Why women were born to surf.And have babies

I recently caught up with a pretty special lady that I met through a mutual friend out in the surf. We each shared our vastly different experiences coming back from Indo trips over the years. Let’s just say her Bali belly was of a different nature to that of a non-refrigerated plate of nasi goreng.  In fact, she’s the only women I’ve met where I’ve recognized the striking connection between surfing and childbirth. I was rather intrigued by her sophisticated transition from a lady surfer to a baby’s mamma. As we sat over lattes at her local beachside café, she gracefully caressed her now six-month old, revealing her lavish smile as she retells the most defining chapter of her life.  

And that’s where it struck me. We jokingly made mention of our cupcake baking besties and their direct experiences of childbirth, and how they differed from those that she knew as surfers. The environment is more of a rough, testosterone filled line-up, where your cute bikini doesn’t mean much in the often dog-eat-dog habitat. And no I’m not talking about the dance of male pursuing female, although I now see it reads alike. I’m actually referring to all the risk factors of surfing, and how it’s a few notches above a mild burn, off a torn oven mitt pulling out that tray of freshly baked cupcakes.

She distinctly remembers hyperventilating on her hospital bed as the nurses attemptedhealthy living to relieve her immense pain with a gas mask. Through belts of laughter, she explained how she ran for the hospital door, ripping out all of her monitors, screaming ‘I can’t do this! I’m leaving!’ as the nurses ran after her.

After realising there wasn’t any going back, and the birth was in fact happening, like right now, she managed to calm her mind, and in turn her pain, from a very different source. One that’s not available in your regular hospital medical cabinets.  She vividly sketched the surface of a calm ocean surface in her mind, breathing deep as she remembered the silky feeling of a summer’s sea caressing her arms and fingertips, as she carelessly paddled through the line-up.

In describing surfing, she explained the all too familiar burning sensation of shoulders and arms, as you desperately desire that one perfect wave. The lifetime of deep fin slashes, bruises, burning reef cuts, jelly fish stings, infections and all other aspects of surfing that seem to add a coat of armour, to what could have been a life baking cupcakes. Not that we hold anything against our cupcake baking queens.

She was of the firm view that women who surf have a higher pain threshold. But I think32204_400218545167_814411_n it’s much deeper than a physical element. Mentally we hold those magical moments out in the ocean in the forefront of our mind. Often drifting off into daydream, far away from our current reality. And I know how much of a lulling effect that has upon flashback. I think the power of the ocean continues to live within, no matter how long it’s been since your last session.

I’m sure there’s that special kinship of once developing in the wound of salty fluid yourself, and that connection to the salt water as a surfer. Something I’m yet to describe in words. As for surfing with a young baby, constantly craving mum’s presence, I’ve never seen a girl so excited to get out into the surf at any given opportunity. It just makes me smile so big. But she just knew in her heart when she was ready. That pivotal moment when she realised there was something bigger to life than just surfing. As for the link between surfing and pregnancy; does it make us invincible? As much as we like to think that, I’m sure nothing will compare to the pain and challenge, we’re just equipped with a certain set of coping mechanisms, that are as unique as our salted gills, absent in our non-aquarian counterparts.

Advertisements

The Progression of Gratitude

Spiritual junkies will tell you that gratitude is one of the key foundations to ultimate enlightenment.  And I’m not judging them because I’m a junkie too. But what happens on those days where everything just seems to fall apart, and all of what your life is made of is seemingly crumbling before your eyes? Well you’ve simply found yourself out of alignment from where you’re supposed to be. Practicing gratitude by starting in a place that feels good, will provide a little bit of fuel to break out of your bad energy, and back into alignment with that best version of yourself.  

I don’t see any point in practicing fake gratitude. Sometimes you’re not even conscious that you’re doing it, but when you realise you are, you find it as counterproductive as no 65169_10151137360180168_400812489_ngratitude at all. “I love my job, I love my guy, I love my dog”, won’t get you anywhere if your boss keeps throwing overtime at you, your partner is finding all your triggers to frustration and your dog just pooped on the lounge room floor. The universe will simply align you with more of your dominant vibration, when your words don’t match how you feel at heart. In other words, you’ll get more of the same stuff that’s got you stuck in that point of frustration in the first place.

