Wooden boats – a festival for the senses in Hobart

This weekend sees me volunteering at the 10th Australian Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart, Tasmania (which is home for me in the sense of my origins and family history, if not my actual location in recent years).

a raft of yachts

Held right on the Hobart waterfront every two years (and now with free entry), the festival is a delight.  Sailors and yachties mix with non-sailors and non-yachties, the latter easily picked by those with a practised eye and ear.  High heels, skirts, large handbags and fashion choices over practicality all mark out the seawardly inexperienced.  Terminology is also troublesome for those lacking ‘sea time’.  ‘Bow’ (pronounced to rhyme with cow), ‘stern’ and ‘amidships’, are effortlessly translated from ‘front’, ‘back’ and ‘middle’ by those used to the terms, while landlubbers are perpetually flummoxed at the completely foreign language assaulting their ears (I won’t even attempt to explain ‘poop deck’).

There truly is something for everyone in the 1.3km long festival area.  You don’t need to have salt water running through your veins to appreciate the quality and craftsmanship that goes into these beautiful vessels, from the smallest dinghy to the largest of the tall ships.  The care and attention given to these fine specimens is evident to even the most nautically unfulfilled.

porthole

A gleaming, silky combination of timber and porthole (yes, that’s birds-eye huon pine)

See the rest of the post and photos here ==>

This is what I saw when I woke up this new year’s morning

sunrise new year's morning

If waking up to this is not a good way to start a new year, I don’t know what is. It seems like an inspiration to be positive about the new year. I don’t make new year’s resolutions, but I do often make a list of things I’d like to do or achieve during the year.

So far, the list looks like this:

  • housesit on a canal boat
  • go to the Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart
  • see Skyfall at least once more before it finishes at the movies
  • do a housesit with highland cattle and/or belted galloways
  • see more of Italy
  • go to Greenwich
  • start making money from my blog
  • get enough freelance work to eat and travel

This morning’s dawn reminded me to look forward to the day and the year.  I’ve seen many different dawns on both sides of the world in the last year.  Sometimes I’ve missed it completely.  Sometimes I’ve not been able to see it if I’ve been in a city or amongst trees etc.  But either way, each day brings its own unique experiences in some small or large way.

Take it, reflect on it, think about the year to come or the year just gone, or ignore it completely, it’s yours to do with as you wish.

I hope 2013 is good to you.

Opportunity knocks – or how to do a job interview in your slippers…

Last week I was lazing about housesitting in an isolated part of Scotland, walking the dogs, patting the cat, feeding the chooks, collecting fresh eggs, beans, tomatoes and courgettes and taking the time to rediscover my love of cooking with delicious fresh food.  This week I’m taking advantage of opportunities allowing me to be in Spain at a travel blogging conference, juggle a brand new part time job in a completely different time zone, write for my travel blog, take free tours and furiously photograph everything in sight.

So it seems natural to reflect on opportunities – some people seem to have everything fall in their lap and others don’t.  I think this is more to do with whether they are open to opportunities, and how they respond to them when they arise than about luck or cosmic forces.

All it took to land the job was a few paragraphs posted in response to an ad on a freelance website, and a couple of phone calls (so different to landing a government job which takes months).  It was odd doing a job interview in slippers, then going out to the kitchen and making a coffee.  But also much less stressful.
Read more about taking opportunities, and leave a comment ==>

Six steps to saving money by house sitting

Do you want to save money on accommodation when you travel? If so, consider house sitting. It’s not for everyone, but here are the things you need to know.

First, a brief who, what, where, when, how and why…

Who? Anyone who can manage a house and care for pets could be a house sitter. Singles, couples, younger, older. It’s about offering the homeowner a reliable and trustworthy option for home and pet care.

What? House sitting is caring for other people’s homes and pets. You must be prepared in some situations to make decisions without being able to consult the owners.

Where? Anywhere – city or country, in your own home city or in many, many places around the world.

When? All year round. Length of sits varies from a couple of days to a year or more.

How? Internet sites like Trusted House Sitters and Housecarers are excellent places to start. You can search and get email notifications for free, but you must join to contact homeowners. The cost for a year varies, but most are around $50-$70 AUD (as at 9 September 2012, Trusted House Sitters is $60 USD or around $57 AUD / £37 GBP for a year (shorter terms are available) and Housecarers is $55 AUD for a year (around $57 USD / £36 GBP). Some are cheaper, some more expensive (pricing structures vary too – some are by geographic area).

Your profile is vital. Not only will you contact homeowners directly and ask them to look at your profile, homeowners can search profiles and contact you directly. Out of 11 house sits I’ve done so far and five more I have organised, I’ve contacted the owners six times, two have been referred by friends and eight owners have contacted me directly after seeing my profile.

