From the Road, a Morocco Travel Diary II

There are parts of the world where my heart really feels at peace and at home.  Traveling in Morocco got me thinking about those trips that really get me excited to jump on a plane, and the ones that I go on with an inquisitive mind and an eager heart, hoping to find a culture and country I can really connect with.

Looking at these photos got me thinking...

These are the things I know about myself and travel: I love a warm, humid climate. I love a place that is full of culture, where old traditions mix with modern ways. Where, as developed as a place has become, there’s still a nod to its ancient roots. I love greenery, I love an old mossy building, a climate and a country where nature is always trying to take back control.

I love religious buildings: temples, mosques, churches, you name it I’ll visit it. I’m not religious myself but I’ve always been captivated by faith and the coming together of people to celebrate something bigger than what has been made my humans. Any city, town, village, farm or whatever that has a nod to religion somewhere, that’s where I like to hang out. There’s such a sense of peace about it all – is that weird, coming from a non-religious person?

I love jungle. I’ve already mentioned that, but when it comes to visiting somewhere dry and arid or somewhere green and swampy – give me swampy every time

Having been to Morocco before, especially at such a pivotal time in my life, I knew exactly how attached I was to the country. Last time I visited I had just dropped out of university and took off to Spain for a few months. I met up with a group of people at a hostel and we decided to all head to Morocco on the ferry via Gibraltar for a few days. We got lost in Marrakech, hitchhiked through the Atlas Mountains, camped in the Sahara and ate road-side food that would make even the most seasoned traveller give that particular tagine the side-eye.

It was a time in my life that changed me, and yet I didn’t develop that almost heart-ache attachment that I have for other countries. A part of me really loves it there, and I would visit again and again, but while it wrote a big chapter in the story of my life, Morocco will go down in my book as a fling rather than a great romance.

 

 

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The Quiet Winter - Run Down January and A New Year

I swear January is the toughest month for so many because we don’t take into account how much we put ourselves through in the lead up to January 31st. And I’m not just talking about all the parties and drinking, I mean the feeling that you get at New Year like your crossing a finish line. I mean the lead up of the whole year. Like it or not the end of a calendar year feels like the end of an event, after which we’re more likely to feel tired than rejuvenated.

Just this week I have been EXHAUSTED. I’ve been getting headaches, I can’t concentrate, I’m hungry all the time but slightly sick so eating is hard and all I want is comfort food – macaroni and cheese. I haven't even had the energy to take new photos for this blog post, so I hope that explains the sunset over Fez in case you were confused.

I think a lot of people go through this in January and February, and then lose their momentum on the resolutions started with that amazing New Year feeling because they just don’t have any energy. And that’s not to mention the dark and the cold that many of us have to deal with.

Personally I don’t think now is the time to blame yourself and get down about your inability to commit to the great things you want to make happen in your life, I think now more than ever is a time for self-care and encouragement.

This time last year, when I was feeling crap and down about having no energy to get stuff done, I found a naturopath through Triyoga on a recommendation from a friend. I had no knowledge of naturopathy so I went in with curiosity and a bunch of gratitude for health insurance so that if it all turned out to be rubbish I wouldn’t be wasting any money.

I just need to take a moment here to say that visiting Triyoga in Camden is a healing experience in itself. It’s the most beautiful yoga studio/café/place to hang out and if I could move in, I would. I met with Merran Lusher for about four sessions and it was interesting to see how she worked, using what my body was telling her to point me in the direction of supplements, vitamins and other things it was asking for.

I still don’t really have a firm opinion on practices like Body Talk, etc… I don’t know if it works or not but the result made me feel a lot better so I’m glad I did it. After a few weeks of self-care, vitamins and following her advice on food and exercise, I felt a bit more of that New Year enthusiasm again and ready to tackle some resolutions.

This week I’ve felt a similar sort of painful lethargy and instinctively went back to the advice I was given last year. The supplements, the food, and the self-care.

I think it’s all too easy to blame ourselves when our grand plans get derailed by our lack of drive. But if things aren’t feeling right within, it’s probably because they’re not right. It’s not always easy to discover what the body needs, but it’s important to try, and once you figure it out and prioritise fulfilling those needs, amazing things can happen.

 

 

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The Quiet Winter – All About Food

If you’ve followed my online journey for a while now, you may know that my relationship with food is not a healthy one. I skip breakfast, drink too much coffee, I’m lazy with putting together meals so I prioritise carbs to quickly fill me up, I snack, and man do I eat way too much pizza – I mean, it’s a real problem.

But the older I get, the less my body can cope with it. Not only am I not keeping the weight off like I used to, but the impact that junk food has on my mood is increasingly noticeable. I lack energy, I feel frantic half the time, I’m distracted and stressed and I can get really down on myself. 

I know what the solution is, eat healthier! But when it’s 8:30pm and the fridge is empty and my brain is a bit broken from a long day (of crap food), macaroni and cheese wins out every time. Or first thing in the morning when there’s nothing to do for breakfast except go to the coffee shop and buy something – that’s a big chunk of my weekly budget gone right there, and the coffee isn’t even that great!

Teaching myself to be a healthier eater isn’t easy, it’s been a long road but the more I’ve travelled along it, the more inspired I’ve become. My repertoire of healthy recipes is still shockingly limited, considering I’m in no way a picky eater (just a lazy one), but I have a few firm favourites that are easy to make and keep me feeling good about myself because for me, the best part about healthy eating is making the choice to do something good for myself. 

And this Christmas Adam and I were lucky enough to receive a vitamix from Adam’s parents! Since we visited Hawaii last October I have been banging on about the vitamix and now that we finally have one, being healthy has never been so – effortless! This thing does everything! Soups, dressings, healthy ice-cream, dough, you name it, it’ll blend it.

