Wow – I finally have time to sit down and write a solid update of where I am, where I have been, and where I am going. Where in the world is the Girl With the Map Tattoo? Get ready for a long post about my life and some sneaky updates on #wheretonext.
where is the girl with the map tattoo?
Ok. So, you all know that I left New Zealand (cue crying sad face here) and spent a few months in Australia. I haven’t had a chance to really write about Bali, except to share an Ubud food post with you, so I’ll touch on a bit of Bali here. I spent a weekend in Singapore (what a fun phrase!). At the moment, as I write this, I am in Malaysia… a cute hostel in KL’s Chinatown… I head for Penang tomorrow, and then …drum roll, please… I fly to Kathmandu on Sunday.
where to next
I am beyond excited about this; seeing the Himalayas has long been on my bucket list. While my knees are too fucked for me to do anything resembling a trek, I might take a bus to Pokhara and actually be in the mountains for a few days. From KTM I’ll head west again and make my way to London. The original plan was to visit my brother in Italy, but it appears that he won’t be there while I am. I’d also considered a road trip across Portugal but I think I’m going to have to scratch that too. Duty calls!
It’s still privileged information as to exactly when I’ll be officially back on US soil (read: I don’t have a flight yet) but it’ll be within the month, for those of you curious.
Since I don’t know the last few details of my “life update” posts I shared here, I’ll recap briefly my time in Australia.
As you all are well aware, since I posted about it multiple times, I left New Zealand in January bound for Melbourne. I hopscotched across Australia – Melbourne to the Sapphire Coast and back, Melbourne to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road and back via the Grampians, then Cairns to Sydney in a series of road trips. I scuba dived in the Great Barrier Reef, flew over the Whitsundays, fell in love with Brisbane’s South Bank, and live streamed my reaction at seeing the Sydney Opera House for the first time.
From Sydney, I flew back to Melbourne for a few days to meet up with my friend Tom (not the same Tom as above – I know way too many Toms, Dans, and Matts!) and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with friends. Then I caught an early flight to Perth, where I spent some time with old friends Glynn and Mel and their new baby. I road tripped down to Margaret River, where I visited nine wineries and tasted forty-some-odd wines.
This is also when I had a serious bout of depression, which I shared in a post that went viral. Thank you for all your comments and messages, they helped me a lot. It isn’t easy to talk about depression but I am glad that people are more aware now. Mental Health Month kicked off yesterday in the States and so I’ll say it again … my door (aka my inbox) is always open if you need to chat.
After a really random road trip to the Pinnacles with another Tinder date (have yet to write about it, but it wasn’t as spontaneous as the Moeraki boulders one), I took off for Bali. I had no idea what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. My first impression was of the taxi drivers, all pressing me for my business. I haggled a price (at two am!) to my hotel, a mere 15 minutes down the road. Then I walked warily down a very dark alley to the absolute end to my accommodation, a charming and welcoming hotel with air conditioning and a pool. At 3:30am, I fell into my bed and slept until noon.
Over the next two days, I explored Legian and Seminyak. I tasted new foods for the first time and got lucky – no food poisoning! Three days after arriving, I took a shared taxi to Ubud with some new friends. In Ubud, I spent two weeks exploring the rice paddies, the waterfalls, and the monkey forest. Through a friend, I visited the incomparable Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve set on the river about fifteen minutes from town. I tasted exquisite foods at many of the local restaurants and otherwise played digital nomad.
magic and mysterious
Ubud was magical – there is truly no other word for it. Ubud is where I could focus, where I could relax, and where I could roam. If you gave me an ultimatum, I would go back to Ubud in a heartbeat. But I also wanted to see more of Indonesia, so I caught a boat to the Gili Islands for a few days. On Gili Air, I walked around the entire island in an hour and a half, slept in the sun at the pool, and awoke to drunk, stoned backpackers at 3 am every night. I left, choosing to return to Ubud. I stayed at my friend’s house, ten minutes from town, and spent two days furiously writing my book.*
*My book is still in progress but I’ll let you know when it’s published 🙂
On my last day in Bali, I took an Uber to Uluwatu, where I watched sunset from the empty balcony at the exclusive El Kabron and explored the clifftop temple during prayer. It is easy to see why the Hindus revere this place; it was breathtaking.
big city lights
Finally, it was time to go. My flight to Singapore was at 10:15pm and I arrived a little after 2am. It was easy to clear customs and immigration, and to get a taxi. Zach had set me up with friends of his, so I went straight there. As promised, the door was open and my light was on, complete with an apartment key, a metro card, and a map of Singapore. In the morning, I set off to see the city. I found my way to the Gardens of the Bay and stared at the Marina Bay Sands, never thinking I would be at the top.
