life, travel

On leaving India…

I love being a silent observer: watching people move through their lives, bearing witness, yet devoid of the need to participate.

And I love having the freedom to move through life without plans or destinations in mind.

But I had a plan: a plan to be in India for 12 months, but for reasons difficult to explain my time in India ended, and despite the trials of getting there, leaving is something I am incredibly thankful for.

Rather than try to understand why it was not be, it can simply be said that I chose to follow my heart and release the weight placed upon me whilst being in India.

My decision to leave was made quite swiftly and within hours of doing so, I was ascending through the clouds on a Thai Smiles aircraft, leaving India and my unsettled feelings far behind.

The higher we climbed, the more elevated I felt.

I’ve always been one to follow my ‘gut’ and from the moment I stepped on Indian soil I felt an indescribable need to flee.  I also felt confusion for I have travelled extensively through 3rd world countries without ever feeling such an intense need to leave.

I had hoped on arrival at the Animal sanctuary where I was to work, those feelings would melt into the love I could share with the animals. And although the love for the many beautiful beings who called the sanctuary home intensified, unfortunately so did my feelings of dread.  All I wanted to do was run, I don’t know why and I cannot explain, in the end, I simply followed my instincts.

Trouble is, we broadcast our lives across the pages of social media: I do it, as do many others.  It is not for ‘likes’ or acceptance, it has simply become a way of life. More so for me as a writer and photographer, as I find the opportunity to document fulfilling.

However the dark side of social media can often raise its venomous head. The need to portray one’s life as perfect –  a life portrayed on the pages can sometimes be quite different from reality. And I probably fell victim to that, for behind the smiles and happy images, in reality I was filled with sadness and dread.

There were a few exceptions, I did absolutely ADORE Buff the water buffalo – he was simply divine! And I also felt peace with the beautiful Indian family who had warmly welcomed me into their home.

Their kindness is something I shall never forget: Sagar & Sahill you are truly gems – you made me laugh so much. A post entirely on your comings & goings and funny ways is sure to be in the making.

But despite my adopted Indian family, as the days lingered, my feelings of dread intensified and I knew in my heart I had to act. But where would I go?

A number of years ago, I was travelling through Europe and one afternoon whilst strolling through Paris without a destination in mind, I decided to follow the ‘little green man’.

To explain, when stopped at an intersection, I would simply walk in the direction of the flashing green man ‘walk’ sign. In doing so, I found myself wandering along side streets devoid of tourists, where Parisians adorned bars and cafes with their usual nonchalance and style.

However not having a little green man to follow in India, I chose the next best thing: Skyscanner’s ‘everywhere’ button.  Once having typed a departure city, Skyscanner gives the option of choosing Everywhere, which brings up countless flights from cheapest to most expensive. And that’s how I ended up in Bangkok – it was cheap and easy to get there and having flown there often as airline crew, I knew it was the hub for numerous other destinations. Once there I used Skyscanner’s ‘everywhere’ again and found myself booked on a flight to Bali.

And by simply following my heart again, I stayed at the beautiful and tranquil Sarinbuana Eco Lodge, free of charge. In exchange for an incredible villa and meals I simply shot images for their website and social media pages.

HammerPhotography @ Sarinbuana Eco Lodge, Bali


HammerPhotography @ Sarinbuana Eco Lodge, Bali

Tomorrow I head to a villa in Canguu where I shall be spending a couple of weeks dog-sitting 3 fur-babes whilst their Mum heads overseas.

How is this is all possible?  Through a site called Workaway, I wont go into detail, but click on the link to get more info.  In a nutshell, you do a few hours work a day and in return, you are given accomodation and food.  For me it is not about travelling on the cheap (although it certainly is that) moreover, it’s about having the opportunity to travel and be immersed with local people.

Unfortunately I will have to leave Bali by 18 Feb as I made a massive faux pas at the airport regarding my visa, but hey, maybe that’s the little green man making my decisions for me.

Stay tuned…


A bittersweet farewell…

With the arrival of a long-awaited Indian visa, the day of my bittersweet departure has dawned.

I say bittersweet because I’m torn. Torn between the joy of fulfilling dreams and the pain of leaving behind those who complete my world.

Max, Rob, Stanley, Oscar, Simon, Eddie & Mum, fill my life with love, laughter and joy: leaving them, albeit temporarily breaks my heart.

“I feel so selfish,’ I said to Mum this morning. “I desperately want this job in India, but I don’t want to leave you, the boys and the pups”.

My ‘pups’ are my adored four-legged family and they will not understand. And that breaks my heart.

A few years ago I went to live in Taiwan for 3 months and I wrote the post,  wish I could speak Dachshund  .  The feelings expressed in that post mirror my feelings today.

Interestingly enough Oscar, the patriarch of my canine pack is decidedly different today. Normally he is a very chilled, laid back chap who sits alone and simply surveys the day’s events without too much ado. Yet today, he has not let me out of his sight.

