Hello 2012: Some New Year (sorta) Resolutions

I’m not big on New Year resolutions, but here are a few things I’d like to work on this year.

This year I want to spend more time outside. I’m going to leave early so I can walk more places instead of taking the bus. I want to sit outside on sunny days. I’m going to have more beach days on the weekends. I want to walk home across the harbour bridge from work.

This year I want to practice more creativity. I miss crafting. I used to enjoy hobbies like making my own jewelry, sketching, ceramics and scrapbooking. Being creative doesn’t mean I have to buy a new scrapbook, but I want to go back to crafting and creating. It makes me really happy.

This year I want to read more. This is something else that used to make me really happy that I rarely do anymore. I want to read more books, and avoid TV all together. I want to read to learn, but mostly I want to read for fun again. I think I’ll start with Tina Fey’s Bossypants. I heard it was a good read.

This year I want consume less and save money. I want to stop buying things I don’t need and collecting “stuff.” I find it shocking how much stuff I seem to collect. I want to get rid of the clutter in my room, and free up some space in my life so I can free up some space in my soul… dude (seriously though).

What are your goals for this year? 

Aussie Phrases I Love

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These are just a few phrases and words I’ve come to adore while living in Australia. Some I’ve adopted into my own vocabulary and others continue to grow on me.

How are you going? – When I studied abroad in Australia we went abseiling our first week here. The instructor said to me, how are you going? So I answered “right handed.” She thought that was pretty funny. Looking back I can laugh about it now too.

Heaps – You can be heaps hungover, heaps hungry, heaps happy. It’s like a giant pile of emotion.

Totes– This is just a cute way of saying totally. I mean, this is just a totes cute way of saying totally.

Cheers – I like to sign off my emails with “cheers.” I like when people say “cheers” after you pay them at the register, and we get to say “cheers” as a toast at the pub.

What are you after? – This phrase might not be exclusively Aussie, but they sure do love it here. I notice it especially when you’re trying to pick something off the café menu.

Keen – I want get tickets to that concert, who’s keen?  I’m keen to get started on this work.

Average – an adjective to describe when you’re not feeling so great, or just so-so. “I can’t believe I had those tequila shots last night, I’m feeling pretty average today.”

Footy – I used to think Footy described AFL (Australian Football League) but apparently footy can also mean Rugby (NRL) or even soccer. I’m not really sure. I call everything with a ball (minus cricket) footy.

Ute – it’s a little baby truck. See photographic evidence below please.

Bogan – thank you Chris Lilly and Summer Heights High for teaching me what a skanky bogan was. Redneck, hill-jack, white trash… you get the idea.

Cheers big ears – I thought this was something silly my colleague Sam made up the first time I heard it. It makes me giggle every time.

Shout (a round) – Shouting rounds is fun. While buying rounds wasn’t a new concept to me, there is something unique about the Australia style shout.

Lemonade – it usually means sprite, but I’m pretty sure it can be any carbonated lemon or lime drink. The most important thing to know is that lemonade doesn’t equal a drink made of lemonades, sugar and water. Unless it’s “old fashioned lemonade” but you can only get that at the grocery store or markets.

What are your favourite Aussie words or slang? 

A Year of Sydney Sunsets on Instagram

Sydney has the most gorgeous sunsets. I’ve been snapping photos of the sky for the last year on my iPhone. I love to share them on Instagram and Twitter one by one, but it was really fun to pull them all together into one blog post here. These are a few of my favourite snaps.

“With innovation and technology, seems we have forgotten to cherish the true beauty the world has to offer.”  ~A.C. Van Cherub

30 Day Challenge: Going Veggo

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I had an interesting start to this month’s challenge.  Tuesday was Melbourne Cup and after a few drinks I found myself scarfing down a delicious chorizo pizza. Not a very good way to start my 30 days as vegetarian. However, I’m hopefully on the right track now.

