Hot off her newly launched, Straits Times Bestseller book Don’t Call Me Mrs Rogers, Paige Parker is adding one more feat to her list of accomplishments in 2018 – collaborating with Carrie K. in launching their newest jewellery collection, JOURNEY.
Just like her book, Paige is open and forthright. She does not shy away from her privilege yet stands proud of her North Carolina roots. For all of her experience gathered, she neither masquerades in humblebrag nor imposes her convictions on you. Instead, Paige brims with optimism and a keenness to learn new things, even in the midst of the present social and geopolitical uncertainty around the world.
You may have already read Paige’s story behind JOURNEY, but to fully grasp its moral – what it means to be driven, to chart your destiny, to be true to yourself yet love beyond yourself – you’d need to read Don’t Call Me Mrs Rogers in its entirety or know Paige Parker personally.
From a stranger’s point of view, it’s very easy to deride the narrative of a couple traveling the world as a silly adventure afforded by the wealthy. Yet Paige’s road trip was never a self-indulgent endeavour. The trip commenced in 1999, back when there was no GPS nor social media to broadcast one’s #wanderlust; Paige and Jim wanted to explore the world to observe people and learn from them, even if that meant taking the path less beaten, and being held at gunpoint on one occasion. If the overland trip’s circumstances could not convince otherwise, then the thought of bearing with each other for 1,101 days consecutively in a car might scare away any ordinary couple.
As it turned out, road bumps, brushes with danger and harassments were rife. While Paige frequently felt indignant, Jim was often nonchalant. She could have called off the trip on multiple occasions, only to resolve to be bigger, bolder, but never more bitter. With each succeeding checkpoint in the journey Paige became even more active and keen on meeting new people, cultures and listening to their stories. No longer just a passenger, she was sharing the wheel and staking herself as an equal to Jim, a conviction that holds true even today and is cheekily exemplified in her book title.
Together, the couple would continue to immerse themselves for the rest of the trip in a time when the Internet had scarcely any information to educate on people and cultures. They would also get married along the journey. The story of the road trip was quickly published by Jim in Adventure Capitalist, whereas Paige took nearly two decades later to tell her own side of the story. Both versions equally justify who they are and the causes they stand for. Yet their messages cannot differ more than their choice of music they brought to the trip – a regard which Paige has arguably an upper hand in. Where Jim speaks with a logical and financial perspective, Paige speaks to the heart, and by extension, her daughters and to many other young women in the world.
We speak with Paige Parker to talk about her book, her travels, beliefs and her philanthropic works.
The reception of the book has been great, have you had any unexpected feedback/ review/ comments or questions?
I’m proud because women I respect enormously have read it and they are genuinely moved by it. That makes me so happy. My daughter says it’s the best book she’s ever read, which makes me the proudest mother in the world. I’m delighted, albeit a little surprised, by the love and support I’ve received for my book.
What advice would you give your daughters about falling in love and going on an adventure around the world with their man?
Depends on the man! Some are able to make things happen and live through wars. Some would be dead because they can’t cope. Honestly, I think my daughters will be wise enough to travel on their own, but in our present state of things in this crazy world, it might be safer for them to travel with a mate.
How did Jim and you manage to drive around the world so efficiently without a GPS back in the days?
There are not many roads nor options in much of the world. Plus, we had a good deal of old-fashioned maps. And I often shouted out of the window to anyone listening, “Which way to XYZ?!” Where there is a will, there’s a way.
Do you still have any places to visit or things to accomplish on your bucket list
Absolutely! I’m trekking in Nepal in November. I’ve not been to Greece, the North Pole, the real Iran (only to Kish island), Maldives, Libya and many more spots…
In a time when information wasn’t readily available over the Internet, you were opened and immersed to so many cultures, some of which you’ve spoken your awe of. What do you think is key to respecting, and not patronising, culture and people?
To travel without mental baggage. Go out there to explore the world without biases and pre-conceived notions of people and places. Keep an open heart.
You mentioned how people may be different but we all want for our children to be healthy and happy. How do you think this shared desire could contribute to a better planet for all to live together?
