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.

From my travel journal: Barcelona, 2017

To kill a little more time, we walked to the Mercat de la Concepció for a light lunch. We found a decent food market with a cute little corner stall with a little counter, again run by a sweet little older couple. We had beer + wine, with some potato tortilla & albondigas (meatballs) – absolutely phenomenal food! I’ll take those cute little lunch counters over a fancy restaurant any day. And it was a local market, no tourists = even better!

Read this: Around The World (Without Counting The Pennies) by Vincent Adams Winter

Around The World (Without Counting The Pennies)
by Vincent Adams Winters

Considering the fact that I found this at an op shop, it contains absolutely no publication details, and a search online didn’t turn up any results other than a listing in the National Library of Australia catalog, this isn’t so much a “read this book” post as it is a “give your local op shop book shelves a proper look through” post.

Second hand book shops are my favourite places to pass the time. They are honest-to-goodness treasure troves, and some of my favourite are ones that I’ve found tucked away under dusty piles of random volumes. This one I discovered in an op shop in Healesville – the bright cover and title got my attention, but once I saw what it was all about, I knew I had to have it.

Written by Vince, it has all the hallmarks of being a written-for-fun book, recounting Vince and wife Betty’s adventures on their 18 months and over 20 country trip around the world in 1979-80. Vince introduces the book with a strong message that age, health and budget restrictions shouldn’t stop you from getting out there and seeing the world; both in their sixties at the time of the trip, Betty had club foot and hyper-tension, and Vince suffered from Parkinson’s disease. They visited doctors or hospitals every 6 weeks or so for treatment and medication, which was crazy to read about so many years later – imagine rolling up to a hospital in Barcelona with a letter from your doctor asking them to dispense some medication to you?!

Reading through this book was an incredible trip back in time; there was so much more freedom back then in how you could travel, few real restrictions on visas and border crossings like there are now, no real worries in finding accommodation, no serious concerns in talking to strangers. I’m a big fan of journalling as a bit of a time capsule, a way of capturing a piece of the world as it is right now, and that’s exactly what Vince and Betty’s book was.

It was also really entertaining to read about how they liked to travel – upon arriving in each new city, they had two requirements they liked to have met:
1. A bus tour of the city to get their bearings and see the general outlay, while learning a few facts about the place.
2. Accommodation that provided a good on-site restaurant, because a quality breakfast and dinner were paramount.

This second point I related to particularly well, as husband and I are particularly keen on being well fed on our travels (the main difference being that we like to get out and try as much local cuisine as possible, generally avoiding hotel restaurants like the plague). This passage in particular summed up their attitude for the bulk of their trip, and had me in stitches trying to picture it…

“Leaving Solvesborg, still through dairying and wheat country similar to that between Malmo and Solvesburg, we decided to stop at Vostervik for our customary pre-lunch drink. It is a fairly large town but an hour of investigating failed to find a bar or cafe selling beer. Leaving in disgust and finding out way to the main road with some difficulty we drove only five kilometres further where we got our drink.”

 

They also kindly added in an appendix first page below) tracking their spendings on accommodation and meals… googling inflation conversions of these rates today was a bit of an eye-opener!

To think this little gem ended up in an op shop in regional Victoria, selling for only $3.50, and ending up in my hands is incredible; it also has to make you wonder how many other little treasures are floating around out there in the world with so much information and so many beautiful stories to offer… next time you’re at a second hand bookshop, take a bit of time to trawl through the stacks; you never know what you might find 🙂

 

Read this: A Traveller’s Year compiled by Travis Elborough & Nick Rennison

A Traveller’s Year 
compiled by Travis Elborough & Nick Rennison

I hope everyone reading had a wonderful Christmas and were able to enjoy some time with their loved ones! I also hope that if you had a Christmas wish, it came true; all I really wanted this Christmas break was to have a bit of time for some quiet Boxing Day reading before going back to work today (what I wouldn’t have given for just one more day off…), and I happily did 🙂 Among the books that have had my attention this Christmas weekend was this absolute gem, which I picked up around this time last year.

