Friday, 17 January 2020

Euro trip finale - a shitty start to Scotland that ended in me falling in love

I'd been back home for all of a week when I got itchy feet and booked a train to Edinburgh.  I booked 3 nights in the city, then a bus from Edinburgh to Glasgow, and then car hire for a week so that I could do a bit of a roadie whilst up there.

Edinburgh was awesome - bloody cold, but awesome.  It was so chilly I ended up having to buy extra clothes!! There is so much history and the streets are incredible - tiny little secret alleyways with exciting names like World's End Close, cobbled streets, spired buildings - it's easy to see where JK Rowling drew her inspiration for Harry Potter from.

I did the free walking tour and really enjoyed it - there was heaps to learn such as the haunted cemetery in Greyfriars, and a water fountain that they used to pin criminals to by their ears - all pretty gory stuff!!

I met a real nice girl called Salma on the tour and we hung out a bit, meeting up to go to a comedy show (when in Edinburgh!) where we got a gift at the end of some lipstick and a condom, a bit random...   I hiked up to Arthur's Seat, checked out the museum and went to some art galleries - it was a pretty chill few days.

The hostel I was staying at wasn't the best - it was comfortable enough but a bit of a party hostel and not very friendly.  I was woken up at 4am on my last night there by loads of noise, and I was about to moan about the noise when I tuned into what they were saying....they were talking about poo....on the brain slowly clicked into gear and I tentatively took a sniff, and OH MY GOD SOMEONE TOOK A LITERAL SHIT ON THE FLOOR!!!!!! I was in shock and didn't know what to do so I buried my head under my covers and tried to pretend nothing had happened whilst the rest of the dorm room complained about the smell and called reception to come and clean it up. Ah man. City hostels. Urgh. The room went from smelling like poo to smelling like bleach and I struggled to get back to sleep.

I woke a few hours later to catch my bus to Glasgow, and from there caught another bus to the airport, and from there, called the car hire company for a transfer to their office to pick up my car.  After my shitty (literally) morning, I was excited to get on the road and explore - I had a hostel booked in Fort William where I was planning on doing some hikes.

At the car hire place, they were being extra nice and gave me a free upgrade, which I was slightly suspicious by as we were in a dodgy gravel parking lot in the middle of nowhere, and then I realised why they were being so nice...

I didn't have a credit card, and they needed one to secure the booking - the only way they'd rent me a car was if I paid £300 on top of what I'd already paid and took out the additional insurance.  Annoying.  Being the tight savvy person that I am, I phoned the broker I'd booked through and asked them if there was anything they could do, and they rather wonderfully agreed to refund me and rebook me with another car hire company who didn't need a credit card, for pretty much the same price -  cool!

So I headed back to the airport and settled in for a 3 hour wait whilst they got my car ready....only for them to tell me 3 hours later that they couldn't give me a car, because my UK license is now invalid because the address on it is out of date.  And no, there was nothing they could do...

At this point I just burst into tears.  The day had started awfully with the shitter, and I'd gone from Edinburgh to Glasgow to Glasgow airport to the car hire place to the airport again only to be told I couldn't hire a car, even though the previous company had no issues with my license and the new company made me wait 3 hours before telling me I couldn't hire a car. I was annoyed, tired, flustered, and had to be in Fort William that evening - a 3 hour drive away and it was already 3pm.  That's lots of 3s! 

Even though I am a fully grown adult, sometimes you just need to cry on the phone to your Mum, so that's exactly what I did and we considered my options - I was already at the airport so I could fly home, I could stay the night in Glasgow and work out what to do tomorrow, or I could try and make it to Fort William and hitchhike or bus my way around the country.

Flights home were very expensive and felt a bit defeating, there was no cheap accommodation left in Glasgow, so I looked at busses, saw there was a bus at 6pm to Fort William from Glasgow, and so duly got back on to the bus to the city centre and settled in for another 3 hour wait....sigh.

In the mean time I called the broker to ask for yet another refund on the car hire (which they gave me - are AMAZING) and posted in a facebook backpacker group to see if anyone was doing a similar route to me and wanted company - a long shot I know!!

After leaving Edinburgh at 730am that morning and six bus trips later, I FINALLY rolled into Fort William at 930pm and fell promptly asleep.

In the morning a miracle happened - an Aussie called Will saw my FB post and had picked up a car the day before and was doing pretty much the same route I wanted to do and was happy to take me with him - SCORE!!!

