ALLOW me to let you in on a little secret. I love Bali and return every year to unfurl more of her magic and mystery and to soak up her dominant feminine energy. The fact she’s been in the news lately for her smouldering volcano, draws me even more to this Land of the Gods. What is it that she’s trying to tell us? So I’ve teamed up with Expedia.com.au to bring you 5 Divine Reasons you should visit this beautiful destination.
1. There’s some great deals on airfares
This airline aficionado surfs international airfares like stock brokers watch the currency markets. And there’s some great deals on offer right now. Just think, you can leave Australia in the morning and be up in Bali in time for cocktail hour. Lychee martini anyone?
2. The beds are going for a bargain
So many great hotels, so little time. You could travel to Bali forever and still not experience all of the amazing accommodation on offer. I like to mix it up, staying in a cheap and cheerful hotel if I’m simply overnighting on the way to somewhere like the Gili Islands, just off of Bali. I love the name of The Happy Mango Tree Hostel in Ubud.
3. The activities are awesome
When in Bali, The Global Goddess likes to divide her days between some action and adventure, and a whole heap of flopping and dropping, preferably by a pool. With a pool bar. And forget trite tourism experiences, there’s some really cool things to do in Bali. Ever had breakfast with the orangutans at Bali Zoo or gone Quad or Buggy Driving? What about a Downhill Cultural Cycling Tour with Lunch? Something I will be trying next time I’m in Bali, is a Pre-Airport Chill Package with Transfers. This package includes an authentic Balinese spa experience, drinks and transfers, which is handy, given many flights out of Bali to Australia are late at night.
4. You can still Eat, Pray and Love
Despite Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling novel being out for several years now, there’s still a number of women, like me, wandering the rice paddies of Bali, looking for love and the general meaning to life. Join a private Eat, Pray, Love tour with lunch, which will take you to Ubud and yes, you will get to meet a Balinese medicine man. You just never know your luck.
5. It’s peaceful
Come February, after the sultry summer rush of school holidays, Christmas and New Years, Mother Bali breathes a sigh of relief. Now is the time to go. Get back in touch with your soul, and set your intentions for 2018, through a private tour: A Spiritual Journey Experience, where you’ll start the morning doing yin yoga at Sebatu Village, undergo a blessing and purification ceremony at a Balinese temple, meditate in a cave, and meet with a Balinese shaman.
The Global Goddess has partnered with Expedia to bring you a little bit of Bali bliss. For more experiences and ideas go to http://www.expedia.com.au
THE most delicious things happen when you scrape off the exterior. Sand yourself back and prime yourself to move forward. January has proven to be just that at my house. After 16 years I decided to give my crumbling, rumbling, beautiful Queenslander workers’ cottage a facelift. It was much-needed cosmetic, and a little bit of emergency, surgery. We’ve survived 16 harsh Australian summers of scorching, peeling heat, punctuated by fierce storms and flooding rains, this old girl and I. Oh yes, the sunburnt country we all love has taken its toll on me and my house. Wood rot, pernickety possums with their scratchy claws, ballsy bush rats, scrub turkeys and my beloved wild snake have all burrowed into her psyche and the outside walls. And something had to give.
My builder/painter Gregg arrived on a typical tropical day where the humidity slides right off you like a melting ice cream. I’d selected a grey palate for my paint job, thinking it was befitting of my 1920s cottage which was nearing her first century. Little did I know there were 50 shades of grey from which to choose, nor did I realise that this summer I’d understand that life comes in those same 50 shades.
Gregg smoked and swore like a sailor and so much for both of us, that I found I gave up swearing. I’ve never been a smoker so that wasn’t a problem. But he also worked bloody hard under that hot Australian sun. Brisbane in January? What a bugger of a job. Humidity is your worst enemy and sleep is as rusty as my old gate. But soon we found our rhythm. I adopted his tradie hours, rising with the sun and working until early afternoon until the heat got the better of us. Gregg scraping and painting outside, hammering nails, and me inside, writing in symphony. We’d stop occasionally to chat, about lives we’d left behind. Pasts we’d rather forget and of futures we were looking forward to. Gregg, 48, had recently married the love of his life Fiona. He gave me dating advice. “You’ll just know, darl.”
This rough, big bloke and I slowly forming a bond and friendship as the old paint, and our natural walls, fell away. Again and again I was reminded that life comes in 50 shades of grey. You can’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t even bother buying wine with a fancy label. It’s what’s underneath that peeling paint that counts. And day by day my house transformed, from what Gregg described as “old, mouldy green” to contemporary grey.
He clipped away the trees that had been pushing on the front fence, and one day asked me why I was “hiding”. Isn’t it funny? You don’t even realise what you’re doing until someone points it out. Meditation and yoga teachers believe the concept of “house” equals “self”. And here I was, crouched behind the bushes, hiding from the world. And so we chopped away at that notion, and opened it up, keeping just enough shade and privacy, but allowing in the light.
I like that idea. Letting in the light. Gregg painted me a white picket fence, the “great Australian dream” kind. And joked now I just needed the bloke. My letter box was splashed in a shimmer that would make any Mardi Gras parade proud. Another shade of grey used to tie together the white and the dark grey of the walls. I grew accustomed to Gregg and looked forward to his daily quirky company. On those hot days when my mind wandered from my work, I imagined myself as Frances Mayes in her Villa in Tuscany, with her rabble of foreign workers knocking down walls and painting everything fresh.
