Angie sat down with World Nomads podcast to discuss life as a digital nomad, making films for social impact, and virtual reality.
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The Pushkar Camel Fair had been on my 'to-do' list since I was the editor at Yahoo!7 Travel, when we'd create galleries and blogs about the world's craziest festivals. I'm not sure what attracted me the most at the time. Was it the cinematic elements of dressed up camels in the Rajasthani desert? Or was it the stories of gypsies gathering to trade their animals and enjoy the accompanying festivities? Probably both.
In the six years gone since those gallery-building days, I have turned vegan, and have a completely new outlook on dressing up animals for entertainment. Regardless, as fate would have it I found myself on a bus to Pushkar at the tail-end of the 'Mela', Remy and the kids, and my camera, in tow.
Held each November at the time of the Kartik Purnima full moon, Pushkar Camel Fair is quite the spectacle, attracting thousands of camels and their owners from all over the Indian desert region of Rajasthan, and visited by almost half a million people in just two weeks. Photographers and travel writers have long-documented this cinematic event, but I was intrigued to visit first-hand to witness both the carnival atmosphere and the camel vibes.
The fair is, admittedly, impressive. Seductive even. We arrive at dusk, and the light is a photographer's dream. As I rush around in the sand taking shots of the camels and their owners, I'm drawn to the community atmosphere oozing from the makeshift campsites of the traders. We are joined by a local Rajasthani musician whom we met in the market, who doubles as our guide and informant. He walks us through the hundreds of camels and humans and I'm in awe at the magnitude of this event.
On one side of the fairgrounds are food and trinket stalls; camel decorations hang from shop tents like tinsel from a Christmas tree. Flamboyantly decorated camels stand attached to ruby red wagons, aka camel taxis, waiting for the tourists (mostly domestic) to hop in for a ride around the desert. Camels have a unique personality that I can't quite grasp; solemn, perhaps, proud, perhaps, but I'm quite sure I didn't spot a happy camel among the throngs. I see one camel tied at the knees, screeching as its owners try to force it to the ground. Another is being dressed decorations through the nose, similarly resisting with all its vocal might. One more walks heavily through the sand transporting a 'healthy' family of Indians in the red taxi cab, the camel master whipping the animal's rear to keep her inline. The kids are perplexed; such a wonder to be surrounded by these mystical animals, but why do they look so sad? Empathy builds.
What we know about camels
"The earliest known camel, called Protylopus, lived in North America 40 to 50 million years ago (during the Eocene). It was about the size of a rabbit and lived in the open woodlands of what is now South Dakota. By 35 million years ago, the Poebrotherium was the size of a goat and had many more traits similar to camels and llamas. The hoofed Stenomylus, which walked on the tips of its toes, also existed around this time, and the long-necked Aepycamelus evolved in the Miocene.
The direct ancestor of all modern camels, Procamelus, existed in the upper Miocene and lower Pliocene. Around 3–5 million years ago, the North American Camelidae spread to South America as part of the Great American Interchange via the newly formed Isthmus of Panama, where they gave rise to guanacos and related animals, and to Asia via the Bering land bridge.
The last camel native to North America was Camelops hesternus, which vanished along with horses, short-faced bears, mammoths and mastodons, ground sloths, sabertooth cats, and many other megafauna, coinciding with the migration of humans from Asia.
Like the horse, before their extinction in their native land, camels spread across the Bering land bridge, moving the opposite direction from the Asian immigration to America, to survive in the Old World and eventually be domesticated and spread globally by humans. Most camels surviving today are domesticated. Along with many other megafauna in North America, the original wild camels were wiped out during the spread of Native Americans from Asia into North America, 12,000 to 10,000 years ago. Although feral populations exist in Australia, India and Kazakhstan, the only wild camels left are the wild Bactrian camels of the Gobi Desert." - Source: Wikipedia.
When should we transform tradition?
