Category Archives: Being Dutchanese

Defending My Asian

“Bustling streets”, “all the confronting smells”, “chicken bus”, “roadside food stalls”, “sticky heat”, “loud noises”, “shouting at each other”, “fiery”… these are all words you will often find in guidebooks, in blogs, when people talk about Asia. When you read guidebooks on Europe (particularly northern Europe), though, suddenly it’s “polite”, “kind”, “subdued”, “respectful”, “quaint”, “dramatic landscape”… because god forbid anything else is dramatic, except maybe in Spain or Italy.

In my ageing years, I have found my experience of both to be rather the opposite. Not in all aspects, of course, no. But I find Oxford St in London a “bustling street” with “all its confronting smells” of being the most polluted street in Europe (I’m pretty sure that’s changed now but bear with me it’s been a while for me). I find the hooligans “shouting at each other” in both city streets and pubs rather terrifying. And I find the way girls dress for the clubs rather “fiery” and not in a good way.

In my Asia, people tend to be “polite”. No, not all men are “respectful”, but women mostly are. Even if they talk shit about your big boobs, they’re probably just jealous so… take that Thai grandma. And you know the “landscape” is pretty freaking “dramatic” out here in the East.

My point is, your humanity has everything to do with how you experience the world. Your skin colour has everything to do with that, too. Your skin colour determines the kind of service you’re going to get, the level of smile, the customer service…

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Privilege

To many Westerners, it’s still a bit of a joke how much white worship goes on in Asia. And yes, to an extent, it does. Particularly in more rural areas, girls fawn over white men no matter how ugly they might be *shiver*, restaurants are more likely to seat you, or you get served faster at the tea shop (personal experience. doesn’t happen anymore but sure used to). To the trained eye, however, you will see how it has also declined massively in the last ten years. It has been a real eye-opener to how attitudes have changed. Foreigners that can speak Chinese are now gladly accepted with some relief rather than awe, because that means not having to practice English this time round. Not all Westerners come with wads of cash, that much is also clear. People aren’t spending as freely as they were anymore, and that, my friends, is a trend that cuts across ALL cultures. Some Asians have even had the gall to be annoyed that foreigners don’t speak their language! (in Taiwan this foreigner was complaining that staff didn’t speak English in the store when he’d been living in Taiwan for over 10 years without speaking any proper Mandarin) I mean, how dare they. You mean, for one to visit another country, we need to make an effort to learn and speak the local language? (Can I just say here, just to piss off my British friends, the French had it right all along?)

To me, it’s a bit of a running joke to travel because I wonder what nationality I will be called next. My brown skin, my black hair, my mixed features means I get to blend in a lot. A LOT. In Bali I’m Balinese, in Thailand i’m Thai, in Malaysia I definitely blend in with my Chinese language. In Spain people just treated me like a Spanish girl who has a bit of an accent. In America I’m well, just normal because everyone in America is going to be beige like me in 2050 (cheers R Peters).  And when I laugh and demurely admit I am not from their country they laugh a little, disappointed, and go, “really? Are you sure?” as if I am playing them for a fool. I will guarantee I am Taiwanese by speaking a little bit of Mandarin and our transaction continues (sometimes in Mandarin), smiles all round and giggles too. I can’t WAIT to hit South America because I for sure will be spoken to in rapid Spanish with their funny accents 😛

But I’m going to switch it around for a second… in Europe… guess what? I got spoken to slowly. (white) People look at me and I can feel their insides tightening. I look a little bit too foreign, and not the foreign they’re used to. People of Pakistani or Turkish decent, they can deal with, but I don’t quite look like them. Maybe I’m Chinese? Hmm. Too dark. What if she’s Spanish and she’s going to talk to us with that strange accent we can’t understand? And then I open my mouth, some American drawls out. Tension lost. Some maybe even pass wind. Who is the jackass here? Me, for looking like my mixed up self or them, for assuming the worst and not giving me a chance? Let me ask you: how often do you give people a chance before they open their mouths? How often to do you throw caution to the wind and just speak to people like you would your friends before adjusting your language, tone, and vocabulary to better suit the person you are speaking to?

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SE Asia vs East Asia

The reason I write this post is because my super close friends are currently on an adventure of a lifetime. An insane amount of countries are being covered in the space of 4-5 months, and along the way, they were bound to experience discomfort and have to confront their reality of who they are vs what they see vs the setting they are in. They’re very well-seasoned travellers so I know that they will make the right decisions and go with their gut when necessary. A while ago, they had a rather troublesome experience with a chicken bus from Laos to Hanoi (eurgh I’ve never wanted to do that and now for sure never will). The things that they described can best be considered terrible. I wouldn’t necessarily wish that on my worst enemy (actually… I know a few people that probably deserve it but who am I to punish them. Karma will do the job for me). And by the sounds of it… it’s like… well, positively backward.

No one believes me until they’ve been, but Taiwan is like, developed? We have high speed trains and smart buses and a more sophisticated banking system than you realize and everything is super freaking convenient. I’ve never had to go to the post office to pick up a package because I just get stuff sent to my local 7-11. I don’t know how to pay my phone bill other than at 7-11. We have nice cars and wide driving lanes and food from all around the world (the pasta game really needs to be upped but who cares when you have hot pot shops on every corner).