And then, the day came when the job was done. I asked Gregg what I would do without him. “A bit of (expletive deleted) gardening wouldn’t go astray,” he laughed, referring to the wild Aussie bush I like to keep at the back of my house in the tree tops, and the much-neglected garden patch out the front. A green thumb, I am not. For years I’ve wanted to fill the pits surrounding my draw bridge entry with crocodiles, to sort the men out from the boys. Apparently they won’t let you do that in Brisbane. Then, on his last day on the job, Gregg and the lovely Fiona arrived to plant me a beautiful garden. He’s that sort of bloke.
It’s interesting how you grow used to the daily presence of someone. Gregg taught me the difference between oil-based and water-based decking oil. The importance of using good quality paint on a house which has to withstand Australia’s harsh climate. How a nail with a screw design won’t pop out under the demands of our sun but an ordinary nail will drive you nuts. But most of all he taught me, like my house, that we all come in 50 shades of grey.
If you are looking for a quality painter with a building licence as well (a rarity in Brisbane I can tell you), someone who will go above and beyond, and who charges reasonable prices, contact Gregg on: 0458 572 523 (and tell him his new journo mate sent you).
I AM sitting in my hot Brisbane office dressed in a leopard-print summer dress, reflecting on my life as a travel writer in 2016. Let’s not beat around the boiling bush, it was always going to be a quirky one after I kicked off the year in January at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat on the Gold Coast where I spent an hour in a one-on-one mediation session with a horse, of course.
Yes, Jack, the 22-year-old horse, was quite the listener and as it turned out, I was a good learner, discovering more about myself in that paddock than years of therapists have been to unravel. Working with my breath, and the fact horses are instinctive creatures, I was able to go from having Jack walk away from me (apparently I hate rejection) to have Jack trotting around the ring by the end of the session, based purely on my inner calm and emotions. He even stopped on cue when I exhaled. In that one crowded hour I learned I am prone to being a bit of a bull at a gate, and expecting others to join me on my crazy schemes, without first checking that they’re on board. Jack, you taught me a lot.
In February, and in the name of another story, I plunged into the warm waters off Lord Howe Island for Ocean Swim Week with World Ironman Champion Ali Day and Pinetrees Lodge. I’d never swum out in the open ocean before and learned that it was far more different and difficult to the university pool in which I try to carve up a daily 1km. Swimming among reef sharks and over fantastic coral, I also learned I could overcome sea sickness in rough swells and complete an impressive 2-3km a day. I also learned I’m incredibly stubborn once I push through an initial lack of confidence. Salty and stubborn. And I wonder why I’m single.
March saw me in Fiji, working with the fine folk at the Outrigger Fiji Resort and writing stories about some innovative and compassionate community projects in which they are involved, building new kindergartens and maternity wards. That kindy opened last week and it was heartening to know I was there at that pivotal point in history with people who have so little, but find so much reason for joy. Want perspective on your life? Head to the South Pacific. Sit under a coconut tree and pull your head out of your proverbial. It will change you, I promise.
In April, I was in Germany on a beer tour, also in the name of research, and if you think I had to train for Ocean Swim Week, it’s like I was born for Beer Week. And to think successive maths teachers over the years said I would never amount to anything. Add to that a dash of Mother Nature where I summited Germany’s highest mountain…and by summit I mean taking a gondola to the top and promptly order a beer and goulash. Because I’m hard-core. I explored my animal instinct here by taking to Bavarian Tinder and I was quite the hit in Germany. Not that I had time to actually meet any of my Bavarian boyfriends, but I got the distinct impression they were different to Brisbane boys and not once did anyone send me a photo of their penis. #winning
May turned out to be a journey of a different kind where I had some long-awaited tests and surgery for health symptoms that killed a fellow travel writer last year. While my tests turned out fine, the surgery laid me up for four weeks in incredible pain, and it was a time to reflect and go inwards, something I’m not particularly good at. But when Mother Nature speaks, sometimes you have to listen and it was a good life lesson. I did have a moment of truth while awaiting those test results, questioning myself on whether I was living the life I wanted. And the answer was yes. By June, when I was back on the road in Vienna and Monaco, exploring Royal and Imperial Luxury Europe, I was thrilled. I may have even danced around the house just prior to leaving to Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again. Because I have an excellent taste in music.
In July, I braved a chilly Toowoomba trip to explore the city’s sensational street art. And it blew my socks off. Not literally, as that would have been unpleasant in the cold, but metaphorically. I also took my first trip to Darwin and again, was thrilled by the Northern Territory capital with its outdoor cinemas, national parks, and great dining and accommodation offerings. This is a city which celebrates its sunsets, with hundreds of residents and tourists flocking to the beach to watch the sun plunge into the ocean and that, in itself, was a magical moment. A destination which sells tickets to its annual festival out of an original caravan used to house homeless people after 1974’s Cyclone Tracy? You’ve gotta love that.
August saw me at Sabi Sabi Private Game Lodge in South Africa on a luxury safari and yes, I was lucky to experience the Big 5, plus all the rest. Mother Africa and her beautiful people stole a piece of my heart and I came home reeling from Jo’Burg’s street art to Robben Island where the mighty Mandela spent 18 years of his 27 year jail term. There’s usually about one month of the year where I try to stop, pause, reflect and recharge and it was September this year, which also turned out to be my birthday month, and what a delight it was to be a normal person again, catching up with friends, going to yoga classes, and just “sitting with myself” as we say in meditation.
In October, I was out on the road again, on my longest trip of the year to Canada where I started in Vancouver, sitting in a traditional indigenous sweat lodge with an elder, talking to our ancestors. But the absolute highlight of that three-week journey was the opportunity to go on a walking safari with the polar bears with Churchill Wild. I discovered that the Lord of the Arctic was to be respected, not feared, and that if we don’t manage the way we treat the planet, polar bears may be relegated to the history books.
