life

Life’s too short, or is it…?


You’ve heard the old adage: life’s too short to be somewhere, do something, etc etc. Personally that saying has at times been the catalyst to powerful decision making, propelling me onto paths I never expected to walk and moved me in directions that nurtured my soul and nourished my appetite for incredible adventures.

I don’t often voice those 3 words, rather, for me its a feeling, a response to a situation or probably more profoundly a knowing that something within that situation just isn’t right. My body responds negatively. My being tenses and withdraws and there’s an intense feeling of being caged and unable to move. I ponder my emotional and physical response before the feeling envelopes me and urges me to act.

And I do.

In doing so, I’ve come to realise that life truly is too short to spend time pondering or worrying whether you should or shouldn’t be somewhere or be doing something that causes stress. In my experience, if I’ve had to ask myself if life is too short to be where I am, then maybe I’m not meant to be there. And when I have acted, I’ve found myself having some incredible moments. In 10 days, I made a swift decision to move to Taiwan to teach English, in which I made lifelong friends. I accepted a photojournalism job in India where I found myself constantly taking selfies with an hilarious water buffalo whose name was Buff. And I began an 860 kilometre walk across Spain that was one of the most self-reflecting journey’s I’ve ever embarked upon.

Our footprints are meant to be left anywhere and everywhere. So if you do find yourself questioning where you are from an emotional or physical perspective, maybe it’s time to leave your footprint and begin a new journey.

Life really is never too short, maybe it’s just the time spent in one place that is …

life

For Mum: beautiful memories…


She did not use words to voice her excitement, rather, Mum’s excitement was shown through expression. Her smile grew wide and her eyes sparkled like those of a toddler who delighted in the gifts that lay beneath the Christmas tree. Her fingers glided over the electronic buttons embedded in the armrest, and her eyes rested upon the menu that was placed neatly on her seat alongside the amenities pack.

As she began to settle in her Business Class seat on a Qantas flight bound for Frankfurt via Singapore, tears began to glide down her cheeks. She turned toward me and slowly mouthed a simple, ‘thank you’.

I will never forget that moment. She was so happy, so thankful and so excited. I hugged her warmly, then together, we chinked our chilled glasses of champagne, took a long sip and revelled in the moment.

Adjacent to us, my boys then 10 & 12, were excitedly exploring the gadgets, gifts and myriad of entertainment on offer in the expansive seats that made them look very small. And whilst Mum’s excitement was contained, theirs was not, and with every new discovery, squeals of joy permeated through the cabin.

Watching my family’s happiness, I was thankful. Thankful for being a Qantas employee whose benefits included free Business Class tickets to any destination in the world, and thankful that I could share those benefits with those I loved.

I had surprised Mum with the tickets after previously speaking with Dad. He did not want to come, rather, he felt a trip with Mum and my two sons was a perfect idea. Knowing Mum adored Europe, I knew that was the perfect place for us to go, and as I believed, as did Mum that the best experiences were those that happened serendipitously, our itinerary was unplanned. The only sure thing was the month long booking of a hire car that we’d collect on our arrival into Frankfurt Main, and from there, who knew.

Many hours later, with Mum and Rob in the back of our hire car and Max, as self-appointed navigator in the front, we set off through the dark, underground car park in search of the exit. This simple task turned into a laughter filled adventure when the boys spotted a sign with the words Ausfahrt splashed across the vivid, green background. Farting noises and giggles followed and despite discovering it was german for exit, throughout our journey, it was a constant source of amusement for them.

On Christmas morning 2007, with giggles abated, we finally emerged from the darkness to find ourselves immersed in a spectacular, snow filled landscape.

It was indeed a very merry Christmas.

For the next few weeks, the laughter was in abundance and the adventures numerous. You loved that trip and in the years following, you spoke of it often.

Lake Annecy, France

It has now been 14 years since that wonderful adventure, and as today is the anniversary of my first year without you, I felt sharing some of our adventures is a fitting tribute to honour the beautiful, funny, crazy and incredibly loving woman, mother and grandmother that you were.

