I spent the last month in Australia and now I’m in New Zealand again. Say what?!
That’s right. I had a great time in Australia. I did a ton of adventuring, visited friends, and saw so much wildlife and marine life.
I can’t wait to share it all through many posts in the coming months.
Ultimately, my Aussie adventure was destined to be a jam-packed one, but a short one. I set out with an agenda: deviate to illuminate. As intended, some revelations eventually helped me realize the most important things to me so I could return to New Zealand to pursue them.
What I’ve been up to this last month
- I flew across the Tasman sea to Melbourne, Australia
- I visited Philip Island and saw penguins, koalas, wallabies, and many species of bird
- I snapped photos of street art in Fitzroy and on Hosier Lane
- I learned about indigenous culture and art at the National Gallery of Victoria
- I walked the boardwalk of St. Kilda at sunset
- I went to a feminist porn conference at a Melbourne bar
- I ate kangaroo and drank wine
- I road-tripped up Australia’s east coast for 10 days
- I gave rides to many backpackers for the company and gas money
- I saw a baby kangaroo in its mama’s pouch
- I stood in awe of the Sydney Opera House and browsed the nearby gardens
- I camped with my friend between Sydney and Brisbane
- I strolled many gorgeous beaches along the East Coast
- I stopped to take photos of giant banana and giant kangaroo statues
- I spotted a pod of bottlenose dolphins and breaching whales at Port Macquarie
- I chowed down on some Australian mussels while sitting in a rainforest
- I gazed at Fraser Island over a picnic lunch with two French dudes
- I was awestruck by the roots, vines, and trees of the rainforest along Mooloolah River
- I hiked up Wild Horse Mountain to get an awesome view of the Glass House Mountains
- I visited the highest single drop waterfall in Australia and swam near the Babinda Boulders
- I explored the Cairns esplanade
- I partied and danced with friends at a night club in Cairns
- I sunbathed and swam at the Cairns lagoon
- I cruised out to the outer Great Barrier Reef
- I dove the Great Barrier Reef multiple times a day for three days
- I night-dove for the first time and met a 150 year old turtle
- I swam with sharks, turtles, enormous fish, giant clams, and more
- I celebrated my birthday with a group of divers
- I took a business class flight for the first time
- I slept in the Wellington airport
Deviations lead to even newer paths to be explored
In New Zealand, I was falling into a really lovely routine. I had found a flow in the midst of traveling that fit.
Suddenly, I found myself wanting a “real job” again. I wanted to get back to what I do best. And, let’s be honest, I wanted to make money doing it.
In June, I began applying to jobs back in the USA. At the same time, I didn’t want to just abandon everything I had built in New Zealand at the drop of a job offer back home.
So far, I had been living each day in the moment, not worrying too much about the future. This was necessary in order to fully and deeply explore my relationship with Jono and the life I was living in New Zealand.
The result was knowing how I felt in the moment but wondering how sustainable everything would be once I left.
Australia helped me see the big picture
Australia was a necessary deviation at a time when I needed to reflect on my travels in New Zealand. And it was about to surprise me several times over.
The first surprise came when I boarded the bus to the airport: I balled like a baby.
Despite a small itch of excitement to be going on another adventure, the flood gates opened. I had this awful feeling that I would never be back to New Zealand or see Jono again. I felt like the country of New Zealand and all its inhabitants would disappear off the map as soon as the wheels of the plane left the ground.
How wrong I was.
After a couple of weeks in Australia, Jono and I decided to give a future with each other a shot. It won’t be easy—him in New Zealand and me inevitably moving back to the USA if I get a job offer. But we’re going to give a full and sincere effort to make it work and consider all options on the table.
In the meantime, I was in Australia and I was going to make the most of it. After all, I had always wanted to dive the Great Barrier Reef and this was my chance!
With everything laid out on the table before me and Jono, I felt comfortable securing a return ticket to New Zealand and enjoying my remaining time in Australia to the fullest.
The importance of diving
As soon as I got to Australia, I had already fallen back into my normal travel routine.
I was exploring Melbourne on my own. I was meeting up with old friends and sharing the journey with other travelers. I was enjoying new experiences, seeing new sights, and learning about new people and ideas.
Ah yes, there she is again: Rikka—solo traveler, budgeting adventurer, norm deviator.
My adaptability to the travel routine wasn’t a huge surprise to me. If anything it just validated what I already knew.
I’ve always been the adaptable type, embracing change at every point. The truth is: I was made for the travel lifestyle. I love travel. Hands down, it’s the best thing ever.
The second surprise came, rather, when I was diving again.
I did 11 dives in a span of 3 days and never tired of it. In fact, I wanted more. This surprised me because I really thought I would get tired out on that dive trip. I thought, okay, I'm paying for 11 dives, but if I want to skip one or two because I'm beat then I will.
Well, I never felt liked I needed to skip a dive.
Diving is absolutely a hugely important aspect of travel for me now. I imagine I will continue to visit all kinds of places in the future. If I can work diving into it, then the trip will be complete.
When giving back matters most
The strongest revelation came as a slight interruption to my travel routine.
I was driving down the highway passing dead kangaroo carcasses baking in the sun on the roadside and, suddenly, I’d think to myself, “What’s the point?”
What?! I know what the point is!
Life is awesome! I’m driving down the highway in a relocation car I got for free, I'm chatting with an Iranian-Canadian friend I met in Berlin who is sitting passenger, we just saw dolphins jumping in the waves at our last stop, and tomorrow we’ll be visiting one of Australia’s finest beaches.
What’s the point? Driving up to Cairns to dive the Great Barrier Reef is the point! Seeing as much of the world as I can is the point! Living every day to the fullest is the point!
But how is this not an entirely selfish endeavor? How am I giving back?
By giving back I mean what am I producing or putting out in the world to improve the world or the lives of the people in it. Anything?
For me, this blog has always been about giving back.
Deviatingthenorm.com is a product of my travels—a product I hope inspires some people to go travel on their own, find their own path, and live a life they love despite what the world tells them they should be doing.
My volunteer work in New Zealand was also about me giving back.
I spoke to people one on one and provided them with options to solve their problems. I also wrote policy documents to shape government programming and a grant to get the organization more money to sustain their future endeavors and efforts.
I knew I was producing something of real value to people at Citizen’s Advice Bureau because they told me as much.
Ah ha! There it is: A product with a positive effect I can see.
Traveling to Australia helped me realize how much I miss producing something of real value to people that has a tangible impact. Moreover, it helped me realize I am ready to get back to being valued for what I can produce and the impact I can have.
A work-play balance—deviation style
I will have my cake and give back to the world, too. It’s possible!
But I refuse to do it the “old fashioned way.” I’ve done it before and I’ve heard it before: A work-play balance. How most adults live a healthy life.
The thing is, I’m not most adults. And this blog isn’t called conforming to the norm.
Most adults get stuck in a life of work with a couple of weeks off (at best!) per year to travel. That doesn’t sound healthy or like balance to me.
Instead, I have a plan in the making for my future. It involves a relationship. It involves diving and travel. It involves work. That’s as much as I’ll give away for now as I keep an open mind and allow flexibility and circumstances to shape it along the way.
For the moment, in my 12th month of deviating the norm, I will focus on building what I started in New Zealand. In no particular order, I will be spending time with Jono, seeing more of the world around me, and finding a job.