Don’t chew on life, live it!

 

DSCN1056I’ve just been reading Notwithstanding, a delightful book by Louis de Bernières, author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

It’s a quirky book based on de Bernières recollections of village life in a time past with some very insightful observations.

During a conversation in the potting shed, as the rain beat on the roof, John the gardener, Allan his assistant and Sylvie the attractive young stable girl were pondering on who else they would like to be when John declares ‘I don’t want to be no one else, I just want something to happen, I don’t want to be a tree no more.’

He then goes on to explain, and I’m paraphrasing here, that a sapling in its first autumn loses its leaves and it’s a novelty, the following spring the leaves return and it’s an exciting time for the tree. When the birds start to nest the tree feels useful and life’s good but fifty years down the track exactly the same things are happening to the tree and the tree is no longer excited or amused by his new leaves or the birds that nest in them. John bemoans the fact that he does the same thing over and over and over, he does the same thing each day as he did last year on that same day. He has cheese pie for dinner every Thursday and macaroni on a Tuesday and he has the same phone conversation with his daughter every Sunday.

John laments that he’s going to his grave never having really lived ‘I reckon I chewed on life, and never tasted it at all.’

Stop just chewing on life.

Is your life that routine, do you do the same thing at the same time every day or every week or even every year? Are you only chewing on life?

Now’s the time to change that, with the change of season, particularly here in the southern hemisphere where today marks the beginning of spring, why not change your outlook. Brighten it up. Metaphorically speaking, take off that comfortable coat and put on that brightly coloured shirt, swim don’t paddle, live life, don’t just exist, aim for the moon, you might surprise yourself and reach it.
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A Positive Outlook

The first thing you need to do when reinventing yourself, or just making that decision to get more out of life, is to find that positive outlook – the one we were all born with but that life gradually ate away at.

Stop thinking that you can’t do things, because if you set your mind to it, you can. I come across so many people, many of them a lot younger than me, who tell me that there’s no way they could do what I did and trek to Everest Base Camp. They’re not fit enough, they haven’t got the time, they’ve got a family, they can’t afford it – that’s crap and you know it. These are excuses not reasons and there are ways around these obstacles. I’m not saying trekking is something that everyone should want to do, if everyone wanted to do the same thing there’d be some very crowded spots on this planet, but figure out what it is that you do want to do and then make it happen.
commitmentStop saying ‘no’ and put ‘yes’ back in your vocabulary. Maybe and possibly and sometime don’t exist, they’re just dithering words. I ‘can’t’ isn’t an option, you ‘can.’

Mark Twain was a smart man when he told us that it was the things we don’t do in life that we’ll live to regret.

Action

Do something.

It’s easy to procrastinate with research and planning. It’s in your head, it’s on the screen in front of you but that’s going to get you nowhere – you have to actually do something about it.

You have to make that move, make that commitment and put all of your planning into action. For me, with the beginning of spring that means getting back out there and training – doing some local hikes, climbing the steps. I’ve decided to head for the Himalayas again next year – now I need to make it happen.
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It takes two … or three … or more

Rope in some friends or family members on whatever plans you’re making. It’s fine to do stuff by yourself and many people like it that way, but some things are easier to achieve or more fun if you’ve got someone along with you.

Put it out there, whatever it is you’ve decided to do.

You’ve booked yoga classes – maybe a work colleague or family member has always wanted to do yoga but has never had anyone to do it with. Go together. You want to cut back on the drinking and get fit – there’s bound to be someone who’ll join you in that one. You’ve decided to go see the Northern Lights/Uluru/Spain – find someone else who might be interested, you never know till you start talking about it.

Motivation 2
Go do it and have fun.

Whatever you want to do, do it and make it fun. Rope in those friends, bug your family with it, don’t give up and don’t let people tell you that you can’t or you shouldn’t or that you’re mad or weird (you already know that!).

If you want to get fit – do it.

If you want to build your own home – do it

If you want to backpack through America or Europe – do it.

