Seven years has gone so fast…

I received an unexpected reminder when I opened Facebook today. With it being harder and harder to keep track of the days I didn’t realise it was the 11th, which would be my dad’s 67th birthday. I don’t really use FB anymore, it’s mainly to keep in touch with my family and right now in isolation I need it more than ever. The ‘memories’ feature on the site showed me a picture of my dad I uploaded on this day in 2014, a year after he died.

I find it strange how grieving works. For me at least. Even though I saw the photo I felt okay, not too emotional. Mainly happy. Happy because I got to see my dad when I least expected it, and he was smiling in a great mood. The image was a very old one, taken way before I was born. He had long hair and a beard, he was a rocker after all.

I also find it strange how dreams work. I still have dreams about my father, the hardest were shortly afterwards when I would have a dream he was still with us. I remember the worst part of my day shortly after his passing was on an evening just before sleep. I didn’t want that momentary pause- even if it was for milliseconds- when I would wake up and suddenly remember he wasn’t with us and that emotion hit me hard again. But I just woke up with the immediate knowledge. I didn’t even have that pause before realisation.

I did in fact have a dream about him only a few days back. It wasn’t one that I have told even my mum about as although strange, was uneventful. But I wanted to share it here as dreams slowly fade from memory, and I have shared a couple of strange dreams in the past on my blog. I find them such a fascinating part of our existence.

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I was walking with family up the road towards our home late at night. I am not sure how late, but after sunset. It was pitch black. Our family home is in a little village on top of a hill surrounded by rolling hills in the north of England. We were walking up the hill on the main road heading to the village, roughly a ten minute walk. Why we were at the bottom of the hill is a mystery, dreams are weird like that. But something caused us to pause and we stayed where we were for a moment, gazing at something but I can no longer remember what. I noticed as we started to climb the hill again that my dad never stopped, in fact he got to the top of the hill already. I ran to chase him, got to the beginning of the village and kept shouting ‘Dad! Dad!’ and despite getting closer he never turned around. Now as it has been a while I can no longer remember if he did turn around just before I woke up, or if that was how the dream ended. What is strange about the dream is that this wasn’t a reflection of how my dad usually behaved, in fact the complete opposite. He was always there for me 24/7. Literally 24/7. He would constantly say that no matter where I was and what time it was, if I ever needed him he would be there. And he always was without fail. Maybe the dream was my brain interpreting the fact that he can no longer be there for me, I am not sure. I love to think that our dreams are the artwork formed as a result of our conscious actions and feelings, this would mean we could decode the meanings, no matter how bizarre they seem upon reflection.

I got a little choked up speaking to my mum today, as she was getting emotional during a call we had earlier. But even then it wasn’t difficult to speak. There have been times when I have been overcome with emotion, often when I least expect it. I can have countless conversations about my dad and feel okay, then one day I’ll be walking through a supermarket or in a bar and a Jimi Hendrix song comes on and I have to sit down for a moment. The emotion can lay dormant for a long time and suddenly it hits me and takes me by surprise.

I once heard that when a close family member dies, our brains don’t process it fully to keep us from going insane. It scars quickly over the wound and helps us to get back on our feet quicker. I don’t know how true this is, it could be bull for all I know but I would say that has been my experience.

I didn’t cry much at the time, and to be honest haven’t cried too much since. Apart from the times that it has snuck up on me and I have shed a tear in the strangest of places. Alcohol does this too, and in a way I like it because it helps me to let it out. Letting it out is a good thing, I listen to a song we both loved and it just happens sometimes. There are a few songs that get to me, one being this one by Alter Bridge. It was a song that I found very emotional before I even lost anyone, the song was written by the lead guitarist after losing his mother. The comment section is now filled with fans paying their respects as well as grieving themselves. It seems like it is a go-to song for people that want to close their eyes, listen and think of happy memories with loved ones.

I can only listen to this one sometimes as it is a tearjerker for sure.

I often go between two phases. My dad and I shared a great relationship, our house consisted of my mum, dad and my sister. That never changed until us kids moved out around university and found our own place. I had a very solid foundation to build my life upon and I will be forever grateful for that.

