New York Street Art

I was born on a rainy day in July. My Mum had the flu, my three year old sister threw up down my Dad’s back and I had a red birthmark that stretched from the tip of my nose to the top of my forehead. For that little squalling troublemaker, just hours old, some things were certain (taste-buds that would eventually love coffee {and gin}) and others were just possibilities (growing up to be a tax accountant???); but it was all of me that was born, every part of me started on the same day. Homesickness and adventure were born to co-exist because they were all potential parts of me born on that wet July day.

Homesickness is something I have battled with since moving away from home, and I’m sure it will continue to sucker punch me at will. I’ve always thought it was something to try and cut out, that it wasn’t meant to be part of me; homesickness was imposed upon me like a tax, you just pay the price and endure. But it is a part of me. It was born at the same time as the rest of me.

I get homesick because I love my family so damn much, I get homesick because I am someone who craves having a secure base to go home to. The negative that is homesickness is just all the good things about me hitting home in an unusual way, hitting me because other parts of me have led me to London on this big adventure.

Because that is the trick, adventure was that other little part of me born in July. When I was young this translated into going up to strangers and offering to show them my highland fling (I was four and had been given a kilt for Christmas…don’t judge me I didn’t know how dodgy it sounded), but now it is a desire to go to Norway so strong it hurts. Its dreaming about Florence at my desk with such ferocity that I can taste the gelato. Adventure is the desire for the new, for the awe, for the potential life I could lead.

Homesickness and adventure, two opposing parts of my personality both born at the same time. One makes me look back with love and security, and the other drags me forward and shows me what I could have – both are important, and both are me.

Imagine if we took the ‘sick’ out of homesickness. Imagine if next time a friend was looking down and you asked if they were ok they instead said “I’m just cherishing memories from home”. Homesickness is beautiful and desired when you think of it like that, it means you have built such strong connections that you can’t just cast them off like an old skin. It’s a testament to how deeply you connect with a place, time and people.

Without reflection on your past there would be no controls on your future. There would be nothing stopping me uprooting and travelling the world. My desire for adventure would let loose an insatiable wanderlust, no reason for deep relationships; I would be endlessly fulfilled by the shiny new sunrises across every horizon.

Sometimes it feels impossible to reconcile the unhappy parts of yourself, and that is what I have always seen homesickness as – an unhappy moment. But it is all me, for every bite of homesickness there is an adventure waiting to pull me somewhere exciting. Homesickness and adventure coexist within that little baby born 27 years ago, and they balance each other in the most perfect of ways.

Homesickness and adventure are born to co-exist

Why you should move to London

Y’all know I love London 95% of the time, I mean I’ve been banging on about it for the last 600 blog posts. I know that moving overseas can seem like a monumental leap, it’s expensive and life always seems to stop you from going…but sometimes you just have to take that first step. So why should you move to London before you are 31? Well…

 

Because it’s always the wrong time

Think of any year of your life, there are always birthdays, weddings, funerals, breakups, makeups, Christmas celebrations and an unmissable party. If you go overseas you will miss them all! #shock #horror. There is no ‘good year’ to move overseas. Which thankfully makes any year an awesome year to take the leap and move to London. There are hundreds of ways to make celebrations and commiserations special even from the other side of the world, you just have to think a little harder about it. And each of those times that you miss will be replaced by epic adventures, funny tube stories and pop-up cereal cafes. Realistically it is never a good time for work either, you are always working towards a promotion or have just got one, or you might be ready to make a radical change (I seem to be queen of those) – but hey in NZ you are in the enviable position that employers value time spent overseas…so fuck it, just go.

Because London isn’t the only answer, it’s just the easiest

This post and the reasons listed could apply to any country or any experience that takes you outside your comfort zone (literally, if you are thinking about having a baby most of these will apply too), so feel free to replace London with your country, city or radical life change of choice. The focus on London is mostly because I live there and want more friends, but also because, for Kiwis at least, London is the easiest option. As long as you are under 31 you can get the two year visa with only a little hassle and a tiny bit of stress, and then a life on the top of the world is within your grasp. NB: there is a rumour that there are other cities besides London in the UK, I have not been outside Zone 1 yet so can’t comment*.

Because of the bad times

Ok so you may not Facebook or tweet the bad times, they are more a tears over Skype to a best friend scenario – but they will give more strength to your life then the good times ever could. The bad times will be that secret little fire you hold inside you for the rest of your life saying “you got through that, you can get through anything”. The bad times will be the stories you tell over and over because that 28 hour train ride is way more entertaining after a few wines then a happy day in Paris could ever be. But mostly the bad times are important because they are magnified when you are overseas with no support network, which means you can discover who exactly you are and how you react without anyone else looking over your shoulder. And because when the good times swing around again the sunshine has never tasted so sweet.

Tower Bridge at Dusk

Because you will always feel like you missed out

You can live a perfect and happy life without going overseas. You can to be honest, do whatever the merry fuck you want with your life. But if you are reading this blog post you already have that persnickety worm in the back of your brain saying that London could be in your future, and once it is there you will always feel like you missed an opportunity if you didn’t at least try. It’s like that new pair of boots that you want to buy, you won’t stop thinking about them until you do … except more travely less leathery.

Because it means you can stop thinking about it

Dude even if London turns out to be the worst time of your life and you HATE it (see earlier item about the bad times) you can at least stop wondering, stop obsessing, stop being caught in this should I/shouldn’t I limbo. You can take that next step and start planning.

