Brisbane to Barcelona

Brisbane to Barcelona

Upon leaving St Peters, I went on to play Rugby for the University of Queensland, while at the same time, operating my own small personal training business nearby. After sustaining an injury which sidelined me indefinitely, I decided to take my focus away from pursuing a career in Rugby, and my fitness in general, to begin undergraduate studies at the University of Queensland.

Without the need for high physical performance, and the intensive training, I soon adopted a new lifestyle that contradicted every principle I had learned about health and fitness. I further alienated myself from my family, as well as my support network, by switching my focus from my personal development to my late-night weekend antics. It wasn’t long before my weekend antics began lingering into the week and what started as innocent fun had quickly turned into something a lot darker and more dangerous. By the time I had turned twenty, I was surrounded by criminals, thugs, and addicts, as well as some of the bigger fish who were trying to take control of Brisbane’s drug supply. I knew that my family would be heartbroken if they saw what I was doing with myself, so I just did my best to avoid them altogether. Smart, right?

Mum and Andrew always had a feeling that I was up to no good. Just how much no good was confirmed in the early hours of one Saturday morning at the end of 2014. It was around 3 am when a convoy of armed police units raided their family home while accompanied by me in custody. It had been months since I’d seen them and mum broke down when she saw all the police coming to search their house, which was the new lowest point in my life, so far. But things were to get worse before they got better.

Play with fire, you get burnt. The TV coverage from my incident. I was in too deep but luckily got out with just a few scratches before I decided to pull my head in. My street-cat days were over.

It was close to a year later, just a few months after my twenty-first birthday, that I went out to meet some friends after attending my brothers birthday party in Brisbane. In a recent effort to make some positive changes in my life, I had cut ties with all of the other bandits I was associating with. But apparently, this doesn’t sit too well with wannabe-gangsters, and that night they came after me for money and blood. I woke up in a hospital, after being caught off guard and held captive in an apartment by my old associates. I was tied up and tortured overnight. A less than pleasant experience. I’d already been beaten half to death by these goons, before being dragged through the mud by sensationalist journalism, both on tv and in the papers. Journalists, being journalists, made the story all about my dad being famous, which really pissed off a few of my family members and left me feeling further alienated from anyone I could go to for support.

What I normally look like after a big weekend, 2015.

I’d finally hit rock bottom and I knew that I had to change my whole life now because soon would be too late. I spent my recovery thinking about the choices I’d made over the years, which took me from one path to another, and ultimately, the darkness I had found myself in. After making the initial changes I needed to my lifestyle, including the people I surrounded myself with, it was incredible to see how quickly things started to improve. While it probably didn’t need to happen, I’m pretty grateful to have gone through this experience as it sparked the change needed in me to turn my life around while also giving me some incredibly valuable lessons for the road ahead. I talk about it openly now, not just for myself, but for anyone else that has found themselves in such a place where you feel like you have no one to talk to, or nowhere to turn to. There is always someone – message me.

After my injuries were less visible, I started a career in real estate before returning to the University of Queensland to complete my undergraduate studies. In 2018, I left UQ with a Bachelor of Business Management, Real Estate and Property Development, along with plenty of debts in student loans to the Australian government (help). To celebrate being the first member of my family to attend, and graduate, from university, I planned a trip through Europe with a few good mates, instead of going to my graduation ceremony. For five weeks we travelled through Spain, Croatia, Poland and the Czech Republic, before finishing in Greece and returning home to Australia. But my heart never left Barcelona.

It’s hard not to be in awe of the Catalonian capital the first time you see it, and many times after that. But it was a special someone I met, who truly changed my life. Since meeting my partner, Cyndi, on that life-changing trip to Europe, we’ve travelled through Spain, Holland, North America, Australia and Indonesia, learning, exploring and making crazy memories along the way. 

We moved to Barcelona together in 2019, where I was presented with an opportunity to attend a maritime college for commercial Yachtmaster training. For the next few months, I focused solely on studying the ins and outs of sailing, navigation and meteorology, while also completing regular passages around the Spanish part of the Mediterranean. It was a lot of fun, and after three months of intense training, five theoretical exams and an eight-hour practical exam, I was now a commercial Yachtmaster. I immediately flew to Croatia to continue my maritime training with the Quarterdeck Skipper Academy in the Adriatic Sea. The training was intensive and were at sea for just over a week in our floating home. It was an incredibly challenging experience, although I am grateful to have made it to the end.

I was now equipped with both the licenses, and some experience, so I went back to Spain and began working on board a chartered sailing yacht where I was responsible for taking guests out for day trips along the Barcelona and Costa Brava coastlines. During this time, I was also working full time assisting with the management of a Restaurant in central Barcelona. It was both challenging, and a lot of fun, but had to come to an end when Cyndi and I returned to Australia at the end of 2019.

We were visiting Bali, for the first time, when the world was shaken by the mysterious, Covid-19 Scamdemic. We were fortunate to have made it back to Australia in time for the national border closures, but we were now stuck in Queensland during a global lockdown. After three months of fighting the Australian Government for permission to leave during the lockdown, in June of 2020 we were finally given the green light to return to Spain.

The first wave of Covid had a relatively little impact in Australia, especially in my region of Southeast Queensland, however, Spain’s economy, relying heavily on tourism and hospitality, had suffered greatly since the world went into lockdown.

We returned to Barcelona to find streets that were so recently full of people, noise and energy, now dead silent. Spain and most of Europe were closed for tourism and now, people no longer travelling to their offices for work. Everything was closed so, many foreigners returned to their home countries and many that stayed began searching outside the city centre for better living opportunities, creating a complete lack of people altogether. Barcelona was a ghost town.

Not only did Barcelona’s 2020 tourism die with Covid, so did my yachting season. After more than 500 job applications, I was contacted for my first interview in Pandemic Barcelona. Now, while largely focusing on writing projects, I’m also managing a sales team within an international real estate advisory firm and absolutely loving it.

The world has changed unimaginably since the start of 2020 and now that life, as we once knew it, is gone, it’s time to create the future that we wish to see. Not only is Barcelona’s economy suffering, but many of its people are as well. Using the funds that we have available, as often as we can, Cyndi and I have also been preparing and distributing food to some of the many homeless residents within the city.

There are so many who have been forgotten and it’s up to us to spread the love that’s missing in the world. I am doing this through my endeavours with Operation Spread Love. As often as you can, take a minute to do something for someone that can never repay you and see how much your life changes. It can be as simple as a smile but it’s just about being the small changes you wish to see in the world.

Lifes a rollercoaster of a journey that will never stop challenging you. It doesn’t get easier, we just get better at it. Recognise not only how far you have yet to travel, but also how far you have come.

Bali’s Sangeh Monkey Forest, 2020.

Published by HDHANSFORD

Australian in Spain with a passion for all things sport, health, fitnes & nature. Go deeper to find out more.

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