Today has been an emotional day! Goodbye hugs (with tears) to wonderful beautiful people who have made this journey so very special! I love you! Thank you for your friendship and the good times. We leave for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in a few short hours….our backpacks are full and we are prepared. Australia will forever have a special place in my heart…thank you for all the wonderful memories!!!!
As I sit and reflect on the past year I have spent in Australia I am filled with gratitude and happiness. This past year has allowed my heart and soul to grow and blossom and to be free. The freedom to be independent and aware of the beautiful world around me. We have met so many wonderful and interesting people who have made us smile, laugh and given us inspiration. The friendships we have made on this journey will always be cherished. Australia will forever have a very special place in our hearts.
Traveling and living abroad constantly keeps you on your toes! There are challenges nearly everyday….you are almost always outside of your comfort zone. This is going to be very true for the next part of our travels. As we enter into South East Asia we will be transported into a different world..one that neither of us has ever known. There will be new cuisine, languages, currencies, cultures, religions, etc. I am so excited to embrace this new experience. We will carry all that we need in our backpacks. We will eat where the locals eat. We will use public transport with the locals. Our travel agenda is something like this…..Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. At any time our plans can change and they usually will. Such is life!
Thank you to all our friends and family who have been supportive and loving over this past year. We have missed you dearly! We cherish the phone calls, skype sessions and emails.
Goodbye Australia (with tears in my eyes), thank you for the wonderful memories!
The last two months in Melbourne have been fun! The weather wasn’t the greatest when we initially arrived, but since then we have learned that Melbourne is the city that can have four seasons in one day. So on any given day it can be raining, hailing, sunny or bitter cold and windy. Melbourne is a really interesting city with great markets, restaurants and shopping. There is always something to do.
Since arriving we have:
Sold the Baby Buddha. It wasn’t as heart wrenching as we thought it would be. The first couple to look at it, bought it. They were a very cute british couple who were looking to take the same route we had just completed. The night before we sold it, we were in the city running some errands and we accidentally parked in a “clearway”, which means after 4 pm there is to be no parking on the streets because of rush hour traffic. Well there were many signs on the post and we got confused and didn’t read the sign properly. After coming out of the store and not seeing the Baby Buddha we realized what had happened. Now what? Who do we call? Where is the van that we are supposed to sell tomorrow? After making a few calls, a taxi ride to the impound lot and a hefty $322 fine, we got our beloved van back.
We also have been volunteering at a local restaurant, Lentil as Anything. It is a non-profit charity organization that operates as a vegetarian restaurant with a pay-what-you-feel-your-meal-is-worth. There is a donation box where you slip in your “donation” and make a wish. It is a beautiful concept. All staff are volunteers except a few persons, like the head chef and the owner. Jeremy and I are responsible for waiting tables, making teas, coffees, clean up and anything else they ask of us. The food is delicious! It is going to be difficult to say goodbye to this place.
In addition to our volunteering, we have moved into a hostel on work exchange. This means that we work for three hours a day in exchange for our accommodation. The hostel is in the heart of the city in Melbourne. It is so nice to have toilets, hot showers, 4 walls and internet! We have wonderful roommates that we enjoy spending time with. Labonya, our roommate, graduated from The University of Melbourne with her Masters Degree and invited us to her ceremony. It was fun to be part of something so special.
Our original plan was to visit New Zealand after Australia. Plans have changed! We leave for South East Asia in 24 days! This will be a completely different experience for both of us. Our first destination will be Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Travel time: 8 hours. I imagine though we will feel like we have been transported to a whole new world. We are ready to embrace it with open arms. After Malaysia we fly into Thailand. Then we travel overland to experience …Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. I never expected to travel to Asia. I don’t think it ever crossed my mind until I met other travelers who have just loved it. So we listened, read and researched our new journey.
A new year is just around the corner, along with new adventures and experiences. The land down under has been amazing to us. The friendships that we have made will last a lifetime. Every single person has made an impact in our journey. It will be difficult to step on the plane without tears but I know in my heart I will be back to visit Australia.