If you want to trek in South America or the Himalayas – do it.

If you want to do volunteer work in Asia – do it.

If you want to travel by train across Australia – do it.

If you want to climb a mountain – just frigging DO IT!

Stop chewing on life and get out there and taste it.

  

Picture Perfect: Indian Ocean, North Beach.

On a grey, miserable day here in Perth I thought I’d remind myself what the weather was like only two days ago. Hopefully with spring only another two days away I’ll get more photo opportunities like this in the very near future, looking out over the Indian Ocean.DSCN1682DSCN1683DSCN1684

  

Wanderlust Women – it’s just the beginning.

Wanderlust – A great desire to travel and rove about.

Wanderlust Women – The women of Perth who have that great desire to travel and rove about, and intend to do something about it.

A couple of days ago I was thrilled to be able to meet up with a group of women who just get it – travel that is, and the addiction that it can become.

The girls at my local travel agency, Brice & Turner, have spent the last twelve months trying to make this come together and on Friday night it did. Shelley, Jen and their crew put on a fun night where those of us women who, for whatever reason, find ourselves having to travel solo, were able to meet up, chat, compare travel stories and travel wish lists and indulge in a glass of wine (or two) and a few nibbles.

With the girls from Brice & Turner - Jen, Monika, Charlotte & Shelley [must remember to wear my heels next time :-)]

With the girls from Brice & Turner – Jen, Monika, Charlotte & Shelley [must remember to wear my heels next time :-) ]

The group we have become has a name, we are the Wanderlust Women (have a look for our Facebook page) and our aim is simple – to connect, share our passion for travel and make things happen.

The night was informal and we generally chatted amongst ourselves and got to find out about each other’s versions of travel. I was asked to share my experiences as a solo traveller, particularly when it came to trekking to Everest Base Camp last year, and I must say it was great to be able to share my experiences and hope it helped others to realise that, yes, they can do whatever they set their mind to.

Brit from G Adventures gave us a run down on the possibilities that her company provides for solo travellers and the broad range of trips they have available. With G Adventures whatever you would like to do, you can. And the lucky Keri won the door prize for the night – a 6 day Thai Local Living trip run by G Adventures.

Lucky prize winner Keri with Brit from G Adventures

Lucky prize winner Keri with Brit from G Adventures

The night was a huge success and a credit to the organisational skills of the girls at Brice & Turner; we had fun, we met new people and made new friends and realised that although we may travel solo we don’t have to travel alone.

This group intends to go places!

We don’t all have the same travel dreams, some of the girls want to head to European cities or Greek islands and take cooking lessons or learn the local language, some yearn to take a cruise or travel by train through mountain scenery. Some of us want to get physical, to climb mountains, cycle through different cultures or take to the water in kayaks or rafts and there are those who want to volunteer on projects in countries less developed than our own.

Helen & Shanntelle enjoying the evening

Helen & Shanntelle enjoying the evening

This group of women will make it happen. We’ll get together, we’ll plan and we’ll organise and we’ll make those dreams come true.

So often when it comes to our dreams, travel or otherwise, we come up with a list of reasons as to why we can’t; we don’t have enough money, we’ve got children, we don’t have time, we have to work etc. etc. We need to stop making those excuses, because that’s what they are, they’re excuses not reasons, and we just need to get on with it.

If I’d stopped to think about things I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t have done the amazing things that I have and I wouldn’t have met the people I have along the way. If my then husband and I had stopped to think about it, when we sold up and moved to the UK for five years when the girls were teenagers, we probably wouldn’t have done it and then there would be so many people we wouldn’t have met and so many places we wouldn’t have seen. The journeys we took made us who we are today and I like who I am today and who my daughters have become.

So, if you’re a woman who travels solo and lives in Perth, and want to connect with a group of crazy women whose addiction is travel and whose motto is ‘let’s do it,’ then you simply have to join us. There is no option (head tor the Wanderlust Women Facebook page and like us).

If you’re in other parts of the world then follow our lead and start your own group or simply get together with a friend or two and plan your next adventure.

