Me And

The Sea

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By Meg Niblett

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Wanderlust

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~Wanderlust – I have always had a desire to travel and explore the world~

          From a young age I watched my dad (who is a D.O.P Natural History documentary/film maker) venture off to all of these incredible, remote places to see things only a handful of people will see in their lives. Nature at its purest. Living amongst the earth’s wildest elements. I would love to listen to his stories when he would arrive home, about the penguins he talked to, and sharks he swam with, the mountains he climbed, the oceans he crossed. But most of all the culture he experienced and the extraordinary people he met.  From sharing meals with the Mongolians, to sharing moments with animals in the amazon… His stories and adventures inspired me more and more over the years, to create some tales of my own, as I got older.

So here I am, currently sat writing this in the middle of the Australian outback QLD. Ready to share my adventures with you...

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Where It All Began

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         My love for the ocean wasn’t always there growing up. Yes, I enjoyed playing in the waves and the water - because that is what everyone else did growing up in my community. But truth be told, I was terrified. I was scared of the unknown, the depths, the power, the unpredictable motions of the water and wind.

Throughout my development from a child to a young adult, my Mum has always encouraged me to try. She has been a major part of my growth as a person, with words so wise and full of knowledge - I couldn’t of asked for a better person to guide me through my life. She has taught me not to be afraid to try new things- because when you give in to the fear of the unknown, you start to discover things you never thought you would.

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My first time ever sailing I was about 10. I remember my heart pounding out of my chest, as well as my palms getting all sweaty. I felt sick because I was about to do something completely new. But I also remember my mum telling me - “Meg you are going to be ok, you’ll love it… just go with it” . So taking her encouragement in full force, I jumped into a little sailing boat with two other instructors at my local sailing club ( in the South West of England) and hung on to the hiking straps in the middle of the boat for dear life.

I watched my mum slowly get smaller on the side of the slipway as I sailed away out into the open water.

From that moment, my life changed. I had never felt so free and alive. The wind through my hair, the slight hum of the hull gliding through the water, and feeling the power of the wind propel the boat forward in pretty much any direction I wished to go.  Not by surprise, that one day on the water, turned into many more.

 

By the age of 14-15 I was sailing in rain or shine, wind, or no wind, I was on the water. I went from optimists to toppers, to lasers and then to a little double hander boat called a RS feva - which I raced nationally with my best friend Charlie.

~I loved sailing to the point where it’s all I wanted to do~

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Alongside sailing, I started surfing around the same age. Surfing has always been a very big part of my life and my childhood. Memories from catching my first green wave, to my first bottom turn, my first cutback, and not forgetting my first scary hold down.  Being hyped up by local surfers to paddle past the breaking waves, filling me with the confidence I needed to push myself out of my comfort zone. 

As I grew stronger I went on to compete in local competitions down In Cornwall, to competing in Europe. I went to France for a Volcom European final - then off on a trip to Mundaka in Spain for a Ripcurl European final, which I completely and utterly sucked at! But I didn’t care about winning or losing anymore, because I was happy exploring all these cool places and meeting all these new people.

My love for competition in surfing slowly faded and my passion for the ocean itself grew and I started to enjoy surfing for what it is. A way to connect with the sea and other ocean lovers.

When I returned back to the UK, even though I was only 16 at the time… I was already wanting to leave and fly away to explore again.

I skipped school for a couple of weeks to go on a surf trip to morocco, which was an eye opener for me as I got to experience new culture. I learnt to be respectful of other peoples ways of life. Their religions and beliefs.  Enjoying the point breaks and absorbing local surf knowledge. I went with a group of care free and adventures people, who kept my motivation to surf all day everyday alive. We would surf until our arms would go like jelly, not being able to push our sunburnt and salty bodies up onto our boards anymore.

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Although the surf was the best surf I had ever seen, what really grasp my attention was the Moroccan markets. The crazy labyrinth of hidden treasures. You could tell everything that was on show was made with love - from ceramics to leather shoes and bags. I remember buying a delicate, silver ring from a disheveled old man slumped on the floor, in the corner of the market.  I paid 10 dirhams for it (which is about 80p), regretting now, that I didn’t give him more as it is one of my most precious possessions, which I have NEVER taken off to this day.

