Saturday, October 5, 2013

Appreciating the beauty of life: Cairns and Palm Cove trip!

Far too often we get caught up in life's daily stresses and forget to appreciate the sheer beauty of the world around us. I promised I wouldn't let moving here turn me into a complete "softie", but it appears that I have already failed quite miserably in my quest to stay cold and emotionless.

I walk around every single day with my head in the clouds, continuously counting my blessings, when I suddenly realize I just spent my whole day living in a complete dreamlike state wondering yet again why the universe is working so positively in my favor. Somehow in just a short 6 weeks, I've morphed from a somewhat sad, bored and lonely girl who never actively appreciated the beauty of life, to a person who can barely get through the day without being moved to the point of tears. Happy tears.

I just spent the week on the east coast of Australia in Cairns and Palm Cove, courtesy of my new au pair family. It was, quite literally, a dream come true for me. This was the one and only vacation I had been dreaming of since I was a child. The only vacation I never expected to happen in my wildest dreams. And here I am, with yet another incredibly amazing experience under my belt. 

I have no idea how to even start, but here goes nothing. 

We arrive in Queensland and I immediately feel like I'm back in Hawaii. It's tropical, mountainous, and sooo gorgeously blue. Okay, so it's going to be a pretty good trip I assume. 

And boy, was I right. 

We spent the first two days in Cairns where I was blessed with a beautiful hotel room with a king sized bed and a balcony overlooking the pool. We walked all around the city doing some shopping, swimming and sightseeing. Ben tried desperately to find me a place with chicken wings and we finally found one. The bad news? They ran out of wings :(. He's been on this impossible mission since I arrived in Australia, and he's such a trooper for trying to bring a little bit of America back into my life. Little does he know though, I hardly even miss them. But like a typical man, he wouldn't listen anyway, so I just let him keep searching!

The next day Ben offered to take the girls for the day and let Julie and I go on a Great Barrier Reef tour by ourselves. It was a weird reality not having the kids around and a little eerily quiet, but quite the amazing opportunity for him to let us have. I know what you're thinking. You work for these people? They take you on vacation? They pay for everything? They give you high class accommodation? And somehow, above all that, Dad is offering to take care of the girls so his nanny can have a kidless chance of a lifetime? Yeah. If I forgot to mention it, he is quite amazing. So, like women in typical fashion, we gladly accepted his credit card and were on our way!

Let me start by saying that the trip there was far from glamorous, even though the view was breathtakingly beautiful. Keep reading. If you don't know this already, the reef is quite a ways a way from shore (about an hour and a half by boat). Every single one of the 200 ish seats were taken, and I witnessed more sea sickness than I'd ever like to remember or discuss again after writing this entry. It corrupted at least 50% of people on board and poor Julie was one of them. Luckily I kept myself busy once the inevitable nausea started to hit me, envying the life of a family from Florida whose 3 year old has a passport I can only hope to recreate someday! 

I was almost one of the fallen, but held myself together enough to make it to the platform upon arrival somewhat decently intact. We decided to start with the semi-submersible boat, which takes you under water (obviously) to see the reef. It was a short, laid back, informative, 30 minute ride through the water and we got to see some pretty amazing things that way. Plus, it helped us to recover quite successfully from being jolted around at sea, and excited enough to jump right into the water once we made it back.

Few times in my life before I moved here did I really appreciate every sight, smell, and feeling as it was happening. I used to be the type of girl who lived in the past or waited for the future. I used to be the kind of girl who sped through life crossing things off of my very long to- do lists. I used to be the kind of girl who had no true sense of what living in the moment really felt like.

But not anymore. 

It was as I was swimming alone through the Great Barrier Reef, that I realized I am a completely changed person. I was once a girl who had no sense of purpose or direction, and am now a girl who has the entire endless, and beautiful world at her fingertips. And so, instead of documenting every seemingly important moment as it was happening, I opted to ditch the underwater camera and for the first time, to truly live in the moment, experiencing that moment for myself, and myself entirely. And though I'll never have pictures of the pretty underwater life, I'll never regret experiencing the Reef in that way. 

I was swimming amongst thousands of sea creatures and was, for the first time ever, taking in and appreciating every single second of me alone out in the open water. Instead of waiting for the next best thing to come along, I was truly savoring and cherishing every moment. I saw animals, colors and coral that I can't even attempt to recreate with words. I was so completely blinded by the beauty in fact, that I even had a bit of a rough encounter with some coral. And as I watched the blood trickling down my leg as I tried to disinfect myself, I could only wish that the coral cut would have been a little deeper and left a scar, because I thought it would be a cool story to tell one day. No such luck though, just a few harmless and boring scratches. Bummer! *Update.. it did scar, and I'm quite thrilled about it :).

I somehow got talked into doing the adventure snorkel tour complete with a tour guide and a group of what I assumed were highly advanced swimmers. Okay, it wasn't that hard to talk me into it, especially since we still had Ben's credit card ;). But still, I was a bit worried I would drown in the middle of the ocean after being undertaken by the outrageous waves and swimming for an hour straight. But boy, I held my shit together pretty well, and I was pretty damn proud of myself for easily keeping up and staying alive. Big day! 