I wish a very happy and peaceful New Year to all my family and friends! With love and hugs! xxx
Ok, I admit, I have been very negligent with my blog postings. The availability of internet (or lack of) has been poor and I have had trouble finding a simple charging port to give my laptop juice. They are stingy with electricity and internet here, I know this isn’t the fist time I have complained about it..sorry for my rant. Where do I start?? Nearly three months since my last post….how do I sum it all up? Incredible!!! Life in Australia has been a wonderful heart opening experience that has enriched my soul and desire to keep traveling. Not everyday gives you a beautiful sunset or stunning waterfalls, but those wonderful days give the bad days a run for their money.
My last post put us in Cairns, Queensland. The weather is a daily 30 C or (86 f) a perfect temperature for me. Many days were spent playing or lounging at the city lagoon. A little ways up the coast we camped out for the night along the ocean and saw our first “saltie” crocodile swimming in the ocean.
Our next adventure was snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. We chartered a larger boat that took us to the Agincourt Ribbon Reef which is on the outer continental shelf of the GBR. We heard the reef was spectacular the further out on it you went….so we wanted to go out as far as possible. The day started out with black clouds, rainy and choppy weather but ended with sunshine. We visited three locations that allowed us to see many different colored fish, live coral, giant clams, sea cucumbers and my favorite the Maori Wrasse. This big gentle giant was like a fishy “Labrador”, social, attention seeking and wanting to be touched. I opened my arms and he swam right into them as if allowing me to hug him. That was the highlight of my underwater adventure.
After the GBR we were on to the next adventure…heading west towards Darwin. Initially we ventured the Savannah Way, a supposedly rugged but beautiful alternative to driving on the main highway. We drove for about two days, seeing red tail black cockatoos, galahs, eagles, kites, etc. We were basically on a one lane road for hundreds of miles. This is where we encountered our first road trains (55 meter semi-trucks, hauling 4 trailers behind them). These gigantic beasts nearly throw you off the road when they whiz past you. The goal is to pull over as quick as possible when you see one coming, they always have control of the whole road. So, after a few days in we began a new stretch that was all dirt and very corrugated. Everything in our whole van jumped out of it original place and was laying everywhere. We were laughing, but in all seriousness we realized this was way too washed out to drive on for 3-4 days. Our brains would have been mush by the end of it and the shocks on the van would have been obliterated. Before we changed routes we hit and killed a Momma and joey wallaby. She ran right out in front of us. It happened so fast we barely saw her. Jeremy went to make sure she wasn’t suffering and to pull her off the road, this is when he discovered that there was also a joey in her pouch. This just broke our hearts. We decided to turn around and take the “normal” route to Darwin.
The drive into the Northern Territory was scattered with beautiful hidden waterfalls, hot springs and lakes. These excursions were a blessing because the sun is so hot and the solitary road is so unvaried. This is also where we encountered our first experience with the “bush flies”. These flies don’t want to “just” be on you, they want to be in your ears, nose, mouth, eyes…you name it. They make you so irritated you scream at them. Hence, the pictures of us with screens over our heads, which seemed to work quite well for us, all throughout the northern and middle parts of Australia. I forget to mention the heat. It was hot! I thought I liked it hot but now that I have a new understanding of “hot”, I like it warm. There is nothing like a beautiful Michigan summer. While in the NT we visited Nitmiluk National Park, Edith Falls, Katherine Gorge. After six days of driving we arrived at Darwin, NT. The beach was beautiful but we were warned the water had box jellyfish in them. These are the most dangerous/poisonous creature in the sea. Our time in Darwin was spent at nearly every market (five a week), the Royal Botanical Gardens, Wavepool and we finished our adventure in the north with a visit to Litchfield National Park. This is the park that has the Cathedral termite mounds, the Magnetic termite mounds, Florence Falls, Wangi Falls and many other beautiful landmarks. The day before we left we were invited to stay with a young family who shared their home and hearts with us. Lexi and Gary treated us to two things “backpackers” miss most, a home cooked meal and hot showers. They also had central air. The air in Darwin was so thick you could cut it with a knife. The cyclone season starts in December and the weather leading up to that is brutal. It also felt like you were sleeping underwater most nights because is was so humid and the air was so still. We will never forget the generosity or kindness we have encountered on this journey and will without a doubt pass it on. After we spent two days with our new friends we decided it was time, time to take on the longest, hottest and most desolate drive through the middle of Australia. 5,000 kilometers / 3,106 miles were ahead of us. We were first headed to the Devil’s Marbles, Uluru and Kata Tjuta ending in Melbourne, Victoria.
