Vegan Food Travel: Normal, Necessary, Natural and Nice (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this series, I explored how vegan food travel is normal and necessary. Specifically, I explored how it can be normal and necessary for vegan travellers especially if they are gluten intolerant or, like me, have been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease. If those around us use terms such as ‘normal’ and ‘necessary’ to refer to a non-vegan diet, many vegans including those suffering from gluten-specific conditions may start to feel disconnected and alienated from the rest of the human herd. If you haven’t had a read or listen to Part 1, I suggest you do so by following the aforementioned link. Now, let’s get cracking to explore the final two N’s in this series – natural and nice!

vegan gluten free food travel necessary nice normal natural melbourne australia travel tips

 

Vegan Food Travel is Natural

Once I started to observe a vegan diet, it didn’t take very long for my newfound diet to feel natural to me. Those who don’t follow a vegan diet would, and still, lament over how ‘hard’ it would be to change to a vegan diet. I experienced anything but hard from a food perspective. Though, what was hard for me was grappling with the lives lost as a result of my intake of animal products before switching to vegan. After going on quite a few overseas trips both as a non-vegan and vegan, it occurred to me that people all over the globe possess different perceptions on what foods are natural to eat. In some parts of the world, such as traditional Batak tribal lands in Indonesia, eating anything with a face or whatever moves is ‘natural’.

Once I started to understand animal agriculture and the practises involved, killing another for food started to feel unnatural and violent to me. I was no longer experiencing a need or want for meat and animal products; the dilemma in taking one’s life to feed another dissipated once I turned vegan. In Australia, approximately 600 million animals are killed each year in order to feed the Australian meat-eating population. Scarily, this number doesn’t include marine life. In addition, travelling to many parts of the world and seeing how animals are treated, not just in my own backyard of Australia, emphasised these feelings. Going vegan was therefore the only way to go. Having to go gluten free so I didn’t feel sick and tired all the time was an added bonus. No one wants to feel sick all the time – this is not natural, either.  

vegan gluten free food travel necessary nice normal natural melbourne australia travel tips

Vegan Food Travel is Nice

In the context of food and travel, we can perceive the word ‘nice’ a few ways. Being nice when visiting new countries or regions, we are more likely to be open to new experiences, traditions that are different to ours. As a result, we build lasting friendships with locals and other fellow travellers. And what’s different in my life – that doesn’t match the local tradition – is more likely to be met with curiosity and enthusiasm. Being vegan means you can exchange a tradition that may not be the local norm, and the local meals I’ve experienced as vegan versions have been incredible. Locals are curious to adapt their traditions and enjoy the equivalent for a one-off meal.

The incredible meals I’ve experienced, such as the Batak tribe that lives in the highlands of western Indonesia where some locals are known to eat anything that walks or has a face, equate to this nice-ness. Without your meals tasting nice, there is little hope that you’ll stick to a vegan diet. Nice vegan options can be found anywhere and all it takes is a little ingenuity, encouragement and enthusiasm to make it happen in places where options may not exist.

If there is curiosity and acceptance, there is unwavering possibility.        

As an aside, it’s Coeliac Awareness Week in Australia from March 13 to 20. If you want to learn more about this disease, affecting 1 in 70 Australians, you can visit the Coeliac Australia website.

In the spirit of Coeliac Awareness Week, don’t forget to eat all the vegan gluten-free things!

Disclaimer: Fire & Tea does not have any existing affiliations with Coeliac Australia. I wanted to mention Coeliac Week and Coeliac Australia so as to bring awareness to the disease.

Vegan Food Travel: Normal, Necessary, Natural and Nice (Part 1)

I travelled to the outer south-east Melbourne for a family celebration a few weeks ago. Like any celebration, the time eventually came after lunch to celebrate the occasion with birthday cake. There were two cakes – one was decorated with glowing candles ready to be blown out, and the other was to cater for the vegan coeliac in the crowd (me). Once the candles were blown out, guests huddled, ready to receive their plate of cake. Some guests were unsure as to which cake to try.

vegan food travel gluten free melbourne victoria australia travel tips

The matriarch of the family clarified the dilemma for any guests who seemed perplexed. ‘That one is a golden syrup cake. It’s vegan and gluten free. ‘And this,’ as she motioned to the birthday cake, ‘this is the normal one’. These are the types of conversations I encounter regularly as one who observes a vegan, and now strictly gluten free, diet. Yet, I try to meet these conversations with a neutral stance, without taking these comments personally.

