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Travel can be the best medicine

by Felicia Di Palma August 30, 2011

Recently, a string of problems started plaguing me.
I have had depression for 10 years. About a year ago, I started to attend counselling sessions at Concordia to deal with some of my experiences. When I began the counselling, my boyfriend at the time had his own demons to deal with. After dealing with his judgement long enough, I left him.
Less than two weeks after I broke up with him, I was mugged on my way home from school. One day, the jewellery store I worked at was robbed while I was on shift.
I had also been having regular bouts of flu, which turned out to be an obscure stomach disease.
By this point, many of my friends and family were worried about me. I was actually seeing the bright side to these events. As Eleanor Roosevelt said “A woman is like a tea bag — you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” I went through them and came out victorious.
I decided that since I was back to being myself and could handle dealing with my depression, a toxic relationship, a mugging, a robbery and now a stomach disease, I needed to follow my dreams. So, a month and a half after the robbery, I quit my job and took a solo trip to New Zealand and Australia for five weeks.
I landed in Auckland. New Zealand is a shade of green. Flying over the country, all you saw was green. It was like nothing I have ever experienced before.
On my way to Taupo and Wellington, I saw the volcano that was used as Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings.
I loved Wellington, where I tried 24 wines on a wine tasting tour. It was a fun party city. Thursday nights were ladies’ night. If men felt this was sexist and wanted to get in on the ladies’ night specials, they had to dress like women. I have never seen so many men in skirts and bras and still able to pick up ladies. I give them mad props.
From here, I went to Christchurch. One Indian cab driver told me how he used to call the city paradise before the earthquake that hit it last February. Now, he cannot say the same.
The city is still in ruins. The earthquake hit their central business district the worst. Only two streets lead to the centre of the damage. I saw firsthand how selective an earthquake is. A building would be completely in shambles while the one next door would be pristine.
It was time to say “kia ora,” which means “good health” in Maori, and G’day to my next stop: Australia.
I spent three days in the Cape Tribulation rainforest. My next stop was Cairns (pronounced Cannes), Australia. It would be here where I met some mates that I will never forget. On my first day in Cairns I decided to face my fears. Despite having never even been on a rollercoaster, I decided to go skydiving from 11,000 feet.
I signed my life away, and up I went. My tandem partner was Max, a gnarly man who has survived over 60,000 jumps. He told me how to position myself when my legs would be dangling from the edge of the plane.
The door opened and all I saw were clouds: big, fluffy clouds. They were so inviting and were basically asking to be jumped through. And then we fell…
Next day, I went snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. I had never been before and thought I
would just see some coral and fish. When I opened my eyes underwater, it was
like looking into a giant aquarium. The space between the top of the coral and the surface of the water was so sparse that I scraped my feet on them! I ruined Nemo’s home.
A general warning: if you are going to spend two nights on a racing sailboat, be ready to party and play some of the weirdest drinking games all night long, sleep in a room with 25 people and still have to wake up at 6 a.m. by two skippers.
Next up was Surfers’ Paradise — the Miami of Australia. Here I learned how to surf and how ladies’ night works in this city. Two buff, topless, Aussie boys are hired to do whatever the women want. You could put edible body paint on them, do body shots off them, etc. Also, women drink for free — all night long. This is sexism I could get on board with.
The downside is that it’s against Australian law to be drunk in a club. If you are tipsy or look like it you will be kicked out.
In Sydney, I challenged myself once more, deciding to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The structure is 134 meters high, 1,149 meters in length and it’s 1,437 steps — information we are not told before we sign our lives away and begin the climb.
I strapped myself in, thought, ‘If Oprah could do this, so can I.’ I climbed up four rows of ladders. Making it to the top, seeing all of Sydney, including the Opera House, the amusement park, the botanical garden and three weddings in progress, was so amazing that my mates and I broke out into a victory dance.
After staying in Sydney for five days, I headed to Melbourne (pronounced Melbin). Here, we
visited a chocolate factory, saw koalas again, wet on another wine tasting tour and finally, the piece de resistance: every night at sunset, hordes of foot-tall penguins escape from the ocean and waddle across the beach. The night I went there were over 800 of them.
My mate Nicole wanted me to plan our day in Australia. Since our first day, I would always watch and try to understand how Aussie Rules works. This game is a mix of football, rugby, soccer and street fighting. An indication of what a mess the game is: seven referees are required on the field.
After five weeks, it was definitely tough leaving behind new friends and a lifestyle to which I had became accustomed.
The road from rock bottom to New Zealand and Australia was lined with lessons learned. The one person we should never give up on is ourselves. My trip taught me just how independent and how quickly we could adapt to foreign surroundings. Test yourself, live your dreams, don’t dream your life.

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4 comments

Deana Trites August 30, 2011 - 10:59

Great reflection on your trip Phil! I also went to test myself and in turn learned so much. Restons en contact! Deana

Reply
Ian Fry September 2, 2011 - 13:54

Haven’t smiled so much since Australia while reading this. Good Work Phil, love it and miss you! Xx

Reply
nerongs April 14, 2012 - 03:30

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Deenasg April 19, 2012 - 04:07

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