I had been gone from Australia for 2 years, and my best friend from Fashion College was Head Womens Designer for Billabong Australia. The surf brand was BOOMING and the new womens brand in particular was really going crazy. She was doing a lot of international travel for them at this stage, and we managed to meet up for one day together in London. Here we are outside Buckingham Palace together.
I mentioned to her that I was planning on going to South Africa to go on safari. "Where will you go?" she said, "oh I don't know, I will fly into Johannesburg and figure it out from there". She looked at me like I was completely insane (and looking back.... I was!). You can't just go to Africa and figure it out, its not like America, its DANGEROUS.... "I will talk to my friend, the owner of Billabong South Africa" she said.
She phoned me 2 days later, having spoken to the owner of Billabong South Africa. "GUESS WHAT" she said, "her ladies wear designer is going away for 6 months, so can you just go and work for her for one season?" 6 months.... SURE I said, why not ! No better way to really visit a country than to live and work there.
So I flew into Johannesburg, and then on to Port Elizabeth, where I was met by the Billabong driver, and driven one hour to Jeffreys Bay... home of one of the worlds most perfect waves, and home of Billabong South Africa. Here is a what google search finds you.
I lived right on the beach here, I ate breakfast overlooking this surf spot. I didnt just do one season there, I ended up doing 9 seasons, I stayed 4 1/2 years! I guess you could say I loved it. I loved my job, I loved Africa, I loved living on the beach... and I met my now husband and fell in love. It was an amazing time, but BOY I really worked hard. 80 hour work weeks, I was not just the ladies wear designer anymore.... I was Head Designer. The collections were HUGE and there were 2 big ones per year, with a lot of small injection lines. I travelled a lot for work. Here I am visiting China.
It was the career job of a lifetime, but after those 4 years I was totally burnt out. I needed to escape and I was looking for my next adventure. My boyfriend who had been working in the print room when we met, and in the imports department later was also keen for adventure. We were camping away one weekend, and we had bought an adventure magazine with us. In it was an article about this young couple who had bought a boat and went sailing to the Caribbean. I read the article and thought to myself "oh I would love to do that, but I would never do that alone".... an hour later my now husband read the article and said "lets buy a boat and sail to the Caribbean". My jaw hit the ground.... this is the man for me !!!
We hurriedly packed up the tent, so that we could race back to town and see if we could buy a boat magazine and find out what boats cost ! We had no idea.
Exactly 2 years after that weekend, we had saved up money, bought a boat, learnt to navigate & sail, provisioned, packed and were already half way across the Atlantic Ocean heading for the Caribbean.
It was a mammoth adventure, and one that will always be with us. Here I am helming our tiny little boat.... always being silly.
We had a 55 day sail to get to the Caribbean, and we were EXHAUSTED. We spent almost a year floating around in Tobago. One of the most southern islands, lush and apparently hurricane safe. Click here to read about our arrival in Tobago. Here is our tiny boat anchored on the side of the rainforest.
For Christmas that year my whole family flew all the way from Australia to come to visit us on the boat. Here is one of the few photos of us all together, sitting on a stone wall on Young Island in St.Vincent. Look at little Amy, she was only about 15 then. Now she is one of our models.
We explored and hiked all over the island of the Grenadines. Here we are all sitting on the rim of the volcano in St.Vincent. We were all exhausted after the steep hike, and hungry as we hadn't brought enough food with us. On the way back down we picked up and ate any stray bananas which had fallen on the ground.... thats not technically stealing if they are lying on the ground, right?
So many adventures, but our savings were fast drying up. My family all left to go home and we sailed up to St.Maarten hoping to get a job on the mega-yachts we had heard all about. It was right after 9/11 and jobs in the Caribbean were scarce. There were not a lot of charters going on and yacht crew were not switching jobs as much as they usually did. We soon realized that the mega-yachts were not for us, and settled into tourism jobs on island.
We got stuck in St.Maarten a few times for several years. Sailing away, and sailing back... once island life is in your blood its very hard to escape !
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