Henro michi surprise

| Travel & Bikes, Writing & Publishing

At a party on Friday night I found out that a friend-of-a-friend read my book then went to Japan and hiked the henro michi. Mind. Blown.

Allira blogged about her intentions here and then blogged about the hike here. Beautiful pics there also – seeing them and reading about her experience has made me all natsukashii (nostalgic!) for Shikoku.

It’s weird because I feel like I have unfinished business with the pilgrimage, and when I hear about it or talk about it I’m reminded that I need to get back there. But mostly it’s surprising that anyone who has actually read my book would want to tackle the pilgrimage. I guess it does make a good ‘what not to do’ guide though…

This is me when I finished the pilgrimage. Half surprised and half happy, but mostly just deeply exhausted from walking and climbing 1200 kilometres:

88 temple pilgrimage - last day

11 reasons not to drink this February

| Food, Project Sober

February is FebFast, a one-month no-drinking challenge. Some people are into it, and some aren’t, but whether you sign up to do it ‘officially’ or not, there are compelling reasons to give up alcohol next month:

  • You will sleep better. Even if you are a good sleeper, sober sleeping is of a much higher quality and you’ll get a better rest.
  • You will feel better. We forget that alcohol is, above all, a depressant. Yes, it’s fun. But it’s also a downer, even if you don’t feel it at the time.
  • You will look better. Not drinking is good for your skin, it’s good for your waistline, and all that great sleep will have you sparkling.
  • You’ll have more energy. No hangovers = clearheadedness + restful sleep = more energy.
  • You will have more spare time. No one ever has enough time. But think of how many hours you spend a week drinking, and consider how you could productively spend that time. Catching up on work, exercising, sleeping, reading…?
  • You will have a lot of extra cash. Seriously, how much do you spend on alcohol in a month? Imagine what you could do if you had that sitting there as a lump sum at the end of Feb.
  • You will have support. Loads of people stop drinking in February so there will be plenty of ginger-beer sippers to hang out with. It’s totally socially acceptable and you won’t have to explain yourself to anyone.
  • It’s just 29 days. Even if you don’t see any benefits and it’s the total absolute worst thing you’ve ever done in your entire life (note: it won’t be), it’ll be over in no time.
  • You can say you’ve done it. When I did sober Feb in 2010, it was the first time I’d gone without alcohol for so long in my adult life. This is not unusual! Taking a break and going sober for a month makes you exceptional and awesome – so it’s worth doing, even just to say you have.
  • It might lead to something else. After a (surprisingly!) successful sober Feb in 2010, I decided to moderate my drinking, which I failed miserably at. So I decided to take a year off drinking. Having done a sober Feb and seeing that I could abstain (even if it was hard), I had the courage (a year later!) to quit drinking. If, like me, you want to be in control of your drinking, taking a month off – or any period of abstinence – is a great place to start.
  • YOU CAN DO IT. If I can, anyone can – trust me. You’ve just got to commit, tell your friends and family, and take it one day at a time.

How to stop drinking for a month: Sign up to FebFast, check out Hello Sunday Morning’s #12in2012 mission, or ignore all advisory organisations and just make a personal decision not to drink this February.

11 Reasons not to drink this February – click to tweet!

Post-detox wellness

| Food, Life & Stuff

Just a quick update about the cleanse I did last week. I spent Friday afternoon feeling a little nutty about food (mostly imagining what I would eat on Saturday!) but great overall. On Saturday I woke up feeling full of energy and generally just awesome.

I ate nothing but fruit, veggies and nuts all weekend, and it was fabulous. After drinking juice for a week I really appreciated all the excellent flavours, not to mention chewing. I ate organic stone fruit and berry salads, giant salads with Japanese dressing, baked sweet potato with tahini and green veggies, massaged kale salad… yum. I had a super productive weekend, cleaned the whole house, and got a lot of writing done. Coincidence? I think not!

During the cleanse it was interesting to take a step back and think about how and what I eat. A few things I noticed:

  • Every morning that when I woke up I felt like a big glass of water. Usually when I wake up I start planning how to get coffee into me, and I feel like I might have broken that dependency/habit.
  • I can’t stomach breakfast first thing when I wake up, but green juice goes down well.
  • I tend to want to eat more in the evening, and forget to eat during the day when I’m busy. I was drinking three juices by 4pm then have a further three to drink before I went to bed (!!), but in the last few days I forced myself to stick to a schedule and drink more evenly across the day. And I felt more energetic for it!
  • Sometimes I think I mistake thirst for hunger. Once I started drinking the requisite two litres of water a day I never felt hungry again.

