Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

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I’ve been to Nice and the isle of Greece
 where I sipped champagne on yacht, 
I moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo and showed ’em what I’ve got. 
I’ve been undressed by kings and I’ve seen some things that 
a woman ain’t s’posed to see, I’ve been to paradise…Charlene (1977)
FOR me, Christmas is a time to reflect. It’s when I briefly stop travelling, slow down and glance back on the year. It would be so easy in my job as a travel writer to stumble from destination to destination and chase the rush of the next story and adventure, discarding the last place I’ve visited as simply a fuzzy memory. Recently, while filing a piece to camera for my colleagues over at TravelThereNext, I was asked what I “collect” on my travels. And it’s pretty simple. I collect characters. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things in every corner of the planet. I try to capture them in my stories and in the quiet corners of my mind. Store them up for those rainy days when I need reminding that the world is truly a remarkable place. And so I present to you some of the great characters I’ve met of 2014.

First World White Girls, who performed at the Judith Wright Centre, reminded me of how fortunate I am.

First World White Girls, who performed at the Judith Wright Centre, reminded me of how fortunate I am.

I began my travelling year in Bali in January where I met Cekorda, 85, a respected medicine man. “How old are you?” he asks as I sit with my back against his knees, his wiry fingers probing my skull.
“43,” I respond.
“Not so young,” he mutters to himself, much to my amusement. He then asks me my problems.
“I have a broken heart,” I reply.
I lay down on a mat and he presses between my toes with a stick. My third toe on my left foot hurts and I yelp.
“Your broken heart is healed. It is your mind. You have self doubt.”
Cekorda then stands above me and traces his magical stick over my body to clear my aura, before announcing that I no longer have a problem.
He turns to an Western bystander who speaks Indonesian.
“Women are very complex,” the bystander translates for Cekorda. I laugh all the way from Bali back to Brisbane.

Bali medicine man Cekorda

Bali medicine man Cekorda

In February, I’m up in Thailand, where I return to the River Kwai and meet up with my young friend Sam Season, a traditional Mon Man who works on the River Kwai Jungle Rafts. Sam has two big dreams: to gain an apprenticeship as a mechanic in Australia and to marry the love of his life, Jaytarmon who lives in a neighbouring village. I ask him whether this mysterious girl with the long black hair is still beautiful. He doesn’t hesitate. “Oh, awesome. I want to listen to her voice.” He pulls out his iPhone until he finds a photo of her, laying dreamily on a bed with her hands in her chin. “I look at her photo every night before I go to bed. I have to make her believe in myself and trust in myself. When I finish my education I will be ready. I have to show her ‘can you wait for me?’ One day, when I have an education we will have a good life and then we will marry.”

Sam Season

Sam Season

March finds me back in Brisbane, struck by the sadness of the drought which is consuming my country. My journey takes me a few suburbs away where I catch up with Tom Conley, 3, who was born just before the 2011 Brisbane floods and ironically now bakes for drought relief with his mum, Sally Gardner. “Tom gets involved in all the cooking adventures in our home. He especially loves baking and as soon as I get the utensils out he rushes over, climbs up and wants to measure ingredients, crack the eggs and lick the bowl, We talk about who we are helping or who we are baking for, he enjoys drawing pictures for the drought-affected families.”

Tom Conley

Tom Conley

In April I return to Bali, to spend Easter alone at a yoga retreat and to recover from yet another disappointing relationship. Purely by chance I select OneWorld Retreats Escape The World program in Ubud where, along with twice-daily yoga sessions, I am challenged to sit with myself for one glorious day of silence. Claude Chouinard, who runs the retreat with his partner Iyan Yaspriyana, reminds us that despite everyone around us seemingly being able to travel, we are only a small percentage of the world who is wealthy enough to do so. He encourages us to embrace our 24 hours of silence and see it for the gift that it is.
“For just one day you can consider this silence a form of torture or one of the greatest gifts you’ll ever give yourself. What we know as time is in fact an illusion. For human beings, time is limited to the moment we are born, to the moment we leave this planet, a very short journey considering the age of the universe. Live every day by the minute and enjoy as much as you possibly can…the illusion goes by quickly.”