Even to my severe disappointment, an ex of mine was really shocked at how developed Taiwan was when he came to visit. He thought we were a country of tuc-tucs when we have yellow cabs. That actually, in hindsight, has become a real sore point for me because that opens a whole can of worms as to how he viewed me but let’s not go there.

Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and even to a certain extent, China, is much like this. I grew up not knowing a lot about poverty. My grandparents lived in a house with no running water and an outhouse, but that’s as close to poverty as I got (OK so pretty close but even that got knocked down pretty quickly in my lifetime). And like any fellow countryman/woman, I am fiercely proud of Taiwan. You could say I’m more Taiwanese than I am Dutch in a lot of ways, because I grew up there. A lot of who I am is because of Taiwan and the values she instilled in me. It’s no surprise I get defensive of Asians. 1. Because we mostly get lumped in together, and 2. because as a Taiwanese person, I help support people who don’t really get a chance to speak themselves and I don’t know any SE Asian youtubers so here I am. 3. A lot of my white friends don’t have a lot of foreign friends so I am like the foreign spokesperson standing up for other cultures against their white privilege. 4. Surely that’s my duty?

But… it’s not. I can’t take responsibility for an entire continent. Or even half. I can only speak from my experience which is bound to be different to theirs. I can only speak from my view of Thailand or Bali or Singapore because I am going to be treated differently to them, because of my skin colour, my ability to smile to break tension and my international accent.

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Seeing the Difference

Travel is something that a lot of people love to do. Most of my friends are avid travellers and my future partner has to love travel as much as I do. But why do you travel? My friends from above say it’s to expand their worldview and to see things that you otherwise wouldn’t see. White privilege check. Travel because you want to connect with people. Instead of pointing out differences, travel to find the commonalities. Deep down, we are all the same. We are all scrambling to make ends meet and do the best for our children or families. We all want a nice house in the country and have friends over for a BBQ in the summer. We all struggle with mosquitos. We are all addicted to our phones. So that tourist hawker that you complained fleeced you of an extra pound? They are going to feed their children with that money so shut your overprivileged mouth and let the kid have their ice cream treat today because mum was smart enough to manage to get an extra pound off you you stupid cow. Do your research.

And when you do travel, see how others treat locals versus how you treat them. If you had English lad pack after English lad pack coming through, disrespecting you and your culture you would hate English people too (even as an English person, as my friend pointed out).

See how locals treat you, versus how they treat each other. See how locals treat you, versus how they treat travelling families (or solo travellers, depending on who you’re travelling with). How they treat their locals, is that much different from how shop keepers or waiters would treat people back home? That’s where real humanity comes in.

Travelling isn’t about judging how people treat you in their second of third language, it’s about experiencing how other people treat each other. Take the experience outside of yourself, and try to look with a sense of appreciation and a healthy dash of reality. If England had the same amount of backpackers trawling through its backwaters it would feel pretty pissed, disengaged, and try to take advantage as much as you feel you are being taken advantage of in Vietnam or Thailand or Cambodia.

Fin

OK I have a business to run so I need to stop talking about privilege and actually get moving on with my To Do List (it’s heinously long today) and I have a PT session later at the gym followed by a client lunch so I need to majorly hustle. But before I sign off, let me just say: be mindful of your experience, and be mindful of how you interpret it. Always step outside of yourself to look at things without emotion attached. Emotions are fleeting, but experiences are forever. By taking a look outside of your own privilege-tinted glasses, you might be surprised to find that the world isn’t the big bad world it’s made out to be, especially in SE Asia. Next time, we will talk more about English Privilege.

Until then, I send much love to my travelling duo somewhere in Asia (I’ve lost track).

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Sydney to Jervis Bay: weekend roadtrip

SNAPSHOT:

Drive Down: Scarborough Hotel (brunch) –> Hyams Beach –> Chinamans Beach

Drive Up: Cambewarra Lookout –> Kangaroo Valley –> Fitzroy Falls –> Berry –> Kiama Blowhole

IF I COULD DO IT OVER:

Drive Down: Scarborough Hotel (brunch) –> Kiama Blowhole  –> Hyams Beach

Drive Up: Cambewarra Lookout –> Kangaroo Valley –> Fitzroy Falls –> Berry –> Sublime Point Lookout

MY IDEAL JERVIS BAY TRIP: 

Day 1: Scarborough Hotel (brunch) –> Kiama Blowhole  –> Hyams Beach

Day 2: Mollymook –>  Bendalong Point –> Washerwomans Beach, Conjurong Point –> Narrawallee

Day 3: Fitzroy Falls –> Kangaroo Valley –> Cambewarra Lookout –> Wineries

Day 4: Chinamans Beach –> Berry –> Kiama Blowhole  –> Sublime Point Lookout

Recently, my sister and I have been quite adamant to see every last bit of gorgeous coastline here in NSW because well, it’s so damn beautiful. Every chance we get- that our wallet allows- we’ll be off again, onto the next adventure.

In my years living in Europe, I’ve become really used to working with public transport. Mostly you can get around by bus, if not a train. If things got really tough you could fly or call an Uber but that was usually a last resort that wasn’t always completely necessary. Everything ‘just aroundt he corner’! But in Australia, it’s completely different. Man, if you don’t have a car, you won’t get to experience some of that absolutely-f*cking gorgeousness that is the rugged coast of NSW (and Victoria might I add). It’s absolutely breathtaking. There is just so much space, so much sky. You feel insignificant, significant, all at once. You feel the power of nature and you learn to respect it. The landscape here actually brings back memories of Yorkshire– just more tropical and coastal with more blue sky. OK, so it’s not like Yorkshire. Heh.

