Do Something 

There is no point being in a situation you’re not excited about, much like a relationship. What we tend to forget is that we can change almost anything about it, about our lives, in a heartbeat. We can change the tangible parts like our job, house, partner.. but we can also change our mindset and our perspective. Everything is a choice.

We choose everything and we are our choices. Don’t get the job your mother wants or adopt the goals your friend wants. So many of us use these one-size-fits-all ideals and goalposts that we might not even be compatible with. 

When I studied personal training we were taught that the best, most effective exercise for a client was the one they like most – they’ll do that one. Naturally, all of our prescriptions were different and I think the same rule applies to our lives. 
Every day i’m surrounded by people looking at others and crossing their fingers, but fit people choose to be fit and successful people work exceptionally hard to climb occupational ladders. A friend recently looked at me and sighed, “I’d die to have your figure..” I laughed, “I die to have this figure.” I choose this, i’m invested in this. 

It’s not easy to change your circumstances and it’s even harder to change your mind, but the payoffs are huge. Sometimes the most uncomfortable choices are the most rewarding, like moving out of your comfort-zone and across the world, interviewing for an ambitious job or quitting a comfortable one. 

If you’re in a situation you’re not excited about don’t mourn it, don’t accept it – just do something.

I didn’t want a CrossFitter’s body until I had one

I was raised by a strong woman. We went to body combat together and I watched her do most of the handy-work around the house. I’ve never understood the societal backlash to the concept of strong women, but I understand that it’s there, somewhere, woven into old traditions. Luckily, my Mum’s not one for tradition. 

It’s the age of toned curves and body equality now. If a man can be muscular a lady can too, and still be considered a lady. It’s the fitness fad of my generation. Even Khloe Kardashian gets behind it. 

When I started CrossFit my thighs thickened and my shoulders grew more pronounced. The dial on scales went up but my body-fat percentage went down. It took me a while to understand that my hard work at the gym was making me bigger, not smaller. I worked out and the scales went up. I couldn’t work that one out – we’re not really taught that that’s a positive thing. 


I’ve subscribed to the barbell trend, just like everyone else in my CrossFit class. And it’s rewarded me. There’s a lot of pride in hitting goal-posts in the gym because the results aren’t easily attainable. The figures aren’t lean like a runners, nor do they resemble the stereotypical supermodels on the front page of a teenage girl’s mind. It’s new. To me my body looks like commitment, habit and consistentcy. It looks like early mornings and oats for breakfast. 


While CrossFit was bullied for encouraging bad form and regrettable injuries, it’s only grown in popularity. Name a sport with no risk of injury – it’s time to highlight the pros. There must be a reason we’re all committing 6am alarms and six hours a week to the sport. 

CrossFit builds people and it builds community. It’s a fitness hybrid of olympic weightlifting and high-intensity interval training. It involves as many hi-fives as it does pull-ups. Someone once told me that people bond over suffering, and there’s a fair amount of suffering. But the suffering makes you stronger, pushing your limits both physically and mentally. You earn your thick thighs and pronounced shoulders. 

Strong women conveniently became a trend as I trained, widening the circle of socially acceptable female forms and deviating from masculine prejudice. Strong women work hard to be strong. I didn’t want a CrossFitter’s body until I had one, and it’s something I’m proud of. 

It’s not what it looks like

I feel qualified to talk about travel after this year. My Facebook is decorated with iconic landmarks and in this world that means everything. It seems to mean that I’m carefree, liberal, spontaneous, that my life is cool and that I’m happy all the time in all of these great places. It paints it too easily, I’d read the same messages in the pictures. 

  
I mean it’s not untrue (we all know I’m cool), but it forgets a lot of the other stuff. The planning, budgeting, anxiety, and just the plain fact that it’s not easy at all. I’ve worked some ridiculous hours to pull it off and I’m careful not carefree. I have anxiety anyway so airports are a stressful experience for me. I like adventure but only if it’s safe. You will never see me skydive – it won’t happen. My friends know that I won’t cross a road without a green light. I’ve been lost at 10pm in Rome after a two-day flight and I wasn’t laughing about it. My struggle to say no also landed me in a coffee shop with a questionably-motived older Italian man adamant that I should swap my hostel for his place. My common sense isn’t what you think it is. 

