Tag Archives: travel

Lessons from moving away, and coming home

In January 2011 I moved to Sydney, and wrote a post about my first impressions of living in Australia. I’ve now been back in Auckland for three months and have learnt a few things from moving away, and coming home again.

Rangitoto

Rangitoto

We don’t need much stuff
Packing to move away was one thing, but packing to return to New Zealand was a whole different story. I got rid of SO. MUCH. STUFF. We really don’t need much, and for those of us who are likely to move again in the future, the idea of accumulating lots of things is a not an attractive one.

You adapt to your environment 
When I first arrived in Sydney, ordering a ‘trim cap’ in a Kiwi accent just didn’t cut it. So, I soon found myself asking for a ‘skinny cap’ to be understood. This conscious change gradually spilt over to most words that contained ‘i’ or ‘e’ sounds. Having lived in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, I also found myself starting yoga, spending my weekends in gym gear, making green smoothies and eating kale chips.

You’re not afraid of spiders anymore
After close encounters with orb and huntsman spiders, a daddy long legs has about the same scare power as an ant.

You gain a new level of independence
Time alone and distance from people who shaped your thoughts historically leads to a new level of independent thinking. You meet people whose backgrounds are significantly different to yours, and gain insights from environments you’d never been exposed to.

You are who you spend time with
As the quote goes, ‘you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with’. Thanks to my flatmates Claire, Jo and Nicole, I became a little more driven, manicured, fashionable and motivated in the kitchen. And I mean manicured in the literal sense – weekend brunching and walks to the nail salon are some of life’s simple pleasures!

You become an expert in communication
Most of your good friends and loved ones aren’t in the same time zone and you may only see them a few times a year, if that. But with a bit of juggling, keeping in touch when apart is easy with Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook and Snapchat. But you have to plan for it.

You get better at asking for things
Kiwis are generally agreeable and like to go with the flow. Australians are generally better at piping up about their expectations and things they want. Well – they’re better at piping up in general! But this forward confidence is admirable and is a useful characteristic to have.

Special friends become your family
When times are tough or there’s reason to celebrate, your flatmates, workmates and closest friends become your family. They’re there for support, for festivities and for adventures. Personal relationships are what life’s about.

Your priorities change over time
My time in Sydney was phenomenal. I wouldn’t change a thing. It contained some of the most challenging moments, but also some of the most enjoyable. It was a great time but about a year ago I realised that my priorities were changing and my environment needed to change as well. And that was a lesson in itself – to be aware of your evolving needs and changing the things that aren’t working for you anymore.

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Port Stephens: Two days, 8 things

In early November my friend Lana and I drove to Port Stephens to spend the weekend. It’s about two and a half hours from Sydney although on a Friday afternoon it took us almost two hours just to get OUT of Sydney. Mental note….leave at midday next time!

Port Stephens serves a range of travellers – from the family group, to the corporate group, to lovers. Lana and I don’t fit any of those categories so I’ll add another: laughing, happy girlfriends. Here’s a rundown of what we got up to:

1) Parasailing
At first glance, parasailing seems like an extreme sport. In reality, it is quite the opposite. Yes, you’re held up quite high in the sky by a giant piece of fabric and a few ropes, but the feeling up there is surprisingly serene. It’s quiet and the views are spectacular. We went with Port Stephens Watersports.

Coming in to land

Lana getting dunked!

2) Dining
Merretts Restaurant at The Anchorage is off the hook. It is here that I tasted one of the most exquisitely presented and delicious dishes in my life: Confit duck Kromeski, Jerusalem artichoke veloute, parsley gel and apple smoke. This restaurant is reason alone to make the trip. The flavours had Lana and I in shock. Lana even texted her Mum to share the moment.

Another delicious meal was at Catch Restaurant at Shoal Bay Resort & Spa where I had the seared scallops with pear, chorizo and roquette salad. Divine! Greg from the resort showed us around the housing and accommodation site beforehand and we were pretty much ready to give him an offer and move into one of the apartments. Oh, to wake up to those views every day….

3) The beer
We had lunch at Murray’s Brewery on the Sunday and the food was not only tasty, but very well presented. We also tasted a few beers, including an annual Halloween Spiced Pumpkin one.

4) The clouds
I’m a little obsessed with clouds, and Port Stephens did not disappoint my infatuation. The wilderness of a brewing storm against the water made for many beautiful pictures.

5) Dolphin watching
On Saturday we went on an afternoon dolphin cruise with Tamboi Queen Cruises to explore the bay and hope for a sighting. We were lucky and found a small pod who were playing together right in front of us.  Most humans love dolphins but Lana’s adoration is next level – she was in heaven. 

6) Sailing
We had a tour of a stunning luxury yacht, ‘Champagne on Ice’. In addition to fully customisable private events, Blue Water Sailing host luxury cruises, team building events and corporate sailing. Donna told us that some groups don’t even go sailing, they just sit on the yacht, eat lobster and drink champagne. Don’t mind if I do!

7) The friendly locals
Throughout our short visit we encountered many lovely people who made us feel at home. One of them was Angela from Aqua Blu Bistro and Bar. We had lunch and a glass of wine here on the Saturday between parasailing and dolphin watching. Aqua Blu is located right next the marina where all these activities depart from.

