Mai hebogahisigu ida, Bamahuta (With sadness, goodbye)..

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde

On the 16th of May 2018 an iconic Papua New Guinean departed this world for the next on the very day of his birth. Moses Tau,or Moshanty as he was affectionately known to the nation of PNG, lived his life with no regrets and certainly breathed every word of Oscar Wilde’s quote right till the very end.

With a distinctive voice and tunes that latched onto listener’s brainwaves, Moses took to the stage, and graced our screens, with hits such as ‘Ito Paka Paka’, ‘Temarama’ and the all time favourite ‘Helalo Une’.

Ask many from our island nation and we will tell you that Moses is a national treasure. For those of us Papua New Guineans that live abroad ‘Helalo Une’ has become a regular at our independence day celebrations and on our “homesick” playlist. That voice and those lyrics tend to bring home that little bit more closer and ignite the inner “motuan” within us that some of us are not even by blood.

Moses was a superstar. His stardom reached every corner of our nation, even spreading across the Pacific and beyond; evident from the tributes that have been shared on all social media platforms. I have seen commentary from people in the Solomon Islands, Cook Islands and Fijian islands. Tributes have been given by members of all walks of life from Prime Ministers, to businessmen, and ordinary people like myself. The reach he had in our hearts transcended music. He represented PNG as a passionate ambassador at events such as the South Pacific Islands Pageant to the infamous Mardi Gras held annually in Sydney, Australia. He stood proud of being an advocate for unapologetically being himself, a voice for members of the LBGTI community.

Having met Moses on a few occasions, it is easy to understand the heartfelt tributes. With Moses or Moshanty I should say, you always felt like you had an instantaneous connection and had made a friend for life. One the few occasions I was fortunate to meet “Aunty Moshanty” as he had told me to call him, I usually left his presence with a smile or laughing uncontrollably at something he had said that was incredibly ridiculous yet HILLARIOUS. His zest for life and infectious humour touched many lives and I know for many he will always be “Aunty Moshanty” or “Mama Mou” as many have referred to him in the past few days.

In a country that is yet to join the world in decriminalising homosexuality and recognising the LGBTI community, Moses was a visionary. Certainly for me, as a young child growing up in PNG struggling with sexuality and gender issues. Moses put a face in the media that those of us “living in the shadows” could relate to.

His attendance at the 2000 Mardi Gras in Sydney was an eye opener for many in our country and one that stands out in my memory. We have a lot to thank him for because he started the conversations for the LGBTI community in our country. Before Moses, it was virtually unheard of for a Papua New Guinean to have attended the parade. I am certain that there were probably already a few who had attended from PNG, however none with such great sass and diva-ness as Moses had, attending the event as the “Queen of the Pacific” irrespective of the attacks made at him by the general public.

Moses in an interview with World News Australia held in 2012 spoke of his struggles with being gay in PNG, how difficult is was and his feelings toward matters affecting the LGBTI community. I can attest that it was not easy then and still is not easy today. An advocate for LGBTI rights, he stated that we are all just going about our lives trying to figure out what our message to the world is and what our story is. Moses certainly found his purpose and brought to the world his story with an incredible talent and voice. His music, and the effects his music had on the lives of many, show just how much of a force he was.

Moses loved PNG like no other and was a proud citizen. This love for his country and people can be seen in the interview mentioned above with World News Australia, where he spoke of how many in the LGBTI community with the means to, had left the country because of the discrimination they faced but, for Moses leaving PNG was just not an option:

“I can’t go. I love my country, this is my paradise”.

PNG has lost a gem that cannot be mined elsewhere and never again will our nation, nor the world, see anyone as talented, as entertaining, as humorous and as loving as Moses Tau.

Moses, you were a unique, beautiful and talented soul. You may have left this world but your legacy will live on forever through your music. You will always be part of PNG history.

Bamahuta Aunty Moshanty, we will miss you!

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The making of me..

 “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece about what it meant to grow up in the third world as a young gay boy. As raw and real as that was, much of myself was held back. I held back for fear of judgement from the wider community, of losing those nearest and dearest to me and perhaps the biggest of all because I was afraid to openly admit to myself that I have been living a lie. You see for some time now I have struggled with my identity which is the very core of who I am and which has been causing me to drown in a pool of my own thoughts and emotions.

If we are to find ourselves (yes as corny as that sounds), we have to learn to embrace every aspect of our lives whether we are skinny, fat, tall, short, black, white, gay, straight or anywhere on what I now know is a broad spectrum of gender. I am learning to accept myself for who I am because I am enough. All you ever need to be is enough for yourself. Not your mother, not your father, not your best friend, not what society says, not anyone but YOURSELF. It is for this reason that I write this, coming to you baring my vulnerability and asking you to have an open mind as I share with you my story.

You see, the honest truth of it all is this – I may have been born Jason Vueti Naua, in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea 30 years ago and assigned male at birth but I have never felt at home in my own skin. Born with the anatomy of a male, it has never felt relatable and I have always known that I was…. correction – I AM a female. I am different and a member of the broader community who are known as transgender people.

So, what is this word – transgender and what does it mean to me? If you look up the word transgender, my old mate google defines it as relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex. In my experience during these 30 years on earth, this feeling of not relating is how I have felt. My personal identity has never matched the male gender marker on my birth certificate and I never really knew why but I have come to know now.

Life isn’t supposed to be easy but it sure as hell isn’t supposed to be as hard either. When you are born your life is planned out for you by society. Society says go to all the right schools, get good grades, graduate, hold down a well-paying job, find that significant other, put a ring on it and maybe pop out a child or two. This was never going to be my path and I have gone against the grain in every way possible defying what my little world had told me was planned out for me. I knew from as early as 3 or 4 years of age when instinct told me that I was everything but your average little boy. While boys in my age group were off playing video games or cops and robbers, I was content to sit pretty with the girls, playing dressups, parading our barbies and pouring pretend cups of tea. It’s a feeling that is hard to describe because nobody ever told me I was anything other than a boy yet I never related to anything male specific. Deep within I always knew I was a girl yet I learned never to vocalise this because as I got older, I was constantly told that I was not behaving in the way that was expected of a boy. I didn’t play sport, in fact I detested it and would often be at home in the library reading about far off places and of magical things. I swished and swayed when I walked as though I was on an imaginary catwalk in Milan, crossed my legs as every good girl does and could be found right at home amongst any group of girls. As I write this, I am reminded of an incident that now looking back on was definitely a tell-tale sign of my “trans-ness”, It must have been about the time that I was in year 5 and desperately wanting to look like my friends (the other girls), so had shaved my eyebrows at a failed attempt of shaping them to become more feminine. Oh, the trouble that I caused myself.. boy was that another kind of drama altogether. Naturally, that scarred me for life and in my adult years I have always ensured that my brows are always perfectly manicured. Heaven forbid, there should be a repeat of that incident – I would have to pack up shop, move to Antarctica, build an igloo and become a recluse. Say what you will but honey child, brows are EVERYTHING!

