2: THAT TIME I WENT NORTH & IT WAS BEAUTIFUL.

Round two: on to the times when solo travelling can be ace!

I remember almost desperately hunting down blogs about solo female travelling before I left the UK back in 2015. I had never done ANY travelling by myself and was about to embark on just a teeny couple of weeks by myself in India and Bali. My Dad thought I was going to get kidnapped (admittedly he never said these exact words but I saw it in that worried expression I got whenever I spoke about my trip), which wasn’t the most helpful thing. The blogs I read were super positive and practical. Pretty much every article ended with something along the lines of: solo travelling was the best experience and helped them to understand themselves better. A little bit Eat Pray Love, but I am totally cool with trying to figure out the inner workings of my brain. I’d felt a bit cheated when my first bit of solo travelling didn’t provide me immediately with all the answers I wanted about myself. Classic impatient millennial.

Fast-forward 18 months to a slightly more chilled out, potentially wiser, more confident and happier-in–my-own-skin me planning a solo trip after previously swearing against them.

I travelled around the Northland (The North of NZ’s North Island, how many times can I get North in here?!) without a moment of hesitation. I had a car. I had a bivy tent. I had a box of food. A little stove. Most importantly I was actually excited to be hanging out by myself.

I was at Cape Reinga at about 5 in the afternoon, the sun was still pretty high in the sky and there were only a handful of other people there. Cape Reinga is the most Northern point of NZ. It’s where the Pacific ocean meets the Tasman sea which is an awesome sight. For Maori people Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga) is where their spirits travel to after death to bid farewell to the land and return to their ancestors land, Hawaiiki-A-Nui. It is a spiritual place. The sound of the ocean and being on the tip of the NZ was a beautiful experience and whilst I wanted to share it with the people I love, it was also humbling to be there alone. I felt a huge sense of peace at Cape Reinga.

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Lighthouse at Cape Reinga

 

 

I camped at a pretty empty campsite next to the ocean with no phone signal. Dinner was pasta and a can of tuna. I slept in a tiny tent that was actually meant for storing bags in and wasn’t sealed. The sleep was terrible and I woke up in a wet tent with a zillion bug buddys (bugs make me unhappy but I appreciate their importance in the world, so I juuuuuust about tolerate them, if they’re not touching me) but weirdly I wasn’t even vaguely phased. I just got up and moved onto the next place.

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Spirits Bay campsite

I visited beautiful, empty beaches where I really was the only person. It was extremely calming. The North is vast and it feels quite empty but there is an abundance of natural beauty that gives me this kind of achy feeling in my heart. I arrived back from this little trip happy to see people, but glad that I had experienced these places by myself. I felt like I got at least a little bit of what those blogs were saying that I’d read 18 months before. I was totally stoked that I had returned feeling a weird sense of accomplishment and a thirst for more travel.

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90 Mile Beach

Two different trips. On both I couldn’t believe how amazing and varied the land is in NZ, I couldn’t get enough of the ocean and I loved driving through the many small towns. But the emotions attached to each trip were entirely different – anxious vs. happy. Sometimes I think I might be absolutely bat shit crazy. Other times I’m grateful that I have this polarising range of emotions within me. I feel like without these I would be like a human slug (love you long time slugs) and whilst this may make my life easier from an overthinking point of view, I also feel it would make it crazy dull.

It’s amazing when travelling leaves you feeling super content and you enjoy every second, but it’s also okay when it doesn’t and you don’t. Both experiences are valid and I’m learning to embrace it all.

 

(I’m experimenting with putting the pictures in, it has the potential to look a bit shit ha! Humble iPhone photos by moi)

2: THAT TIME I WENT NORTH & IT WAS BEAUTIFUL.

1: THAT TIME I WENT TO RAGLAN FOR A COFFEE.

This is the first of two posts about travelling around NZ by myself and how travelling in general isn’t always the best time of your life, not because anything particularly bad happens, but because your brain decides to riddle you with anxiety.

Raglan is a  beautiful little coastal town on New Zealand’s North Island renowned for being a great surf spot. (I went surfing once in Bali where I shared the ocean with a dead chicken which was incredibly off-putting, believe it or not). There are heaps of other adventurous things to do in Raglan like kayaking, paddle boarding, caving, rock climbing and hiking and these are pretty heavily advertised around the town. This is a place where you come with your mates and do fun shit. There is a relaxed, holiday vibe and all the Kiwis I’ve met rave about it.

I arrived there on a grey Wednesday afternoon. I was slowly making my way home and had planned to have a day there. The oracle (aka iPhone) had predicted a miserable forecast of rain, like continuous rain for the next 24 hours. Those little rainclouds all had 100% underneath them. NZ summer at it’s finest. I’d kind of missed the boat on doing any activities for the day so searched out some yoga classes instead. I drove to one about 10 minutes away which was atop a hill with beautiful views of the ocean, but when I got there I realised it more like a retreat and freaked out a little about all the yogis that were there. I found another yoga class here to go to and it was super chill, the teacher was lovely and there were hardly any people there which was kind of perfect for me. I felt physically good afterwards but my brain still hadn’t caught up.

I sat in my car after the class and the rain started to pour. I couldn’t decide on staying in a hostel or my tent. I really wanted to drive back to the city because I wasn’t feeling hanging out on my own, but I was also stuck with the thought that I should be having a good time and I should be doing fun stuff. This is point that I figured out that I’d had this building sense of anxiety all day – it had been staring me in the face. Anxious me does not want to engage with people I don’t know or do any activities. Anxious me struggles to make little decisions. Anxious me feels like a failure and worries too much what other people think. I phoned a hostel but they were booked out so I decided to drive back to the city. I felt like a bit of a loser but knew I’d made the right choice for me at that time. I  also realise that going home is not always the answer.

