What A Difference 9 Months Makes – How Blogging Saved Me

I read a lot today. I read my own writing, from my first blog post up until now. In hindsight, I believe this blog saved me from a much darker fate. The act of putting something in writing for the world to see, be it an idea or a thought, an emotion or a desire has strengthened my will to achieve my dreams, and I am proud to say that since the time I started writing publicly, my life has completely changed for the better.

It was sad to read many of my posts. The first 3 months I spent blogging was a very bad time in my life, wrought with depression and other vices that were leading me down a rabbit hole I could not see a way out of. The truth of the matter is that I am usually not a very open person. I find it very difficult to confide in people, or even talk about my state in the simplest of terms. Yet in writing, I find myself telling the world, openly, all the things I cannot seem to tell even those people that are closest to me.

I read posts about freedom and failure, materialism and minimalism. I read about my plans to remove all of the clutter from my life and about the way I want to live. As of this moment I am happy with my life. I travel, I see, I do and I feel free. Since leaving Melbourne I have learned, and learned very quickly, just what is important in my life. I own less than I ever thought possible, yet find myself wanting nothing more than a new book occasionally, or a block of chocolate. I live well, I enjoy my work, I eat well and have good accommodation, and all for less than I could have ever imagined.

Perhaps the hardest hitting revelation I had in this process is recalling just how depressed I was in my ‘successful’ life. Were it not for me putting in writing many of my thoughts I would no longer remember just how much I hated my life. The depression I felt now seems so distant, and my blog serves as a reminder to me that my well being is in my own hands. My current situation is a direct effect of acknowledging that I was not happy and making the hard decisions necessary to change. It wasn’t easy. Much of the journey has not been easy. I have had several serious setbacks and many unexpected turns, but never lost sight of my goal. However, no matter how stressful, or how broke and hungry I may have found myself in the process, the depression that once gripped me has loosened its hold and no longer exists.

A Bad Australian Second Year Visa Experience

On the 5th of October 2014, I arrived in Mildura with some friends from the snow fields, only to find ourselves conned out of $450 each, and exposed to the exploitative state of second year visa work for travelers in Australia.


At the end of the 2014 snow season, two of my traveling friends from Ireland had decided it was time to do their 88 days of regional work in order to qualify for their second year visa. The plan was to go to Mildura, an agricultural hub in Australia and an oasis on the Murray River. It is a small and beautiful town completely surrounded by agricultural land and vinyards producing produce all year round. Myself and another Australian friend from the snow fields had decided, what the hell, we will go too. It will be an experience and potentially an opportunity to save some money.

We had pre-organized a working house specifically set up for second year visa farm work. The deal was that rent was $150/week with 2 weeks rent due up front and a bond of $150 (a total of $450). The organization would then have work available for us and would come by each morning to pick up those that wanted it, and that every day spent in the house would count towards the 88 days needed for the visa. The deal was initially found online and was in-line with all other offers available and so nothing ever seemed suspicious. Myself and my friend Stuart (hairy Irish dude) had both had verbal contact with fluent English speakers from the organization about the house and work.

Almost immediately after arriving in Mildura we met up with a British girl who asked us to follow her to the house. So far all good. We arrive at the house with the British girl and another large man who is clearly the boss as he is calling the shots and telling us about the deal. The man was rather rude, but not such that any of us had any alarm bells ringing. Yet.

We were each handed a piece of paperwork outlining costs and work details. We handed over our $450 each and instantly the man became significantly more vulgar. He was directly and openly sexually abusing the women around him and behaving in a psychopathic manner. Like a man without empathy with a god complex, and shortly after, he was gone.

We settled in. We each had a reasonable bed and a nice enough room. Soon we began to chat with the people in the house. Very quickly I discovered that there appeared to be a huge number of people around, which was strange given we each had our own bed and there simply didn’t seem to be enough space. It was soon revealed that there was something like 15 people sleeping in a renovated garage with bunk beds.

Upon chatting to a few house mates we also quickly discovered that work was very sparse. Most people were only working once or twice a week for only $20/day. A lucky few got $50, and it was back breaking work.

