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My lovely cousin recommended a book to me when I was home over Christmas:  Hap Working the World. The book is about a Kiwi guy who had a life mission to work on every continent of the world before he turned 30. It took me a while to get started on it because I thought it was just going to be either an Eat Pray Love experience or just a list of awesome things that he did, instead this book made me go all 2016 Kylie and ‘realise’ things.

This book is travel before social media. It sounds shocking, but yes travel did exist before Instagram. These days I am so damn skeptical about travel photos I see on any social network, you can almost put money on the real place not looking like it does in the photo. It’s not even filters or Photoshop that’s to blame (although they are 90% of the problem) it’s also photos being taken at 5am on a special press trip before reality dares turn up. They are beautiful photos, the places inspirational, but if I go there I will never experience that social media world that I lusted after.

Hap’s travel however is as far away from the Instagram dreamscape as you can get. Hap’s travel was sleeping in a car for a month because hostels cost too much, working as a fine dining waiter on a ship crossing rough waters (while seasick) just to be able to tick Antarctica off the list. Hap’s travel is being crippled by depression in locations that on the face of it are carefree and picturesque.

I think that is the crux of why I liked this book so much. I have written before about expectations of expats when they move to London; many people have this idea of what their time in the big city will be like, they will be young, wild and free. They will be the life of the party, not get bothered by the little things and be waking up early for every sunrise. This view is a little soul crushing in the end, because what these baby expats have forgotten is that they will still be themselves on the other side of the world; except now they won’t have a support network.

No matter how much I long to be in that Instagram of a beach party as the sun goes down, in reality I hate parties – they are loud, full of strangers and surfaces are always questionably sticky. Same goes for most social media posts that make my heart wanderlust, if I was actually there I would probably be obsessing over the small things, tired and shitty. {NB: I know that travel is life affirming and magical, but I am also very realistic that it is not all perfect, there are a lot of ups and downs when it comes to travel.}

I loved the honesty of Hap’s book. He had a mammoth goal, and did everything (except that) to make it happen. At the same time striving for and achieving his goal didn’t make life easy or perfect. In many ways he would have had a far easier life if he had listened to the Russian billionaire and settled down into middle management (seriously, Hap had some wild adventures). I think the chapter where he goes in depth into the feelings he had after completing his working adventure, it will resonate with anyone who has done something big and scary only to be put back into normal life.

I feel like this book should be compulsory reading for any kiwis in their late teens or anyone who thinks dropping everything to travel is a life panacea. Travel will teach you many things, and it looks brilliant and shiny from the outside – but you can’t run away from yourself and your own expectations. To be honest I think everyone should travel and live somewhere outside New Zealand at some point, it teaches you far more about yourself than you could ever learn staying in the same place. But going into travel with a realistic view of what it will be like will save you so much heart ache.

If you know going into London that it will be busy, you will feel lost and alone, that the winters are impossible and the summers far too short, that jobs that you love are hard to come by and that Europe while tempting is often given up in exchange for sleep-ins after spending all your money at the pub… then you won’t beat yourself up for ‘failing at London’ when it all inevitably comes true. God knows there will be enough good bits to make it all worthwhile, but they don’t eliminate the strength you need to get through the bad bits.

I realise that using the internet as a Magic 8 Ball might not be the best idea. But when a girl is drunk on stolen gin and alone in a Berlin hotel room, who else is she to turn to? Three months ago I asked Twitter if I should take a risk or not, without giving any context whatsoever, 54 of you answered and the clear majority said yes take the risk. Based on the hive mind of the internet the next day I spent all of my savings ordering an engraving machine from Korea. Thanks to that 93% today I get the excited privilege to introduce you to Zeal & Heart, my new jewellery line.

For those who have been reading since the start of Runawaykiwi (man, 2012 feels like 9 lifetimes ago) you will remember I used to sell jewellery on Etsy. Back in those days I had three designs that I got a manufacturer in Birmingham to make and to be very honest the sales meant I could eat that year (skint in London is no fun at all). Getting someone else to manufacturer was never exactly what I wanted to do, but in the dark ages of 2012 (pre-Brexit, pre-Trump, pre-gin based alcoholism) the technology didn’t exist to produce what I wanted.

My dream was to be able to engrave all of those Pinterest worthy quotes on tiny pendants, tiny so that they are a talisman for you and only you, not something shouted at the world. Over the years I have wanted to tattoo myself with these sayings changing my mind every other week over which it should be, but I think sterling silver is the less permanent option. Anyway, I digress. Thanks to five years of waiting the technology now exists and is sitting in my living room.

Zeal & Heart is going to be all limited edition designs (thanks to my low boredom threshold…yeah I really shouldn’t get a tattoo) and I am making only 100 of each. The sterling silver pendants can be purchased on a chain or just as the pendant and are all engraved with the edition number on the back, so you know which of the 100 you have. Once a design is sold out that’s it, on to the next Zeal & Heart message in silver.

My big hope (apart from you know, people buying them!) is that Zeal & Heart pendants bring a little bit of hope, courage or solace to you when you wear them. I know what it feels like to be a little lost in the world and sometimes all you need is that simple message to remind yourself and bring you back to center.

