A cup of coffee one year later…

So it’s a Sunday morning and I’m savoring my iced coffee and banana protein pancakes, listening to EastLake music. Seems like a pretty normal Sunday morning in the book of Anne. Except it’s not. Because I’m in a stranger’s home [I rented it, for the record, not just squatting]. In the middle of Oakland, California [say, WHAT?!]. Because I’m about to go have family SuperBowl party with my Aussies. But most of all, because it’s my trip-a-versary.

One year ago today, I got off an airplane in Nadi, Fiji. A little bit nervous, anxious and excited. A lotta bit exhausted. I was hopeful. That this trip would do it for me. That the time away would heal my fractured heart and give life back to my weary limbs. One year ago today, I needed to be invigorated like nobody’s business.

And while I can’t claim even HALF of this was my doing [for there are a million people to this puzzle], I can confidently look back on this year of growth n grace and know that I invigorated…

I’ve spent time in 21 countries and been on 36 major flights this year and covered 90 major cities and towns…not including multi leg trips or the hundreds of additional sweet baby neighborhoods I explored along the way.

I felt spiritually connected to myself and my experiences and my God in the most surprising of places–in a mosque in Casa Blanca, Morocco and on a vineyard in Northern Italy and during my morning runs on a golf course in Ireland and on top of a mountain in Norway and watching fire-dancers in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, and wine pairing in Tuscany and watching sunsets from every nook and cranny of the world.

I spent the funnest, sweetest, most hilarious, terrifying, sickening, challenging, life-cementing moments with a crazy gal from California, with Fijian backpacker hosts, with each of my dear 4 HelpX hosts, with Mairi from Scotland, with my favorite Australian cousins, with my favorite American cousins, with a London taxi driver and with a Tuscany limo driver, with mom and sister and dad, with a bearded Arkansan, with 2 Seattle gals, with a Vietnamese boat captain, with my old boss from DC, with Rabat tour-guides-turned-friends, with a motorbike driver in Bali, with my favorite elephant-loving college bestie, with the boy I had a crush on in 7th grade, with my Kara.

This year, I para-glided in Spain and bathed an elephant in Thailand. I tasted wine in Australia and Italy. I motorbiked with no helmet on in every South East Asian country I could find. I lost my money, phone and sanity on the Cambodian border. I snorkeled with a shark in the Great Barrier Reef and shopped Saville Row in style. I saw the sunrise over Angkor Wat and watched the sunset over Mykonos, Greece. I watched a bull fight in Portugal and took selfies with kangaroos in Brisbane. I hiked in New Zealand and Norway and slept in hammocks in Vietnam and Fiji. I traveled in style with the Kulls and on a Greek cruise. And I rode on disgusting Vietnamese sleeper-trains and peed through the hole in the floor right onto the tracks. I had the drunkest night of my entire life with my dad [and then without my dad, cause I lost him] on opening night of Oktoberfest in Munich. I closed a club down in Stavangar and I took cooking classes with people from around the world. I got sick. Very sick. And I grew stronger. Way stronger.

I’ve been home for a few months now and I often think back on this year as if it was a dream. Frankly, I’ve been ‘on-the-go’ more at the tail end of 2015 than I was one year ago today when  ‘slow, steady, be present’ in Fiji was my greatest focus. I’m definitely back home. Ratrace and 9-5 included. And definitely hoping to find my balance in 2016.

The whirlwind of home brings lots of folks to ask me ‘did it work?’ Did your trip do what you wanted it to do for you?

The answer is yes. And no.

The time and space gave me a couple of very concrete things, that I prayed for. For one, it gave me peace with the fact that I will NEVER understand. Never tie a rational bow around the bullshit uninvited presents life’s thrown my way. And I now feel so comforted by the fact that I no.longer.need.to. It doesn’t have to make sense. And that’s ok. It’s way easier to just trust that God has the plan.

But it also proved that going on a trip isn’t the answer to anything. I knew it wasn’t when I set out. I was doing this trip for tangential hopes and goals. Not running away to find myself. But what I DIDN’T anticipate was how ‘letting go’ of all fears and Type-A and ‘normality’ would shift my heart in a big way. It gave me confidence. To plan when I want to and let the rest unfold like a beautifully nuanced storybook. It gave me confidence to go after what I want and not put my eggs in baskets that don’t deserve my eggs. I think it gave me some patience and understanding. And I definitely learned how to be present. Presence…a gift for sure.

