Why A Travel Agent is A MUST

If ever you were wondering what the value of using a travel agent is versus booking your own travel – you MUST read this.

Many people, (in the past, myself included), think it unnecessary booking travel through an agent when there is “google”.  After all, all the information you need is available at your fingertips and there’s even sites where you can compare prices and get the best deal.

All true.

But, and this is the big BUT. I like many other used to always book my own travel.  To be honest, if I’m just after a quick domestic flight, I still go online and book it myself.  However, years ago, I was booking an overseas holiday for the family.  I needed international flights, domestic flights in the country we were visiting, car hire, travel insurance, hotels, tour bookings plus plus plus.  It was all a bit overwhelming, particularly as I had never been to that particular country before.

So, I picked up the phone and arranged the booking through Orbit World Travel.  From that first trip, I have never looked back and whenever I am booking travel that involves multiple bookings, like flights plus hotels etc, I ALWAYS use Orbit World.

Why?

Of course, I could still do all the bookings myself.  And as I said above, there is so much information online, but, these guys are travel professionals and have knowledge about many of the locations, and usually someone with first hand experience of a destination to give clients useful hints and tips.

Plus, it doesn’t cost any extra, but the “extras” are invaluable.  Pretty much every trip I have booked through Orbit, I have been upgraded in my room, or received a “special deal” through their relationships with hotels around the world.

More importantly,  when something goes wrong, you have a trusted company that you know and are familiar with that you can call on 24 hours a day, no matter where you are in the world to help you sort out whatever issue it is you may have.

The peace of mind that this gives when travelling is priceless.  Being in a strange country, sometimes not knowing how to speak the language and have any sort of problem can very quickly ruin a great adventure.

Whenever I have experienced any sort of issue, Orbit have sorted it out without me having to worry or get involved.  If you think travel is always smooth sailing, particularly overseas, you either don’t travel much or have been super duper lucky.

  • On a trip to the US when our girls were both quite young, despite have confirmed pre booked seats, about a week before I noticed that my husband and I and our two girls were all seated separately on a 14 hour flight. Our girls both next to random strangers!  I spent hours on the phone with the airline trying to sort with absolutely no luck at all.  I was in such a panic thinking about our little girls sitting far away from us, with strangers, particularly when it was an overnight flight and we would be sleeping.  Apparently, there was some computer issue with the seating, but the airline told us we would just have to try and sort at the airport and get people to move seats after check in, they couldn’t do anything other than that.  The flights had been booked through Orbit, and I have no idea why I didn’t just call them immediately when I discovered the problem, but when I did, they escalated the issue and had us all seated together and everything sorted well before our date of departure.

  • We booked a stay in Hawaii with our two girls and were upgraded to a better room as well as getting access to a “Club” within the hotel FOC that offered breakfast, evening cocktails, all day snack and exclusive access, all complementary thanks to Orbit with no charge to us.

  • Finally, and the reason that prompted me to write this, I take out an annual travel insurance policy every year to cover myself and my family for travel, both domestic and international. This year, due to Covid 19, obviously all our travel plans have been cancelled and as well as being unlikely to return to travel at least for the remainder of the year.  The policy is $1,500 a year, so very reasonable if you travel a lot, and particularly if you have any issues when traveling, but it’s a lot of money to pay out for nothing.  As in, I can’t travel so the policy is effectively a total waste this year.  I contacted Covermore who the policy is with and basically had no luck at all.  I was so frustrated.  However, once again, as the policy had been purchased via Orbit World, I contacted them to see if they would have any better luck.  Can you believe I received a full refund on the policy thanks to Orbit World Travel and their contacts within the industry.  This was a massive win for me and confirmed once and for all, I will NEVER travel without going via a reputable travel agent.

Finally, can I say that this is not a paid blog and Orbit World did not request or know about me writing it.  But credit where credit is due.  This is me passing on what I feel is valuable information to others who may travel and run into some of the issues I have in the past.