But what I’ve learned is that you don’t really need fancy kitchen gadgets to make a healthy start. All you need is to find a few main staples that you enjoy, that are easy to make and that you can mix up for variety so that you don’t get bored. For me, these staples are: the acai bowl and the bliss bowl. Both the acai bowl and the bliss bowl are a mix of the healthy things you find most delicious, they're easy and quick to make, and they're good for you.

The acai bowl is mostly blended fruit with toppings like coconut, bee pollen, seeds, berries, more fruit, granola – really anything goes! You can even add in spinach and macha powder to make it a green bowl – but adding acai powder, or really any super food, makes it an extremely healthy and filling start to the day. Here's a recipe to get you started, and chocolate acai!

The bliss bowl is a combination of vegetables cooked in a variety of different ways with different seasonings and sauces. At the weekend I roast a tonne of veggies, steam some kale, spinach, red cabbage – and each morning I assemble a selection of veggies on top of potatoes or brown rice to bring into work for lunch. It’s colourful and experimenting with different dressings is so much fun! Here's a recipe I found if you want to give it a try. If you’re lazy like me, then tahini and lemon juice is a firm favourite. But I’m also working on a miso dressing, or even something with nutritional yeast which tastes better than it sounds. 

Taking time this winter to instill some good eating habits, even if they’re the most basic, has been one of my favourite parts of The Quiet Winter. I’m getting more experimental, I made my own granola last night, and more importantly I have a sense of pride that only comes in investing in myself and taking care of my overall wellbeing. It’s been good for my body, my heart and my head.

 

 

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From the Road, a Morocco Travel Diary

The sad truth of it is, my very first thought upon arriving in Fez was "I wish I was at home in bed". Two days before flying I came down with an awful cold and spent the next week feeling feverish with a head stuffed full of medicine and cotton wool. Not the best start to a trip I've ever had, but at least I was overseas for fun and not for work, and I had the luxury of staying in bed in a beautiful dar rather than hauling my sorry self and my camera around and worrying about how bad my photos may turn out.

But all the same I was really annoyed. It was Christmas, I was meant to be on holiday and I was just too sick to do anything - which also explains my rubbish appearance in my last post. I am very proud to say I didn't wallow in bed for too long though. On our first day I made it out, even just for a little bit, to wander the Medina in Fez and take in just how amazing it all is. And it truly is amazing.

I had been warned before I went to Fez that hiring a guide was a good idea, and it really was (we found someone through our hotel). Sure we ended up at all of the usual tourist spots, but it gave us a really good understanding of the Medina and that meant after a while we could find our way around on our own. Well, Adam could, I am awful with directions even in my own neighborhood. 

I've traveled in Morocco before, right after I dropped out of university in my first year. I went back of course, but I was studying archaeology at the time and it took half a term to realise it wasn't for me. I remember when I was in Marrakesh I took a lot of photo and printed them out to put them in an album - oh those good old days, which I don't actually miss at all. But I guess a part of me wanted a tangible record of the most rebellious thing I've ever done.

The thing with the medina in Fez is that while it's a tourist attraction, it's an actual functioning market where people live and do their shopping. It's crowded and can get a little crazy at times - which just so happens to be one of the environments in which I thrive. I love bustling cities, life going on all around me with people yelling and trying to move in different directions all at the same time. I don't get easily overwhelmed by human chaos, and in fact a part of me finds peace in it.




Just a few hours of walking was all I could manage on our first day, and in fact I don't think I even bought my camera with me - even though Adam tried to encourage me to bring it. I think he thought it would heal me somehow! All of these photos were taken throughout the time that we were there, and I have plenty more to share on another day.


 

 

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Catching Up, Hello January!

It’s a brand new year! I’m so excited about all the possibilities that 2016 brings with it and I just don’t even know where to look first. The first few days of a New Year feel full of endless possibilities, so much can happen! 

But soon after I get to thinking about how nothing happens without hard work, you need to have plans and goals and you need to make it happen for yourself. That’s where I always get overwhelmed because were do I even start?

So this week I’m going to get to work on making some goals. This always shakes my nerves a little bit because goals mean decisions, and decisions mean commitment and to be honest that freaks the hell out of me. But no one ever moved forward for being too scared to commit, so maybe that is going to be my big challenge for the coming year – learn to commit, to have faith in myself and really invest my energy 100% in my goals.

2015 felt like a good year but a tough year. The end was great but the beginning and middle felt like a really awful battle between my head and my heart. I felt like I had a lot to deal with from both and neither could agree. It was like being in the middle of a custody battle for control over my life and it was a long summer of self-doubt and criticism, but I really think that coming out the other side of that I am a stronger, happier person. 

And it had some great highlights! They year ended in the best way possible when I found out some of my photos were featured on the Guardian! But all throughout I had some amazing travel experiences: Iceland, India (twice), Pakistan, Morocco (more on that to come), Hawaii, Italy, Canada and Paris. Adam and I had a pretty wonderful first year of being married. Friends had babies, got married, got engaged. I designed my own website and redesigned my blog. I became a photographer as my actual job! Lots of good memories made.

I have such a good feeling about 2016 though, and I just can't shake it. I don't know what's coming but I know that it's going to be amazing. On January first I didn't have any resolutions in mind, but I did have some ideas that I wanted to bring into the new year with me, so I just wrote down some words like simplicity, intuition and be present - these are just a few things that I want to work on in the coming year. But above anything, happiness is the ultimate goal and anything that serves that will always be a priority.

My other to-do list resolutions I'll probably keep to myself. They're business related, relationship related, blog related, that sort of thing. I'm a big believer in actions over words - do something first and tell the world about it through the change that you make. Sometimes I think the minute you say it out loud, the pressure of having to accomplish it becomes too much and the momentum goes. I've got some big goals though, so wish me luck!

