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"And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now… until one day, you eventually live your answers" Rainer Maria Rilke

At Least My Heart Was Open

"Never more alone or more alive"

Shasta, Matt Kearney

The concept of time baffles me. I cannot explain how seven years can feel like seven minutes and how three weeks feels more like three months have passed. I’m currently travelling around Japan by myself, a concept that baffles some people that I meet. The ask “Just you?”, wonder “Where are your friends?”, and want to know “Is your husband joining us?”. I don’t travel alone to make a point out of it. I simply want to have adventures and experiences that I cannot have at home, and at the moment that means doing it solo.

The inevitable highs and low of travel are amplified when you have no one to share them with. When you are travelling alone you get these intense moments of personal pride. Like navigating a complex subway system with no WiFi, and ordering a meal in a foreign language using hand gestures. It’s a chance to celebrate the things you did all on your own.

A cool guy I met in a calligraphy class in Tokyo said “You can’t just arrive and be in it” which I appreciate more than he will ever know. Your first day in a new place can be tough, especially when you’re hungry, tired, bewildered, and can’t quite work out how to use the shower. His words will forever remind me to take it easy when you arrive, take a moment to do something to make yourself feel better, and get some rest. Now the adventure can begin.

When you are in the flow of travel, travel is the best. But when you are out of sync, wherever you are feels like the loneliest place in the world. You have to eat alone a lot. I like to take a book, write in my notebook, and look around. I find a seat at the bar is best so you can watch the kitchen or a seat at the window to watch the street. In Chicago, I sat at the counter next to a chef who was training to print 3D food. We ended up sharing our dinner and dessert so we could try everything.

Somewhere in the first week, the blissful feeling of solitude kicks in. You start to feel like you’re travelling with your best friend and your lover, but it’s just you. I like how Cheryl Strayed explains being alone as “a room where I could retreat to be who I really was” when she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail by herself. In a subtle way, you start to feel more open and alive as you notice how you are flourishing being completely alone.

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Byron Bay Beach

"Because our hearts don't beat the same as they did before"

Oh My My, Garrett Kato

Byron Bay is the Bali of Australia. A cross between a small country town, beach getaway and wellness haven – Byron Bay has the magical combination of ocean air, understated glamour and laid-back hospitality.

It is the kind of place you’ll love the minute you arrive. Byron Bay should be renamed Byron Babe for the ridiculously good looking roam everywhere in this coastal New South Wales town, a 2-hour drive from Brisbane and 800kms from Sydney.

Locals rise early to catch the surf before work and retreat to bed early, while tourists are the ones out late at night. Synchronicity is ever-present in Byron Bay; I walked past an ordinary looking chalkboard that read ‘Gareth Kato – Tonight, 8pm’ being one of my favourite Canadian singer-songwriters playing a free gig at the local Byron Bay pub the day I arrived. For the gluten-free traveller, Byron Bay is a bounty of health elixirs, local produce and nourishing delicious food.

FOOD

Bayleaf Cafe Byron Bay

Bayleaf Cafe
Elevated cafe fare with a local and seasonal twist. My post-flight ritual is to find the best local cafe and indulge in wellness – I had the ocean trout, raw kale and wakame salad with a moonlight white tea, elderflower and sacred lotus kombucha for a probiotic kick. Be sure try a deconstructed coconut cold brew or an almond chai latte served in handmade bowl by local ceramicist Sit Still Lauren.

Naked Treaties
If organic, raw and ridiculously healthy is your thing, Naked Treaties has your name all over it. A tucked away cafe that greets you with a giant menu of smoothies and health elixirs, plus a fridge full of takeaway gourmet meals and snacks to pack for your next hike or swim.

Byron Bay Farmers Market

Byron Farmers’ Market
Plan to be in town on a Thursday so you don’t miss the incredible Byron Farmers’ Market from 8am-11am. A local institution, you’ll find vibrant produce like chocolate pudding fruit (black sapote) and galangal, local treasures like turmeric lime cane sugar juice and macadamia nuts, plus organic coffee, artisan pastries, and the most delicious breakfast wrap from Mumma Raw.

Asia Joe’s
Three words spoke to me on a chalkboard: Crispy Snapper Laksa. The Malaysian-style coconut laksa with noodles, vegetables, fresh herbs and crispy (gluten-free) pieces of snapper is one of the best I’ve ever had at this Asian street food stop down a laneway.

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All my life I wasn't honest enough and I thought I would never get over you

Sahara Pt. II, Bear's Den

Is there anything left to say about 2016? Libraries’ worth of articles, tweets and ‘what the fuck’ conversations are trying to understand the year that was. So instead I am going to share how I start and spend each new year with a new word, because your life is not going to magically change at 12:01am (and if it did, please do share).

It all started back in 2015 when I was travelling and couchsurfing across North America. The word ‘grace’ kept showing up everywhere – on street signs, in song lyrics, and in things I was reading. Grace, hey? It was not a new word to me and it initially sounded kind of meek and meh. Certainly not very exciting or adventurous. Until I really thought about the state of grace.

