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It doesn't seem to matter whether you're in the glum midwinter of the Northern Hemisphere, or the midsummer heat of the south, the few weeks after Christmas and New Year suck.

This year it feels extra hard because three sets of good friends have left Aotearoa on new adventures, and our family are still here. I am feeling a lot more alone right now, and if I'm honest, I'm struggling.

I don't begrudge people their adventures (quite the opposite) but when you are a stranger in a country and your friends are your whanau, it becomes hard to see them walk away. Those impromptu "fancy a drink after work" texts or the "what are you doing for lunch?" calls seem so incidental when you can count on them being there. It's only when some far-flung beach Instagram pic reminds you that those people aren't around anymore that you realise how much you really miss them. 

There was a time when we were considering packing up our lives and travelling. But then we bought a house we love and built a life here, so the plan instead is to do some longer holidays over the next few years.

Last year, we based our destination on the cheapest flights and had a blast discovering Vancouver. It wasn't a place that I had ever thought I wanted to visit, and maybe it was the passing resemblance to Wellington, or the awesome locals, but I accidentally fell a little bit in love.

This year, we are taking a different approach and flying to places we know we want to visit.

1. England

Ahhh the annual pilgrimage. Have I ever mentioned that Keith is one of the head honchos at an awesome car show called Retro Rides Gathering? No? You thought we went back to the UK every year because we missed the weather? 

We don't. 

English summers are a complete fallacy dreamt up by misty-eyed pensioners who believe their childhoods were spent running through fields in light cotton dresses while Jerusalem played softly in the background and Britain was Great. You know, before it joined the EU and floods of immigrants came to the country to collapse our women and steal our NHS. When bananas could be curved, prunes could be used a laxative, and jam was ruddy well called jam. Hold my drink, someone, I feel a rousing chorus of Land of Hope and Glory coming on.  

So while the UK gets on with the business of Brexit, we have a short list of things to do: 

- First item on our list of things to do: Run awesome car show.
- Second item in my short list of things to do: Catch up with some friends.

And no offense to the car show, but my priority this year is to spend time holding my friends as close as is considered culturally appropriate.

2. Gibraltar

Can it be true? Why yes it can! After 5 years, we are heading back to see the family, and to introduce the children and our friend to all that is awesome quirky.

I feel a little sorry for them, they have no idea what is going to hit them. I mean, I know we run a fairly Mediterranean household, but there is nothing that truly prepares you for the strength and, well, volume of being in a place like Gib surrounded by family. All of the family. The cast of actual thousands.

Then there are the weird cultural variations in available cakes for weddings. Because why would anyone want a cake made ENTIRELY OF CHEESE?! Nobody, that's who!! Especially one with no decoration of any kind and delivered IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT to a place only HEATHENS get married.

Ten years on and I'm still convinced she spat on my carrot cake.

3. Stockholm

Once we have ruined the children by making them both fat, deaf, and terminally argumentative our flights back to the UK take us (for reasons I cannot fathom) via Stockholm for the day.

How much can you fit into a 7 hours stopover? Yeah I'm not sure, but we have plans!

My friend and I found mention of a cycle tour online, and Keith is determined to track down the best Gravlax in town with our salmon loving son, so I sense a frantic, and probably exhausting day between flights.

In my head, it's going down like Supermarket Sweep, which does make me a little sad because I've always wanted to spend quality time somewhere that either has the best public relations crew in the world, or is genuinely full of stylish interiors, warm people and cracking food.

4. Indonesia

This is where we stop travelling and spend some time chilling. We hope. At this point, I have absolutely no idea where we are going to within Indonesia. Our plan is to spend some time with friends who are travelling there. That's the plan. No really, that's it.

And you know what? It's kinda exciting to have that open window that has no greater structure than a vague geographical location. We are ending the trip at the opposite end of the spectrum to the place where we start. We start with a visit that is planned down to the nearest half day and end with a visit that is planned to the nearest country.

Both those things are made possible by the fact that we travel light (ish), and our children are of an age where they are more help than hindrance in planning an adventure.

On paper, we shouldn't have a care in the world.

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