The conservation theme continued into last month, November, when I jumped on a plane to the Maldives Outrigger Konotta Resort and spent a fascinating few days talking with a marine biologist who is trying to resurrect the reef with innovative coral planting strategies. On a monsoonal Monday I sat on the edge of a jetty weaving coral necklaces from coconut rope that would later be implanted on the reef, in a moment I will always remember when my fingers are no longer nimble and I’m too old to travel. From the Arctic, where the ice is melting, to the Indian Ocean, which is becoming too warm, I had the immense privilege of experiencing the impacts of Climate Change first hand.
Which brings me to December. In two days I’ll be boarding a plane for my last travel writing assignment of the year. And yes, this trip has another animal theme. I’ll be boarding a sailing boat and exploring beyond Bali to the islands around Indonesia, before we arrive at the land of the komodo dragons. Along the way we’ll be snorkelling with manta rays and sharks. And I cannot wait. Yes, it’s been a big year, and moments of great challenge, times when you are so jetlagged you want to weep, a deep-seated loneliness from long weeks out on the road, and a disconnect from normal life. I didn’t find the love of my life, but I know he’s out there. And when I’m out in the world, doing what I love best, hunting and gathering stories, there’s no better feeling on the planet. I wish you a Happy Christmas and may 2017 be everything you dreamed of and more.
The Global Goddess would like to thank all of the tourism and travel operators, local communities, kind random strangers, PR people, publishers, editors and fellow writers, who joined her on the incredible journey that was 2016. See you out there in 2017.
EVERY now and then I am overcome by the notion that I just need to disappear off the face of the planet for a week or so. And I generally pick a destination or activity that is way beyond my comfort zone and/or level of ability (which, if you’ve been following my blog for a while, is somewhat limited to drinking New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on my back deck while pondering the parlous state of the world). As is often the case when I make any major life decisions, my choices are based purely on how a place name sounds. Yes, you’ll find me in crazy Kazakhstan or yummy Yemen any day now. Iraq sounds quite harsh to the ear but Kabul itself somewhat intriguing. I’m the same when it comes to cooking or eating out. I’ll order Baba Ghanoush while imagining I’m in an exotic Arabian land, or buy all the ingredients to cook a big pot of Jambayla just for one, because I’m convinced someone has made a huge mistake and I’m actually a sexy Spaniard. Woy Woy – well I’ve toy toyed with a trip there too. And it was only last week when I found myself downward dog facing the jungles of Ubud at a yoga retreat that I realised just how out of sync my imagination is with my body.
Lured by this particular retreat’s name “Escape the World” I flew myself to Bali and trekked up to Ubud (by trekking, I mean being picked up in an air-conditioned vehicle by my own driver), and threw myself into this concept with gusto. What could be so hard about a total of 20 hours of yoga, a 22km bike ride, wanderings through the rice paddies, and, most interestingly, 24 hours of silence where it would just me and my mischievous monkey mind?
And I didn’t know it at the time of booking, but French Canadian Claude Chouinard runs Oneworld Retreats in partnership with two Ubud princes who happen to have their regal residences also on site. Unfortunately for me, both princes were also getting married the very day I arrived, but I remain convinced had they just waited another 24 hours, at least one of them would have fallen in love with me at first sight. I mean, what’s not to love about a bedraggled Brisbane girl, hair frizzing in the Indonesian humidity, coming off the effects of her usual red wine and Xanax flying combination, clutching her duty free stash of secret wine and gin in one hand, and a yoga mat in the other? There may also be that teeny tiny issue that I am not Balinese royalty, into which both boys also married, in what is said to be a bid to preserve the culture. And I’m not sure mentioning I’m The Global Goddess and practically Brisbane royalty has the same effect, but I was prepared to give it a shot.
On our first night, Claude 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,” he says.
“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.”
At first I am afraid, I am Gloria Gaynor petrified. But then I discover while I’m not allowed to read, and am discouraged from making eye contact with my fellow retreat participants even when we are in yoga classes together, I am allowed to write. And if there’s anything I love more than talking, it’s writing. But it must be mindful, and we are encouraged to pen the things we really want out of this life, and those we wish to rid, which will be burned later in the week in a sacred Balinese ceremony. After yoga and breakfast on my private balcony, I scribble and scribble until my pen runs out of ink. Before I know it, it’s lunchtime, and the food (like everything else at this retreat) is no hardship. I lunch long and languidly on the typical Indonesian salad Gado Gado (again, savouring how the words swirl around my tongue) and there’s the delicious Dadar Gulung – an Indonesian coconut crepe – for dessert.
I have a massage after lunch, and determined not to sleep but remain “mindful” to my silence, I spend the afternoon painting. I end up finishing 6 paintings (3 of which are all words) and have almost convinced myself I have captured the spirit of the talented Ubud artists who inhabit this lovely land, before I realise my ego again, is outrunning my actual talent. A swim, another yoga session, and it’s dinner on my deck, the highlight of which is steamed prawns in banana leaf. I contemplate cracking open my duty free wine but a combination of wishing to remain mindful and the fact I have a sore throat prevents this digression. My yoga teacher later tells me my throat chakra is blocked because of my fear of the silence. A less enlightened version of myself would argue it’s because of his incessant incense burning.
