On Facebook… That’s how I first met Claire. After chatting a few times, we caught up for coffee. Our conversation led me to believe that she was pretty worldly but, then again, most people I meet these days have that in common.
A few weeks later, I had the opportunity to read Claire’s manuscript “What Are You Running From?” She had read my memoir so she already knew way too much about me… My turn had finally come! Page after page, I discovered a different version of the person I thought I had met.
“SURPRISE!” I swear I could hear her say before laughing out loud.
Claire hadn’t travelled a bit, she had travelled a lot! Ten years of adventures around the globe exploring country after country, embracing uncertainty, taking chances and – what the risk manager in me would call – tremendous risks.
WOW! is all I could say as I flicked through the pages. Claire’s story reminded me how misleading first impressions can be. That’s why today I would like to share her fascinating story of retired world traveller/talented movie maker/prolific writer with you!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself (Name/From/Lived/Travelled/Do…)
My name is Claire J Harris. I’m an Australian originally from Sydney and now living in Melbourne. After finishing a film degree at the age of 20, I left Australia to go travelling until I was 30. I used to move from country to country, living out of a backpack, with no particular plan about where I was headed next. When I ran out of money, I would stop in one place and work for anything from a few months to a year, until I could afford to travel again. I worked as an English teacher in Morocco, Egypt, Mexico and Paris, in reality television in New York, and as a live-in carer for ageing aristocrats in the UK. Since returning to Australia, I work as a copywriter and do my own creative projects around that.
2. You’ve spent 10 years travelling all over the world… Wow!! What made you decide to do it in the first place?
I honestly can’t remember! It was something I always said I would do as a teenager because I just wanted to see and do everything. My Mum encouraged me to get a degree first and I left before my graduation ceremony. I never really quite felt like I belonged in Australia and I thought eventually I might find somewhere that suited me better, so it’s been a bit of a surprise to me that I’ve returned and stayed here.
3. What did you love the most about your lifestyle then?
I loved the freedom and the feeling of being lost in the world. I met and travelled with other people along the way but I was never tied to plans with someone else. I got such a rush from getting off a bus or a plane or a train to a place I’d never been before and knowing that no one had any idea where I was. I also enjoyed the challenge of being constantly resourceful, especially when it comes to making/spending money.
4. What were some of the toughest challenges you faced along the way?
Being broke all the time! For a long-term traveller, I was so disorganised and I got stuck quite a few times after losing my bank card or being robbed. You’re even more vulnerable in a country where you can’t speak the language, but somehow I always managed to find someone to help me. I was much more reckless than I am now – I used to hitchhike and sleep outdoors when necessary. I occasionally ended up in a situation where I was actually scared for my safety, particularly as a woman, but I was lucky that nothing too awful happened to me.
5. How did you manage to travel for so long?
By spending as little money as possible. I have a British passport so I always had this fallback plan – when my bank account got to a certain level, I would go back to London and get care work with an agency. They always set me up with a position within days, then I’d work 7 days a week, save everything I earned and take off again. I did that for quite a few years over Christmas because the rate went up at that time of year. It made for a pretty lonely holiday season though.
6. You’ve now returned to Australia where you were born and raised. How did you feel coming back?
It was very, very difficult adjusting – I would say it took me about three years to get used to Sydney again, and during that time I tried to move overseas twice. What kept me here was writing and producing an independent feature film, Zelos (www.clairejharris.com/film), which was in cinemas last year and is about to have its digital release. And of course, I didn’t stay in Sydney, I got very itchy feet and moved as far as I could while making the film, which was Melbourne.
7. If you had the opportunity to leave tomorrow for another 10 years of travels, would you do it and why?
I wouldn’t, but I’m very glad that I did. Constantly moving around is exhausting and at some point, I had to stop. It’s probably easier in your twenties when you have more energy for meeting new people – but if I hadn’t done it already, I would definitely be thinking about doing it now. The other thing is that my focus shifted, so I’m now working on writing and making another film. It’s not impossible to travel like that and have a career, but it’s definitely a luxury to have both and I didn’t manage it. In the film industry, you really need to stay in one place and build up contacts.
8. Having travelled and lived all over the world, where or what would you say ‘home’ is to you?
This is something I’ve thought about a lot over the years. Because I never had a base in any other country and didn’t stay anywhere for long, I always caught myself referring to Sydney as “home” even though I had no intention of returning there. When I moved to Melbourne, everyone asked me if it was permanent… I struggle to conceive of anything in my life being permanent, so I still call Sydney home since my family is there and it’s the one place I can always go back to.
9. Looking ahead… What are you up to next?
I’ve written a book of stories about my travels called “What Are You Running From?” which I’m currently pitching to publishers. I also have a script in development with a producer so I’m hoping that will lead to a new film next year.
10. How can we keep in touch with you and follow your adventures?
I’ve become much more active lately on social media, so you can follow me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/clairejharriswriter) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/clairejharris_writer/). I also keep a fortnightly blog on my website at www.clairejharris.com, or you can sign up for my newsletter!
Some people surprise you. Others inspire you. Claire is one of those overachievers who does both at the same time!
What about you, dear reader… What is your story?
Enjoyed this post? Share it (YAY!) ~
Tell us one of your stories… Leave a comment below ~
Keen to keep up to date with Be Beyond Borders? Subscribe now! ~