I’m so grateful for our relationship, so grateful that I was always there for you and so grateful you were always there for me. I’m so happy I took you to Europe, Bali and many other destinations we found ourselves in. So grateful we spent the afternoon of Christmas Day watching the world go by at Mooloolaba beach from the comfort of the car. Dogs on laps, we laughed as you did a running commentary of people strolling by. You loved that. You loved it when we took many leisurely drives through the countryside. We would stop many times to take in the quiet, and simply to be.

Mum, I could write for hours about all the things we did together, and I love that only we shared so many crazy, laughter filled moments.

‘Slipping’ on rainy streets in Singapore, crazy ‘mattress rides’ in France, being the ‘pied piper’ on Austria’s winding roads, sipping vin chaud in quaint bars, and feeling like fugitives in Switzerland. How could we forget Delphine throwing cooking oil on unsuspecting drivers in Germany, then the laughter filled snowmobile rides on France’s glorious snowfields. At home, those endless hours chatting downstairs, whilst Dad sat snoring happily in an adjoining chair. How we laughed when in unison, we would say, ‘Ken/Dad, go to bed…’.

I am so lucky to have so many memories and so many photos of our life together.

I won’t pretend to say I’m not sad, I am, I’m heartbroken knowing I can no longer create memories with you. Yet despite my sadness, I know you were so happy that we were so close and that replaces all my sadness with joy.

Mum, you were my best friend and my greatest support.

I will miss you forever…

life

A letter to Mum…


It’s 0730, around the time I normally call, and knowing I can no longer continue this mutually enjoyed ritual of ours, one week after you passed is surreal.

In the few weeks leading to you leaving, I knew something wasn’t right: and it was as if you somehow knew your time here was coming to an end. You didn’t speak in a negative voice, for you never complained about your life, on the contrary, you were so happy, particularly these last 7 months. But I believe you somehow knew your stroke was pending, and you were at peace with that. You had completed your journey and now it was time to start another. And as I held your hand last week, I knew you struggled knowing you would soon leave me. I told you I would be ok if you needed to go and my words, I believe, gave you peace.

I didn’t want you to leave, but you were so frustrated at not being able to communicate or move your body. Yet you maintained your humour: pulling faces, poking out your tongue, albeit sideways and we could see the joy in your eyes at knowing those who truly loved you, were there, holding your hand.

You said many times how happy you were. You spoke of your happiness at being so close to me, the boys and the pups. You spoke of how you were now free of fear. Fear that came from worrying if they would find you. Once reassured they couldn’t & wouldn’t, your fear dissipated.

You did not harbour hatred for what they did, rather, you released them from your life without bitterness. We both did. We released those you trusted for deceiving and stealing from you. Yet whilst you were at peace with the deceit, you didn’t forget. Didn’t forget how those who were once family, used your money at whim and depleted your once healthy bank account. Your anger centred more toward the fraudulent use of Dad’s credit card and how they had used his card and spent over $5000. This discovery was painful because we knew Dad felt little for them in his final years. Their lack of communication and lack of visits fuelled his feelings – it hurt him, yet Dad did not allow that hurt to define him. Yet when we were heard ‘S’ claim she was the only daughter who received all his love – oh how we laughed at that Mum, for we knew differently. As he, like you, had released her from his life. Yes, on the rare occasions they were spoken of, their audacity, stupidity and hypocrisy gave us endless entertainment.

Yet we took their deceit for what it was and found their blatant audacity in leaving their digital fingerprint across countless transactions the epitome of stupidity. Such ignorance made it so easy for detectives to find and create a fraud investigation. Pages and pages of transactions showed over a period of 3 years, $30,000 was spent without your consent or knowledge. We wondered why you spent so much on cigarettes when you didn’t smoke, and found it highly amusing that you bought sperm from Seattle. We figured that was for when you found that man your searched for with the E Harmony account you somehow created without internet access. Yet what intrigued and amused us most, was the fact you spent thousands, at age 89 years old, to undergo IVF.

