A controversial reflection – The year that was


Time to reflect on the year that was 2016. A year of minimal heartbreak with a maximum of adventure. You may have picked up on it already, but I am a pretty spontaneous person. To some degree, I always have but leading the lifestyle that has become the norm over the last few years, well it extenuates that. Out with long-term planning, I pretty much live in the now.

Reckless? Maybe. Daring? Possibly. Open to all possibilities? Definitely.

I call 2011 my defining year. It was the year I said goodbye to full-time work, got out of a long-term relationship and slowly learnt how to become my own. Since 2011, every year has been completely different. I have been restless ever since with a thirst for wanting to experience as much as I can. 2016 was no different. Different from the other of course naturally but that is what you would now expect from the playbook of Julia.

Let’s take it from the top of 2016 to give you an overview of how the year shaped out to be the year it was. I hope it doesn’t bore you as it was a lot of fun.

It started off with an anti-climax of celebrating the countdown to new years on a Parisian metro en route to a night club where my Dutchie friend and I would be dancing until the crack on dawn. Fast forward to Australia Day where unbeknownst at the time, I would celebrate it with a bunch of Australian’s at a Wetherspoon (A very cheap, non-charismatic pub – stay classy all) who would all become my closest friends in London Town.

It was around this time that my self-esteem was pretty low. I was missing home. I was so unsure where my career was headed. I felt pretty lost. I also told myself that I was going to come home for a bit to recoup. It had been over a year since I saw my family in its entirety.  I ended up getting a hospitality job at a burger joint to make a quick buck as I knew my time in London was limited. I was going home, and that was that.

It is funny how life works at times. I played tourist one day hitting up the Borough Markets by myself. Usually, when I feel down about something, I take it out over a bowl of pasta. How much more Italian can I get?! And this is where I bumped into my future boss, at a pasta stand, taking recommendations on what pasta to try out. This is where I went halfsies with him, grabbed a coffee and got to know more about this larger-than-life American character who I often call this man-about-town since he seems to know everyone from London Town to Silicon Valley.

A few weeks later, I quit my burger job and started working at a start-up technology company. Wow, this woman is the least technical person out there, but I am one that is up for a challenge. I was also intrigued by the culture of a start-up because it is an ongoing fight to succeed. Those involved must have resilience. I have lived an emotional rollercoaster ride with moving around the last five years and learning to be on my own so throw in a workplace that is also going on par with the type of ride, and you have yourself a challenge and a half.

This job fits in perfectly with me also trying to establish myself as a travel writer. My boss knew that it was something I was committed to doing and still am. I am forever grateful for this role providing me with the freedom to do both. I love being part of a team again, and I love putting my travel stories out there.

The contract of my single bedroom near Brixton ended late February. Perfect timing as it fits in well with a weekender away with my new Australian friends along the coast of the UK. With a stroke of luck, my mate won tickets to a (very) flamboyant weekend festival in Bognor Regis. I would describe Bognor Regis as the place people go to die (note the sarcasm) as there is not much happening there besides a worn out beachside resort that had its hey-day back in the 70s. As Australians, when you think of beachside, you generally believe hot weather and pristine beaches (we are pretty lucky there). This does not translate in the UK with a rookie error made by all of us packing our summer clothes despite the fact we were in coats back in London, and a two-hour train journey away does not somehow added 20 plus degrees to the overall temperature.

The weekend was a big one. So much dancing, pool party action and just debaucherous behaviour by all. You could say that weekend pretty much outlined what was in store for me socially as the year saw me frequent more gay bars than straight ones. I was not ever going to find a man this way (hell no), but I would not change that for anything. I got to unleash my inner ambitions on the dance floor and felt as comfortable as I have ever felt.

I went to Scotland as part of an educational trip with Haggis Adventures. My first multi-day trip as a guest participant. This was a career achievement with my work being recognised by a company who was willing to have me as a guest to write about my experiences travelling with them. Scotland was a dream. I did not expect it to be so stunning as it was. The most magical of moments was when I atop of Calton Hill where it started to snow. It was only small specs of snow but seeing the flakes on my red coat was enough for me to truly be in the moment and fall in love with Scotland.

