Tag Archives: Asphyxia travel

Beautiful nature in Norway – walking the Preikestolen at Lysefjord

One of the things I wanted to do in Norway was walk up to the Preikestolen on Lysefjord. Preikestolen means ‘pupit rock’ and it’s this huge rock with a flat platfrom that sits 650 metres above sea level, right over a beautiful fjord. So the view from there is amazing. It’s an 8km round trip, and involves a walking up, up, up a mountain.


Given that my health has been pretty dodgy lately and I’ve had very little energy, I’ve become quite unfit. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do the walk. I started, in my somewhat pathetic way, ‘training’ for it by walking more and more each day until I could at least stay on my feet for that many kilometres, even if I didn’t get in any practise with hills.

Before I went, I read this beautiful article in Flow magazine, about a woman who spent 24 hours in nature with no purpose, no plan and no technology. She just followed her intuition, wandered around and looked at stuff. I had this idea that I might try to do the Preikestolen walk with the same idea. Instead of focussing on the path and my achievement, I would listen to my body, rest whenever I needed to, and just wander along the path and enjoy looking at stuff.

I stayed at a hostel at the base of the Preikestolen trail. It was gorgeous and I couldn’t believe I got to sleep in one of those little grass-roofed huts.


The walk is incredibly popular with tourists and busloads come in every day, so I decided to go super early, and embarked off at 5.30am (thank you, jetlag!) to miss the crowds. I had the path to myself most of the way which was lovely.


Here’s what the path looked like much of the way. The first bit was the hardest. My thighs burned and my heart raced and I thought no way would I be fit enough to do this. But by the end of the first steep bit, I was kind of warmed up and my thighs didn’t burn any more. I did have to keep resting though and was really glad not to be doing this walk with anyone else, so I didn’t have to feel embarrassed about how often I paused to look around. Thanks to my commitment to listen to my intuition, I embraced my frequent stops and enjoyed taking in the beautiful nature.


After the second steep bit, I was gaining confidence. My thighs and feet were holding out, and I made an effort to walk confidently and quickly as I went up. But it was such a relief to find an easy wooden path like this one.



The flatter bits were really lovely. I still had to concentrate to walk carefully and not twist my ankle on those stones. It was definitely and eye-to-the-ground kind of walk, so my regular pauses to look around were a good way to take in the actual nature.


Once I’d conqured the third and hardest steep bit, I came to this beautiful waterhole, and I figured that was a good place for breakfast and to take a real break. I’d brought berries and creme fraiche, and packed some cheese, and raw vegies to nibble on.

It was an idyllic place to rest, and I would have liked to really settle in, do some knitting and let my body recover, but it was incredibly cold. At this point, if I’m honest, my body was spent. Listening to my intuition, I would have had to turn around and go home. Also, even though I’d done most of the climbing, I was only a bit more than half way to the top, so there was a lot ahead of me. But it was all gentler stuff and I really really wanted to see the top. I had to make a decision to follow my body, or my goal to get to the top. The goal won out. So much for connecting with my inner nature! I decided to grit my teeth and continue.



I’m glad I did, because then I came to my favourite place of the whole walk – this very lovely water hole with rocks on the far side that just spoke to me. Again I tried to stop here for a while but it was just too cold to stay more than a few minutes. I needed to walk to keep warm.

Walked for ages up a steep smoother bit of rock. At this stage it was just a matter of gritting my teeth and saying it wasn’t far now. It would have felt anti-climactic to turn around and go home at this point!


The last bit of path was precarious indeed. It’s probably a good thing I couldn’t see all the way down to the fjord.


Finally, my destination. Though as you can tell, the clouds made it pretty hard to see anything.
Yep, from on the the pulpit rock, all I could see was white. Bummer. All that way….! But I’m still glad I did it. It feels like a potent lesson in life being about the journey, rather than the destination. I was glad, again, that I’d stopped so often to enjoy on the way up.

