Write what you know, right?

In the late 90s, I was a European Tour Manager for a company that specialised in tours for 18-35 year olds. See?

EE 1997-No Contiki

Aside: Gotta love those ‘mom jeans’.

I always said I would never go on one of these tours, let alone work as a TM, but when you have a devastating breakup in Paris from a 5-year relationship and you still want to see all the places you were supposed to see on that trip with your now ex-boyfriend, you book a last-minute tour.

After said Parisian breakup, I arrived home (in London) on the Eurostar, got on the phone, and booked a 2-week trip that started the next morning at 7am. I was back in Paris within 24 hours of leaving and on that trip, I met 5 women who became my bus besties. I am still in touch with Michelle, the tall blonde.

Venice 1996

Months later, while I was living in London and doing day-to-day relief teaching, I saw that the tour company was hiring. “I could do that job,” I thought. I applied, along with a couple thousand others, and after an interview process that would NOT pass muster in this #metoo world, I got a spot on the 7-week training trip.

Surviving that was like getting to the final four of Survivor. It was something akin to bootcamp, but with less creature comforts. We averaged 4-5 hours of sleep a night and we slept in tents – in winter – in the snow. We were quizzed relentlessly on routes, opening times, history, currency conversion, places of interest, and architecture. I made lifelong friends, because, really, in the extreme circumstances, all we had some days were each other.

And then I was placed in charge of my own tour – a 5-week camper – the first of a long season that took me into November. It was one of the best and worst years of my life. The best because of the friendships I made, the places I saw, and the experiences I had. And the worst because … well, that’s another blog post.

But, one of the most incredible things about that time is the material it has given me for my writing.

In my 1st and 3rd books, the main character is Sarah Parsons, and like me, she once ran tours in Europe. When her sister, Cat (the main character is book #2), books a 2-week bus tour around around Europe to escape her lovelorn flatmate, Sarah is able to rattle off the full itinerary without hesitation.

And Cat booking that tour meant that I got to write a 2-week bus tour around Europe!

Cat’s 3 bus besties are inspired by my real life bus besties. Michelle inspired Mama Lou, Weyleen (far left above) inspired Jaelee, and Sophie (second from the left) inspired Danielle. I was able to write the places in great detail, because I’d been to them many (many) times. And I was able to write exactly what it’s like to travel on a bus tour – right down to the (ridiculously) early starts, the heinous ablution blocks, the tight schedules, the fast-but-firm friendships that are formed, and how wonderfully Europe excites and entices the senses.

Here’s a little peek into that world…

It was brilliant fun writing That Night in Paris. Early readers are loving it, and you can preorder now (April 15 for the ebook and June/July for the print version) – just follow the link above.

Ciao!

A love letter to Australia

It is Australia Day 2020. January 26th is a contentious date, because it marks the arrival of the First Fleet―the first European settlers who arrived in Australia in 1788.

Of course, by commemorating this date, Australia ignores that in 1788 we were already populated by hundreds of nations of Indigenous Australians forming the world’s oldest civilisation. January 26th marks the date of an invasion and the beginning of a genocide.

This post isn’t about whether or not we should change the date of Australia Day, although we absolutely should. This post is a love letter to my home, my country, my Australia.

My Australia

My Australia is the person at the tram stop who sees that you’re lost and points you in the right direction with a smile. My Australia is the person at the party who draws the introverts into conversation, and makes sure everyone is heard. My Australia has a hearty sense of humour―often bawdy, always self-deprecating, and sometimes a defence mechanism.

My Australia has skin, eyes, and hair of every colour, and is all genders, faiths, and identities, for My Australia is all of us. We have lived here 60 000 years and 6 days. Our roots are deep and just starting to grow. What we share is beyond cosmetic; it is a connection―to each other, to our land, to our country.

My Australia bears scars―from when we went to wars and defended our shores, from being ravaged by fires, floods, cyclones, and drought, from dark times of hatred, anger, and entitlement, bearing those scars with humility, pride, or shame.