 

The service from a travel agent is why they are professionals and I could give another dozen examples of the value add I have received over the years.

 

Definitely check them out if you are after travel assistance, both business or leisure.  They have offices all around Australia so will certainly be able to give you the same sort of great service that I have always experience with them.

 

Now if they can just sort out opening up the borders and letting us actually being able to travel again, I will continue to support them in the future.  😜

What Inspires You?

There is usually something from way back to leads you to the career path you take. Someone or something that inspires you. For me, it was Formula 1 Driver Ayrton Senna.

1 May this year marked the 26th year anniversary of his death. I was lucky enough to meet him once in 1993 but I didn’t “know” him personally yet he was probably one of the biggest influences in my life. He was the most dedicated, focussed and passionate man and his will to succeed was inspiring.

As a child growing up, watching Formula 1 racing with my big brother, we would argue about who was the best. For me, it was a no brainer. Anyone willing to sacrifice everything to achieve his dream, thats the sort of person I wanted to be like. It was his passion that motivated my photography ambitions and I started my career as a motorsport photographer – way back in the day of pre-digital and slides.

I was living in the UK when he was tragically killed at the Imola F1 Grand Prix and I, like many people around the world, was devastated.

These are some of the images I was lucky enough to snap of him both at the Adelaide and Silverstone Grand Prix.

RIP to a great man.

Thinking Outside the Square

Isolating at home has been difficult for so many, including me. As a photographer, my passion is getting out and shooting models/fashion and content for brands and companies so being confined at home is like tying my hands behind my back.

But now is not the time to wallow in the struggle of it all. I have set up a studio at home, and shooting for local Australian Brands encouraging people to “BUY LOCAL” with creative images from innovative companies. At the same time, I’m perfecting my photography skills, I’m learning new skills about lighting, styling and being creative in a confined, limited space.

Times are tough, and for some, it’s just too much, but if you can, try and find a positive. Anything. Learn to cook something new, spend time with family or help others. It’s a great way of coping and keeping yourself happy in these difficult times.

Stay safe everyone and if you want any more information of shooting from your own home studio, or need images, contact me julesingall1@gmail.com

Below are samples of images created at home in my makeshift studio.

Making the Most of Isolation

Who would have ever believed that in 2020, the world would go into complete lock down and we would be isolated in our homes for an indefinite period whilst Health Organisations globally deal with a medical pandemic! It is the stuff of science fiction and in generations to come, people will be talking about and learning what is happening to us right now.

A big decision we all need to make is how to deal with the crisis. Many, thank goodness are choosing to follow Government guidelines and stay indoors where possible. We do this not only for our own health and to try and stop the spread of this highly contagious virus, but also to try and minimise damage to our economy. Staying at home may be tough, but ultimately, it is the right thing to do for not only ourselves, but everyone, everywhere.

The next question is, we are isolated at home. How do we handle it? In a world of everyone being too busy, never having enough time, always stressed out and frazzled, this is the perfect opportunity to stop, focus and re-set.

Sure this is a bad situation. Many of us are going to suffer long term financial damage. I have not taken on any new photography work outside my home for 2 weeks now. Not only am I uncertain when I will be able to go back to photography, but I’m a little concerned about whether all the goodwill and relationships I had built up with clients will just pick up where it left off, or will I have to start again.

But I avoid looking too far into the future. And I avoid being dragged into a negative space. I always try and surround myself with positive, happy people and this usually self perpetuates.

So whilst I’m at home, I’m cleaning out, de-cluttering, sorting my computer files, my office, spending time my my girls, my husband, cooking and actually, so far, I’m enjoying it.

More importantly, as I have been self isolating for a while now, and the studio I usually use is off limits, I have set up a studio at home. I’ve been working with local small business who are using this crisis as a way to create innovative products – sanitiser, masks, foods and more. I am messing around with lighting and different techniques. And most importantly, my daughter is finally getting bored enough with isolation that she is letting me use her as a model to practice – I feel like I’ve won the happiness lotto.