What are your thoughts on the New Year, have you made any plans?

Oh and to kick off the New Year and maintain this awesome feeling of endless possibilities, I bought myself a pair of super comfy on sale yoga pants and started yoga camp yesterday, which is completely free! If you want to start yoga-ing, now is such a good time!

 

 

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The Quiet Winter, Catch Up on Some Sleep

Yesterday I found out that my great aunt and I share the same bed time, except most nights I end up falling asleep about half an hour before she does - and she's 82. I have given myself the bed time of a child and I'm not in the least bit sorry about it because if there's one thing I absolutely can't do without, it's sleep.

I'm not fit to be around if I haven't slept well, I can't get anything done and I instantly become more accident prone and a complete liability.

Over these cold months I plan to spend A LOT of time in bed. If I could sleep for hours upon hours I would - but even if I'm not sleeping, bed is a pretty great place to spend time. Reading, having movie days, Skype calls with friends and family, knitting, or just daydreaming. 

But I'm sorry to say that I'm not the best at sleeping, or taking time out in general for that matter. I think most people fit into two camps when it comes to relaxing - some people love it and some people find it really difficult. I'm in the second camp. Even when I'm sick and stuck in bed I'm still convinced there are things that I could be ticking off my to-do list. It's a really bad habit.

This winter I'm planning to make it a priority to get better at doing nothing. Far too many weekends have been taken off to relax, only to be spent doing chores. I'm getting really good at cleaning, tidying, organising and generally ticking things off. But while it's great to spend time getting your life in order, sometimes it's better to learn how to just do nothing. 


This post was written in collaboration with Leesa. A few months ago I realized that our old spring mattress was causing us to lose sleep and I began the search for a new one. Leesa mattress arrive squashed in a box and expand in minutes to a full sized foam mattress that has been made to order. We've been sleeping on our new king mattress for the past two weeks and I can honestly say that it has improved our sleep so much - no more back aches, no more waking each other up in the night, and no more pokey springs. If you like a good mix between soft and hard, the Leesa is a great choice.

 

 

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The Quiet Winter, Rein it in

The ultimate purpose of deciding to jump into the quiet winter is to rest, recoperate and invest in yourself and your life - taking the time to make it everything you dreamed it would be.

It's a beautiful thing, deciding to invest in yourself. It's an act of self love and self belief and it's proving to yourself that you think you are worth the investment. Just that decision alone can work wonders.

But it's not easy. It means cutting back on a lot of what sustains your present life, reigning it all in to take a look at it and examine it in detail and make sure it's really working for you. And this is where the other half of the investment comes in, because the more you reign yourself in, the less money you spend. The more you save and the more you get ready to put into place your big plans, goals, dreams, whatever your heart is telling you it needs.

Maybe that means you'll decide you want to save for a wedding, or for a house or for babies or whatever. A puppy? Maybe it means you want to save to travel the world, buy a big old truck, quit your office job and never look back. Both lives are equally worthwhile, if they're what your heart is telling you it wants.

 

 

Love your space.

The thing with to-do lists is they always feel like chores. And I have life-admin to do for sure! Passport applications, paperwork, etc... But I think all of that belongs on a different to-do list and the trick with the boring stuff is to knock one item off each week until it's done.

On my other to-do list are the things that make me feel like I'm combing the knots out of my life. One of those items is falling in love with the space I live in. I section off corners of my house, put Netflix on the laptop, or the Harry Potter audio books, or just some music, and get to sorting. I go through everything carefully and aim to get rid of as much as possible. I'm one of those people who feels better with less stuff, even though I am so sentimental and throwing things out is hard - it's also necessary.

I've come to learn that a relationship with your home is something to be maintained, and you will feel as much love in your living space as you pour into it. Giving it love until it's positively glowing with pride - doesn't that sound like an amazing environment to rest in? Also, spending time in your home with your things, cleaning them up or throwing things out, is such a good way of getting to grips with where you are and how you got there. It's analysing the physical accumulation of your life and realising what was important and what is no longer necessary.

I'm telling you, it's like therapy. And it makes your priorities seem a lot clearer. Also you can make it as time consuming as you want. Rush through it to move on to something that means more to you, or keep your own company while learning to enjoy it, and save your pennies for another day.

 

 

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The Quiet Winter

Remember when I posted about how we afford to travel? And I mentioned something I called The Quiet Winter. Well this post is about what that means, and I think you’re really going to like the idea.

Traditionally my travel year ends in October and starts again in the spring, and if you've followed me on my various platforms for a while you’ll know that I find the winter really hard. The lack of light, central heating, no fresh air, too much boring routine – it can all add up to something that has the potential to send me to a really dark place.

Over the past few years it’s become harder and harder, and I realised that it was going to take a big effort on my part to shift my mind-set and turn it into a period of time I could really enjoy, one that I could really get something out of. 

So now I think of winter as my quiet time. Where I can rest, recover, plan and care for myself. Recuperate after some insane travel months, or a summer of just non-stop movement. During those months it’s easy to neglect your diet, exercise, overall health and wellbeing, and just get so caught up in doing that you forget to think about where you’re going. 

These days I think of winter as a restful time, time to take stock, check in with myself and build up some reserves. Mentally, physically and financially. I make less plans, I read more books, I do more yoga and I look ahead to the coming year and really try to think about where I want to end up at the end of it. 

From starting out as dreading winter and the cold, now I look forward to it as one long season where I can care for myself like it’s my job, and get ready for the active months ahead.

And so here we are with a new series! In writing The Quiet Winter I’m going to go through everything that I’m doing to care for myself, mentally and physically. Everything I’m doing to make myself stronger and fitter for my travels and the questions I’m asking and answering to make sure that I’m on track for the year ahead – I mean as much as I can be, I’ve learned by now that planning only takes you so far. 