Iyan Yaspriyana

Iyan Yaspriyana

May is chaotic and colourful as I spend nearly a month in Europe chasing a range of stories. And I meet a range of those fabulous characters I so treasure….A sultry Slovenian who compliments me on my “good English” when I reveal I’m Australian; Skanky from Mumbai who eats one gigantic meal a day as he doesn’t wish to “get sick on German food”; Suzie, the Filipino Canadian whose love of Schnitzel knows no bounds; Calamity Jane from Chicago who wanders the streets of Berlin pointing at every single wall and asking our tour guide whether it is a piece of the Berlin Wall; and a jolly gay guy from Wales.

A bold Berliner

A bold Berliner

June is spent in Christchurch, which was devastated in February 2011 by an earthquake in which 187 people were killed and 1000 buildings destroyed. At the C1 Espresso café I speak with owner Sam Crofskey, 37, who not only lost his original café across the road in the quake, but his house as well. Sam was working in his high street café when the earthquake hit.
“I was a little bit confused. The coffee grinders fell off and landed on my legs and the power went off and then I could hardly stand. We needed to get rid of the customers, the staff and then ourselves. We had more than 100 people in the café at the time. Out on the street everyone was distraught and I thought everyone was over-reacting. I thought we’d come back tomorrow and clean everything up. It took a lot more for me to understand the city was actually gone. When you are here with no power or phone you have no idea what’s going on. I was like, my business if fucked, my house is fucked…that’s annoying.”

Sam Crofskey

Sam Crofskey

The mercury had plunged to minus 2 degrees out in Southern Queensland Country in July when I ventured to the Dalby Cattle Sales in search of myths and men. I spend two hours chasing cattle and cowboys around the cattle yards before I decide to leave. On the way back to the car, I hear a voice behind me. “So, have you got your story?” a cowboy says, following me quickly out of the cattle yards. “Yep. I don’t have all morning to be chasing you boys around,” I say defiantly. “Where are you staying tonight?” he directs this question at my breasts. “Chinchilla,” I say. He stands and considers this for a moment, calculating whether I’m worth the hour drive to the next town. And just as I’m about to turn to leave he says: “Well, I guess I’ll see you around then.” The interaction keeps me entertained for several days and hundreds of kilometres later.

Dalby cowboys

Dalby cowboys

I spend the most perfect August day with a close mate where we escape to the Sunshine Coast and the Eumundi Markets and Noosa. We stroll and laugh. Steal languid pauses to smell the roses, or in this case, the pungent soap on sale. Chat to a stallholder about his carnivorous plants. Try on eclectic outfits. Resist the seduction of sparkly jewellery. Wander through aisles of books. Observe the colourful characters. Pat a camel. We stumble across a “Willy Washer” and spend some time discussing its purpose. There’s a male fairy guarding some jewellery that resembles the young man selling the silver, fashioned from old knives, forks and spoons. An ancient typewriter has been dismantled, somewhat to our dismay, and crafted into trinkets. Colourful hand-woven handbags remind us of our travels around the globe. We discover Noosa Reds – plump, juicy tomatoes bursting with the distinct flavours of this fertile region – deliciously packed in crunchy brown paper bags. A giant gecko mural hugs a pole. There’s glass-blowing and some beaut ukes. And all the while, we keep winding through the marketplace, unravelling our lives.

