Saturday, January 01, 2011

Goodbye, 2010.

Wherever you are, happy new year to you. However 2010 has been for you, I hope 2011 is better.

As for me... I left a job I had no heart for. I was treading water which was fun for a while but I realised I need some challenge. I need to learn. In a way I still don't care what I do for an income because it's just a means to an end, but at the same time I need some stimulation.

So I quit that and we sold our home and travelled. It went something like this:

Madrid (Spain) 12th Aug - 18th Aug
Boom (dance party in Portugal) - 18th Aug - 25th Aug
Sintra 25th - 28th Aug
Pria Macais 28th - 30th Aug
Lisbon 30th Aug - 2nd Sept
Faro 2nd Sept
Seville (Spain) 3rd Sept - 6th Sept
Granada 6th Sept - 9th Sept
Denia 9th Sept - 12th Sept
Ibiza 12th Sept - 21st Sept
Barcelona 21st - 25th Sept
Arles (France) 25th - 28th Sept
Marseilles 28th - 30th Sept
Cassis 30th Sept - 1st Oct
Arles 1st Oct - 4th Oct
San Rafael 4th Oct - 8th Oct (Day trip to St Tropez, that's where the photo was taken)
Nice 8th Oct - 11th Oct
Levanto (Italy) 11th Oct - 15th Oct
Pisa 15th Oct - 17th Oct
Florence 17th Oct - 21st Oct
Rome 21st Oct - 26th Oct
Venice 26th Oct - 29th Oct
Berlin (Germany) 29th Oct - 5th Nov
Prague (Czek) 5th Nov - 11th Nov
Paris (France) 11th Nov - 18th Nov
London (UK) 18th Nov - 24th Nov
Brighton 24th Nov - 6th Dec
Oxford 6th Dec - 9th Dec
New York (USA) 9th Dec - 15th Dec
San Francisco 15th Dec - 22nd Dec
Napa Valley 22nd Dec - 24th Dec
Lake Tahoe 24th Dec - 27th Dec
San Francisco - 27th - 12th Jan

We've covered quite a bit of ground and I've discovered many places I could relocate to. Faves? Hard to say because each place has its own unique personality to offer. Madrid had art, food and lifestyle... in fact that was all of Spain. And Italy and and France. Had my most perfect lunch at a beachside place in Barcelona, think it was called CDCC. Magical afternoon. Ibiza was fun and as with everywhere except Seville, I'd go back at the first opportunity. Berlin lived up to the hype - great new city with a fascinating and fucked up history. Checkpoint Charlie moved me to tears a couple of times because amid so much War history, here was real hope and in the end triumph, some glimpses of all that is good about the human spirit. There's a photo of a border guard helping a little boy getting through the barbed wire that has imprinted itself on me. The guard looks terrified that he is going to be spotted and the boy holds his arms up, expecting to be lifted to join his family on the other side of the wire. The look on he guard's face is amazing. Sheer fright, but you know he's going to help the kid. I love it. I love that so many of the guards helped their fellow Germans cross the border by turning a blind eye or being the worst shots in the army. Sadness in the history of the Berlin Wall, but happiness as well.

I loved Paris as much this time as I did last time. I still didn't encounter the arrogance of the French. I think it's an out-dated cliche. The people were as friendly as all the others we encountered, and I loved being in Pigalle with its seediness, art and history. And Areles... that was one long party finished off with a very long hangover.

The UK... hmm. I thought I loved London last time. Probably I did. This time however I just didn't get as into it. For the first time I really saw a national stereotype in action: The whinging Pom is real. A snowstorm closes down airports in the USA and the people get on with it. In the UK? Papers and forums are filled with anger and finger-pointing, someone is to blame and something must be done. There is such a big difference between the people of the UK and of the USA. The UK is gloom, the USA is bright. I enjoyed my stay in the UK and I know lovely people there, but there is a very real culture of complaint.

And this has perhaps been the biggest revelation to me - The USA. The people here are genuinely friendly. Strangers ask how you are and hearing your accent, they ask where you are from and then they ask about Australia. This is not like Turkey where they are merely trying to make a connection to get your money, they are simply curious and want to know about this far away place. I thought New Yorkers were meant to ba arseholes (and of course you get arseholes in all flavours) but for the most part they were really friendly people.

