Desperate, Clingy, Feminazi Proposes to Her Sad, Beta Boyfriend

Opinion Pieces

Admit it, the Title drew you in. Part click-bait – because you know you want to read a sad story of desperate measures, and partly because you know its me, and that I will have drawn up and injected a lethal dose of sarcasm.

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I want to start this post with an acknowledgement and apology to the people whose responses/stories I have included in this. Firstly, if you recognise your response/story, then I want you to know that I am including it, but not singling you out. Secondly, I want you to know that I do not judge you, or think of you any differently. I include my own damming accounts/reflections in here too.

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I proposed to my boyfriend in November 2016. You’d think by now that a woman proposing to a man would be a non-event. In 2016. But apparently it still is, just sitting there bubbling away under the surface on society’s mask of “equality”.

One family member, when my mother excitedly told the news at a family event while we were still away on our holiday, open mouthed and shocked outright said “But she can’t!”

My mother, sweetly and politely reminded her it was 2016, and of course women can propose.

The family member agreed, of course women can, but clarified “But it wasn’t on Feb 29th!!!”.

 

I had a billion different responses, all ranging in varying levels of support and surprise. But what I really learnt from proposing to my now-husband, is despite appearances of equality, we really have a long way to go.

 

I am aware of the image I must conjure up in certain people’s minds when they learn I did the proposing.

And I am aware of it because I used to have a similar reaction.

At best it’s an un-smiling woman, with tight hair in a low-bun, wearing pantsuits and no makeup, carrying a clipboard and post-it notes, notoriously inflexible, not “fun”, with no social life who likes to control board meetings and run a tight ship. At worst it’s a giant praying mantis, screeching loudly with bulging muscles, stomping her way through life and ripping heads off the spindly little males. She also doesn’t wear a bra.

Related imageImage result for desperate woman

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For context, I didn’t always plan on proposing to my husband.

I, like many, many other women and girls, had the image in my head of my partner proposing in some romantic personalised way to me, where I would get emotional, say yes, and don a remarkably sweet and sparkly engagement ring, showing it off to friends and families as I retold the story of how he asked.

The problem with that story I had in my head (and those of you who know me would agree) is that it REALLY doesn’t fit with who I am.

This is how the wedding industry, the engagement industry, and our overall attitude of women and love in society has marked young women like me. Because, even if I was ever to be proposed to by a man, if I was being honest with myself, this is not how I would have wanted it.

Firstly, I don’t wear jewellery, so a ring is not a necessary thing.

Secondly, a personalised way would be on top of a cliff after an amazing day of climbing, watching the sunset.

 

But, I didn’t have much to be guided by.

In fact, not many of us women do. In 2017, a survey found that only 1% of heterosexual relationship marriage proposals were by the female partner (https://www.theknotww.com/press-releases/3496/). We just don’t have a script or any real life examples to draw on.

On top of that, when we do hear of non-traditional proposals (e.g. no ring, non-traditional method, not a surprise etc), the dominating cultural response can be less than positive.

I once heard a proposal, where the man proposed to the woman after a day of hiking through mud, sweat and tears, described as “quite different and risky”, because it didn’t follow the pattern we are familiar with. There was still a ring, and the man was still doing the asking. But because they were dirty, sweaty, and not somewhere conventionally “romantic”, it was considered unorthodox and “risky”.

It’s no wonder that we women are inflexible when it comes to dreaming up our own romantic versions of proposals – because unless you have someone else in your life who has done it a different way, it can be really quite hard to not only come up with something different yourself, but also have the courage to do it.

 

So how did I come from dreaming of a romantic evening sunset where I am given a dazzling diamond (that I certainly will never wear, let alone actually want), to proposing to my husband in the desert dirt by our campsite, after a day of mountain biking (without showers) with a book of drawings?

 

It’s a big step, really. But honestly, all it took was to see someone else walk that path for me to realise there is so many other ways of living your love.

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A good friend from my 4th year of medical school, was studying with me in Armidale.

She was planning on proposing to her boyfriend, and enlisted the help of another friend and me to discuss her ideas.

One day, after classes finished, she had us around for dinner. We were enjoying good food, and chatting away, when she brought the idea up.

I remember trying to play it cool, to not react, or widen my eyes when she told us she was going to propose. She said it so casually, and matter-of-factly, like it was a regular thing, and I didn’t want to react the way I felt.

How I really felt was “WHAT? REALLY? YOU’RE PROPOSING. BUT YOU ARE THE GIRL”

And the fact I reacted this way inside, brought me a deep sense of shame.

 

Shame because I considered myself a feminist, and this shouldn’t have been a big deal. Shame because I did feel that way, when I honestly knew I shouldn’t.

Shame because I was clearly manipulated by society to believe a certain thing and think a certain way.

It was hard, cold evidence to myself that I had been affected in the way I acted and thought about the world, and that it was not in line with who I thought I was.

 

Back in the living room, I didn’t react that way outwardly. Instead I got excited and asked all the right questions.

But when I got home later that night, I kept going over and over how I felt and how I had reacted inside. I couldn’t stand the way I had felt about it, but I also couldn’t stop that niggling voice inside me that said, “women shouldn’t propose, because it’s just wrong”.

 

Instead of giving in to that overwhelming loud niggling voice inside, I decided to confront it. I spent the next little while teasing out all the reasons I thought that was true and analysing them.

Eventually I realised there was no solid reason that I could back up with my actual beliefs as to why women couldn’t propose to men, other than being unintentionally conditioned to think that way.

 

So, it was with true joy that I celebrated my friend’s engagement, when she finally proposed to her boyfriend with an engraved watch, in a castle in Canada.

It was also around this time that I started thinking seriously about my own relationship with my boyfriend.

I had previously thought I was ready to get married, and we had discussed it together before. But only academically, in terms of we both agreed that we would get married one day.

I had started to be ready for that day to come, and I had been wondering how I would bring it up with him, to prompt him to propose.

 

Thanks to my friend, I suddenly had an alternative way, other than passively hoping he would ask me.

She had given me the idea, and the courage to follow it through.

I spent months creating a beautiful book of drawings of all our adventure’s together – mountain biking, hiking, climbing, sailing, caving. I weaved a story of all these adventures we had shared, and the story culminated in a picture asking him to marry me.

It was perfectly, uniquely, us.

When we got home from America, we excitedly shared the news.

We were ready for people to make the assumption and ask us things like “so you finally popped the question, good on ya mate” to Kirren, or “Where did he do it?” to me, or ask to see the ring.

What I wasn’t ready for was the sudden silence, the raised eyebrows, or the outright “and was Kirren ok with you doing that?”

So, I’ve compiled a list of the different responses I got from people.

Don’t get me wrong – we got nothing but overwhelming joy and support for our intended marriage from our friends and loved ones. Most people were honestly so excited and showed nothing but that excitement. But there were a few responses to the method of engagement that were less than receptive.

The most common theme I notice are excuses from women. It was as if my simple and polite correction of “I actually proposed to him”, became perceived as me casting a judgement on their feminism. Which was simply not true – I was only excited to be sharing my news with them, not judge them.

Some came up with excuses why they could never do the same (even though I hadn’t asked).

 

Here is a list of some typical responses or reasons

      • I want it to be romantic though, you know, in a traditional way, with him getting down on one knee, and picking a ring out for me
        1) Just because the woman is doing the proposing doesn’t make it UNROMANTIC. There is this awful idea that persists even today that “romantic” things are done BY men, TO women. This is dumb. Women can be romantic – to their male partners or female partners.
        2) If you want a ring, now you get to choose the perfect ring together, and one that actually fits or suits you!
      • If I propose and he says “yes” How do I know he really WANTS to get married, and isn’t just agreeing with me for convenience, or not to hurt my feelings? When a man proposes, you know for sure his feelings are true.
        1) Welcome to the world of men, ladies. You can reverse that entire situation for men. How does he know you aren’t just saying yes to not hurt his feelings, or because you are undecided and it’s the easy option? Or that you just really want to get married because weddings have been built up into this giant necessary milestone for a woman since you were a child.
        2) If you suspect he won’t be sincere in his answer to you, then maybe you need to rethink having a relationship with this man.
      • “He would NOT be ok with me proposing” or “He would prefer to be the one to do it”, “He would take it as an attack on his manliness”,
        – I have heard these, in multiple different renditions. The idea of being with someone who would be hurt, upset, embarrassed or feel his masculinity attacked by the person they love declaring they want to spend the rest of their life with them, is less than ideal to me. I would want to challenge that ideal in them, hopefully prompt them to grow and change (like I did when confronted with a similar reaction), otherwise they are choosing to allow gender roles, societal rules, toxic masculinity and sexism stand in the way of a true partnership, and to colour the relationship and love between two people.

 

      • “That’s his job”
        Apparently, in a world where men and women are considered equal, the same people who loudly proclaim that they do equal amounts of cooking, cleaning and watering the garden in their household chores, still believe there are “mens” and “womens” jobs in the relationship. Really, all they are showing is that having men and women take equal parts in household chores is just a popular fad they have become accustomed to, and that the real deep seated gender role stereotypes still exist, and can’t be applied outside of who does the cooking in the kitchen.

 

 

      • It just doesn’t seem right, for the girl to be chasing the guy”
        This is the same logic people apply to anything they’ve grown up thinking or believing, and rather than challenging themselves to grow, they decide social stagnation is better. People also said “it doesn’t seem right” about gay marriage, interracial marriage, women getting the vote, women going to university, the list goes on… I’m not implying these people are on the same level as homophobes and racists, just that that is the same lack of logic and critical self reflection, and it’s not a good reflection of your character.

 

      • “Aren’t you worried he’ll be disappointed? You’re depriving him of the chance to propose to you”.
        If my husband is going to be disappointed I declared my undying love to him before he did, then maybe he should have jumped onto it earlier.
        Also, depriving him of a chance to be romantic is quite a patronizing thing. Its like going around giving a child an opportunity to be responsible every now and again, and rejoicing when they get it right. I don’t need to give him opportunities to be romantic. If I’ve taken this one “away from him”, he’s a big grown man, he can find another way to make me feel special and needed and loved. This is way my way of being romantic to him. I didn’t do this because I was “fed up” and because he is a baby and can’t even do a romantic proposal properly. I did it because 1) I wanted to get married to him 2)I was very ready to move on to that stage of our lives and advance our relationship and 3) I wanted to ask him, to show him how much he meant to me.

 

      • I’d be scared people would pity me – like why didn’t he propose to me

People will judge you no matter WHAT you do in life. If someone is going to feel sorry for me because “I had to propose” then, they don’t understand me and don’t plan on trying. And in that case, I shouldn’t be affected by what they think of me.

      • I like traditional engagements

“Traditional” is an ever-evolving concept. One day, maybe women and men proposing equally as often will be considered traditional, and something else will be the radical new thing. If this evolution wasn’t the case – “traditional” engagements would be arranged marriages by your parents, and a dowry would be involved.

 

 

 

In sharing these responses, I am not trying to say I am better than these people. Because I am not, and I originally had an aversion to the idea too.

I am trying to paint a picture, use personal stories as evidence that we, as a society, have a problem.

That for all the advancements we have made in gender equality, for some reason, we have not made much progress in how we express our love.

