travel

The adventure two years on…

It is hard for me to believe that I am sat here writing this at a cattle station in the middle of the Australian Outback. It is hella hot, the sky is all bright blue and the ground all red dust, and I’ve swatted away about fifty flies in the time it’s taken me to write this sentence. It has been two years since I was sat in Heathrow airport, a maximum of 6 months adventure planned, jittery with nerves and desperately trying to calm them with a bloody mary. I can’t believe that apart from a brief interlude at home over Christmas this adventure is still ongoing. I certainly can’t believe what an insane two years it has been and where it has taken me. It is a funny thing travelling, no matter how much planning you do, you never quite know where you’re going to end up. For me, it’s isolated on a cattle station in the middle of a global pandemic, feeding cute calves and gardening for work and drinking beer around bonfires for fun. And I find myself on this anniversary following the threads back that led me to this inconceivable situation. A story that I didn’t really expect and probably is of little interest to anyone bar me, but it is fascinating to look back at the unexpected chain of events that led me first home for Christmas, then out to Australia and then on to the cattle station. A series of decisions, that I am loathe to admit were based on a boy.

My plan this time last year was to return to New Zealand from a month in South East Asia, do my second ski season there and then head to Japan for back to back winters. This plan very swiftly changed when I returned to the lodge and met the chaotic bunch that became some of my very best friends. We drank way too much and threw insane parties and came up with ridiculous games to entertain ourselves on closed mountain days. We took random day trips into the nearby towns where we day drank yet more alcohol and raided the op shops, and we fought over what movie marathon or tv series we should binge next. The prospect of more adventures post season with some of my favourite people was too good an idea to miss out on and so the first part of my plan changed, I decided to postpone Japan for a year and stay and adventure in New Zealand a little longer.

Then the boy came along. This messy head case of a boy who somehow so quickly became such a big part of my life, who I fell for with a kind of manic intensity. We worked together, we partied together, we slept together. We messaged all day every day about everything. I was obsessed. But there was a problem, his ex girlfriend also worked at the mountain with us, and a few weeks into our fledgling relationship he informed me that she had decided she wanted him back and he wasn’t sure what to do. I promptly got drunk and declared my feelings for him and then waited out the few excruciating days for him to make his inevitable decision to get back with her. Crushed that we on gone from 100 to 0 within a matter of days, I broke when I received his message confirming the worst. I was mid party, had been drinking all day, hadn’t really eaten and may possibly have taken something a little bit illegal. I cried so hard I was almost sick. Spiralling I called my oldest friend back in England, my muddled brain could not think rationally and in that moment I felt like the world was ending. My two best friends at the lodge put me to bed and stayed with me, one even climbing into my cramped single bed with me for the night. And I woke up gutted and tearful and more than a little hungover. The next few days my best friend and sister called me daily checking in on me and reminding me to eat my vegetables and drink water. And my friends at the lodge cooked me meals and came up with ways to fill the evenings so I didn’t wallow in the overwhelming sadness of it all. In ski season time, though a week flies past, it contains so much that it feels like a month and I quickly bounced back. There were parties to attend and skiing to be done and I wasn’t going to let a boy ruin it. But the burn remained, I wanted to go home and put a little distance between myself and the boy who had undone me so badly. I needed some sanity, and some downtime and most importantly some home cooked meals. And so one night me and my friend sat down with a large glass of wine each and booked a flight back home for early December.

At this point my mind was flooded with ideas for what I could do after Christmas, stay at home and earn money for Japan, try and get a job at a European ski resort for the winter, see if I could get a sponsorship and return to New Zealand or use one of the other working holiday visas available Australia or Canada perhaps. I had so many possibilities and options, and to use a common phrase the world was my oyster. But then came the boy part two.

We had been doing a pretty good job of working together and being friends for weeks, it still stung a little but as I continuously told myself and him if he was happy I was happy. The night he left his job at the mountain, our lodge had one of our famous theme parties, this time pimps and hoes, and I told him to come and celebrate his freedom from a job he had hated. He was everywhere I looked all night, and at 3am when the party was winding down we found ourselves alone in my room. It was not my finest hour and that night is something I will always be ashamed of looking back. It worries me how easily I went back to him. We saw each other a couple more times before he left the area and each time, aided by alcohol, gradually declaring more feelings and regrets about how it all went down. After he left we messaged daily and I put every feeling I had for him into our conversations. I was in a weird kind of happy confusion for weeks. When my friends asked what was happening I replied I didn’t know it was up to him he had to make up his mind and decide if he wanted to be with me. Then finally the night we set off on our epic roadtrip he messaged me (in the most cryptic way) that he and his girlfriend were over for good this time. And when a week later we reunited at a friend’s birthday party it finally seemed like we had got somewhere, we were both single and we both wanted each other. Our first proper date in Napier followed a few days after and over good food and good wine I thought this is it. All that mess and all those tears and we had finally figured it out.

Unfortunately I had booked that flight home, and five weeks later, after the most spectacular time spent with my friends, the time came to leave New Zealand, but I no longer wanted to go. To give me some credit (I’m not completely insane) this was in part due to the magnificence of the country that I’d just spent weeks exploring and still couldn’t get enough, and in part due to my friends who I just did not want to leave. But honestly the boy was a big reason for my reluctance to go.

Once back home I missed him painfully, we still messaged all day every day when time difference would permit, and very quickly my mind was made up I was going to Australia. Looking back now I think my feelings for him were intensified because I was struggling so badly with being back at home away from my friends and the place I loved so much. I was horribly homesick for New Zealand and I was desperate for an escape and he offered it. I wasn’t going there for him I adamantly told myself and my friends although we both remained unconvinced.

