Posts

Have Experiences. Not Stuff.

One of the biggest highlights of our holiday last week was heading out to the Bremer Canyon to see killer whales (orcas). The Bremer Canyon, only discovered in 2013, is a place where more than a hundred orca come together to feed during February and March. It’s 65km offshore, and this is the first year that it’s been possible to go and see them as a tourist, and only for these two months.

It’s not your typical tourist adventure, heading out into international waters and rough, icy cold seas on a small boat for several hours, and even the small village where the boat departs from is in an isolated spot, a 2 hour drive from the nearest town and several hours drive from Perth.

When I heard about the tour last year something really grabbed my attention. Whether it was the idea of sailing to the edge of the earth, the rare opportunity to see killer whales in their natural environment, the fact that this spot is so newly discovered that very little is known about it…I’m not sure. I booked two tickets as a birthday present for my husband.

We’re not really into buying presents, and we no longer buy each other Christmas presents. For birthdays we often get tickets so we can experience something together – concerts, theatre, talks. We don’t have a budget or hard-and-fast rules about what we spend but we both agree: there’s no point shelling out money for the sake of it.

The tickets to the Bremer Canyon tour were expensive. Really expensive. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever spent that much money on tickets before. I ummed and ahhed about the cost. There was no guarantees we’d even see anything, and as the tour had never run before there were no reviews to check or compare.

But it was such a unique, exciting adventure, in the end I had to do it.

It made me think. I balked at the price, and yet a few years ago I wouldn’t have thought anything of spending the same price on a gift for my husband. When you consider how many people receive bigger (or smaller)  iPods, thinner iPads, upgraded mobile phones, better computer games consoles, expensive clothes and fancy cameras for Christmas and birthday presents, I wouldn’t be alone.

Now I’ve had a total rethink on stuff, and the idea of spending money upgrading something that already functions perfectly well makes me cringe. As does buying something new just because it’s the latest fad, or because there’s an obligation to purchase a gift. We have everything we need. Rather than spend money on newer, better versions of things we already own, we make do with what we have, and spend the money having new experiences and creating memories.

Back to the tour. Last Saturday we joined the boat, the other tourists and two marine scientists that were studying the orcas and headed two hours from land into international waters to see what was out there in the ocean. There’s no guarantee that the whales will be there. When we arrived at the co-ordinates, though, the whales came. And they were beautiful.

It was such an amazing experience. The orcas gather in groups, and they came up to the boat, swimming alongside and underneath it. We saw them surfing the waves. There was an enormous bull whale and some small calves, whose white patches were still yellow. They came so close it was incredible. The boat just sat there, bobbing in the ocean, whilst these amazing mammals swam around us. I had a couple of out-loud “wow” moments. It was worth every penny.

We only managed to take a couple of photos. Letting go of the rail long enough to use a camera was a tricky task!

Bremer Canyon orcas

Bremer Canyon orcas

Bremer Canyon orcas

Bremer Canyon orcas

These photos weren’t taken with an SLR camera. They were taken with my husband’s point-and-shoot camera, with no zoom to speak of. We don’t own an SLR. We were able to go on this tour because we don’t own things like fancy cameras. Turns out, when you’re this close to whales, you don’t need a fancy camera anyway.

Orcas on camera

You don’t need a fancy camera (or any camera) to create memories.

These pictures aren’t the thing that’s going to stay with us. What will stay with us is the experience we had. The memories we created. Photos can’t capture the smell of the ocean, the sounds, the movements as these beautiful creatures rode the waves or glided in synchronised groups alongside and underneath the boat. The feelings of total amazement and wonder.

Collect memories. Not stuff.

Seas and Trees: A Week in Pictures

Last week there was no writing. No posts about rubbish bins, or plastic, or having too much stuff. Instead, I was on holidays, journeying through some of the National Parks and other beautiful places that Western Australia has to offer. There is so much natural beauty, amazing scenery and incredible wildlife here to experience.

Sometimes we just need to get out there and remind ourselves that the world truly is an amazing, beautiful, wonderful place. We’re pretty lucky, living on a planet like ours, and taking time out to appreciate just how awe-inspiring it really is really re-ignites my commitment to working to protect it.

