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
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
“This year I do not want the dark to leave me. I need its wrap of silent stillness, its cloak of long-lasting embrace. Let the dawns come late, let the sunsets arrive early, let the evenings extend themselves while I lean into the abyss of my being,” Joyce Rupp, Winter’s Cloak
IN summer, we learn to live again. In winter, we learn about ourselves. And the presence of a wild snake on one’s back deck is, arguably, one of life’s great teachers. I used to be scared of snakes, having grown up in country Queensland where scorching summers were punctuated by frequent snake sightings. Red Belly Blacks and King Browns were the order of the day out there, the type of rebellious reptiles that could easily kill a small child. And so I learned to fear those slithering serpents of my youth. But several years ago, when I first spotted a carpet snake on my back deck, I decided to finally face my fear. On the one hand, this was made much easier by the fact it’s a harmless common Eastern Australian carpet python. On the other hand, a snake is still a snake.
Anastasia arrived first, who departed only to be replaced by Sylvia, who grew from a one-metre juvenile in the first year, into a three-metre monster by her third. Too fat to fit back into the ceiling cavity, she departed, only to be replaced by Saskia, who arrived about a year ago. Saskia, like Sylvia, was also slim, but with a ready diet of bush rats and possums right out the back, she too has grown. And now she’s possibly the fattest snake I’ve ever seen. My anaconda girl also measures about three metres long, but sports the beer belly of a Brisbane bogan. Lay off the possums, I want to advise, particularly given I gain great comfort from their roaring thunder along my timber roof late at night. To me, that’s the soundtrack to living in Brisbane, and I love it.
So, what have I learned from my snake this winter? The first lesson is that it’s important to slow down. While my snake is still surprisingly active, even in winter, she moves at a slower pace. She basks on the back deck in the winter sunshine, that I, too crave. Learn to love the softer light, she seems to whisper to me. Take the time to laze. Stretch. Sleep. We need these seasons to rejuvenate. Reflect. Retreat inwards. For in a place like Brisbane, where the summers are long and lusty, it’s too easy to keep running. And run out of steam.
My sassy Saskia has also taught me while it’s important to eat, don’t eat too much. Fuelled by her latest possum catch, and a ridiculously distended belly, she tried and failed many times to return to her ceiling cavity the other afternoon as the sun signalled its early afternoon departure. She crawled and wiggled and pretty much looked like I do every winter when it comes to trying on that first pair of jeans. Eventually, she gave up. And whether she will return is anyone’s guess. I’ve learned to grow OK with that too.
She’s taught me to shed my skin a little. Be vulnerable. And she’s taught me to face my fears. In an ideal world, there would be no wild snakes on my back deck. But history has taught me that not long after one has departed, another one arrives. They are territorial like that. And so, I must embrace this paradigm. Just as winter follows autumn, the seasons will keep on changing. I used to hate winter too. The short days, the cold mornings, being constrained by too many clothes. By nature I’m a summer frock girl who loves being in the water. Those beautiful balmy evenings, bare feet and ice-cold beer. But I’m slowly learning that life is also about embracing the shadow side. Not only in nature, but in myself and others. Instead of rejecting the things I dislike about myself, learning to acknowledge them as a part of a greater sum.
I’m back on the yoga mat this winter, a nourishing alternative when the water is too cold in which to swim, and last week we celebrated the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere. The days are starting to grow longer and pretty soon, they will grow warmer again. But for now, I’m going to relish the words of Joyce Rupp: “Let me lie in the cave of my soul, for too much light blinds me, steals the source of revelation. Let me seek solace in the empty places of winter’s passage, those vast dark nights that never fail to shelter me.” Wherever you are in the world, whatever the season of your soul, I hope you find solace too.
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).
IT seems incongruous, but I am sitting down to pen my last blog for 2015. Equally unbelievable, I know, is that I’m still as single as when I sat down to write my first post this year. Yes, desperate and dateless as the New Year dawned, and staring down the barrel of yet another looming Valentine’s Day, in January I rejoined Bogandating.com (not its real name) and attracted the likes of blokes such as “Fairdinkumkiwi”, “Gazza”, and “DancingandRomance”. At this stage of the year/game I’d like to say (and kids, look away), based on my experience of dating sites in 2015, there is NO Santa Claus.