Every trip you take is 100% likely not to be what you expected. And you have to go in with an adaptable attitude. We all smile for the photos – you won’t find one of me feeling sorry for myself in a McDonald’s because it’s the only thing I recognised in a desperate search for free wifi. 

It’s not about the posed photos, it’s about the experience. It’s about getting yourself from A to B, deciding what to do each day inside a budget, it’s about learning to pack breakfast items into your bag for lunch later, it’s about having enough skepticism to stay safe, it’s about having a lame under-the-shirt travel wallet, it’s about dressing for comfort at the risk of fashion and telling strangers that you have a boyfriend when you don’t – it’s about practicality. It’s not what it looks like in the perfectly crafted photographs, but it’s not about those anyway. 
    

  
It’s still beautiful and liberating but it comes at a cost. For me the cost is a heavy price of anxiety, for others it might be homesickness and for everyone it’s definitely a starved wallet. My experiences have been life-changing and completely worthwhile but the pretty photos aren’t everything, take them with a grain of realism because they’re not always what they look like. 

When There is no Return Flight

‘How long have you been here?  when do you go home?’ and of course, ‘where in Australia are you from?’

‘The part called New Zealand’ I bat back, motioning a knife to the heart. Sometimes I illustrate the lake and the mountains in the middle of the North Island. Sometimes I draw the whole map. Sometimes I smile and nod.

They say there’s a three month homesickness, six months and one year. I floated past three months without looking back but I’m gearing up for a month-six change of heart. It’s an onset reminiscing Wellington’s waterfront, Mum and scenic hikes with basic nights in DOC huts – but it’s less like mourning and more like a deep appreciation. Naturally I miss the familiar setting and people as I settle in the UK, but you can build a home anywhere. So I’ve shut the door to NZ for a while, even if the grass is greener and there are more hills. 

Up until now I’ve unwaveringly answered no to missing home while conceding to missing Mum. After a recent trip to Portugal I craved NZ culture. It’s a great novelty being coined a traveller but you’re also a mispronouncing outsider with weird cultural norms and occasionally a presumed lack of career ambition. I countered the deportation jokes post-Brexit with my dual citizenship but I still avoid most words with vowels because apparently I can’t pronounce them right – namely pen, six and deck. I don’t even mind being an assumed Australian surfer, it’s tempting not to argue with that one and take the street cred.

  

The cheap flight novelty has not worn off. Travel has never been so easy – too easy. Is that a thing? Spontaneous trips around Europe are a dream-come-true. Essentially every pay check has played some part in the next adventure, which in turn has completely negated my saving scheme.
  

I love England despite the forecast, but no matter how long I stay here I’ll never say yes to mushy peas with my fish and chips – I just don’t understand that culinary logic. Aside from that, an efficient train service, ageing population, hierarchical schooling and letter boxes being a narrow hole in your front door it’s not that culturally different to Aotearoa.

My life’s not as exotic as my friends at home seem to think, unfortunately. I still over-commit to work under-commit to everything else. I still watch an episode of Neighbours a day and I still call sweet-potato Kumara. I advertise NZ at any opportunity and have been known to recite the National Anthem in Maori to spread the word. I subscribe to British citizenship but I’m so thoroughly kiwi and I don’t think that will be compromised ever. Although I still don’t know which box to tick when ethnicity comes up and there’s no Pakeha/European category. I’d tick British if I didn’t get questionable looks when the tick didn’t match my accent and I look like a fraud (which did happen when I wanted a library card).

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been here for years and sometimes I feel like I’m brand new. I answer indefinitely to the ‘how long’ questions and sometimes I add well, life just happens and we all nod knowingly. 

I’m 11,617 miles away from Taupo but I’m a phonecall away from my life-coach Mum and £500 away from a return flight. Next time I’ll answer, I am home.