Straight off the plane from Scotland, I was on the dance floor at Sink the Pink’s ball. It was a gender-bender, glittery event where somehow I ended up dancing with a well-known gay singer who gave me kisses all over my face and just had a great time with. I don’t particularly feel like disclosing who it was as I respect their right to have a normal life but it was pretty surreal and fun. Ironic as there was nothing normal about this evening in a theatre with everyone dressed up and dancing to double denim-clad B*Witched amongst other outlandish performers. Just imagine it being a place where everyone lets loose and then add a whole lot of glitter to the affair – literally!

Late March, I was back in Perth. It was great to catch up with everyone, but it was exhausting. I am known to extend myself and try to pack in as much as I can for which I did, but it was too much. I went to Sydney, feel in love with it again then I was off to Asia for a few weeks. The Philippines did me a world of good. For almost three weeks, I chilled out. I refer it to as the nothing holiday as I made a point of not to plan anything for it and just chill. I scuba dived, I went on island hopping adventures and had a very short-lived romance. That is for the other day.

Back to London, it is where the subletting adventure would start as I moved around ever so frequently. There was also a trip with the parentals to Spain who came to visit me in the UK. I even rented a room from my boss for a few weeks as I planned to move to Amsterdam. Admittedly, it does sound odd but not many situations surprise me in my life anymore as I just feel like so many bizarre events happen in my life in general. Its standard practice these days. You may think ‘That sounds suss’ but it wasn’t – sorry nothing exciting or controversial to report there!

During this time, I was the worst friend. I missed out on the wedding of a dear close friend of mine back in Perth. Maybe it was karma for not flying back for it, but I was bedridden for that entire weekend she was getting married. I made two trips to the hospital to find out what exactly was wrong with me. It turns out I had the case of the London Flu. Is that even a thing? I could not even begin to describe how shit I felt physically and emotionally. It was there and then where it hit home that I was alone in London. Back to the wedding and thank God for social media where I was constantly glued to it while in a foetal position in my bed to see updates on the wedding (I am not a stalker, I really wanted to be there). Ill just say this – she made a stunning bride on 2D let alone how I imagine she would have been on the day in person. Lucky guy.

See – The Fear: The truth with being unsettled

Living in Amsterdam was one of the best things I did last year. It kicked off with Mardi-Gras. Somehow my mates and I (take note I was the token female) ended up on a canal boat and had unlimited champagne showers. We had the best vantage point of the parade streaming down the canals and was just one wild afternoon under the sun. The night proved to be no different – That is if I can remember it all.

I housesat my mate’s place and really got to immerse myself living like a local over there. My friend slothed with me post-Mardi-Gras, and we were the ultimate married couple for two weeks. My friend is pretty much like the male version of me, and it was so amazing just having someone there I could easily connect with. You can say I had one job of looking after the fish and I failed to do even that! Please take note it died the day she got back! Who would have thought that there was a reason why there was a plant in the fish bowl (oxygen) and also why it is advised to change only half the water at a time. I am certainly not your woman to look after your fish (or pets or plants)!

I really took it to be a local here. I opted not to buy my bike from a thieving drug addict (I am not trying to be harsh here) and buy it at the flea market (which really was probably brought from a thief in the first place). Much like most Dammers, my bike was pretty basic and broke down on the first day of getting it! With riding around town, going to parties, dating, I felt like I was in a routine and did not want to leave. I was well and truly in my element being in the Dam.

Mid-September, I left the Dam and headed back to London Town where I would live with my cousin in a sublet and enjoy life aboard together. The share house we were living in was the first place I moved to when I first arrived in London. Cue couch surfing for a month in 2015. My cousin decided to cut her time in London, and as a last hurrah, we ended up in Iceland for five days which was possibly the most adventurous of all holidays. Trekking glaciers, crawling through lava fields, basking in hot springs in valleys, it was pretty incredible and crazy to think that was a reality. Iceland is seriously one of the most surreal places I have ever been to and highly recommend all to go if you can.

