Being born under the Earth sign of Capricorn comes with goat-like qualities – tenacious, hardworking, responsible etc., giving me the ability to scale mountains one small step at a time. I like to think of myself as a “creative goat.”
That’s me top left, chubby face, unruly wavy hair (which I still struggle with), wearing a hand knitted dress. Brother number 4, yet to succumb to the identical outfit roll out worn by the 3 brothers in front row. So very English circa 1963.
In 1970, our family of 7 arrived in Australia with 2 suitcases and $200 under the £10 Pom scheme. I have little memory of the flight but I will forever have a picture in my mind of the biggest, bluest sky I had ever seen in my life as I walked across the Sydney tarmac. Wearing my only “special outfit,” a Marks & Spencer red and white polyester pantsuit with shiny black patent Mary Jane shoes, this English kid had no idea how our new life was going to roll out.
✔ to my brave parents for seeking a better life ✗ Villawood Immigration Centre wasn’t so flash
A job in the Snowy Mountains provided our escape from Villawood.
Pre Jindabyne’s rep as a happening mountain town for the urban crowd, it was a bush town with one doctor, 4 teachers and 10 or so shops in the ‘70’s. Days were spent on my bike, at the lake or on friends’ farms free to roam wherever we liked. As the general store didn’t satisfy my innate interest in clothes, I taught myself to sew, my Singer machine and Butterick patterns becoming my partners in the pursuit of fashion. Then we were on the move again… leaving the mountains for the beaches on the South Coast ofNSW, my anchor for the next few years.
I left home at 16, enrolling at the Canberra School of Fashion to learn the art and science of cutting, pattern making, tailoring, millinery and more.
✔ studied under a curriculum based on hand skills before it updated to a program more suited to fast industry ✔ confirmed that I was not a wild fashionista – textiles and an appreciation of technique was more my style ✔ waitressing on weekends at the coast to fund my studies allowed me some beach time ✗ living as a poor student in a share house without heating in Canberra, nights spent sewing wrapped in a doona
I think as life in the early 80’s as “mannequins and mayhem”
I kicked off my retail career at Sportsgirl in Canberra, before loading up my Austin Morris for the big smoke … Melbourne. Joined the very hot and happening display team at 240 Collins St in Sportsgirl’s heyday.
✔ worked with some fun loving creative souls who to this day I still admire for their spirited artistry and love of life in general
Working 3 jobs to get the cash together for my first OS jaunt with friends in ‘83/’84 I was about to fuel my taste for travel. First stop with family in England, last stop Nairobi, Kenya.
✔ living in Florence for a month learning the language, eating gelato, hanging out in the Piazzas, soaking up fashion and art ✔ spent 4.5 months on the back of an ex-Army truck from London to Nairobi with a bunch of adventurous travellers from around the world. It was “Survivor” without all the nonsense. I discovered my true travel style ✔ Africa taught me to appreciate the luxury of running water and that poverty really means you have NO choices ✗ amoebic dysentery forever changed the state of my intestines.
In the late ‘80’s I packed up my Sportsgirl gear and moved on to a career at Country Road. learning from the best, founders Steve Bennett and Jane Parker.
I honed my skills in brand building all whilst furthering my love of textiles. Styling a fashion parade or designing a retail store was all part of a day. This opened the doors to global travel ala ragtrade style. Trading my tent for designer hotels and a seat closer to the pointy end of the plane, LA, NYC, Miami, London, Tokyo, Paris & Milan were now on my itineraries. I spent a year living in the USA getting to know New York City like a local thanks to my best friend DZ.
I loved the global city travel, but always felt the need to escape to places with just my backpack and not too many plans. SE Asia was my go to place for villages, jungle treks and beach huts. Best of both worlds.
✔ JP & SB were masters of style… realized it is personal and eternal ✔ traveled Australia and the world with my business hat on, learning something new everyday ✗ scraping the ice off my car in the NY airport carpark after late night winter flights ✗hotels are impersonal places, despite the level of fashionability or fabulousness… the concept of true “hospitality” is rare.
Life continued on, but I needed a break, I was restless, something was missing, I had to listen to my heart and explore.
