A dream come true. A very hard decision. A long-awaited move. The trip of a lifetime.
Dear friends & followers,
On the 22nd September Martina and I will be sitting on a plane on our way to Melbourne, Australia – a dream trip which should keep us away from Malta for the next 12 months or so.
If you have a few minutes to spare, I will be explaining below the reason for this.
Sport is the passion of my life.
I was probably destined to be an athlete. As far as my memory can recall, I remember myself as a kid running wherever my feet took me. I never walked, I just ran. I loved football and kicked anything that resembled a ball against the walls of our garden, breaking anything that stood close by and driving my mum nuts on a daily basis. I watched sports on TV for days on end. Back then the football World Cup and the Olympics were the highlights of my life. I remember running my first official sprint during school sports day at the age of 6 winning by a large margin. Soon after my parents enrolled me with an athletics club and I was a competitive sprinter from the age of 8 up to the age of 25. I shifted to fitness after 17 years in athletics and for the past 5 years I have regularly competed in fitness events.
From national sprinter to national bodybuilder, I always lived sport and the values it taught me. Discipline, healthy living, consistency, respect, sacrifice, determination, resilience, character, fair play. Ever since I was a kid I exercised Monday to Saturday and I still do so today because I don’t know any other way. To me sport is not a chore but it is the best thing in my life, the best thing I know.
Through sport I also fell in love with travelling as it gave me the golden opportunity to discover new countries and cultures while representing my country in international competitions. Travelling became my second passion. I realized that the world in its diversity and beauty was calling me to keep discovering it. Yes, Malta was just one tiny beautiful spot from a host of other amazing beautiful places, all inspiring in their own unique way, all with a different lesson to teach us. While travelling I also realised how unhealthy the Maltese lifestyle is when compared to some other nations. I slowly started to cultivate a certain grudge against our archaic mentality regarding food and sports. I certainly wasn’t proud of this and being patriotic I wanted to somehow set a new trend in my country. Idealistic and naïve? Perhaps, but I saw this is my life mission.
Regardless of how big my passion for sports and travel had become, until today they have neverthless played second fiddle to values which contemporary society has adopted as a priority: work, money and career. It seems to me that these values are the only real and viable option for many.
To this effect, like most of you, my childhood was characterised by heaps of study and exam-related stress … until I graduated with a Masters in Accountancy after 5 years of academic study, along with many other accountants. I do not know what had me choose Accounts, but I do know that at school it was either that or Sciences. Since I was particularly good with numbers I picked Accounts. Living on a small island where sport is seen as a waste of time by many, I did not have the opportunity to pursue a career in what I love most thereby finding myself occupied in a profession that in Malta is highly respected, and rightly so, certainly more than sports. Since the day I completed my stint at university, I worked as an auditor for 3 years, as an accountant for 2 years and as a financial controller for the past 3 years. Not bad at all when considering that I am still 30 and comfortable enough to help me look at life from a different perspective.
Over the past years in finance I spent many hours behind desks crunching numbers in meeting deadlines. It often happened to me that while at work I found myself daydreaming about how life could be if I had the power to do what I really wanted – sports and travel. But then reality always kicked in to ruin my daydreams. One needs money to survive, and that usually means work and employment; routine accountancy means another set of payments, another month-end, another annual report and the years roll by. And then it hit me.
The combination of certain events in my life and speaking to a number of people led me to start questioning the path my life was taking. I found myself feeling guilty and somewhat panicked when I pictured myself at 60, looking back at what I did with my life and not having fulfilled my foremost dream. What use was there in living a life dedicated to work? Somewhere along the way I also came across quotes like: “Work to live, don’t live to work” and “If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to build theirs”.
