The Adventures of a Part Time Professional Gypsy (and her ginormous teddy thing)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Find your Passion. Find your Purpose.

“The two most important days in your life are the day that you are born,
and the day you find out why.”
- Mark Twain

I guess I've got a lot to look forward to then...
I don't have a clue why I was born, but I'm quite glad that I was.
This world is a terribly beautiful place and I would have hated to miss out on it.

A good friend recently taught me to make inverse bucket lists so that instead of simply talking about all the amazing things you're one day going to [maybe] do with your life,
you make a list of all the great things you have already accomplished.
Not for anyone else, but so that you can recall them, and remember the things they taught you.
That way you don't have to think and plan too much.
You just have to jump at opportunities and say “YES!”.
And if you don't, your list stays empty.

“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all”
- Helen Keller

I'm sitting in my new room in my new house in my old country and older age contemplating.
There's quite a lot to contemplate.
But as another year draws to a very rapid premature end, I need both red wine and reminiscence and re-evaluation. [And you may think this sentence wrong, but I have two kinds of wine].

Looking back, it's quite easy to feel like a failure, to look back at regrets, failures,
and the bad hair days of 2016.
Personally I'm an optimist.
It may sound like a pleasurable happy thing, but when it comes to making plans and setting out what you want to do with your life, it's quite easy to get carried away.

This year:
I set off to finish my circumnavigation. I gave up just before the end. I failed.
I attempted to find gainful employment. I quit twice, before getting paid. I failed.
I hoped to visit many many new exciting countries. I made it to three. I failed.
I was hoping to work out what I'm on this planet for. I'm even more confused now. I failed.
I thought it might be nice to finally meet the one. I failed miserably.

My life going up in flames [literally]
But the list of things I did accomplish is far longer.
And as far as I'm concerned the only set new year resolution I had was: “Survive 2016.”
I'm doing pretty well on that front.

How did you find 2016?
 What did you accomplish?
Who did you meet?
What did you do?
Who did you become?
How do you feel about all of that?

I got back to South Africa at just the right time to watch the world wind down.
People appear to be in a state of limbo-ed complacency as they count down the days till
Christmas leave.
It's been good to listen to people talk about what they want to do differently next year.
It's been good to remember why I chose a life of professional gypsyism.
It's reminded me even more about what I don't want to do with my life!

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is,
maybe you should set up a life you don't need to run away from”
– Seth Godin

But still it is good to work. It is good to toil.
It's good to break a sweat and feel like you've accomplished something,
that you've led a life worthy of your calling.
Remember life's not meant to just be average!

“When I stand before God, at the end of my life,
I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left
and could say “I used everything you gave me” “
- Erma Bombeck

Friday, November 4, 2016

Top Ten Things To Do When Unemployed

Sleeping under a bridge isn't really as bad as they say it is.
It's time we had a little heart to heart. 
A hug in fact. And maybe even a high five. 
(Because let's be honest, we can't afford anything else...)

Now whether you chose the unemployment or the unemployment chose you doesn't really matter. What matters is that you make the most of it!
Milk it for every cent that it's worth (because you probably can't afford any other forms of calcium)

People often forget that unemployed people are people too! 
It's your duty to remind them that you have a soul! You have a heart! You used to have a job!

You could be sitting around lamenting the bastard who fired you or wondering why you quit.
You might be looking out the window and thinking you should clean it so you can at least know what sort of day it is now that you don't have to leave the house.
You might even [because I've heard it's possible] be getting bored of Solitaire and Pokemon.
Whatever state of disarray you currently find yourself in, I (a semi-professional unemployed gypsy) am about to attempt to share my advice on making the most of your unemployed journey.

[Please note that despite having numbers, these are in absolutely no particular order] 

10) Make New Friends

Everyone you know probably has a real job. A nine to five (or whatever "they" call it).
Or maybe you're in a new country/ city/ suburb?
Either way you're going to need some new people to hang out with!
It's not as daunting as it sounds!
The world is full of awesome people who need to meet you!