So he came to pick me up, I checked he wasn't a serial killer, and we trundled on up to the Isle of Skye - which, by the way, is mind blowing.

The weather wasn't the best, but it didn't really matter because the place was just so frickin beautiful.  We did a hike up to a waterfall which was stunning, and had a lot of drives because it was too rainy to get out - when the rain did stop, we went to Neist Point lighthouse where it was so windy the waterfalls were flying back on themselves, a really interesting sight.

The next few days were spent dodging rain and lots of car time, but the journey was absolutely stunning, even in the rain.  We drove to a hostel in the middle of nowhere - Achvraie, taking the scenic route along the NC500.  The mountains were insanely beautiful and made me well up inside.  The hostel was adorable - no internet, very cosy, thick stone walls and bathrooms you had to go outside to get to - very old school.  I'd love to go back there with a bunch of friends, booze, board games and food.

We carried on to Inverness and stayed at a youth hostel there that felt very horror movie vibes, then the Cairngorms, and eventually back to Edinburgh where we hit a comedy club before parting ways.

Scotland was BEAUTIFUL and I cannot wait to go back and spend more time there.

I used BlaBlaCar to find a ride to Manchester to stop off and see my good friend Cesca - I haven't seen her since she had her kiddo Joseph so was very excited to meet him.  BlaBlaCar is pretty awesome - you sign up and say where you want to go, and it matches you with people doing similar rides to you (also works if you're heading somewhere and want to share the car).  I ended up paying £25 for a door to door car ride with some wonderful Greek people whereas I could have got a train for more than double that and it would have taken even longer.

It was SOOOO nice to see Cesca and David again - and to meet the little human they created!! Honestly it blows my mind how my friends now have kids. The weekend was spent catching up in the company of good friends and dog walks - it was pretty wonderful.

Then back home to Kent, where I spent some more time with family and Sepha, a quick weekend in Paris to visit Becky, before hopping back on a plane to Auckland.

I was nervous to go back - I was going back to nothing - no job, no house, but also very ready - I'd had my fill of family and England and bouncing from place to place, and was looking forward to some stability. I was also interested to see how it would feel when I landed - I distinctly remember last time that it felt like home, and I wasn't sure how much of that was tied up with Aric.  But I breathed a sigh of relief when it still felt like home when I landed this time too - so that's a nice sign.

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Looking back and going forwards

Back in 2017, I wrote (in my opinion) a really awesome post summing up 2016.  2016 was a ROCKING year.  It was all shiny and new.  Everything was an adventure.  I made some great friends and did some really cool shit.  I challenged myself a lot.

2017 was good.  Not as new, but still good.  I was messed about by a boy.  Things in my flat started to fall apart and so I moved out.  I was in a bit of a flux regards visas and jobs and had to take a job I wasn't sold on to stay in the country.  I met Aric and fell in love.  Things got quite stable.

2018 was also good, but less shiny.  I moved in with Aric, and experienced what I presume being an adult felt like.  We had a joint bank account. We did "couple" things. I was incredibly happy with our relationship.  But, our future was uncertain because of his job, which kind of hovered above us like a cloud.  And my job - well, it fucking sucked. Hated it. Had to do it for visa reasons and hated it. Ugh. It made me cry and doubt myself as a decent person.  I got residency and left as soon as I could.  I took a solo trip to Sydney and remembered that I was brave and able to travel alone.  I was meant to take a few months out and work out what I wanted to do with my life, but I got scared about being unemployed and took a job almost immediately.   The role wasn't great but the people were amazing.  I had some fun adventures with friends, but they weren't as frequent or as exciting and relaxed as they had been in 2016.  Maybe I was looking back with rose tinted glasses.  My passion for sustainability grew.  Aric decided not to continue our relationship.  In hindsight, a sensible decision, but a heartbreaking one.  I moved out.  I wasn't in a good place for a long time.

2019 has been the fallout from the last few years.  It's been a year of finding all my broken pieces and putting them back together again.  It's been a messy one.  I haven't known what direction I was going in.  I guess the direction was just forwards, because that's how time works.  I spent 6 months in a daze and in denial about my relationship being over.  Then I went to Europe for 4 months.  I guess I was running away.  It was good though.  I set up my nai_sees_green instagram after being saddened by all the litter I saw.  I did some cool shit, met some cool people, and broadened my horizons.  I spent lots of money - luckily money that I could afford to spend.  I was a basic bitch and got a tattoo to remind me of my travels.  I explored more of my home country.  I met my friend's babies - actual little humans they created.  Madness.