This brings me to October and back to London Town. During this time, of course, I met men in real time (What, not through Tinder? Get Out!) and started dating. For the first time in a long time, I felt ready for it. I am slowly getting past my attitude of ‘strong, independent woman’ who loves her alone time. Am I ready to even contemplate settling down? Yes.

Timing is a bitch because of course, when I started to see someone, I was going to be leaving again in a few weeks and have to #usherconfession that to them. It is foolish of me to expect someone to wait for me. I don’t, and that is the hard part of living a bouncing around the world lifestyle. Maybe I just need to find a gypsy man or someone with just as an erratic lifestyle as I.

Around this time wanted to teleport me back to Australia. My parents had told my that our adorable family pooch was going to be put down as she was struggling with a few medical issues. Phoebe had been a part of the family for over 16 years, so it was odd to think the next time I went home, she was no longer going to be there, greeting me home at the backdoor and pitter-pattering around the backyard. Crazy to think she has been a part of my life for over half my life. I miss her face and her sounds and just how beautiful she was.

November was a month of steroids. Manchester for a week, London for a three-day networking conference. My time in London ended with a photoshoot that made me feel ever so empowered with my body and myself in general. Both Amsterdam and Istanbul were met with writing assignments with the umbrella theme of immigration. I visited a centre in Istanbul that helps with displaced Syrian citizens rebuild their lives. This visit touched me greatly and really hit home about the reality of war. Fair enough people get to a safe haven but what happens after? How do people rebuild their lives? I decided upon my second visit in two days to this centre that I was going to help in some shape or form.

Straight after Turkey was a trip to Thailand. It was for my old housemates Ro’s wedding. By far it was one of the funniest weddings I have ever been too! The wedding was in Koh Lak, surprisingly a place I had not been to yet so I was very much looking forward to seeing a new part of Thailand. The best memory of the evening of her wedding was us all dancing along the sands of the beach. Someone decided to put an ornament of a rooster cock in the middle of the sandy dance floor, and for some reason, we ended up not only dancing around this thing, praising it like it was some cult dance but also dancing with it. My memory of the bride dancing to this thing is forever ingrained in the memory bank.

After the wedding, I made (in hindsight) one of the best travel decisions ever by going to Khao Sok. I cannot recommend this place highly enough. I stayed in a wooden bungalow complete with my hammock along the riverside. The accommodation also provides free tube hire, and well, I am one for adventure, so here I am, trekking through the nature trail, just in a bikini, barefoot, walking around the giant cliff face river-bend to get to the start of where I could start tubing. I had the river to myself. I couldn’t be more in the moment if I wanted to. I had a colourful dragon flies fly onto my leg. Ok maybe getting bitten by the puffer fish startled me a bit and naturally, I squealed, but I could not forget how at peace I felt just absorbing the most majestic scenery around me.

I will leave this tale for another day because I would be writing an essay within a story already how much I rate Khao Sok!

After Thailand, it was straight to the motherland and back to Perth. One of my best friends’ was getting married, and I was one of the bridesmaids. I don’t know if it is an age thing, but I cried a few times. I am just so ecstatic to see my friends so happy, and now its like ‘Shit is getting real’ with everyone’s lives, buying houses, pumping kids out. We are not 18-year-olds anymore!

I write this as I am still in Perth, my beautiful hometown. To say I have Perth pride is an understatement.

So why don’t you move back here if you love it so much? Good question (to myself I know).

I am not ready. There is still so much I would like to see, achieve and experience so a move back will have just to wait (if life takes me back there that is). Being in Perth for the last month has made me adjust rather easily back to life in Australia however right now, it is not what I want. 2016 was an amazing year, despite the reputation it has worldwide of being one of the shittest. Yes, Brexit is crap (I was lucky to vote in it and totally did not see it swinging that way) and so is Trump’s win but let’s be optimistic here because I think that is the only way we can be to pick ourselves up and strive on from these situations.

Goodbye 2016, you were great, but you know what, 2017 is going to be a stunner – especially on those European dance floors.

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