You can start by helping old ladies cross the road. They're probably retired and have all the time in the world for you (Think home cooking and awesome stories from their many years of existence).

Backpackers hostels are an ever ready supply of colourful people from around the world who are looking for an adventure. The turn-over rate for them being in town is normally so fast too that if you mess up, you can try again in a couple of days. 

Go door knocking - see who's home.
Crash house parties/ company golf days/ funerals (Make sure you dress for the occasions) 
Put an ad on Gumtree/ Craigslist. If you don't have the internet, make a cardboard sign and stand at the robots (traffic lights).

Try tinder.

If you're needing someone to talk to in a hurry I suggest you go down to the local tax office. 
The queues are generally ridiculously long, allowing you good quality time to really get to know the people around you.
I spent two days in the last week at the South African Revenue Service and made many new friends. Some of them have even invited me around for coffee.  

The opportunities are endless!

Crashing a German Christmas party in Freemantle
(I even made the group photograph)

9) Go to the Places That are too Busy on the Weekends.
Theme parks (imagine no queues and no-one to laugh at you wet your pants/ vomit!)
Beaches (Every wave is yours to surf.)
[But avoid nudist beaches in the week. They tend to attract the wrong sorts of overly excitables]
The movies (You can change seats every time an actor says the word "Vortex" [for instance] 
Make sure it's not school holidays first!!!!

An awesome day spent on our own "private" beach in Australia

8) Stalk People
Now obviously it's better if you try and do this without completely freaking people out [or getting arrested], but there's joy in that too.
Find people who have mad skills or jobs that you would like to learn and see how they do it.
Take a day/week/month and trail them carefully, watching their every move.
Ask questions when you don't understand. 

If you have nothing left to learn or no aspirations to learn from anyone else, purely just follow people to discover new areas, shops, and gaits.

[Disclaimer: I take no personal responsibility for anyone who takes this too seriously and does anything/everything against the law]

There are creepy, and there are less creepy ways to do said stalking

7) Get Uber Fit
Go for long runs and hikes and swims. 
Climb mountains [and box slide down].
Learn to do the splits while rollerskating backwards.
Save money by walking or cycling everywhere, even if it takes you all day to get there (and if it does take a whole day, take a tent, because it will take a whole day to get back too.)

Even if you don't get uber fit, make sure you still go cardboard box sliding!

6) Write Your Memoirs
Everyone always dreams of writing a book.
Now's your chance, you've got the time.
And so what if you haven't done anything with your life yet? 
Write the book now and then go and lead a life that lives up to the legendness of the tale. 

Find the perfect spot and then start - even if you need to do it on paper

5) Find Creative Ways to Make Cash
Busk - you can earn heaps of money by being really good. But being really bad earns you just as much. (This is also chance to learn an [new] instrument)
Sell the belongings you don't need. And if they won't sell, creatively adapt them into something that will.
If you have no possessions you can always donate your eggs/ sperm/ and kidneys.
Blog (and if you learn how to make money from it, please teach me how).
Teach classes in successful unemployment-ism (or whatever else your specialty may be).
Become a self-acclaimed sommelier / beer connoisseur/ or personalized chef.
Walk dogs and/ or hyperactive children.
(I'm going to stop my list here because I need to keep some options for myself)

Take a temp or casual job.
You don't need to rush into a full time job that you'll probably hate [and that will definitely destroy your soul] just because you need cash.

At a traffic light in Johannesburg.
I made 50 bucks :)

4) Go on an Epic Adventure
Contrary to popular belief, you don't need money to travel!
Go down to your local marina and try hitch a ride on a boat.
Or hope on your bicycle and see where you end up.
Go visit those countries and cultures and places that you've always wanted to see!
Unemployment has taken me around the world one and a half times.
Spend all you have for the loveliness the world has to offer.

