Flying back from Vienna was much less of rigmarole than my journey into the country. In fact, it was so smooth and good going that I even managed to score a whole row of seats to myself. If I couldn’t enjoy some on-board entertainment, I was sure going to enjoy stretching out and having a sleep.
I arrived into London and caught a bus to a nearby hotel in Gatwick. I had a small room to myself and I enjoyed having my own space and lapped up the opportunity to relax, watch some of the Olympics and sort my next few days out.
The next day I made my way into central London and with a day to kill, I decided to put my suitcase in a holding bay and make my way out into the city. It was the last week of the Olympics and the city was still buzzing with people from all over the world. I decided to try and find the Kiwi House, which was the main New Zealand Olympic hub, set up for the duration of the games. I found it quite easy, as it was just a 5-minute walk from St Pancras Station. The line to get in was rather long and not moving at all. Eventually a cultural group came out and started to perform some songs and dances. I decided to give up trying to go in and moved to the front to watch the performance. It was wonderful to have a taste of home on this side of the world. I watched and filmed some of the songs until the lead guy spoke and announced that the entire New Zealand Olympic team was arriving shortly. The Kapa Haka group performed a traditional Maori call to welcome the Olympians. All of them were dressed in their black with silver fern uniforms with their well-deserved medals regally hanging from their necks. They slowly made their way over and began to hongi (Maori greeting) each of the dancers and performers. It was exciting to see all the athletes and their medals and made me feel very patriotic and proud of my country.St Pancras Station NZ Olympic Hub The Line Kapa Haka Group Kapa Haka Group New Zealand Olympic Team
After the performance I walked along the nearby canal and back along through to the train station. Ensuring I had plenty of time to catch my train, (how prepared of me) I collected my bag and made my way to the platform I needed. I was headed north of London to Hertfordshire to the small town of Hatfield, for a week of training for my first job in the UK. You may have seen in a previous blog, I managed to get a job as a live in carer. I arrived in Hatfield to find Wendy, the manager of the house I was to stay in, waiting for me. “Hi Seerah” she said. A kiwi! I knew that twang and immediately asked, “North or South Island?” We headed back to the house where another kiwi was also living there, Jess. They were both live-in carer’s too but stayed in the training house until they were called for a job. The house was new and had just been re-furbished. Normally they see about 5-6 carers for training each week but this week, it was just me and one other girl. Kayleigh. - a fun loving girl from Scotland. Having most of the house to ourselves we got to pick the best rooms where we settled for the night before our first day.
The next day we headed into the main offices for our first training day. It was just Kayleigh and I and our hilarious training leader Jim who took us through our booklets and many a terrible 80’s reenactment video. Jim was funny and loved to show us every time we had a break, the latest funny YouTube video he had found. The first day was fun and being only two of us, we were flying threw the booklet.
Hatfield used to be an airfield town. There is still nothing there really except a strip of shops and a mall. Kayleigh and I didn’t want to be stuck inside all evening with no TV and no cards, so we decided to head out and find a pub. We found on good old Google maps an inn that had a pub attached to it. We walked for about 45 minutes in what seemed like a circle, before we enlisted the help of a nearby stranger. His name was Andy and he had a limp and a crutch from pulling his Achilles heel. Andy didn’t live here but he thought he knew the way and offered the service of his phone as well, so joined us in our search. Another 20 minutes went by and we felt we better find a ‘local’. Another stranger joined the search party, again with their phone, all of which lead us to a field. We eventually found that the pub was inside the University grounds, beside the field and after 2 hours of walking and 2 new friends, we found it! We walked through the front door and it was buzzing. For a quiet town, with no one around it was certainly a strange site to see. We asked at the bar what was happening and they informed us that this was where all the police officers from around the country were stationed to stay during the Olympic games when they were off duty. Not even sure if we were allowed to be there, we grabbed a drink and sat down. We made friends with a table of cops from up north – one of which was from my hometown and happened to know my Aunt and Uncle. The world really is small. We had a laugh and someone even pulled out some cards to which we settled upon that the only game we all collectively knew was snap. Still it was a lot of fun, and in my competitive nature I played till I won!
The next day was the day I was most nervous about. The driving test. Now I am a confident driver, but you may have read before, I had not driven a manual car and I knew I would be required to drive one here. I had 10 lessons in New Zealand and felt as prepared as I could be. Tim the driving instructor brought me out to the parking lot and said “now we just need to test your eyes before we hop in the car”. No sweat. “Please can you read that silver car’s number plate to me” scanning the lot I found the car and assumed squinty face and read what I saw “. 7..H..J wait..L..Q48”. He didn’t say anything but “ok, let’s try another, how about that black van”. No problem. “Ok um, 8PB hmm wait a second P LN?” I questioned. I was already failing my test and I hadn’t even gotten in the car! Tim laughed, I suspected laced with a hint of nervousness as he had to be in the passenger seat, and just said “not a good start but let’s go anyway”. The nice, new looking silver hatchback was daunting. No scratches, no bumps. I sure hoped I didn’t change that! I managed to smoothly pull out of the car park and out into the country lane road. If I was wanting more people around in this small town before, I was now immediately thankful there wasn’t as I had the road to myself. Tim took me through some general tests and then got me to park at the local supermarket. Apparently despite my nervousness and feeling like I was crawling along, the only thing I needed to work on was slowing my speed. I couldn’t believe I actually passed my test – it was a miracle! I didn’t rip out any gardens or bunny hop through into someone’s house. Progress!
The rest of the week went fast and because we were getting through the book we got told we could finish early and leave on Thursday instead of Friday. Our last day was more practical learning as we learnt how to use the pulley systems and how to move people in bed. It was interesting. We also did some communication exercises where we had to face each other and one had to ask questions while the other made no sound or make any facial expression. Poor Jim had to endure a raucous laughing fit from both Kayleigh and I as we couldn’t contain our laughter when we tried to give off no reaction to the other person. If there is one thing that is hard to stop, it’s a laughing fit. It lasted about 10 minutes with both of us crying, bent double and nearly on the floor. The slightest thing would set it off again and we ended up having to have a break. Poor Jim didn’t stick around to show us another YouTube video but instead had a coffee outside. Still it was a lot of fun!
Thursday came and it was time to say our goodbyes. The week was interesting and I learnt a lot. I was nervous about starting work as it wasn’t something I had done before and out of my comfort zone but I think that was something I was looking forward to. I had already embarked on a big life change, so taking me further out of my comfort zone was something I needed and wanted as I started this new life of mine.
I headed back to Blackpool for one week with my family before it was time to start the real work. I was ready.
Love and leaving zones,
I have much experience in this league of Train Missing that I felt I could impart some of my knowledge to those who may be tired of the status quo. Perhaps you’ve had enough with being like everyone else and prioritizing your time well. Maybe being efficient, timely, and being at-the-right-place-at-the-right-time just doesn’t interest you anymore. Well my transport-dodging friends, you have come to the right place. I have devised an easy to follow list that will have you missing, skipping and bypassing trains, planes and boats in no time.
Please be cautioned, this guide may result in the ripple effect of non-intentional failure to connect to other modes of transport, it may also disturb set schedules such as meetings, appointments and other such engagements. Should these consequences not appeal to you, please proceed to employ the opposite of all offered tips.
With the aforementioned warning in place, lets get under way.
1. The number one rule to ensure a maximum train-miss, is to get up at least three alarms after your initially set wake-up bell. Ideally on a 10 or 5 past digit, however you can rise on odds or evens according to your pedantic preference.
2. Do not pack your holiday bag the night before. Always leave packing to the morning of departure. Make sure to have some needed items hanging in another room and for an even better hindrance, have some clothes still needing a 15-minute blast in the dryer down stairs.
3. Departure day should definitely coincide with hair-washing day. You could do this the day before, but for the fresh, clean and shiny result your going to want to do this in the morning. Having to wash AND dry your hair will definitely lose you time and you are bound to miss your train.
4. Do not have a plan. Throw any contingencies to the wind and always severely underestimate your travel and getting-ready time. This will certainly allow you to arrive a hairbreadth of a second before your train chugs away from the gate. You might even be lucky enough to meet Gary the always straight and sharp station worker who is kind enough to close the door just before you get there and even mime with much over enunciation “YOUR TOO LATE”. You’ll love Gary.
5. Do not study up on any departure, arrival or destination details. Preparedness can result in making your train and you don’t want that. Not if you want to pass this course!
6. Do not print your train tickets out. They have many a confusing, time-wasting machine at all your favorite stations. Simply arrive with your heavy, last-minute packed bag, waddle up to the machine and fumble through every card in your little Oyster Card wallet before finally squeezing out the one you need. Then follow the touch screen instructions until you reach the page where you need to enter in your booking reference number. Resume scrambling into your over-stuffed bag to find the scrap of paper you wrote the number on and continue to do this until the screen reloads as it assumes you have given up and walked away. Re-start ticket retrieval process. The ticket machine is also a train-missing fanatic and will aid you in this process by slowly spitting out 4-5 tickets for one train journey. Once you have the wad of tickets in hand, commence the drag and slide. Shuffle to the side with your heavy bag in one laden arm, jacket, cardholder, scrap of paper and tickets in the other. Re-pack bag and proceed to ticket gate. Enter every ticket except the one you need first. This will allow you to use up precious minutes.