The water was quite rough, and we were falling quickly into the trap of seasickness again, but this time in the open water. We wondered if that was really possible, but from the sight of our pale faces and the feeling of our stomachs turning, it was pretty clear that it was indeed very possible. In the meantime though, we saw many other exotic fish, baby sharks and right as the tour was ending, we FINALLY saw Nemo and company. I literally shrieked in excitement. My day had officially been made.

We took a bus home to our new destination: Palm Cove. We arrived to the villa perched directly across the beach and I'm pretty sure I stopped breathing for a few seconds. Or minutes. I might have fainted even. Tough to say really. But seriously... was I really going to be living in this amazingness for the next few days? We walked into the place and closed the door quickly thinking this can't really be our place, can it? And then hear a little, "Yoohoo, in here", from inside. Welp. Guess we are that lucky. Or again, have a well traveled Dad, who takes realllyyyyyy good care of his girls. 

He says, "Jerrica look! I went shopping today and found you some of that chocolate chip cookie dough icecream you like so much", and then proceeds to show me to my fancy new room. Surely, it couldn't get better than the beautiful hotel room back in Cairns. Wrong again. It could. He showed me to the master suite complete with en suite bathroom, king size bed and a perfect, flawless view of the ocean. And wait? Were those waves crashing on the beach that I heard with perfect clarity? Yep. It sure was. If there is a heaven, it would look a lot like this I'd imagine. 

We spent the next two days discovering waterfalls, touring the rainforest by skyrail and train, seeing my beloved kangaroos and koalas, and eating and drinking more than we'd like to admit to the general population. The rainforest is much like you'd expect. A bunch of trees. Everywhere. Sounds a little boring eh? It wasn't. It was really, truly breathtaking! Hundreds of miles of trees and wildlife was just another excuse for me to sit back, relax, and take it all in. 

I shrieked again pretty loudly when I saw the Aussie animals, and I'm pretty positive everyone knew who the weird American was in the group. Ben said the look on my face when I first saw the koala was absolutely priceless, and made the slightly outrageous price for the entire rainforest day tour worth it. They also promised that once it gets nice out in Perth, they will be personally taking me to hold one, and believe me, I can't wait!!

Eating and drinking gets it's own paragraph, because it damn well deserves it after the number we did on it this week. I tried every type of seafood imaginable, which is pretty courageous as I really am not a big seafood fan. And the bad news? I haven't been entirely convinced that it's something I'll get over, despite Ben's eager persistence. The greek food was absolutely incredible though, and I will definitely be adding that to my extensive list of things I love after this week. Again, Ben pushed us to our limits by nicely forcing drinks and desserts upon us at every meal, even when we were insistent on water and a small entree. Again, not the worst case scenario. Drinking alcohol and eating loads of chocolate and cheesecake is not the worst form of punishment I've ever encountered, after all. 

On my last morning there, I woke up to the sounds of ocean, which if you're wondering does sound quite different from the sleepy sound app I use to drown out the noise of the children running around at 5 am. These were REAL waves. From the REAL ocean. And I was really getting too used to this paradise. Anyway, I dragged my normally lazy, not a morning person, big butt out of bed before sunrise, hoping to catch one last truly serene moment before heading home that afternoon. And boy, was it worth it. I could sure get used to this life, I decided. Midwest, USA might just not cut it for me.  

Overall, it was a dream holiday that I can only hope to recreate with my own family someday. The girls were absolutely wonderful travelers and Ben and Julie truly treated me like their awesome, older, 25-year- old daughter. I spent a total of $25 dollars on the entire trip on a round of drinks for the family and two postcards for my travel collection, and had the perfect once in a lifetime opportunity. 

I, like many of you, have an infinite number of things to be thankful for. Life is the greatest gift we are given and living in one of those fantasies that most people only ever dream of, helps me to reaffirm this. At one point or another, many of us dream of a life free from daily stresses, money problems, relationship troubles and ties to anything substantial really, and the hundreds of emails I’ve been receiving is pure proof of this. Keep moving forward guys. Eyes on the prize of travel!

Take the time to enjoy and truly experience your life. Fancy cars, handbags, jewelry and other meaningless stuff will only ever give you a temporary happiness and eventual emptiness that you'll be constantly looking to fulfill with the next big purchase. But truly, these things have little to no real purpose or value for bettering your life, and definitely do little for your heart and soul in the long run. A life like this however, filled with an infinite number of opportunities and experiences, gives me a greater happiness than I could have ever hoped to have in a lifetime, and I wish the same kind of happiness for you---whatever that may be! 

It's your life. cherish it. experience it. love it. and LIVE IT. And remember: the world is yours! 

So slow down. take a deep breath. and notice the world around you. Stop living for the weekend and start living for today. After all, in the case of life, there's no rush to the finish line. 


  1. Wow very exciting trip Jer! It sounds like you had the time of your life, keep enjoying each day and loving life like it is your last day on earth!

    Love you!

  2. so proud of my sissy :) loveeeeeeee you

  3. Ah! This makes me want to experience Australia even more now!
    You go girl!