In the spirit of Mental Health Awareness Week here in NZ, I thought I’d pull my laptop out and just start typing… Writing for me literally saved my life. It was my go-to when life… More
Why the fuck did I sign up for this?!… Ooo look a waterfall.
People who have many a countries under their belts have referred to long overseas adventures as “travelling”, as opposed to “going on holiday”. I thought of the two as pretty much the same, that was until I set off on this adventure. People’s comments I replay in my mind when I’m exhausted, sweaty and on the verge of sitting down and refusing to move, have been, “it’s not always rainbows and butterflies, but it is totally worth it”, that I also now am able to grasp with two (very clammy and always slightly dirty) hands.
Hold up. ‘Why is my poo that colour?’
Travelling between accomodation is always a test of the ole patience. If we weren’t carrying giant backpacks, litres of water, an overloaded handbag and sweating our balls off it wouldn’t be so bad. ‘It’s so bloody hot out here, hopefully we get a taxi with aircon‘.
“Should we just walk, it’s only like 30mins?!” Grace says encouragingly.
*walking, walking, walking*
‘I think if I keep walking in this heat, I may pass out.
You’re fine Bex, shut up.
I have sweat dripping into my eyes, I can’t even see where I’m walking. That is practically a safety hazard, I could fall onto this busy road and get hit by a car.
Why is no one else sweating?!’
“I have sweat dripping down my back into my butt crack.”
‘Glad I’m not the only one. I honestly don’t think I can walk any further. My shoes are giving me blisters.
You’re feet are fine, stop complaining, you’re making this harder. Just breathe you big pussy. Correction – big sweaty pussy!’
“Almost there“, Grace says, looking at her trusty map.
‘You said that ages ago!’
“The buildings here are so beautiful!”
‘She has a point- so stunning.
Fuck, this bag is heavy.
Not far to go and then you can breathe for a second.
Why is it this bloody hot? it’s not even one bit neccessary!
Jesus, I’m over this! It’s been way longer than 30mins and she never said anything about a giant ass hill.
I’m not sure I can last 10 weeks. Might just go home…”
*walks past stunning view, stops to check it out*
‘Wow, how incredible is this?! Like a picture. I feel so grateful to be here right now, soaking it all in. So so so beautiful. This is what life is about.
Ok… So I didn’t really want to get a 4 hour taxi ride, two buses and a couple of planes anyway.’
Despite being sweaty around 95% of the time, travelling this far has been truly incredible. I think if I ever did an adventure like this again, I’d do it in Spring time or the other side of Summer. 40 degrees has slowly killed me and makes for a lot of planning around the mid-day temperature peaks, either that or slowly melting. When the sun is beaming down it can make the simplest, and normally an enjoyable task, horribly hard. A positive of the weather is that you get pretty comfortable in your own skin, as five minutes in the sun sweats all of your make up off and you’re left bare faced very quickly. I gave up on trying to look good pretty early into this trip. Upper lip sweat and a face various shades of red is now my new look. How am I still single?!
At least three times a day I think I may actually run out of energy, my petrol light blinking continuously, but I never actually do. I think I may get sun stroke and curl into a ball and die, but nope that hasn’t happened yet either. I think I’m stronger and surprisingly fitter than I give myself credit for and despite being very close to fainting once, I’ve managed to survive all various physical adventures Grace has lead me on. Including the mountain hike, which always is my go-to when I think I’m too tired, dehydrated or lazy to do something. It usually goes something like, ‘Shut the F up Sloan, you hiked a bloody humongous mountain, 2900 something crazy metres in the air. You can walk up this 3km hill! I know you’re breathing like a 80 year-old, pack-a-day smoker, but you’re almost at the top, so keep going!‘ It usually does the trick, either that or set up life in the middle of a Cuban Jungle and refuse to move.
By the time you reach the stunning summit, breathtaking waterfall, gorgeous beach or rave in a cave, you’ve forgotten all about the sweaty hike it took to get there.
‘Seriously, why is my poo that colour?’
Almost five weeks in I do find myself craving a day with my best friend, on the couch, sipping a NZ Sav and cuddling my puppy friends I left behind. Or maybe a Yin Yoga class with Ruth, followed by a beach stroll or a park up at a cafe with a good coffee (Or two), writing away the day… just one of thee above and then I’d happily jump straight back into this. But I remind myself that was not why I came on this trip. For me it was about stretching the comfort zone, doing things that don’t fit into the ‘everyday’ category and challenging myself. We all know that with a challenge comes growth and there is always, always room to grow.
Blogging this wee trip has helped me reconnect with myself and any small moments I get to do this makes my soul happy and gets me ready to sweat up a near breakdown the following day. Ha! These moments are important to have and I know the couch and a glass of vino will always be there.
‘What if I taxi and they can walk themselves into a puddle of their own sweaty goodness?!’
Grace pipes up, as if she can hear the thoughts swirling around my brain, “You can taxi if you want too. We need to save some money, so we’re going to walk, subway and then bus.”
It’s good for you, plus you’re not a Kardashian, you don’t have an endless supply of mulla Sloan… (dashian). Quit complaining.’
We walked into the New York subway station and our ears picked up immediately. The buskers there were out of this world and there’s something about jamming on a platform that makes the acoustics jump out at you, igniting a smile instantly. We danced, absorbed and appreciated the local talent and I thought, if I had taxi’d, then I wouldn’t be standing here right now, enjoying this very moment. Same happened in Cuba when we walked down a bunch of old cobble stone streets, instead of catching a ride offered to us by every second Cuban man on the street. We saw beautiful old Cuban ladies, all standing outside their homes, some hanging washing from their balconies, some just being nosy, but all so friendly, bearing the biggest and warmest smiles. They said “Hola” as we walked past and it was one of those moments that are just so perfect you have to pinch yourself.
Eventually we came across a couple who owned a hostel, stopping in we loved their energy, so stayed for two nights. It was amazing and again a taxi ride would’ve eliminated both of those experiences – I’ve got to hand it to Grace, she knows how to do this travel stuff and I love her for that.
Walking through the Cuban jungle, entertained by singing birds, we headed towards a waterfall to cool off. People who head in search of tropical areas of the world are almost always snapping Instagram pics of beautiful waterfalls. What they don’t include in their caption is the bushy, hilly hike it took to get them there. You see candid (although snap – we know you’re posing) water shots, rising from the water or having the waterfall splash all over you. What you don’t see is the pool of sweat that had formed in your boob crevous and the way your sunglasses made a subtle grimy mark around your tired eyes. You don’t see the lovely sweat mark formed on your behind or the slick hair-do you’re now sporting due to the sun juice trickling down your forehead.
