On turning a dream into reality

“People dream. They talk about escaping from it all. Their friends and family diligently listen and politely ignore it when the ruminations fade into oblivion. So quite a few eyebrows went up when I made this trip a reality.”
– Kristine K. Stevens

The objections people will come up with when you tell them you’re following your dream to escape it all are always the same. “What about your job?” “Who’ll pay your mortgage while you’re gone?” “Aren’t you a bit old? Isn’t it time you settled down?” All valid, responsible, grown up points that, ordinarily  I would take pause to consider. But, whether it was divine intervention, a quarter-life crisis, or the warning light of an imminent nervous breakdown, I finally hit my responsible adult threshold a few years ago and started taking my dreams a bit more seriously.

I think it was the sheer number of miserable ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’ people I saw around me that set it off. It is so easy to talk, so simple to say “if only,” “one day.” And its polite to smile and nod along when people talk about the fantasies you both know they’ll nevet fulfill. It’s the gracious thing to do, to raise a toast over the dinner table as your dear friend, fueled by a little liquid courage, announces their desire to quit their office job, escape the rat race, and finally pursue a career as a musician. We lift our wine glasses with a pitying smile for the poor fool.

But once in a while, a flight of fancy sprouts wings. Someone quietly works away on a dream when no one is paying attention. They’re planning out logistics, squirreling away money, formulating plans and contingency plans, all in the name of escaping it all. Maybe its a temporary escape, maybe its forever. Regardless, it does happen. It happens behind closed doors  with quiet confidence, while others go on belly-aching and complaining that it simply can’t be done.

For months I took great offense to everyone who doubted me when I said we were taking four months off life to travel the world. I got angry when they questioned the state of my career, finances and maturity. What I didn’t understand until we got on the road was that they weren’t actually questioning me at all.

They weren’t really losing sleep at the thought  that my husband and I might struggle to meet our mortgage repayments. They weren’t actually concerned that our jobs wouldn’t still be there for us when we got home. They in fact did not worry that we were being immature and irresponsible by up and leaving. They were suddenly very aware of the fact that they weren’t willing to do what it takes to turn their own dreams into reality. Their raises eyebrows weren’t about me at all.

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Want to fail-proof your New Year’s Resolutions? Look to the moon.

So, it’s almost 2 weeks into January. I bet most of you set some resolutions, goals, aims, whatever you want to call them. I bet this isn’t the first year you’ve done it. And I bet some of you are already wavering on those lofty goals. That’s human nature – when we go all in and face a setback, it’s easy to throw in the towel. But it doesn’t have to be that way; I’ve found a way of setting my “resolutions” and goals that has meant that I’ve actually been achieving them, and it’s so much easier than I thought it’d be. Allow me to elaborate, because this might help you, too…

A little over a year ago, I came across this blog post written by the lovely Vanessa, and she instantly had my attention. She wrote beautifully about the meaning and importance of the cycles of the moon in her life, and it resonated with me incredibly strongly. After expressing interest in how she incorporated the moon phases in her life, Vanessa also kindly sent me an email, explaining a little more about how she lives by the moon. After a bit more reading of my own, I learned that as the moon goes through several phases while it orbits the earth, it is believed that each phase is a “good time” to do certain things or ask certain questions of yourself, starting on a new goal/dream/desire each new moon.

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It really hit me then – this was what I needed in my life. I’ve always been a goal setter, a list maker, a checker, someone who needs a target to aim for. I’m need my compass set in the directions of my dreams at all times, otherwise I’m totally lost. But it’s always been hard for me to know when to set aside to sit down and re-assess where I’m at – like most people, I tended not to do this until I was so lost and spun out of control, that 10 minutes of contemplation just wouldn’t cut it.

I’ve spent the last year living by the moon phases. And, unlike previous years, I’ve actually achieved a hell of a lot more than ever before; my typically unrealistic New Year’s resolutions hadn’t all fallen by the wayside a few weeks into 2016. By December 31st 2016, I had a lot to be proud of; physically, mentally, emotionally, materially, I’d made progress.