Why? Homeowners seek house sitters for a variety of reasons. Most, but not all have pets. They want to make sure their pets will be well cared for and the house will be lived in and secure. Think carefully about why you want to house sit and whether you can commit to meeting the homeowners needs.

Read more here including how to determine whether housesitting is for you, the 6 steps you need to get a house sit, and what to do before, during and after the sit. ==>

Details and doors in Castelo de Vide and Marvao, Alentejo, Portugal

I had so many photos I wanted to share with you in the Villages of the Alentejo series that even 4 posts just wasn’t enough without them becoming really huge.  Here is an extra one featuring details and doors in Castelo de Vide and Marvao.

Castelo de Vide is a town which is truly worth a visit and holds surprises around every corner.  The doors were found up and down the streets between the main square and the castle – just go exploring!

I just love the intricacy of the decorative items, including these railings.

photo of decorative railings, castelo de vide, portugal

The colour and texture of the doors and building is a constant source of amazement.  The doors are all shapes and sizes, with a wide variety of decorations – rarely do you see the same thing twice.

photo of door detail, castelo de vide, portugal

See the rest of the post and photos here ==>

ANZAC Day 2012 – Westminster Abbey, London

I’ve attended ANZAC Day dawn services for as long as I can remember, and the one year I didn’t (years ago now), I didn’t feel right for the rest of the day.  Something was missing.  This year, being on the other side of the world from Australia made me wonder how I might go about marking the occasion.  Google helped.  A search for ANZAC Day services UK led me to the Australian High Commission’s website which had information about the dawn service in Whitehall and a service at Westminster Abbey.  [NB:  That page no longer exists as the 2012 services are over now, but this site has information and promises updates for the 2013 services: http://www.anzacdaylondon.com/.]  I was able to request a free ticket to go along to the ANZAC Day service at Westminster Abbey in London.  There was also a dawn service, but deciding that I wouldn’t go walking around London at 4am to get there, this was not an option, with no suitable accommodation close by either.

Read the rest of the post here ==>

Villages of the Alentejo – Colour and texture in Portugal, Part 4 of 4

This is the fourth post in the Villages of the Alentejo series which features photos capturing the colour, texture and detail of several villages in the Alentejo, the mid-eastern region of Portugal. They were taken in April 2012, while on a small group photography tour (see http://www.photographscotland.com/pages/workshops.htm for details of this and other photography workshops in Portugal and Scotland). For information about getting to the Alentejo, the towns featured in these photo blogs, and a few photography hints, see this post: Getting to and around the Alentejo.

The villages captured in Part 1 of the series are Sao Marcos da Serra and Castro Verde.

Part 2 includes Portel, Monsaraz and Amieira.

Part 3 shows an amazing village well at Telheiro, ruins of a fort at Juromenha, and surprises at Castelo de Vide.

This post has Marvao in the mist and again in the sun, plus a traditional house at Cabecudos.

And just because I had so many photos I wanted to share, here is an additional post: Details and doors from Castelo de Vide and Marvao.


Marvao

Marvao is a lovely little town high on the top of a hill. However, when we arrived there, you couldn’t tell where we were as it was completely shrouded in mist.  Not many people were out and about, but the occasional hardy little old lady didn’t let the mist stop her.  Later in the day we returned and were able to take in the stunning views from the amazing height, and to see the castle that was invisible earlier in the day. Here are a few misty photos.

photo of misty street, marvao, portugal

photo of arch, marvao, portugal

photo of mist, marvao, portugal

This is my favourite photo of the day, and one of my favourites of the whole trip.

photo of lady with umbrella in mist, marvao, portugal

See the rest of the post and photos here ==>

The myth of being good at everything – don’t let it stop you

One reason we struggle with insecurity: we’re comparing our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.  –  Steven Furtick

This quote resonated so strongly with me that it has stuck in my head and I try to remind myself of it whenever I feel like I’m not good enough at whatever it is I’m trying to do.  Photography magazines always bring this out in me.  They depress me.  I always think “I’ll never be that good.”  And then I realised that I didn’t want to try and be that good.  It wasn’t the type of photography that I wanted to do.  Feedback from friends and family and strangers on my actual photos is much more important than fake and self-destructive comparisons to elite professional photographers.

It also brought me back to one of my favourite quotes from Dirty Dancing – well, maybe favourite is not the right word, but it certainly resonated with me.  Johnny, talking about how Baby helped out a friend, says to her “You’re not scared of anything!”  Her surprised and breathless response is “Me?  I’m scared of everything.  I’m scared of what I saw…of what I did, I’m scared of who I am.”  Ever since I saw the movie years ago, this has always made me think about the different ways in which others see us and how we see ourselves.  Mostly, others see us in a much less critical light than we see ourselves.

