Crowds at the Magic Circus of Samoa, 2007

 

Zoe founded CirqueScape after retiring from international performing. Her touring career spanned more than a decade and saw her ice skating, juggling, and aerial dancing across six continents. Her guest blog posts will give an insight into her experiences over the years. You can check out her performance background at www.zoebaldock.biz

If you want to catch up on the previous instalment, we’re picking up from here. Alternatively, you can start at the beginning of the story here.

 

Opening night nerves

If there’s one thing that growing up in a competitive sport prepares you for, it’s high pressure situations. By their nature, most competitive sports are seasonal, so you spend an entire year gearing up to the big event. You get one shot, and if you blow it then you won’t get another shot for another year. Or maybe four, if you have Olympic dreams.

Performance sports tend to have a slightly different vibe. It’s fairly rare for one performance to be a turning point for your career; a be-all-and-end-all moment. The main exceptions are opening nights or performances that you know are being watched by someone of particular significance. Talent scouts, or family members… or the prime minister of Samoa…

 

Famous faces

The Magic Circus of Samoa has a long history in the islands, and the owner of the circus had built up a strong relationship with local authorities. In Apia, the circus was pitched just a short stroll away from the government buildings. One afternoon shortly before opening night I wandered into the kitchen tent to grab a coffee. I said hello in passing to a man who was sitting with the boss at one of the long vinyl-covered tables that we all ate our meals together at.

Later on, the boss asked me (with that ever-present twinkle in his eye) if I knew who I had said hello to earlier. It turned out my casual greeting had been directed towards the prime minister of Samoa. In fact, he was something of a regular visitor while we were pitched in town. He was our guest of honour on opening night, seated front row centre with a huge smile on his face throughout the show.

 

Magic Circus of Samoa in front of the government building in Apia, 2006

 

Adrenaline rush

Of course, it wasn’t just his presence that made opening night nerve-wracking. The first public performance of a show is your opportunity to prove that the bosses made the right decision in hiring you. The chances are your act still isn’t fully committed to muscle memory, and the energy that a crowd brings can induce a huge adrenaline rush. Imagine trying to recite your favourite poem while on a rollercoaster… sensory overload!

Rehearsal protocols are, in many ways, a reflection of human psychology. The more unfamiliar things we’re dealing with at one time, the more likely we are to be overwhelmed and unable to cope. Performing a show for the first time, you want the only “new” thing to be the presence of an audience. In an ideal world you’d rehearse your show with the exact props you’ll be using (rather than a replica). Final run-throughs should be with the same lighting and sound design as will be used for the performance.

This is more important than you might think. If a juggler is suddenly blinded by a light that wasn’t used during rehearsals it can have a huge impact on their performance. If an aerialist is blasted unexpectedly by sound from a heavy-bass speaker right near their head, this could dangerously distract them from their act. Both of these things have happened to me during shows. Neither with serious consequences, thankfully. But both experiences highlighted to me the importance of limiting the unexpected as far as possible.

 

Anxiety kicks in

The day of opening a show is usually one fraught with adrenaline and last-minute fixes. Sometimes the worry of getting things wrong will keep performers awake the night before. I remember a sleepless night before a show in Germany because I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to control the 5ft span wings that were part of my costume. But that’s another story for another time.

The gates to the circus opened, and the public started wandering into the big top to take their seats. Being a small circus, everyone was assigned duties during the show. Several of my colleagues were tasked with walkabout sales of popcorn, candy floss, and inflatable toys. My duty, aside from when I was on stage for my act, was chief spotlight operator. This meant that my pre-show perch was up on the sound and light platform, with a prime view of the goings-on in the tent. I remember sitting on that platform, taking in the smell of popcorn as the bleacher seats around me slowly filled up with excited families.

 

Merchandise on sale at the Magic Circus

 

My act was in the later stages of the second half of the show, and as I watched my colleagues go out on stage before me I was more nervous for them than I had ever been for my own performances. Perhaps this was a glimpse at how my mum had felt watching me skate at competitions. The opening number was a ring juggling trio. They were all Samoans, and six months previously none of them had ever juggled before, much less performed on stage. The boss had met them all in different places, recognised their potential, and invited them to train with him. So here they were, performing for their prime minister who was amongst a crowd of almost 1500 people.