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There is a truckload of information on meanings and methods available online (just Google “moon phases”), so I won’t give you all of the opinions and options out there – instead, I just wanted to write about what’s working for me.

 

First, I like to write each phase of the moon into my diary, so it’s front of mind. This will obviously be different depending on where you live, but I find this calendar to be pretty helpful.

Then, when I open my diary on January 12th and see I’ve written in there that it’s a full moon night, I set aside a bit of time before I go to bed to sit quietly (maybe outside under the moon if the weather is working with me, or up in my book nook), light some candles or incense, and reflect.

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As I wrote before, it’s believed that specific moon phases align with specific situations and questions, and I did a lot of reading  about what was best to focus on in each phase. Again, there are a lot of different ideas out there, but I combined and condensed a few sources that made sense to me, and came up with the following list of questions; on each moon phase, I mull over the corresponding questions and write down anything I want to come back to…

NEW MOON
– a time of conception, new beginnings and starting new projects
what do you want to start? what are your goals? what do you desire?

 *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

CRESCENT MOON
– resolve is tested, time to grow and overcome fears
what do you fear? what do you need to guarantee the survival of your vision?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

FIRST QUARTER MOON
– a time to decide who you are and where you intend to go, time to reach a major turning point but facing outer resistance
– set your intentions and create an action plan

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

GIBBOUS MOON
– a time of waiting, a period of adjustment as you adapt to reality and limitations, time to gain perspective and see where changes can be made
–  what isn’t working? how can it be fixed?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

FULL MOON
– re-evaluate and come to a compromise between expectations and reality, any difficulties are learning opportunities whether you succeed or fail
– what difficulties have you encountered? what of your original goals have you manifested?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

DISSEMINATING MOON
– time for introspection and review, ask questions, share ideas, gain clarity, time to deal with the outcome whether you’ve achieved your goals or not
– review your original goal; are there any questions that need to be asked and answered? is there anything that no longer serves you that you can let go?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    * 

THIRD QUARTER MOON
– do you enlarge, rethink or replace your original vision? pull things apart and see them from a broader point of view, search for meaning
– review your original goal – enlarge, rethink or review? have you let go of the things you needed to?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

BALSAMIC MOON
– time to stop striving and rest/retreat, grieve any losses and let things come to their natural end
– spend some time alone to reflect on the cycle, consider what is coming to an end, clean your physical space, rest

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And that’s the bare bones of it. If you’re really into it and astrology is your jam, you may want to create a more elaborate ritual. If you’re not really into the “hippy dippy” stuff, you may want to just use this more as a goal setting guide. But whichever way you want to look at it, I’ve found that being guided by the moon phases has made it so much easier to break down what I want and work out how to get it. It’s forced me to slow down, think things through, focus, ask the right questions of myself, and commit to my goals (after all, each moon cycle only lasts 4 weeks before you can “reset” your goals).

A black bottom oat pie & a call for help :)

On Sunday night, I posted this on Instagram…

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Black bottom oat pie 🍴
Part of the little project I started almost a year ago. A little project which has grown wings. I’m hoping to complete it by the end of the year & be brave enough to share it!

Almost a year ago, I started working on a collection of recipes inspired by my travels. I was going to put them together with some photos of the places that inspired them, and add it to my bookshelf for myself and my husband and friends and family to enjoy.

