Monday, January 27, 2014

My Incredible Experience of Travelling With No Money.

I went to Australia – by myself – for Christmas and New Year, to visit my family.

When I booked my ticket in October, I wasn’t sure we could really afford for me to have this trip, but it was my mum's 60th birthday party , and we had organized a party for her.

I began to eagerly list all the things I might do in Australia. I could spend time with my family, then spend the last week in Sydney, sourcing and packing a crate of supplies for our business, shopping and catching up with a couple of my friends! I could get a years supply of books to bring back with me (Imagine!).

But then the weeks flew by, our income trickled to a halt. So I began to compromise.

“I guess I don’t really need to hire a car in Sydney. I could take public transport…”

“ Oh well, I suppose I don’t have to spend that many days in Sydney…”

“ I’ll just have to forget about getting a crate of supplies. Maybe I can just purchase some extra luggage, and bring it back in my bag…”

During this time I was filled with an heavy sense of anxiety about having enough money for the trip. When I delved into my feelings, I had my first surprising insight.

Money is the crutch I’ve used to avoid facing my deepest, darkest fear

For all my adult life, I’ve been secretly afraid of being a nuisance to others. This fear has caused me to: not pursue friendships, discourage others from helping me, stay silent when given bad service, pretend I was ok when really I wasn’t...

Now, I realize the exact incident this stems from and I remember how unwanted I felt at the time (rightly or wrongly). I have done everything in my power to avoid ever feeling that way again, including always trying to pay my own way (thank you very much!), encouraging my friends to tell me their problems but not “burdening” them with my own..

I figured that if I’m so useful and give more than I ask for, then surely people will always want me around? Surely I won’t ever have to face that cold, lonely feeling of being unwanted ever again?

This was the real reason I was feeling so anxious about the trip. If I didn’t have money to pay my own way, contribute towards groceries etc…then I might become a nuisance – and that must be avoided at all costs!! 

The simple act of recognizing and acknowledging my fear was enough to release a lot of the anxiety.

Time sped by, money was tight, and then gradually, I had to begin letting go of my compromises, too. 

By some miracle, I’d managed to keep some money in our bank account. One day, I simply got out of bed and decided to take out the money to buy fruit and groceries for the family, and leave the rest with my husband to buy food while I was away.

With this decision, I finally released the very last hope I was clinging to – that I would have enough spending money to buy some clothes for the kids, and maybe some health foods to bring back with me.

The feeling of relief when I let go of that last desire was immense. I almost danced with joy. And therein was my second insight.

99% of the time our thoughts about a certain event/circumstance are worse than the actual event. Our anxiety/frustration/worry is simply caused by us wanting something other than what is.

When we let go of our desire for things to be different, the frustration/anxiety/annoyance disappears.

After that point, with only a week or two before flying out, I began to get really excited about my trip. After all, I hadn’t seen my family, or been back to Oz in almost a year. I began to see it as an adventure, a new experience, an opportunity to just "be me" without money (my safety crutch) and my children (my other safety crutches. It's amazing how you can avoid a.) starting up conversations, b.) looking awkward/lonely in the corner by yourself, or c.) meeting new fussing/being distracted over your children...)

During this time, I had an email from my friend Kylie Ofiu, who assured me that her experience of traveling with no money had been wonderful, that she was looked after at every turn and she got to do things that she would probably never have done if she’d had money.

This further confirmed my decision to see this as an exciting adventure, which I could simply allow to unfold before me, rather than trying to control every step along the way (my usual modus operandi).

This was to be my first time away from my 2yo daughter. I had worried over whether she’d be okay without me (even though she was surrounded by dad, brothers, aunties and nanna). I had worried that I’d be okay without her!

As per usual, the thinking about it was worse than the actual occasion. She cried when I left and I felt teary and awful. But as I sat in the departure lounge, I simply made up my mind that it would do me (or her) no good whatsoever to mope or fret. I would simply enjoy this time with my family, and when I came back, I would enjoy being back with my children again.
And so it was…

 I boarded that plane in the tropics, dressed in the coolest possible clothes and proceeded to shiver  my way across the Pacific. Who knew airplanes were such frigidly cold places???

I arrived at Sydney airport in the evening and headed to the ATM. We'd had a small amount of money come into our account, and I was relieved to see that I had almost $200AUD. 

