I’M just back from the Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW) annual convention and awards. The ASTW is now in its 42nd year and each year we meet somewhere around the world to discuss industry issues, network and to recognise outstanding travel writing, photography and PR. This year I was a finalist for Best Travel Blog; Best Cruise Story; and Best Tourism News Story. Congratulations to my fellow finalists and award winners. And a huge thanks to Sunshine Coast Tourism and the ASTW itself. You are my tribe. Those fabulously funny and witty writers and photographers and PR colleagues who truly understand the long, lonely hours on the road, trekking the globe in search of its best stories.
To my beautiful followers of this blog, find your tribe and you’ll never be alone.
A FEW years back, concerned that Australians no longer seemed to be sending letters in this most technical of ages, one of my travel writer friends decided to do something about it. They established a Facebook group (the irony was not lost on us), labelled it Friday Postcards, and invited those of us in love with the written word, and partial to the odd postcard or two, to join. The motive was simple: send a postcard on a Friday to someone. Spread the love. Keep the written word (and Australia Post) alive.
I love being a part of this group: collecting cool cards when I travel, the tingle I feel when I send off a handful of post cards, and the rush when one lands in my letterbox. Over the years I’ve noticed a trend emerging among those I’ve been receiving. Yes, I’ve been receiving male, plenty of male…I present to you some of my favourites, which have made me laugh like a lunatic while standing at my white picket fence in Brisbane.
The Construct My Own Lumberjack
Fresh from her travels in the Yukon, Julie Miller posted me my own lumberjack. As the card says: “As it has become increasingly difficult to clear airport security with a rowdy lumberjack.” Thanks Julie, he was very handy with the, err, wood…
My Own Maori Warrior
Fellow Brisbane travel writer Lee Mylne, who hails from the Land of the Long White Cloud, kindly sent me “a little bit of Kiwi culture” in the form of a Maori male. Two months earlier, while travelling in our home state of Queensland, Lee sent the post card, which leads this blog, from Agnes Water. Yes, I caught her excitement and am off to get my own net for a spot of fishing…
Colorado Has Awesome Scenery
Kris Madden sent these thoughtful greetings from the USA. We all enjoyed the scenery immensely…
A Terrific Toy Boy
While travelling back to her home country of New Zealand, Briar Jensen went to the trouble of finding me this toy boy. “Have fun with him!” she wrote. Oh, I did…
A Myanmar Man
A few years back, Deborah Dickson-Smith and I were travelling through the River Kwai and staying in a floating Mon Village on the Thai/Burmese border. We loved the idea of finding me a Mon man. Deb was up in Myanmar looking for Mon for me…
A Hairy Man
Travelling around the Baltic Sea in Northern Germany, Philip Game pondered whether I like my blokes with a few whiskers. Nothing at all fishy about this card…
Melanie Ball found this “cutie” at the National Folk Festival over Easter and while recognising he wasn’t a man of the human variety, she thought he was an interesting crittter all the same…
Sending me a bit of tundra Tinder, Kerry van der Jagt wrote that “polar bears are the pin-ups” in Norway’s Svalbard. Yes, and about as endangered as a decent bloke in Brisbane. I get where she was going with this…
Never underestimate the power of the post to brighten someone’s day. Write to someone you haven’t seen in a while. Pen a love letter. Believe in the written word. Dust off those handwriting skills and then write your heart out.
With love from Brisbane, The Global Goddess
THIS story is a sashay down memory lane to those halcyon days of childhood summer holidays on the Gold Coast. Worry-free weeks of sandy feet, sandcastles and the occasional sneaky sunburn. Of sunkissed, sleepy nights on cheap, cotton sheets. Pink zinc cream and mozzie bites. Scorching days where we would reluctantly leave Coolangatta beach and pile into the gold Kingswood with its branding-iron seat belts that nobody ever wore. We’d venture across the border into northern New South Wales to visit our wild boy cousins also on holiday. Kingscliff, Pottsville, Cabarita…they were all so daggy back then. About as much style as the terry toweling shorts which barely covered our bums.
But those were the halcyon days where we’d stand along the shoreline like soldier crabs and dig for pippies with our feet. Go on adventures with the wild cousins, mud squelching between our toes, and wander the mangroves with a yabby pump. How time and places change. I am in northern New South Wales visiting Nimbin in search of nirvana, or at the very least, the remnants of Australia’s hippie movement, for a story I’m writing for a magazine about the 50th anniversary of Flower Power. I’m unclear about whether the hippies want to hug or hurt me. I suspect it’s a bit of both. I’m tailgated on the windy road deep into the Tweed Valley. Where is the love? Things just aren’t like they used to be.