 

My view from the top

 

Watching with pride

I was in complete awe of these young Samoans’ ability to cope with the changes in their lives. A year ago they had all been at school or working for their families, never having set foot on a stage. They might have watched this show back then, and now they were in it. But they performed as if they had been doing this their whole lives, and I was incredibly proud to call them colleagues and friends. Seeing them put on such a great performance helped to settled my own nerves, which were rattling a bit as my turn on stage approached. People quite often ask me if I still get nervous when I’m performing, after all these years of experience. The truth is that every time I’m opening a new show, the adrenaline still kicks in hard.

Once we’d made it through opening night we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. Everyone had remembered where they were supposed to be, the audience loved the show, the reviews were great, and normal(ish) life could now be resumed.

 

Settling into life on tour

The pre-opening rehearsal period of a live show is often the time when you will work the longest hours (and in many cases earn the least). Once we had opened the show and were comfortable with what we were doing, we had a fair amount of free time. Shows were at 7pm Thursdays through to Sundays, which meant that from Mondays to Wednesdays we were able to do as we pleased.

My colleagues insisted that I should use this down-time to explore what Samoa had to offer. One invited me to come and visit his family on his home island of Savai’i. Larger than the main Samoan island of Upolo, but less populated. And, according to my colleague, far superior in beauty. So, one Monday morning, we jumped on a bus in downtown Apia. After a bumpy ride along the coastal road we were deposited onto a jetty, and from there we boarded a ferry bound for the “beautiful island”.

 

The photos you see in this post are Zoe’s personal photos and show what her circus life was really like!

Want to know what Zoe got up to in Savai’i? You’ll have to read her next guest blog post… coming soon!

Subscribe to our blog via RSS feed or email to keep up with CirqueScape’s latest news and Zoe’s circus diaries!

circus life

Magic Circus of Samoa, Apia, October 2006

 

Zoe founded CirqueScape after retiring from international performing. Her touring career spanned more than a decade and saw her ice skating, juggling, and aerial dancing across six continents. Her guest blog posts will give an insight into her experiences over the years. You can check out her performance background at www.zoebaldock.biz

If you want to catch up on the previous instalment, we’re picking up from here. Alternatively, you can start at the beginning of the story here.

 

Circus life on tour

I was caught off guard by how much life changed when we moved down to the town. I’d grown rather accustomed to my little stone hut up in the mountains, and I hadn’t really thought to ask where we’d be sleeping once we left the circus base. If you want it to sound fancy then I suppose you could say it was a form of modular living. Or you could call a spade a spade and we were living in shipping containers. The very same shipping containers that the circus would be packed into when it was time to move on. We’d move out and the tents and props would be moved in.

There were six containers, all liveried in identical circus logo and colours. Externally, all that distinguished them from each other was their allocated number, painted and circled in yellow on the side of each container. But each had its own personality inside. One was an office and sleeping space for the boss, while another was divided into two equal sized rooms. There was one that was divided into two rooms, one larger than the other and both with built-in beds.

 

Circus life

My circus roommates… a Colombian, a Venezuelan and two Argentinians!

 

Congratulations on your new home!

Container number 5 was my (very) humble abode. It housed three rooms constructed from plyboard, and was also home to the majority of the South American contingent in the circus. No longer was my morning wake-up call the noise of birds dancing and squabbling on the tin roof of my hut. Salsa and samba beats from the stereos of my neighbours was my new alarm.

It might have been unconventional, and sounds unpleasant to many (so I’ve been told). But circus life was a real lesson for my 22 year old self in how much space and how much “stuff” we really need. To begin with, my room had just a piece of vinyl floor covering and a mattress in the corner for decoration. So I set about making it a home.

Now we were down in Apia I could walk into town whenever I wanted, rather than having to wait for a ride down the mountainside in the back of one of the circus SUVs. This gave me a whole new sense of independence, and I always felt safe walking around alone.