Somehow I had to make it last 2 and a half weeks. At this point, I had given up all thought of buying clothes for the kids, and health foods. I set the money aside to buy my nieces and nephews Christmas presents for our family get-together, some food while traveling, and my train ticket back to Sydney, at the end of my holiday.

My family live in Central NSW, about 8 hours drive from Sydney. I had a train ticket to travel west, early the next morning. I’d decided in advance that I would simply bunker down for the night, somewhere in the airport (another adventure!). I was pretty sure I’d seen others doing this before.

I wandered around the shops for a while, delighting in looking at all the stuff. I spent an age in the book-shop, flicking through the books and reading bits and pieces. I decided that I just had to have a book to keep me company during a night spent in an airport.

So I decided to pick out a few that I liked, then buy whichever one was the cheapest.

The cheapest one turned out to be “E-Squared” by Pam Grout. Little did I know…It was a decision that would set the tone for my trip (and long afterwards too - I've just re-read it for the 4th time, I'm so enamored of it!).

Feeling pleased with my purchase, I wandered around some more, until my feeling pleased soon turned into feeling panicked when I realized that the shops were all closing, and there were no more flights leaving or arriving after 11pm.

Yes, friends, I had entirely forgotten to factor Sydney’s flight curfew into my plans.

Would I be kicked out of the airport then? Would I have to spend the night on the street somewhere? At this point, I may have been indulging in a few little “poor me” thoughts. One panicky phone call back to my husband later, which succeeded only in panicking my husband as well, I decided I’d better do something.

I was too nervous to ask one of the "official" looking people, so I approached the friendly girl who had served me at Vodafone earlier. 

She assured me that:
Yes, the airport does close from 11pm – 3am
No, you’re not meant to sleep in the airport, but….
Yes, people always do, and…
No, they won’t kick me out.

Phew! The adventure was back on again…

She pointed me around the corner near the restrooms, where there were some chairs, and a few back-packers already settled in for the night. I sidled into a chair, trying to look nonchalant and experienced at this sort of mildly subversive behavior.

I made myself comfortable, put my suitcase under my feet, and opened up my book. It was fascinating, but I soon became uncomfortably aware of the blast of cold night air that rushed in every time the big automatic doors opened and closed. (My singlet-top and sarong were hardly suitable..)

There were night workers on little tractors that beeped loudly, bringing in great loads of trolleys, workmen fixing lights…it was a wonder anyone slept through the noise, not to mention the fluorescent lights glaring down on us.

I rummaged through my suitcase for another sarong and wrapped this one around my shoulders in an attempt to keep warm. The chairs kept filling up, until there were about 30 – 35 of us. The seasoned back-packers were prepared, with beanies and fluffy socks and jackets.

I soon gave up all pretense of trying to look “nonchalant and experienced” as I began pulling items of clothing out of my suitcase and draping them around/over/under myself in an effort to stay warm. My feet were freezing. Why, oh why, had I not thought to pack even one measly pair of socks!

When my eyes began to feel too gritty, I’d lay my book down and try to have a little sleep. Unfortunately, we’re talking about upright chairs with metal armrests. Hardly sleeping material! With my small backpack lodged under my neck, and twisted at an angle, I managed to doze off a few times.

I should mention here, that I was booked to leave on the train quite early the next morning. In order to get to Central station on time, I’d need to leave the airport by just after 6am. If I missed my train, I would be stranded in Sydney, and it would take nearly all the money I had left to catch another train the following day.

Still, I didn't bother to set my alarm, since sleep thus far had been confined to light dozing for no longer than ten or fifteen minutes at a stretch.

At some point during the night, I decided to start the first experiment outlined in E-Squared. It was simply making a request that the existence of God, or the “universal energy field” be proven to me within the next 48hrs. Some simple, but undeniable, proof that a Higher Power was not only present, but listening...

Turns out, I didn’t have to wait very long. Sometime after 3:30am, I finally fell into a very deep, very exhausted, sleep. At long last, I “came to” with the sensation of something moving on my feet. Still, it took me a few minutes to realize I wasn’t dreaming, there really was something moving on my feet! I groggily opened my eyes and saw a girl on the chair opposite me. In her sleep, she had stretched out her legs, and rested her fluffy sock-clad feet on mine. While I reveled in the delicious sleepy feeling of warm feet, I suddenly realized with horror that it was daylight already!! I scrabbled around for my phone, and looked at the time. Ten minutes to six. Just enough time to go to the bathroom, have a quick wash and change of clothes, then head to the train. Phew!

