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Live your authentic life

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~E.E. Cummings

I have a really clear memory of standing at the pedestrian traffic lights with my dad when I was about 15 and he asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Tossing around a few notions like prima ballerina and TV week cover girl, I  but settled on something a little less ambitious and far more within my reach; I said I wanted to be me. As it turns out, being comfortable with who we are is perhaps one of the most hopeful things we can aim for. There’s a glow that comes from authenticity and a peace within yourself when you accept who you are.

We kick around the phrase authenticity as a hip new age term, sometimes overlooking the influence that being authentic can have. Our personalities, our reactions, our opinions all have the potential to bounce off people the wrong way, yet somehow seem to work when they come from a place of authenticity. It is when we are ambiguous that we give off a subtle air of confusion and others automatically respond with the same confusion and ambiguity.

Through all the unravelling and rebuilding, at the heart of being authentic is simply being ok with yourself. As we change, our acceptance of ourselves also needs to change. The conflict comes when we are moving in a new direction, but still hanging on to the beliefs we grew up with, or confine ourselves by a certain mind frame. If we let go of the judgments and uncertainty, chances are others will too. 

Finding that inner acceptance can be confronting. You’ll come up against yourself, questioning the mindsets that have ushered you to this point. Being authentic is about standing wholeheartedly in the present and not being afraid to define yourself at that moment. Capture the moment as if it were a bubble around you, an entirely safe place full of all the things that you believe, feel, desire and love; that’s the truth of who you are.  When we find the courage to take these simple steps, living authentically happens naturally.

Speak your truth

Even if it’s to yourself, in the safety of your own space, say it. Clarity in our thoughts, actions and words automatically creates a pathway for things to happen. If we are muddled, it’s no surprise when our life is too. Being honest is one of the most uplifting and energising ways to simplify our lives.

Forgive yourself

If you’re going to be frank enough to speak your truth, a big part of that is being honest enough to admit your mistakes, own up to your shortcomings and forgive yourself anyway. This sounds wishy-washy but it’s a pretty confronting thing to do. Look yourself in the mirror, acknowledge your imperfections and allow yourself the generosity to admit that you did the best with what you had. Oprah say’s “when you know better you do better.” It’s all a part of the learning.

Do what you love

Authenticity is about being who you really are, all of the time. Not just in the safe moments yet wearing a mask in all the others. So to truly be yourself you have to fill your time with work, people and hobbies that resonate with your soul. You have to do what you love. That doesn’t mean finding excuses to enjoy what it is you think you have to do but to be bold enough to follow your path of inspiration. Whatever sets your soul on fire, do more of that!

Be kind

Judging ourselves and others is the quickest way to build barriers. Our world today is no less full of judgements, despite social media’s mind wash to have us all behave a certain way. We can only control kindness in our little corner of the world, but that’s a good place to start. When we give out goodness we get goodness back, but more than that, being kind creates a smoother circle of happenings around us and that means less complication, less justifying, less mess.

Practice mindfulness

It’s almost impossible to find the real you without doing a little work along the way. The practice of mindfulness gives us power in the moment by simply focussing on where we are in the present. It helps us shed our past regrets or future concerns by enabling us to fully absorb and accept how we feel in this very moment.

Stop people pleasing

Coming from one of the world’s greatest people pleasers, it’s really challenging to actually put yourself first. I take this to mean that we give ourselves permission to disagree, to say no. We find it easier to demonstrate “nice” behaviour, so we often hide how we really feel. It is actually ok to feel anger, to be upset, to tell someone else that you feel angry with them. We don’t have to take on their reaction, we just need to give ourselves permission to be authentic about how we feel. Stop saying sorry. Stop pleasing everyone. Just stop.

“Living authentically is not stagnant: it is constantly shifting and taking on new forms. If we truly believe in living an authentic life, then we must continually be learning about ourselves, challenging old beliefs, sorting through our baggage. It is about learning to face fears and doubts, to be able to reach deeply within ourselves to find out what makes our heart sing, our spirit soar. It is finding where our authentic self feels the most alive, free and unburdened — and then having the courage to live from this place.” Psych Central

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The gypsies of Rajasthan

 

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All over the world, all through the ages, travellers, tribes and wanderers have been thrown together by the tailwinds of life. Settling where they can, surviving with whatever they can gather, jostling for shade and a place to sleep. On the fringes of a rural village in the northern state of Rajasthan in India, a corner plot of about 20 acres of land was recently cleared, presumably to be developed commercially. Within days though, it sprang into a bustling gypsy micro-city. It started with a herd of goats, a couple of milking cows and some charpoys. Actually, in most Indian villages that’s infrastructure.