With my story captured like a fugitive in my imagination, I head back towards the coast where I check into Halcyon House for the night. It’s the ideal spot for this journey back into nostalgia. The bones of this old surf hotel are still here, replete with 19 individually-designed rooms and two suites, but these days she’s a lady of luxury. These elegant rooms combine coastal chic with all the flair of a British B&B by the sea. But Brighton this is not. It’s sunny Cabarita Beach upon which this grand dame is perched.
There’s an all-inclusive mini bar with floral-infused gin and dirty tonic water which, by description alone, I’m unable to refuse. Organic red and white wine, plus Byron Bay beer and soft drinks make up the remaining delectable drinks. Chips, Lindt chocolate and even some Tweed Coast salami is cooling in the fridge and it would be oh-so-tempting to pull up a perch on my royal blue outdoor chair and watch the ocean, but I’m determined to try the acclaimed restaurant here.
The pretty Paper Daisy is named after the wildflowers that bloom nearby at Norrie’s headland. And chef Ben Devlin, formerly of Noma fame, specialises in coastal cooking. There’s pippies here too, but unlike anything my cousins and me ever imagined. These days you’ll find these shellfish in semolina pasta, native pepper and macadamia oil. I opt for the Wagyu minute steak with fennel, witlof and pomelo and served with purple cauliflower and walnuts, and cucumber and cashew nuts. Want dessert? How about a messed-up cookie or a lemon myrtle meringue cone? Or you could go the whole hog and order the four-course degustation menu.
I return to my room to find the bed has been turned down, there’s a pillow menu from which to choose, and my clothing has been folded. Two home-made chocolate chip cookies sit beside a note wishing me sweet dreams. And that’s another thing that sets this hotel experience aside from anywhere else. The service is immaculate. It could be these yummy childhood feelings this property evokes, but I would go as far as to say it’s the best hotel I’ve ever experienced anywhere in the world. Yes, in coastal Cabarita, they’ve struck gold. That perfect balance between relaxed luxury and sensational service.
And there’s plenty to do here as well. Laze on a plush day bed around the pool, or borrow a complimentary bicycle and explore the area. This hotel also has two Audis available for hire. Or, if you’re like me, and nostalgia has clasped firmly onto your head and heart, if only for one night, do nothing but daydream about those heavenly, halcyon days of your childhood.
The Global Goddess stayed as a guest of Halcyon House – https://halcyonhouse.com.au This five-star boutique accommodation, which is a member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels Group, has plans to open a spa in late 2017.
We travel, not to escape life, but for life not to escape us. Anonymous.
TRUE masters of yoga believe it’s not about bending your body into a certain pose, but what you learn about yourself on the way down. The more you allow your body to unravel, rather than push it, the better the results. Go with the flow. Learn to sit with yourself, and any discomfort. Find your edge. In essence, it’s all about the journey, not the destination. Sound familiar?
I am in a yoga class and I am brimming with fear and loathing. It’s cold, my muscles are stiff, I have a headache, and my regular teacher is not here today. Instead, her replacement is what I’d call “hard core”, the yang to my yin. And I’m hating on her and the rest of the room.
Why do they have to breathe so hard? And why, oh why, does the woman in front of me have to stand at the back of her mat right on top of me? Go to the top of your mat, the instructor said. Get your bum out of my face. These are the vicious voices which are dancing in my head. I have become the poster girl for “observing my thoughts” and today, they’re not pretty. But that’s OK. As long as I don’t attach.
The more I practice yoga while I’m not travelling (and often when I am) the more I realise how closely the two concepts are aligned. Travel writer Freya Stark said: “To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” When it comes to yoga, think of your body as that strange town. Want the ultimate freedom? Jump on a jet or go to a yoga class. Want to challenge your body and mind? Head to a new destination or get back on the mat. Need to relax? The list goes on…And recently I have noticed an Australian company which has combined the two philosophies.
YogaEverywhere, created by Remy Gerega, has produced a range of stunning yoga mats and accessories inspired by the Australian landscape. They are eco-friendly, biodegradable and recyclable with 100% natural tree rubber bases and a micosuede top printed with water-based inks. And these all-in-one yoga mats and towels are popping up everywhere.