At this point it was obvious to me and the other Aussie that it was a waste of time for us to be there. The cost of accommodation was far more than we could possibly earn for insanely physical work. The irish couple had a slightly different situation though. If they stayed and slogged it out for 3 months they would get there visas. However it quickly became obvious that they would run out of money in the process.

2 days later the man returned. We were loudly and violently kicked out. I called the cops. They turned up and stated that they had no power in the situation.

This whole situation was remarkable for 4 main reasons.

1. The British girl we were dealing with was knowingly and repetitively conning fellow travellers in to a situation that would most often find them broke and without their visas. Serious shame on that filthy lady;

2. Not one person spoke up about the situation they were in before we found ourselves in it to. More shame;

3. The man had obviously set everything up to get the quickest possible turn over of vulnerable tourists as possible just to line his pockets; and

4. The cops, fully and previously aware, could do nothing.

We encountered many travelers in this house that were desperate and stuck. I vividly recall conversations with a Brazilian girl in tears and terrified as the man had taken everything she had and was constantly advancing her sexually. She had no where to go and no money to get there with.

Luckily for us, we cut our losses and moved on. For others, I don’t know. I imagine that Mildura has seen a lot of homeless and hungry backpackers over the last years, as whilst in the house we discovered that this was not a new operation. The man had been exploiting vulnerable tourists for years. We found that 9 news had even done a report on him.

I hope the loop holes that this man operates in are closed. I hope he is thrown in a cell and left without food. Preferably in a foreign country with no hope of communication.

Unfortunately, whilst meeting many people during the remainder of my experience that had been conned by exactly the same man, I also met countless people who were being exploited and conned in other ways. Since leaving Mildura I have only continued to hear horror stories from all over the country. We may think we live in an amazing and fair country, but if we could see it through the eyes of a backpacker that just wants to stay for a second year, that opinion would change. Its disgusting.

My advice to anyone seeking their second year visa in Australia is to do it early. If you find a bad deal at least you have the option to keep looking. Don’t wait. There is a very good chance you will get stuck.

Oops. Your device is too primitive to view my map of Australia. Maybe it's time for an upgrade?

My new beginnings End

It’s been a very long time since I added to my blog. I think the truth of it is that I only really started writing because I was miserable. My life was messy and becoming mixed up in the wrong things. I begin to write again now because my life has become interesting.

This time last year I was a ‘successful’ and ‘professional’ desk monkey. Time passed, yet I had ceased to grow. To many, my life may have seemed on track, as if I was achieving goals and advancing my career. Perhaps if I was someone else I would have agreed. But I am my own man, and have my own goals and desires that are not in line with the ‘norm’.

It’s been 9 months now since I threw in the Engineering profession. In this time everything has changed, I have successfully removed the shackles that people chain themselves with (all except my car) and I now lead a very simple and happy life. I have had more experiences and met more people in this short time than in the previous 4 years combined.

I lived and worked on the Snow in Victoria for 3.5 months. I traveled inland, to Mildura, and discovered first hand just how abhorrent my country treats travelers looking for their second year visas, and how widespread the exploitation is. I left my friends in Mildura and traveled solo to Adelaide with no plan, searching for something better. I lived in Port Adelaide for a few weeks, by the water with the dolphins and jellyfish, and then in the CBD, with the urban country folk, for a few more. I met many people and experienced Adelaide for what it is, however found nothing to make me stay. Only a girl with whom to go.

We drove west. With no real plan, we drove and stopped as we pleased and saw so much of Australia which I was before completely ignorant. The sand dunes, salt lakes, deserts, rock formations, the Bunda Cliffs, the wide variety of sea life and so much more, until we landed in Fremantle. As far west as anyone can get in this country. Here in Fremantle is where our journey takes its leave. But not the adventure. We traveled north to the Pinnacles and for snorkeling, we traveled south to Margaret River and a series of caves further south again. I found a job I enjoy, with a boss I respect and peers I enjoy the company of. I clean pools now, and live in my favorite place in Australia. For a while at least.

