2016: Out Into The Great Beyond
It seems so surreal that 365 days have passed since I sat on the beach at Venus Bay in Australia, my back leaning against the shifting sands with my family beside me ringing in the New Year with a golden sunset, an impromptu Frisbee tournament and much ice-cream.
For me personally, each year has been passing with more speed than the last, but 2016 truly feels like it sped by in just a blink of an eye.
A lot of people have been saying how terrible 2016 has been with the passing of so many celebrities, public figures and beloved icons, the United States’ election drama, the UK deciding to leave the EU and the terrible violence that has erupted in places across the globe. While our thoughts and healing energies are with the families and friends of those who lost someone dear to them, I have to disagree and say that 2016 was a great year in so many ways for me.
Because this year I stepped out into the great beyond.
This year I continued pursuing my love of the written word… and published my debut fantasy fiction adventure novel, Dawn of the Guardian. We also saw Dreamtime Traveler grow beyond our expectations with a community of over 15,000 readers from 130 countries reading my stories.
2016, among so many other things, was a year of culmination, of plans coming to fruition and of laying the groundwork for new ones, a year of soaring to new heights, of letting go of fears I’ve carried with me for as long as I can remember and a year of finally giving my soul to the open road.
I used to be terrified of the unknown, of not knowing exactly what lay around the river bend and travel has constantly pushed me to be more accepting and more flexible, but what 2016 finally taught me was that it’s the uncertainty in life that makes it worth living. It’s what keeps us rising to greet the sun every day, the fact that anything is possible when we pour our hearts and souls and spirits into what we love and work to bring our dreams to life.
With 2016 turning its final pages, ready to close this 365-day story, I look to the horizon and see it is bright with adventures and I know that it is time to start a new chapter in this story called life. To embrace new wonders and above all, to trust in the magic of beginnings.
There were so many beautiful and meaningful new beginnings that I am thankful for. This is why I want to share with you a different perspective on my year passed, one that is not measured through the chronology of time, but something far more meaningful, the passage of friendship and human relationships.
I am so often asked about our life on the road and one of the biggest and most frequent questions my brother and I face, centres around life on the road and friendships. This year has been the bounty of all years for friendship. It has encompassed childhood friendships rekindled and some of the deepest, most treasured connections I have made in my life.
Please do excuse the lack of clarity in some photos. When you’re in the moment, surrounded by friends, it can be a little challenging snapping shots with precision 🙂
Our year began in Australia. It was the first time we had returned since the very beginning of our journey back in 2012. Among the excitement of being back in my home city of Melbourne and getting to rediscover so many of my favourite childhood places, was a get-together organised by one of our old school mates who had discovered we were returning to Australia.
My curiosity plagued me day and night leading up to our meet-up and endless questions swirled through my head. “What would everyone be like?” “How had everyone changed?” and I guess, like most teenagers, most prominently, “What would they think of me?”
Some had indeed changed drastically, some had grown into taller, lankier versions of themselves, and some hadn’t changed at all. Perhaps it was my brother and I who had changed so drastically, as there seemed to be an unseen and unspoken chasm between us. For those few fleeting hours, I found myself spiralling into a world so much like a long and distant dream. While I was truly grateful to our host for the opportunity to meet, it felt as if my brother and I were simply a momentary curiosity.
Out of all of the people at the gathering, it was just the one, my childhood best friend Ayisha, who we would see again those sweet few times while we were home. While the strength of affection we had for each other had not waned in the slightest, it was the course and direction our lives had taken in the time passed, which has set us on different trajectories. However, in my heart, I know that just as the planets turn and course the stellar sphere of our galaxy, so too will the natural forces of the universe, somewhere and somehow cause our paths to cross again.
Some of the funniest experiences of that time at home were the non-compos-mentis-moments, like trying to bake a chocolate cake with our friends Prachi and Arnav, accidentally using besan flour, then the wrong sugar, then adding too much baking soda, then grilling the cake instead of baking it, finally trying to turn the cake into mini cupcakes and failing horribly. It was meant to be a secret and I won’t tell you what happened to the cake, but you didn’t hear it from me.