One year later, from a stranger’s kitchen, I raise my perfectly clean coffee cup to myself who raised a not-so-clean coffee cup to the Fijian sea. And I cheers to the success of that ‘growth n grace’ prayer one year ago this morning.

And I take it one step further…Here’s to keeping memories and life lessons alive and well. Here’s to folding in that ‘me’ with ‘normal life.’ Here’s to balance. And a ceaseless quench for adventure and the good life.

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Thicker than water

What a lyrical weekend our trip to the Hunter Valley proved to be. Cousin Julie and her lovely Sean brought us to…wait for it….wine country. And it cements the fact that ‘blood is thicker than water.’ There may be a whole flippin ton of water that separates Julie and me in a normal day, but that Temme blood is thick as a good Port. She gets me.

All weekend she’s laughed, calling herself a ‘nana’ because she likes to sip wine on the porch rather than get sloshed at a pub…cook a healthy herb-glazed chicken and salad in our rented kitchen, rather than go out for fried food…cozy up in bed at a reasonable hour rather than pretend to be an 18 year old who doesn’t need sleep [[I was not said 18 year old, but still]]…lay out on the grass at a country music festival rather than squish up against the stage to dance faces off with aforementioned 18 year olds…If Julie is a nana, then I am a nana too. I think I’ve always been a nana. Good company, that Temme blood. No wonder our actual Nanas live to be 100+ years old…they’ve been practicing for a century afterall.

So, if you aspire to live to be 100+ years old…here is how to practice being a nana when you’re 26 [[27?]]:

  1. Arrange for a private wine tasting at your favorite winery and let Emma teach you all about beautiful local wine making, but then reassure you that it’s all rubbish at the end of the day, cause your palate likes what it likes. Let her pour you a dozen+ sips and leave with a case.
  2. Grab a picnic blanket, head to a country music fest and find space in the grass to sprawl out. When the rains pass and the sun sets and darkness falls, lay back on the blanket and watch the stars [[both shooting and still]] and listen to real artists sing about real life. It feels real good. You’ll smile in the dark, and not for anyone but yourself and God. How real.
  3. Roll out of bed at 7am, lace up your Nikes and go for a run. Not just any run though, go run in the vineyards and let yourself stop to smile so hard at the kangaroos that jump out in front of you and startle your stride. Take pictures of them basking in the sun at the end of the vines and let it sink in that even though you’re in wine country, you’re a million miles from home. Let that smile sink deep down to your soul, and then run the hills.
  4. Rent colorful cruiser bikes with the fashionable baskets, ditch the helmets so you can feel the wind whip your hair around and pedal through the vineyards. Most nana’s would recommend sunscreen, but I quite like the feeling of the warm sun on tingly skin, made better by a cool breeze and a fire in your quads. The uphill burn is made sweet by the downhill tear, with an estate in view…It will all just make you feel like a kid again…a kid motivated by wine anyway.
  5. Drink wine. Drink lots of good, red, wine. Moreso, drink in the bliss of having a glass in hand, surrounded by good people, rich conversation and a beautiful view of the valley with the roos lounging under the olive trees. Drink it all in. All day. Do this day on repeat as often as possible.

Nana-practicing in the Hunter Valley was a soul-filling kind of weekend. Funny though, now that we’re back in Manly Beach, I think I might have found my favorite inspiration to be a truly good nana someday…just follow the Granger Rules:

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If I can live to be 100 years old, living out these rules that Julie and Sean and their two lovely little kiddos model, then I think it could be worth the wrinkles.

Cheers to fine wine, thick blood and good rules.

Hunter Valley

Feels like home to me

Good luck getting that song out of your head…I hummed it silently for the duration of our all-too-short stay in Melbourne…but really, what a refreshing few days in a city that I’ve never been to, but that strangely felt familiar. Perhaps it wasn’t because of the city itself [[they still drive on the opposite side of the road, have adorable accents and cafes too cute for words]], but more because of how we spent our time in said city.

