This is not a showcase of my photography or writing or any sort of “travel inspo”. It’s really more for me; for retrospection’s sake. But I recently read that what is deeply personal is deeply universal. Diving into a years’ worth of memories and experiences to extract 29 most significant moments was just that. I wonder what it is that you will get from reading the below…but I hope that it is something good xx
Here we go! In no order whatsoever…the 29 moments that set my soul on fire to celebrate my 29th birthday (15 September 2018):
ONE. Catching the same train line from Zurich Airport to Fribourg, like I did almost 7 years ago to the date. Back in my Home Swiss Home. The teal colour of the seats on the train is a colour etched deeply into my soul.
TWO. The Matterhorn is probably the most recognisable mountain Switzerland, with thanks to Toblerone. She is also the most special peak I’ve seen, to date. The Matterhorn is so colossal and majestic, towering over the beautiful town of Zermatt. It makes you blink twice every time you see her to make sure she is really there. We were having breakfast when I saw the morning light kiss the top of this mountain…I ran back to my room to take this photo before heading out for a full day on the slopes.
THREE. On my mountain wishlist was 3 things; to see alpenglow, to see the shadow of the mountain I'm standing on cast below on the surrounding landscape...and to stand above the clouds with the mountains. It feels so fitting that I ticked off one in my home Swiss home...and not only that, but in the canton that I lived in. For over an hour on the summit of Moléson, it was a total whiteout. We stared wistfully out of the windows into nothing and tried to lift the spirits with copious amounts of fondue. Literally, JUST AS WE WERE LEAVING, I glimpsed something out there…a peak rising up out of an ocean of clouds. Now, everywhere I looked, mountains cut starkly into the bluebird sky.
FOUR. Ten years into a relationship with Luke. He has been my cornerstone all throughout; through finishing a double degree in Business and International Studies, through multiple casual jobs, through Switzerland, through landing my first ‘real’ job at Australia’s biggest investment bank, through low points that seemed bottomless and ridiculous amounts of laughter, through months’ worth of life-changing travels, through potholes and total derailments, slow days and manic times, and fleeting and lasting friendships…and inexplicably more. Who I am and where I am is largely because of him. Thank you my love.
FIVE. In April 2018, I had a miscarriage (that’s the first time I’ve ever said that in public and don’t worry, I have the support of Luke to say it) and the way my friends and family rallied around me was one of the biggest displays of love that I have ever known. My friend, Tien, especially…it was like his hurt mirrored mine and it made me feel less alone.
SIX. In May 2018, I was watching the sunrise at Eagle Rock in the Royal National Park and it dawned on me how much I was hurting. Not directly from the miscarriage but the veil it had lifted. Something like that can be seen as almost a ‘fresh start’. I was hurtling down one path only to be rudely stopped and now I had to decide what was next. A billion thoughts swirled in my head, ‘right’ inextricably tangled with ‘wrong’. Eleven years since I finished high school and since then, my life was almost straight-laced procedure. But I’m not wired like that inside and it felt like the dissonance finally caught up to me. It is frightening to find yourself in a tangled mess. But as I sat there, the ocean was savage and tumultuous below, crashing like thunder down whilst the sky was still softly muted and my heart was steady and content. Razor’s edge. It reminded me that maybe it’s in the mess, not just through the mess, that lies the magic. So whilst I try to figure it all out, I will still love the crap out of myself, my life and my loved ones.
SEVEN. Standing on top of Australia with my baby sister on her 19th birthday. One-on-one time with my loved ones out in nature is probably my favourite way to spend quality time together. In hindsight, hiking in the middle of summer with your older sister is probably not how you want to spend your 19th birthday so thanks Maily for indulging me!
EIGHT. Sunrise at Govetts Leap in the Blue Mountains is one of my favourite Australian experiences, ever. One Sunday morning, we pulled into the carpark just in time for sunrise…with about a million other people too. The sky was painted in deep, heady purple and blue and burnt orange. But it was a little bit later on as Quynh (my sister), Jowan (my brother-in-law) and I left Govetts Leap towards Pulpit Rock that magic struck…
NINE. Feeling the wind whip around my face and hearing the sea crash against the rocks below at otherworldly Cape Farewell, at the very tip top of New Zealand’s South Island. There was an electricity in the air that was borderline intoxicating and hostile. Some places have a soul of its own and this is one of them.