You see, a vegan gluten free lifestyle may not be understood by everyone. It is assumed that vegan gluten free goes against everything we’ve been born and brought up to understand as truth; how to eat and live our lives so we can thrive. But, what happens when we question these beliefs then take the opportunity to shift to a new way of living? Rather than ask the question why, 'why shift to a vegan diet, why take the gluten free option', I think we should all be asking the question why not? By reframing the question, we can become more curious about our beliefs and what new possibilities can give us.

Research was conducted by the University of Lancaster in the UK into the justification of eating meat and why humans do eat meat. In that research, it was found that people eat meat because it’s normal, it’s natural, it’s necessary and it’s nice. ‘Necessary’ was found to be the common response.

What I’d like to do, over two parts, is to explore these four N’s from a vegan traveller’s perspective.     

 

Vegan Food Travel is Normal

Let’s look at the meaning of normal. Normal is to conform to a standard; what is usual, what is typical, or what is expected. For my meat-eating family, consuming animal products is the ‘normal’. I was born and raised this way, and I didn’t start to question this until about five years ago. Feeling tired, feeling heavy and feeling sniffly or stuffy were all intense symptoms I was feeling before going vegan and I was questioning how I could feel better. After research, along with a conscious pull from my inner self, I came to the conclusion that vegan was the way to go. How does this relate to travel? Food is how we all relate and bring ourselves together – over a meal at the dinner table for example. This is a concept that’s found globally.

I’ve discovered that travel is vital when it comes to learning new concepts all the while educating others in my ‘normal’. It’s one thing to be born with particular beliefs, so we all have the ability to question the status quo and take a new path in our life journeys. Through vegan food travel, it is possible to still feel a sense of connectedness and security as we exist and learn from one another.       

vegan food travel gluten free melbourne victoris australia travel tips

Vegan Food Travel is Necessary

Now, back to those pre-vegan feelings of tired, heavy and sniffly or stuffy, I have experienced allergies my whole life, specifically eczsma and hayfever. My mum has told me repeatedly how many different milks I was given as a child in order to alleviate the pain and irritability. It wasn’t until I probed her further did I discover that the milk that gave me the most relief was soy milk. It was at this lightbulb moment when I realised I made the right choice by going vegan. All the nutrients I need are also readily available through a vegan diet and it’s a matter of living as healthily as I can in order to live and thrive at my utmost potential.

Yet the tiredness was still an issue. After a series of tests and doctors’ appointments, I discovered in mid-2016 that I had Coeliac Disease. Again, this was another lightbulb moment. I immediately cut gluten out of my diet and almost immediately started to feel the benefits. In the context of travel, I find it thrilling to travel to new restaurants and destinations only to discover the local vegan and gluten free options available. It’s an opportunity to explore further and again, question the normal. Through vegan food travel I’m also creating a demand for vegan gluten-free options.   

This wraps up the first in this two-part blog post so look out for the second instalment in the next couple of days where I’ll be exploring two more N’s – natural and nice.

Travelling for Edible Native Plants and Weeds around Melbourne

Not too long ago, a lady was picking weeds out of my front garden. When I approached her, she paused and quickly backed away in embarrassment. I stopped her with a smile; encouraged her to take what she needed. In her very limited English, she pointed to a young weed and blurted: “Tea!” I had no idea that these leaves could be picked to make tea. With my encouragement, the lady continued scouring my flower beds for the best tea-brewing leaves, picked what she needed and headed for home.