‘This water is the coldest I’ve felt in a long time – ah-mazing!
Do you think there are fish in here? Waterfalls could possibly be the coolest thing nature has created.
Holy shit something just touched my foot.
Gosh, this is stunning. How lucky I feel just being able to be here right now, swimming in a waterfall in the middle of Cuba, a country where tourists were once banned.
K nah, that fish is huge.
What if, just like on Grey’s Anatomy, there are penis fish, that swim up your hole. I think it could only possibly happen if I pee’d.
I kinda need to pee now…
Not subtle at all due to the fact that your pee is highlighter yellow. Must remember to drink more water.’
Staying in a third-world country you have to remember not to drink the tap water, always look at the food in the restaurant before you order meat (otherwise it could be a miscellaneous grey slab of a tummy bug waiting to happen) and just have your wits about you when ordering drinks.
‘Don’t swallow the water while brushing your teeth. You’ll get sick and that’ll just fuck everything up won’t it?!. Spit it all out, not even a little. Don’t rinse your mouth out, just go and find your drink bottle and do it with that. I’m serious Sloan, you have a funny tummy on a normal day.’
*Few days in*
“This ice is sweet eh?!”
No one answered me, oh well, it’s hot, I’m sure it’s fine. This meat looks a little funny, tastes ok – sweet asssss. I’ve had a good run.. what 27 years?!’
Travelling does teach you to relax a little. You’re head starts thinking that the man driving you four hours across the middle of Cuba could be a serial killer and in fact could be leading you just about anywhere and you’d have no bloody idea, but as you enter into his shitty, falling-a-part-at-the-seams car, you give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he is a good human. When you’re sitting at an airport terminal and there’s a lightening and thunder storm happening all around you, with the entire airport loosing power multiple times, you put out to the Universe that you’d like to arrive in Mexico safely. Your main concern, being stuck in Cuba with their same same rice + meat dish and being so, so far from tacos and guacamole.
‘My poo looks greyish. That can’t be good, can it?’
They say it takes 21 days to form a habit and I think five weeks in that I’m finally used to living out of a backpack, squating when peeing, showering without touching even one corner of the shower curtain, going to the bathroom every opportunity you get, because you don’t want to be stuck on a bus needing to pee, learning to embrace the sweat, enjoy the amount of exercise I’m doing because it’s doing wonders for the waist line and just staying present and enjoying each moment as much as humanly possible.
I’ve been thanking each place for having me and saying goodbye as if I might never see it again. Taking a mental snapshot as I leave and feeling so full of gratitude I can’t find the right words to express it. With just under five weeks to go I honestly wouldn’t change a thing and with patchy, tanned arms I now welcome a new sweaty challenge my way. But no more mountains – I draw the line at one near death experience.
“Grace, is your poo funny shapes?”
Seems appropriate that I’m writing this just down the street from Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment (Bex and the City anyone?) – sipping an espresso and watching New York go by. Before I dive into the endless details of my love affair with this incredible city, let me first take you back a week or two…
Leaving San Fran, we set off in search of sandy toes and golden coastlines, but much to our surprise found something quite different. Booking into a beach town called Marina, whose very town-sign is of sunshine and beaches, we were hilariously awoken to find it was nicknamed fog town and even in mid-daylight you couldn’t see very far in front of you. The central coast suffers from a thing called ‘weather pockets’, where you go from bright blue skies to cold, foggy weather within kms of each other. Where the fark am I meant to get a tan?! Ha! We laughed it off, hoping we’d find somewhere swimmable on our travels back down to LA.
Ticking another first off my list we hitched-hiked down from San Fran and eventually landed in a place called San Luis Obispo. Hitch-hiking was bloody fun, something I’ve always wanted to try. The locals in San Fran were so relaxed and lovely, solidifying that very fact as we got picked up within two minutes of putting out the ole thumb. A beautiful lady (whose name escapes me), who loved horses was our first hitch, second was Frank in his BMW convertible, an ex military officer who was an absolute straight shooter and lastly an artist took us the last stretch – educating us on the current government situation – Jesus, what a nightmare for them.
San Luis Obispo (SLO as the locals call it) …ah, where to begin. It was a stunning little place, with a big Spanish influence. Gorgeous streets lined with cute shops and good coffee. I feel like I’ve been heavily critiquing places based on the quality of their coffee ha! Grace Face and I used to be big party girls in our Uni days and thought while in a random smaller place we should recreate our “out out” moments and hit the town. To da clubzzzzz we go! Lippy on, we headed to a local bar known for it’s good craft beers and even better beats. With the DJ on point we were in our element and naturally the drinks kept coming.
I meet a lovely guy – a tall, dark and handsome African American man who whisked me around the dance floor and stole many a smiles that night. As you do, the night led to a still-quite-drunken walk of shame home through streets we didn’t know the next morning – when in America?! Am I riiiiiiight?! Ha! He was so nice in fact that one night turned into two as we had decided to stay in town another night (mainly to nurse a hangover), but I wasn’t complaining 😜
Fast forward a week and that very nice boy, who I was planning on seeing again, turned out to have a girlfriend – what up playa! 😜 Haha I took it for what it was and don’t regret having a wee two night romance in SLO, all part of the holiday fun. #trustyourgutpeople #thosearmsthough #downwiththebrown He was a New Yorker, so did give me a few spots to check out in the big city, so no regrets from me.
We left our bad decisions and headed further down the coast, stopping into Santa Barbra – another stunning place, beach side and somewhere a weekend getaway would steal your heart forever. Great vibe, delicious food and a place you could literally restaurant hop and coffee stop all day long. Both Sans I’d love to venture back too at some point ✌🏻
Next stop New York… I couldn’t contain my excitement.
It is hard to find the words… I’ve been obsessed with this place ever since I first watched Sex and the City so many years ago. Carrie Bradshaw, a New Yorker Writer had stolen my admiration and a few million episode re-runs later, had well and truly created my love affair with this city. We were here a week, but truth be told I could’ve spent a month here… at least 🙊
Central Park was a hub for all New York stereotypes, the loved up couples taking horse and carriage rides, the hood b-ball players fighting on the courts, Yogis getting zen in the grass, and three Kiwis biking around and just soaking it all in. New York has been experiencing some of the hottest weather they’ve had in years, so as we strolled sweaty and sparkly, anywhere indoors was a welcomed breather.
