Long time, no see.

Hey there. Guess what, I am finally back from a few months of silence.

As you all know, in November last year, I moved to little old New Zealand and have been rather busy with settling into my new life. So, after that eerie period, I’m dusting away those cobwebs to write this piece.

It’s funny how you very quickly settle into a space you know so well. I grew up in New Zealand, in my small town aside the ocean, and to be reunited with it after 4 years came easier than expected. Before I left London, I always got the “it’ll hit you after a while, you’ll miss the hustle of London.” – well, I’m here to tell you, I don’t.

And honestly, I don’t miss it at all. I thought I would; miss the traffic, the busyness, the cafe ridden streets, the atmosphere, but I simply don’t. However, the one thing I do long for, is hangouts with my cosmopolitain friends; the work pals; I met some of the best people in the world in London; I just don’t long for the place itself.

This did come as a surprise to me. I expected myself to struggle with small town living at least for a little while, to regret ‘giving up’ (for better the word) London for a simpler way of life, but I’ve come to realise that New Zealand kinda suits me. I thrive on exercise, and fresh air, and devour outdoor spaces. I’ve caught up with old friends, explored new places, rediscovered my love for cooking and creativity, joined a band; the open space of New Zealand, has allowed me to fill it with more fulfilling activities. There’s something special about this country, and I cannot wait for my London-made friends to come and visit me, so I can show them too.

img_4931.jpg

It definitely takes leaving a place, to find the appreciation.

It’s cheesy, and the same sentence has probably been said in a million different ways, but it’s true. I left thinking I was too big for the small life, that New Zealand was boring and not good enough for the life I thought I desired. In reality I just didn’t know how to live yet.

I went to London and it was there I learnt how to live. I discovered myself through trials, tribulations, tears and smiles. And that person, this person I became, ended up craving a bigger space to breathe and grow. London suffocated me. It’s definitely a big city, but it’s also hugely populated. I listened to my body, and it was telling me I needed to move on – it’s funny how perfectly, gloriously, accurate your gut instincts can be. Researchers are discovering that microbes in our gut can send messages and important brain chemicals to our brain, affecting how we think, feel, and remember. Well, my theory is that so do your lungs. Breathe the air you should breathe, and you exhale happiness.

I don’t quite know how to explain it, but I just know that New Zealand air is my kind of air. I encourage you to find yours.

Advertisements

Liberty

As we grow and age, our sense of freedom also changes. I’ve always been one to be self-righteous about freedom. I know most of us are, but I remember from a  young age always demanding the freedom to go to the shopping mall with my friends, demanding my parents to just let me do what I want, demanding that I go where I want. Rightly so my parents were strict on discipline and for me as a teenager, freedom wasn’t a right, it was a privilege.

When I was 13 or 14, I decided I wanted a job. Not legally old enough to be hired in New Zealand, I volunteered at my local library. For me, not only was this a chance to prove responsibility with shifts and everything else that came with the job, it felt like a step closer to freedom. I wanted to feel like an adult and a job seemed to come hand in hand with that idea in my head – funny how a badge with my name on it felt like liberty. As I neared 15, I got a job delivering papers in my local area. Suddenly I had an income on my very own bank card and a whole lot more freedom. In the grand scheme of things I was earning cents, but as a young teenager earning my own money – that wasn’t originally my parents – was invigorating. It was at that ripe age of 14, and about a month before my 15th birthday, I bought myself a scooter; freedom in the form of a 50cc engine, bright yellow. To be fair I bought it second hand, and my Dad did a fair bit of fixing it up, but it was the next step up the staircase of liberty.

The day after turning 15, and months after learning the NZ road code start to finish, I got my drivers license. I was 15, and suddenly my definition of freedom changed. From being dropped of at the mall by my Mum for a few hours, to being able to drive anywhere on 50km/h roads. There were of course curfews, and countless safety lectures, but I could drive myself to school, and as I got better paying part-time jobs, to those too. I was able to help my Mum when she was in need of a few things from the supermarket. Having a bucket on the back of my scooter, I volunteered and went up. I may have only been able to carry 2L of milk, and a broccoli, but I’ll tell you I was stoked. The most memorable thing about getting my scooter was filling up my scooter for the first time.  I remember driving out of that petrol station, singing to the pedestrians I passed, grinning my face off behind my Dad’s motorbike helmet – I perfectly remember how liberated I felt in that moment.

