Let It Pass

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Music often makes me feel like I was born in the wrong time. I’m wrapped up in songs that call from distant horizons. Their familiar melodies rise and fall like gentle waves, slowly carrying me away over lulling seas to some eternal land of yesteryear.

Every so often, though, there’s a song that sends out currents strong enough to pull me back to the coastline, like a lighthouse twinkling on a promised land. When an exploration of a modern soundscape confirms that music from the here and now is not altogether lost, it feels like Christmas.

Most cherished of all are the times when I’m guided by an invisible beacon. Like today. I was drifting aimlessly, when I stumbled, quite by chance, into the floating lullaby of autumn leaves that is Jakob Ogawa’s “Let It Pass”. It was like sighting an unknown island paradise in the middle of the sea and then walking, in a daze, through a mirage of sound along a humming shore.

I became lost in an echo of lazy beach days and summer afternoons, where the salty breeze messed our hair while we watched as the burnt sun sank slowly to kiss the balmy ocean, and a hazy dusk spread across the sea to bathe the world in a final glow of glittering light. The waves were liquid amber, and the air was filled with the carefree laughter of youth, as we picked up handfuls of sand and let the grains slip through our fingers, falling freely like specks of gold in the twilight. Then, suddenly, it was dark, and I was all alone, haunted by the laughter of ghosts and surrounded by the shadows of faded memories. The grains of sand lay trapped in an hourglass, and the air was heavy with sadness and bittersweet nostalgia. The best things in life always end far too soon.

Despite getting caught up in a web of sentimentality, I simply adore this song. It has the sort of melody that I feel, rather than hear, so that I fall into it, like I fall into dreams. Those are my absolute favourite types of songs.

When Stars Align

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So, I’m feeling mega excited right now. I have just booked tickets to see Billy Joel when I am in America. His ‘Turnstiles’ album has always made me dream about the big American cities, and I just thought, how cool would it be to see him in concert when I finally visit the USA for the first time. My dream would be to see him at Madison Square Garden, his iconic performance arena.

When I finally figured out my plan for America a few weeks back, I decided I would visit New York in mid-May, between my storm chasing tour and my G Adventures tour. But when I checked Billy’s tour dates, his May performance was scheduled for the 25th- a week too late. I was so bummed that the stars hadn’t aligned.

The other night, I was lying in bed, listening to ‘Turnstiles’, and still wishing I could attend one of his concerts. It just seemed like one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and I just really, really wanted to go. It was 2am, and I’d settled into bed an hour and a half ago, but instead of sleeping, I couldn’t stop thinking, there’s got to be a way.

I checked the next concert date. June 6th. By that time, I’d be on the other side of the country, in San Francisco. Maybe I could just fly over for the concert? It was a half-hearted idea, as I knew it would be bloody expensive, and, sure enough, when I saw the price of the flights, the idea was quickly dismissed.

It wasn’t all in vain, though, because it got me thinking of an alternative idea. Aside from my two tours, nothing else is actually booked yet. Yes, there’s a proposed itinerary of where I want to go and when, but nothing is actually set in stone. So, why not change the itinerary? Why not visit New York after my two tours? That way, I’d be in the Big Apple on June 6th.

Once the penny dropped, the answer seemed so obvious, and I felt as thick as a brick that it had taken me so long to have this epiphany. My mind’s been racing ever since, though, and I’ve been organising my cross-country travel at such a rate that it’s surprised even me. It’s like some part of me already knew I was meant to go to this concert, and kept persisting with little clues, waiting patiently for my slow brain to catch up. Everything is falling into place now like a chain of dominoes. Being absorbed in this holiday planning has been so consuming the last couple of days that it almost feels like I’m already there.

I have a feeling, though, exactly three months from now, when I’m entering Madison Square Garden to watch the Piano Man, it will feel as though I’m in a dream.

Ocean Blue

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“I belong in the middle of the ocean blue
Getting nowhere but that shouldn’t really bother you
So many people, so many worlds

Don’t you worry about me
Don’t you worry about me”

-Ocean Blue (Moniker)

You know when you stumble upon a song and it speaks to your soul and you wonder where it’s been all your life because its existence is music to your ears, literally and figuratively? Well, I had one of those moments yesterday, thanks to ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’, a gem of a film from New Zealand. I saw the film at the movies last year and re-watched it last night. (If you’ve haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour and check it out.) If you have watched it, you may recognise the above lyrics from the scene that begins the third chapter of the movie.

Rediscovering the song and, better yet, finding out what it was called and listening to it on repeat, had me smiling like an idiot for the rest of the night. It’s a magical two minute and twenty five second melody and it’s what freedom sounds like, or at least, what I imagine freedom would sound like, if it had a voice. It’s the embodiment of a sun-kissed day and a crystal beach on some remote island, where time stands still and worries don’t exist. I’m floating… is hummed like a lullaby, and leaves you feeling like you really are drifting off into a tropical dream.