People watching once again became my favourite thing to do – Man, did New York turn it on! They’re not afraid to air their dirty laundry out for all to enjoy ha! I heard couples fighting on every street corner, best friends going at it on the subway, brothers having a tussle in the park, it was the most entertaining and in a weird way, liberating thing I’d seen in a long time. No one cares, and in a world where we all care too much, there is something so cool about that.
I watched an old black guy learning moves to a 90s video clip whilst riding the subway, a boy use a baseball bat as a guitar and rock out right next to me, men who could barely walk danced to local buskers, walking stick in hand, and others were transported back to their prime and danced the day away, mid-platform. I had sore cheeks from smiling so much – sooooo good 👌🏻
New Yorkers are brave, bold and loud. They speak their minds and they lay it all out for the world to see. The streets were filled with the wealthy, the poor and a huge bunch in between and each societal group made the New York sidewalks a melting pop of goodness. I must admit though, homelessness has been something that has been really hard to witness. I have given a few dollars when I could, but man, you just feel so helpless. Here, the homeless use the subways as microphones, as soon as it leaves the platform they begin speaking. Telling us about their heartbreaking situations, incredibly rehearsed and breaking my heart even more thinking about how many times they must do this speech a day. How did they end up here?! Asking strangers for money and channeling a sense of bravery I really do admire. Imagine yourself in that situation and how hard that must be.
A similar feeling was evoked when visiting the 9/11 Memorial – I spent a few hours walking around the museum, but got so emotional I had to leave. It was too much to comprehend and make sense of. The dead, the heroes, the aftermath, the living and the PTSD that must’ve followed for so so many. Insane!
I walked around and wondered how feasible it would be to move here and found myself constantly thinking, I’d love to do just a year in this city. There were endless things to do, both tourist sites and local hidden gems, but I couldn’t help but think the best way to really experience New York would be to pack up and move. Oooo the possibilities pending. With no dependants back home, maybe now was the time to do something remotely crazy? Hmmm.
Grace, Joel and I went along to a free Yoga class held at Bryant Park – an inner city gem, surrounded by gorgeous buildings and fancy restaurants. It was amazing and to have 300+ people downward dogging and more so, feeding off each others energy was incredible – a highlight for sure. 🙏🏻
Brooklyn was a funky place, walking through Williamsburg suburb was a great way to spend a day. Checking out the Brooklyn Brewery, enjoying some local beers and eating delicious local ice cream to keep cool, made for an afternoon well spent. I had a Miranda and Steve moment on the Brooklyn Bridge and then decided to head off by myself to experience Manhattan once again.
I looooove my own company, and getting to stroll the streets in somewhere like New York is such a magical treat. I drank ample coffee, wrote, ate pizza and indulged my inner fan-girl and took a picture outside Carrie’s famous apartment and snapped a shot of the Friends apartment building – just cos’.
…and how amazing is the Universe! I saw an adorable street, walked down it and hear, “Rebecca Sloan“, and my cousin, who I haven’t seen in like 8 years, was standing in front of me, having just decided to walk down the same street. What the?! Amazing. It was a wine and quick catch up, meeting his gorgeous new wife and making fun of his accent 😜 I loved it.
People watching continued…
I watched a guy across from me at a little eatery and bar called Little Beet Kitchen, he was shouting everyone around him non-stop drinks. He seemed very sure of himself, but he fascinated me. It was a Thursday night, 8pm I believe and I just wondered what does this guy do for a living?! Is this a regular occurrence for him?! Will he regret shouting, what must’ve been, hundreds of dollars worth of drink come tomorrow?! Does he have a job he will have to haul his ass out of bed for in the morning?! Then I looked around me and everyone was on the same buzz and it occurred to me that three little Kiwis might be the only ones getting up early tomorrow. New York doesn’t stop for no body. P.S another memory from that very restaurant was that we’d walked around 12 odd kms through the city and all during this out-of-the-blue heat wave. I had sweated my ass off so much that I had chaffing on one side of my butt cheeks – that part where there’s a fold from leg to ass (I have a pancake ass, so this was surprising to me) and with one million miles still to walk, I used my lip balm on the area to try and create a soothing solution. I sat back at the bar, across from Mr Dranks and realised the balm had peppermint oil in it. All of a sudden my vagina was on fire, as if you had rubbed deep heat all over it! A cooling, yet hot, and strangely kind of enjoyable feeling haha! Yep, in amongst hip New Yorkers, I had peppermint pants! 🌿 I kept my cool… 😂
The lovely SLO boy, despite unfortunately being unavailable, was a great virtual tour guide as I hit the NYC streets on my own for our last afternoon here. After sitting and writing for a bit, he messaged me and told me to get in a cab and go to an unknown address. New York, despite the craziness, has broadened my comfort zone, so with very little hesitation, I hopped in a cab and before I knew it, landed at New York’s largest rooftop bar (exactly where I’m writing this very sentence right now). Good pick boy with great arms 👌🏻😛
Tomorrow we fly out to Cuba. I will miss New York, but know in my heart that I’ll be back. I’ll miss the city sounds, crazy vibes, the drama, the passion, the locals who walk down the street rapping and dancing to the music in their head phones just loving life, but most of all I’ll miss the way this city makes me feel! 🙏🏻
I walked out of the roof top bar, put my own head phones in, started to stroll and suddenly realised I too had started grooving down the street…
I ♥️ New York!
Travel has been something I’ve craved for years, my soul always filled with a strong desire to explore and soak in all of the wonders that lie outside of the norm. As I sit here writing I’m now two weeks into my ‘Americas’ trip and I’ve learnt that travelling is many things; exciting, fun, tiring, a test of patience, spontaneous, adventurous, did I say tiring? And most of all a pretty big leap outside of my comfort zone.
I’m extremely grateful to be travelling with two good friends of mine, who have almost all of the tips and tricks for hitting the road; knowledge gained from 40+ countries stamped in their passports. Grace, friend of 10 years, a beautiful soul, born energiser bunny, that can turn almost anything and everything into an adventure and her partner in crime, Joel, who just goes with whatever, sports some pretty slick dance moves, attention-grabbing dreads and whose chilled nature is a blessing to be around. These two have guided me around LA, Las Vegas, The Yosemite National Park and San Francisco – stopping and experiencing many smaller towns along the journey.