Travel edible native plants weeds walking tour Melbourne Australia Victoria

I’m grateful to live in Melbourne, home to exciting restaurants and cafés that specialise in or feature amazing vegan dishes. Though, I’ve been left to wonder where I could travel to, beyond my front yard, in search of edible native plants and weeds. Here are a couple of tours that specialise in walking edible native plants and weeds tours around Melbourne for those looking at expanding their botany knowledge while getting some curious travel in at the same time.

Hello Edible Weed offers walks through Melbourne and the Yarra Valley so you can learn about which weeds you can eat. Hello Edible Weed also offers books, workshops and talks on the topic. Three-hour walks/workshops are run by author Doris Pozzi from $35 per person. It’s a great opportunity to learn about which weeds can be eaten and/or added to your cooking. Bookings can be made via the website or phone 03 5962 5982. 

travel Melbourne Victoria Australia food travel walking tours weeds native plants botany walking

Eat That Weed is another weed walks provider, run by those who hold qualifications in horticulture and permaculture – self-confessed ‘plant nerd’ Annie Raser-Rowland and permablitz movement founder Adam Grubb. Tours are held mostly around the Brunswick East area along the Merri Creek wanderings to help you find what’s edible and what’s not.  

Walking Tours of Melbourne can take you on a personalised ‘living wild off the land’ expedition. Choose from some of the native areas of Melbourne and suburban surrounds, while learning about the native edible plants that indigenous Australians local to these areas have known about for generations. Medicinal plants, sustainable species and harvesting techniques are all covered, as well as seasonal species and traditional tools used for harvesting. Choose from former wetlands from Elster Creek to Elwood Beach, craggy beachfronts of Half Moon Bay and Black Rock, and the 500-year-old St Kilda Corroboree Tree and gathering grounds of Albert Park. Grab a group of mates, decide on what and where you want to explore and let Walking Tours Melbourne sort you out with a guided journey. Bookings are by arrangement and can be made via the website, email at melbwalks@gmail.com or phone 03 9090 7964.

Weekend Beach Food Hangouts at Phillip Island in Victoria

Day-trippers and weekend wanderers travel to Phillip Island to get away from Melbourne for some beachside travel time. This naturally rich location on the southern coast of Victoria, easily accessible by car, offers travellers all the nature experiences one can hope for – back-beach seascapes, lush bushwalking spots and day-trips to view native koalas, little ‘fairy’ penguins and fur seals in their natural environment. Phillip Island is visited by travellers all year round, yet best experienced during the summer months from December to February. Another appeal of Phillip Island is that you can hop on and off the island by car to explore quaint townships in between. During a big day of exploring each corner of Phillip Island, you must keep your energy levels in check. Here are three beach food hangouts to fuel your day while exploring Phillip Island.        

Phillip Island Victoria Australia San Remo Cowes penguin parade food vegan travel gluten free Vegan Life magazine

Island Wholefoods for Brunch

Cowes is the main community hub on Phillip Island. Before you head out to your big beach trips for the day, a brunch stop at Island Wholefoods is my tip. This is an organic, raw and superfoods café where you can fuel up on fruit-filled acai bowls, fresh green smoothies and turmeric lattes. As much as the bowls are filling and fulfilling, their scrambled tofu on gluten-free toast and sided by a wedge of lemon is a yum-in-the-tum brunch choice.

Phillip Island Cowes San Remo Victoria Australia penguin parade weekend daytrip travel vegan food gluten free

The tofu is seasoned with turmeric, and veggies like capsicum and spinach are folded through for added nutrition. As you wait for your meal, order a turmeric latte with a dusting of cinnamon and take in the calm beachside aesthetic within this café – from the raw floorboards to the local artwork adorning the walls.     

Island Wholefoods 4/75 Chapel Street, Cowes Victoria 3922 Australia (no phone number)

 

Sweetly Sweets and Ice-cream for a Cool Summer Treat

What’s summer without an icy-cold gelato? A pretty boring one! Australia tops the list as the biggest consumers of ice-cream in the world. This means that Phillip Island has plenty on hand to meet the summer demand.

