Where has she been?


I am conscious that this is something that a couple of people previously connected to me may be wondering.


Well, let me tell you a story that involves a one way world adventure that began at the end of January 2020 and took me not much further than Bali, where I have been based for all but two weeks of the time between then and now.


I left Bali after five weeks to attend a wedding in Penang and then flew to Hoi An in Vietnam, where I intended to begin my travels. I wanted to travel the Southern route of the Silk Road, however I didn’t have a plan for how this would unfold. A week later I watched the world and town around me shut down. Family at home raised concerns about my plans and I made a swift decision to book the next flight back to Bali, to move in with a Balinese family that I had came to know over the five weeks and I arrived by the end of the day.


On the Monday morning I attended the immigration office to have my visa extended, and on the same day, the Government announced that no further extensions would be offered after the Wednesday. I watched friends I knew who were living all over the world flock back to Australia.


About ten days later, flights on and off the island stopped for an undetermined amount of time and I went into somewhat of a lockdown with the family. This is where I stayed for two months, diving into some project work for a little Non For Profit that I was helping to run as well as participating in Balinese family and cultural life. One of these projects, a book project, is something that I am still bringing to life now. 


After this time I began to consistently find more independence and move more freely around the island. Bali, by its nature, is quite a transient place and it is not uncommon for expats to constantly be moving about.  I feel that I lived at least five different lives through 2020!


I explored and pieced together parts of The Aspire Series where I could, however like a lot of the world, I found that my energy was low and I wasn’t really in the space within myself to design and create the quality of work that I wanted to in this space. It wasn’t until late in the year that I really dove back into this work.


On leaving Melbourne at the beginning of 2020, and following previous Michelle style, I had exhausted myself in the previous year or so and found that I needed breathing space from the kind of work that I had been doing, in particular, around facilitation. Despite a number of people asking me to coach and facilitate, I did not feel that this was aligned for me. I needed space. I needed to work out what came post Melbourne life, and to take the time to reorient and breathe.


What’s more, I had found myself either “stuck” or “living”, depending on personal perception, in a foreign country during a worldwide pandemic…. And somewhat floundering with whether to set up life or to continue “riding it out”. And if I were to set up life, it was an unusual time to navigate the most seemingly straight forward of things, such as finding and making friends.  While in many many ways, it has been a blessing to be in Bali at this time, it has raised and forced me to sit with its own batch of challenges.


Never having spent more than four months away from Melbourne in my life, I am somewhat surprised that it took me a whole year to feel homesick. However, when it hit, it landed firmly and held its grasp over me for almost two months. After moving somewhere between every fortnight to several months over sixteen months, it came with lots of learnings. I had not long decided to stay in Bali and set up a life here, taking more power of my experience back into my own hands, and acknowledging that this decision would require that I take greater self responsibility than I ever had in my life.


While I thought that there would be, and still is likely to be in time, the real possibility of returning to Australia, I had consciously decided to complete out the seven year chapter of Melbourne city life, that I adored, and returning felt quite purposeless without being able to comprehend what a new chapter of life may hold in store. In ordinary times, to return would be quite simple, knowing that such a decision could be easily changed. Current times don’t offer the ease of such flexibility.


Since deciding to plant my feet where I am, many things have shifted. A home I love, friends, community and Aspire have all begun to land. In all honesty, regardless of whether I travelled the world or was planted in one place, 2020 was always going to be a transitional year for me and not likely one for either putting myself or my work out in the world. And I can now see how it has been exactly how it was meant to be in some ways….. to the best of its ability within the circumstances of the world.


In winding up 2020 and deciding that it was time to begin the next chapter, I had learned enough to know that I had to back myself and trust my intuition more than at any other point in my life. In beginning to feel into the resilience that this required, a feeling that I remembered began to sink back in…. a confidence that allowed me to say “I only want what I want” and to remember what it felt like to set the bar higher and dedicate myself to something beyond my reach.


Since this time, I have solidly grown into what Aspire is now becoming- and it is becoming something like I always intended for it. Initially beginning as a side project while working full time, it was a place for me to explore and play with ideas about what I may like to create in the world. It now is my “thing”. While I still take on and have a couple of other community based projects on the go, Aspire is my leading liner.


Beyond it all, one of the greatest gifts that has landed recently, is the reminder of what it feels like to be aligned with and operating from a strong sense of purpose, identity and belonging. Something that we all crave so innately.


It feels SO good to be back!


Michelle x




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