Who knows what comes next. For now I am happy and settled. In two weeks I travel to Bali and in 2 months, with the sad departure of my travel buddy, I take a trip to Thailand. What a journey it has been so far. One I will write about. In the hope that a few of you readers might follow my own steps, in your own way, and throw in your careers for an uncertain adventure. I wont be the one wishing I took that risk or did that thing when I lay on my death bed, and I hope you wont either.

And So It Snows

Last night offered me only 3 hours sleep. The Snow Season is late but is now ON! In less than 24 hours now I am on my way up to Falls Creek (the snow resort) and I don’t come back.

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It’s enlightening to look back at my journey so far. There are so many societal expectations that I have been trying (successfully) to fulfill for such a long time and there are others that I have more quietly completely flunked on. But up until now, I have never really been happy. Of course there have been good days and there are memories that I hold fondly, but if I were to step back and look at my life as a whole, it was never going in a direction that I wanted it to. It has been going in a direction that I felt was expected of me.

I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen with the rest of my life, but I have learned many very important lessons recently. Mainly that there is no point doing something if we don’t enjoy doing it. Secondly, stuff what people think we are meant to do, the only person that can decide on what is best for you is you. There is nothing that we are meant to do. All I choose to do now is keep myself happy and surround myself with good people. I don’t have space left in my life for negativity.

Being happy does not mean life comes without it’s stresses. For the most part I have found a profound peace recently, but anxiety still lingers, every now and then it pops up and I find a sleepless night. Will I run out of money? Will my choice of lifestyle be sustainable? Will I be able to continue to save? However in order to find our place in this world, the place where we find our purpose and are happy, we must face these fears head on. I have already faced my biggest fear, I have left my profession.

So tomorrow, my adventure really begins. The snow is coming. For the next few months I will be the best damn lift attendant on the mountain and on my days off I will forget the past, and forget the future, and live in the moment, with anyone that is willing to share their time with me. Life’s too short. People are too important. I’m looking for some more good people to share my life with.

A few brief words of wisdom from a bearded man to see me off. My next post will be from the Mountain. I’m very excited.

Achieving freedom

To be alive. Not to simply exist, but to be free and in control. To be behind the wheel of my own future. To face the uncertain world and flip it off with complete confidence in self.

Over 3 months ago, I started this blog a different man. A man knowing that change had become desperately necessary. Things were not good. A miserable engineer. A desk monkey in debt and swimming in other issues. Reluctantly complying with and singing the ‘professional’ song, I was too close to cracking.

Today my bags are packed, my arms are outstretched, i’m smilling wide and i’m ready to run. The trail is fuzzy and uncertain, each decision a fork in my path. Each day a new opportunity for risk, a new chance to create something beautiful.

I have no idea who I am, but I am happy. I am my own man and the only person making decisions that effect my future. Tomorrow my world turns completely upside down. My old desk now belongs to another. Tomorrow I meet my new colleagues and drive up to Falls Creek (the snow).

We all need to worry less. Life is one big risk. It can and does all go to shit occasionally, but we only get to live it once. Whatever you want to do. Just go do it. Cut out the bullshit and get down to living.

My primary objective is now to live. I want to see and explore. Jump with both feet in the deep end and just see where I end up. Anything is possible. But we have to be prepared to take the risk.

Life in a Backpack

Followers of this blog will know that I have been rapidly downsizing my life. Getting rid of all the clutter, throwing out all the crap that I have accumulated and trying to figure out what it is that I really need, and what is really important.

Where my things once were

Where my things once were

There’s less than 4 weeks now until I take off for Falls Creek for the snow season and I have successfully removed almost all of the material crap from my life. Those things that I have chosen to keep (a few guitars and a telescope) have been rammed into ‘out of the way’ corners at my parents house for storage. The rest of my life, the things I wish to take with me, are getting very close to fitting into a backpack.