My Australia reaches out when someone is in need. We rally, we show up, we dig into our pockets―we care. We weep together, lean on each other, support and cajole each other. We extend our hands willingly, not afraid of the blisters or back-breaking pain we’ll incur as we rebuild.

My Australia is not the scurrilous and self-serving politicians who banter obscenities at each other and extol the virtues of ‘clean coal’. It is not the hatemongers or nationalists or the bigots. These people are the minority, one that is slowly dying out.

My Australia is adventurous and intrepid, both at home and abroad, with well-stamped passports and battered luggage, with postcards that loved ones have sent from the corners of the earth taped to the fridge, with plans for trips and getaways and long weekends and stay-cations. We must go, see, and do.

My Australia loves the sea, the sun, and the sand, we love the deserts and sunrises and sunsets, we love the rain forests and eucalypts, our native animals* and red, rocky monoliths. We love the bustle and energy of our cities with their sky-scraping towers, and the warm friendly welcome of our country towns, where the local pub feels like home.

My Australia is brilliant, with an intelligent mind, a creative spirit, grit, athleticism, and the ability to see the future. We are doctors, scientists, artists, teachers, communicators, technicians, builders, athletes, and change-makers. We are on the edge of the future, speaking up, taking risks, saving lives with medical breakthroughs and art that feeds the soul. We build, create, and solve. We are―as always―batting far above our average on the world stage, a tiny nation of 25 million achieving wondrous things. We also make the best wine and coffee in the world.

My Australia is home―my home, our home.

And though she is being ravaged as I write this, I have to believe she will recover, wearing her scars with pride as we come together and rebuild.

And on our current bushfire and climate crisis, this image by artist, Melina, evokes what I struggle to put into words.

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*Except maybe the spiders―we have some really, scary spiders.

A Grand Adventure: Sabbatical Life

Those of you who followed our sabbatical journey will know that we spent most of 2018 living (and often working) abroad. I blogged throughout the year, with posts specifically about the sabbatical at the half-way mark, and then again on the home stretch.

We’ve been back in Australia about six weeks now, and have just moved into our new home in Docklands. As I interview for fulltime work, as I’m about to sign a publishing contract for my first book, and as I unpack and find new homes for our belongings, it’s a good time to reflect on our year of sabbatical life.

The days are long and the weeks go by fast

A dear friend we made in Bali, where we lived for two months, reflected that when she looked back, the weeks seemed to be flying by, but that each day felt full and long.

I can honestly say that this is how I felt for most of the year.

When I am present, when I live the breadth and depth of each day, they seem longer, fuller. I want to carry that feeling with me, to bottle that secret sauce, because it makes life feel more purposeful and I’m more content.

A sense of accomplishment

As well as consulting for clients (writing, editing, and review educational materials), I wrote and edited two books. TWO WHOLE BOOKS, each 100,000 words. I wrote 200,000 words – funny, heartfelt narratives set in beautiful locations. I made up people, their lives and their adventures. I created from nothing the things they said and did – well, I borrowed some anecdotes from loved ones, but for the most part, those fictional people came to life in my head.

I worked on building my author platform, engaging with readers and authors from around the world, learning from them, supporting them, befriending them. I’ve made some wonderful literary friends over the past year – people I can contact with questions and requests, people who can rely on me for support and help if they need it. I will champion them and their writing, and they will do the same for me.

I also queried publishers and agents, honing my messaging about me and my books. I am proud and excited to say that I recently got a big fat YES from a UK-based publisher, which I will announce officially once I’ve signed the contract. Because of this sabbatical, my first book is being traditionally published and I will get to hold my book in my hands. The others will hopefully follow (squee!).

Feeding my soul

We lived in and visited some beautiful, exciting, and vibrant places. Bali, Portugal, Scotland, Ireland, rural Minnesota, London, the British Midlands, Amsterdam, Seattle, LA, Wales, New Zealand and my home state of Western Australia. Natural beauty, architectural wonders, history, and wildlife in copious doses. Our everyday life was a wonderful cacophony of sights, sounds, smells and tastes that we happily steeped ourselves in.