The idea of having a meat-free month came up as soon as I decided to start these 30 day challenges. I knew it was something that truly would be a challenge for me, considering meat is part of my everyday diet. Not only do I typically eat meat daily, I probably eat more servings than I should and I quite enjoy it — guilty all around.  Since moving to Sydney I’ve already had a mind shift around how I view food. I used to believe that a meal only was complete with some type of meat. Now I know that’s untrue, and I’ve found of wide range of vegetarian meals I adore.

I didn’t choose this challenge because I have any true moral conflicts with eating meat. Although I do recognise some of the environmental effects meat consumption has. Mostly I’m doing it out of curiosity. I want to walk 30 days in someone else’s shoes. I’m always curious about new foods and this will force me to be creative with my meals and perhaps try a few new things. My sister is a veggo (ex-vegan) and also encouraged me to go for it. Always helps to have people encouraging you to try new things.

Day six and counting… wish me luck.

Do you have any yummy veggo recipes to share with me? 

What trends are you seeing today?

Going to local events with crowd-sourced talks such as TEDx and Ignite are a great way to understand current trends in our industries. Several key messages and themes tend to resurface during the talks, and it’s not because the speakers are unoriginal. They are just putting into words, what’s on the minds of many in this snapshot of time.

Just over a year ago, before I moved to Australia, everything was focused on the “real-time.” How we were using technology and social networks to interact instantly was the hot topic. This expanded beyond just marketing. Ideas of what personalised health care might look like when delivered in real-time were discussed.

At Ignite Sydney last year, a presenter shared on how Twitter was being used to find out where bush fires in Australia were breaking out. According to him, this was more accurate than any other type of monitoring technology available.

I’ve been seeing three key trends that I find interesting and want to highlight.

1. “Collaborative consumption is so hot right now”

I tweeted this half serious, half joking during Sydney Ignite 7. Lisa Fox presented “The Aussie guide to collaborative consumption,” a story of how everyday people are using online sites such as Open Shed, to rent and share items you might find in storage. Another talk by Darryl Nichols told the story of his project, the “Garage Sale Trail,” community focused yard sales across the country. October also celebrates Buy Nothing New Month and this idea of sharing, trading, renting and swapping is pretty fashionable at the moment.

2. Becoming a catalyst for change: Empower local leaders

If we want to be most helpful, perhaps we should look to empower local changemakers instead of trying to force change ourselves. This is the message that Aaron Tait, Executive Director of Spark* International gave during his TEDxMacquarieUniversity talk. Chantelle Baxter, co-founder of One Girl also explained how education can help empower young women and girls, so they can then lead change in their communities.

3. Social entrepreneurship and Gen-Y

Last year, I think we were scratching our heads trying to further define this “millennial generation.” Topics were about Gen-Y in the work force and how Gen-Y uses technology. While these discussions continue, now the focus has shifted to the power of Gen-Y. I love the number of young people who stood up and defined themselves in some way as social entrepreneurs. We are a driven generation who wants to give back and this was reflected in the speakers.

 Are you noticing these trends in your community as well? What topics are you finding relevant and popular in today’s society?

Why I Love Living Abroad

Skydiving at Mission Beach

There is a list of reasons that I love living in Sydney, but there is also a number of reasons that I just love living abroad.  When I reflect on the last year living in Australia these are a few reasons that come to mind.

1. Moving abroad has made me more independent. At home I have an extensive network of people I can rely on for anything. In Sydney I’ve been lucky to make a lot of great friends I can call for help, but it’s still limited compared to my hometown where I grew up. I especially noticed it when I first moved here, not knowing anyone. I miss not being able to call my family, but it also has forced me to do more for myself.

2. I’ve started to appreciate what’s in my own backyard more. I think it’s common to take home for granted. I had the attitude that I could always check out a restaurant later and felt no urgency in going new places in Cleveland. Now I want to see everything that surrounds me. I want to have brunch at every little café in Surry Hills. I want to walk down streets I’ve never been before and never wait to try a restaurant or pub.

Coastal Walk

3. I travel more in Australia for similar reasons. In the past I’ve probably not only neglected my own backyard, but my own country at times. I’m lucky that my parents took us on trips to see the US growing up. I’m grateful for that and I still know I Have more to see of my own country. Booking a last minute flight to Melbourne for a long weekend seems painless now. I wish I had done that more in the states.