The signs have always been there now that I look back on the past. I recall the dreaded haircuts and the tears that would flow down my cheeks as the clippers were applied to my scalp. I missed out on all the things that girls go through and I mourned those losses. When all the girls were getting pierced ears, or were sending notes to the boys they liked, I was the in-betweener that went from the girl’s camp to the boys to pass a message. What kept me going was believing that that one day I would be the object of desire. Maybe one day by some strange miracle a boy would send me a message saying he wanted to meet me after school. Or maybe one day I would grow my hair out and finally be the girl that a boy asked after. All of these “one-day” assumptions never came to fruition and it made me sceptical and afraid to share my heart with anyone. This naiveness of these one day assumptions stems from the fact that when you are a child you don’t see any barriers to gender or identity. It doesn’t define you.

As I got older my close friends blossomed into women. All the while, I longed to have their bodies. I remember squeezing my chest together telling myself that maybe if I willed myself to, I would develop breasts. I don’t know where I had read or heard that but I know my thought process was that if I just believed and trusted that I was growing breasts that maybe they would just come. Sadly, the universe does not work in those ways and we can’t just will ourselves to develop into the person we’ve always dreamed we are. These memories have been stored deep in the vault of my mind that they only came to the forefront as I sat down to write this. Walking down memory lane is never easy and it awakens the emotions that lay dormant for so long. I was never happy and I am not happy living this life as a male.

As mentioned above, earlier this year I wrote a post about growing up gay in the third world. By automatic assumption I was gay purely because of my attraction to men which didn’t sit right with me but still I didn’t know any better so it was a label I took to wearing. In the 90s there was no language, no terminology for those that identified differently to the sex that they were assigned at birth. This is slowly changing and in a world that is constantly revolving, I recall the pivotal moment I considered the possibility that I was trans. A friend basically clocked me, she asked me outright if I had ever thought I was trans. Afraid of what this would mean, I brushed her question off and moved on with my day but the question tugged at me. It was almost as if I had a nagging child in my conscience, picking at my short and not letting me rest. Her question had unnerved me. With this playing in my mind, I made a conscious decision to research the topic. I didn’t know anything at all about it so naturally I read online as much as I could whenever there was a moment to spare. Through this self-education I came to share in the online experiences and writings of Trans women from all around the world. Each of their stories had commonalities and there were threads from their lives that wove quite easily into mine. As a Trans person you feel all alone in this world so to know that there are others just like you is comforting and a reminder that you are not alone on this journey. Many have come before you and many will continue to come. As they say, when you know better, you do better so educating myself on the issues of Trans women cemented my belief that I was and I am Trans.

Coming to the above conclusion, I sought professional help around the issue. If you are Trans, consulting a professional counsellor/ psychologist is the best way to go. Without going in to a great deal of detail, I began seeing a Gender Counsellor on a regular basis at the Gender Centre in Sydney. From those sessions, I accepted wholeheartedly my Trans-ness and those sessions became a large part of shaping the woman that I am today. My whole world was changed and for the first time I didn’t worry about judgement because I knew with certainty that I had to be my most authentic self!

Life as a trans woman isn’t going to be easy and coming out of the closet for the second time is going to mean that a lot of my friends and family drop off. I know this to be true. Stressing about it for a long time, has meant that people haven’t gotten to see the true me but I have found that for every person that drops off there will be someone new to prop me up. One thing you learn in life is this – we create our own family as we go through life. You are born with your biological relatives but they won’t necessarily always be your family. Should you have a few close people that you can count on one hand then you my dear are blessed with enough armour to go out into the world! They are your family!

My recent 30th birthday sparked the need to come out and live my life embracing my Trans-ness.. I was a diva in heels to celebrate the beginning of the 30’s chapter and I’ve never been happier and more at home in my own skin. In the lead, up to the big day and the week before when I was ordering my heels and outfit online, just entering the credit card details for the payment had me feeling as though I had won the lotto. There are no words to describe how it feels to walk into a room feeling every bit like the woman that you know yourself to be. My make-up was done professionally, my closest sisters/besties surrounded me and I had more than enough armour to head into Sydney city dressed in what can only be described as a “short and skimpy” playsuit. The 2nd of September 2017 was easily the happiest night of my life and for no other reason than the fact that I was the truest version of myself without any shame or disheartenment. Having a house full of 11 of my close girlfriends, it felt like a milestone event and was referred to as the hen’s night before my wedding. I’m even sure many of the girls thought of me as bridezilla, with my strict black and white dress code that needed to be adhered to 😛

Throughout this post there has been mention of my “truth” and I have chosen to refer to it as such because life is too short to spend it living someone else’s life. You have to live your own truth. For 30 years I’ve been trying to please all those around me and live for them without offending or embarrassing anyone. In the process, I buried part of myself but it’s time that the world sees who I am. Our greatest gift is what we have to offer the world and our whole self is what we have to offer. Not some side-lined version of who people think we should be but our WHOLE individual being.

Writing this post, I realise that many in the land of my birth will reject my story, curse at me and play down what it means to be Transgender. How do I know this? From years of being the slightest bit different and from being labelled as “gay” or “geligeli” (girly girly).  People are afraid of change and of what this will mean for them, but ultimately someone living their truth has nothing to do with these Neanderthals and their ideology of what men and women should live like. Being trans is not even talked about and won’t be anytime soon because being gay is already hugely frowned upon. Straight/heterosexual and gender conforming people are the preferred lifestyle choice with a very small minority who are willing to come forward and proudly be themselves. In PNG I am certain many who probably identify as gay are actually Trans like me and just don’t have the language or the support. I certainly didn’t but I have been privileged to have gained exposure to the outside world and to resources that educate me. My hope is that in sharing my story that a light is shed on this issue and it teaches others that trans lives matter, trans people are not diseased or mentally ill, we are everyday people just like anyone else. I was born trans and it isn’t something that I can easily change at the click of a button. What would you do if your child, your sibling, or your best friend was trans? Would you love them any less? Does being different make them any less of a person? No, it does not. Trans women and men can come from all walks of life and all corners of the globe. A greater understanding and appreciation that we are all unique citizens of the globe needs to be shared amongst the world.

We are continually told that we can do anything we put our mind to doing and that we can be whoever we want to be. I am a woman. I choose to be a woman. And while I may not have been born a biological woman, I no longer wish to put on a mask and live a life that is not mine.