I thought I’d share a few of the pics I took in the last week with you. I hope they inspire you as much as they inspired me…the earth is a beautiful place, and worth looking after : )

Bluff Knoll peaks WA

Bluff Knoll, Stirling Ranges National Park

Bluff Knoll landscape

Stirling Ranges National Park

Le Grand Beach Cape Le Grand National Park Esperance WA

Le Grand Beach, Cape Le Grand National Park

Cape Le Grand National Park Beach Esperance WA

Cape Le Grand Beach, near Esperance

Lucky Bay Cape Le Grand National Park Esperance WA

Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park

Hellfire Bay Cape le Grand National Park Esperance WA

Hellfire Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park

Flowers Cape Le Grand National Park Esperance WA

Shrub in Flower, Cape Le Grand National Park

Tourist Drive Esperance WA

Waves crashing on the rocks, Esperance

Tourist Drive Esperance WA Steps

Esperance coastline

Kapwari Wetlands Walk Esperance WA

Kapwari wetlands, Esperance

Boardwalk Wetlands Esperance WA

Boardwalk at Kapwari wetlands

Fluffy Clouds in Esperance WA

Fluffy Clouds

Stokes National Park Esperance WA

Stokes National Park, Esperance

Shark tooth wattle

Shark-tooth wattle

Bremer Bay Walk Bench

Moody Bremer Bay

Bremer Bay beach

Bremer Bay beach

Pelicans at Bremer Bay

Pelicans at Bremer Bay

Bremer Bay Beach walk

Bremer Bay in the sunshine

Beach at Bremer Bay

Around the cape at Bremer Bay

Orange Bottle Brush Denmark

Orange bottle-brush in Denmark

Nature is amazing, and it makes my heart sing : )

An accidental break from blogging…and some holiday snaps

As my parents are visiting, I’ve been making the most of the opportunity to have a holiday and I’ve taken them to some beautiful places in Western Australia over the last two weeks. Firstly we went to Rottnest Island for two nights, and then came back for a day before heading off on a week-long road trip to Denmark, Pemberton and Margaret River. My intention whilst I was away was to do some blogging, and I hauled the laptop away with me, but none of the places we stayed had internet reception and so I’ve been disconnected.

Sometimes, though, it’s nice not to have choices and to have the decision made for you. I would have loved to connect with the blogosphere, to read what people have been up to, and to share the thousands of thoughts I’ve been having whilst I’ve been away, but it was actually great to disconnect with the virtual world and connect with the real one instead. I’ve had a fantastic time and feel recharged, re-energised and re-motivated.

Want to see some holiday snaps?

Here is Rottnest…

rott1 rott2 rott3 quokka rott4 rott6 rott5Next we went to Denmark and Albany…

den1 den2 den4 den5 den6 den7 den8 den9 den10 den11 den12 den13 den19 den20 den15 den21 den18 den17den16

Here is the Gloucester Tree near Pemberton. If you look closely you can see metal pegs – the tree is a fire lookout and you can climb up it! I am not game for that kind of thing so stayed at the bottom and appreciated it from there.

pemb1 pemb2I have to say though, whilst the holiday was fantastic, being back feels good too.

Play again? (7 Ideas for Reducing Screen Time)

Last Friday my boyfriend and I went to an Ecoburbia community movie screening to see the documentary “Play Again?” The tagline of the movie is “what are the consequences of a childhood removed from nature?” It follows 6 teenagers who usually spend 5-15 hours a day behind screens, and takes them on their first wilderness adventure. It also features the commentaries and observations of a number of experts including journalist Richard Louv, sociologist Juliet Schor, environmental writer Bill McKibben, educators Diane Levin and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, neuroscientist Gary Small, parks advocate Charles Jordan, and geneticist David Suzuki. This is how the offical Play Again website describes the film:

“One generation from now most people in the U.S. will have spent more time in the virtual world than in nature. New media technologies have improved our lives in countless ways. Information now appears with a click. Overseas friends are part of our daily lives. And even grandma loves Wii.

But what are we missing when we are behind screens? And how will this impact our children, our society, and eventually, our planet? At a time when children play more behind screens than outside, PLAY AGAIN explores the changing balance between the virtual and natural worlds. Is our connection to nature disappearing down the digital rabbit hole?”

It was an interesting movie and it was great to see six kids getting back to nature for the first time. There were some interesting observations from the teenagers – like the younger boy who observed that “outdoors was more realistic”, and the older teen who noted when playing team games that in the virtual world he was the commander and could manage and control teams successfully, whereas in real life it wasn’t so easy.

Another comment that stuck with me was when the teenagers were making bows and arrows, and the younger boy told the camera that on computer games it was really easy to shoot and hit a target, whereas in real life it was actually quite hard. That’s the thing about real life, isn’t it? There’s a lot of loss and struggle and disappointment that go between the successes and triumphs and wins.

Although the movie dealt with the issue of screen time in regards to children, these issues actually affect all of us, and it’s interesting to reflect on how much screen time we use as adults. Especially since the dawn of smartphones, I think most people would agree “too much”. Even if they don’t, I’m pretty sure those health experts would have a different opinion!