The universe does not care for the words you mutter; they will simply fall on deaf ears as it only cares for the energy that you vibrate.  

You want to perhaps imagine a life without your job or guy or dog. What would that picture look like? Sure you had to clean up that smelly poop from the floor, but what about when she gives you the saddest puppy dog eyes you ever saw, as you leave the house for work. Where you can see nothing but love in her eyes, and happiness in her wagging tail, when you return home from a long day in the office. Nobody said that gratitude can’t be broken down into smaller bite-size pieces. Just as many jigsaw pieces make up a finished puzzle, so too are many elements involved with each person, object or situation. It all comes down to your point of focus.

As long as you keep the bigger picture in mind. I always understood gratitude to be the cheekythought of blowing the gifts, the love, the connections, the positive circumstances and the miracles in life, so far out of proportion that it ignites an incredible wave of new energy that just overrides life’s nuances. Gratitude has a magical way of pushing away negative aspects of life from your mind. Because you know all too well how easy it is to make a mountain out of a molehill. You just have to choose what hill you want to build higher.

Practicing gratitude takes time and practice to truly nail it. To allow your vibration to match your inner muttered words about how incredible your life is, and everyone and everything that’s in it. As soon as the words and vibrations match- that’s when the magic starts to unfold.

If you’re thinking about surfing French Polynesia, think again.

Being in a tumultuous relationship is not one way I would recommend spending time in paradise. Especially a two month trip. I would have loved to have done this adventure solo however, without my involvement in a particular surf project, my dreams to travel to this part of the world, would continue to remain unfulfilled.map_ga-tahiti

Traveling for a surf project

I quit my job rather suddenly (and not the 1st time) to pack up and head to the islands for what was a surf project I worked very tirelessly on.

To cut a long story short, I had applied for a role working with a ‘company’ teaching local surfers in remote islands how to shape timber surfboards in their own back yard.

Given lack of money, access to fibreglass boards and ding repair, it seemed like a perfect scenario and one that was relatively unchartered by Westerners at the time. The discovery of surfing by troubled youths living in remote islands would be a life-changer.

Somewhere along the way, I fell for the guy behind the movement. Things quickly progressed into a relationship. By quickly I mean by rocket-ship type proportions. 

We discussed project launches in PNG where he originated from. Solomon Islands was also a heavy polynesiacontender. But in the end, my ultimate dream destination won hands down.

There were many red flags along the way, but I was committed to the project and to French Polynesia come hell or high water.

This would be my first planned trip away with another man, rather than flying solo.

Little did I know, I would be leaving him on a remote island somewhere in the archipelago.  

The beautyFrench Polynesia

The trip was nearly two years ago, yet I still find it quite hard to put into words just how spectacular French Polynesia is.

Ribs of jagged coral reef in rainbow spectrums meet turquoise blue waters, contrasted by deep channels of dark purple waters. Unexplored lush green islands appear sporadically with unmissable volcanic mountaintops rising from the ocean.

Tahiti Nui

Flying into the capital Papeete is an experience rich in culture, big smiles, seafood, cruise ships and lively markets. Not to mention spectacular island backdrops. I only had one thing in mind, and that was to touch down at Teahupoʻo, a dream I’ve wanted to fulfilltahiti since I first learnt to surf.

My ex however had other ideas, with zero interest in helping me reach that very spot by rental car. Instead he erupted into an endless tangent about how commercialism is killing the soul of surfing. Red flag number 248.

The village of Teahupoʻo was a lot further from the capital than I expected, around an hour’s drive to the south-west coast. Oh, yes I had won the uphill battle to make it there. The drive is littered with fruit stalls, care-free kids, lush mountains, valleys and creeks and no shortage of black sand beach breaks.

The swell was small but I was so stoked to arrive at the dead-end street and stand at the foot of the infamous Teahupoʻo sign, that I’d seen in some of the best surf movies  growing up. The energy of the village is pretty special. It’s just raw.

I could only imagine what it would be like when the swell is 20ft with guys towing in. I’d still love to return to sit in a boat in the channel, watching fearless locals drop down the faces of monsters.

Island hopping

While I’d love to tell you where we next flew to for the two months that followed, I simply can’t. But I can fill you in on what one might experience if they choose to visit.