Each day passes in a similar dreamy rhythm. Yoga in the morning with the affable Iyan Yaspriyana while the jungle around us awakens and the cicadas chant a chorus of encouragement from the forest. Iyan encourages us every day to “go deeper”, reminding us that the mind can sometimes trick the body that it can’t go further, when it can. Daily affirmations are left in our room (and in my case, a harmless tree snake which I embrace as a good sign), there’s a dawn yoga class at volcano Batur, an evening water purification ceremony at Tirta Empul, a Balinese offering class, lunch in the rice paddies, and a closing ceremony at the retreat’s temple in which we pause to give gratitude for our lives. And most of all, I learn to sit with myself, observe the demons, laugh at the monkey, and love myself just that little bit more. According to Baby Ram Das: “The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” I can already hear the next exotic-sounding destination whispering my name.
The Global Goddess paid for her own flights to Bali and her Escape the World retreat with Oneworld in Ubud. To book your own escape, go to http://www.oneworldretreats.com
YOU’VE GOT TO GO TO GLASGOW
Twenty years ago, when The Global Goddess was a rookie backpacker doing the Australian working holiday in London rite-of-passage thing, she ended up in Scotland working for a summer. In what I reckon was one of the best summers of my life, I arrived during the Edinburgh Festival, worked all day and then went to shows all night with my then-partner and two of my best friends. At the end of the festival, I found myself waitressing in a small inn in the Scottish Highlands. Days off were spent sailing the lochs, traipsing the mountains and looking for hairy cattle, and of course, Nessie. (There may have been a whisky or two as well thrown in). But I never got to Glasgow. The Global Goddess recently had breakfast with the fine folk from the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau who convinced her why she should go to Glasgow in 2014. Among a range of reasons, next year it’s hosting the Commonwealth Games and will be home to a range of festivals, activities, performances and celebrations. And if there’s one thing the Scots know how to do well, it’s party. http://www.seeglasgow.com
TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
Earlier this year, when The Global Goddess was in Fiji, the weather was, well, less than perfect. But it didn’t matter, as there’s plenty to do away from the beach when a tropical low blows in. I was fortunate to go on the Off-Road Cave Safari in a cool red, open-air jeep, to Naihehe Cave, Fiji’s largest cave system. This fun and fabulous tour is run by the same people who operate the Sigatoka River Safari. These tour operators have recently demonstrated their continuing social conscience by purchasing 10 new laptops for Mavua District School. Established in the 1930s, this school enrolls primary students from neighbouring villages, kids who have never heard of a computer before now. So every time you take one of their two tours, in a way you are contributing to improving the lives of the villagers in this lovely land. http://www.sigatokariver.com
I AM WOMAN, SEE ME TRAVEL
The award-winning team behind Travelscene Nowra on the south coast of New South Wales are poised to launched Shoalhaven Solo Sisters, a new project to help open up the world to independent female travellers. Travel entrepreneurs Leonie Clay and Julie Preston (pictured below) are the brains behind this project which will offer annual group packages to targeted destinations around the world. Single travellers can join the group and be matched with a like-minded person to share accommodation and bring down those prohibitive costs that we single girls face. It’s also aimed at eliminating safety concerns while providing companionship for solo female travellers. The Global Goddess reckons any initiative that gets more women out and about in the world is a good one. Shoalhaven Solo Sisters will be officially launched on November 21 and the inaugural trip planned is to Norfolk Island. firstname.lastname@example.org
FRIDAY NIGHTS WITH A TWIST
Regular Global Goddess readers will know that she gains enormous benefit from my her Monday meditation class. For me, going to meditation helps slow my crazy, busy mind, and makes some room to gain perspective and enhance creativity when it comes to every aspect of my life. (So, I haven’t yet been able to conjure up a bloke, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time). Now, my lovely instructor Rhia Valentine (don’t you just love that surname?) is launching Friday nights with a twist. Once a month, you can attend a three-hour Friday evening session on Consciousness, Expansion & Improvement. These sessions are in inner west Brisbane. The first session will be held on November 22 at 6.30pm and then monthly in 2014. To book a seat contact email@example.com or 0450 520 438.
AND THE WINNER IS….
Thank you to all of you who entered The Global Goddess’ latest competition, in conjunction with one of her valued Travel and Lifestyle partners Kayleen Allen, from A Life of Sundays. Goddess followers were asked to write what their idea of a Life of Sundays was. A big sleep in, it appeared, was among top of the list. And the winner is…Tanya Targett. Here’s an excerpt of what Tanya’s perfect Sunday would look like: “My perfect Sunday is rather boring, but so amazing I can feel the sun on my skin right now. You see, it’s sunny… Perfect weather to take the family out in the boat. And, luck is on our side, the tide is just right so that we can board said boat at a nice sociable 9.30am, having had a glorious sleep in. The air is so warm, the water so exquisitely salty, and the children and husband so fantastically happy. It’s the perfect Sunday, a day in the Sun, that recharges the soul and the spirit for another six days… Til we “repeat as above”.
Congratulations Tanya, you have won a place at Kayleen’s “Heal Your Life, Achieve Your Dreams” workshop in Brisbane on December 7 and 8. This prize is valued at $850. Please email Kayleen on the address below for details.
For those who didn’t win, but are interested in Kayleen’s range of half, full-day and two-day programs and retreats where you will learn to feel valued and appreciated for who you are, loved, nurtured and safe to explore your story, past beliefs and to unlock your true potential, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
I STILL look for her everywhere. And in the most incongruent of places. When I’m travelling overseas, but mostly in the local shopping centre, where she’d most likely be. Except she isn’t. One year ago I lost my counsellor, confidante and dear friend, Sue Cameron. She died unexpectedly, at the age of 76, passing away quietly from pneumonia. It was a month before I discovered she had died. And on that grey, old Saturday I howled. Fat, serious tears rolling down my face, my body shacking with the grief and injustice of it all. And then I wrote and I wrote, vowing not to let her death undo me. She’d be so cranky at that. And so I haven’t.