CR gave me a chance to sort myself out, leaving the door open for me to return when I was ready. It was an easy decision. Just go! Packed my bag for some nomadic travel, and got off the beaten track in Indonesia. Only after some serious persuasion, armed with some insider’s tips I ended up in Bali. The top tip – stay at Kubuku in Ubud. Simple bungalows and vegetarian restaurant in the rice paddies, owned by an artist. As soon as I stepped in, I fell in love with the place. I met Wayan the owner and life changed to one of bouncing between Australian and Balinese homes in between the work related travels. Bali had captured my heart and soul.
✔ a thermos of lemongrass and ginger tea on my Kubuku balcony everyday – a taste of Wayan’s hospitality that continues to this day ✔ Wayan and his staff taking me to a ceremony that takes place every 20 or so years in Ubud ✔ banana pancakes Kubuku style – those who have stayed with us will understand the significance of this ✔ living a life of Asian and Western ways ✔ wearing a sarong anywhere in the world – city style with shirt, jewelry and decent shoes; Bali style – all day everyday ✗ huge phone bills, this was pre-Skype days.
I moved on from CR, hoping to set up a life based in Bali. Nothing worked, complications around family, finances and ill health took over. Wasn’t meant to be. I took a chance and survived, learning some lessons along the way.
Sitting in my empty apartment overlooking the Brisbane River I listened to Cathy Freeman run the race of her life in the 2000 Olympics. Alone in a new city, life was about to revolve around my new job at The Colorado Group.
✔ for the first time in 20 years I was living closer to my parents ✗my heart ached for Bali, this adjustment was not so easy
I think of my time at CGL as my “creative business years”.
Working alongside a most inspiring businesswoman for over 10 years I learnt much about the power of a business culture based on generosity, sharing & integrity. Given the freedom and trust to “create” in business, my roles were always new, created in anticipation of the next business concept. I specialised in “customer experience” taking it across all aspects of retail and brand management. The move turned out to be an enriching experience and I like to think I gave 150% of myself everyday. It was more than a job. I continued to travel the world often “commuting” from Bali to Brisbane overnight, showering in the office, arriving at my desk the same time as my co-workers who commuted via the freeway.
✔ found my place in the “corporate world” choosing to forge my own path in my own style, and grateful that I was able to do this ✔ still wearing a sarong most days of the week ✗ not enough “me time” I lost the balance at times
A small Balinese village was about to shape the next chapter of our lives.
We were starting to get built out in Ubud, the rice paddies were disappearing rapidly. I had no idea that Wayan had been looking for a new place for us until, under the guise of having a day out together, I was standing on farmland overlooking one of the most stunning views I had seen in Bali saying YES to Wayan when he suggested we could create the next Kubuku right here. I don’t think I gave it more than a second’s thought. We had out first patch of land in the hills, no electricity or running water, and a simple hut to sleep in.
Wayan worked day and night, sculpting the land into gardens, weaving paths through trees, lotus ponds and sculptures, always true to Balinese architecture and culture. Gradually we added land, sometimes a metre at a time was all we could afford. Every couple of years Wayan built a simple bungalow and we started to invite guests from Kubuku to stay for a tranquil village experience.
✔ simplicity emerges amongst the complexity in my way of life ✔ the surprise and delight I felt every time I visited the village to see what Wayan had created in my absence ✔dreaming of what could be ✔ authentic village style Balinese food changed my diet and health for the better ✔ the stillness and quiet of night, with only the sound of frogs in the background ✔ trails through the jungle & local farms to the river right on my doorstep ✔ new beginnings in a small community once again ✗ my poor grasp on the local language left me on the outer – as the sole foreigner in this part of Bali, English was not an option. Fast track required or else Wayan would forever have the role of translator ✗ cow stands somewhere on the 8km of pipe, cutting off our water and requiring a trek through tough terrain to find the break… happened regularly… we couldn’t afford to go underground for water.
2007 was a big year.
I made a conscious decision to “do something everyday” for Wayan and I and our future in Bali. Not just think or talk about it, take action! I remained committed to my CGL life, but found ways to find time for us.
An unexpected opportunity to have some extra land & bungalows arose. Decision and payment had to be made in 48hours. We did it. No turning back. We needed to fill the bungalows and pay our way!
✔ taking a big leap and believing it would be OK
2008 was a year of inspired (read that as unplanned) ideas that seemed to appear at the right time, becoming the seeds for Sharing Bali.
We had all the ingredients for what I had been looking for in my global travels – authenticity, real food, simple bungalows, inspiring grounds and views, staff that were more like family, in a village environment. I personally found it (and still do) enchanting. “Sharing Bali” came into our lives.