Of course, what happens after the detox is the most important thing. I said last week that my eating habits had gotten pretty bad/lazy, and I want this to be the turning point where I start eating well and looking after myself again.

If you’re interested in doing a cleanse, I do recommend Schkinny Maninny (still). They deliver juices to your door every day, it’s not a starvation thing (you get 1700 calories), and it’s all-natural, ie. you don’t have to take any weird supplements or powders. Importantly, it’s pretty yum – I didn’t like the evening soups (but I do like the lentil lunch one), and the green morning juice feels a bit intense the first day, but the rest is tasty. The downside is, of course, that it’s kind of expensive.

(If you’re interested, the 15% off discount code that Schkinny Maninny gave me to pass on still seems valid – Olivia Gao used it recently – so hit me up if you want to try it!)

I’d be interested to hear your experiences of doing detoxes or cleanses!

2012 reading: digital & diverse

| Arts & Culture, Writing & Publishing

I’ve been reading on my laptop (ok) and iPhone (bit annoying) for a while now, but still read more print books than anything else. Even as someone who borrows often from the library, I spend a lot of money on books, and they take up a lot of space in my home. In an effort to streamline both my finances and my living space this year, I spent my Christmas money on a Kindle.

In 2012 I’ll be making a concerted effort to read as much digitally as I can, for the reasons mentioned above. I’m also interested in learning to navigate in the space better, and to see what’s out there in terms of content. With regard to availability of works, I think we’ve definitely reached tipping point for consumers; surely everything these days has a digital release? (Pricing remains a concern though…)

There are plenty of books available on Amazon and Book Depository, not to mention iTunes, and plenty of indie and self-published work on sites like Smashwords. And Bookish are doing a good job ensuring that Aussie content is available, even though I’m not sure how I feel about their browser-based format yet. (Psst, there is even an ebooks for cooks Bookish store!) And then there are the classics from Project Gutenberg (Aus version).

Speaking of reading, there is currently a National Year of Reading campaign happening in Australia. You might have heard about it. Each state nominated a list of six books that represent their state, and interested punters were asked to vote for their favourite (there were voting forms at libraries, bookshops and online). In a few weeks a national list featuring a book from each state will be released and the campaign will kick off proper.

It’s a nice idea and I voted (in each state!). The shortlists had a mix of fiction and non-fiction, classic and newer titles. The one thing they didn’t have was a good ratio of male and female writers; in the case of South Australia only one female author was represented out of five. (Most of the states didn’t have very good cultural diversity, either; FFS.) So to address the situation, a rogue group have set up their own reading challenge which is getting traction in the blog world: Australian Women Writers Reading Challenge.

I will probably end up reading whatever book are thrown up in the National Year of Reading list that I haven’t already read, and have committed to the Australian Women Writers reading challenge as well (at the Franklin-fantastic level: read ten books and review four; watch this space). I read a lot of women anyway, but it’s good to be mindful.

I’m also seeking out more books from non-Western backgrounds; I had many great discussions about the importance and benefits of reading broadly in terms of culture while in Sharjah last year, and I’m looking forward to expanding my reading in this area. As starting guides I’ll be looking to Anita Heiss’ Black Book Challenge and the shortlists of the Man Asian and Arabic Booker prizes.

And whatever I read I will be doing it on-screen where possible.  I’m already wondering how reading digitally might shape or change how I read now…

What (and how) will you be reading in 2012?

12 rides of Xmas: reflections

| Life & Stuff, Travel & Bikes


When I decided to do 12 rides over Christmas, I had it in mind that it would turn out like a stay-at-home bike tour. I wanted to do long, interesting rides (i.e. new-for-me routes) and really push myself. I even hoped I might break a pb and crack 300kms in a day. At the very least, I thought I would have no trouble racking up the kind of miles I did on the Nullarbor (overall avg 140km/day).

But it didn’t really turn out like that. In the end, I rode 640kms in 12 days, an average of just 53km/day.

