Why Jennifer Hawkins Loves a Road Trip

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Family camping was all the model and entrepreneur knew about travel. Then the universe opened and she found herself amid the chaos of India. Interview by Alison Boleyn. 

Where did you go on your last trip?

The Maldives – and I’ve got itchy feet to go again. Jake [Wall, Hawkins’ husband] and I have been many times, always for a holiday and always just for fun. The big lagoons, incredible scenery and the food! You get to switch off, recharge and be in your own world.

What was your typical childhood holiday?

We didn’t go on many holidays, to be honest, but my pop had a boathouse at Lake Macquarie [south of Hawkins’ home town of Newcastle, NSW] and we’d go camping in the Upper Allyn and Barrington Tops near Gloucester [on NSW’s Mid North Coast], staying wherever we could find. We had a ritual where we’d stop at Barrington and have an iceblock as a treat. There’s a photo of me in a tent at six months old; I think Mum washed me in a bucket.

Have you ever taken a road trip?

My dad bought this huge yellow van and, when I was nine, we drove to Queensland to see the Great Barrier Reef. I thought that was the bee’s knees, like we’d gone overseas. I remember my brother and I climbing up a mango tree in a caravan park. We pulled down all the mangoes and ate like crazy until we were sick. That was the best holiday.

What about road trips as an adult?

When I was doing a TV show, I drove a convertible Mustang from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I was pinching myself. Jake and I also did a road trip in Hawaii, past the Pipe [the Banzai Pipeline surf reef break]. It was one of our first trips, eight years ago. To be in a car together, driving up the coast with your hair out and the top down, was really freeing, you know? You’re not taking social media shots. You’re just in the moment and I remember it being special.

Do you prefer to wander the streets or check maps?

I’d like to say I wander the streets – and I do – but Jake and I prefer to have a plan, even if it’s just get up, exercise, have breakfast, go for lunch and plan some spontaneous moments for in between [laughs]. I don’t like to just lie on the beach. In Positano in Italy, we did a massive hill climb – a two-hour walk – and the next day my calf muscles felt like they would fall off the bones. But it was such an adventure. On the way up, a donkey passed us and we saw worksites where they took rocks up the hill on strings, like an inclinator.

When you travel with Jake, who’s a builder, does he talk constantly about the architecture?

Well, yes, but I’m like that, too, looking at the finishes and the materials. You see interiors and steal the ideas. The open-plan living at the One&Only resort in Los Cabos, in Mexico, inspired our own house [in Sydney’s Northern Beaches]. You take information from everywhere you go, right?

Is there a place that you keep returning to?

I’d go back to Positano every year if I could. My dream is to explore it by boat. I love the food and it’s not processed so you can eat as much pasta as you like, if you run.

Do you always make time for exercise when you travel?

Yes, because it’s a luxury [to have time to do it]. Sometimes when I’m working, if my schedule is really busy, I find it hard to fit in exercise. I do, but on holidays we actually enjoy a leisurely walk or riding bicycles in the Maldives. It makes it seem like you’ve done something that day, which is important to me.

Is there a destination that was a real surprise to you?

It’s weird, because now you see a destination before you arrive, via social media, but when I first went to the Maldives, it was a surprise that the water was so blue. It wasn’t like someone had retouched the water; it was legitimately mind-blowing.

Have you ever been lost while travelling?

No, because I’m usually with Jake and he navigates. I would never take control of the map, let’s put it that way.

Is there a place where you’ve experienced culture shock?

Yes, in India. It was probably my first trip as Miss Universe, 14 years ago, and I’d never travelled overseas before [the pageant]. The airport was crazy and manic with people and cigarette smoke and there were so many cows on the streets. The poverty is an eye-opener and you return home feeling grateful for where you live.

Can you recall a memorable dining experience?

In India, I ate a very hot chilli that I thought was a capsicum. I don’t think I’ve ever sweated so much in my life. [To counteract the heat] they gave me cow’s milk – it was still warm. I was at a big corporate dinner so I had to keep it under control.

Have you ever gone completely off the grid?

Social media-wise, I go off the grid once a month. The last time was for five days but I’ve been off it for a week. Even doing that for a weekend or a Sunday is good for the soul. 

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

I like where I am right now. But I’ve never been to Croatia. I’d love to explore the coastline by boat, looking at it from a different angle. That’s on my bucket list, definitely. 

SEE ALSO: Why Samara Weaving Misses Sydney Beaches

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