If you want to really enjoy Phillip Island then be prepared to spend $150 or more a day. It’s a tourist hotspot, you can expect busy bars and great eateries. Street side camping is a no go, you can expect to be moved on. Big4 is Australia’s leading campsite franchise so we found one on the island. We found them very clean and friendly – expect to pay $35 for a pitch for the night.
Describe a typical day
Our visit to Phillip Island was more than a sightseeing expedition, I had decided to put myself through Tough Mudder. This gruelling obstacle course was far from a holiday! The Phillip Island Circuit had been converted into a ceremony of fitness, endurance and a pinch of stupidity. After a morning of being zapped by electricity, diving into ice baths, crawling through muddy ditches of water, cramping calf muscles and covering ourselves head to toe in mud, we ventured to the local Koala sanctuary.
I dare anyone not to fall in love with Koalas. The cutest, walking, eating, pooping teddy bears that climb trees and just sleep and eat. This sanctuary takes you through a small exhibition that insights you with the simple facts about Koalas. It all seemed to be very child friendly and easy to understand. After a quick walk around we made our way to the conservation area.
Boardwalks raise you above the foliage of the ground below. Jetties stretch out to the abundant eucalyptus trees. We took to standing out on the observation decks Koala spotting. We needed a keen eye but we got our fix of Australia’s cutest national animal.
During the afternoon we took the van for a spin around the island, sightseeing and picture taking. When the stomach was rumbling we stopped at BEANd (yes the D is supposed to be small) a small franchise coffee house. The cappuccino here is beautiful and the blueberry muffin melts in your mouth. The comfort and service make you feel homely and entices you to put your feet up and relax.
After lunch we took to checking out more of the island; we were biding our time until the Penguin Parade. Here on the island for as long as the locals know, come sundown, hoards of Penguins swim to the island’s shore and make their way home for the night. A permanent auditorium was built for tourists to spectate this amazing event. We sat as the sun fell over the sea.
Before long several Penguins could be seen riding the surf to the sand and within time the small black and white creatures were hitting the beach several at a time. It was a fantastic experience, these Penguins were oblivious to the hundreds of eyes watching them go about their buisness. Many watched as they waddled their way home. We walked along the raised walkways, mesmerised by these beautiful birds strutting into the night. We took the tour through the gift shop and moved off to find a restaurant for an evening meal.
We stumbled on Pino’s on Phillip Island’s main strip. A flamboyant Italian restaurant with a running theme of motor cross – plenty of helmets and leather jackets were displayed across the walls. We opted for Gnocchi and Pizza. It was a carb overload but well deserved. You may pay a little more here than from competing restaurants up and down the high street but you pay for the quality and service (which was outstanding).
Filled up and worn out, we jumped into the van and headed back to the campsite. We reminisced on our day and made our plans for the drive to Melbourne the following day. I slept well that night!
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
Our heart strings were pulled as we watched one Penguin stumble, he seemed either old or unwell, struggling to walk the distance. He stopped at the foot of a rock as all the other penguins walked on. It was sad seeing him left lonely as the healthy many left him behind. We wanted to climb down and help him on his way but we had to let nature take its course. We would like to believe he was just resting but sadly I don’t think he made it home that night.
What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
I suppose a minor dislike is that Phillip Island is beautiful and busy but could be anywhere in the world. It fails to have a distinct character. Also the Koala Sanctuary could be missed. These adorable creatures are abundant along the coast, you will find them amongst the Eucalyptus trees in natural habitats. So much so you could get bored of stopping for photos. The Sanctuary exhibition didn’t bring anything to the table that a quick Wikipedia search couldn’t offer.
On the flip side the Penguins are an absolute must, it is such a beautiful and natural wonder and Penguins won’t fail to melt the heart. The experts on site have a wealth of knowledge and their input adds to the experience.
The Great Ocean Road!!!!
Ann’s words have echoed in my mind as her sweet, octogenarian face has pleasantly haunted my afternoon walks. We wandered slowly through the natural bridge outside of Waitomo with her and her husband, Ross. I quietly got the kids’ attention and encouraged them to walk more slowly behind him, and not press forward as he did his aged best to step over tree roots and up the rocky stairs to the high meadow where we laughed together about the crazy idea of standing in the presence of 3 million year old oysters. Tony gave him a leg up over the fences. He laughed, good-naturedly, when the boys leapt out from behind blackberry bushes with a roar, as he had undoubtedly done forty years before I took my first breath.