Despite living in a peaceful household I still have regrets that I didn’t do enough in return for my dad. Not even the big things as I was in my early twenties when he passed, I can forgive myself for not having my whole life together at that point. More the little things like making him more cups of tea or helping in the garden or whatever he was working on. The shopping and more chores. Another part of me thinks that if this is my biggest regret then I have been lucky. I spend an equal amount of time being grateful and content. We all lose loved ones, and our aim should be to have as little regrets as possible in our time with them.

As I was speaking with my mum today we were saying how seven years has gone by so quickly. Instantly Green Day’s Wake me up when September Ends started playing in my head, the lyrics ‘Seven years has gone so fast’ in particular. Billie Joe Armstrong wrote the song about losing his father, seven years ago at the time.

And it is true, seven years has gone so fast. I didn’t plan an emotional post today as I am still uploading some London shots from a few months back, but it would be weird not to share a post about my dad on his birthday. I miss him dearly, and grateful that he was a brilliant dad from day one. I appreciate this more and more with every year.

Happy Birthday Dad.

This is for anyone else that has lost someone very close to them too. In isolation we are probably in our heads a lot more than usual, a time of deep thought especially as we cannot see our families that are still around.

Cherish the time, even if it is through FaceTime.

 

Featured Photo by Dustin Groh on Unsplash

Back to Brisbane (and some sunshine)

This trip was very last minute. And with this could only find an early flight to the Gold Coast, which meant that I needed take an hour long train journey up to Brisbane. But this was fine as I had much more time on Saturday evening to see some friends and old work colleagues for a catch up.

The weather getting into Gold Coast was mixed, but one thing I noticed was the difference in temperature to Melbourne. I got that holiday feeling the moment I left the plane as the warm tropical Queensland air hit me walking into the terminal.

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The weather was nice enough for this stunning sunset as I made my way north.

The good thing about the train is that it drops me off right here. The hotel I used to work in.

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I had such a fun experience working here, and I think it may be the best place I have ever worked in terms of actually enjoying going to work. It was right in the city centre and if Brisbane had something going on we would usually play a part. I was actually gutted when I left Brisbane for Melbourne, the only saving grace was that Melbourne is a fantastic city with a lot going on. But coming back to the warmth and going in to see some on my friends there was nice, although it made me miss it even more.

What I love about hospitality is that every day is different. You never know what is going to happen, for better or worse. But the bad days help with personal development, and the good days are great memories. I think that is why I have stayed in the industry for so long, and I have been very fortunate to have worked in the same chain in three Australian cities now. Despite the six month working holiday restriction, transfers are possible and this has kept me in employment within the chain.

What I also love about Brisbane is it’s size. Not as hectic as Sydney or Melbourne but just the right amount of everything for it to be a fun city to live in. After finishing my farmwork in the middle of nowehere and travelling down the east coast in fun yet small destinations, Brisbane seemed like New York City. However after moving to Melbourne and revisiting I can see why it gets labeled ‘a big country town’. Limited options on a Sunday, a city centre you can walk through fairly quickly, it is growing rapidly but it isn’t quite comparable to Melbs or Sydney yet. But I love this big country town and out of the three, it may be my favourite to live in so far.

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But each city has it’s perks, Sydney has the landmarks and Melbourne has amazing food. I think it would be unfair to have a ‘favourite’ as each have their own strengths and differing identities.

I crossed the river to meet my friend, who I met during my 88-days farmwork. Coincidentally he was born just up the road from me in the north east of England and even more of a coincidence is that he shares the same birthday as me.

And for this reason the beers started and my camera roll ended.

The night got pretty messy pretty fast, which I guess is not surprising for a milestone birthday. Especially with a friend that is celebrating on the same day. My only regret was not being sober enough by the time I met the others to get some group shots, but what can you do. Two guys that used to live in Newcastle going out for drinks is always going to go downhill fast.

It is also fairly strange being away from home on a birthday, let alone a 30th, and is never going to be the same as it would be back home. There will never be that big sense of occasion and I guess with that I was content with it being low key. It was a sacrifice I knew I was going to have to make at the time when I was arranging the visa, and long term solo travel always comes with some sacrifices. We just have to ensure that the sacrifices are worth the journey, and to me I can have a big 31st instead. The opportunity to travel isn’t always there, or at least being convinced enough to book that one way ticket.

But I am glad I chose to enter my thirties here. It felt right and I was back in a city that has given me so many memories and great friends in and outside of work. I think any future visits to Australia wouldn’t be right without stopping by this great city and I am grateful to feel welcome every time.