5 things nobody ever tells you about moving abroad

We exist in a world that is constantly changing. What used to be normal for our parents and grandparents in their heyday was to get a well-paying job, settle down with the right person and raise a few offspring. The new right of passage for young people growing into adulthood is to experience the world. Many are choosing to fly off to far-off countries and often to live in these places long-term.

There are many benefits of living the dream abroad which far outweigh the downsides, but what nobody ever tells you about is that when you live overseas, there are a rollercoaster of emotions that come with the territory.

(1) It isn’t as easy as it seems.

Let’s just say the movies lied and it’s not as easy as they make it out to be. You can’t just embark on an eat, pray, love journey tomorrow. First things first, you need money to do that, something that many of us are still trying to scrap together.  So as much as I dream of being able to pull an “Elizabeth Gilbert” and hop off to Italy to indulge in pizza, pasta, red wine and have a hot affair with a gorgeous Italian man – it is not that easy.. Trust me, if it were, I would be writing this post from the courtyard of an 18th century Italian villa with my beautiful fiancé “Marcello” *Sigh*.

Anyway, I digress but the fact of the matter is this, there is a lot of red tape surrounding moving overseas. Especially when you don’t have one of those sought after passports that allows entry to almost every country in the world. You need to be able to patient in order to navigate the processes of obtaining visas, booking affordable flights and then finding a place to live and a job to sustain you. My advice is – research and plan as much as you can and this will get you through all the red tape.

(2) No matter how much you may want to get out of your hometown, you will miss it.

As long as I can remember I wanted to move abroad, it’s been a dream of mine to get out of my hometown and to see the world. What you realise when you leave your home is this – you end up missing the people who do life with you. Your circle of friends, your siblings, your parents and even that one annoying work colleague that gets drunk and makes a nuisance of themselves at work functions. Ok so maybe you won’t miss that drunken mess of a person but you get what I mean.

These are the people who are no longer just around the corner if you want to grab a bite to eat or even for a quick coffee catch up. Gone are the usual Saturday brunches with friends at your local cafe or the late night Friday drinks that usually start with someone inviting you out for “just one drink”.

And as much as you endeavour to keep in touch with people, the truth of the matter is with distance and time matter, you will undoubtedly drift apart from a few people. You will lose friends and those who you used to speak to on a daily basis, will become those that you once were close with but now are no longer.

Something to look forward to though, is that you will make new friends. Making new friends is one of those “this-I-know-for-sure” moments as my life coach, Oprah calls them. No matter where you go, if you keep an open mind and are open to new experiences, you will meet people who make you believe that there is life after love.. Ok failed attempt at trying to use Cher lyrics in this but anyhow just don’t be a prickly savage and you’ll soon make lots of new friends 🙂

(3) You will feel alone sometimes and that’s ok.

Nobody ever tells you that when you move abroad on your own, occasionally you will feel alone. Trust me, this is going to happen and no matter how many new friends you make or how busy you try to keep yourself, at the end of the day you will come home and feel completely alone.

When you get this way, all you can do is acknowledge it and use a few coping mechanisms. Start a weekly call with a close friend, a sibling or your parents or maybe even play a few upbeat tunes that will raise your spirits. The key to not feeling alone is reaching out to your loved ones and realising that with the wonders of video calls, your loved ones are only a few seconds away. It’s not the same thing as physically being around someone but it helps so much just to be able to video call someone.

(4) You have to get good at keeping in touch.

I briefly suggested having a weekly call with a friend or family member. Whether you do this or send a weekly email you will need to do this for those people who you want to actively keep in touch with. By actively, I mean that you will need to consciously make an effort to reach out to them. The same with any other relationship, you will need to put in the work to make sure you maintain that closeness. This can mean creating a Skype account (if you don’t already have one, then honey child you are a lost cause), getting technology that enables you to video call, voice note, e.g. iPhones, WhatsApp groups for family and friends, etc. Find what works for you and stick with it but don’t lose touch with those who you need in your life.

Now I’m not going to lie, there will be times when people are busy or unable to put in as much of an effort as you do but keep at it and try to be flexible.

(5) You will experience personal growth and it will be the best thing to happen to you ever.

Moving abroad whether temporarily or long-term will be one of the best things that you ever do in your life. The life experience that you get and carry with you for the rest of your life is something money can’t buy. You’ll learn to be independent, to be open-minded and best of all the culture that you will experience and the people you will meet.

Living abroad is certainly not an easy thing to do but it is damn worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears. Ok so maybe not blood but I guess I mean it’s worth the effort you have gone to in order to move abroad. Take a leap of faith and whether you move overseas for work, travel, or a relationship remember that this is an adventure and has the ability to push you to your limits and take you in directions that you never conceived for yourself before.

I leave you with an excerpt from a poem by Dr. Seuss that seems fitting:

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Till next time,

xoxo

Jase

 

Consciousness of the present

Hola Amigos,

It’s been forever and a day since my last blog post and since then I’ve gone through a few changes. I quit my job, uncluttered my belongings, packed up what little I had left, moved countries and started a new job and life.

So, yes I guess you could say that a lot has happened.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post. I was about to head to bed last night and out of nowhere it hit me that these are the last few days and months of my twenties. There I was tucked in bed comfortably and coming to the realisation that I was about to turn 30 and I hadn’t done anything special or out of the ordinary. I’m not talking about saving the planet or changing the world but what I mean is that I hadn’t done anything to feel fulfilled. Much of my down time is spent perusing the aisles of Kmart, engaging in friendly banter with loved ones and indulging in fast food that is only adding to that islander behind and those thunder thighs. Surely there is more to life than this? Surely we should be trying to live a life that when we die we can say we’ve lived as best as we could’ve.

I guess you could say I had an epiphany. Yes, let’s call it that. A mini-one at least. 30 was fast approaching. I wasn’t scared, I was just left wondering if life was supposed to be like this? Even with a new chapter starting, I was starting to slip back into routine. Routine is always good in the sense that it helps you settle in after a change but does it allow for anything new to come into your life? No.

Routine also means that we get caught up in life and neglect to notice that another day/month/year has passed us by. We don’t realise that our kids have gotten older, our house larger, our jobs become more mundane and maybe that we’ve even put on a “few” kilos. We settle in the day-to-day of it all and each morning commute to the jobs that pay the bills, work hard for five days a week and then spend our weekends or holidays eating delectable cuisine or sloppy fast food, drinking one too many glasses of an alcoholic beverage and lying on some leather covered chair or other resembling a beached-whale.