 

Bouncing between surfing and exploring, that trip was my first proper taste of travel and culture. From exploring different places, surfing off the Sahara desserts, sharing waves with friends, and growing more confident in the ocean.

 

Returning home after that trip I paddled out at my local break feeling more confident than I had ever felt.  A part of me had grown and my knowledge about the world was slowly expanding… I knew I had a lot more to see.

 

Beside surfing and sailing I was also lucky enough to enjoy other water related activities throughout my childhood - like wake boarding, swimming, and later on in the years discovering kitesurfing, windsurfing, and free diving. All of which have taught me many different skills and further respect for the wind and the ocean.

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Leaving The Nest

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As soon as I turned 18, I packed my bags quicker than you can say goodbye, and I booked my plane ticket to Greece. The mixture of excitement and nerves built inside me as I yet again, waved my mum goodbye and watched her disappear into the crowds as I walked through the departure gates. However all I could think about, walking through the airport on my own, was the ability of painting my on adventures, like my parents painted theirs, without looking back but only forward - feeling like the whole world was in the palm of my hands.

 

In the Mediterranean I taught windsurfing and sailing for the summer season. Where I found people of my own kind… lovers of the sea. My first season taught me many things, about being patient, hardworking and being adaptable and quick witted to any situation that arises.

I remember running my first beginner sailing lesson. Pushing myself to have faith in my own abilities as I wasn’t just in charge of my own clumsy self anymore, but several other people… all putting their trust in me.  Being a young, blonde, 18-year-old girl, it was sometimes challenging teaching people who have lived twice my lifetime. You can imagine it was hard for me to gain the respect I needed in order to be safe and run a good session. But these kinds of challenges didn’t ever bring me down or make me underestimate myself - instead they made me want to prove a point and be the best instructor on the beach.

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There has always been a part of me that loves a challenge and to see how capable I really am.  When you believe in yourself it is amazing the things you can achieve.

 

Beside the whole teaching side of things, when I wasn’t teaching, I was always on or in the water. My work had finally become my playground. I was determined to improve my windsurfing, so I would go out for hours on my days off. I remember the smiles and the tears that came with it - if anyone has ever learnt to windsurf you would agree with me that it is probably one of the most frustrating things EVER to learn. But once you get both of your feet in the foot straps for the first time, clamping the boom with your hands and sinking down into your harness lines. It is worth all the pain and the effort.

 

There is something about the power of the wind in your sail which is almost frightening yet at the same time comforting. Getting faster and faster, praying you are not going to make a mistake and catapult around the front of your board, to then crash so hard into the water it’s almost like hitting solid ground. But it’s that possibility of hurting yourself and that element of danger that makes it so fun. 

 

I would usually go for wake board in order to start the day feeling fresh and energised -  I would climb out of bed in the dark,  as the sun just started to appear over the mountains, leaving a warm beam of light laying over the surface of the water. Waving to the ski boats coming over from the marina, I would grab a wakeboard from the wooden shack on the beach and wade through the water ready to climb aboard.  You could still see your breath in the air as the world was just waking up.

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As the water was still fairly cold at dawn, lowering myself beneath the surface - always made me gasp for air. However just accepting the state of the ocean and controlling my mind to relax my body when all I wanted to do was jump out into a hot bath - was a good way to get used to being ok with discomfort. Which may not of seemed that much of a big deal at the time… but a major life lesson, subconsciously carried into future events in my life. 

As much fun as my workplace was, I would strive to go on adventures on my days off. I once loaded up a small 16ft catamaran with a waterproof bag full of snacks and water (maybe a couple of beers), a speaker and my snorkel and fins tired down to the tramp of the boat. There was a little secret beach around the headland about a 20-minute sail away - depending on the wind direction

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It was full of all kinds of natural treasures. Beaten and weather warn chunks of driftwood- each telling a story depending on the size and smoothness of them. Volcanic rock which had fallen into the ocean to create a home for many fish and sea life. Not to forget about the tiny little shells scattered and hidden in the sand. I loved this beach not only because of its beauty, but because it was cut off from everything and everyone else. A space to breathe, to see, to listen. To enjoy nature for what it is. 