My ex had explored this particular island for a couple of tahitimonths prior, which allowed him to get to know the locals, the waves and ideas of where our shack could be based for the project.

And of course to skip out on some expensive nightly rates. I’m sure our experience would have been vastly different had he not worked to carve the path ahead.

I’d never before witnessed the type of waves that we would soon discover. The shack was set up in a small bay, caressed by the most perfect grinding right hander I’d ever seen. On the other side, an equally as perfect left hander. I’d heard that professional guys had died on the right before.

Luckily it wasn’t the season for it and I was quite happy I had missed it. The wave however continued to run relentlessly perfect spitting barrels. It was just too shallow.

The locals

I’d done my research. It wasn’t pretty. But I was confident in the captain that was leading me into the project and didn’t feel I had anything to worry about.

The lineup

The level of respect in the lineup here is next level. The waves are an epitometahiti of perfection, depending of course on your level of surfing.

Whichever way you look at it, the locals make sure to strongly protect their ground.

I noticed there was no such thing as crowds.

Taking your camera

If you think you’re going in with a camera to shoot the waves, from land or from sea, you’ll quickly end up on the wrong side of any local. I heard many stories of cameras being carelessly ripped from visiting surfer’s hands and tossed into the ocean.

Along with violence.

The Red Bull team visited a nearby island on a big swell and it wasn’t a good ending.

Surfing in groups

You’re not going to just paddle out and start taking waves without first approaching and acknowledging each local in the water. There’s barely any lineup in the world left with this level of respect. Enough to leave you speechless. Tattoos. Bisects. Some big humans.

You just do it. But paddle out with more than two of your mates (especially two males) and you’ll be sent in. I know of one local who brags about the amount of blow-ins he’s knocked out in a day.

Each lineup is continually patrolled by locals with binoculars on hillside shacks, ready to call out boats if any trouble is spotted.  Be prepared to paddle. Some breaks sit 1KM offshore and include some brutal currents and bone crushing sections over dry reef to leave you out of breath

Other efforts to fit in

Refuse to take up an offer to drink tequila shots at the bar when it’s one of the guy’s polynesiabirthdays, well you’ll probably lose some respect too.

And they know how to drink.

Try too hard to fit in without invites, you’re likely to be sniffed out pretty quick and asked to leave the island.

Nine out of ten locals you have nothing to worry about, but there certainly are some that will take it to the extremes. 

The level of surfing

Some of the waves had me on the edge of crying with fear. I wrote about one particular session here.

Would I recommend solo travel for a female surfer?

The island is full of 360 degree views of every colour spectrum of flowers and tropical fruit you can imagine. It is a rich ground for deep sea pearls and sacred blue-eyed eels. It truly is something you could imagine out of a dream.

My experience however, was not without being woken from an afternoon nap, with death threats dished out to my ex, simply for making one silly mistake. The relationship turned into a brutal mess and in the end, I decided it was not a place for me to stay and once again departed solo. Narrowly missing out on a wedding proposal but perhaps that’s a story for another time.

Would I recommend another girl to travel here solo? Papeete and Tahiti waves yes. Outer islands I would suggest bringing a guy that has experience with locals of smaller islands, unless you have contacts in the area. Oh, and your surfing needs to be at a pretty high level.

Wild & Free

Exotic solo travel. Surfing heavy waves breaking over shallow reef shelves. Nipple piercings. Tattoos. Serious injuries in remote islands. Broken relationships. Quitting jobs. Suns and moons rising over inverted oceans. These are just some of the things that come to mind, when I think of my past few years on this spinning globe called earth. Most of which mould and solidify my identity through the many lessons learnt throughout. It’s been fast paced and wild, but more and more I’ve noticed my foot easing off the accelerator and edging closer to the brakes. I’ve heard in life never to look in the rear vision mirror.

I actually forgot how old I was. I spent two birthdays in a row escaping remote islands from the clutch of shattered relationships. In a whirlwind of adrenaline to simply survive, I paid little attention to the spinning cogwheels as my numbers flipped.

