I've been a traveller since I was 19 and I guess the more you move around the world, the more you open yourself up to extraordinary experiences, good and bad. I have so many, and thankfully, to this date, they all at least have a happy ending.
I was living in the U.K. in my early twenties. My sister, Merryde, joined me after about 6 months, and after travelling around together for the next twelve months, we were to fly home to Australia. Since she'd flown over separately, she was on a different airline and had to take a train to Paris from London first. I was flying directly from London, but we'd decided to spend a few weeks in Asia on the way home. First stop would be Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The arrangement was that since Merryde's flight was to arrive in Colombo four hours after mine, I'd just wait at the airport for her and then we'd go off and find somewhere to stay using our trusty 'Asia On A Shoestring' guide.
So we said goodbye to each other in London, and as I approached the top of the escalator which led down to the platform that my train to the airport was to leave from, I saw my train slowly pulling out. I watched in disbelief. I knew I was pushing it for time, but I couldn't believe I'd missed it.
I ran as fast as I could with my 18kg back pack to the taxi stand where there was an endless queue of people. I burst into tears and fully aware of how pathetic I must have looked, I begged them all to allow me to take the next cab! Horrified and sympathetic, they stepped back as one to let me in.
Sobbing in the back of the cab, my mind was racing. What if I miss my flight? My sister will arrive in Colombo and won't know where I am. I can't contact her (there were no mobile phones back then). We hadn't even thought to book a hotel so that we'd know to just get ourselves there and wait for the other. Aaaaargh I was beside myself. As well as that, the cab fair used up the equivalent of 1 week's travel money. Asia was very cheap, but now my budget was depleted by 7 days.
Well I did make my flight, within minutes, and I felt extremely relieved as you can imagine. But little did I know that the worst was yet to come.
I arrived in Sri Lanka, collected my bags and was wandering around looking for somewhere to sit and wait the 4 hours for my sister's flight, when a rather large, gold chain wearing Sri Lankan man asked me if I needed assistance. I replied that I was fine thank you, and just waiting for my sister coming from Paris. "Oh", he exclaimed, "that flight has been delayed indefinitely! Maybe it will arrive tomorrow or the next day, but not before". He must have seen the blood drain from my face as I realized I had no accommodation booked, I had no way of contacting my sister, and I had no idea when she would be arriving. All I could think was, what if she arrives tomorrow and I'm not here to meet her? She'll be panicked. She won't know where I am! Was this man even telling the truth? I mean, here I was, a young, vulnerable female travelling alone in a 2nd if not 3rd world country at that time.
So long story short, (I verified this man was a staff member at the airport), and I reluctantly allowed him to drive me to a nearby hotel. Without going into detail, he tried a few things on me including the old "I'll take you to a jewellery shop and you choose anything, anything you want and don't look at the price" trick, but it didn't work of course. I wasn't THAT vulnerable or naive (wink wink).
After a sleepless night, strung out and anxious, I made a few trips to the airport the next morning with my man friend, but we were not allowed past the entry gates without a ticket and were turned away each time and told to come back later. Finally, we got news of an arrival time, and this time we were allowed in. I saw my sister coming through customs, and as she approached me smiling, laughing and waving, I broke down with relief and bawled my eyes out. While I'd been living my nightmare, SHE had been swanning around in a Hilton Hotel in Paris, partying with others from the same flight - COURTESY OF THE AIRLINE THANK YOU VERY MUCH! I don't think she'd even given a second thought about HER sister!
So all's well that ends well and boy was I ever happy to see her. I was also very grateful to my man friend, though a little shady, he turned out to be harmless, and really went out of his way to help me out.
I hope you've enjoyed this week's story and as always, please leave a comment below as I love to hear your thoughts.
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Until next time. Thank you for joining me.
On a train in Sri Lanka eating frozen pineapple pieces.
I feel it's time to re-visit a period of my life that was not only very recent, but life-changing. It was a three year whirlwind experience that came about after I sent one email to a woman named Fiona Joy.
I was sitting on my bed, (my office), with my computer one day in early 2011. I was listening to an on-line radio show by Lisa Aston of House Concerts Australia, and when I heard the beautiful piano music of Fiona Joy, I thought to myself, I wonder if she'd like to tour with me? I'd been wanting to put together an Australian tour playing theatres, performing arts centres and jazz clubs, but it all seemed very daunting until I thought about teaming up with another artist.