Starting over in a new country, although only a week, I came to acknowledge that the reason I was finding myself stressed and sad was because I was spending every waking moment in the past and all that I had left behind.  My friends, my car, my gym (barely used), my favourite restaurant, etc. It was becoming apparent that yes these things had mattered, most of them still do but this time the Universe had given me a blank canvas and a new adventure which I need to keep reminding myself of. Lord knows it won’t be easy and I’m sure to fall off that wagon more than once but it’s time to start living in the here and now.

I’ve become carried away and begun rambling but the message I wanted to get across is this: it’s time we all started looking up from our desks, so to speak and to start living our lives in the present moment. Perhaps even becoming more daring and adventurous along the way. Anything you’ve ever lacked the courage to do, go out and do – live in the present moment and appreciate it because if you’re constantly looking to the past or anticipating the future you will miss the most important things in life that are happening right now. Obviously I’m not saying that you should go out and buy those expensive shoes you’ve always wanted or that Mercedes Benz because you feel like you deserve it. Because you don’t deserve it. We really don’t. As a matter of fact, you haven’t earned it. Why, you ask? because you aren’t working through the present moments to earn any of that. Material possessions which by the way, we are constantly filling our lives with and mistaking the gratification of purchasing these items as fulfilment of life. Trust me, we all are guilty of this, heck I just did this yesterday when I was walking around Kmart. Again I stray off point.

So what does this mean? It means we should start doing the things we’ve always had on the backburner. Go on a road trip, meet someone new, take that dance class, run that marathon, write that blog – just do something right now that you don’t have to have millions in order to do.  Life is short and you only have to look around you at our lived ones that left this world to realise that.

In my case, I’m going to start appreciating the present moment by trying to be conscious and to live in the here and now. Most people make a list of 30 things that they have to do by the time they turn 30 but I am going to do something different. I’m making a list of a bunch of things. It won’t necessarily be 30 and I’ll try and cross off as many I as can in the lead up to the day. I should add that I’m not going to actively plan any of these things either and it’s all about letting the universe bring these activities my way. How many will get ticked off will be interesting to see. Maybe it’ll be 1, maybe 2 but I figure this whole experience will teach me to be more grateful and conscious of life’s blessings. So if you have any suggestions of realistic things that I can add to my list, you’re more than welcome to comment or message me. Although please keep your suggestions sensible because I’m not about to go jumping out of a plane… or am I? stay tuned to find out.

I leave you with a quote from an author that has changed the world, C.S Lewis: “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again”.

Are you old enough now Cinderella? 😉

Love and light always,

xoxo

Jase

Growing up Gay in the third world

I was born in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG) on the 4th of September 1987. I am proud of my heritage and culture but this is a story of growing up different; of coming into my own and learning to live in a country where society tells you that your very existence is immoral and unnatural.

You see, I am gay. I knew this from a young age and have always known it, even though the road to self-acceptance has been a struggle.  There have been many positives from growing up gay, the people on my journey who made it more bearable and showered life and laughter into my heart, but for the most part, the journey was a constant struggle to stay afloat.

The early years:

In my early years, I didn’t know any different and I suppose this is not unique to PNG because I’ve read and heard similar stories from gay people around the world. I grew up going to a good school with children from all walks of life and from around the world. I gravitated to the girls more and in this little world of mine, there were no issues with playing with girls and chasing the boys around the playground. However, as I got older it became apparent that this did not fit into the reality of what Papua New Guinean society considers to be “normal.” While the other boys became interested in sports and in hanging out with each other discussing cartoons and video games, I was content to be “one of the girls” playing with dolls and catching up on the latest soap opera.

Somehow at this young age, it was taught to me that this was “wrong” because I began to feel guilty for being who I am. I lived two different lives as a result.

(1) At school I was allowed to be who I wanted to be, with teachers never correcting my feminine ways; and

(2) At home, where I had to be a “normal” boy and not be so flamboyant.

Needless to say, I was always very happy to be going to school and to spend time there. School became my refuge and every day I looked forward to it. When the weekends rolled around, I was that weird kid eagerly awaiting Monday mornings.

When I reflect on the early years of my life, I realise that they were the years that life was easiest and I believe most probably because people think that you are going to grow out of that “phase” so there is no hassle to be anything other than who you are at that point in time.

I was in 6th grade when I knew with certainty that I liked boys. So naturally what does one do when they have a crush on someone? They confess their “love” interest to their best friend. Big mistake and there obviously needs to be a different rule book for gay people because this is clearly not what you should do. At least this is what I felt back then. After admitting my first crush to my best friend, I was ridiculed and ostracised by both the boys and girls. I instantly regretted those few minutes of confession because the boy I liked was then made fun of and it was made evident by his friends and mine that there would never be anything between us. He liked girls and I frankly was not one.

Childhood friends are supposed to be the ones that have your back for life but I think I lost a lot of my friends in such a short space of time.  I was told that I shouldn’t like a boy and that it was wrong. Kids can be quite mean without realising the impact they have on you. Having people treat you like you have a contagious disease, to refuse to touch things that you have touched or calling you names stays with you for a very long time. I recall it now to this day and as much as I’ve moved on I remember the hurt it caused me and how easy it is that tears fall freely even after all this time. But what was so wrong with me? Why was I born this way? The questions you start to ask yourself are deep and daunting.  It is really hard to tell a child that who they are is WRONG and immoral. My bubble had officially burst.

High school

High school was some of the toughest years of my life. Being young, with hormones and going through the motions is hard enough on its own, but to do it all while you are learning more about being gay added another level of complexity to my adolescent life. In addition to that I changed schools, and boys taunted and teased me more, I got bullied a lot, which made me feel like each day of my life in high school was a daily battle. In Papua New Guinea, young boys are constantly fed with garbage for their egos of what a real man is supposed to be. This was something that I am glad I did not grow up believing or being taught but I did have to put up with this nonsense from the boys in my peer group.

“Who’s that girl” a song by Eve became a regular theme song for me whenever I walked past a particular group of Papua New Guinean boys every lunch time. It got to a stage where I started going the long way around just to avoid the teasing. Funnily enough they were all stronger in groups and would say what they wanted but individually would never utter a single word or say so much as a hello. Also weirdly notable was that whilst the expatriate boys were obviously uncomfortable with my sexuality (by not being any more friendly than polite), they never once made taunting or teasing comments.