People at work always saw me as self-confident; people would sometimes say to me “you’re good at everything”, which is a) highly embarrassing and b) completely wrong.  Again, it comes back to the highlight reel.  I’m good at some stuff, so I tend to do that and focus on being good at that.  I accept there is some stuff I’m just not good at so I don’t do it.  People don’t see that part of it.  They only see the stuff I do, and judge me on that.  They don’t feel the self-doubt and self-questioning that goes along with all of it, with everything I do.

Read the rest of the post here ==>

Villages of the Alentejo – Colour and texture in Portugal, Part 3 of 4

This is the third post in the Villages of the Alentejo series which features photos capturing the colour, texture and detail of several villages in the Alentejo, the mid-eastern region of Portugal. They were taken in April 2012, while on a small group photography tour (see http://www.photographscotland.com/pages/workshops.htm for details of this and other photography workshops in Portugal and Scotland). For information about getting to the Alentejo, the towns featured in these photo blogs, and a few photography hints, see this post: Getting to and around the Alentejo.

The villages captured in Part 1 of the series are Sao Marcos da Serra and Castro Verde.

Part 2 includes Portel, Monsaraz and Amieira.

This post shows an amazing village well at Telheiro, ruins of a fort at Juromenha, and surprises at Castelo de Vide.

Part 4 has Marvao in the mist and again in the sun, plus a traditional house at Cabecudos.

And just because I had so many photos I wanted to share, here is an additional post: Details and doors from Castelo de Vide and Marvao.


Telheiro

This beautiful village well sits in a tiny village at the foot of the hill on which Monsaraz sits.

photo of well at telheiro, portugal

This is a close up of the well showing it’s beautiful shapes and angles. Large storm clouds were coming over behind the well at this point. The circular polariser sets the well off against them.

photo of well at telheiro, portugal


Juromenha

The ruins of a fort can be found at Juromenha. From the remaining ramparts, you can look across the river directly at Spain.

photo of entrance to fort, juromenha, portugal

Inside the fort walls, there are ruined churches and rooms to explore.

photo of church at juromenha fort, portugal

Inside the church, intricate patterns and stonework can still be seen.

photo of inside church, juromenha fort, portugal

See the rest of the post and photos here ==>

Don’t just change your location, change your whole outlook – tips to help with the travel leap

I looked at my email inbox the other day and thought Whoa! The contents and what comes into that inbox each day are a lot different today than they were a year ago.  A year ago there were many emails from places I had shopped (although I’m not a shopper), professional associations and sites about information management, project management and government and public affairs news.  Today there are many travel blog updates, travel deals, airlines and accommodation providers I’d never heard of a year ago.

Before I left Australia on the first part of my travel leap, I decided to clean out my inbox, just as I had cleaned out my house, and just as I had been removed from many hard copy mailing lists in order to limit the amount of mail my long-suffering mother would have to deal with in my absence.  I unsubscribed from everything I didn’t need or want anymore (let’s face it, you don’t need to know your local Canberra shopping centre is having an event when you’re 12000 miles away), and starting subscribing to things that helped me make the leap into full-time travel.

I found the options in each of my bank accounts to change from hard copy statements to e-statements delivered online.  These simple things help change your outlook on life and living, they help you realise that you don’t need all that paper.  I used to be a paper fiend, loved hard copy books and had to read most things in hard copy.  Over the months before I knew I was going to be moving and travelling, I changed the printing habit, and now I don’t even like to write things down, I much prefer to type.  I find ways to remember to revisit things instead of using post-its, such as a notpad file on the desktop with links I want to revisit (dated).  Once they’re done they’re bookmarked or deleted.

I also scanned in my important documents: passports, birth certificate, last year’s tax information (I may need to do my next year’s return from the road), academic transcript (if required in the process of applying for jobs – hopefully it won’t come to that!).  In addition, I have mum and dad’s important documents too, in case I should ever have to deal with something from far away.  These are all things you’d hope you never need, but it’s better and easier to have them with you even electronically, than to have someone sift through boxes at home or have to grapple with a bank/telephone company/utility provider from the other side of the world.  Because I had sold my house, I also scanned all my final zero balance accounts from utilities, phone and internet companies, just in case any queries arose.

If you’ve got your stuff in storage, and you have an automatic payment deducted each month, check in every now and again to make sure that it’s still working fine.

Notify your credit card companies before you travel overseas, or if you extend your stay so they don’t stop your card at an inconvenient moment.