Ann was hand washing for the two of them in a little tub out the back of her camper van, using water that Ross was bringing, one bucket at a time from the bridge. He’d lower the bucket the twenty or so feet to the surface with a long rope and then haul it up, mostly full, hand over hand before delivering it to his white haired wife. By the time she was done rinsing he was there to help her wring out his trousers, one on each end, twisting hard, and hang the clothes from a line he’s strung under the awning.
She commiserated with me over hand washing for six, producing meals for an army on two burners in a three foot square space, and the difficulties of adventuring with children. She’d raised a tribe too, in her day, and they’d camped the length and breadth of their island homes. Perhaps she’s a premonition of myself.
I’ve been thinking about that statement, and the layers of meaning it embodies.
Truth be told, living this way is a lot of work. Staying home is far and away easier. But the best things in life are always the things that require the most from us, that we have to work our rear-ends off to achieve. The things we are proudest of mean so much to us because they’ve cost us the most.
Marriage is like that.
Raising kids is like that.
Traveling is like that.
All three together is the perfect storm of all that and two bags of chips.
There was so much encouragement in Ann’s face as we talked and washed and shared “mama” stories. The older I get the more I appreciate the stories of old women. I think because I’m just beginning to understand the many-layered thing that a woman’s life is, stretched thin over the better part of a century. Perhaps it’s because I can see myself in their eyes more clearly than I could at twenty, or thirty.
So many people give up. They give up on the thing they really, really want to do. There are so many reasons: It gets too hard. It costs too much. It hurts too badly. It isn’t what we signed up for. Someone else fails us. We fail ourselves. It’s inconvenient. It’s easier to stay home, in some capacity. We feel that we don’t deserve it, aren’t “worth” it. It’s a fight.
I’ve been thinking lots about the things I really want to do. The big things and the small things. The hard things and the harder things.The things that seem mundane, like staying married until I’m in my eighties, raising kids who are productive citizens and learning to write. The things that seem like pipe dreams too: seeing Antarctica, changing the world, and successfully handing my parents’ legacy to my grandkids. I really, really want to do these things.
For tonight, the things I really want to do included cooking 3 kilos of meat, enough potatoes, cheesy cauliflower & salad for an army, making a double batch of ginger cookies and making my husband laugh until he was squirming to get away from me, which is an accomplishment. I want to sit and sip my tea, munch my still warm ginger treat and thank the gods that be for friends who love me enough to mail me the exact type of tea that keeps me from killing the children; who I want so desperately to strangle sometimes when we all are living in 126 square feet. And I’m willing to live in 126 square feet of rolling space because I really, really want, quite desperately, to make their childhood epic and not to miss a moment of it.
What do you really want to do?
“Here’s what I think: you need to leave and then go back to the places that obsess you. If you want the delight of the unfamiliar you leave yourself enough time between trips to activate the added kick of nostalgia when you return. That is what it means to be a traveler: the desire to immerse yourself, for the ants and the flowers and the sticky heat and the language to become “normal” — but always, in the end, to go home, always with the knowledge (or hope) that the future holds another journey like this.”
–Alden Jones, The Blind Masseuse: A Traveler’s Memoir from Costa Rica to Cambodia (2013)
Since it’s summer and the beach is on my mind, I thought I would do a recap of my favorite beaches I’ve visited over the years. I’m not really one for the crowded party beaches, or cold weather beaches, both of those seem to have made my list because of how beautiful they are. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that there’s nothing much better than walking a quite beach at sunset, reading a good book in the shade, or enjoying a tropical drink with the ocean in view. Most of these beaches took a bit of traveling to get to but they were worth it.
We’ll start with Italy, specifically the Amalfi Coast.
A friend and I made the trip here a few years ago and I was amazed at how picturesque it was. We rented a car and had to drive up along the coastal cliffs, which for me was a bit nerve-wrecking. The roads were narrow and windy and people drive insanely fast. In September we were able to find a last minute hotel for around $40 a night, with a beautiful ocean view. To get to the beach you had to follow steep switchback stairs for about half an hour through charming coastal neighborhoods. Some parts of the beach are crowded, others very secluded.
Beach number two, Gili Meno, a small island in Indonesia.
Getting here required a flight to Bali, then a flight to the island of Lombok, then a taxi to the harbor, and then a long boat to the second island in the Gili chain. My friend and I were dropped off on the beach after sunset with no hotel reservations and no plan, but as we walked the coast we easily found a hotel with friend staff right on the beach (as are all of the hotels there). You can walk the perimeter of the entire island in one hour, and the sunsets are supposedly world famous.
