Get in touch with us

Let’s connect

Get in Touch

Why You Can’t Wear Thongs When Guest Speaking

by Thought Starters

I’ve spent most of the last working week in Sydney. The opportunity to develop tailored training for new clients, run a LinkedIn Publishing workshop and speak at a Tech Talk in a client’s Sydney office, were all reasons why it made sense to dedicate four days to a visit.

And there was one more reason. Mummy Sabbatical.

The reason I started Think Bespoke was to create greater flexibility in my life to care for my young children and also care for my mother (who was diagnosed with dementia in 2010, but now lives in residential care). And so on school holidays I am largely responsible for coordinating the activities of my two boys, now 9 and 11. I love hanging out with them and spent January maintaining Think Bespoke’s current client work and spending time with them playing tennis, swimming and enjoying time with family and friends.

But you know what I’ve learnt from running my own business? I LOVE it and have so many plans and thoughts I want to do and think, and it’s tricky to get the headspace to do this in January. On a personal note, I also wanted to take some time while I was in Sydney to process my dear Mum’s journey with dementia.

I booked this business trip to Sydney late last year, having remembered how I’d felt the year prior after the summer school holidays. The boys are back at school, things are back to normal and it’s the right time for me to be in my thoughts working on my business. Plus, Sydney is such an inspiring place to be. She’s so pretty and there are so many different sides to her. What a great place to put in motion some of the key components of my plans for 2017 and beyond.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Sydney Opera House

The idea was to walk all over Sydney, get to client meetings by bus, train or ferry and generally just be a tourist. No lunches to pack, no children to drop off and pick up and no family to cook for. Please note that I do share all of these duties with my wonderful husband who also runs his own business, plus his folks pick up my boys one day each week. It takes a village. Which is why it is feasible and manageable to visit Sydney (or Brisbane, or Tasmania) for business when the need arises.

Day One saw the end of a multiple day heatwave in Sydney with torrential rain. I was informed this was the first really heavy downpour Sydney has enjoyed since Christmas. As I left my home in Melbourne at 4.30am on Tuesday, Master 11 called out ‘Don’t forget your umbrella Mum. It’s meant to be raining in Sydney today’. Bless him. Pretty much from the time I left my first meeting in Sydney at 11am until the end of that day, it rained.

February rain in Sydney

Unfortunately there’s always one thing I forget when I pack, and it was the umbrella. I know, I know . . even though he reminded me . . it was early! Sasha normally makes me coffee in the morning. He was asleep. And so I forgot two things. I also forgot my trusty red birkenstocks. This relates to the thongs. I’ll close this loop for you later. I purchased an umbrella, made my way through the rain and, when it finally cleared at the end of the day, decided to walk across the city to my AirBNB in Woolloomooloo. With the feet feeling a little tired from the day’s activities, I whipped off my wedges and replaced them with my thongs.

Day Two and the humidity arrives. I find myself saying to people one of two things ‘Is it always this humid in Sydney?’ or ‘My hair does not normally look like this’. It felt like I was in Bali and sweat was dripping from my skin for most of the day. I imagine this is what menopause may be like . . constant overheating. I digress. The good news is that I did not let this heat stop me. I walked to the bus from my AirBNB (an experience that almost deserves its own blog post, but that would be way off topic, not relevant for my ideal client and I only allow myself these story telling blog posts every now and then). I chose to stay in Wooloomooloo, due to its close proximity to the CBD. I travelled on one bus from William Street and then changed over to another one and then walked a short distance to my client’s office in Five Dock. When I arrived, my client said to me. ‘I can’t believe you caught two buses to get here. No one catches public transport in Sydney.’ I explained my reasons, and as a mother of three young children, I think she got it.

tailored linkedin training

Knowing I would be ‘on foot’ for part of the day I’d decided to buy the ‘healing’ bandaids from the local supermarket the night before. I believed their promise to protect my skin and rapidly heal my blisters at the same time. Unfortunately, it’s not true and those bandaids ended up doing me more harm than good. As I walked towards my accommodation, across Hyde Park at the end of the day, I cursed myself for not packing my thongs. My feet were aching and my blisters were smarting.