So yes, this situation is horrible. People are suffering and dying all around the world. But make a choice about how you are going let this pandemic shape your time now and your future. When life gives you lemons …..

Stay safe! xox

Images from a recent shoot of a local Gold Coast business showing innovation by creating masks to help prevent people from touching their faces and contracting virus. Shot from my studio at home.

“Crazy Rich Asians” Guide to Singapore

Many times I have transited through Singapore on my way to Europe, but never actually stopped and spent any time here, so it’s been a real treat to have a couple of weeks to explore this beautiful city with my family.  It’s a really interesting contrast between ultra-modern, colossal sky scrapers, to really old districts full of colour, character and history.  

As with all my travels to new places, I research heavily prior to visiting to make sure that not only to I get the best out of my adventure, but also that I don’t miss any “must go” places. The following are the places that I had on my list to visit, as well as a few that I encountered along the way by accident.  Some I absolutely loved and could go back time and again, however there are others that I will save you the time now and say, probably only consider if you have plenty of time.

As far as food in Singapore – WOW. It is incredible.  From luxury 5-star restaurants at the top of sky scraper buildings where you pay as much for one plate as you would for a whole dinner for 4 in Australia, to the Hawker Street Markets and local eateries.  My suggestion would be to try a bit of both.  To be fair, we mostly ate in the markets and restaurants we stumbled upon by accident as we found these were the best meals we encountered. I always think that if the locals are eating somewhere, it’s a good advert for the food and the markets were certainly full of locals.

Transport – Taxi Vs MRT

First up though, getting around.  We stayed at the Shangri La Hotel on Orange Grove Road, and from there, pretty much travelled mostly in about a 10km radius from the hotel.  Researching prior, many suggested that taxis were really cheap and easy to get around so just use them.  We didn’t even consider car hire because not only do we not know our way around, but with traffic and trying to find car parks, it just isn’t worth the time and effort. We did start using the taxi system, however most of the time we were waiting 20 minutes or more.  People were ordering on their phones and effectively jumping the queues and as we didn’t want to waste precious and expensive phone data, we found this all a little frustrating.  

Out of desperation one night, we wandered down to the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit – underground train system).  My husband has never caught public transport in Australia so this was kind of entertaining for me, but to be honest, the MRT in Singapore is so quick and efficient, we ended up using it 90% of the time.  There are train stops at most major tourist attractions, it was only a couple of Aussie dollars per trip and we never waited longer than 5 minutes for a train, not matter what time of day or night. Even when you had to change trains, it was still far quicker and easier than any other system of transport we could find.  One suggestion though is straight up get a pre-paid train card that you can just keep using until you run out of funds and then top up as required.  We purchased individual tickets each trip and although it’s the same price, sometimes there were queues for the ticket machines.

Crazy Rich Asian Tour!

Funnily enough, after a few nights in Singapore, relaxing in the hotel one evening, “Crazy Rich Asians” came on the television.  Mostly filmed in Singapore, this movie is a great advert for the city, visiting many of the main attractions

Newton Food Centre

Early on in the movie, when Nick takes Rachel to a night food market with some friends, it is the Newton Food Centre in Newton, about 4 kilometres from Marina Bay.  There are so many food markets in Singapore, and it was honestly some of the tastiest (and cheapest) food we ate, but this I would rate high up as one of the best.  Even if not just to get some pics on your “Crazy Rich Asian” tour.

Chijmes

We actually stumbled on this church out walking one day before we watched the movie, then immediately recognised it.  This beautiful Gothic Style building was the setting of Nick’s best friend’s wedding in the movie. Originally a catholic convent, this architectural building is no longer a practicing church.  It is now a functions venue popular due to its archways, interesting plasterwork and stained-glass windows and is surrounded by open walkways with bars and restaurants.  Definitely a great spot to visit, grab a bite to eat and drink, as well as some pictures.