On our drive down we saw bush fires, dust tornadoes, colorful parrots, dingoes, kangaroos, brumbies (feral horses), feral camels, etc. The Devil’s Marbles were just as beautiful at sunset as they were at sunrise. They are giant rocks of granite that have found their shape by the wear and tear of rain and wind over millions of years. We happened to arrive on Halloween and were sung to sleep by the dingoes that were in the field of our campground. It was actually soothing to listen to all of them together.
Uluru. A very sacred and very special place. If you ever get a chance to visit, you should. This large beauty leaves you speechless for words. We drove around it and just stared. We couldn’t stop looking. There is just something magical that traps your gaze and you can’t let go of it. We watched the sunset, the sunrise and did a 10.6 km walk around the monolith, which is 600 million years old. We loved it. The Kata Tjuta park is about a 50 km drive from Uluru but you could see it in the far off distance. The following day we drove to Kata Tjuta and watched the sunset and did a little hike. A very special place indeed! A long drive, but worth it!
The next state we were headed into was South Australia. It was almost hotter and more desolate than the NT. I think it got to nearly 45-50 C (113-122 F). The terrain was barren and boring. Many hours were ahead of us, so we drove ten hours a day. We took a pit stop in Coober Pedy. A small opal mining town in SA. Many houses and churches here are built underground because of the severeness of the heat. This is where the movie “Mad Max” was filmed as well, this made me think of my brother, Matthew, he loves movies. We thought we deserved a nice dinner after a long hot drive and treated ourselves to the best outback pizza!
Arriving in Victoria we were greeted by cool weather and rain. Both of these were something we had not had for some time. We were not prepared. It was almost like someone flipped a weather switch. We went from 45 C to 15 C – almost a 60 degree difference overnight. After digging out the sweaters, we ventured on the Great Ocean Road, a stunning 250 kms ocean side drive that ended up taking us right into Melbourne. The famous rock formation, The Twelve Apostles, is included in this drive. Along the route we saw a random koala, who looked lost because there were no gum trees in sight and it was in the middle of the day (they are nocturnal). We hurried him across the road and hoped he stayed safe and out of harms way.
Melbourne. It took ten days of driving from Darwin. The weather is cool but sunny most days. The public transport includes buses, trains and trams is very easy and affordable. The city is going to be fun to explore. Stay tuned … I will post again before we venture on to New Zealand at the end of December. Thanks for taking the time to read my lengthy post.
Its nearly been a month since I’ve written … time has gone by so fast. Where do I start and how can I condense it?
Well after leaving Airlie Beach we headed north to Townsville. Staying only one night in Townsville we proceeded towards Cairns (Pronounced Cans). This is the largest city north of Brisbane. Queensland has many small cities, but few big cities. We were excited about getting to this tropical city. Its about the size of Grand Rapids, right on the ocean (except you can’t go in because of the crocs). Cairns has a salt water pool (lagoon) built right into the city center and it is very fun to splash around. The weather has been approx. 80-85 and sunny! The first night we arrived we grabbed a local magazine and found out Xavier Rudd was playing a concert that night. We drove as quick as we could to the venue and Jeremy bought our tickets. We had about one hour till the doors opened so we made dinner in the parking lot. As soon as we were finished eating dinner the back doors of the venue opened up and out walked Xavier and his friends. We said hello, shook hands and talked. Yup, I know, pretty cool! We were stoked! We throughly enjoyed his concert – this was his Spirit Bird tour, from his newest CD release. During the week in Cairns we also enjoyed the festival — we watched an outdoor movie (“Bag it” – A documentary about plastic bags – definitely recommend you watch it) and also played the Steel Pan from Trinidad with an ensemble.
Mossman Gorge: Beautiful and untouched. We hiked for nearly one hour and at the end of our walk we played and enjoyed the clean translucent river water that was flowing down the mountain. Nature is so perfect!