TEN. Seeing an old place with new eyes…Balmoral is my local beach; I’ve been there countless times and yet, I’d never explored this part that is littered with boulders, overhung by sprawling branches. Wild. We spent a languid WINTER’s afternoon here, salty-haired + sun-kissed, sprawled out with bare skin on warm rock. I don’t think we actually spoke all that much…Dave just sat there, looking and I climbed all over the rocks like an 8-year old boy on school holidays. Then we spent $60 on snacks and watched one of my favourite films, ‘Meru’. One of my favourite days ever.
ELEVEN. I went to 6 art exhibitions and museums; the Art Gallery of NSW, Carriageworks, the Archibald Prize, the Australian Museum, World Press Photo and Hidden 2018 at Rookwood Cemetery - and I loved them all. But I especially love art that bridges the gap between maker and viewer; that invites you to interact with it, that engages more than just the sense of sight. This is why I gravitate towards sculpture, performance art and installation art…and so…
TWELVE. My two favourites were Ryoji Ikeda’s micro | macro installation at Carriageworks and Hidden 2018. In micro | macro, the room distilled the entire universe + time + history into this singular, yet seriously complex, experience. It was an incredible immersive audio visual project that had us sitting on the floor listening to and watching a projection and becoming part of it as it washed over the floor. It was also a meeting point of art and science (quantum physics, actually) which is something I desperately froth over.
THIRTEEN. As for Hidden 2018…This was a sculpture exhibition in the largest, oldest and most multicultural cemetery in Australia. Indeed, initially, it may seem odd and even inappropriate to hold an art exhibition here but it isn’t only sadness, anguish and loss that is associated with death but also remembrance, celebration and love. I was really moved by Hidden 2018 and hoped it brought people some joy when visiting loved ones who had passed.
FOURTEEN. I went to a NSW National Parks meetup sometime around May, which I was super nervous about. It ended up being so much fun and reminded me how awesome it is to meet new people. Even though we all shared a love for the outdoors, we also each brought our own differences and individuality. It was a colourful group and I honestly appreciated every single person. I also made a new friend on this day, with whom I still keep in touch - Matt! He volunteered to pick me up in his 4WD to save my little city hatchback from an off-road death. He is just a down-to-earth legend with a great sense of humour. He’s also very talented and intelligent and I have learnt a lot about creativity and business directly and indirectly from him.
FIFTEEN. I am a massive dreamer not only for myself, not only for my loved ones…but basically for everyone I come in contact with. If you ever tell me your goal or dream, be prepared for me to champion it 1000% until you achieve it or change your mind. Seeing Luke with a team and multiple athletes flying the Starr Strength colours + name at the 2018 CrossFit Pacific Regionals will always, always, always fill my heart with pride.
SIXTEEN. Driving over the Crown Range Pass and seeing Queenstown in the distance. It had been only 9 months since my last visit but it literally took my breath away…I love that town so, so, so much.
SEVENTEEN. We snowshoed down into Blue Lake in Kosciuszko National Park before learning to self-arrest and ice climb. The week-long intro mountaineering course I did still has every inch of me itching for more and more and more. I can’t wait to work on my skills in New Zealand and hopefully get a winter ascent of a mountain under my belt before I turn 30.
EIGHTEEN. Taking a break from skiing on a bluebird day in Zermatt to have lunch practically at eye-level with some of the biggest mountains we have ever seen. The sun was shining, the food was extremely Swiss, the tunes were playing and we could have lived in a moment like that forever. This was also Luke’s return to the slopes after 8 years. He LOVES the snow and yet somehow, we let that happen. Seeing him full of childlike joy is rare. Putting passions on pause can’t happen again on my watch…
NINETEEN. My role with She Went Wild only becomes increasingly perfect for me the longer I am in it. One of the highlights is being able to meet likeminded women. Every bouldering meetup at Nomad Bouldering Gym left me almost giddy, riding the highs of adrenalin and connection. On the subject of bouldering, I have to mention all my climbs with my friend, Chris, as well. We both live pretty hectic lives (though him more so as he is a doctor) and so our hours at the climbing gym were always a welcome break (as well as being often outrageously funny).
