“Happy Blogiversary” To The Unlikely Pilgrim!

I cannot believe it has been a full year that I have been jetting about exploring religions, cultures and making friends in the strangest of places. I have hit 18 countries and been to tiny little villages in India and Indonesia, super cities like Shanghai, Bangkok and London. I’ve frolicked in the waves of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, among others. I’ve seen ancient sites and felt the history within them as if I was a time traveller. I’ve eaten anything and everything, dabbled in local dance, learnt languages, customs and got lost A LOT! So to mark this monumental occasion I’ve compiled my seven most remarkable memories from the last 12 months. Enjoy!

Spiritual Enlightenment

Given my love of God and the fact that this is The Unlikely Pilgrim, I’ve been privileged to experience some incredible festivals, monuments, places of worship and powerful moments. The one for me that stands out most has to be Jerusalem. Amongst the chattering of Japanese tourists and the chaos of Easter weekend crowds, I was in the Upper Room where it is written that Jesus hosted the Last Supper the day before he was crucified. I stood in awe of the location, a relatively bland room with hints from its Islamic, Jewish and Christian past. I listened to Hillsong tunes echo through my earpods. I was completely engulfed by the magnitude of the occasion and its importance in my faith and therefore my heart and soul. In that moment it was as if I was alone, reflective of what had gone down in this room. My commitment to Christ swelled inside me and reaffirmed my path: to celebrate God my way and love others, like Jesus had. Not with judgement, not with an agenda, but because we are all one. That was my Jerusalem moment.

 Underwater Paradise

The Caribbean is the clearest, bluest most incredible water I’ve witnessed to date. The turquoise shimmer of the sun is mesmerising and inviting. It was here on my 33rd birthday I went diving with one of my best friends Nea off the coast of Can Cun at Isla Mujeres. The MUSA underwater museum is home to thousands of colourful fish and massive turtles all swimming amongst hundreds of statues placed underwater, as an artificial reef. I’ve been diving all over the world and the ocean scenery is always captivating; but I think what made this special was the symbolism of unity that these statues represented. Combined with the stunning nature of the above water views as well, helped. It was a feast for the eyes and for the soul.

Drunken Debauchery

Did someone say Carnivale in Rio? Five days of bloco parties, samba, Brazilian music, fancy dress and the world’s most gorgeous people half naked, offering me beer. YES please! Combined with stunning beaches and glorious churches to explore whilst in recovery mode, made this a very hazy yet very enjoyable stop along the way. A weeklong party that EVERYONE gets involved in from the little ones to the grey army. I highly recommend getting yourself to Carnivale in Rio. It won’t disappoint.

Forever Friendship

Tough category! I am going to omit the Bali crowd from this one as they are already on that list. This one goes out to Maria. Maria is my proofreader and originally a friend of a friend. I have only met her in person twice, yet she has been with me all the way. Ensuring my blogs make sense, offering impartial yet valuable advice and helping my book come to life. Her views are often not aligned with mine and this is why I love her. She is a kindred spirit yet our differences are what makes that so. It’s funny how connected you can feel to someone with oceans and mountains between you. I’ve learnt that this year. I’ve learnt that true friendships don’t fade with distance, they evolve and they change, but true friends will be there in the end. Even when you are worlds apart. (She totes has to proofread this, haha!)

 WTF Moment

Back to Brazil! This was not the only “exorcism” I have witnessed this year but inside the walls of the Temple of Solomon in Sao Paolo, shit got real! Surrounded by 6000 evangelist Christians, on their feet all shouting “get out” in Portuguese to the apparent demon within the dishevelled woman on the stage seemed to be quite extreme, even to me. I certainly said my own prayers amongst the fanfare and hype of the moment. Not for the lady, but for me to make it out without donning the stage or being discovered as completely bewildered at the practice.

I Wish I Lived There

Bali! Bali! Bali! I loved every moment of my time on the paradise island, with its thunderous wet season, scorching dry months, ceremony overload and endless rice fields. I loved the lifestyle of yoga by day and beers with mates by night. I met some incredible people that are firmly in the forever friendship groups. I found myself and I conquered so many fears and demons in that place. Not to mention the beaches are beautiful, the people are so kind and friendly and life is just simple there. I’ll be back. I know it.

