Written by Leanne Esposito
MEET OUR EARTHWALKER EXTRAORDINAIRE WHO TRAVELS THE GLOBE.
When Selina Jane Wild, the inimitable Jane of the jungles of Sumatra and Borneo, the wild one, started travelling the depth and breadth of this earth she’d never even heard of a bucket list, and
rightly so. Especially since the term was only coined and popularised earlier in 2007 after the movie
of the same name, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman was released.
Bucket list, it seems, comes from the phrase ‘to kick the bucket’ which is a figure of speech meaning to die. What Jane Wild has done her entire life, is live life to its absolute maximum and more. She is a woman whose bucket is bottomless, or if it isn’t, its overflowing, and like the good Hebrew psalm, her cup certainly does runneth over.
To me Jane Wild is Hervey Bay’s own fashion icon. She possesses the stylistic flair which could only be compared to New York’s Accidental Icon Lyn Slater, head of the sartorial sisterhood of older women.
Only Jane is some years Lyn’s senior. As a teenager Jane was saving her pennies and buying up trendy threads in the town of Leicester back in the United Kingdom’s swinging sixties – long before Lyn had even purchased her first lipstick.
So it’s not surprising that at 74 years of age Jane has kicked open the doors on another new venture
and established her latest fashion business. In the midst of the Covid crisis, smack bang in the middle of the world’s annus horribilus, she opened Dress Me Wild, a women’s fashion boutique in Pialba. And it’s thriving. While fashion is her passion, Jane is only marking time until the worldwide borders open up and she can book her next flight out of Australia.
She hopes to travel soon, and this is where perhaps we might see a glimpse of what could be called her bucket list.
After her medical practitioner gives this superactive septuagenarian her regular physical and
the all clear, she lets him know there’s certainly more living to do, with trips to destinations in the
Indonesian archipelago already pencilled in.
‘Whenever my doctor says, ‘oh no that’s fine Jane’, I say good because I’ve got so much to do,’ she said.
I am learning that it’s her signature style to blend business with pleasure, or at least to work hard and
save enough money to travel. She tells me that she has done it all her working life, with international
past-employers, grateful for her services, yet being fully informed from the outset and appraised of her special condition – itchy feet.
“I’ve told the Centre Manager that I would like to stay here until the planes start flying. I don’t have
a lease. I went (into the centre) for two weeks and now I’ve been there five months. I just go month to month,” she said.
And travel she does so well. It may have started out as a dream for young Jane. While living an idyllic life from within the walls of an historic mansion, set in the countryside of the English midlands, she fantasised about travelling across the seas to the Isles of Guernsey and Jersey.
Perhaps living in the middle of your country, without saltwater in sight, it’s not surprising that a trip to the ocean would inspire an otherworldly experience. As a 17-year-old that dream all too soon became her reality when her family left the UK. In the middle of a snowstorm, they travelled across several oceans, and landed in Australia in a 30-degree searing, Sydney summer heatwave.
Soon after the family moved to Armidale in country New South Wales where doors opened effortlessly for an extremely intelligent young Jane, and a secretarial career blossomed. Even then the jobs were only a means by which she could fund her travel plans. Right from the beginning Jane proved that she could handle any situation, working with impossible bosses where others had tried and failed.
“I spent a few months working there as a secretary and then I went to Sydney, which was amazing
because you would be a typist until the day you died in England. I did it because I was good at what I did. I worked in London and would come back to Australia to get a bit of sunshine. I worked for five years in Holland as a secretary with BP and at Shell’s head office in The Hague,” Jane said.
Jane appears to possesses a pragmatic no-nonsense and fearless approach to life. She is sensitive the needs of others and savvy in a worldly way, which is all at once alluring. Her boundless confidence, engaging energy and charismatic nature are traits which have stood her in good stead, in life, and in sticky situations throughout her travels. I gather she won’t be intimidated by anyone or anything.
Bad bosses and poison people step aside and seem to naturally afford her the respect she so rightly
deserves. However, like many of us, it took her several years to understand the saying ‘choose a job
that you love and you will never work a day in your life’ and to be able to manifest her love of clothing
into a career.
“No one ever told me that you should work in what you love. No-one has ever told me that. It was not a thing. To think I worked as a secretary for years and years and saved hard to buy what I liked. I realised it (clothing) was such a passion,” she said.
When referring to her later career in fashion a glint appears in her eyes as she discusses an inaugural shopping spree to Macy’s of New York. Fifth Avenue is certainly the pinnacle of any fashionista’s fantasy.
Whether she actually purchased many items is not disclosed, however it wasn’t long after that
she decided to open her own pre-loved boutiques in the early nineties – first with Selina’s Bazaar in
Maryborough, then Wild Things in Scarness.