First impressions of the USA have been that people are just so god damn friendly, always up for a chat. Our Uber (or Lyft here) drivers have been the most hilarious humans, making every ride an adventure. You request a car and you just never know who you’re going to meet – it’s half the fun. Our Air B&B host was a casual high class escort – but her vibe was so rad (how American am I?), the locals at a baseball game (Go Visalia Rawhide!) were so entertaining, a mixture of drunken rednecks, down to earth local chaps who loved hearing about our adventures and baseball fans whose reactions to the 4th of July fireworks display were almost as good as the display itself.
Americans really do come in all sorts of races, shapes and sizes, but one thing they all seem to have in common is how expressive their mannerisms are – I could literally people watch all day here. From ladies in leopard skin leotards stumbling down Venice Beach, to African American men yelling “damn shawty, you look tight”, as we walk down the Vegas strip, to people preaching, singing and dancing on every street corner, it has been a treat for just about all of my senses! Hilarious is one word I keep using to describe it all, because it is just so fascinating and so different to ole Kiwi land. Every sidewalk is a musical, every conversation a play – everyone is so full of life here. The place literally buzzes with energy and honestly no one seems to give two fucks about what people think of them, I’m kinda in love with it.
Food is large, coffee is average, the weather is HOT, but so far, two weeks in, I’ve been really impressed with what the States has dished up for us. Allow me to rattle off a few highlights…
We booked a relocation camper (RV) and drove it from LA – Vegas. It cost us $3 (no joke) and we got upgraded to the biggest and newest one they had. Shout out to Joel for driving the bigger-than a-bus-beast! They almost pay you to relocate them across the country and I highly reccomend Googling “relocation camper” if you ever venture over here. We’ve done a couple since we arrived and it not only saves the bank balance, but they allow you to pull up to random beautiful spots and soak in some stunning untouched nature 🙏🏻
The Yosemite National Park is everything and more – loaded with waterfalls, lush forest, flowing rivers, soaring mountains and a few black bears and mountain lions to spice things up a bit. I was excited about leaving the city and diving head first into nature, but the three nights, four days we spent in this area was something I’ll never forget. I love walking and being in the outdoors, but camping, hiking and mountain climbing are all things I was once a virgin too (other than drunk camping at a festival or two). It was pretty tough and after the third night of sleeping in freezing forests, with a flat lilo and very little bedding or sleep for that matter, safe to say I wasn’t loving the outdoors just as much as I thought I would. What do most people do when they’re sleep deprived, dehydrated, dirty, a little hungry and delirious – climb a 9000ft (2743m) mountain of course! We tackled Half Dome, a 35km uphill climb, with the summit only reachable by using cables and gloves (no ropes or nothing) to get your ass up to the top of the steep peak. It certainly takes the cake for the hardest thing I’ve ever physically done in my 27 years of life – but I’m so farken proud I did it. My anxiety was is full swing the whole way, my mind telling me to just sit down, mid-mountain and give up, but I kept climbing. And, to make it all worth it we came within 10m of a giant black bear, making eye contact with us before slowing turning around and walking off. It was magical! My first hike and it happens to be in the Yosemites, no regrets from this sleepy, sunburnt traveller.
San Fransisco has stolen my heart so far – such a beautiful, hip place to visit. Reminding me a lot of Auckland, I feel very at home here. Surrounded by ocean and bush, filled to the brim with funky places to eat and drink and the vibe here is very chilled, yet happening. I have enjoyed just strolling the streets and soaking in the city air. I also love that the temperature here sits in the mid-twenties at the most, compared to a sweaty 40 degrees in other areas we’ve been too. I could see myself living here and will be sad to go! I heart you, San Fran ♥️ Thanks for having us (twice, we couldn’t resist).
We head down the coast tomorrow, travelling San Fran, back to LA over the next few days. My feet crave the ocean, so little beach towns will be desired stops along the way. There have been a lot of firsts tackled in the first two weeks of this 10 week adventure and the comfort zone has been pushed at times. First time in a hostel, RV, Air B&B, camping, hiking, travelling with no-plans, driving on the wrong side of the road, living out of a backpack… all little things, but they add up and sure as hell make for one crazy, fun-filled adventure.
Today was the first day I craved and very much needed some me-time (My other blogs talk about the importance of this, especially if you suffer from anxiety or PTSD) so I found a Yin Yoga class at a nearby Yoga Studio, grounded myself and breathed away the internal tiredness, finding my calm once again. Even amongst travel, you must help yourself and have some time-out. 🙏🏻
We fly to New York in just over a weeks time!!! An absolute dream of mine… so until the next time I find a moment to type, thanks for tuning in and reading about my adventures thus far. Your comfort zone won’t stretch itself – so go out there and find your own magic today babes – it exists everywhere if you open yourself up to it!
When my flat-mate and good friend, Ian, asked me to come along to a self-defence class, I was all, “Nah, I’m good eh“, but then I thought, what the hell! Knowing I said no, because of the fear of the uncertain, was exactly why it was necessary I did this activity. Can I just stop for a second and say, man I’ve come a long way – that very sentence shows growth, awareness and a comfort zone that has stretched a little bigger. It’s important we acknowledge the milestones and small steps we take in life, no matter how little they may be. Good work Sloan – oh why thank you mate.
Fight, flight or freeze – the three Fs that depict how you respond in a stressful or scary situation. I am both a freezer and a runn-away-er (Yes, that’s a word). I’ve found myself in both stress-filled and scary situations and I tell you, I have never been much of a fighter. So with that in mind, plus the exciting nature of travel in my near future (More on that later!), I headed along to my first self-defence class.
The anxiety levels were at a minimum, but I definitely had some nerves rattling around inside of me. I was worried I’d be shit, that I’d be too puffed to punch and that I’d over think the moves, making them impossible to grasp – so the usual inner thoughts were brewing. The 2.5 hour course was held at Tony Martin’s Gym in Mt Roskill, Auckland. It was run by NZKM Krav Maga Auckland – a bunch of very passionate instructors who were extremely talented and great teachers. They didn’t muck around, jumping straight into a warm-up and within 10 minutes I knew I had to leave all nerves on the sideline.
