In Nagaland in north east India we came across this lady.
My grandmother, Alice Warrington
Before I was too young to understand, my grandmother told me to follow my dreams.
"You can be anyone you want to be, if only you have the courage to seize the day," she said.
I told her I wanted to see the world, and so you shall she said with a squeeze and a kiss.
Alice passed away before I got to know her; before I understood the worldly advice of a lady who never left the country she was born in.
Worldliness is a state of mind and not measured by the stamps in our passports.
Once again, it seemed like a great idea at the time ... happy days ...
Come to the party they said.
Never one to give up the opportunity to slip into a costume, the obvious choice to attend a Sound of Music party was to go dressed as bread and jam.
It all went swimmingly until the neighbours, on account of a particularly raucous chorus of 'My Favourite Things,' called the cops. It was spectacular.
The police constables were less enthused.
But when I answered the door thusly attired they were powerless to reprimand me and instead advised us to party hard.
And continued with our tribute to Julie Andrews and the iconic 60's movie.
This happened while I was in Sydney but it doesn't matter where you are travelling around the world, party hard and dance like no one is watching, even if you can hardly move because you're trapped in a huge slice of glittered bread.
It's a truth universally acknowledged that if you ask someone not to do something, chances are they're likely to do exactly that which you forbade.
Such was the request and subsequent naughty defiance during a vacation to Byron Bay.
A theatre group had once rented the property and a substantial costume collection remained.
The door to the costume room was locked but no match for a Phillips head and few gentle taps.
Honestly, what did you expect?
It's a great idea to stay in a love hotel, said no one ever
I was curious.
What exactly was a 'Love Hotel'?
Rented by the hour or the night ... suspicious looking people shuffling in back entrances.
I'd been in Bangkok for a week and neon signs everywhere had piqued my curiosity.
I should have known.
Renting anything relating to 'love' by the hour can't be good.
Not that I object ... it's just not my poison.
Each to their own.
I found a hotel on Ratchadaphisek Road.
It had no windows. Probably should have given it away, but I entered the foyer, which was excessively beige and not at all suggestive of what was going on in the rooms upstairs.
The receptionist was neat and charming.
What was I worried about?
But only for a moment.
When I got to my room I noticed sticky hand prints covering the wall above the bed.
I checked the nightstand.
I thought as much.
I called down to reception.
Several litres of bleach later the smell of - whatever that smell was - was gone and replaced with an eye-watering hospital grade scent of cleanliness.
And it's not just in Thailand.
There are love hotels all over the world catering to secret assignations, starstruck lovers and horny business men.
An ex tropical cyclone has come to play.
Shades of Dorothy blown in by cyclonic winds have the capital in a tizzy, and somewhere over the rainbow a storm is brewing.
But I remain optimistic.
There’s “nowt can’t be remedied by galoshes and a sou’wester,” granny always said when great scudding clouds threatened my childhood adventures.
But this odyssey calls for gumboots or waders … or a submarine.
Wellington boots in wellington.
The story is practically writing itself.
Then the rain turns horizontal and wind speeds top 200km/h and my smugness - along with much of the surrounding topsoil – is washed away by Ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie’s deluge.
Wellington’s compact but usually bustling CBD with its soaring verticality of business and commerce is almost deserted.
As I slosh through ankle-deep puddles towards a patisserie wafting nostril twitching loveliness, I notice a few panicky Wellintonians scurrying home, battling an invisible, blustery foe doffing hats and flipping brollies.
I decide to forgo the Wellington leg of the trip.
I ‘plan B’ and drive/sail to my lodgings in Plimmerton.
I hunker down for the night, wake early, dodge the razor and head off.
According to the weather forecast, apparently there’s a tiny piece of blue sky somewhere north and I am determined to find it.
"Eat shit" is something my sister often says to me.
And other choice phrases.
You love them. But sometimes they get on your tits.
And words come out ... the hurtful things you don't actually mean, but at the end of the day they know you better than anyone else, and when all is said and done ... you don't really want them to eat shit ...
or so I thought.
On our last trip to Cambodia, we decided to go on a half-day tour around the villages surrounding the capital city Phnom Penh, on quad bikes.
Towards the end of the trip we drove through a paddock full of cow excrement and my sister became bogged down in poo.
Oh, how I laughed.
Up to her pretty, white sneakers in shit.
I told her to "give it arseholes" a delightful phrase I learned in New Zealand, which has a miscellany of different meanings, but in this instance meant put your foot down.
As she accelerated out of the paddock back onto the track, several kilos of cow shit, which had been lodged under the quad bike wheels hit me in the face with such velocity it knocked off my sunglasses and filled my mouth and throat.
I have not the words ...
Inside every reporter, journalist and travel writer is a budding novelist.
I travel a lot.
But even when the anchor of domestic normality grounds me and I decide to settle down, I usually end up moving somewhere remote.
One of my bright ideas was to buy a house on a tiny island off the coast of Queensland.
I thought so.
Replace the white sand with mangroves and mud and fill the ocean with Bull Sharks and Great Whites and the occasional Tiger Shark.
I lived there for a full year, in isolation, writing my travel diaries.
It should have been ideal.
I should have written that bestseller.
What actually happened was I bought a lot of crap off the internet, spent hours rubbing calamine lotion into the countless sand fly and mosquito bites and extracting ticks from my unmentionables.
Power cuts and burst sewer mains kept me distracted too.
Finally, my mother sent me a present: a Wilson ball to jolt me out of my self-imposed exile and remind me that my only human contact was with a piece of spherical sporting equipment.
I am not a fan of glands.
My flatmate used to have a dog that had a particularly pendulous sack of gonads, which it insisted on draping all over my soft furnishings.
May it was curiosity. Maybe it was a a perverse sense of revenge but twice on my travels I've dined on bull's testicles and twice I've thrown up the entire contents of my stomach.
Once in Cambodia.
Once in Montana.
Sometimes, as a freelance writer, you need to live spherically and think laterally.
Being a travel writer will not make you rich.
In fact, most of the time, it's quite the opposite - sitting under a tree eating walnuts.
'Sudoko' doesn't get you very far in Japan. Not when you need to hail a cab or order a drink or ask where the bathrooms are or excuse yourself for sitting on an old lady on the metro.
I really should have learned some Japanese .. or brought my phrase book. And then of course, when you get lost the arguments start.
Nelle and I are bickering furiously about which Japanese symbol to press on the ticket machine at the subway station when we hear, “this button, press for Nikko”.