I anxiously returned to New Zealand, to nothing but a country I loved and friends I missed.  I managed to avoid ghosts of the past.  A good friend saved my bacon and put me up for a month.  Another good friend got me random jobs to help my travel debt - pizza truck, pizza shop, supermarket sampler.   I got rejected for some jobs.  I reached out to people and got a sustainability internship with a consultant. Lasted 2 weeks before I was asked to go down to the South Island for a 3 month contract in a comms role, all expenses paid.  Barely had to think twice, though I did feel very bad ditching the sustainability guy - though I have kept the door open.  Went to the South Island, knowing no one and not really knowing what my job was.  Feel very lonely and wondering if I made the wrong decision.

Headed back to Auckland for Christmas and travelled with a friend from home.  Slowly started to feel more 'me' again. Did a very long drive down to Christchurch to spend New Years with old friends, they took me rock climbing, on a hike, on a swim.  Felt more 'me' than I have done in a very long time.  I think I might be put back together again.

I feel calm and collected and like I am heading in a direction now. I know what I want out of life. I want a job I enjoy, I want a house to call my own, and friends to invite round for boardgames and drinks.  I want a pet to make the house a home.  I want to nourish my hobbies and get relatively average at somthing, rather than trying something once and stopping because I am not good at it. I want to find someone I love and can share my life with. But if I don't do the last bit - that's ok. I don't mind being single. For all of the above, I don't need a guy to make me happy - I just need me and my mental health to be OK.

So I reckon 2020 is all about building the life that I want to lead.  Earn money, get a nice job, surround myself with wonderful people who build me up and energise me. Buy a house, settle somewhere.  It may take longer than 2020 as life likes to throw curve balls, but at least I have something to aim for.

Happy new year :)

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Euro trip - Austria, Czechia and Slovakia, Germany

Speeding through the rest of my trip as, with no pictures because a) wifi is still terrible and b) I am so far behind and soon it'll be 2020 and I want to do one of those emo sentimental yearly roundups, and I am super anal about blog order so gotta catch up!!


We then headed to Vienna, making a couple of pitstops on the way, including at an amazing ice cream place where they have cows on site that they milk and turn into icecream there and then so it’s super fresh.  Having said that, I ended up with a vegan icecream because I am limiting my dairy – but it was bloody delicious! We also went to Georg’s grandparents place in Durnstein, a very quaint old town where King Richard 1 was help captive.  His grandparents were super friendly and gave us lots of fruit they had growing in their garden.

Anja was an incredible host and took me on a 2 day tour around Vienna – it’s a pretty city but very big so I was graeful to have a local! She also introduced me to lots of local foods, including her favourite dumplings – in Austria they can be sweet or savoury, so I was surprised to be served up chocolate dumplings – my dumpling experience has been the Asian sort or the stodgy British sort.

On one of the days I snuck across to Slovakia as it was only 1 hour bus ride away.  I went to Bratislava and did a free city tour and learned a few random things including cat fish is a Christmas delicacy and they catch it a few weeks before Christmas and keep it alive in their bath to get the mud taste out, and at Easter they have an odd tradition where they spray girls with water and whip them gently….

I also got a tattoo!! I have been thinking about it for aaaaaaages, and always been too scared/unsure of what I wanted on my body for the rest of my life. However a thought struck me - I was with Anja when she got her first tattoo, and thought it would be nice if Anja was with me for when I got my first tattoo - so did some research and decided I wanted to feature my favourite things on my body - the ocean, mountains and forests.  I also wanted it somewhere not too obvious, so if I didn't like it then I didn't need to look at it all day, haha. I googled tattoo artists in Vienna, went to a few to check out their vibe and compare prices, and booked in for the next day - woo!! I made a rookie error of not getting them to draw it out on paper first - he drew straight onto my body in felt tip then went over it in ink, and so it's not entirely the style I wanted - however I do really like it and hopefully it doesn't look tacky and I'll love it forever. Also - it didn't hurt! Well a little, but not half as much as I was expecting.  

Before I knew it, it was time to wave goodbye to Anja and Georg and take the train to Prague!

By this point I was getting a bit over cities, and it was more of a stopover as I had time to kill before meeting Franzi in Berlin. My time in Prague was spent wandering the streets, taking photos and trying not to get distracted by the copious amounts of naked people sunbathing in the parks.  It’s a very cool city but I spent a lot of the time wishing I was with someone else – spending time with Anja made me miss traveling with someone and I was eager to meet up with Franzi. I wasn’t staying in a super social hostel and spent my time avoiding a overly eager older gentleman who showed way too much interest in me.  I would however like to go back to Czechia and explore a bit more – there are parts that look beautiful, and it’s a cheap country to travel in.

