Greetings and salutations, My Beautiful Botanic Hobos.
In my 41 years on this earth, I have wandered through my fair share of botanic gardens and parks. There is something so relaxing and grounding to find a little pocket of nature tucked in amongst the high rises and highways.
Until I moved east for love (what better reason to pick up and move halfway across the country than a fabulous human that makes your heart sing?), my absolute favourite botanic garden was the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens in the Adelaide Hills. Since moving here eight years ago, I have been delighted to discover two stunning gardens. The Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens is a seriously worthwhile day trip from Sydney, however, you can find natural beauty without needing to escape the city.
Situated at the foot of the Sydney Opera House, nestled between the Harbour and the historic CBD, the Royal Sydney Botanic Gardens is an oasis of calm amongst the throngs of tourists and busy locals jostling for position in Australia’s largest city.
Huh. That sounded like a proper travel writer or someone trying to sell the gardens on Craigslist. Not bad for a woman in a onesie who may or may not have already cracked open her first cider for the night. But my love of Somersby Cider and age-inappropriate attire aside, the Botanic Gardens in Sydney are a gorgeous sight to behold. Any time I have a little time to kill while I’m in at The Rocks, I take a wander through the lush greenery of the gardens and enjoy the harbour views.
If, like me, you are looking to live mindfully and bring the sense of being on vacation to your everyday life, there are several reasons you will love the parklands if you have not yet taken full advantage of them. Aside from the obvious natural beauty of the place, there are a myriad of things to do in the parklands.
Being trapped between the desire to get out and embrace the world and the overwhelming need to hide from it can be an exasperating experience. For me, it the word impotence is the one that best fits the situation. Knowing I have the strength, knowledge, intelligence and bravado to face any situation, but feeling anxious to the point of vomiting at the idea of simply opening a door if I don’t know what is on the other side of it fosters a feeling of impotence and despair.
The natural inclination for most of us can be to avoid situations that trigger anxiety. We find ways to complete tasks without putting ourselves in a situation that makes us feel unnecessarily fearful or make excuses as to why we cannot do them at all. For me it is taking a step back to let someone else open a door rather than going through it first, creating excuses as to why I am unable to attend that party I sounded so excited to go to three weeks ago or suddenly discovering ways to be helpful in a social situation rather than actually talking to people. Oh look, the drinks are low and I need to go and refill the chip bowls…
When we treat our anxiety by completely avoiding the situations that trigger panic symptoms, are we really helping ourselves or are we self-sabotaging?
The problem with avoidance is that it not only does it not solve anything, but it fuels the problem by creating an image of the issue that is much more alarming and insurmountable than it started out as. The more we avoid a situation, the harder it is to face next time it occurs.
Vicious cycle, really.
Many, many years ago, my beautiful friend Eileen told me about her friend, Sybil. Both Eileen and Sybil worked on the buses in England in a time where men considered themselves to be paying a compliment by slapping a woman on the arse and lewd comments were banter, not verbal harassment. Sybil was incredibly shy, and to work on the buses you needed a strong personality to stand up to the drunks and bums, as well as all manner of testosterone and ignorance fuelled misogyny.
Taking the family on a cruise doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice couples time. Nor does cruising as a couple on a strict budget mean that you can’t have the kind of fun and memorable night out that you would pay a small fortune for on shore. Wondering what to do on a cruise when you want to have a romantic night out aboard the ship? With built in babysitters aboard and plenty of free food and activities to choose from, your evenings needn’t be run of the mill while cruising aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas.
Free and Fun-Loving
Just because you are confined to the boundaries of your ship and budget doesn’t mean you can’t have a fun-filled night with your partner on a cruise. How about a date night that is straight out of a 1950’s American sitcom? (Minus the canned laughter and cheesy looks to camera.) And makes the most of your fare inclusions. Perfect! I hear you cry. Well read on my friend.
What could be more 1950’s teen date than a slice of pizza, mini-golf and a drive-in movie? Sure, you may not be able to drive up to the screen, but with an outdoor movie screen on Deck 11 you can still cuddle up and watch a movie under the stars.
I write on behalf of my father and all the other patient, purse-holding, door-opening, shopping-carrying men of the world. The men whose wives you market to, who like their couch and their remote control but somehow inexplicably find themselves on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean. (And by inexplicably, I mean their family begged and cajoled and hid the remote in desperation. Their poor browbeaten shoulders slumping in defeat as they give in and agree to a family cruise just for a moment’s peace.)
These are the men whose daily lives revolve around dust and sheep and fixing that-gorram-heap-o-junk that keeps breaking down. The ones who have no interest in climbing to the top of a fake rock wall unless there is a sandwich at the top (and even then there had better be bacon in it); who attend shopping trips, wine tasting and dance lessons under duress; and would consider jumping to a watery grave before attending napkin folding lessons. The men who have been raised in a generation where idle time is wasted time.