Years ago I joined my good friend and professional surfer Dave Rastovich to the south of Japan, filming for The Cove, a film that exposes the horrific annual dolphin drives and slaughters in Taiji, Wakayama. The night before our intended peaceful paddle-out ceremony to pay tribute to the dolphins who had lost their lives over the years in this eerie yet stunning bay, my ex-husband, Dave, Hannah Fraser and I found ourselves on a night-mission trip from Osaka to Taiji to meet with local fishermen and surfers to discuss the issue and potential solutions.
It has been clear to the dolphin hunters for many years now that the West does not support its capturing of dolphins for aquarium trade and the subsequent slaughter for meat that has now been well documented globally by the likes of Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd. And whilst Dave presented many alternatives for economic empowerment, including dolphin and whale watching, which would generate much more revenue for the fisherman and require far less physical output, the local consensus was made very clear: killing dolphins was their tradition and they weren't planning on stopping.
The irony of the Taiji saga is this: Japanese people don't eat dolphin. At least, not knowingly. Some eat whale as a delicacy, but those who consume dolphin are mostly unknown to the fact, with the meat sold under the term 'Whale Bacon', or being used for dog food and fertilizers. When The Cove was shown to Japanese citizens, many were shocked that the huntings were happening in Taiji at all and couldn't stomach the footage.
But despite the global attention that the film generated, the killings still continue, even under the watchful eye of the world. Tradition, for now, prevails.
So what fate lies in store for the camels of Rajasthan, with almost half a million festival-goers treading through the sands each year to get up close and personal with these intriguing creatures and their pom-pom adornments? Let's hope more love is offered their way and as with the slow demise of elephant riding in Thailand humans raise their awareness to appreciate these creatures without exploiting them .
What do you think? Should we transform tradition in respect for the animals? Have your say in the comments below.
Jaipur was our first destination of the 'Crossing Asia' adventure (with no planes, no plastics, and two kids!), and just a few days felt like a few weeks.
Arriving at midnight on Scoot Airlines from the Gold Coast via our layover in Singapore, I was not at all surprised to find our hotel transport was not there to greet us with a shady handmade sign bearing 'Angie Davis and Remy Richard' in smudgy black texta. Shame. Nevertheless, being my second trip to India, I had presumed this would be the case, and thus did not panic at all. Rather, it felt like the adventures were all beginning with the necessary 'happenings' (or 'not' happenings) that make India, well, that place you love and hate at every moment all at the same time.
Funnily enough the fixed-price registered taxi that we succumbed to directly out front of the airport exit doors offered us a cheaper price than the hotel had promised. Winning. We met our bobble-headed driver and were soon whisked away into Jaipur's rather fresh, orange-lit night air.
Ahh, India. It felt good to be back.
Compared to my first arrival in India eight years prior, when I was pregnant with Ryder (now sitting by my side with boggle eyes taking in this strange yet seductive place ), I had landed in Delhi, and started my trip scared shitless. This time around I felt seasoned. I knew how to do India. Come on, bring it.
Our hotel, unlike that last time in Delhi, was better than I had gauged from the booking.com photos when I had booked a few weeks earlier (I like to book a hotel for the first couple of days when arriving into a new city at night, period). It offered clean rooms, check, a rooftop restaurant, check, and toilet paper. Bonus! We liked to so much we extended our stay an extra night, staying three in total, and took to settling in to our new home, taking off for long days exploring the city.
Jaipur, in comparison to those years prior in Delhi, was, how can I put this, easy! Ok yes we were getting ripped off every time we breathed in a Tuk Tuk, and yes the streets were ear-piercingly noisy, dirty, and we counted more animals than we probably should have in the confinements of a major Indian city, but it was all so exhilarating and our movements all seemed to flow quite nicely. Heck, our Tuk Tuk driver (who we totally overpaid) even took us to a local textile factory where we saw men, yes men, stamping hand made fabrics with local dyes made from vegetables. For us vegans this was the jackpot!