After the snow season I don’t yet know what I will be doing, though I was thinking about making a move up to Queensland and spending the whole summer working and surfing. I hope that by cramming everything I need into a backpack that making a move like this may be as simple as just going. Just doing it. Of course if this is the direction that I choose for my next chapter then I will do what I can to pre-organize work and accommodation. But if these things don’t happen, why not just go? Why not just try and wing it? What is the worst thing that can happen?

It hard to be care free. But that is, in part, the aim. What is life if we are not doing the things that we want to do? Or at the very least doing everything in our power to get there? Any one of us could die tomorrow.

Corners, careers and a moment to hold on to

30 days now until I finish my engineering career. Less than a month. Wow. It has been an incredibly difficult year, but the next episode is only just around the corner.

My work ethic is pathetic (perhaps my fate is in poetry) at the moment. It’s not something I’m proud of. I feel terrible about my present performance. I need to be doing so much more so that I don’t leave problems behind me for someone else to deal with.

Looking at what needs to be done, it seems perfectly fair and reasonable. Without doubt it could all be achieved ahead of time. But I am not a robot. I am Matt. A big kid. When all passion is lost, all enthusiasm has been drained by a desk, the drive to achieve has been eliminated by the realization that hard work and crap work as an employee result in almost identical personal outcomes. The ability to sit and work crashes and burns.

It’s in times like these that I must hold on to the future. My time will come. It is only just around the corner. It is in one month now that rather than hold on to the future I will be holding myself in the present. The first sight of snow for the season. My first ride up a chair lift. The first run down a slope. Sunrise from a mountain top. ‘Hopefully’ a lady under my arm. Life on Falls Creek. My endless ‘now’ will be my moment to hold on to.

One more month. I need to subdue my overwhelming urge to scream, yell, smash and destroy shit for only one more month. My strength is in understanding that no matter the events of the next 30 days, soon I will be on the snow. The stresses of this life will come to pass. Soon.

A Different Approach to Life

24 more days behind a desk and my life is going to drastically change for the better. Though a big part of this change includes a pay cut of more than 50%. I have made my mistakes now, and even though I have been professionally employed on a very good wage for over three years, I am left only slightly ahead of the starting line. So I must now do things differently. I will be a wealthy man. I will not be working at 65. I will hopefully not be working (by necessity at least) at 35. So the question for me now is “how am I going to do this?”. If I rely on saving, then when I can afford a house I like, buying a house and starting to pay down the mortgage, not only will I get myself tied down and unable to live a life of adventure and travel, but I will also never get truly ahead and certainly will not escape this rat race by 35.

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So how?

Luckily I already have a lot of ideas, coupled with the will to work hard and the guts to make a decision. I have already made bad decisions. But a bad decision is a lesson learned.

I once heard a comedian commenting on pursuing his dreams. At one point he said that one of the best decisions he made was to leave his well paid corporate job in order to have more time to focus on what it was he really wanted. This rings true with me, and I can only hope my life works out in a similar way. I remember times in my life when I have been working on projects and ideas that I have had a real passion for, and I can so clearly remember the drive and enthusiasm that is still inside me, but has been dormant now for too long.

“If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come” – CS Lewis

I am in the process now of removing the distractions from my life. In the process of putting myself somewhere I can be truly grateful for being. Somewhere I can smile every day, without someone elses stresses pushing me down. Somewhere I can get more in to my own work and my own ideas. It is time to continue my education, both academically and culturally. There is a whole world to experience and learn from. It is up to me and only me. There is no handout. No free ticket. So how?

The full time professional world has sucked up so much time now, time that I have not been able to pursue my own dreams in (though I never stopped working). A big paycheck every fortnight has been very nice, but ultimately it is not worth the time invested in someone elses business, and I only learnt how to live within my pay-scale. I may not see pay from my own ideas for a very long time. But when I do, it will not be capped at what my boss is willing to pay me. The limit to which I will pay myself is dependent only on my ability to create and innovate.

 

Battling with Insanity

I seem to be laughing hysterically a lot at the moment, though there is certainly nothing funny going on. My mind is wandering, and toying dangerously with violence, constantly, and only barely, resisting the overwhelming desire to smash everything in sight. White walls, printers, computers, piles of paper and the urgent expectation that everything WILL be done TODAY!

