Explore My World Passionate Traveller Blog

East Meets West at Vaucluse House: a Story of Women Supporting Women

Who would have thought that the most enriching cultural experience this year awaited me a mere 15 minute drive away from my home in Sydney’s east .

The venue was Vaucluse House, located in the affluent harbourside suburb of Vaucluse, the most unlikely location for a multi cultural gathering. On the grounds of this 19th century estate, which once belonged to the late colonial explorer and politician William Charles Wentworth, I shared a picnic lunch with 10 friends and 25 refugee and migrant mums, predominantly from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. How a travel blogger like me managed to co-organise a get together like this started with a simple conversation over a coffee with my friend Raja. 

In my capacity as Ambassador for the Real Madrid Foundation in Australia, I met Raja Yassine, community outreach officer for Holroyd High School, a school in Western Sydney that we were formalising a sports programme relationship with. Drawn to Raja’s warm ebullient personality and generosity of spirit, we became fast friends.

Over a coffee and chat one day, Raja reflected out loud on the struggles experienced by some of Holroyd High migrant and refugee mums: the trauma, the loss, the loneliness. A devoted mother of four herself, she expressed her desire to start a mother’s group to support them.

“I’d love to organise different outings for these women and give them the chance to meet other women from the community that they wouldn’t normally come in contact with,” Raja said, “ but I can’t do this on my own, Victoria. If I can get a group of our mothers together, can you invite some of the women that you know?”

With a firm belief in building bridges and not walls, I didn’t need to be asked twice. With her heart set on picnic lunch at Vaucluse House, the date was set for the 22 November. Permission was granted for the outing and transport was approved by Holroyd High’s Principal, Dorothy Hoddinott. 

Morning showers threatened to spoil the day. While the group made the hour’s drive from Merrylands station to Vaucluse House, 10 of my assorted friends/ family members and I busied ourselves with setting up picnic tables and fold up chairs on an idyllic grassy patch within the lush 10-hectare grounds, laying out the food that we had brought. And just like that, the sun shone as the tour bus arrived. 25 women piled out, most in hijab, all with huge smiles and enough food to feed half of Sydney. Embracing like old friends and kissing three times on alternate cheeks, we immediately got down to the business of communicating as women, whether we shared the same language or not. 

In the span of 3 and a half hours, we talked food and family. Some of us lent an ear and shed tears as tales of extreme hardship were shared. The Oxytocin flowed and emotional gaps were filled on both sides, the impact on both groups profound. All of us gained a sense of being part of a greater whole and that we shared in the same destiny. Exhausted and happy, we embraced as we said our goodbyes, already looking forward to our next get together, “Inshallah.”

'' Women hold up half the sky, '' according to Chairman Mao. The glue that holds the family together, she is the strength that buoys up her husband and children. When women are empowered, they are better able to play a full part in decision-making within the household as well as in the greater community. What our Vaucluse House get-together showed us was that when we lift our fellow sisters up, we uplift ourselves in the process.

* ABC Journalist Antoinette Lattouf reported on the story. Click here to read.

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 25th November, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Australia
Tags: Vaucluse House, women, Sydney, refugees

Travel as Healing

Our Tommy Bahama postcard
I’ve just come out of hibernation after a health crisis in late October. A skin cancer was cut from my nose and a skin graft taken from my left cheek .... There’s a travel story in all this, I promise! 

Let’s backtrack for a moment to the end of September, when my impending surgery hung over my head like a dark cloud and my imagination was going into overdrive. Despite knowing that I would be in excellent hands and that my condition was not a melanoma, I was nevertheless filled with an anxiety that I couldn’t shake off. Accurately predicting the state that I would be in, Peter and I had planned a visit in September to our favourite place on Earth: Maui.

Notwithstanding that we’ve been coming to Maui every year for the past 11 years, it always seems new, filled with limitless possibilities and magical coincidences. Swimming in the pristine waters off Black Rock on Ka’anapali Beach, going to all our favourite restaurants, and getting an impromptu Reiki treatment at the Sacred Garden in Makawao, our routine is as intensely regenerative as well as an endless source of inspiration. Capping off our stay, we braved t he Road to Hana and stayed for 5 nights at a beautiful cottage just off Hamoa Beach, directly opposite the reserve where Peter and I married in 2013.  

Relishing a relaxed lunch and soaking up the holiday vibe at the Tommy Bahama restaurant (Wailea) one afternoon, the Manager handed us a postcard at the end of our meal saying: “If you’d like to write a message on it, we will send it for you to any part of the world”. 