Grace is soft, reflective and yet cutting edge self-awareness. Grace is throwing all your patience at your anxiety, knowing it will pass. Grace is knowing you will live through this dark night of the soul, like you have the others, even though it god damn hurts so bad. Grace is, as poet Rupi Kaur puts it, ‘to remain kind in cruel situations’.

I once met a woman who was grace personified in a yoga course when I lived in New York City. I was in awe of her presence and I couldn’t figure out why. She was magnetising, present and humble. My friend and I were discussing her as we walked home and she said: “She has a big Self. It’s so nice just to be in the same room with her”. That’s grace, self with a capital S.

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And I know you wanted to for some time now

Into the Sun, Sons Of The East

If you eat an abundance bowl but don’t share it online, are you still #blessed?

I’ve been wanting to learn Vedic meditation for quite some time, and recently travelled to Byron Bay for a retreat with The Broad Place at The Atlantic. Initially, I was planning to only go phone-free for the four-day immersion, but then I decided to go offline for the following week to figure out what is real. A sort of ‘detox’ from digital dopamine.

Digital dopamine is a term I like to use to explain the feelings of reward and pleasure from constant online communication, Facebook likes, Instagram hearts and Twitter retweets. It’s that rush of satisfaction and self-worth we all know. But more and more, I/we are using social media to kill time and that is literally what it does – kills it. I was interested to see if I could experience less digital anxiety by going offline to explore questions

like:

are we the sum of all the things we post or all the things we choose not to post?

This is what my week looked like: No internet, no laptop, no iPad, and phone use (only for alarm clock, camera and for receiving photos of my just-born nephew). The hardest part? A week-long GFZ (Google Free Zone).

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Flora & Fauna, Perth

I'll be dreamin' of the next time we can go into another seratonin overflow

Love On The Weekend, John Mayer

I’m the sort of diner chefs don’t like. Waitstaff consider me a nuisance, and friends flash apologetic eyes while I decipher menu acronyms at Da Vinci Code speed.

I’ve been called a lot of things: nightmare dinner guest, self-diagnosed poser, fake allergy sufferer, fad follower and a food snob. But my favourite one is ‘glutard’ [noun: gloo-tard] meaning someone who has an immune reaction to gluten (found in wheat, barley and rye), and will never be able to taste the latest dessert craze. From here on in, let’s call us the GFF (gluten free friend).

As a GFF and food lover with delicate intestines, you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard the sentences: “One piece of bread won’t hurt” and “Can’t you just eat around the crust?”. Being ‘sometimes’ gluten-intolerant is like ‘kind of’ being pregnant — you either are or you aren’t.

Sure, I could eat a bagel and life would go on, kind of. You see it’s a bit like drinking a glass of olive oil then spinning around 10 times. Why would you do that to yourself, you ask? That’s probably the best way I can describe why that slice of pizza is probably not worth it for your GFF.

The rise of ‘gluten free’ diners in the past several years have helped with the legitimacy of coeliac disease sufferers, for who eating gluten is life or death. But we all know that gluten-sensitive person (your sometimes GFF) who still munches on bread “even though it hurts afterwards” in the same way that your lactose intolerant friend is an occasional gelato fiend. But for the ‘real’ GFFs, avoiding gluten is not a lifestyle statement — it’s a wellbeing choice.

Of course there are times when I would prefer the freshly baked pita or a choux pastry to pity. And who doesn’t love a warm cinnamon doughnut or handmade pillowy naan? But then I remind myself that gluten is Latin for ‘glue’, and that is literally what it does to my insides.

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Life Curator_Fervor Food

There’s two WA ingredients on the Noma Australia menu that you’ve never heard of.

Not keen to join 27,000 people on the waitlist at Noma’s pop-up restaurant in Sydney? Get your fix of a bucket list food experience in the West.

Chef Paul Iskov’s Fervor pop-up dinners use native ingredients and locally sourced produce to tell edible stories around Western Australia. Paul worked with Danish chef René Redzepi in 2012 at Noma, ranked four times San Pellegrino’s Best Restauraunt in the World, on a two month unpaid stage (an industry term for free labour) in Copenhagen. “I was going to Noma thinking what is all the hype about?” says Iskov. “I was picking the same herb for six hours around a table doing 16 to 18 hour days. I was lucky enough to do service and see the test kitchen, and they really are next level. At that time they were starting to play with lacto-fermentation, grasshopper gum, and the ants.”

Paul’s time in the Noma kitchen lead to the creation of Fervor with his sister Bree Iskov. Together they host interactive degustation dinners cooked guerilla-style in remote locations around the state, from the Pinnacles to Broome, Margaret River and the Goldfields. In late 2015, Paul reunited with Redzepi and sous chef Beau Clugston during their sourcing trip across the country. Paul showed the duo Western Australian produce in his hometown of Busselton when they were gathering ideas for the Noma Australia menu.

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new words for old desires

"I want to see you dance again"

Harvest Moon, Neil Young

Sometimes in life, you have to go backwards in order to move forwards. It’s called ‘closing the loop’. Allow me to explain – it’s like an incomplete romantic relationship and needs to come full circle. Perhaps you have unfinished business with someone whom you once shared affection with. Basically – it’s all the unexplained, unsettled, unfulfilled parts of you that are tied to someone. An intense intimate encounter with no ending. Do you feel me?