One of the hardest things in high school was the day I was physically assaulted – A busted up lip, pushed back teeth and a black eye. No, this was not because I had got in a fight or caused trouble. This was because I had done the right thing. I remember the day clearly as though it was just yesterday. It was study period in the library and I sat alongside my friends in a group not really doing much studying but instead chatting about our mundane lives. From memory we had not been sat there for very long when we noticed a drunk and disorderly student causing a nuisance. Being the senior students and goody-two-shoes, two of my friends and I set off for the office to report this. What happened next was that the student was removed from the library and suspended from school. In the process of removal however, he had made his way back into the library, and tipped off by god knows who that I had reported him, came directly up to me from behind and began assaulting me. This was a moment of truth for me on what a lot of people thought of me. The reason I bring this incident up is because it irks my soul that Papua New Guinean men will not intervene when gay men are being assaulted. There have been many times that I can recall witnessing and experiencing situations where straight men stand idly by and spectate instead of standing up for injustices done for the disenfranchised.  The two young men sitting at the same table as I was, stood by and did nothing. Not one thing to help me. It was my friend, a girl that came to my defence by pulling my attacker off of me. I will never forget that day or what she did for me. I have seen recent videos and read stories of gay men being beaten, sometimes to death in PNG, and it makes me think back to my own incident and question why there aren’t enough straight men willing to speak up, stand up and say something for their gay brothers?!

University

If I thought High school was hard, University (uni) was something else altogether. I had attended private schools my entire schooling life, primary and high school, where my peers had at least been exposed to the outside world of MTV, George Michael, Elton John, etc. I would not say they were gay advocates but they were tolerant to a certain extent. At least that was my hope and reasoning for having experienced somewhat of a tolerant behaviour from my grade school peers. All of a sudden I was in a public university with people that had come from rural areas and did not take a liking to me. Rumours and threats of random men I had never even met wanting to assault me, for no real reason other than by me simply walking past them, would constantly come back to me. Each time, I would question how these men were affected by my existence? How did me walking through a public forum warrant me being threatened?

Going to the male toilets, walking campus after hours and using public transport were some of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I took to using a bathroom reserved for lecturers that was rarely used and would often ensure that I wasn’t on campus on a Friday when many male students saw fit to wander the campus intoxicated. Many a times, I feared for my safety, particularly when using public transport to and from uni. I recall one day being followed by a seemingly straight man from the bus stop and down my street, with constant wolf calling and sexual remarks. On the way, we passed many who chose to ignore the situation. I recall this incident most because the constant what-ifs bother me; if he had decided to pull a knife on me and drag me down a nearby drain or into some bushes I don’t know what would have happened.

Every morning on my way to and from the bus stop to uni, I would pass a service station where the male attendants would taunt and tease me. A common remark would be “Sister, how are you?” or “Sister yu naispla ya” (Sister, you’re so nice). What had I done to warrant this? NOTHING! And as much as I tried to walk a straight walk and to keep my hands by my sides, I was not able to hide my identity.

Ironic though, is the fact that two straight men in PNG can walk down a street holding hands and this is not in any way deemed homosexual or immoral?!

I made it through university with the support of some pretty amazing friends. Friends that drove me to and from uni many times, friends that sat with me when I could not go into the girls’ dorms and because I had nowhere else I could be and even walked me to and from the bus stop. To those people, I thank you, if it weren’t for you so much of uni would have been unbearable.

 Building a career

One of the greatest things about the end of uni, was the beginning of a career. I started work in a bank on a graduate program and once again whilst it was predominantly straight male dominated, I managed to hold my own. The thing about being gay in Papua New Guinea is that people do not expect you to be anyone or do anything. People expect gay men to be the cliché feminine gay male who lives in a village and lives a less than average life getting by with help from their family and any man willing to pay them for sex. Why? Because society does not give gay men the opportunities to thrive and so they take a backseat in life. I am fortunate to have an education, which is my foundation for success, and to have been taught from a young age that I could do whatever I wanted to do. I also became quite vocal when I left university and became quite outspoken.  It hadn’t served me well in my earlier years as I had always wanted to keep a low profile and just get by but I realised when I started my first job that I would need to speak up or else risk letting people walk all over me in the process.

My first job turned out to be a great learning curve and I made so many friends in that first year. I believe working with people that were all older than me was a big factor of why this job worked for me. I was the youngest in the office and they were all more experienced in life so a gay employee was the least of their worries. Yes, I would have the occasional douchebag that I would encounter but I had thick enough skin by then to ignore it. I say ignore it because if there’s anything I’ve learned it is this – you must pick your battles. When something is going against you, of course you should speak up but if someone is just aiming to belittle you or attack you then most times it is best to walk away.

Moving on to my next job was a different experience. I had joined a firm that was globally recognised and I expected no drama and to be treated as equal as any of the other employees. I would not stand out as much and if I did, surely this was a global firm where people knew that they needed to accept everyone was different.  Result – for the most part, I could hold my own however, I came to find out through a male colleague much later, after getting to know me, that it was a running joke when I had first started that any of the males I spoke to I was “hitting” on. My response to that: “Puh-lease they weren’t my type and not even blips on my radar”. One thing that I know from discussions with my gay friends is that straight men have an ego that they are fed with bullshit about gay men wanting to turn them and jump into bed with them. Umm Honey, you might want to check yourself before you wreck yourself!

Growing into my own

So life went on, I gained a circle of close friends, got into the social scene and spent my early twenties sipping cocktails and dancing in clubs until 4am. Who doesn’t right? As usual though it was with “my girls” and the only men that were ever interested were never willing to publicly express their interest. This is why so much of the gay scene in PNG is underground and secretive.

With getting into the scene comes the late-night driving, the trips to the clubs and excursions around Port Moresby – a city that’s severely unsafe for anyone but particularly for gay men and for women. If you aren’t worried about your safety from criminals, you are hoping and praying that the minority of corrupt law enforcement officials aren’t going to find some reason to single you out. I remember, every time I would have to pull over at a road block, hoping and praying that the officer wouldn’t hold my gayness against me. Many a time, they would pull me over, look at my license for the longest time and question me about where I was going or who’s car I was driving?! On one night that stands out, I pulled up to a roadblock (what we call a standard random police road check) and the officer approached my window asking me to roll down the window. He had a large gun in his hand and while this was a routine roadblock with other cars being pulled over, I had a nagging feeling something would not go well. After rolling down the window a short distance and handing him my license, I recall being asked where I was headed to which I replied home. He walked around my car, shined his torch in the windows and then handed me back my license. Phew what a relief right? Uh-uh as I drove off and before I could wind up the window, he called out “Ok sexy, goodnight.” Any other country, I would have filed a complaint and given him my two cents worth but in this case my window was up and I was well on my way. The fact that an officer had the nerve to say this to me?! Had it been a straight man, would he have been called “sexy” in a derogatory way????? NO!