It’s my dream book; a compilation of travel writing, from books and journals, from both men and women, covering a time span from the 1700s until the current day, with a few entries per day. The writings collected cover everything from grand adventures to epic voyages to the regular yearly vacation.

While I’ll read just about anything but a romantic sappy love story,  a vast bulk of my book collection is made up of old travel writing. Stephen Brooks’ “New York Days, New York Nights.” Frank Korbl’s “Born To Travel.” Jan Morris’ “Journeys.” Ralph Parlette’s “A Globegadder’s Diary.” Tiziano Terzani’s “A Fortune Teller Told Me.” Paul Theroux’s “The Great Railway Bazaar.” And my hands down favourite of the vintage adventure genre, Cedric Belfrage’s “Away From It All: An Escapologist’s Notebook.”

This book is like all of them combined, plus more, on steroids. It’s the most beautiful collection of travel writing, with every piece offering something different from places all over the globe, all written very differently yet all so descriptive in their own ways…

“I have spent one hour in St. Peters, walked through the Forum Romanum, and seen the Arch of Septimus Severus, the portico of the Temple of Saturn, the three beautiful columns of the Temple of Vespasian… How I like to write down the illustrious names of what I have all my life long so much desires to see! I cluster them together like jewels, and exult over them.”
– Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, NOTES IN ENGLAND & ITALY (1858)

I’ve been trying to read the day’s entries before I go to bed each night, and if you’re head and heart are filled with wanderlust and dreams of adventure, too, this is the perfect book to treat yourself to this new year; pick up a copy here!

Read this: The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

The Great Railway Bazaar 
by Paul Theroux

Only 280 sleeps to go until the big adventure! Sounds a bit ridiculous, I know, but actually 280 sleeps isn’t all that many… 9 months… and still so much to do before then!

Anyway, it’s never too early for me to start getting excited about my next adventure, and a lot of my reading reflects that. I love to read older travel books, written by proper adventurers, before the advent of technology came and changed travel. I love to read about how travel was before everyone was in a hurry to just get to a place and see the tourist attractions and get their photo and tick it off the list, when it was just as much about the journey as it was the destination.

I’ve finally gotten around to reading The Great Railway Bazaar, and I couldn’t agree more with the commendation on the cover – it was truly entertaining, from start to finish. Paul Theroux’s travelogue takes us from London through the Middle East, India, Asia and Siberia. He was travelling for the sake of travelling, all by rail (well, as much as was possible by rail), back in the mid 1970s. Just on the road because he wanted to be. Experiencing rail travel in country after country, watching the world go by, and writing about it all as it went.

“But he does not know – how could he? – that the scenes changing in the train window from Victoria Station to Tokyo Central are nothing compares to the change in himself.”

It mesmerised me. Every page. I fell in love with train back in 2013 when we caught a few trains around Europe. That’s the way travel should be; slow. Time to think. Time to take it in. Not running around airports like headless chooks – I hate that. I’m even more looking forward to all of the train trips we’ll have in this next big trip after reading this one.

The other thing that really got me about this book was how incredibly descriptive it was. I’ve read plenty of books that paint a lovely picture, but not terribly realistic; with so many passages in this book, I actually felt like I was there…

“It was a single-line track, but squatters had moved their huts so close to it, I could look into their windows and across rooms where children sat playing on the floor; I could smell the cooking food – fish and blistering meat – and see people waking and dressing; at one window a man in a hammock swung inches from my nose. There was fruit on the window sills, and it stirred – an orange beginning to roll – as the train sped by. I have never had a stronger feeling of being in the houses I was passing, and I had a continuous sense of interrupting with my face some domestic routine. But I was imagining the intrusion: the people in those poor houses seemed not to notice the strangers at their windows.”

 

Anyway, I got my copy at a second hand bookstore, but you can also get one here. Happy reading 🙂

Project Cookbook complete: Meet THE KITCHEN PASSPORT!