Then one dark January night what I, in a way, had always expected to happen happened. My best friend who remained in New Zealand (through an unexpected twist involving a lost passport and a storm cancelled flight) messaged me to say she had heard it through the grapevine that he had a new girlfriend. A part of me always suspected it would end this way, how could I expect him to patiently wait for me to figure out what I was doing when he was so unbelievably bad at being alone? But to go through all that and not end up together was inconceivable. For him to say all that he had said to me and then not fight for us or wait for me was cruel and I instantly saw a different side to his character. The rose tinted glasses had finally fallen off. I spent the night weeping and watching guide dog documentaries with my best friend (the very same one who I had called during that meltdown the first time he rejected me, and I am ever grateful to have had such a wonderful, patient and wise friend in my life who has managed to not only put up with but help me through my very worst moments). The next morning I woke up, went for a long walk and shouted all my feelings out to the wind. Then I came home messaged my friends in Melbourne saying I was coming and booked my flights. Sadness gave way to seething anger and I had got my mind set on going to Australia and he damn well wasn’t going to be the reason I didn’t go.

My resolve wavered a little over the next weeks of planning and packing. And sitting on the plane clutching my Roo as a security blanket, I tried not to give way to the hysterical panic that was bubbling under the surface. I arrived in sunny Melbourne still questioning whether I had made the right decision and my first few hours in the city I wandered around in a jetlagged daze trying to formulate a plan. Then came the most unexpected message, a friend from my first ski season in New Zealand the boy who I’d met on my second day in that country and became my first friend there (and proceeded to develop feelings for and cry about during my first ski season), was of all places, in Melbourne, a mere 20 minute tram ride away from me. This miracle friend’s appearance made all my doubts fade away, and over the next few weeks I fell in love with Melbourne, we wandered the city and found the street art, we watched the sunset at St Kilda beach every day we could, we drank a whole heap and we danced literally all night. Most importantly though I didn’t text the boy. I decided one night sitting on a crate in an outdoor bar with a bottle of beer the size of my head in hand that whatever had bought it about I had made the right decision.

Eventually though I needed to come out of my giddy excitement of being out of wet and cold England and back to living out of a backpack, and figure out what my next move was. The sensible part of my brain told me that getting out of the city before the boy arrived in it was probably a good idea. It also told me that spending all my time with a guy I used to have feelings for was probably not the best way to get over a heartbreak. On top of that I needed money, my liver needed a break, and if I was to do the ski season as had now become the plan (the snow just keeps calling me) I needed to get my 88 days farm work done fast. And after so many applications I finally got a call from a cattle station offering me a job as homestead help. A week later I packed my bags up again went for a few last drinks with my friends and jumped on a plane to Alice Springs, and here I am.

My travel wifey, Vanessa firmly believes that everything happens for a reason and it certainly seems that way. Because of all this, I got to spend five fantastic weeks exploring New Zealand with a bunch of beautiful people. I got to experience all the best things about Christmas at home with my family and see old friends. I got to spend a month falling in love with Melbourne and I got a friend back in my life I never thought I’d see again. I have been able to live and work in the Australian outback something I could previously only have dreamt of. I have met some lovely people, made friends with some of the cutest calves, seen stunning sunrises and sunsets, seen a real life rodeo and ran away from a couple of snakes. In a global pandemic when the world has gone to shit I have gotten a safe place to hide and a secure job.

So what’s the point of this very long rambling story. That everything turns out for the best? That heartache will pass? That you never know where you’re going to end up? That it’s not the destination it’s the journey? To not make decisions based on boys? Or to make decisions based on boys maybe? All I know is that travelling is a wild and wonderful ride and the best thing to do is to make the most of every situation no matter what got you there. So shout out to that boy for getting me here, you may have been a collosal dick but if it weren’t for you I wouldn’t be in the best possible place I could be right now. Cheers to that. And cheers to another year of adventure may it be just as random, and hopefully with a little less dickhead involved.

books · Film · travel

Welcome to Isolation Station… A list of ways to occupy yourself whilst the whole world has stopped…

Yes I’m doing it I’m going to talk about coronavirus aka covid 19 aka that bloody disease! When I left Melbourne 3 weeks ago coronavirus was something we were joking about in a bar over beers, then all of a sudden it went from zero to sixty in a matter of days and forget about being in a bar, forget about hanging out with friends and definitely forget about it being a joke.

It’s almost unbelievable what is happening, the kind of thing you read in about in a book or see in a movie, definitely not what happens in real life. As a travel addict I’ve always taken the freedom of open borders and welcoming countries for granted, and watching country after country shut down its borders and major airlines grounded is terrifying, the kind of stuff my nightmares are made of. I’ll be honest seeing the constant news updates got me a little stressed out and I felt very, very stranded a heck of a long way from home. But despite the overwhelming feeling of being trapped, and the fear I have for my family and friends health, I have to keep telling myself I’m actually one of the lucky ones. I am probably in the best possible place I could be right now. I’m working in the outback, away from society with just a small handful of people. I have a job and income, and I’m due to be here for the next 11 weeks. So although I have no idea what I’ll be facing three months down the line when it’s time to leave, and my future travel and work plans are going to have to change a little, I at least have security and a safe place to stay for a while, unlike so many others around the world who are struggling with the consequences of this prolonged lockdown.

Shitty and surreal as the isolation situation is, it is a little comforting to know that whilst I’m going slowly mad in the outback, the rest of the world is also going slowly mad in their own homes. And we are, as they iconically say (or sing as it is) in High School Musical “all in this together!”

So yes everything sucks right now and we are all losing our minds. But one day it is going to get better. And in the meantime we’ve just got to do our best to not dwell on the shittiness of it all, and try to find ways to get some joy out of life still. So in doing what I do best, a list, here are my recommendations for how to entertain yourselves whilst in isolation.

Read..

‘How to fall in Love’ by Cecelia Ahern. Her writing is quite simply magical and the characters raw and flawed and oh so relatable. At a time in my life when everything was a bit shit I honestly believe this book saved me. It is a beautiful reminder to take joy from all of life’s little moments.

‘One Summer America 1927’ by Bill Bryson. The best travel writer hands down, he writes in such a way that he can make anything interesting, and this one is a particular favourite. Covering one summer in America it’s a delightful portrait of 1920’s America (my favourite decade because umm Gatsby) and shows how America became the country that it is today.

‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed. Hands down one of my favourite books, it is about a woman taking on an impossible challenge. It will definitely make you cry, but it will also make you feel like you can achieve anything.

‘Birdsong’ by Sebastian Faulks. I read this book years ago for my A-levels and it was only the second book that I full on sobbed over, the first being the Harry Potter series when Rowling kept cruelly killing characters off. An epic story of war and love. It paints a visceral image of the First World War and it will draw you in then break your heart.

 

Watch…

Derry Girls. The perfect comic relief featuring amazing nineties fashion and some epic tunes from my childhood.

Lovesick. A brilliant British show about Dylan who finds out he has chlamydia and consequently has to contact all of the previous women he has slept with. Funny and sweet and so very British in all of the best ways.

The Crown. With three series already out that’s a good thirty hours of time filled right there and what a way to fill time. It is beautifully shot, well-paced and not only offers an insight into the history of the world’s most famous family but it also gives a fascinating glimpse into British life over the past sixty odd years.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace. Oof it is good TV. It is visually stunning and completely gripping and Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan is So Damn Good! He is so unnerving as Versace’s killer as you watch the story rewind backwards from the shooting through his life. Trust me you won’t be able to stop watching. Also a good watch American Crime Story’s other series The People v. O.J. Simpson.

 

Listen to…

Potterless. My current favourite podcast that I am powering my way through. Basically, as the blurb goes it’s a 25 year old man reading Harry Potter for the first time. With each episode he covers a few chapters giving a detailed run down of what happens and giving a running commentary of his opinions, best guesses and sometimes terrible jokes along the way. It is fantastic, like re-reading the books with friends and yes whilst sometimes his hating on it and his lack of knowledge of England drives me mad , it’s so good seeing (or rather hearing) someone getting the thrill out of reading these books for the very first time.

All Killa No Filla. I am obsessed with this podcast about serial killers, from two very funny women. The research and detail they give you of these killer’s lives and crimes is horrifically gripping. And despite the title there is a whole lot of filler which is what really makes it so great.

To do…

Skype, skype, skype! We are so lucky that this has happened now rather than when I was in school, because thanks to technology we have so many ways we can stay connected, and absolutely the best thing about this situation is having the time to catch up with so many friends I haven’t spoken to for a while because we’re all normally living such busy lives.

Dance, turn the music up, get up off the couch and dance your little heart out, a great way to stay active (one of my limited forms of exercise really) and it gets those positive endorphins flowing!

Play the coronavirus news drinking game. If I have to hear the phrases “social distancing” “self-isolation” and “flatten the curve” one more time I feel like I’ll scream. I know, I know it is necessary we need to hammer it in to people that this is what has to be done. But if I have to hear these words every time I turn on the tv then I can damn well turn it into an excuse to drink.

And most importantly… Don’t lose your head, don’t hoard art other people’s expense, stay at home. Be kind and be safe. And I’ll see you on the other side when one day we’ll laugh at this and tell our kids about the 2020 apocalypse, when toilet paper became the most valuable of all items and we went weeks without hearing the word Brexit! xxx

P.S. please please please let me know any and all suggestions you may have I could use a few more distractions, mostly just so I don’t spend my time getting irrationally angry over jigsaw puzzles!

travel

Returning home after an adventure…

It sucks alright, it completely sucks. And I know given what is currently happening in the world, so many of my fellow travellers are now returning home unexpectedly, and I’m guessing probably with just as bad grace as I did in December.

For me coming home this time was beyond hard, because I just didn’t want to go. The last five weeks I spent in New Zealand I was so sublimely happy. Heck the entire time I spent there was magical. But the few weeks post ski season kicking around in a shitty white van, with some of the best people I know, meeting up with some more of the best people along the way and exploring this stunning country were, I’m going to put it out there, some of the best weeks of my life. And when they came to an end, and all too quickly I found myself back in Auckland checking in for my flight home, I just wasn’t ready to leave.

Yes there was the excitement and giddiness of seeing my family and friends again, especially being home for Christmas. I wanted to eat all my favourite much missed foods (mainly my Grans spaghetti bolognaise, Jaffa Cakes and Marmite!), I wanted to have a room (and a bed) to myself, and I wanted to go visit all my favourite places. But in reality it was a massive crash back into a life that was no longer mine.

The level of homesickness for my home away from home, Slalom Lodge was insane. I missed all its inhabitants so badly at times it was a physical pain. I missed my family from the first season, and my longing to see Luke’s ridiculous dance moves and sit through Owen playing the Backstreet Boys yet again, to hear the broad Scottish voice of my best friend yelling “I’m bored” was unreal. And I desperately missed the chaotic dysfunctional party crew of the second season. All I really wanted when I was back home in my grandparents clean organised house with a bedroom to myself was to be back lying on the floor of my dorm surrounded by mess and my friends.

Although Slalom formed such a huge part of my adventure it wasn’t all that I missed. I missed the freedom, figuring it out one step at a time. I missed discovering new places. I missed my independence. When I got home, I felt like I was just existing. Everyone around me was getting on with their lives, getting married, having kids, buying houses, got a career, and I was just chilling. The thing is when I’m travelling that doesn’t matter because what I’m doing is wringing every drop of joy I can out of life, growing as a person and learning who I want to be.

I had changed. Maybe not completely, but I definitely wasn’t the same person who left England nearly two years previously. Returning to London was unsettling, whilst I was beyond excited to be back in my favourite city, I also didn’t like it. It was too busy, too grey, too overwhelming. I had gotten used to the wild and the rural, and yes I still loved the city and maybe one day I will return but for now it’s not the place for me. Similarly it was so good to see all my friends again. To see my oldest friends and drink wine with them and catch up on all the insane life events, but they had changed too. They had different lives from when I left, and whilst there will always be an unbreakable bond between my oldest and closest friends, and we will always be able to fall back into being with each other as if no time has passed, I wasn’t an everyday part of their lives anymore, I didn’t fit in.

