

My ‘taksi’ driver from the airport charged me double what I should have been charged too (should have been around 200,000 IDR). I was informed to get a Bluebird taxi from the airport – turns out there are naughty charlatans dressed in blue with Bluebird lanyards waiting for unsuspecting newbies to rip off.

To add to the disdain I can’t seem to locate my Australian sim which I had swapped for a local Telkomsel sim… so if you need me grab a flight or whatsapp me.

Three chances done by this stage, right?! And it’s only day 1.

SEMINYAK – Another Australian town

Baby Melon Villas (lurve the name – it’s a few words explaining child birth, so I’m told) – is a special place. Wonderful, kind, gracious hosts (I say gracious because there wasn’t any judgement or complaint after they had to change my bedding when my superbly inebriated friend came to stay and pee’d the bed) and the accomodation with its stunning tropical gardens, grand open plan, minimalistic kitchen plus a pool, that I only had to share with a leopard speedo wearing permanent resident.. didn’t see those leopard budgie smugglers on said resi, sadly – I only saved them from blowing off the balcony. And I was surrounded by 4 gorgeous dogs and 3 cats – one cat looked like she belonged to Batman’s entourage.

Assuming I don’t waste all my money on cheap Haviana’s (thongs/flip flops) and Bintang, I’m coming back here.

I guess it’s not all bad here, I mean, I got to catch up with some of my favourite family members here. We spent nearly a whole day by the pool playing with mini humans and it was truly grounding. Don’t get excited Ma, I’m not coming home or having babies.

Travelling solo has its perks, but nothing beats quality family time.

IMG_0488

JIMBARAN BAY – Seafood

I’ve left Seminyak for Jimbaran and things appear to feel much better. Accomodation (Bali Breezz Hotel) is much cheaper here compared to Seminyak and less traffic thankfully.

I’m surprised at the lack of Australians and the influx of Chinese and Japanese people… well, it is a seafood Mecca, so I shouldn’t be that surprised.

I’m currently sitting here romantically involved with my iPad (whilst I flick flying creepies off the screen) – the two of us at a beachside table watching the planes appear to land on water as the sun sets over mirror-esque sea – I appreciate exactly where I am in the here and now.

This week’s lessons:

1. Never say never

2. Be in the present because it’s all you have

Finally a move to Jimbaran Bay restores a little faith in Bali. Sadly I’m not much of a seafood feaster, but for those that love to indulge, this is THE place to go. Spectacular view directly at the sunset over calm water as you sit in plastic chairs on the sand whilst being waited on hand and foot by the Balinese waiters. The Balinese people, as I get further away from that ‘other part of Australia’, are becoming friendlier and kinder.

Taking my trusty two wheeled steed back into Seminyak in an attempt to locate my missing sim was interesting. With the amount of unseasonal rain that pelted down for an hour (I hid undercover) it would have been quicker to don the floaties and swim the 16kms. Already I ride like a granny, so as I avoided puddles the size of Olympic swimming pools I think I annoyed the locals – its difficult to tell if honks are aggressive or a warning of “I’m coming through”. I’m learning that the advantage of age is not giving a crap about the traffic behind… can’t wait to do this when I’m 70!

Booked an extra night at Bali Breezz Hotel, Jimbaran Bay, so that I can explore. Today I cruised all around Uluwatu area and I’m in lurve. I really must re-learn to surf because I could easily live here, do yoga, teach Photography and/or English and surf.

Uluwatu02

SANUR – Yawn

This is only a transitional stop whilst I decide whether to go to Ubud or Amed and Gili islands. Private car from Jimbaran to Sanur is only 250,000 rupiah and took an hour – 100,000 rupiah = approx $10 AUD. Considering it’s the same distance from Seminyak to Jimbaran I’m ok with the price – the previous trip cost me 400,000 rupiah. One learns pretty quickly which drivers to deal with in future. Always check the price before the trip, compare with others if you can and BARTER HARD people, be tough!

Arrived at Puri Kelapa Garden Cottages about 3hrs earlier than check in , but the helpful hosts have allowed me into my room early. A huge tick in my travel books. On top of allowing an early check in, these fantastic hosts (and my super friend, Ashy) helped me with urgent sim replacement from Australia. Well done kids!

A beautifully gardened locale close to the beach and shops a short walk.. this place is really peaceful… you know, other than the gale force winds and planes overhead.

Sanur is a bit quieter than Seminyak but I think the beach is better at Jimbaran. I guess the eternal winds here in Sanur don’t help the beach goers much.

UBUD – Hippie heaven

I’ve been looking forward to heading up into the hills of Ubud for health, relaxation, fun stuff and most important – yoga.

Accommodation: Krisna House for 9 days

Strangely I’m comparing Ubud to Rishikesh and not the very similar Chaing Mai in Thailand.. it’s still pretty hectic here, but somehow I find the people and traffic harder to deal with compared to India.

Saraswati yoga studio – absolutely brilliant! Small classes and really knowledgable teachers. All teachers were tremendous at adjustments, variations and explanations. A ‘real’ yoga experience, not just for Insta posers.