A Eumundi Fairy

A Eumundi Fairy

On a stunning September afternoon I find myself staring at boobs and Broadbeach on the Gold Coast, at a High Tea to launch Kim McCosker’s cookbook Cook 4 a Cure to raise funds for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and to celebrate the opening of Australia’s newest resort brand ULTIQA Resorts. Guest speaker Mark Wood volunteers his time to speak about breast cancer after losing his wife Annie to the disease seven years ago, and says one in eight Australian women will be told they have breast cancer at some stage.
“Today, 37 women will be told they have breast cancer. To think that’s happening to 37 people today and the day after is far too many. And seven people would have lost that battle today. My wife got a death sentence but my daughter, who was 12 at the time that Annie died, got a life sentence losing her mother so young. Twenty years ago, 37 per cent of women diagnosed with the disease died, but that’s now been halved through awareness and education.”
All of a sudden I feel tired and emotional, but as I furtively glance around the room, I find I am not alone. There’s not a dry eye in the house.

Kim McCosker

Kim McCosker

October was spent in Fiji at the Australian Society of Travel Writers Awards where I won Best Food Travel Story for a piece I wrote about a group of six hardcore Wellington prisoners who were being rehabilitated through a cooking program “From Prison Gate to Plate”. Talk about collecting characters. And the words of celebrity chef Martin Bosley, who runs the program, still ring in my head. “I didn’t realise what a loss of freedom truly meant before I went in there. As a community we need to change our perceptions and be prepared that one day these men are getting out and we need to pick up where prisons leave off and reduce re-offending.”

Fiji School Kids

Fiji School Kids

I returned to Hawaii for the first time in 22 years in November, where there were characters galore including the mythical menehune. Sheraton Kona Cultural Tour Officer Lily Dudoit explains these little red men. “Everywhere in Hawaii we are known for our myths and legends. We have the little people who only come out at night to do their work. We call them Menehune and they are said to have reddish skin colour. There was a couple who had their wedding photo by this tree and when they had the photo developed there was a Menehune peeking out from behind the tree. They like to make trouble. Sometimes things go missing or they move something. You don’t find them. They find you.” I spend the rest of my time in this land of rainbows searching for possibly the most intriguing men I will meet all year.

Hawaiian Kids

Hawaiian Kids

Which brings me to December. While many leave Brisbane and Australia, this is the time of year where I sit on my back deck with a cold beer and warm memories. There’s movies and coffees and catch ups with friends and family, the all-important support cast of characters in my life. Thank you to everyone I have met out there in the big wide world this year, to those who have come on the journey with me, and to those who continue to love and support me back at home. Sending you love and light this season and may we all experience peace on earth.
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Boobs and Broadbeach

