What five months of solo travel has taught me.

Every once in a while I start counting in my head exactly how many months and days I’ve been away now, and the other day realized that it’s almost been five months. Five months of discovery, adventures, happiness, sadness and everything in between. So what have I learned from traveling by myself so far?

Everyone thinks you’re going to die all the time, and really loves to remind you of it.
The most common thing is that everyone keeps reminding me that what I’m doing is dangerous, and that I might die. I then tell them that living is dangerous, and that I most certainly will die. Newsflash: we all do. The only thing we can really do anything about, is how we spend our lives between birth and death, and I’m not planning to spend them being scared. I will do what I want to do, and take the precautions necessary to not put myself in unnecessary danger but I’m not going to stop living my life just because someone says I might die because of it. Every single thing you do in life might kill you, and one day it will. I plan to live full out until that day, because dying at 30 while having the best time of my life sounds a lot better than living to 90 and thinking “I wish I had gone on that trip when I was 29.” I still plan to live until I’m very old of course, but I don’t think life is precious enough never to take risks. The risks are what makes life worth living.

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I feel absolutely invincible.

My confidence levels have skyrocketed since I began this journey. I feel like I can do absolutely anything and do it really well too. I think having to only have yourself to completely rely on for five months is either going to make you or break you, and I am far from broken. I have dealed with anything from sadness and being unable to eat, to being hit by a car and having to go in an ambulance to the hospital, to hiking in grizzly bear infested areas to driving for thousands and thousands of kilometers on my own. After having done all this, and especially with everyone thinking that I’m going to die no matter what I do, really gives you a huge confident boost. Luckily for me I’ve gotten really comfortable in every aspect of my life as well, from personal to professional to even body confidence. Last year I refused to wear a bikini, and earlier this summer I had anxiety about posting pictures from myself surfing and right now I’m at the point where I see myself in my underwear in the mirror and think “Hell yeah I look good!” And I promise you, my body looks exactly the same as it did a year ago. Maybe a bit more tanned… it has clearly proved to me that it’s all in the head. I feel confident in my body, in my English speaking abilities, in my social skills and just how I view myself daily. For the first time in my life I’m completely comfortable in myself and I want to shout it to the entire world! (which I kind of did the other day on Facebook but that’s a whole other story.)
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There might come a time when exploring feels downright boring.
I do realize that this might come across as spoilt and annoying to someone who might be a bit envious of my life right now, but sometimes being on what might seem as an endless holiday can be boring. Or maybe boring is not the right word, but after a while a beach is just another beach, a city just another city and a rock might just look like the very same rock you saw a few hours ago… Don’t get me wrong, it’s still so great, but it’s just maybe not as great as it was in the beginning. And I’m not comparing USA and Australia but had I arrived in Australia without just having spent three months in the United States I’m pretty sure I would have been a lot more wowed by the sights. If you do something for a certain amount of time, it will feel like everyday life, no matter how absolutely great it is. Being constantly on the move, and seeing brand new things every day makes me wish for boring days. Days where I do nothing, where I see no one and barely move. But remember, I still cried when I saw the sunrise over Uluru so I’m not completely traveled-out yet. But I’m still looking forward to returning back to Sweden in January and starting a new life closer to my family. They are the ones I constantly have in my mind every single day, and I’m so glad that I decided to resettle in my home town. I don’t even care if I won’t be able to get a work in the media industry, which is what I did up until I quit my job, because family is more important than a job. I’ll do whatever I can, as long as it will make me able to still travel and explore while being close to the people who matter the most to me.


My beautiful family the day before I got on the plane. I love this photo! Can’t wait to take another group shot in January again (mostly because I’ll be tanned and they won’t…) 