Marina Bay and Gardens by the Bay

You don’t need to have watched Crazy Rich Asians to know this area of Singapore and to be fair, the location is so central to the city, bay and pretty much most things, who wouldn’t visit.  There is a great mall below the Marina Bay Sands Hotel where you can spend hours getting lost in the maze of passages and not to forget the beautiful Gardens by the Bay with its 250 acres of horticulture and sustainable architecture.

Raffles Hotel

This is where Rachel and Nick stayed in the movie and there is a scene in the beautiful foyer area.  The hotel is one of the most luxurious and iconic hotels in Singapore.  Even if you can’t afford the expensive price tag, it’s worth a visit to this historic building.

Merlion

The scene of the “break up” between Rachel and Nick towards the end of the movie.  Before I visited Singapore I had no idea what the Merlion even was.  But my daughter pointed it out and as always the case, as soon as she mentioned it, everywhere I went, there was some connection to the famous Lion.  Basically, it is a monument in Marina Bay of a mythical creature with a lion’s head and fish body that sprouts water out of its mouth into the Bay.  It is one of the busiest tourist attractions in Singapore and one of the most iconic, often referred to as Singapore’s mascot – something like the Sydney Opera House to Australia.  In Singapore, you can buy many Merlion souvenirs and as the location is so central, just opposite the Fullarton Bay Hotel and on Marina Bay, it’s definitely worth a visit and picture.

Changi Airport

You’ll recognise the arrivals hall where Nick and Rachel first arrive in Singapore after their flight from New York. There’s a reason that this airport keeps getting voted Best Airport in The World.  Believe it or not, after visiting nearly every shopping mall and district in Singapore city, I have to say that the Jewel Shopping centre at Changi airport was the best.  Located outside of the customs area, many locals and tourists visit the centre as an outing, or, like we did, on our way to the airport.  Other than a great shopping mall, the star feature is definitely the rain Vortex Waterfall in the centre.  It has to be seen to be believed.  In the centre of a huge indoor rainforest garden, there is a glass dome that water cascades through the centre 40 meters above the ground.  It can be experienced from decks on each level on the shopping centre and even the train between the international terminals passes through so transiting passengers don’t miss out.  

Sentosa Island – 

The location of Colin’s bachelor party after they left the boat.  I have to say, we did visit but probably would not recommend.  It’s sold as a tropical oasis, the best beaches in Singapore and theme park heaven.  As far as theme parks, for anyone who has travelled extensively and visited places like Disney and Universal in the America, this just doesn’t cut it.  And the beaches were cramped and actually not really that spectacular.  I guess you don’t really visit Singapore for its beaches, it has so many other incredible sites to see and things to do.   If you do go though, would recommend taking the cable car.  Amazing views back to the city.  It was around AUD$40 for a round trip per person and we really did enjoy it.  

EVERYTHING ELSE

Singapore Zoo

I’m not sure if I’m a fan of Zoos or not – animals in captivity and all, however we wanted to see the orangutans so decided to visit Singapore Zoo.  Again, my research told me not to bother with the “breakfast with the Orangutans” as its overcrowded and you are shuffled for a quick photo and that’s all.  I did contact the Zoo prior and they were extremely helpful with suggestions and information and I ended up booking a 2 hours private buggy tour.

Up to 7 people, $250 per hour plus Zoo entry for private customised tour with private driver and guide.  It may sound a little expensive but was soooooo worth it.  We advised prior to arriving what specific animals we wanted to see and the guide customised our tour to our wishes.  We were taken around this very large zoo by buggy, had fun, friendly and knowledgeable guides and one on one encounters inside the enclosures with the animals including hand feeding as well as getting our photos with the Orangutans. Highly recommend splashing out on this. Was one of the highlights of our visit to Singapore.  After the tour, you are then free to wander the rest of the zoo as your pleasure.

If not, the zoo is huge and still so much to see and do and as far as the Orangutans, there are times where they are brought out and you can line up and have our picture taken.