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TRUE to form I spy the tea and coffee on offer, panic, and sidle up to what I believe is a member of the wait staff and discreetly enquire whether they could rustle me up a champagne. It’s 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon and I’m at a High Tea, but I’m bamboozled by the lack of bubbles, the thought of which has kept me going on the one-hour drive from Brisbane to the Gold Coast. What I don’t realise until a little later is the waitress is actually a senior member of the hotel executive team who has invited me to this event and I’ve just made a complete boob of myself.
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Thankfully boobs are in vogue this particular afternoon, as the High Tea is being staged to launch the cookbook Cook 4 a Cure to raise funds for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and to celebrate the opening of Australia’s newest resort brand ULTIQA Resorts. I’m at the five-star beachfront ULTIQA Air on Broadbeach listening to Australia’s highest-selling cookbook author Kym McCosker speak about her latest tome, the 18th in her “4 ingredients” cookbook series. So successful is Kym, she’s outsold Jamie Oliver 3:1 with more than nine million cookbooks now retailing in 30 countries. Her first book catapulted her to the highest-selling self-published author in Australian history, clocking up three million sales. Which is not bad from a girl from the tiny Queensland town of Mundubberra.
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It’s a perfect Pacific Ocean aqua afternoon outside, replete with migrating humpback whales languidly slapping their tails out on the horizon, but inside it’s all passion and pink satin. Cook 4 a Cure, which is sold exclusively through Big W stores, aims to raise $100,000 for breast cancer research to assist the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s goal of zero deaths from this insidious disease by 2030.
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Throughout the afternoon, dining on such delicious rosewater tea and Kym’s home-made cakes and biscuits that I actually forget I’m not drinking any champagne, I have an overwhelming desire to check my breasts, which is exactly what guest speaker Mark Wood urges us to do. (Normally it’s AFTER I drink champagne that I am overcome by the urge to commit inappropriate acts in public). Mark, regarded as the “Mr Pink” of the Australian speaking circuit, volunteers his time to speak about breast cancer after losing his wife Annie to the disease seven years ago, and says one in eight Australian women will be told they have breast cancer at some stage.
“Today, 37 women will be told they have breast cancer. To think that’s happening to 37 people today and the day after is far too many. And seven people would have lost that battle today,” he says.
“My wife got a death sentence but my daughter, who was 12 at the time that Annie died, got a life sentence losing her mother so young.
“Twenty years ago, 37 per cent of women diagnosed with the disease died, but that’s now been halved through awareness and education.”
At this point, I wish I did have some champagne, as then I could blame the demon drink on becoming all tired and emotional, but as I furtively glance around the room, I find I am not alone. There’s not a dry eye in the house.
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The National Breast Cancer Foundation has raised $105 million in the past twenty years towards 370 research projects which don’t just target breast cancer but other forms of the disease. And, in exciting news, Mark says researchers are working on nano-technology which will be able to tell from a simple breath test whether any cancer is present in your cells.
“People often think breast cancer runs in the family but the statistics don’t support that. Of all new cases, 90 per cent have no family history. So please don’t think because you haven’t got it in your family you won’t be affected,” he says.
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It’s a fitting message delivered in a fitting setting, as ULTIQA is a Queensland family-owned property group owned by the Henry’s who not only donated the function room and their time free-of-charge, but during the afternoon, contribute $5000 from their personal pocket to add to what will be raised by Kym’s events and book sales to breast cancer. Mark Henry, the resort group’s Managing Director, says the name ULTIQA stands for ultra modern boutique apartments. There’s currently four in the ULTIQA stable including Air on Broadbeach and Freshwater Point Resort, also at Broadbeach on the Gold Coast; Rothbury Hotel in Brisbane; and Shearwater Resort on the Sunshine Coast.

ULTIQA Air Broadbeach

ULTIQA Air Broadbeach


I spend two nights experiencing the two Broadbeach-based properties, which echo with the heart and hard work of the Henry family. In between, I check out my boobs. And it seems I am not alone. On my second morning as I walk along the beachfront, I’m accosted by a 14-year –old-school boy, who offers to slather me in sunscreen, before scurrying off and sniggering with his mates. I should be offended by this future misogynist-in-the making but I simply smile to myself. This is clearly an indication that I’ve still got it. Yes, some days, all the breast things happen.
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The Global Goddess was a guest of ULTIQA Air on Broadbeach and ULTIQA Freshwater Point Resort. To find out more about this latest offering in Queensland’ s tourism story please go to http://www.ultiqaresorts.com.au; To find out more about 4 ingredients, please go to http://www.4ingredients.com.au; To donate to National Breast Cancer Foundation go to http://www.nbcf.org.au/Donate.aspx
ULTIQA Freshwater Point Resort

ULTIQA Freshwater Point Resort

The Goddess’ Briefs for strong, smart, sexy and spiritual women (and the great men who love us!)