Oh how we laughed at that IVF discovery Mum, we laughed at their blatant ignorance at believing their expenditure of your money would not be discovered. And we rejoiced at knowing it had, knowing they were exposed. Rejoiced that one day, their time will come. You won’t see that now, but it will, even if it does take the detective’s estimate of 8 years to come to court, I will see it through for you.

Most of all we rejoiced at being free, being together and being so, so happy. We forgot about them and simply lived happily. You, just as Dad did, would speak of having 2 daughters and 4 grandchildren. You were not sad at seeing their evil words in emails and how they had stated they wanted nothing more to do with you, conversely, you were at peace with that. Just as Dad had been at peace with their lack of presence in his life.

Whilst sorting through your clothes yesterday, I found a t-shirt you wore often. It reads; No Regrets. You definitely did not have any regrets and I love wearing that t-shirt as it smells of you and that makes me smile.

I’m so grateful for our relationship, so grateful that I was always there for you and so grateful you were always there for me. I’m so happy I took you to Europe, Bali and many other destinations we found ourselves in. So grateful we spent the afternoon of Christmas Day watching the world go by at Mooloolaba beach from the comfort of the car. Dogs on laps, we laughed as you did a running commentary of people strolling by. You loved that. You loved it when we took many leisurely drives through the countryside. We would stop many times to take in the quiet, and simply to be.

Mum, I could write for hours about all the things we did together, and I love that only we shared so many crazy, laughter filled moments.

‘Slipping’ on rainy streets in Singapore, crazy ‘mattress rides’ in France, being the ‘pied piper’ on Austria’s winding roads, sipping vin chaud in quaint bars, and feeling like fugitives in Switzerland. How could we forget Delphine throwing cooking oil on unsuspecting drivers in Germany, then the laughter filled snowmobile rides on France’s glorious snowfields. At home, those endless hours chatting downstairs, whilst Dad sat snoring happily in an adjoining chair. How we laughed when in unison, we would say, ‘Ken/Dad, go to bed…’.

I am so lucky to have so many memories and so many photos of our life together. Ironically, they are now requesting my images – maybe if they’d spent more time in yours and Dad’s company, more frequently, they would have their own images to reflect upon.

I won’t pretend to say I’m not sad, I am, I’m heartbroken knowing I can no longer create memories with you. Yet despite my sadness, I know you were so happy these last months and that replaces all my sadness with joy.

Mum, you were my greatest support.

I will miss you forever…

life, travel

A little Italian flavouring…


As the road carved its way through France’s Auvergne region, the landscape was a blend of Tuscany’s rolling, green hills and Austria’s lush meadows.

Even a few splashes of Spain, for terra-cotta roofs dotted the landscape, sprinkling the scene with a little Italian flavour.

And as Lyon drew closer, ragged cliff faces framed the road, before giving way to bridges spanning across vast valleys, where cows grazed, and random poppies peered across fields.

In the distance, mountains stood tall against the horizon. Scatterings of past winter snowfalls lingered steadfast against the spring sunshine.

Europe: always a celebration of colour, culture and diversity.

life, photography, travel

A Lyonnaise market…


In the early morning spring light, well-worn paths are framed with rows upon rows of vibrant, fresh produce.

At every stall, small silver bowls are selected, then filled with delicious morsels that will later become the foundation for building mouth-watering meals.

Melodic chatter fills the air as locals barter for a bargain, tourists linger and friends gather to share stories and laughter. 

Fresh, simple. Beautiful.

I take time to simply observe the simplicity of the moments. Moments that are unhurried, moments that are embraced.

And as a solo traveller who does not need to move within another’s time frame, I have the freedom to move to my own rhythm.

A rhythm that does not have me visit tourism offices, nor to source ‘to do’ sights. In doing so I discover interesting places, and more often than not, those wondrous, out of the way places where locals gather.