Fast forward to a year later, and I passed my restricted license test – I could now not only drive a scooter alone, I could drive a car by myself. No parents, a speaker system (!!!) and the ability to conquer my Mum’s entire shopping lists if need be. I know shopping seems like a weird thing for a 16 year old to be excited about, but to be able to do that for Mum seemed like the ultimate privilege of freedom. Plus, if I got to use Mum’s car I could play the music as loud as I wanted. I never had my own car officially, but when my Dad bought a convertible Peugeot… well, well, well… imagine this: a 17 year old, a red convertible, driving along the coast in the middle of summer, sea sparkling in the wing mirror, stereo blasting Twenty One Pilots. Oh how I miss that car. If someone were to ask me about freedom, that memory would come to mind – so would a smile.

Fast forward to now, and my sense of freedom is somehow less perceptible. This is my third year living in London and away from home, and I do have endless freedom. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want, yet somehow it doesn’t feel that way. I used to find liberty in the simple things – walking my dog alone, solo adventures to the beach, staying out after dark, and now I find it harder to get that same thrill. And no, going to Sainsbury’s to get groceries no longer makes me sing. I’ve been decently poorly the last week and I’ve had more than enough time to mull this thought over. I’m 21 now, and everything considered I am officially an adult anywhere in the world. International freedom but when do I feel the most liberated? I feel free when I’m writing. I can play with words limitlessly and I can lose myself in any creative world I choose. I feel free when I travel; away from the bills and responsibilities, I can lose myself in the new sights. I live for experiences and to travel is to self-liberate. Without thinking too much about the words I just used, looking back I’ve used the term “lose myself” in both cases. Is this really true? Am I using this in a negative way? No, I don’t think so. After a bit of thought, I think losing myself is a good thing; I stop stressing, I stop over-thinking and immerse myself in the now.

For me, living in the moment is the true key to liberty.

 

Barcelona, Spain – I’ve been there, you know?

On the 23rd of August, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, I was undertaking a short journey from London to the exotic and beautiful Barcelona. Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain; settled on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, it’s population is upwards of 1.6 million people.

My itinerary involved four solid days, and 5 nights, completely dedicated to exploring the city and experiencing the culture through spontaneous adventures. Instead of the expected diary style blog post about my time there, and because it was such an amazing holiday, I have decided to put together my top 4 favourite things about what, possibly, is one of my favourite cities I’ve seen so far.

1. SAGRADA FAMILIA

This is one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen and experienced.

Sagrada Familia is an unfinished, Roman-Catholic church in the city of Barcelona; architectural design of Spanish catalan, Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi’s design is beyond describable.  It’s a place I find so hard to explain to people, even to capture its unique beauty on film proved difficult. The church’s architecture includes beautiful facades, sky-high towers, and stained glass windows that cast a light onto the interior; creating a place of true peace and reflection. The interior roof is designed in such a way, that as you look up, you feel enclosed in a jungle. The feel of this church affected me in such a way, even sitting here now months later, I can’t help but smile and feel calm. I try to regularly meditate to centre my thoughts and encourage inner peace, so while I was at Sagrada Familia  I spent close to an hour of mediation, and the remaining time in complete silence. I was speechless. I did have an audio guide tour which helped me understand the space. I heard something said by Gaudi himself, that Sagrada is place where “people of all religions, any belief, can come together and meditate”. I was in this church for 4.5 hours, and even then, I didn’t want to leave. If you go to Barcelona, it’s well worth seeing and experiencing it’s power for yourself

