Friday, August 13, 2010

Kitty goes Down Under but... keeps the right way up

I'm sitting in front of this blank Word document feeling somewhat blurry-eyed and fuzzy-headed – typical symptoms of jetlag – as I've just returned from a wonderful two-week holiday in Australia.

For as long as I can remember, I've always fantasised about embarking on trips overseas and experiencing all the wonderful and colourful cultures, sights, sounds, tastes and smells that foreign countries have to offer. For most people, holidays are happy times, so it may come as surprise to my readers that despite me fantasising about holidays and travel, my reality is that I haven’t enjoyed a holiday for about 13 years until now. Bizarre, sad, but true. I wasn’t able to find the usual pleasures that come with a holiday like fun, laughter, adventure, tasting new food, relaxation, and sharing these moments with friends and family. To be honest, I used to find it nearly impossible and quite a challenge to open myself up to such experiences. And I put the blame solely on the firm grip that anorexia had on me.

Experiencing the essence of a foreign country not only requires us to use our sight, touch and smell – our taste buds are just as important. Food plays a vital role in most cultures and it’s not only a basic human need, but it’s something that’s celebrated and holds great meaning and pleasure. But I was always so consumed and preoccupied about what was going to be available in a foreign environment for me in terms of the availability of “safe foods” in shops and restaurants. These would be the foods that fall in the category of fat-free and low-calorie and low-carbs. Secondly, I’d be concerned about whether the environment and weather would accommodate my strict exercise routine.

And because these two things were constantly on my mind, it created intense anxiety, and the fun moments would just pass me by. I wouldn’t be able to participate in any family or shared events because I’d be too busy worrying about what to eat, or how to avoid eating and before I knew it, I was back on the plane or in the car on my way home, usually a few kilograms lighter and in a really bad head space. I remember feeling awful and full of guilt for wasting the opportunity of a lifetime, not to mention the vast amounts of money on what was supposed to add colour and enrichment to my life.

I thought how I’d love to go to Italy and walk around a piazza absorbing the beauty of the people and buildings while finding delight in eating real Italian gelato, or share a bowl of pasta with a gorgeous man by candlelight in a small, quaint Italian ristorante, or take a trip to Paris with my best friend and find ourselves in a French p√Ętisserie overlooking the Eiffel Tower while eating a real croissant with butter and jam or better yet, pain au chocolat. I thought how I’d love to go on a gal-pal adventure to a tropical island and enjoy a couple of wicked calorie-laden cocktails served by dishy island boys with surfer bodies, or even just a simple beach braai with the family at our beach house.

A few months ago when I was presented with the opportunity of going to Australia, my initial thought was am I ready to “let go”? Am I ready to take a holiday and love it? After a few minutes of anxiety came an overwhelming sense of excitement because my answer was YES, YES, YES! Bring on the fun!

So, my friends, I’m happy to report that thanks to Kitty and the lesson she taught me about celebrating my beauty and being kind to myself, I went Down Under but this time, I managed to stay the right way up and had an incredible holiday. A holiday that included dining in some of Sydney’s most “chichi” restaurants run by world-famous chefs like Neil Perry, Bill Granger and Kylie Kwong. The cuisine in Oz is luscious, fresh and largely organic.

Days were filled with fun and laughter, many family “barbies”, long walks on the beautiful hiking trails along the coast in Manly, shopping at vintage bohemian markets, visiting the Sydney Opera House, and world-class art galleries, trips on the ferry around Sydney harbour and enjoying delicious cups of artisan coffee with names like Flat Whites and Long Blacks, very confusing to us Saffers. I was laughed at on many occasions by the locals when I ordered a Short Tall Black! I also had many gems of moments in Oz and experiences that deserve a whole blog of their own! Perhaps next month – watch this space!

So you see, it’s no small wonder that my jetlag was somewhat worsened by the fact that I only managed to sleep for the last 20 minutes of my 15-hour flight home, because my heart and my head were filled with all the colourful reminiscing of my happy, happy holiday. I’m plotting and planning my next adventure as we speak.

So once again, thank you Kitty!