I emptied out my backpack so I could lie on it for a bit, rested for about 45 minutes, then I couldn’t bear the cold any more so headed home. I decided to just walk fast and get it over with. In many ways I was more present for the trip home because I wasn’t so daunted! I could kind of enjoy it more. But the steep bits really did my legs in and by half way my feet, ankles, calves and thighs just plain hurt.

Afterwards, my calves hurt like nothing else, but my feet, ankles, knees and thighs were fine. Phew. I’m glad I did it, especially for the bit where I got to enjoy the beautiful waterholes. But I wished I could have rested more to appreciate the nature along the way. My original plan of wandering and following my intuition was out of the question. This was a grit-your-teeth kind of walk for me. But I felt satisfied, and full up of beautiful Norway. I’ll have to do the nature-wander another time.

Hello winter. I’m leaving you soon.

Hello Winter

It’s cold here in Melbourne now. While our fire keeps our little house warm, I’m not a big fan of winter in general, so I always try to plan an escape to somewhere warmer in the middle, if possible. Lucky for me, I’ve had the most amazing invitation – to stay with my friend Torhild and study with Julie Arkell in Denmark in July!

Last time I studied with Julie Arkell I learnt so much and am still making the most of the inspiration I gained from that trip. I returned to Europe last year and the inspiration I gathered there has fed my art for the last twelve months, and springboarded a whole new approach to handling my Deafness for me. It’s been big. Now I’m going back for more.

I don’t know what awaits me on this trip, but hopefully I’ll find more inspiration, some surprising insights, and meet some interesting people. On the way I’m spending a few days in Amsterdam, and after the course I’m catching a ferry to Norway where I’ll enjoy more of the amazing nature that so touched me last time. And while I’m there I hope I can take my Norwegian language skills to the next level.

Like last year, I’ll use this as an opportunity for a complete cyber break – get off Facebook, email, Pinterest and my blog and simply be in the here and now, instead of on my technology. But I’ll take heaps of photos and give you travel stories at some stage.

I don’t leave til the 24th June, but I’m already packing and dreaming and figuring out how to get the most out of my trip. This page in my journal is the result of travel dreams and lettering practice. I like it. It’s even got some whitespace which is my biggest challenge in journalling!

A connection with the magical land of Nærbo, Norway

A connection with the magical land of Nærbo, Norway 1

Welcome to the next installment of my travel stories. If you haven’t already, you might like to read my previous posts about the start of my journey.

A connection with the magical land of Nærbo, Norway 2

In Norway, once I’d finished stirring up big life questions with Morten and Marte Marit, and peering through a porthole into my future, I headed to Nærbo to visit Ragnhild (who I met at Julie Arkell’s course last year in France) and her husband Atle.  There we filled my entire Talking Book with Norwegian, and my use of the language took some pretty big strides. I thought my mind might be about to explode. Luckily there was nature to soothe me. Oh my god, can I just say, the nature there, it did something to me. The land spoke to me. I don’t know how or why (was I a Norwegian in a past life?), and was beyond beautiful.

A connection with the magical land of Nærbo, Norway 3

A connection with the magical land of Nærbo, Norway 4

Here’s a cultural difference I discovered between Norwegians and Australians. Norwegians will choose to be outside in all weather. Planning a hike but it’s raining? No problem. We’ll go in the rain. They are also tough as nuts. When Marte Marit picked me up from the train station, instead of hustling me home and relieving me of my bags, she took one of my backpacks and proceeded to take me on a tour of the town. It didn’t matter that it was raining at the time. She’d thoughtfully brought me a rain poncho too. While I would never have done that in Australia, I discovered the inner Norwegian in me, and that I, too, can be tough enough to wander all over town in the rain with my travel pack on. Cool. I like this version of myself!

A connection with the magical land of Nærbo, Norway 5
So, when Ragnhild and Atle and I planned a mini-hike through the wilds of their region, the fact that it was raining on the day didn’t even make them blink. Ragnhild handed me an extra pair of shoes and a raincoat, and we were off. It was cold. Even though this is summer for Norway, it was more like a mild Melbourne winter.

