Risen from the Dead… With Updates

Wow, it’s hard to pick back up writing after TWO MONTHS of silence. I haven’t really had the words – an identity crisis will do that to you. Especially when you’ve put yourself in a box as one type of writer, and then struggle to stay within those parameters because you feel yourself changing. Plus, bearing my heart and soul on the internet week after week got a little straining. You could call the last few months a “vulnerability hangover” of sorts.

Agh, life.

Anyway, the month of June has been busy and fun and crazy and up and down. I will put some of it in here to try and get this ball rolling again. I like this place and I want to stick at it.

Three Peaks Challenge

The three tallest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales, in 24 hours, when one has never climbed a mountain before? Yeah – I like to throw myself in the deep end. This was awesome, but also the hardest thing I have ever done. I am fitter than I was a few months ago but there were some FIT people in my group and I struggled to keep up. It was a brilliant experience and I am proud to have completed it. It’s not too late to donate to the cause – a small orphanage in Kenya that a friend of mine visited last year. Having to close the home down was a possibility and we are hoping the proceeds will keep it open and running for another year. Amazingly, we are currently very close to reaching the £10,000 goal. Click HERE to sponsor me and the amazing group I did the trek with!

Krakow, Poland (#girlsontour)

I think I may write an entire post on this weekend with some extra thoughts, but put simply, it was a fantastic three days. The city break came about through a casual conversation about travel over a dinner in February. Thanks to the incredible organisation skills of my friend Emma, it actually happened. There was six of us, all different but all with something to bring to the table. We tried Polish food and after a hilarious sitting that involved eating steamed vegetables as a starter, promised not to again. We did karaoke, visited Auschwitz and had two dips in the fountain (which made me feel like a kid again, and anytime I feel like a kid, I am happy). Krakow was beautiful but I more appreciated the quality time with five wonderful friends.

Northern Ireland adventures

“I’m in heaven”. That was probably the three words I said most over the weekend. My version of heaven? Green fields as far as the eye can see. Sheep. Cliffs. Castles. Tea. Brownies. More good food. Irish hugs (to clarify, this is essentially a hug from an Irish person. They don’t actually hug very differently but they are IRISH). Irish accents. Swimming in the cold sea. Almost getting blown away by gale force winds. It was the loveliest weekend and my friend Leigh-Ann is a spectacular host. It was almost like a retreat weekend and I was sad to leave. I may have invited myself back for Christmas… (awkward)

Well, that’s it folks. Enjoy the gallery of the above mentioned events. Please forgive me for being flakey and I would appreciate a comment or two, just so I know there hasn’t been an apocalypse…

Goal Setting in the Dark

blog 2013 (2)

I have absolutely no idea what 2013 holds, except that I hope it is radically different to the last couple of years of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my life, but until now it’s generally been quite settled. Safe. A little directionless. I am ready for something new, particularly in regards to my career. It’s about time I took a risk and got my teeth stuck into something that I enjoy and am talented in. I am currently looking into studying, which is pretty daunting.

I’ve never considered myself a studious person because I have a short attention span and a lack of discipline. However, I love learning and advancing myself and I think it’s time I shot my insecurities of being stupid to the pit of hell (where the belong). I’m ready for a challenge. If not study then it’s time for some sort of risk or adventure. I’m teetering on that difficult edge at the moment; do I wait for God or just make a decision? (more on that next week!)

All that was to say I have goals for this year, but they have been set in the dark as I’m blind as to what my next big step is. I don’t know if all of the below will be achievable (namely the travel ones for lack of funds/time), but it’s nice to have them because otherwise I’ll float, and there ain’t nothin’ worse than floating.

We all have areas we could improve, and mine is self-discipline. So in addition to having a set of goals, my #OneWord365 is DISCIPLINE and I’m really excited about it. Self-control and discipline are the gateway to personal and professional success, I reckon.

Okay, okay, so here we go.