Well this is mighty exciting to be able to finally post… Say hi to the little book I put together:

THE KITCHEN PASSPORT:
Getting Around The World & Bringing It Back To Your Table

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If you’ve been playing along for a while, you may remember this post, or this one; the little passion project I started two years ago got a little out of control and ended up as a kind of cookbook / travel guide / journal hybrid, almost 170 pages long, with 63 recipes, full colour photos and notes from around the world, and I’m pretty excited to say is finally finished and ready to fly out into the world!

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Let me tell you a bit more about it and why I decided that I wanted to share it…

This book is a collection of recipes inspired by meals I’ve enjoyed on my travels, as well as some of the stories behind them, the places I first ate them, the markets I visited, and the people I met on the way. My hope is that anyone who does find themselves with a copy can use it as part cookbook, part travel guide, part voyeuristic look into my diary.

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Food plays such a huge role in cultural identity and is one of, if not the best ways to get to know a new city. It has the power to bring together strangers, to communicate entire histories, and to create amazing memories which will still be with you as you eat that same dish 10 years later. My greatest travel memories can be recalled so easily through the senses of taste and smell; through food. I want to give others an easy way to either recreate food from their travels, too, and others still (and maybe more importantly) a way to taste a bit of the world they haven’t visited yet.

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I’m neither a professional chef nor writer. I have no training in photography or visual design. I’m just another girl who wants to leave behind some of that which I’ve been fortunate enough to experience. I hope this little book inspires some to travel and brings back fond memories for others. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed taking the adventures that are behind it.

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If you’d like a bit more of a preview of the book, or to actually purchase a copy, follow the link and head on over to Blurb Books, where it’s being sold in hardcover, softcover (unfortunately printing “real” books these days isn’t a cheap venture, I’ve done my best to keep the costs down!), eBook and PDF formats, with pricing (ex GST & shipping) below:

Hardcover: AUD$51.99
Softcover: AUD$36.99
eBook: AUD$19.98
PDF: AUD$9.99

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And if you do end up with a copy, I really, truly do hope you enjoy the escape from reality and return of fond memories while reading and cooking from it 🙂

Read this: The Great Global Bucket List by Robin Esrock

The Great Global Bucket List
by Robin Esrock
http://www.globalbucketlist.com/

“For over a decade, renowned travel journalist, bestselling author and TV host Robin Esrock scoured the globe in search of one-of-a-kind, bucket list-worthy experiences. During his remarkable journey to over 100 countries on seven continents, Esrock uncovered unique adventures, fascinating histories, cultural spectacles and unforgettable characters – proving that modern travel is so much more than over-trafficked tourist attractions.”

When you’re anything like me and read an introduction like that and the lovely people at Affirm Press kindly offer to send you a copy, you get excited! Everything about that paragraph got to me, because it’s everything I’ve ever dreamed about. As long as I can remember, there have always been three things in life that I’ve wanted to do; learn as much as I can through reading (yes, major bookworm and nerd, I’m ok with it), travel the world, and write about it. This guy is doing just that. He’s seen the world and wrote a book about it. That was a book I needed to read.

Covering everywhere from place as far-flung as Nicaragua and Mongolia, to more common places like Italy and Thailand, he’s literally seen it all. The amount of things he’s seen and experienced is absolutely mind-blowing, and eye-opening. The bucket list items aren’t for everyone, being of the more adventurous nature. Experiences like biking down the “Death Road” in Bolivia, for example, are definitely not my jam… but hot air ballooning over Bagan in Burma or taking part in the world’s biggest food fight in Spain definitely are! Then there were things like Burning Man, which I’ve heard only bits about but now want to know more after reading what Robin had to say about it.

While parts of the book felt a bit forced and read as trying a bit too hard to be funny (“First stop is a treat of the ancient world, Chichén Itzá, not to be confused with chicken pizza, which happens to be delicious.”), it was fantastic to see a great deal of photos taken of and by Robin himself, because it made it so much more real. There is absolutely nothing more depressing than a travel book where all the photos look photo-shopped, because you just know that sort of an adventure is out of reach for us real people. Especially because adventure isn’t out of reach for any of us – especially not with a bit of inspiration like this.

You can pick up a copy (and inspiration for your next adventure) here, and in the mean time, you can check out Robin’s website for more information on all of his favourite bucket list items.