I ended up spending 3 years in Greece during the summer seasons. It became a second home for me. I felt safe surrounded by the things I enjoyed doing. The local Greeks didn’t have much, compared to how I had grown up. They live a simple life with few material things, but their generosity and calm demeanors out shine the poverty of the country and give it a different kind or richness.

 

I became friends with the guys at the local dive school. I gave them a hand to drive their boats to and from snorkel exertions, in exchange for free diving lessons.  Their kindness and passion for the ocean, made me intrigued - wanting to find out more about it.

I’ve always thought it was important to keep the ocean clean and pure - as we are entering a world down there which is not our own.  You would never walk into someone’s home and throw rubbish on their floors - so why should we do that as a guest in mother natures home?

I used to spend a lot of time hauling things out of the water into a crate on the side on the rocks. Diving down to collect any plastic or unwanted things I could find. Water bottles, old fishing wire and nets, peoples sunglasses, hairbands, parts of boats… anything you can think of I pretty much found.  It’s so important to me to keep the ocean as clean as possible when I can, almost as a thank you to it for letting me use its elements and energy. To heal me, give me strength, courage and supply me with eternal happiness whenever I am near it. No matter what ocean I am in, whether it be the Atlantic or the Pacific… it always feels like home.
 

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Taking To The Road

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A life on the move had always appealed to me. Going wherever, whenever. That feeling of being free had always lingered by my side, so instead of ignoring it, I decided to go with it.

When I was in Greece, I met someone who shared the same passions as me. And without any hesitation we decided to take on a new adventure together and buy a Van. Spending the winter back in the UK, making it our home on wheels - pouring a little bit more love into it each day. We spent hours insulating it, fitting a bed and cupboards, speakers, lights, replacing doors - even working on it when it was snowing outside. All of our money, sweat and tears went into our new project and vision.

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Finally, the van was ready to go, so we loaded it up with all of our belongings and toys - bikes, kitesurfing and windsurfing kit, skateboards, not forgetting my beloved twin fin surfboard. We stop in Plymouth to say goodbye to some friends, then made our way onto the ferry to cross over to France. And our 3000mile journey began.

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After arriving in France a handful of hours later, we headed for our first destination… Lacanau. A very pretty surf town on the west coast of France. We parked up in the forest there, which was only a 200metre walk from the beach. We lived a simple life surfing every day, cycling through the trees into the town to find food when we got hungry. Playing guitar and making music as the sun would disappear into the water. And making light conversation with fellow travelers.

However, our fun luck soon became not so fun. We got hit by a few days of constant rain, which proved our door seals were not so good at ‘sealing’ shut. So, with rain pouring into the van, our battery decided to give up on us and die in the middle of a local supermarket carpark.  A kind couple offered to help jump start our van, but the power of their little hire car wasn’t strong enough. After a few head scratches, and an hour later, we managed to swap the car battery for the leisure battery and BOOM the van started!

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After a damp few days in the rain we realised it was time for us to move on further down the west coast, before anything else bad happened. So to heighten the spirits, we listened to some light hearted music and headed for Hossegor.

 

I had been to Hossegor before, for that surf competition I did a few years back. With this is mind, I was excited to return and take a trip down memory lane. As we pulled into the beach carpark, I looked out of my window to see some old friends from my hometown, sitting in their van about an arm’s length away from me. I was delighted to see some friendly faces, eager to see what they have been up to, as it had been a long time since I had seen them. I have always found it crazy how big, yet how small the world actually is.  After hanging out with them for a little while. A cycle into the towns centre was very much needed to stretch the legs. So, we waved goodbye and went off to explore.

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From the trendy coffee shops to the local patisseries, Hossegor hadn’t lost its touch of magic. We soon got settled and ended up camping in the same car park we arrived in for 2 weeks. Enjoying the lazy Bach days and the surf. Eating pan au chocolat for breakfast, and baguettes for lunch - we were in no rush to leave.

However, the whole point of this trip was to eventually get back to Greece for the summer, so our time in France was soon forced to an end by a ferry waiting for us in Italy. We packed up our things, said goodbye to our friends, and headed for the border.

 

After some long hours driving, we made it to the ferry port a day early, just to have a look around. We ended up driving around for over an hour trying to find a safe place to sleep for the night. Only to stumble across a hidden beach which was tucked away in the middle of a big valley. We found it by accident, as we were looking for a campsite to stay for the night before boarding the ferry the next day.