In the first 30 minutes we learnt how to escape a strangle hold. I felt so bad-ass! They told us that when a female is attacked and killed by a male, 72% of those deaths are due to strangulation. It’s the most common form of attack and therefore I sure as hell paid attention. There are multiple ways in which you can be strangled by an attacker, but they taught us one sequence to get out of all of them. I started to really get into it and began asking my partners to really “go for it” and not to hold back when strangling me. Sounds intense as I write it down, but you can’t learn properly unless you’re put under pressure right? No one is going to strangle you with the same force as holding a cuppa bloody tea. I felt sorry for the dude I was paired up with, as he really didn’t want to hurt me – “Go harder, I’ll be sweet!“, I said. Poor fulla!
We then learnt to remove ourselves from a head lock and just like the strangle position, it was only a few moves and you were free, or at least able to catch your breath. Accordingly to the instructors it only takes three seconds for you to have the air pushed out of you and for you to collapse and pass out- three seconds!! Everytime I counted to three, I was only up to move number two of four – shit, I’m dead!
The class was physically such a workout, which I loved. With time my confidence grew, even to the point where I slapped a little Asian guy pretty hard on the leg, just from being so in the zone. Don’t worry, he was fine, he laughed and said I was hard-core. Haha that’s right! #Unagi
At the end of the two-hour lesson, we got to have some real fun. The five instructors geared up in body-suits, head-gear, held big punching bags and went into the middle of the room. They played heavy metal music to set the scene and we were to each go into the middle, one at a time and practice our moves out against ALL of them. I mistakenly opened my big mouth and made a stupid comment, so got made to go in the ring first. Ohhh SHIT! I only took two steps forward, before getting wacked in the head with a bag – Oh it is so onnnnn!
I started to punch the bag in front of me, whilst being shoved from behind, sideways and made to run around the room, dodging being smashed from every angle. They were yelling “common, what you got?“, whilst attempting to push me over. I tell you, it seems scary, but you really do go into fight mode (A mode I never had before). The first strangle hold came out of nowhere and straight away I performed the learnt sequence, breaking free in less that three seconds – I’M ALIVE! I continued punching, feeling sweat dripping down my forehead. My hair was coming out of its ponytail, blocking my vision – god, I would’ve looked a treat. The tallest instructor grabbed me and put my into a head lock and I froze…crap, what was the first move???. I then remembered them saying, if you forget, that’s OK, just do what you got to do to get out of that position – so I went full HULK and broke free – don’t ask me what I did though, I couldn’t see a thing and I was only concentrating on breathing ha! It went on for one and a half minutes and I confidently got out of a few more moves, whilst building up a healthy amount of anger – it was so incredibly fun!
What a bloody workout! I felt so tough, so able and had zero nerves or anxious energy floating around by the end of the course. I highly recommend if you ever get a chance to learn self-defence, do! These guys were awesome, so knowledgable and their passion filled the room. I loved that they didn’t go soft on me either, just because I was a girl, as it meant I got a lot more out of it. I left with sore muscles, a big smile and really felt like my ‘fight’ response had been activated. The Wanganui was well and truly alive.
Watch out! Or… watch this before and after check-in vid!
I rode those feel good vibes for the rest of the day – going from fear to fearless, now that’s magic my friends! Grab life by the balls… (Also a sweet spot to get your opponent on the ground!)
Insta | bexsloany
If you didn’t catch my last Blog – that’s OK, here’s one I’ve prepared earlier – Click here!
NZKM Krav Maga Auckland – https://edgenzkm.wixsite.com/edgenzkm
Tony Martin’s Gym – https://tonymartins.nz/
I have always loved everything that Yoga encompasses; the calming nature, the ability to become completely present in the moment, the grounding and stretching of your often tense and tired body, the active wear – seriously, I would live life in stretchy pants if I could. The whole vibe has always sit in line with what I’m about and what I’m always striving to achieve. However, like anything that has a sliver of uncertainty, it was definitely firmly placed on the outskirts of my comfort zone.
Over the years I have tried a class here and there, but my lack of knowledge and an inability to not hurt old dance injuries, had me feeling a little flat and not at all engaged. Yoga seemed to ooze much more than just hopping on a mat and channelling a fancy insta-moment and I wanted so badly to dive into it head first – as much as that sent anxious waves soaring.
My Therapist recommended a 5 week beginners course [Video here] in Remuera, around the corner from my home. It was held at the Contemporary Yoga Centre and taught by a lovely lady named Sandra. Upon first entering the class, Sandra’s energy and understanding nature was both calming and ignited a real sense of excitement in me. I felt really eager to learn and the anxiety didn’t take long to melt away.
There were only five of us in the class, which for me freaked my freak and highlighted my nerves surrounding intimate settings. Before long I learnt that having a smaller group turned out to be an absolute blessing, as it meant more one on one assistance throughout the course. We learnt to become grounded, ensuring all touch points to the floor, whether that was our feet, our hands, our back or backside, were almost one with the ground. I had always struggled with balance, so learning to have each part of your foot – big toe, little toe, ball and heel, firmly placed on the ground, helped to stop the wobbles. Awareness was key!
You realise how heavy your head is when you learn to let it relax and flop forwards, or how to summon a neutralised pelvis, as opposed to arching your back or tilting it forwards. I learnt that just because you may have a flexible back, does not mean you should let it extend right back – be careful young grasshopper! For me, as a seemingly anxious person, I hold so much tension in various parts of my body. Without even realising it, I can be lying down with flexed feet or standing with clenched hands. My shoulders bare a lot of built up emotional stress and therefore the top half of me didn’t even understand the term relax, until I was able to be present and aware of my body. Yoga has helped me become more in tune with what my body is doing and how it responds to certain pressures or emotions. It is so much more than just a Downward-facing Dog my friend.
Sandra guided a Shavasana at the end of each class, triggering and solidifying my Yoga addiction. Shavasana, also known as Corpse pose – aims to find deep restoration and bring about complete self-awareness. Basically at the end of the class you get to lie down with blankets and bolsters (yoga cushions), the lights are dimmed, there’s soft music and you just shut your eyes, while the instructor brings awareness to each part of your body. Your breath becomes your focus, as you relax your entire body, bringing awareness to parts that may be tense or parts you simply aren’t used to relaxing. It is fucking amazing – the perfect way to end a workout, both in body and mind.
