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Sweet fearlessness

There are currents of our selves that flow beneath the surface – parts of our own minds that are dark matter even to ourselves. This is a story about fear and its many forms. And it’s also about a dog. As a child I had many fears. The dark, fairground rides, bumpy car trips,  classical […]

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Escape from the Anthropocene: Heron Island

I travel to Heron island in late January 2020. Australia is on fire, and I have the means to escape the smoke that has been choking Canberra since November. My world has narrowed to scanning the real-time air quality index for the brief moments safe enough to take my baby son outside. I have become […]

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Paradise for sale in Vanuatu

Soon after touching down on Vanuatu’s largest island Espiritu Santo, I am being driven through cow paddocks dotted with banyan and coconut trees to a beachside villa. A volcanic plume rises from neighbouring Ambae island, which is currently being evacuated. But we’re safe here, I’m reassured by our host John, as he hands me a […]

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A Kimono Story

  The first time I wore a kimono I was ten years old. I had been catapulted into the humid Japanese summer on a school exchange. Everything felt surreal and vivid. In a small mountain town during Tanabata, star festival, I was dressed in a pink and purple kimono by my host family, and we […]

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Meditation on skepticism

From the outset, I had an inkling that Hariharalaya yoga and mediation retreat, near Siem Reap in Cambodia, would be a pretty hippy and new-agey place. As someone who has been known to wear long, multi-coloured skirts with little bells on them, I probably am not in a position to be too judgemental. But if […]

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Words on meditation

In a post-Eat Pray Love world, self-discovery is as integral to travel as having cocktails on exotic beaches and taking selfies. Accordingly, when I was in Cambodia, I got on the bandwagon and went to a yoga and meditation retreat in a village outside of Siem Reap. I’d done yoga sporadically over the previous five […]

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Table for one – learning to travel alone

Before I actually tried it, the idea of travelling overseas on my own made me anxious. I wasn’t concerned about being lonely. The few times I had travelled alone in my own country I’d loved the sense of freedom and time for reflection that it gave me. What I was worried about was dealing with […]

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Why you need to be mentally tough to work in conservation

A few days after leaving Vietnam I found myself in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Something in my bathroom was leaking a clear fluid (hopefully clean water) all over the floor, and Don, the American expat-owner of my guesthouse, who had lived in Cambodia for 20-odd years, was hunched over the toilet trying to fix it. We […]

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Getting high in the conservation trenches of Vietnam

My volunteer stint at Save Vietnam’s Wildlife (SVW) began with a baptism of fire. It was a Sunday afternoon and I had been eating lunch at the sleepy village restaurant with a couple of other volunteers when SVW’s director Thai cruised past on his motorbike. They were going to rescue 22 pangolins that had been found smuggled […]

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The problem with the ‘poor but happy’ myth

‘They have so little but they’re so happy!’ I’ve heard this so many times from fellow travellers. The inference usually being that local people in the country they’ve visited are much happier than us stressed-out, time-poor and anti-depressant-popping westerners. I know it comes from a well-meaning place, but this statement makes me feel really uneasy. I’m […]

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Welcome to the world of the plastic beach: Halong Bay

When in Vietnam, doing a cruise on Halong Bay is apparently a non-negotiable itinerary item. If you are foolish enough to say you might skip Halong Bay, you will be treated by locals and other tourists alike as a stupid and miserly pariah. I had no doubt that thousands of limestone pinnacles rising out of […]

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The Graduation

It was 8 AM in the Sumatran village of Lempur. I emerged bleary-eyed from my homestay bedroom to find myself surrounded by high school beauty queens, giggling and chattering as they sparkled in colourful dresses and elaborate headscarfs. They all wanted selfies with me so, despite my dishevelled state, I dutifully complied. It was graduation […]

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Searching for the real thing in Sumatra

Since I was little, I’ve been drawn to rainforest. The way it drips with life. Like a promise that organic life on this lonely planet will live on forever. And anyone who loves rainforest dreams of going to Sumatra, a place where the romantic jungle of storybooks still exists in this age of the anthropocene. Most […]

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Kakadu in the wet

From the dry, cool confines of Canberra in spring, the idea of spending two weeks hiking in tropical Kakadu National Park seemed like the adventure of a lifetime and I signed myself up excitedly. As the hike drew nearer, however, I started to get nervous about hiking in the tropics. Now that I thought about […]

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Untourism in Timor-Leste

Every traveller dreams of a place untouched by tourism. But in our globalised world where ordinary people can be in another continent in mere hours, the search for the ‘authentic’ often turns out to be an Eldorado, always glittering just out of reach. If untouched places do exist, it is usually because war and the risk of being […]

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The call of the blue duck: Hiking in New Zealand’s Whirinaki Forest

The tail of a cyclone was headed our way with heavy rain forecast.  This was inconvenient as we were starting a three-day hike in the Whirinaki forest tomorrow. The Whirinaki is only two hours southeast of Rotorua on New Zealand’s north island, but to describe the area as off-the-beaten-track would be an understatement – we had possibly travelled backwards through time to […]

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