With nothing to lose I shot Fiona an email (she wasn't hard to find) and she immediately wrote back with a big fat YES! Goodness. I wasn't quite expecting that. So.... ummmmm, what now? I quickly put my thinking cap on and came back to her with a few of my personal tour requirements which were 1) venues must be gorgeous 2) venues must have a grand piano and 3) we must play solo. That was it. Fiona was agreeable, (though a little unsure about the 'playing solo' bit since she had mostly only played with a full ensemble at that point), but after a not so gentle pep talk from me (a newly reformed soloist - see my 'Love Affair With NYC' blog), she CAVED, and promised to NEVER question my guru-esque wisdom EVER again! And with that we were bonded.
Before we knew it, we were staring down the barrel of an East Coast Tour for October that same year, having pooled our resources, put our heads together and enlisted the services of Lisa Aston and Deborah Gann to help with bookings and publicity. I could hardly believe what was happening even though I'd lit the fuse.
A friend of mine came up with the tour name 'Two Grand I'm Yours' which we embraced and ran amuck with. We thought it was clever, and cute and a little bit cheeky. This inspired me to think about a promo video, and after a sleepless night with silly ideas running through my head, well, a video was born (see below)..... and then...........there were two.
So off we went, green and nervous on our very first show of the tour, which was the Brisbane Jazz Club. As we steamrolled and giggled our way down the coast, we felt pretty happy with ourselves and decided we'd take it to America!!! What? What the hell were we thinking?
Sometimes, it pays to be a little naive when it comes to getting the job done. In the absence of fear and hesitation, Fiona and I reached out to everyone we knew in the United States, and with the help and generosity of so many of our friends, once again, we had a tour lined up for 2012 but this time it was America!!! Yikes! What would they think of us? What were we doing?
Well, I'm happy to say that the Americans embraced us with their enormous hearts, their overt warmth and kindness, and we managed to accomplish another two U.S. tours over the following years. To our surprise, all this touring together made us realize we had a positive contribution to make in the world. We seemed to be touching peoples' lives in a way that we never imagined. We were just having fun, but out of it came a sense of purpose that I don't think either of us totally understood at the beginning of it all.
Though we've finished touring together as Two Grand I'm Yours, Fiona and I remain great friends and we still work together to help support each others' careers. I've learned so much from Fiona over the years and she's a very kind hearted and talented artist. I'm eternally grateful for her having come into my life and for all the people who have come with her as a consequence.
I hope you've enjoyed this week's story and as always, please leave your comments below as I love to hear your thoughts and remarks.
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Until next week. Thank you for joining me.
Well you're not going to believe THIS story but it's absolutely true!
I was in need of accommodation in NYC for about a month on another visit, so I put a post on my facebook page asking if anyone knew of a room to rent. A friend of mine, Graham (in Australia), messaged me and gave me the contact details of a friend of his in NYC, Annette. Annette wasn't able to help with accommodation, but she asked me to get in touch when I was there so we could meet up for a coffee (or was it a cocktail) .... more likely.
So I eventually secured a room in a very tall building, on about the 17th floor on East 38th, and when I rang Annette, she asked me where I was staying. I told her the address and she remarked "are you serious"? I'm right across the street on the 21st floor" I said "get out of here! I'm going to put a yellow post-it note on my window and if you can see it, wave". I put the note on my window, a woman came outside onto her balcony high up in the building across the street and began waving her arms madly! We've been really great friends ever since.
On that same visit (I think it was 2010/11), I got invited to a party at the apartment of a couple of guys who played the piano and sang. They were so passionate about their music career and were obviously on there way to becoming very successful. It wasn't only the songs and their voices that made me feel this way, but there was an energy about them that was palpable. Their names were Ian and Chad. Well they were definitely on their way, because last year I kept hearing a new song on the radio, on the TV, in shopping centres etc. It was so beautiful and powerful that I was compelled to go looking to see who this band was. Blow me down if it wasn't my new friends Ian and Chad. The song was 'Say Something' and their new band name was A Great Big World. What can I say! It just feels like anything can happen in New York City.
In conclusion, as I think about the Big Apple and what it means to me, I think that no matter how vibrant and exciting a place can be, it's ultimately the people you meet that make it an even greater experience for you or not even an experience you'd care to revisit. I know plenty of people who've visited NYC and though they appreciate it's finer qualities, their experiences were not the same as mine or anyone else's for that matter, and they feel satisfied with the one visit. Isn't that the fascinating thing about life! Our experiences are so uniquely our own.
Thank you for reading my story today and before you leave, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. If you'd like to be notified in the future of new postings and happenings, please put your details in the box to the right-hand side of this page (or scroll down if you're on a mobile device).
Until next week.
My photographer and dear friend Robin Craig. Click on the photo to check out some of our very first moments together around New York City.