Creative Adventurers: Laura Ifill

a life at sea

Laura Ifill, a sailor and writer, is our latest creative adventurer

Build a home or seek an adventure?

We ate a fine stew that night, cleaning our bowls with the cook’s home made bread. There was even butter, a rare treat at sea. I remember us all huddled in groups on the cabin top and about the deck. Our smiles and laughter were over steaming bowls as the sun began its slow descent off the starboard beam. The weather had broken and three days of gale force winds and heavy seas were over. The rain had been relentless, and seas of 10-12ft were the biggest many of us had ever seen.  Looking over the rail as the ship began its slide down the face of a wave, it seemed an endless Continue reading

2013 In Review

hudson river new years eve

We closed 2012 last year on the solstice by releasing several dozen paper lanterns into the Hudson River. We had so much to commemorate at that year. So many things came to an end. That also means it set up 2013 to be a year of rebirth.

And rebirth it has been. 2013 has been a very full year, full of new experiences, sorrow and great learning.

At the end of January, I left my home of ten years, New York’s Hudson Valley, to move for my job to London. I felt a deep sorrow upon leaving. It wasn’t angsty or troubled; I did feel called to leave after all. It was more like the purest mirror image of all the love I had for the Hudson Valley.

London was full of familiar things from my childhood (like relatives and tube announcements) yet also plenty of surprises. There was more snow in the UK than in the states, but nowhere to ski. I had more fish pie and tea in my first week here than I’d had in my whole life.

In March and April, work sent me back to New York for a few weeks for a conference. It was strange and overwhelming to be back amongst the leafless boughs and calm, wide waters of the river. I cried when I saw the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson. We took some nice hikes that trip. It was hard going back, but somehow, even through the relief of being somewhere familiar and homey, the Hudson Valley didn’t feel like the right place to be anymore. When I returned to the UK, I caught myself saying, “I’m glad to be home,” and was surprised I thought of London as home already.

Upon return, I started getting really committed to living in London. I started taking advantage of the ease with which you can travel around Europe from London by taking myself off on my first real solo journey to Ireland. I spent the weekend on Achill Island. The dramatic landscape, misty, moss-covered rocks, and gregarious people totally won my heart. I’ll never forget my weekend as the honorary guest at a stag do full of Irish doctors. When I got back, I spent my first bank holiday weekend at my cousin’s seaside cottage in Devon and christened my new wet suit (yes, I peed in it).

Those first few trips sparked a travel fire within, and I ended up taking more than 20 trips this year to 7 countries. That’s more traveling in one year than I’ve done in my whole life. Seeing the world has been revelatory. Every place has its own quirks that add up to enormous differences. And yet, each new place also seems surprisingly the same as the last, and the people filling them full of the same triumphs and failures as a more familiar set.

In addition to traveling, living in London has provided me with the opportunity to get involved with more serious sailors than in New York. I started sailing at the Queen Mary Sailing Club in the RS400 fleet and even did a couple of races in keel boats in the Solent. I even got the wonderful opportunity to sail a “big boat” in the Round the Island Race. It was exciting to be a part of a truly world-renowned sailing event and has left me hungry for more.

I’ve done a lot of looking outside of the city to enjoy my life, but I’ve also learned ways I love being in the pulse of a crowded metropolis, like going to live music shows. I’ve begun exploring music and going to shows in a way that most people discover when they are 15. I feel ridiculous for being such a late bloomer on this front, but I’m so glad my “music phase” has arrived!

I also have done a lot of great drawings and a few linocut prints. I started making DIY tutorials, and hand-drawn illustrations on tote bags (that you can buy). I tromped all around London, exploring the city, seeing great live music, and sailing. And I got promoted at my job!

I’ve decided to stay in London for another year or two and I’m really excited thinking about all the things I could accomplish while I’m here, but that’s another post entirely!

I have never done an “end of year” summary for a Christmas newsletter or anything like that. But I am loving writing this post and feeling like I should start making this an annual thing. It’s really changing my perspective. I had been thinking about this year as a pretty sad one; there was a lot of change that left me feeling upended and rootless. Going through the year has reminded me of all the good work I’ve done. It feels great to have done so much traveling and good creative work.

Gratitude is the key to happiness. Ain’t it so? I am so thankful for all my opportunities, even the hard ones. I can feel all of this sprouting very good things within me and for my future.

How was your 2013? What are you thankful for that happened this year?

Hell Fire Club in the Wicklow Mountains

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I recently took the most spontaneous trip of my life. I had a friend visiting whose next stop was Dublin. He was packing up his things to depart for the airport in 30 minutes, and we were both lamenting that we didn’t have more time together. “You should’ve come to Dublin! What bad planning…” Next thing you know, bags packed, flight bought, day off in 30 minutes. New record for me!

It was a great trip because I have been to Dublin several times for work, but never been able to get out into the woods and mountains. Our friends there are natives and were more than happy to take us on walks in Wicklow.

One place we went was called Hell Fire. Our Dubliner guide/friend told us that it was originally built as a men’s club and there was plenty of illicit activities that went on there, like gambling among other things. Supposedly the devil came to play cards one night and someone called him on cheating, so he burnt the place down.

Our guide’s parents also told him that if he ran around the giant rock in the path on the way to the top, he could see the devil. You’d have to run around it 20 times forwards and 15 times backwards. He says in retrospect, this was likely a ploy on his parents part to tire him and his siblings out. And at the time he did wonder why he would want to see the devil, but he did the obligatory running anyway.

I haven’t been able to confirm either of these stories. This website suggests it was a hunting lodge built in 1725 by the Speaker of the Irish House of Parliament. But that’s not nearly as fun.

In any case, the top of the hill is quite windy, but provides a beautiful view of Dublin. And the woods. Oh the woods! There are some super magical trees in there. I was pretty sure a wizard was going to appear at any moment.

Majorca :: Part Two

I spent a couple of days in Majorca in October. The first bit of the trip we stayed in Palma (explore Palma with me here). The second bit of the trip, we rented a car and headed into the hills.

We drove around Soller at first, but it wasn’t quite the country escape that we wanted. There were loads of tourists there and also in the nearby port town. My boyfriend knew a little cafe in the nearby town of Deia so we decided to backtrack a bit to get lunch there instead. We parked and walked up a little hill to what looked a bit like someone’s house. Walking through a stone arch, you pass under an arbor covered in rich green, flowering vines, and are then led to your table. We were sat in the shade of a lime tree and an olive tree next to a stone wall. It could not have been more charming. We shared a delicious freshly-made pasta and salad (with more rosado of course).

After lunch, we thought we would head to Port De Sa Calobra. This is tourist destination because of its stone beach, hugged on either side by tall cliffs. And the road to get there is as much of a sight as the beach itself! The road climbs up a mountain and then down and is therefore a series of switchback turns, of which there are so many, I lost count.

road to calobra

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Palma De Majorca :: Part One

I’ve seen the lovely images of sun-bleached rocky shores and turquoise water before now, but no amount of photos could ever prepare me for how truly beautiful The Mediterranean is. Place after place we visited on our trip to Mallorca left me delighted; it really does look like that.

flying into palma

We started our trip in the busy city of Palma. I’m not sure why it’s so bustling, since almost all the people I saw on the streets were foreign visitors on vacation, but everyone seems content to stay busy at relaxing. Old Town was where we stayed for our week long visit. This is the heart of the city and gives you all the charming, small, cobbled street walking you could dream of. It’s pretty easy to get lost since the streets wind around and bring you past countless smooth-fronted buildings with spanish tiled roofs and green shutters.

green shutters of palma IMG_5497

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