There is a high price to pay for keeping the loop open. Like keeping a part of yourself closed to real commitment. The incompleteness with this person is exciting, sure. We fantasise about what could have been and what will be. Because the loop is not closed, we yearn for the road not taken, the one where anything could happen.

‘Let it go. Whatever it is  that you should’ve let go long ago. Let it go. The freedom that comes next is something wild and true.’ – Unknown

I took my own advice with closing a seven-year loop. I do not have any personal wisdom to offer about sitting on a porch in Toronto crying in the rain. I don’t know how to get heartbreak out of your bones, when it is still moving through mine. But I do know that in breaking your own heart, you learn extraordinarily quickly about grace. About a lightness that comes with freeing each other from a fantasy of long ago. Realising how completely different and unromantic life can be to the script in your head, and being okay with it. This is a special kind of humanness.

‘Sometimes when you are in a dark place you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted.’ – Christine Caine

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Curated Portland

Put them worries on the shelf, learn to love yourself.

Hang Loose, Alabama Shakes

A city of bridges, bikes, porches with wooden swings, locavore corner stores, 600+ food carts, and the occasional angry vegan. If you take delight in ethically sourced coffee, sustainably caught seafood, hand foraged salads, vegan cheese delis and stone ground chocolate – you will certainly be enchanted by Portland.

Portland is (surprisingly) a relatively small place that is divided into four quarters – NE, NW, SE, SW – for ease of navigation. Hop on a bike to freely explore the food adventures that await you across the twelve bridges, but also make time to take in the natural beauty of Oregon’s main city. Walking around each neighbourhood is also a great way to spend an afternoon – look out for back alley blackberry bushes, overhanging fig trees and sidewalk plum shrubs.

To get quickly acquainted with the rhythm of the city, pick up a copy of the Portland Mercury – a wry weekly local newspaper that makes fun of itself while reporting on current zeitgeists. Also look up the Willamette Week for music events and cultural happenings around town.

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couchsurfing

Home is where I want to be, but I guess I'm already there

This Must Be The Place, Talking Heads

You won’t find a 1886 medieval mansion with a greenhouse and butler’s quarters on Airbnb. It is unlikely your hostel will greet you with a cup of artisanal coffee and I have never heard of a concierge at a hotel taking you to a punk house show.

If you are craving a more engaging or adventurous accommodation experience (because it’s more than just a change of scenery, right?) embracing Couchsurfing is a way to travel cheaply and meet locals around the world. A travel community based on global altruism, Couchsurfing connects like-minded travellers on an online platform where ‘surfer’s request to stay with a local host in a city. Apparently there are more hosts on Couchsurfing than rooms at the Hiltons. But unlike taking the hotel or hostel route, it is accommodation at no cost.

In my six months of travel across North America, I have stayed with over 12 hosts in 10 cities so far. Before doing it myself, the idea of Couchsurfing made me nervous and I couldn’t help but think “what if they kill me?” (If you are having these same thoughts, don’t worry.) Arriving at my first house in Portland, I didn’t know what it was all about but I was curious enough to find out. And I am so glad that I did. I was on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and I was going to waste a moment of it by playing small.

Turning up to a stranger’s home has been fertile ground for transformative experiences. In a matter of minutes, complete strangers have become good friends – sharing not only a place to lay my head, but also their time, friends, weekend plans and personal tours of the city. Couchsurfing hosts have gone above and beyond for me, and this weary traveller will be forever grateful for the goodwill offers of a fresh towel, hot shower, washing machine, a cup of tea, pickled preserves, bikes, WiFi passwords, cat hugs, spare keys, and shared time. The ethos of Couchsurfing: ‘Expect nothing, be grateful for everything’ makes you appreciate how big-hearted humanity can be.

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green tomatillo salsa verde

Just follow all the pretty lights, get lost till it feels right

Places You Will Go, Patrick Watson

On my travels in Chicago I came across someone who didn’t eat vegetables. “Not even sweet potato fries? How about tomatoes?” I enquired, and was received with a flat out no. Determined to cook breakfast for my new friend and convert her to the kingdom of plants, I headed to a neighbourhood farmers market looking for a vegetable muse.

A peculiar looking green tomato called a ‘tomatillo’ jumped out at me. Having never see one before in Australia, I was excited to create a frittata (disguising vegetables with delicious eggs – works a treat) with a side of homemade green tomatillo salsa verde. Tomatillo’s are not tomatoes – they are cousins, and cannot be eaten raw. They must be roasted until soft to release their zingy and fresh flavours that make this salsa verde so endlessly spoonable (like ice cream good!).

After breakfast I left a bowl of salsa verde in the fridge. Later in the day I received a text message from the said ‘vegetable hater’ with: “I can’t stop eating the verde, please come back and make more”. It seems this salsa verde might be a game changer with the humble tomatillo as the entry level vegetable. Try it and have an easy-peasy-tomatillo-squeezy party!

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