I'm going to share the way I make sure that I take time out to do nothing, how I stick to a yoga practice, where I spend money on things that are good for me and where I save on the not so good things so I can go traveling. I'll also talk about the books I'm reading, the podcasts I'm listening to. How I manage my social life and not being out every night without getting fomo (which is a very real affliction). And I'm also going to share how I check in with myself, make sure I'm doing ok, make any adjustments in my life and really make sure I'm doing what I want and not just want I think I should be doing. 

I hope this series will be helpful to you if you are interested in having a quiet winter too. If you're saving for something big, looking to spend some time checking in with yourself, or just flat broke and need to spend some time not spending any money (hey, we've all been there). And if you have any specific questions, let me know and maybe I'll turn the answer into a blog post.

 

 

Just a Moment :: Thirty Two

This feature has always been one of my favourites to write on Nishaantishu. I think if ever I gave up blogging completely, and I don't see that ever happening, but if I did I think I would still find some way to post Just a Moment posts - somewhere on the internet. 

I don't get around to writing them as often as I used to, mostly because they mean having my camera on hand at just the right moment which doesn't happen as often as I would like, but I made an extra effort this weekend and here are the results (it's a little Molly focused, but they usually are):

1. The ultimate photo-bomb. But just try and sit on the floor and avoid being sat on by this girl.

2. A few years ago I knit myself this massive scarf and it was just way too big to wear, but too small to use as a blanket. So Molly adopted it and sleeps with it every night, along with her teddy, because she's basically a human. 

3. Burning sage to see in the new winter season and clean out the cobwebs of the old. And then being slightly perplexed/concerned that I didn't set off the fire alarm in the kitchen. I should probably check on that.

4. These two. Words just can't...

5. Mulled wine! We got the last two cups left after a chilly walk with the dog on Sunday. The wind was so strong it was blowing Molly's ball all over the park and she kept losing it. But maybe that's because she needs a hair cut, she can't see anything through all that fur.

 

 

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How We Afford to Travel

If there’s one question I get asked more than most, it’s “how do you afford to travel so much?” There are a few answers to this, but the main one is that I travel for work as a photographer, so I get paid to do that and all of my tickets and hotels are paid for too. How I made this my full time job is a whole other post, but for now I want to talk about our savings and money related priorities.

Both Adam and I have decent paying jobs, he’s not a banker and I’m not a lawer so they’re not super well paying jobs – and while we would always wish for more money, we’re comfortable. He’s a planner and I’m a photographer, and we both love travel. We’ve travelled separately, we’ve travelled together (the best kind of travel), and it’s something both of us have created a lot of space for in our lives.

We’re our better selves when we’re on the road. We feel more free and it shows, we have our best conversations, we laugh harder, we sleep better, we are braver with our lives and our future plans. Travel is essential to us as a couple, without it we would get so stuck in the everyday and we would struggle to see our future with any perspective. Travel gives us that very necessary perspective.

But we have to work and save for it. Adam doesn’t often drop loads of cash on a night in the pub, I very rarely go shopping, and we often challenge ourselves to see how many days we can go without spending money. We cook at home more often than going out and we are very clear on our priorities.

Adam gets to spend his money on kayaking, I get to spend money on my photography. We both trust ourselves to be careful with our spending and we don’t judge each other when one of us comes home with a few purchases (side bar: I do judge Adam when he comes home with ugly sports clothes…)

We keep a spreadsheet of our expenses and we both pay money into a joint account for these joint expenses. I’ve been lucky enough to have been allowed to poke through the expenses of a few close friends, and one difference that I notice is how much disposable income they have compared to how much I have – I would say I have about half. That’s because each month I put a quarter of my pay check into savings and that all goes towards our travel/future fund.

But while all of this paints a pretty good picture of saving, responsible, forward planning adults, I just have to point out that we save a lot of our money for travel – and that’s mostly it. We aren’t saving for a house, but we are saving for a future and we are investing in our dreams and our life and ourselves. We don’t have kids yet, we can afford to be a bit selfish, and we are enjoying that while we can – because it won’t last forever.

There are some days where I panic about not being able to buy a house. And there are other days where I get really down on myself for having old clothes and not being stylish. But I look at my pictures from all the adventures we’ve had together and I remind myself that I’m making a choice, and I can change my mind about my priorities whenever I like.

And on a final note, my absolute favourite part about saving money is diving into a Quiet Winter – I’ll explain that in another post too but it’s a good one. You’re really going to love it.

 

 

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India in October: A Travel Diary ii

This morning I woke up to a broken boiler (so no heating), and after a full day on the sofa on Sunday I still felt like I could have slept for another four hours or so. I crawled out of bed, made a cup of tea, got dressed and lost my wallet on the bus. Happy Monday!

It got me thinking so much about how many people there are in the world living their life in parallel. How everyone is having, has had or will have had their Monday by this point and it will be nothing like mine, and yet it will be so similar. We all have to wake up, we have to eat, we all have stuff to do… we're not so different from each other, you know?

 

 


On my second day in India I woke up before the sun. Early starts are not unusual on these trips, you wake up when the people you’re shooting do. Mostly I shoot people who work with animals. I mean, people who work alongside their animals to provide for their family. So usually that’s manual labour of one sort or another and those kind of work days start early.

On these mornings I roll out of bed, jump in a cold shower because so many of these hotels don’t have hot water (when you travel for a charity you travel on a budget), and I jump into my already smelly clothes because by now I have learned to resign myself to packing light and smelling like a horse.
We head back to the fair and I walk through the crowds of horses and people for hours looking for those shots that will show what it’s like here. 

 

There are stories everywhere and although I could write a caption to go with everything my eyes are taking in, it’s hard to get a good shot in the crowds. And animals are so hard to shoot because they’re not exactly the sort to strike and hold a pose. 

