Monday, 3 November 2014

A Year In New Zealand & How It's Changed Me


I had a skype call with my Uncle, Auntie and one of my many cousins this morning and it dawned on me that the last time we spoke was Christmas Day 2013. Then it dawned on me how much your whole life can change in just one year. As my Auntie teased me about my funny new accent and told me how proud she was of me (which nearly brought a tear to my eye) and the questions my Uncle was asking about how different certain things are between NZ and England, and then me trying to convince my cousin to save up and travel Australia with me and Tom - I started to realise just how much has changed from the day I left England to this very moment right now. 

When I left England I was in a very dark place mentally. I was so depressed with work, lack of friends and free time and the seemingly infinite responsibilities and pressures work, life and even I put on myself. I was 20 years old and felt 90. I didn't want to leave my bed, I didn't want to make the effort to rekindle lost friendships. I just wanted to wallow in my pit and be left in peace. What a life! 
So I guess you could say getting on that plane was the start of a new life and a new me. It was just as much of an escape as it was a refuge. I did zero research about NZ, I didn't really have that much of a desire to travel around it. I just wanted to get my ass out of England and to somewhere with greener pastures. And I did exactly that! I managed to find some amazing new friends, my incredible boyfriend, some gorgeous scenery and my mojo. 

My Uncle told me he was surprised at how long I have managed to stay away from home. I'm not sure if the rest of my family agree - I've never been one to have homesickness - but I see his point. The furthest I had even been from home was Jersey Island and that was a short holiday to meet and visit family. It was a fresh insight into my background and where I come from, in a blood-line related way, that it has helped me shape my plans for the future. But to spend a whole year in a country - the furthest possible point I could reach away from home - that's an achievement! 

I think a lot of things have contributed to me being able to stay in New Zealand for so long without missing my family enough for me to want to go home so badly. I wouldn't say it's a desperate desire to travel the world - that's something I really do want to do, but it's not why I don't want to go home yet. 

In New Zealand I found positive people with ambitions, dreams and a laid back attitude to life. Ive met people who travel just because they didn't know what else to do - kind of like me. Then again Ive met people who travel because every Tom Dick and Harry back home told them it was an absolute must do before they went uni. Ive met people who really are die-hard travellers and are in it for the long haul. And then Ive met people who have worked in tourism and have seen the world, but now have a partner who is reaching the age limit for working holiday visas so they're cramming as much travel time in now before it's too late. All reasons of which I find fascinating and interesting. Everyone I have met is so unlike the people I used to call "friends" back home. All of these people have actually showed me what real friends are. There are people who I haven't seen for six plus months, people I'll probably never see again - but I know if we were to meet up it would be like we saw each other yesterday. These are friends, to me. 

In New Zealand I found appreciation. I appreciate England now more than I ever have and I appreciate the family I grew up in (even with all of its dramas) and I appreciate the area I grew up in and all the opportunities it offered me even if they felt more like a chore or a prison sentence at the time. I appreciate my family who are all keen to help me should I need it and they send me care packages so that I don't miss the home luxuries too much.

In New Zealand I found a way of living simply and minimally. Momma and Grandma do send me care packages with lip balm, face masks, exfoliating gloves and chocolate etc but if they didn't I wouldn't miss them too much. I enjoy the luxuries I have while they last, and when they're gone I'm grateful that I could enjoy them and then I go back to using Pams brand soap. I like being able to say to people "I fit my whole life into an Osprey Farpoint 40." A 40L backpack seems to baffle all other travellers. I have everything that I need. 

In New Zealand I found a way of living cheaply without the feeling of deprivation. Tom and I laughed when we told my Auntie and Uncle how we make a single chicken breast stretch to three meals. We felt proud when we told them we experiment with tins of chopped tomatoes to see what delicious meals we can come up with. Last night we made "chilli" with a tin of chopped tomatoes, baked beans and some curry powder. Credits to Jem & Neal - Tom and I do not own the rights to and did not create this recipe! But it was delicious all the same! I told them that Tom and I no longer crave alcohol (that makes us sound like alcoholics - we're not!) we enjoy and appreciate a beer on a hot day, as anyone does, but we don't splurge on beer and we have no real desire to drink it these days. It's just too expensive and doesn't have any nutritional value, therefore it's a waste of budget. Pass the chocolate!

In New Zealand I found my mojo. I found what makes me tick and that's planning, dreaming and drinking cups of tea Tom makes me. My Uncle and Auntie asked me what my travel plans are from now and when will I come home, if ever?! I couldn't give them a set date, I couldn't even give them an estimated year or time frame. I simply said "whenever the money runs out." Im working to travel at the moment. These days I'm working hard to save money for Australia. In our last leg of Australia we will be working to save for I dunno, Asia, maybe? I told them right now I'm counting down the days until we book our flights for our next adventure and to keep me occupied in the mean time I'm planning like a mad woman. I'm looking for travel spots and experiences that not every backpacker ventures to. I want to see what the magazines don't show you. Because I think they are the best bits. 