7. Always assume you know which platform you need. Perhaps glance at the information screen as a gesture of good-will if you like, but often just presuppose you know where you are going and head straight for it, no questions asked. You will most likely have the wrong gate or platform and have to double back on yourself. You could have saved time asking or looking at the information provided, but that’s not what you want, is it?
8.As you’re not into preparing for your trip, you will have made sure not to have gone to the loo prior to leaving the house. A good time to go will be when you’ve made it to the desired platform and magically have 3 minutes to spare. You absolutely will not make it to the loo, complete your business and make it back in time to catch your train so I positively recommend this tip.
9. If for some reason, you are having an off day and you manage to catch your initial train on time. - Do not fear! To miss your connection or change over, simply sit in the seat farthest away from the door. To triple action this miss, put on some headphones, whip out a book as these will ensue enough distraction so you don’t hear the annoying reminders that your stop is coming up.
10. The final tip I can offer you is to always dawdle around the bookstores conveniently located in the stations. The two books in your already over-crowded bag have not been finished but you sure as heck need another one and you absolutely need it 5 minutes before your train is due to leave. With any luck there will be a line to the counter and hopefully you’ll have a Leisurely Linda who will limply scan the book a few times before it goes through, maybe chat to you about the plot of the book and even offer you some sweets or chocolates on sale near the register. Minutes will tick by and your train is bound to leave without you.
Congratulations! You are now a qualified Train-Misser! You are now equipped to get out there and start missing all sorts of trains. Get creative, maybe save expelling energy and just not even turn up to the station. Sleep in, have a day off. Or you could go to the station and just watch from the comfort of the station mezzanine as your train sidles out of the bay and off to your destination. The world is your oyster and you can miss it all if you want! If you wish to miss other modes of transport, simply replace ‘Train’ with your chosen transportation.
There you have it. You’ll never catch a train again!
Love and learning,
Groggily excited would be an accurate description of how I felt at 5am in the morning. I was on my way to my first country in continental Europe but not only that; I was going to be catching up with my beautiful friend, Sierra.
My kind brother, Jonathan, had offered to drop me at the train station. I thanked him and Michelle for their generosity and for the wonderful weekend and caught my train without any hiccups.
Confidently on the correct train and given the ease of my last train journey, I couldn’t foresee any transport related issues happening this time! We pulled into St Pancras station just as my itinerary had informed me I would. I had 10 minutes to get from my platform to the next one where I needed to catch my train to Gatwick airport. Walking up the large staircase with my heavy bag, I became immediately aware that I needed to pick up my pace so as not to miss my next connection. I swiftly ran between my fellow travellers, darting in and out of a frustrating amalgamation of slow pokes and other hurried, time-pressed passengers. My last, hard lesson taught me to double check where I was going, so I made sure to ask the station worker of the correct platform and quickly dashed to it. Visual checks – Platform 1? Yes, Train parked? Yes. I commenced boarding, found an empty seat and savoured a moment of being proud of myself for once again conquering the tricky trains! We pulled away and out into the main city. Stops came and went and I drifted in and out of sleep as tiredness began to settle on me. An hour passed and the car began to empty. I was now alone and definitely started to doubt the train I was on was the one for me. The train name was correct, I definitely had the right platform, I had 5 minutes at least to spare, did I get the train before perhaps? I started to frantically try and search on my phone to see if the route I was taking was indeed the one I needed. To no avail I decided to get off at the next stop. Finding the first worker I could, I demanded, in all my stress, to know where I was. Orpington was not the answer I wanted to hear. Orpington, as in, 45km in the wrong direction! Tears brimming, I was frustrated at the situation, disappointed I had managed to conjure up another train catching fiasco and stressed as I had two and a half hours till my plane departed and I still needed to get there, check in and find my gate – and we all now how brilliant at getting to my gate on time, I am. I raced to the ticket office for advice as to what to do. The lady was kind and recommended I head back into central London and start again. Thankfully I didn’t have to pay! I was now very awake and alert and as soon as the next train came I jumped on and repeated my practiced plan and sat near the door.
Relieved, I managed to arrive safely and fairly, timely at the airport. I searched the board for the ticket desk I needed and turned the corner to find that the huge queue I had just passed was the line I needed to be in. The clocked ticked simultaneously with the queue inching forward. Exasperated I made it to the front of the queue, glided through customs and headed straight for my gate. Surprisingly I was the first one there, making me doubt that I had the gate number wrong. However, the stewardess confirmed it was correct and I gave myself permission to relax. After about 20 minutes, we were able to begin boarding. “32A, 32A” I quietly repeated to myself as I edged down the aisle, spotting the little numbers above each seat on the left and right. Row after row I passed and counted until I could go no further. What?! How could the plane possibly only go up to 26 rows! My ticket screamed otherwise. ‘Am I on the wrong plane?’ I not unreasonably thought. Again seeking help of a worker, I enquired where I was to sit. His reply “It’s like a bus, just sit wherever you like”. As if the 80’s brown, seat covers and sparse interior décor wasn’t enough to assure me of the cheap, albeit lovely, price I had paid for my ticket. This casual approach to seating arrangements made me slightly nervous as to the remaining quality of the flight. Still, I love to travel and this was not enough to deter me.
The flight was rather pleasant. I was pleased I had the foresight to assume there would be no in-flight entertainment and so was glad I had brought a book with me. Excitement returned as we started to descend and I peered out the window down at the new country below. Taxying to the gate the captain came on the intercom and welcomed us. “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, thank you for flying with us today. Welcome to sunny Geneva! The time is 1.15pm..” wait….WHAT? In a split second my thought process went like this: Geneva?! I am meant to be in Vienna! Not Geneva. Is that even a real country? I thought that was made up for the film, Princess Diaries? I can understand getting the wrong the gate, I can even understand getting on a wrong train but how could I have possibly gotten on the wrong plane? How am I going to get to Vienna from here? Where is Geneva? Am I still in Europe? I guess it could be fun. At least it’s another country. My thoughts were interrupted with a very apologetic captain informing us that we were indeed in Vienna. Panic over. Phew! Hoping for no more problems, I left the airport and out into beautiful Vienna!
I was looking forward to catching up with Sierra as I hadn’t seen her for 4 months since she left on her own big trip and she would also be the first friend from New Zealand I would have seen since I left! Sierra was in Vienna for a couple of months on a dance scholarship. Attending the famous, Impulstanz Dance festival, Sierra was an inspiration and an amazing dancer! I had a few hours to kill before she could meet me after class, so I took the liberty of going for an explorative walk and also hunting down a cold drink, as it was 26 degrees! Down one of the beautiful streets, I came across a lovely little ice cream shop and decided to set up home for a couple of hours. Not knowing a word of German, I used the pictures to guide me and chose, what looked like a little ice-cream sundae. The waitress came out tray in hand topped with a huge Sundae big enough for three people to share! Very surprised I gave it my best but couldn’t even manage half of it - still it was a very welcoming relief to the scorching heat.
Eventually the time came to meet Sierra so I made my way to our meeting point and eagerly awaited her arrival. Sierra arrived with her lovely new friend, Jill, from Canada. Hugs and greetings all round, it was like no time had passed. It was so wonderful to see her and we all excitedly chatted about the week ahead. We made our way up the hill to Sierra’s apartment, all the while admiring the architecture and detail of the stunning buildings as we passed them.
The apartment was such a sweet, antique style building with a tiny elevator that just managed to cosily fit the three of us and my giant bag. The inside of the apartment was even better with it’s retro embellishments. The heat was so great, the windows stayed permanently open which not only provided much needed cool air, but entertainment as an array of noises ricocheted throughout the square courtyard, enclosed just outside. Amplified sneezes, raucous snoring and yapping dogs ensued laughing fits until sleep became more important and they became less tolerable.
We didn’t waste a minute of my time there and after a quick catch up we immediately got ready and headed out into the warm air for a bite to eat. The girls combined their German knowledge and we all managed to order something edible, even if the meals were unknowingly jentacular, the omelette was delicious! We met up with another new friend of Sierra’s, Denise, and headed to a cool bar just up the road. Thank fully, Mojitos are Mojitos in German so ordering proved much easier at this venue. It was fun getting to know each other, hearing their dancing stories and chatting about our travels interspersed with random expressions of glee at being in Vienna! A stroll down the main road and Gelato was not out of the question and completed my lovely first evening in Wien.
The next morning was a wonderful German invitation to enjoy the array of blue sky and sunshine. I accompanied Sierra to the dance festival venue as she guided me through maps, landmarks and ideas of places to visit. The commute beat Auckland traffic on a good day as we passed more stunning buildings then continued on foot through the glorious park that lead to the dance hall. I stayed for a bit and watched a couple of classes. A previous dancer myself, I was fascinated to watch and see the different genres and techniques. I spent the rest of the day finding my bearings and exploring the area near the festival. I met back with Sierra at the end of her last class and we headed back for a quiet night in - planning our week, catching up on everything and having a good laugh. It was so good to see my lovely friend again.