Go on – do it – I dare you!

  

I want a Turret – Lake District Style.

John Ruskin's turret at Brantwood

John Ruskin’s turret at Brantwood

I want a turret. Not just any old turret, but a turret with a view. Somewhere that I can have a desk, old and preferably with a leather inlay, a chair, comfortable obviously and I want the turret built on to my library, the one I hope to have with walls of bookshelves, floor to ceiling with a ladder to reach the top shelf. I know exactly what my turret should look like because I have a model to work with.

                                                Brantwood, Coniston Water

That turret belonged to John Ruskin, 19th century visionary and advocate of free schools and libraries, amongst other things.  He built it onto his bedroom at Brantwood shortly after he bought the house in 1871 and it overlooks Coniston Water in the Lake District. I felt perfectly at home in that turret when I visited but, unfortunately, I don’t think it would quite work on my modest suburban home.

It did fit perfectly at Brantwood though where Ruskin, a regular traveller throughout Europe, settled for the last three decades of his life. Set on 250 acres on the banks of  Coniston Water, Brantwood began life as a modest farmhouse. What the visitor sees today is Ruskin’s creation of a grand home where visitors would arrive by coach and enter through a glazed doorway. The dining room that they would have been served in had a magnificent seven arched window providing a magnificent view of the Lake.

Coniston Water has a long and varied history. The Fells above the lake were a source of copper for the Romans and, during medieval times, it was owned by the monks of Furness Abbey. Just over five miles long the lake was the setting for numerous attempts on the world water speed record and in 1967 Donald Campbell tragically lost his life attempting to exceed 300 miles per hour. He actually managed 320 miles per hour on one run but the return leg saw his vehicle Bluebird somersault and crash killing Campbell instantly. Campbell’s was not the only body to end up in the lake either, in 1976 a local school teacher was murdered and her body dumped in it.

                                       Coniston Water, Lake Disrict, Cumbria

Whatever its associations, today Coniston Water, the third largest lake in the English Lake District at almost 5km², is a drawcard for tourists from all over the world. Many come to see the famous lake that took Cambell’s life, some come to see the places that Arthur Ransome put into his famous children’s book, Swallows and Amazons, while many others come simply to admire the sheer beauty of the place.

Whatever your reason for visiting, you should not miss taking a trip on the lake with Coniston Launch www.conistonlaunch.co.uk. The engaging commentary by the skipper provides information about the history and surroundings of the lake and special cruises on the solar-electric powered launches are also scheduled that will take you more deeply into the world of Swallows and Amazons or the history of the world water speed record attempts on the lake.The view from the launch is the best view that you are going to get of Brantwood and if John Ruskin was still around today he would probably be sitting at his desk in that turret watching you and the world go by.

Every writer should definately have a turret.

                                  View from John Ruskin’s turret at Brantwood

“Morning breaks as I write, along those Coniston Fells, and the level mists, motionless, and grey beneath the rose of the moorlands, veil the woods, and the sleeping village, and the long lawns of the lake-shore.”

Notes by Mr Ruskin on his drawings by J.M.W.Turner, 1878.

www.thelakedistrict.gov.au

www.brantwood.org.uk

 

  

Solo Travel for Women.

Travel the world

I’ve been asked to give a short talk later this week on my experiences as a solo female traveller; what my worries were when I first started travelling alone, what my fears are now and what practical problems I’m faced with.

The talk is part of a ladies meet and mingle, being held at a local boutique travel agency, with the idea of creating a group of like minded women who want to travel, explore and experience all that the world has to offer.

I’d never really thought about how I tackle travelling solo, which may seem strange, but I’d never actually sat down and thought about how I’d coped with travelling as a lone female – I’d just done it and dealt with it.

