I AM stuck in second gear…quite literally. I am on my way up an incredibly steep driveway of the destination I am visiting when my car conks out. I have no choice but to roll my little black beast down the hill, slip it into first gear and rev the engine until I can smell burning rubber. My stay at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat on the Gold Coast on the weekend starts in a less-than-auspicious way and I try not to take this as an omen. I also chew gum, lest the retreat staff detect the scent of the triple chocolate Cornetto ice cream I scoffed in a panic just before entering the retreat.
Later that night, in her induction to the retreat, Gwinganna Program Manager Kay says we should view the steep driveway as a training tool.
“Imagine the driveway is the buffer zone to the outside world. Imagine leaving at the bottom of the driveway everything in your life that causes stress,” Kay says.
“We invite you to visualise that and what’s left of you drives up here and has a weekend at Gwinganna.” Unfortunately, for me, Kay never does say what we should do when we exit, and all I can picture is all of my stress waiting for me at the bottom of the driveway, waiting to leap back into my car, when I depart.
Kay says the five major health concerns: cancer, heart disease, degenerative disease, depression and diabetes, all have stress as a common denominator and underlying factor.
“There is a flip side of the coin to stress. Can you remember the last time you felt so good in your life that you woke up a little bit early because you couldn’t wait to get the day started? You had that sense of joy and you carried that throughout your day, that buoyance of spirit and resilience to life?” she says.
“That very feeling is what we are aiming to create here at Gwinganna.
“We’ve created a program that invites you to focus on the one thing that impacts on everything in your life and that is your relationship with your body, your health and wellbeing.”
At this point in proceedings I should point out I spent a good three weeks in Indonesia in December drinking copious cheap cocktails and Bintang and when I returned, spent January making up for the lack of good wine in Indonesia, if you get my drift. So there’s a little bit of work to do. On the up side, I have been in 2km daily swimming training for a story on which I depart next week, attending yoga twice a week, and meditation class once a week. So there has been some balance between my binges. But my active wear rudely suggests not nearly enough. Never fear, because Gwinganna is part lifestyle retreat, part Biggest Loser reality TV program with Kay talking about how bad it would be to smuggle Kit Kats into the retreat and eat them in the privacy of your room. On my first night after dinner, all I can think about is how I wish I’d been clever enough to think to bring Kit Kats. The best I can find is an old throat lozenge in my handbag with some hair stuck to it.
I spend my first afternoon enjoying the retreat’s Dreamtime hours where most people go to a massage or rest and my treatment is a Maya Maya where I am smothered in mud and salt and wrapped in a sheet. During my treatment, a ferocious summer storm hits, the building shakes, the power goes off, and all I can imagine is the roof lifting and my masseuse fleeing the building, leaving me stuck in my mud and salt cocoon. I devise a plan in case of the worst scenario and decide if I gather enough momentum I can probably drop and roll my way off the massage table, and dash naked into the rainforest, leaving a trail of mud and salt in my wake. I regale my new friends at dinner that night with my plan, right before I spill oyster juice all over them. I’d blame the alcohol, but we’re only allowed one 100ml glass of organic wine each (I try to cut a deal with those who aren’t drinking to give me their allowance). We’re also discouraged from drinking water half an hour before or after our meal to aid our digestion.
I go to bed sad, sober and starving but vow tomorrow will be a better day. Staff member Karl Ostrowski is giving a seminar on the Pillars of Wellness where I learn that only about 20 per cent of our woes can be traced back to our genetics which means about 80 percent is up to me. We learn that it’s important to chew our food about twice as slowly as we currently do. It’s Day Two and I’m feeling virtuous and much better. I partake in a variety of activities, rising at 5.30am for the 6am Qi Gong class. By 6.45am I’m in the pool partaking in a water running class and at 9am I’m doing a stretch class, followed by a pilates class at 9.30am. I spend my Dreamtime hours in another treatment, and dreaming about dinner. My body has never consumed so few calories while doing so much exercise and I fear I may go into cardiac arrest.