  • Go on one photo mission OR have one craft day a month
  • Do a walk with Met Walkers at least once a month
  • Read at least one book per month (so difficult for me these days – eek!)
  • Tick off 5 things from my Life List
  • Stay out of my overdraft every month
  • Visit Peak District (England), Egypt (dive the Red Sea), Auckland (home), NYC (meet Eryn), Copenhagen, Stockholm (visit Michelle) and Budapest
  • Buy a new DSLR camera
  • Take a really big risk (THE big risk)
  • Write write write write write
  • Take a truly phenomenal picture that I’m really proud of, blow it up and frame it
  • Plan for the week ahead every weekend (fitness, food and time to write/prepare blog posts)
  • Join a mentorship or elderly care program
  • Finish the Joyce Meyer devotional I’ve started with YouVersion.

P.s. Sorry for the inconsistent blogging over the Christmas/New Year period. My mama is in town and she’s more important right now. However I do have a lot to say and share at the moment and in order for it to be relevant, I may be posting a little more frequently in the next couple of weeks!

Do you believe in goal setting and resolution making? What are yours for 2013?

The Art of Travelling Alone

Today I feel privileged to be guest posting over at Single Roots. I’m sharing my top 3 tips for travelling solo, based on my own experiences this year. Would love for you to hop over there and check it out. I would love you to leave a comment and share your view of travelling alone – would you do it or have you already done it? Do you think it is overrated or underrated? 

***

I love the world, and I never feel so alive as when I am exploring a new place. My fierce determination to see Croatia and Greece – two countries I had long dreamed about visiting – saw me embarking on a two-week adventure, alone, this past July.

My wanderlust officially became stronger than my fear of travelling alone.

Okay, so it wasn’t actually my first time going it alone. I visited Edinburgh, Scotland, at Easter by myself. Those three days were a good experience, but two weeks? I didn’t know what to expect, I just knew that I wanted to go.

Continue reading at Single Roots… 

Athens & Santorini: Photo Essay

I’m going to let the pictures tell the story of my time in Greece, simply because it will be more interesting than you reading a play-by-play of my week there.

However, I love words too much to not write just a brief intro to my time in this fantastic country. The ancient ruins of Athens had me stepping back into centuries past of spectacular history. It was surreal being at the Acropolis, and incredible how the ruins were in the heart of the city. The food was delicious and varied, but I didn’t venture much further than Souvlaki and Greek Salad. Those two meals saw me through for 7 days. Delicious!

The people were charming, and did their country proud in the wake of an economical downfall. Greeks are suffering in Athens but there wasn’t an air of depression as anticipated, just friendliness, optimism and financial cautiousness.  Santorini was magical, with it’s picturesque cliffs and views of surrounding islands in the vast Mediterranean ocean. The pictures don’t capture it adequately, they never do. Fun was had with new friends, in the form of quad bike riding, wine tasting and skinny dipping.

What I loved most what Greece’s deep-rooted identity. It’s like no place on earth, with its rich history, passionate people and awesome alphabet! It’s so old.. and coming from a young country like New Zealand, this was particularly fascinating.

All images are my own, taken on either my iPhone 4 or Nikon DSLR (D70) camera.

Croatia: the Highs and Lows

Obviously I’m back from my 2 week holiday and have already resumed being an exhausted (but very happy) Londoner! This week I will be reminiscing and sharing all about my first solo trip with you, so check back later in the week for more.

First part of the trip was with Sail Croatia, with 7 days of island hopping around the Dalmatia Coast. We started in Dubrovnik and ended in Split, with a stop at a different island each night. The sailing (cruise) trip was forced relaxation and I wasn’t about to argue with that. We spent the days lounging, sleeping, reading and tanning. For a few hours of every day we were anchored near a random and deserted island to jump off the boat, which the boys did in style, and cool down from the heat. This was my favourite time of day. I love the water, and a few times I just floated on my own and soaked it all in (literally).