Thinking that it was a fun thing to do, Peter and I wrote a lighthearted message to ourselves at the back of the card, addressed it to our home in Sydney, handed it over to our server, and then forgot about it almost as soon as we walked out the door.

Fast forward to Sydney two weeks later ... No sooner had I arrived home from the hospital after my procedure than I shuffled to the bathroom, dreading to see what I looked like. Struggling with the pain as the anesthesia wore off, I barely recognised myself in the mirror behind the swelling, bruising, and bandages over half my face. Feeling fragile and vulnerable, I stifled my tears for fear of them falling over my stitches. 

In a serendipitous moment, Peter walked down the hallways and cried out with delight: “Vic, guess what just arrived!” It was our Tommy Bahama postcard! 

Turning the card over, I read the message that we penned to ourselves in Maui: 


And arrive at the perfect time it did. As I gazed lovingly at that postcard, all thoughts of  "woe-is-me" were replaced by beautiful memories. Thank you, Tommy Bahama and Maui, for putting a smile on my dial just when I needed it the most. Once again, the healing power of travel had done its job, not just during our journey but well after. Time and time again, the richness of our travel experiences leads us to rediscover the abundance and resilience we already hold inside. 

Safe Travel, always!

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 6th November, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Opinions, Hawaii (USA)
Tags: Maui, Hawaii, Travel

Sydney's Six Degrees of Bacon & the Ideal Travel Game

Reid Herbert, MD of Winning Moves Aust
An unremittingly glorious Spring day kicked off the start of the official Pass the Pigs Festival, held at The Greens North Sydney, overlooking a shimmering Sydney harbour. Presented by the iconic ‘Pass the Pigs’ game and impeccably timed for ‘International Bacon Day’, the bowling green was a sea of pink pig inflatables, fairy floss and piglets in a pen waiting for a pat. Squeals of delight emanated from the lawn where assorted kids’ party games were under way, deliciously colliding with the sizzle of frying bacon and the intoxicating aromas of pork shoulders roasting over a fire pit. Bacon-inspired cocktails, such as the ‘Makin’ Bacon Bloody Mary’, further titillated adult tastebuds.

Reid Herbert of Winning Moves Australia, the sponsor of the festival, says, “Pigs have been unappreciated for too long, it is about time there is a pig themed festival in Australia. Pass The Pigs is a classic game that has, and continues to deliver much fun for people of all ages, so we are excited to be hosting this inaugural event!”

Winning Moves Australia was founded by Managing Director Reid Herbert in 2012 and has grown into a cohesive 10-strong team. A branch of the global London-based Winning Moves which was founded in 1997, Winning Moves Australia is passionate about creating interesting, fun and unique board games for all ages, Other than Australia, Winning Moves has offices in France, Germany, Spain, Poland, Russia, Turkey and their games are sold around the world.

Pass the Pigs Game
Pass the Pigs, a classic beer & pretzels game for adults, makes an ideal travel game for kids aged 7 years and over. Stored in a pocket-sized travel case, it contains 2 pig-shaped dice, two pencils, and a scoring booklet and table. E ach turn involves one player throwing the pigs as dice and, depending on how the pigs land, points are scored or deducted. Scoring positions are given names such as "snouter," "trotter," and "leaning jowler", while the  "oinker" will cause you to lose your entire accumulated score and the "piggyback" will have you completely eliminated. A game for all generations, Pass the Pigs guarantees hours of entertainment and can be played anywhere from a spacious dining room table to a fold-out tray on an aircraft.

”We’re all just big kids with a passion for bringing people together and making the world a better place,” Reid Herbert says. “In a technology filled world where people interact less and less, board games encourage people to reconnect with each other and remain in the moment.”

Personally, I can attest that board games make kids of us all. No sooner had I unpacked my purse-sized Pass the Pigs game on our lounge room floor than our grandsons, aged 7 and 8, hovered over me in curiosity. Before long, a game was under way and laughter and good-nature shrieks engulfed our household, carrying us well into the night. The Pig had done its job.

Check out the latest licensed, custom and regional editions of the world’s hottest games by Winning Moves Australia by Clicking Here.

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 5th September, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Australia

Bring On Marriage Equality, it’s Good for Business

As a naturalised Australian from the Philippines, I have always been proud of Australia’s role as an early pioneer and leader in LGBTI rights. All the more reason why I have become increasingly dumbfounded, and deeply disappointed, in how this country is still lagging behind 23 other countries of the world with regards to the introduction of Marriage Equality. 