Tents and makeshift shelters started going up, cooking fires smouldered all day and then came the dancing girls! I first noticed the women by their decorative Rajasthani style lehenga’s, long skirts swishing in the sand, ivory bracelets from wrist to shoulder, jingling anklets and heavily adorned dupatta’s worn across their heads, just enough to show the hanging silver bell-shaped earrings that sway with their tall, lithe physiques.

Passing through the village, I noticed a small band of women working on laying the new village road, labouring under a 45-degree sun sweeping the rocks and sand to make way for the bitumen. As our car slowly went past, one woman turned to look up and I saw her face. Not a traditional beauty but intense pale piercing eyes, a strong aquiline nose accented by high cheekbones and a silver studded piercing. She had a face waiting to be captured through the lens. An arresting, stark and exotic face whose look was captivating. Her stare back to me was full of inquisition, I guess to her my fairness was equally fascinating.

I remember when I first travelled through Rajasthan, seeing the colourful assemble all tumbled together in a joyous celebration was a wonderful reflection of Indian life.  Wandering through palaces, many converted into luxury hotels, we crossed courtyards, ambled down connecting narrow corridors bathed in the light from within the emerald, sapphire and silver mosaic mirrored rooms and breathed in the fresh air from the heights of the princely balconies. There’s a Regalness in the place whose name literally means Land of the Kings.

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It is in the sandy foothills of Rajasthan, that for generations the Rajputs and Hindus have staunchly fought off every invader since the Mogul warriors first crossed the Khyber Pass on horseback. Face to face with the majesty of kingdoms that would serve to inspire them in their quest for India. Still imprinted on the Palace walls ascending to the inner courtyard are yellow, red and orange faded palm prints pressed into the stone. This practice of Sati, where the recently widowed princesses immolated themselves on the King’s funeral pyre, is seen in these small delicate handprints, recorded for posterity.

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But it’s the faces of the Rajasthani women, particularly, who really imprint themselves on your memory, which is how I so easily recognised the colourful and bustling village bursting into life on a barren stretch of highway. These women are known for their charismatic beauty, the Kalbeliya and Bopa, acclaimed as the Queens of the Rajasthan Desert. Rajasthan even today is dominated by a myriad of tribes, the most prominent of whom can trace their ancestry back to the Indus Valley Civilisation, no wonder they have depth in their eyes.

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Jean-Phillipe Soule who travelled to Pushkar, says that these gypsy tribes survive “moving from place to place, sleeping beneath the stars on the outskirts of towns.” Sadly, he writes that “the Bopa and Kalbeliya share the bad reputation of gypsies the world over. Once much sought after by kings and maharajas, they were hired to provide exotic entertainment—the Bopa are talented musicians and singers and the Kalbeliya are dancers and snake charmers. However, as royal audiences disappeared, the Bopa and Kalbeliya gypsies lost much of their livelihood. Today, they subsist as semi-nomadic street performers, travelling between fairs and festivals”.

Of course, I don’t know if the gypsies in my story have their heritage and home amongst these desert tribes, but the linkages are there in their adornments, swirling skirts, drifting community and earnest eyes. For a moment I loved watching them weave an existence out of nothing. It’s a way of life that has carried them, resilient and sunny, through the generations. How long they’ll stay and entertain this little corner of the world, is anybody’s guess.

The gypsies of Rajasthan

Planning a trip to Rajasthan? Check out the best times of year to visit.

You might also like to read about Jaipur in Jai ho Jaipur!

Hitting the markets and menus of Delhi

Thank you to Travel Talk Magazine for publishing our guide on just some of the delicious delights of Delhi, waiting to be discovered through the cities markets and menus. To a first-time traveller, Delhi may not appear the obvious choice for opulent dining and extravagant shopping, but then again, Delhi is nothing if not one surprising find after another!

Hitting the markets and menus of Delhi

You might also like our guide Walking Old Delhi to discover the street life of Delhi on foot.

 

 

Barrenjoey lighthouse

 

 

Barrenjoey lighthouse

On the northernmost tip of Sydney’s northern beaches is one of the city’s most spectacular coastal lookouts. It also happens to be accessible only through a steep bushland climb and as it’s a good 1.5-hour drive out of the city, Barrenjoey Headland doesn’t make it to the list of everyday tourist spots. Fortunately though, as you embark on the uneven incline, each step rewards you with an increasingly sublime view of the Palm Beach peninsula. It’s precisely these features that make Barrenjoey Lighthouse Sydney’s best sunset lookout. 

