Awesome Auckland and Jet Lag Blues

So after much planning and a couple of freak outs (namely one over tired moment as I came to land in Hong Kong and I felt a bit tearful and scared) I am FINALLY in New Zealand.

But let’s start at the beginning because, like Julie Andrews says, it’s a very good place to start.

I started my journey at Heathrow on Monday morning, donning my sexy Osprey Farpoint 55 and flitting between thinking I have way too much stuff and not enough (I’m still undecided but it’s currently summer and really warm in the north island and I forgot to pack shorts). I said goodbye to my mum and dad and headed off into the jaws of Heathrow departures lounge. First up, a glass of merlot and a conversation with the Barman about my age.

The flight is a bit of a blur, all 25 hours of it. Instead of picking somewhere as a stop over, I opted for heading straight there. Big mistake. Two hours in Hong Kong was not enough and as I headed through the beast that is Hong Kong airport, I was so dejected with the thought of having to get on another 11 hour flight. I’ve booked 4 days in Hong Kong on the return journey to break it up a bit.

So I’ve been here in very sunny Auckland for three days and, honestly, it’s enough. Despite being quite pretty to look at (the water is such a pure blue and the trees are so green) and the hostel I chose to stay at being full of lovely people, I’m ready to get going.

I’m over the jet lag now – sort of – it took a while with one night in a hotel (I fell asleep at 2 pm) and a hilarious night out with an Israeli guy, a Canadian guy and an American guy, plus a few sightseeing walks in between. I feel more alive and rested now and it seems to me that’s what Auckland is: a stopover place with people just arriving, or leaving or just waiting for something.

My hostel is great. A really relaxed, clean and picturesque place (I walked from the CBT and over the fly-pass to get to the place and was wondering the entire time – backpacked up to the eyeballs – where on earth I was going) full of mix of people from all over the world. We don’t do much here. Just sit out on the Veranda (the hostel is aptly named Verhandas) and drink tea or wine or beer, and talk, play cards and, like last night, get hideously hideously drunk. I can see how easy it would be to take a job at the hostel and get sucked into this chilled out way of living, but I’m ready to move on. Feet already a bit itchy. If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, two nights is more than enough in Auckland. I’ve done three.

 

Tomorrow I embark upon a hop on, hop off backpacking ‘tour’ of the North Island starting in Auckland and ending up on Wellington – where I’m hoping to pick up a few weeks work to fund my flights to other places.

The thing about New Zealand is it’s expensive. Super expensive!!

But more of this later, I’ve already chewed your ear off!

Bon Voyage, Baby: Loneliness & Solo Travel

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“A faithful friend is a strong defense; And he that hath found him hath found a treasure.”

Louisa M Alcott

So my final week in the UK before I embark on eight months of travel has arrived and I am feeling pretty weird about it.

I haven’t packed yet. I have a pile of clothes stashed in the spare room and a very patient Mum who will help me parcel-up said stash (with the aid of a bottle of vino). I just can’t seem to be able to pack up my life in a 55 litre backpack. I really didn’t think I would find it difficult – I like to think I am relatively low-maintenance – but it’s a lot harder than I first thought! I’m also feeling a bit emosh.

I’ve just come out of a party-coma after an amazing weekend spent with great friends and family. Not only was it my very dear friend’s 30th birthday celebrations, but my lovely parents organised a big send-off party complete with food, booze and New Zealand flag banners that I had to wear round my neck.

In typical Emma fashion, I got hideously drunk, danced and laughed a lot (there is so much video and photographic evidence its cringeworthy). And I suppose it gets you thinking, stuff like that, about all the people you leave behind when you go somewhere else. I know it’s not forever – I am not being dramatic – but life goes on back home, doesn’t it? People get married, have babies, get engaged, and go through break-ups, traumas, family stuff, younger siblings and relatives get older.

When I think back to how momentous 2014 was for the people I love (not so much for myself) then I worry about what I will be missing and how I can’t be there if something happens. I also picked a destination that could not be further away from all the people I love. After the party, everyone left at the same time and I was left in the house on my own and I had a small panic – this is what it will be like. This is how I will feel. Lonely.

But that’s the price of solo travel, the fear of being lonely, and I’m hoping all the other benefits – the confidence gained, the experiences, the new friends – cancel out that fear. And a bit of fear is no bad thing. What’s the alternative?

“When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience.”

– Elizabeth Gilbert

I’ve never really done anything “for me,” since I moved to university at the age of 18. In ten years, I think all the decisions I have made have been based on other people’s plans, or at least their opinions, company and expectations. This is a fault with myself, not others. This trip is the first one I have taken solo and the first thing I have planned for myself, by myself. To me, that’s a pretty big deal and achievement. I like to be with people. I especially like to be with people I know. I have been a single woman for over three years now and think that during this time I have gained the confidence to take myself out my comfort zone.

