When I think of all the places in the world where I feel the happiest, there would be a few. Propped at the windowsill of a light-flooded Melbourne cafe, soy coffee in hand. Happily lost on a backstreet in Europe. Held tightly in my partner’s arms. And, 35000 feet up in the air, barefoot and cross-legged on a plane, bound somewhere (anywhere) for adventure.

And, I don’t just feel happiest on a plane because of where an aircraft is taking me (to a new destination, or returning home) – I actually love the experience of flying itself. The roar of the engine and heart flutters during taking off; the first glimmer of a burnt orange sky from a window seat. The uninterrupted sequence of hours to think and be; the feeling of palpable transition – literally between ‘here’ and ‘there’ – and, the perspective that I gently seem to feel, when I fly above my everyday life.

Cathay Pacific are a travel carrier that fully embrace this idea – believing that travelling well is an important part of living well. As an airline, their work is to enhance the overall travel experience – and let me say, with every detail imaginable, they do this exquisitely. Four weeks into 2018 I found myself Hong Kong bound with my beautiful Mum by my side, and excitingly – a chance to fly up front in the Cathay Pacific Business Cabin.

So, what was it like? Amazing, from end to end. Here’s a rundown of my full experience.

“To most people, the sky is the limit. To those who love flying, the sky is home.”

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For many Australian travellers bound for Europe, London is an obvious spot to fly in to, or out from – with a few days tacked onto the itinerary, for exploring London itself. Hailing from our country that stretches so far it requires a flight (or days in a car) to see the other side of Australia, often we completely overlook beyond London. We forget that in the United Kingdom, a whole new experience can easily be reached by car or train, and just a handful of hours.

The Cornwall Peninsula is home to hundreds of beaches and storybook harbour villages, the kind we read about in classic English novels. The pace moves more slowly than the hustle of London, so feel free to be a little lighter on the accelerator, and slow down a notch, or three. Drive West from London [and a little South], as far as you can, and you’ll soon be encircled by almost 300km of rugged, stunning coastline than tumbles into the Atlantic Ocean. Cornwall also enjoys the mildest and sunniest climate in the United Kingdom, with over 1541 hours of sunshine per year, and winters are amongst the warmest in the country.

For the second part of my trip with VisitBritain, I was so excited to explore the South West for the very first time. After checking out of the beautiful The Great Northern hotel, I hopped across the road to collect my hire car from Hertz St Pancras, loaded my playlist, plugged in my GPS and hit the road for Cornwall.

It’s an easy drive (via freeway the entire way), but a lengthy drive to take solo – so I took my time, and also made a quick diversion to Bristol for lunch and leg stretch. The drive itself takes around 5 hours, depending on traffic – a perfect opportunity to listen to some of my favourite podcasts and just be with my thoughts and the open road.

There’s so many beautiful parts of Cornwall – and much that I still want to see. But here’s how I spent three nights in Cornwall (and you should too).

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Three years ago, with my life at a crossroads, I boarded a one-way flight back to Australia and my two years living in London came to a severed, abrupt end. It’s a city I had fallen hard for, and desperately didn’t want to leave, but the visa laws made it impossible for me to do anything but depart. [Read this post for the back story.]

Three years on, although the now completely healed, far more travelled and (I’d like to think) better version of myself has fully made peace with that chapter, just say the word ‘London’ and my heartbeat will instantaneously quicken. It’s a place that I will always long for, in one way or another.

So, when an email popped up in September from the beautiful team at VisitBritain, expressing interest in working together, it was one of those moments that stopped me completely short – and despite a back-to-back schedule lined up to see out the rest of 2017, of course I immediately wrote back: yes! Although I’d visited London a number of times since returning to Australian life, this trip felt different. It felt a beautiful irony to be invited back, in a different time, and different life circumstance; something the wayward girl of three years ago could never had imagined possible.

So there I was, on 23 October, seated in the emergency exit row with all of the legroom ever, and ‘Fever to the Form’ playing in my ears, bound for a ten-day solo adventure for the soul.

My itinerary for the UK included a wonderful mix of both the intimately familiar London I knew and loved, and the London I had never before known. That’s the best thing about this city – you can choose your own adventure – and no matter the direction you wander, in the obliging, magical way that London always delivers in spades, I was in for the best few days ever, laden with amazing moments at every turn.

Wellness was a real focus for this trip, which was a refreshing way to experience the same city I once spent over two hours of commuting, a full day at work, and freelanced at either side of the day (anything but balanced!). On this trip, balance meant offsetting a bike ride with a hearty slice of Victoria sponge cake, and following up my sunset gin and tonics with a before-sunrise yoga class.

Here’s how I spent four days in London – wandering from West to East, and everywhere in between.