That night, I met an old Turkish friend for drinks. Murat and I caught up over a bottle of wine at Clarke Quay – very touristy, but easy to connect at. On Saturday, I followed Zach’s recommendation list and explored Little India, then deviated from the list and went to Raffles. (photos coming soon)
It was never a bucket list item, but having a Singapore Sling while sitting at the bar, chucking peanut shells on the floor, was pretty fun. Sadly, the Long Bar is under renovation so they have moved the tourist trap into the Billiards Room. I scanned the wine list for a brief second, since a Sling sounded really sweet (say that five times fast! HA!), but in the end ordered the usual. That night I headed up to Emerald Hill and threw peanut shells on the floor at No. 5 Emerald Hill while waiting for Murat. He was so late that I drank his martini. Oh well.
as we say in america… ce la vi
The best, though, was yet to come. Once Murat arrived, we took a taxi to Ce La Vi, a flash club atop the Marina Bay Sands hotel. The elevator goes right to the 57th floor and when we stepped out, the city was at our feet. We went to the bar first and had a drink while overlooking at bay, and then crossed into the club and stood at the balcony watching the city pulse below us. It was near 4am when I finally slid into my cozy bed.
Sunday, my last day in the city, was a day to write. I spent the day working and then met up with Murat to visit Sentosa Island, a man-made island on the south edge of the city. It is, as a sign proudly proclaimed, the farthest southern point of Continental Asia. From there, we went to Satay Street, near Lau Pa Sat Market. Here, after 7pm, street vendors set up satay stalls and hawk food. Zach had steered me to Best Satay and it really was the Best Satay… perfectly grilled strips of chicken, beef, and tiger prawns, all washed down with Tiger beer poured by tiny Asian women walking through the crowd.
Early Monday morning, after a sleepless, panic-attack-induced night, I boarded a flight for a short hop to Kuala Lumpur. I spent more time in the line for Customs than I did on the plane itself. It wasn’t until noon that I stepped into the cool entrance of my hostel – I landed at 8am.
And so that is where I am now! I’ve had a few bad moments lately; writing contracts are drying up and I was running on a few dollars for a few days, but things are back up and running for now. There were some very low moments in Singapore, here in KL, and even in Bali. Especially in Bali, actually.
on my mind
I felt like Bali brought a few things to the front of my mind. I haven’t wanted to write about them yet – or more realistically share them – but I am sure that over the next few months as I settle into another life, I will be able to open up about them.
As my travels come to a close, I also have a lot of emotions to work through and I think I’ll be able to put those on to paper for you. It truly has been the most amazing year, filled with incredible and unexpected experiences, old and new friends (and new friends who have become old friends), wildly new places, and a hundred thousand memories. I am overwhelmingly grateful for all the support from family and friends who continue to cheer me on and “like” or “love” all my photos and stupid statues on Facebook and Instagram about where I am and where I am going.
The amount of people who have messaged me to tell me that they love reading my stories, love seeing my photos, and think that what I’m doing is amazing, is astounding. People I did not know read my work, people I haven’t seen in person for ten or fifteen years, they are all following my story.
I am humbled by this, because I know that what I’m doing is exceptional, that it is not something everyone will do, or even wants to do. Even my own father tells me he is impressed with what I am doing, which is not something I ever thought I would hear from him since he’s not one for emotion. (My mother, on the other hand, keeps telling me to come home. Instead, I booked a flight to KTM.)
Thank you all a million times for the encouragement to keep going! Wow, life, what a wild ride.