2. EARLY-MORNING SOLO ADVENTURES, AND AIMLESS WANDERING.

I was lucky enough to be brought up by parents who believe in wandering and encourage attacking situations with careful spontaneity. There’s something very enchanting about Barcelona in the summer; long days, short nights and a warmth that draws you into dawn til dusk adventures. Every morning, being up before the sun had completely risen, came with a beautiful feeling of wanderlust. I didn’t want to be wasting a single second on sleep I could catch up on back in London. Stepping out of my hostel, being hit by a wall of warmth and fresh, coastal air, every morning was a new adventure that could end up anywhere. The aimless wandering resulted in coming across a beautiful cathedral named Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia, also known as Barcelona Cathedral. This cathedral was enchantingly beautiful. The most touching part of this cathedral was, after walking under the most beautiful stone archway, finding myself in this hidden square – the Cloister of the Cathedral – complete with the most exotic and cared for jungle like greenery. Here, there was also a pond, home to 13 white, prepossessing geese which represent the age of Saint Eulalia when she was martyred.

Another place I discovered was the Picasso Museum/Museu Picasso. Pablo Picasso was a Spanish artist, with a name most people will come to recognise in their lifetime. He was a human with extraordinary talent, imagination and respect; seeing his art firsthand and hearing his life journey, was inspiring and an experience I thoroughly enjoyed. Museu Picasso was established in 1963, and holds one of the biggest collections of Picasso’s work. I strolled around this museum, alone, with my headphones plugged into an audio guide. Here I found myself immersed in this new world of complete appreciation and awe for unadulterated talent.

3. PARK GÜELL

Park Güell, also designed by architect Antoni Gaudi, was a place I 100% intended to visit. Originally designed to be a new housing development that would be more one with nature, it is now a showcase for the most unique designs of Gaudi’s mind. This park was beautiful to walk through, and as much as I immersed myself and enjoyed Gaudi’s work, the two most memorable things in this park I think to be less obvious. Within the borders of Park Güell, you can walk up and around to a cross perched on the edge of a hill. The view from this lookout point is spectacular – set up on a hill Gràcia, the park invites all to see over the beautiful City. From this angle Barcelona was a different kind of beautiful I’d seen before. Being so built up you could mostly only see rooftops, but the city is absolutely an urban gem. Ultimately, beauty is in the eye of beholder, and for me, I stood there looking out over that city – smiling.

Park Güell, being a tourist destination with a usual 5 hour waiting time, is home to many buskers. There was one busker who caught my eye, or perhaps more appropriately, caught my ears. He had the perfect, shaded perch under a Gaudi walkway.  Sitting on a fold out chair, his CD and tip bowl at his feet, he smiled whilst playing the most beautiful spanish music. You could see it in his movements; the way he shut his eyes, and smiled as he perfected each verse; his passion for the music reached everyone in listening distance. I was enjoying this man’s music so much, I decided to buy his album and have a chat with him.  When he stopped to take a sip of water, my opportunity came. His name is Rafi Mora. Rafi has been playing in Park Güell for 22 years, and he says he probably will never stop. I bought a CD and he explained every track; where he recorded his music, who he played with, where the music originated – even informed me that a Kiwi man bought a copy a few months back. He truly was a beautiful souled, passionate man, and I still listen to that CD, close my eyes, and imagine myself being back there.

4. A CRUISE AT SUNSET, WITH LIVE JAZZ?

When you go to a coastal city, especially one like Barcelona, you have this deep longing to go out on the sea. The blue, sparkling waves are forever teasing you with every movement. On the second night, whilst walking near the harbour one day, I noticed a Sunset Jazz Cruise advertised. My friend and I decided that the next evening we would return and partake in what looked to be an amazing opportunity. We were right – being one of few cruises that actually left the harbour, we had amazing views accompanied by a live saxophonist and varying jazz music. The front of the catamaran was  netting, which meant once we were sat down at the front of the boat, we were left with the blue to be fully visible below. Drinking a beer with the warm setting sun radiating through my body,  looking out at the city of Barcelona, and hearing a melody of ocean waves and live jazz; I was in heaven. For a not so expensive cruise, it was one of the most enriching experiences.

I went to Barcelona in August, 2015. It is now November, 2015. I am dealing with some serious wanderlust.

Let’s go.