Hitch hiking to get to forbidden areas in Burma

3) Learn new Skills
Haven't you always wanted to[↓]? Now's your time to practice.
do a handstand.
read binary.
be a ninja.
undo all your bad karma.
memorize the entire periodic table of the elements.
navigate by the stars.
pole dance.
discover an undiscovered species or breed of germ.
make a movie.
sing opera.

Learning to do handstands.

2) Send Emails and Pictures to Long Lost Friends [and Enemies] and Family
You know how you always wondered what happened to such and such...
Or you've always wanted to thank [insert name here] for [insert thankful thing here]
This is your chance!
Better yet, send them actual hand-written letters or visit them.

Even if it's been years, and they might not remember who you are, they are still going to enjoy hearing from you! 
And remember that if you don't hear back from them, they're either just jealous that you're unemployed or too busy doing boring job stuff.

I'm still flipping grateful to these guys for getting me started as a gypsy!

1) Look for Jobs
But don't make getting employed your primary concern.
People tend to get so fixated on getting a job that they forget to enjoy their freedom. 
Jobs will always be there, free time won't!

Make sure you're looking for something that you really want to do - Why did you quit [or were you a rubbish employee] at the last job? 
Jobs take up such a huge portion of your life that you really don't want to be wasting hours of your short existence for a measly pay check!

Apply for jobs that are above you.
Challenge yourself!
Yes, they'll probably say no; but what if they don't??

In fact, while you're at it, if you can't find something you want to do locally; search the world.
Maybe it's time for a change of scenery?
Or maybe there's something awesome that you need to bring to your neighbourhood!

Jobs are a bit like partners; when you're not looking for them and obsessing about them, they find you!

This is an actual screen shot of my life last January

There's so many good aspects of the unemployed life!
Boredom is not an option!!

If all else fails, just go find something to lick!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Thank You for being Born

Coming home is not quite as easy as you might think. 
Even when you "just take a plane"...

While everyone else breezed past security, I had that bear scanned at all five airports on the way (Cairns. Bali. Bangkok. Addis Ababa. Johannesburg). 
Apparently either he or I look like we might be pushing drugs or smuggling some small children inside (although I'm not quite sure how I might have gotten said "small children" inside). 

And yes it was great to lick South African soil (some may call it "airport floor") 
and have my grandmother smiling and ready to make me her eternal housemate, never allowing me to venture off on another adventure ever again; 
but I had to keep her waiting an hour while I attempted to change $20 into rands. 
I didn't own an address or a phone number... even with a foreign passport, this simple task was impossible!

It took me four days and five attempts to try and acquire a phone number [luckily Ouma came in to rescue me... she'll have to do the same again as I attempt to unfreeze my bank account...]  

Meet Ouma. She's amazing!
I tried to hire a car, but without a credit card, nobody wanted to give me one. 
That's okay I suppose, I have started exploited our non-existent transport system for what it's not worth! 
And have enjoyed a whole host of incredible "taxis" with a plethora of friends and family!

But despite the bureaucracy and transportlessness, I have to admit it is flipping good to be back.
 I've spent a few days with my brother and his "pets". 
I've witnessed the miraculous growth of families as almost everyone I know has milked their wombs for their fertileness.
 I've spent time with my granny and cousins and friends. 
And I even had the privilege of crashing a best friend's wedding!

And just one of his many pets.
Look how fertile South African soil is...

It was a great wedding to crash too!
On long flights, in bank and sim card queues, on long bus rides, 
and while trapped in camp by herds of elephants; I've had much time to think and reminisce. 
I don't think any of you have an inkling of an idea of how incredible you really are and how much you've given to my life! 
In fact the list of people I need to thank for keeping me alive, off the streets, out of prison, and with a smile on my face is impossibly long!

They seem to get a kick out of trapping you inside
Some of you I have known for years and you've actively shaped and guided my life; 
you've put up with my nonsense, 
encouraged me, inspired me, given me all sorts of sound advices, 
and you've supported my weird life directions (sometimes with bated breath). 
For that I thank you profusely! 

