Have you wanted something so much that you’ve written it as New Year’s Goal for the past few years? But somehow life happens and you deny yourself pursuing that dream.
After getting my Master of Arts in Gastronomy in Australia in 2006, life brought me back to work in Manila, Singapore, Hong Kong, and then back to Manila. I knew that return to Manila in 2011 was merely a stopover. But months became years. I knew Manila no longer felt like home. But life got in the way. This year, I promised myself I would return to Australia. You see Australia had always been my spirit home. I went to Perth as a Junior in College, escaping the harsh New England winters of Massachusetts. I justified it to my adviser as studying Cross Cultural Psychology, giving me a more diverse flavor than the dominantly Caucasian research in America then. Not only did I broaden my Psychology studies, I bloomed into a young woman. Many years later, I wanted to deepen my view as a food writer. I was blessed with a scholarship for a Master of Arts in Gastronomy at the University of Adelaide. Again, I experienced a growth spurt, maturing this time into an independent woman. This time living in Australia defined who I really am as person, being true to myself, without the explicit and not so explicit expectations of family and society. I had a conversation with a priest friend about Australia. I told him there was something special about Australia. It was there that I was happy and healthy (without even joining a gym or sticking to a diet). I moved a lot. I was with nature a lot. Mind me, there was pain, but still it felt like home. He nodded his head and understood. It was how he felt about Boston. Fr Arnel told me something I already knew, “Maida, Australia is your spirit home.”
This year I started the year as I would every year. I think of one word to be my theme. I chose Finally. It meant finally making my dream moving back home to Australia, and meaning it this time. The past two years had been probably the most emotionally challenging in my life. There were days where I was peppered with anxiety, back and neck pain. With the help of counseling, Reiki, therapy, yoga, acupuncture, zen meditation, and a lovely puppy named Spark, I found my peace. It became a path of self-discovery. In this path, I learned what works for me and what does not. I knew I wanted and needed more yoga and meditation in my life. I had long wanted to study to be a yoga teacher, but somehow denied the dream. I then thought, “I’m not that good in yoga. Who am I to think I can teach this?” But the gift of anxiety is that it emboldened me to finally honor myself. Afterall, if you keep denying yourself, who will honor you.
I boldly stated my intention to the universe. I bought a koala keychain in December 2018 and hang it by my front door to see it everyday, practicing the law of attraction. (In December one year before I bought a keychain with dog, and it was no coincidence a lovely puppy named Spark came into my life in June). I changed the wallpaper of my laptop with a happy photo of me in Australia in 2006. Even my passwords spoke of my Sankalpa, my intention.
As Paulo Coelho wrote in the Alchemist, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
So it did it. It was not easy. I went through hoop by hoop to get to Melbourne. Surprisingly, Melbourne was not on my radar. I was hoping for Sydney. You see I had lived in Perth and Adelaide. I’ve visited Darwin and Sydney. Somehow, I always thought it would be Sydney. But my yoga school is in Melbourne so here I am. Andrei, a Filipino friend residing in Melbourne said, “You saved the best for last. Melbourne is perfect for you especially with your interest in food and the arts.”
On October 7th, I landed in Melbourne. There were lots of emotions leaving Manila, and lots of tears as I said goodbye to my mom, my beloved dog, Spark, and my best friend Rissa. There was also a lot of uncertainty starting out in a city I had never been to before. Thankfully, God blessed me with two angels: Kathie and Ange. Kathie kindly accompanied me from Manila to Melbourne just to help me get settled. She had been to Melbourne many times and was familiar with the city. Having her next to me as I embarked on this journey calmed my nerves not just on the flight but also weeks leading up to the trip. It really helps to have a friend navigate this new path with you. Landing in Melbourne we were joined by Ange, a friend from Sydney, who flew in to help in the apartment hunt and with the mission to help me get settled. I was touched by the kind gesture of these lovely friends, to come all this way.
We arrived to a wet and windy Melbourne. Despite being officially spring, 9C was much colder than I had expected. As soon as we dropped off our things in the Airbnb, ate a warm Korean meal and got our basic supplies (in this case loads of bottled water, and coke for the ladies), we hit the pavement and started inspecting my short list of apartments. Even Amanda, the first real estate agent we met was impressed with my two angels. She’s never heard of friends flying in from far away to help another friend get settled. “That’s not something my Aussie friends would do,” Amanda told us.