I love when a movie introduces me to awesome new music! It always reminds me of how powerful an impact art, in its various guises, has on my life. Not only does it play a huge role in my own creative process, but there have been many movies, songs and books which have inspired my travels as well. It’s almost like a domino effect.

Sometimes, they are the reason for a holiday. My brother and I visited Bruges in December 2012 specifically because we loved the movie ‘In Bruges’. I went to Iceland in October 2015 after ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ showed off its insanely beautiful landscapes. After reading ‘Shantaram’, I decided I need to visit India.

Often, they inspire particular experiences I choose to do on a holiday. Like when I visited Hawaii in October 2014, I simply had to take a ‘LOST’ tour and see the locations that had featured in my favourite TV show of all time. Or when I visited Japan for the first time in April 2013, I spent my last night in Tokyo at the Park Hyatt and drank Suntory Whisky a la Bill Murray in ‘Lost in Translation’.

With music, I believe every city has its song. Sometimes, a song will fit a place before I even go there. The mountains of the Himalayas were characterised by Gheorghe Zamfir’s ‘The Lonely Shepherd’ long before I ever set foot in Nepal. (Thank you, Kill Bill, for bringing this song into my life.) Other times, I’ll discover a song while I’m travelling and it becomes the ‘tune of the trip’. Or at least, a tune that takes me back.

And this is what I love most of all- the transcendental quality of art. So often, it is created as a way to escape reality and yet, art is the thread that connects us to the world.

Music, especially, is such an instantaneous link to memory. It transports me to other times and other places as well as any time travel capsule could hope to do. A cold winter’s day turns into a hot afternoon in the Philippines whenever I hear ‘Summer ’97’ by GRiZ. The congested freeway becomes a breezy beach on Boracay when Mark Ronson’s ‘In Case of Fire’ starts playing in the car on my way to work. Jose Gonzalez’s version of ‘#9 Dream’ instantly takes me back to the scents and sounds that make up the hustle and bustle of everyday life in Cambodia.

There’s a quote that says Earth without art is just eh. I think that just about sums it up. Now to wait and see what corner of the earth ‘Ocean Blue’ belongs to.

My Top 10 Travel Memories of 2016: #5

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Number 5: Walking along White Beach while listening to Mark Ronson

At the beginning of April, my friend, Suz, and I spent two weeks holidaying in the Philippines. Considering there are over 7000 islands to choose from, it was difficult to decide which ones we wanted to see. In the end, we settled upon four islands: Bohol, Cebu, Boracay and Palawan.

We’d read mixed reviews about Boracay. In fact, the first article that popped up when we searched ‘Boracay’ on Google was It’s the worst island I’ve ever been to. While my friend and I are not big on the whole party island vibe ourselves- one of the author’s main gripes- we thought her assessment was a bit harsh and that we’d be better off making up our own minds.

After further research, we found out that White Beach, which is the main beach on the island, is divided into three ‘stations’ and if you stay in Station 1 or 3, it’s far less crowded than in central Station 2. As fate would have it, a picture of an amazing looking location called Spider House popped up on my Facebook newsfeed. It was in Station 1, at the very end of the 4km long beach. The decision was made. We were going to Boracay.

I’m glad we decided to visit Boracay because both my friend and I ended up really loving the place. Spider House was the perfect spot to stay- about a 20 minute walk to the busy part of White Beach but even there, we didn’t find it to be more touristy than any other island in South East Asia.

We did a lot of day tours over the two weeks but decided, for our three days on Boracay, we would just chill out and do nothing. It was blissful. The added advantage of our accommodation being further away was that we did a lot of walking each time we headed to or from Station 2.

Walking along the beach became my favourite thing to do. I was captivated by the tides and how they changed the colour and texture of the shoreline.A turquoise dream at high tide and an intricate web of wavy streams at low tide.

One afternoon, after having had lunch in Station 2, Suz decided to have a massage while I opted to go back and relax at Spider House. I put in my headphones, ready to pass the 30 minute walk with some tunes, and pressed play on ‘Uptown Special’, the album by Mark Ronson that I’d recently acquired. At this point, there were a couple of songs on the album which I loved and kept listening to on repeat. I soon became too wrapped up in the stunning surrounds to notice what songs were playing.

Until the twentieth second of the third minute of a song called ‘In Case of Fire’ started playing. The dreamy twangs of this short instrumental interlude jolted me and I had one of those transcendental moments where you look at the world around you and realise that, right here, right now, everything has aligned into perfect harmony- the water, the wind, the sand, the palm trees, the people, everything.