I think I might have cried when I saw Franzi, I can't remember, but it was SO NICE to see her - capital letters to extra emphasise how nice it was to see her!!!! (and some exclamation marks for added measure).

Again, my stars had aligned as they had with Anja - Franzi had a couple of weeks off before uni began and I happened to be nearby, so we arranged to meet at Berlin airport and then go on a 2 week road trip down to Bavaria in her parent's campervan - I was SO FRIGGIN EXCITED.

From the airport we went back to her parent's house in Potsdam to spend the night and pick up the camper, then headed to Braunschweig where she now lives.  She gave me a bicycle tour of the city and we went kayaking, then headed south to Bavaria with her friend Sarah, who we were dropping off on the way down.  Sarah lives in a tiny little town called Reid near Ingolstadt, and her parents have an awesome farm where they grow grapes, apples, their own veges and a whole lotta corn. I learnt a lot about farming in the 2 days we were there - it was cool!!! We were looked after very well and ate lots of homegrown food, it was delicious.  We went for a hike along the Danube and did some geocaching, then waved our goodbyes to her parents and carried on our trip.  We stopped off in Munich to go to the Deutsches Museum, which was brilliant and I wish we had more time in there - it is so interactive and well worth the entry fee! They had some very interesting exhibitions on climate change and sustainability and renewable energy! 

Southern Germany is beautiful - the alps are stunning and to be honest this blog nor my pictures will do it justice.  I had been so smug about New Zealand being so beautiful, but Europe is just as stunning, if not more so when it comes to mountains!  

The beginning of the trip was pretty chilly and I had to borrow some clothes from Franzi - living in a van is cold and I only had summer clothes, oops! We explored some of King Ludwig's castles - corr he had a good eye for design, they were beautiful!! We went to Lindenhof in the rain and did a free tour of the gardens, Franzi kindly translating what the tour guide was saying :) We then drove to Fussen via Austria which was a very stunning drive along huge mountain lakes which felt very magical with the low cloud and little traffic.   We also checked out the famous Neuschwanstein castle, which I think has inspired many a Disney castle! It is very impressive, perched on top of a hill, surrounded by mountains! 

The rain finally stopped after a few days so we made the most of it, having alfresco breakfasts (I discovered THE BEST cereal by Dr Oetker, I miss it so bad, can't get it here) and reading books in the sun - basically being lazy lizards.  Living out of the van was awesome - I loved having kitchen and lounge on wheels - everywhere is home!! 

On one of the days we did a super cool hike - Walchensee to Herzogstand, and across to Heimgarten.  Again - absolutely stunning.  We walked along a mountain ridge that had a high grading and we were a little bit scared as from a distance, it looked like a knife edge - but in reality it wasn't that bad.  Randomly we met an old guy on the ridge who started asking us 'young people' about his new mobile phone contract and he wanted to know if he had got a good deal or not - bless him.  Both peaks had beer gardens on top so we indulged before heading down to the lake for a quick, very chilly dip. 

Before we knew it, it was time to head back North, so we broke up the journey by stopping at Dachau Concentration Camp.  Morbidly, I have always wanted to go to a concentration camp - I guess we studied it a lot at school and so it's a part of history I wanted to explore more.   The camp is incredible - they've struck a really good balance of respect for the victims and educating the public.  It's harrowing what went on there and for the most part we walked around in silence absorbing it all, sometimes in tears.  Unfortunately I was shocked to see people taking selfies there - I truly don't understand why people do this.  

Franzi dropped me off at Berlin airport, we shed a few tears of goodbye, and I jumped on a plane to Bristol where I had a long overdue catch up with Lisa and Mark and my brother and his girlfriend.  I love Bristol, it's definitely a city I could live in.  Me and Lis did a nice walk and I had dinner with Jord and his girlfriend - it made me realise I have never in my entire life hung out with him as a friend, only as a brother as part of a family gathering - and it was really nice!! It's weird to think of him as independent from the family narrative but there he was, being all grown up in his own flat that he shares with his long term girlfriend, I was proud! 

Mum and Tim came up too so we had a family dinner and I hitched a ride with them back to Kent.  I was home for maybe 2 weeks before I got itchy feet again, so booked a train to Scotland - more on that in the next blog post!