So a few escapes from the town into the hills are required. Little ‘Scoopy’ (scooter) and I head inland. I think we actually made it right into the middle of Bali one day. I love going through villages that wonder what this white person (and I am very white – nobody would believe I’ve been in summer weather for 8 months) is doing in their little lanes.

e0913a08-37d5-40d3-b413-81a7072e158c118325af-7f9b-4391-aa51-6411efc43fd5

The views of Mt Batur are spectacular as was the temple further up on a hill top – Pura Ulun Danu Batur is substantial in size and intricate detail.

Batur24

img_0431

View over to Mt Batur and trusty Scoops.

Batur_temple_flat_0168b68d07-3b5a-4b1a-b446-3ae4cea84f97

Pura Ulun Danu Batur

When I returned l’il Scoopy to her rightful owners I confessed to the hire guy that I went to the middle of Bali and showed where on a map. His eyes popped out of his head and he asked “on THAT?” Referring to Scoops.

The luscious green rice fields and volcanoes make for such beautiful viewing whilst Scooting on the backroads. Dodging roosters, that clearly have no idea when dawn is here in Bali (they crow any time, day or night and its constant).

2df086e2-8f2e-4ce7-a29e-b6c23185039e

RiceTerraces_flat_13

On my way to middle earth my eyes appeared to be attracting a lot of dust that somehow made it between my helmet and sunglasses.. I cursed the trucks, cars and motorbikes I was behind, until I was alone on roads and it was still happening. Lightbulb moment: that pesky volcano, Mt Agung, has been flexing her fiery muscles of late, so it must be her ash in my eyeballs. Volcanic ash is good for the complexion, yes? Airport closed for a day due to this ash.

Agung39

Mt Agung flexing.

Note to scooter riders; don’t smile whilst riding. The dust/volcanic ash in your teeth for hours after your ride is like chewing flies.

I had the privilege to learn authentic Batik painting from a young man at Nyoman Warta Batik Class.. sadly the main guru painter was busy organising a big cremation at the monkey forest (oooh, fingers crossed it’s an evil monkey removal strategy), thankfully, yet sadly, I met him after I’d finished my masterpiece because I’ve heard he adds some beautiful, creative finishing touches. There are plenty of options to have this meditative and cultural experience in Ubud. I can highly recommend this place and its helpful, kind and warm family.

Ubud is quite fantastic.. another organic, vegetarian and vegan haven with spas and yoga studios everywhere.

ULUWATU – The surf capitol

Left Ubud for a trip back to Uluwatu to catch up with my buddy, Ashy, visiting from Torquay on his first ever trip overseas. Klapa Resort in Dreamland Beach a stock standard, stale place devoid of personality… but loaded with a rooftop pool and bar show casing 270 degree views over some serious surf wonderland.

 

We found these tiny laneways around the cliffs that lead to Pecatu/Padang beach. These beaches are astonishingly special and beyond my dismal vocabularistic capabilities. I think it’s Bali’s version of Greece’s cliffs filled with wonderful hidden restaurants, B&B’s and bars that you can only get to via foot through narrow lanes and nasty stairs… My pick: Kelly’s Warung, Bingin – the perfect place for sundowners. What a sublime little area.

Bali is winning me over! Shhhhhhhh!

We witnessed a cleansing ceremony at one of Uluwatu beaches. Apparently a Balinese gentleman has had such bad luck in his life that they needed to remove all the negativity surrounding him by chanting, burning incense, flicking water from a holy bowl, blessing a juvenile duck and baby chicken (we were so worried they were going to be sacrificed that we seriously contemplated freeing our feathered friends), surrounding themselves with flowers and gifting their god with previously cooked roast duck and other pretty things.

IMG_7734

Man with a life of bad luck in the middle holding a black duck. (??)

I surprised my buddy with a trip into Legian to watch live Midget Boxing – thanks to the Cuz (Ryan) for the info on this craziness. FUNNIEST. NIGHT. EVER! If you haven’t heard or seen the footage and photos, I highly recommend looking here – Facebook; Blinked Travel. I had the absolute privilege of being a “Round 2” card holding bimbo and I kissed every single little ‘un on my 3 laps around the ring. Having a little person madly dry hump me when I went to hug him made my life feel worthwhile. My face and belly muscles had a better workout than my month in Rishikesh doing yoga.

ab5445b8-e28a-4877-9c29-45d7ab017471

Side note; these little people are shunned in Balinese society, so the boxing gig is how they make money and survive everyday life in Bali. Every cent from door sales plus donations go directly to them. I think it’s quite gracious of the Y Bar owners to do this for a minority (groan).  If you’re in Bali, go find them at the Y Bar (pronounced ‘E Bar’ by locals and taxi drivers) in Legian and book well in advance because it is packed out! They’re on every Tues, Thurs and Sunday nights.

AMED – Ahhhhhh

4 hour drive North East from Uluwatu to Amed.. what an exquisite place. Black, volcanic stone/sand beaches lead you into pristine clear turquoise water with feisty Mt Agung as a backdrop.