 

 

To add to my personal anecdotal evidence, I’m going to direct you to look at the popular culture surrounding the issue. We don’t need to look very far to see these negative stereotypes existing today.

Just doing a preliminary search of “proposal” on instagram brings up thousands of relevant hashtags and accounts.
Proposal story instagram accounts, some boasting up to a million + followers, are sharing pictures and videos to millions of viewers, most likely to be young, not engaged, or not even in a relationship.
I did a quick preliminary audit of 5 such accounts, and found 1 account had shared 2 posts in their entire collection of a woman proposing to a man, and a few accounts had posts of same-sex couples.

Movies and TV have been perpetuating the idea, with notable examples from my growing up and impressionable years including:

      • The Proposal with Sandra Bullock (2009). The IMBD summary says it all “A pushy boss forces her young assistant to marry her in order to keep her visa status in the U.S. and avoid deportation to Canada.”

When She proposes, it’s a joke, a sham, its for her Visa. At the end of the movie, after the two characters have grown closer and in love, he proposes and they live happily ever after.

      • Leap Year (2010) – where the main character plans to propose to her boyfriend, and ends up finding out she doesn’t love him and falls in love with someone else who proposes to her instead, kind of implying that when a girl decides to propose the relationship is crappy and doomed, and only when a guy does it – its true happily ever after love.
      • Miranda Hobbes (Sex and the City) – a workaholic, inflexible, career driven control-freak, who proposes to her partner
      • Big Bang Theory: When Penny is white-girl wasted, squats down, and drunkenly proposes to Leonard (only to be rejected) and the audience laugh.

 

 

In addition to all this negative portrayal of women proposing, we don’t really have any good examples in our popular narrative to draw on. We all know exactly what to do when the time comes for a man to ask us to marry them.

 

The New York Times did a pretty good article on this exact issue, and I wanted to share a couple of quotes from it: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/fashion/weddings/women-proposing-leap-year.html

 

“when women ask men, there’s no script for how they are supposed to react. Women scream or jump in the air. From our research, many men said having a woman propose to them wouldn’t feel right. It’s all about controlling the timing of these events. When they ask, they get to advance the relationship.

 Why do men get to be the gatekeepers of relationships? Why do they continue to get to decide and call the shots in relationships? You can argue that we are more equal now than ever, and that gender inequality, on a whole, doesn’t exist in modern relationships. And while we are certainly much better off than our ancestors, men are still in control of the advancement into serious relationship – marriage.”

 

“In 2016, we have Hillary Clinton shattering glass ceilings, Sheryl Sandberg telling us to “lean in,” and Beyoncé singing anthems about how girls run the world. But when it comes to the marriage proposal, women are somehow fine taking a backseat. “

 

 

 

 

You don’t need to be the “strong independent women, bossy career woman, uber-planning woman, bra burning feminazi” to propose. I consider myself strong, driven and a feminist. But I am not a career climber, and I quite like wearing bras. The fact of the matter is I am a strong independent woman. I am strong, I am a woman, and I am capable of being independent in my own person. But a marriage isn’t about being a strong independent woman. It’s about being a partnership. And I stress that being a strong independent woman has nothing to do with proposing to my partner. It may have given me the courage to do it in a so-called “equal” time when women don’t propose often to men, but the real reason I did so, is quite plain and simple: I wanted to marry this man, and I was ready to. All I had to do was see if he was feeling the same.

 

And now to answer the question many people wanted to know:
How DID Kirren feel about all of this?
Well, I’ll let the smile do all the talking.

tr

 

Finally I want to actually acknowledge the amazing family and friends I have, despite what I might make it seem like in this post. While researching for this post, I read a lot of blogs, articles, discussions and forums online. I was saddened every time I read someone’s experience about how they were going to propose to their boyfriends, some even going out and buying a ring, only to be continually harassed, unsupported by close friends and family, and eventually talked out of it by them. These women regret it now, and having read other women’s stories of their proposals, wish they had found them earlier for encouragement.  I wish they had someone in their lives to encourage them. I wish they had someone like I had with my medical friend, who paved that path for me.

 

 

 

Some fun reading articles if you’re a nerd like me

 

<https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/9hld0e/men_who_have_been_proposed_to_by_their/>

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/fashion/weddings/women-proposing-leap-year.html

https://www.manrepeller.com/2018/11/women-proposing-to-men-stories.html

 

 

Introduction to New Zealand Tramping

Adventure Stories

Earlier this year I finally made it across the sea to our friendly NZ neighbours.
I flew over with my friend Bede, and we planned to spend a few weeks hiking around the South Island before meeting up with the Loverboy in Queenstown.

It had been a horrendously hot March, which had followed a standard furnacey summer, and I hadn’t really been putting much effort into training for hiking.
So, naturally, when Bede and I sat down a fortnight before we left to plan our hiking, I agreed to an epic wandering route that linked up 4 hikes in the Routeburn area.
Our initial plan was to hike from Rob Roy Glacier, into the Matukituki Valley, up over Cascade Saddle, join with the Rees/Dart Track, hitch into Glenorchy to resupply, and continue over to the Routeburn, linking it up to the Greenstone/Cables track.
Of course, like with all adventures I undertake, nothing really went to plan.

First of all, I was dismally under-prepared physically.
I was also willfully ignorant about the precipitation situation in NZ.
And finally, I forgot that for effective hitch-hiking, you need a fairly decent sized population.

Normally, I wouldn’t dish the dirt on hitchiking in NZ. In fact, for the majority of my trip it was an awesome and effective way of travelling the South Island. The only problem with hitching in NZ is when the road is a no-through road, and at the end of the road is not much more than a few farms and a Glacier.
Our adventure started with many hours of standing on the side of a road, looking pleadingly with big innocent eyes into the windscreens of cars zooming by, discreetly turning our thumbs into middle fingers behind our backs as each car passed us.
This was Bede’s first experience of hitch-hiking, and he began to grow more and more concerned as the day passed us by with each unfriendly car.
Eventually, a young Italian guy picked us up on his way out to a climbing area. I sat in the front seat, and watched with horror as my gratitude rapidly disappeared while the driver sped his way through the windy NZ roads faster than his texting fingers.

My horror was short lived, because he pulled up outside the climbing area, let us out and wished us luck. Our destination was still a long way away, and there was not a car in sight.

Bede and I resigned to try to walk to the glacier car park before nightfall, daring to hope that maybe a car would come our way and pick us up.

We were trudging along the pretty roads, not even uplifted by the waterfalls everywhere, when a car pulled up behind us. A woman told us to get in, and we excitedly scrambled over one another to get into the tiny shoe-box car. She took us to the Glacier carpark, and we were soon on our merry way into the Matukituki valley.

That night we camped in a small clearing in the valley with a few other hikers. I went to sleep listening to the quiet night, completely unaware that the 1300m elevation gain in the morning might be more terrible than it sounded.

It was more terrible than it sounded.
The day was picture perfect – warm sunshine, cool air, not a cloud in the sky.
The birds were singing, the sunlight glittered through the canopy of moss and trees.
It was warm and cool in all the right ways.
The views were jaw-dropping-off-the-chain-amazeballs.
And I hated every minute of it.

I hadn’t done any pack training, and lugging 6 days worth of food and camping gear up a slope so steep I had to crawl and climb up most parts was the exact opposite of my idea of fun. I was slowing Bede down trying to scramble up the slippery tree roots and rocks, while his long legs easily strode up over obstacles.
But finally, finally, we made it above the tree line. I caught up with Bede at a rest stop overlooking the valley below, and if I hadn’t already been spluttering and puffing, it would have taken my breath away.

Then we looked up.
And up.

And up.

It just kept on going up.
Getting steeper and steeper.

I decided to look back down to the valley floor for a while, and forget about the up part. Couldn’t I just stay here forever?

But Bede said no (laaamme), and so I got back up to keep on trudging up and up and up.

We began scrambling up grass and rocks, using fistfulls of vegetation to haul ourselves up.
The muddy ruts of tracks turned into rocks, and we soon found ourselves balanced on sections of rock-face, with nothing below us but a few slippery rocks and grass clumps.
My rockclimbing knowledge helped immensely here, and I slowly and steadily made my way up the rock.
Eventually, exhausted, we made it to the top, and flopped out under a rock shelter, drinking in the views.

As we ate a lazy lunch in the sun, looking out of Mt Aspiring National Park, a group of people popped over the rise. A white head of hair appeared first, followed by another, and then another. Soon we were surrounded by a large group of white haired trampers, walking sticks in hand, large packs on stooped backs. There was one elderly lady in the group, and she wobbled over to the flat lunch rock and took in a satisfying yawn before sitting down.

“Hello dear!” She smiled at me, not unlike my own grandmother – minus the hilarious NZ accent.”Bit of a big walk isn’t it?”

Gobsmacked, I smiled in reply.
“Are you all heading out to the Rees/Dart today?” I asked eventually, once my awe-struck awkwardness had faded.

“We certainly are!” Interrupted one of the old men. “I haven’t done this hike since 1969, so I am excited to see what has changed.”

Not wanting to be shown-up by a tough old group of grandparents, Bede and I finished lunch and got moving. We wanted to get to the hut by nightfall, and we had just found out we weren’t even halfway there yet.

As we wandered along the flat plateau above the valley, staring out over the mountains and glaciers, drinking from the fresh cold streams, I decided that when I was in my 70s I still wanted to be able to climb mountains to drink from streams. That old hiking lady was officially my hero, and I want to be her.

 

Soon we dropped down into another valley below a glacier. We walked along barren scree slopes for hours, as the light faded and the shadows lengthened.
Eventually, after many hours of weary trudging, rock-hopping and river crossings, we arrived at the hut for the night just as night fell.

Once our bunks were claimed, dinner was cooked and eaten, and we were considering going to bed, Bede and I realised that the group of oldies hadn’t arrived yet.
We voiced our concerns to a few other hikers, and started to form a plan to go out and look for them. I feared that maybe one of them had turned an ankle or knee of the uneven rocky screen.

Just as we were about to send out a search party, 3 old men stumble inside. They were supporting one of the group, who had blood dried all over his face.
A few hikers immediately jumped to the rescue and went out to find the rest of the group and help bring back the injured man’s pack.
Once the initial kerfuffle had subsided, I approached the injured man and offered some first aid. He was wary at first, and refused my help. I offered to just help clean up the blood off his head and face instead, to which he agreed. I used the opportunity to surreptitiously inspect the head wound, get a brief history of the injury, and try and asses his consciousness and memory. Eventually, after speaking with him for a while and cleaning his face and head, he gruffly agreed to let me do a proper examination on him.
Not entirely convinced he didn’t have a concussion, I spoke with the old lady in the group. The injured man was friendlier than before, but was still a little confused. I told her that if anything happens or changes in the night they should wake me up, and showed her which bed I was staying in.

Thankfully, the night passed without any more medical dramas, and I was much more satisfied with my patient when I re-checked him in the morning.
He was much happier in the morning too, and allowed me to examine him without even the smallest of protests.
As Bede and I hiked off into the morning fog, the whole group – who were staying behind an extra day to recover – cheered us off with friendly waves and big smiles.

Leaving behind the valley, and heading towards the pass, Bede and I tramped in a dreaded upwards direction again. The morning fog turned into clouds and mist and eventual rain. We trudged through the misty valley, all the while Bede singing Lord of the Rings songs to fit the mood.

