DEPENDING on how you view life, it is either a massive coincidence, or pure fate, that Julia Baker now lives in a street called Olympus, in Brisbane. For it has taken this 45-year-old a Herculean effort to get to this point. And if you wish to stretch the Greek mythology a little further, if you’d never met Julia before this point, you’d be forgiven for thinking she may look a little like Medusa, not because this softie would turn you to stone, but because of her love of snakes. In the Snakes and Ladders game of life, of one slither forward and two back, Julia is emerging triumphantly, as Brisbane’s very own Snake Sheila.
But it’s been quite the journey. Born in Australia to a German father and English mother, Julia spent her formative years in Europe, vacillating between England and Germany where at the age of 10 she moved with her family, learned the language and went to school until she dropped out at 16 to do a baker’s apprenticeship.
“I wanted to become an actress, but it wasn’t really a job back then,” Julia says, not knowing that one day, that dream would come true as well.
“The baking apprenticeship was the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life, lifting 50kg of flour and 2am starts.
“I still can’t believe I’d get up in the freezing cold and blizzards, but my dad never let me give up and I also completed a confectionary apprenticeship.”
But Julia’s birthplace beckoned and lured her towards an incredible life journey that would be peppered with both the bleak and beautiful.
“Everyone is besotted with Australia overseas, it is this mysterious country that has no neighbours. I used to dream about Australia all the time and wonder what it would be like if I lived there,” she says.
“I came over here with $2000 in my pocket but because I had such good qualifications I walked into the Hilton Sydney and got a job in a day.” Julia climbed her way up through the chef ranks, working for a number of big name hotel chains. She met husband and gave birth to two girls, before moving to Brisbane 15 years ago. And in the Snakes and Ladders game of life, her marriage broke down, sending her into a downward spiral of depression.
“I’d never really thought about what I wanted. You get married at a young age and you are never really allowed to dream. You do everything everyone else wants you to do,” she says.
“But you reach an age where you think ‘I’ve done everything everyone wanted me to do and it’s still a disaster’. I could see this pattern of pleasing everyone. I was attracting the wrong kind of people into my life. I looked at my two girls and didn’t think I was a good role model.
“When I split up from my husband I went through six months of depression. I thought I was a loser.” But Julia stumbled across a couple of self-help books and, while not academically minded, something resonated. And she began to dream.
About 10 years ago, dreaming and visualising her future, she went to Australia Zoo, saw a massive boa constrictor, and “fell in love with snakes”.
“I was watching all the people in the queue and they were carrying on like the snake was some kind of monster,” Julia says.
“I kinda felt that it was like me and they couldn’t see that underneath it had a really good heart. When they put it around my neck I almost cried.
“I thought ‘sod you, I’ll show you’. It just set me off and every time I’d go and see snakes I’d be drooling and I decided to get a pet snake.”
Julia now has not one but three pet snakes, two pet blue-tongued lizards and a frilly dragon. And then she met someone with a snake catching licence and decided to follow her passion, undertaking a snake-catching course and getting her own licence.
“I started to get call outs and before I knew it, I became the preferred catcher for the Brisbane City Council,” she says.
“I don’t claim to be the best. I have a massive passion for them and what makes me different is I really enjoy people and recognise that they have a fear. I understand them and I try to educate them.
“In the past five years I’ve had a real taste for feeling alive. (Julia also rides motor bikes, acts in plays, performs puppet shows and is a motivational speaker).”
Then, three years ago, with her life almost perfect, she sat down and wrote a list of her ideal man. Two weeks later, a Scotsman called John walked into her life.
“John is just perfect. He embraces me for being chaotic and worships every little bit about me,” she says.
“I can be me and I don’t have to apologise. On our second date I said to myself ‘he needs to be alright with snakes’ and I flung a snake around his neck while I went to answer a phone call.”
John is not only alright with snakes, he now also has his snake catcher licence.
Julia’s next big dream is to become an international speaker, and her Snakes and Ladders game continues on its upward trajectory. Brisbane-based documentary makers FlickChicks have just signed with a major international broadcaster for a 10-part series on the Snake Sheila, with filming slated to begin this August, just in time for snake season Down Under.
“My big vision is the TV show and the underlying message you can be in your 40s and get some passions in your life,” she says.
“I will not fit into what society wants me to do again.”
For more information on any element of Julia’s work, please contact her on 0400 140 800. To find out more about the Snake Sheila series, visit FlickChicks at http://www.flickchicks.com.au
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