G’Day G’Day I’m back in SA

Brendan McDonnellMy shed

I’m happy to announce that I’ve arrived back in Australia after 2 years away!

And coincidentally, today marks 8 years since the day my dad died from suicide.

It’s a pretty significant moment.

I’m finding it hard to explain the past 2 years all at once in person so I’ve written this little number to share what I’ve been doing, and more importantly where I’m at, what I plan on doing next and where you come in.

Over the past two years I’ve travelled around a bit then wound up living on the Mediterranean island of Malta.


Among other things:

I ate lots of pizza in New York and got acne,

I hung out with uni students that reminded me of Skins characters (bbc) in Brighton, England, did one bikram yoga session and got some shitty Friday the 13th tattoos for 20 quid,

I rode bicycles in Amsterdam and didn’t smoke weed,

I listened to strange techno music and lit fireworks on the street in Berlin,

I coincidentally/ spontaneously/ unexpectedly ran into an old friend who I hadn’t seen since I was 14 in a bar in Prague, Czech Republic with whom I joined forces, travelled around Europe and established one of the strongest friendships I’ll ever have,

We drank about 700 beers in Budapest and didn’t get robbed,

We got lost in the Tatranska Mountains somewhere near the border of Poland and Slovakia and had no Slovakian currency and got a lift with a park ranger to the nearest town which looked a lot like a scene from the movie Borat,

We woke up covered in gummy bears in Bratislava after consuming a large amount of fermented tea liquor and ate soup out of a bread rolls which had the inside cut out,

We worked for a cult-like organisation in Pettenasco on one of the northern Italian alpine lakes in return for vegan meals and herbal tea for 26 days before being asked to leave,

Then I connected with my Italian roots and visited the village of Vaglio Serra where my grandfather grew up and sat on his bed that had been waiting there in his bedroom since he left and never returned over 60 years ago,

I drank a few mojitos in Barcelona and was taught how to muscle-up by a break-dancer at an outdoor gym on the beach,

I got a tattoo of a turkey in Turkey,

I practiced Muay Thai with the Thai’s in Thailand and ate Pad Thai,

And most importantly I lived the dream on the Mediterranean island of Malta for a year and a half where I established myself as a personal trainer, started a beautiful relationship with the little Maltese lady of my dreams, and only paid for 3 weeks rent,

And I made a website about my life etc.

Brendan McDonnellTop of the Empire State via Iphone 4

Brendan McDonnellShootin’ dice in Brooklyn

Brendan McDonnellFresh ink in England to send home to #mom

Brendan McDonnellAtop Lake Orta, Italy

Brendan McDonnellSitting on my Pop’s bed in Vaglio Serra, Italy

Brendan McDonnellTraining at Sitmonchai Gym, Tha Maka, Kanchanaburri, Thailand

Brendan McDonnellRooftop bar in Bangkok with my pretty little Maltese lady

Brendan McDonnellUnfinished Buddha in Pai, Thailand

Brendan McDonnell$8 one on one sessions by the sea on Koh Yao Noi, Thailand

Brendan McDonnellSwinging and punching above my weight on Koh Yao Noi

Before I left Australia I was working for an airline throwing bags. It just so happened to entitle me to incredibly cheap flights. I purchased an incredibly cheap flight to New York and then to London two weeks later and then resigned.

Like I said I cruised around solo for a little while then I absolutely coincidentally ran into my old mate James in Prague who was just as lost as I was so we joined forces. I remember asking him if he wanted to go to Eastern Europe and him replying “Why not”. We drank way too much alcohol in various locations and then decided it was time to detox so we did a ‘workaway’ (work in return for accommodation and food) at a ‘Spiritual Seminar Centre’ just above Lake Orta, one of the northern Italian alpine lakes. The location was ridiculous and is still the most scenic place I’ve seen to date. It just so happened to be a cult-like organisation who took note of our hard working Aussie attitudes and worked us to the bone in return for chick peas, various cheeses and herbal teas. We lasted 26 days before I got us kicked out.

That’s when we decided to move to Malta. By decided to move I mean we went to visit Malta because we were sick of the cold weather and it was a few degrees warmer than everywhere else at the end of the European winter – and didn’t leave for some 18 months. In Malta I met some pretty great people who helped me a lot.

I became good friends with the owner of a hostel and began doing some design work for him in return for accommodation in nearby apartments. I started working part-part-time at the gym that was only a few hundred metres away – which paid for my coffee and sandwich addiction at the local coffee shop just behind the gym – all right next to the sea. I also had some great people sending me design work from Australia via email here and there – which was so helpful and kept me off the street corners.

I basically lived the dream for a year and a half. Other than obviously working hard on my own personal projects and sanity, it doesn’t feel like I’ve worked a full day in the past two years.