Boasting 15 designs, mainly showcasing Australian beaches including Coogee, Bondi and Manly, I decided to test the Whitehaven Beach mat which pays homage to my home state of Queensland and one of the most spectacular beaches on the planet. These mats promise to buck traditional yoga mat trends in that the more you sweat, the better you grip. And so I stepped on to my Whitehaven Beach mat where I was surprised at how it felt like the silica sands of this iconic Whitsundays beach itself. Had I encountered a magical mat? Was this my new flying carpet?
For someone who leans towards cooler yin yoga, which is mostly floor work, I found the 3mm thick mat a little too hard for me. (I am used to a thicker mat I call “the sponge”). I was also a little worried about messing up my pretty design with my sweat, although these mats can be washed. (I use a gripped yoga towel which is easy to wash on top of the sponge). However, if you are more inclined to do a lot of standing power poses in a hot class, this could be the mat for you. Certainly the scenery will help you when the going gets tough. And I can see how this mat has grip and grit. At $129 a mat, they aren’t cheap. They’re also quite heavy, weighing 2.2kg but are easy to carry with a clever dual-purpose stretching strap which is included. My verdict: I’ll keep “the sponge” for my regular yin classes, but the Whitsundays is now a firm favourite for my home practice, and looks spectacular on my polished timber floors. Robert Louis Stevenson said: “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” And so it is with yoga.
The Global Goddess was gifted her Whitehaven Beach mat by YogaEverywhere. Photos of the mats in this blog courtesy of YogaEverywhere – http://www.yogaeverywhere.com.au
THE green ferry is paddling across Sydney Harbour like a sanguine sea turtle and the sparkling city resembles an Outback night sky. Turns out it’s a celestial weekend in every sense of the word. I’m in Sydney for the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) National Travel Industry Awards in which I am a finalist for the Best Travel Writer and I am staying at The Star Astral Residences. Let me be clear upfront: when I refer to “stars” in this blog, I am not referring to myself. I like to think of myself more as a Halley’s Comet – showing a flash of brilliance once every 75 years or so.
I’ve been upgraded to a one-bedroom suite befitting of a celebrity far more cool than this Brisbane broad who always feels a bit out of place among the lurid lights and screaming sass of the southern capital. From my perky perch on the 15th floor, from which I have a view across Darling Harbour of the city’s skyline, I have a yawning, sunny balcony, a downstairs lounge room, dining, kitchen and powder room. Upstairs, there’s a bedroom, bathroom, two more toilets and my favourite room of all: a media nook in which they have plonked a ruby, red velvet couch which swivels.
Just when I think I’ve stumbled across the most beautiful hotel room in Sydney, I am shown the latest additions to The Star: three “experiential” studios all of which sport different themes. Chic geeks will adore the Cyperpunk Studio replete with four 65-inch TV consoles as well as its own virtual reality chamber. Then there’s the 70s Glam Studio where the couch comes complete with a hole for your champagne ice bucket and a rotating disco ball hangs from the ceiling. No surprises that my favourite suite is the Dark Romance with its art-deco furnishings, four-poster bed and a romance button where the lights are automatically dimmed and a fireplace bursts to life.
Alas, there is no one on this trip to light my fire, so I scurry back to room I privately label the “no romance suite” (which has everything to do with appalling love life and nothing to do with this gorgeous suite) and collapse on my ruby couch to spin and contemplate romance for a while. But not for long. There’s a decadent afternoon in The Darling Spa (one of three hotels in the Star complex apart from the Star Residences and Star Towers), where a pretty Parisian called Pauline pampers me in a relaxing massage. In February, The Darling was named the first and only five-star hotel in Sydney by the influential ForbesTravelGuide.com.
My five-star experience continues that evening at the beautiful Balla, a fine Italian restaurant within The Star complex and from which I spy my turtle ferries crossing the inky night waters of Sydney Harbour. The Sydney Harbour Bridge winks at me as I dine on duck ragu gnocchi followed by wagu steak, washed down with an Italian Montepulciano. The one benefit of being such a booze hag is that I know my wine and this is a fine drop indeed. I finish this feast with a soft blue gorgonzola cheese with cherries in balsamic vinegar, and a cherry liqueur. Another benefit of staying at The Star is that if you don’t finish your bottle of wine (I know…there’s a shock), and while under law you are not able to take it with you, room service will collect it and deliver it to your suite.
It’s a late breakfast at The Star’s Harvest Buffet the next morning where I appear to have entered Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. There’s not one, but three chocolate fountains among a range of international cuisine as well as your standard breakfast fare. By the time I have lunch downstairs at Pizzaperta, and spend the afternoon drinking the rest of my red wine with a mate on my sunny deck, I realise I haven’t left The Star complex since I checked in, 26 hours ago. For a travel writer who is always on the go, this is one of life’s great luxuries. It’s a short cab ride to the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre for the AFTA awards where, although I didn’t win, I come home with a gorgeous glass trophy.
