One Journey Ends ~ A New One Begins

I woke up this morning to honking horns of yellow New York City cabs outside of my window instead of the soft rippling of ocean waves, and I smiled.  It is good to be home.  I made an unexpected 24 hour journey on 3 different flights this Thursday,

The view of NYC from the Gansevoort rooftop

leaving Australia about 2 months before originally planned, so one journey ends and the next begins.  When the heart speaks, it sometimes changes the plans you have for yourself.

Jason picking me up from the airport after 3 flights and 24 hours of being on a plane! I was so ready to be home and so happy to have him there waiting for me

 

 

 

 

I’m 30 years old today.  Instead of being alone on a beach in Bali as anticipated, I was surrounded by those I love most in the best city in the world, and I feel so unbelievably grateful.  I’m not sure about how I feel about being 30.  In the weeks leading up to this “big” birthday (Ask me if it was a big birthday when I’m 80 and I’m sure there will be added perspective there), I have given it thought.  Entering a new decade is cause for self reflection,

Jason threw me a surprise 30th birthday party with all of my friends and with 30 famous Magnolia Bakery cupcakes!!

and I’ve been thinking about my life, all that I have been so fortunate to have and do in my  20’s and how this new chapter will bring new and different fulfilling experiences.  I am happier than I’ve ever been: more confident and sure of myself, I know what I want in my life more than I ever have before, and I have a deeper sense of meaning and gratitude with each day as the years do pass on.  I think what feels strange about leaving a decade is knowing that I will never return to

So grateful for my friends!

it again.  That one day I’ll be showing my grand-daughter, Lord willing, pictures of when me and her grandfather were young and I was in my twenties, oh-so-many moons ago.  Really the only thing inevitable in life is that time does continue to march on.  All in all, I am not scared of growing older.  I look at who I am now compared to who I was 10 years ago, and I like myself more.  I know myself more.  So dirty thirty, welcome.  I’m ready for you.

I stepped outside this morning with a pop in my step from the crisp New York fall air.  It was a perfect autumn day, and I rounded the corner to Union Square’s outdoor market, filled with fall vegetables and flowers in hues of aubergine, golds and oranges.

Union Square Farmer's Market

I walked into Whole Foods and was greeted by a thick aroma of warm cinnamon sugar.  It smelled like Thanksgiving, and it was such a taste of home that I could practically cut a fat slice of it like it were warm apple pie and just bask in its sweetness.  When something hits me with an explosion of joy like this did, I can’t help but start giggling.  It bubbles up from my insides.  So I walked through Whole Foods with a stupid grin and giggles on my face, and the Union Square market even brought a couple of tears to my eyes.  I am home.  And not just to a place: to a person who means more to me than my heart knows how to express.

Pumpkins and gourds galore!! Fall is on its way...

Such a happy Ashley!

I hadn’t blogged in quite some time, so there are so many stories and things to catch up with from the last 2 and 1/2 weeks of my trip.  I will conclude with some highlights and some lessons learned….

– I spent a night at a working cattle station in the outback and got to ride horses, do some goat herding, and tell stories around a campfire.  As much as I am a city girl, it brought me back to my Texas roots a bit and brought a warm feeling to my heart, all those thousands of miles away.

Me and my horse, Honey, at the Cattle Station before our ride

– I got to go with my new friend, Sera Steves, to an animal sanctuary in Townsville where she works and get up close and personal with Australian wildlife.  A dream of mine came true that day: I got to hold a koala, something I have wanted to do since I was a kid.  His name was Houdini and he had a musky smell to attract all of his lady friends.  Although I know koalas in the wild are not so cuddly, he was just as cuddly as I had always dreamed these little guys would be.  I was in love.  A few days later, I went hiking on a place called Magnetic Island, and I got to see 6 koalas in the wild up in the trees, one with a mom and joey.  Now that  was an incredible sight to be able to see them in their natural habitat.

Me and my pal, Houdini

Koalas sleep for 18-20 hours each day. This little guy looks like he was pretty tuckered. On a hike on Magnetic Island

– I took a sailing trip in the Whitsunday Islands, a collection of 74 pristine islands in the Great Barrier reef.  The water was aquamarine and the sand a blazing white.  I would figure out how to build a fire and gather food if someone could just drop me off and leave me at Whitehaven beach.

Whitehaven Beach

Sunset out on the sailboat in the Whitsundays

– I went scuba diving at the S.S. Yongala, one of the world’s top 5 ship wreck dives.  It sunk 100 years ago in the cyclone of 1911.  Just 30 minutes from shore, it rests in less than 100 feet of water in a sandbar that stretches for miles, so it’s a center for marine life.  I have never seen things like I saw: massive marbled rays, fish larger than me and sea snakes (highly venomous but they aren’t aggressive) ribbon gracefully through the water.

Diving the S.S. Yongala- Photo courtesy of Michelle Ahern, my friend who has an awesome waterproof camera!

– I went to Daintree Forest, the world’s oldest Rainforest and a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The trees seemed as tall as New York skyscrapers, and they cradled us in their majesty.  It was quite amazing to behold.

This picture cannot capture the enormity and majesty of this Cathedral Fig Tree

Me with just some of its trunk, to put its size into perspective

In reflecting upon my trip, I did learn some things that will always stick with me.  I learned that I can do anything.  I can go to a foreign country by myself and figure things out.  I will always make friends where I go and I am so inspired by other travelers and their stories, the way they live their lives and by the stories they have.  I learned that it doesn’t matter where you go in life: places will always be there, but it’s the people you love that matter the

Jas and me on the night of my 30th birthday, reunited and oh-so-happy

most.  I realized just how grateful I am to have work and a business that allows for such life experiences as these, and I’m coming home more excited than I’ve ever been to grow professionally.  I realized even more how I value simplicity in life.  If I can travel for 2 months with everything on my back that I need, I really don’t need a lot.  I don’t want a lot

Girlfriends at a welcome home/ birthday brunch at the Waverly Inn, a quaint little spot in the West Village, NYC

of stuff in life: what I want is life experiences that build lasting memories, a strong sense of fulfillment and lead to a deeper purpose in life.

I feel like my trip was a rite of passage leading into my 30th birthday and into this new decade of life.  What I sought to learn and grow, I found.  I am home now, and my journey continues.

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One Response to One Journey Ends ~ A New One Begins

  1. Welcome back, Ashley! And Happy Birthday! It sounds like you had an amazing trip! Speaking as someone who knows, your 30s are wonderful — enjoy the new decade! I can’t wait to hear how life progresses for you. XO

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