To Float Like a Mangrove Pod

Avicennia marina, Gray Mangrove

A Mangrove seed pod floats through rivers, oceans and bays until it finds a place to land. When it does land, it tries to bury it’s roots down to grow. Unfortunately, it can’t grow everywhere and the brave little seed pods perish upon foreign land. Now, not to be dramatic or anything, but I feel a strange connection to the fate of these pods. I’ve floated across the skies to many different countries, waiting for the one that I could sink my roots down into. Of the places I have been, none have been able to hold me for long enough for roots to grow. There has never been the right combination of whatever’s to keep me in one place. Yet, here I stand on Australian sand, and unlike the Mangrove pods that can’t grow there, I feel my roots slipping down. 

Yesterday, my pen pal and I went for a walk in the Booderee National Forest on a stretch of sand called Green Patch. The sky was cloudy, but the ocean was so ferociously turquoise that it could not hide it’s translucent hues. Our feet, bare in the white sand, walked across sedimentary rocks lined with colors leaching through the soil by the gum trees. And the gum trees grow all the way down to the sea, kissing the salty air with their long fragrant leaves and twisting branches. 


We walk in silence mostly, followed by bursts of random stories usually pertaining to the world around us. As a marine biologist, I often find B stooped down over a tide pool, flipping over rocks or looking for anenomes. This world is very alive for her, and her enthusiasm for the creatures is nearly impossible not to let overtake you. I find a smile on my face every time I check. As the reality of Australia being a home for me settles in, I allow myself to become excited about a place. The desire that is necessary to fall in love with something is there, and I find myself opening to the endless list of uncertainty. 

Our nature count for the day tallies up quickly. We chance upon three separate Wallabies grazing along the beach. The tide pools are full of an assortment of names I can no longer remember, and the sky is full of colorful lorikeets and parrots.  All of this is only a 2 hour drive south from where I plan to reside. It is hard not to be excited about the inevitable approach of Summer. I count myself lucky to be experiencing my third spring of the year, cuddled up in an Australian jumper with my Australian friend. Below are some more photos from our day.

Actinia tenebrosa, Red waratah anenome

Neptune’s Necklace

Before Going Down Under

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I have always wished there was a list for how to gracefully leave a place. A list for who you need to see, what you need to do, and how you need to pack. For me it always seems like a desperate whirl-wind of chasing the people I love around California, unloading everything I own into a giant pile in my parents house, and then making last minute trips to the thrift store to drop off the unwanteds and no-longer-needs before meticulously packing my bags up until the minute I HAVE to get into the car to go to the airport. Because of this wish for a straightforward list, I will try my best to make one later on in this post.

What no one really says about traveling is how hard it is to leave the ones you love. There always seems some kind of glorification around the traveler’s ability to up and leave on the flip of a coin, but the truth is that it is never that easy. Every time you leave a place, you are choosing to put your life with the ones you love on hold. Social media can only go so far to act as a buffer from that separation, and so you share your life through pictures and the occasional facetime. However, it is never easy. Liberating, sure. But easy, no. There is always a tug pulling you back towards the lives of the people you have cared about for your whole lives, whom strangers can never truly stand-in for.

This being said, for many of us, it is worth it. By letting go, we find ourselves. Yeah, yuck, it’s cliche, but in full honesty no one knows who they are until they find space from the people that think they know who they are. And when the traveler gets onto the plane and steps into uncertainty, the only person they have to believe in is themselves. The true traveler recognizes this separation. She can acknowledge the choice she made to travel, and the goodbyes she had to make, and the hellos she will be able to create. And then, in the end, the people who are there when she returns are the ones that are meant to stick around. It’s an unusual test, but it’s just another way to sort through the chaos.

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Without further ado….

Who to see: You usually will have a limited number of days to say your goodbyes. This means you need to be selective about who you say goodbye to. Spend quality time with your closest friends and family and write down their addresses before you go. Everyone loves letters. Do not waste your time on acquaintances. You will probably end up spending more money on coffee and beer than you need to in the days before leaving.

What to pack: 1. Shoes are the most important thing. Do not pack any shoes you can’t walk more than a mile in. I like to bring a pair of boots, sandals, and running shoes to keep up with whatever comes my way. 2. The little black dress. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the black dress. It will love you on the days you can barely move from exhaustion. It can dress up and down. It is lightweight. Everyone loves a black dress (I got mine from Ross.) 3. Enough shorts and shirts and pants not to have to do laundry every day, but not too many that you’re faced with the crippling decision of what to wear every day. I like to bring an assortment of clothes that all match with each other so I can swap shirts and pants accordingly. 4. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, the camping essentials are a must. I never travel without my sleeping bag and a pair of long underwear to get me through long nights. This addendum to the list is bulky, but saves you in the long run by being able to camp instead of book a room. 5. Toiletries, duh, but facial wipes are amazing for long stints without showers. Nail clippers seem to be the friend I always forget, so I’ll throw that up here for fun. 6. A good book. Only one. You will find more as you go I promise. 7. A shawl for the plane. It doubles as a blanket and is an amazing travel companion. I just discovered this one recently.

What to do before you go: 1. Put everything you’re not taking into a cozy storage space somewhere so as not to burden anyone with your belongings. 2. GIVE AWAY EVERYTHING. I mean sure, if you are super thrifty you can throw a garage sale or sell to consignment shops, but trust me the things you have left will only beckon you to come back sooner. The less you have, the more free you are. I cannot stress this enough. 3. Notify your banks that you are leaving…. otherwise you may end up in a foreign country with no money, just saying. 4. Check the visa requirements and read the fine print. If you are doing a work holiday visa, make sure all of your forms are filled out and turned in. If you can only stay in a country for 3 months, make sure your final destination there is near a border for a quick escape (just kidding kind of). 5. Triple check what you packed to make sure you have everything, and then get on the plane and go! Let the stoke fill you up as your stomach drops into “what the hell am i doing?” and then back to “hell yeah, lets do this.” Traveling is always worth it. Always.

I am currently packing up for Australia. The goodbyes have been said, and all that is left is to get myself down to the airport. Stay tuned for the adventure to follow.