By the time we finish and head back to Lucknow to catch our flight to Delhi, we are all tired but so much more alive and chatty than we were when we first arrived. That’s the thing about traveling and working in India, the spirit of the country fills you with energy in-spite of yourself - no matter how long your journey has been.

 

 

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India in October: A Travel Diary

I've never been very good at jet lag math, but looking back on October, I would say that leaving a five day window between arriving in London from Hawaii and flying to India was not the wisest move. Having said that however, I didn't have much choice. Hawaii was organised a year ago and this work trip came up last minute. And when was I ever going to turn down a trip to India anyway? Never.

But it's times like these when I wish I had a bit more energy, a bit more reserve petrol in the tank to just keep going. We arrived at our hotel in Delhi at 1am after being delayed at the airport for about two hours. I remember sitting there waiting for Tom to get his visa and thinking to myself, "that's another hour less to sleep... another hour less to sleep... and another". And then when I finally had the chance to sleep, I couldn't! Because: jet lag. So waking up at 4am wasn't such a problem because I was awake before my alarm. 

It's usually at this point when I am reminded of a few conversations I have had with other humanitarian/international photographers. They always say that the drop-out rate in a career like this is usually pretty high because it is hard! It's exhausting, it's anti-social, it's heartbreaking, it's physically and mentally challenging. It's just hard.

So squeezing into a car that was way too small for three people and all their equipment to catch another flight from Delhi to Lucknow while feeling sick from lack of sleep, it did help to remember that. It's supposed to be hard. You do need to be physically and mentally fit - something I'm really working on these days.

And I rely a lot on the compulsion to keep going. I don't know what it is, maybe it's adrenaline or love for my job, or stubbornness? But whatever it is that kicks in when I begin to take photos, that's what gets me through. I don't feel tired anymore, I don't feel panicky that my body is going to pack it in. A little voice inside starts freaking out about the frames and the colours and that golden hour in India that is just... I don't even know how to describe it. And the stories of course, always the stories.

So after a lot of no sleep, whatever it is that gets me out of the car when we arrive at our first location and into the crowds and dust to start doing "photographer squats" every few minutes - I'm grateful to it.

I'm photographing the Dewa equine fair, just me and a videographer (Tom) and a storyteller (Jamie). This is where thousands of animals are bought and sold into work every year and it's a challenging work environment for many reasons. We come across so many heartbreaking stories in our time at the fair, but this first evening is golden and everyone is happy to finally be in the field.

I usually travel with Jamie for work these days unless I have to go by myself, he's the one up there with the goat. It's super helpful to have someone I can quietly complain to about being tired - and someone to take photos of me for the blog of course! And Tom up there with the drone is one of a few videographers I get to work with. When I first started this job I had to film, photograph, write, interview, plan - I was a one woman content collection show. These days I'm lucky enough to get to put together my own team of talented people to take into the field, it's so much fun getting to work with them all! And I learn so much each time.

Part two coming later this week...

 

 

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Fjällräven in the Field

If there’s one thing I don’t like when I’m working it’s being weighed down with loads of stuff. As much as I can I like to be out in the field with one camera, one or two lenses, and that’s it. I finish at the end of the day completely covered in dust, with rips in my jeans and mud on my face from crawling on the ground or climbing something without really paying much attention to anything else but getting a good shot. 

Usually I can leave my bag in the car, but sometimes it needs to come with me into the field and for that I've always just used my every day backpack. But at the beginning of this year when I invested in some new equipment, I tried traveling with my old bag and worried the whole time about the state of my camera. It goes through so much already in the dusty places I work, traveling along the bumpiest roads you can imagine, getting caught in the rain, intense heat waves and general wear and tear – the last thing I need is for it to meet its end in a flimsy backpack.

So I did my research on proper professional camera bags, and I just couldn’t find one that I liked! Either I didn’t have enough equipment to fill them or they just screamed “there’s a camera in here for anyone who’s interested!!!” by their appearance. Or they just weren’t tough enough.

Eventually I had an idea that maybe I could just create my own camera bag. A few brands come to mind when you think of outdoor bags, but Fjällräven has always been a favourite of mine. They were kind enough to let me test out one of their bags on my last trip to India and it worked perfectly. I chose Rucksack No. 21 Large and went for the Autumn Leaf colour.

I bought some camera bag inserts off Amazon and set about constructing a camera bag set up that worked for me and all the lenses and lighting equipment I use. And a few days later I was off to India again to put it to the test!

And of course it did everything I needed and more. I thought I would miss having lots of pockets, but that just meant I spent less time trying to find my memory cards and remember where I put things. I was worried it may be a bit too small to fit two lenses, flash equipment, water, food, clothes, a torch, chargers, my laptop, and a whole long list of stuff but it turns out the Rucksack No. 21 is a bit of a Mary Poppins bag with a secret extension.

(^^perhaps most importantly, having an awesome field bag leaves your hands free to cuddle baby goats^^)

It also offered lots of support for my back which I really appreciated - all this stuff is heavy! And it’s waxed canvas exterior meant that my equipment was protected from the dust and the rain. Also it was really easy to get in and out of which is necessary when I needed to access my camera in a hurry, and also for the four internal flights I did in a week on this particular trip to India where I needed to get my laptop out each time for security.

But most of all I love owning something which will be a part of who I am as a photographer for years to come. These bags are built to last and just having that peace of mind knowing my equipment is safe makes my job a whole lot easier. And while it may not be a traditional choice for a photographer’s bag, being able to build my own bag interior worked great for me and I would highly recommend it, because each photographer’s setup is unique to them. 

All photos of me taken by Jamie 

 

 

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Travelling Hawaii, the Road to Hana

Next to swimming with dolphins and attending an absolutely amazing wedding, driving the Road to Hana was my favourite memory from our trip to Hawaii. It was by far the most beautiful scenery, the best beaches, and created some life-long memories of swimming in waterfalls and having fun with friends. 

