Posted on July 11, 2017
After our obligatory Melbourne food-coffee-shop-art fest, the three of us bundled into the car and meandered our way to the Grampians via the picturesque Great Ocean Road, Australia’s answer to Big Sur.
I recently came across the Japanese term shinrin-yoku, literally “forest bathing”. It refers to the recommended practice of visiting the forest for health benefits, both physical and mental. Nothing could be truer and articulates so perfectly the effect even a short trip out of the city does to us. The sharp fresh air, the quiet punctuated by only the gentle sounds of nature, letting your eyes settle on wide open spaces and distant horizons. It’s interesting that out there, one can experience true silence and true darkness, perhaps giving our senses the natural rest they need.
Ironically I write this whilst staring at my laptop screen in a bustling cafe, bass-heavy Lauryn Hill blasting from a speaker into my left ear, cars whizzing by on my right, and the barista is doing that thing they do where they bash equipment together really loudly for some reason or other. (Someone help me out here – what are they doing?)
But this is the reality of our everyday. So maybe tree-hugging shouldn’t be a term reserved for altruistic environmentalists alone, it might do us all some good. I’m convinced it does.
Posted on June 27, 2017
I gotta admit, I got onto that plane kicking and screaming on the inside, thinking that this was a very very bad idea. Why would I want to be a sleepless, frazzled new parent somewhere other than in the comfort of my own home.
Insane levels of sleep deprivation and the sudden transition from full-time professional to mother of a tiny being was wreaking havoc on my brain and sense of self. Well-meaning people, parenting websites, numerous books urged me to try all sorts of “fixes” and “routines” resulting in additional stress, making my nerves even more ragged and the tears fall faster.
This trip was in fact the antidote I needed. Every day was different by necessity, routine was out the window as we literally strapped Alexa to our bodies and got outside. We loved it and she loved it! It didn’t matter what we did, there wasn’t any secret magic except for enjoying nature, the act of exploring and simply connecting with one another. Taking the time to notice and drink in the trees rustling in the wind, waves crashing on sandy beaches, the changing colours only sunset can bring, the warmth of my beautiful baby in my arms, the gentle rise and fall of her tummy as she sleeps, placing a little kiss on her tiny lips.
Posted on July 17, 2016
Whilst I’m sitting here listening to the rain fall against my window, heater on, cup of tea in hand, dreams of the desert call to me.
One of the most highly anticipated stops along our road trip was none other than the iconic Joshua Tree National Park. We said a reluctant goodbye to our beautiful room at Ace Hotel Palm Springs, vowing to return one day, and sprang into our car, heading on to our next destination. We had a carefully laid out plan. Since we were travelling light(ish), we were going to check out the town, grab some supplies and hire a tent from Joshua Tree Outfitters before heading into the park to bags a campsite and squeeze in a quick hike.
One unforeseen problem – it was Wednesday. And why was that a biiiiiiig problem? Joshua Tree Outfitters don’t open on Wednesdays. And no one else in the tiny town hired out camp equipment. Stride-broken and crestfallen we commiserated our sad fate together in the car. We were contemplating sleeping out in the open (in rattle snake country) or at least in our car, when we went and did what non-delirious totally sensible people would do.
We bought a tent. That’s right, we bought a tent.
Cue carefree, jangly guitar road trip music again!
Driving into the park is like entering another world. Being from Australia, we’re no strangers to desert landscapes but we’d never seen anything like this. I distinctly remember letting out an involuntary, “Woooooah…” when we first caught sight of it. Dry, hulking mountains look down upon you and the numerous oddly shaped Joshua trees dominate your view for miles and miles.
Just a quick look at the nitty gritty for those keen to visit. Joshua Tree National Park is an extremely well-tended and well-loved park with great facilities for campers. You can traverse it with a regular car as all the necessary access roads are sealed and the campsites are pristinely clean. There are plenty of drop toilets, but no running water or electricity (I think there are one or two specific sites that do have these if you need them).
We found our perfect spot at the Jumbo Rocks Campground and pitched our tent quick smart in order to have enough time to embark on a hike up Ryan Mountain. Ryan Mountain is a 3 mile there-and-back hike that ascends 1070 feet (325 metres). Being crazy and highly excited noobs we set out in the middle of the afternoon whilst the sun baked down on us but we made do with plenty of water and in that heat even the ridiculously smallest of shrubs shed the most luxurious shade. The hike is not too long in terms of distance but it does ascend quite rapidly with very few flat spots for respite.