Day Three and I’m back out amongst it, except this time I’ve opted for thongs as my first choice of wheels. The ‘healing’ bandaids had torn off my blisters, making my left heal red raw. This time I was catching a bus from William Street to Market Street, a path I could probably have walked . . . but the humidity . .   As I arrived at the tall building on Market Street, I quickly made my way to the corner of the lobby to carefully place my sore heeled feet into my wedges once again. As I did so, I looked up and saw my lovely client Graham, who facilitated the LinkedIn Publishing workshop that morning with me, smile and wave. As he entered the building, I told him about my feet. Yes, he’d seen the thongs (gasp) and explained that Sydney is just so humid in February. Being from the U.K. originally, he appreciated and also felt my discomfort.

Graham Jenkins and Karen Hollenbach, LinkedIn Articles , Sydney


Needless to say, the minute I stepped out of the Market Street building after the workshop, in full view of everyone, those heels were off and the thongs were back on again. I made my way to the serviced offices where I was meeting another client and apologised for the thongs. She empathised and completely understood. If friends of mine who are stylists are reading this now, they will be gasping, and saying ‘Karen’! My next client arrived and apologised for the wet patches on his shirt from the humidity outside. I put him at ease by showing him my thongs. He later told me that he’s far more comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt than a suit. The thongs did not seem to bother him, but after we parted ways later that day, after a cleansing cider at The Australian Hotel, he did say ‘What’s with those strange bandaids’. Damn the healing bandaids . . .

havaianas versus wedges in sydney humidity

Day Four and I’m thankfully spending most of the day in air-conditioned comfort writing for my clients. The thongs are on, I’m being productive and staying cool and hydrated. In the back of my mind is the fact that I am being expected at Golder Associates at 4pm. This is a global organisation, and after being invited to speak at their Tech Talk in their Melbourne office, they’d asked me to speak at their Sydney office next time I was in town. My plan this time was to invest in more bandaids, side stepping those ‘healing’ options and going for the big tough strips. By now my heel is less than pretty and still really hurting. While it’s had half a day of fresh air, it will be a week or so until it’s back to normal, so it was time to cover up so as not to scare the locals.

Keen to stay true to my intentions, I made my way to the bus stop on William Street to catch the 200 bus to Greenwich. I noted that a few interchanges will be required, and sighed. The bus approaches, and then passes me! So I take this as a sign that it’s time to catch a taxi. I don’t think the team attending the Tech Talk want to listen to a sweaty and disheveled speaker, I say to myself and share on Instagram. I arrive outside Golder Associate’s building and am thankful that the reception is on Level 2. I make my way into the air-conditioned foyer to put my wedges on for the last time that day. As I carefully place the first wedge on to my left foot I discover it does not fit! My feet have swollen in the heat, they much prefer my birkenstocks to my havainas (which I forgot to pack) and have not fared well from walking in thongs.

Taxi over the sydney harbour bridge


And there it is. For one brief moment I did seriously consider leaving my thongs on and explaining to Brad, my lovely Golder Associate, that, ‘while I know it’s not ideal, I’m going to have to keep these thongs on because my feet hurt’. Nooooooo! What saved me was the realisation that I had packed another pair of shoes. While they were more suited to dressing up a pair of jeans in the evening, I was limited for options. The good news is that I could get them on my feet and they were much better than thongs!

What’s funny (and SO me) is that I did mention to Brad, and okay, I may have also brought it up in my presentation, that this week’s blog would potentially be titled ‘Why You Can’t Wear Thongs When Guest Speaking’. And Brad made me feel much better. He said he’s originally from Brisbane and even he has not adjusted to Sydney’s humidity. Thank you to the wonderful team at Golder Associates for listening to my LinkedIn insights, for asking questions, for offering me a beer at the end of my Tech Talk and for connecting with me on LinkedIn before I was even in the taxi on my way to the airport and homeward bound.

Sydney – you’re so pretty, but not as enjoyable in your February humidity. Next Mummy Sabbatical I will be better prepared!

When would you suggest is a good time to visit Brisbane?


Karen Hollenbach, LinkedIn Expert Consultant, Educator & Mentor

Karen Hollenbach, LinkedIn Expert Consultant, Educator & Mentor

Thanks for reading my insights here on Think Bespoke's knowledge base.
Stay informed and sign up to Think Bespoke's e-insights.
You can also follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to Confessions of an Ambivert on Substack.
Skip to content