By Sunday morning my new friends and me are talking about all the great wine specials we discovered over Christmas. We possess all the fervour of a bunch of 16-year-old boys looking at porn. One girl admits she can live without wine, but could murder a latte right about now, despite the fact we are allowed organic coffee up until 11am each day. I’m thinking about the half bottle of New Zealand Sav Blanc I have waiting in the fridge at home. But most of all, I’m learning to breathe again so that when those problems do leap into my car when I roll back down the hill, I’ll be ready for them.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat – http://www.gwinganna.com
AFTER a long, hot summer where most Australians headed to the beach, it’s back to our desks and school for the kids today as we begin our year in earnest. Today’s blog is the final in my three-part Indonesian photo series, and it pays homage to the fragrant flowers that epitomise summer to me. After a month back at my desk, planning my travels, looking at new ways to blog, and even new business cards, I start my travelling year on Friday and will be bringing you lots of stories from Australia and around the world. I can’t wait to share them with you.
Indonesia is a frangipani frenzy…
A Bird of Paradise or two…
Flowers embedded in the architecture…
And even in the graffiti art…
The Global Goddess funded her own travel to Indonesia
IF you’re searching for answers in your life, they say you should look for the signs. In Indonesia, the signs find you. They’re colourful, often riddled with bad spelling, but always amusing. In Part Two of my Indonesian photo blog series, please look at these signs. (And feel free to share any you’ve encountered on your travels in the comments section, below).
There are the saucy signs…
The shark signs…
The rather obvious signs…
And even one for the cat lovers…
The Global Goddess funded her own travels to Indonesia
FACES and places. As I reluctantly relinquish those long, languid days of cool sarongs, cold beers, ocean swims and sunsets, and sit down at my desk to plan 2016, the thing that most excites me is those faces I haven’t yet met. For me, travel is all about the characters, the people whose personalities sing the true story of a destination. Sitting here in Brisbane, I can’t begin to imagine upon whom I’ll stumble this year, and that thought alone is incredibly exciting. Today I’m launching a three-part photo series of my Indonesian adventures over Christmas. And I thought it would be apt to start with the faces that made me smile. Happy New Year! Please enjoy.
There were the cool dudes…
The happy kids…
The beautiful Muslim women…
The elegant older men…
And even the statues seemed to have something to say…
The Global Goddess funded her own travels to Indonesia
IT seems incongruous, but I am sitting down to pen my last blog for 2015. Equally unbelievable, I know, is that I’m still as single as when I sat down to write my first post this year. Yes, desperate and dateless as the New Year dawned, and staring down the barrel of yet another looming Valentine’s Day, in January I rejoined Bogandating.com (not its real name) and attracted the likes of blokes such as “Fairdinkumkiwi”, “Gazza”, and “DancingandRomance”. At this stage of the year/game I’d like to say (and kids, look away), based on my experience of dating sites in 2015, there is NO Santa Claus.
Purely by coincidence in January, I also interviewed a woman who launched The Self Pleasure Revolution. Yes, 35 women from Australia, England, Chile, America and the Netherlands signed up and paid $US89 to participate in conscious masturbation every day for three weeks. While I admired their tenacity, I indulged in my own self pleasure revolution of going to the bottle-o and consuming vast quantities of wine…a semi-conscious decision which has lasted much longer than three weeks and cost far more than $US89, but each to their own.
In February I explored my own backyard, covering stories in Brisbane where I stayed in the New Inchcolm Hotel & Suites dating back to the 1920s; sauntered down to Brisbane’s south side to explore its heart and soul; and west to Ipswich where I went to high school more than two decades ago. Apart from taking my first hot air balloon ride over the Lockyer Valley where I grew up, on Brisbane’s south side I discovered the Chung Tian Temple at Priestdale where the hum of Buddhist chants blended with the intoxicating sounds of silence. Here, I partook in an ancient tea ceremony where I learned that not only that tea is good for you, but apparently so is red wine. Just sayin.