Temperatures sat anywhere between late 30’s and early 40’s degrees celcius every day. And boy, did you feel it! I have never sweat so much in my life. Croatia in one word, is beautiful. It has all of the landscape you could want; rolling hills, rocky mountains and clear blue sea. While on the boat I loved constantly seeing sights like these, and it was the reason that I didn’t take a load of pictures, because they would have all looked the same. Which isn’t bad at all, just means not every single pretty view was photo worthy!

We ate a lot of carbs on the boat, and by the end I never wanted to see white bread again! But I appreciated the effort that went in to our meals by the chef. All of the Croatia crew were very lovely and hard working, they definitely added something special to the experience for us. Oh, and did you know Croatian’s are the second best lovers in the world? This is what they say, though they can’t confirm who come first in this competitive ranking. Interesting!

Highlight of the week on the boat was Dubrovnik (and I thankfully had an extra day there at he beginning). It’s a lovely town and one of the prettiest places that I visited. We also had our first fun night out there. Being a part of Mark’s proposal to Erin in Makarska was pretty special too! They are awesome. My other favourite moments were when I broke off and explored at Stari Grad and on Korcula Island, which makes me sound like a real hermit! Anyone who knows me will know that isn’t true. It just meant I saw more and got to do the things I enjoy (read and write). I do wish there had been more single travellers on the boat as it was mostly groups and couples, but everyone was really friendly.

By the time we got to Split, I was eager to move on and be independent again. Turns out I love my own company when travelling, because I like to experience a place in my own way. Which oftens means wandering aimlessly with my camera and seeing where I end up. I dropped my clothes off at the laundromat then got lost (with my 16kg backpack on) finding my hostel. If you ever want to really experience a city, get lost! Not recommended in such heat though, I nearly died.

I arrived and settled in to the amazing Split Guesthouse & Hostel, which I would highly recommend. Hosted by Josko and his pet turtle, it’s small, personal and charming. Unfortunately, this is when I received the bad news from Josko that my plans to visit the Plitvice Lakes in one day were unrealistic, and probably not worth the trip. If I missed my bus to my next destination I would be ‘screwed’ and there was nowhere to store my backpack while exploring. I nearly cried, and immediately emailed my virtual travelling companion Candace all my woes. I had no perspective in that moment and lost sight of everything, I just felt like an idiot.

The Plitvice Lakes, a place I have desperately wanted to see since seeing a phenomenal picture on my photographer friends’ computer. I hadn’t planned properly and mistakenly thought I could ‘wing it’, only to discover it wasn’t going to happen. One of the first things I thought was, ‘I practically based my visit to Croatia around these lakes, I told everyone I was going and now I will go home a failure.’

After pouring it all out in a pitiful email to Candace (poor girl), I set off for a day filled with my favourite things in a hope they would console me: a walk up a massive hill to a spectacular view point of Split, some frozen yoghurt, finished with a hard-earned swim on a secluded beach. While there I did something I hadn’t done all week and I desperately needed to: I wrote. My frustrations, my fears that were hassling me, and what I was most thankful for. And what do you know, my perspective came flooding back!

I am having an awesome time, I learned a valuable lesson, and I am blessed to be even on this holiday. I am happy, life is good, chin up buttercup!

So I went and booked a train ticket to Zagreb for the following day and was unexpectedly excited about it. I love train travel and it would be a way to see the countryside of Croatia that I hadn’t yet seen. After my lovely day in Split, I was feeling a lot more positive!

My last two nights in Croatia ended up being really fun, socialising with new friends from the hostels I was staying at. To top it all off, I met a woman on my flight out of Zagreb who was in her 50s. She just looked like your average mother, but she and her husband were keen travellers and had been for years. She said ‘We’ve been to Croatia before and loved it this time, I have a feeling we’ll be coming back!’

That’s when it really set in that I have the rest of my life to travel and I will see the Plitvice Lakes one day, because I’ll be back too…

Next stop: Athens! Look out for that post on Wednesday.