I went to the local market and bought a hanging shoe organiser as a replacement for drawers. I swiped spare lengths of rope from backstage and strung them up as a makeshift wardrobe. And I cut the top off a two litre bottle of pop and used it as an emergency toilet if I needed a wee. Because sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. And it’s not worth getting drenched in a tropical storm for the sake of having a whizz in a portaloo. Even if it does mean peeing in your bedroom. Insert quip about the glamour of the entertainment industry right about here.

 

It’s the simple things…

The subject of bathrooms brings me around nicely to the other surprise that awaited on our shift down to town. On our first day pitched in Apia, I gathered up my washing essentials and trotted off to find the shower. I knew it existed because I had heard colleagues talking about. Still unaccustomed to the rather sprawling site, I did a few laps to see if I could locate anything that looked remotely like a bathroom.

It must have been the third time I was passing the kitchen tent that the boss called out to me from his breakfast. He asked if I was lost, with a sizeable twinkle in his eye. I showed him my towel and shampoo and nodded, and he pointed me towards a yellow tent. It was roughly the size of a shipping container, and was right behind me.

 

Circus life = not your standard bathroom

I was dubious but he looked at me encouragingly, so I scouted along the edge of the tent to find the entrance and poked my head inside. It was completely empty other than a blue 50 gallon plastic barrel in the far corner, so I approached the barrel to get on with a bucket wash. A far cry from the plumbed-in showers up in the mountains, but it would do the job.

Alas, the barrel was empty. I stayed in that tent for a pretty long time, searching around for a water supply and wondering what I was missing. In the end I sheepishly stepped back out of the tent to be greeted by the boss chuckling through that deep belly laugh… “ah, Zoe, we’ll turn you into an island circus girl yet!”.

It turned out that if you wanted to shower in the circus you first had to go and retrieve the hose. It could be in any number of places, from backstage, to the big top, or wherever it was being used for cleaning dishes or seats or clothes. So off I went in search of a water supply, clad in nothing but a sarong and with my shampoo tucked under my arm.

 

Give me solutions, not problems!

Needless to say those first few weeks in town were another huge learning curve for me. One which anyone who has backpacked or camped will probably be familiar with, to a greater or lesser extent. Circus life, I came to learn, was largely about finding practical solutions to everyday problems. One day at a time.

Unless they were part of the show those solutions didn’t have to be beautiful, they just had to work. Sometimes the solutions were beautiful in their simplicity. Although all meals were cooked for us by the resident chef (who doubled as the accountant), we all washed our own dishes after meals. This often meant a queue of people waiting for the hose just after lunch or dinner. So a rack of taps was set up outside the kitchen tent. There were three of them side by side, all tied to a single wooden plank (which in turn was tied to a metal pole or the nearest tree) and linked up to a single attachment point. Of course, the taps only supplied water if you attached the ever elusive hose to the setup…

 

No place like home

I developed a deep appreciation of the efforts that were made to make the circus feel like home. But that rarely came in the form of anything that I might have recognised as “homely” from life in the UK. We were encouraged to socialise all together in the kitchen tent in the evenings. We’d chat and sing, play computer games, watch movies.

One night a few of us were sat in our usual spot, unwinding after one of our last rehearsals before opening night. Someone mentioned that they hadn’t had pizza in weeks and they missed it. Less than an hour later a stack of pizzas were delivered to the circus. The boss had heard us chatting as he walked past and decided to treat us. I felt like a kid who’d been allowed to ride the ridiculously overpriced coin operated helicopter outside the supermarket. It sounds silly, but when you’re so far from everything you know it really is the little things that count.

 

Gearing up for opening night

Our mountain regime of a full run-through of the show every night at 7pm continued down in the town, right up until we reached opening night. It was quite an experience watching the weeks of hard work come together; it was the first time I had been involved in a professional production and I didn’t know what to expect. But our first night with an audience certainly did not disappoint…

 

The photos you see in this post are Zoe’s personal photos and show what her circus life was like!

Have you experienced circus life? If you haven’t then what do you think it’s like? Comment below to tell us!