One weekend before Christmas, slightly on a whim, my sister and I found a great deal on a motel near Jervis Bay and decided to just head down- it was now or never. Besides, we wanted to see the whitest sand in the world and to catch some rays. Spring had not been kind to Sydney proper.

We booked a car the day of and headed off. We left at around 9am and we probably could have done with leaving earlier. Hindsight 20/20 and all that. As anyone that has experienced driving in Sydney will know, it’s not the most riveting experience driving out. But heading South rather than heading West is an easier drive. Before you know it you hit the Royal National Park and its easy, long winding highways. It takes about an hour and a half to get to the Scarborough Hotel, which is a good 20 minute detour off the main highway. Having said that, the views are definitely worth it. The food? Not super exciting. I don’t even think I took a photo of it, and as a Taiwanese person I love food photos.

The views are great though, and according to the friendly staff, during peak whale watching season you can see lots of ’em! So this is definitely worth a stop then! If you want to make sure you get a spot, do book ahead to call. Most of the tables with the best views had RESERVED signs on them, particularly for the popular brunch/lunch hours.

We decided to opt for maximum beach time after our little stop so headed straight for the holy grail: Hyams Beach. It’s where everyone says you should go! It was a hefty little drive from Scarborough Hotel, but we made it through. With some good tunes on (make sure you download the playlist as radio tunage can be rough) it makes the ride totally worthwhile.

We were lucky– the sun was out, there was barely a cloud in the blue blue sky, and the waves were gently crashing against the beach. Hyams Beach is actually set in suburbia (they all are outside of the big cities), so you have to park along a residential street. The street itself is quite long so you know, go for it. Find a spot! Despite it being a sunny weekend it took us under 10 minutes to find a parking spot.

We parked ourselves on the beach for the better part of the afternoon. It did get busier and busier on the beach, with lots of families coming out to play in the shallow water. I don’t know if it was because we were so inexperienced with Antarctic waters or because HOLY HELL IT WAS COLD. We only managed to literally dip in and out a few times. The longest we stayed in the water was probably 5 minutes?

We got a little tired of the screaming toddlers (big shout out to mums and dads here, you are absolute heroes) so we decided to head over to Chinamans Beach. We didn’t even need to move our car, it’s literally 300 meters up the road from Hyams Beach. You can go straight down the stairs once you reach the end of Cyrus St or you can head straight into the bush. The walk is less than 10 minutes and then you come out at the other end of Chinamans Beach where it’s guaranteed less busy and touristy. If you fancy, you can also head up the stairs and do a nice little coastal walk and find even more secluded beaches. The sand is EVEN sqeakier here because it’s not half as busy as Hyams Beach.

We decided to have a super early night so that we could catch the sunrise at Hyams Beach the next day. Obviously, what else are you going to do if you’re on the East Coast of Australia?! So after a really quick boring dinner we headed off to sleep in our motel with Harry Potter playing on TV. God love the Christmas season.

The next morning, it was looking a bit cloudy. Unfortunately for us, it meant that one or two sunrise photos later, it was already too bright and we didn’t actually catch any sun rising. Damn. But it was now not even 6am and we had the whole day ahead of us! What do do… Kangaroo Valley of course!

Now, I definitely recommend spending a good few days in this area because there is so much to do. Apart from great beaches there are also wineries and lots of great walks too.

As pictured above, you can do the Cambewarra Lookout (experienced drivers needed for this one. Lots of hairpin turns to get up this mountain). You can’t really tell from the clouds, but that bay-like thing far ahead? That’s Jervis Bay! You can (almost) see the gorgeous half-moon bend of Hyams Beach. When the sun did pop out for a second I swear I got sand glare. Here, you can have a cup of coffee or brekkie at the cafe or you can also just head straight to Kangaroo Valley and explore the funky little shops, cafes, and restaurants.

From Kangaroo Valley, another windy drive up a mountain will get you to Fitzroy Falls. Beware, when you’re coming from Kangaroo Valley, the Fitzroy Falls entrance is on the right and can be easily missed if you’re not looking out for it!

Fitzroy Falls is great for several reasons. You can do a short walk of just 800m or you can do a longer walk of up to 3/4km. It’s definitely worth your while as views are rather spectacular and quite reminiscent of the Blue Mountains! Parking for a regular car is $4 and that’s it, no other entrance fees. There’s also a cafe and visitor’s centre here so if you wanted to refresh before/after your walk it’s definitely doable.

From here, sis and I were starting to get hungry so we decided to get back in the car and get some more driving in before it hit brunch time. Destination: Berry Sourdough Cafe.

It is literally famous FOR MILES. People go up from Jervis Bay to eat there, like it’s a really big deal. And having had their sourdough now, I understand why. It is SO YUMMY! My sister and I bought a loaf of bread each that’s how good it is. And also had a pain au chocolat because that was also RIVETING.

Sis had a hummus dish with poached egg and avo salad, and I had a spicy chorizo omelette. Both were absolutely outstanding although there was a little too much hummus on the plate.

 

After this, we went for a little walk around town (one main road), taking in the charm of village life. There are plenty of ice cream shops to choose from and a pharmacy to save you with some bug spray (trust us it comes in handy).