For one moment, let’s push aside the fact that a plebiscite is totally unnecessary, that Parliament already has the power to legislate on the Marriage Equality issue... 

... or that 72 per cent of the public already supports Marriage Equality, a percentage higher than many countries with Marriage Equality...

... not to mention the fact that the fundamental human rights principle of equality states that civil marriage should be available, without discrimination, to all couples, regardless of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity....

... and that banning same-sex marriage is a form of social exclusion that adds yet another layer of stress and marginalisation to the LGBTI group....

Let us push all those human rights factors aside, because our government clearly has. What our politicos may prefer to focus on instead are the ‘hip pocket’ benefits that Marriage Equality will bring to this country.

According to AustralianMarriageEquality.org, Marriage Equality in Australia stands to inject more than $700m into the national economy through expenditure on weddings. For those who need more convincing, the figures that same-sex weddings has already generated in other parts of the world speak for themselves:

$111 million - The amount contributed to the Massachusetts economy over five years by Marriage Equality 

$684 million and 2,200 jobs - The estimated economic benefit to California from Marriage Equality 

$1.2 million - The projected increase in government revenue from Marriage Equality in Rhode Island 

$7 million - The increased revenue state governments will receive from same-sex marriage license fees 

300 - Number of businesses supporting same-sex marriages in Argentina 

Mario Paez, President of Gay and Lesbian Tourism Australia (GALTA), the peak tourism body for LGBTI travellers, says, “We know many same-sex couples who could wait no longer, and took advantage of the equal marriage laws in New Zealand and beyond, much to the detriment of the Australian tourism sector.” 

“We expect that when the Australian Marriage Act is finally changed to include same-sex couples, a huge benefit in tourism spend on Australian destination weddings and honeymoons will be witnessed and celebrated.”

"We expect that changes to the Marriage Act will reposition Australia in a favourable view to LGBTI travellers and honeymooners both from within Australia and around the globe.”

As for me, I’m tired of seeing the string of fabulous same sex weddings in other countries on Facebook and wondering how much Australian laws on Marriage Equality are costing our same sex couples in terms of their happiness and peace of mind, let alone the loss of revenue for our tourism industry. 

I say: Bring on Marriage Equality, the people have already spoken.

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 16th August, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Opinions

NZ Wellness Retreat Urges: ‘Move to Live, Live to Move’

Te Atawhai Get Ready for Summer special
Co-Founder and spokeswoman for Te Atawhai Wellness Retreat, Annah Stretton supports the results of a study conducted at the University of Oxford that concludes that a sedentary lifestyle and inactivity plays an equally major role in obesity as poor food choices. 

Did you find the first paragraph of this blog confronting? Personally, I was hardly surprised by the conclusions of this research - that “low levels of physical activity are associated with an increased risk of weight gain and obesity." In fact, it is precisely for this reason I have developed a passion for walking holidays. Click here to check out some of the most spectacular treks right here in my home town of NSW.

Backtracking to the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle, NZ CEO Annah Stretton had this to say, “The drastic decrease in movement has become a great contributor to many of our modern day diseases: cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, depression…. the list goes on. The sad fact is that we are only too quick to seek medical intervention as a way to combat these conditions and choose to ignore what we already know, that we just need to move more.”  

Along with Rebecca Skilton and Sherryll Gordon, Annah Stretton co-founded Wellness Retreat Te Atawhai at the foothills of majestic Mount Te Aroha as a challenge to traditional ‘quick fix’ wellness approaches by introducing a series of bespoke experiences and simple daily practices that reap lasting benefits. 

An advocate of going back to basics as the key to robust health, Te Atawhai’s three Founders hold a passionate belief that movement is the key to good health: it lifts the heart rate, pumps more oxygen through the blood, feeds the muscles, and activates the release of endorphins. 

Annah recommends activities that will keep us moving throughout the day: 
* Use the stairs rather than lifts or escalators , 
* Take the basket option at the supermarket , 
* Purchase a standing desk, 
* Ensure that your water bottle is at a distance that forces you to stand up and drink every 15 minutes . 
Weight bearing exercises, such as Pilates, yoga and weights, are vital for the maintenance of strong healthy bones.

In a bid to get people up and moving, Annah, Rebecca and and Sherryll have launched a special “Get Ready for Summer” package. Normally valued at NZ$2700, Te Atawhai's 4-day Wellness Experience is now being offered at NZ$1900 if bookings are made by the end of August.

