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From the jungle of Borneo to the Christmas markets of Tallinn and across Australia, Kara Stacey Merrin has a tale or two to tell about her travels. A physical theatre performer, Kara loves creating unique stories for audiences to engage with.
Kara has cultivated her experience across theatre, architectural lighting design and Speech and Drama teaching to enrich her storytelling experiences. On her travels, she is constantly on the look out for new theatre experiences and different productions of Wicked!
Physical Theatre Performer: Kara Stacey Merrin
Kara’s travel style
I have certainly been influenced to change the way I travel since I met my husband. We have different perspectives on what makes a good overseas adventure. I like to pack in as much as I can, absorb everything the new city has to offer. My husband also likes to explore new cities but he also enjoys down time to relax, read a book and enjoy a good meal at a local restaurant. Since travelling with him, I think I have found a nice medium of our worlds.
One of our favourite things to do in a new city is to walk around local streets and escape the tourist traps. Perhaps this is our compromise of simultaneously relaxing and exploring. Ultimately I love living in a new place to feel what it is to really live in that country. More recently, the way I travel has shifted once more. Travelling with a baby has brought much more luggage – more than I have ever packed before!!
Kara’s first travel memory
My first trip overseas was when I was 12 years old. My family moved to Brunei, a tiny country on the island of Borneo. Instead of watching for koalas crossing roads at night we had to watch for Orang Utans and monkeys! My backyard was the Borneo jungle. The national language was Malay. All this was such an extreme contrast from my childhood growing up on Australia’s Gold Coast and it was such an incredible experience for the 2 years that I lived there.
The Sultan’s family commissioned Jerudong theme park for the locals whilst I lived there. Entry was free, so my friends and I would go after school at least once a week. School hours were 7:30am – 1pm because of the midday heat and to allow for midday prayer calls at the mosques. My first adventure overseas definitely inspired my love and appreciation for other cultures and my undying travel bug.
Planes, trains and boats!
There’s something fascinating about travelling. I become consumed watching how people occupy their time travelling to their destination, stop-overs, boarding trains, waiting to be collected from airports. I have enjoyed train rides throughout Europe, crossing borders, viewing different styles of architecture and seeing how people interact in limited spaces. I also appreciate how planes make the world accessible when living in Australia.
Local ferries and boats have taken me to conservation areas that would otherwise be inaccessible, like Turtle Island, and Niah and Mulu Caves in East Malaysia, Rottnest Island in Perth, Bond Island in Thailand. I think the journey is half the fun and makes me more patient to reach my final destination.
Local recommendations and cultural splurges
I am fortunate that I have always had a friend or a friend of a friend who I could chat to and find out local recommendations of things to do. I would not have travelled to Tallinn had I not had a strong recommendation from a New Zealand friend who was living in Helsinki. This day excursion turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life to date – walking in minus 4 degree weather through Estonian streets and majestic Christmas markets.
Culture is what I splurge on when I travel. I have been known to splurge on Venetian Commedia dell’Arte masks, and alway make sure I have time and money to see at least one theatre show in a new city. I have obsessively seen “Wicked” in three different cities so I could compare the casts.
A memorable trip to Borneo’s jungle
My most memorable trip was a school excursion to the Borneo jungle with the Nepalese Ghurkas. I don’t even remember much of it now except shooting Coke cans with M16 rifles. (NB they were loaded with blanks and under strict supervision by the Ghurkas.) It was nothing like I had ever experienced. It reminded me of my Great Uncle who had travelled along the Kokoda Trail when he was in the army, under the same dense and sweltering jungle.
Kara’s favourite places and spaces in Melbourne, Australia
Where to eat and drink in Melbourne
Visit any of the local markets for fresh fruit and veggies. My favourite restaurants are Maha and Chin Chin in the city centre. You must experience the great coffee and tea houses Melbourne has to offer. Here’s a plug for my mum’s place Cuppa Cha where you can enjoy a refreshing and relaxing cup of tea!
Out of the city, the Mornington Peninsula wineries are also definitely worth a visit!
Things to do in Melbourne
Stroll through Melbourne’s Laneways. There is so much more to the city than the main streets. For a day excursion, I’d recommend visiting the Penguins at Phillip Island and riding Puffing Billy in the Dandenong Ranges.
And without a doubt, don’t forget to take in some of Melbourne’s independent theatre scene. La Mama is a great place to see new works by emerging theatre artists.
Where to next Kara?
My next big trip is Chicago and Toronto. I will be theatre-ing it up while my husband is on sabbatical.
In 2018 I will be taking my most recent project “The Banana & Piano Story” to the world’s second largest annual arts festival – The Adelaide Fringe. The story is inspired by my paternal grandfather who passed away after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease almost 20 years ago. The play imagines what it would be like if my grandfather’s Alzheimer’s mind was the reality we lived in. It’s a strange but ultimately beautiful story.
“unique and brave theatre”
Congratulations on being selected for The Adelaide Fringe Kara and thanks for joining us on Untold Morsels