We then headed to Kiama Blowhole, which was about a 45 minute drive Northward. The Blowhole is a rather popular stop but you have to be lucky. The wind and wave conditions have to be right to see awesome water sprays coming up from the rock formation along the coast. Instead, we opted for a lovely little dip in the ocean pool.

The rain started really pouring down so the trip was a little bit over for us. The clouds kept threatening rain and delivered. Gah. So off home we drove from here. There were quite a few stops that we missed out on that we definitely would have done had the weather been a bit more forgiving. Ah well, gives us an excuse to go again next time!!

Submarining, because let’s give men another excuse

Yes, that title was meant to suck you in and yes that title is meant to be controversial so shallow people that don’t bother reading the article post a few hateful Facebook comments without actually looking at what I’m trying to say.

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Have you noticed that lately we’ve got ‘dating trends’ showing up on our Facebook newsfeed, as if they never existed before? They’re advertised as if they’re something bright and shiny, and it’s often glossed over that ‘no, actually, this has been happening forever and we are now giving it a name because the 24 hour news cycle requires us to name shit that doesn’t really need to be named or encouraged but hey the world is already so shitty might as well add some more to the pile of crap we have to consume’. Damn that’s a long sentence.

I’m sick of it. I’m sick of going to my newsfeed and finding another reason why dating in the 21st century, particularly post-Tinder, is such a ball-ache. Yes, I just said ball-ache, and yes, I mean my lady balls are hurting because: society.

Society because, in the East and the West, there’s some ridiculous rule that you’re supposed to be married before you’re 30. Society because people are having kids without actually wanting to have them, thinking that’s ‘what you’re supposed to do’ after settling down with one person. Society because somehow being single is so taboo that you should be signed up to at least 2 or 3 of those crappy apps talking to men who only want you for a few hours (ha if they can even make it that long), never to hear from him again (and if you don’t drop your knitting and come running to his bed you’ll be unmatched). Society, because these crappy apps and loose women fantasies has taught men that ‘all girls want…’

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Don’t we know by now, after years and years of research, that men can’t differentiate? That men do this sweeping generalisation thing because god forbid one woman is different from the other: “All girls want a relationship. All girls want to get married. All girls want to have babies. All girls want a 3 tiered vanilla and chocolate cake covered in coconut icing.” Hey guys, did you know that a woman is actually someone with a brain and feelings, and should be treated as a fellow human being rather than a sex toy? That perhaps, she is going to be far more stimulated by your great conversational skills rather than your square jawline? That perhaps, having a conversation and sharing a laugh doesn’t mean she’s expecting a ring on her finger? And most importantly, that perhaps that weird thing that you do with your tongue she isn’t going to love like your last sexual partner?

FFS.

I reject all of these stupid articles about the latest trend in whatever. Dating is now a total freakshow it’s ridiculous that a) we are training men to think its OK to follow these dating trends by normalizing them/naming them and b) entertaining it like it’s OK. The media NEEDS to stop trivializing this and making it out to be part of the 24 hour news cycle. People popping in and out of your life after months, maybe even years, is not a NEW thing. It’s been happening for centuries already. It’s just happening with more frequency now because we now have access to more potential partners than we ever had before. Stop trying to make it happen. It’s not going to happen, because it’s already happening.

No, it’s not ok to be submarined. It’s not ok to zombie, or catch and release, or whatever the hell else it is we- men and women- are doing to each other.

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It’s a jungle out there: a free-for-all, anything goes, I’ll be selfish and not give a crap about anything… There is a lack of humanity in dating. Show me a few people that aren’t afraid of their feelings and that are comfortable being honest with people in their lives, be they a one night stand or a summer fling. Show me some decency, some appreciation, ‘hey you took the time to show up let’s be people first, animals later.’

Are they still out there? Because I’m starting to believe maybe they’re not… and despite what society says, I’m actually OK being on my own and not settling down just yet. Is it my dream to finally find ‘the one’? Maybe one day (I’m got pretty damn close this morning when a rugby team was splashing around my local swimming pool– 😍). But I’m not going to settle for someone who can’t even recognise my humanity and secretly wishes they could be on Tinder because of all the [imaginary] free booty awaiting them. Call me a hippy, call me bitter, call me whatever you want. In the meantime, I’ll be over here, living the dream. Because despite not having fulfilled this one, I’ve had many, many more dreams come true. ❤

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i/c: Graphic 1, graphic 2, graphic 3

Glamping?…I think not

Have you ever gone glamping? When you think of glamping in your head, what do you see? I’ll tell you what I see, because when I booked it, I was looking at the company’s Instagram page getting really excited!

 

One of my besties and I booked a few months in advance. We were really quite excited because, well, wouldn’t you be? We would be able to get into the mountains, do some fun hiking… why not? Lovely little girlie weekend away in a super cool tent, and if the weather was going to be warm enough, maybe even a dip in the lake!

So off we go, Friday afternoon. Slightly behind schedule due to the bad traffic headed out of Sydney but ok, we were still going to make it before the 8pm cut-off for check-in.

It’s a pretty long drive on the Western Highway, with quite a few traffic lights too. But no matter, we’re going to do amazing camping! We had a picnic basket, cheese in the eski’s, and 10L of water freshly purchased from Woolie’s.

The instructions on IG, were, in all fairness, very clear. We managed to find the place OK, except… well, it was REALLY dark. There was no light really, and we couldn’t even see the tents! They didn’t even ask us for our name, and just showed us to a tent with a few torches. I had to pull out my iPhone to make sure I didn’t trip or fall.