On the way to the dance festival
Sierra doing her thing!
The next day proved another stunner and with a rough plan in mind, I headed down the main street to the see what I could find. I came across the Museums Quartier. I decided to take a short cut through one of the buildings, which turned out to be the Museum of Modern Art. I walked straight into a fashion exhibition. The gallery was stunning and displayed incredible, unique dresses made to react to different human emotions and situations. The technology was amazing and the detail was just beautiful. Being a Wednesday, it wasn’t very busy and I enjoyed being able to take my time and view the art I had just stumbled across.
This dress gives you an electric shock when you tell a lie.
This dress includes a sensory system that ‘bleeds’ ink whenever a visitor approaches.
This hat reacts and animates in accordance with the changes in its surrounding electromagnetic waves. The piece emulates horripilation, also known as goose bumps in humans. When you dial a number from your mobile near the hat, it ruffles its feathers.
Making my way out, I crossed the road and entered into the grounds connecting the Naturhist and Kunsthist Museums. The size of the buildings was enough to engulf you with awe. The detail and intricate designs were a work of art. I carried on through and came across the stunning, Habsburg palace where Hitler gave a speech to the Viennese in 1938. The picturesque edifice contained no air or remnant of evil despite its famous visitor. A beautiful foyer led me out into the other side of the palace and into a busy junction. Taking photos of every building increased my appetite and I opted for a German classic, sausage for lunch. Studying the menu I luckily guessed a hot dog and was pleased it came with no unwanted ingredients. Fuel to carry on, I headed on my way down another beautiful street and as I walked passed an inviting park I decided to ditch the map to my backpack and explore. Not knowing where you are going can land you amongst some city gems, and this expedition did not fail. I discovered some beautiful landmarks.
A street in Vienna
The grounds between the Museums
The ceiling in the Habsburg Palace Foyer
My handy, informative map notified me that Vienna was a city in which Mozart once lived and I was not far away from said house. I navigated my way through the streets and eventually found the tiny street, Domgasse. Mozart lived at number 5 from 1784 to 1787 and in those old, enchanting rooms the musical genius composed one of his most well known operas The Marriage of Figaro. The tour was inspirational and took me not only through the historic home but also along the journey of his life. It was incredible to be in a place that was not only 200 years old but was once inhibited by one of the greatest composers in history. I spent 2 hours reading and discovering more about Mozart before I decided I should be heading back to meet Sierra.
Mozarts home from 1784 - 1787
Still buzzing from the day, Sierra and I decided to head out for the evening too. We made our way to the Parliament buildings that completely blew any other government structures out of the water, not least our tiny Beehive. The fountain statues enthralled me. My experience of statues was not vast but the span of them mostly consisted of strong characters or gentle, whimsical feminine carvings. I was captured by the melancholy and sadness of these statues as the struggle and pain of holding the heavy water pots above them was expressed in the incredible workmanship. After stopping for a photo, we headed down to the Berg theatre and the Rathaus Platz where the Vienna Film festival was on. Thousands of people milled between the many food stalls offering cuisine from all over the world. We enjoyed some Mexican and cocktails on the grass before checking out the evening’s entertainment, which was an opera, projected onto the side of the large, Rathaus building. The day was wonderful and I was curious as to how I could possibly top it the following day.
Vienna Parliament Buildings
Sierra and I
Amazing water statues
Mexican picnic tea
Vienna Film Festival
Waking up to the sun streaming through our open window and the clanging of the bins below, I got ready and splayed the map out before me trying to pick out the sites I hadn’t already seen. The Stephans Platz Cathedral was first on my list and away I went. I had been in cathedrals before from prior trips to England, but they had nothing on the spectacular facets of this enchanting gothic cathedral. A 12th Century construction, this beautiful structure has a Baroque style in it’s detail and still bears scars of fire damage from the second World War. It was airy and quiet even though it was filled with many tourists.
St Stephans Platz Cathedral
The incredible Organ
The black stains from the fire
After lunch I decided to make my way back to the dance festival via the route containing the War monument and Belvedere Palace.
I viewed the beautiful monument and headed up the street to the Belvedere Palace. I entered the grounds and admired yet again another stunning view. If possible, this building was more remarkable than the previous. I took many photos and turned around to make my way out when I was struck with a magnificent sight. What I had thought was the Belvedere was in fact only the lower part of the Palace. The main, Upper Belvedere was a scene to behold. Immaculate gardens adorned the grounds set on a gentle incline. The majestic fountains and wrought iron gates delicately stated their presence and added beauty to the incredible Palace. I strolled through the gardens and stared at the incredible vision before me. I had never seen anything so extravagant.
Fountain at the War memorial
Monument at the War memorial
The Lower Belvedere
Pathway to the Upper Belvedere
Fountain in the palace grounds
A view of the front of the Upper Belvedere
The entrance gates
A good friend of Sierras, who was living in Vienna, had given us suggestions of places to go including another country! Bratislava, in Slovakia, was a near neighbour of Vienna and at only 14 Euros return, I was all for adding another country to my list! It was my last full day and I decided to spend the day in Bratislava. I had never heard of this place and was curious to see what I could find there. I caught the train with complete ease. It seems unknown and foreign trains are not a problem for me. Give me an English train and I’m all over the place! Literally. I arrived and grabbed a map from the station before heading out. I naturally couldn’t understand the bus system so just hopped on the first bus that came past and resolved to watch the streets go by and attempt to following along on my map. My plan worked well and I was at the beautiful waterfront in no time. I didn’t know any famous landmarks and my map was a simple one so I decided to walk along the water and into what I felt was the heart of the city. I first came across the home of Slovenia’s famed poet, France Preseren. I certainly didn’t know who he was at first, but it turns out some of his work appears in the national anthem of the Republic of Slovenia. I walked further and found a beautiful cobbled street leading up to an old building that looked like a small church. As I got closer I saw what looked like a castle behind it. I climbed on one of the walls and looked out to the spectacular view of the city.
France Preserens former home
A view from the top
Up to the castle
I followed the path up and into the castle grounds. Bratislava became the coronation of the Hungarian empire in the 16th Century. This castle I so casually came across happened to house the crown jewels of the Hungarian Kings in the tower. The view however, was the real sparkler.
A view from the castle grounds
This city was like no other I had seen before. Graffiti intertwined historic buildings and small shops containing antiques sat beside tacky souvenir vendors. I sidled through a quaint alleyway and passed town troubadours and street performers including a friendly guy who posed next to a real statue and scared people as they walked passed.
One is real, one isn’t
Satisfied with yet another wonderful day I soaked up the train journey back and took in the beautiful countryside and peaceful surroundings.
On the train journey back to Vienna
My friend Tom, whom you may remember from my previous blog, had a friend who lived in Vienna whom he met on one of his many travelling adventures. The connection provided Sierra with an ally when she first arrived and they became good friends. Such is the fantastic travelling community that offers connections that will always come in handy. Doris was lovely and, having heard much about her I was pleased to be going out with her and Sierra for dinner. The famous Danube sounded appealing to us and we found an ‘only-open-in-summer’ pop-up restaurant that was not only delicious but also was one of the only places showing the Olympics. Sadly no Kiwis appeared on the screen but we had a great viewing of Austrian table tennis!
We ended the evening strolling along the river Danube and getting another delicious Gelato before calling it a night.
Along the River Danube
Vienna had captured me in a way I wasn’t expecting. For my first time in Europe, I was exceptionally delighted and I couldn’t wait to be back and exploring more countries! It was the end of my week there and I was sweetly exhausted. Saying goodbye was sad, not only leaving the gorgeous country, but also saying goodbye to Sierra. My indefinite move overseas meant I wasn’t sure when we would meet up again, but I could see the travel bug had her too and was confident I wouldn’t be waiting too long.
Love and delectable escapades,
With a déjà vu-esque air, I had to say goodbye again, this time to my English family. However, just as previous weeks had delivered an excitement and anticipation of arriving at a new destination and re-uniting with friends and family, this next trip was to be no different. Nottingham was the next port of call. The home of Robin Hood and the oldest pub in the world, but more importantly, my brother Jonathan and his wife Michelle. For those of you who aren’t aware, Jonathan is my eldest brother. The first son of my dads before Sean and I came along, Jonathan grew up in England. None of the family had spoken to him, let alone met him so it was a highlight indeed when I met him for the first time five years ago. Thanks to the connectedness of Zuckerbergs finest invention, I found Jonathan just about the time I was heading to England for my cousins wedding. After both confirming that we were most definitely related we arranged to meet and what an incredible and surreal day that was. It’s quite a wonderfully strange moment meeting someone who is so relationally close to you yet whom you have not ever met before. Jonathan looks like my other brother Sean and so it was like knowing him but not knowing him - if you get me. I still think back to that as one of the best days I’ve experienced so far. Jonathan, Michelle and I went out for lunch at a lovely restaurant and shared stories, caught up on our lives, joked (he is very funny!) and just got to know each other. We then went back to my Aunty and Uncle’s home, where I was staying, and spent the afternoon drinking tea and chatting in the garden. It was like I had known him all my life. Remarkable. Anyway, back to the present, which is technically the past but present for you as you are in the present reading this and I am merely telling of the past. Still with me? Bless you.
