Judith Treanor, 48, launched her online business Temples and Markets in 2015 after visiting Cambodia.
When I think back to the first time I travelled through Asia, I have a very clear vision. It's of me, hovering above a hole in the ground – a toilet – in a Chinese village and thinking, "Wow, if only Mum could see me now!"
Up until that trip, I'd lived a very English life. But while I was going through the motions of the rat race in London, I felt a calling to explore somewhere completely different.
Travelling through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos awoke something within me – I fell in love with the colour, the serenity and the people, and knew I'd come back to see more. And while I had settling in Australia in the back of my mind, I don't think I could ever have imagined the role south-east Asia would play in my future.
I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit and I've played my hand in various roles over the years, from buying and merchandising in department stores and working in advertising to running my own management consultancy when my son, who's now 14, was born.
But when my son turned two, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and everything changed. As I was undergoing surgery and radiotherapy, I realised I wanted a life that was positive and fulfilled. It was time to do something for myself.
I was walking around the stores of Siem Reap in 2015 when I happened on the idea that was to change the course of my life. Walking into a store, I became mesmerised by the most beautiful jewellery made using red, white and brown seeds, and the owner had the most wonderful story about employing local women to help them climb out of hardship. Even as we were speaking, the idea was sparking in the back of my mind – an online store where you could not only buy these gorgeous products from far-flung corners of the world, but also learn the stories of the people who make them.
Once I made up my mind to go for it, Temples and Markets evolved quickly. Travelling frequently through the region, I sourced – and continue to source – sustainable and recycled materials such as wallets made of tyre inner-tubing, jewellery from melted bullet casings, and bags made from recycled fishing nets. I collaborate with social enterprises working with local artisans who come from very little.
Focusing on a business that has a positive impact on communities I adore makes me happy and drives me to keep building. Passion is obviously winning out; we saw a 48 per cent increase in business last year and I'm receiving a lot more international orders these days.
Sometimes I wonder what life would have been like had I not travelled, if I'd stayed within the life I was born into. Perhaps I'd be doing the standard two weeks each year in the Mediterranean and awaiting the results of Brexit. Who knows? Thank goodness I'm not – this is much more exciting!
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