My faith in humanity has been somewhat restored.
I feel conflicted about this because there is so much bad happening in the world right now, and especially in Sweden. To be honest it scares the crap out of me. But continuing on the “everyone thinks I’m going to die” line, so many people have warned me about all the bad people I will meet, both in the US and in Australia. After exactly 5 months on the road I feel like every single person I have met have welcomed me into their lives with open arms. For 5 months every single person I have met have showed interest in me, and I have spoken to people who have been openly racist, homophobic, have had pretty extreme religious views (in my opinion) but despite us having wildly different opinions, we have all managed to overcome that and have great conversations and meetings. I wish the world was a bit more like that, just accepting. I know that I’m at an advantage, being a blonde Swedish young woman, and I know that most people will want to take care of me rather than harm me, so I’m not claiming that everyone who travels will have my experience. There is still a lot of messed up things going on in the world, but so far I’ve had nothing but kindness. The one thing I have found the most interesting have been when I tell people about our “socialist ways” in Sweden, the free education, the health care and the parental leave and other things like that, and everyone thinks it sounds great. And then when their own president tries to move their own country in that direction they HATE him. Most Swedes LOVE Obama, me included, so I find it so weird… anyway, enough politics.
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There’s a lot of pressure when it comes to travel.
I’m usually a person who is great at relaxing, seriously if there was a world championships I would most definitely qualify. But when you’re traveling to new places almost every single day, there is so much pressure on what I should do and what I should see. No matter what I tell people about what I’ve done or what I’ve seen, there is always the “oh, didn’t you do that?”  or “didn’t you go there?” comment and it’s so stressful. Despite doing more in a few months than I’ve almost done in my entire life, I constantly feel like I’m missing out. It’s stressing me out and I’m actively working on feeling like I don’t have to actually do every single thing there is, but it’s hard. Once again, I feel so spoilt for just having these feelings, but it is what it is.
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So what about that left hand of yours?
It hurts. Every single day it hurts. Sometimes more, sometimes less. After having done like 30 cartwheels for that picture at the top, I walked away with it absolutely aching. I didn’t notice it while I was doing it but afterwards it ached. My hand is fully functional, I can do anything I want, and I mostly notice afterwards if I’ve done something stupid. But there’s a constant throbbing in it, especially when I’m driving. I still can’t hold onto a steering wheel for a long period of time because of that, so no matter how much I’d want to, I really wouldn’t be able to cycle still despite it being four months since the accident. It’s so insane. But I was lucky. I know of five of us who set out of Sweden this year to cycle the world, and one person is still on the road. One is dead, one has a lot of injuries from the car hitting him, one has a broken foot, I have an aching hand. Life is wildly unfair, but you still need to take risks. Even if I googled “3D printed hand” the other day to see what my options would be if I chopped it off, it was all worth it. I believe that every single thing that has happened to me so far has happened for a reason, and it has all been worth it.
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On my bucket list for the future of the lone traveller: 
Hike to the Everest base camp (I wonder how many people will tell me that I might die doing this…)
Road trip or cycle around Iceland
Hike to Machu Picchu
Hike a fourteener in Colorado
Visit all the rest of the National Parks in the United States
Spend at least a month in Alaska

So many good things to come for me, I promise you that.

Red dust and flies and sacred places.

The night before I left Alice Springs one of the teams from the solar power challenge stayed at my campground, but I didn’t think much of it. It’s some sort of car race with only solar powered cars driving across Australia. But as I drove out of Alice springs I realized that they had just left the city as well, and they weren’t fast. Each car also had a following of at least ten cars driving the same speed. I’m guessing this is what people who encounters Team Rynkeby on their journey from Scandinavia to Paris each summer feels. Since they were so slow and the outback is so empty it was easy to overtake them though. And they were a lot of fun to look at. 

  
One of the petrol stations had an emu farm. As you do.
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I arrived in Yulara which is a resort really, close to Ayers Rock. It’s the only place you can stay at close to the rock and it has five different hotels and a campground. Let’s just say I’m not impressed with the campground. There’s very little shade, the camp kitchen is a joke, the bathroom facilities are very dirty and worn down and the pool is filthy. I guess that’s what happens when you have no competition… It’s frustrating though, I only have a car. I need the rest of the place to be good because I can’t boil to death in my car each day. Oh well. Luckily you’re allowed to use the other resort facilities as well so I’ve been using the pool at the five star hotel here instead. It’s really good so at least that helps. I just wish they would make an effort with the camping as well.