4. Everyday can feel like an adventure. Especially when I first moved, the day-to-day was so exciting. Simple activities like going to the grocery store are fun and different.  Seriously, it’s true. People drive on the other side of the road here, there are strange birds in the park, I can take a ferry across the harbour and try foods I’ve never heard of before. Living abroad is a thrill.

4th of July with Lauren, Brooke & Lindsay

5. You meet a lot of interesting people when you move to a new country. I don’t have the stats to back this one up, but I’m quite certain that being an expat means you’re more likely to meet other expats. I love connecting with other travelers and those who have made similar moves across the world. Some of the friendships I’ve made have been an important part of my time abroad so far.

Why do you love living abroad? What has it taught you?

30 Day Challenge: Postcards from my Travels

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I love sending hand written notes to friends. I’ve had a lot of pen pals in the past. I also have accidentally started collecting postcards over the last 8 or 9 years. I used to buy them on trips to use in my scrapbooks and now have a leftover collection of random postcard travel memories.

My September 30 Day Challenge is sending postcards to 30 different people. I would love to send these postcards to 30 others who love receiving mail like me. I’m happy to send them anywhere in the world and to anyone who would appreciate a little handwritten note. Whether you know me well or have never met me, just send me an email hannah [dot] demilta [at] gmail telling me who you are and your mailing address. Then I can send you a postcard next month, with love from Australia.

Please help me out with this challenge. I’m really looking forward to this one. 

30 New Places in 30 Days

My July challenge was to visit 30 new places within 30 days. It could be anything from trying a new restaurant or something simple like a street in Sydney I hadn’t walked down before. I am constantly reminding myself to try new places and not forget to explore what’s in my own backyard. The purpose of this challenge was to make me aware and purposeful of experiencing new places in Sydney.

Here is my list and a few notes on some of the 30 new places I went.

Had to Happen

1. Had To Happen — Mexican restaurant in North Sydney. Not my favourite in Sydney but also not the worst. I’d go back and try it again. They had decent prices and I’ve been told they do an all-you-can-eat fajita special.

2. City Hotel — We went here for a big 4th of July party put on by an American Expat group. I’ve never hung out with so many yanks in this city all under one roof. It was fun times. I had a pulled pork sandwich and Budweiser, but I know the menu and drinks were unique to this particular event.

3. The Commons — My foodie partner in crime, Trish, recommend this place. We actually went looking for a roast dinner (which they didn’t have that evening). Neither of us cared much for what we ordered, but I liked the atmosphere of this place and would try it again. The entrees were yummy.

4. Sam I Am — adorable little bar in Glebe. My friend Alicia picked this place to host another 4th of July party we had with some friends. We booked the room on the top floor which has a ping pong table.

5. Phamish — This was a great discovery and dinner pick. Vietnamese restaurant in Darlinghurst. I’ll be going back for round two for sure. Hat tip to Don for picking it. sometimes he has good ideas.

Jenolan Caves

6. Jenolan Caves — I recommend this as a place to take friends or family visiting Sydney. Take a full day to visit the Blue Mountains and take a cave tour. There are several options that vary in length and difficulty. We went on an easy walk but I’d like to go back to actually go caving. They were beautiful to see.

7. Incu — Cute shop on Oxford Street in Paddington. They carry TopShop for both men and women in the upstairs section.

8. Bourke Street Bakery — Another Surry Hills spot I can’t believe I went so many months without trying. I had heard all good reviews and finally tried it out for myself in July. Yum!

9. Pieno — There is lots of outdoor seating at this Surry Hills brunch spot. It’s right next to the Winery and Thomas Deux. It’s not my new favorite place for brunch, but we all enjoyed it. I would bring a group back here again.

10. Fakeclub — Some dirty club in the cross. Don’t go here unless you’re too drunk to care or understand where you are anyway.

11. The Opera Bar — Can you believe it took me almost a year of living in Sydney before having a drink at The Opera Bar? I hosted a tweet-up with a friend here in July and got a group of about 30+ together for a few drinks. It was a great spot because we had lots of room to move around and my friends who were visiting from out of town of course loved being next to the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. I loved it too, Sydney is beautiful at night.

