A day spent with Liss Connell is all about the simple joys of life. It’s about taking time and making time, instead of getting caught up in the rush. A morning in the surf with a mate, a cup of tea and a giggle, an afternoon hanging out by the lake. This photo shoot was done in a day and yet it felt like we had spent a leisurely week together. When you meet Liss ofLife in the Slow Lane your first impression is that she’s the type of girl who’s very comfortable in her own skin and happy to share her amazing travel stories.
The Life in the Slow Lane journey has captured attention from many self-proclaimed ‘slow travellers’ like Liss, as well as those who love to live vicariously through her images as they dream of one day doing the same. Sensibly tanned, naturally agile and with a smile that slides across her face with ease – Liss embodies the quintessential all-Australian girl of today. She’s equally at home on the coast as she is in the outback or the rainforest. Her favourite views of the world have all been through the window of her vintage 1959 Sunliner caravan nicknamed Sunny. Sunny and Liss have been constant companions for the last few years. When they’re not exploring Australia together, they’re entertaining friends having movie nights with bean bags and popcorn using the side of Sunny the caravan as a projection screen. Liss is the unofficial poster-child for Slow Travel; she is wanderlust in action. A natural-born traveller and modern-day nomad, Liss prefers life on the road as a slow traveller in control of how she spends her time. She taught herself to live with very little from an early age. Her possessions are few. Instead she prefers the real connections she shares with friends, family and nature.
This simple approach to living frees her to travel wide and far and become fully immersed in each experience. With a sparkle in her eyes Liss told us “Over my lifetime I’ve travelled the world extensively. I’ve hiked Machu Picchu; explored ancient Rome; partied in Tel Aviv; surfed Jefferies Bay in South Africa. But there’s just something about exploring your own country. Discovering places that you’ve never heard of. Driving into the middle of nowhere and opening your van’s windows to gaze up at a million stars, far from city lights and pollution. Everything becomes clearer when you escape your comfort zone and find yourself among wilderness, marvelling at the simplicity, and intricacies of nature”
When Liss pulled up to meet us, alongside stunning Lake Ainsworth in Lennox Heads, she stepped out of Sunny wearing her signature red hat, and with her guitar she sat down and casually began to play. What appeared to us as an idyllic, almost romantic scene, simply reminded Liss of a-day-in-her-life on the road. As she strummed she recalled her childhood memories of the lake, then she spotted the curved bamboo hanging chair swinging from a tree over the water in front of her – and she just had to try it out! What you see is what you get with Liss – earthy, wholesome goodness with a sense of fun and adventure. During the shoot, photographer Lee Calleja Thomas remarked: “there’s a rare and genuine authenticity to Liss, so I didn’t want this to look like a fashion shoot“. Stylist for the shoot Ange Cleary, The Fashionable Gypsy felt: “it was such a pleasure to work with Liss because it isn’t really like work at all! She’s effortlessly gorgeous and everything I styled her in ended up looking as if it were her own”.
Later in the day, Liss introduced us to Celeste Twikler; illustrator, painter, jewellery designer and maker, based in Byron Bay. Celeste and Liss are dear friends of many years now. Celeste invited us into her home and when we arrived we got the sense of it being a place that is near to the heart for Liss. There is a tangible simpatico between these two souls, and while we were there, Celeste reminded Liss of something her father once said: “he reckons because Liss spends so much time on the road, my place has become like a home base to her” and Liss agrees it has been a sanctuary and retreat for her in between travels.
Celeste has a definite sense of style; carefree and unpretentious. Her line of jewellery is uniquely Australian and reflects her love of beach and coast life. In the true wanderlust spirit she has also made available a range of pieces from around the world. Each and every piece reflects her own creativity and style. When you enter her workshop there’s a sign at the door that says: ‘Welcome, beware of radness!’ At the moment you’ll also see a brace on her arm, the result of a recent skateboarding accident. The only downside Celeste feels is that it makes it hard to go surfing with Liss, a pastime they relish doing together. It’s clear what draws the two friends to each other; these girls know how to have fun!
Today’s reinvention of the gypsy way of life and bohemian lifestyles has come about as people crave a different style of existence with more meaningful connections to each other and nature. We all want to escape, break free and explore the world around us and spend less time in the rat-race. You could say Liss is living the dream, but like everyone, she has her responsibilities too: “it’s all about balance” she says, and as her hair happens to fall away from her face we see the tiny triangle symbol for ‘balance’ tattooed neatly behind her ear “A few years ago I made the decision to quit my corporate job, give away or sell everything I owned and live and travel in a 55 year old caravan. It’s been so convenient travelling with my little ‘rolling home’. It makes me want to stay longer and meander at my own pace, because I have everything I need and I feel at home with all of my creature comforts” Perhaps this is why she comes across in a wise and grounded way often associated with much older folk. You really get the sense that she has figured out her life and how to live it well.
We asked Liss what her next adventure would be and surprisingly she spoke of settling down for a while. She feels connected and comfortable in the Byron Shire and has decided to create her own home base there. “I’m ready to focus more on writing and I have so many stories I want to share, in my own words” Liss has seen and been to more places in Australia than most of us will ever dream of. Her travel ideals are equally about what she sees and who she meets, and she believes in getting to know the people of a place as well as exploring their land. We look forward to Liss sharing her experiences (so far) in words and pictures sometime soon this year. Her travels are far from over and you can still expect to see Liss and Sunny out roaming the open road together, around the Northern Rivers and beyond. If you do see them around, give a wave and you’re sure to get that delightful smile and a ‘hang-loose’ hand sign in return.