I boarded my train in Blackpool with a newly gained ‘train-savvy’ attitude. I had this figured out; no one was going to stop me from getting my correct trains this time! I tactfully sat in the seat closest to the door. Adopting Aeroplane instructions, I mentally counted the seats to the exit.1. Excellent. Next, I put my bag under my seat so as not to be tempted to pass the time with a distracting book or music and spent the journey prepared to descend the train swiftly, efficiently, hopefully elegantly but most importantly – at the right stop. Three hours later, all bags and train stops accounted for, I triumphantly chugged into Nottingham station. I had done it! I had navigated England’s railway system and got the desired outcome all with a little poise, I like to think. Anyway, small ‘life-wins’ aside, I was there and was very excited to see Jonathan who was waiting to pick me up. I was looking forward to spending the weekend with Jonathan and Michelle and getting to know them more. As I mentioned earlier, I had met Jonathan and Michelle five years ago and once more after that in 2010, but both were short, fleeting visits. This time round I was able to stay with them and spend some quality time.
Jonathan is an exceptional cook. This I knew from the time he made mum and I a meal when we visited at Christmas a couple of years back. However I didn’t realize how good he was until each mealtime proved to be phenomenal and a much-welcomed party in the venue that was my mouth. That summery evening we sat outside and enjoyed a delicious homemade Italian meal coupled with a matching wine that just topped the whole thing off. I hadn’t experienced wine matched with food before, and it truly adds to the meal. Not a connoisseur yet but another ‘life-win’ indeed!
After-dinner coffee teamed with a delectable Amaro.
The next day, the chef and I went off to the local market and perused the fresh and sometimes strange produce that graced the sidewalks. Colour’s, textures, and fresh aromas surrounded us as we picked up the ingredients for that evenings meal. We were having a small party for one of Jonathan’s band mates. On the menu were salads of all nations – Greek, Jamaican, and Italian. We enjoyed homemade Mediterranean kebabs and spicy chicken along with spare ribs and pita bread. As you can imagine, it did not disappoint. The jovial evening was wonderful and a laugh. I spent half of it yelling out words in my best ‘English’ accent as my new friends tried to engrain the sound of the letter ‘e’ instead of my twangy ‘i’ in the appropriate places. Ending the night on the couch listening to music and chatting to the wee hours – it was such fun.
Name that vegetable!
The next day was ‘Global take-a-casual-stroll-in-the-park day’ also commonly known as, Saturday. Be it any other day and you would call it a walk, but as it was the 6th day of the week and given my previous description, we strolled. Off to Newstead Abbey we went on a glorious sunny day. The poet Lord Byron formerly owned the stately home. For those of you not aware of his works – Ask Jeeves! This home is situated on a lovely large piece of land covered in immaculate gardens and delightfully wrapped around a peaceful lake. We wandered through the bush lining the lake and made our way to the other side where a folly had been built. We climbed up it and looked through the peepholes of the mock castle towers and admired the playful swans that, although elegantly gliding through the water, would now and then lose said dignity by ducking below the surface, bottoms up. We then made our way back towards the main house and strolled through the beautifully manicured gardens before stopping for a piece of cake and some elderflower cordial. How English indeed. Lovely. That evening we headed out to a local Polish restaurant where we got royally stuffed to the brim with exquisite food washed down with flavoured polish vodka. It was wonderful and a most excellent first experience of Polish food for me.
View from the bush
Through the peepholes
Pheasants gathering for an ‘English’ photo
Behind the waterfall
The next day I got to catch up with my lovely cousin, Emma, who is also living in Nottingham where she attends University. Emma, and her boyfriend Josh, had visited New Zealand last year and so it was great to finally meet up again and share all our Goss over lunch at a cute little café in the city centre. It was so great to catch up, although not long enough, but it reminded me how lovely it is to be friends with your family.
The White Rabbit Cafe
That evening was my last night in Nottingham and we enjoyed another spectacular homemade meal of Carbonara, matching wine and a delicious home-grown and home made, rhubarb crumble. How was I ever going to go back to my normal palate of sandwiches and crisps?! Anyway, an early night was on the cards, as I had to be up at 5am to catch my next train to London ahead of my flight to Vienna. Packed and prepared, I was not worried at all about the train journeys that awaited me. After all, I’m a pro now right?
It had truly been a wonderful weekend full of laughs, great food, good catch-ups and was fantastic to have spent more time with my brother and sister-in-law. Special it was.
Love and a matching wine,
This would be my fifth time back in Blackpool. Both my mum and my dad were born and raised here, so all of my family and extended family are from here too. For this reason, I feel a pull towards the North, I love it here and it feels like another hometown for me. Every time I walk past the field where my mum and Uncles and Aunty used to play, I feel a strange nostalgia. Strange because they aren’t my memories, but all the stories my mum told me come flooding back and I feel closer to her knowing I am in a place that is a huge part of who she is.
After a crazy few weeks of travelling, learning and meeting lots of people, it was so lovely to just stop and rest in a familiar place. It was truly like coming home. I was staying at my usual place, in my usual room with the usual view. It was comforting to be back. The first night I arrived I remembered exactly why I love coming here though– my family. We went out for a meal and I sat back and listened to all the news, stories and jokes and it felt like no time had passed. It was going to be a good week.
I had ten days here in Blackpool and I was happy to just take it as it comes. First on my agenda though, was to see my Grandad. Grandad lives a little bit out of town in Lytham. I was able to go with some of the family to see him, but on days when I couldn’t do that, I used my Uncle’s bike. I was so glad to be back on a bike. I rode the back way down the country lanes and enjoyed being able to take my time and watch the birds swooping in the surrounding fields. I always love spending time with my Grandad. He is 93 but still going for walks and his memory is pretty impressive for his age. The first day I saw him he called me ‘Cosmopolitan’. Not the magazine, or the drink, but meaning ‘A person who embraces multicultural demographics or a World Citizen. ‘ (Thanks Google) I’ll take that! Sometimes we don’t talk much; we just sit and enjoy each other’s company. Grandad apologized for not having much conversation, to which I replied, ”It’s nice just to sit here and be loved”. He agreed.
Each time I leave and say I’ll be back the next day, he says he’ll be waiting by his window to see me coming.
Yes. Seeing my Grandad always makes me feel blessed, loved and proud of the family I belong to.
The rest of the week was spent with catch up’s with all of the family. I came at the right time too because my Uncle Kevin, who normally lives on his boat in London, was up for the Golf Open in St Anne’s. We had a great BBQ at my Uncle Richards where we decided to construct an outside fireplace for a bonfire. I used my ‘skills’ from the NZ bush (ha!) to help create the pit. The fire was small at first and so we ended up using a paint stripper concoction to encourage it along – as you do!
The weather was surprisingly summery for Blackpool, or should I say, for England. My Aunt’s nephew was down from Scotland for the week so we decided to go for a walk around St Anne’s and along the beach. When I was two, the first time I came to England, Sean and I used to ride the Donkey’s on the beach. It was fun to see them still out strolling the sand making loads of footprints that my Grandma would have felt compelled to clean up!
Along with my wonderful Uncle’s and Aunties, I love hanging out with my cousins too. It’s great when family can also be your best friends. My cousins Andrea and Rick always make me laugh and I just love hanging out with them and their genius son, George. I am not kidding, George is the cutest most intelligent two year old I have ever met and I defy you to find a smarter boy! He can read and count and whenever he sees me he says, “Hello Sarah, it’s lovely to see you again!” - Just amazing! We had some great times playing in the garden and with his little kitchen making “paaancakes” as he would say, mimicking my accent.
Yes, he can use an iphone!
My favourite part of each day would be coming home to my Aunty Rhona and Uncle Jims house, where I stay. We always sit round the TV and have a good laugh and talks. I love nothing more than just being with my family. Family means everything to me, I just wish New Zealand and England were neighbours!
Sometimes you might hear people describing Blackpool in a less than glamorous way. A former thriving seaside town, it has lost a lot of its tourists, but not all. Still, despite its tacky tinge, it still has its charm. I may be biased, but I love Blackpool and I am proud to call it my second home.
Love and homecomings,
Having flown two ‘cheaper’ airlines I was excited to know that my last long haul was booked with Air New Zealand. We truly do have one of, if not the best airline. I Settled into my seat in the very last row of the plane. My personal t.v screen welcomed me with ‘Hi Sarah, Welcome on board.’ My seat neighbour was already there and he turned out to be the coach for our NZ Olympic swimming team. They are called the Aqua Blacks! It made for some interesting conversation as we discussed the Olympics and how this was his 5th time coaching an Olympic team.