I think my impression of the USA is best summed up by our day trip to The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Ellis Island really captures what good intentions America had. America had open arms to refugees from all over the world. The fluctuating population statistics on display are fascinating. Such good intentions, youthful America had, but somewhere along the line these good intentions were replaced with arrogance. It's not the people overall, it's the government. The people I've met have been some of the friendliest people in the world, and I want to come back to this place to explore further, something I just wasn't expecting. The only individual Americans I had a bad impression of were a jaded couple in Marseilles who were complaining about the arrogance of the French and how they have never been endeared to the French. Hell, I'm more convinced than ever that you attract exactly the kind of shit you are expecting to attract, at least as far as the way people treat you.

I've been very lucky this year. The trip has been awesome. I've met up with friends from home in all parts of the world. We've been lucky with the weather, we've been lucky with travel with nothing going wrong, no luggage lost, no major delays or major hitches. The relationship between The Dreaded One and myself has been tested, as you'd expect from being together 24/7, especially after selling our home and leaving our jobs. There has been stress but we seem to have pulled through and still seem to be friends on what I've started calling the Lee & Ann World Tour Of Friends.

I'm writing this in the living room of this place. It's gorgeous. It smells of pine from the 10ft tall Christmas tree. There is classical music playing and I'm sipping some complimentary Californian sherry and waiting for my spiritual kid sister to arrive. The three of us will goof off for the day, maybe grab a bite to eat, have some laughs, maybe go to Golden Gate Park. Hopefully my swollen knee will have gone down enough for me to dance at the psytrance party we are going to tonight. I danced too much the night before last. I need to remember that I'm not 17 anymore.

So that's me for 2010. Rainbow Serpent is going to soften the blow of going home. And then? New life in a new city. I don't know what's going to happen. But I've been in a similar position before. It's going to be fine.

Good wishes to you all for 2011.


Y said...

Amazing how much ground you guys have covered so far. Here's to more adventures in 2011!

Thaydra said...

What a fascinating year! I am envious of your travels! One day I will be able to do the same, though.

I was happy to hear of all the friendly people you encountered; especially those in America, since that is where I am.

I wish you a most joyous 2011!

Kathryn said...

Thank you for everything you did for me in 2010. This new city you speak of moving means SF, no? Kidding...but no, seriously. :D 2011 is going to be pretty damn interesting. So happy we've celebrated the beginning of it together! Lots of luv big bruv.

Lee said...

Thank you, Yu Ching. Same to you.

America has been a revelation to me, Thaydra. I'm liking it here a lot more than I thought I would. Good wishes to you for 2011.

As for you Kathryn Shreve... you have been a lovely find amongst all the humanity. I'm glad we've had so much time together too. You make a great kid sis and are a treaured friend.

Lee said...

Ohand if I could move to San Fran, I probably would.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Now I can breathe again. What a tour!

Your description goes beyond the usual sightseeing stuff. You went to the heart of the place - the people, for they are the ones who make a place what it is.

That story about the Berlin guard helping the boy is simply beautiful. I once met a man who escaped from East to West Germany.

In France, my sister met some French whose rudeness shocked her. My sis. is one of the friendliest / kindest gals you can ever meet, she attracts people like bees to flowers. My cousin D. who lives in NY is like her. She too was surprised by the arrogance.

Lee, I wish you and 'The Dreaded One' all the best for 2011. I can't wait to hear about Melbourne!

Lee said...

Hey GG, Thank you. Glad you enjoyed.

I think what I've done here is used very broad brush strokes to paint a picture of my personal experience. I'm not naive enough to believe all of any nationality is the same, but overall this was my experience. I did experience slightly aloof French but didn't interpret that as arrogance; they were simply aloof hospitality people and you get them everywhere.

Except, it seems, in America. There is a world of difference between American hospitality people and everywhere else, basically.

If you ever get the chance to visit Berlin, do go to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. Quite an experience.

All the best to you too, GG.