We get into the tent and….

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THIS is what we were expecting…

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So… not super great. Then we were told, “We weren’t expecting the moon to play hide and seek, so we will have more lights tomorrow.” (UMM EXCUSE ME IT’S A CRESCENT MOON HOW DO YOU NOT CHECK THAT WHEN RUNNING A CAMP?)

Putting disappointment and the chill in the air aside, we quickly change into warmer clothes and head into the tiny town of Lithgow to have dinner at the Blue Fox. We didn’t take pictures of the food (soz) because we were really quite hungry and just really wanted the wine. We eat ourselves into a food coma (it’s good there, btw), and head back to our tent. It is FREEZING. We decide that if it’s too cold after 10 minutes we’ll go steal a blanket (read: doona) from the empty tent next door. 10 minutes and brushing our teeth with our heads sticking out of the tent later, we had to go and get the duvet because I couldn’t even feel my nose! We fall asleep on the really cheap and crappy pillows (read: I had to fold two over to make it feel like some semblance of a pillow) and await tomorrow with excitement. It will be better tomorrow, we told ourselves. 100%, we will make the best of whatever comes our way. We wanted to bond, right?

So the next day we are up EARLY. The birds were chirping the sun was starting to shine. It was still cold AF but the promise of a warm day was there! We get a chance to look around, and we see port-a-loos, port-a-showers, and a marquee with ‘Bavarian-style seating’ (think October fest with plastic chairs). Okay… um… where is that plush seating area? I don’t see it. Oh and the promise ‘fully furnished tents’ was starting to get annoying now.

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4 port-a-loos for 20 tents… that’s 10 people per loo.

We work up the courage to make our breakfast (banana pancakes thank you very much) in the wind, and it was quite unpleasant!! We had to use the covers of the BBQ to protect the gas from the wind in order to actually cook… gahhh!!

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my friend trying to heat up water in the wind… it took like 25 minutes for the water to get warm enough for tea (yes we should have brought a lid I know)

OK, OK, fine. We can deal with this. It’ll be fine. We’ve got a great day planned with a bushwalk, a farm visit, and lunch in a popular cafe in Lithgow. We would go kayaking in the afternoon and to end the perfect day we would have a BBQ with locally bought produce and drink to our heart’s content by our fire in the evening.

So… most of that came true. The bushwalk was good, the farm was cute, and lunch was so good we went to lie by the lake instead of going kayaking while we got over our food coma. But then… the wind really started picking up. Like, REALLY picking up. So much so that when we got back to our tent at like 2.30pm, a few of the spikey things had come out and the marquee had completely blown over. Before 4pm, the 3 staff members walking around taking care of things had made sure the tents were secured and got into their car to leave. We asked about the marquee, they said, “it’s too dangerous to put up now so we’ll do it first thing in the morning, see ya.” Oh… okay…

I went to take a shower at 4pm, right after my friend had gone first. According to her, at least the shower was nice. She felt like a new person. I went and tried 3 of the 4 showers, and there was absolutely no water coming out of any of them. Either she had finished a tank of 5,000L of water, or… I don’t know. Anyway, we emailed them, and they were like ‘but are you sure?’. We kind of gave up, I said I’d shower tomorrow even though I felt gross. It was getting cold again and I was too tired of things going wrong. I was disappointed that this luxury-experience didn’t come with above-and-beyond customer service that you would even find at a hostel. Another point deducted for lack of interest in guest well-being.

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Like the total troopers we are, we started getting ready for our BBQ… except… the wind was going REALLY strong now and they had taken away all the BBQ lids… we had to fashion some kind of shelter for the BBQ or else we would never be able to eat! We pulled some tables out from under the carnage of the marquee and propped them up on fire pits. At least we could eat now. The sun set really quickly and by the time we started eating, other campers had come to try out the BBQ. They all had to use our sheltered BBQ because otherwise it was impossible. We were all grateful the camp wasn’t at full capacity this evening because otherwise there would have been a long-ass queue for the BBQ too (I think, due to the wind, that most people went to the Blue Fox to eat). Can you imagine the camp at full capacity? 3 BBQ’s for 20 tents, that’s … 13.3 people per BBQ. Joy.

Thank god for prosecco. We would not have made it without. The wind kept howling and we built our fire… which went out really quickly due to said wind. We finished off a couple bottles of wine and the rain started falling. That was it, we decided to pack it in. No more use trying to make this a glamping experience when you’re huddled over a fire praying for the embers not to fly into your face.

We packed it all in, and went to hide in our tents. It was probably one of the worst nights of sleep in my life EVER. I was pretty sure we were going to be found in the morning unconscious because the tent pole had fallen down and hit us hard. The flapping was truly, truly unbearable. By about 3am the wind died down enough for us to get a few hours’ sleep… and by the time we got up again, it started picking up.

We decided we would keep trooping! So we made breakfast. But you know what? Breakfast was still so damn windy, we decided to give up. At 9am, the staff finally came rolling into the campsite and started pulling the marquee together, tidying it up (it was SUCH a hazard I can’t even tell you). It felt like they had given up too. Rain started falling again, and that was game over for us. By 10 am, we were packed up and ready to go. One last coffee stop, Spotify on the phone (make sure you download a playlist or two, bad reception in the mountains), and it was time to say goodbye.