Perhaps I never would have met the Iranian had it not been for the influenza
epidemic raging across Europe at the time. Because of the flu,
Larnaca — a holiday beach town on the southern coast of Cyprus — was
nearly empty of tourists. I was walking along the deserted beachfront
promenade when a lone man in coveralls approached me.
“I am from Iran,” he said. “I think you are not from Cyprus.”
I smiled at both the man’s abrupt introduction and his unusual appearance.
He looked like he’d just come in from bow-hunting deer in Idaho: dark-green
coveralls, heavy boots, a bright orange stocking cap. He wore thick
glasses and looked to be about 40 years old.
“Yes, I’m not from Cyprus,” I told him. “I’m from America.”
“America!” the man exclaimed. “I have an American nickname: Harrison.
Like Harrison Ford. I made up this name because I like Harrison Ford, and I
love America. In my mind, I think that America must be like Paradise. Is
it wonderful to live there?”
“Well I wouldn’t call it Paradise, but I like living there.”
“I wish I could go to America, but I cannot get a visa. So last week I came
here to Cyprus instead.”
The Iranian scoffed. “For me, there is no vacation. I come here to fix
“Yes, that is my work. The police in Iran don’t like satellites, so I have
to come to Cyprus. There are many satellites in Larnaca.”
Since I was quite certain Cyprus didn’t have a space program, I decided to
clarify. “What kind of satellites?”
“Satellites!” Harrison exclaimed. He pointed skyward and waved his hands
around. “In Iran, the police say they are bad for women, so I have no
“How are satellites bad for women?”
“With a satellite, women can see too many things. They can see Dallas.”
“Dallas! Julia Roberts! CNN! The police think women will forget their
duty to Islam.”
“Oh, right. You fix satellite dishes.”
“And many other electronics. But Iran is not a good place for me to live or
work. I hope Cyprus is better. Tell me, did you come to Larnaca for
“A tourist! You come for the beach, or to see Lazarus?”
“Lazarus. He was friends with Jesus. His tomb is here. Don’t you read the
“Of course, but I’m pretty sure his tomb should be in Israel. And it should
be empty, since the story is that Jesus raised him from the dead.”
“Yes, but after Jesus gave him life, Lazarus decided to come to Cyprus. If
you wish, I can show you where is his tomb.”
“Sure,” I shrugged. “Let’s see it.”
As I followed the stocking-capped Iranian away from the beachfront, I
couldn’t help chuckling at the thought of Lazarus choosing to come to
Cyprus (of all places) after his resurrection. I kept getting this mental
image of a post-miracle press event at the open tomb in Bethany, with
reporters shoving in to ask questions. “Lazarus,” I imagined them saying,
“Jesus just raised you from the dead after four days in the tomb — what’ll
you do now?” And instead of Disneyland, Lazarus tells them he’s going to
“Why do you smile?” Harrison asked me as we went down the winding back streets of Larnaca in search of the tomb.
“I’m just wondering why Lazarus came to Cyprus,” I said. “I’m wondering
what he did when he got here.”
The Iranian shrugged. “He died again, I think.”
- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -
Lazarus or no Lazarus, I had never planned on going to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus in the first place. Originally, my plan had been to find a direct flight from Rome to Cairo. I’d soon discovered, however, that Cyprus Air offered passage to Cairo at less than half the cost of other airlines. The only catch was a 24-hour layover in Larnaca. Always a sucker for cheap airfare, I went for it.
The drawback to this was that I arrived in Cyprus without any idea of what I
could see or do there. The tourist authority at the Larnaca airport gave
me a stack of brochures, but it seemed self-defeating to spend much time
studying them when I had only a day in the country. When I’d skimmed over
the parts about how Larnaca featured the St. Lazarus Church, it never occurred
to me that Lazarus himself might be there. The Iranian who called himself
Harrison set me straight.
“Do you believe in Lazarus?” he asked as we made our way to the tomb.
“Well, I don’t really believe he was raised from the dead after four days,”
“But his bones are here in Larnaca! Don’t you believe in the Christian
“I believe in God, but I also believe in a healthy dose of skepticism.”
“What is ‘skepticism’?”
“Skepticism is like doubt. A skeptic is someone who doesn’t believe very
easily. That’s me.”
“Do you believe in artificial blood?”
This question threw me a bit. “Artificial blood? Like in the movies?”
“No, in real life. The blood that people use.”
“I don’t think I know about that.”