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LOVE IS IN THE AIR
If The Global Goddess was getting married, she’d be more than a little excited about this package being offered by The Rees Hotel Queenstown in New Zealand. This luxury hotel is now offering exclusive Heli-Wedding packages in conjunction with Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters to remote mountain-top wedding ceremonies for those who want to tie the knot against one of the world’s most dramatic backdrops. The package, valued at NZ$2998 per couple, includes a raft of things including two nights’ accommodation in a Lake View one-bedroom apartment at The Rees Hotel Queenstown. There’s also breakfasts, wine, chocolate, champagne, celebrant and a wedding photographer, but the highlight is a return helicopter flight for the bride, groom, celebrant, photographer and two guests up to the Remarkables or Cecil Peak for their alpine wedding ceremony. Not for the first time this year, I find myself thinking that I need to just find a fella. http://www.therees.co.nz
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SEX ON THE BEACH
While Christmas is almost upon us, it’s never too early to be thinking about Valentine’s Day (if you know what’s good for you). This week, The Global Goddess enjoyed the sultry sensation of an aphrodisiac cooking class at the Sofitel Broadbeach’s Room 81 restaurant. We’re talking dishes such as freshly-shucked cupid oyster in a veuve clicquot champagne granite; seared nova scotian scallops with cauliflower silks with asparagus, morel mushrooms and a truffle vinaigrette; and a cherry soufflé, chocolate sauce and coconut sorbet. This class was to preview this luxury Gold Coast’s hotel’s raunchy and romantic Valentine’s Day/night package. To book this six-course feast, which includes a wine package of Australian, New Zealand and French varietals, priced at $225 per person; or the Deluxe Valentine’s Room package for $795 per couple, which includes an overnight stay and breakfast as well as the six-course dinner, go to http://www.sofitelgoldcoast.com.au
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CARING ABOUT CAMBODIA CALENDAR
In May this year I penned a blog about Australian photographer Danielle Lancaster, who owns Blue Dog Photography. Danielle has been travelling to Cambodia for years and can’t shake her bewilderment at how the Pol Pot regime had ravaged its own people, the effects of which are still being experienced decades later. In 2011, she gained sponsorship to produce a calendar, the proceeds of which meant they could build two new classrooms and desks with a white board for local school children. In 2012, Blue Dog Communities was formed with the sales of last year’s calendar going towards replacing the school’s palm frond floors with cement for the children. This year’s calendar is ready to go to print, and in exciting news at Global Goddess headquarters, a photo take by me (pictured below) when I was in Phnom Penh last year, will also be featured. To order a copy of this calendar, which will go towards more valuable community work, please go to https://www.facebook.com/bluedogcommunities and to find out more about Lancaster’s annual photographic tour to Cambodia, go to http://www.blue-dog.com.au
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IT’S A KIND OF MAGIC
The Global Goddess is pretty good at pulling a rabbit out of the hat, particularly when it comes to tight deadlines, but this bloke takes the cake. Acclaimed Australian illusionist Michael Boyd will open the famed live magic extravaganza Mystique at Sea World Resorts Ocean Theatre on the Gold Coast from January 1 to 31. Taught by his magician grandfather all the tricks of the trade by the age of 13, Boyd’s show will feature some of the world’s most impressive illusions as well as jaw-dropping escapes, levitations, transformations, special effects and mind-blowing disappearances. Since it premiered in Melbourne in 2009, more than 100,000 people each year have seen this show packed with new acts and extravagance. Shows will run from Tuesday to Sunday at 7.30pm plus special matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm. http://www.SeaWorldResort.com.au
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A CHRISTMAS SURPRISE FOR GLOBAL GODDESS READERS
Speaking of magic (or what I’d like to call a Christmas miracle), The Global Goddess has a surprise in store for her followers. Details to be announced early next week! http://www.theglobalgoddess.com
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Finding Courage and Compassion on the Coast