Arab Quarter and Sultan Mosque and Haji Lane

This was one of my favourite districts of Singapore.  Only a very small area, we travelled via MRT which again, was pretty easy.  The Mosque is in the centre of the district.  You can’t miss it and it’s absolutely beautiful. Definitely a popular tourist spot and plenty of people taking selfies with the mosque in the background.  There is also Bussorah Street just down from the Mosque known for its great restaurants lining a pedestrian only street.  It’s full of colour, great shops and of course, more great food.  

Another must in the Arab Quarter is Haji Lane.  This was one of the places on my to do list as I saw a cool picture on social media next to one of its graffitied walls.  A very narrow street with buildings either side filled with souvenir stores, fashions shops and lots of bars and eateries.  The lane is alos filled with interesting buildings and colourful walls to take pictures.  

China Town, Maxwell Street and The Hawker Hall 

I feel like in most cities you visit around the world, China Town is always a must on the visit list and Singapore is no exception.  I originally planned to eat at the famous Hawker Hall here on Maxwell Street, which is one of the most renowned markets in Singapore, but after wandering the streets following lunch, we found so many quirky lane ways and great shops.  We stopped and talked to many interesting stall holders and learned so much about local culture and history.  A definite for a day trip and loads of memorable pictures.

Clarke Quay and Jumbo Seafood 

When we decided to visit Singapore, top of my list was to find the best Chilli Crab in the city.  It’s my husband’s favourite food and Singapore is its home. After much research, I decided on Jumbo Seafood and Clarke Quay.  First let me say it was AMAZING.  Easily the best chilli crab we’ve ever eaten and a great lively restaurant with excellent service.  My daughter doesn’t eat seafood, but don’t worry, there were alternatives on the menu.  Jumbo Seafood has several restaurants around Singapore, but one thing I loved about Clarke Quay was the location.  Situated on the banks of the Singapore River, (make sure you ask for a table outside), after dinner we had a wander around the many shops and bars in the area which once again were energetic and great fun. From Clarke Quay it is less than a kilometre walk down the river side to Marina Bay which is well worth the wander.

Old Hill Police Station 

This historic building is as its name says, the old Singapore Police Station.  Just next to Clarke Quay its worth a stop by to see this interesting and colourful building.

Orchard Road

A must visit for shopping, even if just to window shop.  This long stretch of road holds many shopping centres and all of the high end stores such as Gucci, Lois Vitton, Chanel and more.  Some really great, cheap eateries in the shopping malls as well.  The best area to shop in downtown Singaopore

Little India

This was on my list as many blogs listed it as a must visit in Singapore – particularly for photographers.  As a Photographer, the streets were full of amazing buildings and creative architecture everywhere I looked, I loved it, but as a tourist,  we only ended up spending a short time in the area as we couldn’t really find too much to do other than take pictures. To be honest, I would put many of the places above much higher on my wish list than here unless you have plenty of time.

Peranakan Houses at Koon Seng Road

I only mention this Road as, again, much research said to visit, specifically for the one row of houses to get a photo.  In two weeks in the city, we never made it here so I can’t personally comment.  However,  I did speak to quite a few locals who suggested that there were many other places closer to the city and much easier to get to that would offer a similar experience.  It was a little tricky to get to from our hotel via MRT so we gave it a miss, but if you manage to visit (or have been), would love to know whether you thought it was worth it?

Why Photographers Don’t Share their RAW Images?

A very common question from clients to photographers is “Can I have the RAW Images from a shoot”. The answer will mostly be “no” and here’s why in simple terms.