It is for these men (and indirectly for the happiness of their wives and children) that I am petitioning you to remove the casinos on your ships and install a Bunnings instead.
Now I know that casinos make money, but hear me out. I’ve put thought into this and the potential for this idea is big. By my calculations it could net your cruise line anywhere between $7.43 and $3,400,000 per year. They’re rough figures you understand, we can get your accountants to flesh out the finer points when we meet to discuss my cut of the profits.
Five Reasons Why Your Cruise Line Needs to Immediately Replace the Casino with a Bunnings
Provides a creative outlet.
Each day they will be able to attend woodworking and home repair workshops in store. At the completion of this class, the participants will get to exercise their creative genius in justifying to their wives the exact reason why they needed to buy a circular saw whilst in the middle of the ocean.
Steeped in history and draped in colourful stories, a trip to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds was the only thing I had my heart set on seeing when we visited New Zealand. I was excited for our whole adventure, but Waitangi Treaty Grounds at the Bay of Islands was the one place I had wanted to visit for as long as I can remember wanting to visit New Zealand.
Moored off of the undulating, island speckled coast, Royal Caribbean tendered us ashore to a small dock at Te Ti Bay. Stepping onto dry land right between Waitangi and Pahia, we were welcomed ashore by smiling locals. Coaches waited to take people on tours and ferry excited holiday-makers into town. Adding to the holiday atmosphere, small market stalls were set up for friendly residents to purvey handmade goods, giving the whole moment an almost festive feel.
Making our way down the dock, we were handed a flyer for the Treaty Grounds with a 20% off voucher on it and given directions to get there. I would have paid fistfuls of our hard earned cash for this experience, but a discount was much welcomed. The girls, being under 18, received entry; and our voucher took the entry price down from $40 for each adult to $32.
A short, well signposted, five-minute ramble along the stunning coastline and we were standing at the entrance to the Waitiangi Treaty Grounds. If I’m honest, there is a part of me that couldn’t believe I was actually standing there. Years previously I had seen Billy Connolly explore this area on his World Tour of New Zealand and I had been so taken with it that I had dreamed of visiting ever since. What I hadn’t know at the time was that our relaxed, ‘whatever happens, happens’ attitude would serve me well in not planning this trip by booking a shore tour months in advance. If we had booked a shore tour through the cruise line,
Terrigal. One of the most overrated spots on the Central Coast in my opinion. Now that’s not to say there isn’t a good reason that tourists and locals alike flock to the beachside town at the merest hint of sunshine. And it isn’t to say that I don’t venture out to see what all the fuss is about on the odd occasion.
My 17-year-old daughter was starting work early, so to save her an extra hour travelling on a bus, I offered to drive her to work. Figuring I may as well pick a picturesque track I haven’t set foot on for quite some time for my morning walk while I was out, I settled on going the long way home via Terrigal.
I parked well away from the beach near the Marine Discovery Centre on Terrigal Drive and set out towards Terrigal Beach. My aim for the day was not so much to walk as far as I could, but to enjoy the journey getting to The Skillion. In my memory, The Skillion was a considerable amount of huffing and puffing up a short but steep slope, followed by a view that made each huff and puff worth it.
I wandered through the beautifully maintained Terrigal Lagoon Reserve, to the banks of the Lagoon. Ripples abounded on the surface of the water as fish darted away on my approach. It struck me just how beautifully the local Lion’s Club keep this area, it would be a lovely spot for a picnic or barbeque on a sunny day. The barbeques were spotless and there are public toilets just across the road next to a well-fenced playground.
Continuing on along Terrigal Drive, my walk treated me to an unspoilt view of the beach over twisting floral vines winding their way through trees and fencing without regard to which side they belonged on. In the distance surfers and paddle boarders enjoyed the calm of the morning.
The barrier between road and footpath was decorated with ‘dot paintings’ by talented artists from the local schools. (And I don’t mean that in the indulgent manner of a parent proud talking to neighbours about their four-year-old’s finger painting, these are actually lovely works of art.)
The first time I was standing in the hallway, inoperable room key in hand, we were just hours into our trip. We had made it to our rooms, unpacked, booked our dinner reservations, met family for a spot of afternoon tea and watched the ship pull out of Sydney Harbour as the sunset shone brilliantly off the Opera House. Upon returning to our room I was met with a spot of bother. I swiped my card and tried the door.
I swiped it again, but slower.
No matter how many times I swiped, or how many different speeds I swiped at, my key card would not work.
Thankfully I had my Husband-In-Tow and he was able to open the door as I headed off in search of help to fix my key. The most obvious place to start was Guest Services on Deck Five.
Our First Trip on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas in a Promenade Stateroom
Helllloooo there Possums
I will admit that I was a little nervous before embarking on our last cruise. We had never had an interior room before and I was worried I would feel cooped up and claustrophobic in there. But with three rooms and six people to pay for, I was looking for savings any way I could. With the mindset that the room was only for sleeping in, we booked three Promenade Staterooms side by side.