Purely by coincidence in January, I also interviewed a woman who launched The Self Pleasure Revolution. Yes, 35 women from Australia, England, Chile, America and the Netherlands signed up and paid $US89 to participate in conscious masturbation every day for three weeks. While I admired their tenacity, I indulged in my own self pleasure revolution of going to the bottle-o and consuming vast quantities of wine…a semi-conscious decision which has lasted much longer than three weeks and cost far more than $US89, but each to their own.
In February I explored my own backyard, covering stories in Brisbane where I stayed in the New Inchcolm Hotel & Suites dating back to the 1920s; sauntered down to Brisbane’s south side to explore its heart and soul; and west to Ipswich where I went to high school more than two decades ago. Apart from taking my first hot air balloon ride over the Lockyer Valley where I grew up, on Brisbane’s south side I discovered the Chung Tian Temple at Priestdale where the hum of Buddhist chants blended with the intoxicating sounds of silence. Here, I partook in an ancient tea ceremony where I learned that not only that tea is good for you, but apparently so is red wine. Just sayin.
Just as the weather started to cool down in Brisbane in March, my travel schedule started to heat up. In one week I visited Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam. In Indonesia, in my four-poster bed, replete with white chiffon curtains, I imagined I was an Indonesian High Priestess. I arrived at the Banyan Tree Bintan Island in my usual disheveled state, the effects of some aeroplane turbulence as we crossed the Equator, a reasonable swell on the ferry as we sailed across the South China Sea, several prescription drugs and red wine to fuel my travels, all beginning to wear off. But I remained chipper, for I was to sleep under this thatched Indonesian roof, or “alang alang”, in my seaside villa, skinny dip under the stars, and have several Asian women touch me inappropriately during a number of massages that wonderful week.
I was home for a grand total of three days…enough time to wash and repack my undies… before I was on a plane to Rabaul in Papua New Guinea. Having exhausted every possibility or hope of ever finding the man of my dreams in Australia, I cast the net wider. While I was in PNG writing a series of travel stories, never let it be said that I waste any opportunity to find love. What I really adore about my travels is that no matter in which new country I find myself, I merely need to tell a local that I’m looking for love and they are immediately on the case. In this instance, the lovely Lucy, a 50-year-old PNG woman who works at the Kokopo Beach Bungalows Resort, instantly became my latest wing woman. Every day Lucy told me that I was beautiful and that I even looked like her daughter “she has a sharp nose like you”. She said when I returned to Rabaul I must come and stay with her in her village and she’ll find me a man. I am planning a return visit any day now.
In April, my sister and me escaped to Fiji for a short Easter break where we indulged in snorkelling, swimming and sunshine while gracefully fanning away hot weather and men who were hot for us (the last element of that sentence is simply not true). Weeks later I was up in Tropical North Queensland at Thala, out on a nature tour with Head Gardener Brett Kelly. The highlight of this three-hour tour occurred Brett husked a coconut for me to drink. It did not take much for me to disappear into fantasyland, picturing the man of my dreams clad only in loin cloth, presenting me with a husked coconut. Sensing my sexual fantasy, the happily-married Brett promptly disappeared in the rainforest, never to be seen by me again.
While there were a number of domestic trips in May (back to Port Douglas and the Sunshine Coast), the absolute highlight was travelling to Vienna to cover Eurovision. Despite being in the gayest city of Europe at that point in time, I viewed this trip as a chance to snag me some single European royalty (and a much-coveted EU passport). And I had my sights set on Liechtenstein’s Prince Wenzeslaus. Not only was he age appropriate at 41, his family is considered the richest monarchy in Europe. Vince the Prince, or Vincent, as he prefers to be called, has never married, but has been known to date the odd Victoria Secret supermodel. I felt that we were the perfect match but apparently he didn’t receive my emails alerting him to my European escape. I still hold out hope.