As a last word, Annah says, “Movement is what our bodies were made to do. It’s important to move a little more so that we can live and love life a little more, a life where we will feel better, think better, be better.” 

I couldn't agree more, Annah, and the best news is that it is never too late to start. 
Why don't you take advantage of Te Atawhai's special rate for their life-changing 'Get Ready for Summer' 4-day Wellness Retreat? Take it from me, you'll never look back!

About Te Atawhai:
Founded by Annah Stretton, Rebecca Skilton and Sherryll Gordon, Te Atawhai is a holistic health and wellness retreat located at the foot of the majestic Mount Te Aroha, a region famous for its breathtaking flora and fauna, its vast array of mountain walking tracks, and for the healing properties of its hot springs. 
Te Atawhai’s four-day wholeness retreat has been carefully designed to reset the modern day living rhythms in a way that brings about lasting change to their guests’ health, vitality and zest for life. They help to create a new sense of awareness and mindfulness around nutrition, movement and mind management. 

4-Day Wellness Experience: 
Now NZ$1900 if bookings made and paid for by end August 2017 (Normally NZD $2,700).
Price includes: all taxes, accommodation, meals and all activities
Price excludes: flights, transfers and personal insurance
Website: http://teatawhai.co.nz
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TeAtawahi/
Instagram: @te_atawhai
Contact Details: FOR ALL ENQUIRIES - Please contact Victoria Ugarte on 
+61 411502421 or victoria@TeAtawhai.com

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 8th August, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Opinions, New Zealand

Vive la France

Unleashing my inner Francophile on Bastille Day
At roughly this time every year, France’s scent lingers on in my mind’s eye will all the complexities of an exquisite perfume... 

Nearly 3 years ago to this day, just after Bastille Day, Peter and I sauntered up and down the impressive Promenade des Anglais in Nice, sharing the pavement with joggers, rollerbladers and stylish assorted locals with pampered pets. Last year, their national holiday became the anniversary of a terrorist attack that France mourns, when a truck plowed into a crowd along Nice's popular beach-side promenade where revelers had gathered to celebrate their national day. 

Out of respect for a beautiful nation and its spirited resilient people, I allow myself to unleash my inner Francophile this time every year and expound the virtues of France: 

Starting with Paris, I learned that the myth of Parisians being arrogant is exactly that - a myth. In fact, we found Parisians to be helpful and polite, going out of their way to give us helpful tips and assistance, many times without having to ask for it. With 20 arrondissements to sift through and each district adding its own unique flavour and culture, the saying of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts truly applies to the ‘City of Light’.

In a delicious contrast to Paris, the Alsace countryside in Springtime is a symphony of greens, punctuated by lakes and the occasional castle, with hundreds of acres of vineyards spread wide over a sweeping landscape. Our experience was further enhanced by a very special B&B, a charming converted farmhouse s ituated in the mountains above the tiny village of Freland, just off the famous Routes des Vins. You can take a peek at La Haute Grange in a YouTube video here.

Few places beat the romance of St Paul de Vence, in France’s south. Sitting majestically above the hustle and bustle of the Cote D’Azur coastline, St Paul de Vence is one of the oldest medieval towns in the French Riviera and a haven for artists and celebrities since the 1960s. I was so taken by this part of the world that I was moved to make another short video of our stay.

In a region renown for white wild horses, black bulls and pink flamingoes, worlds seemingly collided in a whirlwind of dance, music and colour at the heart of the Camargue, at Saintes Maries de la Mer, during the Romany Gypsies’ annual festival commemorating “Black Sarah”. 

Scaling the heights of the Pyrenees at 2877 meters is an experience that I will never forget. After a one and a half hour drive from Haute Garonne towards the Pyrenees, we took a cable car from the ski town of La Mongie to Pic du Midi.  With a breathtaking panorama of 300 kilometers from every angle, this is said to be one of the most magical views in the world. 

After shaking off its monarchial shackles, France declared itself to be an "indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic”. All the more surprising her choice of current President Emmanuel Macron based on his liberal economic and political leanings. In fact, the very word ‘liberalism’ remains an anathema in French intellectual life. Through France’s choice of Macron, however, she expressed a resolute refusal to accept the anti-immigrant, anti-Europe, and fear-mongering of the Front Nationals. For this reason alone I raise my voice in respect and say “Vive la France”. Long may you flourish. I look forward to exploring more of your magnificent lands and charming culture in the years to come.