Just as the weather started to cool down in Brisbane in March, my travel schedule started to heat up. In one week I visited Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam. In Indonesia, in my four-poster bed, replete with white chiffon curtains, I imagined I was an Indonesian High Priestess. I arrived at the Banyan Tree Bintan Island in my usual disheveled state, the effects of some aeroplane turbulence as we crossed the Equator, a reasonable swell on the ferry as we sailed across the South China Sea, several prescription drugs and red wine to fuel my travels, all beginning to wear off. But I remained chipper, for I was to sleep under this thatched Indonesian roof, or “alang alang”, in my seaside villa, skinny dip under the stars, and have several Asian women touch me inappropriately during a number of massages that wonderful week.
I was home for a grand total of three days…enough time to wash and repack my undies… before I was on a plane to Rabaul in Papua New Guinea. Having exhausted every possibility or hope of ever finding the man of my dreams in Australia, I cast the net wider. While I was in PNG writing a series of travel stories, never let it be said that I waste any opportunity to find love. What I really adore about my travels is that no matter in which new country I find myself, I merely need to tell a local that I’m looking for love and they are immediately on the case. In this instance, the lovely Lucy, a 50-year-old PNG woman who works at the Kokopo Beach Bungalows Resort, instantly became my latest wing woman. Every day Lucy told me that I was beautiful and that I even looked like her daughter “she has a sharp nose like you”. She said when I returned to Rabaul I must come and stay with her in her village and she’ll find me a man. I am planning a return visit any day now.
In April, my sister and me escaped to Fiji for a short Easter break where we indulged in snorkelling, swimming and sunshine while gracefully fanning away hot weather and men who were hot for us (the last element of that sentence is simply not true). Weeks later I was up in Tropical North Queensland at Thala, out on a nature tour with Head Gardener Brett Kelly. The highlight of this three-hour tour occurred Brett husked a coconut for me to drink. It did not take much for me to disappear into fantasyland, picturing the man of my dreams clad only in loin cloth, presenting me with a husked coconut. Sensing my sexual fantasy, the happily-married Brett promptly disappeared in the rainforest, never to be seen by me again.
While there were a number of domestic trips in May (back to Port Douglas and the Sunshine Coast), the absolute highlight was travelling to Vienna to cover Eurovision. Despite being in the gayest city of Europe at that point in time, I viewed this trip as a chance to snag me some single European royalty (and a much-coveted EU passport). And I had my sights set on Liechtenstein’s Prince Wenzeslaus. Not only was he age appropriate at 41, his family is considered the richest monarchy in Europe. Vince the Prince, or Vincent, as he prefers to be called, has never married, but has been known to date the odd Victoria Secret supermodel. I felt that we were the perfect match but apparently he didn’t receive my emails alerting him to my European escape. I still hold out hope.
In June, I took a brief break from overseas travel and relished the chance to catch up on some big writing projects. I interviewed the fabulous Feather from Byron Bay who was the subject of Natalie Grono’s award-winning photo: Feather and the Goddess Pool. Natalie had just received the People’s Choice award for this year’s National Photographic Portrait Prize. Feather, in her 70s, invited me to join her for some topless sunbaking and told me:
“I’ve got TMB – Too Many Birthdays. Men who are 80 and 81 look at me and say I’m too old for them. They can’t do anything and they are ratshit and I’m not really interested in being a cougar.”
Fabulous females continued to enter my life in July when I met Brisbane Trike Tour owner Chrissy McDonnell and her black three-wheeler The Bling Queen. On a crisp winter day in which we took a spin down to Canungra in the Gold Coast Hinterland, Chrissy told me how she quit her job at an insurance giant last December to follow her dream of running her own business. We spoke just last week and things are going gang busters.
Up at Noosa in July, another new tourism business operator Kelly Carthy from Luxe Fitness Escapes paddled with me into the mangroves of the Noosa River where we partook in a beautiful floating yoga class to the sounds of the birds.
“I want women to feel strong and confident and I think there is lots of space to really empower women to feel strong in their bodies and focus on what they can do rather than how they look,” Kelly told me on this spectacular Sunshine Coast day.
