I live in the seaside village of Thirroul about 60km south of Sydney, Australia. Set between a cerulean ocean and a lush, green rainforest, my home is in a place that tourists come and people envy. They don’t understand why I would need to leave it. But I have always been a traveller. It’s in my blood and is as much a part of me as breathing.
I had my first taste of travelling when I was fourteen. While my friends left for the coast to camp away the school holidays my mother took me on my first overseas trip to visit my sister in Jakarta, who was there on a cultural student exchange. To this day I can feel the wall of humidity that hit me as I walked off the plane. I can still smell Jakarta – a heady mix of clove cigarettes, incense, diesel and just a hint of sewage. The city was overwhelming with its the crazy traffic, swarming crowds, towering skyscrapers, and putrid slums. I was alienated – and completely fascinated. It had a very powerful impact on my naive, fourteen year old mind. The fire was lit.
I am no novelty. We Australians are great travellers, mostly from necessity. It takes five hours to fly from east to west in our country. Hop a plane from Sydney to Singapore and four hours later you are still above what we affectionately call the GAFA (the Great Australian F**k All). Fly to Europe and it can take 24 hours to arrive. We are so far away from everywhere that when we travel we go for weeks, months, sometimes years.
At nineteen my father left Sydney on a ship, his head full of adventure. Six weeks later he arrived in London. Five years later he came home. My father had been a great traveller and consequently my childhood was full of his stories – climbing Egyptian pyramids, hunting Loch Ness monsters, hitch-hiking through Europe, and driving an old London taxi across the continent headed for the mediterranean. My wanderlust was inherited.
The last twenty five years I have visited many places in this world. There have been adventures and misadventures. I spent a summer bumming around the Greek Islands. I’ve hiked along the Indo-Nepalese border to sleep in the shadow of Kangchenjunga, the third largest mountain in the world. I’ve trekked the Markah Valley in Ladakh looking for snow-leopards. I have spent time in the Australian outback photographing sand-dunes and exploring ancient indigenous art. I’ve ridden camels in the Sahara Desert and marvelled at the Jemma El Fna in Marrakech. I have dined in Paris.
I breathe, I travel. It is in my genes.