Jane Thomas

Writer & Photographer

“I once paddled a dugout canoe along Peru’s remote Amazonian tributaries – with a bespoke ballgown from Buenos Aires stowed away in my rucksack.”

Wide-eyed, I have bounced a hasty retreat on the spongy, deflated tyres of a wildly fishtailing 4x4 in Botswana’s Central Kalahari. I once paddled a dugout canoe along Peru’s remote Amazonian tributaries – with a bespoke ballgown from Buenos Aires stowed away in my rucksack. For days on end I coaxed a reluctant, rusty scooter across Lombok’s stony tracks that were beyond the reach of even the all-knowing Google Maps, and I have generally spent far too much time on buses with questionable safety standards and chickens for companions.

It turns out a Master of Studies in eighteenth century women’s poetry from the University of Oxford doesn’t only lead to the darkened hallows of a library’s archives.

“It turns out a Master of Studies in eighteenth century women’s poetry from the University of Oxford doesn’t only lead to the darkened hallows of a library’s archives.”

After nearly two decades living, working and travelling overseas, I have unwittingly become part of the burgeoning ‘digital nomad’ community: I would prefer to defy categorisation. A freelance writer and photographer, there is a smorgasbord of experiences and influences behind my work; I am drawn to anything related to books, bicycles, education, global meandering, and feisty females from a bygone era. A current obsession – for at any time a person should always have at least one decent obsession – is exploring some of Nevis’ long-abandoned sugar mills and delving into the lives of the women who became powerful absentee plantation owners more than three hundred years ago.

In Australia at the age of 18 on an initial foray into the antipodes, my speedy typing and determined attitude landed me the post of private secretary to a surgeon – my first job. I marched endless lengths of antiseptic corridors between Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital mortuary, the anatomical pathology lab and my overflowing desk, clearing away the smells and the scenes by returning home along the paths that wend their way along the city’s wild coastline.

By the time I left university I had been involved in what some would rather pretentiously term Serious Travel. Vacations were passed in places like Peru and Cuba, taking my own quintessential snaps of the mist rising above Machu Picchu at dawn and cycling a brakeless bike through rainstorms to see the country ruled by the indomitable Fidel Castro. I went to southern Romania to work in a children’s hospital, to have my heart shattered a thousand times over and to discover that everywhere, even in the greyest corners of a broken world, there will always be an Avon Lady.

Students with bodyguards arrived in Ferraris for private English lessons in Hong Kong and together we idled our way through the stifling afternoons in the company of Austen and Forster; in Argentina, an armed escort led me in and out of the slums where I made balloon animals for the country’s overlooked children. An awkward imposter, I slept and ate in London’s finest hotels and restaurants to write reviews and newsletters for clients of LondonNights. In Swaziland, I was humbled by the young survivors of Africa’s massacres and miseries: I taught at UWC Waterford Kamhlaba, helping take teenagers from dusty impossibilities to the fairytale opportunities of Harvard and Yale and Columbia. I have worked alongside a team from Malaysia’s Ministry of Education to bring English lessons to almost unreachably isolated communities, and written a brochure for Audley Travel’s clientele who seek only undiluted luxury.

 

“…and to discover that everywhere, even in the greyest corners of a broken world, there will always be an Avon Lady.”

To me, the world is the rat-infested, bullet-riddled apartments of Johannesburg’s Hillbrow in the coffee-fuelled company of inured paramedics, and a stroll around the perfectly manicured lawns of a golf course in the Caribbean. It is books by obscure authors with complicated surnames, film reviews at the back of in-flight magazines – I used to write those for Cathay Pacific’s ‘Discovery’ – and friendships quickly forged over a Monty Python reference. It is requests to write children’s books about Mendelssohn and Mozart, to make a website more interesting, to get a thesis fine-tuned. It is about engaging and being constantly engaged, simplifying the complex, and pushing myself to be more, see more, do more.

Perhaps more than anything, it is about finding the little things that make an unknown place feel like home – the dogs and cakes, bus stops and launderettes, and the never-ending possibilities of books and bicycles.

 

– Jane Thomas

 

Work with me

I’m a writer, photographer, and creator of unique bicycle tours.

 

If there is a project you want me to work on or if you would like more information about my bicycle tours, please drop me a message. All images on the website are for sale so if there is one that just needs to be on your wall then let me know and I can arrange printing and delivery; I am often on the move but if you would like to have a photoshoot and we are in the same neck of the woods then I’d love to hear from you. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.