Because you will be missing out, but so is everyone else

THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER. Particularly with social media everyone is always going to appear to be having a much better time then you are. Case in point, when I post a picture of a new London pop-up market my sister posts a picture of a New Zealand beach in the sunshine – both of us are having awesome fun but at the same time wishing that we were on the other side of the world. There is always going to be something you miss out on (felt especially keenly in UK winter when everyone posts damn NZ summer photos on Instagram), but you just have to slap yourself sensible and focus on the magical times you are having right now. And if all else fails just drink through the pain.

Tower Bridge Opening

Because it will make you think differently about New Zealand

All of a sudden you will look at NZ with a whole new perspective. The things you took for granted before will become so dear to your heart that they will form part of your identity. For me (particularly with all the unrest in Europe/Syria at the moment) it’s coming from a country that values international law over just dropping bombs, it’s coming from a country where arts are just as valuable as English and Maths, and my god New Zealand is so green. London will also readjust things you thought you knew – housing for example…in London if you can walk around your bed and only have a couple of patches of mould you are living in a fucking palace.

Because it will make you think differently about your friends

When you are taken out of your friendship circles all of a sudden, it gives you the breathing space to figure out if you are friends because you actually get on well and support or inspire each other, or if it’s just because you went to school/university together and, well, just kept hanging out. I know so many people who have gone overseas and done bit of friendship pruning; and been all the happier for it.

Because it could be amazing

I moved to London after vowing that I would never live in this city because “I wasn’t a mindless sheep who followed the Kiwi OE crowd and who would want to live in London anyway it’s totally expensive and lame”, I thought I would be home after three months, I thought I knew what this experience was going to be. My god was I wrong, London changed me in ways I could not have imagined, it gave me the confidence to be the real me. If you move to London it might be hard, cold, challenging and terrifying…but honey what if it’s amazing?

 

*Oh for fuck sake, this NB was sarcastic STOP YELLING AT ME FOR NOT GOING OUTSIDE ZONE 1 I HAVE BEEN TO OTHER CITIES IN THE UK THIS WAS A JOKE.

 

How to survive London

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This Runawaykiwi has done many an overseas trip; but since I am such a planner and amateur risk assessor I don’t normally go in for adventures in the true sense of the word. A key part of adventure is daring, which if you are me and have worked out plans B to E doesn’t often get a look in. But there is one occasion that springs to  mind that I was intrepid, brave and audaciously bold – the time I went shopping for a family in New York.

When I was about 14 I was in NYC with my family, Dad was working so us girls decided to go shopping. Well I say us girls, I threw a teenage strop and refused to go saying I wanted to read instead. Mum and sister hopped off to Bloomingdales and I settled in for a relaxing afternoon in the hotel. That is until being a typical teenager I changed my mind and wanted to go shopping after all.

New York City dog walker

Problem being that I was a 14 year old with no cell phone and only $1o in my pocket. Time to be audaciously bold. Without thinking of any consequences whatsoever I left the hotel and hopped in a cab, feeling breathtakingly grownup as I asked the driver to take me to Bloomingdales.

It was about this point that I realised that I had left the hotel key back in the room (oh hush, I was a silly little teenager), so it was no going back. Either I found my whanau or become a NYC sewer rat. As to what would happen if they had decided to go to Macys instead, well to be honest it didn’t really bother me because I was on an adventure.

When I got to the behemoth that is Bloomingdales I thought I would be a bit logical, I went straight to the info desk and asked them to page my Mum. Turns out they had done away with the intercom system in the late 90’s. So I went all Indiana Jones on the situation, I reacted to nothing but gut instinct and empathy and went straight to the skinny jeans section.

My reasoning was that there was no way in hell Mum would be able to shop for something she liked when shopping with a teenager, and what does an older sister shop for if not skinny jeans?

I know this mini trip doesn’t seem like a big adventure, but for me it was the start of my wanderlust. It was the first time I had been by myself in a big city, it was scary, I was momentarily independent and it was the best thing ever.

I have carried this early adventure with me around the globe. Whenever I get that niggle of itchy feet self doubt I just think, I traversed NYC at 14 so I can bloody well do anything.

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GapYear.com are running an amazing competition where someone is going to win their own big adventure around New Zealand, check them out here!

Runawaykiwi in NYC

Travel can do miraculous things; it broadens the mind, inspires leaps of faith and can forge new friendships. As silly as it sounds the thing that can make or break a trip isn’t your companions, the weather or the current economic climate. The thing that really matters for the success of your trip is the shoes on your feet.

I have stood in the wonder of the Sistine Chapel and focused on the blisters on my toes. I have climbed the steps of the Great Wall of China and spent the entire time preoccupied with not slipping over in my jandals. I have even been known to spend an hour in an art gallery sitting in front of one painting, hoping to look like an intellectual when in truth I was just resting my aching feet. It is the shoes that make the trip.

Annoyingly though running shoes were always the domain of middle age Americans on a tour bus, the white hunks of rubber on their feet making them look like they were all walking on seagulls. Then Nike came along and changed the game, they made brightly coloured and most importantly cool running shoes (as semi proven by me blending into the art above!).

All of a sudden you could wear running shoes when travelling and look and feel awesome. I’ve worn my aqua neon beauties around the fashion capital Paris and not one coiffured creature batted an eyelid.

After walking me across two continents and countless laps of the Thames, my beloved Nikes are nearing their end. Now to save up for my next pair of travelling shoes…

Nike Shoes

And just in case you were wondering…the infamous picture of me on the Great Wall!

China