In August, I held hands with a man for the first time all year out at ReefWorld on the outer Great Barrier Reef. I was participating in a learner’s dive and, as fate would have it, it was just me and a handsome Spaniard for 30 glorious minutes. I was mesmerised by his brown hair which floated in the water like sea weed and spent the entire time dreaming of us having to share the same oxygen hose. But perhaps the most interesting character I met all year was out at the Mount Isa Rodeo in Queensland’s Outback. Here, Beaver, or Brettyln Neal as she is sometimes known, was about to notch up her 150th fight as part of Fred Brophy’s travelling boxing troupe.
“I’ve got a little furry Beaver mascot and sometimes Fred will get up and say ‘show us your Beaver’ and I’ll have it in my pants,” Beaver told me one dusty Outback afternoon. For the record, Beaver you are still my BFF.
I took a journey to Australia’s spiritual heart of Uluru in September but anguished over how to capture its magic in words. Instead, I relinquished my role as a writer for one entire afternoon, and took a cycling tour of the red rock. It was my first visit to this ancient landmark and instead of clumsily grasping for the toolkit of adjectives and mixed metaphors upon which I usually rely, I emptied my head, opened my heart and clutched the handlebars. The words, well they came later. Shortly after, I found myself in Canada’s Nova Scotia covering a “sausage fest.” Yes, it took one classy sheila from Brisbane to point out to the Canadians that the term meant something entirely different back in the cosmopolitan Queensland capital.
October found me in Sri Lanka and most notably Kandy where I went in search of my Kandy Man. My best chance presented itself at the Kandy Cultural Show where one of the acts included “10 male damsel drummers in harmony”. There was even one fine fella in the show who smiled at me and dropped his tambourine, such was my sex appeal, but our interaction ended there. I also had a Sri Lankan yoga teacher instruct me to rub “special herbal cream” on my face and boobs. Turns out his special cream was actually Vicks Vapor Rub. My boobs still sting at this memorable travel moment.
I spent early November on the Gold Coast hunting and gathering a series of stories and allowed myself to indulge in childhood beach holiday memories. These messages in a bottle floated up every day…mum on Greenmount Beach tanning her back against a rock, dad driving our gold Kingswood around Kirra bend when he finished work on a Friday afternoon. Cream buns at Coolangatta. Shifting sands. And regular readers will recall it was only last month that I returned from the Solomon Islands, where, still no closer to snaring my solo man, I interviewed the locals about love. Panda, 37, told me Solomon Island men were good lovers because “they like the girls”.
“They love the white skin. There are lots of good boys around. If you come to me I can help you to find a good man. I think you will be the boss and he will do everything for you. He will think ‘I’ve got a white lady’ and he will treat you like a Queen,” Panda told me. Inexplicably, I returned home single.
It’s now December, and this week I fly out for three weeks in Indonesia, where a girlfriend and me intend to flop and drop on each of the Gili Islands. There will be snorkelling, swimming, yoga, beer and plenty of daydreaming. A huge thank you to all of the tourism bodies, PRs and editors who supported my travels this year, the terrific characters I met along the way and to you, my loyal followers and readers. I wish you all love and light this Christmas and may we all find peace on earth in 2016. See you then. x
WHEREVER we travel in the world, I believe a little piece of that place remains with you when you return home. Somehow, it becomes entrenched in our hearts and souls and we can’t help but shift. Sometimes these shift are huge, forcing us to reassess how we live our lives, but often they are subtle. Simple reminders of the many things for which we have to be grateful. I’ve been home from the Solomon Islands for a week now, and it’s now become part of my DNA. Please enjoy this snapshot of the Solomons where the colours are vibrant…
The carvings, intricate and impressive…
The children, delightful…
And the food, delicious…
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau – http://www.visitsolomons.com.sb and Solomon Airlines – http://www.flysolomons.com
IT may seem strange to be looking for a boyfriend in a place called Fatboys, but this is where I found myself last week, at a resort in the Solomon Islands. And there’s not a fat boy in sight. Named after the character Joe who ate too much and slept too much in The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, life in this South Pacific resort revolves around the same delicious concept. Drinking, eating, snorkelling and sleeping. And I have bagged the best bed of all, the Honeymoon Suite overlooking the lagoon where reef sharks circle in a hypnotic symphony at night. Two things strike me about my room: Am I the first woman in history to spend the night alone in this suite? And why is there a replica of a human skull among the collection of seashells on my balcony?