“It comes from America, and doctors use it. I read this in a magazine, and
it sounded crazy. Still, I am not a skeptic. I think it is real. I want
to see it and know what color it is. I want to know how it is made. Do you
know where I might see some?”
“Actually, this is the first I’ve heard of anything like artificial blood.”
“You are a skeptic.”
I laughed. “Or maybe just ignorant.”
Harrison reached out and took me lightly by the arm. “Do you know how to
get a visa to America?” he said in a quiet voice.
“Not really,” I said. “I’m from America, so of course I don’t need a visa
to go there. Why do you want one — you want to see artificial blood that badly?”
“Iran is a bad place,” he said, ignoring my clumsy joke. “There was some
hope before, but things are getting bad. The elections will make things
worse. I don’t want to go back; I want to leave.”
“What about Cyprus? Aren’t you going to stay here?”
“My visa is only for three months. But while I am here, I want to get an
American visa. Can’t you help me?”
“I’d like to, but I don’t know anything about the visa process. Especially
“Can you write down for me your name and address in America? Maybe it would
help if I had an American friend.”
“I don’t think having an address will make a difference. Especially the
address of someone you just met in the street.”
Harrison looked a bit hurt by this comment. “But I think we are already
friends,” he insisted.
- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -
St. Lazarus Church is a sturdy stone structure in a clean courtyard not far from the old Larnaca Fort. Harrison waited outside as I entered to discover a narrow maze of wooden pews, vaulted ceilings and curving stone-block columns. Ornate chandeliers hung from the stone arches, and an intricate gilded iconostation dominated the front of the church. Byzantine saints with golden halos peeked out from every wall and corner. A painted wooden altar in the middle of the church contained a silver crucifix and large glass disc fastened down with a ruby-studded rim. Beneath the glass was the yellowed crown of a human skull.
According to church tradition, Lazarus went to Cyprus in about A.D. 33 to
escape persecution at the hands of the Jews in Bethany. He settled in
Larnaca (then called Kition) and was consecrated as the first bishop of
Kition by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas. During his time in Cyprus,
Lazarus never smiled save on one occasion, when he saw someone stealing a
pot and said, “The clay steals the clay.” His melancholy demeanor was said
to be a result of the four days his soul spent in Hades before Jesus raised
him from the dead. He died for the second and final time in A.D. 63, and
the present stone church was built on the site of his tomb in the late ninth
Harrison was waiting for me outside when I’d finished peering around inside
the old church. “Was it a good place?” he said. “Are you glad I showed it
“Yes,” I said. “It was very interesting.”
“Do you believe in Lazarus now?”
“No, I’m afraid I’m still a skeptic when it comes to Lazarus.”
“I am not a skeptic. I believe in Lazarus.”
“Are you a Christian?”
“Of course not!” he laughed. “I am a Muslim.”
“Do Muslims believe in the miracle of Lazarus?”
“The Koran does not speak of Lazarus. But the Koran does say that Jesus
could do miracles. I think it is bad to be a skeptic. I think you should
“A skeptic believes in many things, but he also doubts. All I’m saying is
that I doubt the miracle of Lazarus.”
“But how can you doubt miracles if you believe in God?”
“God is God — I just don’t believe he deals much in miracles. I don’t much
believe in believers, either. That’s how skepticism works.”
Harrison nodded solemnly. “There are too many believers in Iran. I think I
am a skeptic sometimes, too.” He paused for a moment, then went on. “Do
you think I am a good man?”
“Sure, I think so.”
“Then can you please give me your address for an American visa?”
“I don’t think my address will make a difference on your visa.”
“But will you give it to me?”
For some reason, I didn’t want to encourage what seemed like a doomed
enterprise. “It will take a lot more than my address to get you to
“But will you give it to me?”
I gave Harrison a hesitant stare, still not comfortable at being the object
of such blind hope. “OK,” I said finally. “Give me some paper.”
Harrison unzipped his coveralls and took out a small, dogeared notebook.
“If anybody asks, you must tell them I am your friend.”
“I think I can do that,” I said. I took the notebook and wrote down my
American address — touched by Harrison’s desperate sense of optimism, but
still skeptical at his odds for a new life.
When I’d finished, Harrison thanked me profusely and made vague plans to meet me that evening. After he’d gone, I stuck around the courtyard to stroll
through the Byzantine museum and examine the marble graves in the adjacent Protestant merchant cemetery.
Before I went back to the waterfront, however, I returned to the St. Lazarus
sanctuary to get one more look at what may or may not have been the bones of a man who may or may not have been raised from the dead.