9 ½ hours was the estimated travelling time to London. With seats this comfy and a huge selection of movies, games and music I was certain time would fly by. Sure enough, two movies, half a book and a nap later we were landing in overcast London. Nothing quite beats a view from a plane. When I left the US I couldn’t help but take photos of the terrain below. Unfortunately there was some turbulance whilst decscending into London so I couldn’t take any but it was a lovely view once we broke through the clouds.
My lovely friend Georgina, whom I was to stay with for the next few days, gave me perfect instructions to find my way to her house. In no time at all I was at her apartment where her Nan was waiting for me. Jan was so generous and hospitable. She wouldn’t let me help with anything and immediately made me a sandwich and cup of tea. I then had a bath and just felt so much better after the long flight. Georgina arrived home from work and we enjoyed a lovely night in with a roast dinner and a dvd.
The next day I was up and out to meet my other friend Tess. We made our way into central London to meet Georgina for lunch and to have a look around. We went across the actual London bridge, browsed the Borough markets and tried some delicious market treats before walking back to meet Georgie for dinner. After foraging our way through the underground we emerged out into the thick of Oxford circus. More people hustled along the sidewalks than downtown Auckland at the start of the Rugby World Cup – it was mental but still exciting! I loved watching people and even in the pouring rain it was great to see all the decorations up in preparation for the Olympic games.
The actual London Bridge
I know this is blurry but I love how it shows the rush of the city
We walked through Soho and China town before ending up back at Oxford circus where we enjoyed cocktails and dumplings and a long awaited catch-up! Again I thought I had skipped the jet lag as I had been feeling pretty good, but sure enough it hit me! I was asleep on the bus but lucky I had Georgina to prompt me when to get off. As soon as my head hit the pillow I was out!
The next day it was already time to leave. I got my things together and enjoyed a delicious home-cooked breakfast by the lovely Jan before gathering my things and racing out the door to catch my train – Sheffield bound.
The night before I had attempted to book my train online as it is usually cheaper, unfortunately the site would not accept my card and so I was reduced to having to risk it and try and buy it from the station. Heavy bag in hand, I made it to the front desk only to be told it would cost me £69! That was £50 more than the online deal. Refusing to pay that amount I sat on the bench to think about my next move. I went online and found that coaches were not too expensive and I was near the Victoria Coach Station. I walked along and managed to get a ticket for £20, the only thing was it was a 4 hour trip as opposed to 1 ½ on the train. Still I was happy to do it. I climbed aboard and I was on my way.
Tom used to live in New Zealand about 2 years ago and he flatted with my friend Emma, who you’ll know from my Australia blog. Tom is from the good north and lives in Sheffield with his family. His lovely mum was at the coach station to pick me up and back to the house we went. Tom had put out his New Zealand flag to welcome me! I was so excited to catch up with him after so long and to meet his lovely new girlfriend Sarah – great name! We had a lovely meal at home and then enjoyed a pint of cider at the local pub.
The international markets were on and so the next day we headed into town to check them out. Music was blearing and stalls full of sweets, hot food, trinkets and art from all over the world lined the cobbled lane. After wandering through we made our way to the Library and Art Museum where there was a special Andy Warhol exhibition on. It was, shall we say, interesting. There were other pieces by local and international artists. Such exquisite and intricate paintings, that always fascinates me.
After lunch we headed back home and enjoyed the evening watching Phoenix Nights a hilarious northern comedy that we unfortunately don’t get back in New Zealand.
No sooner had I arrived in Sheffield but I was off again, this time to my second ‘hometown’ Blackpool. Tom had booked my train for me and so I was able to get a good deal and not have to turn up to a horrendous price at the station. Tom took me in early and we enjoyed a coffee and a last minute catch-up before I caught my train.
( Sheffield train station
Ticket in hand and confident I was on the right train, I sat down and chugged my way to my first stop. Manchester Oxford was where I was to change and get onto my last train. Arriving sooner than I expected I hurridly stuffed my book back in my bag and tried to rush down the train aisle to the door. A lady standing her ground was in my way, I moved to let her pass, ran to the door just as the whistle blew and the door shut in front of my nose. It’s not a good feeling standing and watching the place where you are meant to be, pass you by. There’s a lesson in that – don’t let things pass you by, take the opportunity! Either that or get off the train at the right stop.
I let panic seep in a little bit as the train was moving faster and not stopping soon enough for me to even think about getting back to Manchester in time for my connecting train. I jumped off at the next stop and ran to the desk to ask where I was. “You are in Warrington love” the lady informed me. Having absolutely no idea where that was in relation to anything, I asked what I should do. The only options I had was to return to Manchester on the next train leaving in 40 minutes or walk to the station apparently down the road to get the next train to Blackpool via Preston. Being that my connecting train from Manchester was about to leave in 5 minutes I decided to go with the latter and made my way out of the unfamiliar train station in the direction I was told to go.
I had 15 minutes to take myself and my heavy bag to the next station. Time ticked quickly and my walk turned into a power walk which turned in to a jog which turned into a run. Actually considering how heavy my bag was, the last three may have all been the same speed!
I managed to find the station and arrived red faced, puffing and flustered. Having to spend another amount on a train ticket I had already paid for was frustrating, but what could I do. I ran to the platform and fell onto the train all the while asking every official person to make sure I was on the correct train. At Preston I was ready and waiting by the door to descend to make sure I made it to my next train. Sure enough I did and I was back to being excited to see my family and spending time in Blackpool!
The train rolled into the station and I made my way out and found my Uncle Jim and Aunty Rhona waiting to pick me up. Ahh, I was home.
Love and unexpected detours,
I have written and re-written this blog so many times. Trying to articulate and express how much I gained from the WDS weekend has proven to be harder than I thought and just was not doing it justice. I feel that the best way for you to see how wonderful it was is to see how it has changed me. I made some exciting goals and I am continuing to put my action plan in place, I’d love to tell you all about it as I go along. For now, I will tell you four things I learnt that weekend.
The whole week so far had been a glorious package of summery sunshine. Friday was no different and I was excited that it was the first day of the conference. I went down to register early and get my badge and ‘Schwag’ bag that was filled with some cool things and no advertising or sponsorship material!
After meeting some more great people and even Chris Guillebeau, the man that put it all together, I headed back to get ready for the opening party that evening.
The party was fantastic - the whole end of the street was cordoned off for our ‘World Domination Opening Block Party’ complete with carnival games like Whack-a-mole, Skee Ball, Hit-the-bell and even a dunk-a-blogger tank where attendees could throw a ball and dunk J.D Roth and Chris. There were table tennis tables and a couple of food trucks that Portland is famous for – including Voodoo donuts! The evening was kicked off with a welcome and an entire brass band ensemble marching through. It was wonderful and exciting to be a part of this.
When I got back to the hostel I couldn’t help but think about all the amazing people I had been meeting this week. Every person I met was so friendly, welcoming and excited to hear about what I was doing. They willingly shared their stories too and I quickly learned about some of the incredible things they had set up and were doing. Unfortunately I began to feel a bit small. I did what you should never do and started to compare myself. I thought I am just a young person from a country at the bottom of the world (a great country no less!) but I felt I didn’t have much to offer. I was meeting person after person who had created an amazing business or was travelling the world permanently or who had been on a mission to raise an impressive amount for charity. Each was fantastic in their own way and I was so pleased to have met them, but I couldn’t help but feel I had nothing to share. However I thought about it and I realised everyone has to start somewhere. All of those wonderful people all would have started off small and have put in the hard work to get where they are. I am at the beginning of my new chapter, there is so much more to come.
The first session the next day brought me to my first lesson.
1.I can be me.
Dr Brené Brown was our first speaker. Brené is a wonderful speaker and she has studied Vulnerability, Courage, Worthiness and Shame for years. You can check out her website at www.brenebrown.com and I highly recommend watching her TED talk here- www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html.
Brené shared many great insights and I took so much from her hour session. Brené shared that to learn, to be creative, to be who we want to be and do what we want to do means to be vulnerable. Shame can often shape our lives as we hold back from being ourselves because we are afraid of what people will think. Over the course of the weekend I learned a strange lesson. I learnt that I could actually think and do the things I want to do. I say it’s strange because you would think one would know that. After all, it is my life. Except a lot of my life was shaped around what I thought others expected of me or wanted me to do. Do you ever get those times when someone will say something like ‘Oh that is so you!’ and you think to yourself, ‘Actually it’s not’. I felt like that a lot. It was freeing to realize that I should just be me.
2.I want to build a life around helping others.