I left because I wasn’t happy, and returning nothing about my situation back home was very different to when I had left. I hadn’t gone back for anything or anyone, there was no real reason or purpose for my return. I didn’t have a job or an idea of one I wanted, I didn’t have my own home ( I was back staying with my grandparents) and let’s not even go into my love life. I just felt strangely detached from everything and everyone. Simply put I was miserable.

At the end of Lord of the Rings Frodo asks “How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand… there is no going back.” I turn to these movies and books constantly for comfort, but I have never related to Frodo more than in this instant. I may not have fought orcs or carried a dark ring across Mordor but I did go on an adventure and when I returned I wasn’t the same. Because travelling changes us unalterably. You experience new cultures and meet new people with different world views to you. You face challenges you didn’t expect and get yourself out of problems, you learn all the time and you grow up and into a different person than the one you were when you left.

And after a lot of moping and overthinking you know what this has taught me? That life is a series of chapters. You can’t go back to how it was because it goes on. So what can you do? Well I guess just lean into the next chapter. Yes you can wallow for a while, lord knows I did for perhaps a little too long, and you can miss your travel life and the life you had before you left. But whatever you do don’t try to put the old life back on because it won’t fit, instead go and create a new slightly different one. Whether that be staying at home or planning to take off again. And if you do find yourself back home for a little while longer than you want and a little lost, just remember the world is still out there waiting for you. Ok you’re not able to go adventure now, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to again. But this in between time is also part of the limited life we have, it’s also a chapter, so however hard it is, and believe me I know, try to enjoy it. Take advantage of the home comforts and the food and the proximity of family and friends, even if they do drive you mad living with them 24/7. Stay in touch with the wonderful friends you made on your adventure and treasure all the amazing memories, but most importantly go and make some more. Wherever you may make them or whatever they may be, even if it’s just chilling at home and discovering a new book with your cat. Yeah it may not be globetrotting but hey it’s a damn good way to spend a day or two or three…

travel

Twenty things that happened during my twenty months in New Zealand…

Summing up my New Zealand experience in one post is near impossible, it was quite simply incredible, but I’m going to try with my favourite of all things, a list. And where better to start than with how I spent far too many of my days…

Partied like I’d never partied before. Seriously I drank myself stupid several times over. I had some pretty crazy nights at uni, some epic house parties in Canada, my family knows how to throw a damn good shindig, and I’ve lived in London where the clubs are world class. But trust me there aint no party like a Slalom party.

Aaaaand consequently….

Had some of the worst hangovers of all time and amazingly realised quite how well I’m able to function on very little sleep a killer headaches and a constant feeling of needing to vomit. Thank god for the wonderful chefs I worked with who provided me with an insane amount of hangover curing food which got me through many a bad hangover day, just about!

Realised I love running a bar. On the days when I wasn’t suffering the mother of all hangovers then I really loved my job. Stationed at the Schuss Haus, or as it’s fondly known the Corona Bar, halfway up the mountain we never knew what was going to hit us but even the packed days when we ran out of everything were fun as fuck. We ramped the music up, popped open corona after corona at lightning speed, called on all the other departments for help and when it was all done collapsed in the cupboard and stuffed ourselves with leftover tacos. And I loved every hair tearing, problem solving, manic minute. There might be a high possibility I’ve answered the what the fuck are you going to do with your life question!

Became a better skier. I was an ok skier before I arrived but Mount Ruapehu gave my skiing a new lease of life, especially the first season. I took every opportunity to get myself out on the snow and attempt to throw myself down trickier runs, and I will forever be grateful to my wonderful ski instructor friend who took me out for a lesson and within just a couple of hours improved my skiing infinitely.

Got a whole new confidence level. I felt so comfortable in this country, I was completely myself and I made a heap of friends and had a ton of fun, and realised that I don’t need to be someone else because whilst yes there are always things I could do better, being me is pretty damn great.

Dyed my hair green, because post boy breaking my heart and with a Coachella themed party to attend, this seemed like the logical thing to do, and you know what it looked damn good.

Learnt how to change a tyre, and jump start a car. I loved my little red car a whole heap and it showed me all the sights but boy was it a bit shit. I’ve never jump started a car before in my life and whilst in New Zealand I’ve done it more times than I can count to varying degrees of effect. Add to that a few tyre disasters, and I’ll always be grateful to my shitty red car for teaching me some important life skills.

Lived in a car and loved it. Speaking of my shitty car it was also my home for about six months and it was incredible. Yes it was cramped for two of us and a pain in the arse to shift the bags to the front each night and back the next day whenever we wanted to drive somewhere. And yes when it rained it was pretty shitty trying to cook under a makeshift tarpaulin cover. But waking up in the middle of nowhere, cooking dinner on the beach and having the freedom to take off wherever we fancied was THE best way to travel the country no question.

Swam with dolphins. Way up near the top of my bucket list for many a year and this beautiful country finally gave me the chance to and it was insane. Fully qualified as a Best Day Ever!

Jumped out of a mother freaking aeroplane. Something I have ummed and aaahed about for years but despite my sheer terror was firmly on my New Zealand bucket list and I finally got the guts up to do it and it was unlike any feeling ever. Yes it was incredible and no I will not stop going on about it and yes you all should do it.

Ate the very best fries I’ve ever eaten in my life. The blind finch in Ohakune serves up the most delicious selection of fries and burgers and the Cesar fries will be in my dreams for a long time to come. If there’s no other reason to come back to New Zealand I’ll come back just to eat those again.

Fell head over heels for an Australian boy. He had a dry sarcastic sense of humour and complained about being miserable most of the time. But he was the person I wanted to spend my time with, he was nice and he made me giddy happy and he made me laugh and he also made me cry, a lot. It was a love story full of maybe not broken but pretty damn cracked hearts. And even though I currently want to kick him in the balls and scream bitch you broke my heart at him, I wouldn’t trade a second of all the chaos, because when it was good it was really good and my trip would have been a little less full if I hadn’t met him.