I have many a tale from Papua New Guinea of the troubles of being a gay man but I feel the turning point in which I knew I needed to leave the country was the night I was stabbed during a carjacking. On my way to an event, I turned onto an empty street only to have a man with a gun step onto the street from out of nowhere. I panicked and went into reverse but ran into a car that I did not know was behind me. Deciding it was best to leave the car, I got out to run leaving all my belongings in the vehicle. What happened in the process was the carjacker came up to me and stabbed me in the process of me running away. The actual stabbing details I do not remember. I just remember pushing someone away and running for my life. It wasn’t until a few minutes later at a nearby friend’s house that I was informed that I needed to be taken to the emergency room. Again, people had come to my rescue. When you feel like your life is being threatened you really do think about what it means to be alive and of everyone that’s important. I’ll never forget the support that I received after the incident and it was once again my girls that pulled me through.

Whether or not I was stabbed because I was gay remains to be determined. My attackers could have been high on drugs or just angry at the world but I personally feel that this was a hate crime and that had he not realised I was gay, he would have just taken the car without any hesitation.

Experiencing the world 

Leaving PNG has been one of the hardest things in the world yet one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. You leave behind the friends you’ve made, the family that’s been your backbone and you start at zero. Moving to Australia has opened so many doors for me, I have been able to openly express myself and to dress the way I want to and talk or walk the way I want to. I can walk down the street swishing and swaying like I’m on a catwalk in Milan and not an eyelid is batted. In the workplace, there are LGBT rights and support groups and nobody ever crosses the line. I also feel safe walking down a street and know that I’m not going to get singled out and if I do that there will be people to speak up against it. Yes, there is the occasional idiot but for the most part it’s an open and accepting world out here. I’ve also had the opportunity to travel further than Australia to see the world (Thailand, Italy, UK, USA, France, Germany, and more) and in each of the countries, I have seen just how accepted LGBT people are.

Coming from a country that would frown upon two men kissing in the street, it was a shock at first but now something I, myself, look forward to doing one day with my partner. Why should I have to hide public displays of affection and what rule says I can’t have a husband and five children. Ok so maybe not five children, but you get the idea!

As a result of moving away and growing into my own skin, I have been able to fully come out to my family. Their immediate reaction not one of shock or disbelief but more of an “about time” response. Since then I’ve received an overwhelming sense of support and I think that it would have been a very different story had they decided not to accept it. The fact of the matter is, they knew me from day one and this wasn’t something I just woke up and decided one day. Nothing about me has changed, I am just more open about who I am.

Papua New Guinea will always be home for me and while it was hard growing up as a gay man there it taught me many valuable life lessons. There are a multitude of issues that need to be considered and rights fought for. Homosexuality need not be taboo, the conversations need to happen and this needs to start with more education about what gender is, sexual orientation is, and awareness on why it’s ok to be gay/lesbian/bi/transgender. This has to begin with same sex acts being decriminalised.

“Gay rights are human rights” – Hillary Clinton

Somewhere out there is a young man or woman struggling to come to terms with their gender or sexuality and this blog post is for those people. There is an overwhelming sense of support for so many worthy causes such as cancer cure research, HIV cure research but what about this issue? Isn’t it just as worthy as any other? Think about it Papua New Guinea, you all know someone in your family or life who is gay. How have they impacted your life? We are just everyday people, we are human just like you are, existing in this world so why should we not have the same rights as you?

Highlights of the Eu Discovery

Buongiorno 🙂

Ok so travel bug update.. For those of you who know me well, you’ll know that I’ve recently taken a liking to travelling solo. Now I can see you reading this, shaking your head and thinking that solo travel is not for you but trust me once you get a taste of what it’s like you’ll be planning trips as though you’ve got millions of dollars in the bank.

The trip that I am about to describe was the result of a random Saturday in December 2015. It was too hot to be outdoors and for lack of cooler options, I did the only logical thing to do and headed to the nearest air conditioned shopping mall. You know that old saying: “You should never shop when you’re hungry”? Well…. I am proof that you should never go to a shop when you’re hot  because the heat exhaustion will make you do crazy things. Things such as booking trips to places on a whim.. At least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway to cut a long story short that was the day that I booked the “European Discovery” Contiki Tour. Fast forward one year later and I was embarking on what I would soon find to be the trip of a lifetime. Ok that’s a pretty  big call for me to make but what can I say, it turned out to be a trip I’ll never forget. I mean, I’ve been home for almost 2 weeks now and the Post Trip Depression (PTD) is yet to subside. I would say the jet lag had a lot to do with that in the first week back but now my soul is wanting to press reply and take me back to people and places from the trip. This is clearly not going to subside anytime soon.

So here we go, a quick snapshot of my whirlwind trip which started in Guangzhou, China and took me to the unforgettable cities of London, Amsterdam, St Goar (Rhine Valley), Munich, Innsbruck, Venice, Rome, Florence, Lucerne and finally ended on a high note in Paris.

I left Australia on Boxing Day onboard a low budget airline which included a 16 hour stopover in Guangzhou, China. Had I been to China before? No. Was I prepared for what would hit me? HELL NO.

 

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Smog surrounding the airport

Ok so maybe I’m being a drama queen and China wasn’t all that bad but seriously I had forgotten that social media is banned in China and to those of you who know me well, you know this was pretty much a life imprisonment sentence for me. Even google is banned in China.. I mean, Seriously?! What was I to do for 16 hours in an airport in transit? Thank goodness for delays because a 3 hour delay allowed me to align my ducks in a row and plan out my stay in China. I managed to find out that I was eligible for complimentary accomodation in China and a temporary transit visa valid for 24 hours. Note: if you’re ever in China and you don’t have a visa, there is a special 24 hours visa granted to transit passengers which allows you to leave the airport. What’s even better is that my low budget airline provided COMPLIMENTARY accomodation for the night – moral of the story check with your airline for transit services 🙂

Ok so I digress but China was confronting when I left the terminal. There was thick smog everywhere and whilst the hotel was pleasant with all the conveniences that I would expect from home, the lack of english speaking people proved to be harder than my previous asian experience in Thailand. I will definitely be considering a trip back to China but maybe to a well known city and maybe once I figure out how to use social media over there..

So after a night at the Holiday Inn courtesy of my budget airline, it was back to the airport to begin the 12 hour flight to London. This is what I was most excited about – London has always been  on my list and it really still is because the two days I spent there flew by too quickly. As I boarded my flight and took my assigned seat (like what I did there?), I was joined in the two seats next to me by a young Australian couple who noted my Contiki passport holder and mentioned that they too were going to London for a Contiki tour. We chatted as much as strangers seated next to each other chat on long flights and when we landed in London parted ways only to be reunited on the tube as we made our way to the same hotel. Little did I know that we would once more cross paths in Rome and given that they are from Sydney, I am left wondering if by some strange twist of fate if the Universe will once more cross our paths.