Eventually we crossed the pass, and down into a wide, foggy valley. We made quick pace through the cold, and were greeted with the welcoming views of smoke swirling out of the top of a chimney. The hut!

Warmed by the fire, and filled with tea, I settled into a window bench seat with my kindle, to watch the rain beat down and rivers and waterfalls pop up all over the mountain side.

The next day brought torrential rain, and we, along with everyone else that was staying in the hut, decided to wait the rain out in the hut for another day. We played cards, read, drank tea, nursed our sore muscles, and made friends.

It was here we met two NZ blokes from the North Island – Graham and Basil – who taught us some funky new card games.
We hatched a plan all together to hike out tomorrow together, as our food was dwindling, and catch a lift into Glenorchy.

Reluctantly, the next morning, we packed quietly in the hut, and headed out into the relentless NZ rain. Within minutes water was pouring down my raincoat hood and sleeves, soaking me underneath.
Our first obstacle was a raging torrent of water. We cross carefully, two at a time, holding on to each other to stop us slipping over. Our boots were now waterlogged, our pants wet up to our thighs. I stop caring about the rain. Let it soak me. See what I care NZ rain!

The day was long, and we cross many streams and rivers, and eventually end up wading through flooded watercourses. I continue to make terrible Lord of the Rings jokes, and Bede continues to groan and shake his head at them.
We arrived at the end of the trail, and eventually, into the little town of Glenorchy, where we begged and pleaded tp get a overpriced, tiny backpackers bed for the night.

All our clothes were soaking, so Bede and I changed into garbage bags fashioned into skirts (or a large 60’s style dress for myself) and sat in the laundry waiting for our clothes to dry in the driers, snacking on dates and canned soup, hatching plans for the next leg of our journey.

Strangely, sitting on the cold wet concrete floor of the mouldy laundry room in a garbage bag, waiting for my clothes to wash and dry, eating overpriced canned soups, lifted my mood and remains one of my fondest memories shared with Bede.

 

 

Giant Praying Mantis with Bulging Muscles Who Eats Men For Breakfast and Doesn’t Wear a Bra (subtitle: Tess Rants about sexism)

Opinion Pieces

“Do you really think sexism still exists Tess? Or are you just finding drama where there is none?”

I was asked this (or something to this effect) by a well-meaning friend a few years back.

I was taken aback by the question, and I didn’t really know how to respond. Having been brought up in a very equality-minded home, where my parents drilled into me at a young age that men and women should be equal, and having surrounded myself in my adult years by friends of both genders who took part in stereotypical male activities in the outdoors, I flailed trying to find a response.

The part of me that has had the “equality is key to progress” mantra stamped into my brain automatically fired off with “of course sexism still exists and is important to fight against!”.

But the other part of me – the part that always suspects I am wrong and know nothing of grown up affairs – faltered.

My response came out as some sort of mumbled, stuttered strung together mash of cliche sentences, which I am 100% certain convinced my friend I was regurgitating nonsense feminism propaganda and actually had no idea what I was talking about.

To an extent, that is exactly the truth. I really had no idea what was going on. I was in my first years out of home, first years living my own life, in this grown up adult world, and I had previously lived a very privileged life, full of support and love.

Whenever someone questioned my statements, my opinions, I assumed it was because I was not articulate enough, not intelligent enough, and that my opinion or statement was in all probability wrong.

Whenever someone took over a task for me, I knew it was because I hesitated in performing it and also probably lacked the skill necessary to complete it anyway.

As time has gone by, and I have started reflecting on some key stand-out experiences, I have realised that none of this was true.

Here are a list of times, that stand out without me thinking much about findings examples, where I experienced sexism, and I – for whatever variant reason of too shy/too scared/assumed they were right and I was wrong – brushed it off as ‘normal’.

  • only girls who have been roped in by their adventurous boyfriends mountain bike

I had recently started mountain biking with my Loverboy. We were equally as shit, equally as brave, equally as poor and had equally as shitty bikes are each other. We had driven one Easter break down to Mt Buller, where we had heard of the best mountain biking tracks in the country. With us, in our borrowed Station-wagon, were our 2 falling apart hard tail mountain bikes.

We arrived bright and early one morning to the Mt Buller carpark, eager and ready to roll. Only problem was: my brake pads had somehow come loose and disappeared from the front brakes of my bike (yes, this was back before we could afford the oh-s-fancy discbrakes. Pity us). We rolled the offending bike into the bike shop/hire shop at Mt Buller, to get the issue fixed. The bike repair man had no brake-pads for us. We decided to splash out and hire me a bike so that we could actually enjoy what we had come here to do. I ended up getting a nice shiny red bike, which would be miles better than the Loverboy’s shitty bike. Whilst paying for the pretty red (red=fast guys!), we asked the nice bike-man which trails he would recommend. He gave us the trail map of the area and asked about our abilities. We replied in unison “intermediate – blue”. He then drew out a route for us on the map, taking us down some greens to start with, then some easier blues, and if we felt confident after that, some proper good blue runs, before completing our circuit.

Excitedly, we grinned at each other.

The bike-man shared our enthusiasm, and stated “Man! you’re gonna have the best time!”

Thinking he was addressing us both, I opened my mouth to agree. The bike-man turned to face me, pulling a half frown,

“Look, I’m not gonna lie. Its hard riding. Like, quite hard. You’re probably gonna cry”.

He then, lightning speed before I could recover myself, turned back to Kirren “aw, but dude, You’re gonna have the BEST time!”.

I panicked.

Why would he say that? Was it going to be super hard? As always, my default reaction was that he was all-knowing, and that I was pathetic and a crap rider and that I was going to cry and have the worst time.

I, very casually, trying to keep my cool, asked “which part exactly?”, trying to find a pin-point on the map of the exact moment of my impending melt-down.

He roughly passed his finger over the marked blue trails. “It’s quite difficult from here to here. Its fine though, it’s easy enough to get off and walk. And also, there is this nice part right here” His pen drew a big circle around a ridgeline on the contour map “Where you can take a good selfie”. He smiled sympathetically at me.

I nodded, my heart pounding in my chest, a familiar feeling of anxiety and dread overcoming me.

We thanked the bike man, wheeled out of the shop, and made our way to the start of the oncoming ride.

I was so scared.

I was clearly going to fail at this ride.

All because of something a stranger has said to me. It says wonders about my self-confidence at the time doesn’t it?

Beside me, Kirren was practically bounding with excitement for the wonderful sunny autumn day of riding ahead of us.

I distinctly remember, the first part of the ride was a fire-trail down a hill to where the single-track stuff started. A firetrail. I remember, so very clearly, being terrified of this fire-trail, the words of the bike-man echoing in my brain.

A firetrail terrified me.

I had been on dozens of firetrails on bikes, ever since I was about 7 and would take my bike up the 4wd tracks in the national park behind my house. Furthermore, I had ridden lots and lots of actual technical mountain biking trails in the past few months.

Kirren and I rode together, me gaining more and more confidence as the day went on and I realized I had done much scarier riding before.

It culminated in a particularly technical track, with tight switchbacks, which I shot through with a smile in the fading autumn afternoon. Kirren, riding just a second in front of me, stacked it on a rock, and ripped open his knee. blood was pouring everywhere, and I patched him up fast.

I remember riding with pride back towards the carpark, knowing I had managed to come away unscathed, after riding everything Kirren had done, with just as much speed.

Before we went into the shop, Kirren smiled at me and grabbed my hand.

“hey, go in there and tell the guy how much fun you had, and that you didn’t stack it once, while I tore open my knee.”

This was the first time I realised that day, that maybe what the guy had said was a little sexist and un-called for. Kirren had noticed it, but not realised the impact it had had on me.

We went into the shop together, and the shop-man instantly noticed Kirren’s bleeding knee

“Niiiice! you must have been giving it a real good go!” he said, before either of us could voice our practised come-back to his earlier remarks.

“OH” we faltered. “Yeah, must have fucked up a turn or something” Kirren fumbled.

I never delivered my line.

Me on the FAST red bike

Kirren on the crappy blue bike

  • boys-only weekend camping getaways can’t have girls go on it because then the boys won’t be able to fart and swear and be boys and you will ruin it for them

When I was a little girl, about 7 years old, I had mostly male friends. It was a product of the area I lived in – geographically isolated from other people in a very small country village on the border of a national park. I had the best time as a child – running through the mountains freely, playing epic hide-and-seeks in the caves and cliff faces of the Wollemi National Park, pretending to be wild horses running from captors and pretending to be Bushrangers building our hide outs in the trees. I loved building fires, building camps and camping under the stars. I loved playing in the coals of the fire, collecting firewood, and eating damper.

Every so often, and I honestly can’t remember how many times this happened over the years, the local dads in the area- and their young sons ages ranging from 3-12 – would have a “boy’s gettaway” in the mountains. Sometimes they would ride their horses up to a hut somewhere int he Wollemi national park. Other times it was the 4wd, or motorbikes.

They sometimes camped in caves, sometimes in the old drovers huts, or sometimes in tents out under the stars. They would go for 1-3 nights, sometimes taking musical instruments with them, sometimes ropes to abseil off cliff-faces.

I remember one particular weekend very distinctly. I was about 7 or 8.

My brother, 3 years younger than me, had been kitted out with his winter warmies, some sleeping bags and a bag of marshmellows. My best friend up the road, and his brother, were also similarly prepared. My cousins, and their fathers, had driven up for the weekend to join in on the fun weekend of camping in a family known cave that I had been to numerous times before.

Never an easy child for my poor parents, I had thrown multiple tantrums wanting to join on the trip.

My poor mother, trying to keep the peace, had explained to me in an attempt to reason with an unreasonable 8 year old, that the men needed a weekend out to be men, with their sons. I, not understanding that at all, and still thinking way past the behavioural cut off for development, that the world revolved around me, screamed and cried. It was just not FAIR!

Mum, attempting to find a reason in the law that states men need men time, explained the only reasons she could fathom: the males wanted time to bond, and that if I was there they wouldn’t feel comfortable farting, and smelling and swearing. My presence would ruin it for them.

I remember exploding into a fit of rage, crying and incomprehensible screaming at this. I wasn’t able to articulate it to my mum at the time, but I remember thinking it to myself – I was more than happy to fart with them – in fact I thought farting was hilarious. And I didn’t give a shit (the worst swear word I knew at the time) about them swearing around me!

I was angry, and inconsolable. And not for the first time. Apparently this was such a predictable tantrum from me, that mum, after previous boys weekends tantrums, had invited my female cousin up for the weekend to distract and play with me.

The unfortunate thing was, this cousin of mine, was just as much in love with the outdoors, camping and “being a boy” as I was.

We conspired with each other.

The evening my brother and all the other men drove out into the mountains to begin their weekend of camping and exploring, my cousin and I prepared our bags. We had a sleeping bag and an extra jumper, some gloves and a torch, and maybe an apple or a musili bar.

After mum had put us to bed that night, we lay in bed waiting until she had gone to sleep.

We then snuck out on the house, and began sneaking through the paddocks towards the sleepy black mountains. We didn’t make it very far before out light died from low batteries, and the creepy scary noises of the night made us turn back.

We scurried back to bed, warming ourselves under the blankets, and vowing we would re-attempt at the crack of dawn.

