• Elana Withnall

Wanderlust: a Wonderful Addiction

Delighting in the unknown.

4 countries. 5 months. And a whole lot of memories to cherish.

I'm fortunate to have visited Canada, Singapore, Cambodia and the United States.

For many opposing reasons, over four months.


Let me share, my American Adventure. About finding happiness, in myself again. Being completely alone, on the other side of the world. And some of the loveliest people, I've ever met.

Mid January, 2016. I embarked on a journey to Atalanta, Georgia, USA.

This trip has been five years in the making and I was over the moon, to finally visit my beautiful Godmother & American family.

I was welcomed into their home and adopted as second daughter. This is where I received the gift of to giggling til my abs hurt, everyday. Be chauffeured kindly to the track and the gym, at desire. Ate popcorn over 'Friends' nightly. Toured the Georgian countryside - all the way to Mexico Beach, Florida. climbed the world's biggest 'Granite Stone Rock,' in the middle of nowhere. Got kissed by a giraffe. Saw snow for the second time in my life. Created a whole circle of international friends, new brothers and sisters. Had the job of coaching forty or so - enthusiastic, passionate, polite and beautiful souls, in Track and Field. Had the best day of my life, at the 'Happiest Place on Earth.' Leaned about American Politics, culture and how to ''not let the pipes freeze over,'' during snow. Found happiness, through loneliness. And made some of the most beautiful memories, I'll always cherish.

Atlanta, to me. Was incredibly hospitable. It was about making friends with the man at the corner store, simply by asking them how their day was. Or swapping gym routines with the guy at the gym; who noticed I did things a bit differently and had a funny accent. It was a new adventure, everyday. Of places to explore, jobs to do and people to meet. There was never a dull moment; even on 'Pajama days.'


I was going through a lot of misfortune during my time in Atlanta. A death of a family member. My own illness. And the end of a relationship, essentially; a broken heart.

But my faith in my God, and in the optimism of 'everything being okay in the end;' remained strong. Through all the uncertainties. Through all the sadness. The times when I thought I was helpless. There was always a solution. There was always another day.

I always had support, from all sides of the world. And there was always smiles again.



I was able to focus on myself at the track, at the gym My time -training. This was my therapy.

Although training the high school team, became my daily joy that I'd look forward to. Being called 'Ma'am,' and given the most respect as a coach; I'd ever received in my career. Seeing the joy in kid's faces as if explain a new training drill, Australian slang term, or simply finding themselves improving and believing in their goals. Trinity Christian College - became my track family. As I look at the signed poster, from every one of those athletes that I have up in my room. I'll cherish all of the time spent there. How I was given the gift of teaching, but the blessing of friendship in return. And being able to see them run personal best's after I've gone back to my side of the world; was the gift of satisfaction in seeing those athletes persevere, in their own dreams.

My own training admittedly took a change in direction - after planning this trip, 8 weeks out from Australian National Athletics Championships / Olympic Trials. But I did the best I could, with what I had and where I was.

I had to find that intrinsic motivation, all over again.

To train on those days where I was home sick, or just plain sick. Hurdling In a scarf and beanie; wasn't something I was not familiar with either. The surface of the athletics tracks, I had access too - was much firmer too; resulting in (another) injury. And without a therapist of any kind, or similar.

I just had to push on, through a battling, bruised, sore body.


Training without my squad; another intrinsic battle.

Just Lani, her music and the track to answer to. No coach, yelling down my ear; giving me advice or assessing my form. Just my iPad video analysis and a stopwatch for tracking my performance. No high-5's or pump ups, from my darling training partners. Just internally repeated, 'WE GOT THIS' phrases.

But it was do-able, of course. I made it happen.

And here I am, days after Olympic Trials. Looking at how all the focus, the drive, the sacrifices, the grind - all paid off. And It always will.

When your goals are bigger than your problems; you'll always make it happen.

After some sad farewells, to my new and extensive American family; I flew solo to the Big Apple.


New York: I arrived, freezing. Lost. Anxious. After finding my way to my new-found last minute Accommodation; (after experiencing another personal misfortune leaving me with no place to stay). Nevertheless; I was in the 'Concrete Jungle Where Dreams are Made.' I wasn't going to let negative people and bad energy, get in the way of this adventure. This city, I've always dreamed of.

I made the most of what I had, with the short time I had. And wow! Four days, full of every landmark on my list, training in Central Park, getting lost on subways and ending up in the Bronx, kind policemen, the most enthusiastic worship service at Southern Gospel church, meeting the loveliest Brazilian and Italian roommates - who made my time in NY: the laughs, the company and everything in between; something I'll never forget. And all the lights. All the sounds. The way of living. Indescribable.

But a world, I'm glad I've visited.





Los Angeles: 48 hours, in the beautiful Californian Sun. And we arrived, in a not-so-nice part of the city. After misinterpreting some directions and reviews of motels. But hey, I got to unexpectedly see the downside, to L.A. Which I appreciated the day after in comparison. Alas, that still didn't kill my vibe, yet.

With what disposable money I had left, I re-located from the LA Bronx - to Venice Beach. And baby, I felt like I was home!



Flipping my world, the right way up again.

I was finally by the ocean.

My place of peace.

And I stayed at the cutest hostel, right in Muscle Beach. I had my workout, had my surf. Saw Gold's Gym, got offered to buy mix-tapes of aspiring rappers. And then my run to Santa Monica Pier and back. With only one evening left - I made the most of my new-found friendships in high places; and was the luckiest girl in the world: free VIP tickets to an NBA Game. I couldn't stop pinching myself. With hours left in this beautiful part of the world - A tour of Beverly Hills, and Hollywood later and it was time to board the place, back to Sydney town.



This trip. A whirlwind of adventure. Of trust. Of loneliness - but healing. One of the best times of my life; through the worst. A time in my life, where I grew; when I was left with nothing - when I had no other choice. A time where I really learned how strong my faith in my God, could be.

And how much more it could grow.

And I learned through travel , exploring a different culture.

A different way of living. That when you're alone in the world; you're never really alone at all. If you pray. Be open to kindness. And kindness and a familiar face; will always be right around the corner.




Because you are happy; truly happy in yourself. Negative energy can't touch you. You accept where you are in life. No matter where in the world; or who you are with. You can have faith in where you are going. And want to make the best, of each day you've been blessed with.

I cannot than all the people, who help make these life memories, this adventure, these experiences; all possible. It is a gift,

I'll forever cherish.

I encourage you to explore all depths of the world, your heart desires.

Because you will only have memories to be made. And wanderlust; is truly a beautiful, unexpected addiction.


Until next time's thoughts...

Keep Dreaming and Believing.


Xx Lani

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