Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A winning weekend in Lombok

Newsflash: just back from lovely Lombok, Indonesia (so much less touristy than Bali), where the Australian Society of Travel Writers held its annual AGM and awards night, the latter a black-tie beach party on the sand and under the stars last Saturday night at the beautiful Novotel Lombok.

Tropical Lombok
I’m happy and honoured to announce that I picked up three awards, including the prestigious 2012 Travel Writer of the Year award, for a portfolio of three stories – about Madagascar (click to read), Mustang and Antarctica

It's the third time I've won the ASTW's top award, and I feel humbled to be respected by my peers and colleagues, for something I so love to do.

Baobab Alley, Madagascar
My other awards were Best Journey or Adventure, also for the Madagascar story, and the Jack Butters Memorial Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to the ASTW, for a year's worth of volunteer work on the new ASTW website

No Impact Girl even got a mention - my Christmas (Island) in April post was a finalist in the Best Online Innovation category. And a few of my pics (including the Madagascar one above) made me a finalist in the Travel Photographer of the Year award.

Self-portrait with Lynne Ireland (left),
PR for Virgin Limited Edition
Big congrats to Luke Wright of Good Globe Media, who took out the Best Responsible Tourism Story award for his story on the Solomon Islands. And to all the other winners, who are listed here, on the ASTW website.

And big thanks to all the award and event sponsors and organisers, particularly Virgin Limited Edition and South Africa Tourism for the big prize, and Accor Hotels and Novotel Lombok for such a beautiful place to stay and to celebrate. I can't wait to return...

Friday, 5 October 2012

A simple life

No travel for me lately, and that’s been just fine. Instead I’ve been embracing ordinariness. You know, hanging up the washing, doing the dishes, having lunch in the backyard with my feet on the grass and the neighbour’s cat by my side.

Flowers in the kitchen
All in the name of finding more writing time (tick) but I’m finding the simplicity quietly nourishing. Besides, there's plenty to explore, plenty of internal and vicarious travelling to do right here. 

Lately I've been riding the coat-tails of MarthaGellhorn (reading her clear and true war stories) and 52 Suburbs Around the World photographer Louise Hawson (she’s in New York now).

A window I know well
The other night I watched the first episode of a documentary about the Amish. Though they have some odd rules (buttons are forbidden but they can use a generator to power their primitive washing machine?), I admire their sincerity, simplicity and uncluttered lives. (To be honest I would have liked less on the British teenagers forced to spend a week without their various devices, and more about the Amish couple they were staying with; still, the clash of cultures was fascinating.) 

It’s television like this that makes us think outside our own lives and, at the same time, rethink our lives. What is enough? What is really essential for a rich life? (For me: the sea, contact with animals, including a few like-minded humans, nature, writing, play, freedom, learning, purpose...) I felt a kind of relief watching the Amish – they seemed utterly peaceful and happy, seeking happiness not through pleasure but hard work, community and faith.

Coming to a horizon near you
So I’ve been walking to the nearest little harbour beach for morning swims, sitting on the sand just looking at the sea, hanging out with kookaburras. Surfing with friends I haven’t arranged to meet (I love those spontaneous encounters that happen when everyone with the same idea has decided to get up early and paddle out at the same spot). Visiting friends for cups of tea. Watching the sun set. 

Nothing special. Like the title of a Buddhist book I once read by Ayya Khema: “Being nobody, Going nowhere.” That’s something to un-aspire to. Here's another thought: some people say you have to go out and get what you want to be happy. I think happiness is within our grasp all the time, if we stop hustling and let it come. Listen, pay attention, give thanks. Maybe I'm becoming a little bit Amish (some of my friends probably think that happened long ago).

What do you (really) need for a happy life?