Want to hear what opening night was like? You’ll have to read Zoe’s next guest blog post… coming soon!

Subscribe to our blog via RSS feed or email to keep up with CirqueScape’s latest news and Zoe’s circus diaries!

Expectation…

 

Zoe founded CirqueScape after retiring from international performing. Her touring career spanned more than a decade and saw her ice skating, juggling, and aerial dancing across six continents. Her guest blog posts will give an insight into her experiences over the years. You can check out her performance background at www.zoebaldock.biz

If you want to catch up on the previous instalment, we’re picking up from here. Alternatively, you can start at the beginning of the story here.

 

 

People tend to have a lot of questions about my stint as an ice skater in a Samoan circus. Admittedly, it’s not your average postgraduate job. A common query is how they managed to keep the ice frozen in a tent on a tropical island. The short answer is, they didn’t.

 

It’s magic! Magic plastic…

If you ever see an ice show on a surface that doesn’t quite look like ice, it’s probably synthetic ice. AKA, plastic. A special kind of plastic, but plastic all the same. Back then it was still a fairly new thing, and I’d never skated on it before. How difficult could it be though, right…?

My first few days in Samoa were spent acclimatising, recovering from jet lag, and getting to know people. The boss patiently waited until I’d settled in before introducing me to the “ice”, and everyone gathered in the big top ready for the momentous occasion as my circus ice skating debut approached.

Cue big speech from the boss and much fanfare about the first ice skater to perform in the South Pacific. All my new colleagues and friends were watching with palpable anticipation. No pressure or anything.

I stepped onto the stage and pushed off from the edge, just as I would have done on a rink at home. Fun fact – scientists think that what makes ice slippery is a layer of loose molecules on its surface (all you science fans can read more about that here).

 

Expectation vs reality

Sadly for me, there are no loose molecules to be found on the surface of synthetic ice. This means your legs have to work a whole lot harder to get you moving. My skate only nudged a couple of inches forward before friction brought it to a grinding halt. Meanwhile, my body continued moving with the forward motion it was expecting from my feet. I landed with a thud on my knees. Friction: 1, Zoe: nil. Expectation vs reality at its finest.

 

… reality

 

My new colleagues watched awkwardly with a mix of encouragement, pity, and unmet expectation on their faces. I didn’t dare look at the boss. I stumbled around for a few more minutes and eventually parked myself in a sweaty heap at the edge of the stage.

Swallowing my shame at not having met the mark, I found myself apologetically explaining to the other performers and the boss that it was quite different to skating on real ice. But not to worry, I’d work hard and make sure I got the hang of it by opening night.

Learning to skate on plastic almost felt like learning how to skate all over again, and both my pride and my body took a beating in the process. There were many moments when I felt like giving in, but I was determined not to be defeated by a bump in the road. Before too long, and with a lot of hard work, I’d managed to put a routine together and was feeling a bit more sure of myself.

 

All learning together

There was actually a pretty steep learning curve for all of us when it came to bringing ice skating to the circus. Ever noticed the rubber matting that covers the floors around ice rinks? It’s there to protect the metal blades of the ice skates from nicks and chips. Nobody in the circus had realised that I wouldn’t be able to walk on the rough jungle floor to the stage in my unprotected skates.

Fortunately the circus strongman was on hand to save the day at our first rehearsal with quick thinking and brute strength. Without hesitation he threw me over his shoulder and carried me to the stage. I’d like to say this was an elegant solution, but in reality I looked rather like a sparkly sack of potatoes as I tried desperately to keep the blades on my feet from slicing through the strongman’s chest.

The long term (and far less exciting) solution was a network of makeshift boardwalks that allowed me to move around backstage in a floor-is-lava style. Although the effectiveness of this system did depend on how many parts of the path had been borrowed for other purposes on that particular day!

 

Lessons in life… and plumbing

The lessons I learnt in those first few weeks weren’t just related to the pursuit of bringing a winter sport to a tropical island. Life in the mountains was a far cry from growing up in suburban Britain.