I think of her often. On the good days and the bad. On rare grim days I repeat the mantra she told me so often: “Turn it on it’s head, darl.” And I glance at a photo of her I keep above my keyboard in which she wears the same Mona Lisa smile she used to give me when I sought her advice on life’s big issues. It’s a no-nonsense kind of look, with an unwritten caption which I imagine reads: “You know it’s all going to work out, don’t you?” The photo arrived by surprise in the mail, sent to me by her partner Keith, 84. He sent it with a note which read: “Sue gave me the photo and I know she liked you a lot, so here is the original. May God bless you and thank you for your regard for my wonderful Suzie”. I view him from a distance from time-to-time in the local shopping centre. He looks so much older now. His tall frame a bit more hunched. No more handsome hat tilt when he passes by. But he’s surviving. Like the rest of us.
Journalist and author Susan Wyndham has just published a book My Mother, My Father: On Losing a Parent. Wyndham, whose mother died two years ago, has cobbled together an anthology of stories by 14 Australian authors who examine the concept of surviving the deaths of our parents. Some of the nation’s best penmen and women have contributed to this tome, including Thomas Keneally, Helen Garner and David Marr. In her review of the book in the Weekend Australian newspaper, Rosemary Neill refers to our parents as “those who have known us the longest”. I have never lost a parent, but have many friends who have. For me, the passing of Sue Cameron was the closest to this kind of grief I have endured. While not knowing me the longest – although we had been together through 12 turbulent and terrific years of counselling – she was the person who knew me best. And so it was a lonely landscape I faced the day she died. Like losing your anchor in the middle of the ocean and searching desperately for a paddle to get you back to shore.
Apart from the grief which never really leaves – you learn to grow around it – I’ve been fascinated at how my rational mind can know someone has died, but my emotional mind still looks for her. In Saturday’s Courier-Mail there’s a story about a new coffee shop concept called The Death Café where people gather to talk about the concept of death. This pop up concept is not about grief counselling, but more so that people can freely discuss one of life’s most taboo subjects. Attendees can be anyone from those simply curious about what happens after life, to those who have experienced death in their circle or who are facing a terminal illness. It’s run by grief educator Beth O’Brien and funeral director Neil Davis. “Death Café is…an unusual event trying to change how uncomfortable society is about death and replacing it with relaxes discussion and cake,” O’Brien says.
In her review of My Mother, My Father, Neil writes: “For many people, the death of a parent is a reckoning: a catalyst for evaluating a life lived well, or a little outrageously.” These days, I choose to live my life well. Sure, I still have my outrageous moments, chase bad boys, drink champagne with my friends, but I try to temper these with striving to be a better version of me. In the past year I have taken up yoga in the mornings, gone to several health retreats and really participated – bringing home the wisdom learnt and incorporating it into my life. I attend weekly meditation classes, swim or walk in the afternoons. I eat better, drink less. Recently, on my birthday, a friend sent me an email. It read: “I’ve really noticed a change in you over the last couple of months. You seem happier, calmer. It’s a subtle change, but I’m not imaging it. The ‘real’ you is breaking out for all the world to see and love.”
Wherever she’s reading this from, I just know Sue Cameron would be chuffed.
NOTHING BUT THE BREAST AT RAFFLES
Raffles Hotels & Resorts around the world will be turning their competitors, and their properties, pink with envy this October to help raise awareness and money for Breast Cancer charities. Think pink cocktails, indulgent spa treatments, fashion shows and fund-raising dinners at five establishments including Raffles Singapore; Raffles Maktai, Manila; Raffles Dubai; Raffles Praslin Seychelles; and Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Global Goddess has sipped on a Singapore Sling in Raffles Singapore and has enjoyed the grand fortune of staying a night or two in Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, in Siem Reap, on the edge of Angkor Wat, and I can tell you, it’s all luxury with a Capital L. That Raffles is contributing to this good cause is simply (pink) icing on the cake for this elegant brand. For more information on Raffles or to support breast cancer awareness, go to http://www.raffles.com
BE SEDUCED BY SEABREEZE IN SAMOA
Regular readers of The Global Goddess will remember I was in Samoa earlier this year, interviewing Samoan men about romance South Pacific-style, while gallantly try not to peer at what was (or in this case, was not) underneath their sarongs. As part of my trip I was incredibly lucky to spend an afternoon at Seabreeze Resort, lazing by the pool and drinking fresh coconut juice, which culminated in a delightful dinner with the Booths – two Queenslanders who own this boutique place. Seabreeze has just been named Samoa’s Leading Hotel at the 2013 World Travel Awards – the Oscars of the tourism industry – held in Dubai. And The Global Goddess concurs this gong it is well deserved. This 4.5 star resort with just 11 air-conditioned villas is luxury personified. http://www.seabreezesamoa.com
EVERY WHICH WHALE BUT LOOSE
If there is anything more stunning than watching a humpback and its baby frolicking in the warm, clear waters of Queensland, than The Global Goddess would like to know what that is. But, be quick. You’ve only got until the end of October before these gentle giants of the deep begin their journey south again to the colder waters of Antarctica. Arguably the best destination in Queensland from which to witness this spectacle is at Fraser Island. Make a journey of it and stay at Kingfisher Bay Resort, good friends of The Global Goddess who can confirm they will look after you during your stay. Until the end of October, the resort is offering a special for $379 per person twin share which includes 2 nights resort hotel accommodation twin share; hot buffet breakfast daily; return passenger ferry transfers ex River Heads; Half-day whale watch cruise. And you receive a bonus third night free including breakfast. Also during October, guests can enjoy a $90 Refresh Spa Special at Kingfisher Natural Therapy. http://www.kingfisherbay.com
ROCK YOUR OCTOBER AND EXPLORE YOUR LIFE PURPOSE
It was purely by chance (or was it?) that The Global Goddess stumbled across her Monday meditation class. That was 15 months ago and I couldn’t be more grateful for my discovery. Run by the beautiful and holistic Rhia Valentine through her Universal Change Group, classes are open to anyone who wants to explore what makes them tick, reduce stress, and discuss life issues in small, supportive groups. Rhia offers a range of classes for, beginners, kids, busy parents and the more advanced, in several western Brisbane locations. At the same time, Rhia also conducts a host of healings designed to upgrade your system to its maximum potential. During October, she is offering a discount of her Life Purpose Activation sessions. Normally priced at $100, those who book and pay this month, can receive a session – which can be held via distance, or in person, for $77. Looking at how enlightened The Global Goddess is these days, how could you refuse? Email email@example.com or phone 0450 520 438 to book or for more information.
