I love that song. I heard it at the beginning of “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suzwaW_SqtU . That’s a song about being enlightened or “finding yourself”. There are a bunch of songs and movies about finding yourself, but I’ll leave that for another post.
I recently went away by myself for the first time ever. Yes, that’s a little strange as I’m almost 34 years old. It was a little daunting too.
I really needed some time to re-charge and centre myself, so I decided to book a trip away to see my beautiful Aunty Gael up in Byron Bay.
She has had a very interesting life. She is one of the original “hippies” from the 70’s, who spent her younger years living in California, and Hawaii, before re-locating back to the Northern Beaches of Sydney, and finally up to Byron Bay. She is single and one of the happiest, loving, and most content women in my life. She lost her son when he was 5 years old in an accident in the home, lost her fallopian tube in an ectopic pregnancy years later (where she was pronounced dead on arrival to the hospital) and has had some very interesting relationships throughout her life, sadly, with the love of her life taking his own life around 10 years ago. So to be as blissful and complete as she is, she is someone who I not only look up to, but deeply admire for her strength and ability to bounce back in the face of tragedy and adversity.
I’d only been to Byron Bay once before around 10 years ago and I only passed through for a day. Back then it very much lived up to its “hippie” reputation, but its now a lot different to how I remembered it. Or perhaps I’m now different. I’m not sure.
I took my flight from Sydney, by myself, which I was quite nervous about. Will I know what to do when I get to the airport? Will I know how to find my gate? Will it be weird sitting by myself on the plane? Such silly things I was telling myself. I travel constantly. I know how to do things, and I’m a big girl after all. I checked in for my flight fine, located my gate with ease, and went and bought a few magazines, a coffee, and aByronBaycookie, and sat down on my own and enjoyed the solitude. I boarded the plane without any problems, and sat down between a young girl, and a middle aged man, and in my usual traveling fashion, promptly fell asleep for the duration of the flight.
One thing I did notice about traveling as a woman on your own, is men are very helpful. I had men letting me in front of them, opening doors for me, even retrieving my bag from the overhead locker in the plane (which probably has to do with the fact that I am almost too short to reach it). There was never a shortage of friendly assistance which was very nice.
Upon arriving into Byron Bay, my Aunty was waiting at the gate for me. She later told me that she didn’t immediately recognize me, and she thought I was just some local girl coming home, and in a funny way, it almost felt like I was coming home. Byron was strangely familiar to me.
My Aunty took me to a lovely restaurant called Lilianas Cafe ( http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lilianas-Cafe/232556946830759 ) in an area in the Byron Bay hinterland called Possom Creek. We ordered lunch and a bottle of Pinot Gris, and spoke about our lives. It’s nice to be with family. There is always that unspoken connection that is there no matter how much time or distance separates you.
After lunch we drove to Gaels home in Byron, changed into our swimmers, and went for a swim in the Creek at Brunswick Heads, before heading across to the beach for another swim. In the late afternoon we headed back to her house and showered and went first to the Beach Hotel ( http://beachhotel.com.au/ which is a great venue – mixed ages, killer cocktails, and live bands. And its nice because everyone generally comes straight off the beach so there’s no need to get all dressed up), and then to a local pub for a beer called The Rails where we watched a local band perform, and then off to The Brewery ( http://www.byronbaybrewery.com.au/ formally Buddha Bar) to have a meal where we dined on pork belly and scallops washed down by some more wine.
I am not typically a morning person (insomnia will make sure of that), however my Aunty would wake me up each morning with the sound of the juicer (she said that was my alarm clock) and make us fresh juice, followed by herbal tea, a walk on the beach with her dog, her “fur-child” Jules, a swim on the beach, and then some breakfast. It was great. Each day we would snack on fresh fruit, yoghurt – just what the doctor ordered. We would also go to bed at around 9pm each night which was quite strange for me. But that old saying of the hours of sleep you get before midnight counting as double is true. I never once felt sleepy during the day whilst I was there. And I also slept very soundly too.
But then came time where my Aunty would need to get a few things done during the day (she is in the middle of building a house), so I would do my best not to get in the way, and go and have some time to myself, which was the whole purpose for my visit anyway.
Although I spend quite a lot of time on my own at home, and happen to be a big fan of my own company, I have never really been “alone”. I didn’t know anyone in Byron Bay besides my Aunty, so it was a little daunting to go and do solo activities – something I’m not that accustomed to seeing as though I have been in relationships from the age of 14. Also, having been in relationships for the past 20 years of my life, I didn’t really know a lot about who it was that “Amy” actually is. I think I’m pretty shy, however I love to talk, so that mustn’t be entirely true. I get embarrassed easily, however I don’t particularly care what anyone thinks of me, so that mustn’t be true either. I am scared of everything, however I managed to get this far in life so there mustn’t be much truth to that either. Who am I? The question we all tend to ask ourselves at some point in our lives.