Not too long after I arrived at the circus base I went to the shower block after a particularly sweaty training session, only to discover that the shower wasn’t working. I tried the tap in the sink, and the one by the kitchen, and all were dry.

When I reported this to the boss I saw a twinkle in his eye. Sensing an opportunity to teach me about life in a South Pacific circus, he sent me off up the mountain with the magician to see if we could find what the problem was. Turned out a coconut had fallen onto our water pipe and cracked it. Hashtag island life.

 

When reality beats expectation

I can’t actually remember what I thought circus life in the islands might be like before I experienced it. But I gradually grew accustomed to the reality of being woken by a crowing cockerel every morning. I instantly fell in love with enjoying my breakfast in the mountains under a big yellow and purple tent. And my new life was providing more wonderful new surprises every day.

Having just made a move all the way around the world, my next relocation was to be my first as a part of the circus family. Preparations began for taking the big top down to the town for opening night…

 

The photos you see in this post are Zoe’s personal photos. The “expectation” photo was taken of Zoe while she was performing (on real ice!) in a circus in Malta – you can see the globe of death behind her.

The “reality” photo was taken of Zoe during a training session (nobody’s perfect, eh?!) at her old home rink in Bracknell, UK.

Tell us about your expectation vs reality experiences by commenting below!

Want to know what it was like moving down to the town? Read Zoe’s next guest blog post to find out!

Subscribe to our blog via RSS feed or email to keep up with CirqueScape’s latest news and Zoe’s circus diaries!

Pre-rehearsal in the big top

Zoe founded CirqueScape after retiring from international performing. Her touring career spanned more than a decade and saw her ice skating, juggling, and aerial dancing across six continents. Her guest blog posts will give an insight into her experiences over the years. You can check out her performance background at www.zoebaldock.biz

If you want to catch up on the previous instalment, we’re picking up from here. Alternatively, you can start at the beginning of the story here.

 

Meeting the boss

On arrival at circus base camp, I was taken straight to meet the boss. I’d seen pictures of him but I was still slightly overwhelmed at what a formidable fellow he was – every inch what you’d expect to see from a circus ringmaster (complete, on occasion, with twirly moustache).

He was sat back in a chair in his living room. It looked much like any living room you might find in the Mediterranean – light and airy, ceiling fan, tiled floors. He was smoking a cigarette, and a young Samoan woman was strapped to a broom in front of him.

When he spotted me he welcomed me with a huge smile and a booming belly laugh the likes of which I’d never heard before, before motioning for me to take a seat as he continued his conversation with a man in the corner of the room.

Their conversation was only partly in English, so it took me a while to realise that they were discussing a levitation trick that they were having some teething problems with. The girl smiled at me shyly as straps were adjusted around her and she was tipped up over the broom.

 

Welcome to circus life

After dismissing the magician and his assistant with instructions on how to improve the prop, the boss asked how my journey had been. He offered me breakfast and gave me his phone. He told me I should call home and tell my family that I was safe… The chance I had taken on the promises of a man I’d never met on the other side of the world was not lost on him.

After breakfast I was taken into the big top, where I would spend every evening for the next few weeks rehearsing the show. I don’t remember ever having been taken to the circus as a child, so this was my very first experience of setting foot inside a circus tent.

The year I was there, the performer roster was made up of a mix of “local” Pacific Islander artistes from Samoa, Kiribati, and the Solomon Islands, as well as a contingent of South Americans who were all from long-established circus families. As I stepped into the big top and my eyes adjusted to the lighting inside the tent, I could just about make out the Islander performers sitting on the stage.

 

An island-style circus welcome

A beat started playing, and it took me a moment to realise the sound was coming from the stage. The performers were all sitting cross-legged and slapping the insides of their knees to create a rhythm.

They bounced their knees up and down in time with the beat and proceeded to perform an incredible medley.  There was singing and chanting to the beat they were creating with their bodies, before it all came to a sudden halt and they jumped to their feet. But the show wasn’t over. They launched right into a traditional Samoan dance, or “Siva Samoa”.

The boss laughed at my wide-eyed amazement at the performance and told me this was an island-style welcome!