And if, like me, you’re about to head out on your own for the first time, there’s a host of excellent tips, stories and groups that you can join online. These resources are brilliant: you can ask questions, rate accommodation, meet likeminded travellers and find travel buddies, or just share your stories with others.

Here’s a few I’ve been checking out recently:

Solo Traveller Blog

Girl Vs. Globe

Travelletes – check out their Facebook group for excellent information and advice. If you’re stuck, ask a question. Its guaranteed that someone else has been there before. Similarly, try Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum but I prefer Travelettes as the advice is always positive and helpful.

So wish me luck, everyone.

I’d better get packing.

How do you cope with being away from your friends and family? Do you solo travel and have any excellent tips for banishing loneliness? Is loneliness a good thing and should we all experience it at some point during our lives? Should we all travel solo?

My Favourite Mistake

 

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“Well, we all make mistakes, dear, so just put it behind you. We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.”

– L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

It’s January and you know what that means: every single person you know will be banging on about their New Year’s Resolutions.

The statuses went up pretty quickly on social media this year, almost minutes after midnight, and they didn’t disappoint.

2015: The Year of Me

2015 is the year where I give up the [sex, fags, booze – insert vice here]

This year I will not…

And that’s all great. I mean, it’s good to have a goal, and I get the symbolic nature of New Year. It’s the 1st of the year. Sometimes, there are fireworks. And any attempt to give up things that have made us unhappy, unhealthy or stark-raving-bonkers is good, right? But did you notice the amount of negativity lurking behind those statuses?

To me, it was a bit passive aggressive, whether aimed at an ex or a friend or a job. Or, in some cases, the negativity was aimed at ourselves, declaring “new year, new me,” and it got me thinking: Well, what’s wrong with the old you? I kind of liked that person.

Sure, if the “old” you smoked 50 a day, snorted everything to hand and hurt everyone around you, then yeah, it’s probably time to have a life overhaul, but most people aren’t like that.

So why all the self-hatred?

Why are we all running to the gym, tipping the booze down the drain, and swearing off men/women/any relationship ever again?

We’ve all done it. I took a drinking hiatus this year for all of about 24 hours because I had a rotten hangover and a foggy memory but I like a glass of wine. It’s not like I’m constantly attached to a bottle of merlot but it is something I enjoy. Should I cut down? Probably, I can neck it with the best of them. Give up? I don’t think I need to. But that’s just my opinion.

We’ve all said these things. If someone had recorded the amount of times I’d sworn off doing something (usually right after I’ve just done whatever it is and I’m suffering from The Shame Spiral) like it was the worst thing I could possibly have done, I would be cringing with embarrassment.

The thing is we all make mistakes.

Small ones, medium sized ones, hilarious ones, ones that hurt others, ones that hurt ourselves, catastrophic ones, important ones, life-changing ones, ones that mess everything up.

But that’s all they are. Mistakes.

They aren’t the end of the world. They are a learning curve and necessary to our personal growth.

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

I’m not saying don’t make New Year’s resolutions – any opportunity to make yourself feel better or make a beneficial life change is great – I’m just saying be a little kinder to yourselves – and others – when you make them, and make them for the right reasons. Make them positive.

Go to the gym because you want to feel healthy not because someone else told you you’re fat.

Give up booze because you hate hangovers not because you got a bit pissed at the office Christmas party and belted out All By Myself on karaoke while sat on Dave from account’s knee (if you actually did this, never stop drinking, You are probably my soul mate).

Give up that person who makes you miserable because they are bad for you. You’ve done nothing wrong, you’re awesome. Don’t change.

Go travelling because you want to see the world. Not because you want to escape it.

Perhaps our New Year’s resolutions should be simple, broader and less punishing. Someone recently gave me the best piece of advice: treat yourself like you would your best friend.

Tell you off when you’re wrong.

Support you.

Find you funny, smart, attractive.

Do things for you.

Stand up for you.

Like you.

For me, travelling is my 2015 resolution. Travel more, write more, read more, do all the things I love more. Don’t make excuses for things that do not need excusing. Oh, and stop procrastinating on the internet when I should be doing other things like buying travel insurance, re-writing my CV and booking accommodation. Ooops. I’m learning from that mistake. Sort of. Well, I will right after I’ve finished watching these pug videos on the internet.

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? What are your reasons for doing so? Do you think about others far too much when making decisions? Do you think I am I completely wrong? Do you agree with being your own best friend? And has anyone ever figured out a way to not use the internet as a form of distraction?