One of the must-do's along the Hana Highway is stop at every single food truck you can see to try whatever they have on offer: tacos, BBQ, fish and chips, coconuts. Everything is fresh and delicious and you never get hungry. We saw lots of signs in Maui from restaurants offering packed lunches to take along on the drive, but who would choose a packed lunch over a taco?!

We stopped off at our secret waterfall again to show everyone who couldn't make it on our first outing. I've put together a Hawaii recommendations blog post that required a lot of research as to how to find this waterfall, because it doesn't seem to exist on the internet. But I found it and I'll be publishing that soon!

But what the Hana Highway is all about is just enjoying the views, putting on your favourite road trip mix and stopping every time you feel like it. There are all kinds of planned stops you can make, there are signposted hikes everywhere and you can't miss them because there are hundreds of other people doing them too, just keep your eyes open for the crowds. Apparently they are stunning!

But if crowds aren't your thing then it's worth adopting the trial and error approach to this road trip and stopping wherever looks like it could be interesting. It's best to look at it as something to explore, rather than something to plan.

The spots recommended on any tripadvisor forum are well worth a visit because there's nothing about the Hana Highway that isn't beautiful from start to finish.

Though having talked about not planning this day out too much, I would recommend leaving enough time to do the whole thing. It took us about 10 hours, and we rushed the second half.

Many people get as far as that black sand beach up there and then turn around, but if you keep going and follow the Hana Highway from start to finish there are some amazing views. We ran out of time and light to make any more stops along the way, but if I had known how beautiful it was going to be I would have done the second half over again like we did with the first.

It's a very different kind of scenery and light to what you'll find in the heavily forested first half of the highway, but once you drive through the town of Hana (which isn't anything exciting, in fact you may blink and miss it) the coast line opens up and it's just breathtaking.

Adam and I both agreed that if we had planned it better we would have spent more time along this part of the coast, maybe even stayed out there for a night or two. It would be the perfect spot to practice your nighttime photography, if you're into that sort of thing. 

 

 

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Catching Up, Hello November

How has it been five months since I sat down and wrote a proper catch up post? Truthfully I thought it was just the other week, but when I looked back through my archives I realised it was actually June!

But thinking back, I’m not surprised. Time has been playing tricks on me lately and I’ve been running around trying to keep on top of things. Do you ever go through periods of time where you get so focused on working that you don’t take the time to sit up and notice what’s going on around you? I think those head-up moments really ground you, and when you forget to pause and breathe in you just don’t get the opportunity to be grounded. You don’t get to stick pins in the map of your life so when you look back you can remember the moments that count. Instead you’re swept along and suddenly it’s autumn and you don’t quite remember how you got there – sort of like falling asleep at the wheel. 

Usually this time of year will find me writing depressing thoughts on the end of summer and the cold months ahead, but this year I’m feeling completely the opposite. Thank GOODNESS it’s cold again, I can spend time indoors again, and running around is replaced with conserving heat and keeping cosy. 

This summer was a weird one, full of being really hard on myself and feeling like I just wasn’t doing enough. That combined with a hectic travel schedule and I feel like I’m skidding into November face first with a sense of confusion but also relief that I finally feel like I can relax.

Sometimes I suck at being grounded, living with my whole heart, doing yoga, wearing makeup and not eating pizza for every meal. But who doesn’t go through moments like that in their life? Sometimes we just have to let things fall apart so we can build them back up again in a way that we prefer. Sometimes old things stop working and they need to be replaced.

That’s why I’m so excited for this winter. I’ll be grounded, my travel is minimal, and I’ll have plenty of time to kick some nasty habits. I’ve already started and if only it was as easy as just deciding to give up looking at Instagram every five seconds, or deciding to give up pizza – and just like that you’re a grounded person who isn’t addicted to social media and junk food. Nope. It’s hard. It’s constant reminders, constantly tripping up, and constantly giving yourself room to keep going. 

Last night I decided to bring it back to basics and start my yoga practice from the beginning, I really feel the need to take it easy on myself and this felt so good. I started this 30 days of yoga program and I could feel how grateful my body was to just do some easy stretching.

On Monday I went to the shop and stocked my fridge with veggies and have been roasting and making vegetable stews ever since. 

I’ve been keeping away from scrolling social media and mindlessly watching tv, but sometimes it’s the only way my mind knows how to relax so it’s a slow transition. But now I have months of editing work ahead of me so it’s important that I not spend all of my time in front of a screen.

And I’m working on letting my heart decide what it wants. Or listening to my body and letting it decide how much yoga it wants to do. But part of me is still crossing my fingers for when my body decides it wants a pizza again…

Oh and p.s. I started a facebook page for my photography, here’s the link: www.facebook.com/freyadowson

 

 

Travelling Hawaii, Searching for Waterfalls on Maui

Not to do any disservice to my other Hawaii posts or anything, but this one is kind of my favourite. 

We flew from Oahu to Maui for the wedding of one of my oldest and best friends, Morgan. I was her bridesmaid and from landing in Maui we were all wedding all the time until it was over - and then after that it was just one long holiday with all the guests!

Everyone Adam and I had ever spoken to about Maui had mentioned that we should do a road trip along the road to Hana. It's one of those things, like the golden circle in Iceland... it's touristy but for a good reason. So it's worth the crowds. 

We set out early one morning, Adam and I, Morgan and Ben (her new husband, hooray!) and an actual convoy of convertibles. When you go to Hawaii, apparently the thing to do is rent a convertible. Adam and I went for a 4x4, and given how changeable the weather was while we were there I was pretty happy with our choice.  