Had an actual adult conversation about feelings. Ok yes I had to have a little dutch courage first, but I told someone how I felt about them. I told them when I liked them and I told them when they hurt me. I am about as British as they get and talking about my feelings absolutely terrifies me, in my past romances my complete inability to tell anyone how I felt or what I wanted is probably my biggest regret, and at least this time I got to say my part, even if it didn’t turn out that great for me, there’s a lot less regret than usual.

Thought I was dying. Legitimately thought I was dying. Not to go into details but if you’ve ever woken up surrounded by an insane amount of blood, then you’ll know the fear and panic it induces. If not trust me it’s pretty fucking terrifying and was more than enough to get me over my fear of doctors. Although it didn’t give me any life altering world views it did give me a kick up the ass to take better care of myself. Seriously guys, health is important.

Found a home from home. Slalom Lodge and all its inhabitants both seasons I lived there became a secondary home and family to me. And now that I’m back in England it is that run down, ever messy lodge and the bunch of crazy people who I’m desperately homesick for.

Saw places that took my breath away. Driving through New Zealand, every corner you turn there’s another beautiful sight to see, I’ve been lucky enough to do a couple of roadies around both islands and I never failed to be impressed by the stunning beauty day after day.

Lost my skinny dipping virginity. My first night away from the mountain after my first ski season and silly drunk on a campsite in Raglan with some of the best friends I’ll ever make it seemed like the time to tick this off my bucket list. It was absolutely freezing and we comically got ourselves locked out of the campsite and had to scramble back over the fence but it was the perfect start to an epic summer road trip.

Saw the stars like never before. The stars in the southern hemisphere are so different from the ones I grew up with, and the lack of light pollution in New Zealand, especially where I lived made the stars shine like I’ve never seen.

Made the best of friends. One of the most wonderful things about travelling is getting to meet amazing people from all over the world and I’ve been lucky enough I believe to meet some of the best. Whilst it’s inevitable living this lifestyle that friends come and go I am so so grateful for being able to have all these people in my life even for a little while. And yes I may never see some again, but you best believe there’s a few that I am not letting go of and intend to be friends with for life whether they want it or not.

Experienced complete blissful happiness. Playing in the carrot park in Ohakune with my first slalom family, riding the chairlift up first thing with gorgeous sunshine and empty slopes below, staring at the unbelievable stars drunk on beer, waking up to the sound of the waves and running into the sea for a “bath”, dancing on the arm of a sofa dressed in a toga surrounded by giddy party people… these are just a handful of the moments where I remember thinking I fucking love my life. This adventure threw me so many incredible life moments and I am so eternally grateful that I lost my head for a minute followed by heart and booked a one way flight to New Zealand.

travel

The adventure one year on…

Last Thursday made it exactly one year since I headed off on my travels and I think I may have mentioned just a couple of times before but I could never have imagined this trip turning out the way it did, I could never have imagined being where I am today (sat in a coffee shop in a sweltering Hanoi) or being who I am today.

A year ago when I jetted off I thought I would be out in New Zealand for the ski season then spend a few months travelling before heading back home and that would be it adventure over. But that bubbled in to this great big adventure which leads me over to Asia for a few weeks before back to New Zealand for a second ski season and then who knows. The travel bug really got me good and for the first time I have no need or desire to return home or to stop travelling. I have a visa that means I can make money to support my continued travels and when that runs out then I can get a visa for another country and essentially just keep on going until I want to go home.

And the thing is I really don’t want to. I have fallen so in love on this journey, with this place, with people, with the person I can feel myself becoming.

I am infinitely happier. I’ve always, I like to think, been a pretty positive person, I always try to see the best of things and enjoy all the little moments of life. But here I’ve found myself enjoying all the little moments without having to try. I’ve laughed so much more. I have become less self conscious and more open and comfortable in my own skin.

I truly believe (brace yourselves it’s about to get deep) travelling heals the soul. I felt this on my first big trip inter railing around Europe five years ago. I had been miserable that year following my mums death, and as happy as I tried to be and as good as the good moments were, honestly the bad ones were horrific and dark and consuming. Post university, living back in my childhood home on my own, working in a cafe and drifting I made the decision to tick one of those big items of my bucket list and make one of my dreams a reality, and so I booked flights and inter rail tickets and ordered a backpack and planned a whole trip. A trip that I genuinely believe saved me. I had always enjoyed travelling but here I stepped into a whirlwind of different cities and cultures, I met the most interesting people, did things I’d only dreamed of, ate delicious food and drank dangerously strong drinks and was just so completely happy. And that was the start of the travel addiction for me. I hadn’t even finished the trip before I was planning the next one, South America, a trip actually still to be taken. I came back a happier person ready for the amazing moments I now believed were still to be had. I also came back more confident ready to follow another dream and move to London.

Following trips came at different stages in my life but were always always life changing. When I returned from Australia I came back with the guts to ask for a promotion. When I returned from five weeks in South East Asia it had not just given me the distance and perspective to see that I’d gotten stuck in a not great situation with work but also helped me to get over a pretty intense yet one sided summer romance. And this trip, well I don’t know what I’ll be or do when I go back, I still don’t know where this trip will end up taking me. But I do know it seems to have removed the last of the darkness that was hanging over me from my mums death.

To some extent I will always be the person I was, I will always love theatre and film, I will always have at least 3 books on the go at once, I will always sing badly and loudly to musical soundtracks in the car and I will always take my Roo toy with me on all my travels. I will probably always desperately want people to like me, I will fall in love far too easily and then not be able to actually speak any real feelings out loud and I will always offer a cup of tea when I cannot find the words to comfort someone. I will always have this urge to create something lasting and probably this amazing ability to keep on procrastinating.

But I do care less what people think, I am me and if they don’t like me well there’s not too much I can do about that. But I’m Kate fucking Farmer and that’s their loss.

