Monday 30 March 2015

Why I love swimming - wherever I travel

My latest essay for Traveller in The Sydney Morning Herald is about something close to my heart (like In praise of quiet travel, my previous essay): my love of swimming, something I never leave home without.

I can't help myself. No matter where I'm travelling to, I pack goggles, ear plugs and a swimsuit, just in case. You never know when, or where, you might find your next fix: water time.

The story ran last weekend - while I happened to be swimming with sea turtles off Heron Island (more on that soon) - with this sublime illustration (left) by Michael Mucci.

Here's an excerpt, and a link to the full story at the end of this post:

Wet, wet, wet
Have swimsuit, will travel. That's my mantra, finding windows of time and places to swim, no matter where I am, my semi-secret mission when I'm on the road.

It starts when I'm packing and I fall for swimming's minimalism all over again. Togs, goggles and I'm good to go. What other sporting equipment can be scrunched into a shoe in your suitcase?

Of course you need a pool, but I use the term loosely. Which brings me to the real reason I swim. It's not just that swimming is good, portable exercise and the best way I know to unfold one's limbs after a long-haul flight. It's this: nothing wakes you up to your surroundings and commits you to really being where you are like full-body contact with water.

Swim and you are literally, immediately, immersed in the landscape, particularly in natural places.

I've swum in mountain tarns surrounded by 3000-metre peaks and the grey-white tongues of glaciers in New Zealand. With so many tropical fish in Palawan, in the Philippines, it was like swimming in a free-range aquarium. I'll never forget my first dip in Tanzania after crossing sub-Saharan Africa on an overland truck: as soon as we rattled to a stop at the first beach we'd seen in two months, I sprinted into the sea's embrace like a long-missed lover.

Read the full story


  1. Fab essay. Hope you're swimming this long weekend.

    1. Thanks Seana, yep have had a wonderfully watery Easter weekend - mostly surfing, which I love even more than swimming but is less portable!