Australia

When the stars aligned

April 14, 2021

It’s only now that I can look back and realise that the day I met my beloved Bobby, we were cosmically destined for one another. We lived oceans apart, yet everything aligned time and time again to bring us together.

Our first meeting was in a café in San Jose, California. I was saying goodbye to some old friends and Bobby was our waiter. A mutual friend introduced us and mentioned that Bobby had just booked open-ended travel to Australia and that we should  connect when I return. 

I agreed, and in the true spirit of those pre mobile phone days, I handed my email address on a tiny ripped piece of paper to this mysterious and ridiculously handsome guy.  

A week later, at a bar in San Jose, as I celebrated the end of my 6 month USA road  trip, our paths crossed serendipitously once again. And lucky they did, as he lost that tiny piece of paper with my email on it. I once again wrote it down on another equally small piece of paper. He vowed he would not lose this one and still to this day it holds a special place in his wallet.  

About a month after I returned home I received an email from Bobby updating me on his travels. I passed on my new home number and said when/if you make it to Melbourne, let me know and I’ll show you around. 

One day out of the blue, Bobby called on my home phone. He let me know he’d made it to Victoria and that he was hanging out at a little café called Leroy’s in the town of St. Kilda. He wondered if I was anywhere close to this place and if we could meet up. Little did he know that this was where I was living and that he was at my new local coffee spot! Both of us were amazed as I mentioned that I was only a 5-minute walk away. It also happened to be my only day off work for that week. And it also happened to be Valentines Day, yet neither of us realised this until much later.   

As we stared at each other over coffee, I couldn’t help notice the intense reaction I was having to him. I had never felt so affected by another person before. It was like strings of energy were pulling us closer together and sparks were flying everywhere. The moment I mentioned going for a walk, he agreed almost too quickly. 

Years later we talked about how overwhelming that moment was for us both. I was overheating; my heart racing and I could barely hear what he was saying. I felt like I was both floating, yet tethered to him in some way.  That connection is what has grown into the deepest love I’ve ever known. 

This was the beginning of our relationship. We faced many challenges over the years with long distance, different time zones, visas, families, and navigating a path for ourselves, knowing we wanted to find a way to be together. Every day as we talked on the phone, we embraced the uncertainty and focused on the connection and love we had, knowing a way would become clear when the time was right. And it did. 

Even when things were so uncertain, we held on to the hope in the certainty of our love. 

Bobby was able to finish his studies thanks to an international program here in Western Australia. He moved countries so we could give our love a chance. I moved  from Victoria having never stepped foot in WA. 

We have clearly both fallen more in love with one another over the years, married, had 2 beautiful children and are so grateful that we ended up in this incredible part of Australia, that is now our home.  

I love capturing photos of our relationship together. Every chance we have had to travel and explore, we ensure we have our Fujifilm instax mini LiPlay along to capture all these precious moments. For older memories, we print our photos with the instax mini Link right from my phone. It’s always such a gift for us to print our memories and reflect upon creating this magical life of love together. 

Infinity Chalet

March 8, 2021

PhotographyBobby Bense/Helen Janneson Bense

EditingHelen Janneson Bense

Location – Margaret River, Western Australia

Where to stayInfinity Chalet – just a 3 hour drive south of Perth

Outfit Details – One piece (similar) | High Low Skirt (similar) | Jasmine Strappy Mini Dress

If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, a bestie adventure, or solo retreat then look no further than this immaculately and luxuriously appointed chalet. Every attention to detail is considered and you will leave feeling well rested, rejuvenated and content.

Infinity Chalet is perfectly situated on the picturesque Margaret River, a short drive to the river mouth and the breathtaking Surfers Point. A wonderful spot for the whole family, with swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, rock pool exploring and surfing.