Dawn came, and we were out of bed again at first light. We waded through the long, dewy grass of the paddocks before the national park entrance. We finally made it to the treeline, and ducked under the fences. We began the way towards where I knew the cave was, but stopped after a minute to eat our breakfast of apples or musili bars.

We were never going to make it – but our determined 8 year old selves thought we would.

We began to shiver, sitting eating our food as the cold winter sun rose above the misty paddocks, our clothes soaked through from the dew in the grass.

Cold, and still hungry after a long walk from the house on our little legs, we decided to turn back and have breakfast by the fire.

I will never blame my parents for the feelings I felt during those times.

I will never blame my parents for not including me on the men’s weekends.

They weren’t the sole organisers or instigators of those weekends. The fact that the men wanted a weekend away all together with their sons is not a crime in my books. In fact, it’s a wonderful thing that men were spending quality time with their sons.

It also wasn’t my parents place to overturn the whole event with lessons on equality, allowing me to partake in the activities, when so many other daughters and wives were being denied. Maybe none of them wanted to go, like I did. Maybe they did.

But I will not blame my parents for keeping the peace and the tradition.

I blame society instead.

It was during this time, at the confusing age of 8, where I went through a stage of secretly wanting to be a boy.

I had weighed up the options in my 8 year old brain, and decided life was better if you were a boy.

You got to pee standing up. Which was forever more convenient in the bush and mountains.

You got to go on boys weekends playing and camping  in the mountains, abseiling and building fires.

You were allowed to fart, and one-day swear.

You got to ride motorbikes, you got to enjoy action movies.

You got to play with action man AND barbie, instead of always having to play with barbie.

You weren’t forced into dresses or to brush your hair.

People didn’t buy you pink things for your birthday.

You weren’t frowned at for wanting a black bicycle with red flames on the side, instead of a pink and blue glittery one.

This culminated, one day, in dress-up day at primary school, which brings me to point numero tres:

  • Only men can be action heroes

One day a year you got to go dressed as whoever you wanted to, and  parade in-front of the parents and teachers at the dress-up parade.

I, having had a tantrum the year before wanting a BatMan outfit for Christmas just like my cousin had gotten, went proudly to school that morning dressed as BatMan. I even had the cool mask!

This resulted in me, proudly standing on stage, as the principle announced each dressed up school kid and their character over the microphone. Then, when I went up to the principle and whispered my character to him before the big announcement, he asked “are you sure you aren’t batgirl Tess?”. I looked at him like he was stupid

“No!” I replied emphatically “Phillipa (the friend behind me in the line, whom we had co-ordinated to be Batman and Batgirl together), is Batgirl!” I explained, rolling my eyes.

Later on, as we mingled with the other students and parents, I found out how cruel kids can be for the first time, when everyone began teasing me for being BatMan.

“But you’re a GIRL!” I remember one girl explaining, like I was an idiot child who had forgotten my own gender.

I came home in tears that day, and mum hugged me, made me pikelets for afternoon tea, and helped me plan next years outfit – a princess from fairyland with wings and a sparkly dress.

Until recently, there wasn’t many other super heroes in movies that were women. I certainly had a hard time finding one when I was a kid to dress up as.

  • Women’s-only Outdoor events are “less than”

So this point and its associated sexism is all on me. I am the perpetrator. I am the ‘bad guy’ here.

I am a lover of the outdoors. I am a climber, a hiker, a canyoner, a mountain biker, a skier, a caver (albeit a poor one at best).

I absolutely LOVE anything outdoors and challenging.

But for the longest time, I cringed away from ever involving myself in anything “women’s” oriented.

Women’s climbing trip? ugh! So not cool.

Women’s mountain biking clinic? Ugh, sounds like a beginners lesson to me!

Women’s hiking meet up? No thanks,  I’d rather not spend a day hiking with unfit barbie dolls, and comparing the cost of Lorna Jane leggings!

Yes, seriously guys, that was the attitude I entered the grown up and outdoor world with.

The only thing I knew about women in the outdoors was that outdoor women’s gear was always pink or purple (two colours I absolutely HATE), and that most women didn’t do outdoor things, and that I was really “one of the boys”.

This perplexing and embarrassing attitude started to change around about the time I started seriously climbing.

I went on climbing trips, and found myself (and my pathetic lack of self-esteem) worried I was taking too long climbing something, worried I was slowing everyone down, worried that my ineptitude was annoying every other male on the trip with my  incompetence (because males have always outnumbered females on any climbing trip).

I, as a consequence, never volunteered myself to be the leader. I never tried to lead climbs I hadn’t done before, and I never tried climbs I knew weren’t within my skill range. I therefore, never, ever pushed myself.

Sometime during this time, some “all girls” climbing weekends were being organised by my local university outdoor club. Still wary and under the impression girls events = less than, I joined up.

This is about when I also moved into a house full of female climbers.

Do you know what I discovered?

It took an embarrassingly long time to connect the dots.

But whenever I went out with girls to climb, I felt less pressured to be fast, quick, competent and “good” at climbing.

I felt more empowered to take my time on a climb I struggled with.

They encouraged me, the talked me through it, they lamented being short and not being able to reach holds, and they voiced their understanding as I found myself being overwhelmed with fear on a climb.

This isn’t to say men-folk ever did the opposite for me, whilst climbing with them. They generally are awesome people who would belay me all day if I asked them to, shout out encouragement if I requested.

But the support and lack of imagined judgement I had from women was the best thing for my climbing.

Since then, I have been surprised time and time again whenever I’ve been on a female – dominated day of outdoor activities. Women did NOT equal less than. Some girls I went climbing with absolutely CRUSHED it. Some women’s mountain biking events were way, way, way above the skill level I could attempt.

I found Instagram communities specifically for women in the outdoors, and I devoured blog posts and stories of the kind of achievements they were reaching that I could only dream of.

Having an amazing time with a bunch of women on a women’s backcountry skiing trip

My friends Bek and Georgia came on a climbing trip to the Warrumbungles where we climbed a spire together and had a blast

  • Men set up camp, women make it homely.

I’ve grown up camping. Lots.

I’ve been well conditioned to the rules and regulations of a good camp-setup by my father – the tarp Nazi. Tents must be tight, pegged out, taut and tidy. Tarps mustn’t flap in the breeze.

Not only does this look nice, it prevents damage, wind noises, moisture and rain from wrecking your camping experience.

As a consequence, my tent is always pegged out beautifully, and I can’t stand a floppy lazy tent.

Kirren is the opposite. He can’t stand spending all that time fussing with a tent. Especially on a nice clear and still night. He would rather just throw the fly over the tent in a token effort and leave it.

I love fussing around at camp. I gather the firewood carefully, I build the fire and light it with gentle breaths and deep lungs if it’s damp.

Kirren would rather sit in the dark and cold with a good book and some food than bother with the annoyances of building and maintaining a fire.

This is the perfect dynamic.

I set the tent up, with my tight ropes and lines. Kirren sets up the beds inside.

I collect firewood, set the camp up. Kirren chops and boils for dinner.

This is the way it goes.

I get dinner and beds. He gets an unwanted tight tent and a nice fire to sit by.

A friend of ours, once, after observing us many times camping together, pulled me aside one day.

I’d just finished taking over setting up the tent, and my friend, whilst Kirren pumped up the airbeds, spoke with concern to me in a hushed voice.

They asked me to maybe let Kirren set up the tent next time, and if I’d ever given a thought to how it might be emasculating him every time I set the tent up and did the fire.

I was so flabbergasted by this unsolicited and unexpected advice, that I didn’t know how to respond.

Half of me was waiting for the punchline, the joke that was this ridiculous conversation.

I think I’ve shared enough of my tales by now for you to realise I didn’t say anything at all to stand up or challenge.

Later that night, whispered in the confines of our very tightly pegged out tent, I relayed the conversation to Kirren. We Snickered away quietly together, although Kirren was a little hurt that his friend thought his masculinity was so small and fragile it needed defending in such a humiliating way.

Asking the big scary bossy controlling girlfriend to relinquish some of her excess of control in order to make the weak tiny male feel more like the man he should be.

I can just see the way they must picture me in their mind. A giant praying mantis, screeching with bulging muscles as I try to rip off the head of the little spindly male.

A Happy Tess with a very tight tent, on her solo backcountry skiing trip

  • Women are nurses, men are doctors

I totally understand where this one stems from. Historically speaking, majority of nurses were female, and majority of doctors were men.

But people, it’s the 21st century. And it’s not like this is a recent change.

I cannot count the number of times in a day I get mistaken for a nurse.
Don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t offend whatever overweight ego people might think doctors have.
I’m mostly just fed up having to sigh and say “Oh, sorry, I’m a doctor.” or “sorry, I’m not  your nurse, I don’t know how long your medications will be”

And I know it goes the other way for male nurses too.

There honestly are countless examples, but here are a few:

I am in the Emergency Department working the evening shift. I am tired.

A 40ish year old male comes into ED after coming off his mountain bike. He is mostly ok, just needs to be checked out and sent on his way.
I introduce myself “Hi, My name is Tess and I am one of the Doctors here”, before taking a history and examining him.

I need to run a few tests, organise some Xrays. I explain all of this, and do so.

I read the tests, make sure he intact.

Then I go to tell him the good news that it all checks out and he can go home with some regular pain relief (which I write a script for).

We build a rapport over the fact we both mountain bike. He asks when he can go back out on the bike.

I tell him whenever he feels up to it.

He grins at his wife. “See, I can go tomorrow!”

His wife smiles wryly, clearly wishing I had said a different answer “lucky you’ve found an ally in a mountain biking nurse!”

“Yeah! Thanks Nurse Tess! So we right to go now?”

I sigh. I think about correcting him. He and his wife are nice.
I don’t want to make them feel awkward or embarrassed. It’s a simple mistake.

**********

Another time in the Emergency Department, I spend most of the evening seeing a man with chest pain. I, as always, introduce myself. I take his history, I examine him, I put a IV line in and take blood tests. I look at his ECG that the nurse has taken for me. I organise Xrays and any other relevant things. I spend ages trying to track down what medications he is on because he can’t remember. I spend ages talking to his wife on the phone who is understandably worried and concerned but cannot make it in to the hospital yet.

I have many other patients – it’s a busy night in ED.

But I take the time to do my best for him.
I speak to his cardiologist, and get him admitted, then do all the things the cardiologist wants me to do for him before he goes to the ward.

It’s not hard,  it’s my job.

I finally go to explain to him and his wife (who has finally arrived) what we are doing, how he is going to be admitted to the ward and stay for a few days in hospital. I explain about the minor heart attack he has had.

At the end of it, I ask them if they have any more questions.

The wife asks “Yes, when is he going to be seen by a doctor? He tells me he hasn’t yet seen a single doctor yet and he has been here for 4 hours.”

******

It’s after hours, I am the ward doctor for a number of wards.

I have been asked to review a patient who has a blood pressure which is worryingly low.

I go to them, examine and assess them. I take a few blood tests, and explain to them what is going on. I get paged to another emergency, so I tell the patient I will be back shortly.
They reply “Oh, nurse, before you go can you get me a glass of water?”

Every time a patient calls me “Nurse” on night shift – I steal their icecream

  • Men Propose, Women squeal. But they both do the housework

I am not going to hash this one out too much because I actually have an entire blog post coming up about this whole topic.

