Wild wind howled through the auburn autumnal leaves and across the rolling green hills on either side of the secluded, narrow road that we carefully tread along, excitedly pursuing filming locations for Outlander…
My brother Josh, happened to be my travel companion this past October, and we both remained quietly stunned by the scenery at each turn: thick woodlands spilling into pretty streams, centuries-old wooden bridges and an odd few sheep tenderly grazing under patchy grey skies.
Filming locations for Outlander
It felt like an adventure, and that’s because it was!
Rewind an hour, and we were sitting on a local bus which for just a few dollars was ferrying us around the area from Inverness to famous Loch Ness, its castles and ruins.
We were on our way to Culloden Battlefield, a vast windswept moor that preserves stories of the Jacobite rising that came to an entirely tragic end here on 16 April 1746.
History buffs, fans of Scotland and indeed those of a seductively popular television series called Outlander will be familiar with the locations.
Josh and I were discussing our day’s plan when a sweet woman turned around in her seat to chat to us. She asked where we were from, because she recognised our accents and said she had family dotted around Australia.
As it happens, in her 70 years young she’s done a lot of travelling and had some great tips to share, one being for us to get off the beaten track about 30-minutes’ walk from Culloden, to seek an ancient burial ground called Clava Cairns.
Clava Cairns and Outlander film locations
I’m one of those Outlander fans eagerly awaiting the return to telly this month of time-travellers Jamie and Claire Fraser.
Scotland now offers plenty of ‘Outlander travel experiences’ that attract thousands of enthusiasts seeking the filming locations for Outlander, and Clava Cairns happens to be an integral part of this.
While ‘Craigh na Dun’, the mysterious stone circle where Claire falls through time in Scotland to the 1700s in the books and television series does not actually exist, Clava Cairns is understood to be author Diana Gabaldon’s inspiration for the spot.
So, willing to walk – because Josh and I have always been into the mystical, mythological and downright creepy (our parents are very proud) – we went in search of this millennia-old site.
These exceptional 4000-year-old remains of an ancient cemetery are set on a terrace above the River Nairn, and an appropriately atmospheric breeze washed dust and leaves through the ghostly site as we pushed open a rickety fence and made our way inside.
Historical sites of Scotland
There are four cairns (the word ‘cairn’ hailing from the Scottish Gaelic, càrn, meaning a human-made stack of stones) and three standing stone circles here. The three prominent cairns form lines aligned with the sun solstices and show hints of forgotten beliefs carved into the stones.
Our friendly local guide on the bus had shared stories of how she and her friend experienced extreme emotions and rushes of energy on touching some of the larger stones in the circles.
Josh and I can attest to feeling what can only be described as a very heavy sensation within one of the open-air stone tombs, and admittedly I felt like it wouldn’t be right to take photos inside.
A strange tale I’ve read since, is that of a Belgian tourist who claimed to have been cursed after taking a stone away from Clava Cairns. He and his family swiftly encountered such terrible luck including job losses, accidents and ill health, that the disturbed visitor anonymously posted the ‘souvenir’ back to the Inverness tourist centre and requested it be returned to the site.
Superstitious or not, this excellent adventure provides an off-road glimpse into the true heart of the Highlands, a rugged, romantic destination where you may very well be standing in 2018; or is it 1743? Just be careful what you touch or wish for.
First published in Get it Magazine, November 2018, getit-magazine.com.au
I regularly share thoughts in Australia’s Get it Magazine, and this month it turned out to be high time to try a new exercise routine which is how I discovered the benefits of Reformer Pilates. If you’re looking to start a new exercise class and lacking confidence to get going, maybe my story will help you.
The benefits of Reformer Pilates: starting from scratch
Neatly drafted under the date ‘December 31, 2017’ (a good ten months ago), are a few resolutions for the year to come, including one that jumps out at me now, ‘join an exercise class’.
It’s something I wanted to try because classes have provided me with positive fitness structure in the past. I remember that first week back in January, keenly researching suitable options like dance, Barre, and the benefits of Reformer Pilates – things I was never game to try.
I was geared-up to get along to the initial sessions of the year, believing all newbies would start then too.
As the hour drew near however, the internal dialogue began: ‘Good God, you’re too old to join a dance class!’; ‘You won’t even make it through the first ten minutes without needing a sit-down and a bucket of water’; ‘Imagine how awesome everyone else looks in their designer active-wear (and how idiotic I’ll look in my eBay specials)’.
I panicked, realising exactly how many years it’s been since I survived a group fitness class, let alone be in the routine of attending.
For the past year I’ve maintained independent gym visits when I can, walks and Yoga, but I’m aware the body gets used to repetitive activities and we start to see that our efforts don’t really reap rewards. Something must change, although I’d still not gone to a class!