But there's also all those people who hitched me (to get an ice-cream, or across countries, or oceans).
And those who hitched with me. 
Those who helped me reach dreams (like getting out of prison, or spending a day filling in potholes, or visiting Ikea, or building a raft and sailing it out into the ocean...) 
The amount of people who have taken me in for a night (or a month), 
those who have have fed me, 
or eaten with me (thank you too to the cannibals who refrained from eating me), 
who have kept me entertained and positive through all sorts of trials and tribulations and the hours/days/weeks of border crossings.

On some random border somewhere in central Asia 
Turkmenistan: where every time you stop to ask directions, you get welcomed in for a meal!
Thank you for random hugs and laughs and adventures.
Thank you too to those who carried a scowl and a frown; your misery reminded me I needed joy.
Thank you to all those who stop and help when crises strike!

Three flat tyres, at the same time in Mongolia.
A party ensued with all those who stopped to help!

In fact. It doesn't matter who you are, and whether I've known you for a minute or a decade; 
I want to thank you for being born! 
There's a reason you are here, and the world is a happier, friendlier, and epicer place because of it!

Somewhere in Australia with some happy people who made my week!

Monday, October 3, 2016


The end was in sight. 
In just three weeks my circumnavigation would be [more or less] complete. 
After 4 awesome [and challenging] years of hitch hiking on other peoples boats across the Indian, the Atlantic, and now the Pacific, I could just about smell the accomplishment.

S/V Fiddler.
60 Foot steel sloop
On which [not entirely against my will] I was forced to be a vegetarian.
I sailed her across the Indian Ocean and rejoined again in the Caribbean
S/Y Nereid
47 foot Beneteau
We survived the freezing cold of  the Atlantic and the Pirates who stole everything including my birthday plans
Although it wasn't all bad celebrating at sea! 
S/Y Yoldia
27 foot toiletless Albin Vega
I hitched her to Panama but then forgot to get off and stayed on board [through loss of autopilot and propane and rigging] all the way to Tonga.
Schooner Sjostrom
96 foot gaff rig
I sailed her through the glassy, windless waters from New Zealand to Fiji
S/Y Yacare
25 foot fiber Beneteau.
The waves were frequently bigger than the boat.
I sailed her from Fiji through the Solomons and PNG
But epiphany strikes when you expect it.
I was casually sailing through some of the most phenomenal islands in the world when one hit me with vengeance.
I suddenly knew what I wanted to do.
(As a woman that's just about unheard of)
And I was so excited about it, it couldn't wait!

Sunset in the Louisiades
It wasn't an easy decision. 
But when more-or-less-civilization struck (Port Moresby), I jumped ship.
I watched Yacare sail off to Indonesia and had tears roll down my face as I realized I was giving up on one dream in the quest for another.

For years I have been helping other people chase their goals and build their projects and float their ships. 
I've sweated and toiled and pushed myself because I don't believe in doing anything half-hearted, 
but at the end of the day I've walked away with only memories (and warm fuzzy feelings).
I've loved most of it, and learned a lot but, and this sounds selfish, it's time for me to build something myself. 
Time to start my own exploit.
I'm quite literally exhausted by "aimlessly" floating around the world.
And even more agonizing is my dire case of homesickness 

I missed the people.
The colours.
I missed the culture.
The animals.
I missed the braais.
The beaches and mountains and forests.
Even the jaapies.

Instagram photo by my incredibly talented baby brother Jeandre' Gerding
(Follow him @Umlunguish)
Photo by @Umlunguish
Photo by @Umlunguish
In fact, I also had a rather peculiar realization;
one that will save months of my life:
And so I gave up trying to wangle my way onto cargo ships (or other random means of transport) and bit the bullet.
Although it's not quite as easy as it sounds!