Such was the Lyonnaise market…

photography, travel

Not all who wander are lost…


Wandering excites the senses and creates a myriad of experiences.

Emotive, exciting & reflective experiences that shape who we are.

What follows is a small snapshot of experiences that have shaped my greatest loves: travel, animals and photography…

life, travel

Realisations & friendly strangers…


For quite some time I’d entertained the idea of buying a house in or around the Dordogne region of France.

I’d spent countless hours scouring the pages of Rightmove bookmarking properties, yet when I finally arrived, it simply didn’t feel ‘right’,

The town of Brive la Galliarde was exceptionally beautiful, as was the apartment I rented. It’s circular staircase snaked upward through the centre of the building, stone steps worn from the imprint of many footsteps that tread upon them over many years, or possibly centuries.

A Juliet balcony overhung the cobblestone street that carved its way through buildings dating back to the 17th century. It was historically mesmerizing: but again, I didn’t feel it.

However rather than wallow in the disappointment, I embraced the fact that I was meant to come here and make the realization that this is simply not my place.

And that’s okay.

Yet still my love affair with France continues: it’s language, it’s people and it’s culture pull me into its melodic web.

And that sentiment shone brightly yesterday when I arrived in Lyon and stopped at a street cafe for a beer after a long walk to the hostel.

Just as I took my first sip, a group of people approached my table and asked me something in french. Obviously not understanding their quickly spoken words, yet as I’d perfected my short, french spiel, l happily blurted: ‘… ah je suis australien, et je ne parle en petit peu Français, parlez plus lentiment, s’il vous plait.

Basically saying, but probably butchering their beautiful language: ‘I’m sorry I only speak a little french, could you please speak slowly’.

There were no raised eyebrows or sly sniggers, quite the contrary. They graciously responded by speaking perfect English with oh so sexy accents.

Funnily enough, after exchanging stories bestowing them with more of my childlike french, they said when I spoke french, for them, I sounded sexy!!! Too many Pernods perhaps?

What I found most humbling during my time with these lovely people was their kindness and willingness to help me with my french. I was also extremely touched by their praise for my apparent bravery at travelling solo, however I never feel my solo travels are brave.

It’s interesting to see yourself through someone else’s eyes as I have never labelled myself as being brave.

So as dusk begins to ascend upon my travels and my time in Europe draws to a close, I’m humbled as to where I’ve left my footprint.

I’m grateful for where I’ve been, who I’ve met and what I’ve achieved.

So for now, I’ll spend my last few days in France enjoying the company of an old friend.

And the next chapter? That remains unwritten…

life, travel

A French love affair…


Walking along paths framed by wheat fields, climbing across majestic mountains and traversing through forests whilst being stalked by horses was an experience I’ll never forget.

And already, I deeply miss walking the Camino.

I miss the feeling of knowing the morning heralded another day of simply being in the present. Another day of simply placing one foot in front of another, hour after hour. It was so humbling and and so rewarding.

I truly wish I’d had more time to finish the entire Camino: unfortunately I did not.

But like others before me, I will return.

Instead, I’m continuing my love affair with France, a country I adore. The language, the landscape and the friendliness of the people.

Some may ‘tut tut’ at that last sentence, but I’ve always found French people to be warm and friendly.

This visit is no different.

My chance encounter with a French couple who’d just completed the entire Camino [Le Puy en Valay to Finisterre, approx 1600kms]. They happily shared very useful advice on walking Le Puy.

Bruno, my Airbnb host who warmly accepted my very last minute booking ( 1 hour), and who then praised my poor French language skills.

The wonderful people who invited me into the masses to enjoy and support Gay Pride.

And today: the wait staff at a restaurant where I stopped for lunch. They chatted animatedly with me before inviting me to join them later for drinks and dinner. I declined as I needed to get back to my Airbnb, however I was humbled by their kindness.