Getting to class and discovering the benefits of Reformer Pilates
Cooper – my fitness-fan, fun-loving other half, bit his tongue for the past year. I’ve only just learnt he’s reluctant to divulge certain truths to me. Apparently about five years into this 17-year thing we have going on, he told me he didn’t think a shirt I was wearing out one night suited me.
The wrath that ensued meant he thinks twice before sharing such insight. Of course, despite me having no recollection of said event, I insisted I’ve grown since then, and promised that honesty is the right way. (probably).
He proceeded to share a flyer found at his gym promoting a special deal on Reformer Pilates classes, reminding me that I had been interested to get into a class activity. The proposal was positively received (much to Cooper’s relief).
Reformer Pilates had always been something I knew would be beneficial, garnering similar results as Ballet which I loved, well, until I was 16. But the idea of figuring out the ‘apparatus’ (a ‘bed’ attached to springs that move a carriage along the bed’s frame – thought about too deeply, it may resemble a form of torture depicted in The Tudors), freaked me out.
Finding confidence to give a new class a go
In a headspace to give something new a go though, I signed up for a 10-class pass.
The beauty of this situation, for me at least, is that I need to use the class passes within a certain time-frame, must book the sessions in advance, and if I bail at the last minute (typical ‘me’) I lose the investment, because these come with a 48-hour cancellation rule. Seems I’m motivated by money, or loss of it, so I show up!
The first class was challenging, but not intimidating as I’d feared. The instructor set up my reformer, and explained each exercise, as has been the case in subsequent classes.
I left that first time with wobbling and shaking sensations in muscles I didn’t know existed! I still go to each class with excuses in my head about why I’m too tired, too busy and too uncoordinated to attend, but there’s something new going on now. I know for sure, that at the end of each class I’ll be glad I went.
After about five weeks I noticed the benefits of Reformer Pilates showing up – some nice tone, which has led to body-confidence I thought was long gone.
Full disclosure, I’m just back at work following a break of nearly two weeks, and I’m aware I need to leave my wine-loving-holiday-happy vibe behind and return to a healthier lifestyle. That said, I’m proud I pushed myself through significant years-old blocks to embrace something that works for me, now. Make or break your habits, one step (or class) at a time – studies show it’s how we genuinely accommodate new, better behaviours. I feel I’m finally there, and I’ve signed up for more! It’s not torture, really.
Are you a convert on the benefits of Reformer Pilates or do you have tips on starting any new exercise class? It’s daunting, I know! Please do share your insight in the comments below.
First published in the September 2018 issue of Get it Magazine, getit-magazine.com.au
I regularly share thoughts in Australia’s Get it Magazine, and this month I cover the importance of professional development the the role networking plays in this.
I’ve shed insight on how to introduce yourself professionally and make the most out of your time at conferences and business events to get your career where you’d like it to be.
The importance of professional development – how to introduce yourself professionally: the conference
The packed conference room was buzzing with excited energy. The popularity of the break-out session I’d just witnessed had obviously been underestimated. People were sitting and standing in every free space.
I, like all the attendees, had been impressed by the generosity of the speakers who hadn’t held back on sharing wisdom about their business success strategies.
Dazzled, I simply had to meet them!
I lined up with other inspired folk at the end of the session to say hello. When it was my turn to swiftly meet-and-greet, I spoke but a few words, handed over a business card and scurried off.
Significant networking fail. NOT a lesson in how to introduce yourself professionally or beneficially at an event.
Networking doesn’t have to be scary. Be prepared
We’re coming into our final quarter of the year. With so much on the horizon including conferences, events and a host of opportunities proving the importance of professional development, there’s a good chance you might find yourself in a situation like this. I’m here to urge you to make it work for you (better than I made it work for me).
There’s no doubt that networking fast-tracks the opening of career and business doors. This happens through:
– the gaining of new tips to improve your work
– learning that accelerates growth
– finding customers or a new job
– making friends or discovering people who become future business partners, mentors and collaborators.
Yet, many of us cringe at the very thought of networking.
When we finally get ourselves in front of the crowd, we’re often ill-prepared, shy and take the wrong approach.
I soak up conferences (I especially love TBEX for travel content creators)! I love the learning and the inspiring presenters. I have always known the networking component is seriously valuable, but for many years I’ve made the errors referenced above.
When running my own business, I had to get stuck into the networking game, faking it ‘til I made it, so to speak.
For every person I met, I had a chance to discover how I might add value to what they were working on, and critically, much of that led to paid business.
How to make the most of a conference or event and introduce yourself professionally
It’s easy to slip into shy/tired/straight-up complacency though. This is where you hang out with the same people, get caught scrolling emails on your phone, feel stuck for conversation, or march right on in there with your business card.