Walking the streets of Ubud, the sun beating down, the humidity hanging heavy in the air, the heady scent of tropical flowers mixing with petrol fumes and Indonesian spices – this became my idea of heaven.

Spending time with loved ones also fed my soul. Catching up with family and friends in WA, LA, Seattle, Minnesota, the UK, Ireland, and Amsterdam was a highlight. Living with Ben’s family and mine for extended periods of time was something special. Cooking a mid-week meal for people I love is – and has long been – a great pleasure for me. Chatting over that meal, as we recount our days, our mini-triumphs and challenges, heightens that joy.

‘Quality time’ it’s called. We all need that type of time with our loved ones. Even though I’ve lived my adult life ‘away’ from most of my family, I long for those times when I can look across the dinner table and meet the eyes of someone I love dearly but don’t see in person very often. The thing about being a traveller, someone who lives ‘away’ – you always miss someone. It’s the curse of the ex-pat. I had a year of topping up my soul with quality loved-ones time.

And, wonderfully, we made some very dear new friends from across the world.

 
The things you miss

Things are just things, really. We attach meaning to them. As I unpack boxes and find places for our things in our new home, I know (deep down) they’re just things, but they make me feel at home. Books I’ve loved, souvenirs and artefacts from our travels, family photos, my good knives, my cannisters (yes, really) – these things ‘spark joy’ as Marie Kondo would say. It’s nice to rediscover these things. Do I need them? No, I don’t. I spent the year with my clothes, toiletries and a stack of rectangles (laptop, iPad, Kindle, phone). I can live without things. For now, though, I will especially enjoy them.

I did really missed drawers, though. Like, really, totally, absolutely, completely missed putting my clothes into drawers. Even when we stayed somewhere for weeks or months, we kept our clothes in our packing cubes. Drawers are luxurious. Next time you take an article of clothing out of a drawer, just savour that feeling.

The things you get used to

In Bali, we slathered ourselves in sunscreen and showered several times a day. It was hot and humid and 80% of our time was spent outdoors. My hair looked like wool. And even so, Bali was my favourite place we lived in. I’d live there again in a heartbeat.

I am a creative home cook. In Bali, I cooked with tempeh for the first time and it became a staple. At the lake cabin in Minnesota, I had an electric frying pan and a microwave – that’s it – and I cooked a variety of dishes. In Portugal, it was difficult to get good fresh food – produce, dairy and proteins – but I adapted. In the UK (before and after Portugal), I was cooking for five instead of two, and three of the adults were eating Keto. Spoiled for fresh produce, because you are in the UK, I made giant pots of Keto-friendly stews, red sauces and soups.

I can write anywhere – and did. A sunlounger, a beach, a cafe (many cafes), the kitchen table (in many different kitchens), on planes and trains, and even on a boat. The world was my writing room. I loved it.

My big takeaways

I love Australia. It’s home – Melbourne especially. It’s a terrific city and we have loved ones here. I was happy to come back and I am excited to start the next chapter here.

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Our new view

I would do a sabbatical year again – or create a life where we live abroad for several months every year. There was a time when that thought terrified me – now I think it will become essential to us.

Ben is an incredibly brave, wonderful, supportive, imaginative person. “Why don’t we trade a year of retirement for now,” he said a couple of years ago. I am so grateful he did, but even more so that he gently nudged me to make the commitment. He is my bestie, my partner-in-crime, my travel buddy, my champion, my love. Thank you, Ben, for being all those things and more.

The home stretch of sabbatical life

In 1979 and 1980, my dad and his then-partner embarked on long-term travel. Their trip included a 3-month drive from Cape Town to Cairo on a giant pink truck with a handful of other travellers, working on a Kibbutz in Israel, and buying a camper van and travelling in the UK and Europe while they picked up intermittent teaching work.