Brendan McDonnellSquad- Selmun, Malta

Brendan McDonnellOutdoor fitness with the Captain – St. Julian’s, Malta

Brendan McDonnellOne of my training posters – Malta

Brendan McDonnellMy mate James and I sitting in a big hole – Malta

Brendan McDonnellMatching pictures to commemorate living in Malta for 18 months together

Here’s a couple of little videos I made of Malta:


Not long ago, while I was away, my mum moved back into our family home with her fiancé after not living there for some 4 years. There has obviously been a huge stigma surrounding the place – my dad having died from suicide there. I think she made a great lifestyle choice and took a big step in the right direction toward removing any unresolved emotions. It’s pretty amazing.

Having returned to Australia with my pretty little Maltese lady, while trying not to let anxiety get the better of me, we’re starting the next chapter. My work so far on this website, I guess, has been pretty theoretical. I’ve shared some of my stories and ideas so that in theory they might set example and provide support for others. Now I want to make something tangible and in doing so crush any remnant stigma surrounding my dad’s death from suicide.

I’m pretty over thinking and writing and over-analysing things, all I really want to do is live healthily and help my girlfriend create a neat little life for herself here in Australia like I did for myself in Malta. Like I wrote in an article I shared on Facebook a while back, I believe that I’ve adopted a mind-set which allows me to live life as a traveller, searching for something more every day despite living in a place long-term. I’ve worked hard to create freedom in my life and I’m going to live it as long as possible and pass it on to as many people I can. So, I think that if I continue to live a happier and healthier life it will set example for those around me who I’d like to help live happier and healthier lives…

To share this with others, I’m going to make a place where people can find support. Literally in the shed where I found my dad after he died from suicide… Complete with Muay Thai pads, a coffee machine and hipster recycled furniture!

The shed has been a place of such great negativity, sadness and pain in my life and it’s probably the only place that still holds the stigma. That’s why I’m converting it into a positive place of growth and positivity – a gym/ coffee/ chill out spot. Still some pain – but only the positive kind!

What better place to set example for others than the place where most of the pain and suffering originated… If I can overcome it and make the shed my own, you can too. Etc etc.

“But the gym isn’t for me” – If kicking things isn’t for you then come for a coffee or tell me a story or chill.

It will be:
A place to support
A place to grow
A place to kick people
A place to drink coffee

A place to drink coffee, kick people, FIND support and grow TOGETHER.

A place for everyone.

So come over and ‘drink coffee and kick people’ with me. Help me break the stigma. I’d love to see you all and would appreciate any help I can get. My mum makes a mean vegemite on toast too!

Brendan McDonnellLa Famiglia – Brighton, South Australia 2015

So that’s what I’ve done and that’s a bit of what I’m doing.

To finish, I reckon all the stuff that people say about the loved one you’ve lost not wanting you to be sad – when you’re grieving is 100% true. When people die from suicide/ commit suicide I think that most of the time they don’t intend on hurting those around them. They are suffering alone and they want to end that suffering. In my dad’s case, even according to his suicide letter, he made his choice so that I didn’t have to feel his suffering. In fact I believe that his greatest wish was for me and my family to go on living life to the fullest in his absence. I don’t think he’d give a fuck if I threw out all of his old stuff and made a gym and coffee spot in the place where he died. I think it would make him happy.

Most of the time we forget this little truth in all the pain that is bereavement. So today on the day that marks the 8th year of my dad’s passing I’m remembering. And I hope that I’m somewhat fulfilling my dad’s wish!

Do stuff. Travel the world, spend the last 15 bucks of your pay on Asian food, get lost in Eastern-European Borat-esque locations, work for a cult-like organisations in return for legumes, connected with your roots, get shitty little tattoos that hold memories and make you smile a bit, kick stuff, search for what really makes you happy and do what feels good right now!

One day we’re all going to smell like moth balls and complain about the weather.

Brendan McDonnellGot to meet this little guy last week in Darwin. He’s my nephew. His name just so happens to be Damian Aleksander McDonnell – after his grandfathers

Brendan McDonnellReunited with my older brother in Darwin, Australia

Brendan McDonnellFTW 666

12 Comments. Leave a comment


  1. Teresa
    December 02, 2015

    Hi Brendan
    I am a friend of your mum she is a great lady
    I have enjoyed reading your inspirational stories and look forward to meeting you soon

  2. EJ
    December 09, 2015

    what an amazing off the beaten track holiday!it made me laugh! The most incredible part would definitely being in your grandfathers room. Your idea to convert a sad place into a happy and supportive one for the shed is also very inspiring. hope it all works out for you. :)

Comments are closed.