On one shoulder jumps a devil screaming my name with a wicked laugh, telling me to keep running at the same pace. Embrace the adventure and keep dodging bullets. But why am I finding myself turning down opportunities to surf big waves. To risk all again and again. Risking all for perfect waves. A quote I lived and breathed with every cell of my body.

I look back on photos taken from the islands. Christ some of those waves. And that’s the cropped-10606336_10152531576460168_8204708269631415799_n.jpgthing with surfing. That ability to push through the fear and just go. Everyone that’s out there knows the possible consequences. I’ve experienced them and came so close to not remembering every day I knew before.  Cracking my head on the reef, to a degree that saw me lose consciousness the following day. My article spread pages of women’s surfing magazines because I wanted to highlight the dangers of solo travel and make it real and personal.

I spent two months at the northern tip of Thailand building this site. Bursting with

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 12.22.58 pm (2)

excitement to share my surfing experiences. And I still am. But life is a journey and I want to embrace a post-travel mindset and the challenges that come with letting go of a chapter so incredibly vibrant in my heart.

I know my mum would love to read this. She was always telling me to take out life insurance as I shared stories of big waves. Near drownings, with a smirk on my face as if I just used up one more of my nine lives.  In the equally as grinning words of Gerry Lopez “I’m sure you die just a little”.

Nature’s own rhythm

And I could sit on the shore and say that the tide’s all wrong, the wind is up, it’s about to pour with rain and the waves have no form to even consider riding. All was true. But my desire to be out there with an ocean to myself was too much to resist. Then I remembered I could still feel the warmth of a summer just passed, the water wrapping around my body as I sit alone being rocked in an ocean so vast and empty. White puffy clouds taller than any man-made tower soar on the horizon, igniting the purple tints reflecting from a sun soon to set.

I remembered it all but at the same time forgot so much.

I forgot what it was like to sit alone as the weather started to turn.

Beating to its own unmistakeable rhythm.

Black clouds arrived seemingly out of nowhere, as though they were ready to perform at a circus. The calm air quickly turned into a ferocious wind, as if to introduce the storm-front lashing the ocean to the north. Any colour from the horizon drained and transformed to229327_10151038233085168_1203521898_n shades of grey, like an artist knocking his brush water over his fine watercolour canvas.

Rain whips my soft skin and beats so heavy I lose sight of the shore I once was sitting on. I shield my hands over my eyes as my vision is pierced by the dagger-like drops of rain. Why am I worried that a wave will come that I simply can’t see? I felt it a hundred times before but how could I forget.

Amidst the chaos, I couldn’t help but begin to laugh out loud as a shiver of joy ran from head to toe.

A wave suddenly peaks as I laugh at my own joke and I have to paddle hard to make it safe to the other side. As I dive deep into the warm green water, I briefly escape the piercing rain drops. Returning to surface, the entire water is encapsulated by a blanket-like cover of soft mist, revealing the perfect curves of the ocean. Misguided lines of swell roll in, regardless of what the heavens had planned.

And as quick as the ocean was torn apart, the air calms as the little pocket of storm moves further south, as if to follow the second storm front moving in sync along the mountainside in the distance. You could never tell me that you used to surf, for you were never a surfer in the first place.

The Wild Things

I feel my fiercely independent nature weaving into my daily life most profoundly when I sit still. I’m a wanderer, a drifter, a gypsy who’s never really found a home other than in the hearts of those whose souls call to converse with mine. But more often than not, I find my home in the ocean because its lines seem to run deeper than the thread of another. Floating above the earth’s surface encapsulated by sparkling blue waters, I feel it’s all the comfort and reassurance I need to get by.

The last full moon rose in my sign of Cancer and I hadn’t felt the need to crawl in my hardspiritual shell and tuck my claws away as strongly as I had in this moon’s pull. It wasn’t until after I felt waves of sensitivity, to everything, and an almost overwhelm, that I placed my eyes on an astrology report that spoke just to what I was feeling.

I’ve read that the stars and planets are a reflection of the current happenings on earth and that they are deeply in sync. Those that can whisper those reflections back to us have a gift of communicating with the universe.

I am a believer in astrology, not that I know too much about it, but I want more of its grounding explanations read to me to put everything in its place. I like things neatly in their place.