So I set out one early morning on my own to go for a walk to the beach. I borrowed a backpack from my Aunty to carry my towel and belongings (I think it was the first time I’ve used a backpack since circa 1989). I went to the local café and bought myself a coffee and a slice of banana bread, and made my way down the road to the beach. I had taken instructions on how to get there from my Aunty, however my mind at times is reminiscent of a sieve so of course I had to stop and ask for directions along the way. A young gardener at a hotel assisted me in my journey (and told me to be careful of the brown snakes which was just a lovely piece of advice which didn’t frighten me at all), and I found my way down to the beach.
It’s strange being alone. No one to talk to. No one to mind my things whilst I swam in the ocean. Just me. Alone with my thoughts. And my gosh do I have a lot of thoughts. My dear friend Ashley told me I will get bored on my own, and perhaps even a little lonely, but I should sit with that boredom and loneliness. It isn’t easy I tell you. But after a little while, I was able to quiet the clamor in my mind and just sit and like Eckart Tolle tries to teach, be in the now. I could suddenly hear the ocean, smell the briny salt air, feel the stickiness of it on my skin. Feel the temperate breeze dancing across my face and through my hair. Feel the rough granules of sand beneath me and between my toes. There were no thoughts. I was just still. And it was nice. Really really nice actually. Liberating. Time didn’t matter, nothing mattered. And I felt only bliss.
In fact, I felt so liberated, I truly got back to nature, and for the first time ever, I decided to go topless. There were a few other girls like it on the beach, and I thought, why not. I really don’t care what anyone thinks of me, and once I lay down, I resemble a 12 year old boy so I had nothing to be embarrassed about.
I sat there for quite a while in quiet contemplation, or perhaps I was meditating, I’m not entirely sure, but a decent amount of time passed as my Aunty soon called me to check up on me, and I slowly began to make my way back to the house, feeling calm and centred.
Each day I would do the same thing. And it never got boring. Particularly one day when I was people watching on the beach. Actually, I was on an area of the beach that was veryByronBaylike (translation – free-spirited), and there were a few naked people around. It’s funny how men go naked at the beach. They literally let it all hang out. It’s not so bad on the younger men, however the older men and woman leave a lot to be desired. I one day saw a man and a woman who had to be in their mid 60’s happily wandering along the shoreline hand in hand, and I had to take a good look at them to see which one was which. They both had large breasts and big bellys that hung down over their privates, and they looked a little like twins. I guess we start to revert back to the way we once were as children, and the only distinguishing factor to determine our gender is that of which is between our legs once we reach a certain age.
One thing that stood out that day, was a younger guy in perhaps his mid 30’s. He was sitting a little bit behind me on the beach, and he was naked. Each time he would go into the surf, of course I would peer up at him from beneath my hat. When it’s just all hanging out on display like that, you can’t help but take a look. It’s only natural. But then I saw him making his way towards me. His manhood swinging like a pendulum as he made his way over. Holy fuckballs. I really don’t want him to come over here. But too late. He crouched down near me, everything just hanging there for the world to see, and asked me if I’d like to go for a drink with him later that evening. Now I might be flattered under normal circumstances, because nobody ever asks me out (probably because I am married), but this was super weird.
“Um, no I actually have dinner with my Aunty tonight” I politely responded to him.
I really did. We were going to a fantastic restaurant called Raes on Wategos Beach . http://www.raes.com.au/raes/Home.html I highly recommend it. Oh, and I forgot to mention, this naked dude was also a little “special” (think Forrest Gump – AND he was also missing a front tooth – I know how to pick em that’s for sure)
“You don’t want me to come to dinner with you and your Aunty?” he asked sadly.
Fuck. What do I say to this man in this highly inappropriate situation? So I pretended to make a phone call, and excused myself. Once he had lost interest and wandered back into the water, I collected my belongings and briskly headed back home. I was suddenly nervous and for the first time in days, wished I wasn’t alone. But at least I got out of there unscathed, and hopefully without offending him, and I can just put that down to experience. I think I handled myself quite well actually.
I found myself talking to more people I met, so I wasn’t quite as shy as I thought I was. I’m actually quite effervescent. The local café owner was once from Sydney, and now lived up in Byron with his Brazilian wife and young child, the gardener would warn me each day of the snakes on the golf course, ensuring that my blissful state was reverted to an anxiety ridden one as I would power walk through the golf course with my eyes peeled for any serpents, a local truck driver stopped for a little chit chat to warn me that there are sometimes some weirdos around (probably as I walked everywhere in a bikini like a native – he could have warned me the day earlier about that).
So did I “find myself” in Byron Bay? Absolutely. Did I learn how to be by myself? Of course. I highly recommend going away on your own, and I anticipate my next solo adventure. And like my Aunty says, “you must learn to love yourself above and beyond anyone else”. Best advice I’ve ever been given.