I flew from Papua New Guinea to Cairns.
From Cairns to Bali.
From Bali to Bangkok.
And my final flights have just been confirmed.
Tonight I fly to Addis Abba and in the morning, for the first time in three long years,  I'll be home.

Photo by @Umlunguish
I'm quite terrified!
I have no idea what's waiting for me in South Africa.
I've been gone for so long that I'm not even sure my family will recognise me, let alone friends.
I've seen, experienced, learned and grown so much that I don't even recognise myself.

Beetle nut for breakfast
In the last 9 years of Part Time Professional Gypsyism (PTPG), this is the first time I've decided to go home for me. 
Not for a wedding. Or by accident. Or for any other reason.
Just because it's time. 
It's where I need and want to be.
I always thought I'd return fit and lean, with excessive bundles of foreign cash...
Instead I carry a squiggy sailor's build and I'm broke (but fortunately not broken).
But if you wait for perfect conditions, you'd better by quite good at knitting.
I'm can't knit!

I'm not sure how long I'll be back for.
I'm not at all sure of the practicalities of what I'm setting out to do...
(The "epiphony" still carries some haziness)
For so long I have taken solace in knowing that I'm a good gypsy.
I'm good at scumming it; scavenging for food, hitching, exchanging skills and muscle for shelter and adventure.
I'm used to migrating. To moving. To letting life distract me.
But I crave a base. A home. Community.

I might be 27 degrees short of a circumnavigation, but for now 
I've had enough of licking foreign soils. 
Enough stories. 
Enough challenges and new places.
 For a while at least.
It's time for something different.
It's time to catch up and reconnect with old friends (if any of you remember me?)
It's time to remember my roots.
It's very much time to go to the airport.
It's time to go home!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Turning Bras into Pumpkins

"Are you an African?"
"How did you know?" 
"You look like one?"
"You have met many?"
"No. I have never met an African."
I smiled in confusion
"But I have read about them.They are good people."

Trying to show my new mates where Africa is...
Charles was clearly incredibly wise and insightful. 
We got talking about good people. 
We got talking about bad people 
(PNG is renowned for their rascals - the raping pillaging, lawless anarchists hungry to inflict pain and violence in their wake). 
We got talking about cannibals:

"The headman would choose who he would like to eat. Sometimes the men. Sometimes the woman. Normally visitors - especially the lumo lumo" (white men; maybe I was dark enough to avoid the palet). 
"And how would they eat them?"
"Well first they would remove the head. The body would be cooked on a fire and served to the village. When the flies stop sitting on the head then it is ready to be boiled and turned into a soup. The soup is a special delicacy."
"IS!!??" I asked in a mild panic. "What do you mean is?"
"No no no" said Charles. "We do not eat humans anymore. Now we have enough meat."
I wondered how their "meat" supply was doing with the famine and drought they'd experience just last year.
I delved deeper into the technicalities and the history on the matter and probably shouldn't have. Just one bay over there still sat a boat where all thirty [plus] passengers were dragged ashore and feasted upon  
"And how long ago was that?" 
"Ahhh, not so long ago... maybe 40 years." 
That was just short of my lifetime!

"She's half school" (one coconut short of a palm) chuckled the toothless beetlenuters who'd tied up to our boat to give us yams as another wanga [outrigger] paddled over.  
We seemed to have an endless supply of curious visitors wandering over. Sometimes we'd still be dropping anchor when the friendly smiles would bargain and trade and want. 
Day. Night. Too frequently before breakfast.

I traded 3 balloons for 2 coconuts and a bunch of tasty leaves.
I traded an old t-shirt for a bunch of bananas.
I traded beads or pens or notebooks for papayas.
Soap for wild bird eggs.
Fish hooks for potatoes.
Balloons were the first niche that all the kids wanted
In the next bay it was bracelets...
And finally i dug deep into my scant bundle of life belongings and produced luminous hairpins - they were an instant success!
We had more fresh supplies than we could eat! 
I liked this way of life. Out here money was about as useless as a roll of toilet paper that had been swimming in the bog. 