In June, I took a brief break from overseas travel and relished the chance to catch up on some big writing projects. I interviewed the fabulous Feather from Byron Bay who was the subject of Natalie Grono’s award-winning photo: Feather and the Goddess Pool. Natalie had just received the People’s Choice award for this year’s National Photographic Portrait Prize. Feather, in her 70s, invited me to join her for some topless sunbaking and told me:
“I’ve got TMB – Too Many Birthdays. Men who are 80 and 81 look at me and say I’m too old for them. They can’t do anything and they are ratshit and I’m not really interested in being a cougar.”
Fabulous females continued to enter my life in July when I met Brisbane Trike Tour owner Chrissy McDonnell and her black three-wheeler The Bling Queen. On a crisp winter day in which we took a spin down to Canungra in the Gold Coast Hinterland, Chrissy told me how she quit her job at an insurance giant last December to follow her dream of running her own business. We spoke just last week and things are going gang busters.
Up at Noosa in July, another new tourism business operator Kelly Carthy from Luxe Fitness Escapes paddled with me into the mangroves of the Noosa River where we partook in a beautiful floating yoga class to the sounds of the birds.
“I want women to feel strong and confident and I think there is lots of space to really empower women to feel strong in their bodies and focus on what they can do rather than how they look,” Kelly told me on this spectacular Sunshine Coast day.
In August, I held hands with a man for the first time all year out at ReefWorld on the outer Great Barrier Reef. I was participating in a learner’s dive and, as fate would have it, it was just me and a handsome Spaniard for 30 glorious minutes. I was mesmerised by his brown hair which floated in the water like sea weed and spent the entire time dreaming of us having to share the same oxygen hose. But perhaps the most interesting character I met all year was out at the Mount Isa Rodeo in Queensland’s Outback. Here, Beaver, or Brettyln Neal as she is sometimes known, was about to notch up her 150th fight as part of Fred Brophy’s travelling boxing troupe.
“I’ve got a little furry Beaver mascot and sometimes Fred will get up and say ‘show us your Beaver’ and I’ll have it in my pants,” Beaver told me one dusty Outback afternoon. For the record, Beaver you are still my BFF.
I took a journey to Australia’s spiritual heart of Uluru in September but anguished over how to capture its magic in words. Instead, I relinquished my role as a writer for one entire afternoon, and took a cycling tour of the red rock. It was my first visit to this ancient landmark and instead of clumsily grasping for the toolkit of adjectives and mixed metaphors upon which I usually rely, I emptied my head, opened my heart and clutched the handlebars. The words, well they came later. Shortly after, I found myself in Canada’s Nova Scotia covering a “sausage fest.” Yes, it took one classy sheila from Brisbane to point out to the Canadians that the term meant something entirely different back in the cosmopolitan Queensland capital.
October found me in Sri Lanka and most notably Kandy where I went in search of my Kandy Man. My best chance presented itself at the Kandy Cultural Show where one of the acts included “10 male damsel drummers in harmony”. There was even one fine fella in the show who smiled at me and dropped his tambourine, such was my sex appeal, but our interaction ended there. I also had a Sri Lankan yoga teacher instruct me to rub “special herbal cream” on my face and boobs. Turns out his special cream was actually Vicks Vapor Rub. My boobs still sting at this memorable travel moment.
I spent early November on the Gold Coast hunting and gathering a series of stories and allowed myself to indulge in childhood beach holiday memories. These messages in a bottle floated up every day…mum on Greenmount Beach tanning her back against a rock, dad driving our gold Kingswood around Kirra bend when he finished work on a Friday afternoon. Cream buns at Coolangatta. Shifting sands. And regular readers will recall it was only last month that I returned from the Solomon Islands, where, still no closer to snaring my solo man, I interviewed the locals about love. Panda, 37, told me Solomon Island men were good lovers because “they like the girls”.
“They love the white skin. There are lots of good boys around. If you come to me I can help you to find a good man. I think you will be the boss and he will do everything for you. He will think ‘I’ve got a white lady’ and he will treat you like a Queen,” Panda told me. Inexplicably, I returned home single.