We viewed four apartments the first day. The next day, we viewed six more in rainy conditions. Despite being together the whole day, we competed on who got the most number of steps each day. And, yes they were often 12,000 steps per day. By day 3, I revisited the apartment I viewed on the first day and signed to get it.
We squeezed in a trip to Brighton Bathing Boxes. These 82 iconic brightly colored bathing boxes built over a century ago make for the perfect Instagram photos. Mother Nature cooperated with a bright sunny day to provide the perfect bright blue contrast to the houses. As we snapped photos, I pinched myself. It had happened. My dream came true. Here I am in Australia. When I posted that photo of me in the blue bathing house with the Australian flag in Instagram and Facebook, friends noticed my smile. From Manila and Singapore, friends commented, “You look so happy.”
The next two days, my friends tirelessly helped me shop for necessities for my apartment from pillows to down comforters to bed sheets, plates, glasses, towels, water kettle up to the precision of finding just the right dish rack to fit in my micro kitchen. No detail was spared. It meant multiple trips to Target and Daiso on foot with our arms full of our loot. We organized setting up mobile and internet. But we also managed to squeeze in breakfasts, lunch at ChinChin, have dinner at The Queen Victoria Market on the weekly street food night on Wednesdays packed with people, lunch by the Yarra River, seeing the laneway art and a visit to St. Francis Catholic Church. Kathie thoughtfully reminded me the directions to go to church so I won’t get lost on my own.
As my sixth day in Melbourne began, the two angel friends flew back to their own homes: back to Manila for Kathie and back to Sydney for Ange. As the van left, I walked back alone to my now furnished flat. Tears rolled down my eyes, touched by their kindness. It was seven in the morning on a Saturday. Melbourne was cold and quiet. I was filled with so much gratitude deep inside not just from these angels, but everyone else who had helped me get here. I know with certainty that God loves me so much and He is kindly looking after me. When I reached my cozy little flat, every little detail reminded me of the love of my angels and how the universe has my back.
While many people dream of a big house, fancy cars, watches or brand name bags, I don’t really want any of that. All I want is a simple and peaceful life in Australia. I want to have easy access to the beach without driving. I want to be close to nature, to go for long walks and hikes. I want to a cozy place to call my home. I want to spend my days writing and doing yoga. And I want to have access to a public library where I can borrow as many books as I want. And I want to have my dog Spark with me. I want to be surrounded by a loving community.
I’m happy to tell you I live in a cozy home, with a fantastic view of the Yarra River. I walk there in the mornings, reveling at the sun shimmering at the river, with black swans swimming and mesmerized by the serenity of crew teams rowing. From my window, I can see the fireworks aglow at Diwali, the Flinders Railway Station brightly lit every night, and marathon runners on the weekends. It is the perfect spot to write, and when I get restless there are cafes nearby to explore. The beaches are a train or tram ride away. Today is my 18th day in Australia. I write this blog in the city library, a quick two-minute walk away from my flat. While I still wait for my dear Spark to join me here in Australia, I do know I am home.
Something Nat, my yoga teacher at Byron Yoga Centre, said two days ago struck me. As we lay on our mat and held our pose, she reminded us, “You don’t have to stay in the space you are in. You are free to move.” What may feel comfortable in the beginning may feel painful on our back or knees later on. Her words resonated with me not just in the yoga mat, but also in life. We may feel stuck in our pose or in our life situations. But we are free to move. In Sanskrit, a Sankalpa means an intention formed by the heart and the mind. It is a heartfelt desire or a solemn vow we make to support our highest truth.
Moving to Melbourne taught me this:
State your Sankalpa. Honor your joy and deepest desires.
For in doing so, you will be happy and you will find your way home.
My wish is for you to find that freedom to move in your space. It may not be a big life move as I had recently done. But I wish you to feel free from whatever confines you right now to feel stuck.
2:57pm. October24.2019.Melbourne . Heartfelt thanks to Ange and Kathie for the photos, these treasured memories, and helping me settle in Melbourne.