Yoga has taught me to turn my brain off – If you know me well, you’ll be very proud of that accomplishment. I actually manage to leave the day at the door and be completely present. I can see why it’s called the present, as what a gift it is! Yoga and Meditation have been the only practices that I have truly found access to my ‘off switch’. It can take time and patience to silence the mind and be completely at one with your breath, but once you master it – like me, you’ll be hooked!
Since completing the course I’ve jumped into a few classes around Auckland – Yin at Urban Ashram with the beautiful Nikki Ralston, hiiiiiighly recommend – that lady knows her stuff! I’ve also tried a few at Om Yoga in Stonefields, which are also great. My advice, do a beginners class and work your way up. There are many different types of Yoga and I am yet to try them all, but I find most of the websites these days have great descriptions around the differences and suitability of each style. Yin or Restorative Yoga have been amazing for me, especially in aid of settling the anxious butterflies.
Find your zen, locate your off switch, or simply say goodbye to the day that was – all of this, plus a great tool for your body to unwind. We spend so much of our day with our heads down, slouched over a computers, our phones, feeling stressed, or simply rushing around trying to squeeze everything in – Yoga is a magical blessing, soak up the present and give it a go!
Inhale, exhale – watch the anxiety simply wash away.
Check-in video throughout my 5 week course
Instagram | bexsloany
Image: Art & Soul Yoga
Why, hello you.
I think it’s only fair to start with this…
This was my first time ever doing a Pilates class and rather than jumping in slowly, we dived straight in the deep end – but hey, why not keep things interesting right?
Let me introduce to you, Reformer Pilates.
I wish I could say that I looked that elegant, but I’d be lying to you. As someone who used to dance, it’s like my body remembers where my legs should go and how flexible they once were, except they’ve bloody lost the instruction manual and now just get stuck around halfway, kinda awkwardly dangling like ‘Bex, what on earth are you trying to do to me?’. The post-dance body is now equip with bad knees, a funny back and zero strength in the tummy region. But none of those things stopped me from giving this one hell of a crack.
All in the name of stretching the ole’ comfort zone, I headed to the class along side friends, Lauren and Tara. This class was Lauren’s idea and she had us sign up to a four-class set. Having friends, who had about as much as clue as me, definitely helped settle the anxiety down, but I was still nervous going into the studio.
The machines were intimidating at first, resembling old torture rack of sorts, but the Instructor was amazing and super friendly – We liked her! She did a quick demonstration, showing all of the different pulley, pushy, lift off, put on, slide back and forwards, do’s and don’ts of the machine. With many instructions loaded into our brains we hopped on the machines and off we went…
Now one piece of advice I have for you is don’t go in too confident. Just because you feel good doing an exercise five times over, doesn’t mean by the 10th or 20th time you’ll be sailing through – more like a subtle drowning. Start off light and slow, because repetition is a bitch and it will get those inner thighs burning – a burn you’ve never felt before. You can always add more weight – don’t do a Bex and burn a whole in your pants. Not really…
Lesson – Spend more of my spare time working on my abdominal area. It was like, “Hello, are you even in there?“. The Instructor got us set up to do some tummy work, having us place a rubber ring between our knees and then moving to our feet. I leant up to put it in place and then lay back down thinking that was the exercise – it must’ve been my abs were hurting like hell! Ha – not quite Sloan. And so the repetition began.
Next was the part where we stood up on the machine, one foot on the stable platform, the other on the sliding base. If you didn’t hold your balance, or use your leg muscles, you would literally end up sliding to the opposite end of the machine, achieving a full frontal split. Holy hell! What a challenge, but the legs sure do love a good squatting action – that I enjoyed.
We pulled, slid, pushed, attempted push ups on the bar, crunched and sweated our way through the class and finally got off the machines having felt a full-body workout like no other. Abs – check. Butt – check. Legs – check. Arms – check. Inner thighs – CHECK!
Looking like a sweaty red tomato, we left the studio stoked with our Sunday morning mission and I was super proud I’d ticked another thing off my to-do-list.
Comfort Zone 1, Anxiety 0!
If you live in Auckland and want to give it a whirl, head to Reform Fitness and check out their classes. For someone who’s never done anything even remotely like this before, it was easy to follow along, the Instructor was fantastic and with only 10 in the class she’s able to help you out if you’re not too sure what on earth is going on.
Get amongst, feel the magic dripping down your face!
Insta | bexsloany
Happy Holi to you, and you, and you…
The Festival of Colours is an event I’ve wanted to sink my teeth into from the moment I moved up to the big smoke. But like anything that sits on the outskirts of my comfort zone, I’m a master at talking myself out of doing it. 5 years later and I can now say it’s been ticked off the list – in the most colourful way possible.
My sister, Brittany joined me on this week’s adventure and I couldn’t think of anyone more fitting to jump into this experience with me. See, my sister has always celebrated people’s difference, shown most recently as she proudly marched in the Pride Parade, as a straight, and extremely supportive member of the Westpac staff. This is one of the many things I admire about her, as she understands wholeheartedly that humans are colourful, vibrant and beautiful – and that should most definitely be celebrated.
It didn’t take much convincing for her to join me on our trip out West Auckland, but even with my little sister in tow, I still had a few nerves heading to a festival I knew nothing about. The event was held at the Hare Krishna Temple, which for me rings bells, sparking memories back in my home town of Wanganui. I can remember crowds of people, wearing robes and carrying instruments, all singing as they marched down the local streets. They always caught the attention of everyone they passed and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get their song out of my head, “Hare, Hare Krishna, hare hare…”. So, I knew who they were, but did I know what they were about?
Nope. Not at all.
So, in my bid to broaden my horizons, I pulled up the big girl pants, grabbed my sister’s hand and we set off to get educated and fabulously messy.
It was the most beautiful day, the Auckland sun was blazing and it seemed we weren’t the only people heading to the festival, as traffic backed right up the road for miles. As we walked to the peaceful Hare Krishna gates, we were greeted by some of West Auckland’s finest, “Heeeeey babyyyyy“, yelled loudly at us out the window of a Subaru Legacy, his silver mags blinding my eye balls as he sped past towards the Temple. Ha! I do love a good contradiction in life and that was certainly one of them.