But I’ve had some unwitting encouragement and that little idea has developed into a bigger project… But there’s still some work to do! If anyone might be interested in helping out by testing a recipe, I’d really love to hear from you! Just PM me or email me at jess.eattravelblog@gmail.com 💌

Motivation Monday! Read this: My Fight / Your Fight by Ronda Rousey

My Fight / Your Fight
by Ronda Rousey

Motivation Monday! Because I’ve been sick for almost two weeks and God knows I need some motivation to start my week with!! Last week, while reading My Fight / Your Fight, I posted this image on Instagram; it was surprisingly difficult, and at the same time, therapeutic. I’m no world class MMA fighter, but I won’t be accused of jumping on the bandwagon, because I am a black belt in taekwondo. I wasn’t the best of the best, but I never gave anything less than my best. My years in the sport were the most formative years of my life. Competing in martial arts isn’t something that can be easily understood unless you’ve actually done it yourself – it is so, so different to other sports. Taekwondo was also the first thing I’d ever tried in my life where:
a) I wasn’t compared to my sisters
b) nothing was expected of me, so I wasn’t under any pressure
c) I was part of a group of people who really cared and made me feel like I belonged
d) I didn’t feel like an utter and complete failure

It was a big, big part of my life, and leaving the sport tore a massive hole through me – both literally (with hip surgery to repair torn cartilage) and figuratively (when you’ve spent a decade trying to build some semblance of self confidence, and that one bad egg tears you apart with a few nasty words said to get a laugh at your expense, it truly does rip your soul). One day I hope to be able to write honestly about my taekwondo life – what brought me to it, what kept me going, what my experiences truly were, both mentally and physically,  but I’m not ready for that now. Let me say instead that if a role model like Ronda Rousey had been around for me 10 years ago, if someone had written a book this raw and real when I was still training and competing, things may have turned out differently for me. Not just in the sport, but in my entire life.

As a creature with so little self-confidence a few mean words from a pre-schooler would probably reduce me to tears, I was utterly and completely captivated by this book, written by one hell of a woman, who managed to fight every limitation and assumption against her with the strong belief she had in herself. The hard times in her life only served to toughen her, living proof of the good old “whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” cliche. And it’s not just about the sport; it’s about life.

If you don’t know who Ronda Rousey is, you’ve obviously been cozily tucked away under your rock for quite some time now . The Olympic judo medalist and reigning UFC bantamweight champion has taken the world by storm, parlaying her success in the MMA into an acting career and now, her book My Fight / Your Fight. I was pretty keen to get my paws on it, given the serious lack of genuine female martial artists with something to say, and I was not disappointed – I flew through the book! So what’s it about?

Marked by her signature charm, barbed wit, and undeniable power, Rousey’s account of the toughest fights of her life—in and outside the Octagon—reveals the painful loss of her father when she was eight years old, the intensity of her judo training, her battles with love, her meteoric rise to fame, the secret behind her undefeated UFC record, and what it takes to become the toughest woman on Earth. Rousey shares hard-won lessons on how to be the best at what you do, including how to find fulfillment in the sacrifices, how to turn limitations into opportunities, and how to be the best on your worst day.

What that translates to is a book full of mini chapters, each headed with a little bit of advice as applicable to the real world as in competitive fighting. Some of my favourites, some of the things I wish I’d heard from a fellow female martial artist when I was younger, included:

– Never underestimate an opponent.

– Do not accept less than what you’re capable of.

– Turn limitations into opportunities: use setbacks to develop in another area you wouldn’t otherwise addressed.

– Find fulfillment in the sacrifices: most people focus on the wrong thing; they focus on the result, not the process. The process is the sacrifice; it is all the hard parts – learn to enjoy them, or at least embrace them.

– You have to be the best on your worst days: you have to win so clearly that they have no choice but to declare you the winner.

– No one has the right to beat you: you both start from zero. Where you take it from there is up to you.

– Don’t rely on others to make your decisions.

– Everything is as easy as making a decision and then acting on it.

– This is my situation, but this isn’t my life: terrible situations don’t last forever.

– Nothing will ever be perfect: make the present moment the perfect moment.

– The only power people have over you is the power you give them: once you start caring about people’s opinions of you, you give up control.