I am also more comfortable on a physical level. I will always be in the immortal words of Bridget Jones “just a little bit fat” don’t get me wrong I do my exercise and eat my fruits and veg but I love food and alcohol and sleep too damn much, and that coupled with a slow metabolism doesn’t a skinny person make. But you know what I kinda like my curves, and I love my nose and it’s freckles and my weird colour changing eyes and my crazy curly hair. It came from my mum and my dad and my grandparents and all those I love, it’s me and I wouldn’t want to be anyone else.

And yes I am happier. I know what I love, I know what makes me happy, I may not know exactly what I want to do with my life but I know what I could do and for now that’s enough.

And above all I know how insanely lucky I am. Yes there may have been a rough patch or two, I may have lost my best friend and I may have floundered around a lot, but I am really living a pretty damn good life.

It shocks people when I tell them now how long I’ve been away, they always ask me if I miss home if I want to go back tell me they couldn’t do it. I will always tell people to travel, for me it is an indescribable joy and will change you completely. But everyone has a different story finds their happiness in different ways so if it’s travelling for you then go for it! If not then that’s fine too, just enjoy the one life you have and squeeze every drop of happiness from it.

Travelling saved me and it made me. So yes I may miss my home comforts sometimes but I’m going to keep enjoying this crazy ride cause there ain’t no life like it.

travel

The final South Island Stops… Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo

The final items on my South Island bucket list were Mount Cook National Park and Lake Tekapo, both of which I missed out on when I was here three years ago and both of which I was desperate to see. So with a flight booked out of Auckland and a car full of crap to be deposited back in National Park ready for the ski season, I finished work a few days earlier than planned to fit these final stops in on my long journey north.

Despite it being icy cold overnight camping in the shadows of the snow capped mountains, and despite the Hooker Valley track being closed to storm damage, The two days I spend in this area were magical. Everything from the drive, to the stars, to the frosty morning to the over swarmed tourist spots just took my breath away. I can’t really put into words the beauty of these mountains and lakes, so I think for once I’ll just shut up and let the pictures do the talking.

Let me just say this though, New Zealand completely and utterly stole my heart. From the first drive to this long last one in the six months of road tripping around the islands, it has been a truly magical and extraordinary adventure!

(Mount Cook from Kea point)

(White Horse Campground at sun down nestled amongst the mountains)

(Looking across towards Mount Sefton from Mueller Lake lookout)

(Looking across Lake Pukaki towards Mount Cook)

(The Church of the Good Shepherd on the edge of Lake Tekapo)

travel

Two Days in Dunedin…

To my surprise Dunedin turned out to be the place in the South Island I felt most at home, a university city that despite its size feels surprisingly small and inviting. The centre is full of gorgeous old buildings, dangerously pretty vintage shops, my favourite of all buildings theatres and so many cute coffee shops I was shaking from all the caffeine by the time I left. It only took 24 hours but I fell in love.

My visit was a flying one on my two days off, and I debated whether to go or not several times over with myself, but in the end I woke up early on my first day off to gorgeous weather and decided to get on the road and pack as much into the two days as I could. And boy am I glad I did.

My first stop were the beaches, and there are some damn good ones here. Although the wind made it far too cold for swimming St Clair’s beach was still a great place for a wander along the golden sand and a risky dip of my toes in the icy water. St Clair’s is the classic long stretch of gold sand and blue blue sea and skies that are all you ever want from a beach.

(Pretty, pretty, pretty!)

Tunnel beach is a little further out of the city and is about a 20 minute walk down (and a gruelling climb back up) to the large tunnel rock formation that gives the beach its name. When the tide is out there’s a set of stairs down through a tunnel carved into the cliff side that brings you out onto the beach. A sheltered little cove full of large boulders, not quite so classic, but definitely the coolest beach.

(And of course perfect for a photo opportunity in my new hat!)

With the sun starting to set I headed to my camp for the night, a car park next to the railway station, not very glamorous but hey free and within easy walking distance of the city centre. The Octagon is in the middle of the city, as it’s name suggests, a pretty octagonal plaza surrounded by old buildings and bars, all of which, despite being Monday, were gently buzzing.

Wandering down a few more streets I found the buildings and walls covered with some awesome graffiti. You can apparently follow a street art trail and discover all the works, some of which are done by famous street artists, I wouldn’t know about that but they did look cool, pretty much like the vibe of this whole city!

(The closest I got to penguins this trip.)

I also discovered a whole heap of vintage and coffee shops which I eagerly returned to the next morning, and whilst I almost completely managed to restrain myself in the vintage shops I can’t say the same about the coffee shops and I may have sampled a fair few over the course of the morning. Believe me I was buzzing!

Finally dragging myself away from the city centre I made my way to one of Dunedin’s most popular attractions, Baldwin Street, or as it’s more commonly known the world’s steepest street. And after a brisk walk up I can confirm that yep it’s bloody steep! And of course it is swarmed with tourists trying to take the best Instagram picture of the seemingly sinking houses or their climbing attempts, me of course being one of them!

(Just has to have a quick sit down in the road once I managed to reach the top!)

With the sun still beaming down I headed out to the Otago Peninsula, yet another of this country’s beautiful drives and towards Lanarch Castle. Of course it’s not really a castle, not by British standards more of a stately home and gardens perched up on the hillside. But it is pretty.

(Umm yep I’ll move in!)

And when New Zealand does castles it apparently fills the grounds with (slightly creepy) Alice in Wonderland statues, allegedly including a Cheshire Cat which I could not for the life of me find!

(I’m sorry but that Alice has got some issues!)

Right out on the tip of the peninsula is the Royal Albatross Centre. Here there is a penguin colony on one of the beaches but you do have to book a tour and go at dusk to catch a sight of them, neither of which I did. There are also, surprise surprise, Albatross. The centre has a pretty interesting little exhibition about the birds and does also offer tours, however there is really no need to join them. If you walk down to the cliff side viewing area you are more than likely to see them gliding on the wind around the cliff top, and bloody hell are they massive! It really made for the perfect end to this whirlwind trip stood on the cliff side in the gorgeous sunshine watching these majestic birds soaring overhead, plus it had the added bonus of making my sister extremely jealous, she has a long held obsession with albatross, and has yet to see one herself (haaaa)!

