As a teenager, I had been fortunate to travel to Ecuador and the Galapagos, Europe and South Africa and while in college, had the experience of a lifetime traveling around the world on a ship with Semester at Sea.
After graduating from The George Washington University in 2006, I quickly realized
that all of my pipe dreams about traveling after college and securing grants to perform
anthropological work in the Pacific Islands would have to take a back seat to the
immediate need to secure a job that payed well enough to begin repaying my student
loans. So I began what turned into a nice little career in conference planning, which
took me to beautiful hotels in vibrant cities all over the US, offered me the opportunities
to meet and hear great minds of our times speak, and provided me with just enough
money to pay my bills and secure a nice little "shoebox in the sky", as I lovingly referred
to my tiny studio apartment. I dated a wonderful guy who made me laugh, was actually
friends with my colleagues and I brunched, reveled in my 3 weeks of annual vacation
time, and happy-hour'd the days... weeks... months... years... away.
I was for the most part, very content, even happy, most of the time. But there was something missing. Something that caused me to feel short of breath every now and again, like the air was being squeezed out of my lungs. Because I was about to miss out on something. And so, when a dear friend mentioned that he could set me up with a job working the wine vintage in Australia, I jumped on the opportunity. Ended my lease. Sold my car. And packed all of my belongings, but for what I could fit in two suitcases, into storage into my family barn in Vermont. It turned out that I loved getting my hands dirty, loved being a part of the natural miracle that is grape juice becoming wine, and also loved living outside of the USA.
So I returned home to catch up with family and friends, drink eggnog and ring in the New Year, and then jetted back to Australia where Roel and I reunited and I managed to secure a two year sponsorship working for a phenomenally talented winemaker in the Hunter Valley.
Something clicked when said winemakers little girls dubbed me
"The Girlfriend"... because I was the girlfriend of Roel who rode the
motorbike. I tried to just chalk it up to children being fascinated with
machinery, but it didn't sit right with me. I wanted to be a girl who they
looked up to. Not delegated to the role of 'the girlfriend'.
Besides, I had long been pondering safety considerations when we
would go out for rural rides two-up on the Africa Twin: if somethng
happened to Roel, there was no way I would be able to quickly get
help. And so the seed was planted that I would eventually get my
motorcycle license and my own bike.
With the end of vintage came new beginnings and Roel
and I spent the next year traveling throughout Australia, Malaysia,
Indonesia, Holland, France, Belgium, Germany and New Zealand.
We returned to Australia to work another vintage. And then we
decided it was time to travel to the States to surprise my mother
for her 60th birthday.
I enrolled for a motorcycle safety course upon arrival in Florida.
And I found my perfect motorcycle in North Carolina, so now we are riding with two bikes... double the maintenance but definitely double the fun!
And yes, speaking of love, I fell in love. Just as I was
preparing to wrap up almost a year in Australia and
return to America for the holidays where I would have
to decide between begrudgingly returning to corporate
America or trying to make a go of it in the Australian
wine industry, I met a handsome Dutchman while diving
the Great Barrier Reef, who I happened to intercept
amidst his overland motorbike trip around the world.
We rode through the middle of Australia together. I
relished the connection I had with my surroundings
while on the bike. Freshly blossoming lilies, the heat of
bush fires, the way I had to learn how to hold my breath
as we passed roadkill and make sure to exhale through
both my nose and mouth after we had passed well
beyond so as to expunge any remaining scent. I grew to appreciate the simplicity of living out of a small box on top of a bike, only wearing 3 of the 4 shirts I had packed and found meditation in hand-washing my socks and underwear every few days. I knew after that trip that I needed to keep traveling.