1. Beachside village

Palm Beach is a familiar and well-loved name around the world. Add into that, its unique position as the most northerly aspect of Sydney and the lookout jumps in popularity. The broad stretch of orange sand and open sea is set against an affluent cafe and shopping scene. Once you reach Avalon on Sydney’s northern beaches the single lane road bends and twists along the coastline. There are stunning homes perched into the undulating cliff, boldly placed to get the best view of the never-ending ocean. The roadside is thick with leafy overgrown flowering shrubs and all of a sudden, you’ve left the city behind.

Palm beach

2. Room with a view

Standing at 113 metres above sea level, Barrenjoey Lighthouse looks serenely across the Pacific Ocean as it has done for over 130 years. Bult from local sandstone, it’s the pinnacle of the peninsula and by far the best aspect to view Broken Bay, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and the sweeping views of the ocean. Each Sunday between 11.00am and 3.00pm you can join the 30-minute guided tours of the Lighthouse, though the grounds of the Lighthouse are open 24 hours. This makes it a perfect spot for a coastal walk, picnic or Sydney’s best sunset lookout.

Sydney's best sunset lookout

3. Bush trails and tales

There are two walking tracks that go all the way up to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse and they join as a circuit if you take one up and choose the other for the way down. Either way, you’ll experience one of the most picturesque harbour bushwalks.

The Smugglers Track

It may be shorter, but at the hint of the name, you know that The Smugglers Track is not the easy route. It’s the steeper of the two trails and is 400m climb directly to the top of the hill. The walk is considered Grade 3 so carry plenty of water, wear the right bushwalking shoes and maybe make this your descent back down the hill. As the story goes, The Smugglers Track acquired it’s convict sounding name from customs officers using the pathway to monitor smugglers who were bringing contraband into Broken Bay.

Access Trail

As the name suggests, here is the walking track for the nature lover seeking a gentler, meandering walk and who has more time to embrace the surrounding beauty. The Access Trail is Grade 2 on the scale of walking treks and follows a narrow, though somewhat easier road to the reach the Lighthouse.

Sydney's best sunset lookout

4. A road for all seasons

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is a popular park all year around. Summertime peaks naturally on Palm Beach and the sun blazing on the bay provides a sparkling view. Shallow water jetties and sleek yachts lulling in the bays, fill the long summer days with tourists. In the cooler season, from May to October, the peninsula is a magical spot to catch sight of the humpback whale migration as they follow the warmer waters north. Springtime is ablaze with sprigs of wildflowers and even under the steely winter skies, the cooler days make for more pleasant bush walks. But for all of the daylight views, sunset on the peninsula is truly magical.

5. End of a perfect day

To catch a glimpse of the sun setting is a great thing to add to your travel wish list. There’s a huge choice of striking sunset lookouts around Sydney basin, but for all the iconic silhouettes of the city, something about the peninsula makes Barrenjoey Lighthouse Sydney’s best sunset lookout. Its tapered headland is one of those rare formations that a good sunset makes worth the climb. There are regular photographic tours you can join or after the walking trails, take some time out to absorb nature’s most gentle time of the day.

You might also like to find out about other sunsets spots at our favourite secluded beaches in Sydney.

Sydney's best sunset lookout

 

Architecture of Sydney

 

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Queen Victoria Building

When you have a camera in your hand, everything is a work of art. Along the everyday blur of city streets and the rising hum of suburbia, the angles of train tracks and fence lines become the imprint of a beautiful moment. I especially love the way the light plays in dappled shadows on the road and indented stone walls. Through a lens, buildings, walkways and rooftops become shapes and shadows. I see their curves blend and the edges disappear and the grey light mask their imperfections. Capturing the architecture of Sydney casts its history in a blaze of whimsical animation and takes me on a curious walk through the chronicles of the city.

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Town Hall

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Curzon Hall

The architecture of a city is its historical footprint, telling stories of its victories and losses, it’s fractures and structure. Mostly, the buildings and bridges that bring a city together, join the people and cultures in an ever-changing holding of hands. When I walk through the streets of Sydney, even the street names reflect their London heritage; Queen Victoria Building, State Government offices and The Strand Arcade tell of the early chapters of colonialism.

The rooftop balconies of the Erskineville pub scene retain their 1950’s charm and you can almost see the women crossing their legs nearly at the original bar stools against the retro forest green tiles. Crouched on the opera house steps, with my camera tilted skywards, even the ivory sails soar into a 1960’s full of freedom and promise.

Architecture of Sydney

Space defines us. The pop of candy coloured frontages of Newtown’s second storey line up like a box of crayons. The graffiti and crowd below are just as free. Sydney is full of these creative villages weaving through 1930’s hotels and terraces and the imposing rise of corporate CBD.

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The Strand Arcade

With each new approach to how we use space, fresh designs of architecture emerge and add layers to the city’s photo album. Some preserved, some broken, some waiting for playful new buildings to keep adding to the fluid aspects of Sydney’s character.

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