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One sheltered breakfast…

Overall, I had a great weekend with my bezzie because we bonded big time. But what we got, facilities-wise, was definitely NOT worth the $150AUD a night we spent. There are cottages in the area that sleep 4 with actual toilet and shower facilities worth the same. Most campsites in Australia will have running water, which we didn’t have. There would have been plenty of other facilities, and the campsite would have been in a sheltered area, not in a bare field that wind just whipped over.

The saddest part is that we emailed them to ask for a partial refund, and also to offer some advice for future weekends (especially with the long weekend coming up), and we haven’t heard back. We emailed Sunday morning before we left Lithgow, and still nothing. Why? There didn’t seem to be an issue in responding when we needed stuff done on site, but now nothing? We tried messaging them on FB, and nothing, either. Very, very sad. We will have to take this up further with some authority or another, because a) it was not as advertised, and b) service was seriously, seriously below par of what was promised. We waited until now to write a review, because wanted a chance to settle things without having to tell the whole world, but alas… is this the only way things can be done today? Airing dirty laundry publicly?

It’s too bad it has ended this way. As a business-owner myself, I know that customers aren’t always right, and things are not always within your control (who can control 70kmp winds?!). But there is such a thing as basic decency and also upholding promises made. Big fluffly cushioned seating areas vs marquees with plastic chairs is a far cry from upholding promises. Leaving said marquee in a state of disarray was extremely dangerous, especially in the crazy winds. We hope to solve this somehow.

Political Apathy and the Global Citizen?

I love being a Global Citizen. I love travelling, meeting new people, being a bit vague about my story because it is so damn complicated and if I have to tell someone I’m half-Dutch half-Taiwanese and explain my American accent ONE MORE TIME…

 

I believe that through my confrontation with so many cultures over my lifetime that I am quite an empathetic person. It’s easy for me to step into someone else’s shoes, consider their thought processes and thinking. I don’t always agree with their point of view, but I can usually see why they are the way they are. This makes me quite the liberal. I believe in universal health care, voting rights, women’s rights, LGBTQIA rights… you name it. I’m also extra-sensitive when it comes to race, having experienced both positive and negative racism regularly (and still regularly do). 

The only thing is … all this country-hopping and trying to understand different political climates has made me a little… numb. Some big things still affect me, yes. Brexit affected me so much I felt I had to leave the UK… But on a larger scale, things just don’t affect me anymore. Sure, I vote through postal votes in the Dutch election and if it works out I go back to Taiwan to vote in the presidential election but when it comes to the country I’m living in and their political issues? I play the foreigner card and shrug my shoulders. I don’t get a vote, I don’t get a say, right?

I don’t want to get overly involved anymore. While I was essentially laying down roots in the UK, I didn’t want to get overly involved in its politics. I feel like that is where I always pointedly felt like an outsider, and that reinforcement was just not a reminder I needed or wanted. That lack of interest found its way into other parts of my political thought and action… when I was in Denmark, my heart broke for the refugees we regularly saw at Copenhagen Central station, but I couldn’t get angry anymore at the Danish government. Whenever videos now show up on my news feed of Taiwanese law-makers throwing shoes and chairs at each other, I just sigh in disappointment like a mother does her 12 year old child. Now, in Australia, I don’t get worked up that the government is fighting so hard against same sex marriage. Like, whatever.

I’ve come to find that it’s much more important to have the people around me walk to the talk and live up to what they preach than trying to change the hearts and minds of others. It’s not my job, because I’m not permanent. It’s actually a bit of a ‘get out of jail free card’ I suppose, but is that so bad? My energy gets thrown into other things, other causes, and other battles. A wise teacher once said, “We all need to choose our causes and our battles. For some it will be the environment, for others human rights, for some even something seemingly small to others…” There are battles all over that need to be fought, and despite my avid interest in it, the battle of political landscapes are not one that I’m going to get myself into.

“One Year Ago Today…”

Where would we be without social media and all of its reminders of how well it knows us? Well, today it’s Twitter reminding me of my life milestones.

Twitter reminded me that I started my Horizons21 account one year ago today. One year ago today, I embarked on a journey that I had no idea where it would take me. So many ups, and yet equally so many downs. Starting your own online company may look and sound easy – and some parts are- but in reality it’s very lonely. Thank god for the Internet. Without it, I wouldn’t have had the support that I have found online. The women and men that are going through exactly the same thing, sometimes slower, sometimes faster, than I am.

Not that my friends aren’t supportive, but a lot of the time, it’s hard to understand, or even explain what I’m going through (and I don’t always do a great job of it either). I don’t like talking about it too much because I don’t want to bore people with it. Often I’m afraid their flattery is a way to get me to stop talking about how great my new website looks or something (there are, of course, exceptions and you know who you are– and with you I’m even harder to shut up).

What have I learned in my year-long journey?

I’ve got a helluva long way to go.

Not just with the products that I’m creating and working on, but also just with myself. Becoming an entrepreneur is the best thing that ever happened to me, because it’s forced me to look inside myself a lot more than anywhere else. A year ago, if I was putting together IKEA furniture and couldn’t figure it out, I would give up with a huff and a puff, call a friend or my dad, and get them to do it. Yesterday, I fidgeted as long as it took to sort out my housemate’s newly purchased bedside table. I mean, it’s not 100% and the back is a bit loose but it’s standing, stable and not going to fall apart anytime soon so score for Arna and happy housemate to boot (yes he knows about the back being weird. Design flaw.)