I always book our cabins midship to be closest to the fulcrum of the boat. I get motion sick quite easily and would not even consider booking a room forward or aft down near the bottom of the ship. It may save money, but it would be a miserable and possibly technicoloured trip for me. Our Promenade Staterooms were no different. As close to the middle of the ship as possible to get the least rocking.
Looking at the deck plan and photos online, we could see that these rooms had a window that looked into the interior of the ship. We were hopeful that this would give us a feeling of space around us. The stateroom looked comfortable enough that we wouldn’t feel that we were living on top of each other for ten days. Mind you, we are consenting adults with our own stateroom; living on top of each other might not have been the worst outcome from the situation…
But I digress.
Arriving at our room, I was already cranky and sore. It had taken so long to get through customs and on to the ship that I had had a 40-minute long panic attack. I’d been badgered by well-meaning staff to have embarkation photos taken in front of green screens on the way in, all the while having my ribs punctured by a sharp pin that had worked its way through the fabric of my handbag. I was more than ready to snap at the next person that stopped me from getting to my room and dealing with the minor blood flow I was experiencing.
You would think that in my sore and sorry for myself mood, even minor things would have been blown out of proportion. That anything wrong with our room, be it too small and shoeboxy or the mattress too solid would be noticed and cause my brow to furrow. But upon opening the door to our room, I was pleasantly surprised.
My inherent cynicism has me permanently prepared for things not to be as perfect as they appear in photographs. But even the sceptic in me had to admit I was wrong. Everything was exactly as promised in the glossy photographs. The room was no smaller than staterooms I had stayed in with obstructed views on other cruise lines. It was comfortably appointed and the sofa built into the bay window looking down over the promenade was rather lovely. It almost had an inner city vibe about it. Our room looked out on the cobbled ‘street’ below, at people shopping, out for a stroll and having a drink out at the English style pub. Across the way were other windows exactly like ours, just like looking across at a hotel across the street.
Welcome to Tightarse Tuesday, on a Thursday (or whatever day you’re reading this on) my Lovelies,
Cruising is not only fun and relaxing, but a very affordable way to see the world. What makes it affordable is the plethora of free activities available to you at every turn.
No one wants to be constantly shelling out to stay entertained either out at sea or on shore days. With a little forethought and planning, you can enjoy your holiday at no extra cost after paying your cruise fare. At sea and on land, you will never be stuck for something to do that won’t have you swiping your card.
I’ll be the first to admit that mindfulness has not been a large part of my life of late. All the lessons I learned doing my 7 Week Mindfulness Challenge have gone out the window. That being said, I don’t naturally replay conversations over and over in my head any more. I notice when I am doing that and deliberately stop myself. So maybe not *all* my hard work has been undone.
I brought my yoga mat to work today to start getting back in to a mindful mindset and I am trying to eat healthier as well as drink more water. My eating really took a nosedive over the Christmas break.
I’m not one for formal meditation on a regular basis, I prefer having practical techniques to use throughout the day to keep my mind clear and focussed on living and loving every moment of my life. One of the things that helps me quiet the chatter in my head is being aware of the sensations around me. We get so caught up in juggling every task we need to complete that we eat lunch at our desk, make calls while commuting and make mental lists of more things to do while running errands.
While it is important that we perform our jobs to the best of our ability, it is also important to nurture ourselves so we have the energy and desire to keep going. Living a mindful life does not mean we need to check out of our current lives and move to Byron Bay. Though, if that’s your dream then more power to you. It doesn’t mean you have to embrace hummus and hemp (I say while eating green beans dipped in hummus) but again, if that’s your thing, then off you go and live and love that life.
For those of us who simply want to live our existing lives in a more mindful manner before we finally end up shouting “what the fuck is wrong with all of you idiots?” out loud rather than in our heads in the middle of another pointless team meeting, sensory awareness can help you avoid an awkward HR meeting.
Quick and Easy Sensory Awareness Techniques for Mindfulness
Five for Five
Five Mindful Breaths
Remember how I said I do not like formal meditation? That is not because I do not see the value in it, it is more that it doesn’t fit into my lifestyle particularly well. I do love sitting at the beach or near a waterfall and meditating on the sounds and sensations around me, but that doesn’t happen on a regular basis. If I have half an hour free, I prefer to spend it in the company of my loved ones or indulging in a spot of escapism into my favourite fictional worlds.However, focusing in on my breathing has been a very helpful technique for me in overcoming many of the symptoms of my anxiety. If you feel yourself becoming stressed throughout the day, take five mindful breaths. Close your eyes if you have that luxury. As you breathe in, be aware of the sensation of the air flowing in through your nostrils, filling your lungs and exiting from between your lips. Feel your shoulders, stomach and ribcage move as you breathe.