We started at a few of the more well known locations, but some we just drove right past because they were too busy. Others we stopped off at, like the Bamboo Forest, and it was so flooded we just couldn't manage to walk very far. 

At this point we thought maybe it would be best to just give up, everywhere was so flooded that we figured it may just be better to try again another day. As we were standing around the cars, debating what to do, Adam pulled up one of the sites he had saved to his phone about what to do along the road to Hana. He and Ben discovered a small hike to a waterfall and we figured it was worth a try, and if it didn't work out we would just turn back.

I'm so, so glad we didn't turn back...

We all pulled over to a site on the side of the road that was a bit too small for all of our cars, and definitely didn't look like an official spot to stop along the way to Hana. None of us really expected to find anything I don't think, but we started walking anyway in the hopes that we would at least discover some interesting views. But it was so misty that each time we looked over the side of a cliff we could see nothing of what was below or on the other side. 

But after about only 10 minutes of walking we spotted something across a valley that looked a little bit like it may be a waterfall, or something "from the set of Goonies" - as Adam liked to point out. 

Turns out it was only the best and most amazing private wild swimming spot we could have asked for! We slipped down the rocks trying to get to it and had to help each other not to fall flat on our faces, but when we arrived we stripped down to our bathing suits and jumped it. And oh my goodness it was freezing!!

I said to Morgan as we were swimming to the waterfall "this is one of the most beautiful palces I've ever been!!" And it absolutely was. It's the kind of thing you always dream of stumbling across, a private waterfall swimming spot for just you and your friends, but that only happens if you're really really lucky. If you don't turn around when you probably should, and if you just keep going that little bit further with hope that there's something amazing around the corner.

 

 

After swimming for as long as we could, we had to head back to our airbnbs to get ready for a murder mystery party! We took off in our convoy again, stopped for a few snacks along the way, and drove along possibly the most beautiful shoreline I have ever seen in my life!

I feel like amazing banana bread is becoming a theme in my travels. This time last year I was writing about banana bread I had discovered in Guatemala, remember? Anyway, we discovered some along the Hana highway and it was also very delicious. 

We also stopped for coconuts on the way home, we had hoped to stop for some BBQ that we had spotted along the way but unfortunately they were sold out. We were all so sad because everyone loves a good roadside BBQ, so we decided to go back the next day and pick some up. More on that coming soon!

And this last ridiculous photo I had to include because it's essentially Morgan and I looking exactly like we did when we were nine years old, being silly and laughing the loudest at our own jokes.

 

 

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Travelling Hawaii, When the Rain Cleared

When the sun did finally make an appearance for us in Hawaii, we realised it was absolutely worth the wait. One rainy afternoon Adam and I were sitting in our little airbnb flat trying to figure out what to do - all our bookings for stuff to do on the North Shore had been canceled and we were googling and calling around trying to see what we could do to fill our time.

Things were looking a bit grim for us when our airbnb host knocked on our door to see how we were doing. We'd had a few chats with Beccy and Ryan when we arrived but hadn't really had much of a chance to get to know them - but just when we were feeling a bit stranded, they had a few ideas for us.

Turns out they're super amazing adventurers who help people have an amazing time in Hawaii - as in, that's their actual job! 

Adam really wanted to surf but wasn't keen on joining one of the group lessons we'd seen around the island, overcrowding and learning to fall in front of a group of people isn't really his thing. Ryan and Beccy are both amazing surfers so Ryan offered to take Adam out on the water one morning at a quiet beach while Beccy and I sat in the sand and chatted DSLRs and photography tricks.

They also pointed us in the direction of some awesome hikes really close to where we were staying and gave us the inside scoop on where to eat from acai bowls to food trucks. They even made us homemade acai bowls after surfing! I've had a fair few airbnb hosts over the years but these guys were the best.

Stumbling on this view after days of rain and feeling a bit sad about it all was one of the defining moments of our trip. Oahu was just so beautiful and fulfilled every cliche Jurrasic Park dream I've ever had. The greenery, the fruit falling from the trees, the humidity in the air and not a thing to be heard but our own footfall and the birds - it was the definition of paradise and definitely worth the wait.

And saving the best for last

The one thing that Adam and I had wanted to do when we got to Hawaii was swim with sharks, but it just wasn't meant to be. No tour company would take us because of the bad weather, and when it finally cleared we just didn't have enough time. But when we got chatting to Ryan about it, I asked if he knew anywhere we could swim with dolphins which is what I really wanted to do. I had heard prior to our trip that it just wasn't possible to swim with dolphins in Hawaii, but I thought I would ask anyway.

If anyone was going to make this dream of mine come true, it was going to be Beccy and Ryan. Turns out they go swimming with dolphins sometimes and they offered to take Adam and I. It's not something they regularly do because it's tricky to guarantee a dolphin spotting, but the conditions on our last morning in Oahu looked perfect and through his contacts Ryan learned that dolphins had been sighted regularly in one spot off the island. 

It was perfect. There were wild dolphins everywhere. It was just Adam, Ryan and I and they were swimming all around us, jumping out of the water and going about their business as if we weren't even there. They seemed a bit curious and kept coming back to take a look at what we were about, but they didn't seem too afraid to get right up close and take a good look. There were even two baby dolphins in the group and oh my goodness they were cute!

After a while a crowed showed up on a tour boat, which made me even more grateful for a personal guide to help us get in early on paddle boards and have a more peaceful experience with the dolphins. Wildlife harassment by tourists is something I hear a lot about in my work and so it meant a lot to me to be able to approach the dolphins in such a way that they could leave if they didn't want us around - where as the tourist boat just chased them around the bay. 

I put one photo of it on my instagram but I'm sure Beccy and Ryan will post more photos on theirs and some gopro footage too!