Port Douglas: North of Cairns by 60 kilometers. This little city has one of the greatest markets we have been to in all of Australia. Here we met Alan. He makes name necklaces by bending silver and gold wire into names. He invited us to his Rainforest home near the Daintree Rainforest. The only way into the Daintree Rainforest is by taking the ferry across the Daintree River. This river can rise substantially during the wet season, therefore a bridge will not work. Alan lives completely “off grid”. By that I mean, solar power, solar water heater, rainwater collection and a garden. There are no electric companies or water companies that are in this area. He lives atop a hill and if you look to the right you will see the ocean and to the left is the rainforest — pure heaven on earth. There is also has an outdoor shower…..amazing. The beaches in the north are pure bliss – soft sand, warm water, secluded. We have been blessed to see the…Ulysses Butterfly, Bennett’s Tree Kangaroo (rare), Red Tail black Cockatoo, monitor lizard, Rhinoceros beetle and our first snake. We were hoping to see the endangered Cassowary. There are only 1000-1500 left in the wild. The loss of habitat, car accidents and dog attacks are the top three reasons these birds are dying. They are one of the most important species in the rainforest because they eat many seeds/berries from a variety of plants and walk many kilometers around the forest dispersing the seeds in their poo. This allows the rainforest to flourish and grow.
We left Alan’s and drove into the Daintree National Park. Along the way we devoured biodynamic tropical ice cream, walked along some of the most breathtaking beaches and woke up from a nap to hear a monitor (lizard) scratching at a tree for bugs right behind our van. The road going north is for 4WD vehicles only and we have a 2WD. The roads are rocky, 150 km of dirt and 5 rivers that needed to be crossed. This didn’t settle well with me but Jeremy assured me that our van could make it. After much hesitation we headed north. We crossed two rivers (that were pretty small) before we called it a night. We spent one night in the Rainforest – tucked our little van in a cleared out area and just listened as the jungle came alive. I think it was the best night of sleep I’ve had on this entire trip. This 4WD track goes all the way to Cape York (the most northern point of Australia) but we were headed to Cooktown. Along the dirt track we saw the elusive and rare Bennett’s Tree Kangaroo hop across the path, we probably will never see one again because of the rarity of this shy marsupial. We also saw many brilliantly blue colored Ulysses Swallowtail Butterflies (about the size of a small salad plate) dancing in the sky. Nearing the end of the 4WD track we came to an Aboriginal community that had a cascading waterfall named Wujal Wujal. Unfortunately we couldn’t swim in the water because of the crocodiles. After a long day of bouncing around in the van through rocks and rivers we arrived in Cooktown and watched the most stunning sunset. Cooktown was a booming town in the late 1800’s due to gold mining but it is very quiet these days.
On our last day in the Daintree we hiked Mount Sorrow. This is a 7 kilometer hike over 680 meter elevation gain (taking us approximately 6 1/2 hours to complete). Neither one of us had ever done such an intense hike. There was a point when it was so vertical that we used a rope. After 3 1/2 hours we made it to the summit and were amazed at the height we had climbed. The view was of the sea and the rainforest — it was extremely windy and cold at the top. A german couple had made it to the summit before us and he had just proposed to her. Two days later my legs are very very sore but I wouldn’t have it any other way…its just a reminder that I completed something incredible.
At the moment we are in Cairns determining how we will spend the next four months in Australia and the route we will take. I miss all my family and friends so much – this weekend marks seven months in Australia.
After three weeks of perfect weather here in Airlie Beach, a storm pushed into town on the eve of our departure to go out sailing, snorkeling, watching whales, etc. So we had to cancel our adventure and are now going to head north to Townsville, Cairns and Port Douglas. We will still be able to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef from the northern cities so that is something to look forward to. I’m just a little sad because I was looking forward to this for a very long time — something better was meant to be, I guess
I have officially been gone six months! Whew, where did the time go? I have been on the road for 4 months – living without electricity, running water or refrigeration. It has been quite an adventure. Some days are definitely tougher than others. But that is where I will look back and laugh or think, wow, I sure learned a lot about myself.
In the weeks since I last wrote….we have traveled about 1200 kilometers north. We spent one week in Bundaberg (Bagara) with our friends that we met in Port Macquarie (that had our same van). We celebrated my 33rd Birthday with fresh Mackerel and a delicious chocolate, cream and strawberry cake and went fishing out in the ocean on the dawn of my birthday. We really enjoyed our time with our friends and will miss them! I will always remember the deep fried strawberry dessert. Thank you Greg, Rebecca, Tahlija, Jayke, Alvy and Jeremy.
