Why is my scarf so special?

This beautiful, vibrant, warm scarf is one year old today! :D

Since purchasing this scarf one year ago today in Burma/Myanmar, I have certainly worn it far more than #30wears! Especially now that I am living through the English winter (it is my first in a few years and I am certainly feeling the chill and catching the cold(s)).

The moment I bought this, I had been travelling for over 2 years with the same broken backpack with the same old clothes! I was just about to head off to a colder climate in Northern Thailand.

Check out my blog post Second Hand in the Third World to find about more about why I was heading there and where this lovely coat was from too! (remember, there is a great story to everything!)

This scarf holds a strong meaning to a new chapter in my life, this is down to a few factors:

At this point in my travels my life was taking some drastic turns. I had jetted off to yet another new country, with new culture, language, currency (and everything else that comes with travelling to a new part of the world). In fact, this was pretty normal for me! But, on this occasion I was faced with a situation that I hadn't quite considered: Just after a severe case of food poisoning (which I seemed to get once each year - India, Thailand, Burma...c'est la vie!) I awoke to find myself heartrendingly and uncomfortably free. I was facing a reality check of life, love, people, actions, behaviour and consequences... Having been travelling for the majority of my trip with my partner (and/or friends) I was now alone! But the truth was, I had been feeling mentally 'alone' for quite some time before I physically was :s As I am sure many of you have experienced; you can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely!? This was caused by many things, but it was associated with me not just losing other people, but in fact losing myself! It makes sense that my heart and soul was lonely, because I wasn't quite there anymore! 

Now lets focus on the positive side of things... Maybe this had happened here for a reason? After all, I was in an incredibly interesting country, with lots of places to see, and history to learn. Plus being surrounded by smiling faces and wonderful people did in fact help me! (never underestimate the power of a smile - smiling is contagious!!). I had a lot of time on my hands and space to think for myself, and indeed become myself! Yes, It lacked a little WiFi at times, and I had to tackle the random daily (frustrating) travel obstacles that occured. But, it didn't take me long at all to figure out my next steps and chase all those dreams that Roanna had, and intended to fulfill. I came to re-realise I was very capable: I rememebered all the things I loved to do and what I believed, and having shaked off some baggage and survived my pool of tears, my shoulders lifted (even with my backpack on!!) and the light came shining through! #hallelujah #backontrack :D

(Of course writing this a year later, everything makes much more sense, I can't imagine what I would have been writing during this moment) But in this moment, I look back on quite a beautiful movement; with challenges, progress, hope and determination that all helped bring me to the now! Including this lovely scarf! :D #happyRo

So why is my scarf so special?

During my travels with just a backpack and my experiences I encountered during the three years, I was heading towards a minimalist lifestyle; I started following this blog BecomingMinimalist and I used this great book that my friend recommended to me called "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up." which helped me do so! You can read more about this process on my blog post "The Weight off my shoulders"

When I returned home and I was making some decisions of what to let go of, I wrapped this scarf around me and I felt like I was wrapped in love. I was officially attached... Not only was the scarf my first purchase during an uneasy time, it was bought with purpose and through love and respect. It has stayed with me on my new chapter of my life - it kept me warm during lonely nights and cool days, it even starred in my very first photo shoot, that I had plucked up the courage to do in Melbourne, Australia, with a very talented Photographer Nish, having not modelled in years! Basically, I think my scarf pretty much became my teddy bear haha! 

But besides all that, the main reason I do love this scarf is because of Where it was made and Who made it!!

During my time in Burma, I took a trip to the iconic Inle Lake...

Inle Lake is found in the Shan State in a stunning valley surrounded by lush green mountains. The lake is freshwater and is home to around 70,000 people.

Most people living there survive through fishing and farming. But now that Myanmar has opened up to tourism, this has already become quite apparent here, and is another form of income for local families. Inle Lake has become particularly famous for their unique acrobatic rowing performed by the fishermen, which is used for their cover of the Lonely Planet. 