We were rewarded above and beyond our expectations and efforts. Due to the elevation, you get the most incredible views of the park from above, its mountains and unusual rock formations. Enduring the afternoon sun meant that we made it to the peak as the sun was beginning to set behind distant mountains – we were speechless for a while. I think it was just that beautiful and we were just that pooped. The golden hour in this part of the world during Fall lasts a long time but be sure to bring torches to ensure that your descent is safe.
Posted on March 21, 2016
Good golly, where has all that time gone…? In all honesty it’s been consumed by all-work but that doesn’t necessarily have to mean no-play, and the time certainly hasn’t been dull. Jinn has been knuckling down to smash the crap out of a few exams, and I’ve been settling into a new job after a very hectic and often stressful year. All the more reason to come back to this space and create and express.
So whaddaya know? Western Australia has mountains – real, bona fide, actual mountains. Well, mini ones by global standards.
Over the deliciously long four-day Christmas weekend, we made the split decision to go camping. Lured by the views promised from the top of Bluff Knoll and other peaks around the Stirling Ranges, we had been feeling an increasingly insistent desire to detach and go hiking – so off we went. It was the perfect idea, the campsites were peaceful and secluded whilst everyone did the family Christmas thing and the weather unseasonably and mercifully cool for summer.
That said, the trip was not without hitches. Keen to get up those peaks, in embarrassing noob fashion we found ourselves with desperately low levels of fuel right smack bang in the middle of the sprawling national park with the closest petrol stations closed and enjoying their Christmas barbies. And let’s not forget to mention a certain person falling down a waterfall on our way back home through Pemberton. (Not me.) Despite the dramas, a couple of spats, and a few heart-stopping near-death experiences, we had an incredible time and will definitely be getting ourselves down here again soon.
Recommendations? Of course you’ve got to do Bluff Knoll because it’s the climb, and the highest peak, and do believe people when they tell you it’s windy up top – pack an extra layer, preferably of the windproof, windbreaking kind. However, we’d recommend Mount Trio as it’s nestled amongst a bunch of other small mountains and provides magnificent views too. Be brave and don’t mind a bit of rock-scrambling. Sunset views are just breathtaking so remember to pack head-torches for your descent.
Posted on November 1, 2015
Jumping a little ahead in time, New York was the last stop in our holiday. By this time, we’d roasted ourselves in the Californian desert and breathed in the pine-scented air of the Oregon forests, and now found ourselves on the other side of this vast country pounding concrete, dodging yellow taxis, and weaving through the busy streams of people.
We decided this time round to stay in Brooklyn in a sweet apartment in Williamsburg, a great decision as it took us away from the Manhattan bustle and into the smaller and (slightly) less trodden streets where it’s more about being effortlessly cool than the incessantly bright lights and flashy Broadway smile. Relaxed chic is the brand, and places selling vintage threads to boutique cheese ooze out of every nook and cranny.
Brooklyn is the Solange to Manhattan’s Beyonce, and no offence to the Beycrew but I know who I’d rather hang with.
Posted on October 26, 2015
A few months ago we stumbled across Summer Camp’s ogle-worthy Instagram feed and developed an intense crush on the impeccable styling and unmistakable character (and ALL THE CACTI ZOMG). We hadn’t even heard about the tiny town of Ojai but after a little more searching and hashtag chasing we discovered that it was home and haven to many other creatives and great destinations. And so Ojai became a fast fixture in our itinerary, and we would recommend it to all driving through California!
Summer Camp is a gorgeous shop run by Rachel and Michael housed in a renovated old gas station that specialises in custom picture framing and faultlessly curated home decor, vintage collectibles with a healthy smattering of jewellery and other personal accessories.
Rachel, store curator and mumma extraordinaire, draws from the nostalgia and aesthetic of her childhood summer camps to create a space that really transports you there, almost as if you’ve walked into a Wes Anderson movie! Focussing also on locally made goods, her collection of ceramics and woodwork is an absolute dream. A single visit to this place and I guarantee you will feel like setting up a teepee and never leaving.
Summer Camp / IG @shopsummercamp / 1020 W Ojai Ave, Ojai, California
Posted on September 23, 2015
Palm Springs is quite possibly the coolest little desert gem ever. And within said gem, Ace Hotel & Swim Club is more than reason enough to take that absolutely gorgeous drive out from LA. A great place to soak in the endless sunshine and poolside vibes, its proximity to Joshua Tree National Park and other must-sees like Salvation Mountain and Moorten’s Botanical Garden and Cactarium means that it is the perfect spot to relax, down a cocktail or two and get a facial before continuing the rest of your adventure.
Effortless cool and decor that simply oozes Coachella Valley meant that the checkout process practically involved a crowbar and an eviction notice to get me outta there.