Weather plus sickness plus public holiday travel timetables plus life got in the way a bit. Fact is, when you’re on a bike tour, you wake up at dawn (if you’re camping!) and then there’s nothing to do but ride all day. At home, even though it was holidays, I still had a bit going on; even when I felt like I could, I couldn’t always ride all day. In the middle of my project, I got discouraged. I was tired, but also frustrated that I wasn’t doing the big miles and interesting rides I had planned. But I persisted, because – well, some riding is better than no riding, and being out on the bike is better than almost anything else. (Though if I’d known I’d be riding so much in Melbourne, I would have gotten organised and found friends to ride with in advance!)

Despite getting a bit cranky in the middle of it, I got a lot out of doing the twelve rides. I explored new areas and found new places to ride. I rediscovered good cycling routes in Melbourne. I enjoyed hitting a few bike paths again, something I haven’t done in a long time. I rode at night. I forced myself to look beyond Melbourne and use trains to travel out of town. The out-of-town rides I did were my favourites by far: Daylesford, Clarkefield, heart of Victoria, Werribee and Eltham.

It was interesting for me writing up the mini adventures, thinking about the shape of each ride. My next book is about bike riding, and creating compelling cycling narratives is something I need practice with. Although I have no new touring plans at the moment (sadfase!), I’ll definitely keep doing long rides around Melbourne, and maybe I’ll post a few of the rides.

I would take on the 12 rides challenge again. A full-on tour would definitely be preferable, though! We’ll see where I’m at next Christmas…


You can read all the twelve rides here. Photos here.

Mo money, mo money

| Life & Stuff, Writing & Publishing

Woah, so, I guess I really struck a chord yesterday? Thanks so much for your honest, open and thoughtful comments about income! You rock. So much.

I do feel slightly fraudulent though. I think yesterday I came off as all zen and calm about money, but I’m not. (Let’s face it, I’m not all zen and calm about anything.) I have issues and hangups, too.

When I was in my early twenties I was really caught up in what my salary was; I equated salary with worth. And I really internalised that. I was living in London and earning a pittance, and my greatest fear was that I was earning so little because, well, I just wasn’t good or talented enough. I was caught between theoretically not caring about money (there’s more to life, etc), and feeling ashamed that I wasn’t worth much.

Later, I realised that almost everyone in the arts and/or publishing is underpaid. That helped a bit. But it wasn’t til I was on the dole that I really let go of a lot of my angst about being lowly-paid. I felt like I wasn’t competing any more, because I knew I was ‘losing’. My attitude towards money has been developing since then.

As I said yesterday, I was earning $58K a year last year, plus freelancing on top of that. I felt more than comfortable earning that amount – I felt rich. But I didn’t like my job and was really unhappy there. So it was a no-brainer to take a pay cut and run the festival – and this job is wild, and amazing, and challenging beyond anything I ever imagined for myself. I LOVE IT. So making that shift helped me to really sort out how I feel about money vs freedom and happiness.

So it’s only recently that I have really felt that I’m worthy, career-wise – I do think I’m competent, and have a strong vision, and am talented at what I do. I have been able to separate those thoughts out from the monetary value ascribed to me by my job. That feels pretty good, I have to say. But I also have to admit that I do also fantastise sometimes about going and running a more corporate festival next (oh, hai, Melbourne Food & Wine Festival!).

Being intellectually on top of the idea that my worth doesn’t have a dollar figure doesn’t always make it easy to be (relatively) poor, either. One thing I lack is security, and that does scare me. I have a very small savings account, but it’s not enough to cover medical bills if things suddenly go pear-shaped, and I don’t have insurance. Ditto if my house is robbed and my gear/bike stolen – I’d be fucked because I couldn’t replace it. And that is a worry. And sometimes it keeps me up at night.

And you know, sometimes it can be frustrating not having a lot of disposable income, even though I think having a lot of money is kind of gross unless you do really good things with it. I find it hard to find a balance between being an environmentalist and bleeding heart who rejects consumerism and, you know, wanting stuff. I would like a new fridge, and I would love it if I could afford to go to Hong Kong for a week, and I would kill for a Steamroller to add to my Long Haul Trucker, thanks very much. I don’t need those things, but yeah I want them.

So I’m not really all that zen about money. But I’m getting there.

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