“While strolling through the streets of Istanbul, it’s immersive and pristine architecture weaves a beautiful story with spellbinding chapters of the city’s 2,500 year old history.”

To find out more about Istanbul’s authentic charms, see Hello 6E, IndiGo’s Inflight Magazine where we’re proud to be published here

“Along the paved streets of Dublin, the bustling evening crowd spills street side. Beneath a pink stretch of evening sky, live music floats from Grafton Street and travellers fill the marketplaces, cafes, and corner pubs. It’s summertime in Ireland’s capital and the city is alive with the celebration of summer solstice.”

For more about holidaying in Dublin, see Hello 6E, IndiGo’s Inflight Magazine where we’re proud to be published here.

What would the newsfeed of our life over the past couple of years look like if we played it back? If we’re lucky, a shambles under the surface, but enough smiling selfies to show we’re holding it together, if only by a thread. We’re all uneasy about something. Big and little tangles that catch on the corners of our decisions and our days. In an otherwise ordinary life, full to the brim with responsibility, it’s hard to know where to go to catch your breath. Until you swing through the driveway to Billabong Retreat, where catching your breath for a moment of sanctuary is what it’s all about.

Rebalancing act

Overlooking an expansive billabong bursting with lemon coloured lilies, the eco-retreat is a hub for yoga, mindfulness, and wellness. Looking up from the water’s edge, the cabins and main centre sit amongst the tree-tops of sage eucalypts and you feel a million miles from anywhere.

It can be tricky blending the crazy parts of being a grown up with our search for peace, in body, mind and spirit. We might find escapes, or favourite things to do, but nurturing the stillness of our mind is a whole new superpower. My overarching belief has always been that whatever you believe in, whatever name you give it, whatever you follow to bring you to that place of stillness, is a deeply personal and private choice. It’s a one on one with you and the Divine all the way. So, when the groundswell of mums in active gear (even though I am one), started talking about mindfulness I switched off.  No amount of almond milk and journaling, I thought, could connect you with your inner peace. In truth, I  thought mindfulness was for hacks.

Searching for wellness

It’s easy to overlook the wish for a little peace and quiet as the day pulls us in so many directions. Of course we don’t have time, have you seen the to-do list that we all hang on to? But what would happen if we told ourselves we could put the list down for a moment, not ignore it, just gave ourselves permission to pick it back up in half an hour. Actually, amazing things happen!

I’ve since come to believe that mindfulness might very well be the religion of our time, in this day, and age. There are many who no longer crave a place to worship or feel that the words of a book are solace enough. The simple act of quietness away from the noise of our minds in the stillness of where we are, we can find a safe harbour. And that’s pretty powerful stuff. A short 2 day getaway to Billabong Retreat will gently push the pressures to one side and fill your mind with a natural harmony that leaves little room for all else.

Like most things at Billabong, mindfulness comes as a sampler. Learn as little or as much as you like. If I’d thought I was in for a week of hard-core yoga and prune juice, well, I wouldn’t have moved from my couch. Thankfully, the offerings are plenty, but the expectations few. The choice is yours to do a lot, a little or none at all. Like many, we chose the retreat as a way to kick-start some better health habits and it paved the way just nicely. Nature walks, gentle yoga, wholesome food, and most of all time. In this quiet space between the moments, we breathe, finding a rhythm that calms and energises.

You might like to read about writing a daily gratitude list. You can see Billabong Retreat’s upcoming programs here.

Bathurst gold mine

For anyone who has travelled the Blue Mountains and surrounds, you’ll know that the real gold lays beyond. As you pass the historic village of Hartley, the slopes open up to sweeping countryside that meanders westbound towards the towns of Bathurst, Mudgee, Orange, and Dubbo until you reach the mid-western plains. While each has their own story, settlement, and corner pub, today we’re heading to Bathurst. Here’s our quick guide to exploring this cultured and celebrated region and discovering the best of Bathurst.

On the outskirts, the golden grass shifts in the wind. It’s mostly farmland until the Hotels and Motels referencing Goldfields and Nuggets catch your eye. The oversized bushman kneeling above his gold-pan is a dead giveaway. You’ve now reached the home of New South Wales’ Goldrush.

Bridges to the past

It’s influence as the first European Settlement is easily spotted in the stately Churches and grand central gardens. Known as a Cathedral City, the town centre is dominated by the War Memorial Carillion on Kings Parade. Home to Galleries, Museums and heritage listed buildings, cafes and artisan stores now line the streets. For curious kids, the Fossil Museum, located in the heritage listed Public School Buildings (1874) is a worthwhile stop where they’ll even be able to see Dinosaurs. I can’t think of anyone over the age of 4 who wouldn’t be mesmerised by the life size t-rex on display. It’s a fascinating introduction to a step back in time.

The surrounds of Bathurst lay within the traditional lands of the Wiradjuri people of the three rivers – the Wambool (Macquarie), the Calare/Kalari (Lachlan) and the Murrumbidgee. European settlers first agreed on Bathurst as a central point of government administration, through for the next 5 years, this met with great resistance from the Aboriginal people. Some 30 years later, with the discovery of gold, the history of Bathurst would be rewritten.

