As the world was discovering her, this acclaimed Australian artist and cinema-history buff was discovering the world.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
2001: With its beaches, gay bars and inexpensive places to eat, this town is so much fun. A gang of us marked the 40th birthday of an artist friend with a wild party at Casa Kimberly, the villa – now a hotel – that Richard Burton bought for Elizabeth Taylor in the ’60s.
We jumped into the pool where the actor Peter O’Toole reportedly broke his leg during a drinking episode. And, in a closet, we saw a bathing suit that apparently belonged to Liz. We stared at it as if it were a sacred shroud.
On a cliff by Mismaloya Beach where Burton shot The Night of the Iguana, remnants of the set still exist. The hotel we were staying in there had creaky ceiling fans, rickety verandahs and signed pictures of the film’s brilliant director, John Huston, on the walls. Fabulous.
Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, India
2004: I love the dryness of Rajasthan, the colour of the fabrics, the spices and the people. I took a tourist camel ride and as we passed a field, a slender girl with dark-brown skin, light-green eyes and nose piercings smiled at me. She was carrying a ton of cloth on her head but she had incredible posture. She could have been a catwalk model.
We arrived in Agra at dusk; seeing the outline of the Taj Mahal was deeply moving. Walking towards it the next morning, the perfection and symmetry and shimmer of its pale marble made me wish the rest of the world looked this way. Up close, you see that it’s inlaid with semiprecious stones.
I have to see all of India in my lifetime; I won’t feel complete unless I do.
2008: I went to Central America with someone special and we stayed in a chic jungle house near a beachside town. At night, the howler monkeys in the trees sounded like monsters.
At a ramshackle zoo run by locals, a baby jaguar called Maya gnawed on my fingers.
Our favourite bar had sand for a floor and we laid in hammocks drinking fruit Daiquiris. Then we staggered to the open-air cafés and ate fried fish with rice and beans. It was heaven.
During the day, we sat on the beach under thatched-roof palapas and bought cooked lunch from vendors.
I wish Australian beaches would dirty up. Why must they be pristine? Why can’t there be thatched-roof huts with vendors serving you corn tortillas and Margaritas in a plastic cup? Can you imagine the happiness? ￼