TWENTY. Hours and hours of deep + meaningfuls with one of my most precious friends, Rachael, in her tent with mulled wine along the Coast Track. We have done a handful of overnighters together over the years but this one was my favourite. I realised that she is one of my soulmates in this world and as I divulged some pretty confronting stuff for the very first time ever, she listened with 100% love and 0% judgement.
TWENTY-ONE. On the Hooker Valley Track at 5.30am, the sky was absolutely ABLAZE and stretched out in front of us, above us, around us…it was everywhere + everything and I felt as though with just one step, I would float away into the galaxies and become a part of it. The Milky Way looked as though it emanated from Mount Cook. Unforgettable.
TWENTY-TWO. Seeing my beautiful friend Issy achieve a goal she’s had for years - competing on the Regionals floor. Open-minded and wise beyond her years, so steadfast and unconditional in her love and support of me, so extremely silly and hilarious.
TWENTY-THREE. Welcoming back my girl Laura from 2 years in New York City. They say distance matters little when a bond is truly special and I wholeheartedly agree…but it’s damn good to have her back :) Probably the only other girl in this world who feels everything as intensely as I do and who really gets, first-hand, the emotional impact nature has on me. Probably one of less than a handful of people with whom I can show everything to in total comfort and ease.
TWENTY-FOUR. My best + oldest friend, Claire. Though I am (obviously) a huge romantic, I have never believed that anything lasts forever but as the years go on (17+ to be exact), I know more and more in my heart that our friendship will. There have been times in our lives where we have been on such diverging paths and yet she has always been by my side. As I battled through some stuff, I struggled to tell her because I was worried she wouldn’t understand…regardless of whether or not she did, she still loved me and in the end, I learnt that that is what really matters.
TWENTY-FIVE. I love a sunrise mission. I love heading out on the trail in the dark and topping out on some high point just in time for first light. Pigeon House Mountain in the Budawangs is such an easy one - it’s just about an hour to hike up making it a very achievable summit for sunrise. It was so, so beautiful. So still except for the bits of clouds slowly streaming through down in the valley, so silent except for the birdsong echoing through. Watching the ochre sandstone walls, that scream home to me, light up as the sun rose was hypnotic.
TWENTY-SIX. Sunrise at Hooker Lake had my fingertips tingling from the cold but my heart, on fire, bursting at the seams. It wasn’t even a very exciting sunrise; very muted in colours…I think it’s a better spot for sunset…but even still, watching the sky change above New Zealand’s tallest mountain with one of my oldest friends is a morning that will always make me smile.
TWENTY-SEVEN. In 2011 in Fribourg, Switzerland, my friend Magali took me right under her wing; she told me where to buy cervelas, she held a cheese tasting night just for me, I went mushrooming with her sister and her and I stayed with her family for Christmas. This time around was no different. They made the effort to meet us in Zermatt before opening up their home in Fribourg to me and enveloping me, once again, into their lives.
TWENTY-EIGHT. We had spent practically all day doing a walk that should’ve taken two hours. By now, it had greyed over but in a random pine plantation, somewhere near Govetts Leap, we took a chance on sunset and arrived almost exactly as the horizon gleamed orange amongst an ocean of storm clouds. I remember everything; even the way the group sloped down from where we were sitting to the pines and how the ground crunched under my boots as we hurried back to the car, frozen like icicles.
TWENTY-NINE. But perhaps what set my soul on fire MOST as a 28-year old…was feeling like I was finally growing into myself. I wasn’t completely conscious of it but looking back over the years, I detect a pattern of restraining myself; not only in my actions and words but also my thoughts and feelings. I often felt self-conscious or embarrassed about how full on I can be and so I diluted myself.
Today, I feel as though I am the most comfortable and the most uncompromising with what makes me, me. The way I love without abandon, the unadulterated joy I get from really simple things like a beautiful sky, a hidden flower and seeing old friends joke together, the limitless curiosity I have for everything and everyone, the way words can make me cry, the way I sometimes measure how well my day is going by the amount of times I’ve laughed or lost track of time, how deeply I feel, how widely I see, how ready I am to be scared and uncomfortable, my relentless pursuit + upholding of passion.
I am also increasingly aware of my shortcomings and am moving away from being defensive about them and towards always trying to become a more loving, compassionate and patient person.
And those were the 29 moments that set my soul on fire; that I am carrying onwards in my heart into the next year of my life. There are so many more - this is not an exhaustive list…but I had to draw the line somewhere! Thanks for reading xx