The music was pumping, blasting from a big stage front and centre of the event. It was amazing to see people were already covered head to toe in powdered paint – it was complete and utter colourful chaos. We learnt early on that you yell “Happy Holi“, as you throw your paint at people – first shown to us by a young Indian boy who threw his paint in both of our hair. Hey, when in
The Hindu Holi Festival of Colour is an annual event, which celebrates good triumphing over evil and the harvest season. Everyone being powdered with the same colours acts as a unifying force and man, what an amazing experience to part of. Me and Britts took off our shoes, grabbed our bags of colour and headed straight into the mosh pit. It was one of those, all or nothing, experiences and so we left all dignity and politeness at the end of the crowd and armed ourselves with paint.
There really is something so magical about everyone covered in coloured paint – removing all visual representations of culture, race, even gender…we were all just a group of human beings, celebrating a diverse festival and having a bloody good time. Having myself, just supported Pride Parade the night before, and then being amongst a completely new culture and religious community, I felt such an immense amount of gratitude for how uniquely different people are. There is so much beauty to be found in all of our colourful differences!
Paint up nose, paint in hair, paint in eyes, paint down boobs, paint between your toes and paint where paint should just not ever venture – we experienced it all. Plus I must say, when you’re dancing your butt off, in a 1000 strong crowd, in 25 degree heat, that colour that looks really cute to begin with, ends up in clay-like clumps on your face, making you look like the Hulk. Damn girl! I was also born with a big nose (Thanks Dad) and the paint had acted like a highlighter emphasising it even further – it was hilarious and I don’t think Britts and I had laughed so much at ourselves in a long time.
We embraced the day, ate a delicious vegetarian meal, threw paint at strangers, danced, danced and danced some more and had the most fabulous time! HIGHLY recommend going if you ever get the chance.
Before and After vid – check out the chaos!
Insta | bexsloany
Alarm goes off.
Eyes peak open.
Yay, the sun is shining.
Leans over to phone.
Ok, five more minutes.
Alarm goes off.
Hold up, it’s Saturday, why am I getting up early? Me and early aren’t even bloody friends.
Alarm goes off – again.
Nah common’, get up now, Bex!
As I do a quick scan over how I’m feeling in this exact moment I sense a slight headache, it’s enough for me to convince myself I may need more sleep and to reach over to my phone to press Snooze one more time. I know what you’re up to, Sloan! I notice my belly is already starting to fill with anxious butterflies, I acknowledge them and am reminded why they exist today. I have my first activity this morning… Group Buddhist Meditation – well I will if I ever get my ass out of bed. It would be so easy for me to just stay here, to instead press Stop on my alarm clock and just fall back into blissful sleep. But the thing is, if I do that, nothing will ever change. Anxiety will continue to create this wall in my life, blocking me from the things I want to try, new experiences worth exploring or finding the magic that exists when you leave your comfort zone. What kind of life will I lead if I let Anxiety win? A shit one – so get up!
Ok, ok, I’m up.
I’m sitting in my car and I can see the Auckland Buddhist Centre across the road – it doesn’t look all that scary. I notice I’m 15 minutes early, that’s a first, so I decide I’ll sit in my car for five, then head over. I get anxious over the silliest things when it comes to being in a new environment. Do we all just stand outside until the session starts? Where does the ‘Koha’ go? Is there a bathroom in there in case I need to pee? I pee a lot when I’m nervous. Around 10 more, rather ridiculous, questions shoot through my brain in the next three minutes and then I have to physically force myself to get out of my car and go and wait with the people I can see by the entrance. As I walk into the gates, I notice the Buddha statues in amongst the small garden and in front of me are these gorgeous gold plated tiles, marked with such detailed patterns and they’re glistening brightly in the morning sun. Ok, this isn’t too bad.
I question whether the people outside are waiting for the same class as me, or maybe I should head inside to check where I am meant to be going. I walk up to the front door and as I turn the handle I notice straight away that it is locked. Ohh no, shit!!!! Awkward moment #1. Something as simple as a looked door can cause me a world of embarrassment. You see, the old Bex would’ve been completely comfortable asking the people sitting next to door whether or not we wait outside, but this Bex had to stop herself from physically running out of the centre forecourt and back to her safe place – her car. Luckily, before I could make my anxious and completely irrational exit, a lovely lady said to me, “They won’t be long. It’ll be open soon”, paired with the most beautiful and soft smile. You’re fine Bex, relax!
The leader of the Meditation greeted everyone in the waiting area. She was a small lady with an energy that instantly made me feel calm. She had a warm presence that exuded tranquillity and seeing her kindly interact with the other attendees made me feel a lot more comfortable. I thought if I could just steal her to be in my life full time there would be no room for stress or anxiousness. Hi, I’m Bex. Can I take you home?
I notice an older couple going up to her and introducing themselves, explaining it was their first time here. I thought it might be a good idea for me to do the same, but chicken out when the opportunity presents itself. Instead, I take off my shoes, I noticed everyone was doing that, so I followed suit, and go into the meditation room to put my bag down. I am very conscious of that fact that while I’m not completely new to ‘Meditation’, I am to this form and I really don’t want to offend anyone or do anything that would be deemed disrespectful, so I pull up my big girl pants and head over to the leader to introduce myself.
“Hi, I’m Bex. This is my first time here and I’m just wondering if there’s anywhere I need to sit, or… should I just grab a spot?” Firstly, let me just say that I went in for a handshake and I think she was kinda’ going in for a hug – Do Buddhists not shake hands? Ah! Awkward moment #2. Then as I was saying ‘I’m just wondering if there’s anywhere I need to sit or…’, I did this extremely weird movement thing with my chest and arms, like my body had been nervously possessed for a mere second and I couldn’t control my own hands – what the hell was that? A dance move or something? I noticed it straight away and tried to put my hands down back by my sides as fast as I could, but it was too late, she had noticed and almost mirrored it back to me when she explained I could grab a chair and a foot cushion. Awkward moment #3. Bloody hell – just go sit down Sloan.
After shuffling in my chair I become comfortable, physically at least, and completely memorised by the big beautiful Buddha statue that’s sitting front and centre of this rather intimately small room. It’s surrounded by candles and everyone’s energy is directed towards it. Some people are sitting on red floor cushions, some sitting on small stools and some standing, so I stay seated on my chair until I am prompted to do anything. As the leader approaches the group, she encourages everyone to stand and everyone places their hands in the Namaste (hands to heart) position and begin to pray to Buddha. Awkward moment #4 – however awkward, strangely in this exact moment I am really glad I had come today. This is so completely out of my comfort zone and for someone who doesn’t have a religious bone in her body, the notion of praying does not come naturally to me. Nevertheless, I embraced the moment and felt myself giving gratitude to the statue sitting in front of us, as I felt incredibly grateful to be there, and to be facing this anxious moment head on.