Learning to keep going despite hardships is something everyone should know how to do, and you know how it’s made easier? With cheerleaders. I never appreciated them as much as I have come to this last year. Without unwavering support, listening ears, and people to hold me accountable, I never would have gotten this far. Everyone needs to have at least 3 cheerleaders in their life. Why 3? Because one and two aren’t enough. That’s why. Find your  cheerleaders, and don’t let them go. Find people that will rally you when you need it most and that are willing to kick you in the ass when you need it most, too. Work on those relationships, because they’re the ones that are going to last. Nurture them, take time off with them, and enjoy the little (and big) things in life with them.

 

 

Having a positive attitude is the hardest challenge so far. This past year, I’ve listened to so many self-help videos and audios I feel like I should be starting a course on it. But I’m not practicing what I preach enough AT ALL. Do I believe with all my heart I’m going to make it? Hell yes. But in the day to day slog, it’s hard to remember that bigger picture. It’s hard to remember that the Universe has got my back. Self-doubt, doubt in others, in the bigger picture… they start to creep in and suddenly the Universe is like ‘girlfriend you better keep faith or else things are gonna get messed up again’ and I have to work my positivity ass off to fall back in line. How do I keep in touch with that inner self and inner power? I’ve been on and off, I’ll be honest. A lot of it has to do with journalling, introspection, meditation. Even just affirmations that you read out to yourself 3/4 times a day (yes I’m aware I sound like a hippy but go with it, it keeps me grounded). It’s about making decisions that benefit you and your soul, and putting yourself first. It’s about being brave enough to say ‘no more suffering’, whatever form of suffering is taking.

 

On that note, in the last 3 months I’ve had to cut 2 very important people out of my life and it still physically hurts. I thought these people were in it with me for the long haul. But their negativity was getting in my way, or maybe my negativity towards them and the situations they/we were in was getting in the way…whatever it was, something was wrong. I did one of the cruelest things I have ever done and cut them out. And ever since then, I’ll admit, I’ve not been very friendly with the Universe. I’m kind of pissed off with the Universe for making me lose out on two friendships I really cherished… but at the end of the day, they were my decisions. They were my decisions to keep positive and stay true to my path. It meant focusing on me again. It meant being selfish so that I can keep travelling down the path I want with the right people in my arsenal. God, it kills being selfish, and I was so convinced they were the right people in my life. But being at one with the Universe means making decisions that benefit ME. And if relationships aren’t aligning with that, then you need to get rid! (this is not saying that all relationships can only benefit you. Relationships are mutually beneficial but no one should be brought down for the sake of the other. I felt I was being dragged down and unable to be myself, and I had to put a stop to it. That is the main point of this: don’t let others drag you down and not allow you to be who you want to be).

 

Authenticity is the best way forward. If you do not love what you are doing, if you do not love where you are, then it’s going to show.  Your anxiety shows, it truly does. I’ve gone to job interviews really hating the job… and then I don’t end up getting the job… why do you think that is? It was obvious, despite my Oscar-worthy performance, I was not meant to be there. By being the truest version of yourself, you are going to attract the right people that you want and need with you on the journey. Being honest, clear, and open about your intentions you’ll go a lot further. I’m so lucky, I have met the best people so far on this journey that let me be myself. (Seriously here’s another shout out to all the wonderful people in my life. So grateful for you)

 

Not everything has to be perfect. I think there are currently like 4 spelling mistakes on my home page on my website. The course I’m creating looks a bit rough around the edges. My invoices don’t look super professional (or maybe I’m just too paranoid). But you know what? If you don’t start you won’t finish. I’m just going to keep going. Yes, I’m going to make mistakes along the way but I’m only human. There is only so much I can do with my one brain and one laptop. I don’t have a team, and I certainly don’t have more hours in the day than everyone else. I have to keep remembering, it doesn’t have to be perfect, yet. When I grow big enough, have my own team, etc, I can make sure someone spends time looking over those mistakes and ensure they don’t happen again.

 

So how far have I actually come? I don’t really talk about my business on my personal pages and profiles. Mostly because I don’t really know where to start. It’s easy to tell people I’m a social media manager, but I’m so much more than that! At least, I’m working on becoming so much more than that! Those of you that know me well enough will know I’m always on the look-out for a new project and a new way to work or new people to do new things with. But I’ve been focussing on this one thing for a while now: I’m coming towards the end of creating an online course, and when that launches, I’m throwing a big party (Sydney-siders all welcome. I’m buying the first round of champagne). It’s been 4 months of extreme stress, tbh, because there’s so much to do. I have thought a few times “never again” but you know what the ideas keep coming and I can’t seem to stop. Ask me again before Christmas how far I’ve come, because I’m still not ready to talk about it… Call it fear: fear of judgment, fear of not finishing, whatever… the Universe and I need to talk and be aligned again before I start shouting about this from the rooftop….

 

I was listening to an entrepreneur podcast this morning on my way to my day-job, as I usually do, and one question stuck with me which, among other things, pushed me to write this post… “What is your life mission statement?”  Well, that’s easy. Mine’s always been the same.

I want to make the world a better place. I want less anger, less hatred. More understanding, more compassion. I want to start an inter-generational dialogue that doesn’t seek to alienate. I want more harmony and appreciation for others, I want others to learn to walk a mile in other people’s shoes.

No. Let me rephrase that.