Tomorrow I head further north for a few days of walking through old villages, before heading to Lyon to spend time with an old, dear friend who I’ve not seen in quite a few years.

And just as my love affair with France continues, so does my love of travelling solo.

I’m never lonely, never frightened and despite missing my precious sons, special friends and of course my beloved sausages, life is sweet.

To those who fear solo travel, fear not, for it truly is an amazing experience that heightens the senses and soothes the soul…

❤️❤️🐾🐾❤️❤️

travel

Two days and counting…


Daphne has been dressed and undressed multiple times over the last few days. She’s been pulled, prodded, squeezed and squashed, but all for a good cause. For Daphne is and will be my main companion over the coming weeks and her bits being just right is paramount for our upcoming journey.

If you don’t know me personally, then I imagine you could be somewhat confused with the first paragraph. But if you do know me, then you’ll know I’ve always had a penchant for naming inanimate objects, particularly luggage. I spent over 20 years travelling the world as an international flight attendant, and giving my luggage names simply became the norm.

With that explained, Daphne, if you hadn’t already figured is my backpack. And a rather lovely one at that. She’s a ruby red, rather slim 28 litre Deuter: which means I need to be ruthless with my packing choices. Couple that with the fact Daphne and I will literally be joined at the hip, reducing her weight is a necessity.

Stanley, my beloved wire-haired dachshund is not too happy about Daphne’s presence…

So I’m pleased to say she weighs a doable 6.5 kgs. A little over the suggested 10 % of the carriers body weight ( I’m 59kgs) but all in all I think we’ve done well. There are items that have no emotional attachment, so if I need to offload on the way, it’ll be easy.

However I’ve also packed an item that DOES have emotional attachment. My Dad’s rain jacket.

He passed away 2 years ago, and I felt it was really important to carry something that belonged to him. Whenever I travelled he would often tell me to make sure I was warm or dry, so taking his rain jacket is for me poignantly significant. It is also something that he and Mum bought together, so in some ways they are both coming along for the ride. Which, as Mum told me yesterday, makes her really happy.

So with Daphne sorted and Stanley somewhat miffed and definitely suspicious of what lies ahead, we are pretty much ready.

Yep, two days and counting… 🙂

travel

A walk across Spain…


A few years ago I watched a beautiful movie titled The Way. A touching story about a man whose life changed after walking the Camino de Santiago.

Call me ignorant, but I’d not heard of the Camino before watching this film, but in the aftermath of its ending, I was left feeling the need to discover more.

And on researching, I realised I wanted to walk the Camino. Not because I needed to mirror the impact it had on Martin Sheen’s character, but because I simply wanted to experience the emotional and physical challenges the Camino appeared to present.

As a self-proclaimed empath, it’s the emotional challenges that will undoubtedly be the most confronting. Why? Because the thought of having to share ‘personal space’ with strangers is terrifying as my need for solitude is a profound part of my being. Without it, I tend to become anxious and withdrawn. Couple that with my fear of socialisation and you have to wonder why I’m subjecting myself to such obvious personal adversity. But isn’t that what life is about? Finding ways to challenge adversity, albeit personal or otherwise?

Yes, I could opt out of dormitory accommodation and choose to stay in private rooms, but what is the point of that? In doing so, I’d be taking the easy way out and not honouring my reason for walking, which is, to experience the challenges.

And that brings me to the physical challenge of walking up to 30 kilometres a day across diverse terrain. Funnily enough I’m exhilarated at the thought of placing one foot in front of the other, hour after hour. These long treks will be my emotional charging station. My time for refection, my time for solitude. My time to allow the weight of past hurt to slowly slip away with every forward step. Of course fear is there, I’m human after all, but the need to discover things about myself is far greater than that fear.

My walk across Spain will undoubtedly present a myriad of emotional, physical and social challenges. And as I write these words in the comfort of my home , surrounded by my beloved dogs, I’m ready, ready to embrace whatever the Camino places in my path.