There were also some hair-raising experiences, one of which was watching our school friend, Jack, scream around the bends of a race-track at perilous break-neck speeds in his racing go-kart in a championship race, all with an expert precision and concentration, well beyond the garden variety 15-year-old. Along with the lighthearted moments of uncontrollable laughter of an afternoon spent Ten-Pin Bowling with Lara, Jack, my brother Lalika and I.
One of the most surreal, inspirational and life-changing moments of friendship was when I met in person my literary mentor, Torre DeRoche, over a wonderful lunch we shared together at Lentil as Anything, that beautiful sunny Tuesday afternoon in the confines of the Abbotsford Convent. Torre, the hugely talented and accomplished author of Love With A Chance of Drowning, and writer of the insanely funny and inspirational blog Fearful Adventurer, was sitting right in front of me, so beautiful, warm and generous with her advice and assistance. I went with my Dad and it was a conversation that we were having as we were parting, which led to a convergence of paths literally, only weeks later. We were walking the trails of the Dandenong National Park and came across Torre unplanned and pleasantly surprised as we were both descending the mountainside. This resulted not only in a meeting of minds but a kind of kinship of spirits between her and our family as we spent the rest of the afternoon extending our walk for as long as it was possible, just so we could be together that little bit longer to share our lives. It was truly a beautiful gift of the year that we all continue to treasure and kindle its warmth in our hearts. Torre is sincerely one of the greatest inspirations for my writing and having her there with me at my Book Launch was a feeling beyond compare. Torre is the older sister I’d always fantasised about having.
The truth is, travel is the catalyst for so many of our friendships and yes, being on the road does mean that you must bid each of your friends a goodbye, but it also provides some of the most intense and uplifting opportunities to connect and share your life with others. Travelling and the temporary situations you find yourself in often gifts you with the confidence to share your vulnerabilities, knowing that you will not be ridiculed and there is everything to gain. This type of friendship experience personifies what I shared with Luke, Ethan and Claudia while in the City of Lights, Paris, at the height of the northern summer.
On the flip-side of that coin, travelling also gifts you with the brilliant experience of meeting your travelling friends again on all different spots of the globe. We have a growing number of friends we have spent adventures with on at least two continents, at separate times. This year, my friend Aspen and her family, along with Axel and Marion and Luke and his family joined this group of adventurers. We met Aspen back in Orlando in 2013 while we were RV’ing around the US and we finally had the opportunity to show them a small part of our homeland. With Axel and Marianne, we met in the deserts of Jaisalmer, India, and then again when they visited us in Melbourne, Australia. With Luke, Brigitta and Murray, we met in Melbourne and had the opportunity to spend time together in Paris and welcome them to our Spanish home-base while they toured Europe.
One of the aspects of the internet is how it enlivens and gifts us with the possibilities to make new friendships and reconnect with others in a way that just twenty years ago was impossible. This depicts the way in which I met my bibliophilic sister and dear friend Julianne. Never did I think it possible that there would be someone with an appetite as voracious and a passion so deep in their love of books and the written word as I, but then I found her in Julianne. Her authenticity, and unabashed determination to consistently share herself with the world as she is, is an inspiration to me and my personal development. I can’t wait to meet her in person.
Internet connection also encapsulates the journey of friendship that I have travelled and shared with Jenna, whom I met when we were in the US three years ago. We were gifted with a full-on week of fun and adventures on her home farm in Pennsylvania with her brothers and cousins having converged for the summer vacation, a horde of 15 children together, running wild and free. While we have not physically been in each other’s presence since that time, we never failed to keep our friendship strong and this was ever more true this year with Jenna being one of the first people to have read my book and share with me her sincerest thoughts.