I can laugh about the fact that I essentially went to a super cool place in NZ had a coffee and a sandwich, did a yoga class and then drove home. PRETTY RADICAL. Similar experiences include the time in India I ordered a take away pizza which I then ate alone in my homestay room and hanging out in a shopping mall in Malaysia all day because the air-con was great.

I think that for me, it was better to not try and force myself to have a good time when I really wasn’t feeling it. Life is not going to be fun all of the time, despite what social media will lead us to believe. When you are travelling round there is sometimes a pressure that you should always be seeing new things and doing things and they should always all be incredible. Oh and you should always Instagram them (don’t get me wrong I love IG). The times like this when things don’t quite work out how I’d imagined don’t negate the awesome times I’ve had. It’s all relative. I’m sure that one day I’ll go back to Raglan and do some of that fun stuff and I’ll make sure I Instagram the shit out of it too.

(Side note: I’m fully aware my life is pretty easy and brilliant most of the time, pesky anxiety doesn’t give a shit about that though and I believe in being honest about feelings)

(Also: I managed to distract myself from some of the anxiety by listening to the Women of the Hour podcast which one of my amigas introduced me too. Go check it out, they cover some important topics and you get to listen to some amazing, inspiring women. It makes me laugh and cry.)

1: THAT TIME I WENT TO RAGLAN FOR A COFFEE.

TINDER.

Let’s talk Tinder. I started using the app when I moved out of the city and back into the smallish town I grew up in. In glorious retrospect this was a bizarre choice given that my pool of potential dates was going to be a lot smaller and, god forbid, I might even recognise someone. But hey ho. I had changed jobs, changed homes and was fresh out of a relationship. A recipe for success. When I say success I mean disaster.

I created my profile, chose pictures where I thought I looked like a super babe and that weren’t too old. I wrote a little bio about things I liked and tried not to sound like a dickhead. Then I started swiping. Left for eewwww no, right for oh you have a nice face. I was averagely mortified when I came across someone I recognised at school (I think I was being a snob…). Then I just got really shallow, like that guy is wearing a shirt I don’t like, his eyebrows are better than mine, his bio contains too many emojis – SWIPE LEFT. Bios are funny, some guys write nothing at all, others are looking for sex, some are genuinely seeking ‘the one’ and others try to make out that they don’t really want to be on tinder, they’re not sure why they’re even on it blah blah blah. Some have no pictures of themselves, some have pictures with girls or kids – and a hasty sentence in their bio claiming it’s not their girlfriend or child. Over the course of my time on Tinder I came across pictures of guys posing with drugged up tigers, in big drunk groups, holding a big fish (like maybe 6/10 of NZ profiles, I kid you not), holding kittens or puppies, in fancy dress, doing some kind of adventure sport, some just keeping it simple and posing in their bathroom.

There were some emotional times on the app. Like when I was in a left swiping frenzy and accidentally lost some potential matches, almost heart breaking. Luckily, Tinder has a solution to this: pay extra and you can undo those swipes. I am intrigued to know if anyone actually ever does this?! Other emotional scenarios include a guy asking if I wanted to come to his hotel room RIGHT NOW, which I read as come to my hotel where I will kill you and dump your body in the sea. There are guys who just try to be mean (to keep us keen right?), ones who are mind numbingly dull, and ones who you actually want to get to know.

I kind of hate the messaging part because I feel that you could message someone for a while, think they seem like a decent human being and then meet them and discover they are a huge Trump supporter or, perhaps worse, they prefer vegemite to marmite. So I have always been pretty keen to meet up with people to figure out wether or not they’re a psychopath and if I want to keep talking to them. This has led to me being called forward by both the potential Tinder dates and female friends. Really, I think it’s being practical. And efficient. And what’s so wrong with being forward anyway?

Over the space of about a year and a half, two countries and several app deletions and reinstallations, here are my tinder dates in no particular order:

The guy who had beautiful eyes and was probably a nice human but I provided a free counselling service for him to talk about his ex-girlfriend,  a lot.

The short guy who I went on a few dates with, didn’t fancy in the slightest but slept with anyway because I couldn’t find anyone better at the time. I try to forget that one because it makes me cringe.

The guy who gave me a massage and bought me dinner and made me laugh but also lived off cocaine and with his ex-girlfriend…

The American guy who insisted on buying the drinks, was about 10 years older than me and who’s jokes I didn’t get.

The insurance guy who really loved talking to me about his job in insurance, was missing his front teeth but had an excellent taste in music.

The Mexican chef who I had an in-depth discussion with about guacamole and never saw again.

The artist guy who I initially thought I really clicked with but turns out he really clicked with taking a lot of drugs which soon rendered him only capable of barely being able to speak.

Some of these dates made me feel kind of despairing that I would ever meet anybody I liked, some left me questioning my self-respect, some left me content at having had a good conversation with someone and leaving it at that. It took me a while (and calling it finally, properly with an ex on the other side of the world) to realise that I needed to perhaps stop being so harsh on myself and stop trying to please the random guys I’d met on a dating app.

I went on one more date. I’ll set the scene: I’d just worked a 12 hour shift, I had to put a lot of foundation on to cover the dark purple bags under my eyes, I had this rotten cold and the snot was constantly threatening to pour out of my nose, oh and to complete it I had a spot comparable to Mount Etna on my cheek. A vision of beauty. So I met this guy. And we talked. And drank beer. And the snot poured. And for the last few months, we have pretty much been hanging out all the time.

So. Tinder. I have a love hate relationship with it. But it did introduce me to a total babe who’s not a dick, so I guess it’s not all bad!

TINDER.