I believe he knows.  Yet he does not appear to be sad, which is comforting as part of me feels he is giving me the reassurance I need.  Letting me know it will be okay, and that I shouldn’t worry. As I write now, I can feel his gentle, rhythmic breathing – it is indeed reassuring and comforting.

Fast forward a few hours and I am now sitting at the airport waiting for the first on my four flights that will see me finally in India in 48 hours. And whilst I walked out of my door earlier this afternoon with quite a heavy heart, I also left knowing that all will be okay.

Bittersweet farewells indeed.





And before it truly begins, it ends… or is that end the real beginning??

I did a status update on Facebook recently that read, ‘Sometimes in life, we find ourselves in places we never thought we’d be, but we when have to leave, we find ourselves wanting to stay’.


In early November I moved to Penghu, an island off the coast of Taiwan, to take on a teaching position. When I arrived I found my new home somewhat daunting and foreign. I felt a little lost, a little alone and a long way from those I loved most. But this new life soon began to feel comfortable, and metaphorically, somewhat akin to buying a new dress. Initially, wearing that dress is exciting for it feels new and fresh, but it also feels strange as it doesn’t quite fit the contours of your body. Yet after a while, it begins to feel comfortable and before long, it fits perfectly.

That is how I felt following my first few weeks in Penghu. I had eased comfortably into my teaching role, created my space in a small apartment and fell a little in love with a few of my beautiful students, whose enchanting smiles and infectious giggles enriched my day. I knew I had found what I wanted to do and I was happy.

In those first weeks, I also heard about a place called The Beach Break 衝浪店, a funky little bar run by South African expat, Ted and his wife Shao Mai. It was apparently the place where the handful of Penghu foreigners (roughly 20 in total) gathered on Sunday afternoons to play music whilst enjoying cold beers and good company.

One afternoon I headed out to Shanshui, the quiet beachside village where the bar is located. After a 15 minute ride I arrived, and soon found the ramshackle bar tucked on the corner of the main street. It exuded character and charm.

A collection of well used boards...
A collection of well used boards…

Waxed surfboards stood against a graffiti covered wall and inside, a scattering of wooden stools and a well-worn leather couch created the space in which I imagined, many travel tales were shared.

At the bar, two men stood talking, obviously comfortable in each other’s presence and on seeing me, welcomed my presence with warmth and enthusiasm. That afternoon, in a little bar on a remote island, new friendships were formed and ones that filled my remaining weeks in Penghu with fun, laughter and true companionship. That dress had truly begun to fit, I loved my teaching role, I had formed new friendships and I was very comfortable living in this unique part of the world.

However, there was one element missing. My sons and my dogs. I missed them terribly and they missed me, yet we managed that ‘missing’ with regular Skype calls and messages and accepted that my plan to stay in Penghu for 12 months would remain in place.

Picture 9
Rob on Skype

But plans change. And change they did. Certain changes occurred at home and it meant my presence in Australia was needed and as a result, a decision had to be made. It was difficult, for I felt a strong sense of obligation to fulfill my contract in Penghu, yet as a mother my children’s needs were of paramount importance and therefore naturally overrode my needs and the needs of others.

Within days, hurried travel arrangements were made amid mixed emotions and tearful farewells to my beautiful students and a group of people who had quickly become my Penghu ‘family’. The kindness and care from Wednesday, Lisa and the lovable Bamboo had touched my heart and saying goodbye was not something I wanted to do so soon after meeting. And bidding farewell to Vivien, who I met quite by chance one day at another friends house, was particularly difficult. A beautiful woman of Taiwanese heritage, who had lived in Germany for many years and as a consequence, spoke with an accent that was a wonderful mix of Chinese and German.

Dinner at Peters…

Shortly before I decided to leave Penghu, I was at Viv’s house sharing a good bottle of French red and great conversation. Asking her advice relating to my need to head home she offered these words: ‘Jen, does it make sense’, at that moment I knew staying in Penghu didn’t make sense and I had to go home despite my strong desire to fulfil my commitments in Penghu. Adding to my distress, I now had my ‘Penghu kids’ who were depending on me and the thought of disappointing them tug at my heart. But Viv’s 5 words put everything into perspective and I thank her for that and also thank fate for allowing our paths to cross.

Ancient village…

I am now home and happy. My 3 months in Penghu changed my life in many ways. That unique little island gave me direction and my wonderful children who I had the pleasure to teach, fuelled my desire to take my teaching to another level and as such, I am about to commence Graduate Diploma in Teaching. And my wonderful new friends? We will meet again, maybe in Penghu or maybe elsewhere.

Sometimes we do find ourselves in a place we never thought we’d be and if you happen to find yourself there, embrace it for it may shape the rest of your life, as Penghu has for me.

Abandoned house: Shanshui