GET HOT THIS SPRING
Continuing on her self-improvement journey, The Global Goddess also undertook her first hot yoga class five weeks ago. When it’s 32 degrees outside in Brisbane and 35 degrees inside the classroom, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’ve gone a bit mad. But the benefits of hot yoga are many and varied. According to Toowong’s Zama Yoga studio where I practice, hot yoga helps you detox, burn fat and stretch further, something to which I can attest. I can also say that from day one I started sleeping better, had more energy and felt generally healthier and happier. But hot yoga is not for everyone (even this Goddess has been known to curse the heat under her breath from time-to-time). At Zama, you can also undertake warm classes – where the studio is heated to 28 degrees – or cool classes, at room temperature. And like many studios, you are not confined to one teacher or one style of yoga. I’ve been going five mornings a week and a typical week includes hot vinyasa, hot power, zamalates (pilates), warm yin, and hatha. Like many studios offer, I took advantage of the $25 for the first week of unlimited classes to see if it suited me. I’ve since been hooked. To find out more, go to http://www.zamayoga.com.au. And please leave a comment below, telling me about your favourite studio or style of yoga, anywhere in the world.
THE year was 1978 and my eight-year-old self was sitting in the old Coolangatta cinema on seats strung with scratchy hession bags, about to experience my first ever movie on the Big Screen. Grease was the word and from the opening scene I was so hooked on the movies, and on Olivia Newton-John, I’d forgotten I was slouching on an old bag of potatoes.
Thirty-five years later, and around an hour down the road, I am about to become a personal guest of Olivia at her Gaia Retreat, in the Byron Bay hinterland. Well, she doesn’t actually know I exist, but I can’t help but feel we are old friends. I drive south through towns so deliciously named you just want to wrap your mouth around them like a huge, buttery, salty tub of movie popcorn. I meander around Mooball, bump along Billinudgel, tumble through Tumbulgum, before nestling in Newrybar, just behind which sits Gaia, named after the spirit of Mother Earth.
Things are looking pretty good. The fact Olivia isn’t actually at the retreat doesn’t really matter, as I can feel her everywhere. I just can. She’s in the little personal touches such as the magic metal box of Australian Tea Tonic in your room where you can sip on brews such as ginger, lemongrass, Echinacea and white tea. There’s also lemon myrtle oil for your burner, and plush, chocolate bathrobes perfect for lounging on your day bed, or when you alight from your bath replete with rose petals and a cushion for your head. Yes, Olivia has thought of everything and I feel like she has personally plumped my pillows.
You expect rainforest music on your CD player, but Olivia isn’t tacky (well, there was that little head band and leg warmer stage in the 80s but who wasn’t guilty of that?) Instead you’ll find So Fresh Hits of Autumn 2013 and you’re flat out finding a self-help book in the extensive library, which instead houses a wide range of contemporary reads and DVDS. What I do discover is Olivia’s “Livwise easy recipes for a healthy, happy life book.” If I’m going to look like Olivia, I have some work to do. And Gaia is the perfect place to start.
Indulge in breakfast such as scrambled eggs in fresh herbs with smoked salmon; a lunch of chickpea tagine with cauliflower squash with yoghurt dill on the side; and snapper for dinner with a poached pear and chocolate dessert. And there’s even an extensive beer and wine list, including Gaia’s own organic wine range.
In between, simply have some fun – there’s nothing hardcore about this place – as General Manager Gregg Cave says “all you have to do is surrender.”
Each evening, guests are handed their personal schedule card, outlining any treatments they may have booked in the day spa, or just general activities throughout the day. You can do as little or as much as you want.
Yoga instructor Danielle speaks of “pushing the edge” – the point between finding your point of stretch and indulging the ego and pushing yourself too hard, resulting in pain. “The longest relationship we have in this life is with ourselves, so learn to love yourself,” she says. Nicollete, an “esoteric practitioner” extolls the benefits of becoming your “inner most” and operating from your “inner heart.” In her treatments, she looks at the root causes of symptoms in the body and what buried emotional issues may have triggered these.
“What we need to develop is a much stronger sense of self love in our body. Most of us don’t realise the importance of that,” she says.