Basically, in 2017, women proposed to men in heterosexual relationships less than 5% of the time ((https://www.theknotww.com/press-releases/3496/).

Our entire culture is dominated with the fact men propose, women get a diamond ring.

Men are the gatekeepers of our relationships, and they decide when it gets to advance to the next level.

Most of the time.

I proposed to Kirren. Most of the time I get wonderful responses to this fact.

But I get an uncalled for amount of surprise, pushback, and questions like “But how did he feel about that?”.

My response: Fucking wonderful thanks. The love of his life just asked to spend her life with him.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. In the process of writing this, I began to realise more and more and more examples in my life. This blog grew and grew. I have to stop somewhere.

I know that I lead a very privileged life, in a very privileged time. I am aware of the sacrifices made by women before me to get us here. And I am aware of the very real physical dangers some women experience as a result of men and their attitudes towards women – both in Australia and in other parts of the world.

I don’t think my issues are even close to the importance of theirs.

But they are still important.

Our attitude (both men and women) towards the female gender needs to change. Our whole society needs to change. If it doesn’t, then people like me will continue to whinge in blog posts, and even more importantly, the less privileged women will remain so horribly ignored.

 

13 Reasons to Rant about Travel

Opinion Pieces

An article popped up on my social media feed recently.  It listed 13 reasons why I shouldn’t worry about stupid things like money or security, and should ‘just travel’ instead.

As I read through the list, I felt a familiar rage building up inside me.  Want to know why?

Cracks neck, flexes knuckles Heeeeerre we fucking go.

 

 

 

 

  1. Travel will turn you into a storyteller.

With your constant adventures, you’ll have an endless supply of travel tales to entertain your friends with at parties or at those #awks moments when you’re short of small talk. It’s true – travel leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller.

 

No. No it will not.

Sure, travel is bound to give you a thousand good experiences to draw, to reflect, and talk about. But those experiences do not automatically make you good story teller.

Have you ever been to one of those gatherings?  Someone introduces you to their mate Ed.  Ed shakes your hand, offers you a beer, and flicks his golden dreadlocks out of his face assaults you with a bottomless well of stories of the time he was just too gosh darn adventurous and ate some dirty street food and got gastro in this little village in Thailand, where no one spoke English. He had to catch a bus in this horrendous state because he was going to miss his flight to Pakistan. He managed to soldier through Pakistan, where he lost 28kgs AND his luggage. He takes your silence as encouragement to continue. You learn that he reached Santiago with nothing but his dreadies and a pair of fisherman pants. A local person took pity on him and drove him to their great aunt Mamma Healers place.  He stayed there for 3 weeks eating all their food and taking advantage of their hospitality.

You just stand there and stare into their unblinking gaze waiting for them to stop, but they just keep going on and fucking on, and you start mentally calculating how many hours of your life have been wasted listening can’t to stories that started with someone getting gastro in South East Asia.

You don’t need to travel the world to be a good story teller. One of my favourite story tellers is my friend Georgia. She has an uncanny ability to turn even the most mundane daily event (that if anyone else told you about would bore you senseless)  into a hilarious, riveting, clutching-your-sides laughing kind of tale.

You know what you sound like when you tell story after story of your travels at those parties? A douchebag. A giant, self-absorbed pile of douchebags.

Next time, I dare you to ask someone else what they do for fun, or for a hobby. You might learn about something totally new. Otherwise you’ll just fall back into that same old story about the hilarious time a taxi driver misunderstood you and took you to a brothel instead of your hotel…

 

TRAVEL-QUOTES-MODEST-INSPIRATION

Until you go home and boast about all the amazing adventures you’ve been on.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Travel opens your mind.

Nothing will expand your horizons more than experiencing different cultures and traditions on a regular basis. Everyone who has spent money on travel will tell you that you are not the same once you’ve been to the other side of the world.

Oh My Tehlu this trope needs to stop!

Travel is a great way to learn about the world and the people we share it with. I believe that it’s very important in today’s global society to learn about other cultures.  Immersing yourself in someone else’s world is a wonderful way to do this, and is part of the reason why I took my teenage sister back-packing through Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand last year – to open her up to the world and its differences at a tender and impressionable age.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Making my sister do an assignment on the Vietnamese involvement against the Khmer Rouge in the Cambodian Civil War, whilst in Vietnam

I also spent a large chunk of my toddler years living in Thailand with my parents. It’s great, you should do it.

BUT.

FUCKING BUT….

The sentiment that travel-expands-your-mind, which is perpetuated every-fucking-where, comes hand in hand with the assumption that those who don’t travel overseas are ignorant peasant villagers.  They just aren’t enlightened like the rest of us travelling folk.

It suggests that the only way to ‘expand your horizons’ is to travel and travel often.  That’s just not true.  Here are a few non-travelling options to get you started:

  • Study something new.Taking an intense university course has expanded my horizons. After a single semester at university during my 4th year, I felt like my brain was going to explode with knowledge. I wasn’t used to learning so much about how the body works and how disease affects it. This new knowledge totally changed the way I view so many aspects of life. And I know this isn’t just me!
  • Learn a language.It’s a sure-fire way to open your mind. You can take a language course from the comforts of your own home, or on a podcast while you drive to and from your “mediocre 9-5 job”. Language works differently all over the word. The grammar, the usage, the flow of it will differ from language to language. The humour is different. The sayings are gloriously unfamiliar. The way people express themselves is different.   The idea of something being ‘lost in translation’ means so much more when you start to glimpse the nuances and subtle concepts wrapped up in language that had once been incomprehensible to you.

 

  • Immerse yourself in the migrant community in your local area.I grew up in a small country town. The Afghani refugee family that moved into the area had kids my age.    My brother and I would go to their house every day for afternoon tea after school. Afternoon tea was a feast cooked by the BiBi, the grandmother, with help from the mum and the mum.  I remember fragrant saffron rice with oily crunchy tahdig on top. The food was always laid out on a beautiful tablecloth, and afterwards we would watch Bollywood movies under a blanket, translated to us by the kids.

As the years went by, the girl my age started telling me about fleeing from Afghanistan to Pakistan.  Then Pakistan to Australia. I didn’t fully understand her stories at that time.

Since then, I’ve been back through my diaries.  I found an entry about a sleepover I had for my birthday one year.  This girl didn’t come.  I was upset and I told her so.  She explained that she had nightmares and preferred to sleep with her grandmother.

Reading that entry broke my heart. Because I knew this girl, she was my friend. And the knowledge that she relived the nightmares of her childhood each night, impacted on me more than any newspaper story, TV show or overseas trip ever has.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Travel makes you independent.

 

Once you’ve had to find your way through the streets of Shanghai and figure out how to navigate the public transport system in Vietnam, there’s nothing life can throw at you that you cannot handle.

 

The notion that using public transport in South East Asia is the hardest thing life can throw at you is laughable.

No one has ever sat in a hospital watching a loved one die from cancer in a sterile hospital bed at 50 and thought, if only I had backpacked through Vietnam, I would be better prepared for this moment.

Life can throw lots of awful, difficult, terrible, hard things at us. Car accidents, getting kicked out of home, losing your job, getting your mobile and wallet stolen, finding out you can’t have kids, your boyfriend/girlfriend leaving you, not being able to find the right guy/girl, the difficulty of coming out as gay to your parents, finding out someone you love isn’t the person you thought they were, not having enough money for groceries some weeks, going through a divorce, getting a diagnosis that isn’t good, failing a semester at university or school, having your pet dog die.

Who in their right mind thinks all those things pale in comparison to catching a bus through a busy city in another country?

It’s also insulting to the people who live in Shanghai and Vietnam.

 

Travel is scary and hard, and it does make you more independent.

Doing anything on your own in a foreign situation always is. I have travelled by public transport in Ho Chi Minh.  But it wasn’t nearly as hard or scary as the first time I performed an instrument in front of a crowd, or sat my practical medicine exams.

If travelling builds your confidence, that’s great.  Try bringing that confidence to talk to new people into your life at home.  If it builds your navigational skills, or your problem-solving skills, then that’s great too.

Travel can help you develop new skills, but it doesn’t turn you into an iron clad beast who is resilient to everything and can effortlessly tackle any challenge.

(also, ffs, who doesn’t travel with a smart phone these days?)

 

 

 

 

  1. Travel creates the strongest friendships.

 

It’s on the road that true friendships become strong. The relationship you have with your travel friends is the kind you see in TV series and read books about. Share an adventure together and you’re friends for life.

 

To those of you who have made a BFF while travelling, added them on all the social media accounts, exchanged emails and addresses and numbers an underwear sizing: I’d love to know, how many years of denial it takes, on average, before you realise you’re never going to see them again and quietly unfriend them?

I am not saying all friendships made whilst travelling are like that. Some connections do stand the test of time, and that is special.

It feels like you’re creating strong friendships on the road because everything is so intense.  You’re in a crazy new world together, you’re both travellers, you’re doing crazy new things together. It seems like a match made in paradise! But then you go your separate ways, back to separate lives and separate homes. From there, you don’t have as much to talk about.  Your friendship was based in another time and another place, not in the present.  It’s harder to catch up online.  If you can’t afford to visit one another again, the friendship often stagnates.

The good news is, that you can find that same intense, frenzied brand of friendship at home.  Adventures don’t just happen in overseas far off lands. Go join a hiking club, or a climbing community, or plan a trip with some friends to do something crazy and challenging!

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Strongest friendship I ever made: with 2 girls I lived with, who one day decided we could climb that spire behind us all by ourselves!

 

 

 

 

  1. Travel makes you creative.

 

Something happens to your mind when it comes into regular contact with unknown cultures and patterns – you begin to think differently and you realise that the world is not as rigid and unchangeable as you might previously have thought.

 

 

This is a variation on the “opening up your mind” theme above, so I won’t repeat myself.

I must admit that when I travel, I love learning about the folk tales of the place I’m visiting. I love hearing their stories of monsters and demons and heroes and princesses. I often go home, afterwards, and devour Wikipedia articles and websites about these folk tales.

I love seeing fashion and dance traditional to the area.

So, I guess, it does open up pathways to creativity and new ideas. Then again, so does talking to someone, anyone, new.

Travel will not magically transform you into an artist or musician. Travel doesn’t automatically make you something you are not.

It might inspire you to be more creative (maybe), but judging by the same old Grade-A basic photos I see on Instagram of the leaning tower of Pisa, this creativity is clearly subjective.

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#socreative

I’ve rarely felt inspired to creativity by a conversation with someone who holds themselves out as an enlightened #traveller.  You know how these conversations go right?

“How many countries have you done? I’ve done 23!”

“When I was in (insert poor country here), I had the best experience! The locals were some of the most giving, friendly happy people I’ve ever met! They really showed me that money doesn’t equal happiness!”

 

 

 

 

  1. Travel is the ultimate form of self-expression.

 

The world is a big and wonderful place and where you choose to occupy your place in it says a lot about who you are as a person. Just think about how satisfying it feels to finally visit a place you’ve longed to see for years.

 

Um. What.

What does this mean for people who can’t afford to travel, or who can’t choose which place they occupy, because they are in the throes of war or poverty?  Is their geographical location an expression of their personalities, hopes and dreams?

I thought travel was supposed to open your mind to the world outside your own?

Fuck you.

