Zero to sixty

13 04 2010
April 3

I wonder if I would have been miserable in Ubud before the book Eat Pray Love was published, or if my unpleasant experience there was the direct result of that wretched angst-ridden-yet-humorless memoir. The place was overrun with Elizabeth Gilbert wannabes looking for love or a suitable substitute… whether it be a 25-year-old Balinese boyfriend, or an older gentleman ripe for romance, or some sort of peace with their involuntary chastity that can only be found by flying to the other side of the world to prove to themselves how wonderfully “fulfilling” it is that they are able (after finding someone to take care of their 6 cats) to fly to the other side of the world to meditate on why sex is not so important after all.

The giggling middle-aged women in halterdresses buying drinks for bored young island boys might have been an amusing reversal of Thailand’s sex tourism, if it weren’t for the fact that they gave me an uncomfortable glimpse into my swiftly-closing-in future, in which not only will 25-year-olds no longer think of me as a sexy older woman, but the older gentlemen ripe for romance will also no longer think of me as a sexy younger woman. Fully aware of the fact that Demi Moore’s budget for aesthetic upkeep is significantly higher than mine, I started having uncharacteristic thoughts about getting on the ball and finding a suitable life partner before my perfectly aged sirloins become vacuum-packed strips of beef jerky waiting indefinitely to be rescued from the bottom shelf of a 7-11 register.

Upon leaving Ubud, I almost immediately felt myself returning to my laissez-faire attitude toward my love life. However, this suddenly felt a bit too in line with the, “who needs love when I have all of this other cool stuff in my life, like cats and books and yoga and freedom and cats and continuing education classes and international travel and cats and blah blah blah” approach. I recognize this. Which brings us back to the fact that maybe I should get on the ball.

But in the meantime, I stopped at a massage place while waiting in the airport today, and got a neck and shoulder rub from a young Balinese masseur. When he finished, he looked over his shoulder to make sure we were alone and then whispered – blushing, but with a sense of urgency that precludes describing this as a shy request – “kiss me.” I laughed and declined, but when he asked again and pointed at his cheek I thought, “this might be the last time in my life a cute 19-year-old wants me to give him a kiss. If I have a son or a nephew one day, when he is 19 even he will not want me to give him a kiss. Just give the kid a kiss, already.”

So I leaned in. He turned his head quickly in a classic attempt to redirect my aim toward his lips, but I put my hand on his chin and held it there long enough to give him a peck on the cheek. I don’t know if the fact that I did it makes me more like the 50-year-old women in halterdresses, or if the fact that he asked me to makes me less like them… but either way, I walked out smiling.

April 11

“There’s nothing we can do if something happens to her, so we might as well not worry.”
-my dad, ‘comforting’ my worried mother

Couchsurfing – in which brave travelers get in touch with brave hosts over the internet, and agree to share space for a few nights – is my new mode of finding places to sleep. The idea once made me nervous, but traveling for the past few months has desensitized me to a lot of things… and now crashing in strangers’ homes no longer seems like a big deal. It was also brought on by my sticker shock at Australian hostel prices, which start at $25/night for a bed in a dorm room. And so this is how I found myself on a farm an hour outside of Perth, sleeping in a room full of bunk beds, socializing with a very mixed crowd of travelers on Easter Sunday and then working out in the field one afternoon before leaving. It was there that I met a Danish metal band, who I then roadtripped with to Margaret River. It was through that band that I met a Margaret River family at whose homes I have stayed for several nights. Soon, I will stay at the father’s home on Rottnest Island. It’s quite a snowball effect, from one simple online request.


April 13

Conversation with a man from California, at a restaurant in Margaret River:

“When are you heading back to Perth?”

“I was going on Thursday, but I found someone who will take me on Wednesday.”

“How did you manage that?”

“I’m good at meeting people.”

“Me too, but people I meet don’t offer to take me on roadtrips.”

“Being a woman helps.”