Yes, it’s been a weekend of stars and I suspect this particular Sydney stay will be hard to eclipse.
The Global Goddess was a guest of The Star. A night in the Cyberpunk and 70s Glam Studios starts at $1500. A night in the Dark Romance Studio starts at $500 and the Suite in which I stayed at between $400 and $500. http://www.thestarsydney.com.au
I DON’T wish to be a braggart, but I have finally found the one exercise class at which I excel. Sleeping. And if you don’t think that counts as physical fitness, then you’d better talk to the fine folk at Brisbane’s InspireCycle gym, for it is here that late last week I discovered my special gift. Yes, I attended my first Napercise class. What is Napercise? Well, this pop-up class at the Teneriffe-based fitness centre, sponsored by Naptime Australia who specialise in all sorts of sleeping products, is an exercise class where you basically, well, have a nap. Yes, I forked out $15 to drive across the other side of the city on a Friday afternoon, to have a 45-minute sleep.
I’d read about this a few weeks prior on Facebook and was intrigued by the concept. It’s all the rage in major cities like London and New York and it appears Brisbane has now leapt into bed on the act. But what does one wear? Should I buy a baby pink pig onesie for this class? Who else would be there? Would I meet the man of my dreams (see what I did there?). What if I snore? What if someone else snores, can I smother them with a pillow? So many questions plagued my every waking hour leading up to this class.
Driving across Brisbane mid afternoon Friday I could see the last stragglers dragging their sorry bottoms back to their-city offices after lunch for those last, utterly miserable moments of the working week. “I’m going to nap class,” I wanted to shout out of my car window at the traffic lights. I could feel their weariness in every bone in my body.
I arrive at class and my instructor Tess bounces out of the nap room. She’s just had a nap herself. I look around me and it slowly dawns on me that I am the only one here. Tess says they’ve been attracting between 9 and 12 people every day for the past two weeks of the pop up, but today being a Friday, and the last day of Napercise (for now), turns out I’m the only one.
So I’ve paid $15 and driven across the other side of the city on a busy Friday afternoon to lay in a room on my own and nap? I could have done this at home. I smile at the irony. There’s half a dozen beds in the middle of the room from which to choose and another four over near the wall. I feel like an exotic blend between Goldilocks and Sleeping Beauty. I choose the bed closest to the door and Tess takes me through some basic stretches. Then, she lifts up the doona, invites me to slide into bed (on my own, no monkey business here, although Tess is rather lovely) and put on an eye mask, before she tucks me in and leaves the room.
I lay in the middle of a cavernous gym room, on my own, under a doona trying not to laugh. I feel like I am on school camp without the other campers. Should I try to sleep? What if Tess forgets about me and doesn’t come back to wake me up in 45 minutes as promised. What if she closes the gym for the night and goes home? I reason with myself that at least I have a bed. I also figure gyms always have energy drinks and bliss balls. There’s always bloody bliss balls. I won’t starve, they have showers and toilets, I have food and water, and I’ve got somewhere comfy to sleep. But worse, what if this is a front for some white woman slave trade and one minute I’m slipping under a doona in Brisbane, and the next, I wake up on a cold, hard slab in Istanbul with a scar where one of my kidneys is meant to be?
I’ve just finished this trapped-in-a-gym fantasy when Tess returns to the room and gently tells me it’s time to wake up. She asks whether I slept and looks disappointed when I tell her I only really rested. (If only she knew what my mind was churning through). I assure her it was a nice rest, and anyway, I’m a huge fan of quirky and this was definitely quirky. Tess then presents me with a free pair of slippers, socks and a facial mask, telling me everyone who attends Napercise gets a gift. I jump in my car and drive home. Frankly, I’m exhausted and I can’t wait to get to bed.
(Postscript: the next day I wake up to an email from InspireCycle and I’ve “earned” 20 points towards another class for my “efforts” in this class).
The Global Goddess paid for her own Napercise Class at InspireCycle, Teneriffe. Check out their website for other great classes http://www.inspirecycle.com.au If Naptime’s beds were as comfortable as the one on which I rested, you might also want to check out this Australian company, and other Napercise classes around the country, at http://www.naptime.com.au
FIVE years ago today, I dragged myself to the blogosphere kicking and screaming. I was a professional journalist who was always paid for her work, I argued to myself, why on earth should I give my words away for free? But then I looked around me, and the media world was rapidly changing. In fact, it had already changed. I had a stark choice. Embrace social media, or do something else. The concept of doing anything but journalism was not an option for me, so I plunged into the deep end. And I’m so glad I did. To celebrate The Global Goddess’ 5th birthday, I’ve put together a list of the 10 best things I’ve learned from blogging.