Originally published by Salon.com in February 2000
Quote: Be more awesome and do the things you’ve only been talking about doing until now. (more…)
I have this theory that I’d like to share. It’s somewhat personal, but I wonder if it’s something others will be able to relate to…
Have you ever seen a dog pacing inside the confines of a small space, restless to escape?
Sometimes I feel like that.
But…have you ever seen a dog returning from its play outside, waiting for someone to open the door for it so it can come back inside?
Sometimes I feel like that too.
There are times I’ve tried to live the stationary life and after awhile, I feel locked in by the routine. Trapped by a 9 to 5 job or trapped by the feeling of monotony. But likewise there are times in my nomadic life that I feel locked out, a day’s worth of transit away from my parents or my friends. Locked into a timezone difference that keeps me from feeling like home is accessible, even in the form of a phone call.
I talked to a friend the other day who is in the middle of a hitchhike project, interviewing everyone who picks him up as he hitchhikes around the country playing music. (You can check out his fascinating hitchhike interviews here.) He was taking a break in his hometown for awhile when I asked him how it felt to be back. He responded saying he missed movement. And I knew exactly what he meant, but from the opposite application. He missed the movement of being on the road and I was beginning to feel as though the road was monotonous.
You see, we are growing, changing, evolving creatures. We adapt and adjust and we are satisfied by the mental activity that change requires, whether we realize it or not. We move. We need movement even if it’s not literal movement. We need things to change now and then.
In my case we had been on the road so long that it became sedentary-feeling. Our were constantly moving and we were constantly packing and unpacking from one hotel to the next, but the routine was so ordinary that it was not engaging us as movement anymore. We checked out of hotels. We checked into hotels. We checked out. We checked in. And that is when I knew it was time to fly home. (Where “home” is could be a whole blog post of its own). Because at that moment, sitting in the old coffee shops I used to frequent and chatting with old friends would be movement- it would be new again.
Until it becomes sedentary…then I’ll move on..
It sounds endless, doesn’t it?
So when does it end? Does it end?
Tell me what you think. Do you feel locked in? Do you feel locked out?
Age: Never ask a girl her age after she crosses 40.
Hometown: Aiea, Hawaii
Quote: Your horizon is only as far as you can imagine it. (more…)
“Thus, travel compels you to discover your spiritual side by simple elimination: Without all the rituals, routines and possessions that give your life meaning at home, you’re forced to look for meaning within yourself…. Indeed, if travel is a process that helps you “find yourself,” it’s because it leaves you with nothing to hide behind– it yanks you out from the realm of rehearsed responses and dull comforts, and forces you into the present. Here in the fleeting moment, you are left to improvise, to come to terms with your raw, true Self.”
Chapter 10 Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts
This chapter falls in an interesting week for me, having just finished walking the Camino de Santiago, 800 km, France into Spain a little over a week ago. It was an interesting thing, to make a pilgrimage as a non-religious person. My experience, over the years of travel, has been the same as Rolf’s, in that the moments of greatest spiritual impact and growth have, invariably, been mundane moments and not visits to great temples or sunrise yoga sessions. For me, the forward motion of travel has become a meditation of its own; a ritual that draws me back to the essentials of my internal life. Lightening my physical pack and lightening the internal loads as well.
I love the image of how travel systematically strips away all of the things that we hide behind: material possessions, relationships, jobs and titles, busy-ness, social constructs and a million other things. We’re left standing in the world, naked, with no one looking except ourselves. It is in that moment that we begin to see who we really are. Sometimes it’s necessary to walk naked for quite some distance before we can begin to pick up a few things and clothe ourselves intentionally in the lessons we’ve learned and the discoveries of self as we relate to the whole, in both the temporal and spiritual sense. To me, the truest of spiritual revelations have their boots fully grounded in the mud on the trail.
How about you? Do you travel for spiritual reasons? Where have you been? What have you learned? What surprised you about the journey?
“Travel writing is perishable. I find that when I’m reading a book of bygone travels I become irritated with curiosity about what the place is like today — can you still swim in the river, as the writer did? Can you still eat the fish? Are the houses still roofed with thatch? This problem has to do not only with travel writing but all nonfiction. If you look in the Classics or Literature section of any bookstore you’ll see mainly works of fiction. Nonfiction is about the physical world, and over time the physical world tends to disappear.”
–Ian Frazier, in They Went: The Art and Craft of Travel Writing (1991)