Katie, ‘Amazing Katie,’ as the American cousins have formally dubbed her, and her equally amazing mate, Gary, truly made us feel right at home. We read and cooked and worked out in a real gym [[!!!]] and did laundry and talked about our dreams and guilty pleasures and had friends over and did Tuesday night at a food truck and a local watering hole and explored the city by foot….

and….we did wine country…and it was amazing too.

The thing about wine country is that it really doesn’t matter where in the world you are, as long as your palate and mind are open to new grape varietals, the people you’ve trekked with were well chosen, the sun is shining and there’s cheese to be paired.

Yarra Valley

Yarra Valley is one of the great wine regions of Australia, where Chardonnays [[still not my fave..not even in Chardonnay land]] and Pinot Noirs take the cake, so you know it was dang near top of Kara’s and my list of things to do while in Melbourne. What better way to recoup from a great road trip, than indulging in a few tastings, afterall?

Indulge we did and at home we felt. Cheers to amazing people, amazing reds and a home away from home.

Drivin free and feelin great

I feel like every soul in the world must love the feeling of a full tank of gas, windows down, sunglasses on and shoes off, favorite tunes blaring as you cruise toward the beach. Every soul that I’d want to know, anyway. It’s just one of those feelings that screams freedom. Yall know how I feel about freedom.

We picked up our cross-over on the south side of Melbourne on a Friday morning and took off on what I’d soon realize was one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring drives of my life. The Great Ocean Road’s name is as appropriate as they come.

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Not two hours outside of this sprawling metropolis we turned right [[but kept to the left side of the double lines]] and just kept driving.

At every bend in the road was another ‘holy *#^%, look at that view’…Great Ocean Road

Another sleepy beach town with organic cafes and sleek surf shops…

Great Ocean Road

Another hair-pin-turned jaunt through the rain forest; another canopy of gum trees that send eucalyptus aroma swirling through the car; another scenic overlook that you can’t pass up, cause it very well may be better than the last…

Great Ocean Road

Another surfer’s paradise where you could sit and watch the salty blondes paddle out and hitch a wave on repeat…

DSC_0005Another traffic jam of Asian tourist pulled over on the side of the road, cameras out to capture a momma and baby Koala hangin out in the tree across the road [[ok fine, that only happened once, but it was pretty cool]]…

Great Ocean Road Another flock of cockatoos that make their living by stealing food from unsuspecting tourists [[that only happened once too, but it was no doubt, a highlight of my trip..I’m still giggling…Unsuspecting tourist, Kara, is not..she says the cockatoo bites hard]].

DSC_0098We just spent an entire day with our jaws in our laps as we leisurely made our way toward the grand finale.

After a quick hostel workout and a cribbage match over our Thai dinner, we woke up ready to hit the open ocean road again. Destination:  The 12 Apostles.

Because a picture’s worth a thousand words, this:

Two days, 1 tank of gas and a whole lot of pretty later, we made it back to our Melbourne pad feelin pretty free and pretty great.

Great Ocean Road

Sense vs. nonsense

I think Kara and I agree that Cairns agreed with us and vice versa. A box full of favorite memories of our trek so far.

Karen and Gavin, our amazing hosts, rolled out a rain forest haven for us backpackin gals. We showed up to an empty villa with a view ready to be oogled, a pool ready to be dunked in, beds ready to be slept in and an OCD-gal’s dream kitchen ready to be cooked in. We missed K&G for the first 4 days or so, but they graciously allowed us to make ourselves at home….and so we did.

From snorkeling the Reef; to a Cape Trib and Daintree day trip with our favorite tour guide / Dutchman / photographer, turned friend; to a lazy day on Fitzroy Island; to sinking our hands back in to clean cooking and eating, we kept busy and lazy at the same time. Oh, dichotomies.

The part I love most about doing Oz is that I get to do it with family. We get to ask unabashed questions and dig in to politics and pick up on local secrets and cook ‘thank you’ meals like we’d do at home. Sure, we sneak in the ‘must-dos’ as any visitor would, but doing it with a local lean makes it feel more real, more sensible.

Sensible.

What a concept.

Nonsense.

What a blood-boiling infuriation.