Rightio… sooo…London.. it was exactly what I hoped it would be. Overcast in weather and freezing but with so much to offer. In the two days that I was there, I took in Covent Gardens (a bit of shopping never hurt anyone, right?), Leicester Square, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London Bridge. Basically, I made a list of the places that I knew I absolutely needed to see, ticked it off and then I made time to catch up with friends. Travel tip 101: if you are in a city for a short period of time, pick out what you absolutely must-see, tick it off and then anything else you do is an added bonus. If you have extra time then walk around, try the local cuisine and overall just take it all in. What did I love the most about London? I would say that I loved that it is a very traditional city. The black cabs, double decker buses and old buildings tell a story that says that the brits are happy with what they’ve got. It is advanced in many ways but there is a certain air of preservation that I just loved. Case in point, in Australia we hardly have public telephones anymore but the traditional red telephone boxes remain on streets in London.

Amsterdam was next on the trail.  What can I say about Amsterdam? It was one of the most exciting times and places of my life. I visited a “coffee shop” that wasn’t a coffee shop for some “chocolate” if you catch my drift..and with my newfound friends had a rather interesting evening exploring the city’s nightlife. Highlights would be the Van Gough Museum, the I love Amsterdam sign and the canal cruise which took us down the infamous Amsterdam canals, passing by old churches, million dollar house boats and crooked houses which lined the shore.

From Amsterdam, we travelled to the Rhine Valley in Germany where we spent the night in a small town called St Goar. The town was quiet and in contrast to Amsterdam which we had just come from. The Rhine Valley is known for it’s wine producing so the main activity in this place was wine tasting. After a bit of wine tasting, our inner-explorers kicked in for a bunch of us and we set out on a walking expedition. Where we were going or what we were doing? We had no idea.. It is on this expedition and purely by fa

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The beautiful Monay (Center)

te that we met a beautiful soul. We had stopped to take a group photo and our laughter and loud chatter had caused the occupants of the house above the street to venture out into the street. The lady of the house, whom I will call “Monay” because I think that’s her name was most gracious and invited us into her home when she heard that we were from all over the world and only in St.Goar for a night. It was a heart warming experience and truly one of those kindness-of-strangers moments. I know I speak for all of us there that night when I say that I hope wherever that dear woman is now that she has nothing but love and light in her life for as long as she lives.

Staying in Germany, we left St Goar, for Munich the next day. Apart from Berlin, I must confess that I had no inkling to visit Germany. This would soon prove to be yet another mistake in life that I would learn from. Germany is rich in culture and history. The first stop before arriving in the city of Munich was at a concentration camp memorial – Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial. It was a sombre mood as we neared the camp and our tour manager explained the gory details of what had happened at this place. The camp itself was cold, dark and easily one of the saddest places I have ever been to. One could not help but shed a tear for the innocent lives lost and I certainly couldn’t help but think and to actually say out loud: “I’m sorry”. I was sorry that through no fault of their own, these people had met tragic fates. It was heartbreaking and a complete wake up call as well to be grateful for all that we have in this day and age and also the freedom to be who we want to be without fear or persecution.

When we finally made our way into Munich, the city was gorgeous and full of character. Munich is a city rich with beautiful art and culture. Highlights of Munich included the fall-off-the-bone pork knuckle and accompanying sauerkraut that makes you feel like you’ve been living your life wrong without it. Overall, this short visit to Germany left me wanting more and one day soon, I hope to visit Berlin.

Austria followed our German visit and the next stop on the trip brought us to Innsbruck, a sleepy valley city surrounded by white capped snowy mountains. Innsbruck is breathtakingly beautiful and really makes you question why you need to be living in a concrete metropolis when you could just pack up and move to live among the clouds on a mountain top somewhere in the world.. Anyway we arrived in Innsbruck on New Year’s Eve and after some free time set aside for shopping and local sightseeing, we ventured up one of those majestic white mountains. The cable cars that took the group up the mountain glided through the air, dipping a little as they passed the posts, marking the beginning of the next incline. With each dip came little yelps of joy and excitement. Tip: If you’re ever in a place where there is a lookout or mountain, definitely go up to the top if you can because as they say, (whoever they are) the view from the top is WORTH it.

After the trip up the mountain, came the New Year’s Eve celebrations. My oh my do those Austrians know how to throw a party. The centre of Innsbruck was closed off and the surrounding streets filled with people for a New Year’s eve street party.  It was a great night out of crowd-sing-along anthems, of hearty laughter, a little dancing and followed by pizza at 1 am in the morning with some wonderful people. Definitely a  a new year’s I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Being slightly hung over for many of us, the next day was perfect as we spent time on the coach, making our way to Italy.. Italy is just.. I just can’t even.. there is so much to say about this amazing country and I’m so grateful that we got to experience three different cities – Venice, Rome and Florence. All are equally as astounding and you will fall with many things about these places but first and foremost with the food.. especially the GELATO.. OH MY LORRRD, I tell you that you have not lived until you have had Gelato in Italy.. that taste when it melts in your mouth and the flavours.. As cold as the winter breeze made us feel,  the Gelato had many of us oohing and aahing.

Italy actually took me by surprise because I hadn’t expected to fall head over heels for any country but France. You see Paris has been on my list since I first heard about the Eiffel Tower and before I left I had made up my mind that Paris would be my highlight with anything else an added plus. What happened? I was incredibly wrong! Venice and Rome proved to be right up there among my favourites. The food tantalised my tastebuds and the ancient ruins and sights mesmerised me with their tales of roman gladiators and ancient civilisations. Rome, in particular left an imprint on my soul and I feel as though I have many more trips to this city to live for. The trips to the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Vatican were my personal highlights when in Rome. Yes, I tossed a coin in the Trevi fountain and yes it will surely ensure my return to Rome.. at least I hope it will.

The last stop on our italian viaggo (google translate assures me this means “journey”) was Florence which is the capital of the Tuscan region. Firenze as they call it in Italian proved to be a beautiful city by the river with monuments, renaissance art and architecture . Florence highlights included Prosecco wine and shopping which is a must recommend.

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The Trevi Fountain in Rome
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Prosecco makes the world  a better place 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving italy, we began the long journey to Lucerne in Switzerland. As we neared Switzerland, the climate became much colder with snow covered fields, houses and blocked in driveways. Snow fell as the coach made it way into the city and once we got to the drop off point and stepped off the coach, it was coming down much thicker, almost as if to say “welcome to Switzerland”. The time we spent in Lucerne was magical because of the snow and almost fairy tale environment but I will warn you that every fairy tale comes with a lesson and the lesson here was that Switzerland is a very expensive country. Unlike the other countries we had been to, a meal cost on average 30 Euros. The highlights of Lucerne  – snow (of course) and mulled wine which has seriously been a game changer.