A connection with the magical land of Nærbo, Norway 6

And the water was icy. How do I know this? When we got to this beautiful isolated beach, Atle and I dared each other to whip off our clothes down to our nudies and dive in. OMG it was exhilarating. There was magic in the water, I tell you, though I couldn’t take it for more than a few minutes! But afterwards I felt clean, new, and oh so connected to the land.. and to Ragnhild and Atle too.  Ahh yes, there was muchness in that water. Here’s us, just afterwards:

A connection with the magical land of Nærbo, Norway 7

Hello from South of France!

To be more specific, from Lagrasse, one of the ten most beautiful villages in Europe.  I didn’t think anything could possibly beat last year’s trip to France, but I have to say, this year’s trip to Europe has been even better. In embarking on this trip, I hoped to collect inspiration to use in my art and work, and to have a bit of a shake up of who I am, to see what is the real me and what is just years of habit and expectations and roles that I’ve settled into. In the words of Lewis Caroll, I wanted to find my muchness.  And I have.

Travelling alone in Oslo was an amazing start. I have never travelled alone before, and I discovered a kind of resilience that I didn’t know I had. When things went wrong, instead of taking them to heart and agonizing over them, I was able to shrug them off and not feel so personally affected by them. My bag didn’t arrive with me? No problem – I don’t really need much stuff anyway. Someone yells at me? Well really, it’s her issue that’s happening here, not mine.  Can’t find our accommodation? Put one foot in front of the other, keep walking, and eventually all will become clear. Peeling off that extra layer of emotional angst that I usually contend with at home made all sorts of practical problems so much easier.  How to bring this lovely quality home? I’m not sure, but I’m gonna try.

After Oslo I stayed with the gorgeous Morten and Marte Marit in Kristiansand – lovely folk I have met via Facebook but not in real life. Turns out we were all a bit nervous about how it might be, but in the end we made a real friendship and I will be thrilled if I get to see them again. I took the plunge here, and tried writing in Norwegian for communication, not English.  They were frightfully patient with me – all the words I didn’t understand, they’d help translate. But hell, I was impressed! I could actually COMMUNICATE in Norwegian! I was astonished at the number of words I managed to remember and use, and how much I picked up just by writing it back and forwards all day. Wow.

The visit also raised a whole lot of questions for me. You see, by then, I hadn’t even put on my hearing aids for two weeks. Usually I wear them quite a lot at home, to help with communication, but also because of tinnitus. But in Norway, no tinnitus.

“Why not?” Marte Marit asked. Hmm. Good question. Actually I think it was the fact that I stopped trying to lipread. I knew I had no hope of lipreading Norwegian, since while I understood it in written form to an extent, I had no idea how anything was pronounced, except to know it was wildly different from how English speakers would expect. No lipreading = no tinnitus?! Now that’s a revelation to me! Which means… do I think about changing my life at home, to get rid of the tinnitus? How do I stop lipreading? That’s a big and hard question.

‘Why not write? Like we are doing now?’ Marte Marit suggested. Writing with her, in my talking book, it was easy, because I had simply NO other option. I couldn’t hear or understand Norwegian if my life depended on it. But at home, I can lipread to an extent, and it’s hard to avoid taking that shortcut, especially when it takes the burden off other people. It feels like a big ask, to get someone to write to me rather than speak. But is it worth it, to eliminate the constant ringing in my ears?  Hmm.. more food for thought.

In a bookshop, I had a thrilling time browsing through the beautiful Norwegian childrens’ books, admiring the gorgeous pictures. And then I picked up a book that made a chill run down my spine. It had illustrations and story on one side of the page, and on the other was a series of visuals that showed how to tell the story in Norwegian Sign Language! Something magical happened there. I have never seen such a concept here in Australia, though I am sure such books exist. I felt I was holding in my hands the spark of a future project. My free online Auslan course has gone viral, and I now have no less than five thousand, five hundred students! Gulp. If learning Auslan is so popular, maybe people will like Auslan in books too… I felt the future calling me.

More in my next post… stay tuned!

Art busking in Oslo, Norway

Hello from Oslo, Norway! It’s been an amazing week, and it’s bliss to strip down to summer clothes and bare feet after our Melbourne winter.