Phillip Island Cowes San Remo Victoria Australia travel food vegan gluten free daytrip weekend

Sweetly Sweets and Ice-cream is a gourmet ice-cream café that stocks up to six dairy free and vegan sorbets and coconut ice-cream, all homemade by local provider Prom Coast Ice-cream and Sorbet. My favourite flavours to try are the banana coconut cream and mixed berry. Traditional lemon is pretty good, too! Sweetly is located in San Remo, the township before you cross the bridge to get to Cowes.

Sweetly Sweets and Ice-cream, 8/157-159 Marine Parade, San Remo Victoria 3925 Australia Phone: 0418 349 489

Island Burger Bar for Dinner

A massive day at the beach calls for a just as massive meal to restore energy levels. After surfing, ocean swimming, hiking or bushwalking, the body demands a nourishing meal to satisfy the hunger. This is where Island Burger Bar at Cape Woolamai steps in. This classic strip-shop takeaway melds classic Aussie chip shop with a laid-back surfer hangout feel, all stitched together with alternative music vibrating overhead. Tummies will zone in on the big burger menu here and vegans are welcomed into this fold.

Phillip Island Cowes San Remo Cape Woolamai Victoria Australia penguin parade travel vegan gluten free food daytrip weekend
Phillip Island Cowes San Remo Cape Woolamai Victoria Australia penguin parade travel vegan gluten free food daytrip weekend
Phillip Island Cowes San Remo Cape Woolamai Victoria Australia penguin parade travel vegan gluten free food daytrip weekend

One to get the teeth into is Island Burger Bar’s homemade lentil and sweet potato burger, all layered on a fresh bun with bright salad and a smooth layer of hummus. Gluten free buns are thankfully available here, though I narrowly missed out during my dine-in visit. That’s what happens when you dine here during peak season! Still, the chilled out staff take this all in their stride to deliver a bountiful plate version – the salad acts as a side to two burgers topped in hummus. When there’s a will, there’s a way, and Island Burger Bar is happy to accommodate.

My suggestion is to order a couple of potato cakes (or sweet potato if available!) to make this burger meal even more of the holiday hunger pleaser that it is. Just be sure to pull up at a table outside to eat this tasty burger meal as the sun sets over Cape Woolamai for the day.  

Island Burger Bar, 9 Vista Place Cape Woolamai Victoria 3925 Australia. Phone: 03 5956 6552.

This post was inspired by the mouth-watering article on burgers titled 'On a Roll' found in February Issue 23 of Vegan Life Magazine.
You can check out their website for digital or print subscription details.

Vegan Life magazine vegan food travel Phillip Island Victoria Australia daytrip weekend

Disclaimer: I was supplied with a free digital copy of Issue 23 of Vegan Life Magazine. All opinions expressed in this post are mine.

What’s Gluten Free Got to Do with Fire & Tea?

On the back of tennis star Serena Williams’ win at the Australian Open in Melbourne over the weekend, I have been drawn to her sister Venus’ personal win to conquer her auto-immune disease and return to professional, top-level tennis. As Venus stood at the podium to deliver her speech as the runner-up, her words brought a tear to my eye. Both Venus and Serena are well-known vegan athletes, yet it was Venus’ story that drew me in the most.

coeliac disease gluten free vegan travel melbourne australia fire and tea

You may have noticed in recent posts that I’ve been documenting my food and travel with a sprinkling of references to gluten free. ‘Gluten free’ has launched into the blogosphere in recent times and #glutenfree is achieving an explosive presence on digital platforms worldwide thanks to the gluten intolerance movement. My choice to report from a gluten free frame of writing, alongside my vegan mission, is based on medical merit. I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease mid-last year.

vegan gluten free travel fire and tea melbourne australia

According to Coeliac Australia, Coeliac Disease is a heredity auto-immune disease occurring when “the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats), causing small bowel damage”. What I’ve come to learn is that Coeliac Disease is “one of Australia’s most commonly under-diagnosed conditions”, and affecting only 1 in 100 Australians. The common symptoms, as I’ve experienced, are fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes and severe dermatitis. The effects are debilitating, with the potential to bring daily life in general to a sudden halt. Family life, relationships, work and basic day-to-day functioning are all affected. There were times I couldn’t cook dinner, go out with friends for a meal, work at optimum level, check out bands, new restaurants and new destinations with my husband or even embark on meaningful travel in my own city. Blogging and writing stood still for a while there, too, as much as it pained me.

