Welcome to the Human Gallery, where the funny, eccentric, nerdy, poignant, inspiring, and downright weird things live. In this instalment, I’ve interviewed Sean and Caroline, one of the more kick-ass couples I’ve ever met. They bonded when Sean flaunted his flexibility and they got to talking about martial arts, and celebrated their engagement in a remote, ruggedly sexy pocket of the Northern Territory I spent time in as a kid. They travel, they write, they kick things — I strongly advise you to read on if you’re a couple thinking of taking the leap into the unknown.
All photos supplied are Sean and Caroline’s. Some have been changed to black and white for style purposes.
It was a happy day when I met Sean and Caroline. They had just arrived at Kailash Akhara, a yoga and permaculture retreat in northeast Thailand (and place that’s rather dear to my heart), a day or two before I was due to leave. So, we didn’t get much time to talk. But from the snippets of conversations we had, I sensed these two were a locked chest of knowledge, interests, and philosophies just waiting to be cracked open.
So, I contacted them to find out more information.
Here’s what I already knew: they were both from Scotland; they were engaged and soon to be married; they’d recently finished earning money by working their way around my home country, Australia, and been criticised in the past by people at home for their unusual lifestyle; and they’re both martial arts enthusiasts. I particularly enjoyed listening to Caroline’s adorable giggle, like a little mouse, but I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of her roundhouse kick.
“[Caroline] has won the Scottish, Korean Kyokushin, and Korean Hapkido karate championships…and much more,” Sean says. “I guess you could say our friendship blossomed from martial arts.”
To be more specific, Sean showed his future wife the leg. They both worked in a DIY store in the west of Scotland, and never really talked until a few months down the track, when Sean was stretching his muscles during a shift after his first Muay Thai boxing session. They bonded over various mutual interests from that point on.
Certainly adds credibility to the phrase, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.”
Sean and Caroline then began a life of travel together. Among others, they’ve spent extended time in South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, exploring their own home country and, of course, Australia.
“We mainly earned our cash working in a brilliant yet busy little outback lodge called the Innamincka Hotel in South Australia. The place was great, and the scenery just incredible.
“We travel because we want to experience different cultures, and get the most out of life. We love meeting open-minded and interesting individuals who share a passion for travelling and just pure living,” Sean says.
The pair spent an entire year “experiencing the vast planet” that is Australia, even making their way up to the Northern Territory, a place of stark and rugged beauty that very few will ever take the time to see. Coincidentally, it’s a state I know extremely well, having lived there myself for ten years. Sean asked Caroline to marry him in Litchfield National Park, about 100km southwest of Darwin – a highlight from a driving holiday with my family when I was ten years old.
Aside from their adventurous nature and openness to spirituality, Sean and Caroline are also keen writers (another reason why they are two people after my own heart). After returning to Scotland from northeast Thailand, they hunkered down at home and set to work on their novels.
“Due to my interest in philosophy, spirituality, and religion, I plan to write many different works of fiction and non-fiction,” Sean explains. “I want to write books set mainly in my home country, to show the world that Scotland should be recognised as a strong, hard working and, most importantly, spiritually happy nation.
“My first goal is to write a novel set in my hometown of Ayr, about a young man attempting to break away from the conventional norms of commercial society in search of a more fulfilling life. It’s a kind of semi-autobiographical look into the oddness of human beings when one goes against the waves. I also have plans of writing something like a dark, psychological, relentlessly pessimistic Dostoyevsky/Philip K. Dick-style novel about the systematic breakdown of a disturbed man. There have been times in travelling when I felt like breaking down – thankfully never did – that can provide me with fascinating ideas on a novel like that.
“Caroline wants to write far more upbeat books than I do. She’s interested in writing on subjects like positive thinking, martial arts, healthy eating, and fitness training. I’ve always said she would make a fantastic fiction writer – perhaps that will happen later in time,” Sean says.
With such an eclectic range of interests between them, and the memories of Buddhist ceremonies in Taipei, exploring the mountainous regions of northern Scotland, being introduced to Indian philosophy and hatha yoga at Kailash Akhara, and living in the mountains of northern Thailand, I do find myself wondering what Sean and Caroline will go in search of next, in hopes I’ll one day be able to cross paths with them again and experience a little of their world. They are currently saving up money back home.
“We plan to get married very soon, and travel to more countries. We want to travel around South America and certain parts of North America, Russia, China, and Japan, and plan on staying somewhere in East Asia – perhaps South Korea,” Sean explains.
“Our advice to aspiring travellers is: take the risk into the unknown. It’s completely worth it. Caroline quit her job in South Korea and cancelled her return flight (which cost a lot of money), I quit my job in Scotland and sold the majority of my belongings, and we left without looking back.
Travelling has changed our lives. It’s impossible to fully explain why, but once you experience amazing moments with like-minded people around the world, you can never be the same person you were before. We are now a couple on a spiritual journey, smiling all the way.