It made me think about how we use screen time in our household. We don’t have a television, we share a single laptop and we both have smartphones. Through our phones we have access to screens all day every day, and we use them for significant amounts of time. I’ve been feeling like we use them too much and should cut down but hadn’t really done much about it. This movie was a reminder that there’s a real world surrounding the virtual one, and we should re-connect with it more. So here are some ideas I’ve come up with for using screens less.

Ideas for reducing screen time:

1. Get a watch (or a clock)

I don’t wear a watch and we don’t actually have a clock in the house, so I use my phone to tell the time. But once I pick it up, it’s so easy to ‘quickly’ check Facebook/the news/my email, and before I know it I’m engrossed in the virtual world. I got some inspiration from another blog post I read, and I’ve decided that we will get a clock so we know what the time is without the need for screen time.

2. Remove phones from the bedroom

This is one thing we actually changed before watching the movie. My boyfriend used to use his phone as an alarm, but would also end up straight on social media within two seconds of waking up every morning. It’s also a temptation for those nights when it’s difficult to get to sleep and can be a luring distraction –  but it’s not going to help with sleep! For that reason, plus the fact that sleeping with our mobiles next to our heads is probably not that good for our health, we got a new alarm and have removed the phones from the bedroom.

3. No screens at mealtimes

This may seem obvious, and if my boyfriend and I are eating together at the table we never have our phones there. It’s just plain rude. How much nicer to actually talk to each other?! However, if I’m alone it’s super easy to grab lunch and head straight back to the computer and eat in front of it. How many people have lunch in front of their computer screen at work? So now I have a new rule – no mealtimes in front of screens. It means I give my eyes and mind a rest, have a proper break and also appreciate exactly what I’m eating. How easy is it to polish off a bowl of food without even noticing when you’re engrossed in something else?

4. Resist the urge for instant answers

The thing about the internet, it can answer all of our burning questions almost instantly. Which means whenever we want to know ANYTHING we can simply look it up online and the answer’s there. No need to wait. I’m not sure this is a good thing. Isn’t patience a virtue?! Is it possible to write those burning questions we want to know down, and check them all together at a later time? I don’t know. I’m as guilty as the next person of needing to know answers immediately whenever burning questions present themselves. But once I’ve connected, I’ll look at other things too, and before I know it time has slipped away. So I’m planning to try it out.

5. Limit the number of check-ins

Have you ever checked your e-mail, Facebook, twitter and whatever other social media you use to find that you have not had one single new message/update since the last time you checked? Do you ever check them just for the sake of it, even if you suspect nothing has been updated? On a typical day I check everything in the morning, at lunchtime, and again in the afternoon. (Most people who commute by public transport seem to use their time in this way.) I might also check last thing at night. I think it makes replying and responding manageable. I wonder though, whether it would make any difference if I just checked twice a day? What if I took a book to read instead? I always say I don’t have enough time to read and I always have a pile of library books that invariably get returned half-finished or untouched. If I cut down my screen time, I’d have plenty of time for other things I think I can’t squeeze in.

6. Allocate screen-free time

I’ve suggested this to my boyfriend in the past and he thinks it is a good idea – yet we’ve never put it into practise. Does that mean we find it too hard? Surely we can commit to something? Not being able to makes me feel like some kind of addict! It also seems pretty ridiculous. It’s not like we spend all our time in front of screens, either. The movie inspired me to finally come up with a screen-free time at home when neither of us are allowed to go near any sort of screen. I’ll let you know how it goes!

7. Start a diary

The other thing that I realised when writing this was I have no idea how much screen time I actually use. I’m pretty sure it’s too much. I want to cut down, but to what? What is realistic? Am I more hooked than I think? I’m pondering keeping a screen diary for a week to find out how much I actually use. It will probably be a revelation – but am I too scared to find out?!

So there’s my ideas… now I’d love to hear yours! Feel free to share any thoughts you have in the comments below.

Mini-break in Margaret River

I just got back from a short two-night trip to Margaret River, a beautiful region 300 km south of Perth that takes my breath away every time I go there. For those of you (that’s you, dad!) who think that Australia is just one big red desert, you couldn’t be more wrong.

(Generally when people talk about Margaret River, they are referring to the region, although there is a small town of the same name in the centre of the region and, perhaps not surprisingly, a river. I found this name-sharing somewhat confusing when I first arrived in Perth.)

Rather than write a post today, I thought I’d share some of my holiday pics. Nature is amazing.

MR1 MR2mr3 mr4 mr5mr6 mr9 mr8 mr7 mr10 mr11mr12 mr13 mr14mr15 mr16 mr17 mr18 mr19 mr20 mr21 mr22In other exciting news, whilst we were away my boyfriend asked me to marry him, and I said yes.