gluten free coeliac disease vegan travel melbourne australia fire and tea

Just as an example, my hike through the Three Capes Track in Tasmania early last year was my first multi-day hiking trip, a ‘bucket list item’ if you will. The trip was a physical struggle for which I had no explanation why at the time. , Despite extensive training, at the end of each hiking day my knees and feet were swollen and sore as I hobbled around camp and I went to bed unusually early each night so that I could keep my energy levels up for a day’s hiking by next morning. My pre-packed meals weren’t fulfilling and I was constantly hungry and losing weight. While I enjoyed the trip immensely, the excruciating pain dampened the experience for me internally; feelings I kept within myself. I hid it all, and celebrated my reaching the finish line with an exuberant, though fatigued and exhausted smile on my face as I hobbled down the last few steps into Fortescue Bay. I stayed positive though and I assured myself: ‘This is definitely not the finish line for me and hiking.’

Coeliac Disease travel gluten free vegan australia melbourne fire and tea

Since my diagnosis my food choices have whittled down dramatically, yet I have found options at every vegan establishment I have visited and reported on. The benefits heavily out-weight the new choices in food mapped out for me. I’ve built strength within myself physically and emotionally, I’ve gained control of my energy levels and the fatigue has been set to idle so that I can enjoy all the vegan food and travel I can welcome into my life. I’m now looking ahead to more trips, and my husband and I have even been invited on a tempting hike across the southern rim of my home-state, too. If we take that invitation up, it will definitely be completed without pain and fatigue, but with loads of energy fuelled by a backpack crammed with vegan, gluten free hiking foods! 

With correct diagnosis, proper management and the benefits of a vegan diet, I’ve rewarded myself with my personal gains; the gold after the personal battles I experienced. I’m well and truly back to doing everything I love – travelling, eating, writing and blogging in particular. I’ve just had to reframe the narrative a little. Change is always a good thing, one of the valuable lessons I’ve learned thanks to my travelling ambitions. I hope you continue to enjoy Fire & Tea as much as I enjoy writing and blogging it all for you.         

Finding our Travel Flow in Adelaide

My husband and I decided to travel to Adelaide for the weekend a few years back. Chris had always wanted to see his AFL football team, the Hawks, play interstate so we booked in a weekend to Adelaide to fulfill one of his travel dreams.

travel tips travel mishaps travel blunders bad luck australia adelaide

On the morning of our departure, Chris realised that he had lost his wallet. “Yikes!” My mind started to spin. “How on Earth are we going to get on the plane without Chris having any ID? How are we going to hire the car waiting for us in Adelaide without a credit card? How will we be able to leave a security credit card swipe with the hotel?” Worry immediately set in. Yet, like any trip, we breathed in deep, accepted our predicament and headed for the airport to try our luck.

When we arrived at the airport, we realised that we had pre-booked our e-tickets under a carry-on luggage classification. We sped to the self-check-in stands and checked in as fast as we could. No ID needed here! We breezed through security and boarded the plane flawlessly. Phew.

Once we landed in Adelaide, we discovered that it’s a city bursting with possibilities, whether it be sport, culture or the arts. What would our possibilities be with only a limited supply of cash? Our question was answered early on when we tried to pick up the hire car. No credit card to swipe for security, no car hire we were told; company policy. We were left with no other choice but to cancel our booking and we were sent on our way with an apology. We checked my wallet and dug out a small amount of cash that was just enough to catch a taxi to our hotel in the city.

Upon arriving at our hotel, we hit another snag in our course. Without a credit card, we needed to provide a $200 cash security deposit. I still had cash in my savings account and handed over my EFTPOS card. “How are we going to eat this weekend?” I started to panic. We thought quickly then made a deal with the hotel. If we pay the security upfront we can ask for $50 back after each day of our stay, so we could cover the basic expenses. They obliged willingly, given our circumstances. “Hooray! We can eat!” We checked in to our room after another sigh of relief.