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik harbour, view from my hostel window!

A Dubrovnik beach

Dubrovnik old town, from the lookout

Swimming

Cliff diving!

Sail Croatia boats docked at Stari Grad, a small town on Hvar Island.

Happy after a bit of reading and journalling on my own, in a secluded part of the beach in Stari Grad.

Stari Grad

An example of our view every night when we docked.

Playing cards on the boat.

Dinner in Makarska

We just needed parrots. Nautical party, Makarska

Nautical Party, Makarska

View of Split from the Cathedral of Saint Domnius, situated within the Old Palace walls.

Purple flowers. The Old Palace is a major tourist attraction but many people now have homes within the walls.

The long road to my secluded beach, where I regained perspective.

All images are my own, taken on either my iPhone 4 or Nikon DSLR (D70) camera.

Flying Solo, Literally

This post is dedicated to my beautiful and courageous friend Candace, who is sometimes afraid but does it anyway. 

In less than three weeks, I will go. Not very far or for very long, just a couple of weeks on a little adventure. Leaving my very normal, routine and safe life behind, I’ll step into my travelling shoes and pretend that there’s nothing waiting for me at home.

I will go to some of the most beautiful places in the world, places that I have wanted to see since before I knew my own mind or heart. The Santorini and Plitvice Lakes that I saw in pictures, inwardly declared “I must go” and added to my Life List.

The only sacrifice is that I’m doing it alone. If that’s even the word for it. I’m not sure it is.

Travelling with others is difficult, when everyone has different budgets, work schedules and bucket lists. I asked around to see if anyone was keen, and though friends would have loved to join me, it just didn’t work out. And it just didn’t seem a good enough reason not to go.

I’m scared. Of getting lost (highly probable given my track record), being in unsafe situations and plans not working out. (Don’t worry though, I’ve seen Taken. I won’t share a taxi with anyone.) And I’m excited. To step out of my comfort zone, and just see where and who my wandering leads me to. And the sun of course, oh how I pine for the sun.

I haven’t even gone yet and I’m already a little different. Just planning the trip has come from a Micaela that didn’t exist a little while ago; the insecure and needy Micaela that hated being alone.

The best experiences are always rooted in risk. I would rather have someone there with me but I feel like going alone is, if I’m honest, ordained. A friend was close to joining me in Greece, but her plans changed and she can’t anymore. I was disappointed but unsurprised, because like I said, I have a feeling it’s meant to be this way.

If it is a sacrifice, that’s okay. The bigger sacrifice would be not going at all.

Would you ever travel alone? Any tips or advice? Is there anything you’ve done because the risk was worth it? Leave a comment.

Pssssstttttt! If you’re interested, this is the itinerary:

29th June – Arrive in Dubrovnik, Croatia
30th June – Sailing begins. Dubrovnik – Split
7th-9th July – Bus from Split to Zagreb, via Plitvice Lakes
9th-11th July – Athens, Greece
11th-15th July – Santorini, Greece

Image credit

Thoughts After 4 Years

‘So, how long are you going for?’

‘Well, I have a one-way ticket so I have no idea. But I’m giving it a year!’

That was the conversation I had multiple times before I left Auckland to start a new life in London. Saturday 26th May marked four years since I landed in this city as a wide-eyed, excited and naive child.

I never dreamed about travelling. I never imagined myself working and saving my butt off so I could come across the world. A few months after arriving in London, I went to Paris the weekend before my 19th birthday . It was (and still is) the most beautiful city I had ever seen, and I was elated on life. I couldn’t believe little ol’ me had come this far and was seeing such amazing places. I think that’s what made it so special – that I had never given myself the permission to dream, but on that trip something clicked and anything was possible.

I played a game with myself, often, in the first couple of years. I would be walking down the street with some new friends, or doing something different and exciting, and I would think ‘If someone had shown me a picture of this very moment a few years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it’. Occasionally I still play that game, because it seems my life is still ever-changing. Some days I love that, some days I despise it. We all want routine and security in one way or another.