We decided to do some off road exploring on this trip and discovered some of the most secluded and exquisite rock pools and beaches. We couldn’t believe there weren’t any crowds as it was the height of summer school holidays. It just goes to show there is a little slice of paradise for everyone here in this region. I’m not going to geotag and share the exact location of these spots as I feel they are most likely some local gems. I will say that it is worth exploring those off the beaten path tracks and always walking around that next corner.

After our days of exploring we welcomed the comfort and luxury of Infinity chalet. We loved the steam shower and stunning spa bath with that amazing sunset view. We spent our evenings unwinding with a plant based, sunset picnic overlooking Margaret river, enjoying the peaceful vibes of the fireplace before melting into their luxurious king bed.

If you can’t already tell we really loved our stay here. It was faultless and I look forward to the next visit.

With love and gratitude, Helen xx

Copyright Images & text 2021 Helen Janneson Bense

The Staycay

February 17, 2021

PhotographyBobby Bense/Helen Janneson Bense

EditingHelen Janneson Bense

Location – Cottesloe, Western Australia

Where to stay Golden Sands Beach Apartment | Cottesloe Beach House | Cottesloe Aqua Retreat |The Mariner

Outfits – Honey Strappy Midi Dress | Sydney one piece | Boho Skirt (Similar)

Picnic – The Throw Down Dreamy Summer cushion/rug

I’ve underestimated the true value of the staycay up until this past summer that is. It might be the fact that international borders are closed, interstate borders are in a constant open/close flux, and that we are looking to our own backyard for experiences. But I also feel it’s more than that. We were literally transported to a tropical paradise over the summer holidays and we were only 20 minutes from home.

Having lived in Perth for 14 years now we have come to know many of the local treasures. During our most recent stay in North Cottesloe, we were kind of shocked that we don’t spend more time here. The white sand and the crystal clear water are reminders of Wadjemup/Rottnest Island, which was once part of the mainland around 7000 years ago.

Over the past few years we’ve stayed in a few different apartments along the Cottesloe coast, all with varying budgets. Every experience has been amazing. The beach is simply stunning. We really loved our stay at Golden Sands Apartment, ideally located across the street from Peter’s pool – a turquoise lagoon, perfect for snorkelling, swimming and stand up paddle boarding.

The sunset views from the balcony were so peaceful after our long sun kissed, salty days frolicking in the ocean. There was a pinch me moment on our final day realising just how good the staycay is on so many levels. It’s affordable, accessible, relaxing, easy, has a lower carbon footprint, and best of all, you can still catch up with all your friends down the beach. Be amazed and allow yourself to be transported to paradise, at a fraction of the cost and energy of flying, and without the health safety concerns that have become our new normal.

Perthians, have I inspired you to book a Cottesloe staycay? And for those looking to visit Perth when the borders allow, make sure you book a Cottesloe trip. It’s definitely one of my favourites beachside spots to enjoy in the Perth metro area and these apartments are all so ideally located.

With love and gratitude, Helen xx

Copyright images & text 2021 Helen Janneson Bense

Esperance

November 9, 2020

PhotographyBobby Bense | Helen Janneson Bense

EditingHelen Janneson Bense

Location – Kepa Kurl/Esperance, Western Australia

Where to stayWave Rock (half way point between Perth and Esperance | West Beach | Blue Haven

Outfit Details

Dresses – Indigo Maxi | Serene Maxi | Salsa Leora Maxi | Top/Skirt set (similar)

Jackets – custom art by Deadly Denim X Cungelella | Unreal Fur (Faux) jacket (similar)

Swim – One piece

Bag – Miomojo Giorgia Bucket Bag (vegan, cruelty free, sustainably made from apple skin) Can also be used as a backpack

Picnic rug – The Throw Down Traveller Throw

As we set off on this unfamiliar journey, to this pristine, remote part of WA we’ve longed to visit, our hearts yearned for the wild, for the joy that comes with deeply connecting with nature. It’s a connection we all need to thrive and survive in this world. Being in nature is where we come home to ourselves, our very existence intertwined. It was a reminder of how we must treasure and protect our wild places and it’s vital biodiversity.