So as a final note to my Auntie and Uncle - sorry guys, but I might be done with New Zealand now, but New Zealand and travel aren't done with me. There is still plenty more soul searching, self improvement and once in a lifetime experiences out there left for me! Love to all my family and friends! 
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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A Year In Photos

It's been a year today since I left England and arrived in New Zealand. Where has that year gone? Words can't describe how amazing this year has been. I've met so many amazing people and made some incredible new friends. Here's my first year away from home in photos!

Here's to the next year! Bring it on!

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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

10 Simple Pleasures I've Come To Appreciate More This Year

This year, for me, has been mainly about growth, escape, learning and enjoying. I've grown as a person, I've escaped unhappiness and the depression that comes with it, I've learnt more about myself, my family and what I want for my future and I've enjoyed each and every day that has passed since I landed in New Zealand. Because of all of this I have begun to appreciate the simple pleasures in life and be more thankful for what I have. I guess travel and being away from home does that to you.

1) Sand between my toes
The sea was just across the road from the hotel I lived in and worked at back home; I could see it from my reception desk. Occasionally I would walk my dog on it, but the more I went there the more gloomy I felt. It was just so grey and cold, even in the summer. Now I live just a stones throw away from the beach in Tairua and I make a point of visiting it at least once a week. Last summer I spent almost all my free time there. 

2) Early Mornings/Sun Rise
I'm not really a morning person. I hate getting up before 8am, but every day this week I have jumped no scrambled fallen out of bed to walk up Mt Paku with Tom and our friends. They are big on fitness and wake up at 5.30am every morning to go walking just for fun. I thought they were mad. That was until I started to appreciate how peaceful and beautiful the world is at that time of the morning. 

3) Friendly Faces
I've met some pretty mean people in my short life. People who don't care who's day they have to ruin just to get their own way. Thankfully, I haven't met too many of these people while I've been in New Zealand - and it made me realise how few meanies I met back home too. It just felt like there was more of them, because there usually wasn't that many Friendly Faces in between. 

4) Chocolate
Chocolate is expensive in New Zealand, and when you're on a budget like us we tend not to buy too much of it. Maybe it's a good reason it's never on offer when I'm craving it!

5) My Family and my Dog
I miss my family and I miss my dog, Zeze. I talk to them regularly on skype, but I miss not being able to hug them. I miss watching Downton Abbey with my mom and the roar of my dads motorbike in the driveway. I miss cuddles in bed with Zeze the most though. 

6) Unlimited Wi-Fi
I'm with Telecom so thankfully i get 1gb of data a day, but these days that doesn't last long what with Facebook, skype, emailing, blogging, pinterest and Australia research. 

7) Beautiful Views
New Zealand is full of them and I appreciate every moment I can spend drinking in some of the beautiful, mountainous views - especially the ones with lakes!

8) My Good Health
In a country where they don't have the NHS or other free health care, I'm grateful for my good health. *touchwood* 

9) Cameras, Computers, Mobiles and Other Technologies
In such an amazing, photo-worthy place I'm ever grateful for the invention of cameras to take photos and the technology to enable me to share them with family, friends and my readers. Yay for technology!

10) My Boyfriend
A bit cliche I suppose, but I honestly never thought I'd meet someone as amazing as Tom. His smile to me is what heroin is to an addict. He makes me laugh, pulls me out of dark places, supports me, teases me and laughs at my silly ideas and dreams. He doesn't do much around the house, but hey, not everyone is perfect! Now hand me a sick bucket before I vomit. 
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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Chicken Fried Rice

This was the first dish Tom and I tried to make from scratch - and trust me, it took us several attempts to get it right! We think we've finally got it just right, see what you think. 

Serves: 2 people

Rice - cook as much as you need
Mixed veggies
1/2 chicken breast cut into small strips and seasoned with salt and pepper
2x large eggs
Splash of milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Soy sauce to taste

The fun part
1) Fry the sliced and diced chicken in the frying pan
2) While the chicken is frying, whisk the two eggs with a little milk in a bowl
3) Once the chicken has fried remove from the pan and put in a bowl. Pour the egg into the pan.
4) "Scramble" the egg and once done, add the chicken back into the pan.
5) Add mixed veggies (as little or as much as you like) and rice
6) Combine all of the ingredients you have in the pan
7) Add soy sauce to taste - we find the more soy sauce the better! And add salt and pepper to taste
8) Stir all of the contents in the pan until well combined and heated through
9) Serve and dig in!

- add what you like to this dish to increase flavour. We feel it can be pretty bland without the soy sauce and will definitely be experimenting with different sauces in the future!
- if you like peppers, you can use this recipe to make stuffed peppers!

Q & A
Q. why use only half a chicken breast?
A. It's our way of portioning. We bought a pack of two chicken breasts, which will split into four portions. For the two of us, that's 4 dinners. We're all about our budget! You can use extra chicken if you like!

Q. Can I make this dish vegetarian?
A. Of course you can. You can cut the chicken out and add more egg to make it into egg fried rice, or you can use a quorn alternative.
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