During our last school holidays, my family and I travelled to a coal mining town called Collie, in Western Australia’s southwest region for a four-day stay. A two-and-a-half-hour road trip from Perth. We joined friends, whose idea it was to visit Collie, otherwise, I’d never have personally chosen to holiday there. I held the belief that there would be little soul-inspiring about a coal town. How wrong I was!! Collie turned out to be one of the most soulful travelling experiences I’ve had, and I’ve been to places, far and wide. Read on to find out what makes for soulful travel, who needs it, and why – and the reasons why Collie made my soulful travel list.
What’s Soulful Travel?
Soulful travel is the kind of travel that gets you out of your regular environment and your regular mindset for at least a day, preferably a few days or a week, maybe weeks or months, or dare we dream… years! Any period of time away from home that gives you the opportunity to pause, reflect, consider, discover, and grow. To shift your perspective. To become more self-aware. Soulful travel will have you thinking in new and expansive ways. Feeling inspired, invigorated, and alive. In touch with your feelings, inner voice, and Spirit. The higher part of you that is nurturing, intuitive, and creative. Open to synchronicities and magic moments.
We all benefit from soulful travel. Naturally, humans are made to move and experience new things. Everything in and around you is in a constant cycle of renewal. However, when you don’t move enough – you inevitably become stagnant. You suffer. Which leads to an unhealthy body, mind, and spirit. To unhealthy relationships. And to a stagnant society. Inspiration dulls. Imagination dulls. Tolerance dulls. Patterns and behaviours that may not be serving higher truth become entrenched. You lose sight of the actual smallness of your problems in relation to the vast potential of the soul. Therefore, soulful travel is essential for everyone’s wellbeing.
Simple, Storytelling, Soulful Collie
Perth, Western Australia, is the most isolated city in the world – that’s my city! By the time the Easter holidays came around, I hadn’t travelled out of the city for a year. I was longing for soulful travel. People close to me were travelling overseas. My sister was off to Mongolia, my cousin to Thailand, my relatives to New Zealand, and my friends to Ireland, France, and Spain. We were off to Collie. Toot! Toot! All those years playing Thomas the Tank Engine with our kids had a way of manifesting in our holiday experiences. Thankfully, our Collie trip was about more than trains. It turned out to be about reconnecting to beauty, wonder, and land.
Simple, natural beauty. I never knew the town of Collie was surrounded by a forested wonderland. So many picturesque views. Jarrah. Hills. Farmland. Kangaroos. Flocks of birds. Sparkling waters. My misconception had been that Collie was a barren, coal pit landscape when it was the opposite of this. Rather, when we were out and about, walking some of the numerous nature trails and tracks, through forests and by lakes and waterways, I was half-expecting to bump into Frodo from the Shire. The Collie River Valley is nature at its very best. Trees. As far as the eye can see. Highlights were Wellington Dam, Black Diamond Lake, and Minninup Pool.
Mostly, it was the simplicity that made this trip soulful – getting back to basics. Quiet time. To observe. To dream. Also, togetherness – time to listen and share. It was a bonus that our Harris River Estate chalet didn’t have reliable Wi-Fi (sorry, kids!). Instead of being distracted by tech, we explored country paths on foot and talked to horses – a different way each day. Saw kangaroos in their bush habitat – also, bouncing by rows of grape vines growing at Harris River Estate Winery. In the evening, the parents enjoyed a glass of wine at dusk and another beneath the starry night sky. I didn’t quite get to reading the book I’d bought for the trip…
The really soulful thing about Collie for me is its ability to tell its own story. The town’s buildings are covered with the most amazing murals – known as the Collie Mural Trail. I’ve never seen visual storytelling done so well before and on such a large scale. To date, 45 outdoor artworks connect the mega Wellington Dam Mural to Collie’s town centre, telling local stories about the local people and places. The Collie Mural Trail is seriously impressive and impactful, showcasing the historic town’s mine workers, families, and Nyungar. There’s a strong sense of identity and belonging to the land. Of belonging to each other – of healing and spirituality.
Also, in other ways, Collie’s township oozes storytelling: humble, hardworking, resourceful, and adaptable. Historical-buildings. Museums. Gallery. I discovered – the Wilman people of the Bibbulmun Nation (Nyungar people) are the traditional custodians of the Collie River Valley. Collie became a townsite in 1896 for its land (agriculture), timber, rail, and coal. Its architecture reflects its working-class culture. Fantastic double-story heritage pubs. Beautiful, old Anglican and Catholic churches. Early miners’ cottages. Southern European migrant houses. Today, Collie is transitioning from coal to new and green industries and eco-tourism.
If ever you need reminding of people’s soulfulness, think of Gnomesville…or go visit the enchanted gnome kingdom tucked away in the stunning Ferguson Valley in Wellington Mill – 40 km from Collie (scenic route). It is estimated that there are five to ten thousand gnomes there! And it all started with just one ceramic gnome back in mid-1990. Ever since people from all over visit the site to leave a gnome. We didn’t leave a gnome, only smiles – it was magical. On Easter Sunday, I visited the Goods Shed Markets (while my family mountain-biked) and bought a red-hatted gnome to delight our home, made by Rhianna Harris of The Blue Fairy Hut.
I visited all the stalls – Hempshack by Mhari Cain was another favourite. I then walked up Forrest Street and discovered the Green Being Eco-Store by Anita Lindemann – who makes and sells terrific environmentally-friendly self-care products – and handcrafts. I was in self-love mode and gifted myself a gorgeous ceramic angel made by Natalie Power. I just couldn’t leave it behind! I meandered back up Forrest Street passed Dharma, a crystal store. Bought a coffee from The Wagon, sat, and relaxed at Central Park, and people-watched. Walking back to the car, I happened upon the Collie Art Prize at the Collie Art Gallery. T’was my perfect day…
Simple, storytelling, soulful travel…you always know a place has touched your deeply when upon returning home you start dreaming about your next holiday there. There’s still so much to discover about Collie – I’d love to visit the Collie Country Markets Art, Craft, and DIY Fair and stay at the yet-to-be-built eco-cabins at Minninup Pool. The project has Aboriginal and general community support. The site is culturally significant to the Nyungar people and you can feel why when there, it’s an incredibly soulful place. And you definitely know you’ve been soul-inspired by travels when you start dreaming of packing up the house and moving there!
*Collie Mural Trail images:
- Reflections by Guido Van Helten (Wellington Dam)
- A Love Letter by Collie Community & Andrew Frazer
- Friday Night at the Theatre Royale by Marina Lommerse & Michael Phillips