Fuck. How many people are living like this? How many people have spent their whole lives in this type of environment? Every day has become a struggle for my sanity as my mind pushes me closer and closer to throwing my hands in the air, saying “fuck this place”, and just walking out. Perhaps it is only a respect for my superior that has held me here for this long.

But then I remember. I only have 26 more days behind a desk untill I undergo a complete change in direction. This is only the beginning. I have so much time left to find out who I really am, to discover where it is I want to be and to do everything in my power to get there. To say I have any idea where that is, is a lie. I only know that my current path is not working. Rather, it is turning me into a man I do not want to be.  Full of hate and anger. A complicated shape, being forced into a perfectly circular slot. I do not fit here. This is not my life.

I thought that after getting the job on falls creek (the snow) I would calm down. That it would become easier to deal with what is left of my ‘professional’ desk job. But it Hasn’t. I’m stressing out, constantly. Though this is necessary. Life was not meant to be easy and if I am to get to where I want to be, I must make these decisions, I must endure hard times. How can we possibly know who we are without discovering first who we are not? I keep holding on to the fact that no matter how badly I am struggling at the moment (for reasons far above that which I can share publicly) that in just over a month I will be in a stress free environment, surrounded by people, in my demographic, at the snow, with my board, for an entire season.

Each step from now on will be forwards. No more backpedaling. I feel lucky that I have made so many big mistakes so early in my life, and am starting to come out on top, healthy and optimistic. Now I feel ready. Nothing can stop me now. Now I am ready to really live. If I can just resist the impulses in my head for a little while longer. Im so close to the starting line.

I will not burn all the things.

Chasing a Lie – Relative Maturity

Every day that passes I think I am mature, that I have finally become an adult. Yet every year that passes I look back at how many silly and immature things I have done.

I remember being a child, looking up at the older people (even people as young as 16 at the time) I admired, at how cool and wise they were, as if they were all knowing and lived with a clear purpose. Now I wonder if anyone ever really become wise, or if it is all just relative. Do we ever really find a purpose, or do some of us just materialize one to suit their life choices?

I don’t believe anyone really knows where they are going, what they are doing, or why they are doing it. Some people think they know, though I doubt they really do. It seems that no matter what we believe we will always remain a minority, and as such are likely wrong. Every belief I hold is more likely to be wrong than right. So what’s the point believing in anything? I don’t know. I only really believe in myself. It is the only perspective I will ever have.

So if I have no purpose, if I am immature and do not have a clear path to follow, what is it that I should do tomorrow? Why should I continue to exist?

Happiness. Joy. Love. These are the things I wish to live for. I wish to live for laughter, for moments that capture the heart, for the places that take your breath away, for the times that freeze time still. I should continue to exist, not because I have a purpose, but because regardless of how I came to be, I Am lucky enough to be alive. I think therefore I am. I have the privilege of life, and I know what it is like to be loved, to be wanted and to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.

So I have no direction, nor do I want one. I am not wise, though some people may be deluded in to thinking I am. I am not mature, I do not know even know what maturity is. According to wikipedia, “maturity is the ability to respond to the environment in an appropriate manner”. So based on wikipedias interpretation, maturity is an experience based trait. Those that have the widest range of experience are more likely to understand possible outcomes and act appropriately. No doubt intelligence, physicality and many other attributes also effect maturity, but on the whole it seems that the older a person is, the more mature they ought to be.

Well, I have been hearing two messages very, very clearly from people older (more mature) than myself for a very long time. Only recently have I decided to really stop, listen and think about the message I am receiving:

  1. Life is short; and
  2. Go out and get what it is that you want.

So i’ll say it again, like in many other posts. I’m scared, I don’t know what my future holds. Will I survive this world now that I have chosen to leave the professional world? Now that I have chosen to take the hard road. The path less traveled. I am not prepared. The great unknown looms over me. I stand firm and march forward. I must. Life is too short. While my mind doubts, my heart is strong. Life is way too short.