Our first stop on our road trip was Wave Rock. In the middle of what felt like nowhere is this 2700 million year old, 15 metre high, wave shaped granite rock. Viewing this ancient and sacred place at sunset was breathtaking, with colour and light dancing upon the wave. Wave Rock known as Katter Kich by the Indigenous Ballardong People is known as a keniny (dancing) ground. Nearby are a collection of 450 ancient rock paintings telling the story of a local Aboriginal legend at Mulka’s Cave.

We stayed in a lovely, simple cottage right by Wave Rock surrounded by wildflowers and the most amazing natural salt water pool. It was so perfect after a long drive to float and soak up the natural salty goodness.

After a wonderful nights sleep we rose with the sun and made our way to Esperance. This coastal town is known as Kepa Kurl to the Noongar People. Kepa means wave and Kurl means boomerang; “where the wave lies like a boomerang”. I spent hours watching the waves here and noticed incredible patterns and shapes that are so unique to this part of the world. The landscape even shows climate change since the days of the Ice Age. It’s quite a spectacular and majestic sight as you drive along this coastline. You’ll be struck with the vivid crystal clear turquoise blue of the waters. It surely is the clearest water I’ve ever seen, and that includes the Maldives!

Esperance really is a nature lovers paradise. If you love the beach, ocean, surfing, wildflowers, wildlife and hiking it’s your place! I’ve put together a list here of must visit beaches as we spent every waking hour exploring. We stayed in the most amazing Airbnb overlooking West Beach. We could hear the waves from here and watch the sunrise and set from every window. We even had a bedroom ocean view! This is a great beach for surfing, swimming and whale watching. Even though the water was pretty cold when we visited we still enjoyed swimming in the protected lagoon with our wetsuits on. In summer I’m certain you won’t need a wetsuit.

First and number one beach stop is Lucky Bay and Hellfire Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park. Lucky Bay is known as one of the best beaches in the world and it has very friendly wild kangaroos visit the beach daily. The sand really is so white it could blind you, and the water so turquoise and clear. The biggest attraction here is of course the kangaroos. My experience here brought mixed feelings about this. While it’s so cute to see them, some of the tourists hovering, grabbing and touching the kangaroos was distressing to see. My children stayed completely away in protest out of respect for the kangaroos, choosing not to have a photographic memory, but instead to enjoy seeing them and allowing them to move about in peace. If you find some patience and allow them to move freely they will come and investigate you, generally searching for food. It’s absolutely vital for the sake of their health and wellbeing you do not ever feed them. Luckily we didn’t see any of this happening while we were there. As far as timing to see them I think it’s just up to luck and patience. I read a lot of conflicting information and many other friends shared their experiences. Every single one was different. We arrived at Lucky bay around 8am for a beach day of kayaking, exploring and hoping we’d see some kangaroos. It was around 2pm when a couple ventured onto the shores, focused mostly around the pop up food truck.

Besides the kangaroos, this spot is absolutely stunning to walk around the rocks, take a kayak out to explore the bay and laze on the beautiful white sand. Close by is Hellfire bay which has the most incredible blue waters. I watched the waves for an hour while my family when on a bouldering expedition. It’s a nice quiet beach with picnic tables in the shade to enjoy lunch.

West of Esperance, and just minutes from our Airbnb was Blue Haven beach. This beach is very calm, protected, so blue, and perfect for dolphin spotting, swimming and stand up paddle boarding. You just need to be able to get your board up and down those stairs. It’s a mission, but definitely possible. And worth it once you’re out in that beautiful water.

From here it’s so fun to beach hop. You’ve got Twilight beach which is so fun for some rock jumping into the pristine waters. Make sure to take a drive further along this coast to 10 and 11 mile beach. 11 mile beach was one of our favourite spots with a huge lagoon on either side of the stair entrance. It’s a great spot to watch the sunset from. Another amazing spot for sunset is the Rotary Lookout overlooking West Beach. A beautiful spot for exploring the wildflowers during Spring. Bring a picnic rug and soak up those expansive views.

