Saturday, 30 December 2017

2017: A year in search of simplicity

Here we are again at the end of another journey together around the sun. How was it for you? Strange to think that no matter how settled we might feel, we're all constantly in transit, glimpsing milestones as we go, pausing at moments like these to ponder what we've experienced along the way.

Barefoot at Blinky Beach,
Lord Howe Island
For me, it's also a time to wonder if I spent the past 365 days wisely. Did I love well, let go, reduce my impact, do my best?

As always, there was a roll call of destinations. This year my trips seemed to have a common thread, by accident or design: a search for simplicity. Whether it was a chance to go barefoot, travel low-impact or just shrug off the home-fire routines for a week or two of being in the moment (and taking copious notes so I could write about it later).

Here's a bit of a highlights reel...

It started with a new "digital detox" trip through northern Morocco, where I went offline for nine days (bliss) and had company doing it.

Then came an Earth Weekend (not just an Earth Day) on beautiful, earthy Norfolk Island and, soon after, the inaugural Seven Peaks Walk on my other favourite little Australian Island, Lord Howe.

Jordan rocks (really)
Jordan, in May, was a highlight for me: six days of heat-wave hiking and camping in out-of-this-world landscapes on the new Jordan Trail (my Walking to Petra post was the second most popular post I've ever written). Big thanks again to the Seattle-based Adventure Travel Trade Association for inviting me to their inaugural conference in the region; it was my first visit to the Middle East and won't be my last.

In July I swapped the southern winter for a chilly northern summer - in Iceland, a place that impressed me in unexpected ways (see More than "fire and ice": 10 reasons to love Iceland). I even got to have a quick dip in the North Atlantic. (Any trip that includes a swim is a good one, in my book.)

Torres del Paine #nofilters
Then I went to the opposite side of the globe, to Patagonia. An all-too-brief media trip that left me yearning to return to spend a month in a cabin or go trekking in the too-beautiful-for-words Torres del Paine country.

My last trip of the year a few weeks ago was closer to home: a sea kayaking adventure in Raja Ampat, an archipelago of about 1500 limestone islands off the north-west tip of West Papua.

Paddling West Papua
It felt more like a holiday than any other trip this year, probably because we were in and out of the water the whole time like kids at a pool party. When we weren't kayaking, we were snorkelling, stand-up paddleboarding, walking to waterfalls or relaxing on the traditional Indonesian boat we called home for nine tropical days. (Blog post coming soon.)

As always, I feel truly privileged to be able to experience all these places and write about them and want to take this opportunity to thank all the tour operators, tourism organisations, editors and PR people who made this year's travels possible.

First sunrise of 2017, Lennox Head
Meanwhile, in northern NSW... this month marks my third year in little Lennox Head, a place that makes me love coming home more than anywhere else I've lived.

Every time I'm offered a trip, in fact, I weigh it up against the joys of my non-travelling life: surfing with friends, beach walks, late afternoon lake swims, moonrises over the sea, winter whale-watching, planting trees.

One of my at-home highlights this year was helping to set up a Boomerang Bags community in Lennox: we make cloth shopping bags from recycled fabric and will soon be giving them away at local shops to reduce plastic bag use. Loved this chance to meet and work with a bunch of like-minded locals on a good-news project.

Barefoot with Boomerang Bags
Oh, and I got to see Jane Goodall speak in Sydney, interviewed two other inspiring women about travelling and living simply ("soul trekker" Laura Waters and Jo Nemeth who lives without money) and won another Australian Society of Travel Writers award: Best Responsible Tourism Story, for a piece about a solar-slum tour I did in Kolkata, India, last year.

But looking back on all this, what makes a year (or a life) feel well-lived I think isn't how many trips we do or what we achieve.

Barefoot again, in Raja Ampat
(in Waterlust whaleshark leggings)
It's the connections we make - with each other and with the world we live in and on, and they happen more easily when we slow down and simplify things. That's what I'm most thankful for, because it's what reminds us we're all in this together, all hurtling around the sun at an incredible 108,000 kilometres per hour.

So happy simple new year, my friends, and thanks for your company. May our next 365-day trip be full of adventures of all kinds. See you back here in 2018!


  1. You did well Lou ... again a year of inspiration and yet comfort in your skin. Heaps better than many of us. So happy for you - love always, your Dad xx

    1. Thanks Dad for the lovely words and for reading this - love you too :-) xx