“Often we put the needs of others before our own. You have more information to make more choices in your life and do things that is more loving for you.”
There’s a wide range of treatments in the Gaia Day Spa, but The Global Goddess recommends the 4.5 hour Gaia Goddess/Gaia Man signature experience. Billed as a journey of “complete surrender” among other things you’ll undergo a body polish, cocooning body masque, warm oil scalp massage and full body massage.
There’s also an interesting esoteric breast massage for women and an esoteric shoulder massage for men, designed to tap into self love and if you so desire, a milk bath somewhere on the property. (The Global Goddess did fantastise about laying in a field naked in a pool of milk like Cleopatra waiting for her Julius Caesar but realised she’d have better luck finding a Caesar salad on this trip).
Drawing on her Aussie roots, Olivia has built a retreat that is empathetic to the 10 hectares of manicured Australian bushland on which it stands, replete with its own fresh herb garden, pool, sauna, spa bath and gym. Walk to the Samira Lookout at the top of the hill and you are at the highest point in the Byron Bay Shire, from which you can scan the Lennox Headlands and Pacific Ocean beyond. Here there’s also a Buddha and labyrinth for reflection and meditative thoughts.
You’ll find plenty of day beds dotted around the property, as well as hammocks strung between giant eucalypts from which to honour the rising and setting suns.
During my four-day journey I meet Olivia’s personal jeweller, who designs jewels for the retreat, and her comedienne friend Sandy Gandhi, who performed at Olivia’s 60th birthday a few years ago, and who is waiting for fellow comedienne Ruby Wax to finish her spa treatment. Ruby walks into the dining room, but there’s still no sign of Olivia and it doesn’t really matter. By the time I leave, I’m learning to love myself and it may have been 35 years, but Olivia I still love you…I honestly love you.
ENTER A COMPETITION TO BECOME YOUR OWN GAIA GODDESS…
As a special treat for Global Goddess readers, and courtesy of the Gaia Retreat and Spa, The Global Goddess is offering readers the chance to win an amazing prize valued at $1585.
This lovely prize package includes two nights accommodation staying in the Layana Room double/twin; all gourmet meals and snacks; spa gift on arrival; daily yoga and all retreat activities; and use of all the facilities.
To enter, simply go to:
and sign up to receive Gaia Retreat newsletters. The competition runs for two weeks, and will close at 5pm Australian Eastern Standard Time on Monday, September 9, 2013. Gaia will draw the lucky winner, who will be announced on The Global Goddess blog on Tuesday, September 10, 2013.
IN a bid to challenge my consumption on both an environmental and health level, yesterday I partook in my first food fast. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. She’s clawing her way one step closer to becoming a miu miu wearing hippy. While this may be my ultimate goal in life, I really did want to see how my body and mind would react to limiting my food intake to that of a child.
I was inspired to do this by a story in The Weekend Australian which talks about a new program known as intermittent fasting (IF). Under this plan, on two alternate days a week you essentially limit your daily intake to 2720 kilojoules for women (a little more for men), allowing your body to restore and recover.
While it’s still in its infancy, the “diet” is receiving rave reviews for its ability to reduce the chances of things like cancer, as it works on the premise that while we are always burning food fuel, our bodies don’t have time to actually repair. Followers also report losing at least 1kg a week.
So, was it all just a bit kooky like the time my sister and I invested our entire summer spending money in a bottle of Ebony tanning lotion, under the premise we would turn into Whitney Houston? Or did I actually realise some results? Let me also add, I am not someone who normally take photos of her food. Unless you are a food writer or chef, I find it intriguing when a bunch of white, wealthy people in the western world document everything they eat. (During this fast, you will notice how much everyone talks about food on Facebook. Stay off Facebook. One friend even posted a photo of a keyring that looked like a macaron).
I start the morning with the recommended breakfast: one boiled egg and a cup of black coffee. For someone who heaps two teaspoons of sugar and some milk into her daily Cup of Joe, this was a challenge. I tried to concentrate on the sensation of the coffee. Silky and black and a vessel to wake me up in the morning. A bit like my ideal man. Although I also like my ideal man to be sweet. I take my time and savour the egg, which is delicious, although I just wish there was more of it. Why, God, why, did I choose a normal chook egg and not that of an emu? Meanwhile, I reminisce about the missing piece of toast like a long-lost lover.
By mid-morning I am not only feeling light-headed, but I am also having evil, hateful thoughts towards my parents. My low blood sugar is causing me to recall every horrible thing they’ve ever done (or not done) and is playing out like a horror movie in my head. Thankfully, I’ve been to meditation class the night before, and am practising to just “observe” the Freddy Kruger in my head.
Lunch. At last. I’ve spent the past 4.5 hours since my egg glancing at the clock, counting down like a child would to Christmas. Lunch is a bowl of vegetable soup. Who knew carrots, corn and chickpeas could be a whole world of fun?
The thing that concerns me is my afternoon swim. How on earth am I going to swim 1km on a stomach devoid of carbs? Secondly, if anyone else attempts to share my lane, I’m in such a scratchy mood, I think I might drown them, myself, or both of us. I panic a little. There’s nothing in the story about exercise. Am I meant to do it at all?
By mid-afternoon, I think I could eat one of the small children I spied at the pool but I’m lucid enough to realise this could result in me losing my Blue Card. I feel like Victoria Beckham – hungry and cranky. I decide to make a cup of Peppermint tea.