The moon brought out in me a feeling of panic, an overwhelm that I’ve been overseas for so long that my communities have spread so wide that they feel almost out of touch. Sometimes I forget that many can still reside in my heart, if not in my presence. I’ve thrived for so long in the vastness of the ocean on my own.

Watching the sun lazily rise above the misty horizon. Schools of bait fish passing through to disturb the ocean surface. The tide changing to create strong currents sweeping out to sea. Lone dolphins happily exploring the curves of the ocean floor.

I desperately wanted to scamper to find groups of friends, feeling I could easily distractlost island myself with resolution by external source. As the moon seemed to pull I pushed harder in return. I needed quiet. I needed to explore a corner of my soul that hadn’t been touched for so long.

Today as the moon wanes to barely visible, I feel the cooling offshore breeze from the furthest mountains on my face.

I feel it so deeply that I nearly trip over my own feet after I close my eyes and breathe it in. I was reminded of seasons that we’ve all left behind, cycles that come and go and the need to slow down and observe. To stay out of the chaos.

Authentic connections are what I most crave. If it’s anything less then I’m OK to get lost in my vege garden, talk to my dog, read about mythology and theories on our existence. I just want what’s real. Why don’t you go out and socialize…maybe another day. I want to learn a little more about myself.

Travel Hacks

Keep currency from your departing country when a layover is involved

Travel hack guinea pig at your service! I actually came up with this one just as the flight attendants came down the aisle with the food cart, on my AirAsia flight from Thailand to Kuala Lumpur, on my three flight journey to Cloud9, Philippines. I was pretty excited to trial this travel hack and it was a success, so here it is!

Instead of desperately trying to spend your last penny at the overpriced souvenir shops at the airport prior to leaving the country, because the foreign currency will be of no use back home, pocket it! Why? Because it’s the perfect solution if you have a short layover or overnight layover in another country before your final destination.

I kept the highest note available from Thailand which was 1000 Thai Baht (about $40AUD) to pay for my onboard snacks, knowing that the change I would get back from the breakmoney exchange Thai Baht to Malaysian Ringgit would be in my country of destination’s currency! A simple “sorry it’s all I have left” will serve as an apology to the attendant as you pay for one snack, while she robs the last of the change in the cash box. Most airlines will accept payment for on-board services from both the departing and arriving countries you are traveling between, but the change usually always comes back in the destination’s currency.

No need to visit the currency exchange at your layover stop, where they will charge sky high commission fees, nor a trip to the ATM and pay the big withdrawal fees when you arrive at the layover country. Even if you do need to get cash out later at the ATM at least you’ll have enough money to cover transport to and from the airport to your accommodation (if spending a night there) and food on the go. You could even get really cheeky and break a second big note towards the end of the flight, as by this stage they would have plenty of cash in the kitty!


Music on the Go

With so many different types of music apps and programs out there it’s hard to know which one to choose. I have an old surf girl music  school mp3 player as I can play it 24 hours straight without having to recharge. Music truly is a saviour when embarking in tedious travels. As I recently purchased a new laptop I didn’t want to risk downloading free mp3 files nor pay for a program. I stumbled across a brilliant program called “Youtube to mp3“, which allows you to drag and drop any Youtube clip into the program window and it then converts the file to mp3. Totally free and safe! So stoked I can download endless songs!

www.mediahuman.com/youtube-to-mp3-converter/ 

media human for surf travel

The transits to reach Philippines

Somehow I managed to survive two months in Northern Thailand, completely extracted from any sniff of a surf scene. It was a pretty beautiful place. I had initially planned on a six month stay to work on my online business. But for the first time since learning to surf, I completely lost my muscle tone in my paddle arms which was a very bizarre feeling. I so badly needed that extraction. To see the world through different eyes. But it was long enough. Tracking somewhat close islands for a chance of a wave, began to take over the time I should have been working on my online stuff. And then I did it. I booked four flights en route to Philippines. In particular Cloud Nine surf break. Boardless.  I like to talk about going on a surf trip prepared. Well this was going to be different.

Kuala Lumpur (KL)

Heading through KL is a pretty common route for surfers wishing to get a slice of Cloud9. I like KL as it’s been a transit point for multiple Indo, Mentawai and Malaysian trips. It’s familiar and I know where things are.