One thing that our time in Oahu cemented for me was how exercise and healthy eating can make you feel so good. I know this is common sense for most people, and it's not news to me either, but it's so much easier to take care of yourself on holiday than it is when you're in your normal routine. Well, it is for me anyway. And Hawaii makes it so easy to hike and swim and surf, there is fruit literally everywhere and fish and all the good things...  Beccy and Ryan talked about food and exercise so much and with so much enthusiasm that it was infectious and really got me thinking. I'll put those thoughts in another post but when we left Oahu we left feeling pretty good, both happy and healthy!

And I'm sure it goes without saying by now, but if you're ever on Oahu and looking for an amazing time, please save yourself the experience of a big tour - it's just no fun. Let Beccy and Ryan take you out and show you the best time, they're so much fun. 

 

 

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Travelling Hawaii, Oahu's North Shore

Well over a year ago we started planning our trip to Hawaii. One of my best friends and the maid of honour at my wedding, Morgan, asked me to be her bridesmaid and we knew she wanted to get married on Maui, so tickets were booked and plans were made well in advance.

Hawaii was one of those weird trips where I never quite believed I was going, and even when we arrived it was kind of hard to believe it was true. Even when we missed our flight, arrived a day late and spent the next three days waiting for the rain to clear - it was a still a bit hard to believe it was all real. 

The Hawaiian landscape is just SO beautiful it's easy to feel like you're in a dream. Driving from Honolulu to the North Shore was incredible. It was sunset and the light was bouncing off the mountains and creating a sort of other-worldly green and orange glow in the mist.

Our first morning on the North Shore was soggy with rain, and it continued like that for three days. At first we were fine with it, after all there's no point in complaining about the weather. But when all the activities we had planned were either rained out or impossible due to flash flood warnings, I started to get a bit down about it all and even Adam in all his eternal optimism had to agree that it sucked a little. And then by day three when we hadn't even been able to go swimming in the ocean, I got a lot down about it all.

Eventually we just got in our rental car and drove and drove. We drove circles around Oahu! We stopped for shrimp, got very familiar with acai bowls which are my new favourite thing, hopped out of the car to explore beaches in the rain and attempted one or two hikes, flood warnings and all. We weren't going to fly all the way to Hawaii to sit indoors!

We just weren't having much luck though. When it was still raining and I decided to go swimming anyway because, well just because, we arrived at the beach and realised we had forgotten the towels. I was really starting to worry that it was turning into one of those trips... But I went swimming anyway and decided that if Hawaii wanted me to be soaking, I may as well embrace it.

Thankfully by the morning of our fourth day, the weather had cleared and we had all the sunshine we could want. The water was still too choppy for us to swim with sharks, as we had planned - but as it turns out Hawaii had something way better in store for us...

More to come on that soon! Also I'll be putting together a trip guide because I have accumulated lots of tips for traveling in Hawaii to share with you.

 

 

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Grateful

I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I am for all your kind words on my last post. I feel like I start a lot of posts with those words, but really I don't think I could say 'thank you' enough to everyone who takes the time to read here. Whether you're a regular commenter or you prefer to keep quiet, you are very much appreciated. 

It might not seem like such a massive change overall, but trying to change my mindset about who I am as a blogger and what I think I have to bring to this space... it's felt a bit like trying to turn around the titanic. 

Especially when it comes to posting my work photos on Instagram, I can tell you that felt very weird and a little bit uncomfortable. But each time I hear from you with words of encouragement, I know I'm on the right track and every day I settle into it a bit more.

I guess I never realised how much I was holding back before.

At this moment I am on a plane to Hawaii to be a bridesmaid to one of my all time favourite people. And on the 11th we'll be attending a wedding and celebrating our one year anniversary at the same time - can you even believe it has been one year since Adam and I got married?!?!

Beach and turtle photos coming at you in a bit!

 

 

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Making a change

Things have changed around here a bit, so I thought I should write a post to explain why.

I love my blog, I love blogging, and I love making connections with so many lovely people all across the world through comments, emails, and tweets. I look back on where I started and how I’ve grown and I’m really proud! My blog has taught me the meaning of truly working hard for something that I love. It has introduced me to new friends who are now more like family. It has turned me into a photographer which is now my career! It has made me more ambitious, accountable, and thoughtful about what I put out into the world. It truly has brought so much into my life and I couldn’t be more grateful.

But since I started blogging my life has changed so much. I started a lifestyle blog when I was new to London and working as a fundraising assistant. I had just moved in with Adam and we were living in a three bedroom flat with five people. I remember my flatmates making fun of me and I kept it such a secret from everyone I knew. Now it’s an everyday part of my life and has shaped who I am in so many ways.

I’ve always tried to be very genuine on Nishaantishu, but as my work as a photographer and contend editor started to become a bigger part of my life I made the decision to keep that separate from what I posted here. While I did mention a few things from my work trips, but I never posted about the real reason I was traveling or any of my work photos. And as travel started to take up more of my time and my work photography began to take over from my lifestyle photography, the gap between my blog and my real life started to widen. And it really didn’t feel right.

I was holding myself back so much and it did not make me very happy. 

But our strength as people lies so much in being ourselves and living in a way that feels right, even if it doesn't make sense at first.

That’s why I have brought my blog and portfolio together - check out the links in the navigation bar. It’s also why I have been posting more of my work photos on Instagram lately and why you will probably see a mix of that content on here in the future. I don’t want to give up blogging about weekends at home and out with friends, but I also want to blog more about what it’s like to travel to these rarely visited places and tell more stories from the road.

I’m excited for the future and adventures to come, and I hope you are looking forward to it as much as I am!

As for the design, I built it myself and I think it looks a bit rough around the edges. It may change a bit in the next few months but one thing that will always stay the same is that Nishaantishu is now at home with freyadowson.com. 

I hope you like adventure, because it's on its way.

 

 

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