Now if you've been following our journey on social media, you will 1. notice that this blog post is weeks behind the actual events (apologies, the WiFi access and time to sit and write has been, well, as thin as uncle Brenton's crew cut), and 2. that we are completing our trip using no plastic drink bottles. AKA, no PETs. Now this made for interesting hydration experiences in India. Think 40°C heat, warm tap water, and a UV filter that kills all the bad things, except, you guessed it, the taste.
Nevertheless I was proud of us for sticking to our plan from day one, hell if we had of caved on the first day I may as well have packed up and started flying all over the country (we are doing the trip with no planes, too), so I am happy we stuck to the plan.
You might also recall, if you're over the social airwaves, that I am attempting to daily VLOG, well as close to daily as possible, the entire journey. And lucky for you, the first two videos, shot in Jaipur, are edited and live on YouTube. Now if you'll forgive me I'd best be getting back to the five-week back log of edits so that I can keep slinging you some interesting content to view!
Follow the journey
Angie: @theaniccaway @angiedavisfilms
Joy, discomfort, fear and trust. Notes from the Himalayas.
Since arriving to India, beginning our four-month journey across Asia, I’ve felt fantastically in flow. Every day a wild adventure, full of action, education, inspiration and joy.
Two days ago we travelled 15hours with our driver Raj at night deep into the Himalayas, on potentially the most dangerous road on Earth. It was intense, but I felt no fear. Just frustration and pain, and a huge desire for comfort. Working through these intense emotions at 3am when every muscle of my body ached trying to hold my sick son in the back seat of a troopy whilst absolutely freezing my skinny little boobies off was challenging. Having both sons yell out ‘stop’ to the driver continuously along the way to vomit, was hard.
One of my great teachers, Guru Singh, says we can only grow from the space we have not previously occupied. He says: be comfortable in the uncomfortable. This is how we grow.
Tears filled my eyes at sunrise, as we passed the second-highest driveable pass in the world...I got my fucking period in a Himalayan Outdoor toilet with no paper, no water, and someone else’s giant shit looking at me from the squat bowl below. I thought I was done. But then I walked back to the makeshift tent where we’d stopped for chai and heat and saw my kids battling their altitude sickness with glassy eyes, and no whinging.
Those tough little ninjas made me pull my shit together. And a big cuddle from my love Remy - whenever one of us drops down, the other holds us up. We never crash at the same time. We’re good like that. The four of us. We’re a team. Each on our own individual journey, but each having the others’ backs. Our little internationally diverse family doing it our way.
Today, a simple thought caught some old rooted insecurities off guard, and instantly fear filled my mind, and subsequently my body. Fear about the future, questioning my self, my lover, money...what would come of all of this adventure?
Tears filled my eyes, and I felt ashamed. Ashamed that during the most intense, dangerous road trip of my life with my kids in tow I didn’t once feel fear, yet suddenly something so insignificant could set off a chain reaction of negative, self-sabotaging stories that could so quickly shift me out of my inner peace. I felt so ashamed I couldn’t communicate my feelings to Remy immediately, and watching his confusion was even more torturous. Communication is one of our greatest points together, and I was failing the team. More salt in the wound. Fear is a fucker like that.
He kissed my lips and sent me off to the shower, suggesting I finish off with ‘a coldie’; full power cold water for a minute or so. After the coldie I came back and clearly communicated my feelings. Instantly my fears were gone, as fast as they had arisen.
The answers to my questions were not answered. I don’t know what will come of all of this. I don’t know what will happen next, if money will come, if the kids can keep educating on the road, if I’ll write my book, if the other projects I want to work on will eventuate, if Remy and I will keep strengthening our love, if, if, if, if!
What I do know is that the ‘ifs’ will kill me.
Not trying, will trap me.
Not trusting, will break me.
Not loving, will destroy me.
In a couple days, we set off for Srinagar and Jammu, in Kashmir. The media says it’s unstable, the Australian government says do not travel there. The locals, of which we’ve met many here in Ladakh, say our route will be completely safe and the Kashmiris are welcoming travelers with open arms.