KL offers many options accommodation wise (affordable backpacker dorms to luxury hotels) and public transport is reliable and regular. Services are available by way of taxi,how to get to cloud9 train and bus direct from the airport. There’s two airports so make sure you get the right one. All Air Asia flights leave from KLIA2.

The city of KL itself is pretty bad and pollution
rules. It’s  rare to see blue sky through the thick smog that permanently coats the city.

Poverty is real, as it’s a common stop for refugees that have fled Myanmar (Burma) who stay illegally in slum-like conditions, waiting for the next option to flee the city. Usually by road and then sea.

Most with falsehoods on reaching the shores of Australia. The land of milk and honey.

As I found out, the Australian Government funds search and rescue operations in Malaysia by helicopter. They also carry out Police raids and water patrol units to hunt out refugees and send them back to where they came.

I spent three weeks throughout Malaysia in 2014 and the general vibe of the locals wasKuala Lumpur not great. They came across as quite unwelcoming. Perhaps the Australian Government’s influence is part of the reason why.

If you have an overnight in KL it’s worth checking out China Town in the city. Scores of markets line the streets, similar to the markets in Bali (Kuta).

As usual, be prepared to bargain for prices. You can get cheap clothes, sunnies, watches and bags. There is also an array of amazing food and fresh tropical fruit at low cost.

Transit through Cebu

OK so I must admit I didn’t quite do my research about Cebu. I just pictured a little island in the middle of a turquoise blue ocean, palm trees and beachside markets. Some of the atolls, reefs and islands we flew over were incredibly beautiful but by the time the plane flew over the island of Cebu, I realised it wasn’t anything how I had imagined. I had a one night layover here.

Grabbing the nearest taxi outside the small airport, I was in for a bit of a ride. From the driver, I had the usual “where you from, where’s your boyfriend, you had no one pick you up at airport?” type questions which you get used to when travelling alone as a female!

I was then quick to notice he was off-chops (drug induced) through his mannerisms and erratic energy.

At one Cebu travel point crossing a large bridge, where it was clearly sign posted that there was roadworks up ahead and the lane ended, he went straight through the signs, which smashed the rear of the taxi.

He burst out laughing and I said “taxi’s too big to fit through!” and his reply while throwing his hands in the air was “oh nah miss you’re just so beautiful it make me swerve all over the road!”.

The remaining trip involved him texting at every chance while swerving all over the road, running red lights and making up random and lengthy arrival times when I would get to my hotel.

I was pretty worried that he was actually taking me back to his house but so relieved when I recognised the sign for my hotel.

Stray goats roamed the city streets on miscellaneous missions, oblivious to the poverty that surrounded them. Kids barely old enough to walk, equally as oblivious as they clung tightly to their brother’s shirts, while mounting the back of rusted bicycles.

It wasn’t until I was safely in my hotel room, that I looked up “Cebu local news” on my laptop, that I realised just how bad it was. Bold text splashed the page, showing the past three days of events:

College student raped, killed in Cebu home. Man faces murder charges for daughter’s death. Lovers found dead in Cebu hotel. Boxing champ stabbed multiple times in domestic dispute.

Many were targeted Western attacks.

Luckily, downstairs from my hotel room was a small convenience store. I stocked up on asurfing cloud9 healthy array of white bread rolls, peanut butter, canned tuna and instant milo. Pretty much anything I could grab quick enough to then spend the duration of my time safely locked away in my hotel room.

I felt a million miles from Cloud Nine surf. Through tired eyes, I was surprisingly able to get a restful night’s sleep.

That morning I returned to the store to buy a local sim card.  While at the counter, I heard a kid whistling past the open shop door and glanced up to see a cheerful smile, dead chicken casually dangling from his clutching hand. I couldn’t help but smile back at him as our two worlds’ collided.

Past his small ripped t-shirt shoulder, something caught my eye on the other side of the busy street. A heavy looking, long and limp object in a white bag was being loaded onto the back of a pickup truck. Others that passed by, did not so much as blink an eye as they went about their day. I doubt I did either, as I struggled to hide my dinner-plate eyes. begging-1683496_1280

I honestly couldn’t be more happy to pack my bags and get the hell out of there.

