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.

Here’s the thing, when I finally arrived, I simply didn’t ‘feel’ it.

Interestingly, the apartment I had in Brive la Gailliarde was beautiful.

A circular staircase snaked upward through the centre of the building, it’s steps worn from the imprint of many footsteps that have tread upon them over many years, and quite 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. Unlike my wanderings through Toulouse where the energy was intoxicating.

However rather than wallow in the disappointment, I embraced the fact that I was meant to come here and make the realization: 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 stopped at a street cafe for a beer after a long walk to the hostel.

Still wearing Kevin, (Daphne didn’t suit ‘him’) my faithful pack, we had to squeeze ourselves in between small, round tables and bright red chairs. I guess I could’ve just off loaded Kevin, in hindsight it may have been easier, but I didn’t think I’d be there long.

Just as I took my first sip, a group of people approached me and asked me something in French. Now having perfected my spiel, ‘l happily blurted out (and no doubt butchered, their beautiful language).

‘… ah je suis australien, et je ne parle en petit peu Français, parlez plus lentiment, s’il vous plait.

Basically 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 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 soundly sexy!!! Too many Pernods perhaps?

There you go, learn a little French and cut yourself loose in France: you never know your luck 😳😳🤣.

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.

I was touched by their praise, however I never feel my solo travels are brave.

It’s interesting to see yourself through someone else’s eyes: I would never have thought myself brave – ah c’est la vie…

So as dusk begins to ascend upon my travels and my time in Europe draws to a close, I can look back upon where I’ve left footprints.

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

Brave? Personally I don’t think so: challenging, inspiring & humbling are words that come to mind.

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

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.

travel

Alongside the laughter: reposting travel tales from Blogger….


I love Europe, but I am also Australian, which is somewhat problematic when wanting to indulge that European passion.

On the bright side though, I was also an international flight attendant.  For many years I served the masses from overloaded trolleys whilst hurtling across oceans in a sleek, silver tube bound for new adventures.

Needless to say this employment allowed me to partake in a number of my own, off-duty adventures. Not all were in my beloved Europe, nonetheless, they all offered adventure of various description of which I documented in a blog I no longer use.

A  few posts in particular captured the adventures of a few wintery weeks driving through regions of France, Austria, Switzerland and Germany. Rather than let those moments that were filled with mayhem and hilarity, yet also quiet contemplation melt into cyberspace, I have re-posted here.

Feel free to read on – maybe grab a wine or coffee as it could take awhile…

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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.

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HammerPhotography @ Sarinbuana Eco Lodge, Bali

 

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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…

yoga1
@HammerPhotography

india

Bargaining for the bucket…


My experience in India went up a notch yesterday.

Needing to buy a bucket and a case of beer, I set off on the back of a moped with one of the wonderful women from Animal Aid.

Of course that doesn’t sound out of the ordinary, but when you add a 3 – day old piglet, Julie’s son, a case of beer and 2 very large buckets, it becomes decidedly different.

I’ll explain.

The piglet is Maya, brought to Animal Aid 2 days ago traumatised with several puncture wounds, she was part of our moped entourage as she’s currently staying with Julie for rehabilitation.

So as I shuffled onto the back of the bike, I was handed Maya, who was safely housed in a pink crate similar to a supermarket shopping basket. Carefully placing her on my thigh, whilst my other hand grasped the treasured bucket we set off on our 10 minute ride back to Animal Aid.

However, I need to complete the picture.

On the ride back, Julie’s son Max (who’s 5) was perched in front of her with his feet on the treasured case of beer, whilst the other bucket (yes, I neglected to mention that), which was considerably large blue number, was squished in-between Max and the front of the moped.

It was quite an achievement to manoeuvre (for want of a better word) ourselves and our purchases on one small moped, then scoot along a semi busy road in India.

But manoeuvre we did.

Later, as the beer was consumed with friends over candlelight and good conversation, I had the overwhelming feeling that I was in the right place.

What had started as a bike ride to bargain for a bucket, ended with a night surrounded with like- minded people who shared my passion for animals, and a passion for experiencing all that life has to offer.

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india

Be angry or be chilled…?


Okay, so when things don’t go to plan you can do one of two things. Be angry or be chilled.

Although I have every right to be angry, it serves no purpose, so I’ve chosen the latter: to be chilled and accept that my elusive Indian visa will arrive in due course.

I’m a firm believer in fate: everything happens for a reason. I’m not here to question the reason, only to live by the hand fate has dealt.

So I remain in Australia with my departure date to India now visible only through the eyes of the Indian consulate.

But I have faith… stay tuned…

 

india, life, travel

Where for art thou Indian Visa…?


I’m starting to get a little concerned.  Why I hear you ask?  Well it’s like this.

I’m not sure if fate is preparing me for dealing with Indian bureaucracy, which according to a BBC report, is the worst in Asia, or my application for an Employment Visa is simply lying in a slush pile at the Indian Embassy silently screaming, ‘pick me, pick me.’

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Whatever the answer, with December 27 approaching at speeds likened to a B777 at 37,000ft, I’m a little worried. For without visa in hand, or more importantly my passport, which is of course lying in wait with my visa application, I’m not going anywhere.

Adding to the mix, I fear the delay is also due to the fact the big, fat man in the red suit is on his way.  Let’s be honest, the festive season invariably causes life outside of gift shopping to cease and only begins again when the contrails from his speeding sleigh have long since dissolved.

So where does that leave me?

Well that’s easy to answer, unlike my beautiful Oscar in the above image, I’m sending out positive vibes whilst patiently waiting, waiting, waiting.

Stay  tuned…

 

travel

An Indian adventure…


I’ve always been one to splash my life with colour. It’s been said at times the colours I splash across my world are somewhat extreme, but hey, as the cliche goes, that’s life.

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Once again, I’ve changed the colour of my world and I’m heading to Udaipur, India. Not to visit, but to live.

I head there knowing, or should I say, suspecting it will be a proverbial attack on the senses. For whilst I’ve travelled to many countries in my life, India is not one of them and I’ve no doubt that I’m about to be plunged into a life whereby my emotions and patience will be tested.

So this is the first of many posts where I shall share the laughter, the chaos and the colourful characters that will awash my new life .

 

Photo credit @stefan_haworth