8) Sand-boarding
I was more nervous about sand-boarding than parasailing, but the scariest moment of the entire trip was when the 4WD we were travelling in went down a sand slope that felt almost vertical. Yes, Lana and I both screamed at this roller-coaster experience!

Yep, those are the track marks from our 4WD rollercoaster!

It’s remarkable how other-worldly this land seems

We went sand-boarding with Port Stephens 4WD who first gave us a little tour of the sand dune area, told us how some of the sand is sent to Hawaii and showed us the remains of whale bones. Then, it was time to sand-board. And yes, I’ll be doing that again!

I was a guest of Port Stephens Tourism and stayed at The Anchorage Port Stephens

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Time travel to Rarotonga, Cook Islands

The Cook Islands, named after Captain James Cook, is a group of 15 islands in the south-western Pacific Ocean between Tonga and French Polynesia. The capital is Avarua in Rarotonga.  

The peaks of the mountains are reminiscent of the mountains in Jurassic Park. Their jagged, primitive edges seem misplaced in 2012. They appear imposing, prehistoric and untouched.

Mountain peaksRoad
Travelling from Sydney, Australia to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands is like travelling through time in more ways than just crossing over the International Date Line. Here, the birds look and sound wilder, the elongated leaves of the plants appear primal and the sultry climate behaves like an adolescent – unrestrained, heated and tempestuous. The climate in Rarotonga is how one would imagine the climate was at the beginning of time, when nature was only concerned with feeding and watering the earth instead of rebelling against the geological fluctuations introduced by humans.

BirdScenery
The concept of time in Rarotonga is not what time is in Sydney or other busy cities. The people here are not governed by a ticking hands or clocks on mobile phones. The compendium in my room explains: ‘Rarotonga is renowned for being stress-free and relaxed. Please be aware that timing and some services may be slower and more approximate than you are probably used to in the faster pace of your daily life.’ The locals walk slower, looking at the world instead of their smartphones and the speed limit on the main road that circles the island is a leisurely 50 kilometres per hour. There are two bus routes: Clockwise and Anticlockwise.

Papa Nga, the local handyman who comes over to help me operate the safe, asks me how I slept the night before. “Not bad,” I say, “but I woke up a few times.” I full well know that it’s not because of the soothing, calm air being circulated by the fan, and it’s not because of the gentle sound of the ocean outside. It’s because I’m still connected to the concrete jungle and all its concerns. “I must have a couple of things on the mind.” Papa Nga smiles and says, “Well, no time for that now, you’re on holiday and you’re on island time.”

Coco at sunset
In fact, I don’t even know what time it is.  I’m pretty certain that I’m three hours ahead, but the day before. I look outside at the sudden, torrential rain which will give way to blue skies before long, and I know that time doesn’t matter, anyway. There’s nowhere I need to be in a hurry.

Sitting on a deck chair on the veranda, three-quarters of the way through my first book I feel something soft and warm at my feet. Squeaky, the local ginger tabby starts mouthing, eyes pleading. “I have no food for cats here, sorry little one.” Squeaky insists, and makes his way through the doors, into the kitchen and stops at the fridge. “I don’t think you’ll like limes or lettuce.” I fail to mention the chicken breast that I plan to cook that night. Squeaky accepts the situation and goes back outside with me, content for now with a neck rub instead of a feast.

Reading is easy here. Back home it can be a challenge to find the opportunity to read because there’s always so much going on. At home one can often glance at a few pages in a zombie-like state and in the morning already forgotten what was read. Not here.

Sunrise
When the rain clears and the sky explodes with blueness, I pass by reception and borrow a snorkel and fins. Coco the dog meets me at the driveway and decides to come along. The beach is pristine and the water inexplicably clear. It is easy to just float, breathing through the tube and looking down at the multitudes of colours and life that thrive in this other realm.  Approaching a large cluster of coral, a sound travels through the water and the ‘chomp, chomp’ sound of fish teeth gnawing at it can be heard. I wonder if they can hear my muffled sounds of admiration and wonder.

BeachUnderwater
In the evening, instead of switching on a television, I cook to the sound of music. There are no TVs in the rooms. The compendium says, ‘There is a TV in the Breakfast Café for guest use. There is only one TV channel in the Cook Islands. New Zealand’s TV One News screens every night at approximately 8.30pm. Cook Islands local news screens at 7pm Monday to Friday.’ I love this. I love that instead of having their consciousness interrupted by ridiculous plotlines and shouty ads encouraging them to buy things they don’t need, guests can daydream, make up their own stories and remind themselves of what matters most.

Sunset
Sunsets are not merely a reminder of the world’s beauty. They tell us much more than that. Sunsets show us that a day has passed and that the world is huge. When our sun disappears for us, it rises for many others. A Rarotongan sunset is an unhurried, spectacular blaze of colour and when the orange sphere finally falls past the horizon, one knows that it is now time to rest and prepare for another beautiful day.

When all is quiet, the pool beckons at night. It is like an ancient, welcoming family, where The Cool Water introduces its wife, Clear Night Sky and their children, Warm Air and Sound of Stillness. They all embrace me at once, my mind clears and I melt into a blanket of tranquillity.

See you again soon, Rarotonga.

Swimmers at sunrise

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