It seemed my newly built hotel ($5.75 a night) was in a rough part of town. Their website did a great job at selling it to me.

I had to stand on the side of the road for a very long fifteen minutes praying for a cab to  pass by. Every passing car slowed to stare at my lonesome presence.

When a cab finally arrived, my bracelet got stuck on my lace shirt and I couldn’t lift my hand out to flag him down. It was like a nightmare unfolding before my eyes. Thank goodness a local guy came just in time to hail the cab for me. This ride was not as bumpy as the last.

Finally to Siargao

In the safety of the airport I could relax a little. I had two families come up to me and ask for photos in broken English. The kids giggled as their eyes curiously glanced over my hair, face and clothes as if they had never seen a Westerner before. Philippines kids

Once the plane passed over rusted tin roofs, visions opened to a vast ocean, full of every shade of blue imaginable.

Coming into Siargao is absolutely stunning, with a lush island rich in palm trees and jungles, peculiar shaped mountains and wide canyons. I could not wait to explore.

It was everything I hoped and more. Perhaps my excitement was exacerbated because my two months in Thailand without an ocean felt like an eternity.

Basic bamboo shelters lined the paved road, underneath thick canopies of palm trees dancing in the ocean breeze. The locals come equipped with that naturally laid-back island energy and are stoked living their simple lifestyles.

I was lucky to arrive when the swell was 6ft and barrelling at cloud nine surf spot. However I had to wait for the swell to back off as I could see just how challenging the takeoff was.

Top Tips for this Journey

Avoid the overnight in Cebu if possible!

-It really isn’t a safe place to be hanging out. The more I spoke to expats in Siargao, the worse the stories became.

It is possible to link your flights and get from KL to Siargao in one day with Air Asia from Cloud 9 boardwalkKL to Cebu. Then choose Cebu Pacific for the Cebu to Siargao leg.

Bring cash as there’s only one ATM 

-Best to get cash out before heading over as there’s only one ATM on the island and it’s regularly out of order. Never been happier with my purchase of my money bag that was strapped firmly around my waist under my t-shirt!

Watch your valuables in your hotel or shack

-I heard theft is very common here. Be sensible where you stash your cash, laptops, phones etc.

Take your own boards

-On the off chance you’re on a surf trip without boards (laughs). You already know tosurfing Philippines bring your own boards in your specific dimensions. Board hire is around 200 peso per hour ($6AUD) or 500 peso per day ($15AUD). Expensive. To buy a board here will set you back 12,000 peso ($370AUD). Cloud nine surf also has a high potential for breaking those boards in half.

Sunscreen and zinc

-Also very expensive here, about 520 peso (over $15AUD) for a small tube. Again experienced surfers know to bring their own.

Always be on alert

-Philippines is a dangerous country there’s no doubt about it. The use of meth is very common in many regions. The longer I stay here the more stories I hear of attacks on locals (mostly in transit to Siargao). Many attacks are in a bid to get money to fund their meth habits.

The threat of typhoon is very real

The slightest drop of rain will see your flight from Siargao back out to Cebu cancelled. The authorities simply don’t take the risk. If you can afford the luxury I would not booksurfing Cloud9 your international trip home until you are out of Siargao. Or better still make it a coupleI saw many surfers missing their next leg

Other than the general warnings, it truly is a stunning part of the world and one that blew my expectations right out of the water. I spent four weeks living in a very basic bamboo shack around the corner from Cloud Nine surf.

More in-depth rundown coming soon!

Mentawai Islands

If you’re a princess kind of surfer who must wear delicate designer bikinis and only paddles out to be “seen” by the men,  I highly recommend staying home as this place is not for the faint-hearted. If I could associate one word with Mentawai my first pick would be “wild”. Think jungle meet waterfall, meet crystal clear lagoon and waves that will absolutely blow your mind type perfection. If you’re a surfer, this is the one part of the world you definitely should not leave untouched.

Stay at home princesses

Just getting to the outer islands can become a treacherous and very tedious adventure, depending on your style of travel. For me I opted heading over to work at a surf camp, which turned into an accidental-lets fall in love at first sight with owner of camp- have craziest period of my life to date type of travel.

Totally unplanned. Totally let’s drop everything I thought I knew about life. Totally and utterly unforgettable.