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If you’ve followed my travels for a while, you’ll likely know that when it comes to cameras, I’ve always been a Canon girl. Not consciously, or for any particular reason, if I really think about it – it was just the first brand of Camera I ever owned (after saving for months, to take on my very first overseas trip to Japan!) Over the years, as I learned and evolved my photography skills, I stuck with the brand, outgrowing and upgrading a series of cameras from that first point-and-shoot, through to the EOS 5D Mark III that I’ve had for 2 years now.

I connected with Olympus through The Travel Bootcamp over 18 months ago, and after hearing a presentation about this brand, their history and their vision, I was immediately hooked. Unquestionably, Olympus are a leader in the consumer imaging market – and right from the start, I could instinctively feel how much they care. Not just about photography – and the technical, but about creativity. About customer experience. About the pursuit of everyone’s dreams. Even mine! Olympus are a brand with huge heart.

I wanted to try them out. If you’ve read my recent blog posts, you’ll see I have added not one, but two cameras to my family this year. First, I hopped around Italy and Greece with the PEN E-PL8 – and soon following that adventure, Olympus invited me to try out the OM-D E-M10 Mark III, which also involved an adventure to Queenstown, New Zealand (pinch me) and almost daily life adventures since.

While I tend to be the kind of person that finds something they love, gets too comfortable and sticks with one thing forever (I could literally eat at my favourite local cafe every day, and never tire) – it’s a different story with Olympus. It’s been a fun process to be kept on my toes, to learn two new cameras and experiment, pushing my photography skills and style, and evolving my ways a little, rather than sticking with what I know.

On the left flatlay – the Olympus PEN E-PL8. On the right – the OM-D E-M10 Mark III

Let me open with this: I LOVE both cameras, and will continue to use both for different reasons, they do have some key differences. I wanted to write this post to navigate these features and compare both cameras, side by side – if you might be considering one, or both, and not sure which way to go.

So, let’s begin!

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During my weekend in Queenstown with Olympus, we were lucky to be privy to a couple of photography workshops run by two photography experts that I admire and respect: perpetual traveller (and one of the most beautiful people you’ll ever meet) Lisa Burns of The Wandering Lens – and natural light portrait & family photographer Rachel Devine of Sesame Ellis.

It was a beautiful opportunity to learn from the best, ask lots of questions and work at up-levelling my photography skills, and put new techniques into immediate practice while surrounded by insanely beautiful scenery.

Here are five photography tricks I learned on the road, and have taken home with me from this adventure with Olympus!

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Straight off a plane from four weeks wandering Italy & Greece, I arrived home to find a very special delivery at my doorstep: a carry-on suitcase, a brand new camera (details below!), an itinerary, and a plane ticket. I swiftly unpacked, washed some clothes, repacked, swapped over cameras, and headed back to the airport just 24 hours later – to board another plane. This time bound for Queenstown, New Zealand!

I had been invited to spend a weekend with Olympus, in the company of a group of other wonderful photographers  + bloggers – and some of the beautiful Olympus family – and jet lag was never going to get in the way of such an opportunity. I had never been to the South Island before, and flying in between the snow-capped mountains as our plane descended into Queenstown was something impossibly magical. Better still, the trip was to celebrate something pretty exciting – the launch of the new OM-D E-M10 Mark III.  It was a wonderful opportunity to take this brand new camera away so soon, and to learn about it on the go, while exploring an incredible part of the world.

Meeting the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

As the second Olympus camera to join my quickly growing camera family, this particular one is the latest addition to the award-winning OM-D range (it’s the third edition of the E-M10 lineup of cameras).

If you read my recent Italy post, you’ll have seen I travelled around Europe with a different camera – the Olympus PEN E-PL8 – and having now experienced both cameras on different trips, I can’t wait to compare and contrast both cameras, and wrap up some more detailed thoughts into a blog post (to come soon).

As a brief review, for now (because I’m so keen to write all about the New Zealand trip, and the magical weekend I was lucky to experience there), I LOVED this camera. For similar, and different reasons to why I love the PEN. The OM-D is a perfect camera to capture 4K video (higher quality than the PEN E-PL8). It’s also the perfect camera to travel with (it’s lightweight, and I love the flip screen, allowing you to shoot from very low to the ground, or above your reach, while knowing exactly what you’re capturing!) and the camera body itself is delightful. Its aesthetic is retro but sophisticated, and the camera feels approachable and so easy to capture moments and memories while on the go.

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III camera - isn't it cute?!

Hello, Queenstown

Let me start with this: Queenstown WILL make you feel awed, and utterly eclipsed by beauty. You’ll see scenery that looks like a painting, and tiny towns that instantly take you back to another time and place. There are jaw-dropping landscapes, and adventures available for every level of adventurer. You can be sure that you’ll want to spend most of your time in this country outside, under vast sweeping skylines, framed by rugged mountains. It feels like you’re dreaming, except you’re very much wide awake.