BEFORE SOLO

I’ve travelled a lot in my life, I did the seaside holidays with my family when I was a child and then we graduated to camping and fishing after our move to Australia when I was in my early teens. Luckily when I got married my husband was as keen on travel as I was and when our children were young the overseas trips began and then continued as they grew – campervan tours of Europe, a home exchange in the south of England, five years spent living and travelling through the UK, camping in Brittany, ferry trips to Jersey and following the trail of Edward II’s castles through Wales. We did a lot.

On all of these trips though I had someone else to help with the organisation, the logistics and the practicalities; Navigating airports, catching public transport in countries where I didn’t speak the language, driving on the wrong side of the road (which I NEVER did) and even talking to people. I’d always been very quiet and very shy and although I could organise, when it came down to actually speaking to people – at caravan parks and hotels and shops – I found it very difficult and needed to know that someone else was there to take over.

GOING SOLO

When I found myself in my early fifties going solo for the first time – in life and in travel – there were quite a few changes to be made to my way of thinking. I realised that I needed to leap way out of my comfort zone and prove to myself that I was capable of doing this. I wanted to change the way I travelled, where I went and what I did and I wanted to experience the world, not just see it.

So I did!
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Over the last ten years I’ve gone places and done things that I would never have considered when I was younger. I’ve flown in a light aircraft and in helicopters with no doors, I’ve gone fishing on the Ord River watched by crocodiles sunning themselves on the river banks and I’ve trekked so far up in the earth’s atmosphere in the Himalayas that I could touch the clouds, and I’ve done much of it as a solo traveller.

CHALLENGES FOR THE WOMAN GOING SOLO

There are a few common worries that women have when faced with travelling alone, they’re well addressed on other blogs and websites, so I’ll be brief here:

Eating alone – This is one that a lot of people struggle with and I must admit that I used to have problems walking into a restaurant by myself. Now, I always take a book and my notepad and journal with me, wherever I go and I make sure I have a bag big enough to fit them in, along with an assortment of pens and pencils. Then between courses or over wine or coffee I can read or write or simply people watch.

But that’s me.

If this isn’t for you, try choosing a café or restaurant that has a large communal table or sit at the bar if they serve food there. Catch someone’s eye, make conversation, find something in common. You can’t go past taking the advice of Jo here when trying to break the ice – she’s in a different situation but the advice still stands when it comes to connecting with people.

Cost – This can be a tricky one when so many places require that you pay a single supplement and yes, there are some things that you’re not going to be able to do as a single traveller, without forking out a fortune. I particularly figured this out when I looked at cruises recently. But there’s still lot’s you can do – work around it.

Security – This is one that seems to stop a lot of women from travelling alone, they’re worried about how safe they’ll be. Come on … I wouldn’t wander the streets of my own city alone at night, so I sure as hell won’t be doing it anywhere foreign.

Be sensible, that’s really all there is to it. Don’t put yourself in situations where you feel uncomfortable or where you’re likely to be at risk. Use your common sense and by the time you get to my age I’m hoping you have some. No dancing on tables in seedy nightclubs ladies!  

SHARING

Apart from these obvious issues that we face when we travel alone, which don’t tend to faze me too much, I find the thing that I get most annoyed and sometimes upset about is having no one to share the experiences with.

One of the things I enjoy most about travelling is the planning, those weeks and months before the trip when you decide where you want to go and what you want to do and then you organise it. You research and plan the accommodation, the transport, the trips, the sightseeing, the buying of extras you may need and, in some cases, the training. To be able to share this can make all the difference and sometimes I miss it.

I miss travelling with someone who is like minded – who enjoys the same things as I do, who I can have a laugh or a cry with and simply share the experience with. Someone who understands what I like and I don’t need to explain why, someone who just gets it. And how nice is it to sit with someone at the end of each day and have a glass of wine and make plans for the following day.

But sometimes it’s just nice to be by yourself, to please yourself and to revel in your ability to do that. To sit at the end of a day and smile to yourself when you realise what you’ve achieved in life, that’s allowing you to be right here, right now.

I enjoy travelling with others but it doesn’t worry me when sometimes I don’t. To be honest I’m thrilled that I’ve taken myself from that shy, naïve tourist that I was in my earlier years to a confident woman who at sixty is able to take on the world single handedly.