Here’s where I’ve landed on some Cairns-inspired sense vs. nonsense:

  • Sourcing, cooking and eating whole, local foods–makes sense and feels good. Gavin’s panko-crusted fish [caught and cleaned with his own two hands, right in his own backyard] is the most mouthwatering flaky white fish I’ve ever tasted. Doused with fresh mango / avo guac and a cabbage slaw, with a side of roast pumpkin, pine nut, feta salad. Yeah, go on and call it sensible palate heaven.
  • Preferences. Nonsense. Utter nonsense. That I can run for office in Queensland against Kara and Gavin, but Kara can have a side deal with Gavin to collect all of the votes he earns to count as her own is ABSOLUTE nonsense [[I’m sure you political junkies could point out equivalent neuroses in our American system as well]]. The things you learn over panko-crusted fish tacos.
  • Free community fitness classes down at the lagoon. Sensible. Smart. Hilariously entertaining, given that the class we watched was Aqua Zumba. But seriously, can you imagine all the local fitness clubs in downtown DC putting on free community yoga classes and pilates and dance classes on the Mall, for anyone and everyone who wants to join in? Move. Get healthy. Do it as a tourist or a local. Do it to feel rich and not get rich. Riotously sensible demonstration in CBD Cairns. We should jump on that bandwagon.
  • Media. Should be absolutely sensible, right? Should just be facts on facts on facts. But I’m learning that as in any country, media has more often than not, turned into a nonsense money-making business rather than an objective community storytelling service. It makes my public relations grounded spirit sad. Can’t we just tell honest stories as they truly unfolded, rather than splicing and dicing sound bites or covering atrocious behavior that rewards nonsense? We opted not to pay for cable back in our Woodinville Villa this year, but catching some news with the cousins and recanting stories of deplorable media behavior just reminded me how transactional our global culture’s become. Yuck. Big, huge yuck.
  • Then there’s nature, which we saw from both sides of the sense spectrum. We got to be at one with nature in so many ways this last week. We snorkeled with fish and just quietly observed their daily behavior, careful not to touch the coral and damage the thousand-year-old-Natural-Wonder. We saw a cassowary crossing the road through the juicy, thick Daintree Rain Forest. But then, at the top of ‘Killer Hill’ in Karen’s neighborhood, nature’s been corrupted by human hands. They’ve literally ushered in a pest by sourcing cane toads [a natural predator for some animal population they wanted to bring into balance], but unnaturally created a breeding frenzy for what’s now become a new nuisance. Just hundreds of cane toads scurrying from your foot before it squishes its guts. Nature’s a weird one that swings both ways, I think.

It was all just a glaring reminder at how seeing and observing and doing first-hand is truly the best way to learn—the best way to fuel an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

Cairns, I just love you. You made me think. You made me do. You made me relax but aspire. You made my hair look a hot mess, my skin sweat beads like never before and nearly gave Kara a heat stroke. But you’re one hotbed of beautiful views.

Karen hugged me goodbye at the airport this morning and fared me well with a ‘you’ll be back; so we’ll see you later.’

Yes, I’ll be back, Karen. That just makes sense.

Second thoughts on water…

I still love water. I’ve seen and submerged in a lot of it during our stay in Cairns, and it’s utterly beautiful. But I’ve been consumed with thinking ‘how can something so beautiful and so natural cause such pain and chaos?’

Crock warning signs everywhere, vinegar on every beach corner and stinger-suits galore…as beautiful as this Australian ocean is, it’s absolutely a poisonous devil’s playground.

Then there was Will. And now there’s Travis. And I’m just agonizing over the dichotomies of life right now….

  • Water is beautiful and calming and so peaceful, but those tides can churn, waters can become rough and perilous, and yesterday’s glassy blanket of blue can close chapters long before the story should be over….before it barely even began.
  • Wine can fill my soul, but it can shred my body when my overindulgence wins out.
  • Trust is good and right. It’s the easy path for me, choosing to give the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes that can bite you in the ass too. Sometimes it bites you in the ass that now has no shorts, cause your favorite pair’s been swiped by a fellow backpacker. A petty example, but an example nonetheless.
  • Love is beautiful too. I believe in it. I see it around me, I feel it. But it broke me. It broke me so hard, that I’m not quite sure that I’ll ever be able to buff out as radiant a shine as there once was.
  • How can growth and grace, two words that feel like they should sing in constant harmony, require and cause so much chaos? How can the balance feel so hard at times? How can two beautiful things work against each other, but need each other at the same time?