We started exploring the city by foot and calculated a few things that would go our way during our weekend away. After wandering through the city’s relaxing, and free, public parklands and admiring the city’s gorgeous colonial architecture in neighbouring backstreets, we located a few spots for a cheap eat to get us through our main meals of each day. One such find was at the unassuming Adelaide Casino across the road from our hotel. For around $11 each we scored a cooked lunch that kept us going for the rest of the day. This still left us with cash leftover to take us on a tram ride to the front beaches of Glenelg. Such a lovely daytrip that was within a hop, skip and jump from our lodgings. We wandered in the sunshine along Jetty Road and learnt more about the history of this seaside suburb at the Bay Discovery Centre; a free museum for visitors to Adelaide.

We also found out that we could catch a free public bus outside our hotel on North Terrace that could take us straight to the game the next day. Luckily, we paid for our footy tickets in advance! 

travel tips travel mishaps travel blunders bad luck travel australia adelaide

By the Monday, we checked out with memories of Chris fulfilling a travel wish, despite the Hawks losing to Port Adelaide, a fun weekend away with plenty to eat and do, and enough cash leftover to get us to the airport then home.

Our little trip to this beautiful Australian city taught us a few lessons in travel. Anything can go wrong when you do travel and almost every mishap can be overcome with a little ingenuity. You just have to find your flow and accept to go with it. If the mishaps keep surfacing and you can’t overcome them, then it may be time to change course for a new destination. 

Thankfully, for us, Adelaide remained our destination for the weekend and rewarded us with more travel memories to last a lifetime. And as for Chris’ wallet? It was eventually found…under the driver’s seat in his car once we arrived home.

Have you experienced a travel mishap or some not-so-fun travel bad luck? I'd love to hear about your brush with travel bad luck and how you managed to bounce back from it.
Leave your stories and thoughts in the comments section below!

New Roads Discovered when We Compromise our Travel Plans

“I’m booking myself a one-way ticket and never coming back,” I declared. This was back in 1996 and I wasn’t really planning to leave forever. The plan was to start and finish my university degree, save enough money to keep me going and backpack around the world with no real end date planned. One of my cousins worked for Camp America at the time so it was part of the plan to go on a working holiday, too.

Me checking out the mighty expanse of The Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Me checking out the mighty expanse of The Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Within the first year of uni, I met my boyfriend at the time. This is when plans started to change. It was early months in our relationship, so we spent long hours chatting about our plans after uni. Many of these discussions revolved around travel. As much as we both dreamed about travelling the world, we clashed on how we each wanted to go about it – I wanted to work and travel indefinitely while he didn’t. After some lengthy discussions and weighing up each debate, I decided to make a compromise on my original plan.

I saw a way to reward myself

I reflected and realised that, by the time I was to graduate with a degree, I would’ve spent 16 out of my 21 years of life studying and working part time jobs to pay for it. Of course, there were domestic holidays in between and weekends away when a rostered Sunday off appeared. Yet, I couldn’t remember when I had given myself a proper break. Perhaps an extended holiday after graduation was a good idea, then?

Finding a place to rest and have lunch at a pitstop while on the road in Texas.

Finding a place to rest and have lunch at a pitstop while on the road in Texas.

A gap year between school and work had weighed on my mind

I knew that if I didn’t start and finish my degree straight out of high school, I wouldn’t go back to full-time study. Though, I needed to work out how to save for the funds needed for this epic holiday.

In order to pay for my share of the holiday, I had to start saving

My degree was essentially my timeline. I had two and a bit years left to save for this overseas holiday and I had always dreamed of heading to the U.S and Canada. Luckily, my boyfriend had similar travel aspirations. We worked out roughly how much we needed and started saving. I even took on a second part-time job as a waitress to pay for the dream.

John Lennon was right with one word. Taken in Strawberry Fields in Central Park, New York.

John Lennon was right with one word. Taken in Strawberry Fields in Central Park, New York.