Doing it rough

Over the period of two months in these islands, my mock itineraries included being the 10361064_10152102063020168_2727645846378015545_nonly Westerner sleeping top to tail amidst hundreds of local Indonesians on the floor of a rusted out boat.

The very same port to port journey in which a boat of similar description capsized in rough seas killing seven locals that same evening.

I sat for 12 hours in a tiny fishing village wondering if a boat home was ever going to arrive. I found myself being transported in dug-out canoes built to strictly transport supplies to the camp.

The scariest of all was stepping foot onto the same supply boat racing out through a narrow reef passage into the biggest, roughest stretch of ocean I have ever seen before, drenched to the bone and terrified if I would make it out alive.

vs doing it in luxury

Now, enough of the crazy stories.  The majority of surfers that visit the Mentawais opt for a more comfortable experience for their short period of time in paradise. There’s thirty or so charter boats from budget to luxury that buzz around the chain of islands.

You’ll also find a select number of land camps to choose from- most in which offer a safe and enjoyable ride from the mainland (to avoid the crazy alternatives that I found myself taking). The Mentawaisocean house feature the “no rules, anything goes” type lifestyle where you can truly live with no restrictions that you find back home.

Some surfers take this too far and end up living out there too long and completely losing their minds or going “troppo” as they say.

An amazing experience

Being a chick in the Mentawai rocks. Guys give you massive credit and respect in the lineup as they’re stoked to have a female join them in some heavy waves. Your surfing ability will improve faster than you can imagine, with mechanical barrels galore and long green walls that seem to peel forever.

When you’re not surfing  you can go brave the dense jungle, practice your Indo on locals in the small villages, pick fresh tropical fruit from the trees, explore outer islands and reefs,  snorkel & spearfish, gaze at picture perfect sunsets or pretty much anything your heart desires. But remember- no barbie dolls in these neck of the woods.

exploration

Negativity- A State of Mind

To think of what we don’t want in our lives is to focus on our fears rather than to invest energy into what we do want. It’s a classic behaviour of the ego, stepping in to remind us of all the reasons why we can’t possibly grasp onto our true wants and dreams- whether through lack of skill, title or talent. It’s a trait of inbuilt human behaviour but is also influenced by external factors such as culture, television and others negative attitudes. The trick is to continually recognise the egoic traits of the mind and to practice a switch of focus.

Many years ago when I found myself trapped in the vortex of city life, working full time in a corporate office environment miles from my love of the ocean and allowing my black shiny heels to audibly trek the same paved paths day in and out, I wanted to know what it would take to re-invent my life and escape this soulless routine.

I had heard of successful horse lifeathletes visualising winning gold at the olympics throughout their training regimes, with a focus on not only being as physically strong as possible but also mentally strong.

In interviews following their gold medal wins they would explain that their visualisations of winning was an important part of their recipe for achievement.

When I began what seemed to be an impossible task of finding work close to the ocean in my area of expertise, I began toying with this concept.

In my mind I would create a conversation with a make believe someone about how I had spent six years living the city life, but now I’m so glad to be out of that toxic lifestyle and living near the ocean surfing every day. I would play this scenario out in my mind every day for weeks at a time, to distract me from the lengthy robotic commute, crowded streets or whichever other situation I found myself in daily.

I would further visit areas of the coast where I most wanted to live, in order to take in the surrounding environment to help solidify my dream. It was almost as though my physical being was in the city but my soul had made its way to where it longed to be.

I truly believe that this mental focus was what finally had me break free into what felt like a surreal existence living next to the ocean while working a full time “city job”. You see if I had been caught up focusing so much on all the pains of city life, my true desire would have been so engulfed in negative energy that it couldn’t have possibly come true.

From this first experiment I have continually allowed this same concept to shape other 1472065_10151778274180168_1682323650_nareas of my life such as impassable opportunities overseas, treacherous and fearful moments travelling solo and allowing love to show up in my life.

Visualisation can become a powerful tool in achieving whatever it is you set out to do. It is said it only takes 17 seconds of thought, whether positive or negative, to begin adding to the pool of attracting and magnetising that thought into a physical form. It takes strength to remind yourself of this theory alone as you go about your day!