In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
Byron Bay had become like a bind around my neck and I found myself trapped in a vicious cycle of survival of the fittest.
In some ways, I was sold the idea of a nice lifestyle when I first visited 7 years ago and I had come here with the vision of earning money from my passions and creating a better life from what I had in New Zealand. But in actual fact, I was struggling to create a lifestyle that I had envisioned, I was far from earning money from my passions and I had separated myself from my loved ones.
Six weeks was all it took to come to this realization, and during this time I welcomed in my 36th year around the sun while the universe blessed me with the gifts of learning about patience, self-confidence and courage.
My 35th year, a year full of extreme highs and lows, saw me visit five countries, become a yoga teacher, travel through seven states and 21 towns in India, live with a Nepalese family in Nepal during a humanitarian crisis, trek the Himalayas, marry a Nepalese con man and move to Australia!
Armed with an extra year of life lessons, I began to reflect on just how much my life had changed in the two years since I left my house and gave away all my possessions in Auckland City.
Everything that I had done 2 years ago was because of my desire to move to Byron Bay and all the circumstances that followed was to prepare me for my biggest challenge yet.
Byron Bay had a strange way of pulling out all of my insecurities; it was a bit like being in India but in a more covert way.
In India, poverty stares you right in the face and people will try to trick you into paying high prices for services or products in order to make a living, but here it is done in a more concealed way.
It seems that everybody wants to live here, which drives the prices of rents up and there are very few jobs to go around.
So, to survive most people create their own ingenious ways to make an income, but some people become desperate to make money, even if it is at the expense of others.
Which leaves newbies like myself, more susceptible to exploitation.
Every second house in Byron is rented out at exorbitant rates to wealthy holiday makers, rooms in houses become a money-making scheme for the locals and often prices are increased during a festival or holiday. Travellers who want to stay in the area longer offer to work for low wages, which makes it harder to earn a living wage for the ones who actually want to live here long-term and opportunistic Byronites offer some type of “ultra spiritual” event “for the tribe” almost every day of the week, which often comes with a price tag and if you don’t attend regular events, then you are not really considered as being a part of their tribe.
I ended up working on the door at a local music gathering as I couldn’t afford to pay the entrance fee and it was a totally different experience from anything that I had attended before. Everybody seemed so open and loved up and at the end of the concert we chanted while holding hands in a circle, which eventually ended in a group hug!
In Byron there are many different clicks and I was getting a crash course into the wide range of people that were about. There were the young backpackers who were just looking to have a good time and often filled up the bars, there were the cashed-up holiday makers, the traveling hippies who lived in their camper vans and the self-confessed guru types, spiritual wannabes and new age groupies. There were the local money sharks, the sannyasins who I was fortunate enough to meet and the long-term residents who sat somewhere in between.
I even received the weirdest job offer, to be a paid live in threesome for a wealthy Byron Bay couple!
My original plan was to buy a camper van but the novelty of living in one for so long in New Zealand had worn off and my goal was to earn money so that I had the freedom to do what I wanted to do.
I hadn’t had an income for almost a year, so the first few weeks I made it my priority to find a job so that I could afford to rent somewhere. I realized my passions would have to take a back seat and once I was more stable and set up, I could focus on them.
However, two years of living this nomadic lifestyle has taught me to have faith and trust and I have learnt to listen to the signs of the universe. If something doesn’t flow, I simply move on, because things that are meant to be, shouldn’t require so much effort or struggle. I don’t choose to struggle in my life anymore because fighting against the current and trying to swim upstream requires too much energy, instead, I have learnt that it is much easier to surrender and flow with where the current of life wants to take me.
I admit, I had an unrealistic idea that I would arrive and instantly start teaching yoga and be able to earn money from my passions, but sometimes things don’t turn out the way we hoped and I could choose to be frustrated and pissed off, or I could recognise it as being a sign and see it as a blessing in disguise.
Patience has never been one of my virtues and I was learning fast that if I wanted to stick around, I needed to allow myself time to set things up, so I advertised looking for nanny and content writing jobs in all of the online platforms that I could find.
The financial pressure and stress of swimming against the tide forced me into overcoming some of my fears and I found myself walking into all the clothing shops in Byron Bay to enquire about work.
Out of all the shops I walked into and all the rejections I received, there were three that were looking at hiring someone so I felt optimistic that something might come about. However, they all eventually fell through.
I created a yoga event on Facebook, but I had not one person show up. It was a wake up call that I desperately needed to have and I realized that it was also going to take me time to make connections and network with people to get established in the type of work that I really wanted to do. But time wasn’t in my favor, as my savings were getting low.
I eventually landed a hostess job, working at a private party and I also looked after an autistic boy, but that still wasn’t enough money to survive on, as they were only one-off jobs.
So despite my qualifications and experience, I was suddenly faced with either applying for a dish washing job, or returning to New Zealand.
Meanwhile the universe was sending me small hints of other opportunities.
I came across a content managers position at a woman’s retreat in Bali, so I sent off my resume and I was offered work in a friend’s hotel in India, so I quietly put those options aside while I gathered my thoughts.
There were more yoga teachers and Reiki healers in Byron Bay than there were street dogs in Nepal and I was unsure if that was going to help or hinder my chances of finding yoga and Reiki work.