I put in the time, hard work and effort

Having a second part-time job did take its toll. I was studying 30 contact hours at uni and working up to 30 hours in between. It was common for me to start at uni weekdays at 8am, drive straight to work and arrive home any time after 11pm. Weekends were loaded back-to-back shifts and I missed out on friends’ birthday parties or nights out. Any rare spare time I had to myself was used completing assignments and studying for exams. I was still young; with energy to spare. I wish I had that sleepless, 20-something energy now!

I decided on a balance of independent and tour-style travel

Wanderlust can transport you to wild and wonderful places, but the reality set in when travel times were calculated. Why spend 20 hours on a flight from Melbourne, only to come home again in a couple of weeks without ticking off everything you wanted to do? My boyfriend and I wrote a wishlist and mapped out our journey across two-and-a-half months, breaking up any big tours with DIY stops in between. We saw ourselves traversing the southern and northern U.S states, east and west coasts of Canada, sandwiched by mini-stays in L.A, San Francisco and New York. A sneaky stop in Hawaii on the way home made it on the list, too.

Catching a bit of 'shut-eye' during a long road journey across America with CD player, too!

Catching a bit of 'shut-eye' during a long road journey across America with CD player, too!

Travel agents didn’t take 20-somethings seriously back then

With our epic journey mapped out, along with the time and money involved, we discovered that travel agents didn’t take us seriously. Remember, online bookings weren’t the “done thing” back in 1999. We went old school – heading to a travel agent to gather quotes and make our bookings. Some agents didn’t even believe we had the money to do it. Trust me, those agents missed out big time! We eventually found one agent who believed in us. She worked after hours to prepare our quote and hand-delivered it to us at my boyfriend’s home. Our planning was such a lesson in travel – it takes faith and trust from others, as well as believing in yourself, to ensure dreams and goals are achieved.

Returning home translated to a huge bout of post-travel depression

By the time we returned home in the middle of a frosty-cold Melbourne winter, we had covered over 40 U.S states and both of Canada’s coasts. We bussed, flew, walked, kayaked, speed-jetted and hiked through national parks, ice glaciers, soaring skylines and arid deserts. We saw the Yankees play at Yankee Stadium, wandered Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, stepped within the gates of Alcatraz, played the slots in Las Vegas, had a beer at the iconic Cheers bar in Boston, grooved our way to Blues along Bourbon Street in New Orleans, paid our respects at the spots where Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy were assassinated, visited Washington D.C on Memorial Day, awed over The Badlands and The Grand Canyon, attended music festivals, ate loads of American food and discovered countless record stores.

Reaching the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota.

Reaching the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota.

By the time we returned home, we fell into a bout of post-travel depression and it wasn’t long before the travel bug bit me again. I also needed to break into the inevitable world of full-time work. I was lucky enough to start working at a small publishing house as a receptionist which eventually led me into working on trade exhibitions; some of which were overseas. I also worked for a manager who understood the value of travel and allowed me one full day off on each work trip to go out and experience my surroundings. I was lucky to travel to Singapore, Thailand and within Australia, too. I was able to satisfy my initial desire of working overseas.

I found snow in Canada! This pic was taken on the road heading to Lake Louise in Alberta.

I found snow in Canada! This pic was taken on the road heading to Lake Louise in Alberta.

My boyfriend and I still kept travelling together and ended up getting married as well. We eventually made our way to New Zealand, later marrying in Victoria’s Yarra Valley winery region then honeymooning on Hamilton Island. Later, we travelled more through China, South East Asia and the Middle East. Plus, there have been many little domestic trips in between.   

Sometimes, our dreams in life don’t always go to according to the coordinates we set ourselves. Despite this, we almost always achieve our dreams if it means taking new turns or backstreets. A road less travelled, or not travelled at all, may then just be the solution. Compromise may be the new map you need when life presents a new direction. I’m thankful that travel is in my life to teach me this. 

Eliminate your Fear of Taking Annual Leave and Book in More Travel

This sponsored post is brought to you in partnership with MyNRMA, Australia’s largest motoring and services member organisation.