 

Captivated by the beach and its similarities to Vasaliki in Greece, we felt right at home. We had a couple of beers on the beach, and watched another day come to an end.

The next day a windsurf at the beach, before boarding the ferry, was a must as we were about to be stuck on a the commercialised boat for 2 days. We also bought the cheapest tickets possible to save as much money as we could so, we had to sleep on the benches of the communal areas- which was always entertaining. Going on a hunt around the boat to find the best spot to crash. Seeing who got seasick, and who drank their way through the night.

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Hours passed slowly, but we finally arrived in Greece. Driving off the ferry, a big smile beamed across my face as I was finally in a country that made me feel at home.

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We drove the whole width of Greece - west to east- to catch our 3rd and final ferry of our trip to a little island Called Lesvos.

 

For an island full of scorpions, spiders, and rock. It is one of my favourite places in the world. The culture and history there are unlike anywhere else I had been. I worked on a beach shared by nudists, where the local Greeks would build huts out of bamboo and leaves on the sand, only to live in them for the summer. Being free, basking in the sun all day, swimming in the ocean - surrounding themselves with nature at its best.

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The tiny village nearby held a lesbian festival annually, and throughout the year it was a place where people could come from all over the world to be themselves and not feel judged. Restaurants were built up on stilts, hanging over the water’s edge - not forgetting the beautiful humans who owned them.

~It is always the people with so little, who have so much to give~

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On a more realistic note, Lesvos is also covered in refugees who have fled from turkey. Thousands of people are still there to this day fighting for their lives, and the refugee camp there is barely habitable. So, although the island has its amazing sights, it also quickly reminds you the harsh realities of the world. Which is why it holds a big place in my heart. It taught me as a human race we must look after and care for each other.  We are all human and we deserve to be treated equally.

Into The Mountains

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In between my adventures in Greece, I spent some time up in the mountains. I lived and worked in the French Alps, for 6 months, in a cool ski resort Called, Tignes.

 

I had parted ways with my van life and set out to enjoy my own company and chase my own dreams. During my time in Tignes I met so many wonderful and active people. We all shared the same interests of being up the mountain all day to then having one to many beers in the evenings. 

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~Working hard and playing hard, as some may say~

There is no better feeling than getting up for first lifts, whilst those who had a big night still slept. Watching the sun rise over the peaks of the mountains, as the chair takes you higher into the snow.  When you clip in for the first run, the piste still perfectly groomed, and no one to disrupt your line down to the bottom. Just gliding at your own pace, feeling the cold, icy wind on your face. The sound of the fresh crust of snow underneath you board, because the sun hasn’t been up long enough to soften it yet. The sense of being alive and free is like no other. Putting full trust in your abilities and letting gravity do its job.

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Beside riding solo, it was always great fun riding with friends. They pushed me to be a better boarder. Throughout my time in the mountains I got more confident and the friends I made showed me the world of ‘off piste'. A whole different experience to boarding on piste. My first time painting my own tracks into a powder field was breathtaking. For me this was a game changer, as it brought me closer to surfing - which I had been missing. Carving turns through the soft snow felt like I was floating. A feeling that will stay with me forever.

When I wasn’t working, we would go and find new places to play. I loved how I was surrounded by so much knowledge and experience from these people. I got to learn things I would have never been able to learn on my own. We traversed over ridges, dodges rocks and danced through trees. We spent every minute we could playing in mother natures back yard. At the same time respecting the dangers and insanely powerful forces that come with it. Some days she didn’t want to play- sending high winds funneling through the valleys, and slabs of snow falling from her faces. But then sending blue skies and perfect snow another day.  It just goes to show we can’t control what the elements want to do, but we can expect it and be patient. Because the bad times never last forever.

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Flying Across The Pond

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I had travelled a fair bit of Europe by now, so I thought it was time for me to spread my wings a little further and venture off to Australia.       

 

For me, Australia was one place which always sat in the back of my mind. I constantly had the urge to go, as I heard great things about the place from good friends. Around the same time, I had also taken a huge interest in yachts, and sailing bigger boats. I was addiment I could combine the two so off I went.