One of the challenges I set myself before I left was to try busking – set up somewhere, paint in public, and see if anyone wants to buy my paintings. The thought terrified me, but I really wanted to do it. One of the reasons is to see whether it could be possible that busking would pay my expenses while travelling – if so I could plan a much longer trip! And I thought it could be a good way to meet people, especially Norwegian people as then I can practise my Norwegian with them!

I’ve read that the best time to busk is Friday and Saturday nights after midnight (!!) in an area with a lot of drunk people. But sadly when I arrived in Oslo, my checked in bag didn’t arrive with me, so I didn’t have my paints with me to busk on Friday. While wandering around Oslo though, I collected some goodies: some discarded bits of brown wood, some beautiful round stones… which I thought would be good to paint on.

Saturday, my bag finally showed up (hooray!) and I had a happy afternoon in the park, painting my found objects.

Art busking in Oslo, Norway 1 Art busking in Oslo, Norway 2 Art busking in Oslo, Norway 3 Art busking in Oslo, Norway 4 Art busking in Oslo, Norway 5

Then after a nap I hit the town, searching for the right spot to busk. I’d marked some suggested spots on a map, but they were all dead – no people at all. I kept walking, and eventually found action around Oslo Central train station. Taking a deep breath, and telling myself I could go home at any time, I staked out a spot, and laid out my pieces. Before I’d even finished setting them down, I had three or four people gathered around, checking them out!

Art busking in Oslo, Norway 6

I super-hastily scrawled myself a sign, put some change in a plastic container in case anyone felt inspired to donate, and whipped out my Talking Book for written communication with my customers.

Two guys appointed themselves my protectors. They fended off a loony woman who insisted that my presence was forbidden, and someone who abused me when I refused her offer of a dollar for one of my pieces. They kept an eye on my money jar for me, told me how much to keep there and how much to hide in my bag, and assured me that it was perfectly legal for me to be there. As if to prove it, the transit police wandered past and smiled at me.

Here’s one of the guys who helped me out, Samson Ett:

Art busking in Oslo, Norway 7

He stayed for ages and turned into my Oslo Busking Companion, meeting me twice more for some pavement fun. I didn’t get a pic of the other guy. Instead I gamely handed him my phone and he snapped heaps of great pics. Like this one, of me communicating with one of my customers:

Art busking in Oslo, Norway 8

And of Benedicte, my first ever busking customer:

Art busking in Oslo, Norway 9

Here’s the painting she bought:

Art busking in Oslo, Norway 10

I sold seven paintings that night, and earnt enough to cover my living expenses in Oslo for three days. I thought that was good going! Over the next couple of sessions I sold another four – but sales were slower since I think the advice I’d received was right: late night drunk people do make fabulous customers. They were also very open and uninhibited. I had two young guys hang out with me for ages. I stamped their arms with ‘tattoos’ of my pieces and enjoyed their company muchly.

Art busking in Oslo, Norway 11

So is busking a viable way to pay my way around Europe? Maybe I just had a lucky Saturday night, but my intuition says it could work. I’d probably need to be more organised, make sure I do both Friday AND Saturday night, and paint a lot more pieces in advance so I have more available to sell. I doubt I’d totally cover all my expenses, but I’d probably make a serious dent in them.

Art busking in Oslo, Norway 12

Remember I said I wanted to find my muchness on this trip? Well, the whole thing put me on a high. I loved the connections I made, and the vibe of hanging out with cool people late at night in downtown Oslo. Muchness indeed.

Goodbye! I’m going overseas for a month

Talking book-1

I’m leaving tomorrow.  Heading off to Norway, Denmark and France for more of the art inspiration that fed my soul so well last year.  I’m not taking much: just a backpack with some clothes and an art kit.  I plan to paint my way across Europe.

I’ve also made myself this book, my ‘talking book’, which I’ll use to communicate with people I meet.  It’s a little hard-cover book with a print of my artwork on the front and back.

