I’m sure you’ve heard of hula hoop superstar Marawa the Amazing: she has spun hoops on stage with Major Lazer and Olivia Newton John (not together — that would be weird), on runways for Kenzo, and made it to the semifinals of Britain’s Got Talent. What you probably didn’t know, though, is that Marawa is also an accomplished Travelette!
“I grew up with nomad printed in my genes”, Marawa writes on her website: raised between Australia, Papua New-Guinea and the Middle-East, she was circus-trained in Melbourne and now lives in London. She travels extensively all-year-round, performing and spreading the hoola-love on every available surface of the globe. What’s more, she takes travelling in heels so seriously that she even roller-skates in them. Now how cool is that?
Abundantly documenting her travels on Instagram (@marawa), Marawa regularly posts shots of amazing places, outrageous outfits, fantastic manicures and extreme-hooping in crazy locations. What immediately caught my attention, though, was the photos of her recent trip to North Korea — the world’s most secret country, which allows less than 4,000 Westerners to cross its closed-down borders every year.
How is it to experience travel in a totalitarian state, almost completely isolated from the rest of the world? I asked Marawa the question, and here is what she answered: “You can go to North Korea as long as you go with a tour group. There’s a lot of paperwork, and you don’t see your passport until you leave again, but it’s not that difficult anymore! Things are really changing there: I tried to go last year, but it didn’t work out, and at the time you couldn’t take phones or laptops in at all — you had to leave them in China. But now — one year later — I was in there snapping away on my iPhone. A lot is changing — fast!”
She found being in a country where advertising doesn’t even exist particularly strange: “It made me realise how much we have to filter and ignore of our daily visual palate, constantly overstimulated and visually saturated”, she says. “In North Korea, that was all stripped away: no advertising, no blaring radios, no clothes with crazy graphic prints or text… Everything is plain: not depressing — lots of colour still —, but simple I guess. And I felt my head was so much clearer! It was easier to think.”
However, Marawa did not visit North Korea for the sole purpose of extreme travel: as a circus artist, her main motivation was to see the legendary North Korean Mass Games live. Mass Games? “It’s a show that involves 100,000 acrobats doing synchronised routines, formations, dances”. And what she saw literally blew her mind: “It was totally and utterly… I don’t even have the words to explain. It was everything… Busby Berkeley x one million!” [Hollywood film director and choreographer Busby Berkeley was famous for his kaleidoscopic creations].
Even short of North Korea, the list of places Marawa has hooped at would still be pretty impressive. The craziest, she reckons, were St James’ Palace in London, Russia (“So damn cold!”) and Warsaw (“A really beautiful place”). Along with Mexico, where she participated in the Mexican Circus Convention last year: “Mexico is mad for hula hoops! And there was a juggling volleyball match on the last day, where people juggled clubs and threw them over the net, and back, and forth… I was well impressed!”
Her most magical travel memory, however, dates back to the days when she was living in Papua New Guinea: “We used to take these boat trips on the weekend out to islands and explore them. The boat would drop you off in the morning, and then come back just before sunset… I would always panic we would be left there and have to fend for ourselves! The islands were so beautiful, full of tropical plants and crazy-coloured fish. I loved it there!” Next on her list? “COLUMBIA! And I really want to work in Japan — I love Japan!”
When it comes to travel essentials, Marawa has five: Nuxe ‘Rêve de miel’ lip balm, hair elastics (her hair is pretty epic), sunglasses, headphones paired with lots of good playlists, and… a blow-up foot cushion: “It makes long flights a dream!” And what about shopping tips to replicate her fabulous vintage-style outfits? “Alice Edgeley! She is a genius and she makes all my clothes. She has a shop in Melbourne (220 Gertrude St, Fitzroy), but she posts stuff everywhere.”
Finally, I asked Marawa about hooping as a way to stay fit while on the road. “It’s a really good way to unwind (duh!) after a long flight, great to wake you up or give you an energy boost!”, she said. “Even just putting on one song you like and going for it is enough to wake you up”. Never hooped before? “Take a class [Marawa runs Hoola Schoola in London, but you’ll be able to find classes in most major cities], or watch some tutorials — I have a bunch coming up in November.” And if you get a travel hoop — “they fold or twist into a smaller circle” —, you’ll have the most portable (and festival-friendly) fitness instrument ever!
Adventurous, stylish and super enthusiastic about sharing her travel tips: Marawa is definitely one damn cool Travelette.
All pictures from Marawa the Amazing’s Instagram account, used with permission.
To find out more about Marawa’s trip to North Korea, read her report for Voyage d’études here.
On the hunt for a hoop? Marawa sells her own ones via her Hoopermarket. Hoopnotica also makes a convenient travel hoop that breaks down into multiple bits for transport — it’s great if you don’t mind the squeaking (I own one and it’s a bit noisy).
Marie Colinet was part of the Travelettes team from 2013 to 2015. Originally from Toulouse, France, two years lived in Australia left her speaking English with an awkward Fraussie accent. In September 2015, Marie is starting the epic 6-month-or-who-knows-how-long road-trip along the Panamerican Highway that she’s been dreaming of since her teenage years — all the way from the U.S. to the very tip of South-America. You can follow her on Instagram @mariecolinet!Tweet