Travelling also uncovers the most generous acts of friendship and welcome, often from the most genuine and welcoming people you have just met. 2016 was no exception, with so many people taking us into their space of love and welcoming us as if we were family. Well, it actually does start with family when my uncle Zsolt, aunt Silvia and our cousins Krissy and Zen welcomed us to Venus Bay for the new year. We are so thankful for your generosity and for all the moments we shared together.
Our immeasurable thanks and gratitude also go to each and every one of you – Tony, Mary, Meg, Abbey and Coco in Geelong; Tracey, Paul, Connor and Katie in York; Anna, Adrian, Benji and Joshy in Melbourne, UK; Laura, Gordon and Roane in York Moors National Park; Enikő, János, Csani and Blanka in Manchester; Samantha, Steve, Liv and Cam in London; Philomena, Aaron and Odin also in London; and especially to Pista Bácsi and Emi Néni, from whose home I write this now in New Jersey. All of these connections have blessed us in richness of soul and belief in the eternal generosity of the human spirit.
And then, there is the type of friendship that is akin to finding your tribe. Coming across those individual souls in the world, where the boundaries of the written word sincerely fail to capture or illuminate the spectrum of emotions and gamut of feelings you share. They are the types of experiences where you can actually see that time is an illusion. The experiences that gift you a clear glimpse into a reality that is transcendent from this dimension, one that allows you, for the briefest of moments, to see the connection of all living things. This illustrates and embodies the type of friendships I experienced in the autumn of this year when I met Mia, George, Thea, Lila, Amelie, Oscar, Lucas, Suzanne, Matt, James, Lydia, Josie, Ellen, Tobey and Finn from the Farnham Home Schooling Group while on the UK Leg of my Book Tour.
It was kind of like finding Our Mob, an expression commonly used by the indigenous people of Australia to describe the deep and complex relationships of kinship. They are still friendships, but they share a nature that seems to weave together the fabric of your journey. Experiences like standing together in the cold autumn day outside, talking and having the day turned to dusk and then night, without ever once experiencing the passage of time and space. To wandering through the pristine English countryside with George and recognising the country cottage and plot of land I could one day call home. To that crisp and sparkling Bonfire night, running through the forest playing Manhunt, stargazing and roasting potatoes. All the way to that last day in Guildford and the experience of the Supermoon rising above the mist behind us and a plate of Pad Thai shared together wholeheartedly – a perfect metaphor in itself for how we feel about each other.
Finally, there is that form of friendship, which is woven into the very being of your physical existence, that which we share with our family members. In particular here, I relate the gift of friendship and love that has been bestowed on my family and I by my grandparents. Throughout our journey and in particular this year, they have been there for us, selflessly at every turning point, energetic stakeholders in the realisation of our visions and our dreams. I reflect on them all with deep and loving affection.
My maternal grandmother for her stoicism, depth of soul, practicality, goodwill and endless support in every endeavour we undertake.
My paternal grandfather, generous beyond measure, ready to give his last breath to a stranger in the street and funny, off the scales, in that Grandpa way.
My paternal grandmother, accepting us for who we are without question and always ready to play any game with us or have an adventure.
My Gréti Mama, brave beyond belief in her journey, with a life experience not many have had the strength and fortitude to live through, kind and generous to all.
All of these friendships have allowed us, my mother and father, my brother and I, to value in the highest gratitude the friendship and love that we share as four of the truest friends travelling life’s road together. This year we have come to cherish each moment as it comes and try so very hard to appreciate it for its fullest worth. It is this journey that has allowed us to see that we are rich beyond all means of measure and beyond all measures of worth. It is a sobering yet uplifting feeling all at the same time and with it, in each moment, the awareness of gratitude courses through our veins and touches our hearts.
For me, this has been 2016 and in all of its moments shared and passed, I can feel it is only just beginning. Not of the same year again, but of a life measured not in the increments of time, but rather through the richness of connection and the fullness of true friendship.
So to all of you I wish you the very best of friendship and in those connections, shared in those treasured moments, the gift to really see and appreciate all the beauty of all life that surrounds us.
And to all my friends, my thoughts will echo your names until I see you again.