We had another speaker, Scott Harrison; share his story on how he came to set up one of the most respected and largest charities in the US. I urge you to see what they are doing over at www.charitywater.org. Scott spoke on how different his life was before C:W and how his life was changed after realizing he didn’t like the person he was and started volunteering for Mercy Ships. Scott was impacted by the extreme poverty he was exposed to and after one such day where he discovered that the murky puddle that he wouldn’t even step in, was the drinking water for many of the sick people in that area. Scott said he didn’t want anyone to have to drink that and his goal, even today, is to see that everyone in the world has access to clean drinking water. Scott continued to share many incredible success and sad stories of people who have been impacted by Charity Water. I can guarantee there was not a dry eye in the room. Having just come from working for a charity, during which time I was blessed to be able to see the work in the field, I knew that I wanted to continue to be a part of something that is making a positive change in the world. After one of Scott’s sessions I was pleased that I got to talk to him and tell him of some of my ideas. Scott was very encouraging and gave me some great places to start. Exciting!
3.Dreams are dreams until you take action. Then they are a reality.
Each speaker provided us with wonderful and differing perspectives on how we can choose the life we want, follow our goals and truly be ourselves. This can all sound ‘airy fairy’ and like a ‘happy clappy’ group of people discussing our dreams. This was anything but, in fact the main point that came across was that we need to take action and we can do that today. We heard from speakers and attendees alike who had all gotten to where they were by taking action and making it happen. A lot of the time it was something small they did that eventually turned into something bigger, but what has made them succeed is that they have actually done something. Think of a goal you have in mind - how can you start in the next 10 minutes to do something towards that? What can you do right now to start putting into place what it is you want to do? I was so inspired and encouraged and each day I would go home and try to de-brief and make action plans.
4.When you are believed in and invested in, your personal value goes up.
The last session of the conference came to a close with Chris explaining he had a surprise for us. Chris explained how many people expressing interest to sponsor the WDS event and even buy the WDS brand for a large amount of money had approached him. After last year’s conference they happened to make a loss but like his blog, Chris did not want to sell out to advertising and sponsorships, as he wanted it to remain what it is. There were no signs or advertising material anywhere. Chris then started to tell the story of the Parable of the Talents, where by an old man invests money into his servants before going away. The return of those talents and what each servant did, differed greatly. Chris said he was interested in that idea of how investment can produce many different great things and the ripple effect can be huge. After realizing that this year they had made a profit combined with an anonymous donation equating to enough for $100 per person, Chris realized he had an opportunity to do something. [Side note – if you haven’t read Chris’ latest book it is called ‘The $100 Start-up and is about how many different people have started their own business and created their lives around things they want to do with less than $100]. Chris explained that as we walk out of the auditorium we would be given an envelope containing a crisp $100 note as an investment into us. I was blown away. I couldn’t believe someone wanted to invest into me. The worth of that was more than the actual $100. I have a responsibility now to do something. The fact that someone believes in you and invests in you is invaluable.
We ended the weekend with a Bollywood dance party at the Crystal Ballroom where many great artists such as Bob Dylan, the Beatles and more recently, Adele had played. It was a beautiful venue and such an excellent way to end the night with 1000 people dancing and enjoying themselves.
The weekend completely inspired me, motivated me and gave me the encouragement to make some exciting new plans. After making a huge (and emotional) decision to leave my job, friends and family, going to WDS was the perfect way to start my new adventure. The connections, networking and meeting so many wonderful people was however, the most important part of the weekend to me. The people around us, the people we meet, encounter and interact with all provide us with a unique opportunity to learn and to inspire each other.
Photo by Asim Rasheed
So what am I doing now? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see.
Love and a huge amount of gratitude,
I already know that this post is not going to do justice on the actual impact and life changing lessons I experienced two weekends ago, but I will do my best to impart what I can in an attempt to bring you up to speed with my new found inspiration!
What was just a cool and fun stop-off has now changed to being something that has laid a foundation for the rest of my travels, and even as big as saying the rest of my life. But let me take you back to the first day as there is no better place to start then the beginning!
I arrived into Portland after travelling 13 hours from Sydney and 2 hours from L.A. I blearily caught a taxi to my hostel, which drove me over the river and through the beautiful city centre. The hostel was a lovely renovated villa, surrounded by drooping trees and made for great picture even though I had barley even gotten out of the taxi. I settled in and had a good first nights sleep.
The next day was the 4th of July, my first experience of Independence Day in it’s homeland and how poignant since I was a fresh independent travelling the globe!
I have noticed that I haven’t told you the reason I was even in the US of A, let me side-note here to give you a brief explanation. Around two years ago, I came across an interesting blog called The Art of Non-Conformity, written by Chris Guillebeau - www.chrisguillebeau.com. What attracted me to this blog and what keeps me reading, is the amazing insights Chris has that allows you to look at your life and really think about why we do the things we do – is it because we love it or because it is what we think we have to do? Chris is also undergoing a personal goal to travel to every country in the world by the time he is 35. As a passionate traveller myself, I love this and reading about where he is off to next! Anyway, last year Chris launched the first ‘World Domination Summit’ in July for what he calls his army of remarkable people - that is anyone who reads his blog and is interested in changing the world. When people have asked me about the ‘conference’ I have always described it in different ways, mainly because ‘World Domination’ conjures up different ideas and also because I didn’t really know what it was going to fully be about, until I attended. It is called the ‘World Domination Summit’ as it, along with the blog, is all about building up people to start living their lives, to follow their passions but to follow them whilst adding value to the world and pursuing to change the world for good. But it’s not just a forum or get together to share ideas and talk about dreams for the future - Oh no! Its all about action, and how we can make these things happen today. How can we start right now towards that goal or idea that we have always wanted to do – what is one step we can take right now? That is it’s explaination in it’s simplest form, in truth it is so much more than that!
So back to the 4th of July – on our official non-conference group site, was posted all the information we needed including meet-ups for before, during and after the main event. Being there early and for the 4th of July, I wanted to celebrate the way the locals would. I found an event on our site that someone had put up inviting attendees to a BBQ at their house. I planned my day around that and went off exploring the beautiful city of Portland. The first thing I noticed, was how green the city is. Even at the heart of the CBD, lovely lush trees line the sidewalk and bring a fresh and soft touch to the concrete clad streets.
Portland is so easy to walk around, I didn’t need to take any form of transport during my whole time there. I walked through the city taking photos of all the beautiful architecture that was on every street. Tall, intricate buildings and stunning churches – it was a city I could stay in for a while, that’s for sure.
I found the famous, Powells bookstore that takes up an entire city block. My mum would have been in heaven amongst all the books. The store is so big, you get a map upon entry!
After a few more hours of slow-walking-whilst-intensely-admiring, I made my way back to the hostel to get ready and to plan how I was going to find the house where the BBQ was at. I turned on my computer and logged into twitter to see if anyone else was planning to go. Amazingly a lady from my hostel had tweeted to anyone needing a ride, to meet in our lobby. Wonderful! I got ready and made my way upstairs to meet the lovely Gina - a Texan nomad, who travels the country for 6months teaching travel classes and spends the other 6months of the year – doing what she likes and going wherever she pleases. Gina excitedly told me that was her first ever tweet and she was so pleased it worked! Milo – a fresh escapee from the corporate life and a hilarious guy from Edinburgh - also caught the tweet and so we three new friends headed on our way to the BBQ.
We managed to get there and we walked into the back yard with about 40 other, soon-to-be friends. As is polite, we met the host who turned out to be Sean Ogle from Location 180 – another blogger whom I follow – www.seanogle.com. There was a lot more meetings like this through-out the course of the week! We spent the hot summers afternoon eating good food, playing backyard games and meeting amazing and quality people. I quickly learned there were a lot of people there who were doing incredible things, but not just anything, things they were passionate about that they had turned into jobs. I mingled with entrepreneurs, bloggers, freelance writers to permanent world travellers. Each person was truly happy and so inspiring in their own way.
Eventually the party moved down to the waterfront where the annual Portland Jazz festival was taking place. The place was so crowded, I was fairly sure the entire city of Portland was there! We enjoyed the cool sounds of Jazz and ate a burrito while weaving through the bopping crowds. Eventually we changed locations to under the main Portland Bridge where we got a view of the spectacular fireworks. It was an excellent day and a wonderful welcome to this new city.
Thursday came and I was fairly certain I had cheated the jet lag – I was clearly wrong as I woke up at 1pm that afternoon. Annoyed I had wasted half the day, I quickly got ready and headed out into the hot sunshine to enjoy what I could of the beautiful day. After another wonderful day exploring Portland, I met up with Milo and we headed to the classy Chopsticks in SW Portland to enjoy Karaoke with many other WDS attendees.
There is nothing like music, dancing and the vulnerability of singing to bring people together and certainly break the ice! Granted I didn’t belt out a song myself but I loved watching people get up there and we cheered them on and danced right beside them. My favourite of the night was Mike – at the beginning of the night he was quietly sitting and talking with people till it got to his turn to get behind the mic –he completely rocked the song ‘One Week’ by the Bare Naked Ladies. If you haven’t heard this song, it’s a fast, rap-type, pop song. Mike didn’t even look at the screen once and he had everybody on their feet dancing! It was amazing! He went from quiet guy to superstar! We danced well into the night before heading home to get a good night sleep before the first day of the conference.
I was already excited by all the people I had met, but I had no idea how amazing my week was about to get.