We still have many spots to visit. Next time we’d love to hike Frenchman’s Peak in Cape Le Grand National Park. When tours are up and running again we’d like to take a scenic flight to Middle Island and see the Pink Lake from above. We are yet to explore more of 10 mile beach, Wharton beach and Wylie Bay. Sadly a local surfer was lost at Wylie as we were on our way there. Out of respect we stayed clear of this area. It was a tragic loss for the town and his family.

If you’ve been to Esperance and have any other must see spots please leave them in the comments! It’s a true natural, wild wonder of our world and I hope it always stays that way.

With love and gratitude,

Helen xx

Retreat at Smiths

October 3, 2020

PhotographyBobby Bense & Helen Janneson Bense

EditingHelen Janneson Bense

LocationSmiths Beach Resort | Yallingup | Castle Rock – Western Australia

Bare & Wilde Love & Light Wellness Retreat – Email HERE to find out about the next one

Outfits – Rihanna Maxi Dress | Salsa Leora Dress |Matching Hi Lo Skirt + Swimwear |Embroidered Paradise Dress | Seaside Long Dress

Picnic Setup – Namastay Tipi Picnics | Plant Based Food by Valerie Gamer and Jessica Lowe | Vegan platter Lamonts

A retreat at Smiths Beach was an idea that instantly felt right. Having spent so much time at this beach and this immaculate resort, it’s become a home away from home. It’s tranquillity and back to nature environment is something I’ve really needed this year, like so many of us.

The retreat was above and beyond everything we needed. We feasted, we shared, and we connected, with ourselves, with nature and one another. There is something so powerful about women sharing. When we create safe spaces, free of judgement, and find the courage to share, we instantly give permission for others to share. We begin a circle of hearing one another with compassion and empathy. The healing power of sharing in this way is immeasurable and incredibly profound. I always walk away from these experiences feeling empowered by the bonds of sisterhood, and awakened to my own inner courage to face my fears and step into discomfort. What I always discover is that on the other side of discomfort is absolute peace and joy. I’m learning how to make friends with my uncomfortable feelings, allowing and embracing my anxieties and fears. I loved being able to facilitate a safe sharing space and look forward to doing this more within our community.

Our days were filled with retreat activities from beach walks, meditation, aromatherapy, plant based cooking, abstract art, feasting, hiking, yoga, creative conversations, sharing sunsets and sound healing with the amazing Julian Silburn. Julian’s healing magic is something I hope everyone gets to experience. He truly is a modern day shaman.

I am so grateful to our amazing, talented chefs; Valerie and Jessica who created plant based deliciousness for us all, and shared their inspirational journeys. We enjoyed the most beautiful array of wholesome, real, soul foods, all presented so beautifully. It was nourishing and healing on all levels.

During our wonderful retreat we stayed in the amazing 3-bed ocean view villa with breathtaking ocean views overlooking the pool. Each evening I’d watch the sunset from the comfort of my villa, enjoy a long luxurious bath, sip on delicious tea by the fire, and melt into a deep sleep in the most peaceful bed. Smiths Beach Resort really is the perfect place for retreat and relaxation.

After the retreat my family and I stayed on for a few more days to explore some local spots. We hiked the Cape to Cape trail once again, though this time we had an entirely new experience. We encountered a colourful array of wildflowers, a very friendly echidna and a bobtail lizard. The trail hugs the coastline and all paths lead to turquoise water. We always stop at our favourite lagoon, the Aquarium, for a snorkel and to enjoy the views. All you need are good walking shoes, lots of water, some nutrient dense snacks, wetsuit, towel, warm clothes, snorkel gear and first aid is always important whenever you travel remote. And don’t forget your camera because there are so many spots to take photos along the walk and when you arrive at the beach.