We went snorkelling around an under water temple, saw plenty of fish and popped my head above water just in time to see Mt Agung puff some ash into the atmosphere – she’s normally covered in cloud but for this moment she was perfectly visible and gently flexing, as though she was pretending to nonchalantly lift her wine to her lips but showing off those fit limbs to all the boys. I’m crushing on this magnificent volcano, I believe there’s some exceptionally positive energy surrounding her.

Perfectly serene accommodation at Double One Villas. Chose the beach villa which overlooked the pool and beach. Doing Yoga poolside as our life giving fire ball appeared above the horizon each morning is spectacular.

My regular motorcycling buddy tried to get the little vesper (plus two of us) up the side of a large hill on dirt tracks while attempting to locate a different view of Mt Batur was an interesting field trip. Turns out, vespers aren’t made for off road biking.

GILI AIR – Perfection

img_0428

Oh! Hellooooo Gili Air! A tiny blip off the larger Lombok Island. I was in a rush to book a ferry over to the island and in such haste neglected to check reviews before hitting the ‘pay now’ button. Why did I think it was a good idea to check the reviews after the fact?? No glowing feedback whatsoever! Uh-oh. This put the wind up both of us – even my regular sea faring buddy.

Patcha Express… you did a marvellous job! First of the 3 express boats over to the islands, safely and without issue (at this point we haven’t returned to Bali, but receiving thumbs up for now).

Aaaaah, the serenity. It’s warm, it’s remarkable, white beaches encircled by the cleanest aqua, and it’s not full of loud Aussies. She’s only little and there isn’t anything motorised here, just horse and cart or pedal power to get around.. and one lap took us a couple of hours – I’m guessing a lap could take about 25 mins if there were sealed roads and not large patches of sand.

Staying at Colour Cottages on the East side of our islet and already my ever happy and friendly buddy has created a special bond with one of the locals, Sahrul. Sahrul has helped us with many touristy options without asking for a cent. Gotta love that want to just be kind for no reason.

IMG_7542IMG_7543

Unedited iPhone images. Impressive sunset (with Mt Agung in the background).

Snorkelling – some of the best I’ve encountered. Yup, better than Great Barrier Reef as far as visibility and diversity of swimming critters seen. Swam with a huge loggerhead turtle and I think some green turtles. How they appeared to swim so slowly against the current was bizarre to watch. They appear to just float without flapping their flippers and still overtake me as I madly kicked my fins to keep up with them – all this against the current. Show-offs!

Gili Air has it all. Fitness, serenity, pristine waters, bike riding, making life friends with the locals (and a fantastic Aussie couple – they travel, not holiday). ❤️

Return trip on Patcha Express… I’m still recovering 6 hours later. My goodness, Mother Nature put on a “swell” show on the way back to Bali. 🤮 Two travel calm and tissue in my ear wasn’t enough to stop the nausea.. no barf, but it was touch and go. Turns out, this was the last day of ferry travel for two weeks! Thanks again Ma Nature.

Big shout out to Ashy for his unwavering kindness and happiness in everything and everyone he approaches. He not only helped bring me a replacement sim, after doing all the running around with Telstra back in Australia, and at the expense of movie time with his son (that only cost me a t-Rex suit – can’t wait for footage, Seth), he brought me my fave biscuits and other gifts. His eagerness to embrace my way of travel, always smiling and talking to (mostly at) locals and new friends is infectious. Always offering to help carry my many bags and generally just wanting to be kind to everyone anytime, anyhow. He gave up some of his favourite clothing items to the staff at Colour Cottages just because they needed them more than he did. What a great trait to have.

I know I was hard on him by asking him to shoosh and internalise quite often, but he listened and stayed happy about it. (INSERT “SHHH” HAND GESTURE HERE)

Ashy, you’re an absolute gem! Thank you for everything and welcome to the travel bug.

IMG_7733

He looks a tad nervous.

SUMMARY

Another Asian nation and proof that everything is fluid. Buildings and pavement go around living things.. traffic – albeit chaotic in appearance – flows without aggression.. many waterways and of course mostly surrounded by beaches.. then there’s the people, ever kind, giving and free. The new Asian slogan – Asia, it’s fluid.

A lot of negatives I’ve said about Bali are in jest mainly because of my attitude pre-arrival. It’s proof that you manifest what you think. Honestly, if you don’t mind a shitload of Australians, nice beaches, cheap shopping, cheap food and warmth.. you’ll do just fine here. If you’re anything like me, then stay away from from Seminyak, Kuta, Legian.. and maybe even Ubud. Blaze your own paths my friends, it’s worth it. Meeting locals that will give you better advice than most holidayers is worth its weight in gold.

Stay tuned for the long awaited comparison between Thailand and Bali.. I finally have some decent knowledge to discuss the two fave Aussie destinations.

For anyone looking at travelling soon, I have a link to accommodation discounts with booking.com here.

Please tell me about your Indonesian “must do’s and see’s”… Because I’m going back!