I don’t fear the journey.
It’s in the journey I feel most present.
It’s in the journey I overcome my self-sabotaging fears, and this is why I know deep down this path is the right one.
Trust in life, and life will flow through you abundantly.
That’s a simple little freedom.
Good night from the Himalayas xx
It all started with a plan to trek in Nepal to raise awareness for domestic violence survivors, and in a big way, experience the magic of the Himalayas with my kids as a voyage of healing for ourselves. But whilst in Nepal, it would be rude not to visit India, don't you think?
In the early days of dating my French boyfriend Remy, I had shared with him about the trek and he'd soon expressed interest in joining our adventures.
When tickets popped up for A$250 one way from the Gold Coast to Jaipur, it was set in stone. With four plane tickets booked, we would begin our journey in India, cross over into Nepal overland, and continue east across the largest continent on Earth, with no planes and no plastics, in an attempt to reduce our carbon footprint and just generally see more.
So here we are two days out from the beginning of our epic journey, #crossingasia from India to Japan, on a minimal budget, over a time frame of roughly four months and just a couple of rucksacks, a camera, a microphone, and a guitar. Oh, and two kids.
Until a week ago, we didn't even have backpacks, let alone good weatherproof gear - the kids and I had left all our snow wear in Japan awaiting the next season. And then there was the problem of clean drinking water and a pledge to not consume single-use plastics. How could we cross Asia - notorious for poor drinking water and choking with plastic waste - without consuming plastic PET bottles of water?
I reached out to Paddy Pallin and explained our cause, and the team loved the concept and offered a helping hand. So last weekend, Remy, the boys and I popped up to Brisbane, a mere three-hour drive from Byron Bay, to get fitted with new rucksacks for the trip, hydration packs for the kids, lifetime warranty socks to keep our sole transportation devices, our feet, warm and dry, and to pick up perhaps the coolest travel item I have ever owned, the SteriPen, a UV water filtration 'pen' that charges with a USB and over its lifetime saves the user from consuming 16,000 plastic bottles. Best yet, it has a lifetime warranty; if you reach the end of its 8,000 charge cycles, the company will replace your pen with a new one.
We Vlogged our journey up to Brisbane and a first-test of the SteriPen. Check it out below, and subscribe to my YouTube channel (and turn on notifications) to follow our journey as it unfolds in a couple of days.
Where do you go when all the beaches are blown out with putrid winds and the temperature hits 38 degrees Celsius? Inland. Last Sunday I dragged the tribe out of the cool comfort of our concrete floor rental studio for a three hour drive south in search of nature's best refresher, a waterfall.
The walk in was hot and full of flies but the falls and swimming hole were worth every minute. Now that the temperature is heating up dramatically, it's getting harder to find cold water to keep up our Wim Hof Method training, crucial for our goals to immerse in frozen lakes in bikinis and shorts in the Himalayas next month. Inland waterholes are always colder than the ocean or lakes near the sea, and these particular falls were incredibly refreshing and we all certainly felt recharged after a few hours playing in the pools.
Below is our VLOG from the day. If you want to see more of our journeys, go check out my YouTube channel and subscribe (with notifications on) to get the latest videos first.
It would mean the world to me if you would leave your feedback. What videos do you like best? What do you want to see more of? What topics other than travel would you like me to cover off in my Vlogs?
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I have been editing our 360 vlogs from the Far North Queensland trip like a madwoman. It has been an exciting learning curve to be physically filming and editing in 360, and I am loving this medium for storytelling and teleportation.
On our recent visit to the north of Australia, we encountered some over-friendly kangaroos, with Ryder even having one jump straight over his head!
Check it all out in 360 video - move the cursor around to view the full sphere of footage, or if you are on mobile you can move your device around to take it all in. Don't forget to switch on HD, we shot these videos in 4K.
I have something to confess.
It’s hardly a secret for those of you following my social media, but if you’ve been living off the gram, you might have missed this one.