Shamefully, I’ve done it all.
But, here’s my intention for us from now on:
be open to opportunity.
Make it your mission to connect with new people at each event you go to. Get to know them on a personal level.
Rather than only talking business, see if you can discover what hobbies, work, people, heroes, background or interests you have in common.
Ask questions, be interested, helpful, and listen some more.
If you have a few conversation-starters up your sleeve, that inevitably improves confidence when you approach someone new in a room.
Try things like ‘what brings you here today’, or ‘what are you working on that you’re most excited about right now’?
Another element I’ve always struggled with is getting my story right. You know, the ‘30 second elevator pitch’ thing!
I have always found it hard to articulate. Probably because I never crafted nor practised it – which is the final important bit of advice I wish to impart.
Instead of stating your job title when you meet new people, try sharing who you serve, what problem you solve, how you solve it and what results you’ve achieved.
For example: ‘I serve business owners by helping them produce high quality, creative digital content and this year already I’ve helped more than 45 brands reach their audience and engagement goals within six months of working with me’.
Over to you…
What emphasis do you put on the importance of professional development?
Make the best of what’s ahead this year, raise your profile and develop connections (offline, initiated via email, and online) that take you closer to your goals.
There’s no time like the present!
Keep in mind too, it’s only human to feel shy, reserved, or unsure of what to say.
Be honest about it – you can be certain others know the feeling well!
Competition for a roof over your head continues to be high in many places, and out of naïve fear I’d accepted the first unaffordable rental a real estate agent sold me on.
This apartment block housed a young, international set, mostly fortunate students who curiously didn’t work but had way more fun-funds than I did.
The experience wasn’t the homeliest I’ve had, and my pay packet stretched only as far as rent and a bit of food.
Trash, treasure and a splash of glamour
That’s why the communal corridor near the ‘bin room’ was such a treat.
You see, every time this transient crowd shifted in and out of the building, they’d leave unwanted goods in that space. Furniture, towels, blankets, cushions, kitchenware, shoes, lamps, kettles, storage boxes, trinkets and clothes would appear every few weeks. All in good condition, nearly-new! The little hallway offered a treasure trove of goodies that saved me loads of money.
One special day I was on my way to work when I spotted a fresh pile of pretty things left for the picking. Sure I needed to catch the train, like, ten minutes prior, however, I was captivated.
Unceremoniously dumped amongst a pile of women’s accessories, was a stylish black leather Kate Spade tote bag!
A Google search later indicated it would retail for more than (AU)$700. My bag’s former owner (someone with more money than sense) had abandoned it still full of her old gum wrappers, crumpled tissues, used cosmetics, and it was stained on the inside with what looked like leaked nail varnish. With a loving clean, it was nearly good as new.
Not saving your best for special occasions: living a glamorous life now
From that moment on, my Kate Spade tote and I were inseparable. I’d never owned an expensive bag before. I’m a fairly low-maintenance kinda girl, however carrying it around made me feel glamorous. It was just a bag that I’d retrieved from the trash, but it did add sparkle to my days.
Indeed, the word ‘glamour’ is derived from Scots (the old English language as spoken in Scotland), when in the early 1700s, the Scottish altered the English word ‘grammar’ to create ‘glamer’ or ‘glamour’, meaning ‘a magic spell’.
What is glamour?
Glamour. A little bit of magic, a feeling that things are in the flow and all eyes are on a sassy version of you. Enchanting, don’t you think?
More reasons to not be saving your best for special occasions, like weddings, formals, awards shows or a jaunt through Vienna.
Glamour can be accessed every day. My Kate Spade handbag made me realise that the spell is in the detail, if that detail is special to me. I still don’t seek designer gear, but I make sure that I implement touches of glamour in my life that serve as a cue to walk tall and approach my to-do list with grace and ease.
Glamour cue: be your happiest today
Your daily dose of glamour might mean ensuring your nails are manicured, wearing a fabulous hair accessory, getting fit and healthy, or brightening up your home with fresh flowers. Maybe the glamorous life to you, means the removal of excess, making space for calm, simplicity and the got-it-together confident you.
When the tragic news of designer Kate Spade’s death popped up as a notification on my phone in June, I recalled how the creation that bore her logo had brought me joy. That bag was my icon of glamour, the reminder to smile warmly, flick my hair a little, and to radiate the bright energy I intend to share with the world. Little had I known, I did not need a big budget or to be in attendance at a fancy event in order to ‘be’ glamorous.
In a reflection on the meaning of glamour, Financial Times journalist Susie Boyt says that, “your best self is not about pampering, but working on that song-in-your-heart mood”. How charming, and true. Find your glamour cues this month, and access daily, because a reality we can all agree on, is that life’s too short to save our best things for ‘special occasions’.
