I had big plans for this year, at 32 I finally felt like I was treading gently along the right path, a beautiful balance of doing things that set my soul on fire, challenged me, kept me grounded and gave back. I had resigned from my job as a physiotherapist, packed up my humble life in Aus into my beloved van Poppy, said goodbye to family and friends, and set off with a one way ticket to Indonesia. I was beyond excited to be spending another surf season in the Mentawai Islands, working as a surf guide at a local resort. It’s a dream job that I was fortunate enough to land last year, and was stoked to be invited back for another season. I had packed as many Salty Sparrow Bikinis into my surfboard bag as possible and was excited to be building a name abroad. The trip began in March, and the season kicked off with a 10 day women’s empowerment retreat at Awera Resort where I was living and working.
This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to coach alongside Ivan Villalba, a leading surf coach, practice yoga with the talented Brooke Elliston and be captured by world renowned water photographer Sarah Lee from Hawaii. We were all immensely pumped for this retreat, to empower women to follow their dreams, improve their surfing, believe in themselves and connect with the ocean and each other. We were blessed with incredibly beautiful conditions, being mid march, the swells were typically smaller, lineups were relatively empty and winds were light.
Our days were filled with sunshine, party waves, sunsets, bintangs and palm trees. It was so easy to feel completely removed from the western world in our little island bubble, blissfully unaware of the crisis that was unfolding. I remember very clearly the day we got off the boat and back to the resort after a fun surf at my favourite wave telescopes, I was sipping on a coconut by the pool looking out at a palm fringed beach watching beautiful right handers rolling in across the reef when I checked my phone. I was quickly snapped out of my present, blissful state and my heart sunk. Coronavirus was now a global pandemic and things had escalated beyond my belief. I floated the idea of staying isolated and removed in this remote piece of paradise, but my gut feeling was that I needed to return home.
I love Indonesia and it has always felt like a second home, however, my need to be in Australia, a country with an exceptional healthcare system was heightened and I felt a responsibility to be present and do what I could to assist. Being a couple of days travel from an International airport, I was lucky to board the last Qantas flight home from Jakarta as my usual flight path via Kuala Lumpur had already shut down. It was back to Aus and into quarantine. If you had of told me a month ago that this was where I would be I would not have believed it. To say it was an adjustment was an understatement.
However, as the months passed by (wow have they passed quickly!) I came to feel a deep appreciation for my health and to be in Australia. The world was forced to slow down and I believe there are many lessons that we can take from this. I have without a doubt learnt a lot about myself and reflected on my values and direction. Running a swimwear business was on the back burner for a few months as priorities shifted to family, friends, health and stability.
The silver lining is that this year has been a great teacher and has reinforced many things.
Travel is such a blessing. With no choice but to spend more time at home then ever before, it allowed me to reflect on the incredible opportunities I have had to explore this beautiful planet. I printed off some of my most treasured photographs (many from the Mentawai Islands) and created a photo wall that brings me joy every time I look at it.
By humans pressing pause, the natural world has had an opportunity to re-generate and flourish. Astounding images emerged from around the globe showing the positive environmental impact of us just simply staying at home. It makes me as passionate as ever to minimise my footprint and to continue to grow Salty Sparrow Bikini as a sustainable label that encourages consumers to move away from the fast fashion industry by choosing quality products that last and are created in small quantities from recycled waste.
Above all it reinforced gratitude, for all the things that bring joy and allow us to live healthy and fulfilled lives. The importance of human connection and my love for the ocean are stronger than ever. It has been a wild wave to ride this year however I like to believe that we can use this time to press pause and reflect on what we truly value and appreciate the beauty in simplicity. When life is stripped down to its bare necessities it reiterates what is truly important.
Written by Sarah Farlow, creator of Salty Sparrow Bikini
Images of the Mentawai Islands captured by @hisarahlee