Taking the Reigns: A kiwi take on the EU referendum pre-results

For a country with semi-detached houses, I struggle to comprehend the argument to leave the European Union. But then I think about the flag referendum in New Zealand. Our Prime Minister sought to differentiate our national identity from both Australia and England. John Key wanted to make a statement about being our own country, creating a unique New Zealand symbol with no outside influences on our emblem. 

Inherently a nation wouldn’t want to be governed by exterior authorities and many English residents fear for the exploitation of their resources and benefits particularly amidst an immigration crisis. They look to other non-EU members to demonstrate stability without subscription. The national Remain/Leave debate is met with the same controversy as the New Zealand government signing the TPPA. Being vetoed in the EU has consolidated the idea of loss of control for many of the English, who have dug their heels in further. 
  
You can get behind the tradition that a country is autonomous. If England has given someone else the reigns in some areas, are the governors of England in a sense, redundant? for show?

However, international communities have been built on a foundation of utilitarianism, to diffuse and aid international problems but when it’s not proximal to your nation or you are required to support and contribute countries often look the other way. Can you imagine being trapped in a war-zone you called home and desperate enough to swim across an ocean or die trying, with your children.. And no-one in the world wants to take you in?

Statistics show that large percentages of the immigrants stranded in 2016 are capable and willing to work. Personally, the hardest working people I know in Solihull are Hungarian. They’re washing dishes more than they’re sleeping and they’re smiling because they’re making more money than the elites back home. They’re watching their children grow up on Skype. That’s not the life they’d have picked if they were in my shoes.

Traditional notions of sovereignty are growing outdated with the incremental introduction of a global political unity. World wars have been replaced with civil wars and international governance largely exists to alleviate conflict and advocate peace. Where America has taken responsibility, whether it be viewed beneficially or destructively, governments around the world are using globalisation to make your problems our problems and step toward international consociationalism – preserving culture and regional governance but sacrificing national governance. 

We’re all human; remember to weigh human rights when you’re measuring economic logic and national pride. 

An Austrian experience

  

Anyone can tick off Vienna in two days, taking a photo with the most famous monument in the city as a badge of evidence. But I have had a real, authentic Austrian experience courtesy of Nanette and Paul and their hometown, Ramsau.

I gazed at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, watched the Venice Boys Chior rehearse, biked along the Danube Canal and ate schnitzel at Figlmuller. But we didn’t stop there.

After seeing the sites in Vienna my Dad and I caught a bus to Schladming, four hours away from the capital. The city apartments transformed into log cottages with shingle roofs and flower baskets framing every window. The village was surrounded by snow-capped mountains and fairytale trees. From Schladming we continued 7.3km to Ramsau, a smaller village. Ramsau hosted the ski-jumping and cross-country skiing world championships in 1999. We walked up the ski jumps erected in the 20th century to contemplate the height and craziness of anyone willing to attempt these with velocity. Ramsau is a plateau between the Dachstein range and the Enns valley and is inexplicably picturesque. Qaint cafes line the mountain biking and hiking routes, offering beer and lattes on your journey. Couples picnic and families play along the tracks.

A cable car takes you to the Dachatein glacier for €22 where you can cross-country ski or just stare in awe at the mountain’s glory and the perfect town below. We stopped for a coffee in the restaurant at 2996m – mind-blown.

     

Back at the old-style house built in 1956 Nanette and Paul didn’t serve meals, they prepared lavish spreads. At breakfast the table was covered in ham, cheese, jam and black tea and in the evening foods I didn’t even recognise were presented to us in more than one course. You’d genuinely think they had a fear of peckishness as they encouraged us to make sandwiches to take with us each day. They spoke next to no English but somehow we found ways to communicate. I resurrected a German-English dictionary one morning to see through a joke about Dad’s terrible sense of direction and I feel like Paul appreciated the effort and humour.  

    

You quickly adopt German greetings so that you don’t neglect your manners – Danke, Morgen and Ciao were crucial – ‘caffe latte’ arguably just as important.