Aroma Festival

12. Aroma Festival — This was a coffee and chocolate (I think) festival held in the rocks. It was adorable and they had a lot of vendors but it was so hot out that weekend I wasn’t in the mood for a coffee. So that was sort of a fail.

13. Cotton Duck — Tried out this Surry Hills restaurant thanks to Secret Foodies. Great food and great atmosphere. I recommend it and I also recommend checking out Secret Foodies if you haven’t heard of it yet. It’s a pop-up dining experience in Sydney, organised by Ms. Darlinghurst.

14. Grasshopper — We went here for our last Travel Massive meet-up. I was feeling so-so about it until the next day when whoever runs the bar’s Twitter account was rude to my friend. Now I’m over it. Not planning on going back anytime soon, too many other new places to try.

15. Pizza E Birra — amazing, amazing pizza here. Pizza shop on Crown Street in Surry Hills. We celebrated Sara’s birthday here and everything we ordered was delicious. Can’t wait to go back.

Other spots included Tropicana, Harumi, Lincraft, Sydney Winter Festival, Urban Bites, new GG espresso in North Sydney, Via Del Corso Pasticceria e Caffe at Westfield,  Alma on Stanley St. in Darlinghurst, Chisholm at Jenolan Caves and more.

What new places have you been recently?

Finding Your Home: Waking up an Expat

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How long does it take for the expat to wake up and no longer feel like an expat? Or does that day never come for some people? I don’t ask because I think I’m anywhere close to that day. In fact, I can’t imagine it. Next week I will have been gone for a year, and I have just begun my journey.

I’m curious how others define home. It goes back to the question, is home where you’re from or is home where you make it? Also, is home a physical location or do you think a home can be metaphorical, like a home you make with someone you love. Everyone seems to have different ideas about what home is and can mean.

If you had asked me a few years ago I would have told you that home will always be where I grew up, where my parents live, where so many memories were made. Now I’m less convinced. I’m young and have a lot of time to make new memories. I’ll always miss family and friends when I’m away but that will soon be true no matter where I go in the world.

One of my best friends from home wrote me an email that summed up the way I had been feeling about being away from home. “I feel like my heart is split between the continents, as far as Australia. I fear I will never find peace because I can never come close to having everyone that I love,” she said.When we are eighty and old and cranky will we look back and regret that we left our family for so long? For so selfish an endeavor? I am still not sure.

I don’t mean to come across as dramatic about being away. It was definitely my choice to move and I love living in Australia. That’s actually just the problem. As my friend pointed out, perhaps my issue isn’t finding home but rather that I might always feel divided between homes. No matter where I go, I’ll be missing somewhere or someone else.

Are you an expat or traveler — do you find yourself always missing another place?

30 Day Challenge: Dry June

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This is my 26th day in a row of not drinking. My current 30 day challenge of having a “dry June” has been less difficult than I originally thought it would be.  Part of me wondered if I would actually keep my promise of not drinking all month. I think that’s why I delayed blogging about it during week one.

I chose this challenge because I felt the need for a bit of a ‘detox’ in my life. I generally don’t stress about my drinking habits, but lately I had been feeling especially worn out. I needed to break the habit and give my body some time to recover.  I also was tired of the extra calories and spending so much money on going out.

I was also curious to see how I would spend my time. I wondered what I would do on my Friday and Saturday nights instead of going out with friends.  I wanted to know if I would still go out with friends or hide at home.  I still found that I was social and wanted to go with friends but my nights ended earlier. I was more proactive in planning dinners and movie nights without drinking.

I did save a lot of money. I still went out and did things that cost money (going to dinner, movies, etc.) but it was still cheaper in comparison to big nights out at the bars. My weekends were more productive this month. I woke up earlier and had the energy to go places, see friends and get things done before 11 a.m.

This is the longest break I’ve had from drinking (since starting drinking) and I’m really glad I did it.

I still have four more days of dry June. What should challenge be next month?