Over our two days in Queenstown, we were treated to helicopter rides, boat rides, magical scenery, photography classes, food + wine, and all of the photo opportunities ever. It went a little something like this…

Evening sunset cruise on Lake Wakatipu

Nestled between two rivers. The Dart River and The Kawarau River, Lake Wakatipu may be New Zealand’s third largest lake, but it is definitely the most intriguing. Shaped like a lightning bolt, and with its very own heartbeat, the lake has a tide that sees its water level rise and falls up to 20 cm every 20 minutes. Scientifically, this is caused by a lake seiche, or ‘standing wave’ – which is the result of surrounding mountains, the wind, and atmospheric pressure.

However, ask locals around the towns that sit on the edge of the lake, and you’ll soon hear a very different story. Many years ago, the daughter of a local Maori chief fell in love with a man she was forbidden to marry, Matakauri. One night she was kidnapped by a giant from the nearby mountains, named Matau. The chief was so distraught about the kidnapping of his daughter, that he promised Manata’s hand in marriage to any man from the tribe that could rescue her. Matakauri saw this as his chance to marry the woman he loved. He rescued her, by sneaking into the giant’s lair under the cover of darkness. The two were married, but Matakauri was terrified the giant would return and threaten his wife and tribe. Again, he stole into the mountains, and as the giant slept, he set his home alight. The fire burned deep into the earth, melting the snow and mountains, forming Lake Wakatipu. It is said that whilst the Manata was killed, his heart remains, beating at the bottom of the lake, causing the water to rise and fall.

(Ever in love with a beautiful story, this one completely fascinated me!)

Helicopter to The Remarkables + Lunching at Gibbston Valley Wines

Clearly visible from Queenstown and the smaller towns dotted around Lake Wakatipu, The Remarkable Ranges frame the South-Eastern shore of the lake, rising up into the sky in jagged and craggy peaks. The most common way to see the mountain range is to grab your skis or hiking boots, but if you really want to take in the enormity of the expanse of this alpine scenery, you must see it from the air.

Up close and personal with the mountains, we were all lucky enough to fly to the peak of The Remarkables in a convoy of helicopters. We landed very precisely on a tiny plateau, to plant our feet on fresh snow that had never before seen footprints, and we took in the three hundred and sixty degree panoramic views before us.

After taking our photos (so many photos, how could we not!), we boarded the helicopters and flew down the other side of the peak, into Gibbston Valley Wines for lunch. Helicoptering into lunch? Yes, I know. Pinch me!

Wanaka and ‘that’ Wanaka tree

In this modern day – we are all very aware of the term ‘Instagram Famous’. And cliché or not, anything travel related with such a title always piques my curiosity. Lake Wanaka, and its spectacular lone tree definitely holds this infamous title – in fact, it’s so well known by Instagrammers alike, that it even has its own eternally popular hashtag #ThatWanakaTree.

Lake Wanaka covers 192 square kilometres of alpine beauty, with far-off glaciers feeding the expanse of water. Begin the 50-minute drive from Queenstown, and somewhere along the way you’ll realise that something in the air has shifted, the energy has changed, setting Wanaka apart. Off the beaten track, with no signs directing towards it, you’ll need a little inside scoop to find what is said to be the most photographed tree in all of New Zealand. Rising up out of the lake, in the shallows of Roy’s Bay, the snarled and twisting Wanaka Tree is at its most photogenic at both dawn and dusk, against shimmering water and pastel fairyfloss skies.

Arrowtown

Whilst the golden days of the gold rush are long over, arrive in Arrowtown in Autumn or Spring and the changing of the leaves will cause the town to become settled under the aura of a different kind of golden. Sitting alongside the still gold-bearing Arrow River, Arrowtown is the of the most gorgeously quaint towns in New Zealand. Established in 1863, the height of the gold rush saw settlement grow quickly. Over 60 of the original cottages, shops, hotels, and churches are still standing in town today. At its height, Arrowtown held a population of 7000. These days, its smaller population of 2200 treasure their little town and have maintained its heritage and historical buildings beautifully.

Glenorchy

Hailed the most scenic drive on the South Island of New Zealand, the route from Queenstown to Glenorchy is one to take slowly, to ensure you don’t miss any of the dramatic sights (or get too carsick…) Following the Eastern side of Lake Wakatipu, you’ll glide past Pig and Pigeon Islands, floating in the middle of the lake.

Only a short drive from Queenstown, the vibe in Glenorchy has a paradoxically different feel – folksy and rustic. The already small town is dwarfed even more so by the surrounding mountains, making it a popular location for filming – most notably, The Lord of the Ring series.