Talking book-2

Paula thought maybe it was a bit bold – is that really the first message I want to give when I meet people? A naked woman and man? But you know what? One of the reasons I’m so excited about this trip is that I’ll be away from all my usual people and routines, and I’ll have the opportunity to be a different version of myself.  I’m hoping for a more ME version.

Not that I’m not ME in my life at home, but by stepping outside of all the daily expectations about how I’ll be, I hope I can shake things up for myself and see who is really in there, right here, right now.  And part of that is not making any apologies for who I am.  Yes, sometimes I’m really bold,  really feminist.  And if no-one wants to be friends with me on this trip because my Talking Book is offensive, then I don’t care.  And if someone sees it and is drawn to talk to me because of it, well, hell, that’s a person I’d like to meet!

I’m leaving my computer at home.  That’s big, for me.  But it’s time for a bit of a detox, to connect with the real world and here and now, without thinking about sharing that with others. I’ll do the sharing when I come home.  So I won’t be posting here regularly for the next month. But I’ll probably lurk online from time to time.

So, folks, I’m off.  Wish me ME-ness.  Or as Lewis Caroll said, ‘muchness’.  For those of you in Australia, have fun with winter (ha!) and for all of you, see you in August.


Workshop with Julie Arkell in France

Let me tell you about my most amazing trip to France.  The residential course I did, studying with Julie Arkell, was probably the best week of my life!  The place I studied, Les Seours Anglaises, was just beautiful, a lovely place in which to be and create.  The food was magnificent and I learnt everything I hoped to learn and more.  What I didn’t expect was to be overwhelmed by all the fabulous women I studied with – I learnt so much from them and made so many friends.

Here’s a photo tour…

Julie Arkell was a wonderful teacher, and I couldn’t get enough of her cute aprons and eccentric, delightful fashion:

Workshop with Julie Arkell in France

On the first day, Julie showed us how to scrunch up newspaper and tape it up with masking tape to create little figures.  She told us to make as many as we could before lunch.  This was my line up:

Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 2

After lunch we covered our figures with a layer of newspaper.  At the end of the first day, here’s all our creations, drying together in the sun.

Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 3

The next day we covered our figures with paper from vintage books, and gave them a lick of paint here and there.  This is my line up by the end of the second day:

Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 4

Me, making making making in the workshop:

Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 5

Here’s other students hard at it:

Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 6 Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 7

Julie taught me how to approach knitting garments for any doll, of any size, shape and proportions.  Here she’s writing  a proposed knitting pattern for my rabbit doll, into my journal:

Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 8

We took an outting to the local flea market to source treasures to use in our creations.  Then we had a picnic, and here’s me sitting next to Julie Arkell:

Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 9

I snared this original vintage French military jacket at the flea market.  It fits me perfectly – normally it’s hard for me to find a jacket wide enough across the shoulders but not enormous at the waist.  I like the proportions of these French soldiers!  Happy I’ll always have this to remember the trip.

Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 10

The other students were so skilled and happy to share their talents.  When I ran into problems knitting a playsuit for my doll, one of the other students, Torhild, was happy to help.  And in fact once she got knitting, everyone was so gobsmacked at her speed and skill that we all gathered around in shock to watch.  Better than TV!

Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 11

My doll had antlers and we weren’t sure we’d be able to get the playsuit onto her once it was knitted.  But Torhild had a solution: she proceeded to knit the playsuit ONTO the doll!  Much more admiration from everyone in the class.

Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 12

At the end, we had a show and tell.  You can see my figures on the left below:

Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 13

Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 14

This is me with my inkle.  I have wanted an inkle ever since I saw one in a catalogue of Julie’s work.  She was happy to show me out to knit one.  I love it.

Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 15

Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 16

The other students made wonderful things:

Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 17 Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 18 Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 19 Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 20

I think my favourite was this hare by Ragnhild:

Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 21

Workshop with Julie Arkell in France 22

It nearly killed me to say goodbye to everyone.  Usually I love working alone, but suddenly my little studio at home seems rather lonely!  It doesn’t matter – I’ve brought home a whole year’s worth of inspiration, so hopefully I’ll be too busy to notice!