Dinner is a veritable feast of 10 cherry tomatoes, half a sliced eggplant (I cheat and buy the biggest I can find), 1 zucchini, 1 red capsicum and half a red onion scattered with basil, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and 1 teaspoon of olive oil and roasted. I think I might burst with glee when I read the recipe also allows for 1 tablespoon of parmesan. I pretend the eggplant is a steak and my sparkling mineral water is a G&T.
I go to bed slightly earlier, and hungrier than normal. I realise all I’ve thought about all day is food (which is a nice change from men). Funny about what you obsess, when you can no longer have it. But I’ve done it! While I wouldn’t rush to do it again, I have learned something new about food and my attitude towards it. In a world where so many are starving, it’s nice to be reminded of our abundance.
The Global Goddess’ verdict: Unlike total fasts, which I believe are not practical and possibly send your body into “starvation mode” when next you eat, the restricted calorie intake fast has merit. I could see it working after a big holiday or festive season in which you’ve over-indulged. Possibly, and this is the hard bit, if we restricted our calories a little every day, we wouldn’t have to resort to two days of fasting. What really appealed to me was that it made me value every morsel and think about the food I consumed. To donate to Foodbank Australia – whose mantra is “an Australia without hunger” – go to www.foodbank.com.au
SHE wore a smile of smug serenity, the kind borne from hours and hours of meditation and, I suspect, being a gentle soul. I’m in country New South Wales for a three-day yoga treat and Basia, who calls herself a “tea advocate”, is performing a modern-day version of a Japanese tea ceremony to welcome us to Billabong Retreat.
My journey to enlightenment begins several hours earlier when my friend Jess picks me up at SydneyAirport in her clapped-out car which lacks air-conditioning in the middle of an Australian heat wave. It’s such a scorcher, I expect to see Satan himself behind the steering wheel.
Jess and I have a history of colourful trips which share an unwittingly similar theme. It’s always hot, there’s limited alcohol and we swim in interesting watering holes. In June it was Jordan’s Dead Sea, this time it’s an Australian Billabong the colour of black tea.
I’m in the fittingly name Harmony Cottage on this 5000 hectare property replete with lotus pond. Jess is in a tent. Yoga takes place in a central yurt. I fall in love with the word yurt. Billabong is an eco-retreat where each guest is allocated 50 litres of water each day which are broken down as such:
- 3 minute shower = 30L
- 1 x full loo flush = 4.5L
- 3 x half loo flushes = 3 L
- Spare = 3.5 L
Guests are advised to save water and “shower with a friend”. If only. I perform a crude mathematical calculation in my head. If I don’t have a bowel movement for six days, I can afford another shower. Jess reminds me we aren’t here for six days, so my maths, as always, is flawed. In my spare time, I take to trading shower minutes with the other guests.
Paul and Tory von Bergen own Billabong Retreat near Richmond, about an hour’s drive north-west of Sydney. Paul, a former high-flying Londoner who made millions of pounds, lived in a penthouse and had a photo of a yacht on his desk, lost all his money in a bad business decision. He headed to Thailand where he discovered yoga, but instead of a lightening bolt, it was a gradual transformation on his path to serenity.
Rather than teaching guests the kind of power yoga that has crept into chic city studios, Paul believes yoga is about the mind. A kind of meditation yoga which dates back to 300 BC. Jess calls it Moga.
“The fact you are twisting one way or the other way is almost here nor there, it is about peace of mind and health and happiness,” Paul says.
“Yoga was always about the mind for thousands and thousands of years. It was only really when it came to the West in the last 60 years that is has become dominated by the physical.
“For 4000 to 5000 years yoga was not about postures. It is about developing the mind. It is about neuroplasticity – the ability to retrain out minds.
“Whoever came up with that phrase ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’….that’s bullshit. It is about feeling better, living longer, happier and more contented lives.
“As long as we’re heading in roughly the right direction, it is OK.”
On a scorching Saturday afternoon we perform a Hindu chant 108 times – the number 108 believed to be the figure required to achieve enlightenment. I arrive at roughly the 38th Om and my mind starts to play a nasty trick. It reminds me it’s the weekend, my throat is parched from chanting, and I need an ice-cold Sav Blanc. It takes everything in my power to sit still and return to the next 70 chants by which time I forget Sav Blanc, let alone the sacred Marlborough region, exists.
Paul teaches us a simple seven minute practice that we can take home. Seven minutes to serenity. On the drive home and after a weekend of gorgeous vegetarian fare, I implore Jess to stop at the first coffee shop she can find before she drops me at the airport. I’m in the middle of a long check-in line when my tummy starts to grumble. I break into a cold sweat. Fuelled by caffeine and possibly the fact I can flush the loo all I wish, my bowels have decided upon the most inconvenient time all weekend to do what they are designed to.
I barely make it through check-in and rush to the toilet. Afterwards, I celebrate with a large carton of greasy chips and a New Zealand pinot noir. My enlightenment is tested three times on the way home. The first time, when the passenger next to me decides to shake a tin of breath mints all the way home; the second when we hit severe turbulence; and the third, when a maniac cabbie picks me up at the airport, road-raging his way to my front door. I practice breathing in and out slowly and saying “I am” over and over in my mind.
I think back to what Paul has to say about this modern, frazzled world in which we exist.
“There is too much masculine energy in the world. We can be both, soft and strong. Women are better at that,” he says.
“I’d like to see more men at this retreat. It is the story of my life at the moment. I haven’t spoken to a bloke in three months.”
Welcome to my world Paul. Welcome to my world.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Billabong Retreat. To find out how you can achieve serenity in seven minutes, go to www.billabongretreat.com.au or better still, book yourself in for an enlightening adventure.