 

Honestly, I loved this book. It’s raw and open and honest. It’s not polished up to be glamorous, not even in the “oh look how hard things were and how amazing I am now!” kind of way you usually read. And don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s only worth a read if you’re a female martial artist. This book is for everyone who’s ever had to put in a fight for something that really meant something to them. It’s for everyone who’s ever lost someone important. For everyone who’s been in a shitty relationship. For everyone who’s been told they couldn’t, shouldn’t, or that their ideas are ridiculous. It’s for the guys and girls who’ve been torn down and fought to get back up. For the people who want something better for themselves, even if they don’t know what that is yet or how to get it. It’s for every single person out there who doesn’t realise that the big chance they need to change their lives isn’t going to be magically bestowed upon them – that the chance is already ready to be taken if they can just be brave enough. Because you shouldn’t ever let anyone force you to take a step back.  Get a copy, as soon as you possibly can, and re-examine the excuses you’re making for yourself not to live the life you really want.

Prisoners On The Run 2015

A few months ago, I participated in the Wanderlust 108 “triathlon” in Melbourne, which you can read more about here – basically, it was a “kind” triathlon, comprised of a 5km run, a 90min yoga session, and some meditation to end with. The run was a challenge for me (I am not a natural athlete), but I trained for it and did surprisingly well – even more of a surprise was that I actually enjoyed training for it! A week after Wanderlust 108, I decided that I wanted to keep myself motivated, so to give myself a reason to keep training, I decided to enter myself in another fun run – the 8km Prisoners On The Run in Beechworth. 

 

The annual 8km run is held to raise money for local disabled and disadvantaged kids, with the added bonus of being held far away from home; husband decided to enter as well, and we decided to make a weekend of it! 

 

I’ll write a little more about it when the trip is over (busy enjoying it right now!) but for now, I managed to cross the finish line in 57 minutes, 3 minutes quicker than my “I wish” goal time, despite the hills, the sore throat, the late withdrawal of my husband/running partner and the torn cartilage in both hips. I did it, I couldn’t be prouder, and self-pride is not all that common for me! 

 

The weekend has also been amazing here – beautiful weather, incredible accommodation, delicious food and time to actually relax and enjoy it! Looking forward to sharing a bit more about the beautiful town of Beechworth next week 🙂

S2, Ep1: one year on, a blog facelift, leaving my heart in New Orleans, and thanking you all :)

Don’t worry, you’re in the right place – it’s still me, I’ve just decided as a first birthday present to the blog, I’d honour the journey of the past 12 months a little better with a new and more fitting name, a facelift and a bit of a make over! A whole year… crazy!

I started this blog because I needed an outlet, and writing is what I’ve always turned to, as both a creative and emotional outlet. I’ve spent my whole life writing; even as a kid, I never went anywhere without a pencil and paper. When I started writing here 12 months ago, I was finally starting to find myself and what makes me happy instead of putting all of my energy into trying to conform to what I thought I was “supposed” to be. In short, I was feeling pretty ordinary. I had crazy dreams, but I, myself, felt an ordinary little thing. It’s a hard lesson to learn that you actually don’t need to give a damn about what other people think of your choices, nor do you need to justify what you’re doing to anyone else. The things I like doing are what this blog is all about – travelling and eating and cooking and reading and learning and exploring, hence the name change! It’ll also hopefully make things a little easier for people to find me in cyberspace amongst the plethora of other blogs out there.

I read something ages ago, and can’t remember where I read it, but someone had been interviewed and said that they thought of blogs as a sort of a high tech time capsule – once something’s on the internet, it’s there forever, like it or not. I like the idea that in 100 years, maybe someone else sees some of this, and knows what the world was like for me and my generation. How extraordinary our dreams were, what we worked for, what we ate and what we read. I don’t flatter myself that I’m interesting or important enough for that, but you never know…

So, even though I write this primarily for me (which is why I write and post pretty much every day; it is literally my outlet and keeps me sane!), THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to everyone who’s read what I’ve had to say over the past year. Thank you for taking time out of your day to look at my photos and read my stories and leave your comments and share it all with me – now, I’m writing for you guys, too!