Ok here goes…
After four months living in tents, I caved, and on Saturday we were offered to move into a two-bedroom studio, and I accepted.
First reason, the rent was $8 more for a house than for an unpowered patch of grass, and since we returned from our trip north (360 travel videos coming soon) the caravan park had moved us from our large, shady spot opposite Lake Ainsworth, to an exposed, smaller site where we were getting smashed by rain, hail, wind, sun, and other humans.
Second reason, the food and kitchen boxes had started to do my head in. Perhaps it was simply that following our three-week trip north, where we pitched our tents in 14 different locations, I was exhausted and wanted to come home to a ‘holiday’, where cooking for my family (which I love doing) didn’t mean trudging around a caravan park with a gas stove, gas bottle, two kitchen boxes, especially in the pouring rain or brutal winds. For some reason, it all seemed so much easier until a week ago.
Third reason, with seven weeks to go before our epic #asiacrossing where we will cross seven countries from India to Japan over three plus months, I need to buckle down into my laptop and smash some work, edit videos and start Vlogging (YouTube channel launching in September!), and start selling off our accumulated ‘stuff’ (again) before we hit the skies.
So yeah, the timing was impeccable. I hadn’t even considered moving until that morning, and followed through with a spontaneous message to a friend whose empty studio Remy (my boyfriend) had been painting. We moved in the same day.
In a matter of days, with my Ninja blender plugged in to power finally, I had made batches of organic almond milk, bliss balls, salsa, macadamia butter, and daily smoothies, nurturing my family from the luxury of a small kitchen and feeling like a mum-boss. Not to mention how much work I’ve been getting done.
But, there are things I miss profoundly about living in a tipi, like waking up to jump in the cold lake, hearing the birds, and sleeping on the ground. In fact, since moving to a bed, like a ‘real’ one off the ground with a thick mattress, inside a bedroom with four walls and a roof, I have had the worst sleeps this year. Interesting right! Not to mention we go to bed much later, which is good on one hand – I’m being more productive – but on the other hand I feel my body is being stimulated by artificial lighting and thus making it harder for me to fall asleep.
The kids love having a TV, but at the same time they’re being boisterous around the house, jumping off furniture and they even tried to create a slide out of a didgeridoo. The difference is clear: when we lived at the caravan park, the tents were simply bedrooms, for sleeping, and the outdoors, nature, was their home. They played outside from sun up until sun down, minus the time they spend at school, but in a house the temptation to be inside, watching TV, and ultimately getting ‘bored’ easily makes for chaos.
I am so grateful for the four months we lived in tents. What I learned about simplicity, sustainability, and also about myself, could not have been taught to be without actually living the experience. There is no doubt in my mind that one day I will buy some land, build myself a little cabin with a sleeping deck surrounded by glass walls, a bed on the floor, and space for me to pitch a tipi whenever I want to be closer to nature. I’m consciously walking outside to stand in the grass barefoot, something we were doing throughout the day when we were camping but when you are in a house you can’t ‘earth’ as easily what with concrete, tiles, carpet and floorboards.
But one of the most important lessons, a recurring theme throughout these recent years of transformation, is to not get too attached to a place, for your life can change in a breath. We are making the most of the comforts of a house before we hit the unknown road, where we will venture to the depths of the Himalayas, working closely with the Australian Himalayan Foundation and women’s refuges like Her Farm Nepal, across India, Nepal and Bhutan, before heading East crossing into China, Mongolia, Korea and finally Japan, my kids’ second land of origin.
What follows that adventure we are yet to be sure, but one thing we do know is that the more we live outside the box, the more we grow, and the more we grow, the more we live our most authentic selves.
Check out the first in our 360 Vlogs from the Far North Queensland trip! What do you think?
Subscribe to my YouTube channel and turn on notifications and stay up to date with our travels and the preparation for our big Asia trip. I'll be Vlogging regularly in traditional video and 360, so come and join us for the ride!