Losing the nostalgia of communication

Like the rest of the 250 million people in the world, I have a Facebook. I use it fairly often, wiling away the hours spent checking statuses, friend’s photos, writing messages and other such mindless activities. Whilst the purpose of this post isn’t to debate about the downfalls of social networking, I reflected recently on how communications have really changed just in the last two decades of my life.

On my first day of school in windy Wellington, New Zealand I made my very first best friend, Angela. We developed a great friendship throughout primary school; the kind of young, innocent, happy-go-lucky, world-is-your-oyster kind of frienship. I have fond memories of sleepovers and midnight snacks, playing dress ups, listening to U2, and running away from magpies. Needless to say I was devasted when, at 11, my parents announced we were moving to Australia. I remember thinking the world was coming to an end because my best friend and I would be separated forever.

We kept in contact by writing letters. We shared, via pen, paper and stamp, all our high school ups and downs; new friends, failed subjects, first kisses, broken hearts and sibling rivalry. We swapped photos, movie tickets, concert tickets, dried flowers and birthday presents. We even wrote on recycled paper to be environmentally conscious. Sometimes after having already sent my letter and while waiting for her reply, I would begin writing a new letter straight away because there was news to be told that could not wait. The trans Tasman letter writing continued for a solid five years, at least once a week.

The advent of email then meant we could write faster, so we ceased writing letters and instead communicated behind cold, emotionless Arial font type. As we grew up, we got busy, got married, she started a family. Then Facebook appeared and there was no need to communicate at all, all I had to do was check her profile.

That’s when I realised the nostalgia of our communication had gone.

And I believe its now gone for an entire generation. Its frightening to think that my children won’t get to experience what I had with writing letters. Actually its frightening to think that they probably won’t know how to write a letter using paper and pen at all.

Today the majority of us receive digital communication. Why handwrite when you can type. Why develop film when you can view on a screen. Why send a postcard when you can send a picture MMS. This is not to say digital communications is ruining our lives. Far from it, and I can wax lyrical also about the advantages and advancements in communucations that modern technology has provided us (the irony being that my entire career is based on digital communications!). I am merely just mourning the loss of the art of letter writing.

Think about the last time you received a love letter. How great was it to think that someone took the time and thought to write their heartfelt sentiments for your eyes only. How did it make you feel to think that person also touched that piece paper, to see their handwriting on the page, knowing that every word was written with consideration and purpose. I bet you kept that letter. I bet you’ve kept more than a few love letters in the past. Compare this to an email or text message of similar sentiment. It is all too easy to delete these emails and texts and much harder to discard a handwritten letter.

I’ve kept every single one of Angela’s letters- movie tickets, dried flowers and all. Every now and then I like to go through and pick one or two to read, and it always make me smile. Emails may be great at getting news out quickly, but for me, could never be a substitute for a simple, thought-out handwritten letter.


The search for a purpose…while living in the moment

As the brightness of the desert sun tries to slither its way through my thin curtains, I slowly open my eyes and feel a sudden burst of throbbing pain on my brow; a pain threatening to burst my eyeballs out of its sockets. I inhale deeply and all I can smell is the noxious aftermath of fumes from vodka, cigarettes and lingering perfume.

I check my phone. A text message, a couple of missed calls. Its 11am on a Friday morning in Dubai. I pull the covers over my head, but its useless, the sun has entered the room and I’m faced with the reality of dealing with another hangover day. The shower may have washed away the grimes of a dodgy nightclub and even dodgier post-inebriation meal, but not the liquor residue from my brain nor the continued throb behind my left eye socket.

As I take in bacon & eggs and a full fat coke I piece together the events from the night before – blurry snapshots of wine glasses, flashing lights and dubious dancing bubble up in my head. I file them away into my growing archive of other late night post mortem memories and think to myself “What am I doing here”?

I do this week in, week out. With my group of friends we travel on a mission every weekend to get absolutely, mind shatteringly, completely and nonsensically blotto. But then what? Why do we do this to ourselves? Of course its all marvellously fun, however getting closer to my thirties, I wonder how many more nights (and days after) do I need to feel like this? Is this what my life really is all about?

Flashback to 2006. I was a very different person. I was married. I had a great job and just bought a house in the suburbs. I was content and life was good. Hangover days were few and far between, and Friday nights consisted mostly of home cooked pasta, one bottle of wine and a good chick flick. Then, when I separated from my ex husband 2 years later I was thrust out into the world of singledom and found myself free of the humdrum of domestic  life. I felt it was the chance to live my twenties as I should have. Young, unattached and free. My purpose was just to be.