 

Siva Samoa

 

Settling into circus life

From the moment I arrived at the circus base, I was almost never alone. The philosophy was we were all one family. Someone was always knocking on my door inviting me to do something. We’d train in the big top together, or eat breakfast, or go for a walk or to watch a movie. My social life had never been so active!

We rehearsed every evening – a full run-through of the show at 7pm. Evenings after rehearsals were spent sitting around the kitchen tables drinking Koko Samoa or Argentinian mate. A guitar was never far away and the islanders serenaded us with harmonies that they had learnt from a lifetime of fireside singalongs.

Sometimes we’d all jump into the back of one of the trucks, and someone would drive us in the dark of the night down to one of the tiny local shops to buy sweets and treats. On one of those trips I was duped into trying raw fish for the first time. Which, incidentally, it turned out I loved… But I only tried it because I couldn’t see and was told it was melon!

 

Settling in

Life felt pretty good. It was a time of forging friendships and adapting to circus life in the jungle! It became apparent pretty quickly that I had a lot to learn…

 

The photos you see in this post are Zoe’s personal photos from her travels! Feel free to ask her about circus life in Samoa by commenting below.

Want to find out how rehearsals went? You’ll have to read Zoe’s next blog post!

Subscribe to our blog via RSS feed or email to keep up with CirqueScape’s latest news and Zoe’s circus diaries!

 

Sunrise over the Pacific from the Samoan shore

 

Zoe founded CirqueScape after retiring from international performing. Her touring career spanned more than a decade and saw her ice skating, juggling, and aerial dancing across six continents. Her guest blog posts will give an insight into her experiences over the years. You can check out her performance background at www.zoebaldock.biz

If you want to catch up on the previous instalment, we’re picking up from here. Alternatively, you can start at the beginning of the story here.

 

Circus diaries… let the adventure begin

Even all these years later I still remember that journey from the airport like it was yesterday.

It was probably one of the first times I noticed how different the light is just after sunrise, throwing long shadows through a gold-tinted haze. It might have been the first time I had witnessed sunrise over an ocean, and perhaps that helped.

The roadside was teeming with children dressed in smart blue uniforms, skipping and chanting on their way to school. Pigs and dogs would occasionally trot unhurriedly across the road in front of us.

Gradually the chaos settled, with the children disappearing into their schools. As the landscape slowly evened out into a blur of glittering ocean and bowed palm trees, I distinctly remember congratulating myself on my excellent decision to run off to a Samoan circus.

 

Samoan schoolchildren move aside to let us pass

 

It wasn’t just the spectacular scenery that led me to that conclusion. The new colleagues that I had barely met made me feel like a part of the family within minutes, nattering away with me like we were old friends.

 

A lesson in local culture: Samoan history 101!

As we drove along, the schoolchildren we were passing pointed into the car at me shouting “Palagi” (pronounced “palangi”).

My new friends laughed and explained that it sort of meant foreigner in Samoan, but I shouldn’t be offended, nor flattered. They likened it to pointing at a tree and saying “tree”. It was just that these children didn’t come across Palagis very often in real life so it was noteworthy.

The girl explained that she was Afakasi, meaning that she had Palagi heritage. German, to be exact – one of the long term changes to the cultural landscape in Samoa brought about by migration and colonialism. That, she told me, was why she looked so different to her companion, who was much darker than her despite them both being born and raised in Samoa.

Our chatter continued as they gave me a tour of the town of Apia, interrupting each other and laughing together. They showed me the local brewery and the downtown market. Then we passed the site where we’d be pitching the big top for opening night in a few weeks.

Before long it was time to head up into the mountains to meet the rest of the team, and my guides entertained me with tales of the circus all the way there.

 

The photos you see in this post are Zoe’s personal photos from her travels! Feel free to ask her about what it was like to join the Samoan circus by commenting below.

To find out what it was like up in the mountains you’ll have to read Welcome to circus life!

Subscribe to our blog via RSS feed or email to keep up with CirqueScape’s latest news and Zoe’s circus diaries!