Last but not least is the city that has been on my list for as long as I can remember. Gertrude Stein once said “America is my country but Paris is my hometown”. She could speak no greater truth and no matter what her context was, I feel it spoke to me in volumes. I had been warned that Paris was not all that it is hyped up to be and I would just like to say to those who said that to me: “you were all incredibly wrong”. Paris was everything I hoped for and more.What did I love about it so much? The Champs Elyses, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the cobble stoned streets, the little cafes, mulled wine and french pastries – they were artsy, told stories and they made Paris delicious, beautiful and unforgettable. Many a highlight but I guess trying escargot was right up there as on the unforgettable memories.

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There you have it, I’ve practically written a book to tell you about these amazing places in the world that are waiting for you to discover. Now let me tell you about the amazing bunch of people that I was priviledged to share this experience with. I had previously been on a tour but only with 6 people so this time was very different. There were 48 of us, all crammed into a bus and driving from one country to the next in the space of 12 days. There were some people that I barely got to know and others that I cannot and will not forget anytime soon. Before I left on my very first tour, a wise friend said to me that on the tour we would meet as strangers and then depart as family. How true his words proved to be. On day one of the contiki tour, I sat alone on the coach, all the while texting my friends in Australia  worried that I would not make friends. Throughout the days I came to know a group of people that I felt I had known for years. When it came time for me to leave Paris and board that plane, I felt as though I was leaving a part of me behind. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again but it is definitely the people that add to your travel experiences – so a big thank you to my contiki faves and a special shout out to our gorgeous tour manager Magdi for helping to make it an unforgettable experience, here’s hoping the Universe intertwines our paths again soon.

Love and light always,

Jase

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Upcoming trip(s):

Bali – April 17

 

 

Solo Wanderlust

For as long as I can remember I’ve dreamed of travelling; of visiting the infamous cities of London, New York, Los Angeles, Paris and many more. I am a citizen of the world; I knew this at a young age and I know it still to this day.

In 2016, the Universe granted me my wish and I was incredibly lucky to see some amazing places in this world. Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Suva, Los Angeles, Jacksonville, New York and to end the year off I will be embarking on a European discovery tour.

Travel is food for the soul and if you dare to do it solo it can be the most liberating feeling in the world. You have the chance to be who you want to be, to do what you want to do and to experience life from a different perspective.

My travels as I had always imagined it, would be made up of a group of friends, travelling together on long trips (5 weeks at a time or more), immersing ourselves in ancient cultures and learning the ways of the world. Then reality kicked in, friends moved away, started families or became career focused and travel got put on the back burner. I still have hopes that one fine day when the universe aligns, my closest friends and I will take that much awaited trip but for now I’ve come to realise that you just have to stop making excuses and do it on your own. In June of this year, I ventured out into the unknown world by my lonesome with nobody but my phone to serve as a travelling companion. What I am trying to say is this: you can’t wait for your friends to get on the travel bandwagon. Most of the time you’ll find that trips that you say you’ll take with friends/groups, almost never eventuate. People get caught up in their own lives with their jobs, family and other commitments and after the initial “yeah I’m down” end up cancelling on account of they simply can’t make it. So my advice, if you want to travel but haven’t because you’re waiting for the right time with the right people DON’T wait because HUNAYYYY you will be waiting until the cows come home.

One thing that’s been a constant on my travels is people. I’ve been lucky enough to have met some people who were complete strangers  when we met and are now lifelong friends. I will always believe in the kindness of the human spirit and the beauty of an individual’s soul because I have experienced it first hand. Case in point, I arrived in Bangkok and unable to navigate the subway system, I met a group of fellow travellers more than willing to help me. They purchased me a train ticket (because I didn’t have any small change) and pointed me in the right direction, even walking me to the platform. So anyway I digress but my point is that you should put yourself out there.  Get to know people on your travels because from pub crawling in New York to chasing waterfalls with my tour group friends in Thailand, it is the people that make the experience unforgettable.

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NYC Pub Crawl
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The crew in Thailand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve also renewed and strengthened ties with friends who live in different parts of the world that I had not physically seen in a long time. My travel adventures have reunited me with my best friend in Jacksonville and I have been lucky to have met her two gorgeous boys who I had not yet met. My advice to you – if you have a friend or family living in a country that you’ve never been to this is a bonus because you get to spend some quality time with them and also experience a new part of the world.

The next tip from my wise self is this – don’t be afraid to slum it every now and then. I don’t literally mean that you should stay in the slums but maybe you might want to consider a backpacker hostel in place of the Holiday Inn. You might feel like you will get “Taken” at first but if it’s a renown hostel, you will be perfectly fine.

Now I’m sure you’ve heard this one before and all the travel blogs will say this but you really have got to make use of the free things in the cities you visit. Case in point, if you’re ever in New York, you don’t need to go to Ellis Island to see the Statue of Liberty, you can just catch the Staten Island Ferry which goes right past it. The Ferry is free and takes about 25 minutes each way.

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The view from the Staten Island Ferry

The last piece of advice I have is to live like a local. Remember that locals know all the best food spots (usually also the cheapest) and they know how to get from point A to point B. Which brings me to my second point, if you’re going to live  like a local then be prepared to travel like one – take public transport (usually also very cheap). In this day and age we automatically resort to taking an Uber but in doing so we miss out on the experience. Before I left for New York, I read mixed reviews about using the subway but decided to do it regardless. Did anything happen to me? No. Instead I got to see everyday New Yorkers who I might add are just the coolest people you will ever meet. They keep to themselves but they don’t care about what anyone thinks of them because they express themselves freely without a care in the world. It must have been a stop at 42nd Street (Times Square) on the subway, when a group of older gentlemen boarded and once the train had begun moving started singing accapella. I probably would not have seen this XFactor worthy performance had I not taken the subway.

Also if you get lost on your travels, do not panic – all roads lead to Rome and all it takes is a friendly face and a point in the right direction and you’re back on the yellow brick road.

Now, I wouldn’t be a very good person if I didn’t also tell you that you need to have your guard up as well. Don’t be complacent. I have been complacent and although it wasn’t life threatening I did lose my $30 Havaiana slippers at a Vegetarian Restaurant in Thailand. Moral of the story -travelling solo is great for the soul just make sure you’re also keeping the physical body here on this earth. Be cautious, trust your instinct and learn to be a smart traveller.

So there you have it, a few tips for travelling solo. Use them or don’t but just do something. Book that trip, step out of your comfort zone and start living the life you’ve always dreamed of!

Love and Light Always

Jase

Upcoming travels – European Discovery (Dec 16 – Jan 17)