Time Traveller

 Lebanon – The history that laps the shores there is incredible for me. Phoenician ruins dating back 6000 years in Byblos and temples for Venus and Bacchus at Baalbek in the mountains. Cedar trees that are centuries old. I enjoyed the unity of the Islamic and Christian worlds colliding over time yet emerging united in what Pope Benedict XVI said is an example for the rest of the world. Islamic burial grounds annexed Christian cemeteries in Tyre. Towering Minarets overlooking Church bell towers in Beirut. Glimpses of the war years linger and yet the general vibe of the place is one of party, friendship and harmony.

 Three hundred and sixty-five days on the road. I feel blessed to have enjoyed the journey thus far and look forward to sharing what the next year has to offer.

 Yours in Faith,

The Unlikely Pilgrim

Sinners are Grinners in Rio

After a very interesting few days in Sao Paulo I was in need of a very stiff drink or two. Rio’s Carnival did not disappoint. This five day festival of music, dancing, parties and what appeared to be free love was just what the doctor ordered.

Carnival, believe it or not, is originally a Catholic tradition to signify the beginning of Lent. ‘Carne’ from meat and ‘vale’ from farewell. Farewell to meat as the abstinence of Lent is upon us. Today of course the Mother Mary and Jesus Christ was not the immediate thought that sprung to mind as I samba’d my way through the crowds of people in fancy dress (or fantasy as they call it), from batman to pirates, fairies and okay, so I met one Jesus.


The bloco parties are the places to be – informal samba parades through the streets. There is a list of maybe 50 to 60 parades every day of carnival in different neighbourhoods and are not to be missed. At the Boitata bloco party the ebb and flow of bodies in the crowd seemed to be in unison with the band marching behind us. The access to ice cold beer is second to none, given that on every corner and in fact through the parades, entrepreneurial vendors are selling beer and alcoholic icy poles from their eskies and the crowds sells them out.


The Brazilians are VERY friendly and I met some lovely people through my host Monica and on the streets where I did have to duck out of a random kiss or two. As my Uber driver explained via Google translate, Carnival is for kissing. Well I can see that from the plethora of loved up couples and strangers for that matter. There was mouth to mouth on the streets and dreamy eyes were constantly being thrown in my direction, and that of the other cutsie batgirls that surrounded me.  This is ironically what my grade 8 religion teacher would say is a party for heathens. That’s certainly the viewpoint I received from the odd service I managed to attend in my attempt to drag myself away from the delightful sin of Cerveza and Samba and get back on track. The Unlikely Pilgrim, oh yes religion that’s right…

So, to balance out my Ying and Yang approach to my time in Rio was Church Day, Party Day or Angel in the morning, Devil by night. Slightly hungover I ventured to the Monastery of Sao Bento high on the hill in the docks area. I’m so glad that I did not miss this. The monks here celebrate with the Gregorian chant every Sunday at mass time; it felt like I was catapulted back in time. I was surrounded by the incredible splendour of gold leaf shrines to Catholic Saints, spectacular decorative architecture flaunting the wealth of the empire at the time.


Yet amongst all this splendour there was a serious tone and devout tradition in the ritual of the service, complete with incense burning in the thurible. These 16 men in their dark robes and stern faces together provide a baritone melody saying Lord knows what that echoed through this incredible building and into my soul. Time for another bloco! 😉

I could spend months exploring the churches, cathedrals and immerse myself in the Saint’s Day rituals that are a-plenty here. Perhaps Carnival was not the right time to come? Beer and live music is my weakness in life (albeit I managed the Christ Redeemer – an incredible monument – Checkout my YouTube clip on it – link below);  though I did venture to into the Favela’s to discover the grip of Catholicism and the Evangelical movement on those communities . If I’m honest, the backbeat of the samba parade and bloco parties won this round.

SO, through the haze of beer goggles, and bronzed Brazilian babes, my Summary is this: Brazilians love (in no particular order) the Lord, beer and women.


Yours in Faith,


The Unlikely Pilgrim