Conversations about mindful travel with Louise Coghill
Louise Coghill is a storyteller, photographer, an adventurer and a caffeine addict. She’s hiked to Everest Base Camp, walked along the Great Wall of China, hitchhiked through Laos, and rode horses through Mongolia. She splits her time between her home in Perth and living months at a time in challenging and beautiful foreign countries. I've been enjoying chatting with her about how she manages to live intentionally to make the best of both ways of living. Here she talks to us about how travelling to far away places helps us to live our best life here at home.
Tell us about how you got to be doing what you’re doing.
I was a storyteller first, so I studied Film and TV. I took one unit in photography and didn’t like the assignments and figured it was never going to be my thing. It wasn’t until I moved to a sleepy little town in the Daintree rainforest, where there was no film industry that my love for photography started to grow. I bought myself a camera so I could make my own films, but I started taking pictures too. I didn’t have many friends at first, so I would take my camera and go on little adventures. Photography got me out of the house, I didn’t mind doing things on my own and immersing myself in nature, and so very quickly photography became about the lifestyle that came with it.
But it wasn’t until I went to India to film a documentary for my friends charity that I REALLY started to fall in love with it. I was capturing portraits, and life in the slums of India. I put it online and people were liking the images, and I started to realise that I enjoyed taking the photos more than I liked making the film, and so it’s been photography ever since.
Although my beginnings in the film industry is what shaped my style, telling stories is still my favourite aspect of being a photographer.
You often travel solo, what’s it like to be far away from home on your own?
It’s a humbling experience being alone in a foreign culture, immersed in a new country and not speak the language. Surrounded by people, yet feel so lonely. Travelling though rural China, I spent weeks not having a conversation with another English speaker. I had to learn how to be alone with my own thoughts. Talking to people tends to give me energy, so I had to figure out how to be who I am with nobody else around.
What is it about travelling that makes you a better version of yourself?
You only learn certain things about yourself when you’re really pushed. Going up Everest I had a chest infection, and I found – this is going to sound lame and clichéd right now – I found an inner strength that could only be found by doing something so gruelling. Now I have that, it was always there, but I unlocked it in that moment. I’m sure if I was at home in a tough situation and I needed to find that strength, I would, but I’m just never really forced that far out of my comfort zone. That’s the thing for me with travel, I get pushed out of my comfort zone, and so it grows.
Do you have any daily rituals when you’re at home?
First thing in the morning, I make a big pot of coffee and read my book. I generally drink way too much coffee, so I can keep reading, so I might have to replace it with tea! It’s such a big one for me, if I don’t get the chance to do it, my day doesn’t feel as calm or content.
I also love to go for a run and listen to a podcast. I tend to run longer when I have a good podcast, and I feel like I take in the conversations more when I’m doing something active. And bullet journalling, it’s just filled with to do lists, weekly and monthly spreads and I’ve started sleep and mood tracking, I just feel like my brain works better on paper.
What’s one of your favourite simple pleasures?
I enjoy drawing, but I never give myself time to do it because I think I’m too busy. I was sick in bed the other day and started drawing for the first time in ages, it felt so good and I sort of realised it’s ok to take time out for these sort of things. If my life is too busy to do the little things that I enjoy, then I’m not really living the life I want to live.
Do you come back from travelling with ideas on how to live differently at home?
When I was in Mongolia, I spent most of the month without a phone, with no Internet. I was outside all day and living moment by moment. On the way home I kept telling myself “I’m going to cut down on the internet, I’m going to cut down on the internet.” I never manage it for very long though…
There’s always so many new rituals I want to implement when I come home, like ‘watch a sunset every day’ ‘go on more walks’ but I only ever manage to keep a tiny portion of my new goals. Though each time I travel the resolution strengthens, so I find myself always searching for the next trip to shake up that comfort zone.
I’m putting more effort into enjoying my home life now, making peace with the fact I can’t always be jumping on a plane, I have nieces and nephews to play with, a job and a studio I love. I’m starting to implement all those things I put off for years. Trying to live slower, do little things each day so I feel content, rather than only ever working towards big goals and big trips.
What does living your best life look like for you?
Living a good life to me is centred around time. Having the time to do the things that matter to me. Those little rituals, the big goals, the trips I want to take, the books I want to read. Often I choose to work less, so I have more time. I actually only work about 6-8 months. I might have a crazy few months but I make up for it by having a few lazy ones too (preferably abroad). Living that sort of life often means I’m not as cashed up as some of my friends, but I don’t often regret it.
I think if you can invest time doing the small things that you really enjoy, you don’t have to spend as much money on buying things to make you happy. I’ve learned to enjoy things that don’t cost a lot. Instead of meeting up with my friends for an expensive dinner we’ll meet up and go for a walk.
I realise how lucky I am that my job lets me live that life, not everyone has that freedom, and I try and appreciate it as much as I can.
Tell us about your upcoming exhibition.
It’s called Terra, and it’s showcasing landscapes from a four month trip through Nepal and Mongolia. I’m also selling my first zine, filled with pictures and stories, like hiking up Everest with a chest infection, while also exploring the role of the traveller and the impact globalisation can have on these countries.
Louise’s exhibition opens at Kidogo arthouse in Fremantle, on November 29th, 2018, from 6.30pm, and continues from the 30th till the 5th of December, 11am - 4pm.