As we drove along the major highway, (which is just a two lane road that heads north and south), we passed a few big cities, but nothing much. We stopped at “1770” as we were heading north out of Bagara – This is where Captain Cook first set foot on Australia in 1770. There is also a National Park “Eungella” (pron: young-gulla) just west of Mackay, where we drove up into the mountains and were able to catch a glimpse of the timid and much smaller than expected, Duck Billed Platypus. There was a viewing platform that was built near their underwater den, which allowed those who were patient to view them swimming. This was quiet a surreal moment because I remember first reading about them in ZooBooks as a child. And here I was, in Australia, at the best spot in the world to view them. Sounds silly, but I was excited.
We arrived in Airlie Beach on the 1st of August. Awaiting a package from my family (music, waterproof camera, Burt’s Bees Wax, etc). This is a very tropical and beautiful area of Australia. The Great Barrier Reef is just east of us and so are the Whitsunday Islands. There are 75 islands that can be visited or snorkeled and such. On Monday we will be venturing out on a sailing trip aboard a Catamaran for a 3 day / 3 night adventure. We were told that we might see Humpback Whales, possibly swim with Manta Rays, snorkel the GBR, fish off the back of the Catamaran etc. I am so excited to see the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. This is one of the Worlds Greatest Natural Wonders – I hope to take some amazing pictures of the Reef — thanks to Matt for posting his waterproof digital camera to me. And just a fact for those worriers, there has never been a shark attack on the GBR and we do not need to worry about marine stingers as they are only there in the summer season. (So don’t worry Mom – I will call you when I get back to the shore on Thursday)
I was in the grocery store the other night and decided to go down the “Pet Supplies” isle. I found myself looking at Wild Bird Seed and on the package were Sulfur Crested Cockatoo’s and Galah Cockatoo’s. This made me laugh because to us (Americans) those birds are pet birds not wild backyard birds. They are plentiful over here and every morning we are awoken by the screaming of cockatoos as they fly overhead. In fact a pair has mated and lives in the tree on the property we are staying on. They dance and flap their wings and up goes their colorful mohawk! This country is a bird lovers heaven!
Love to all my family and friends – I dearly miss you all!
Ever done something that just made you feel good, happy and content? The Australia Zoo Hospital did that to me. The closeness we had with the koalas will be remembered forever. Of course we made some great friends while we were there as well.
Last Monday we visited the Australia Zoo. This is where we cuddled a koala and held the rare red tail Black Cockatoo. One thing checked off my life’s bucket list. A little furry koala has enriched my life in so many ways. We have learned about habitat destruction, endangered animals and recycling/pollution and how it affects wildlife. There are so many things we can do. To start with….use less plastic. Bring a reusable bag when you go to the store. Every little bit helps. Plastic never ever goes away! Unless it is recycled into something else.
Australia has recycling bins everywhere. This makes it very easy and accessible for us while traveling. We learned that 150 acres of rainforest/forests are cleared every minute..for wood, paper, grazing land for cattle and animals. The animals, insects, plants/trees are all destroyed – never to return. It is all about profits and money for the greedy! Rainforest once covered 14% of the earth and now only 6% — the rest could be consumed in less than 40 years, if we continue to destroy what is left. What can we do? As we all know … little things we do can add up. Reduce, reuse and recycle!!!! Also, if you are buying wood/furniture, make sure it was purchased from a sustainable source.
After walking through rainforests here and learning how many around the world are being destroyed — even down in Tasmania, at alarming rates, I want to be as environmentally conscious as possible. It is easy to sit at home and think…”there isn’t much I can do” or “I’m just one person, what does it matter?”, but that is where it needs to start. My heart has so much it wants to share….be gentle with the Earth its the only one we have!!!
This week, we are in Hervey Bay. An area that is known to have Humpback Whales resting/playing in the bay with their calves as they make the journey back south. The humpback whale travels north from the Antarctica area, up to the Papua New Guinea area to birth their calves and then back down to the south. They stop, rest and play in the Hervey Bay area. We are here just at the start of the season, so we may not be able to see them, as they have not arrived from the north yet.