Meditation has always helped me find a sense of calm and became my go-to when knees deep in the legalities of my sexual abuse case. In the throes of panic attacks or anxious build ups, I have turned to meditation to settle my mind or help prepare me for a good night’s sleep. That however has been in the safety of my own bedroom, not in a Buddhist Centre surrounded by people who very much look like experts, so it’s safe to say it took me a while to settle my thoughts and focus my energy towards my breath. After some deep belly-breathing, I began to feel my body release tension and slowly slip into a state of relaxation. My legs became heavy, feet sinking into the floor cushion, my shoulders relaxing and my hands softening. I am finding my groove…. That was until the chanting started. Awkward moment #5 – The group broke the silence and began to speak aloud in unison– giving me one hell of a fright and sending waves of nerves from head to toe. I paused and thought, I have 2 options here, to either judge the situation and feel like an idiot for not knowing the words, OR just hum along and embrace the fact that I’m not going to be an expert at everything first off the bat, and actually, sometimes I’ll never be one and that’s OK too, so hum I did.
“Focus on the breath. The mind is designed to create thoughts, acknowledge them and then let them go. The body will create sensations, that’s ok, let them go.”
Big breath in….and out.
I fully feel like I’m in Eat, Pray, Love right now. I’m practically Julia Roberts. If I ever go back to Bali again, I’m going to find a Mediation and Yoga resort. I’d be so hardcore zen. Man Bali was so fun. Man, I need to save money.
In and out.
Shit, I have an itchy foot, should I scratch it? It’s a sensation, maybe I should just let it go? … Don’t scratch it Sloan. Stop focussing on it. It’ll pass.
In and out.
The lady next to me just reached for her drink bottle, so I can scratch my foot if I need too right? They can’t tell me off for scratching my foot… Can they?
Fuck it, I’m just going to go for it.
In, hold for five…and out.
There’s a guy over there falling asleep, he’s swaying so much I’m afraid he’s going to fall off his stool. If he falls I might actually laugh out loud. You can’t laugh in the presence of Buddha.
Bex, why are your eyes open?
Fuck, what the hell was that?
“Find the breath. If you drift, come back to the breath. Breathe in, hold, breathe out.”
After 10 minutes or so, I start to feel myself almost falling asleep, I wasn’t sure if it’s because normally I’m still asleep at this time on a Saturday, or maybe the meditation was actually working. Either way, there was such an incredible energy in the room and I felt very lucky to be a part of it.
The last dong signalled the end of the Meditation and as everyone began to slowly move again, I realised I was just starting to really enjoy it. I look around the room and feel a real sense of pride that I had survived my first activity. Standing up, I notice the fact that my body had been, surpirisngly, really relaxed, so I moved my legs to shake off the last hour, before grabbing my gear to leave.
Walking out of the Auckland Buddhist Centre, I notice the self-talk game is strong, ‘Good job mate! one down, 19 to go.’ After talking to myself in public, I do that a lot, I sit back in the car and can’t help but laugh at the notion that I can jump off the Auckland Sky Tower and put a bad guy in jail, but sitting silent in a room full of strangers with their eyes closed, was completely terrifying. However crazy it seemed, I made a conscious effort to really embrace the feeling of accomplishment, no matter how small it may be in the scheme of things.
I had hauled myself out of bed, sat on a chair next to strangers, closed my eyes, hummed, receited and prayed…and I had survived, plus I was even kinda’ keen to do it all over again. I stepped outside of my comfort zone and lived to tell the tale – now that’s magic!
Check out my wee before and after check-in video below:
Insta | bexsloany
Hi, I’m Bex Sloan.
Welcome – thank you for being here.
I’d like to firstly share something with you, something that I’ve come to realise over the past 2 years – we take on many roles and wear numerous hats in our busy lives; I am a woman, a daughter, a big sister, a niece, a cousin, a granddaughter, a friend, a flatmate, a Marketing Executive, an enthused writer, a spiritual seeker, a rosé drinker, a lover of dancing, the ocean and all things nature – and as of 2 years ago, I uncovered and revealed to the world that I am also a sexual abuse survivor, and due to that very realisation, someone who now suffers from Anxiety.
Whilst not very obvious from the outset, I now find myself anxious about the new, fearing the lack of control in foreign situations. I have an ability to over-think almost anything, sending anxious butterflies soaring through me with such force. The idea of being open and real, showing vulnerability, terrifies me, and trying to calm my overactive brain is a never-ending battle. The list of things that freak the shit out of me is now long and diverse and, as my fellow anxiety sufferers will know all too well, I am the master of talking myself out of any situation that may have me stepping a little too far outside of my comfort zone.
One of my proudest life achievements thus far, is that I fought for my sexual abuser to be prosecuted and sent to prison, stopping him from abusing other young girls. However, in order to get through that incredibly emotional and challenging fight, I created myself a safe zone, and in turn lost a big chunk of who I once was – adventurous and daring, lover of change, with an excited zest for living life to the fullest. Anxiety entered my life, errecting walls that hold me back from really enjoying new experiences and eliminating the notion of living in the NOW.
This Blog is my way of tackling that anxiety head on and getting in touch with the old me. I aim to do this by putting myself into situations that scare me, challenge me and help me grow as a person. I must first admit something to you – my comfort zone, once large and untouchable, has shrivelled to the size of a pea, so we’re talking baby steps here, but hey, at least my feet are moving forwards.
I have decided to Blog my experiences, creating, Where the magic happens, for a few reasons: a) My anxiety has got in the way of truly living and I’m fed up with letting fear win! b) My Therapist encouraged me to seek outside of my comfort zone, whilst finding ways to expel anxious energy bouncing around in my body, and c) If I Blog about it, this bad boy will keep me accountable – no talking myself out of it this time!
I endeavour to be as honest, raw and open with you as I can, as this Blog isn’t just about the creative display of words or the retelling of my nervous adventures, this is my bid to find myself amongst anxious waves and to tackle my fears head on. I long to move past the endless fidgeting and ultimately find my own sense of calm, whilst discovering beauty in the new again.
Someone very wise once said to me, “Get outside of your comfort zone Sloan, that’s where the magic happens!” – And you know what, I think they’re on to something.
Instagram | bexsloany