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A great way to express your true #uniqueness as a traveller. Now we all know which campsites to avoid parking next to

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Travel satisfies your inner desires that material possessions never will.

 

When you satisfy your insatiable wanderlust, you gain an inner happiness and peace that spending money on material possessions will never be able to give you.

 

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Kirren, being super excited with all the money he spent on buying both of us expensive mountain bikes, so when we did finally travel to the US we had a great time on our own bikes.

The people who spurt these bullshit articles usually say something like “once you travel once, you will never be able to stop and you will perpetually be planning your next country/place/trip”. Insatiable wanderlust will burn through your savings just as fast as buying stuff you don’t need.

Sometimes people surround themselves with material possessions to mask a deeper unsatisfactory part of their life. Sometimes people travel to get away from the same dissatisfactions, I don’t know whether travel helps them resolve those issues.

The trope that material possessions will never satisfy you is a dumb one too.

Material possessions are great.  I love visiting my parents, because I get to sleep on a big comfy bed.  At my place, I just have a mattress on the floor.

I love having a warm sleeping bag when I am out back country skiing, instead of freezing in a cheap shitty one.

After 7 years of being a poor student, I can’t wait to start earning my own wage. I will be able to buy decent fresh farmers market veggies, and clothes that aren’t falling apart, and maybe splash out on some cool devices like a new lens for my camera and a climbing rope instead of always being that person that borrows gear from other people.

I’ll probably be hella satisfied with those few luxuries.

All things in moderation, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. You’ll never regret spending money on travel.

 

It’s true what they say – in 10 years’ time, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do, not the things you did do. You will never be that person who looks back on their 20s and wishes that had made more memories when they were young.

 

Probably not, but you can’t say for sure.

Maybe, when everyone else has a house and you don’t even have a fixed address, you will regret not saving in your 20s. You might not. I’m not you.

Maybe you’ll work hard throughout your 20s, buy a home, buy a car and have a career. Maybe you’ll get to 35 and wish you had travelled more.  Maybe at 35 you’ll look at what you’ve got and think “Oh thank Fuck”.

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The ONLY thing guys! Definitely not education, or a trade, or investments!

However, I do regret spending money on travel.

I took a year off study last year and did some travelling.  And you know what? Right now, I am back studying, without a job, with no social security (hey, THANKS Centrelink), having to BORROW money for rent, because I literally don’t have $10 to my name. The free bread in the Surgical Tea Room is my lunch.  I might not remember this in 10 years time, but right now, it’s tough.

I had amazing experiences last year, but those experiences were expensive. I can’t honestly say that every single dollar I spent travelling last year was worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Travel is a unique form of education.

 

You learn things on the road that you will not learn anywhere else. Travel gives you a global sense of perspective, an open mind, and makes you more patient, understanding, and independent.

 

Once again, they’re repeating themselves. Opening your mind, change of perspective, independent bla bla bla.

Travel is a unique form of education – I agree. But hey, so is deciding to go out to the Northern Territory and work on a station. So is talking to your elderly neighbour.

I’d begin to argue that with social media and plummeting airline prices and the interwebs, travel is not really that unique anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Travel makes you an Instagram superstar.

 

Nothing will up your Insta game like the ah-mazing pics from your travel explorations. We all know it – all your friends will be jealous. 

 

Do I need to say anything?

I mean, we all think it when we post our latest adventures on Instagram.

Don’t lie to yourself. I do it.

But I hate that part of me, and I hope you do too.

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“All my instagram followers will totally be #jelly of this selfie of me in the airport in Buenos Aires”

 

 

 

 

  1. Travel builds your identity.

 

When you choose not to be constrained by the daily grind like most of us, you shape your identity. You are the explorer. You are the adventurer. You are the person who all of your more ‘serious’ friends look up to with admiration and possibly a hint of envy. #sorrynotsorry

 

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My identity: currently being built around the fact I have crazy uncontrollable hair, braces at 24, terrible selfie taking skills and a constant need to study every day of my life. #medstudentlyf

The implication that someone who works hard, studies hard, in the “daily grind” of mediocre unenlightened masses doesn’t have an identity is ignorant.

Don’t all the locals in the countries you travel to, especially the 3rd world ones, all work exceedingly hard in far worse conditions of “daily grind”?

Your identity is definitely shaped as a #traveller when you act like this.  I can tell you for 100% certain, when I meet people who are so wound up in their “traveller” identities – as the more ‘serious’ person, I do not look up to you. I cringe. Hard.

The only thing I envy is your complete lack of self-awareness. If only I could be that ignorant of my own personal shortcomings.

 

 

 

 

  1. Travel makes you more relaxed.

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahah

Next you will be telling me that “travel is really hard, and people always think I am on a constant holiday but waaahhh”.

Oh. Wait. #travellers do say that.

All.the.fucking.time

 

 

 

 

  1. DiamondsAdventures last forever.

 

The adventures you share with your friends on the road, those unplanned moments outside your comfort zone, those spontaneous decisions that create the best moments of your life – those are the memories that will stay with you forever.

 

 

Well, at least until you get Alzheimer’s.

Ok, I’ll be fair. I’ll allow this one.  We’ve got 1 out of the 13 reasons that I can’t really criticise.

Oh wait, I am Tess Roser. Yes, I can.

You know what other memories will stay with you forever?

 

Your graduation, your first love, the birth of any children you have, that time you forgot cutlery on a hiking trip just down the road from where you live so you used tree twigs as chopsticks, that time you went out of your own comfort zone and tried surfing for the first time, or the time you did literally ANYTHING that is out of the ordinary for you…. And they are in no way less amazing or meaningful than any memory you made of hitchiking across Bolivia.

 

Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes life is beautiful. Whether if you are travelling, or studying, or working, or in between things and thinking “what the fuck am I doing with my life”. If you have the option to travel – then your life is fucking amazing whether you choose to travel or not.

My advice?

Travel, but only if you really want to. Travel overseas, travel in your own country, your own state.

Work hard to buy that house you want, marry the love of your life, raise good kids who might make a difference in the world. Work hard in that lab of yours, slaving away each day on minimum wage to add to our growing scientific body of evidence.  Sacrifice your 20s to the pursuit of something bigger than yourself. Travel if you want to. Your motivation might be to go see the SpaceX rocket still sitting in the back of the fenced off yard in industrial LA. Or it might be to go to that one mountain you’ve never been to in your own state, but have always wondered what it was like on top of it.

Save up, don’t save up.

Go alone, or go with friends, family.

Go for short trips of a week. Go for long trips of years.

Go with 3 bags of luggage. Go with carry on.

 

It’s your life.

Please don’t feel pressured by society, by social media, by these zombies groaning, shuffling around Italy or Turkey or Laos, posting pictures of the same uninspired tourist destinations, to drop your shit and travel.

 

And, if you do decide travelling the world is for you –  don’t you ever pretend that you are better, more cultured, more enlightened, more worldly than someone who doesn’t carry a OnePlanet backpack, wear sandals and friendship bracelets and have 4 different currencies in their wallet.

Some people don’t need to travel the globe to realise that this world is a big old place, with amazing mix of histories and cultures.

 

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Me, taking a terrible selfie, not using my expensive SLR camera, whilst exploring the snowy backcountry of my home state of NSW.

Surprise Birthday Snow

Adventure Stories

Late September, 2016. I head out on what I believed was my last backcountry ski trip of the year. The snow is melting, there are rocks and patches of grass. I say my goodbyes until next year.

 

Late October, 2016. My birthday is approaching. The weather gods get their memos mixed up with the birthday gods, and a freak storm/snow event occurs.

***

 

I am visiting my Loverboy in Canberra, planning on doing some mountain biking while he works. I see a facebook post about the snow, and how its such a shame all the resorts are now closed and no one can use the chairlifts.
A bright idea occurs to me. I DON’T NEED CHAIRLIFTS!
A plan hatches, I am nervous – can I really head out on my own for some backcountry fun? I am reminded of my almost failed attempts at leading a trip a few weeks prior, and waver.

I am laying in bed, sleeping in like the unemployed bum I am, while Kirren works. I look at another picture of the beautiful blanket of fresh snow that fell again that night.
“Fuck it” I say, throwing the doona off me, and putting on some fresh socks.

I pack a beannie, a backpack, some warm sleeping stuff and a torch. I buy a maccas coffee and start driving into the green hills and blue sky towards the snow.

I arrive mid-morning at Rhythm Snow Sports. I wasn’t even sure if they would be open now that the snow season is officially over.
They were, and the worker cracks an envious smile as he helps me kit myself out in some telemark skis. Then he delivers the best birthday news to date: Charlotte Pass road is open, and they’ve been clearing the snow. I can literally drive all the way to Charlotte pass, skipping 8-10kms or boring, aweful skiing.

I drive up into the mountains, along the cutout road. I park amongst a handful of other lucky non-working skibums who have driven in their adventure-mobiles to have unlimited access to the backcountry and its fields of fresh powder.

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In true Mowgli-style, and the loosest definition of trip planning, I have forgotten several key ingredients. Like ski clothes. And gloves. And sunscreen. And real food.

I don my singlet, cargo pants, beannie and sunglasses. I get the litre of iced coffee out of the back and hide it under a pile of snow. I find an old squished musili bar under the seat of the car, and shove it in my pocket.
Then I ski off into the blinding white sunshine, heading towards Seaman’s hut.
I make fast progress, skiing solidly along the flat until I get near Seaman’s hut some 8kms from the car. I decide that the looming clouds on the other side of the Mainrange aren’t actually getting any closer, so its probably ok for me to do some off trail exploring. I ski wobbly telemark turns down to the Snowy River, zigzagging my way back up the hill before turning around again and practising in the fresh snow.
I slowly make my way back this way – up the hill, then back down, each time getting a little closer back to the car.

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Just on sunset, I arrive back at the carpark. I open the boot, lay the matress down, relax in the fading light and drink my now icy cold iced coffee. I save the musili bar for tomorrow.
After a solid sleep snuggled in the back of the car, I get up for some breakfast of iced coffee and fresh snow.

The overnight temperatures, combined with the melting sun the day before, have frozen the crust of the snow into an icy mess.
Ice doesn’t mesh well with telemark skis.
So I decide to spend the morning practising on the sheltered soft snowy slopes of the closed Charlotte Pass resort. I meet an old crusty skiier, heading out from his old crusty van.
We get chatting. I try angling for some telemark skiing advice. He pointedly ignores me. Then we find out we both were born and grew up in the same tiny village of Bulga. He knows my grandfather. I try angling for some skiing advice again, thinking now we have a connection it might help. Clearly, he wants to be a cranky old man alone out in the snow. I don’t blame him. We go our separate ways.

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Around midday, once the sun has slushed up the snow well enough, I crack open my musili bar, and then start making my way out to Mt Stillwell.
I follow the tracks of some snowshoers, and meet them on top of Mt Stillwell. We have a clear view of the entire main range, and of Mt Kosi. They are impressed by me skiing, especially me skiing alone. I feel badass.

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After they leave, I try skiing down Mt Stillwell. I pointedly waited until they left, lest they find out I am actually not badass and can’t telemark for shit.
The afternoon is then spent getting very sunburnt, and mastering my telemark turns. Up and down, up and down I go on the back of Mt Stillwell. There isn’t a soul in sight, and I enjoy the pressure free environment to practice over and over again.