I read the book One Day a couple of years ago, and it was more to me than a love story. It was a revelation that life never happens how you think it will. Life is unpredictable and that’s the best part. Sometimes I feel frustrated that I’m still here, and that I haven’t done anything that amazing or gone that far or seen that many places. But I have, and I will.

I’ve sky-dived in England.

I’ve snowboarded in France and Colorado.

I’ve explored Edinburgh on a bike.

I’ve photographed a sunset in Malta.

I’ve climbed the Eiffel tower in Paris.

I’ve had a traditional Turkish bath in Istanbul.

I’ve seen the still-standing parts of the Berlin Wall.

I’ve thrown up over the side of a canal boat in Amsterdam.

I’ve been to a casino in Monaco.

I’ve danced on tables in Nice.

I’ve drunk fresh water from streams in the Swiss Alps.

I’ve had Sangria on the beach in Barcelona.

I’ve stayed up late into the night drinking with the locals in Portugal.

The most important thing I’ve done though, is made a life in London. I’ve transitioned from late-teens to early-twenties and learned a hell of a lot along the way. I’ve grown up here. London will always be the place where I learned that life is hard, incredible and everything in between. 

I had a few hours to spare on Sunday, so I took my camera to Southbank and soaked up the sun and the culture. Here are a few of my favourites from the day.

Barcelona

As some of you may or may not know, my world geography is shocking. But living abroad is a good time to learn! To give you an idea of what I have discovered since leaving NZ shores: Uraguay is not a country in Africa; the difference between NZ and Australian flag is different coloured stars (and one of us have one extra star… can’t remember who); England has its own flag (seriously, who knew? I only ever knew of the United Kingdom flag); and most recently, Barcelona is part of a region called Catalonia. Catalonia has its own language, and almost operates as its own country. I believe the appropriate term to explain their disassociation with the rest of Spain is ‘defiance’. But that is a uneducated political statement and I have nothing to back it up, so don’t question me on it. Anyway, this fascinated me so much! Mostly because before we arrived in Barcelona I had never heard of Catalonia.

Walking through the streets of Barcelona was captivating. Every street is interesting, from the low budget housing, to the grand architecture, to the restaurants spilling out on the streets. There is so much to see! I really played my part as a tourist, snapping away on my camera at anything that was new to me (which was pretty much everything). When I came back and looked back at the pictures I took, I wondered why I took them at all, because they looked so stupid. Like the photo of all the black and yellow cabs.. As a picture: uneventful. But at the time they looked so cool! To be fair, most of the pictures were taken when we were on the tour bus… Not the way to take an epic picture. Though for some pictures, it was just the fact that sometimes a photo can’t capture how great it was to be there in real life.

Ben and I really liked the Spanish eating culture. They eat slow, they eat late and they eat good…I anticipated every meal and had it planned our hours in advance. The tapas were my favourite. I never used to like tapas because they looked small and unsatisfying. The English culture is greedy and we like a big plate of food, none of this ‘sharing’ and ‘picking’ business. Or is that just me? I am pretty greedy, eek! But now I know that tapas can definitely fill you up. Every meal time I would flutter my eyelashes at Ben and say ‘Shall we have tapas darling?’ with a sweet smile on my face.

I laugh to myself at the memory of us both trying to eat slow, just because we were in Spain and it’s what they do. We both have a tendency to rush through our food as if it’s going to run away from us. So we delicately nibbled our way through the meal, satisfied with our efforts. At the time, it was a deadly serious task (to me it was anyway) and so hard!

All in all, I loved Barcelona. It is the perfect city break, with lots to do and see. I am very happy I can now tick it off my to-see list. Below are a few of my favourite pics from the trip.

Hospital de la Saint Pau

Parc Guell, designed by Gaudi

Port at Sunset

Gorgeous alley way