Seven designs are currently up on my Etsy store, keep your eye out for new designs being added to the range soon.

Love Runawaykiwi

xx

I love London markets, they are one of my favourite parts of living here. But today I discovered that I have been doing them entirely 100% wrong. I was asked by Camden Market to do an Instagram takeover which was really flattering. I am the girl who refused to join Instagram for so long because I thought it was going to be a flash in the pan trend (yeah, slightly wrong on that count), so to be asked to do a takeover was awesome. I made the rather radical choice to take a day off work and even went to the extent of deleting work emails off my phone (I will wait for you to get over your shock and pick yourself off the floor before I continue) so I could have an uninterrupted day in Camden.

I had been to Camden market in 2008 (on the ten year anniversary of the Spice World movie coming out on VHS in New Zealand, not relevant to this post but I thought it was worth a mention) on a Saturday at lunchtime. I made a half ditch attempt to crowd dodge before getting fed up and declaring it a lost cause (not before going to CyberDog because Mary-Kate and Ashley went there in one of their classic movies). The sea of humanity was just too much. But some very credible sources (Talonted Lex and Pack your Passport) have raved about Camden over the last few years so something in the back of my mind said maybe I ought to give it a second chance.

I was going to do something I had never done before, I planned to spend the entire day at a market. The plan was to start with breakfast at Cafe Loren (amazing menu full of shakshuka), wander round the market, work from the Interchange co working space and then visit Half Hitch gin distillery (because gin and also because gin distilled with tea). It was in the middle of this day that I realised exactly what I have been doing wrong when it comes to markets.

On a Friday morning Camden Market is super chilled out, most of the stalls have opened but by morning tea time the crowds are already starting to file in, mostly on the hunt for food. Somehow though, the crowds weren’t bothering me this time.

It really puzzled me for a while, but in between my third coffee for the day and a family sized helping of churros I realised why it this market experience was different. Normally I am on a time crunch, I have a target and I go from A to B to get to it. I am so busy trying to get to that stall that sells waffles, or that coffee van where the guy gives me a free flat white and a hug (connections are important), that any mere hint of humanity in my way sends me into a rage. I want to be in and out in a hour and eat all the samples possible.

But this time I was going to be here all day. I meandered. There was no rush to get somewhere and so people being in my way didn’t impact me in the slightest. I had the time to look at the stalls, investigate the food options (while managing to drop churro sugar all over my camera) and hang back and people watch for a bit.

Turns out when you treat a London market as an experience rather than a goal you actually have more fun [insert quote about smelling roses here].

It had never occurred to me to spend an entire day at a market, but I am really glad that I did.

I turn 29 in a few days. This is the traditional age, according to Marian Keyes and Bridget Jones, that I should be starting to panic. Panic about sorting my life out, meeting the man of my dreams (I dream about Gouda chasing me), and having babies. Or failing that just a general existential panic of the impending prospect of old age and eventual death. Yeah chick lit is great.

I have a lot of things worrying me at the moment, that’s just part of my makeup. But in general it’s useless stuff like that weird smell when I open the fridge (I really should do a clean out) or why you have to push a button to open the doors on the Overground and DLR but not the rest of the tube lines. The getting older thing not so much; so far getting older has only been a good thing.

The older I am the more sure I am of me. Of my likes and dislikes, of what is worth putting up with in the name of love or character building, and when I just need to tell people to fuck off. With age I have become less terrified of eyeliner, felt more confident in my career and now actually live in a flat that I love.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not too keen on the wrinkles that are popping up overnight or the fact that a hangover now lasts for a week. But I figure it’s a small price to pay for finally growing out of teenage angst and 20 something social competition.

I’m not saying I have all the answers or that I know what the hell I am meant to be doing in the next year, 5 years, 10 years or 50. Hell right now I am sitting in hotel room confused about what I should be doing in the next five minutes (there is a KitKat on the table next to me…I should open that right?). A birthday isn’t going to magically give me a road-map to life.

Over my lifetime I will constantly be questioning, changing, growing, loving and losing, the fact that I am almost a year away from 30 doesn’t change that at all.

I think what does change my thinking, more than an arbitrary age, is the life milestones that my friends are hitting. It was the same in my early twenties where suddenly a homogeneous group of high schoolers all chose different paths; to go to university, jobs, travel or nothing at all. Your friends making choices, makes you think you should be too. It turns into a constant comparison loop that makes you overturn every stone in your brain and examine it.

And that’s where I find myself again. Friends choosing once again; babies, marriage, divorce, moving to New Zealand, moving to the country, career changes, career brakes, and everyone dying their hair pastel. It’s not age that’s the problem, it’s that nothing stays still for long. I wouldn’t want it to, I love to see everyone evolving into their next Pokemon. Change helps you to clarify the very best version of you.

Sooooo this was a ramble and a half. If I’m honest it’s because the hotel gave me a free bottle of wine and it is sitting next to the KitKat half empty. What I am trying to say is fuck worrying about a specific age, life is about dealing with constant change and finding your place within it. I for one can’t wait to see what the next few years bring for me. I hope its more free wine.