These dichotomies consume me…Is it a ‘too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing’ scenario? Is it God’s way of telling us to settle, trust Him, wait for Him to figuratively turn water into wine in our lives and always, always love him? I don’t know what it is. I don’t think anyone does. It’s impossible to work out how such good things can cause such bad things…how bad things happen to such good people.

I can’t quiet this internal dialogue. Not today and probably not tomorrow either, so I suppose in the meantime I’ll just send so much love, all the love I can muster, to those good people who loved Will and Travis. And trust that when we sip on a glass of wine with our toes dangling off the dock in the cool water, we’ll feel the love coming right back to us.

Wish you were here from the Great Barrier Reef

So we took more than a few moments to relax [trash TV indulgences jncluded] in Hervey Bay…necessary moments I keep reminding myself, for travel endurance sake. Anyway, an ad came on TV that read ‘wish you were here’ and it got me thinking… Who exactly do I wish was right here with me right now? I didn’t think about it long enough to answer my own subconscious question… But today I did. And it was obvious from the moment we boarded our little sail boat, built in the 1950s, down at the marina in Cairns, Australia.

Mr.McCoy likely doesn’t know how often I think of him. But he is responsible for imparting some pretty important learnings on me…

The way he holds hands with Mrs. McCoy is a love I adore and one that I wish for all of my people. His giggle is infectious. And he made me my first Old Fashioned on the deck of his beautiful boat as we topped off a day at Greers Ferry one salty summer night years ago. To this day, that is my favorite drink. To this day, the Old Fashioneds that Mr. McCoy makes me on his boat are the best serve to be had in the country [[I’ve come close to proving it ]]. To this day, I cannot sip on one without thinking about sweet Mr.Mccoy.

old fashioneds

His daughter is one of my most long-lived best friends. But when I’m back at ‘home’ in Arkansas, Mr. McCoy treats me as his very own…and for a moment I really am Bcoy’s sister. Oh I’m smiling.

And when I fly home for a weekend and they’ve booked me a day out on the lake…once everyone is settled in and are happily sipping a drink and floating on rafts soaking up those southern rays, Mr. McCoy slides on his flippers and face mask and quietly slips off to explore the lakes bottom.

When I win the lottery, I will bring that sweet man to visit Doug, from Key West, who will scoop us up at the Cairns marina in his old refurbished sail boat, called the Falla,. Doug will drive us 90 minutes off shore to the outer reef where we’ll spend a day snorkeling one of Gods great natural wonders. It will be one of those ‘I don’t think we’re in Greer’s Ferry Lake anymore, Todo’ moments.

The Great Barrier Reef

We will perfectly replicate today [[except our GoPro will have a full battery…omg #fail]] floating through the teal blue water spotting erradescant everything. We will find the incessant Barramundi the size of Layton, clams the size of smart cars and brilliantly colored parrot fish the size of my leg.

Yes. That's a Barramundi
Yes. That’s a Barramundi

We’ll listen to the tinkering sound of millions of fish, big and small, stunning and strange, all in their own unique way, feed on the coral, and then watch as they spit out the yucky bits. We will ooh and ahh over coral–every kind of coral you could ever imagine and then LOTS that you never could have imagined–coral that Nat Geo doesn’t even do justice until you see it for yourself. We will lather sunscreen time and time again, but still hope for a tan, feast on a lunch of salad and deli meats, make friends with an intimate crowd of fellow snorkelers from France and Germany and Colorado. We will take photos of us jumping into the water from the sails ladder 15 feet up.

The Great Barrier Reef

Then when we see a shark… A real big shark, it’ll scare the piss out of us enough to send us hauling butt back to the boat where they’ll serve us cheese and fresh fruit and wine from a coffee mug  [[which we’ll appropriately swap for some bourbon and bitters]] as we cruise back to shore.

The Great Barrier Reef

If that day is anything like today, I think Mr. McCoy might move to Cairns.

It was an incredible second trip out to the Great Barrier Reef, and all I can think about now that we’re pulling in to the dock is, Mr. McCoy, I wish you were here.

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