The most inspired (?!) moment – what about a Bootcamp Bali Style? With no thought that it wouldn’t work… we were full steam ahead into adding a layer to this new chapter in our lives.
Unknown to us, our retreats were about to create a new model, breaking the concept of detox and deprivation retreats, as well as being the affordable option in a world full of luxury retreats. We were the first, there were no rules and we started something that was soon to be copied. We were about to fill the bungalows with guests who arrived ready for a unique experience that celebrated healthy living in a small Bali village.
✔ our first 6 Bootcampers (mainly family and friends) – you changed our lives ✔ the talented and very generous friends who steered me through the online maze to create sharingbali.com ✔ discovering that coconuts, rice sacks, bamboo stretchers and the local terrain were the magic ingredients for fitness sessions ✔ Wayan and our staff for not only believing me that a Bootcamp could be a good idea, but adding so much with their own special ingenuity ✔ climbing Mt Batur to greet the sunrise for the first time, 90+ climbs later it still fills me with wonder ✔ our first full page ad in a womens health & fitness magazine, that was us amongst the glossy pages! ✗ the daily battles to keep up the water supply.. cows continue to stand on pipes
2010/11 smashed us.
Hammered by rainstorms, landslides and cyclones, taking a 10 year financial step backwards, we ride a rollercoaster of dipping down into despair at the loss, and rising up with screams of delight as we recover and rebuild. Land disappears, bungalows and gardens are trashed, at one stage we have to close.
✔After each cyclone, 50 people from our village, armed with machetes, an endless supply of energy, and good heart, arriving without question to help cleanup ✔ Wayan, the master of reinvention, recreates our place with the rice paddies and the sound of running water as his inspiration ✔ Messages and gestures of support from the Sharing Bali family – guests, friends, family from around the world. Uplifting ✗ Timing on leaving the corporate world, and the accompanying salary, coincides with the cycle of destruction. Skating on thin ice ✔ Living by Wayan’s belief…”everyday is new life”… yesterday has passed, every new day is a new chance
2013 – living the dream! Yes, I can say that…I really believe it.
Bootcamp has expanded to CrossFit, Fitness Adventure, Pilates, Yoga, and soon to be fitness + business coaching retreats. In between retreats we enjoy the company of guests looking for a tranquil village experience.
I don’t travel the world quite so much, but I connect with people from around the globe everyday at our dining table or via the internet.
I have grasped enough of the local language to fit into to village life, now feeling at home amongst ceremonies or hanging out at the local warung.
I confess that I no longer drive, shop, cook or clean and had no trouble adjusting. My usual mode of transport is as a passenger on the motorbike. My laptop is in my backpack, Cantik sits up front and quite often, laundry, shopping and chickens are on board. It’s a village style commute.
Don’t get me wrong…life is not idyllic…. we have the pressures of running a small business… bills to pay, last minute cancellations, water pumps that break down just before guests arrive, the list goes on…. but in the scheme of things I realise it takes very little these days to make me happy.
✔ I still get to a choose what to wear on a daily basis from a pile of delicious silk and cotton sarongs and scarves in all colours and patterns ….. pure textile heaven ✔ We live in one room – an antique village meeting hall built from timber that Wayan restored. It’s beautiful and simple ✔My new four-legged friend Cantik. Spoilt rotten, he is nothing but a bundle of energy and happiness. I “waste time” with him and that’s a good thing to do. No guilt whatsoever! ✔ My life is now more outdoors than indoors ✔ Fit and healthy? Absolutely!
We have learnt many lessons and made many mistakes, some which hurt others and us along the way. None were intentional. They were lessons in life and we do our best not to repeat them. The next chapter? We have no plans to build more bungalows. A group of people that fit around our dining table is the right size for us. But I am convinced we have something special that is worthwhile and makes a difference to all involved.
My dream… to take the “Sharing Bali” model around the world in partnership with others who would like to share their patch of the world with small groups looking for an alternative to the world of hotels and luxury spas.
“Sharing the French Alps” (for cyclists)… “Sharing the South Coast” (beach based escapes), “Sharing Georgia” (mountains and a village culture that celebrates their food and wine!), “Sharing (insert place here). I’m a creative goat.. I work hard chasing my dreams…. Watch this space!