It’s the end of my third week in Australia, though London feels almost a lifetime ago. I planned to arrive here two weeks before my course to get my bearings, explore and actually wind down in order to start with a clear and fresh mind.
It seems that I hadn’t really experienced a true mental holiday until those two weeks – now gainfully unemployed. Suddenly in a different time zone to my whatsapp contacts and blissfully disconnected from work email, I found the lack of ‘places to be’ and time constraints meant I began to allow myself to unwind. I have rediscovered my love of cycling as a mode of transport. Brisbane is a fantastic city for keen cyclists, with the cycleway connecting Toowong directly to the heart of the town centre. It takes 20 minutes door-to-door from garage to the gym and so I took full advantage of leisurely picking gym classes and making a conscious effort to exercise regularly again.
Despite being an often polarising subject, I am a fan of Crossfit. I found the sport a few years ago in Nottingham and have trained ever since (albeit with breaks due to rugby injuries). I have yet to find exercise that reaps quite the same rewards. Now this, coupled with an almost unrecognisable diet compared to my eating habits in London (which seems to be comprised mainly of avocado), I have also begun to feel the physical effects of a lack of stress. I have felt more like myself than I have in a long time, evident in my open-ness to meeting new people which led me up a mountain at the end of my first week.
Climbing a mountain was something I would never have planned in the first 7 days of being in a new country, but Ngungun was worth every minute. A respectably challenging trek for a first time hiker was rewarded by a stunning 360 degree view of the horizon. I couldn’t help but reflect back over the past few months, as cheesy as it may sound, to feel that I had been climbing a mountain of my own and my final arrival here was the summit. A view previously obscured by trees and bracken was now crystal clear and full of possibility. Oh, and a fair few mosquitoes. Turns out clothing offers no such barrier to the Aussie version.
My last week of freedom was spent exploring the city and purchasing art supplies for the upcoming course. Any Londoner’s reading this will likely identify with this next bit. In the first two weeks here, more people asked me how my day was going than in a month spent in the capital city. I was approached by strangers just wanting to chat; I began to feel I must be wearing something obviously identifying me as a naive tourist. As it turns out, the people here suffer from a condition long eradicated in the London population; jovial friendliness. It seems pretty far spread, and having now been exposed, I can feel my own cynicism beginning to abate. Joking aside, it has been an eye-opening and refreshing experience how people are happy to share their day and spare a few minutes for conversation (if, unlike me in the first two weeks, you haven’t made an excuse and scarpered, not trusting their intention). I saw a fantastic video this week about the way everyone is currently experiencing a different ‘now’ – 7 billion of them in fact. The fact that those moments overlap and interlink is a fascinating part of being human, and some of us have been conditioned for too long to alienate and silo ourselves, in a quest to rush about our own business.
So I’ll leave this entry with a challenge to you: Next time someone asks how your day is going, or how you are, pause and see if the conversation would develop further if you were to reply with sincerity and take an interest. Enjoy being involved in someone else’s ‘now’.