Today, Aboriginal artistic relics, including carved trees can be seen on display in the Bathurst District Historical Society Museum in the wing of the Bathurst Courthouse.

Big kid’s day out

Even as a day trip, if you’re prepared for the 200km journey from Sydney, Bathurst has something for everyone. Every year, school camps flock to the Bathurst Goldfields. Fortunately, we went on the school holidays with only a handful of kids and plenty of space to try our hands at panning for gold. With accommodation also on site, a walk around the Goldfields is a true to life exhibition. Wander into the Blacksmiths shed, turn the Whim or lean against the aging sheds that overlook Bathurst. Our host Gary, who filled us in on all things “goldrush” (Bushrangers included) was as genuine as he was educational.

As the Goldfields are set on Mount Panorama (home of the Supercars Championship), the “rush” ironies are obvious. Every November, the Bathurst 1000 brings life to the mountain as the 1,000km touring car race winds around the hillside. For everyone else driving the circuit at any other time of the year, it’s the perfect spot to overlook the Bathurst Plains, on the western edge of the Great Dividing Range. (Just in case the name Mount Panorama didn’t give it away). And because you don’t need to drive the track 161 times, it’s a quick add on to the Goldfields tour.

There’s also an annual Inland Sea of Sound Festival held at the end of summer on top of Wahluu-Mount Panorama which features a line-up of local and national artists.

Backdrops, bites, and buzz

When it’s time to unwind, abundant fresh local produce can be tasted in cafés, restaurants, pubs or leafy garden settings. Try Vine & Tap at Brooke Moore House, The Hub or Harvest Café and Store for delicious food and an easy atmosphere. It’s always hard to beat Wholefoods and the Pear Tree Co-op on William Street has everything, including Shell, the most helpful health-food specialist ever!

The beauty of Bathurst is that everything on the traveller’s menu can be sampled in just a day or two. You could literally go to town with phrases that describe the region as a real gem, but let’s not. Instead, jump in the car, or take the daily train to a town that has history, culture, magnificent scenery with a story that’s alive. Dare I say it’s worth its weight in…stop!

Read about some of our other favourite getaways in regional New South Wales.

Remember the days

No one tells you when you enrol your child in Primary School that you will spend the next 6 years of your life reliving your own classroom hiccups, social awkwardness and academic pitfalls all over again. Maybe the Math’s Tutor in Grade 2 was overkill, but knowing what lay ahead, I didn’t want my kid to fall into the same algebraic minefield that robbed me of so much time on my roller skates.

From the outside, it looks so easy; drop off your effervescent, perfectly adjusted child at the front gates, grab a coffee on the way to work, close a few deals in time to swoop into the Kiss & Ride and collect your growing bundle of joy. I should have known when in Year 5 the newly minted teacher asked the kids to draw an image of how they felt about math’s and mine drew a gravestone with RIP etched into the mossy stone. It remains one of his best still-life depictions to this day.

In moments of absolute honesty, you have to admit that raising children is not easy. Joyous yes, mind-blowingly fabulous, yes, but easy, well not every day. While I’m being honest, it was only thanks to you-tube and Khan academy that we made it through lockdown learning at all. While I was casually making a cuppa and letting him run off for a break, I was in reality, busily solving volume problems and calculating the area of a make believe floor-plan. None of which I’m sure will help him in his aspiration to become a gamer with a million followers.

Saved by the bell

The intensity of everything your child goes through is magnified through your eyes. I recall a good friend, highly accomplished educator, speaker and mother, cringe behind the laundry door when her Mister 7 announced he’d sat alone on the bench at lunch because no one would play with him. I’m sure it happened to us all, I don’t remember it tearing me apart at school, but when your child tells you this tale, it is literally heart breaking. Should I call the school, enrol my child in a self-help group, start a journal of feelings, I don’t know…something.

My crushing moment came when mine came home from school and described the seating arrangements in class as if he’d walked into a movie theatre where everyone had their name on their chair, except him. When I scraped my heart up off the floor and had a moment to think, I was more impressed by his use of metaphor. By morning, my perfectly well-adjusted child had moved on. When I think about the primary school episodes I ponder as life defining, I realize I hardly had a lucid memory before the age of 9. The truth is they are not life crushing, they are life-affirming.

Oh the places you’ll go!

It never ceases to amaze me what we roll through year by year, going about our days, quietly absorbing even the things that shake us to the core. That there is the definition of resilience. In year 4, my little Mister went on a campaign to promote positivity and with the help of a very mindful teacher, created and hung good vibes quotes from the trees around the playground. When yesterday he pronounced his impending sadness at nearing the end of school next week, I too felt the weight that comes with shifting change.

I think it’s ok to take a moment and look back at the first grader who walked into school, tugging at both my fingers and my heart, to the big kid bouncing out. Nothing screams Braveheart more than dropping off your pre-schooler for the first time. We’ve covered a lot of ground. I’ve been utterly absorbed in every step he’s taken by my side and on his own. I’ve been needed more each year and needed less too. It’s an adventurous, wild, crazy, awakening ride, this Primary School thing. And it’s all we can do to hold on in awe while they fly!

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