So… do you see what I mean? Queenstown is something else. Have you added it to your bucket list? I hope you have enjoyed the photos I captured here – all were taken on the OM-D E-M10 Mark III.

You can order the OM-D E-M10 MarkIII here.

You can read more about the OM-D E-M10 Mark III here.

Stay tuned for my next post – some photography tips I learned during my time in Queenstown!

Sunrise from my room at The Rees, overlooking Lake Wakatipu
Dinner at the brand new QT in downtown Queenstown

Thank you SO much to Olympus for taking me to experience Queenstown for such an exciting reason + with such beautiful company.

2017 In Review

News & Happenings, Words by Emma Kate

2017, in one word you were BIG. Full of love, creativity, joy, wins, lessons, far-flung adventures and SO very much hard work. It was definitely a year of non-stop leap taking, and stepping way outside every comfort zone I knew – from hiring my first employee and welcoming Zalie to the team, to speaking on panels and delivering my first big speaking engagement, co-hosting two business workshops, growing our stockist base and online customer base hugely, and having the opportunity to work with some incredible brands on projects I couldn’t have ever dreamed possible. I also travelled, a lot! All in all, I took 67 flights, travelled to 11 countries and spent time in 21 cities. Phew!

Here’s a recap of what went down, month by month.

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Part 2: Exploring Mykonos + Santorini

[If you’ve landed on this post and haven’t read Part 1, head  this way!]

You know those places that you can never-not remember dreaming about? Those ‘one day’ destinations, that for a long time, you build in your mind an idea about, and wonder whether the real-life version will measure up to those years of imagination?

The Greek Islands have always been that bucket-list destination for me. And, after spending a week of island hopping there, I can testify that the islands are beautiful. IMPOSSIBLY. BEAUTIFUL. Even more vividly so than I could have ever imagined.

After our days in Italy, living La Dolce Vita, Charles and I flew into Greece for a week of late summer island hopping, from Mykonos to Santorini.

As it happened, I was struck down on our second day in Greece with a horrid head cold and nasty dose of laryngitis, which meant I spent more days than I wish to remember feeling too unwell to be anywhere but in bed, and we couldn’t explore nearly as much as we had hoped to. We also lost our luggage in transit, and I lost my voice for more than 10 days (although Charles didn’t mind that part!) Gratefully, got our luggage back after 24 hours of calls, airport visits and Greek translating, and my voice came back eventually.

First stop, Mykonos

Despite its party-hard reputation, Mykonos is an island of undisputed raw beauty.  Having missed most of the cruise-ship crowds, we found it to feel quite local, beautifully whitewashed (my photography dream), and mostly devoid of party. We stayed here for three nights, and unfortunately, I was feeling so unwell that we barely left our AirBnB. We did enjoy drinks at the a-listers hangout Cavo Tagoo one night, and a beautiful lunch at Scorpios Mykonos (links) before flying onwards, but need to return to explore much further!

As one of the main islands in the Cyclades group of the Aegean Sea. Mykonos is one of the larger greek islands (there are over 1,400 islands, with 230 of them inhabited). We stayed in an Airbnb a five minute walk from Little Venice – an 18th century district with tiny white houses lining the waterfront, with balconies overhanging the sea with a maze of tangled laneways so narrow that you need to walk single file. The white painted houses once belonged to shipping merchants, and the high tide, waves can crash over land into the tiny streets (hence, Little Venice!)

The narrow streets of Little Venice
Dinner at Cavo Tagoo Mykonos
Lunching at Scorpios Mykonos

Santorini

Santorini is also one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea, nestled roughly halfway between Athens and Crete, and undoubtedly one of the most impossibly beautiful places in the entire world. The first time I spied the whitewashed, cubiform houses of Oia, perched high up on cliffs above the expanse of vivid blue sea, I felt like my breath was knocked out of me, with the sheer beauty of it all. It’s so beautiful that it’s hard to take it in, or even believe. The colours in the sky at sunrise and sunset – the blues of the water – I could have stared at these colours forever.

We spent our first two nights at a beautiful AirBnB at the edge of Oia, with the most perfect vantage point for sunset, followed by two nights in a hotel, in the quieter town of Imerovigli, laden with luxury hotels and more infinity pools than I have ever seen (frequented by honeymooners and romance seekers).

Despite Greece not being the idyllic experience we had hoped, because of me being so unwell, we absolutely adored what we did get to experience in Greece, and left with the strongest desire to return – healthy, and as soon as possible!

Have you experienced the Greek Islands? Which Islands did you hop to?

This blog post is brought to you by Olympus. As always, all words and opinions are authentically my own.