 

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The clouds start rolling in as the weather change hits, and I pack up and start heading back to the car.

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Emboldened by my afternoon of practice, I try my hand at skiing down the untouched steeper slopes at the resort. I smoothly curve my way down the slope, and secretly hope that the caretaker down at the resort was watching and thinks I am as badass as I feel in that moment.

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Having survived a whole 2 days in the backcountry alone, without sunscreen and minimal food, I reward myself with a giant meal from Maccas on the way home.

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Another Australian Alpine Epic

Adventure Stories

A few months back in Autumn, I mountain biked a track called the Australian Alpine Epic. It was filled with hard work, difficulty, madness and fun, but it fell a little short of the true meaning of an adventure Epic.

 

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Australian Alpine Epic – MTB edition

This weekend, I underwent something a little closer to an Australian Alpine Epic, complete with snot, tears and blood.
To set the scene, back-country skiing is something I’ve only had limited experience in. This year I’ve had a little more practice with it, and was feeling confident enough to take my dad, my teenage cousin, and a family friend’s teenage son for a few days of back-country skiing.

 

For me, being a leader of a group on an outdoor adventure is something I’ve rarely done. I am usually going out with a bunch of much more experienced people, and unfortunately, the way that usually goes is they lead, or if I try and lead, I know there is always someone else more experienced to fall back on if shit hits the fan. This trip though, I made some important discoveries about leading – some I suspected, some I knew already, and some that surprised me.

 

I had been planning this trip for a little while – I was going to take my dad, my 15 year old cousin Ethan, and a family friend’s 16 year old son, Nathaniel. We were going to ski out to White’s River Hut in the Snowy Mountains, and spend a few days exploring on skis out there.
Global warming had other ideas, and I watched as the snow started to melt and get washed away by heavy rain with horror.

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Vanishing Snow

After consulting with Kirren, I decided to do an alternate trip – hike/ski up from Dead Horse Gap, over across to Thredbo and then on to Seaman’s Hut to stay for 2 nights before heading back the same way.
I’d never attempted this route before – usually I ski up from Perisher, along past Charlotte Pass and to the hut from that side. But fear of getting a ticket for leaving that car at Perisher, and glowing reviews on the internet, made me go with Kirren’s recommendation of Dead Horse Gap.

 

Friday afternoon found dad and me driving from Bulga, picking Ethan and Nathaniel up from school, and making our long drive down to the Snow.
We arrived very late at night to the Diggers campground just outside of Thredbo village, and set up camp in the miserable, freezing rain.
Saturday morning rolled around, and the relentless rain paid no attention to the partly cloudy day that was forecast for Saturday. We packed up in the rain, packed our packs in the rain, and were cold and soaking even before we started our hike.
We left Kirren warm and dry in the back of his car, and made our way to Dead Horse Gap. The plan was to meet him at the top of the Thredbo chair lift, and head out all together to Seaman’s Hut.
We began trudging up a spur in the rain, our shivering slowly subsiding as we got warmer from the exercise. The mud turned to wet snow, and we started trudging through that, until it got too deep and cold. We put on our skis, and started to slip and slide our way steadily up the mountain.
I was trying to navigate our way through the thick trees using a GPS borrowed from Kirren. I soon found that although the waypoints marked in the GPS were correct, the GPS didn’t have an internal compass, and I started to suspect the way it was pointing North was not actually North. I eventually dug my compass out of my pack, and found that the GPS was pointing in almost the opposite direction to the compass. I put the GPS away and started using the compass, knowing that the chairlift was generally NE from the spur we were taking up.
We were making very slow progress. Our packs were heavy, we were very wet, and neither of the two boys had ever skied before, so they kept falling over and having to get help getting back up because of the heavy packs. The hours were ticking by, and I started to worry about getting to our destination on time, and meeting Kirren before he started to worry about us.

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Nathaniel had started to lag behind, and was having a bit of trouble keeping upright. So I told Dad to stay with him and help him out, while Ethan and I powered up the hill to try and find the way. We left them behind fairly quickly, as we moved determinedly up the hill.
Eventually we made it to a pass, where we came across a track marked with poles. The track went either West or South East. Neither of these directions were the ones I was supposed to take, so I decided to wait with Ethan for Dad and Nathaniel to catch up.
The wind picked up, the rain turned to sleet, then on to snow. We were beginning to get cold. I found a boulder with a wide split in it, and Ethan and I hid inside it out of the wind.
We waited.
And Waited.
And waited.
I began to get really worried. Where were Dad and Nathaniel?
In order to keep warm, Ethan decided to follow the tracks for a little way in either direction, to see if they eventually swung around to the North East. I watched anxiously as he disappeared into the clouds and snow, trying to keep an eye on his dark shape through the flurries, lest I lose him too.
He came back, without much luck, and only slightly warmed up.
By this stage, I was beginning to recognise some of the early signs of hypothermia in myself, and started to get anxious.
Did Ethan and I pick a direction, leave an arrow or marker for the other two, and continue on to keep warm and moving, risking leaving the others behind/lost/hurt?
Or did we go searching for them, heading back the way we came, and risk missing them and getting lost in the trees?
Or did we simply stay put, wait for them and get even more hypothermic?
With desperate fumbling numb fingers, Ethan found a bar of reception on his phone. I called Kirren, on the verge of tears. I felt like a failure, and admitted I didn’t know what to do.
He asked me where I was, and I had to admit I didn’t know that either.
He then reminded me that although the GPS might not be working for directions, it would still have our coordinates on it. I fumbled with the GPS until I found the coordinates and repeated them back to Kirren, feeling stupider and stupider.
Ethan had gone really quiet and still, and was sitting hunched in the crack. His lips were blue. Tears leaked out of my eyes, and I whispered in to the phone “Can you come and find us? I don’t know what to do.”
At the time, I felt like pathetic. I felt that this should have been easy – that I should have been able to know the way, that I should have been able to know what to do, that I should never has separated from Dad and Nathaniel in the first place, and that it was all my own stupid fault.

Kirren came to the rescue though.
It turned out that neither of the two directions the path went were the right one, and that I wouldn’t really have been able to navigate the way properly because the pre-loaded way points in the GPS lead through areas now not covered in snow with exposed rocks.
As for Nathaniel and Dad – they were plodding along slowly. They had been following our fresh tracks up the hill, but were slow because Dad was towing Nathaniel’s pack behind him to help Nathaniel get up the hill.
I learnt a very valuable lesson about leading trips: you don’t need to be the only leader in a group. Dad was perfectly capable of leading Nathaniel through the tough terrain, helping him out and logically following our fresh tracks in the snow, in a general North East direction. And asking for help meant we were able to go in the right direction and not get lost.

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We made our way through the horrendous weather, finally all together as a group, to the cafe at the top station at Thredbo.
It was late – much much later than I had hoped. We sat quietly in the cafe, eating a late lunch, and warming ourselves up.
Our plan had been to make it the Seaman’s Hut. But with the group being incredibly slow moving, and being already incredibly exhausted and wet, we had to make a decision then and there about what to do next. Did we continue on? Did we turn back? Did we push for the hut? Did we continue on and set up a camp in a sheltered area along the way?
In the end we decided to attempt to push on, and see how we were moving in an hour. That would give us enough time to either find a camp before dark, or head back if we needed.
The rain had finally relented, but the wind had picked up outside. I hadn’t quite warmed up after my dose of hypothermia, and was feeling cold to the bones as we headed out into it.

The movement was only slightly warming, but the wind cut through my jacket and kept me cold. I wanted to power up the hill to keep warm, but noticed Nathaniel was lagging behind again. I kept back with him, trying to keep him motivated.
We skied on for a long while up a hill, following snow shoe and snow-mobile tracks. The visibility was poor, and clouds swirled around us in the wind.
I tried to keep Nathaniel motivated, tried to keep him moving up the hill. He couldn’t match the pace of everyone, so I stayed with him at the back at his pace, while Kirren tried to stay in between us and the other two as a visual connection. Eventually, the light faded, and we decided it was best to stay together as a group.
With the poor visibility and the fading light, we somehow missed a ridge or a gap, and found ourselves on the wrong side of a mountain. Instead of turning around, however, Kirren recognized vaguely where we were, and started navigating us through the dark around to the Hut from the other side. We traversed along the side of the ridge for a long time through the darkness. The groups energy started to fade, and motivation was dropping fast. We passed through a fairly protected valley, and the idea of setting up camp then and there was toyed with. I decided that we should keep pushing on, because we were all soaking wet, and we were most of the way there, and shelter, with a fire, would be the best way to get warm again. Most people weren’t feeling too cold at this point, and liked the idea of setting up camp now. I insisted we push on.
And so push on we did.
And on.
And on.
We paused for a moment, sitting in a narrow valley. I noticed some weird patterns in the snow under the weak moonlight. On close examination, I realized it was avalanche debris. I cut the rest break short, and forced everyone to continue on, quickly moving away from the steep and narrow valley.
It was not long after this, that Nathaniel, exhausted, sat down again. He took of his skis for a break, and not watching properly, let go of them. They slid off down the hill into the darkness. Kirren rushed on down the hill to try and find them. He found one, and stuck it up like a pole in the snow. We decided to leave it, and come back in the morning to search for the other.
We were nearly at the hut, and around the next bend we could see it on the ridge in the distance. Exhaustion and hunger and cold crept up on me, and now that I could see our goal, all my strength evaporated.
I had already told Kirren I was feeling a little hypothermic, so when he saw me stumble a few times and have difficulty getting up, he came up behind me and prodded me onward. I began to fret about everyone behind us, and wanted to wait, forgetting my dad was at the back making sure the boys were ok. Kirren prodded me up the final hill, and got me indoors. Ethan was right on our tails.
Eventually we all made it inside the hut, out of the wind, and very, very thankful we had made it.

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Pretty happy to be inside the hut

I started bossing everyone around, ordering them all out of their wet clothes, into dry ones, and to hang their wet ones up by the fire. I made sure the fire was started by dad, and that lollies and chocolate were being eaten, along with water. I had quite forgotten that I was the hypothermic one, and that I was still in my wet clothes, and not eating, when Kirren sat me down and made me eat some rice crackers.

It was 9.30pm by the time we were all settled around the fire, and thinking about dinner.
We decided to sleep in the hut, all camped by the fire and cozy.

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Seamans Hut

The next morning, Kirren, Dad and I left the boys in charge of tidying up the hut while we went out into the beautiful sunny day in search of the missing ski. By the light of day, and in the sunshine, the horrible world outside transformed from its nightmare the previous night into a glorious white playground. We found the ski with ease – it had slipped down to the valley floor and landed near a patch of grass. The other one was still standing up as a marker.
Taking advantage of the sunshine, and the moderate winds, Kirren decided to practice some kite skiing on his 11m kite.

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The rest of the day was passed by as a mix of playing in the snow, practicing our telemarks on the hill behind the hut, and eating lots of food.
Kirren bid us goodbye that afternoon, and began his journey back to Thredbo, and eventually on back to Canberra and work the next day.
We spent a second night in the hut, which we shared with two split-boarders, who were happy to have company and some of our excess biscuits.
The next morning broke bright and sunny, and extremely icy. We packed up our bags, said goodbye to the hut, and began the icy ski back to Thredbo.