The first night here I had booked the sunset dinner called Sounds of Silence. I got picked up in a bus along with a lot of other people and we were driven to a spot outside of the actual park but with views of Ayers Rock. It was so amazing seeing it up close for the first time. We were given champagne to sip as we listened to a man playing didgeridoo and watching the sunset. Magical. After that we were taken down a path to where we would be eating. I was seated next to a woman in her 70’s traveling by herself from Boston, and a man in his 80’s traveling by himself from Oregon. Needless to say, I was in heaven. I had such a great time talking to them about traveling, about my summer in the US and about their lives. We had some red wine and the staff kept refilling them all the time, so I think we all drank more than we expected. When it was our turn to get the food from the buffet (which included both kangaroo and crocodile, both delicious) the man stood up, clutched his hand to his chest and said “I’m not feeling so well.” I got terrified and took a hold of his arm while a man on the other side did the same and someone brought over a chair. Turned out to be a little too much wine and too little food luckily. Scary though! We were also treated to an aboriginal dance and a star expert came to talk about all the stars in the sky. Very fascinating. I was disappointed when the busses came to take us back to the resort.

   
  
  
   
The next day I was not feeling very fresh when I wake up, but a nice and cool breeze circulated in my van so I could stay in bed until 9:30. So nice! I went to the Sails in the Desert hotel pool and just hung out. It was a good and slow day. I called my mother on Skype and saw that she was wearing a scarf, I got pretty jealous. Please remind me of this in January when I’m cold and miserable in Sweden, that I longed for the cold. Because yes, I have booked my flight home. I will leave New Zealand on the 11th of January and arrive at the airport in Copenhagen on the 12th. I’m very excited, I miss my family.

  
This morning I woke up at 4 because the bus to pick me up for my sunrise tour arrived at 4:30. I opened the car door and was just amazed. The starry sky was incredible, the best I’ve ever seen. I could clearly see the milky way and just had to take some photos. Wow.

  
And when I got to the bus the driver sang Simon and Garfunkel’s Cecilia for me so that made me wake up a bit more. We got to the viewing area in the pitch black night still, but the sun quickly rose and painted Uluru a beautiful red. I cry when I’m sad, when I’m happy and when I’m amazed. So yes, I cried. It was just fabulous.

  
   
Clutching the railing so I don’t tip over because tired. 

   
 When the sun had come up I got back in the bus for the next part of the tour, the cultural experience. We got to the cultural house and was dropped off, I was surprised to realize that there was only three of us who had booked that specific tour. But it was great actually, it was two girls in my age called Laura and Andrea and we got along great. We were given breakfast, got to look at the cultural center and sign the “I did not climb Uluru” guest book. I have no photos though, because it’s considered a spiritual place and it’s not allowed to film or take photos in there. It’s also not allowed to take picture of some parts of Uluru because they’re the “women’s places” and the Anangu men could accidentally see pictures and that’s not allowed. 

A bit later a man came to get us, it was time for the weapons show. He showed us the Anangu tools and weapons that they use, they are the indigenous people who owns the land Uluru is on. He was Anangu too and the presentation was very fascinating. He showed us how to make glue for example.  

We were allowed to take pictures of the tools. On the left the men’s tools (spears and boomerangs for hunting) and on the right the women’s (baskets and things for gathering). 

After the presentation it was time to get back on the bus and go to the base of Uluru. We got dropped of at the climb area, which luckily was closed today. If it’s windy or very hot they close it. I don’t understand why the park insists on keeping it open, it’s so rude and disrespectful. But I guess it’s all about the money… It was SO steep though, you can’t really see but it’s very steep. I wouldn’t have gone up even if it wasn’t sacred, I would have been terrified.

    
  

   
The four of us walked around the base while our guide told us stories by the Anangu people and the markings on Uluru. It was so interesting but we were all glad we brought our fly nets, the flies are insane in the outback. At all times there are 5-10 flies circling your head.   

Andrea, me and Laura. 
   
    
 At 11 we were dropped off at the resort again, tired but happy. Turns out they’re both going to King’s Canyon tomorrow too so we’ll meet then again. I was so glad to hear that, they were really nice girls.

This afternoon I’ve napped by the pool again listening to podcasts. When I was leaving that area and taking a shuttle bus back to the campground a lady sat next to me. She turned to me and said “I think I made a mistake coming here.” as she swatted away the flies. She was a lady from Tennessee and she had just arrived to the area. I told her to buy a fly net and then we talked for almost 20 minutes. She has been solo traveling for 40 years, she was super cool. I hope she does enjoy the area after all, I know it took me some time to get used to both the heat and the bugs.