To be able to do that sometimes with a group of like minded women though, that would be an ideal compromise.

For any women in the northern suburbs of Perth, who are solo travellers and looking to connect with others in a similar situation, this meet and mingle is being held at the offices of Brice & Turner Travel Associates,  Currambine on Friday 22nd August at 6.00pm. If you’d like to attend please call 1800 605 044 to reserve a spot.

  

 

 

  

Cruising – is it for me?

Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas

Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas

Is cruising for me?

Up until yesterday I’d have said no, cruise holidays have never been on my radar. Why? I’ve always been a ‘do & see’ type traveller, one who likes to be on the go, whether it’s traipsing round ancient monuments, meandering through beautiful countryside or trekking in the backblocks of Nepal. I like to get the most out of wherever I am and to me that’s always involved immersing myself in the culture and history of a place.

I’ve never quite figured why would anyone would want to spend days on end hovering over squillions of litres of water going nowhere in particular.

I’d get bored on a cruise. Wouldn’t I?

Apparently not.

Yesterday I was invited to a travel information morning tea hosted by Brice and Turner Travel Associates, a new boutique travel agency in Currambine, in the northern suburbs of Perth. In just an hour the lovely Bronwen Milsom from Royal Caribbean Cruises changed my whole way of thinking when it comes to taking a leisurely cruise over the infinite blue ocean.

Cruise ships it seems are not what I thought they were. Boredom doesn’t come into it. Bronwen explained a few things to us and her passion for these ships was evident. A few of the insights I came away with are:

Eating & drinking:
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One of the greatest pleasures of travelling is to be able to experience different cuisines and to have a choice in when and what you eat.  Italian food, Asian food, a la carte or casual, whatever you fancy. I’d never seen that as possible on board a ship. The image that I had of on board dining, that of a huge dining room dotted with tables and chairs and separate sittings offering little choice is apparently outdated.

The cruise ships in this fleet have so many dining options that you’re almost spoilt for choice. Depending on the ship, you can eat in cafes or fine dining restaurants, have Italian, Japanese, seafood or steak, you can grab a burger, sandwiches or a healthy lunch and you could have a latte and cake or an ice cream to tide you over.

And then there’s your drinking options, champagne bars, cocktail bars, English pubs and several different lounges. Sobriety would be difficult.

Entertainment:

There’s lots to choose from.
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You can relax in a theatre and watch top musical acts, Broadway shows or specially created performances of water ballet in the Aqua theatre, you can watch ice shows or you can go to the movies. Or you can get involved. There’s karaoke to embarrass yourself with, themed parties to have fun with and nightclubs to dance the night away in. You choose.

If you’re feeling lucky head for the casino and spin the wheels or pull at the slot machines or maybe get serious with blackjack or poker. Or not.

Have fun;
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This is the part that really surprised me – the things you can do while you float across the ocean. These are just a few of the facilities available.

  •      Rock-climbing walls.
  •       Fitness centres.
  •       Miniature golf courses.
  •       Jogging tracks.
  •       Bungee trampolines.
  •       Ice skating – yes, there are ice skating rinks on some ships.
  •       FlowRider – the first ever shipboard surf parks are now onboard Freedom of the Sea and Liberty of the seas.

 Was I worried about being bored?

Just relax:

If you’re more of a relaxation type person rather than activity type person, it seems that, once on board, you can just let go of your mind and body and put it in the capable hands of the experienced consultants of the Caribbean Cruise line.

On offer are day spas, fitness centres, beauty salons, solariums, pools and whirlpools. You’ll have access to a full range of beauty treatments and massages, facials and even Chakra Stone therapy. And you can also listen to seminars on heath, beauty and fitness. To top it off you can have a healthy drink in the adults only solarium. 

And more:

There’s lots more that makes these cruises so amazing. There’s the Kid’s Clubs that cater for children of all ages and there’s the Teen Centres. You can go on shore excursions and there are various packages that you can pre buy that include food, drinks and entertainment. Just check out the Caribbean Cruise’s website here for lots more info.

