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.
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).
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?
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.