Essentially, they took a sabbatical, only when I think about what they did and when they did it, theirs was quite a bit more bad-ass than ours. Just quietly, my dad is one of my heroes. This is him.

We are ten months into a year-long sabbatical, and I recently posted on Facebook that I was having a ‘travel weary’ day, that I knew the funk wouldn’t last, but at that moment, I just wanted to go home.

One friend asked, “Where’s that?” and it was a good question. I have talked a lot this year about home being wherever lay my head (and where Ben is). I replied, “Just Australia.”

My dad’s comment on the post drew on his own long-term travel. “Once you sense the finish line, you just want to go. Hang in there.”

A friend, who last year completed a year’s sabbatical with her husband, posted, “Been there. Sending love.”

I don’t post this to complain.

This year has been brilliant. When Ben and I look back on the last ten months and all we’ve seen, the people we have met and reconnected with, the places we’ve been to, and all we’ve done and accomplished, it brings us a lot of happiness – even some pride.

But there are two months left, and I do not want to fritter those away by wallowing in homesickness. Ben and I are united in the belief that we are privileged and brave and must make the absolute most of every day for the next two months.

So, with that in mind, we will continue to get out and see Porto and enjoy the beauty and wonder it has to offer us. We will have a brilliant time with our family in the UK over Christmas and New Year. We will add a side trip or two – Wales looks likely, as does a return to London. We will plan out something spectacular for January (our swan song). And I will finish my third novel.

So again, I do not write this to complain, but to share the reality of sabbatical life. Sometimes, you just want to be home.

 

A desk with a view

We have now been on sabbatical for nine months, and during that time Ben and I have both worked for our respective clients and I’ve written, edited and published one novel and I’m about 1/4 of the way through writing the next.

While we’ve also made time to explore the different locations we’ve visited or lived in, our working life is a big part of the sabbatical. This is a test case: can we live and work abroad for extended periods of time? We never know, this could become our new normal.

The kind of work we both do – Ben developing software, and me writing and editing content – means we need to work at desks. But ‘desk’ can be any flat surface. Ben’s current stand-up desk set up is an ironing board and the box the vacuum cleaner came in – yes, really.

Most of the time, we either use the dining table of the place we’re staying at, or we go to coffee shops. The coffee shop thing is tricky. The seats have to comfortable enough to sit on for at least a couple of hours, the WiFi has to be good, the coffee can’t suck, and there needs to be a generally good ‘vibe’.

Our fave spot so far in Porto is the cafe at the Concert Hall, which has great seats, fast WiFi and a buzz of energy from the groups of people who gather there to catch up or to work. The coffee sucks, but 3 out of 4 isn’t bad. The other day, when it was still sunny and warm, we worked in the park at a picnic table for a couple of hours – divine.

At the lake cabin, I’d often sit on the porch in an Adirondack chair (I love these) and write, stealing glances at the lake view from time to time. In Bali, my favourite place to work was on the sunlounger next to the pool.

So here are some of my fave desks with a view from the year so far.

In the park in Porto
At the park in Porto
Looking out the window in Amsterdam
Amsterdam

 

Could be anywhere…

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When you’re living and working around the world – rather than holidaying for a year –  the highlight of some days is having a decent cup of coffee.

This is how yesterday, a Saturday in Edinburgh, went:

  • got up – tea and porridge for breakfast
  • checked social media, Amazon and Goodreads (unpaid author work) – more tea
  • started on an editorial project for my client (paid work) – more tea
  • realised most of the the morning had disappeared and we hadn’t left the house yet (Airbnb accommodation)
  • moved to a coffee shop where we had decent coffee
  • worked on the editorial project
  • had lunch at the cafe – while working
  • realised we’d been there for two hours and our butts hurt from the chairs
  • went to the supermarket and got fruit, TP, and stuff for dinner
  • at home, finished the editorial project
  • put on a couple of loads of laundry
  • realised it was five o’clock and opened a bottle of wine and watched Netflix
  • cooked and ate dinner – had more wine – watched more Netflix
  • went to bed

A normal day…

We could have been anywhere in the world…

We’re in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and yesterday we saw no more than our local neighbourhood, the inside of a Sainsbury’s and a busy cafe. But I don’t consider days like this a waste. They are a part of being nomads – and once in a while, we just need a day of normal.

