Sometimes I feel like I’ve already lived several lifetimes. One in the perceived idylls of suburban New Zealand, one as a student carefree and dancing with firepoi, another as an expat in an unfamiliar country and lately understanding that I'll never quite understand but with a smile on my face I'll make good of it (and explain that despite the English accent I'm not of this country...)One of the best decisions I ever made was the terrifying choice to fly to the other side of the world on my own and see where my feet led me. At the time naively it didn't seem so scary - I had a return ticket for one year's time, accommodation arranged for 2 weeks, £20 in cash and a Lonely Travel book. Totes simple right?
It was before the days of everything being accessed immediately in the internet and luckily it worked out pretty well. A decade later here I am, ensconced, happy and a little wiser than I ever dreamed possible. I've also learned that I'll always be different, I'm more accepting of who I am, less caring of what other people think and been lucky enough to discover some wonderful people whose opinions I do value. Most of the time.
I don't have many regrets, and if I can manage another decade like that I think I'll be doing ok. Fingers crossed. When Sarah @ Big World Small Me wrote her 20 amazing experiences in her 20's I knew I had to get on that blogging bandwagon.
It's been a pretty good decade.
In no particular order;
1. Holding my nephew in my arms for the first time
Not to mention the heart eyes when my brother held his son's tiny hand in his (and the consternation when my brother realised I draw the line at Aunty duties when it comes to nappy changing...)
2. Herding Sheep across London Bridge
Our day dawned bright and sunny (in direct contrast to the vast rain clouds the afternoon before) and I flourished our official letter outside the entrance of the Worshipful Company of Woolmen's hall, to be allowed into the pens and runs lining London Bridge.
3. Afternoon Tea at the Queen's Garden Party
Our day dawned clear and bright, the sun high and the clouds cotton soft. We arrived at the main gates nice and early, tourists peering at us as we excitedly queued, adjusting hats and taking the odd ("holy heck we're going to hang with the Queen") selfie.
4. Japanese sunset over Mount Fuji
In front of us cloaked in Winter splendour, Mount Fuji. Her peak mostly bare of clouds we took several long moments to simply breathe in the auspicious and rare sight.
5. Travelling to the Arctic and seeing the Northern Lights
We only had to stare into the clear pinpricks of the Milky Way, spread across the night sky in a haze of primordial luminescence, whilst our tour mates clanked about with torches and cameras attempting to capture the faint Aurora Borealis in rolling hazy streams over our heads. You know, those moments.
6. Afternoon tea at Claridges
"Set in the splendour of Thierry Despont’s magnificent Foyer, inspired by the 1930s’ heyday of art deco" the surrounds are beautiful, and nothing quite beats the soft tinkle of tea cups, soft jazz and tea chatter of an afternoon.
7. Driving through a mini-monsoon to visit NASA (Cape Kennedy/Canaveral) and Disney
We happened to be there for the first Tropical Storm of their rainy season (which gave birth to 8 mini-tornadoes), and driving back from NASA (Cape Kennedy/Canaveral) we were caught in the most insane rain storm. It was so intense I could only see the road markings because my lights were reflecting off them.
8. Attended the ballet & opera
With rich costuming, subtle but evocative sets and the incredible grace of ballerinas moving through the round stage with ease, aside from a few cheeky comments about the beauty of muscled men in leotards, we sat in stunned silence whilst Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake score wove a spell around us.
By the end of the dramatic love and loss story-lines, sweeping vocal aerobatics and the beautiful counterpoint of a live orchestra at Puccini's La Boheme, I knew we had made the right choice. As a teenage orchestra geek (I played the Double Bass but lacked any kind of rhythm, and sung in choirs but suffered from acute stage-fright) I've always been aware of the power of music, but hadn't any idea how much the orchestral scoring and haunting duets playing out before us could really touch your soul. Once we were settled into the style, we simply lost ourselves in the magic of live theatre.
9. Hearing the Santa Monica Boulevard song and being able to yell "I've been there!!"
Without a single cloud in the sky, a soft breeze and perfect temperatures of 25°C we meandered through the town to the beachfront pier. Shoes full of sand, we walked the length of Santa Monica pier from one live band tucked in a nook, to the next, listening to them jam. We heard covers of The Beatles, acoustic versions of Led Zeppelin anthems and love songs.
10. Road tripping through the Scottish Highlands
We discovered azure skies bathing in still lochs, fairy cairns balancing on cliffsides, mist draped mountain shoulders, and more castles than imaginable (which is the best problem in the world).
11. Ridden a Camel & watched the sun rise over sanddunes
Our hosts for the night quietly left the bedouin camp, one or two slipping into in a nearby tent for company, leaving us to the silence of the desert. The quiet deepened* as our camp mates drifted off to sleep and the stars began to shimmer.
12. Heard the haunting call to prayer in a mosque
As we turned the last motorway corner, I almost lifted out of my seat. Against the cloudless blue sky, curving white domes rose to meet us, towers stretched along the pavement, and gilded columns lined reflective pools.
13. Slipped to New Zealand 3x in a single year and photographed a family wedding
Can't really get much more insane than that. Can it?
14. Popped over to Paris for lunch
One cool November Wednesday, at 7.30am instead of being smooshed on a commuter train and undecided as to what to have for breakfast at my desk, I met my fellow conspirators and decided what coffee and croissants to breakfast upon whilst travelling at great speed towards France. A much better dilemma.
15. Almost swimming with wild dolphins in New Zealand
Honestly, I could almost just write this post as 'wild baby dolphins' ad finitum. Wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins. There, got it out of my system. Wild baby dolphins. Ok, now I have.
16. Kissed the Blarney Stone
Dangling over a castle parapet isn't usually my idea of a good time, but sometimes I've learned that you have to push the boundaries of normal life in order to experience the world properly...
17. Slept in a French Chateau
We wove our way through the streets of Bordeaux, beginning in the Medieval Quarter all carved in butter stone, glimpsed occasional hard modern buildings which turned to suburban homes before giving way to rolling fields of blooming crops. As we turned the corner onto our destination, I excitedly clutched the boy as fields of vineyards heavy with grapes came into view, cart horses grazed contentedly and the crenelated Chateau Pape Clement appeared - our home for the night.
18. Been invited to review restaurants in the iconic Harrods
Three times now I've made my way through the beautifully luxurious rooms of the infamous department store, camera ready to enjoy the cuisine. Three times!?
19. Hugged my teenage idol
20. Been able to experience so much, and meet so many wonderful people that I couldn't even have imagined including my partner-in-crime.
I have been so lucky. Cheers to the next chapter.