It was completely refreshing to learn how to swim, or rather, paddle in a culture so different from my own, embracing full immersion.

 

  

Now or Never

It’s never convenient to move your life. I hit the gap between study and a full-time career when you really start planting roots in a community. I moved from New Zealand to England, which is considered controversial apparently. It’s hard to explain that I love NZ after trading it in for dreary weather and brick everything… But my heart and my head were both unanimously enthused about the idea so my compass pointed to the UK.  

It wasn’t that bold – I’m half British and I’m 22 so I don’t have much baggage in any sense. But it also wasn’t a sporadic decision empowered by liberal youth. I had planned to move my whole life and 2016 presented a one-time window of opportunity. The only daunting factor is uncertainty as to whether I’ve increased or decreased the likelihood of growing my career. 

Apart from defending my ‘kiwi’ ethnicity from being labelled Australian, I’m settling in well. I got excited about the April snow when everyone else moaned and I’m embracing the tea-drinking culture at my Aunt’s.

  
So, now I own a 65-litre backpack 90% filled with clothes, and that’s it. I have no work connections, no car and at-best five friends. Naturally my priority is to find a Crossfit gym, rationally it’s to find an income. 

#whynot

What are you chasing?

‘Once you stop chasing the wrong things, the right ones catch you.’

I’m always chasing something, like a cat with a string. But sometimes your goals change and if you don’t change direction you’re chasing the wrong thing. Our lives are adaptable but we’re so slow to tailor them to new wants or ideas.

My friends and colleagues are always sighing that they wish they could be somewhere else, or doing something else and you have to ask, “well, why aren’t you?” The Nike logo is one of the best phrases in my philosophical vocabulary – ‘just do it.’

I was adamant that after completing my four years of tertiary education I would segue straight in to the first vacancy of my career, but at the last minute I zoomed-out and realised that there was no hurry. What I actually wanted was a change of scenery, and a mental break. Having said that, I definitely continued down the same path for longer than I should have, holding on to outdated ideas about next year.

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Eventually I adjusted. I had spent so much time dreaming about moving overseas and such little time moving overseas. It’s time to pack my bags. Right now I’m chasing goals like seeing the world outside of the borders of my comfort zone and educating my perspective.

It doesn’t make sense to wish you were somewhere else without taking action to take yourself there. But it also doesn’t make sense to me to wish you were doing something different with your life, because it’s not in anyone else’s control. You can’t always use other circumstances such as your job to explain why you’re in a situation you’re not excited about. We are lucky enough to have the resources to navigate ourselves to almost anywhere.

It’s never convenient to reshuffle your schedule – you always have to put things down to pick more things up. But live the way you want to, why wouldn’t you?

If you don’t do what you love, what are you doing?

In this day-and-age we’re pretty autonomous, independent. Women don’t need men and men don’t need women. There’s no predetermined bread-winner or stay-at-home Mum. Traditional ideals were challenged and they’re losing, especially in New Zealand. We have more options, allowing more of us to do what we love rather than what society suggests we should do. We’re more dynamic and so is the workforce.

Essentially, if you don’t love what you do, you’re doing something wrong.

More often than not, we’re training to  do what we  perceive we need to. To fill spaces in society and to bridge positions in bureaucratic offices. I wonder what percentage of students at university personally wanted to study there… We’re being bred to work to make money – but it shouldn’t be about money. If we worked every hour of every day we might be rich, but I’m betting we wouldn’t be happy. I admire people who don’t work for money, they’re generally better at their jobs.

The backpackers that float around the world doing odd jobs, artists and my Crossfit coach – they are people that choose lifestyle over a competitive bank account and a hierarchical ladder. It’s a waste of time committing your life to a desk, to later have an epiphany that when asked as a child what you wanted to do when you grew up, the answer was probably what you should have done because it wasn’t conditioned by social ideals and stamped with a price.

My Mum has never faltered in teaching me to do what I love, constantly ingraining the message, ‘do whatever makes you happy,’ and it navigates me.

So, if you don’t love what you do, what are you doing?

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