Read the latest issue of Get it Magazine, getit-magazine.com.au
My first real dose of winter came when I moved from Cairns to Toowoomba to attend high school. Toowoomba, perched atop a mountain range on the Darling Downs, with a foggy, almost English-at-times atmosphere enveloping the city, wow, it was COLD. I hated getting up in the mornings, the nights were uncomfortable; and you certainly never want to get caught on the corner of Margaret and Ruthven streets when the region’s ferocious wind howls through town! Sometimes I just couldn’t get warm, and for ages even the prospect of a mild winter as we generally experience on the GC, sent chills down my spine.
When the temperature drops, the night falls just that little bit sooner and even the dog hesitates to shift from bed in the morning, we know winter’s hit, and it can require a bit of an adjustment.
In recent years however, I have discovered some seasonal benefits.
Coats, hats, scarves, boots, anyone?
There’s something else I’ve seriously embraced too, that’s utterly delightful, thrives in wintertime, and indeed hails from a region of the world that intimately understands the cold. I’m talking about the Scandinavian way of life – or state of mind – called hygge (pronounced ‘hoo-gah’).
Hygge is a word that describes a mood of contentment and enjoying the simple pleasures in life, especially when it’s cold. Essentially, it’s about allowing yourself to keep cosy.
This can mean luxurious fabrics, candles and pretty, warm lighting, snug rugs – you get the picture. Although, it’s not only about generating an atmosphere of external warmth. Hygge promotes time spent on yourself as well as chilled (pardon the pun) nights in with friends, a little wine maybe, a board game and nice music.
There’s an argument to say this Euro concept doesn’t apply in Queensland, but I wholeheartedly disagree. In this age of perpetual busyness and constant connection to work, opinions, moods, politics, negative press and personal pressure points pulsing at every turn, I’m declaring hygge to be alive and well in our Sunshine State.
In fact, what if we deemed June to be the month of respite? Take a nice deep breath right now, and give yourself a break: a peaceful five minutes on breethe.com (or app), and choose to start again, wrapped in a warm, mindful state.
Hygge also encourages [responsible] indulgence as the temperature drops. You want that chocolate? Go for it! Feel like a calming chamomile tea? Pop the kettle on now. A Saturday night in a warm bath with a good book? Binge-watching Netflix romcoms tucked under the blankets? Totally on board! Hygge is about keeping it simple and doing what makes you feel calm, content and connected (offline, that is).
Bring hygge into your home, and surrender it all. Sound nice?
Although traditionally hygge is a wintertime way of life, it’s an important reminder to make space for YOU. Sure, it’s colder outside and we’re more inclined to tuck ourselves away anyway, when time permits. But being mindful of self-care is always a good idea. Hygge is the ideal antidote to our go-go-go lifestyles, and warms up the colder months in ways we might otherwise miss.
Winning in winter is no longer about adding more coffee to the pot and hoping that it’s over very, very quickly (why wish our time away?).
‘Change the way you look at the world, and the world around you will change’. Mine looks like a comfortable pile of cushions and blankets, fluffy socks, a selection of sweet scented candles, and a hot chocolate sat by copies of my favourite magazines (Get it included, of course).
While researching this topic I read a couple of news articles claiming the idea of hygge is over-hyped and has no place infiltrating popular culture. Yet, here I am drawing it into one of the warmest climates on earth and sharing with you. That’s because I believe the principle behind it is special and important; that right now, this very second, we have an opportunity to appreciate the pleasure that simplicity presents, and approach our 2018 half-way mark in a very cool, calm and collected manner.
How do you see it? Share in the comments below or find us (Get it Magazine or Sarah Blinco) on social media.
We had the exciting task of dipping our toes back in old familiar waters, and ended up as London correspondents for a number of Aussie breakfast radio shows.
Royal Wedding Aussies live from London
Throughout the week we talked all things royal wedding as Aussies live from London on River (Brisbane), Power FM, and a host of other stations across Queensland and New South Wales. We were a little tired by the end of it, but it was good fun.
We were also tipped-off by channel nine that they would be broadcasting live from Buckingham Palace, and I fortuitously ended up at a royal rehearsal in Windsor!
Take a look at these Instagram Stories highlights for the best of the royal wedding, Aussies live from London.
Congrats Harry and Meghan! What a lovely, sunny, romantic and historic event to be a part of.
Welcome to Travel Live learn, where we are passionate about living a life full of great adventures. We are Sarah + Cooper, and here we share our advice and stories about expat living plus pet and house sitting around the world; wellness travel and creative living, no matter where on the planet you are. We have worked in media, communication and creative roles for many years, and have spent over 10 years living and working around the world. We hope you find value in our content. Please do connect by leaving a comment or find us on social media.