Although alcohol has never been a problem to me, I quit drinking altogether about six weeks ago, mainly for 3 reasons: health, money and dating. In Australia (too) it seems like the word ‘first date’ is synonymous to ‘going out for drinks’. By eliminating the possibility of meeting someone over a frosty, or in my case a glass or two of wine, you can pretty easily cut out the people who are meeting you just in the hopes of getting in your pants as soon as possible. Also, I like doing stuff, and new experiences is a way better way to spend time with someone anyways.
Since quitting, I certainly haven’t stop meeting people and become a hermit. I compiled a list of non-alcoholic dates with a friend, and have done a solid job going through the different possibilities.
Ice skating. There is a proper ice skating hall in melbourne, just under the giant ferris wheel. Rent skates for 26 dollars, and either make a fool of yourself or show off your skills.
Studying American English. Audio classes for proper American pronunciation are a fun way of spending time or driving around.
Brunch. Yumm. Even better if you take two dishes to share. And of course coffee.
meditation. Grounding 20 minutes or however long you want to keep it up.
Night drive to the beach. Take in the stunning views of the city after a nice drive. Night time driving is the best! Unless the driver is too tired and forgets that it’s a left-sided traffic.
Drive-in movies and food truck festival. Your average movie experience upgraded!
Chilling out listening to music. Good if the music listened is not only Drake, interesting if it’s French rap. At best you’ll get some new tunes to your Spotify (like Kavinsky, The Weeknd – Odd Look <3)
I don't know how long I'll continue this experiment of mine, perhaps few more weeks. I do believe wine in moderation is good for you, and I don't think I can endure the upcoming picnic season without it.
(No pictures due to not taking any on any of the dates and because I still have the crappy computer that now manages only the basic. Apologies.)
So I spent 10 days with complete strangers in the middle of Cambodian countryside, waking up every morning under my mosquito net to a gong at 6.30, calling for morning practice. These 10 days were challenging in several ways, but most of all educating and also very relaxing. I definitely learnt a lot about myself, about the stress modern day life imposes on us, and how to cope with that. Due to my background and experience with yoga, I was struggling mostly with meditation. And I still do! Just keep on doing it, and maybe one day it will click, just like doing a headstand. I met some amazing people and made new friends I definitely hope to see in the future; we connected in an environment where you are fully present without any external human-made distractions, and the body language workshop we had even deepened my listening and presence skills. One day we spent in complete silence; I bent the rules a bit and spent quite a lot of time vomiting my thoughts on paper (music was forbidden, reading not encouraged, but creating something was I guess ok). Perhaps one day I’ll be brave enough to bear with my thoughts for the vipassana meditation, which is 10 days of meditation in complete silence.
Time Asia visited the retreat and wrote about Hariharalaya. Also better pictures than mine! Some of my highlights besides the above-mentioned were the late evening chill-outs, werewolf-game, contact meditation and workshop on body language. I really also enjoyed…basically most of it. The hardest part was chanting things I didn’t understand and sitting still in uncomfortable positions for long periods with mosquitos feasting on me.
It’s been way too long, I know. I was completely offline for a respectable amount of time, my computer broke and it is an effort to type anything with the letter ‘m’, so bear with me. I have loads of stories to tell from Asia, maybe I’ll get through at least a few of them. Bear with me for the length!
The past month I visited a Cambodian hospital due to a swollen eyelid thanks to a mozzie bite, spent 4 days offline and barefooted in paradise beach, took the infamous night bus to Siem Reap, saw sunrise at Angkor Wat, spent 10 days getting into meditation at a retreat…and a lot other stuff after that. Starting from the beginning: Koh Rong Samloem.
One (private diving) boat daily from Sihanoukville, taking people diving and then to Paradise beach or back to the party buzz of Sihanoukville. I stayed in Koh Rong Samloem for 4 days, diving and not doing much else, and it was sad to leave. I also experienced my very first night dive, which was truly an experience! Due to a malfunction in the BCD I had to change gear with the dive master, in pitch black. Being able to do that made me want to continue my diving to master level! The visibility was pretty bad, so if you are a hc diver I cannot really recommend it. But it is a good excuse to get to the quiet side of the island (only two restaurants and about max. 30 people). Oh and the hospital trip – 50 dollars and completely useless, since it got better on its own. Better to be safe than sorry, though.
From the Sihanoukville I had to take a night bus to Siem Reap, which was scary after reading all the negative reviews online. Virak Buntham, the infamous company I chose, was only one hour late from scheduled arrival. I had a sleeping “bed”, too bad there was already someone sleeping in it. Apparently this Chilean chilled out dude had taken a few valiums (smart!) before take-off, so when he woke up in the morning he had no idea he’d been spooning with me all night. If you ever have to take the night bus, remember to: 1. Be prepared to freeze to death, 2. Have no wifi no matter what they promise you, 3. guard your belongings with your life, 4. be prepared to be woken up several times for pee stops.
I spent few days in Siem Reap trying to figure out my next moves and why my credit card was not working. I ended up being myself and since I am always prepared, I bought a flight to Australia, and a boat ticket to Battambang town to have something to do after Hariharalaya retreat. If I had regrets, I’d regret both of those choices. Besides wondering about my future choices, during those days in Siem Reap I visited the Angkor temples. Together with few thousand others we shivered in pitch black 5am coldness, waiting for the sun to do what it does every day. It was beautiful. At 1pm, after 5 other temples, I was beat.
The next morning I left for my “enlightenment journey” aka Hariharalaya yoga and meditation retreat in the countryside. The following 10 days were spent completely offline, structured loosely and timed by a gong. Daily yoga and meditation practice, delicious vegan food, some extra activities like dancing meditation, magic show and werewolf game – these 10 days spent together with some 30 people from all over and all walks of life went by fast and ended in tears. Luckily we had our crew re-unite in Siem Reap for a few days; some of the best times I’ve had on my whole trip!
After a few days of pure chillin’, we took a minivan from Siem Reap with a couple of friends to go to Phenomenal Phnom Penh, a city I was thinking of skipping due to all the sadness I thought would have to encounter. It did break my heart to see kids begging for food, or selling stuff on the streets. Buying them one meal might help for a day, but there’s always another day, another kid…we stayed at a fairly partyish hostel, but ended up spending most of the time chilling in our (private) room, listening to music. Great food, great conversations – I ended up liking Phnom Penh, but mostly because of the company. I know myself well enough to know I hate change, but this time I really hated it. After a fair amount of tears and a night without sleeping one second, I took a tuktuk to the airport and even tried to cancel my flight. Since that didn’t work out, here I am now, looking to the beautiful city of melbourne from the 22nd floor where I have been staying for the past 3 days. And the story continues…