I’m in the Solomons searching for a solo man and am reminded that it was only about 100 years ago that the islanders liked to eat little white girls like me. But these days you’ll find a place infused with rustic romance and islanders as warm and welcoming as their aqua lagoons. Meria, 25, warns me it’s not going to be an easy task finding a husband here, as things are very different around these parts.
“Here the ladies are mostly shy, even if they have an interest in men they don’t ask them out. Before there used to be arranged marriages. My grandparents had an arranged marriage,” she says.
“Our age group is educated and goes to Fiji and New Zealand and Australia and Japan and most pick their husbands or wives from outside.
“But between islands there is no intermarriage because of former head hunting. In Honiara you have to convince a guy to marry a western woman. Here the men are very shy. Even though they appreciate a lady they are quite shy.
“If you spend three days in a location they are used to talking to you but the western woman has to start up the conversation.”
Unfortunately, my travel schedule has me staying two nights at most in each location, so Meria’s three-day rule blows away with the south-east trade winds.
I decide to enlist the help of Stella, 42, who married a Fijian man and now has a 4-year-old son.
“We don’t date in restaurants and stuff. We sit along trees and playing fields. We don’t sit down for candlelight dinners. We do it by our eyes or pass messages through a person we call Solair after Solomon Airlines,” she says.
“Our parents don’t allow dating so we use a friend or a sister or a cousin to do it for us. Sex before marriage is very big but very secret. Once someone in the family knows they can demand compensation money.
“There are a lot of things to do with dating here.”
Stella says mixed marriages are considered OK and that the women in the central province of Malaita are considered the most beautiful.
“Each place has their own beauty…fair blue blonde, ginger blonde to purple black. Most of the locals go for their own colour. We are multiple-coloured people. Some you will see are black black, some are chocolate and some are black blonde. We speak Pidgin English, that’s what unites us.
“Most of the western men go for western region women with curly black hair, black skin and pink lips.
“Western women like their hubby to be hard working both in bed and out of bed. Nowadays you can find a rustic farmer boy with tough hands.”
I spend the next few days looking at the hands of every man I encounter, while secretly hoping they like very white blonde coloured girls.
Still no closer to catching my solo man, I ask a local bloke. Panda, 37, says Solomon Island men are good lovers because “they like the girls”. And he should know. Panda and his wife Sarah have four children aged 9, 7, 5 and 4 months.
“A man looks for a nice wife who is good looking, hard working and educated. We have lots of small islands here, you just go and choose one,” he says.
“He needs to have good resources, some land and a hard job. It is very easy to find a husband here. Once you go to one of the boys and say ‘I want to marry you, they will says yes…no question!’
“They love the white skin. There are lots of good boys around. If you come to me I can help you to find a good man. I think you will be the boss and he will do everything for you. He will think ‘I’ve got a white lady’ and he will treat you like a Queen.”
I don’t end up finding a fella, but I do discover a forgotten paradise. The Solomon Islands is sunsets, seashells and sandbars. It’s local markets of cod, wrasse, green coconuts, peppers, peanuts, mangoes, watermelons and bright red betel nut smiles. These are dugong days set to the sound track of the babble of the ocean crashing over the outer reef. Here are the “Hapi Islands” where optimism spills out of shop names such as Excellent Fashion, Fantastic Hardware, Happiness Shop and the Yes OK Shop. Home to three main groups of people – the Melanesian, Micronesian and Polynesian – there are more than 900 islands spread across 1600km of ocean and more than 70 languages spoken here. But my favourite phrase of all is in Pidgin English: “Me lukim iu behind” which means: “I’ll see you again.” Yes, I’ll be back, and I’m sure my solo man will be waiting for me.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau – http://www.visitsolomons.com.sb and Solomon Airlines – http://www.flysolomons.com