1. Some people will hate you, some will love you
If you are going to write well, you must be prepared to be vulnerable. Too many writers sit on the fence and just as you think you have a glimpse of their true self, they retreat. Being vulnerable comes at a cost and there are simply some people, no matter what you write, who will never like your work. As in life, for whatever reason, they won’t like you. It doesn’t matter. What matters if that you like you.
2. Write as you try to live, with humility, heart and humour
An extension of point one, but I don’t see the point of writing, or living, if you don’t give it your all. Laugh at yourself, pour your heart out, let the world in. The rewards are rich if you can follow these three principles.
3. You won’t always get it right
You may think you are one fabulously funny bugger, but guess what? No one else does on this particular occasion. Or you’ve completely missed the point, as you’re so caught up in your own headspace. That’s OK. Take the learnings and move on. There really is no point crying over spilt milk.
4. Never give up
An oldie, but a goodie. Writing a blog is like a musician playing to an empty concert hall. You can’t actually see your audience and much of the time, they don’t even tell you they are reading it. This can result in days when you wonder what the whole damn point of it is. And then someone, somewhere will mention something you’ve written. And it may have resonated with them. Someone is always watching you.
5. Always show up
It’s easy to write when you are not busy, you are in the zone, and life is good. Words, well they keep sprinkling down on you like manna from heaven. What distinguishes a professional blogger from an amateur is that you turn up, week after week, even when you are feeling at your worst. It’s those days, when you have to push through, that will determine what you are made of.
6. Take risks
With a proliferation of bloggers on the internet, it is easy to become lost. Don’t. If you feel passionate about something, write about it. Try different ways of writing, look at different ways of tackling this life business. Not all blogs need to be a narrative, they can be a listicle, such as this. They may just be photographs. On days when I have limited internet access and I’m out there travelling somewhere in the world, I simply post a photograph and the words: “Postcard from X”. Treat your followers like your friends. You haven’t forgotten them, and that you’ll be back soon.
7. People like surprises
Just when people think they’ve figured you out, give them something new to think about. While you should find your writing voice, and distinguish a persona, don’t be afraid to mix it up a little bit. While I often write about travel, as that is my main business, my other passion is social issues.
8. Embrace evolution
When I first started The Global Goddess, I was writing for myself, to heal a badly broken heart. Much of what I was writing about was dating and sex. Over the years, as my life has evolved, so has my writing. Sure, I go back to relationship issues from time-to-time, but I have grown and so has my blog.
9. Find your voice
Don’t be afraid to be yourself. And never copy anyone else. Find your niche. Most days I remain convinced everyone else on the planet has been handed a guidebook on how to live this life and somehow, I missed out. Own your fears and flaws, embrace your passions and speak your truth.
10. You never know where it may lead
It’s taken me five long years, but these days, The Global Goddess makes money from sponsored posts. I speak at conferences about social media, travel writing, innovation and creativity. I’m now a columnist with Jetstar magazine. I write Content Campaigns for domestic and international tourism boards. And I swear if I hadn’t started blogging, it wouldn’t have put me back in front of so many editors and PR people in my industry and effectively, kept me in the mainstream travel writing game I adore so much. Having a blog allows me to say to prospective clients that I can immediately deliver on a trip, while my mainstream stories are percolating their way through the editing system many months later. There’s immediate return on investment. But most of all, enjoy it. We now live in a world where we can self publish, and that privilege is priceless.
Some of the blogging accolades I’ve received in recent years:
•In 2016, The Global Goddess was named by influential travel website Skyscanner as one of the Top 20 Australian and New Zealand bloggers to follow. http://www.skyscanner.com.au/news/aussie-nz-travel-bloggers-worth-following-part-2
•The Global Goddess was named by Tourism and Events Queensland as one of the top 19 travel bloggers to follow in 2017: http://blog.queensland.com/2016/12/22/best-travel-blogs-to-follow-in-2017/
•Earlier this year, The Global Goddess was shortlisted by My Deal and The RightFight.com in Australia’s Top 50 Influencers awards.
•The Global Goddess has just been named as a Finalist for Best Travel Blog, to be announced at the Australian Society of Travel Writers Awards in August.