And today? We’re off to climb Arthur’s Seat and to explore more of Old Town!

Traveller vs Tourist: Things that make you go, hmmm

I have long subscribed to being a traveller over being a tourist.

When I ran tours in Europe in the 90s, I’d start each one with the First Day Spiel. It took a couple of hours and ate up the time it took the coach to get from London to Dover. Much of it was around logistics – these were the days before (most people had) mobile phones and the Internet and the Euro. Travel in Europe was tricky at best and tetchy at worst. We changed money, we crossed actual borders, we used fax machines and phone cards. It was HARD.

But, I’d still finish my FDS with a little pontification about the value of being a traveller over being a tourist.

Travellers embrace differences – cultural, culinary, climate, cash. They are patient, observant, engaged and interested. They’ll understand when the Greek ferry is late and when the only thing to eat is day-old bread and iffy cheese. They will try to learn some of the local language, and will be equally thrilled to see locals zipping about Rome on Vespas as the Colosseum.

Tourists, on the other hand, should just stay home and watch Netflix – or perhaps the Travel Channel. They complain, whine, whinge and generally make life miserable for everyone around them.

For the most part, I had travellers on my tours – I am still friends with some of my former clients – but there were the odd tourists.

So, what category do I fit into this year? I have lived like a local, I have travelled, and I have visited family and friends. I’ve been a digital nomad and for most of the year have had my traveller hat pulled firmly over my brow. BUT, there have been a few tourist moments, when I have devolved into an ugly version of my travelling self – when it has all gotten a bit too much and I’ve indulged in a bit of a whinge.

Bali

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Campuhan Trail, Bali

Beach and pool clubs in Bali will try to rip you off when it comes to Happy Hour. It’s 2 for 1 drinks, right? Well, that means you get 4 drinks every time you order 2. So, when Ben and I would each order a cocktail, thinking that they were half-price, WRONG! 4 cocktails would show up and we’d be expected to pay for two (not one). It happened so many times, we started clarifying with staff what we were ordering and how much we’d be expected to pay – and even then, they’d still try to dupe us. We’d just send the drinks back – all 4 of them.

Ireland

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Cliffs of Kerry

I got sticker shock when I got to Ireland – and that was coming from England. Everything – and I mean everything – cost a lot more than what we’d typically pay in the US, the UK and Australia, especially public transport, food, drinks, coffee, groceries, accommodation and care hire – you know, basically everything.

I kept doing the conversions in my head – which travellers definitely don’t do – sending myself into the financial equivalent of a diabetic coma. A day-pass on public transit within the Dublin area capped out at 9 euros-something cents. The equivalent in London is 6 pounds-something pence – for London. By the way, that’s about 2 pounds cheaper to travel around London, one of the world’s largest and (I would argue) best cities.

England

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Prime Meridian, Greenwich

Ahhh, the land of inconvenience. That’s what my dad calls it and he’s English, so he’s allowed. As a half-English, half-American Aussie, I am also (technically) allowed to disparage the sometimes ridiculous inconveniences of England.

Going to the supermarket, for example, is an exercise in futility. Filling the basket or the cart is fine – there are a lot of choices – LOTS – but checking out is AWFUL. At ALDI – yes, the same discount box chain found all over the world – they won’t start scanning the items until you are fully unloaded, because there is literally nowhere to put them once they’re scanned. You must unload, then dash past the cashier with your bags at the ready, so you can catch your groceries as they fly off the conveyor belt. It’s like something out of a Japanese game show.