The bus arrives at 4 in the morning tomorrow too to pick me up, so I’m bringing a pillow and my noise canceling headphones on the 3 hour bus ride to the canyon. I think it will be great though, I’ve been told King’s Canyon is beautiful. I’m excited to both go there and to go hiking again.

You’ll hear from me soon again!

 

Housesitting on the Gold Coast.

Even though I’ve now spent 10 days on the Gold Coast, I can’t really say that I’ve had many adventures. I’ve mostly been focused on feeding the animals, going for walks with the dog and petting the cat when she lets me. Well, I’ve also been reading a lot, watching a lot of Netflix and doing some planning for my spring of adventure here in Australia. It’s still so weird to write that it’s spring in September though… everything is backwards here.
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Balcony life with the animals. 
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The cat likes potato chips too, and sees no limits to the way she tries to get them. 
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Pretty walks with the dog. Right after this we were attacked by a very vicious magpie though. Swooping season has begun, which is explained on this page. I had to fight it off with the dogs leash, luckily he didn’t even react even though the bird was half a millimeter above him attacking. 
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You’re so weird Lilly. Adorable but weird. 
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Oh, and whoops, somehow I managed to buy tickets to Taylor Swift in Sydney. I have no idea how that happened… to the surprise of no one though. I’m so excited!! Haha.

The other night I went to a theme restaurant nearby though, called Draculas. Like you can tell from the title it has a horror theme and everyone in the staff is dressed up as vampires or other scary things. You get in, get a drink and then get to ride the ghost train. It’s like an amusement park ride, it wasn’t that scary though luckily. The food was really good, the drinks were good and the show was very funny. They had singing, dancing, stand up and some burlesque as well, which is why the show is from 15 years and up. And during the intermission they showed a video from everyone riding in the ghost train, it was hilarious. Luckily I didn’t look too scared. I had a great time, and if you found yourself in the Gold Coast area I would recommend a visit.
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The dessert was a chocolate coffin with whipped cream, it was so good! 

I’ve also been up in the Q1, which is the tallest building in Australia. It’s in Surfers Paradise and the view from the top was pretty great.
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Q1 is that tall building in the middle. 
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Surfers Paradise from above. 
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The view towards Broadbeach which is where I’ve been staying.
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Except for watching movies and going for walks and eating food, I’ve also been planning a lot. I now have an approximate route that I want to take around the eastern part of Australia. Going around the entire country would require a lot more time, so I’ll just focus on seeing as much as possible in this area.
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10 000 km is almost the same distance I drove from Florida to California, so at least I have driven that far before. But now I’ll have more freedom as I’ll be sleeping in my campervan, so I can basically stop wherever I want. I’m so excited to just be out on the roads again and have adventures.

It’s finally adventure time again!

Adventures at Fraser Island and Surfers Paradise.

On Saturday I was up early as the courtesy bus would be at the hotel to pick me up early. We were driven to the ferry over to Fraser Island, and on the island were shown to a bus. But not just any bus; since Fraser Island is the worlds biggest sand island, all vehicles traveling there have to be 4WD otherwise they’ll get stuck before they’ve barely left the ferry. So we boarded this huge bus and Steve the Guide took off in top speed across the sandy roads of Fraser Island. Let’s just say that I was very happy that I had taken a motion sickness pill that morning, it was a bumpy ride. But while he drove he told us the story of the island, about the aboriginals who lived there first and a lot of interesting stories. Well, the first thing he told us was “welcome to the island where 6 of the world’s deadliest snakes and 1 of the most poisonous spiders live”. Mm, thanks. First we headed down to drive on the beach, which is officially considered one of Australia’s motorways.
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After a while we pulled up next to three small airplanes on the beach, and we were given the opportunity to go flying for 15 minutes over the island and the ocean. I thought it was going to be crazy expensive but it was actually really affordable, so I signed up. It was so cool taking off and landing on the beach, and I also saw two whales in the ocean.
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And no dad, you couldn’t swim here, it’s forbidden since sharks usually swim up and down the shoreline.