I discovered that Bullfrogs and Passion Beauties were not names of Arabian-bred race horses but intoxicating (and hugely addicting) cocktails. I learnt that love, sex and relationships were a lot different (and far more complicated) than they were ‘back in my day’. I was opened up to a whole world of brunching and binge drinking and partying till sunrise. And as great as all those experiences were, I had always found myself questioning the purpose of it all.

“You always do this”, said an ex boyfriend of mine once. ” You get too deep. You worry too much about the future that you don’t enjoy the present moment”.  But didn’t he ever think about what this was all for? How could he not think about it? The love between us had never been lacking, but in the end, this same unanswered question had led to our demise.

As a typical sagittarian I contemplate a lot about my life’s purpose. How I’ll end up, what’s going to happen, what are my plans. I can only guess that my insecurities about ‘the future’ may have stemmed from my marriage break up. I was no longer looking through rose-tinted glasses and I became fearful and paranoid around those who couldn’t guarantee me a fulfilled and secure life. And maybe my ex was onto something, my ‘search’ for a future blinded me from enjoying the wonderful times that were happening right in front of me. In questioning too much, I’d lose touch with living in the moment.  And while these questions in my head will never stop, every now and then I need to tell myself to just sit and enjoy the ride. There is a great quote form Paulo Coelho‘s book, The Zahir (great read by the way) about trying to find the meaning of life whilst also living the moment:

“All you have to do is to pay attention; lessons always arrive when you are ready, and if you can read the signs, you will learn everything you need to know in order to take the next step.”

We are all searching for something. Most of us don’t know what. But I guess what Paulo is trying to tell us here is that the clues and lessons to our life’s purpose, our meaning, our futures, can be found if we pay attention in living in the now.

My mobile suddenly comes to life with a familiar chime and jolts me out of my thoughts. Its a text from one of my girlfriends:  “I missed out last night, dying for a drink lets go!”

Another night out? Another hangover day? Will having another Passion Beauty bring me closer to finding my life purpose? I toss it up in my head. Live for the moment. Carpe diem.

Then I find my nimble fingers thumbing out the text “Why not, fancy a PB? See you in a bit”

I hit send and run out the door.

Going latina

So many of you know about my trip. First it was on, then it was off, then it was on again, then shortened, then off, then shortened some more, so now its finally on again. I’m now 5 days away from embarking on my first (maybe last?) solo backpacking trip, ever.

You can see my rough trip itinerary here online.

This is my route, roughly. I’ve done this more as a result of my O.C.D tendencies and fervent need to plan things, rather than as a strict itinerary I must follow (very much my anti-thesis). I suppose on these kind of sojourns, one is required to be adaptable to all sorts of travel opportunities and flexibility is key in finding hidden gems and unique experiences.

This trip has been been almost 4 months in the making, and was originally going to be a six month expedition from Argentina to Alaska. Sadly, due to depleted financial resources, this wasn’t possible. So I’ve decided to do the continent in bits and will start with these countries and continue to see the rest in future travels.

In my preparation, I’ve been trying to learn Spanish. Yes, I know in Brazil they speak Portuguese, but learning two languages was quite a task and I decided to focus on Spanish seeing as I’ll be spending most of my time in Argentina. As a back up though, I downloaded a Portuguese language app on my iPhone, it will be a test to see if I can rely solely on this technology to get me around Brazil!

Learning a new language is actually rather enjoyable. Spanish, being very similar in structure to French (which I’ve studied) is proving to be a lot easier than I thought. It also has some really awesome words and phrases that almost seem natural to say. My favourites so far:

Tengo hambre – I’m hungry – very important for me to know this one, at least I won’t starve

Lo Siento – I’m sorry – will be used in those times when I need people to feel sorry for me because I can’t communicate/can’t do something/have run out of money

Aqui – here – I just like saying this one

Estoy ocupada – I’m busy – handy for those tight situations when you need an excuse not to do something

Estoy cansarda – I’m tired – perhaps to use after a big night out

Thats it for now. I may one day manage to write an entire blog in spanish. One day. I downloaded some language lessons online, they’re manageable, I’m only up to Disc 4 of about 20, I daresay I wont finish it all, however I do have 2 x 14 hour plane trips to sit through. I plan to also enrol in a 5 day language class in Buenos Aires when I arrive to kick start it all.