Dunedin really surprised me with how much I loved it, and I really wish I’d been able to spend more time there, as it completely captured my heart, and there are way too many things I didn’t get the chance to see. Although a little further south than most people venture, I’d definitely recommend to try and take the time to pay this city a visit, you may just fall in love.

travel

Queenstown, Queen of Towns…

I fell in love with this town the minute I stepped foot in it three years ago and it is a love, that like my love for Prince Harry has lasted. So it was with a excited hysteria that I finally arrived back into the town on a sunny Sunday evening. Flying high from having successfully scaled Roy’s peak, overexcited about not sleeping in a car for a couple of nights and giddy from the first wine had in ages I was ecstatic to be back. And through a few twists of fate those few days turned into eight glorious weeks of calling this place my home.

Yes, as you’ve probably been told, it is touristy and man is it expensive but it is also awesome. So as I haven’t done a list for a little while and I’m getting withdrawal symptoms here’s one for ya, all the reasons you can fall in love with Queenstown.

1. The Views. Sitting on the edge of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by seriously dramatic mountains Queenstown is beautiful. I’ve been living and working on the edges in Frankton and when I get to wake up and come home to this view everyday you really can’t complain, even if I am still sleeping in the car!

(Never getting over this view right on my doorstop)

2. It is adrenaline headquarters. People come here for the thrills and they get them. You have your pick of the bungee jumps here and if you’re not quite as up for it then the canyon swings are also pretty terrifying. For me I absolutely hate the whole upside down thing, it’s really a chore to get me on a rollercoaster. So we opted for the Nevis Swing, although the morning of it I was seriously questioning why. Just the drive up the dusty road on the edge of a cliff got me sweating let alone the bridge across the canyon out to the jump point or the swing itself. But the heart stopping fear of dangling over a canyon and suddenly being dropped down into it is what makes it all the more exhilarating.

(That’s us just freefalling in to the canyon and not screaming at all!)

3. The lake. As mentioned in point number one it is stunning but it’s also great to get out on to. A lake cruise makes for a pretty gorgeous afternoon, especially if the weather is good, because as I also mentioned in point one the views!!! Or for a little more adrenaline the jet boats down the Shotover river are the most fun way to see the scenery, whizzing down the river at 80km an hour, doing 360 spins and getting so many knots in my hair it took me a whole 45 minutes in the shower to get them all out, is my new favourite way to sightsee.

(Fun fact I won this K Jet trip in a pub quiz way back when I first arrived in Auckland and drank solidly for several days straight, worth it though!)

4. It is a great base for day trips. Although it makes for a very long day with an eight hour round drive, Queenstown is the perfect place for a trip to the beautiful Milford Sound. Top of my list as last time I was in the country I was done in by travel sickness and couldn’t face yet another long coach journey, a decision I regretted so badly afterwards, BUT it turned out great, because the day we went it was magical. With my aunt and cousin in town for a couple of days the beautiful sunny weather gave in and torrential rain hit the south, turns out though when it rains Milford is at its best with hundreds of waterfalls pouring down the mountain sides. Driving in was without doubt the most spectacular drive of the South Island (which trust me is saying something). Ok so the rain did almost threaten the boat ride with cancellation and turned the normally blue waters dark and choppy as anything, but I can’t even begin to describe quite how spectacular it was.

(Milford is a seriously, seriously magical place)

5. Arrowtown. This little town is only 30 minutes down the road and it is so so pretty. It is a little trip into the past with the remnants of an early Chinese gold miners settlement and super quaint high street. And a sunny day wandering around the town is a perfect day off.

(How could you not get a crush looking at this cute little high street?)

6. The food! Namely Fergburger, incredibly hyped and always always with a queue but man is it a good burger. And don’t just go for the classic, the cock a doodle oink is an insanely good chicken burger and for breakfast (or any time of the day really) the morning glory gives breakfast burgers world over a run for their money. Aside from Fergburger the town is teeming with restaurants, most of which my broke ass tried not to sample, but Red Rock with it’s $10 full breakfast and Fat Badger with its supersized pizzas needed to be sampled, and I have no regrets!

(Yes baby a beautiful dinner with a beautiful view!)

7. The Luge. Another top Queenstown activity is to take the gondala up the hill and go for a few runs on the stupidly fun luge track. Racing down the hillside on little carts was a great way to indulge my inner kid, although my ten year old cousin kicked my ass good and proper. And it goes without saying really but the views are spectacular.

8. The nightlife. Queenstown is a good party. There are a whole heap of bars and clubs, some of which are surprisingly cheap, like 1876 with the cheapest beer in town. And as we were there for my friends birthday we definitely indulged. I’m not going to go into details but safe to say there were a lot of regrets the next day, and a complete refusal to move from our beds except to fetch a McDonald’s!

(Cowboys bar has beers as big as your face for $15 as well as a mechanical bull you can attempt to ride very very badly!)

So yes this place is going to sap you of money and probably energy, but it’s also exciting as hell and every day here I thanked all the stars that I got to live and play in this queen of towns!

travel

Let’s talk about homesickness…

Do you ever get that slightly off kilter feeling? That feeling that everything’s not quite right. It’s the kind of Sunday night feeling that you just don’t want to be in this place and time?

Don’t get me wrong I completely and utterly adore New Zealand. Every corner you turn there’s yet another beautiful sight. I have had some of the best belly ache laughs in the best company and seen spectacular sights, and believe me, I know how insanely lucky I am to be having this non stop adventure, but very occasionally, I want to go home.

Inevitably homesickness is a part of travelling. Going off to explore new places and meet new people means leaving the familiar places and people behind and that’s sad, there’s no point pretending it isn’t. Yet in this day of internet and data and WiFi I can talk to my family every week, I can message my sister and my friends almost everyday, I can constantly see updates of what’s happening at home and if I’m really lucky I can get a care package of twiglets and Yorkshire teabags sent out to me. Life on the other side of the world isn’t so far away as it once was.