A RAW file is a format that most professional photographers shoot in as it gives more editing capability.    Basically it is the unprocessed data of the image information from camera, without processing and compressing.  It allows the Photographer to be able to correct slight flaws in the image such as exposure, texture, contrast, colour etc without diminishing the quality of the image. Usually when a photographer shoots an image, they already have in their mind the editing that will take place in Photoshop post shoot.  For this reason, to an inexperienced eye, a Raw image may look less attractive.  Raw format images need to be converted to JPEG and other image formats prior to printing and sharing as these formats are more convenient and user friendly, plus the fact that many devices to not have the capability to read a RAW file without specific software.  The quality of a JPEG file generated from RAW format is much better than the one directly shot in JPEG.  Generally Photographers do not share their RAW images.  It would be like asking an artist to give away an unfinished piece of work.

In any case, you can edit the JPEG files, but just be aware it is not going to be as good as an edit on the RAW so I suggest if there is something specific, you are better off going back to the photographer and asking them to complete the edit for you.  I would’t recommend converting the Jpeg images back to photoshop images as they have already been compressed, so you cannot “uncompress”.

Following are some examples of the RAW image straight out of the camera on the left, with the edited image on the right. Obviously, a photographer will try and get as much “right” in camera, but there are always slight tweaks that you can make to further improve an image to your liking post shoot in Photoshop or Lightroom

The first image is an indoor studio shoot.

As you can see, there are only slight differences between the two images, however there was a bit of time taken to complete the edit. The background colour was corrected, the hair was brightened, the whites in the eyes enhanced as well as the teeth, lips, and eye colour. Finally the skin tone was softened.

The following image was shot about 30 minutes prior to sunset at the beach with soft, low light.

Again, very similar edit to the image above. It took probably 10-15 minutes on the edit, and even though only slight, it does brighten up the image

Finally, a much faster edit is landscape photography, but as you will see in the following example, the differences are a lot more dramatic. I have overdone the edit on the colour balance in the sky just to demonstrate the difference that it can make. At the end of the day, it is the personal preference of the photographer as to what temperature to set the colour and how far to push the edit. This is also another reason that a Photographer will not share their RAW images. The edit styles on an image can be quite varying and dramatic, depending on the Photographer’s personal style. Therefore, if a Photographer shares their RAW image and it is edited in a way that does not reflect the Photographers brand, it can be damaging to the Photographer as the image is still technically theirs.

In this image, I have obviously changed the temperature to a warmer colour to bring out the oranges and yellow. Using a graduated filter have corrected the sky. Also I have adjusted highlights, colour, shadows, texture and saturation on the image.

Content Shooting

With the “Influencer” and travel photography industries becoming so oversaturated in the past few years, Professional Photographers are having to re-set and diversify. Too many people are working for a “free holiday”. First, let me assure you, anyone worth they weight in cameras is not on holidays when they are on a travel photography job, and at the end of the day, you get what you pay (or don’t pay) for.

Saying that, diversity is the spice of life. My work now consists predominately of content shoots for brands, including things like cars, sunglasses, hotels and model shoots. I love working with models and people trying to capture the personality of the person at the end of the camera and creative unique and inspiring content for brands to use on their social media, websites and more.

Attached are some mood boards of recent works.

Tricks to Taking the Perfect Reflection Photo

I am often asked my favourite style of photography, and it’s a hard questions, because I love taking photos of anything, anywhere. Capturing a moment in time through my eyes and my perception. It gives me a little thrill!

However, if you look at my social media, where the pics are more what I like to photograph, rather than what I am paid to photograph, I tend to favour reflection type shots. Ok, I’ll admit, I am a self obsessed reflection junkie. And judging by the reaction when I post one, many other people are too.

You may think that they are difficult, but honestly, it’s not rocket science. But there are a few tips and tricks.

It’s all about the light the winds – and if you are shooting for a water reflection at the beach, it’s also about the tides.

Firstly, the light. The best reflection shot is in low light and usually with a bit of cloud around to add to the reflection, but as you can see from my examples, it’s not imperative.

The weather must be calm. You are never going to get a good reflection shot in strong winds. Basically, the reflection is in the water, and so the water must be calm, which means the wind must be calm to allow this – simple right. Get a good app and check the conditions before you head out.