Australians are very lucky in the sense that they enjoy up to four weeks of paid annual leave a year; one of the highest levels in the world. Yet, we are simultaneously afraid to take this annual leave so we can recharge and refresh ourselves. A study documented by travel industry magazine Traveltalk found an astounding 58% of employees in Australia are reluctant to take this annual leave due to their work commitments. The same research called Australians out on it, even labelling it with a troubling name – Fear of Taking Annual Leave (FOTAL).

travel roadtrip car travel roadside assistance MyNRMA Australia annual leave FOTAL annual leave holiday

FOTAL represents the perception that there are negative ramifications when we take annual leave – will I lose my job? Will I miss out on that promotion? Could I be perceived as lazy, or not committed to the job? Will I fall behind in my workload? These questions would no doubt enter the minds of those employees who fail to cash in on their annual leave each year. Increased work hours and decreased workforce sizes are creating escalating bouts of stress. Conversely, 81% of Australians prefer relaxing holidays. Why such overwhelming ironies in our perception of annual leave?

I remember working for a manager once who reminded me of a constant truth – ‘there’s never a good time to take annual leave’, yet she was always accommodating in my annual leave requests and we worked together for mutual benefit. There will always be deadlines, project roll-outs and specialist responsibilities. Yet if we’re repeatedly putting ourselves through high stress levels and longer work hours, we’re putting our long-term health into jeopardy. Health is something that we can never cash in for the sake of our working lives. This is ever-so important, especially as we’re starting a brand new year. So, how can we incorporate more travel into our lives and dissolve this FOTAL we may be holding on to?

travel roadtrip car travel roadside assistance MyNRMA Australia annual leave FOTAL annual leave holiday

Do you suffer from FOTAL? If so, have that ‘hard’ conversation with your boss

Taking annual leave is an entitlement that’s available to you, and for good reason. Your boss, and the company you work for, wants you to take annual leave so you can refresh and replenish yourself. Stress, which leads to extended sick time off work, is a liability for companies. One way companies can alleviate this is through annual leave. So, take the entitlement that’s your working right to take! Even if you take just a week off for a relaxing beachside holiday of doing nothing or getting back to nature on a camping trip, you are making a priceless investment into your overall health and the working environment you work in.

Think about booking in a quick meeting with your boss, and map out a time for your annual leave that’s beneficial for you both. Also, check with your payroll department to determine how much leave you have built up. If you are afraid of the work not getting done, then discuss ways with your boss about how the work can get done for example allocating tasks to a junior employee who is looking for new learning experiences. You don’t have to take four weeks at once, simple mini breaks work just as well.           

Now that the ‘when’ is established, book in a holiday that works for you

It could be a plane-ride to a beach holiday on the Gold Coast, or a road-trip to a favourite city or regional town, or just staying at home as you try out all the restaurants and fun things to do in your hometown. The point is to book in that holiday that works for you. What is going to help you restore your wellbeing and reduce your stress levels? For me, it’s going to an unknown destination and learning as much as I can about the culture and sights. I also love the simplicity of a road-trip with a loved one – simply mapping out a rough direction, booking in a few stops along the way, and then meandering down the road in our car on the exciting thrill of what will happen next.

travel roadtrip car travel roadside assistance MyNRMA Australia annual leave FOTAL annual leave holiday

Just like making sure all responsibilities are covered at work before you leave, you need to make sure all your holiday affairs in order. Chances are, if you suffer from FOTAL you may not even remember the last time you took off. So, make sure all of your insurances, airline bookings and payments, roadside emergency plans and luggage items are locked down and current. If you’re road-tripping, get your car serviced beforehand and consider roadside assistance as a precaution.

Now it’s time to conquer your FOTAL. Your first day of annual leave is here!

You’ve had the not-so-hard conversation with your boss, you’ve organised your workload and delegated your tasks where needed (you can always repay the favour when your colleagues need some of their own annual leave) and booked your trip. All that’s needed to do now is simply go and enjoy. Time’s up! Turn off your computer and go – go, NOW! Your first day of annual leave is finally here.  

Have you ever suffered from FOTAL? If so, how did you eliminate yours? I'd love to hear your stories in the comments section below.