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So icy

 

As the day wore on, the sun slushed up the iciness and the snow became quite enjoyable. With lighter packs, the boys were making great progress on their skiing. We were making excellent time, and decided to stop for a play on some slopes near the Kosciusko look out.

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After a long play, we had lunch, and then made our way to the chair lift.
Some friendly skiiers the day before had mentioned that you could get on the chairlift down to the bottom of thredbo without needing a ski pass.
So, instead of navigating back down to Dead Horse Gap, and its patchy snow, steep hills and trees, we decided to try and snake a lift down the chairlift.
According to logic, anyone about to get on a chairlift back DOWN to the Thredbo would have had to have bought a ticket. So, no one asked for a ticket as we lined up to catch the lift back down, and rather than realizing how crazy we truly were, we all felt rather chuffed. Because, who is insane enough to head out on a wild woolly weekend, ski UP to the top of a mountain, and then catch the chairlift back DOWN?

Other than don’t be crazy – fork out the $40 for a chairlift to get up past the patchy snow – what did I learn this trip?
I learnt that I can make decisions, that I can be a leader, and that being a leader doesn’t mean being the only leader.

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Album of all the photos:

 

 

Bumbling round the Warrumbungles

Uncategorized

Procrastisaurus wrote a pretty neat post about a fabulous adventure
We shared a couple of years back 🙂

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It all started on a dark and stormy night.

The rain was closer to horizontal than vertical when Bekket and I locked the front door of our sharehouse behind us.

We exchanged cheeky grins.  After a quick thumbs up, we sprinted down the street to the spot where Bekket’s car was parked.

The back of the car was totally full.  It was full in a way that can only be achieved by someone who spent their childhood playing Tetris, and their adulthood squeezing far too many outdoor activities into their weekends.

We were on our way to Coonabarabran to visit Doctor Mowgli.  Mowgli was our housemate, fellow adventurer and partner in mischief.  She was part way through her placement at the local General Practice and she was keen to go climbing in the nearby Warrumbungle National Park.

 Plans are hatched

Climbing in the Bungles is a daunting proposition. …

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3 Days, 3 Flat tyres and 3 storms

Adventure Stories

It’s nearly week 3 of PrincessLua and my SE Asia whirlwind tour, and we’ve been having a wonderful and adequately chaotic time. There have been many a mishaps, serendipitous adventures and general terribly planned Mowgli-ness. There have also been plenty of lazy days hiding out under fans, reading books and doing absolutely nothing too.

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Hanging out on balconies.

Like today, where I’ve taken a day off being the responsible adult and carer for my 16year old sister and have decided to spend the day inside our guesthouse room being totally antisocial, eating mango chips and writing.

But no one wants to hear about that (or about the hour of washing I just completed using soap and a spare toothbrush for scrubbing accumulated monsoonal season sweat stains from my clothing).

So let’s hear about our time so far in Siem Reap.

After catching a long bus from the smelly capital Phnom Penh, we arrived at the much smaller, much nicer Siem Reap, and to a cheap but awesome guesthouse tucked away in some quiet backstreet. After waking up early the next morning, nomming on some awesome banana pancakes and iced coffee, we hired out the guesthouse bikes and explored the streets of Siem Reap, enjoying our newfound sport of AsianTrafficDodging™. But before we could get 10m down the road, the ancient rusty  skeletons of Hipster Bikes Past coughed and spluttered and Lua’s tyre went flat.

That was flat tyre number 1. The rest of the day we pedalled along the river, out of town and to the shady jungle road that leads out to Angkor Wat. We visited museums, had our souls and energy sapped from us in the way all museums do – even if there is airconditioning – then pedalled home through a storm.

Day 2: we woke early, breakfasted early and left early, only to find out the ticket office for Angkor Archaeological Park had moved 4kms away from its original place, and so after a long hot and sweaty detour – we arrived late.

The riding itself is brilliant. Flat roads, the wind of cars and tuk tuks passing  2cm away cooling you down, and the pressure of having to pedal your heart out taken away by the simple fact youre on an ancient rusty Fixie.

 

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So eeezzzieeeeee

We chained our bikes up and entered the tourist mecca of Angkor Wat. I’ll write about our day in this awesome temple complex later, and skip straight to the cycle home.

A storm was rolling in and around us, teasing us with sprinkles. We decided it wasn’t going to get any better so we left the temple to ride home through the refreshing rain. At our bikes we immediately saw a problem. Lua’s front tyre was completely flat, sagging all over the place like old lady boobies.

I started walking around, looking for other cyclists who might have a pump or anything useful.

A tuk tuk driver approached us, asking if we needed a tuk tuk.

“No, but we need a bike pump.”

He grinned, licked his lips. “No bike pumps here. Have to go back to siem reap. Tuk tuk?”

I replied that there MUST be a bike pump somewhere here, with all these hundreds of stalls and vendors with their bicycles.

He insisted there wasn’t and argued we would have to take a tuk tuk instead.

I moved on, with a worried Lua tailing me, quietly wondering whether we should take the tuk tuk.

I found a banana stand lady. No English beyond “banana?”. I pointed to luas flat tyre. She pointed up the road.

We smiled, waved and left. Banana stand ladies were to become my favourite Cambodians.

Sure enough, down the road, was a tiny little shed with bike tyres pinned to the trees, plastic chairs, Coca-Cola umbrellas and chickens.

We arrived just as the rain started pelting down, and stood all together with 2 young guys, our bikes, us and a few scraggly chickens under the faded Coca-Cola umbrella.  The young guys started disassembling the tyre, and replacing the torn-beyond- repair inner tube.

The rain had not subsided when we paid $3 for the tube, and the boys laughed and wished us luck as we rode out from the safety of the umbrella and it’s plastic chairs.

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Within 2.5seconds we were soaked through. It was difficult to see where we were going, so with hands shielding our eyes we wobbled down the drowning road. Tuk tuks, with their shielded up windows, drove past at alarming speeds. The tourist occupants inside glanced out the windows on the back, staring at us with pitying eyes as we slopped down the road.

A lone motorbike came up beside us. On it, a mother, a child, a toddler and a grandma – all in soaking clothes – were laughing as they, too, shielded their eyes to try and see. They all waved enthusiastically at us, laughing with their faces turned to the sky, sharing in our refreshing misery. Even the grandma got in on the waving action. We laughed and waved back, sharing for a few moments the universal hilarity that is finding yourself absolutely drenched in a warm summer storm.

We slopped on home, through streets that were now rivers, and up our muddy little road.

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Aftermath

Day 3 found us heading out again, tempting fate, on our rusty hipster bikes. We thought, surely after replacing the tubes and having 2 days of bad luck, we would be spared a third day of trial.

Nooooooppeeee.

We hadnt even ridden 1km past Angkor Wat , when Lua’s back tyre started deflating. I could have quickly stopped at the same tyre place as the day before, as we had just passed it, but being me – I said it’ll last the trip.

It didn’t.

At Bayon Temple, I went looking for a banana lady. I found one. I pointed at Lua’s tyre. She pointed back down the road we had just come along.

It seemed we would have to go all the way back to the same place.

Trudging, sweaty and thirsty, and extremely hot and annoyed, we wheeled the bikes in the direction we had just come. But not 5mins later, we stumbled on another chicken overrun, bike repair shed. Thank-you banana ladies of Cambodia!

After a small hole was fixed in Lua’s tube, I warned her that if she were to pop another tyre again this trip I would leave her to walk home.

Surprisingly (Praise be to Buddha and all of the Hindu Gods of the temples) the rest of the day went without anymore tyre incidents, and only a mild storm related incident.

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Our clothes are now drying, and I’m doing research to find out if there are any tyre repair places out near the temples we are visiting tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Alpine Epic

Adventure Stories

Purpose-built single track.

Over 2,000m cumulative descent.

40km.

Epic.

 

These words stood out on the glossy pamphlet of the Mt Buller mountain biking trails map, as Kirren drove us back down the steep and winding road from Mt Buller over a year ago. We had just finished a day of mountain biking around the Mt Buller trails – my first real day of mountain biking – and I’d grabbed the pamphlet while returning my hired bike to the shop.

I grinned into the blinding sunset over the Victorian snowy mountains and made kirren promise we would come back here one day.

Fast forward a year and a bit later, past all the tantrums and struggles of actually learning how to mountain bike, and Kirren and I are making our way down to Mt Buller again. This time to tackle the Australian Alpine Epic.

I had just returned from 6 glorious weeks of hiking through New Zealand, and was fit as a fiddle – ready to tackle the 40kms and 1000+m of elevation gain.

Kirren, on the other hand, was still recovering from a rather terrible bout of pneumonia.

Like the wonderful girlfriend I am, I made him go anyway.

As a present, kirren and his wallet* hire me out a shiny dual suspension bike that fits me like a glove, instead of the crappy hard tail $200 too big bike I’ve been wrestling around the smooth ACT trails.

After a delay in the getting out of bed, and a kerfuffle with petrol, we are off on the trail for a bright and early start at the crack of mid-morning.

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Things are going well. Life is good. Julie (my new name for the dual suspension wonder beast below me) is good. Sun is good. Tralallalaa.

Kirrens lungs are even behaving reasonably, and it doesn’t cause excruciating amounts of pain for him to breath in.

Then, about, oh, 5kms in to the 40km ordeal, my medically trained eyes zero in on the greatest hernia I’ve seen in 6 months.

Except its on the side of a bike tyre.

And that bike tyre is kirrens.

We stop.

We sit.

We hummmm and ermmmm and uhhmmm for a few precious time wasting minutes.

The inner tube is intact, but it won’t stay that way long. Should we go back?

Just like with Kirrens pneumonia, I refuse to let smell medical speedhumps ruin my dream.

We end up risking it, and with the help of my 8 weeks of standing bored around the operating theatre at Armidale Hospital watching hernia repair after hernia repair, I get to work.

I scrub in, put my surgical gloves, mask and gown on, and begin the delicate operation I have seen a thousand times.

Except I use medical tape, a $5 note and some super glue instead of sutures and hernia mesh.

And my patient didn’t get time to recover, because we are off pedaling hard to try and make up for lost time.

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If you’ve ever done the Epic you’ll know you get to this certain point in the ride, where you’re not even 1/4 of the way through and its already taking way longer than you thought and your lungs are about to explode and you actually just want to die and nothing can be worth this absolutely shitty grovel.

Kirren and I were literally ready to give up. His lungs were aching and he was coughing and spluttering and looked rather ill (good work dr Mowgli) and I just hate uphill mountain biking. Then, suddenly, we were at the top.

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Suddenly (finally) at the top and loving it

It’s amazing how quickly you forget the sufferfest when you start going downhill. Then there was just a little more uphill to go, but by that stage I’d forgotten all about how much I hate uphill because the best part of the Epic was coming up.

10+km of sweet single track whipped me down the mountain and I was flying.

I flew past alpine bush, past subalpine ferns, past rocky bits in between. I Flew past burms and over jumps and down drops and along logs and just kept flying.

My knees were weak, my quads screamed, but I kept flying.

Then all too soon (not soon enough! My thighs yelled) we were at the bottom, and racing the clock up the river to the last shuttle bus of the day.

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As we retraced our footsteps from a year before, I grinned into the blinding sunset over the Victorian snowy mountains. I made kirren promise to take me back (and his wallet to buy me a dual suspension bike).