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 23rd July, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: France, Opinions
Tags: France

The Virtues of Walking Holidays in the Winter (NSW)

Adelong Falls Gold Mill Ruins (NSW)
While many Aussie travelers choose to chase the European sun during the Southern Hemisphere's Winter months, I've always chosen to stay put in my own home state of NSW. 

Apart from all the benefits of a walking holiday - it's economical, great for the health and naturally spectacular - NSW happens to be home to some of Australia’s most scenic walking trails. Incidentally, I'm not letting you in on any secret.... More than 4.3 million domestic and international overnight visitors last year choose to hike in NSW as part of a holiday experience, up 5.2 per cent on the previous year.

Whether you're after short treks, long day hikes or more challenging multi-day hikes, there are a plethora of hidden gems along NSW's stunning coastal and inland trails. Here are some of NSW’s great walks, as well as some hidden gems just waiting to be explored:
New tours: 
  • The Seven Peaks Walk is one of the newest walks to join the list of  Great Walks of Australia . This challenging hike on Lord Howe Island is for experienced hikers, with a few sections of the walk off-track and requiring a steady head for heights.
  • For a coastal trek, try the three-day  Light to Light walk  which hugs the coastline between Boyds Tower and Green Cape Lightstation in Ben Boyd National Park on the Sapphire Coast. If hiking in luxury is more your style,  Light to Light Camps  can carry your gear, set up camp each night and cook your dinner, all while you enjoy the walk at your leisure.

Seven Peaks Walk (NSW)
Secluded and unspoilt: 
  •  Explore the secluded beaches and spectacular cliffs while hiking the rugged coastline of the  Kangarutha Walking Track  in Bournda National Park near Tathra on the South Coast. Suitable for most ages, this moderately challenging hike is 9km each way.
  • The  Murray Valley Regional and National Park s, near Mathoura on the Murray River, are home to part of the world’s largest stand of River Red Gums. The short walks in and around this park take you through stunning red gums and to an impressive Ramsar-listed wetlands,  Reed Beds Wetland .
  • Part of the  Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area ,  Washpool National Park , between Grafton and Glen Innes, offers wonderful undisturbed wilderness including the world’s largest stand of coachwood trees. With walks ranging from just a few hours to multiple days, the 45km  Gibraltar-Washpool World Heritage walk  is the most challenging. This four-day walk takes you through eucalypt forests, rainforests, wetlands and granite tors in the rugged Northern Tablelands.
Song-lines and cultural tales:
  • Ngaran Ngaran Cultural Awareness  runs a two-day tour that includes climbing Mount Gulaga, an extinct volcano rising 797 metres above sea level near Narooma on the South Coast.  Mount Gulaga  is culturally significant to the local Yuin people, particularly women.
  • Tri State Safaris  offers guided tours of Mutawintji National Park and through the  Mutawintji Historic Site . Boasting one of the best collections of Aboriginal art in NSW, a challenging two to four hour guided walk through rocky terrain visits Aboriginal rock engravings and ochre stencils, as well as the remains of fireplaces, stone flakes and grinding stones.
Close to Sydney, but feels like a million miles away:

Thunderbolts Lookout (NSW)
Epic adventures:
  • Stretching 426kms, The  Hume and Hovell Track  is an epic trail in the south east of NSW that traverses rugged and beautiful countryside following a mix of public roads, fire trails, purpose built single tracks and over 100 footbridges. For trip planning, check out the interactive map and photos showing 360 degree views of the campsites along the way on the  Hume and Hovell Track website .
  • Snow shoe Australia’s highest peak with K7 Adventures on the  Mount Kosciuszko Majestic Tour . Kosciuszko National Park is as compelling in the winter months as it is during the summer wildflower season and although the weather can be challenging, the experience is truly remarkable.
For more information visit  www.visitnsw.com

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 12th July, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Australia
Tags: NSW, Walking holidays

Jet-setting Australians plagued by travel sickness

Dr Bernard Hudson and Adam Liaw shine the light on the health risks associated with travel.
I didn’t think twice before accepting an invitation for the “Travel Together Event” on 29 June, at the chic harbourside hotel, Ovolo, Woolloomooloo . 

Hosted by Masterchef Adam Liaw of Destination Flavour fame, on behalf of Sanofi Pasteur, the aim of the event was to shine the light on the potential health risks that continually lurk behind the shadows of international travel. A subject that is close to my heart, I joined a throng of fellow globetrotters at the hotel’s Piper Room which was set up  to look like an exotic marketplace. Ambling from stall to stall, we relaxed into a travel vibe as we savoured the various delicacies from across the world, listening to the laid back strains of a Jamaican beat.