The sting in the tale:

As with every scorpion there’s a sting in this tale. As a solo traveller I will have to pay twice the price if I want to cruise on one of these magnificent floating communities. They don’t do single rooms, so I either have to find myself a partner or pay for a virtual one, neither of which I’m keen on doing right now.
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But if you’re a couple or a family looking for a holiday where you can have everything organised for you and do as little or as much as you please these cruises could be for you. Prices are generally reasonable and there’s heaps for you to do. So, if I’ve wetted your appetite and you’d like to know more about Royal Caribbean Cruises just head to their website here.

For now, I think I might have to browse through the different cruises and dream of cocktails under starry skies and Mr Right suddenly making an appearance.

Morning tea hosted by Brice and Turner Associates, Currambine. Ph: 08 9304 2933

All photos courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

 

  

The Bride Wore Purple!

I’ve been trawling back through some old posts and came across this popular piece that I wrote after my niece’s wedding. This post from a couple of years ago has absolutely nothing to do with travel but it gave me my most views in a day, so I thought I’d share it again with you.

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Last night I went to a wedding. Nothing unusual in that, but the fact that it was at 5.30pm on a Wednesday, at a night club, had us a little irritated – mid week, peak hour traffic, work the next day. We were, however, intrigued. This was the wedding of a couple who like to do things their way, not necessarily the socially acceptable way, and we couldn’t help speculating on what would be in store for us.

None of our speculations came close and this turned out to be one of the most amazing weddings I have had the privilege of attending. As I said, the venue was a bar/nightclub, short on light but very atmospheric, with red velvet furnishings and comfy couches and chaise longues forming individual conversation nooks.

The bride wore purple, a strapless dress that showed off the intricate and extensive tattoo on her upper arm, and she carried a black bouquet. She looked stunning. The wedding cake was made up of cupcakes, pretty standard you might say, but each cupcake had a skull iced into the top, some with tophats, others with veils. The little bride and groom on the top of the cake had skulls instead of normal, smiling, fleshed out faces. I think you’re probably starting to get the idea.

The rings were individually designed by a friend of the couple, who spoke about the symbolism and history of wedding rings and the ceremony itself included quotes from such diverse artists as Dave Grohl, Dita Von Teese and Lisa Simpson. Then there was the entertainment. A Burlesque dancer with a live snake around her neck, a bearded lady and a very interesting lady (and I use the term loosely) who finished her act with her nipples on fire. As we left, the live band was setting up and I’m guessing it would have taken the youngsters through to the early hours of the next day.

Different, but so them. This couple had a brilliant night and it showed. The bride did not stop grinning, she was having a ball. They were celebrating their love and their marriage in a way that meant something to them and it didn’t matter whether anyone else was impressed or not.

But we were. Impressed that is. Because it was what they wanted and they had the spunk to pull it off. Sixty years ago the bride’s grandparents had married the way that they wanted, a traditional wedding in a local church with lots of bridesmaids in frilly frocks, huge bouquets of flowers and a silver service reception for family and friends. Last night, that groom, now 85 years old, had a ball at the wedding of his purple clad, tattooed granddaughter. He had his photo taken with the scantilly clad snake lady and he rocked on the dance floor with those a quarter of his age.

We can only hope that people like this young couple continue to challenge our preconceptions about social convention because, after all, isn’t change, and accepting it, what life’s all about?

A beautiful bride and her equally beautiful bridesmaids pre wedding

I hope the observant among you have, by now, noticed her shoes.

The bridal party – amazing photo!
The venue – The East End Bar, Fremantle
Now that’s a wedding cake.
Hmmmm ….
Those cupcakes were divine – thanks Shannon.
Designs created by the bride

I hope you all agree with me that this was an amazing wedding. A huge thank you to Angela & Jason for allowing me to post these photos and to Warped Photography (http://warped-photography.smugmug.com/ ) for providing the first three.