Homesickness is a weird and complicated one for me, I don’t particularly have a home. After my mummy died and we sold our childhood home, going home for me is either staying with a friend for a few days in Yorkshire or staying at my grandparents house. And the homesickness that hits is for a home that doesn’t exist and that can pack a pretty powerful punch, even when surrounded by great new friends in a place I love. I found myself mid ski season ridiculously ill, and I mean running a high fever, ill enough to call into work for only the fifth time in my fourteen years of working, howling on the floor of my room at the lodge and very much miserably home sick. And then one of those great new friends rocked up and with a drive to town for lemsip supplies and McDonald’s and some good company, I was reminded how much I’d rather be there with him, sick as I was, than back in England because for that moment in time that was my home. For me I suppose, until I decide to put down roots, travelling is my home and I may need a little reminding sometimes and a little help being picked back up of the floor, but I freaking love it.

So I can take a few wobbly moments and the occasional tearful outburst and the overwhelming longing for my gran’s spaghetti bolagnaise if it means I get to live this adventure. If I get to meet these people. If I get to have these experiences. If I get to make temporary homes all over the globe. There will always always be rough patches, that’s life generally I guess. As amazing as it may seem on Instagram travelling ain’t always that rosey but it is fucking fantastic.

So my friends however hard it hits you and in whichever way shape or form it comes, ride that homesickness through because as quick as it comes it will go, and then just fucking enjoy the adventure!

travel

A whole lot of National Parks and Hikes…

The South of New Zealand is one glorious National Park after another and if you’re on a backpacker budget the best way to see all the beautiful NZ scenery is by hiking, lots and lots of hiking!

I should, having climbed Kilimanjaro (did I ever mention that before?!) be able to take on a hike or two reasonably easily but apparently I cannot and whilst every walk we did was worth it, I still seem to be the same unfit person I have always been. After the cruisey coastal walks in Abel Tasman and Kaikoura and a day or two wandering around Christchurch we headed off cross country to Arthur’s Pass and the hiking commenced.

The drive cross country through the pass is another of New Zealand’s idyllic routes (she just keeps chucking them at us)! And from here on it out it really got wild, showers of any kind were a thing of the past, my painted nails abandoned and for most of the west coast, phone signal is not a thing and WiFi hard to find. We were truly disconnected and at some points quite literally in the wilderness. Our first campsite at Arthur’s Pass was 6km down a gravel track in the middle of nowhere, there were perhaps 4 other campers there and a toilet shack that looked like something from a horror film. For a night there, I really thought we might be murdered!

(Creepy as hell but you can’t beat a bed with a sunset view)

But who cares about being murdered (!) because Arthur’s Pass is beautiful and full of hikes of all lengths. Whilst we didn’t take on the hardest we spent the day (after spending our first day in the car hiding from the rain) trekking our way through the pass to see great waterfalls and of course stunning views!

(And to be those cliche instagramming travellers who take this bloody travel photo!)

Once we hit the west coast Franz Josef was our first stop. And if you can’t quite splash out on the helicopter rides up onto the glacier you can take a 45 minute walk up to the face, or if you fancy a five hour hike up to Roberts Point for an even closer view. The sign heading into the hike warns that it is for experienced hikers only (which I’m not so sure I can be classed as) and I ended up taking this one on solo.

(This sign’s not daunting at all)

It was without a doubt the most fun of all the hikes. Crossing huge swing bridges and rivers, scrambling up rocks and taking on a narrow wooden staircase hanging on the side of a cliff is all part of the fun. And yes I was a little terrified that I was going to slip and smash all my bones but did I love every second of it? Hell yes I did! The walk ends at a platform which gives you a fantastic view of the glacier and you can eat lunch watching all the helicopters landing and taking off from the glacier as the slightly richer tourists go play on it. Absolutely killer and my legs paid the price, but absolutely recommend!

(So many fun swing bridges and rickety stairways)

As we made our way down the West Coast there were so many places to stop and take on a little hike. First up was Lake Matheson where you can walk around the lake and if you’re lucky get a perfect mirrored reflection of Mount Cook (we were not) but we did get some pretty good views of the mountain and the Fox Glacier. From there we made our way down the coast stopping at a few stunning beach walks along the way.

(I definitely recommend Ship Creek, just look how pretty it is)

Then we were heading through the Haast Pass which is waterfall paradise. Every few minutes we were stopping and making our way along little trails to view waterfalls and probably the bluest river I have ever seen!

(Seriously the most insanely blue, although a little freezing, water ever seen)

We took a little detour further down to Cromwell for a couple of days and found ourselves some more hills to climb, and a particular favourite stop of mine Bendigo ghost town. An abandoned gold mining town up the hairiest steep, winding dust track of a road that gave me a minor heart attack, but nearly deserted by all but us and a group of nudists we stumbled upon (New Zealand is just one fun story after another)! There are heaps of walking tracks up here and walking around this ghostly town was a great afternoon adventure not to mention the of course great views.

(Just hanging around on top of a hill as per usual)

Then we hit up Wanaka and with it Roy’s Peak which was the big one. It is at the top of the list of hikes to hit in New Zealand and you can see why. The highest peak in the area you can literally see for miles and miles, but it is HARD. A constant uphill slog and it was hot hot hot! Too in love with our sleep to try and a climb for sunrise and miss the heat of the day we started climbing mid morning and boy did we sweat! We took four litres of water each along with a speaker pounding out the motivational tunes, and I am so very glad we did, because we needed it. Reaching the top though I probably felt the most accomplished I had in the whole time I’d been in New Zealand! And that combined with the very welcome breeze and the killer views put it at the top of my list of recommendations.

(New Zealand just chucking them stunner views at us)

And thus ended our weeks of walking as we headed for Queenstown and all the thrills, food and alcohol it offers (seriously we deserve it)!

(Our happy hands atop Roy’s Peak for no more hikes)

Till next time xxx