Home, where my love lies waitin' silently for me
Every day's an endless stream of cigarettes and magazines
And each town looks the same to me, the movies and the factories
And every stranger's face I see reminds me that I long to be
- Simon and Garfunkle - Homeward Bound
I long for some home comforts. My friends. The cold. My own bed. Music through my stereo speakers. Vegetables. Oh how I want vegetables.
Tomorrow is the last official day of my 6.5 week international holiday. I fly out from New York in the afternoon, reaching LA, then spending a hideous amount of time at the airport before the long journey to Australia. I will be home on Tuesday. Home. I am ready. I took this photo tonight, crossing the road on 8th Avenue. It is an action shot of Times Square.
I will be glad to have things slow down a few notches and be in a smaller crowd. So glad. London certainly prepared me for the onslaught of people in New York. There hasn't been much personal space for six weeks.
I keep hearing Mum regaling stories to strangers turned friends at the hotel bar or the laundromat (both good places to meet people) about how she and my Dad never thought I would travel, never thought I'd live past my early months at life in fact. She is so proud I am here in New York and have been to London, on my own. I'm all like, it's not a huge deal.
And then I remember it is. It is a huge deal. I am proud I have not been sick in my time away - apart from two colds. I have not needed the doctor or extra medication, and for the most part I have coped with the heat here in New York (London's climate suited me just fine). I have done fairly well with money, considering in the past I have not been good with money. I have made conversation with so many strangers, and it has all been positive. I have handled two challenging accommodation situations, navigated the London Underground and worked with three currencies. I like New York but LOVE London. Love it!
I have packed in so much in my travels. It makes me want to do and see more in my own country. I don't want to fall victim to the geographic naivity that I have seen in others. I have been to Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Notting Hill, Camden, Bristol, Telford, Big Ben, London Bridge, Kensington Palace and Gardens, Tate Modern, Victoria and Albert, WholeFoods (in three locations), The London Eye, Borough Market, Selfridges, TopShop, H&M on every goddamn corner, Marks and Sparks, British Museum of Popular Music, Emirates Cable Car, Hollywood Boulevard, Universal Studios, Santa Monica Farmers Market, Rockerfeller Centre, Ground Zero, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Central Park, American Museum of Natural History, The Met, MoMA, Momofuku, The Spotted Pig, Times Square, Broadway and New Zealand Airport (plus lots lots more!). I ticked so much off my list. Phew! I am tired. But regenerated.
When I set off on my trip I was tired. Tired from work, doing my thesis and preparing for travel. I finish this trip invigorated and already planning what I want to do with my writing, speaking and media. My time at the Appearance Matters conference, Changing Faces and BlogHer have been big motivators, and the areas of focus will now be on expanding my writing and speaking opportunities, some consultancy work and setting up a social enterprise.
I have met a lot of new friends here. The speakers at BlogHer were incredibly inspiring, and the staff at The Centre for Appearance Research and Changing Faces really believed me. I know they have influenced me towards being more confident in myself as a brand. And in my week before I return to my day job, I am going to follow up with the contacts I have made and put some solid plans into place. I feel so empowered.
This trip has helped me grow. It has given me the confidence to take chances, to speak to strangers and to feel comfortable with spur of the moment decisions. I have appeciated the finer things in life through shopping (oh the shopping - oh my luggage allowance!) and eating (oh the food - hello jubbly tummy!).
But I have also seen the darker side of life - the poverty, the homelessness, mothers and children begging and rifling through bins, the filthy streets and the class divide. The media in America seems to be focused on the violence that takes place here, and it worries me. In Los Angeles, you cannot drink bottled water on a train, but it is legal to own a firearm. Right. I have wondered what type of company I am in when in public places. Will there be a gunman? A terrorist attack? In both London and New York I have seen police with high powered rifles. In New York there are army personnel posted to subway stations as a measure to prevent terrorism. I have never seen that sort of incidental protection in Australia. I feel lucky to live in Australia. It is clean, safe, wages are high (I felt guilty discussing my job and wages with my American friend) and healthcare is affordable. I am so lucky.
I need to go to sleep now but I want to thank you all for coming on this journey with me - thanks for the travel tips, thanks for loving my Instagram photos and for the encouragement - especially around my speech and meeting Jack - probably the best two events of my trip). I have loved every minute of my trip, and am so thankful for the opportunities it presented. A huge thanks to my hospital and the Layne Beachley Aim for the Stars Foundation for helping me.
I will write to you soon.
(I have been so tired to blog about this past week but I have lots to tell you about this past week in New York when I am back in Australia.)