True, easy to say or write down these maxims, but thinking about it these quotes were hiding a deep meaning. I wanted to get qualified in fitness, to recapture the energy of those days when I was a student and moreover, to experience all of this somewhere where sports and healthy living were a top priority. I didn’t want to live the life imposed on me, but a life fuelled by passion. I didn’t want to be mainstream. Life is one and we only have one chance to get it right. But on the other hand my job was good, my colleagues were fun, my bosses were respectful, my salary was great. My life was safe and I could afford a few good perks. My friends started buying their own place and I was surely the next in line. The comfort zone had become very comfortable indeed. I frequently discussed my dilemma with Martina whom I had then just met. At first she was pretty much hooked on to security but gradually she started loosening up in appreciating where I was coming from and what attracted me to my aspirations.
Until a good old friend from secondary school who had been following my career in sports messaged me on Facebook on the 24th March 2013:
“Hi Andrew. As you may know I am currently living in Thailand and I run a blog on online marketing, lifestyle and travel. Over the past few months I have gained weight due to bad eating habits and lack of exercise and I’m planning to write an article on how to get back in shape within a month. Would you be interested in being my guide through this experiment? The idea is that I note down every step along the process. If you like the idea I’d naturally mention you and also if you want I can also help you build your own personal blog on fitness. I believe this would be really interesting”.
This ‘famous’ friend was Jean Galea and as they say, the rest is history.
A history which basically started with myself working up “Mirror Friendly” as a name for the blog and Jean creating a platform for me to be able to communicate online with my first true aficionados. A year and a half later I am writing this post. During this relatively short time, apart from my usual long days at work and my evening training sessions, I have kept myself busy during late hours in preparing daily content for the blog.
In the meantime Martina obtained her Masters in Human Nutrition and moved to Malta. She quickly became my right hand by helping me out with the nutritional aspect of the website. On my part I coached her at the gym. Her motivation for healthy living and fitness rocketed so it was only natural for me to introduce her as the new team member at Mirror Friendly. My cousin Tanya who lives in Canada continued spurring the growth of the blog by regularly featuring her articles on the website. For two years in a row I became national champion in the Men’s Physique short class and went on to place in Europe’s top 10 in May this year. The succession of these events were too good for me to remain complacent to them. Spending a whole day at work behind the office desk was really not adding up to all of this. It didn’t feel like me anymore and I got restless. It was time for me to take control of my life. I had a few serious conversations with Martina, my parents and my close friends and I prayed to God, asking Him for guidance.
Until it became very clear that it was time for me and Martina to climb out of our comfort zone. We did a lot of research to make the safest move possible – and indeed the choice was always going to be Australia. Over there we will spend the first 6 months in Melbourne where we will both be happily studying fitness. A move through which I will finally be able to give something back to the passions of my life; sports and travel, which have marked my life with so much joy. This I will be seeking to do in 2 steps:
- During the first 6 months – by endorsing the knowledge gained over a life in sports through obtaining a reputable certificate in personal training while living in the world’s most liveable city for the 5th year in a row. Yes, Melbourne rocks! And this together with my girlfriend, training partner and soulmate Martina, who will also be coupling her degree in nutrition with a qualification in personal training.
- During the remaining 6 months – by travelling around the Australian continent and hopefully Asia (money permitting).
A true case of now or never which I have been longing to share with you for many months but which for obvious reasons I had to keep to myself.
In building up courage to take this decision the hardest part was definitely giving up my job and all the commodities that came along with it. I will naturally also greatly miss my family, friends and colleagues at the Grand Harbour Marina, this being the first time in 30 years that I’m leaving my country for such a long time. But having Martina with me and a couple of good old friends waiting for me in Melbourne will make it all the much easier.
While of course we have no certainty on what lies in store for us we will retain a confident, open and flexible mind to adjust our plans if the need arises.
So boys & girls, friends & followers, fasten your seatbelt and hold on – coz Mirror Friendly will soon lift off to Australia and you will all be coming with us, accompanying us so to speak in our journey.
A new life begins at the end of your comfort zone and this we will hopefully explain while blogging from the land of Oz downunder.
Mirror Friendly on the trip of a lifetime – Australia here we come! 🙂
To fitness with love,
Andrew & Martina