Ace Hotel Palm Springs / 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92264 / email@example.com
Posted on September 21, 2015
So…it’s been a while. And after months of absence our reunion has been highly emotional. The last few days this here blog and I have run across a beach and flung ourselves into each others’ arms in slow motion. We’ve skated across a crowded ice rink searching for someone only to realise we’re the one each other has been waiting for our whole lives. You get the picture.
It’s not like I meant to leave for so long, but there are times when fortunately and unfortunately other competing goals take off and shoot you in another completely polar direction for some time. One part of my life was growing in a big way and consuming all my time and energy, mentally, physically and emotionally.
So our trip abroad came at the perfect time. It was a release from work pressures and time to reacquaint ourselves with things that bring pure pleasure and immerse ourselves in adventure and wonderment. What a way to feed one’s soul.
Our journey was both leisurely and fleet-footed as we practically consumed our surrounds as if stars and horizon-eating roads could sustain us. A teaser of the west coast took us into the desert then up Highway 1 to take in Big Sur. We collected pine cones and driftwood in Oregon until the big lights of New York City ultimately drew us in. And then as always happens, it was homewards for us but full, happy and satisfied.
Posted on March 30, 2015
With flocks of friends currently flitting around the world on holidays, it was inevitable that I’d return to take a look at our time spent exploring Burma. After Bagan, Inle Lake was most definitely another favourite destination of ours. It wasn’t just the endlessly serene and entirely unique waterscape that enthralled us, but also the chance to see the people, known as the Intha (literally, “sons of the lake”) living in and around the enormous body of water itself. Living in bamboo houses propped up high out of the water on stilts, the Intha have historically depended on the lake for everything. And this lifestyle is still evident this present day – you’ll see fishermen in tiny boats, some still employing the unmistakable leg rowing style found nowhere else in the world (some are legit, some just do it when tourists are whisked by), you’ll see rows of tomatoes and vegetables being cultivated atop beds of floating reeds as if on land, and people living life so naturally entwined with that of the lake, hopping blithely in and out of boats, going shopping, brushing their teeth, washing their clothes, and I dare not think what else.
Where to stay and how to get around:
Long story short, don’t stay on Inle Lake itself unless you’ve got stacks of cash to burn. We stayed in Nyaung Shwe, the township to which Inle Lake technically belongs, which is a mere 30 to 40 minute motorboat ride away from where the main action is on the lake.The majority of the hotels in Nyaung Shwe are strategically placed along waterways which makes hiring a boat and driver exceedingly easy, in fact the hotelier will generally organise this for you.
To get around the town and to nearby places it’s simple! Get on ya bike! Again, the hotel staff can sort you out with hiring one, and it’s super cheap.
What to do and see:
Spend as much time in and around the lake as possible, obviously! It’s pretty impossible for Inle to look bad, but the incredible light and reflections off the still water you get at sunset are unbeatable, don’t miss that. During the day, you must check out the local market. This was not the Thai-esque floating market I initially thought it would be and I’ll admit I’m not proud of the minor hissy fit I threw at first. Little did I know that this market was also frequented by all the locals buying their vegetables, spices, rice, pots and pans, and betel nut of course. Persevere and wade through the touristy dross that gets presented to you right front and centre to where the people gather around rickety wooden tables to buy and eat their lunch. Best tohu-thoke I have ever eaten in my life (Sorry, even better than yours Mum!). My advice regarding the food? Follow your nose. Follow the locals. Eat stuff that’s freshly cooked and hot if possible. Or just be like me and chance catching gastro it because it’s that good. (FYI I did not catch gastro!)
The other place I loved exploring whilst out on the water were the workshops that still practise the art of handloom weaving and the highly labour intensive craft of spinning lotus root fibres into threads. These exceedingly fine threads are used to make a fabric a little like coarse silk but much rarer and quite a bit more expensive, but for good reason!. It reportedly takes 32 000 lotus stems to make just one metre of this soft and unique fabric.
If you’ve got a tiny bit of time to spare and/or feel like doing something on land, hire a bike and cycle to the nearby Shwe Yan Pyay monastery, a beautiful 19th century structure built completely from teak. Walk around quietly and respectfully as this is still a fully functioning monastery. Go very early in the morning as the young monks are just stirring and congregating to have breakfast and beat the usual tourist rush.
How to get here:
There are a number of ways to get to Nyaung Shwe and Inle to meet any budget. I would recommend flying into Heho airport first (as the roads are pretty crappy and extremely tortuous due to the area being on an elevation) then making your way to the town of your choice by road. What I’d love to do next time is head to a nearby town named Kalaw first then trek to Nyaung Shwe, which typically takes two to three days, staying overnight in local villages along the way. Yet another reason to head back to this incredibly lush countryside.