If this doesn’t appeal to you, try Tesco or Sainsbury’s or Waitrose, where you could gestate a brand new human being while you wait for the seated cashiers to slothenly (I’ve made up this word especially for them) pick up each item, examine it carefully to determine the whereabouts of the bar code, wave it over the scanner and then place it down with far more care than could possibly be required for a box of dishwasher tablets. They should have free WiFi so you can do your taxes while you wait.

The US

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Seattle

This probably won’t come as much of a surprise and I will risk getting slightly political, but entering trump’s America (note the on-purpose lack of proper noun capitalisation), is super NOT FUN for a non-American, especially one who is on sabbatical for a year, writes books, and doesn’t have a current employer.

I saw three immigration agents on the way into the US at LA. Three!

How long am I going to be here? 89 days (the visa waiver program allows 90 days and I am giving myself a day’s buffer). How did I get my employer to agree to let me travel for that long? I don’t have one. That’s when I was redirected to a supervisor.

So, how are you able to afford being here that long? I work for myself. Uh-oh. Back up the truck. Warning, Will Robinson. You’re working here???

That’s when I got to see the secure room where they take your phone off you.

Fortunately, the supervisor’s supervisor was a reasonable human being and he understood that a digital nomad is essentially self-funded, but may work for clients they have back home from time to time. I was released back into the wild that is LAX. 

New Zealand

Ben and Sandy 4

Nothing – it’s perfect. Duh.

Mid-way through our mid-career sabbatical

 

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Last day in Seattle

At the end of 2017, I posted about our 2018 sabbatical. Ben and I embarked at the beginning of February, so last week marked the mid-point of our year of living abroad. In that time, we have visited friends and family, explored new locations, lived life like a local and have worked remotely.

Here are some of my reflections and lessons learned from the mid-point of our sabbatical.

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Exploring northern MN with the Doctor

Home (really is) is a state of mind

Just before we left the US to begin our UK/EU stint, I fell very ill and had to spend a night in hospital. After 40 hours in a hospital gown, my vitals being checked every two hours, and being tethered to an IV stand, all I wanted to do was go home. At that stage in our travels, home was Ben’s grandmother’s house, and when I arrived back there – still, weak, tired, and yet to fully recover – I was ecstatic. I was home.

Home has been various places in our travels. With my bed count for the year sitting at 27 (Ben’s is 26, because he hasn’t sleep in a hospital bed), home really has become a state of mind. That’s not to say that all of those beds felt like home; it means that when we have taken side trips for a few days and returned to our longer-term accommodation, I have had an overwhelming sense of returning home – and that feeling is marvelous.

So, at our mid-way point I continue to subscribe to the ‘wherever I lay my head’ philosophy I posted about here.

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Chicago with our dear friend from Bali days, Kelley

It’s possible to get a lot done while you’re travelling

When we meet new people or catch up with family and friends, we invariably end up discussing the ins and outs of sabbatical life. The most frequent clarification during these conversations is that taking a sabbatical is not ‘being on holiday’ for a year.

Ben and I both have our own companies in Australia and consult for clients – Ben in an ongoing capacity and me on project-based work. There have been many weeks where we’ve worked full-time, or close to it. This type of work suits us both, as we can carve out the time to do it around our larger plans, we can take advantage of coffee-shop WiFi, we both enjoy working in a variety of environments, and – to be frank – it helps fund this year abroad.

Additionally, since we left Melbourne, I have written and published my second novel. And I am soon to start my third! I love writing, I love writing novels, and I love writing ‘on the road’. Plus, each new location, each new friend, each conversation with a loved one, each excursion and adventure could be the kernel of an idea for book #4 – and the ones after that.

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Meeting my favourite author, Lindsey Kelk (Birmingham, UK)

Things are just…things

When we left Bali in May, we left behind many of the things we’d bought to make Bali life a little easier – storage containers, coat hangers, food staples, Costco-sized toiletries. We did the same thing when we left Minnesota, with the addition of some red wine glasses, a life-time supply of sunflower seeds we barely made a dent in, and a yoga mat. We also filled a large bag with summer clothes which we dropped into a charity donation bin. Clothes I previously had ‘loved’ were tossed aside without any remorse.