Once back on the beach we drove around some more, had lunch at a restaurant and then finished off the day at the Lake Mckenzie. The water was so clear! I had heard rumors that blonde hair might turn green there but luckily I didn’t notice it. They also say that swimming in that lake makes you 12 months younger, yay! Or wait, obviously I don’t need to look younger, considering how many times I’ve had to show ID during this trip.
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Yes, those were rainclouds in the background, and yes, the skies completely opened half a minute after this photo was taken. The weather sure changes quickly here.

Oh, and we took a walk through the rainforest on the island as well, that was very cool and so pretty.
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It was a very fun trip and I made some friends, and before you ask, yes they were all middle-aged. Somehow I always connect with the middle-aged people, never with the people my age. I like it. I arrived at my hotel completely exhausted which wasn’t very bad because the next day I had a spa day planned. The resort I stayed at had a spa so I just figured I should spoil myself some. There were some jetspa thing, and a facial, and while my face was covered in goo she started putting some sort of cream on my hand. I thought that was it, but then she pressed down and started massaging it. Before I could protest and make her stop, the damage was done though… two steps forward and one step back, so I’m now in pain again, but not as bad as it has been. Oh well. Just clearly shows that I need to keep resting it.

On Monday I rode the bus back to Brisbane, and then took a train to the Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise. It was pretty uneventful which is always good when you’re traveling, but then Amy came to pick me up at the station. I’m housesitting for her and her boyfriend Rob for ten days, and also watching their dog and cat. I was shown around the house and given a list of instructions. That night we went out to dinner and they made me absolutely terrified by telling me about a HUGE spider that was in the house once. Oh no, don’t tell me those things… I hate spiders. Hate. Oh well.

Anyway, meet Chief the Dog and Lillian the Cat. They are both big softies and so cuddly.
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Well, when I was at the spa I had 2 hours when I was forced to do absolutely nothing. No movies, books or music to distract me, so I did a lot of thinking. And I realized that I came here to have adventures, not to work and try to live some sort of normal life. If that was my goal, I’d rather be doing that in Sweden and be closer to my family. So I decided to do what I’ve thought about previously, and rent a campervan and drive around for a few months. So starting from Monday the 28th of September, I will go pick up this beauty (name undecided) and drive around for 2,5 months just exploring Australia. I can’t wait! And I’ll have so much more freedom since I can pretty much sleep wherever I want. I am SO EXCITED! If you have any suggestions where I should go, please let me know! I know I’ll mostly be driving around the east coast, but I will also go to Alice Springs and Uluru.

And once those 75 days are up, I’m getting on a plane to New Zealand where I’ll spend 24 days with the Haka Tours, on their Epic NZ tour. I’ve heard a lot of good things about them, and I will also be spending Christmas and New Years with them. We’re going to be 16 people on the tour, all without our families there so I think this is the best situation to be honest. We can be each others families, though I hope someone will want to celebrate on the 24th with me, since that is the day we celebrate in Sweden. And I will be going hiking, kayaking, and yes, skydiving. Not bungee jumping though, that is my limit!

I’m so looking forward to the last part of 2015, it’s going to be so epic!! 

And in other, very very sad news. I’m not sure how many of you know of Emil and Johanna, a young Swedish couple who has been cycling across South America since the beginning of the year. They recently had an accident with a car in Brazil, and unfortunately Johanna passed away and Emil is injured. I am so extremely sorry to hear this, and my thoughts are with both of their families. Once again I am reminded of how lucky I was. So extremely lucky. But I also hope that people remember that they were living their dream. If something was to happen to me, god forbid, I’d want people to remember that. Even though everyone deserves to life full lives until they die of old age, if something was to happen, I could think of worse ways to go while living your dream. Rest in peace Johanna, and I hope Emil will get well soon.

We should admire the courage and spirit in his lifeWhat kind of man would live where there is no daringAnd is life so dear that we should blame men for dying in adventureIs there a better way to die
 Charles Lindbergh

Downtime in Hervey Bay.