The Burmese are extremely thrifty people! As you can see in all of the photos above, they use incredible skills to build their homes on top of the lake. With the lake being rather shallow and making the conditions perfect for plant growth, they utulise this by growing vigorous plots of vegetables in perfect hydroponic conditions. They even harvest the weeds and use them to build up islands and create land. #socool

The Lotus plant in particular thrives in Inle Lake. It is quite the blessing as for many of the residents living their are Buddhist and the Lotus plant is seen as a great symbol for the possibility in life. It symbolises the purity of speech, of the body, and of the mind, and can be associated with spiritual awakening or enlightenment. Although the roots are buried deep, beauty is enjoyed, demonstrating that we as humans can offer a lot more than what you first see. Having spent a long time in South East Asia and learning a lot about Buddhism I also found this symbolism close to my heart. Ironically, I was on the part of the Lotus path where I was "leaving attachment behind" and finally looking to blossom! 

But the Lotus was in particularly sacred in this area due to another reason - It is used here in a very interesting way: 

I took a boat trip which took me to the Khit Sunn Yin Lotus, Silk and Cotton Hand Weaving Centre to find out more...

For centuries Weaving has been an honored technique practiced by women to provide for their families, for clothing, and an income. Traditionally weavers in the area regularly work with silk and cotton, this is due to the fibers being flexible for both summer and winter attire. However, they have also opened my eyes to a whole new fiber they use for clothing, the Lotus!

Although this trip is quite rightly considered a tourist trap, for someone like myself with an interest in textiles, this was a very interesting discovery, which became a highlight to my visit in Myanmar! During this visit I was able to see the complete process: From pulling the lotus silk out of the stalk, to adding natural colour using items such as bark of a tree, petals, leaves and fruit, to putting them on the spindles and watching the weaving process! I also got to look through a large wardrobe of final products including lotus, silk and cotton textiles; ranging from traditional robes worn by Monks, fabric to dress sacred sculptures in their temples, as well as neckties, Longyi's, shirts, jackets and or course scarves!

Beautiful fact:

The lotus weavers believe that by wearing something made from the lotus can help to absorb bad things from our bodies and help to bring us good luck.

It really is a long and fascinating process: At this factory, the weavers use old traditional apparatus to help them wind fine threads, using the shuttle to shift from right to left to weave each loom, that is strategically strung with warp fibers to create the fabric. 

Reality check: round 2!

Not only were my eyes opened to this complex process of making these incredibly well made textiles, but watching these people working so hard for endless hours, and seeing the time and skill that goes into making just one garment really made me happily want to pay a decent price and made me think a lot more about

and what exactly is involved with the

I guess what I am trying to say is...

Every Garment has it's own personal story and journey right from the beginning; from the moment the plant comes to life, to produce thread to wind into fabric, which creates a beautiful garment that is then transported and sold to feed families, and bought by an individual to inevitably cover their naked body, keep their dignity, keep them warm or protected from the sun! Whether it's traditional attire or fashionable clothing, we wear clothes with purpose and a symbolism of our identity! We have done for thousands of years!

Because Challenges = Change!

what do you want to be identified as? 

Do you want to be associated with clothes that are made with blood and sweat?

Take a moment to run through a few items in your wardrobe and ask yourself:

Why did I buy this?

Where did I buy this?

Who made it? Do I even know? 

How much did I pay for it?

Have I worn it for more than a few occasions?

Did I 'need' it, or did I 'want' it?

Do I love it - now?

I would love to hear from you! Take some photos and share your garment stories!! #tellmemore #sendmeyourstories

But most importantly, be honest! Acknowledging the truth is the first step to making changes and making a difference!

I challenge you to make a change! :D  

Thank you for reading my blog post and thank you for all your support!

Please comment, share, like or get in touch!

Don't forget to submit your challenge!

Sending you oceans of love, light and laughter in 2017!