Hopefully this won’t be the last time.

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Thank you again to all my followers and regular readers, and hello to you if you are new to my blog!

New to this site? Click here to visit my About My Blog section and Travel Diary

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Cheers!

Sam

 

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Happy birthday mum! 

Happy birthday to my amazing mum. This is one of the aspects of travel that isn’t rose tinted, being so far from home and missing special days like this. But we had an amazing holiday as a family recently and at the end of the day, a birthday is just another day in the calendar. Travelling may mean I reluctantly miss today but it also meant that we had the opportunity to spend a holiday together in a country that my mum has always wanted to visit. So if anything, missing a birthday is a small sacrifice for some huge positives.

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So today’s blog post will be dedicated to my mother. For being an incredible mum to my sister and I and allowing us the freedom to make these big decisions to travel and pursue whatever we want in life. This has helped me become the person I am today and realise that we should do the things we want to do in life whilst we can, as not everyone has these opportunities. We truly have one chance to see the world and this year my family have been off to a great start.

Mum, I’ll see you in September!

 


 

Thank you again to all my followers and regular readers, and hello to you if you are new to my blog!

New to this site? Click here to visit my About My Blog section and Travel Diary

Follow me @samest89 on Instagram and @octstw on Twitter

Want to introduce yourself and your blog and discover new ones? Click here for my meet and greet page.

Happy blogging,

Sam

I’m 29! How to survive a birthday away from home 

I’m clinging onto my twenties as best as I can. To think that I’m 30 next year sounds crazy to me, but I also thought the same thing when I turned ten. ‘You’re in double digits now!’, I still remember my mum saying this and was strange. I felt so old. Then I was legally allowed to drink at 18. Then I turned 20 and I was in my twenties. I’m sure in ‘old age’ I will look back at 30 like I do now thinking of my previous milestones. Youth is relative. 


With each birthday I experience, I try not to freak out about getting older and try to remember that I have had another year on earth. Another year allowing me to keep enjoying experiences, friendships, love and learning. Should I really freak out about reaching the big 3-0? It’s an age people sadly don’t always reach. I have seen this myself. 

So this post isn’t really about learning to deal with having a birthday away from friends and family. It’s more that we should cherish the opportunities to travel and make the most of another year as best as we can. I wish I could be with my family right now, but I will see them soon anyway. I’m more focused on them saving up to see me out here in Australia later in the year. A holiday we can all enjoy together in a destination they have always wanted to visit makes up for not being there for my birthday. I personally would prefer to have that kind of experience. At the end of the day, a birthday is just a day. Memories and experiences are much more important to me.

But I had a great day! My roommates surprised me with a nice cake, a crate of beer and a very fun night. I read all the lovely messages from backpackers in a lovely card, beer pong commenced and I tried to order McDonalds through the drive-thru at 4am and pretended I was in a car. 

It didn’t work.

But it was a joint celebration for only having 20 days of farmwork left. I’m almost in my teens, it’s nice that despite counting the years going by, I can count down to something. 

I hope you all had a great weekend.

Happy 60th birthday to my mum!

This is me, having a final photo with my mum and sister before starting my two day journey to the other side of the world. Our last photography together as I boarded the train for London before departing from Heathrow to Sydney. It was my mums birthday yesterday (on the 15th) and unfortunately I wasn’t there to celebrate it with her. Of all the perks of long distance travel, being away from family isn’t one of them.

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She loved the flowers we sent her, although I hope she didn’t forget to take them home after having a few too many glasses of fizz during lunch with friends. Sometimes I wish I was able to be at every milestone occasion, but I have to remember that it isn’t possible. But to be present at all, even if it is via FaceTime, is just as good if it is the only way possible. Technology allows us to be there at the click of a button, something generations past were not able to. No longer do we have to resort to a letter in the post and hope it arrives within a couple of weeks. Although the flight is roughly 24 hours, high quality, video communication is instantaneous and free over WiFi. How incredible is that?

Thank you for being the best mum I could have asked for and always being there for me. Although I wasn’t there to celebrate with you, the high chance that you will be able to visit me in Australia- a dream destination of yours- keeps me motivated. This makes being so far from family very worthwhile indeed, and that it is important to remind myself of the reasons to travel in the first place!

