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.

So far this year I have taken 23 flights. This means a scary amount of time hanging around in airports, and in particular time spent waiting in the boarder control lines to get back into the UK. I snort laugh in the direction of any panicking Brexiters who continue to proclaim that the UK has no border controls…yes you fucking do.

Normally it is around 45 minutes per trip that I have to spend waiting in the snaking queue surrounded by jetlagged, hungry and confused fellow non-Brits. The worst was a two hour wait where I almost popped a ventricle because they only had three agents on. The best was like winning lotto after a trip to Berlin where there was not a single person in the line ahead of me.

I am normally the one that power walks (read: gallops like a millennial zombie) to the Border line as fast as my jandals will let me, just in the hopes of getting there before whatever plane of foreigners that has just arrived. But with the amount of flying I seem to be doing (and I am about to be in Germany for all of July) I was getting wholeheartedly sick of the hours I spent in that damn line. I’m not even going to start on a rant about those stupid landing cards and the people who forget to fill them out.

So I did what I should have done a year ago and joined the Registered Traveler Scheme. Essentially if you meet the criteria you can pay the government £70 a year for the privilege of using the e-gates (turning your 45min+ wait into a 5min wait). I think what took me so long to sign up is that I still consider it a bit of a rip off, and it’s not like waiting in a line for a bit is going to kill you. But when I only have two days in London between trips I just don’t have the time to waste. Government you win this round.

Anyway since this seemingly ends my interactions with the front line of Brexit, those hard working border control agents who have not smiled in 80 years, I thought I would bring you my most memorable ‘getting back into the country’ stories. Although in saying that, I tried to use the e-gates for the first time this week and it threw up a ‘Seek Assistance’ error and I had to go to an agent anyway. Sigh.

  1. Airport: London Heathrow

The very first time I came into the UK on my ancestry visa, all excited about moving to London, the agent asked ‘Who did you get this visa through’ and I answered “my Mum’s Mum”. “Your GRANDMOTHER” he angrily replied as if he had caught me out in a massive lie, before going on to ask if she was still alive. I said no, to which he said the sentence that still sticks in my brain to this day “Well, as least she was a bit useful then”. Fuck you Mr border control man.

  1. Airport: Stockholm Arlanda

This is still the best thing that has happened to me in an airport. After flicking through my passport for a good five minutes (and me getting more and more concerned about what was wrong) the good looking Swedish man checking it looked me straight in the eye and said “I’ve had you before”. I mean, I always have a good time in Sweden but not so good that I would forget sleeping with someone. After seeing my startled expression he turned bright red and clarified that he had stamped my passport before.

  1. Airport: London Heathrow

On the trip from Berlin mentioned above I was riding high that I got to go straight to the desk (after still having to walk through that snaking line even though there was no one there) but then the agent started quizzing me about my job in detail that I had never seen before. ‘What type of analyst are you’, ‘What are your hours like’, ‘Where are you based’ – I thought it was because I was dressed in a kitten t-shirt and ripped jeans so he was skeptical weather I was telling the truth. Nope, turns out he was incredulous that I was full time employed rather than going contracting. He said I was making a big mistake, and that if I went contracting I would be making far more money and have a better CV. Maybe that’s why the lines take so long, because they are not only protecting the border but also giving out career advice.

  1. Airport: Cologne

It was a late flight and I was feeling rather ratty, when I handed over my passport the boarder agent frowned as he flipped through it. He then called over his manager who joined him in the intense study of the pages. Then his colleague sitting with him in the booth got involved with the flipping and the feeling. At this point I was wondering if I was going to be on the next plane out of there but no, after all that he stamped and handed my passport back to me saying “New Zealanders have the most beautiful passports”. Thanks?

People keep asking me when I am going to move home. I don’t know if it is my advancing years (apparently at 28 I should have kids and an alcohol habit already…I have one of those things), that I have been in London past the 5 year limit or that recent terrorist attacks have made everyone work hard to justify London life – but it has made me really think about why I am still so in love with London.

I don’t know if it is even love any more. I have written time and time again about how much this city gives me life, I’ve written sonnets to its energy and beauty. But now? Now something has changed in my feelings towards London Town, it’s all becoming a little less exciting and a little more stretched out and comfortable around the edges.

I’ve always said that London is a hard city to live in, it steals your energy and your money. Unless you put effort in it is an isolating place to be and don’t even get me started on the practical side of things like rent and windowless bathrooms. Today though, today I think my perspective of easy and hard has changed. I am so time poor these days that I want to be able to experience life and friendship in small intense bursts because that is all I can manage. And my dear London is perfect for that.

Last weekend I had two hours free before hopping on yet another plane. I got the tube to Old Street, had breakfast at Ozone (massive benefit of dining alone is you never have to queue for a table), then wandered through the world of street art that is Shoreditch before heading to Heathrow once again.

In those two hours I got more stimulation, relaxation and felt more like ‘me’ than I used to in an entire weekend when I first arrived. I used to be so concerned about what everyone else thought of my life, that I was doing everything ‘right’ (shout out to my fellow perfectionists), that I got overwhelmed by the city. Now that I have to focus so much more on getting the most out of small bits of life that I have finally played into London’s sweet spot.

Forget trying to do everything. Forget long days traipsing between markets, attractions and halfway across the city to meet a friend you don’t actually give a shit about. London now lets me experience a world of amazing opportunities, just a little at a time. I spent so long caught up in what I was missing out on that I exhausted myself in the attempt. Now I am getting pure childish enjoyment in taking London one bite at a time.

If I was in New Zealand I would wait for months anticipating (hoping) a new brunch place opening up. In London with hundreds to navigate (download my app if you want help!) it was more a ticking off the list exercise rather than relishing the moment.

I don’t doubt that my relationship is going to change time and time again with London, but for right now I have no intention of moving on. This city is still full of likeminded friends, opportunities beyond what I could get in New Zealand, and pretty damn good coffee. And now that I am not killing myself to see it all, I can finally get round to enjoying it.