The following weeks saw me meeting with a few families who replied to my nanny ads and one actually offered me a job looking after her baby for 30 hours a week after I offered to look after her son for 2 hours free of charge. But after a week of no contact, unbeknown to me, the lady had found someone who was willing to work for less money and I lost the job.
Feeling rather disappointed, I was beginning to search for cheap flights back to New Zealand when little blessings started to appear, which rekindled my hope.
I made $100 AUD cash to edit the homepage of a website, which paid for a couple of weeks food and then I received a friend request on Facebook from a man with an Indian name.
We began chatting and I soon realized he was a sannyasin who lived nearby, so I arranged to meet with him.
A couple of days later I found myself sitting on a park bench near the beach, sipping juice while looking out to sea and chatting away about life, with an Indian man of my age who sported white clothes and a turban.
It was so refreshing to meet a like-minded fellow sannyasin traveller and I ended up back at his house where we feasted on a delicious curry that his wife had made the night before, freshly made chapatis and spicy chai. I hadn’t eaten such authentic Indian food since living in Nepal. The curries around here are very mild and nobody really knows how to make good authentic chai! I felt right at home in his house, talking about yoga, meditation and consciousness and in some ways I felt I was more Indian at heart than kiwi!
I arrived back in Byron that afternoon feeling really happy that I had met such a genuine, kind-hearted person.
Although I was really grateful to have a place to stay in Byron, there were five of us living in a 1-bedroom house, it was really cramped, and living in such close proximity to each other over a 4 week period led to some issues and consequently a breakdown of communication, so I asked an old friend of mine, who lived 20 minutes out of Byron, if I could stay with him and his partner for a few days.
Sure enough, he picked me up the following morning and I was shown to a beautiful room with a large comfy bed and bathroom at the back of their house! Feeling like the gods were shining down on me, I unpacked and got ready to go sailing on their sailboat.
It was a beautiful calm day with not a cloud in the sky and I was so excited to get out on the water, as I hadn’t been sailing for a few years!
We motored down Brunswick River and managed to get through the large swell at the bar where the river meets the sea. The gentle breeze gave us just enough wind to winch the sails up, and we ever so slowly sailed down the east coast towards Byron Bay.
Being out on the high seas, gave me a feeling of gratitude and optimism for the life that I was creating for myself and I suddenly felt a sense of tranquility and oneness with mother nature.
The fresh salty sea air and the expansiveness of the ocean seemed to nourish every fibre of my being and just when I thought I couldn’t experience any more bliss, I suddenly caught a glimpse of dolphins out of the corner of my eye, then before I knew it a large pod swam right up near the boat, blowing water up through their blowholes and playfully jumping up into the air!
I quietly smiled to myself, while acknowledging the universe and being thankful for the abundance of gifts that I had been receiving.
The sun was harsh and after a few hours we decided to sail back into Brunswick River where I had the most enjoyable swim in the warm, clear, turquoise waters.
After our refreshing swim, we motored down the river towards the boat ramp and we headed back home to Mullumbimby where I was treated to the hottest homemade curry that I have ever tasted!
A few days ended up turning into a couple of weeks because my friend in Byron asked me to pick up my suitcases and collect all my stuff, so I was now officially staying in Mullumbimby.
My Mullum friends really went out of their way to support me and I enjoyed sharing delicious meals and having Reiki healing and yoga sessions with them. It was a completely different vibe from staying in Byron. We played tennis, went for walks, did some sight-seeing, had deep conversations and retold stories from our past. I had a lovely time with them and removing myself from the busy vibes of Byron gave me the chance to reconnect with myself, and reaffirm what it is that I really wanted to manifest in my life.
I was beginning to feel that living in Byron wasn’t really for me and it took having a falling out with my friend to realize this.
Byron is the type of place that requires one to have a lot of self-confidence and being here showed me that I needed to get more comfortable with putting myself out into the world. The truth is, I have never felt good enough and carrying this deep-seated belief around has often stopped me in my life.
But I had to get real with myself.
I needed to be sure that staying or leaving Byron had nothing to do with my lack of self-confidence and everything to do with creating the type of lifestyle that I truly desired.
Suddenly an enormous wave of relief washed over me as I was hit with another realisation and as I put all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of my life together, the full picture was finally becoming clear.
I had been carrying around this cumbersome idea of Byron Bay being the key to my inner happiness, a distant goal, which offered me hope and the idea of fulfillment in the future.
However, I was now ready to let that false idea go.
I learnt while living like a hermit in Nepal that true, lasting happiness is not something that can be attained outside of the self and acquiring possessions, wealth, relationships, or living in a particular place, are all material, ego based desires, which often only bring short-term or momentary happiness resulting in dissatisfaction, unfulfillment and disillusionment.
True happiness is a culmination of a lot of self-love and it is waking up each day with a feeling of love, grace and gratitude, wherever I find myself to be.
All the realisations I was suddenly having led me to a crossroad and just like how the light of the moon illuminates the path at night, I knew that no matter which road I took, I was going to have to face a deep-seated fear.
How was I going to navigate my way through this inner conflict of wanting to follow my passions but feeling so inadequate?
As the temperature drops and winter approaches in the Southern hemisphere, one way or another I was going to find out, whether it be in Australia, Bali, India, or back home in New Zealand.