After desperately awaiting my visa to get granted and working my socks off back in the UK to save enough money to afford what I wanted to do - I finally was ready to go.  I jumped on a plane, and after two long, tedious flights, I landed in the heart of Sydney. I remember flying over the city, seeing the famous Opera house and the Harbour bridge, I couldn’t wait to jump out of my seat and get off the plane. From that moment on I knew I had made the right decision.

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For me travelling has always been an exciting journey of finding new places and new people. I have a terrible time settling in one place, and I am always ready to plan where to go off and explore next. However, Australia was different - I didn’t have the urge to plan my next destination because I knew I wanted to be here for a while.

Landing in a new place alone can be daunting - I was lucky enough to have a good friend in the area who came and rescued me from the airport, when I was stood there looking like a lost puppy.

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I moved into an apartment, near the Northern beaches, with my gorgeous girl friends who had already been in AUS for a while. I eventually unpacked my things, grabbed myself a job down at a watersports centre, teaching sailing and windsurfing again. I bought myself a surfboard from a local guy, and day by day I grew more confident in my new surroundings.

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I spent the summer surfing, sailing, exploring, walking, running, diving, partying. Meeting more people - good and bad. I had a huge sense of belonging and a cloud of happiness hovered over me. I found myself surrounded by this incredible group of women, who shared the same love for the ocean as me. I was blown away by their strength, kindness, generosity, and huge hearts. It took me until now to find a group of girls who understood me, and I could call my Aussie sisters.

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~I didn’t want to leave, and I didn’t have to~

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Onto The Boats

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The main reason for me to move to Sydney in the first place was to sail yachts. Once I had got the partying out of my system, I spent three intense months getting my skippers license. I spent days and days studying, learning, and sailing.

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~I loved every minute of it~

Night sailing - probably one of my favourite things to do. Sitting up on deck, wrapped up in wet weather gear, with a star covered sky and a full moon lighting up the ocean around you. The bioluminescent plankton playing of the hull as you glide through the water. As the world sleeps, you have all the space to yourself to let your thoughts run wild. No light pollution to disrupt your vision, No noise apart from the wind in the sails and the boat in the water. Sometimes to keep everyone entertained through the night we’d listen to music. But I always enjoyed the silence of society sleeping, letting the earth break free and make music for itself.

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Another one of my favourite things about being out on the water was the zero cell phone service. Being completely cut off from everyone and everything, you start to appreciate the present. What’s going on around YOU, not anyone else. You set yourself free from the drama, conflicts, negativity - that comes with living in this generation. You finally loose the need to compare yourself to everything. It no longer matters if you’ve worn the same outfit 3 days in a row, you can just feel free to be you.

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Seasick or not, my love for sailing in the open ocean has kept growing bigger and bigger. I felt like a little kid again, getting in that sailing boat for the first time, and a whole new world unravelling right in front of me. I can’t wait to sail further, explore more and create new memories through more adventures.

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Queensland

The summer season had come to an end, and before I knew it I had bought a little, beaten up old van, off a friend. I headed up north to Queensland, into the outback to explore more of the country and complete my Farm work - to be able to stay another year in Australia. 

Going from sea to dust, it was a big change for me… but change is a good thing. And although it is scary, it should be welcomed with open arms. I’ve seen some amazing sights, and hiked through national parks, alongside meeting some incredible hard working, and non-materialistic people.

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I’ve had a lot of time to slow down, figure out and work on who I want to be as a person.  It’s forced me to be more present in my life and nature. I’ve had time to read books, lay in my van listening to the birds and wind through the trees. And have a greater perspective on the world.  But most of all it’s shown me what really matters in life… family, friendship, and love. Being grateful for the people who care about you, who hold your hand from a distance and guide you through the dark times.

Although I have been parted from the sea for a few months, this whole experience has given my soul a chance to grow. Being in such an open, non-polluted space, has forced me to connect with so many parts of my mind, I was too busy to acknowledge before.

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That’s the amazing thing about travelling and venturing off to new places. You always discover new wonders of the earth. You become more grateful for the simple things. And the more you do it the easier it is to embrace and except your situation and surroundings.

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So here’s to the birds, the fish, the trees, the waves, the mountains, the oceans, the people, and the freedom of being able to travel with an open heart and mind. I can’t wait to make more memories as this is only the beginning.

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Published By ~ Hugo Taylor