Do any of my spanish speaking friends have any tips?

For love or money

As I was reading up on the news this morning, I came across this interesting story, in Dubai of all places.  A young, unemployed Pakistani man called Ahmed has taken it upon himself to place a newspaper ad about his needs to find a rich woman to marry and financially support him. He’s made it quite clear that he won’t get a job and wants to enjoy the life of a Jumeirah Jim. What the?!?

And the scariest thing is, women are actually calling him! Primarily from filipino ladies apparently, although I can imagine there would’ve been prank calls aplenty. What surprises me the most is this guy’s honesty. Sure we all want a partner that can provide, but most of us wouldn’t have the guts to declare to the world they would marry only for money.

Which brings me to my topic today, would you ever consider a man’s materialistic wealth (or lack thereof) to be a deciding factor in your relationship? For love or for money?

A lot of women (including me) would dream to have a Mr. Big buy you a New York penthouse complete with a closet the size of a small town packed to the rafters with Jimmy Choos. However, we don’t exist in a rom com movie (unfortunately) and the modern reality is that if we really want a closet full of designer shoes, we’re going to have to work to get it for ourselves. We shouldn’t have to rely on the Mr Big’s to support us and carry us through, because, as I’ve learnt, money aint gonna make you happy.

I don’t think I could ever develop a relationship with a man solely for the reason that he could buy me presents galore. I’m not for sale, and neither is my love. On the other hand, I am in awe of women who can purposely manipulate a man to buy them gifts, without the need for their love in return. These are clever, clever women and whilst I don’t praise their materialistic values, I do admire their tenacity.  In the same way I admire this Ahmed guy. It seems a bit strange that a man wants to be provided for, but at least he has the balls to know what he wants, regardless of what we all might think. Although I’m not sure if there will be a woman out there who would want a man who can’t provide for himself? Hmmm, well… unless he is utterly, inexplainably, unbelievably, out-of this-universe, gorgeously handsome (and similarly well endowed)… but I suppose I’ll have to save that argument for another topic altogether. For now, I’ll go back to daydreaming about a closet full of shoes…

No place like home… or is there?

there's no place like home Home is one of those words associated with family, comfort and security.  The thought of home, to most people, conjures up images of bliss and serenity. After a 14 hour trip on the proverbial yellow brick road, just the sight of Sydney from above in an aeroplane gives me goosebumps. On the drive home from the airport I see that things have not changed, things are exactly as they were when I left last – the same roads, buildings, neighbours, driveway, house, bedroom. That tree in the backyard may have grown slightly, the kids next door are three inches taller, and the family pet is furrier, fatter and slightly lazier. But things are still familiar, secure and comfortable.

Having been at home now for a good week or so, I did realise that there was no place like home. Food on hand. Laundry washed. Love is all around.

Through your childhood as you grow up all you think about is leaving home. And then you leave. You work and travel in all parts of the world, meeting others who have also left their homes, and at the same time being invited into new homes. While you are away you try to recreate that feeling of home for your own self – through friends, routines, comfort, security and memories.  And so on, until one day, you realise as you get older (and maybe wiser), your real home is the one and only place you want to go back to.  For me, going back home makes me appreciate all the simple things. It also makes me appreciate the great things I’ve done while I’ve been away. It makes me feel lucky that I’ve had the privilege of being able to spend time away, to create a life for myself, while at the same time have the comfort of knowing that if all else fails, there is always the opening arms of a loving home waiting for me.

But I also think a person can have multiple “homes”. As a saying goes, home is not where you live, but where they understand you.  To be in a place where you are understood as the person you are brings a sense of belonging and family. There’s nothing better in the world when you find a group of people, far away from your natural home, who know you like you have been friends for decades. You form these friendship bonds and you trust these people like family. So leaving these people can sometimes be just as hard as leaving your own family behind. As someone readjusting to life back in the ‘real world’ there are times when you get ‘homesick’ for your other homes. I wonder if Dorothy ever missed the land of Oz? Does she wonder what happened to her friends, the scarecrow, lion and tin man? And that crazy wizard?

You know that life goes on without you, and like some parallel universe, you sometimes crave for that other home too. But you also know that the next time you are there, all will be the same – the road, buildings, neighbours etc – and that there will be your other family there waiting for you, open arms –  probably with a drink in hand – ready to welcome you home.