Another amazing spot we enjoyed was Castle Rock in Dunsborough, a 20 minute drive from Smiths Beach Resort. The weather was in our favour this day. Calm seas, crystal clear water, and sunshine made for the perfect combination for some stand up paddle boarding. While I paddled and looked for whales, my family enjoyed climbing all the giant boulders. They are all really into bouldering, something they do multiple times per week at home, so this was such a happy spot for us all. And while I didn’t see any whales, the views, the warmth, and the family connection were all filling me with so much gratitude for this day.

In between sunsets, hikes, supping and climbing, were all the quieter moments; moments of connection like preparing food together as a family, playing cards by the fireplace, sharing jokes, and braiding each others hair. It was so wonderful to enjoy this slow time together in the luxurious ambience of Smiths Beach Resort.

I’m filled with the deepest gratitude as always to the wonderful Smiths Beach Resort for hosting us. It’s always a phenomenal experience staying with you and we love you! Thank you to the amazing Amy from Bare and Wilde for organising and holding space for such a smooth, healing, empowering and relaxing retreat. My heart is overflowing with love. Sending a huge wave of love vibes out to you all :)

With love and gratitude,

Helen xx

Ningaloo

August 5, 2020

PhotographyBobby Bense

EditingHelen Janneson Bense

Where to stay – we found this perfect Airbnb called Surfside Getaway. It was a good halfway stop from Perth to Coral Bay to break up the long drive. A comfortable and immaculately clean stay on the beach with incredible sunset views. We’ll be checking out Ningaloo Bay Villas on our next trip.

LocationNingaloo Reef | Kalbarri | Hutt Lagoon – Western Australia

Please supportProtect Ningaloo

Outfit details – Spell Portobello Road Dress | Swim (similar)

Firstly today as I share this post, my heart is heavy for my fellow Victorians. For my family. For my friends. For the community. They have already been through so much with the bushfires and this second wave of Covid is just heartbreaking. I’m with you guys every day sending love. I know this will pass and how strong you all are.

It’s difficult to share the beauty and freedom we have here in WA, while all of this is happening here in our country, and around the world. Life does feel somewhat normal for us in our WA bubble, yet we know this could change in an instant. We’re not taking anything for granted and making the most of our freedom to explore nature and connect with one another. I’ve come to realise that Covid won’t be over for anyone until it’s over for everyone. We’re all in this together. And right now we need to stay well together and support one another.

I also think we all need a little hope right now, to see that it will get better and we will all get back to exploring the beauty of this world once again. Or simply being able to hug our loved ones again or get back to work to make a living and support our families. It is times like these I’ve never been more aware of my privilege in life. I know many are struggling to keep their business afloat, find enough food, a warm bed, or a safe space. If you are in a position to help, please find ways to share the love and help support others that are suffering right now. If you’re not doing ok, please reach out for help.

It was about a month ago now we decided to escape the cold and head north on a 13 hour road trip to our favourite snorkelling spot in Australia. It had been zero Covid cases for awhile here and the intrastate borders had just opened up. It was the first real venture out from our local bubble. We stayed walking distance to the ocean in Coral bay, where you can snorkel right from the beach. Ningaloo is a world heritage listed site and has the largest fringing reef in the world and an abundance of sea life; tropical fish, dolphins, turtles, rays, sharks, whales, dugongs, and the majestic whale sharks. We spent our days salty and sun drenched from sunrise to sunset in the water, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and snorkelling. We brought along our own sup and kayak even though you can hire them by the hour from the beach. It allowed us to paddle anywhere anytime, and sunrise is the best time to go out.