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IT’S a Wizard of Oz kind of weekend, where I discover courage and compassion in the most unlikely of characters…the Gold Coast. Beneath the naughty neon lights, the throaty hum of the ocean and the throbbing drum of nightclubs for which Surfers Paradise is famous, lays a rip curl of creativity which is building into the mother of all swells.
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My weekend starts with a yoga session in front of Kurrawa Beach, in the park named after swimwear supremo Paula Stafford, whose two-piece bathing costumes put bikinis and the Gold Coast on the global catwalk. I’m in a public park, with my legs in the air, spread wide apart, simultaneously contemplating my form and hoping the swirling seagulls don’t poo on me. It’s a day of downward dogs and inward reflection.
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Our yoga teacher for the morning is Laura Humphreys from Threedom Wellness, who gently urges us to accept the notion that yoga is a balance between courage and compassion. And you can forget about bringing your ego to class.
“Backbends are about the future. Forward bends are about looking inwards. We often don’t like to look inwards, it scares most of us,” she says. Interestingly, Laura has to force my body into a forward bend, which becomes easier with each deep yoga breath. Some days, you’ve just gotta breathe.
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There’s just enough time for a short break at Broadbeach’s eclectic Elm for a dirty chai – a coffee and chai – before the next wave deposits us at Burleigh and Roar Food. Business Partners Darren Jones and Suki Kasinathan are passionate about sustainable eating, and in two hours will teach you how to prepare 10 raw food recipes. It’s here I learn that cauliflower is “sensitive” – the kind of vege you might avoid if you were dating it, but a perfect substitute for couscous. Want a new twist on pasta? Why not try zucchini spirals? Or a raw food apple pie – cheeky crusts need not apply.
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“Each of your vegetables has a personality. When you are eating raw you really connect to the food. Each individual apple will have a different sweetness,” Suki says.
“For me it is a journey and I don’t know where it is going to end but it feels really good.”
The plates you eat on during this class are made from a bi-product of sugar cane, as are the forks and even the recipes are printed on ethical paper made from wheat and soy rice.
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The current sweeps me to Budd’s Beach and onto a kayaking journey with Steve Vah from Australian Kayaking Adventures where we cut through the water with our paddles and through the bullshit of life with talk of love and passion. Steve is married to a Colombian and he knows a thing of two about fiery females with big hearts. Our journey along the Gold Coast canal takes us past Bar Helm Bistro @Surfers, where later that night I’ll indulge in Helm’s Smoking Texas Mary cocktail take on a Bloody Mary and reluctantly concede that my friends made a wise choice in the Parmesan Crusted Snapper Fillet with lemon butter.
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I’m on the Gold Coast for Australia’s premier blogging training event – ProBlogger – and it’s here that courage and compassion raise their handsome heads again. In his opening address, ProBlogger architect Darren Rows proffers an insight into facing your fears.
“Fear is a signal that something important is about to happen. It’s a good thing. Ask yourself – what’s the worst thing that can happen, how would you recover if it happened, and what’s the best thing that could happen? The reality is somewhere in between,” he says.
“Even wobbly courage is courage. Figure out what the fear actually is. Don’t play the comparison game, comparisons are not fair. People show the best of what they do, where you know everything about yourself, even the bad stuff.
“Compare yourself to yourself. You are unique. Use that to your competitive advantage. No one has your story.”
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Guest speaker Trey Ratclif, a photographer who is blind in one eye, is 42 and only picked up a camera 7 years ago. His self-taught imagery is legendry around the world. The kind of excellent work that attracts jealous detractors.
“It is arguably better to have a weird brain than a normal brain. People on the edge of the bell curve do interesting things with their lives. Let the rocks people throw at you just fall,” he says.
“There’s a few people out there who are evil and feed a white core of hate inside of me. I fight back with awesome.
“A blog is probably the greatest self-discovery tool of our age. You find out new things and truths within yourself. When you are telling your stories you are living in the now.”
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Actor Samuel Johnson, who is riding around Australia on a unicycle to raise money for breast cancer research in honour of his sister Connie who is battling the disease, makes a surprise guest appearance at the conference. You need courage and compassion to make an epic journey around a monster-sized country like ours. And a heart of gold. And that’s where the crux of this story on courage and compassion lies for me. As a blogger, I think you must write with heart, humour or humility. Like you should live your life. And, if you’re really lucky, you might find all three.
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The Global Goddess explored The Gold Coast as a guest of Tourism and Events Queensland. For more information on a Gold Coast holiday go to http://www.queenslandholidays.com.au.

For more information on how to become an awesome blogger, or next year’s ProBlogger event, go to http://www.problogger.net or http://www.twitter.com/problogger

To donate to Samuel Johnson’s ride for breast cancer, please go to http://www.loveyoursister.org
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