It’s just stuff – and we’re travelling light.

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With my nephew, Alexander (UK)

It’s going fast

I truly cannot believe we’re half-way. Since leaving Melbourne, we’ve been to New Zealand, two other states in Australia, Bali, three states in the US, and the UK. Next week, we’re off to Ireland and we are starting to firm up our plans for Scotland, Amsterdam, Paris and Portugal.

I know that before we know it, we will be on our way back to Melbourne for Australia Day 2019 (January 26). That date is important, because Ben will be attending a citizenship ceremony to become a fully-fledged, dinky-di Aussie (I am so proud).

The speed with which this year away is rocketing by, means that we must continue to seek out and enjoy the small pleasures. We must continue to take every opportunity to explore, live like a local, see people who are dear to us, meet new friends, and accomplish great things.

Because, ultimately, that’s what this year is about – living life to the fullest.

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Secret Beach Day Trip (Bali)

 

Lake Life

They call Minnesota Land of 10,000 lakes, and Ben and I are spending most of the summer at one of them – well, technically, we’re on a chain of 14 lakes called the Whitefish chain.

With so many lakes, many families in Minnesota have a lake cabin – some of them in the family for generations, like the one Ben and I are staying at – and some of these ‘cabins’ are luxury homes only used a few weeks a year.

‘Our cabin’, on a small lagoon on Rush Lake, is not a luxury home, but it’s luxurious to us, because this is our view from the deck:

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Simply, it is beautiful here.

The cabin was built nearly a hundred years ago and was bought into Ben’s family in the 1950s. They’ve been coming here every Summer ever since and Ben spent a lot of his childhood here.

On the inside, it looks like this:

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Yes, that’s a charming hodge podge of furniture, housewares and artifacts that span decades, including a fairly strong representation from the 80s (like the collection of VHS movies) – check out that carpet!

Lake life itself means being on the water. At least once a day, we head out on either the jetski (Ben’s) or the pontoon (the family’s). We may be going somewhere specific – all of the restaurants in the area and the nearest town, Crosslake, are accessible by water and have docks where we ‘park’ – or we may just cruise around exploring. The other day we rode the perimeter of Rush Lake and found some lagoons Ben has never seen before – even after coming up here for 30+ years. Oh, and that’s Ben going to the store on the jetski to pick up a few things.

Lake like is also about a slower pace and savouring the little moments, liking making S’Mores over the firepit:

And stopping for coffee at the local coffee shop:

And exploring Crosslake:

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butterfly chair

And lounging on the water:

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lounging

And exploring the surrounding forests:

And having fun with visiting friends:

 

And the wildlife! On the property are red and grey squirrels, chipmunks, and green frogs, who keep Ben up at night with their raspy ribbits. The lagoon is frequently visited by two families of geese – one with young cygnets and one with teenagers – a family of ducks, a stunning blue heron who flies arcs over us, and a woodpecker! There’s a muskrat that lives under the bridge who’s also busy collecting reeds, and we’ve seen painted turtles, bald eagles (one being chased by a starling), and a multitude of fish. And my favourite this summer has got to be the state bird, the beautiful loon. They are are a large water bird who have a distinctive call, and I just love them.

Perhaps most surprising has been the skies. Many mornings are a moody grey which melts away to a brilliant cerulean dotted with white puffs. We’ve had nighttime lightening storms which have gone on for hours, a surreal strobe-light effect that always looks fake in films, but is surprisingly real. But most of all, the sunsets take my breath away.

img_20180709_205529-effects
taken by me, edited by Ben

 

And these stunners by Ben:

Of course, we’re both still working – Ben for his client in Australia and the publication date of my second novel is only 5 days away (!) so I am madly editing – but we take time each day to enjoy where we are and the easy pace of lake life. So far, it’s been a brilliant summer.