It’s now December, and this week I fly out for three weeks in Indonesia, where a girlfriend and me intend to flop and drop on each of the Gili Islands. There will be snorkelling, swimming, yoga, beer and plenty of daydreaming. A huge thank you to all of the tourism bodies, PRs and editors who supported my travels this year, the terrific characters I met along the way and to you, my loyal followers and readers. I wish you all love and light this Christmas and may we all find peace on earth in 2016. See you then. x
LYNDAL is devastatingly thin like Audrey Hepburn…and sports the mouth of a sailor. Only half of this sentence is true. Lyndal may have urged me to describe her as the screen siren while peppering our conversation with profanities but Hepburn, eat your heart out, for Lyndal is rolled gold. I’m on a 12-day Real Food Adventure with Intrepid Travel through Sri Lanka and Lyndal is one of the 10 colourful companions with whom I am travelling.
My adventures in this mystical land in the middle of the Indian Ocean start well before I meet my travelling party. Mozart is inexplicably being piped through the arrival’s hall of Colombo’s Bandaranayike International when I disembark at 1am, and among the usual swag of Duty Free cosmetics, cigarettes and alcohol, there’s a store selling washing machines. Just what I always imagined I needed after a 16-hour trek from Australia, a Simpson 5kg front loader.
A tropical downpour greets me on the street unlike the driver who has been arranged to meet me. Just as I’m about to chalk up yet another bloke who has refused to keep a date, someone kindly points to an obscure man sitting in a dark corner who it turns out is my “fixer”. He leads me to a car and the driver takes off into the inky night. We weave in and out of empty back alleys and the exotic blend of heaving humidity, travel exhaustion, and mild anxiety prompts me to break into a cold sweat. Half way to my hotel, when I am almost convinced this is how I will finally meet my maker, he pauses to point to a name of his manifest which is meant to be mine. I’m sorry Linda Treware, but I hope you enjoyed your evening being me and eventually arrived safely at your destination.
As fate would have it, several hours later at breakfast I meet Linda, or Laura as it turns out. A lovely American Jewish girl, Laura says “I’m basically Beyonce. My alter ego is a black girl with a big arse who says ‘fuck you bitch’.” At this moment I know Laura and I will be life-long friends.
For a food tour, we seem to be doing a lot of temples including the towering Sigiriya Rock Fortess with its 1000-odd steps and a height of 1120 metres which I miraculously climb. Regular readers will remember that among my long list of neuroses The Global Goddess is petrified of heights and some may even recall the trip in which my sister and me climbed the Remarkables in New Zealand…only to have me abandon my sister in a white-out while I begged two sherpas to carry me down that slippery little slope, sobbing hysterically. On this journey down I vow not to cry and instead channel my inner Peter Allen and chant I Still Call Australia Home as I leave what I can only describe as the “death zone”. I later learn from one of my travelling companions that someone passing them on the way to the summit asked whether they knew the strange English woman who was singing. On the plus side (and there is always an opposite reaction according to the Buddhist teachings in Sri Lanka) I haven’t had to wear my “temple dress” – lest my sexy knees and shoulders provoke unwanted attention – in days.
It would be fair to say I knew nothing about Sri Lanka before I arrived here 9 days ago and due to a hectic travel schedule this year have had even less time to do any research. So appalling was my knowledge of this country that I am half convinced a Tamil Tiger is an exotic Asian cat. I do glance at my trip notes before I depart which suggest I have access to $USD500 “in case of civil unrest”. I wonder whether this means I will be allowed to trot down to the ATM if a war erupts or whether I should bury some greenbacks on my person. A girlfriend suggests I should stash cash in my underwear as “no one will ever look there”. What I do find is a country filled with heart and soul and the most peaceful of people.
The weekend just gone found me in Kandy where I held a vague hope that I may meet the elusive man of my dreams, or in this instance, a Kandy Man. We attend the Kandy Cultural Show where one of the acts is described as “10 male damsel drummers in harmony”. There is even one fine fella in the show who smiles at me and drops his tambourine, such is my sex appeal, but our interaction ends there. I half hope that the yoga teacher we visit that afternoon will yield more luck in the romance stakes, but my fantasy is dashed when he hands out what he calls a “special herbal cream” and instructs us to rub it on our boobs and face. I look at the container, and it’s a jar of Vicks Vapor Rub. But as Buddha would say, every action has an opposition reaction and on the plus side my boobs have never felt hotter.
The Global Goddess is in Sri Lanka as a guest of Intrepid Travel – www.intrepidtravel.com
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.