After settling into the colour and spectacle, Sydney Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr Bernard Hudson joined Adam Liaw in presenting the more serious side of traveling the world, that of Australian travellers losing precious holiday time because they’re not aware of the health risks associated with travel. 

Here are some confronting facts (according to research conducted by Sanofi Pasteur):

* Travellers who fell sick on their last trip to an ‘at-risk’ destination spent about one-third (31%) of their holiday bedridden or unwell. 

* While Aussies are travelling to ‘at-risk’ destinations - South East Asia, South and Central America, Africa and the Middle East - in record numbers, research shows that many (42%) aren’t getting health advice that could protect them against serious travel-related diseases. These diseases include hepatitis A, rabies, typhoid fever and yellow fever, which have the potential to ruin holidays and leave  people with long term symptoms.

Back to the “Travel Together Event”, Dr Hudson stressed the importance of getting the right health advice at least six weeks prior to travel. He said, “Holidaymakers who prioritise itineraries over their own health are putting themselves and potentially those around them at risk, especially if they’re visiting high risk destinations.” 

“The reality is, no one wants to be bedridden on holiday, have to take time off work when they return or spread a travel-related disease to their loved ones. It doesn’t take much to get the right health advice before you take off.” 

Dr Hudson said in closing, “Depending on your destination you may need medication, vaccinations or other advice. Make it a top priority, just as you would your plane tickets and insurance.” 

I couldn’t agree with Dr Hudson more...While I’m a firm believer in the rewards of the journey far outweighing the risk of leaving our shores, one must also consider the realities of ‘at-risk’ destinations and plan for the worst case scenarios. After all, a successful travel experience depends equally on the preparation that we make ahead of the trip as well as the precautions we take while on our journey. 

Click here for more Travel Health information:

* Travel Health Fact Sheet by Sanofi Pasteur

* Information on Travel Insurance & Pre-existing Conditions

* Information on travel health & vaccinations: www.vaccinehub.com.au & www.smartraveller.gov.au 

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 7th July, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Travel Tips
Tags: Ovolo, Sanofi Pasteur, Dr Bernard Hudson, Destination Flavour, Adam Liaw

The Perfect Travel Pant: #ImsoOKayla

Ready to travel in my new Okayla high waist joggers.
Have you ever thought how hard it is to find the perfect travel pant? Tights are for workout junkies, trackies should be confined to in-home use only, and jeans are not only heavy and take forever to dry when wet, they pinch you in all the wrong places on a long flight. 

As a world traveller for 3 decades, I take my travel wardrobe very seriously. Every item of clothing needs to earn its place in the comfort and styling stakes as well as in the suitcase. After searching for that elusive piece of clothing that effortlessly combines ease and chic, I found online gold in OKAYLA’s “high waist jogger”. Eureka! Placing my order from Australia, it arrived in the post from Britain less than a week later.

Okayla’s super-soft cotton/spandex high-waisted pant, with wide elastic waistband and slim tapered leg, not only flatters most figure types but feel incredibly comfortable on the body. Passing the wash-and-wear test with flying colours, they took up minimum space in my suitcase when rolled or folded. Impressed with my purchase, I ventured to find out a little more about the person behind the label.

Samantha Crutchlow, Founder and Designer of Okayla (UK)
Okayla (the label) was founded by Samantha Crutchlow in 2016 and represents the union between East and West.  Based in Leicester (UK),  Samantha spent 10 years designing ladies wear for high street retailers in Britain, then re-located to Hong Kong for 3 years to further her experience with Far Eastern manufacturing. Ever inspired by the styling and layering in Asia, particularly Japan and Korea,  Samantha launched Okayla on her return to Britain from Hong Kong. 

“The link between my British roots and my love of Asia felt like the natural starting point for the brand,” says Samantha. After toying between several names for the brand, Samantha decided on “Okayla” as the brand name, a casual and fun phrase spoken by both the locals and westerners around Hong Kong that captures the essence of the brand.

Thanks to her profession, Samantha has had plenty of opportunities to explore Europe, America and Asia. Yet despite having travelled the world, it was in Leicester, the city of her birth, where she decided to settle, reminding me of a classic travel quote by Chinese writer Lin Yutang: “No one realises how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.”

Check out Okayla’s  Sports Luxe Casual Wear Collection  by clicking here.

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 6th July, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Travel Tips

Share in Victoria Ugarte's experiences as she travels abroad. Enjoy her stories of exploration and a richer, deeper experience of the places you have come to love or would love to come to know.

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