“Everything you saw was second hand. It was about recycling and that is what I was really passionate about. The word pre-loved clothing was struck at the time I had my shop there. There was no such word until the eighties.
“While I was living in Holland there was a shop called Second Hand Rose. It was very high end and I wanted to do that.
“I wanted to take your lovely outfit when you are sick of it and sell it to someone like me who would love it,” she said.
Jane was able to run her businesses while raising her daughter Samantha who was born in 1984. At the age of four Samantha took her first flight to London where they went on a buying trip together.
Soon they moved into an old Queenslander in Howard which Jane colourfully renovated. The home was to be yet another business called Country Clutter. Jane confesses to, at that time, a notch of nostalgia for the old country and says that she has now come to terms with her Australianness, when speaking in fashion terms.
“I was trying to be as English as one could be in Australia.” she said.
Later Jane made triannual buying trips to Bali where she would source clothing to sell at the markets from Hervey Bay to Yeppoon. Her modus operandi was simple. On arrival at Denpasar airport her transport would be ready – a bicycle with panniers or large baskets into which the apparel would fit.
Riding in and out of traffic along the busy streets of Bali’s wholesale fashion district was a breeze for Jane.
Perhaps it was all those years of living in Holland, because Jane has an affinity, she even gives pet
names to her two-wheeled transport.
“I worked in Brunei for a year and when I left I put my bicycle called Oskar on board a freighter called
the Rupert Brook and we got off in Singapore where I had friends living on the 84th floor of a building and Oskar and I rode the lift together,” she said.
Some of us pick our way with the caution of a barefoot walker on a bindi covered lawn. And then
there is Jane; fearless in taking risks where others fear to tread. She lives life the Jane Wild way.
Whether she’s taking an overland trip from London to Kathmandu with side jaunts to Baghdad and Kuwait for a mere £40; selling her own blood in Kuwait or politely eating rancid eggs while sitting on the floor of a Bedouin tent (so as not to offend her hosts) – Jane is living her life to the fullest.
The earth’s atlas is her playground and she’s navigated its map with a gleeful, youthful abandon,
loving every swing and roundabout she encounters.
“I was in Penang when there was an uprising between the Chinese and the Malays. I went to Bali in 1970 and stayed for about six months. I fell in love with it.
After that I travelled the rest (Asia) except Cambodia and Vietnam because there was a war on at that time, but it was always back to Bali. I wanted a villa there but ended up with a beautiful time-share,” she said.
While working in Brunei she was know as ‘the Aussie girl who liked to go walkabout’. Wherever Jane lived it was understood that she would only work until her next adventure.
“I worked in a French nightclub Vientiane in Laos where young trendy ex-pats would come. I was
taking receipts and on the cash till,” she said.
After that she worked in a Malay shop where she encountered a trip of a lifetime, canoeing up the Ulu River to live with the Iban tribes for a week.
“I found out where the boat was to take you. It took two days to get up the Ulu because of the ferocious rapids. We had to sleep overnight and eat wild boar.
I just walked off the boat and all the little kids came running. I lived in a long house and I’ll never forget sitting down there. They were able to tell me that the last person they had there was a French man 10 years ago and now we have you,” she said.
While Jane admits to enjoying the tropics more than a temperate climate, a recent trip to England was particularly special, and helped her reconnect with the countryside of her youth.
“Last year I went to England for the first time in thirty years and I fell in love with it all over again. Lots of people said you wouldn’t like it as it has changed so much. I adored it. The first day I was there I heard a babbling brook and a song thrush. I saw English nature. It was the nature that was calling me,” she said.
Later in life Jane worked for many years as a disability support worker and loved it. She is a Reiki Master and has immersed herself in rebirthing courses.
While Jane the earth-walker has criss-crossed the world many times over, she admits there is still more to do. There are places to see and people to meet on what could possibly be called her bucket-list, but what is really Jane’s way of life.
If you ever get a chance to meet Jane, ask her how was her latest canoeing adventure? Her trek across Komodo? The snorkelling trip in Flores? Or the scheduled excursion to Rome? It was the city shedeviated around as a young broke backpacker, but one to which she had already booked to stay in 2020 this time around in luxury accommodation.
These and many more are the itineraries Jane has been dying to do – figuratively!
If you’ve read Jane’s story and feel inspired, you may like an affirmation to go with that pinch of aspiration.
The yearly bucket list oath.
I solemnly swear to create memories that last a lifetime.
I vow to make an impression on the world, not the couch.
I promise to dream about unrealistic goals.
And make them my reality.