I left Brisbane on Monday at around lunch time, on a Greyhound bus which was wildly different from the one I had experienced in USA. This one was clean and fresh, had air-conditioning and usb plugs, I had two seats to myself and the free wifi actually worked. It was pretty great. I didn’t mind the five hour journey north at all, I watched movies and listened to music and just enjoyed the serenity. I arrived in Hervey Bay at around five in the afternoon, shocked that the sun was setting already! Clearly a sign that it’s still very early spring here. I checked into my hotel, Oceans resort and spa and got this beautiful apartment all to myself. It has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, a washer and dryer, a kitchen and a nice balcony. It’s pretty perfect and just what I needed for some nice downtime. The only thing seriously lacking is the wifi, it’s so slooooow. But I’m enjoying cooking food for once and just taking care of myself here.
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A rest stop on the way north, I’ve seen a lot worse in my days. 
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This place is bigger than anything I’ve ever lived in by myself before. 
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It still low season here though, so most days I’ve been all alone by the pool. The Aussies think it’s too cold, while I as a Swede think 25 degrees is the perfect temperature for a day by the pool. Mostly I’ve just been resting a lot, going for walks, reading books, swimming in the pool and watching movies. They have free pay per view-movies here, which I have been using to the max. My list of watched movies must be an entire A4 page by now, I hope they give me a copy when I check out, just for fun.
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The Urangan Pier. 
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Yes, that is a HUGE pelican landing on that lamppost. WOW. 
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Contemplating life by the beach.
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I brought my gopro to the pool the other day and had some fun taking underwater picture. I saw some people sitting on their balconies watching me later, they must have thought I looked hilarious.

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I have also finally had time to actually go through my plans for the future. There are many questions at the moment, and I’m feeling a little lost trying to answer them. My hand is finally (FINALLY!!) feeling a little bit better, to the point where there sometimes can be a full day without any pain at all. This is such a huge step and I’m so happy that I’m finally seeing some relief. It makes me think that maybe I should try getting on a new bike and try this adventure as it was meant to be though, but somehow it doesn’t seem right anymore, and I have some anxiety about feeling that way. I feel guilty that I don’t really want to get back on the bike right away, but I also don’t think it would be very clever. Like I said, I’m still only at single days without pain at this point, I’m scared that putting strain on it now would make it worse again. And somehow it feels like this has turned into something so completely different and unexpected, and I shouldn’t have to feel guilty that it has. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain but this week had given me a lot of time to think, maybe too much.

And once I got injured in the US I pretty quickly came up with a plan for what to do and what to see, but here in Australia I don’t really have a plan. I can’t keep going the way I have up until now because then I’ll have to go back to Sweden way too soon and completely penniless and that’s not an option I’m too fond of. In America I didn’t have the option to work, which I do here though, so I have applied to get a tax relief number so that I can actually work here without having to pay 48% in tax. I just have to figure out with what and where. Or should I just rent a campervan and drive around the outback for a few months? So many options, but I have no idea what I actually want. All I know is that I want to go hiking again soon. Preferably a longer hike, which is why I’ve been looking into longer, guided hikes in groups. It sounds like fun and a good start for me to try longer hikes with people who are more used to it than I am.

Like I said, so many options, and I’m no closer to an answer than I was a month ago. I need to find out soon though, because not having any idea is not a good plan. But after Hervey Bay I’m housesitting for ten days, which gives me plenty of time to do more research and come up with a plan. Hopefully they have faster internet too, so that I might actually be able to do some research. But other than my lack of plans I think I’m adapting pretty well. I still have to ask people to repeat themselves all the time though because I’m having such trouble with the accent, but it’s getting better I think. Oh, and the other day I was buying some coffee and the barista took a look at my Yellowstone t-shirt and asked if I’d been there. Turns out he’s going to the USA next summer, and I spent close to half an hour just chatting to him about where he should go and what he should see. He kept asking me questions though, so I’m pretty sure he didn’t mind it too much…

Oh, and I will be changing the name of this website soon, to something more fitting. I just have to figure out what that might be first though. Any suggestions? I’m thinking something along the lines of hike and bike but I don’t know. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

Tomorrow I’m heading to Fraser Island on a tour, which should be fun! I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a big island just outside of Hervey Bay, and it was either that or going on a whale watching tour which would have been amazing. I realized that I probably shouldn’t though, as I very easily get insanely seasick and that would have been a horrible way to spend a day. I’m pretty sure Fraser Island will be just as amazing though! This might seem like a pretty sad post compared to how upbeat I usually am, but trust me when I say that I’m still very, very happy. I’ve just had to come down on earth for a while now, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing :) As I keep saying, life is good!