Six special days
Time passes, year upon year. Each year, the same days come around. Birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries. But for me, these days, they are each so different.
It’s been five years now since I started blogging. In that time I have been – what is best described as – nomadic. There have been occasions when I’ve gone back to Sydney for a month or so for a rest. And I rented a room in London for about a year and used it as a base. But I wouldn’t say I’ve had a home for 5 years. Almost all my time has been spent on the road.
It means these special days – annual events, anniversaries – they have no sense of routine. It’s not the same meal with the same tipsy relatives, or the same group of friends retelling the same jokes. Each time one of these days comes around, I create a new memory from scratch, with no template to base it on. It’s actually quite exciting.
As I look back at these days, I realise I have created some pretty special memories. Sometimes alone but often with friends – new and old. Maybe in years to come I’ll look back on some of these days with more pride and nostalgia than all the sightseeing that has filled the months in between.
In partnership with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, I’ve put together a collection of six memories of these special days I have spent overseas.
Almost exactly five years ago I landed on the Indonesian island of Bali, straight from Sydney. It was the first stop of this blogging adventure that has continued ever since. I still remember that first full day clearly – excited, of course, but also rather nervous. As well as my backpack, I was also carrying all the doubts about my uncertain future.
But when I woke up in the early morning, after flying in at night, I saw the sun rising over the jungle in the middle of Bali, birds flying between trees. It was humid but even though the air was heavy, I found it refreshing. Sitting on the bamboo balcony of my villa, I drank a strong coffee and prepared for a new day. And my new life.
My first birthday away came just a couple of months after that, in a country completely foreign – China.
I arrived in Beijing the evening before. I was a bit nervous about going through immigration because the Chinese authorities can be quite strict. A young officer studied my passport for quite a while before looking up at me and saying, “It’s your birthday”. A bit taken aback, I jokingly replied, “Did you get me a present?” He thought for a second and then said, “Yes… China,” and waved me through.
It was the start of a wonderful stay. An Australian friend who used to live in Beijing was in town and we went to dinner with a couple of her friends. Sitting on a rooftop in an old hutong neighbourhood, drinking bottles of beer, sharing food with our chopsticks, it had everything you could want from a birthday.
For my most recent birthday, I was again with friends. Like the first time, it was not by design but a happy coincidence. This year, though, I was far from the chaos of Beijing – in Los Angeles. (Which, admittedly, is probably just as chaotic if you only consider the traffic!!)
I had dinner with friends – all from different stages of my life – organised for the evening but wanted to do something uniquely Californian before that. So I woke up early and, with one of my mates, went for a morning walk, climbing high above the city until we arrived at the Hollywood sign. Those letters seem enormous this close up. They may not be as white or flashy as they look from a distance, but they brightened the start of my birthday.
Because I don’t spend much time in Sydney these days, London has become a de facto second home for me. I travel in and out of it a lot (I think I could navigate every terminal at Heathrow with my eyes closed) and, as I mentioned, have based myself there before. So it’s no surprise that a couple of special days have occurred while I was in the British capital.
One of my most memorable days was Christmas two years ago. Despite being the middle of winter, everyone in London woke to a warm and sunny Christmas morning. Some friends of mine were hosting a lunch at their house and it was a collection of mainly Australians, who were without family on the other side of the world. My contribution to the party was to make litres of mulled wine. It turns out, I should have made at least a few litres more. That’s the problem when Australians get together for a celebration!
Speaking of Australian celebrations, I clearly remember where I was one year when the rest of my country was celebrating Australia Day back home in the summer heat. I was on the ski fields of Japan, in a wonderful resort town called Hakuba.
The thing is, in some ways, you’re never too far from home. You’re only a flight away, a phone call away, a tweet away. You can feel close to those you love even if you’re on the other side of the world. And I realised that as a young man came skiing down a hill wearing a body-hugging outfit with the Australian flag on it. He was celebrating as well and, even though we didn’t exchange any conversation, I felt connected to him and the world.
And that brings me to the most recent special day, just a few weeks ago. It was the fifth anniversary of my blog (and nomadic travel) so I thought a treat was in order. And so The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna very kindly offered to host me for a couple of nights.
This was the kind of luxury I could get very accustomed to! A massage in the spa, a healthy breakfast full of superfoods, a tour of the local markets, dinner at the hotel’s excellent steakhouse. To top all of that off, the hotel is in a series of historic buildings, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site – which you know is something I am interested in!
Who would have known when I was waking up that morning in Bali that I would be staying at The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna five years later? I knew I wanted an adventure but I could never have predicted the people I would meet, the things I would see, and all those special days I would have. So many memories.
Time Travel Turtle was supported by The Ritz-Carlton but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.