Australia has resulted in a bit of a culture shock after 3 months in Asia, as I imagine going straight to the U.S. would have also been… there are no chickens running through restaurants as I eat, traffic is orderly, sign language is not necessary, and toilet paper is readily available, but I have to pay for ketchup with my fries… er… chips.  Opposite from what I would have predicted, I am finding this a harder place to travel.

Things about Australia:

– It’s strange to be the one with the accent, and to encounter words and phrases in my own language that I don’t understand. I just now had to have someone explain a coffee menu to me: “short black,” “long black,” “flat white.” Huh?

– American football is for wussies.

– American parents are so uncool… but I probably have fewer scars, more brain cells, and a healthier liver because of that.

– Kangaroos are a lot like deer: they wander through fields early in the morning and late at night, they run at the sight of people, they’re cute, and they taste good.

– Like most places in the U.S., it is very difficult to get around this country without a car.


I have been occasionally driving the “tour bus” belonging to the metal band while down here in Margaret River… it is a relic of the ’80s with a manual transmission, which (as discussed in my last entry) is a bit of a problem for me:

“It’s just like the gears on a bike…”

“But I don’t know how the gears on a bike work.”

Add to this the fact that I’m driving on the other side of the road, in the other side of the vehicle, on hilly roads, and shifting gears with my left hand. Surprisingly, I have not yet dropped the transmission or hit anything, but let’s just say that it’s a good thing I was by myself when parking it yesterday. And I was also not very considerate toward pedestrians, as yielding to them would have required changing gears.

I used my day alone with the van to visit two caverns, for which this part of the country is famous. And then I headed to Redgate Beach for sunset – a spot I had picked off of the map without knowing that it would be one of the most gorgeous places I’ve seen in my life. There are several huge rocks just a little way offshore, and when waves crashed against them they sounded like muffled cannons, with water spraying high above the rocks. It made me wish I had my iPod with me, so I could put on the 1812 Overture.

As I climbed back into the van I wondered, “this is my life?”

I have wondered that a lot since January. My life while traveling changes every few days… sometimes drastically. Time moves slower because of this; it seems like ages ago that I landed in Mumbai. It’s amazing what I have packed into just 3 months, and the idea of having more than twice that amount of time left to go boggles my mind.

What next? Where to?



7 responses

13 04 2010
Diane Milliner

Excuse me, but I think the cat is in MY life……………..

14 04 2010

I was saying that I’m not a catlady yet, but I could be on my way… 😉

14 04 2010

LOL… glad you are enjoying the culture shock of being down under 😀 Perhaps you will find the perfect Aussie bloke to help belay your angst… good ones are rare but they do exist. BTW we generally call them paddocks, not fields. A field seems to carry British connotations of being green, meadowlike & small enough to see all the boundaries… that would be false advertising, if you know what I mean 🙂

15 04 2010

“There’s nothing we can do if something happens to her, so we might as well not worry.”
-my dad, ‘comforting’ my worried mother

Clearly none of you have seen the movie “Taken”. Don’t worry, I got you covered.

“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my (sister) go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

Now I must only find a link between skills involving numbers and dry sarcasm with physically killing people. In the meantime I can bore them senseless and potentially lower their self esteem briefly enough to punch them in the throat and grab you and run off.

Or.. I can do their tax returns for a few years, gain their trust, then jack their shoes and make our escape.

16 04 2010

I want to give you a rib-crushing hug right now… I love having you for a brother. 🙂

16 04 2010
Diane Milliner

Once again, the two of you have started my day off with a laugh! I’m a lucky mom! Love you both!

19 04 2010

hehehe. i hear Margaret River and Redgate Beach are must visit places, that sounds awesome.
i shudder at your driving. particularly after the last post about cycling, and also manual transmission.
watch out for the kangaroos on the roads (sunrise and dusk) – they do NOT run away from the car, they run INTO the car like flipping idiots and destroy it (hopefully you not included) like oversized deer.
Sydney and Melbourne are easier to get around without a car than Gold Coast/Brisbane.

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