To make this trip easier for me as a mum, I meticulously meal planned 10 days worth of incredible plant based cuisine. We brought a huge ice fridge with frozen meals and fresh produce. We ate likes kings and queens and it worked out so well I’ll definitely do that again. The kids were so happy playing in the ocean with us every day. It helps they are 14 and 11 and like doing the same things as us. We stayed at the Ningaloo Reef Resort and I’m not sure I would recommend this spot for everyone. Though it is perfectly located so close to the beach/reef, it is in dire need of refurbishment and our experience was very noisy. If you’re a light sleeper and need a lot of privacy it might not be the best option. Even our children couldn’t sleep well due to noisy neighbours. We’ve already booked Ningaloo again for next year and we’re going to try the Ningaloo bayside villas this time. Will keep you posted on how they are.

We learnt a lot about this beautiful place while we were there; how the Traditional Owners‘ cultural knowledge is crucial to maintaining the land. The Traditional Owners are the Yinigudura, the West Thalanyji People, who have lived sustainably on this land for over 30000 years. Evidence dating back 32000 years show their sophistication and specialised use of the resources of this coast. The Yinigudura name Ningaloo means ‘deep water’ or ‘promontory.’ When we holiday on this beautiful land we must respect, preserve and protect the natural environment and honour the history and culture of this sacred place.

Ningaloo is an untouched paradise that supports a lot of small businesses and sustainable tourism and we want to keep it that way. Protect Ningaloo work hard to stay on top of gas and oil companies and the government who have been trying to industrialise this area. This poses a huge risk to the entire Ningaloo area, the coral reefs, the marine life and to small businesses that rely on tourism and have already struggled due to Covid. Drilling anywhere around the reef would mean deafening underwater sounds to the marine life. The risk of an oil spill or rig blowout would damage this delicate ecosystem. Recently there has been has been yet another threat – Subsea 7 an international company wanting to build gas pipelines through the Exmouth Gulf, in a sanctuary area for dugongs, and where humpback whales nurse their calves. This is a vital area for nurseries and foraging grounds and why the World Heritage committee recommended Exmouth Gulf be included in the Ningaloo World Heritage area. There is a strong ecological link between the Ningaloo reef and the Gulf. To show your support and learn more please head HERE. A simple email to the WA government using the template form will take only a few minutes but will go a long way to help. Thank you as always for your support, caring for our environment, and protecting pristine places like this so we can enjoy them for future generations to come.

During our road trip we also stopped at a couple of places that I would definitely include on your adventure; Hutt Lagoon and Kalbarri. There are so many more spots too so check out my previous post ‘A Land Before Time‘ for a more in depth road trip journey of the Coral Coast. Hutt Lagoon is the pink lake you’ve probably seen all over instagram. The colours are always slightly different shades of pink each time we visit. The pink colour of the lake is caused by the presence of a beta carotene rich algae called Dunaliella salina. Close by to this beautiful pink lake is the town of Kalbarri. It is my favourite road trip stop because I always see whales here in July when we visit. The best viewing spot is the Natural Bridge. We watched 2 humpback calves splashing about for around 20 minutes so close to the cliffs. It was absolutely majestic! The entire coast is mesmerising with its red cliffs and turquoise water. Blue Holes is a great snorkelling spot and Murchison river gorge is ideal for hiking, kayaking and exploration. Nature’s window is a beautiful walk with incredible views.

After spending 10 days connecting with nature I realised the more time I spend in nature, the harder it is to return to city life. There is such a basic human need to get back to our natural state. Every cell in my body yearns for it. The healing gifts we receive when we spend time outdoors are immeasurable. The parts of me that need healing receive all the nourishment they need. In a time when our feelings of safety are more challenged than ever, when restrictions are in place to both protect us, yet also prevent us from experiencing nature, it is so crucial for self care and awareness. When you can and it’s safe to do so (masked up, social distancing depending on your location restrictions), take whatever small moments in nature you can get. Breathe it all in, know you are safe, and our world will heal. We will heal together when we care for one another and work together with compassion for all.

With love and gratitude, Helen x

Copyright images and text Helen Janneson Bense 2020

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