Magic Circus of Samoa – Noumea, New Caledonia, July 2007

 

Zoe founded CirqueScape after retiring from international performing. Her touring career spanned more than a decade and saw her ice skating, juggling, and aerial dancing across six continents. Her guest blog posts will give an insight into her experiences over the years. You can check out her performance background at www.zoebaldock.biz

 

Circus diaries… how it all began

When we were offered pen pals through school at age ten, my classmates all chose French or German pals. I opted for an Indonesian. To this day I couldn’t tell you why. It was the mid-nineties, long before social media had burst onto the scene to put wild ideas in my head.

I don’t really remember what we talked about in our letters, just that her name was Ilona and she lived in Jakarta. Something I do remember is having a vague notion in my head that one day I would visit Indonesia. I kept a photo of Ilona pinned to a noticeboard on my bedroom wall for years as a reminder of my ambitions. She was sitting on a stone statue of a dragon in the city of Jakarta, gently smiling with her mother stood beside her. 

Sadly, I lacked the commitment (or the social media…) to maintain the long-distance friendship and Ilona and I have long since lost touch. But our letter exchanges encouraged my interest in the foreign and far-flung, and that interest never faded.

 

Postgraduate panic

Fast forward a decade; after graduating with a law degree and a Masters in English linguistics I was struggling to decide what my next step should be. So I hit Google (which did exist by that time, although Facebook and Instagram were still nowhere to be seen) for some inspiration.

I researched legal careers, academic posts, graduate schemes, and a whole host of other job prospects that seemed fitting. But I just wasn’t ready to commit myself to a daily commute and office hours. I had itchy feet, and nothing I had found so far was going to scratch that itch. 

Browsing the internet one day, I came across a job posting that really captured my imagination; a Samoan circus was looking for ice skaters (back story… I was a reasonably successful competitive figure skater in my youth).

British Junior Ice Dance Championships 1998

 

Specifically, they were looking for a pair team to perform in their show. I had some experience in pair skating, so I got in touch with a guy I’d partnered a few years earlier with a casual “hey, long time no see, do you fancy joining a circus in the South Pacific with me”. Lo and behold, a few days later we’d got the job.

 

Ready for adventure

Various people warned me this venture was a bad idea. My dad was convinced I would be coerced into becoming the knife thrower’s assistant. He had (rather unfairly, considering he hadn’t seen him perform) already decided that the knife thrower’s skills couldn’t possibly measure up to being directed at his youngest offspring.

We had hours of conversations about all the things that could go wrong, and I knew he had a reasonable point on a lot of fronts. But I just couldn’t shift my mind from the idea of what an adventure this would be. In any event, I told him, I wouldn’t be alone – my skating partner would be with me. So I set about preparing myself for the adventure of a lifetime… and I couldn’t have been more excited.

 

Going it alone

When my partner backed out of the job at the eleventh hour to take something a bit more conventional in Europe, I was heartbroken. Doubt had started to set in for him about whether a circus in the South Pacific was such a great place for a skater, and he invited me to go with him to work in Germany. But by that point my heart was set on an adventure in the islands.

When I explained the situation to the circus owner he seemed unfazed by the change of plan, and said he’d happily take me as a soloist. “It’s all part of circus life, there’s always a solution,” he told me.

But doing this whole thing alone was a bit of a game changer and wasn’t a decision I took lightly. This was certainly no guided gap year excursion. I’d be travelling alone, to the other side of the world, on the promises of a man I’d never met. I knew I was taking a big risk, but my sense of adventure got the better of me.

So, three weeks after handing in my graduate dissertation, I boarded a plane bound for Apia. Which I couldn’t even pronounce correctly at the time, let alone locate on a map. And yet, somehow, this all seemed like a grand old idea…

 

It’s pretty clear Zoe doesn’t let FOTU stand in her way… do you? Check out our post FOMO vs FOTU to find out.

To find out what happened when she landed in Samoa, check out Zoe’s next post, Have I made a mistake?

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The photos you see in this post are Zoe’s personal photos! Feel free to ask her about what it was like to join the Samoan circus by commenting below.