Travel Changes Who You Are

Travel changes who you are…

‘Travel opens your mind, broadens your mind and fills your life with stories to tell.’ - Paula Bendfeldt

My son left the UK bound for Australia, via Thailand (for few day’s in Khao San Road as a layover) when he was just two weeks old. We had prearranged his passport which included a photo taken just days earlier; a fresh face tucked in the fresh pages of an unstamped passport. I remember the Australian embassy in London, awaiting his arrival, and rejoicing when I brought him to the office at a week old.

We travelled the world together. Initially, because we didn’t have a choice. Later, because we could. He filled passports during his childhood.

17 years later, my daughter took her first trip overseas at 3 months old. That trip was one month, 6 countries. Since then, we bring her on almost all of our trips - both for work and leisure. 

My children are open minded, non judgmental, amiable, kind, sincere, intuitive, social, easy going people. Neither of them have an inch of racism. They are fair, understanding, great listeners and very social. They both eat almost anything. They are both family orientated and loyal. We are a team. For that, they have been wonderfully easy and enjoyable people to rear. People tell me that my children are a reflection of my parenting – and as flattered as I am – I put a huge amount of who they are, down to their extensive travel. I am so grateful to have been able to offer this to them and only hope they can do the same with their children.

 

Mark Twain said: “Travel opens your mind.” How?

New smells, new tastes, new sights - the senses are opened, awakened; they literally come alive.

Lot’s of cultures have subtle difference, innuendos - different ways of doing things from other cultures. It can be as simple as different forms of body language. They are imbedded in the DNA of cultures and often are practiced without awareness. Amongst cultures, some of these ways are very attractive and others are considered the height of rudeness. We all have the cultural DNA that leads to an ethnocentric approach in most things we do and encounter.

Recently, we had a situation in one of our shops. It was between a new customer and a wonderfully lovely, sweet, kind and helpful staff member. I heard both sides clearly and felt both their disappointment with each other’s attitude, and the bad feeling they were both left with afterwards. I agonised over the situation. As I played the stories over in my head, I heard just that - two cultures, with two stories that played out based on their experiences, pre-conceived ideas of a situation. Body language, tone of voice, choice of words. I could map every step of the experience - including the two very genuine interpretations and feelings that followed. I tried to explain that and suggested neither meant to hurt or offend the other. All I could say was that I was sorry that both people had felt this way.

There is something about travel - the guts to leave your safety zone, your daily routine, that gives people a level of confidence, where inhibitions are lowered and eyes are opened. Travel allows time for sitting and observing, noticing people and places, looking at your surroundings. Daily routine is broken. The blinkers come off, the traffic rush of daily routine shuts down, and the road is blown wide open. 

I am lucky to say that I have travelled the world. I have not been to every country but have flown hundreds of flights to hundreds of places. I have met thousands of people, and had countless interactions - beautiful and terrifying and everything in between. I love so many people in so many places.

I left Australia - for the long haul - in 1995. I am ever so grateful that I was born in Australia and have a passport that allows me the luxury of moving through most ports with a giant, smiling, green flag. I have lived in a number of places too and have the pleasure of truly immersing in those cultures. Some places where I am invited like family, and others where I stick out like a sore thumb. Travel changed me enormously from the person I would be today. Had I not gone anywhere, I'm not sure who I would be today. You probably wouldn't be reading this, you probably wouldn't have stumbled into one of our colourful shops, because Olga de Polga probably wouldn't exist. I am wiser and smarter, but also harsher and harder. I would not swap that for anything. I feel as though I have lived many times over.

Fast forward to 2020 and here I am, living back in Australia. I actually live in the house next door to the house I was renting when I left here at 24! 

As the Peter Allen song goes:

I've been to cities that never close down

From New York to Rio and old London town

But no matter how far or how wide I roam

I still call Australia home

 

I'm always traveling, I love being free

And so I keep leaving the sun and the sea

But my heart lies waiting over the foam

I still call Australia home

 

All the sons and daughters spinning 'round the world

Away from their family and friends

But as the world gets older and colder

It's good to know where your journey ends

 

But someday we'll all be together once more

When all of the ships come back to the shore

Then I realise something I've always known

I still call Australia home

 

(But no matter how far or wide I roam)

I still call Australia

I still call Australia

I still call Australia home

 

(But no matter how far or wide I roam)

Oh I still call Australia

I still call Australia

I still call Australia home

I used to call the Qantas (24 hour reverse charge line from anywhere in the world), just to listen to this song!

Sending you all lots of love in your cosy homes today,
Olga

  • Lilian Chee on

    Dear Olga
    Lovely to read your post. I came across your designs when I was a postgrad student in London just as we went into the new millennium. I still have most of these pieces 20 years later (all from Topshop Oxford Circus). Stumbled on your lovely shop in Melbourne in 2018. Happy to have a chance to support your label again. Wearing one of your pieces as I type this at home in Singapore. Take care and stay well.

    Lilian


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