"Can you help me please, I have cut my finger" 
John climbed on board and removed his grass bandage. It didn't look like much and had already closed. We took out the first aid kit and disinfected it before covering it up with a white men bandaid. We told him he'd live.
And where are my pills?
Pain killers? 
Yes. I need painkillers.

The first visitor the next morning needed the same thing. She claimed neck pain.
"Please miss we are very remote." 
Remote? Remote? Do remote people NEED lumo lumo painkillers to survive minor pains. Aren't these the wildest of the wild- people who wrestle crocs and horde off rascals. Aren't these people genetically fearless warriors. 
I said no. And almost added a "flip off"...
She paddled away miraculously appearing to be healed.

While it wasn't everywhere, there were some islands where visiting yachts had over traded and introduced people to things that were never meant to be introduced to. When people wanted yeast or water containers, it was normally for  [illegal] homebrew.
When we tried to give swimming goggles, they simply spat them back in our face and demanded our personal dive masks instead.
Boats coming from Australia would load up with bags of donated clothes and equipment for trading, so it was hard to communicate that the t-shirt I was trading had sentimental value and was one of the only four I owned...
We didn't stick around these places for long. The residents here had seemed to forget about what was really important in life!

The local sailing canoe (Sailow)
We tried to stick to the places where we were welcomed and accepted. The places where sailows laughed as they breezed past and the smiles sang as they paddled home from their farms. 
Where the children simply wanted to give and smile and visit and play with your hair, you knew the community still held. 

"Are there crocodiles?" I asked the smiling faces who'd paddled over to greet us as we arrived after a very rough passage from Honiara, Solomon Islands.
"Yes! Plenty."
"In this bay?"
Synchronized nods.
"And do they attack?"
"Yes." [matter-of-factly as if to say "duh!"]
"Have you seen it?"
"Many times."
"And what about in your wanga? Can they jump up and pull you down?"
"Yes. Can!"

I sensed that maybe we drew so many visitors because they wanted to give us food to fatten us up and make us more attractive to the neighborhood pets.
So much for swimming. 

It was two days later on a lonely dusk [inflatable kayak] paddle back from a village where I stumbled upon a big shape drifting through the water towards me. It dropped down leaving two eye like blobs submerged and then it vanished all-together. 
I cannot confirm the nature of the creature but it separated me from the yacht and left me at a bit of a quandry: did I paddle faster and [hopefully] get back quicker? Or did I slow right down and drift in the current and wind hopefully to be mistaken as a log?

As you may have suspected I did make it back alive. 
The swarm of visitors all confirmed the nature of the creature to be as I suspected. They leave the rivers in the dry season in search of food and only return when sated.
I was glad to be home - but I saw the anguish on the faces of our guests who had a long dark row back in their dainty serving dishes.

As  we hopped beautiful islands and bays I was continually challenged to face the fears nature threw at me. I was in some of the most bewithching, unexplored  islands on earth and I was towering in fear - almost too scared to enjoy them.
The crocodiles, sharks, malarial mosquitoes, pirates and canibalisms seemed to merely mirror the inner insecurities I needed to tackle. Fear of failure, fear of inadequacy, fear of dissappointing others... These terrified me even more than the salties! It's amazing how much you learn about yourself when you completely remove all technological and worldly distractions. 

As I began wrestling the self issues, I found the natural threats becoming less alarming. I began swimming and snorkeling the pacific blues (When the kayak broke it became a necessity) and climbing hills where wild people might reside. I got myself tangled in webs and had massive tarantulas crawl over me.  We even pulled up a snake on the anchor...
I ran into a few huge reef sharks and got plenty of mosquito bites;  but I began to trust I'd be okay.
After all, I also only had one chance to explore these almost untouched cultures.

It took a long time to overcome my own inner turmoil but If I could trade my bra for a pumpkin, I could trade in my own insecurities for an unrestrained life.
I did. I think this one was a fair trade.