By not warping our children with prejudices. We are all born without them. We learn them from parents, friends, governments, media, etc. It is up to us to educate our children to question, to be tolerate, to be accepting.
Your experience in Angola has profoundly changed your outlook and contributed to your faith in humankind. Why do you think humans are so cynical of each other and how could we help to tackle this cynicism?
Because no one would watch the news if it was all feel-good vibes and nice people. For better or worse, people like drama and feeling better than others. It’s a human flaw I witnessed countless times in the world. I’d tell someone we just came from X country, and he would say, “Oh, that place is so dangerous. I’m surprised you’re still alive.” Then I’d say, we’re going to Z, and he’d say, “Oh, you can’t go there. Those people are dirty.” Or sickly. Or dishonest. Or something negative. People fear each other because they don’t know each other. This breeds cynicism and a lack of faith in others. Travel will cure this in almost everyone.
What does charting your own journey mean to you? If there’s one part of your journey you’d have altered, what would it be?
For me, to chart my own journey means: To take chances. Do what is right. Travel, question and maintain a keen curiosity always.
On this circumnavigation, I began terribly naïve. I depended on Jim emotionally in the beginning. After he didn’t empathize with me on several frustrating occasions, I felt broken. I felt cheated. I felt like I’d signed up for something that didn’t exist. But about three months into the trip, I found my bearings. I understood that I needed to make the journey mine. Or else go home. We can’t do a major journey for anyone other than ourselves. Having admitted all of this, I wouldn’t alter a thing. I grew from this adventure. I became the woman I was meant to be. And I made it on my terms. That’s what matters!
How much of your philanthropic works today is influenced by your encounters during the Journey?
Certainly, my support of the Singapore Committee for UNWomen (link to UNWomen) is a direct result of seeing the lack of status for women in the world – witnessing women with no freedom of movement; lacking the right to a passport and education like their male counterparts. Women walking hours to fetch wood to cook for the family, while men sat roadside sipping tea. Now, in my work at UNWomen, we work to empower women here and in the region. We are building a shelter at Cox’s Bazar to support the displaced Rohingya women and children. We work locally to educate young women on STEM subjects, so they will study in areas seen to be male-dominated for too long. What I do is little, baby steps. But if all of us help in some way, then the effort will not be small.
Education, another area we support, is a no-brainer. If we lift up children, then their lives will be forever transformed. And I feel the same way about supporting the local arts scene here. Children need more than the classroom in order to be whole. I know some see this as elitist because no one really needs the ballet, `but I argue that a first-world country like Singapore, producing some of the smartest children in the world, does need their young to be exposed to ballet, music and visual arts. After all, studies show children have improved social tolerance and critical thinking as a result of interacting with the arts.
Paige Parker wearing Carrie K.'s Compass Pearl Clip, Globe Earrings and Globe Ring. View the JOURNEY collection here.
What do you look out for in jewellery designs?
Depends on the stone. If it’s an aesthetic piece, then I might want something more OTT. If it’s a Kashmir sapphire, then I’ll definitely want a more classic setting.
How did you end up becoming a gemmologist?
Christie’s invited me to Bangkok for a week of GIA classes. Every night, my classmates went out eating and drinking. I stayed in studying, falling in love with the theory and gemstones. Once back in Singapore, I stayed with it with visits to Bangkok and Hong Kong to gain my certification as GIA GG.
What’s your favourite piece in the Journey collection?
Definitely the globe ring. I love the dimensions to it. I love the heft. I love that it’s so obviously a globe!
When the girls grow up, which piece would you pick for Happy and which one would suit Bee?
I love the bracelets in all three colours worn together; these are timeless pieces I can see myself and my daughters wearing for the long term. I like the Compass Brooch for Bee and the Globe Ear Jackets for Happy – when they are both older!
What five words would you engrave on the jewellery for yourself and separately for your girls?
Me: Passion, Perseverance, Play, Power, Patience
My daughters: Loyalty, Integrity, Curiosity, Discipline, Inspired