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I’ve also given the site a little change in appearance and photos – I thought after a year it was time 🙂 This post explained a bit about why I chose that photo I took in Egypt as the photo you’d first see when you visited my blog. That’s changed now; the first image you’ll see now will be New Orleans. For the same reason that you saw Egypt for the first 12 months – that city changed me, again.

It’s hard to really explain why. It’s another world. It wasn’t America, it was something all it’s own. You couldn’t pigeon hole it or really pin it down. It didn’t really conform to anything or fit any one definite box. That’s how I felt as a person when I got to New Orleans. Which, ironically enough, made me feel like I finally did fit and belong. People there did their thing, their own thing, without any fear. They were free. As someone who’s spent the best part of her life held back by fear, I was hypnotised by the thought of it. I had a lot of time to sit and think, over a cup of tea and some Café du Monde beignets. I wanted to make some changes in this new year. I felt like 2014 was my warm up, my pre-game. I was preparing myself, mentally, for shit to get real. I had all these things I wanted to do, but was too scared to actually just try them. I might fail. People might judge me. It might be the wrong thing. Maybe I’ll regret it later. Maybe I’ll regret not doing it…

I saw a psychic in New Orleans. We’d never met, obviously, but she was disturbingly accurate on everything she told me. It wasn’t a case of “you’re doing to die at this time and win the lotto with these numbers;” rather, she put a voice to my inner thoughts. Things I’d been thinking for a long time and hadn’t shared with anyone, not my sister or best friend or husband. She confirmed everything I had been thinking about. It was almost like she was my way out of fear, the “it’s meant to happen for you, so just get on with it” that I needed. I bought myself a silver ring at a little silversmith on a tiny street to remind me of that.

I’m back home now and, having taken her advice seriously, things are changing. Or, rather, I’m changing things. I’m starting a new job next week. I’ve booked a trip to Japan for later in the year. I’m making time for real friendships and letting go of toxic ones. I’m trying to trust more and love more, despite the possible consequences. I’m looking after my body a little better. I’m making time to read and write and draw again and tinker on my piano. And the hardest part of all, cliche be damned, I am trying to follow my heart and disregard the preconceptions and judgments of others. So, instead of welcoming people to my “ordinary” life from now on, please join me as I eat, travel, read and blog!  To make life easier for both myself and everyone who’s reading along, I have kept the URL for the site the same – we’re still at http://ordinarygirlextraordinarydreamer.com/ so no need to re-direct anywhere new!

I might have only been there a few days, but New Orleans was so good for me. It changed my soul. I felt like a completely different person there, and I’ll never be able to fully understand why. Maybe it was being around musicians and cooks and writers and artists and bohemians – I’m a bit of all of those at heart. It gave me the one thing I desperately needed. I can’t tell you exactly what that was, but I got it there, and my soul feels so much happier now  : )  So, thanks for sticking with me this long, I hope you guys hang around for a bit longer, because even though I started this for me, it wouldn’t be the same without all of you! On that note, let the adventure continue!

Winter wonderland: Central Park, New York

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But seriously, how is it possible for a place like this to actually exist? Walking through Central Park a month ago felt like walking through an impossibly big movie set… everything was perfect. Every snowflake looked like it was exactly where it was meant to be, every leaf blown to just the right spot on the ground, every reflection off the frozen lake shining like it was unnaturally lit up.

I know you guys who live in New York must absolutely freakin hate this weather, I can only imagine how insanely inconvenient the weather has been of late, and I do feel for you – putting on that many layers of clothing is tedious, at best. But as a visitor, even a visitor who fell in the snow + ice + rain and tore her rotator cuff a little bit (yeah, I was that clumsy peanut), it was like walking through the most perfect winter dream

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