It wasn’t until I was safely settled on my train, heading westwards, that I allowed myself to sit back and relax. And I got to thinking…If that girl hadn’t put her feet on mine…and if she hadn’t been fidgeting in her sleep at just that precise time and woken me…And then I realized. I’d gotten the sign I was looking for! Indeed, Some One was taking care of me.

The feeling of peace – of knowing that I was being cared for, no matter what my budget looked like – washed over me, and the remembrance of it stayed with me long after.

My mum and dad traveled an hour to meet me at the bus-station in a little country town. I went on to have the most loveliest of times, spent with my mum and dad, catching up with my brothers and their families, my Nanna and Grandad, and aunties and uncles, some visiting from interstate.

As impossible as it sounds, I began to notice that the things I had wished for (some new clothes, and health foods) started to manifest, in ways I never planned.

  •      I found a gift card in my handbag from last Christmas, which still had $28 on it. Enough to buy a few things in the post-Christmas sales.
  •        Two people cleaned out unwanted/too small clothes and gave them to me. One lot fitted my older son, the other lot fitted my younger son. 
  •     For my birthday, my mum gave me some money and I was able to buy some (much-needed) new underwear.
  •  My younger brother and his wife also gave me money for my birthday.
  • My other brother and his wife, offered to buy me a plane ticket back to Sydney for my birthday, which I gladly accepted.
  • My mum and I did a combined order of some health foods online, and when I tried to pay for my share, Mum gave the money back to me, so we used the money the following day for my birthday lunch and admission to the old motor museum.
  • My granddad wanted the whole family to go out for Chinese one evening. I prepared to use some of my birthday money to pay for my meal. My granddad insisted on paying for everyone.

At every turn, I was looked after and made to feel loved. It was one of the most exhilarating, and humbling experiences of my life.

On the last morning, my parents drove me to the airport. Before I boarded the plane, my mum handed me an envelope. When the plane was in the air, I opened it and found $300. I cried, and said a silent prayer of thanks, as I watched the brown paddocks and roads turn into miniature toys below me.

As we flew over the mountains, I thought to myself: “Hey, wouldn’t it be great to see a peace sign from up here?!” and immediately laughed at the ridiculousness of it. Turns out, God has a sense of humor, too...

Less than ten minutes later, as we flew over the market gardens of Western Sydney, I looked down and could hardly believe my eyes. A huge circular sprinkler had made a giant circle of greenery, in a dry brown paddock, and the tracks leading to the sprinkler in the center, created a perfect “peace” sign.

A few minutes later, as we flew over the inner suburbs, I glanced down and saw the word "Peace" scrawled in spray-paint across an urban parking lot.

I couldn't wipe the smile off my face.

It seemed a fitting finish to a holiday, where I had proven, over and over, the message from the front cover of E-Squared: Our thoughts create our reality.

I had 7 hours in Sydney before catching my plane to Tonga, so I stored my baggage and took a train out to a suburban mall.

 I was able to get clothes for all my family (including myself. A terribly exciting thing when you have basically lived out of the same suitcase of clothes for almost two years.), a couple of books, some nuts and dried fruit, some natural toothpaste (another terribly exciting thing, after brushing our teeth with water for over 3 months), before heading back to the airport.

I boarded the night flight to Tonga, where I arrived at 2am local time and my husband and babies were all waiting to meet me…

My babies were excited about the Christmas presents from Nanna and Grandpa, but I was excited about the lessons I was bringing back with me, to incorporate into my life.

When I find myself getting stressed or tensed over something, I remind myself of what I experienced. God is abundant. The Universe is always in a state of constant flow. If things are "stuck", or not working out, it's not's me, getting in the way, blocking the flow, trying desperately to force things to happen my way, when the Universe has already heard my wish and is trying to fulfill it in a way that I haven't yet dreamed of...

This feeling of energy and flow, has become a crucial indicator. When it's with me, I know I'm aligned with the Master Plan, and on the right track. When I'm "stuck", anxious or tense, I know it's time to re-think what I'm doing, release my need to be in control, and simply allow the next step to be revealed or manifested.

It all started out as a lesson about money, and turned into a life-changing, humbling lesson about that all-encompassing, all mighty, all knowing universal force that we know simply as: "God".

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