 

I will make the world a better place. I will help create less anger, less hatred. More understanding, more compassion. I will start an inter-generational dialogue that doesn’t alienate. I will create more harmony and appreciation for others, I will help others learn to walk a mile in other people’s shoes.

What the next year holds? God only knows. But I can’t wait for it all to happen. The travel plans, the business plans…the Sydney living, the beach breaks…The potential heart-breaks, the heart healing… all of it.

And I’m going to start making concrete plans, too. Big, scary plans. Eurotrip next Spring/Summer, Taiwan with my soul mates, and lots of little weekend trips in between.  OHH and I’m booking 1 night at the Giraffe Manor in Nairobi for January 2019. I’m putting down a deposit. Because I’ve decided I’m not going to wait anymore. I’ve been biding my time for so long. It was always ‘next year’, or ‘next time’… You could say I’ve been waiting all my life. The Universe knows what’s up, that I need to be held accountable for my dreams and how far I’m going to go in the next couple of years. So let’s party, let’s rock n roll. Bring it all on.

6 Things No One Tells You About Sydney

Sun’s out, guns out!

I’m settling into adventure and it’s right here in Sydney, Australia. The place to see and be seen, it really is a one-of-a-kind city. When I was working for STA, I constantly sold the Australian dream (because I’m sorry but the American dream has all but shattered for most). I thought it was finally time to try it out after having talked it up for years and years. I’ve only been here a mere 5 months, but I love it here. There’s so many beautiful places around, nature is not far away, and there’s water everywhere. People are nicer (even though a lot of people say Sydney-siders are not known for their kindness, I have met amazing people here). I never realized this before I came here, but being able to see the water on a daily basis, seeing big open spaces, it really calms my heart, so I’ll definitely be sticking around! 

But, as with every new place you go to, there are some things that baffle you, and with Sydney, there were definitely a few things on the list! 

1- Liquor Shops

Liquor shops. Like, for real. In Australia, they legit don’t sell alcohol at supermarkets. The only supermarket you can go to for alcohol is Aldi (and it ain’t too shabby either may I add). You should also save receipts from supermarkets so that you can go to the affiliated liquor shop to get a discount on certain types of drinks (check the bottom of the supermarket receipts for T&C’s). It’s something you just get used to, though. I don’t really know what the reason is behind it but it’s just part of life here. I’ve lived in enough places to know that it’s a quirk. But when it’s your first few days in Sydney and all you want is a bottle of wine… this is the first thing you need to know! 

2- The Hills

How god-damned hilly is Sydney?!?! I don’t know about you, but most world capital cities I’ve experienced in my life (and there have been a few) have been relatively flat. Even ‘way back when’ people took time to decide and to make land easier to get around, because undoubtedly quite a few people will be milling around… you know, travelling in their horse and carriage and that. But no no no… let’s find the hilliest freaking place and just build houses there. Better get those legs in shape because if you want to walk around Sydney, you’re going to need to be ready for steep hills. Have I gotten used to them, you ask? No, I haven’t. But I’ve gotten pretty good at dodging them.

3 – The Weather

March is the crappiest month weather-wise, so avoid it at all costs. I thought it would be lovely to arrive in autumn and what I got was torrential rain instead that eventually turned into a flood in the basement of my house. Winter isn’t too bad. It still does get cold and I was very happy to have my European-style winter coat for that one week it got really cold, but other than that it’s actually quite mild. I thought it was going to be a lot worse and it really wasn’t. Besides, the heating helped! 

4 – It’s a bit out-dated…

A lot of things need updating… like, a lot!! Not everywhere will have fibre-optic Internet… not even Bondi! It’s quite crazy how this kind of stuff is still ‘in the making’ for a country so young. I thought Australia, especially Sydney, would be more on top of it… but not yet. They’re working on it, though, I promise.

5- Get Online

Get 4G on your phone! I know it’s a staple for most travel nowadays anyway, but this is not a sales tactic or whatever. Sydney’s easiest mode of transport is definitely by bus, and there are so many going in every which way, having Google Maps is going to save you time and effort! I still use it regularly. Soon Google Maps are also going to have buses running on real time so that’s going to make travelling around even EASIER.

6- Takeaway is expensive, but for good reason

Best Italian I’ve had in Sydney so far? From a take-away. Favourite Korean restaurant? Does take-away. I can chow down on kimchi fried rice while I re-watch GoT for the third time this week and I LOVE IT. Coming from the UK, I’m used to crappy take-aways for not a lot of money… and sure, I may be paying a little bit more here but boy do I get value for money! No wonder people don’t cook as much… food you buy out is just so tasty!

This probably sounds a little like I’m complaining, and yes, I’ll admit, the good comes with the bad. Despite it’s slight short-comings, or should I say, the little things that get glossed over by sweeping vistas, noodle festivals, chocolate festivals, tea fairs… yeah these seemingly small things are easy to overlook because the overall picture is still pretty damn nice. As soon as I got here, I fell in love with the place. The quick pulse of the CBD (during the week), the more chilled attitude of Bondi, and everything in between you can find here in Sydney. There is really something for everybody. Oh, and yes, the tourists are going to get swarmy in the particularly touristy areas, but that’s true of most big cities anyway. You get used to them and learn how to avoid them where possible. It’s all good, just go grab a drink in an atmospheric basement cocktail bar with a pricey menu and suddenly the world looks like a much better place 🙂