Love and new cities,
“It’s been quite wet and cold here, so bring something warm” was what Emma told me based on the previous weeks weather pattern. However, in a welcoming way the clouds parted and not a drop of rain was to be seen during my whole time in Australia. Just beautiful sun! Granted there were a few chilly days, but mostly warm, sometimes even hot!
Yes Sydney was a great place to kick-start my travelling adventure! Arriving after my dramatic morning, at 10am into a welcoming hug from Emma, we jumped up and down with excitement. A week to hang out! We hadn’t had that in over 10 months! We spent the day talking mostly and trying not to walk into people as we chatted and laughed. Sometimes we even had to stop and literally try and breathe as we shared funny stories since the last time we caught up!
Even though Australia is only two hours behind New Zealand, no sleep the night before, paired with the early morning and rush at the airport mixed with the time difference was enough to make me shattered by 4pm. A lovely homemade soup and funny DVD was the perfect end to my first day. Sleep is so sweet when you are very tired.
The time difference came in handy in the mornings as I got up at 8am but felt rested like I had slept in till 10am. I managed to have breakfast, write and upload my blog, get ready and be out of the house by 10am – not bad! Camperdown where I was staying is only 15mins out of the CBD. Travelling around was easy and I only needed to catch one bus to get right into the heart of it all. An alleyway caught my eye as the bus was heading downtown. I decided, even though I had no idea where I was, to get off to have a closer look and get some photos. The alleyway was called Angel Place and was filled with hanging birdcages. It also played soft bird whistles, which sounded really magical down the lane as the sound echoed off the buildings.
The sunny day beckoned me to continue exploring on foot and I soon found my bearings as I came across Circular Quay – Sydney’s waterfront. After a few snaps of the Harbour Bridge and Opera house I headed for Balmain on the ferry and went and visited Emma at her work. Balmain is a quaint little suburb with cool little trinket shops and pubs. Apparently it gets quite busy but I had a silent walk down the tree-lined streets to Emma’s salon. We enjoyed a cup of tea and slice of cake and chatted till we realized we had doubled the time of her break! I sleepily took myself back on the ferry and back home to rest after another excellent day.
The next day we went for a walk around the waterfront near Camperdown. This was a stunning trail as we followed the path round and had stunning views of the Anzac Bridge and Harbour Bridge. I just love views of a cluster of buildings spurting out into nature. It reminds me of New York - the juxtaposition of greenery and a concrete jungle is quite stunning and inspiring. The pairing of both makes for some great photos!
Saturday came and after a day of walking round the city and reading my book in a nice café I found, I was ready to check out some of the nightlife too! Emma and Jock’s friend, Dylan, came over and gave us three VIP passes to his new bar he opened up in Oxford Street. Names on the door and free passes? We’re there!
We headed in and had a great time. The place was swanky and new looking and was had excellent music with an amazing live singer. Dancing, dancing, dancing and then sleep was pretty much the activities of the evening.
One of my favourite days in Sydney had to be Monday! Emma had recently surprised me with a 2-hour surf lesson and the day had come! We caught the ferry to Manly beach and made our way to the sandy surf school. A stunning day it was to be out in the water! We were nervous at how cold it might be but it was like a hot summers day, plus the full body wetsuits sure helped!
Like pro’s we carried our surfboards down the beach and got a quick introduction to surfing by our instructor Kelly. Feeling pretty confident that we had the technique down we headed into the warm water and paddled out. We made our way to the start of the waves and got ready for our first wave. Kelly gave us each a push as the wave came and we were caught! I hopped up on my knees, got my right foot through and crashed straight into the water. Not so easy after-all! I swam out of the way of everyone else and back to start. The next wave was slightly bigger and so I had time to think about what I needed to do. This time I was up! I rode the wave for about 20 seconds before bailing. It was so invigorating! The thrill of the fast movement and smooth gliding was amazing! There were a lot of hit and misses over the next couple of hours but it was a lot of fun and a fantastic way to end my week in Australia. Beach hair and all we strolled along the Manly boardwalk and had lunch at one of the local cafes. It was such a warm day you could almost forget it was June!
Tuesday was my last day and after saying my goodbyes and thank yous to Jock and Emma, I headed for the airport – early! I managed to get there in good time and even had to wait at my gate for them to open it! A punctual change from last time. I boarded my plane on a sunny afternoon and settled into my seat for the gruelling 13-hour flight ahead of me. Portland here I come!
Love and jet lag,
Good morning from Sydney!
Well the day finally arrived. The day that all the planning, organizing, saving, sorting and stressing was for!
My last evening in NZ was spent having dinner with mum, Sean and Rebecca, trying to pack everything I will need for the next 2 years and finish sorting through all my papers and things that I have left behind, gratefully, at mums. I managed to throw out a couple of trees worth of paper, built up over the years and another big bag of things to give away. Now all of my possessions fit into my suitcase and a little corner of my old room! I successfully finished everything before 1am, a change for me - I am usually up much later the night before a flight trying to get everything done. I thought, great! I might get some sleep and can wake up at 4am, somewhat rested. Not so! I just lay there thinking about anything I may have forgotten, trying to imagine what adventures and new experiences lay ahead of me, trying not to worry or be nervous about this huge life change, trying not to be sad about leaving my family and friends and trying to be excited about this next step – after all, this is what I have always wanted to do! Next thing I knew, it was 4am and mum was coming in to make sure I was awake. No problem there! I got ready and had a last minute look at my neat little packed-up room before heading out into the cold, damp morning. I was excited.
Casually returning a DVD and picking up Sean, we headed off for one of my most favourite places, the airport. Not before a quick detour first! When Sean and I were younger, mum used to take us on short little holidays because we couldn’t afford to go overseas or for very long - I am making up for that now! Every time before we went on holiday we would always stop at the little car park at the end of our street. This small car stop, overlooks the city skyline of Auckland –the lit up sky tower, harbour bridge and CBD. We would stop here to pray over our journey. Today was no exception. Mum pulled up and we said a prayer for my big trip. It was nice to re-visit a tradition as a family.
Check-in was as exciting as ever. Only took me 5 minutes but I love getting out my passport and getting my boarding pass. Upstairs we had breakfast and over the next hour friends and family arrived to see me off. It was so lovely to have my very own leaving party!
Samuel, Debbie, Abbey, Sean, Mum, Me, Lucinda, Lydia, Sue, Talia, Melissa
I was feeling confident that I wouldn’t cry. It hadn’t quite hit me yet that I was going for a while and just felt like I was going on holiday. I was going strong till I hugged mum. It’s always hard to say bye to mum isn’t it? I whispered a threat to Sean to look after mum or I’d knock another tooth out (he had gotten one out this week, poor guy was hopped up on tramadol!) had a group photo then like a band aid, ripped through the departure doors so I didn’t linger and not go at all! It’s fun to go, but it sure is hard to leave!
With damp eyes, I made it through customs and started my way to my gate. Waving to Debbie and Abbey upstairs, I walked most of the way backwards!
Straight past the sign to my gate I went, walking the long terminal till I realized the numbers were going down not up. I needed gate 15! I stopped an airport worker who calmly told me to run as I was at the very other end of where I needed to be. Only minutes before we had been sitting around the table having breakfast joking about how I always manage to be late and my name gets called. Considering I was all checked in, had my departure form filled in and goodbyes sorted, I thought it wouldn’t happen today! But sure enough, my name was called for final boarding. I ran as fast as my heavy carry on would let me. I came to the corner of the terminal I should have been going down when a man with an impressive walkie talkie and golf cart stopped me asking if I was the 24 yr old, female heading to Sydney they were waiting for? Flustered I said yep and scrambled to find my boarding pass in my oversized bag – hey I’m going away for a while! Pulling up like a VIP, or rather a lost passenger who has held up the plane, I handed over my boarding pass and raced down the ramp to the plane. Avoiding eye contact with the glaring eyes, I found my seat and sat down, now feeling the extent of my tiredness.
Comfy or not, I managed to sleep and before I knew it, I had landed at my first stop. Sydney! Emma was there to pick me up and we drove out of the airport and into the cool Sydney city.
With the hardest part, of actually leaving, over, I am now very excited to be travelling! Lots to look forward to and I will be sure to tell you all about it!
Love and another stamp in my passport,
Well, where do I start? This last week certainly has been a mixture of emotions! My ‘To Do’ list seems to have more added to it then gets crossed off! Let’s just say, my twitches haven’t subsided and I have a cold so the stress levels are starting to overheat, along with my car –did I mention that small pain point? My poor saint of a mum has been amazing and helped me wherever she can as I flit about, haphazardly trying to get everything organized. My mum has done so much for me, it is hard to show how much I am grateful, but I am! I very much am!
As sad as saying goodbye is, I have been so blessed and blown away by the wonderful send off’s I have been receiving. Last week was jammed packed with leaving catch up’s and parties. I can’t believe how wonderful people have been! My great friend Samuel sent me some lovely flowers and took me to the revolving restaurant at the top of the sky tower! The night city skyline was incredible, and almost enough to make me not want to leave our beautiful city! It was hard to take a photo to show what it really looked like, but I did what I could.