 

One year older

We all get that one unique day a year, one that we get to celebrate our lives with others. Some love it, some would hold it back if they could. We don’t get to choose this day, it just depends on when we were brought into existence. It is crazy when I think about it, that we celebrate seeing that day disappear onto the horizon and live long enough to us cross that line again 365 days later. I have done so for a 28th time whilst I was in Spain, yay!

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That is a heck of a lot more than a lot of people have been able to, I am grateful for that. I heard recently that we shouldn’t be afraid of aging as some people don’t ever get the chance to. 

I heard this reading an update from the parents of a young boy that live close to me, he is terminally ill and a huge fan of Sunderland football club. He has won the hearts of people nationwide and in my city of Newcastle, traditionally huge rivals of Sunderland. His name is Bradley Lowery and it seems, very sadly, that the 6 year old doesn’t have long left. His footballing hero, Jermain Defoe, regularly meets him for cuddles and chats. Very sad, however I wanted to post this as a reminder for us all that each birthday should not be met with a fear of getting older but the appreciation that we get to reach an age that so many did not. To be born at all is against incredible odds, to keep going like we do is truly remarkable. You could say that young Bradley has already achieved what so many of us have not, he has met his idol, travelled to Disneyland and walked the England football team out onto  the field. It’s not the age that matters it’s what we do with it.

I also feel lucky to have mine smack bang in the middle of the year. I know at least two people with birthdays on Christmas Day, one opens presents on the 24th.

If we could choose our birthday, when would it be? The middle of the summer holidays? In January when not much seems to happen? I think I will keep mine where it is 🙂

Travel Diary: British flags on Spanish coasts

After stepping onto a plane without a cloud in sight, nothing speeds up the holiday blues like stepping off the plane and into the pouring rain. At least my swimming shorts were put to good use one final time, a two and a half hour flight certainly makes the difference and shows how far we can now travel in such a short space of time. For that I choose to appreciate the horizontal rain hitting my face as I walk down those soaked metal steps into British summertime.

There are some places in the world that I enjoyed but probably would not travel back to. This destination was certainly one of them, it was a blast and we met some great people… why wouldn’t I go back in a hurry? There was also some very pretty scenery and can be seen in my last post here, although from the resort it was hard to take photos without the masses of heavily built up areas obscuring the view.


Of course, a concrete jungle can be an attraction within itself, New York City and São Paulo to name a couple. Benidorm doesn’t have the same effect. It isn’t of the same scale and for this the buildings do not have the same impact in my opinion. There was the odd building that caught my attention, the In Tempo for example which can be seen below. Sadly, this beautiful building has not been occupied since completion in 2014.

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Another point is that almost every building in the popular drinking resort is covered in British flags. Don’t get me wrong, seeing Union Jack bunting tied between palm trees was a fascinating sight, it is something you cannot see in the UK. It is however for me a sign that I should probably stay away, one thing I certainly do not want to see when travelling is British people blasting out Sweet Caroline on karaoke. The odd one or two is great but when Spanish accents are almost a rarity, I sometimes think why did I travel in the first place?


I went with friends, I wouldn’t go with family or girlfriend. Some sights we witnessed walking into what we though were typical pubs were too explicit to mention on here without breaking some kind of WordPress violation. For a party holiday in a home away from home it is ideal, as much as I would like to see it as anything but I really can’t!

But why should I? It didn’t seem like Benidorm tried to be anything but that. Both Spanish and British people were advertising the cheap full english breakfasts they had on offer at the same time offering us free shots, not knowing if we had just woken up or were finally heading to bed. It seems like that is the way. I remember one waitress saying how nice it was to have a group of males sit down and behave whilst having breakfast. When that is a rarity at breakfast, I would not like to see her norm…

Regardless, I am pleased I went, after all it was an experience that I wanted to have and if I told my readers I didn’t have a bunch of laughs and a great catch-up with some friends I haven’t seen for a while, I would be lying. Did I have fun? Plenty. Will I book next year? Not unless my friends did and asked me to go.

Will Benidorm always be such a resort? Even a gorgeous £72 million skyscraper built as a symbol of transformation died as the drunks stumble back to the cheap concrete hotels around it. It would take a lot of work to change it’s image, maybe one day this skyscraper will be the image of said change, with the Spanish flag rising here once again.