I’m a journalist, travel writer, editor and copywriter based in Melbourne, Australia. I write pacy travel features, edit edifying websites and fashion flamboyant copy. My articles and photographs have appeared in publications worldwide, from inflight to interior design: I’ve visited every continent, and have lived in three. Want to work together? Drop me a line… 

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Ten car-free towns for walking holidays: from Hoi An to Hydra

Is there nothing better than a car-free town? I’m thinking those little hilltop towns dotted through Italy, the ancient marketplaces of the Middle East, the pedestrian zones of the otherwise honking, fume-laden roads of South America’s great cities.

My top 10 list includes such greats as Jerusalem’s Old City, the Princes Islands off Istanbul and beautiful Hydra, one of the Saronic islands in the Greek archipelago, which holds a special place in my heart for its donkeys and vast, opportunistic orange cat population. There’s also lovely Hoi An, Vietnam’s town of tailors and, of course, the most famous of them all, La Serenissima, aka Venice.

You can click here to read my list, published in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald’s Traveller section.

Just after it ran, I received an email from a reader telling me that Medina Malta should have made the top 10. Overlooking the fact he had an iconic Maltese surname, he’s definitely got a point – the so-called Silent City, which has been inhabited since 8th-century BC, was another beautiful film location for King’s Landing in Game of Thrones and a worthy contender.  Do you have any suggestions?


Walking the Camino: a guide to finding your feet (and heart, and solutions to life’s problems)

Author John Brierley spends every spring and autumn following in the footsteps of thousands of pilgrims making their way to the medieval cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in far western Spain. He has been walking the Camino de Santiago for 25 years.

When he is not walking, he is at home, writing and playing with his grandchildren. John has written dozens of guides for pilgrims from all walks of life, who plan to walk some of the than 80,000 kilometres of authenticated and waymarked routes that lead to , on which every nation on Earth has set foot.

But it’s not about counting your steps, monitoring your heart beat, he says.

“To experience the Camino directly, you have to listen to your heart,” says John. “Listen well; it might only come as a whisper. But beware! If you have truly heard the call, you have become infected by a disease which will become fatal to your limited ego identity.”

I interviewed John for my The Knowledge column in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning and The Age newspapers, and his passion is infectious. I do believe that was his aim: to get me on the route.

“Our troubled world is crying out for solutions to the war and injustices that are raging everywhere we look,” he told me in our interview while he was in Australia recently. “But we have been looking for answers in the wrong direction. We have been looking out, not in.”

“The Camino asks us to step out of our comfort zone and to take some risks.The solutions we seek can only be found in the stillness of our own hearts and minds. ”

“That is the incredible gift of the Camino – it provides time in the silence of nature to empty out our outworn belief systems and allows time new insights to arise in the spaciousness of higher Mind.”

See caminoguides.com

To read the column in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, click here.


Down on the farm, Bhutan style

My farmhouse, Phobjike valley
It’s seven o’clock at night and the family has sat down for dinner. I can’t say the Jones
family, because Bhutanese don’t use surnames. But to draw you a picture,
there’s four generations in the room: granny and grandpa, mum and dad, their
daughter, her two-year-old daughter and seven-year-old niece.
They sit in a large circle that includes me, my guide Tshering and driver Tensing.
There are no tables or chairs in the Bhutanese house. Everyone sits on thin mats around the bhukhari (wood stove), and I admire the effortless half-lotus position that the 79-year-old grandfather, Tshewangla, adopts for his light dinner.
The white rice is sticky and is rolled with your hand into a tight ball and daubed with chilli cooked in
cheese sauce. Chilli is not a flavouring, chilli is a vegetable to be eaten at every meal, including breakfast.
Until 18 months ago, the women did all the cooking on a two-ring gas burner and on the wood stove. There was some light from the solar panels, but electricity has
changed all that. The warm kitchen is all very comfortable, with a fluorescent light above and a home-grown soapie on tv. A little cat sleeps by the wood
stove, and I spot a rice cooker, microwave, toaster and fridge. Butter and cheese are still often wrapped in rhododendron leaves to stop it from going hard.
Namgay Pem and her husband Phub Gaytshey.
“Electricity has changed our lives,” says Namgay Pem, the mother of the house. It’s helped them to have better sanitation and everyone loves the soap opera, which won an international award for its role in educating people about the dangers of HIV.
That night, as a special guest in a full house, I sleep in the altar room. Namgay’s husband, Phub Gaytshey, is a lay monk, and the room’s walls are covered in
elaborate paintings that pulsate with colour. One complete wall is taken up with a deep altar which Phub attends carefully each morning.
After Phub demonstrates his ritual of offering tea, incense, water and three prostrations to the altar, the two little girls show me their new three-day-old calf, safe
in a manger attached to the kitchen, and we pop a few arrows: archery is Bhutan’s national sport, and their obsession is comparable to, say, the AFL or English league.
We clamber in the 4WD to slip and slide up the muddy driveway, waving to the family. There is no word for ‘goodbye’ in Dzongkha, only ‘see you again’.

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