If you’re shooting at the beach, you want the refection from the the water in the sand. This is best on an incoming tide where you will get the water streaming up the beach and leaving a nice glossy reflection in the sand for a few seconds as it recedes back.

Once you have your perfect shot you’re happy with, there’s a couple of editing tips for reflections too. Firstly, play with the highlights. I usually bring them down a fair way. And the new texture tool on Lightroom will give you good detail in your shot, just don’t push it too far. I sometimes pull the clarity down just a touch to offset the texture so it’s a softer image, but have a play and see what you think.

Finally, be prepared that you may not get your shot the first time. I post a pic and its easy to think I just dashed out, took a quick snap and presto, its a perfect reflection. Sometimes it will take me 5, 10 even 20 trips out to get the shot (and more importantly the conditions) right so don’t give up, it’s definitely worth it once you nail that perfect reflection shot.

For more ideas, go to either my Instagram or Facebook pages @Jules Ingall and of course, as always feel free to comment or DM me with any questions at all.

Happy Shooting

Most Insta-grammable Spots In Lithuania

When I travel somewhere new, I do always want to shoot my first impression images – what stands out and “gets” me in new surroundings.  But saying that, I also don’t want to miss out on anything so I do my research prior to visiting.  And that’s what I’m sharing here with you.  This was my first visit to Lithuania and wow, I was totally blow away. From the history, to the gorgeous laneways to the old town.  It’s incredible.  If you’re going for the first time, these are some of the places that I would suggest you don’t miss out.  Oh and a little tip, the “old town” is not too large to be seen on foot, where you see the best of hidden laneways, derelict buildings and hidden gems.  

Start in the Town Square, day or night there’s lots of activity and beautiful buildings

Town Square at night

The Vilnius University has a great old chapel as well as beautiful buildings and corridors to explore

Vilnius University Grounds

The corridors of Lithuania University

The laneways of Vilnius are some of my favourite in the whole Baltic region.  Lots of colourful old doors, cobble stone streets and interesting windows.

Back street laneway in Old Town Vilnius
Cobble Stone Streets in Old Town Vilnius
Interesting Wall Art in the Back Streets
Old Town Vilnius

There are actually 40 churches in the old town of Vilnius. What is interesting though is, as you visit them, they are more of a tourist attraction than a place of worship so don’t worry if you’re not religious.  A guide is always a good idea as there are some really interesting historical stories

One of the many churches
More Churches

Vilnius Cathedral

Vilnius Cathedral
Inside Vilnius Cathedral

Vilnius Library founded in 1570 it is the oldest library in the Baltic States with with over 5 million documents. Relocated to a modern new building in 2013 which is well worth the wander through

The Library
Interesting art display in the library

Cant miss the bohemian district of Uzupis – just outside the Old Town. They have their own tongue in cheek “constitution” and if you can talk with the locals, a great historical story. 

Uzupis District
Bohemian Streets of Uzupis

Trakai is a famous town about 20 minutes drive from Vilnius with the legendary Trakai Castle, originally built in 1408 and then rebuilt in the 20thcentury. It’s a weekend escape for Vilnius locals with plenty of lakes for locals to swim in.  Also great local Kibinai traditional foods to try at local eating houses.

Trakai Castle
Exploring the old Walls of Trakai Castle

If you’re on a driving tour of Lithuania, the resort town of Anykscia is recommend on a lot of tourist websites.  To be honest, I could take it or leave it.  It was a nice relaxing rest after all the walking and tourist activities of the few days before, so I’ll leave it up to you.  There is the Laju Takas park with tree top walk.

Tree top walk
Tree Top walk

We stayed at the Spa Vilnius Anyksciai which did have a lovely day spa, indoor pool and plenty of forest area to relax and explore around it.