And to think I had always skipped over this song. Needless to say, I found a new song to listen to on repeat. Even though I never recaptured that same feeling of zen, I think the reason I love this memory so much is that it provided me with one of those rare times in life when you are truly living in the moment. And in that moment, I heard the soul of Boracay sing.

 

My Top 10 Travel Memories of 2016: #9

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Number 9: Singing ‘Jolene’ on the balcony of my Bali hotel room at 3am

At the end of June, my friend, Magda, and I headed off to Bali to escape the winter weather in Perth. Bali is a very popular holiday destination for Aussies but I hadn’t visited the Indonesian island since I was a teenager on school exchange, back in 2002. I was sure that I was in for a very different experience this time around.

As we are both proud Polish gals, we were keen to watch the soccer match between Poland and Switzerland that night. We discovered the match would be televised at Stadium Sports Bar, which, although not very far from our Kuta hotel, was a bit beyond our desired walking distance. After having spent the day drinking by the pool, we weren’t quite sure that we could trust our navigational skills!

The match started at 9pm, at which point we were on the street outside our hotel, trying to find a taxi. Traffic was busy so I suggested we take a motorbike instead. Magda was not keen on using this manner of transportation but ended up throwing caution to the wind. It will be much quicker this way, I assured her.

In theory, we should’ve zipped through the traffic and been at the sports bar by 9.05. Magda’s driver said he knew where the sports bar was and, lo and behold, she was there in five minutes. My driver said he knew where the sports bar was but, lo and behold, he did not. It will be much quicker this way, I thought to myself, as the driver stopped, time and time again, to ask locals for directions.

By the time I finally rocked up outside the sports bar, Magda was convinced I’d fallen off the bike and was bleeding in a gutter somewhere and I was convinced I’d missed the match entirely. In reality, much to Magda’s relief, I was alive and well and we’d only missed the first 20 minutes of the game. All’s well that ends well- although we stuck to taxis after that.

After having a bite to eat, we joined the crowd in front of the big screen to watch extra time descend into nail-biting penalties. The atmosphere inside the bar was electric by this point and we were stoked to find many people barracking for Poland with us. Each penalty kick was preceded with drum rolls on the table and followed up with ecstatic cheers, the loudest being when Poland officially won the penalty shoot-out, 5-4, to make it through to the quarter finals of the Euro Cup.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, how on earth does ‘Jolene’ come into all of this?

Well, we were in a mighty fine mood after seeing our boys win and we definitely wanted to go out and continue celebrating. The night was young- it was only midnight- so we decided to have a celebratory tipple back at the hotel.

The beats from the nearby clubs were still vibrating in the air as we sat down for a quick pre-drink before going out again. And by ‘quick pre-drink’, I actually mean we settled down on the balcony for many drinks, became very merry and basically created our own club.

Now, it is important to know there is a genre of music that we have a tendency to listen to in Poland when we are feeling merry and we call it Disco Polo. (It’s the go-to music probably because the chorus of any given Disco Polo song repeats so many times that you can still remember it after you’ve had a few alcoholic beverages.) There’s no doubt that many of the lyrics are cheesy as hell but in general, they’re light-hearted, fun songs.

Magda told me about a Disco Polo song featuring her name so, of course, we listened to it. I remarked that I know two songs featuring my name, one sung by Bobby Sherman and the other by Shaggy. At which point, Magda informed me there is a third song and proceeded to sing it: ‘Julie, Julie, Julie, JUUULIIIE’.

Cue blank face on this Julie’s face. No matter how many times she sang this line, I had no sudden epiphany. So, Magda decided to call her parents in Poland as she was sure her dad would be familiar with this elusive song.

Unfortunately, Magda’s dad was as familiar with the song as I was.

Fortunately, Magda’s mum recognised the tune, if not the words, that her dear daughter was drunkenly singing and with her suggestion that Julie may in fact be Jolene, our night moved on from Disco Polo to Dolly Parton.

Cue 3am rendition. ‘Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, JOOOLEEEENE!’

We listened to it again. And again. And again. (And not just on that particular night. It became the song of our trip.)

Eventually, it dawned on us that everything had gone quiet around us. At which point it dawned on us that dawn would soon be dawning. It was 5.15am by the time I finally rolled into bed, with a particular song stuck in my head. I’m sure you can guess what it was!

What I love about this memory is that it reminds me that sometimes the best nights are the nights where you don’t even leave the house. And now, every time the song ‘Jolene’ comes up, I’m instantly transported back to that balmy evening where I had so much fun laughing, crying, singing, dancing and talking about life with one of my best friends. Such is the power of music.