“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.”-Friedrich Nietzsche
Music has never really been my thing. In fact, I’ve never even been to a concert, but I could listen to Nina Simone sing all day long. Her voice is running through me like a river right now, “Birds flyin’ high, you know how I feel, sun in the sky, you know how I feel…”
I call out over my ear buds, “Yessssss! I do know!!!”
An impromptu rugby game breaks out in Langley Park as I wheel my trusty duffel bag by. In it is everything I own, which is mostly sweat stained t-shirts by now. Just as I turn right and begin to head north up Hill Street, Mrs. Simone delivers my favorite line as cool as you like, “breeeeeeezzzze driftin’ on by, you know how I feel.”
“Yes, Yes, Yes!” I scream out. “I know how the sun, the birds, the sky and the breeze all feel!”
It’s late afternoon in Perth and it’s the end of the work week. The temperature’s inviting and the air tastes like candy. The birds, the sun, the sky and the breeze are all showing off today as if they know I’m listening to a song that just mentioned them. The city itself was rated the 7th best city in the world to live in by CNN this year, which actually seems like an insult now that I’m here. Perth is perfect, and even though it’s technically fall here, it’s one of those Indian summer kind of days that feels like it’s going to roll on and on until the end of time.
By the time I make it half way up Hill Street I can’t help but sing along like I’m alone in the shower as Mrs. Simone gracefully eases into the chorus and then hammers home the last line over the brass section, “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, its a new life for me, ohhhhhhh… and I’m feelin’ gooooooooood.”
The smile on my face says it all; it’s got to be the widest one that’s ever met my lips. I nod my head in complete agreement as she evens out her voice and continues on because in this moment I feel like I really do know how the fish, the river, the blossoms, the dragonflies, the butterflies, the stars and even the scent on the pine feel!
During the best of my travel, I’d been happy, really happy, but never like this.
That feeling that I couldn’t quite put my finger on in Bali two weeks ago is back. And not only is it back, but it’s amplified by a gazillion. I feel so good in fact that I don’t even care if gazillion isn’t a real number, I don’t have time for facts or fact checking right now, I’m only interested in feelings, particularly this one.
Which at its surface is freedom. Freedom from the relentless pace I had been traveling at. Freedom from bills and deadlines and bosses, and freedom to roam about the earth in any direction I so please just like the breeze. But it’s so much more than just that, it’s complete and utter untethered liberation from everything this world has ever thrown at me.
The second the cruise I was on docked in Fremantle last week and I stepped onto Australian soil, everything inside me changed. That ray of light I felt poking through when I was with Dek outside the Elephant Cave was the beginning of something special.
To really explain its essence I have to tell you what’s been happening to me as I fall asleep each night. Ever since that day with Dek, just as I’m on the cusp of REM sleep each night I’ve subconsciously been calling out, “I just want inner peace.” I’ve been saying it so loud that I’ll actually startle myself and wake myself up. I’ll literally be a half a second away from hitting this wonderfully deep sleep and then this line will come yelping out of my mouth. It kind of reminds me of when our family dog Niko would bark in his sleep and wake himself up, he would have no idea what just happened and his cute little dog face would actually show a look of confusion.
At first I just ignored my bark for inner peace like Niko would, and I too would roll over and try to fall back asleep because who doesn’t want inner peace, but as it continued on night after night I decided to dig into it.
And what happened was this deeper need started to emerge, one that I hadn’t identified before, and every night my subconscious was pulling out all the stops to shed some light on it.
But it hasn’t been until right now, this very moment, that it’s all starting to come together and make sense.
And it’s hitting me like a ton of bricks.
After a left onto Hay Street I prop my bag up next to me and I wait at the Red CAT bus stop, which is a free public bus service within Perth’s city limits. I need to head west around Saint Mary’s Cathedral then a few blocks north to Northbridge, which is the cultural hub of the city. The hotel I’m staying and working at next is a luxury boutique that’s nestled between walls covered with incredibly cool street art and the State Theatre.
And maybe that’s where I should start to expand on this feeling. Not only are the hotels in Perth allowing me to stay for free, but this makes 4 in a row that are also paying me to stay with them. Now I still have to take photos of the rooms, lobbies, restaurants and pools in exchange for a room and it’s still very much a “shadow artist” kind of a job, but to be able to make a few hundred bucks each week for something that I’ve been doing for free for over a year and a half is a real breakthrough for me. Plus I’ve got more hotels lined up across Australia that have also agreed to let me stay for free and pay me, which means that by the end of the month I should turn my first real profit as a traveling photographer.