Collecting pine cones in the forest

It’s Ok Not Being InstaFamous

I met my husband as a teenager, fell madly in love and gave up all my career aspirations to follow him around the world chasing his dream job, followed by having children.  There just wasn’t time for me to think about investing myself in a career oriented future.  Don’t get me wrong, it was 100% my choice and I wouldn’t give up the life I have had for anything.  But now, my husband’s career is self sufficient, my children are teenagers who think I’m an irrelevant and I’m often left with too much time to ponder. Particularly in today’s modern world, there is so much emphasis (and pressure) on women to be everything.  Be the perfect mother, the Stepford wife, the master chef and as if that’s not enough, now we have to be entrepreneur career successes as well.  

There definitely came a time where I was getting bored.  I had to jump back in the saddle and work, not for money, luckily financially we are good, but this gave me the perfect opportunity to work for love.  Go back to photography.  Being the wife of a successful athlete, mediocre wasn’t in my vocabulary so I wanted to be the best.  I researched, went to seminars, studied, and pretty much worked my butt off. I was the quintessential definition of the 80/20 rule.  80% of the time I spent forging my revived career was time wasted.  

I listened to all the podcasts and read all the books from these inspirational successful mums who changed their lives and became a massive success.  In fairness, none ever profess that it was over night.  They all say it was hard work with a lot of knock backs and I admire the hell out of these ladies.  They are doing it all and winning.

But I recently had an epiphany.  Here I was trying to change the world, be someone successful, follow every piece of advice from every other successful woman I admired and still, I was getting nowhere.  But then I realised, I don’t want to change the world, I don’t want to have a huge social media following or people know my name.  I just want  to do the job I love, do it well and make my small little stamp in my corner of the universe.  Leave behind a few images that inspire others.

It’s okay to be alone.  There have been times where I have been in a room full of people, but felt my loneliest.  I can get more value out of a quiet corner and a great book, than having to be at every social function and coffee morning.  Less is more.  Surround yourself with fewer people but make them the right people.  If someone doesn’t make you feel good about yourself or happy, if you feel like you are always trying to compete or live up to their expectations, firstly, this is your problem and they probably don’t care, but they’re not your tribe.  You need to step back and focus on what and who it is you want to be.

The one thing I have discovered in my travels and research, there are lots of other ladies out there like me.  Sure, I’m confident travelling, solo, with groups, men anyone really, any excuse.  But I have found that there are women a bit older, financially stable, but not venturing out because they don’t have the confidence.  They want to explore, get out of their comfort zone, stretch their boundaries, but how to do it?  As a seasoned traveller, I came up with the bright idea of “Women’s only” luxury tours in conjunction with a National Travel Agency.  Nothing huge.  Our recent tours have been discovering Tasmania, and they’ve been incredible. A small group of women, road tripping – think Thelma and Louise meets Eat, Pray Love, and we’ve giving women the confidence to not rule the world, but just start to embrace their own corner of the world.  

Sadly, in today’s overly politically correct society, there has been some backlash.  On some recent advertising of the upcoming trips, there have been messages about “if men did this”, “it’s discrimination, why can’t men attend” etc.  So I’m at a loss.  How do we build confidence in women with responses like this?  I only hope it encourages more women to take the leap and ignore the haters – after all, there’s always going to be a few.  

What would happen to the world if, god forbid, Instagram shut down, or the internet shut down?  Ok so based on probability, that’s never going to happen but these people that have built their life on their online world, what do they really have?  Where do all those “fans” go if the platform goes away?  Are we turning out back on our real life for this instant gratification? I know I have been guilty of it in the past.  And that’s where I am trying to refocus my priorities.  

I guess what I am really trying to say here is, we are on a planet of billions of people.  There is room for all of us.  If your goal is thousands of social media follows, Insta glory, then go for it. There’s a big business out there for you and it’s happening for loads of people.   But for the rest of us, it’s okay too.  There’s plenty of avenues to pursue and plenty of work.  Think outside the square, but most importantly, whatever you do, do it with passion and honesty, at least that way, no matter what, you have always won!