Today we were eating lunch along the ocean and a few dozen cheeky lorikeets decided to fly down and play with us. These birds are everywhere in Australia but we have not interacted with them until now. They are so playful and friendly. They were on our hands, shoulders and bouncing around at our feet. This made my day! As many of you know, I have a 23 year old parrot at home that I miss dearly and playing with these happy little parrots made my day.
The Great Barrier Reef is just a few hundred kilometers away. We are excited to snorkel and swim with the tropical fish, turtles and sea life.
That’s all for now. Love to all my friends and family! xoxox
Jeremy and I have spent the last week volunteering at Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital. The hospital has five Veterinarians and fifteen Vet Nurses. They care for all wildlife that is sick or injured. It is non-profit and is right next to the zoo. The hope is to rehabilitate and release the animals once they are healthy. We have been cleaning enclosures, feeding eucalyptus and administering food/vitamin paste to nearly 50 koalas that are being cared for at the hospital. We are so happy and feel so blessed to be part of such a wonderful facility that is totally focused on the health and happiness of the little animals. I absolutely love the koalas and feel so happy when I am there. Many of the koalas that are there have been hit by car or attacked by dogs. They really do not have any predators. Their main diet is the leaves of the gum tree. There are over 800 species of gum tree in Australia but koalas only eat from around 25. Many only eat one or two species their whole life. Koalas are not called Koala Bears — but instead they are marsupials, where the baby at birth is put into the pouch of the koala and carried till the joey is big enough to hang on to mom (around 6 months old). They sleep nearly 18 hours a day and eat up to 6 hours a day.
I have learned so much and met some wonderful people. I can’t wait to see what this next week brings.
So much has happened since my last post. We have so much difficulty finding internet. But we are at a library in Coolangatta and they have free WIFI! Yay – a new state and new rules! Many libraries you need to pay $4.40/per person/per hour and you cannot plug your electronics in.
Where do I start???? Last time I wrote we were in Byron Bay. We stayed in Byron for 3 weeks. We bought and assembled a roof racks for our surf/body boards. Played music at Thai Lucy (the best Thai food in Byron). Enjoyed the swells. Met new friends, Melodie and Steve and saw some old friends. The farmers markets were a great way to get local food and meet people. On our way north we went to a little city called Nimbin. Nimbin isn’t your regular kind of city. It is anything but normal. It is very active with environmental initiatives such as permaculture, sustainability, and self-sufficiency and marijuana. This was a fun, interesting and neat little place to visit as we went north. There were museums, cafes, smoke shops etc.
(Taken from Wikipedia) In New South Wales the cultivation, selling and possession of cannabis is illegal. In Nimbin all three activities are part of every day hippie culture. Nimbin has a high tolerance for cannabis (marijuana), with the open buying, selling and consumption of locally grown cannabis on the streets and laneways. To rally for an end to the prohibition of cannabis in Australia, Nimbin has held an annual MardiGrass festival since 1993.
After Nimbin we went to Tweed Heads/Coolangatta. I had a dental cleaning on Wednesday. As we pulled into town we started noticing vintage American cars. We later found out that the approaching weekend was the Cooly Rocks On Car show/festival. We decided to stay to get a little taste of back home. There were close to 1,200 cars.
Also, at this same time we met a couple, Mal & Anthea. After talking and getting to know each other they very graciously opened their home to us. We have been so blessed on this trip to meet such wonderful and amazing people. I am in awe of their generosity and love. This invitation came at a crucial time. The weather has been cold (40-60) and getting colder and had been raining for almost 1 week straight. This doesn’t work to well when you are living out of your van and need to cook outside. This homestay has allowed us to recharge, meet two very amazing and generous people, stretch out, take warm showers, cook inside (we all cook together) and watch movies. Mal lives close to the beach, so the other day we went down to Kirra to watch the gigantic swells and surfers. There were 3 television helicopters taping the action. I have never seen waves so big and powerful.
We will be here through the weekend. Our brakes need to be fixed – calipers, pads, rotors….so we will be working on that this weekend. Jeremy will be performing at a birthday party in Byron on Monday. On Tuesday I think we are going to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. This is were we can cuddle Koalas, feed parrots, hang out with kangaroos and wallabies. Then we will continue north.
Much love to all my friends and family xoxox