And so with the weight of the world off my shoulders for the time being when it comes to making money, I’m not so worried about my future, which in turn makes it easier to clean out other closets.
One of those closets is my past relationship. I’m happy to say that that closet is spotless and I’m no longer needing to focus any of my energy on it. Ever since that final soul-cleansing goodbye in a Thailand bathroom, there’s been no more checking of emails, hoping for signs or wishing for her to meet up with me. I’ve gone cold turkey since that day and I’m well and truly over her and ready to move on with my life. My heart is full and ready to love again and all the sadness that goes along with a hard break-up has been vacuumed out of me like a Hoover created a special attachment specifically for my heart. And here’s the kicker, because of it, I’ve been able to attract other women into my life for the first time in what feels like forever. In fact I even have a date tonight with a tall beautiful blonde Australian girl named Jess, and she’s taking me to a “footy” game.
So when I piece those two things together, I’m now free from the psychological grip my past relationship had on me and I’m unconcerned for what the future holds because I’ve got a pocket full of cash for the first time since I left for Africa. This leaves only one place to be. I’ve been sucked through that beautiful wormhole that’s known as the present. The thing that I’ve learned about being present is that’s where real, genuine gratitude and inner peace reside.
Eckhart Tolle wrote, “When you honor, acknowledge, and fully accept your present reality – where you are, who you are, what you are doing right now – when you fully accept what you have got, you are grateful for what you have got, grateful for what is, grateful for Being. Gratitude for the present moment and fullness of life now is true prosperity.”
And that’s exactly how I feel.
You know, maybe Perth itself has a lot to do with it too; I mean it’s not ranked the 7th best city in the world for no reason. Perth is a modern marvel and easy to get around, the people are friendly and I’m not soaked in sweat due to the humidity that seemed to blanket every nook and cranny I found myself in while in South East Asia this summer. I love Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore but having crossed them in jalopy-like buses, it’s nice to finally be in a city that moves like a well oiled machine.
Plus I can’t deny that it helps that everyone speaks English here, which is a welcomed relief as well. After nearly 8 months in Asia it really started taking its toll on me, never able to have a meaningful conversation or joke around with anyone because one of the first things that seems to get lost in translation is the subtle nuance of humor.
As a silver bus with green trim promptly pulls up and slides open its doors, it really starts to sink in. I’m back. I’m back to the old me, the real me.
Actually you know what?
I’m not back. Strike that from the record; just pretend I didn’t even say that.
I’ve grown, I’ve evolved as a human and I can feel the shift inside. My consciousness had been bumping its head on the glass ceiling above me for so long that it was actually begging me for peace, as I would fall asleep at night. I’d been a snake that couldn’t shed its skin.
I did what God asked me to do way back in Siberia and I trusted him, and in doing so I’ve dug deeper and deeper into the real me. As I lift up my bag and load it onto a bus for what might actually be the millionth time since I started this journey, my eyes start to well up with gratitude.
This deep, pure, overwhelming current of gratitude for every single moment of this journey takes over my body. It’s electric; I feel like if I reach out and touch something it might just cause a spark. It’s the kind of thing that makes someone say, “If I could bottle this feeling and sell it, I’d be a very rich man”.
This bus ride is different than all the others; this is the moment when one life ends and another one begins. Goose bumps pimple the skin on my arms and I finally shed the last bits of that ratty layer of skin that’s been clinging to me for far too long.
As I slip into my new skin maybe the most miraculous moment of my life happens. It is in this moment that I realize that no longer am I chasing my dream like a chicken with his head cut off, but I’m actually living it, right here, right now. I’m doing all the things I said I was going to do back when all this seemed so small and impossible.
The odds have been stacked against me since day one; a writer that can’t write, a photographer that didn’t own a camera, a world traveling wannabe that had miles of credit card debt, but yet here I am. Or should I say here we are, my dream and I still going strong, and now we’ve finally arrived at the only destination we’ve ever wanted to get to, the present.
And just then Nina Simone delivers the last verse, which is full of heart and soul, “Yeah, freedom is mine, and I know how I feel…It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, And I’m feelin’… goooooooooood.”