Going to the Orbit restaurant was something I had always wanted to do and is now something I highly recommend as a must do! I was very spoilt.
Last Sunday, my AMAZING friend, Sophie surprised me with a ‘casual’ trip to Wellington! Yes we flew from Auckland to Wellington for the day just to hang out and enjoy the capital! I couldn’t believe it! We arrived, after spending time in the Koru lounge where there is anything you could want to eat and drink! We picked up our sleek silver hire car and made our way into the city for breakfast at the yummy Floriditas! Next we went shopping and browsed all the unique and arty stores before having lunch on the waterfront. A hot chocolate at Oriental Bay was just the cherry on top, especially on a crisp, windy Wellington day! The whole day was just so much fun and was so great to be able to have spent time with Soph before I left.
Leading up to my last day at work, my wonderful team at work took me out for dinner in the Viaduct in Auckland. We went to a yummy Indian restaurant and had a great time with lots of laughs! My super team also planned and threw me a leaving party at work for all the organization to come to. It was complete with everyone wearing purple because it is my favourite colour and also green wigs! This was because, last year when I went to the Philippines with work, I went for a dip in the pool on our first day. Now I had dyed blonde hair at the time. Not a problem, I had been swimming before and it wasn’t like I had gotten my hair done recently! However, perhaps they decided to just keep adding chlorine instead of cleaning the pool, because my hair turned highlighter green. Oh yes, my first day, before we were to meet with the board of an organization we supported, for dinner – I had green hair. My team acted out this incident to fill everyone in, it was hilarious! The rest of the party was filled with kind words, fun stories and good food. My last day came and it was sad to have to pack down MY desk till it was just a desk. Going through all my papers was sad but also fun to go through all the memories there. I have loved working for TEAR Fund with the amazing atmosphere and people. It is certainly unique and I will sorely miss it.
My little corner of the office
The rest of the week was spent having dinner with my dad and step mum, having coffee and catch up’s with my super friends Laura, Esther and Naomi and Karaoke with Cleo, Emma and Francie. Not your average week, but I loved it!
Saturday was leaving party day, and my, was I spoilt! My mum and her two workmates who are also my friends, made the most amazing decorations for my party. Pink and purple bunting, little flags inside vases filled with marshmallows, a big poster for people to sign and the letter ‘S’ on all the cups. It was fantastic! It didn’t end there though! My wonderful and talented friend Sophie (as I mentioned before) made me the most beautiful and stunning dessert table I have ever laid eyes on. Sophie made nearly everything from scratch with pink and purple macaroons, cake pops, popcorn, fortune cookies, candy floss, mini cupcakes and three stunning ruffle cakes. It was just so intricate and delicious!
The Dessert Table
One of the beautiful ruffle cakes
George & Lesley and me
John, Sean, Monica and me
Debbie, baby Zafira and me
Murray, baby Emily, Susie, Melz, Ash, Lucy, cheeky Quent and me
The night was wonderful and so special with many friends and family coming and spending time with me. I loved it and to be in the room with so many people that mean so much to me. Well, that just makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
So, is it UK or bust? Nah, there is always home.
Love and a very thankful heart,
Crisp, sunny winter mornings always make me sentimental. Not that we often have that combination of elements - this is Auckland after all! But when we do, it is refreshing. As serene as that sounds, I am feeling more semi-mental than sentimental. Stress is out-running my excitement at the moment but I am determined to change that.
I don’t want to spend my last few weeks stressed and panicking because of my never ending to-do list. I want to enjoy my time with my friends and family, enjoy New Zealand and look forward to my trip. This is definitely the biggest move I have done in my life to date, so I want to be in the moment always, otherwise it will pass me by too quickly.
That being said, I can only fool myself so much. My body is telling me I am tired, through twitches that I am collecting. So far I have an eye and hand twitch. Amusing at first, annoying now.
To remedy both my stress and tiredness, I am cramming everything that needs to be done into this week so that next week I can just relax and take my time and sleep. That is the plan anyway.
Amidst my flurry I keep catching myself in moments of sadness. I keep thinking about how I will miss everyone, I will miss my job and I will miss New Zealand. Even so, I am certain that I have made the right decision and I am certain it is going to be an amazing and wonderful experience that I won’t regret. I just need to remember that especially as these days are being filled with goodbyes. Even today, the lady at the shop next to my work gave me a hug and sent me off assuring me that New Zealand is always home and I can always come back - Ha ha excellent, thank you shop lady! It was so lovely to be reminded of that even though we don’t know each other on a particularly deep level.
So this next coming week comes with leaving dinners, leaving parties and leaving coffee-catch up’s. Leaving, leaving, leaving! It will be good though and I will be sure to take lots photos and will share some of them on the blog next week. I am looking forward to it because each day brings something new and each day is when you should be living. The journey, the lead-up, the anticipation is almost, if not more, exciting than the actual moment. So I’m choosing to live now.
Love and madness,
Can anyone believe it’s June already? It has crept up on me so suddenly and now I am having to think about planning my time in days, instead of weeks or months. However, I am getting there, and slowly but surely, things are coming together.
My biggest stress so far has not been what to pack or even getting enough money together, it was in fact, learning to drive a manual car. It was like learning to ride a bike again - actually this doesn’t really require a simile, it was like learning to drive again! I always wanted to learn to drive in a manual car, and mum intended us to. But at that time, we only had a rusty, old Nissan Sunny with no power steering that we had been graciously given. It was an automatic, and my first car that I inherited. So Automatic it was and has been since.
I mentioned briefly in a previous post, that I have actually had a few opportunities where I have driven a manual. However the last time ended up in catastrophic circumstances.
It all started when I was asked to house sit for my dad, while he and his family were overseas. Two weeks was great because it was right across the road from work and I had the house to myself! Everything was going smoothly, until the first incident happened. That’s just it people, it happens, ok! The fish died. Now I am a very literal person so I did exactly as I was asked, however no-one told me it had a filter. The filter stopped. So did the fish. The littlies survived, but unfortunately the big one didn’t. I called my step-brother to seek appeasement, comfort and a plan of attack. Navnil told me not to worry, as long as it wasn’t the big one that died, it was no big deal. Well now, how was I going to tell dad that I killed his fish? Luckily it would appear dim in comparison to my next incident in the sequence of unfortunate events.
After Bye Bye Fishy, things started to turn around. What could I possibly do wrong now? The last day came and I cleaned the whole house. Everything was in its place, the carpet vacuumed, every surface wiped and dusted, and straightening the rug was the finishing touch before I walked out the door. The house looked a picture of neatness. A clean house, mown lawns and my step-mums prized roses in full bloom. Before doing the right thing, which was to get in my car and drive away, I saw my dad’s car sitting in the driveway, facing out towards my car parked in front of it. I remembered once, that you should start a car every few days or so, if it wasn’t being regularly driven. In what I can only call a lapse of common sense, being that my dad would arrive back that night, I thought I should start his car to make sure all was good. Now, bearing in mind I have never driven a manual prior, I certainly wouldn’t be aware that when you park a manual, you leave it in gear. I opened the door proceeded to put the keys in, and stand, yes - not sit, stand beside the car. Well here ensued the chaos on this quiet suburban street. The car, as it should when in gear, moved forward. I lunged one foot inside the car, the rest of my body hanging off the side. I turned the wheel narrowly missing my car and ripped straight through the gorgeous rose garden and headed straight for my little brother’s bedroom. A split second before major impact, I swooped my other leg in and slammed on the brake bringing it to a halt and in a splutter the car stalled. I managed to make a hole in the house, but at least I didn’t go all the way through and take my head off in the process! (Silver linings can be found if you look). A man walking his dog, two kids playing in their front yard and a car driving past all looked at me in shock. None were more shocked than me though, as I leaped out of the car and stared at what I had done. This being an emergency situation, I managed to bunny hop my way out of the garden and back into the driveway. I called my mum for advice, as I was petrified to tell my dad. Because really, there is no good way to say “Hey welcome back from holiday, I crashed your car, through your garden, into your house. Oh yeah, and your fish died.” My brother suggested I tell him both incidents were linked to save ripping two band aids off!
That evening, I sheepishly drove to the airport and picked up my dad, brother and step-mum. We walked to the car and I blurted it out before we even left the car-park. I expect dad was imagining the worst, which only worked in my favour, as when he got there he was relieved to see that the hole was no bigger than a tennis ball, and the car was barely marked. Easily fixed. Phew!
No hard feelings but certainly no more house sitting invitations.
So this brings me to now. I’m a little older, little wiser (so say I) and having to learn the dreaded manual car, to be on actual roads with other people! My job in the UK requires me to drive a manual car, and so I opted for professional lessons to learn the correct way. Not through gardens!
My first lesson went surprisingly well, and I even found hill starts the easiest part. It was the round-a-bouts that threw me. I am getting better though; the UK will be relieved to hear. So no need to be worried, just don’t ask me to fish sit!
Love and bunny hops,