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Wily Wellington

One of my favorite spots: Zealandia. An unobtrusive place perfect for introducing yourself to New Zealand's birds & wildlife.

Before I touched down in New Zealand, I had a plan of what I was going to do for the year.  When I actually landed, I changed completely to a let’s-see-how-it-pans-out-organically approach.  I’ll never know if I’ve completely screwed up with my decision-making until I leave the country, look back and think, “How the hell did it work out like that?”  

Forget the whole “hindsight is 20/20” concept; I’m having a lot of fun as things have gone “wrong” or strayed from the "plan."  

It’s turning out to be far more interesting.

New Zealand has an incredible circuit of tracks, trails, and natural hideaways, something I discovered is a main facet to its personality.

New Zealand has an incredible circuit of tracks, trails, and natural hideaways, something I discovered is a main facet to its personality.

I spent my first two weeks in New Zealand exploring the nooks & crannies of Wellington to decide if it was going to be my first landing spot of the year.  With it’s irresistible charm, creative flare, kick ass coffee, killer craft beers, and unique street performers, it’s close to impossible for Wellington not to lure in everyone who encounters it.

Forget Starbucks, Gloria Jeans, every chain coffee place anywhere.  Wellington's mom & pop cafés will make any coffee virgin or even coffee hater fall in love with a cheeky cap or flattie, leaving them wanting more.

Forget Starbucks, Gloria Jeans, every chain coffee place anywhere.  Wellington's mom & pop cafés will make any coffee virgin or even coffee hater fall in love with a cheeky cap or flattie, leaving them wanting more.

I'm a real critic when it comes to good Mexican food & quality margaritas;  Wellington knocks it out of the park.

I'm a real critic when it comes to good Mexican food & quality margaritas;  Wellington knocks it out of the park.

To be honest, I was never a real coffee drinker until Wellington got me to love the java bean.

To be honest, I was never a real coffee drinker until Wellington got me to love the java bean.

Color.  Everywhere.

Color.  Everywhere.

There’s something spectacular about the city that I find parallel to the quirkiness of Melbourne, Australia, but with an obvious kiwi overlay and slightly more intrigue. 

Signs are displayed both in English and in Māori, the Te Papa museum is stuffed with incredible exhibits about New Zealand’s history (so packed to the point that it would take you at least a week to walk through all the displays), and the local beers include names of some of the country’s famous birds & reptiles.  

Needless to say, my two weeks packed with delicious brews, great music, and fascinating factoids was completely unbearable. 

I decided to leave.

Rainy days were best spent chillin' at a local Wellington brewery sipping on a craft beer while giving my blog a much needed facelift.

Rainy days were best spent chillin' at a local Wellington brewery sipping on a craft beer while giving my blog a much needed facelift.

Jussssst kidding.  The truth is, I wanted something different.  A place that felt wilder.  Somewhere that would allow me to explore nature and really get some space from the high energy of cities.

Wellington is my favorite metropolis in New Zealand, hands down, but leaving turned out to be one of the most satisfying things for this New Yorker's inner jungle woman, wilderness quota that was overdue to be filled.

Before I divulge details about my hippie chick chapter, I want to share some of my favorite things about Wellington…

Wandering any quirky city, especially one like Wellington, helped me recognize that one of the ways in which the local population expresses itself is through distinct architectural manifestations.

Wandering any quirky city, especially one like Wellington, helped me recognize that one of the ways in which the local population expresses itself is through distinct architectural manifestations.

A city that makes the effort to provide free, good-quality events for its population is definitely a winner in my book, especially if it involves local bands at the botanical gardens.  A show like this one would cost a fortune in some other places around the world.  Every summer, Wellington does it right.

A city that makes the effort to provide free, good-quality events for its population is definitely a winner in my book, especially if it involves local bands at the botanical gardens.  A show like this one would cost a fortune in some other places around the world.  Every summer, Wellington does it right.

When I was in Wellington 11 years ago, the street art was one of the most predominant features I remembered about the city.  After my most recent visit, I'm even more impressed by the talent and creativity that influences the city's charm.

When I was in Wellington 11 years ago, the street art was one of the most predominant features I remembered about the city.  After my most recent visit, I'm even more impressed by the talent and creativity that influences the city's charm.

Walking or sitting by the waterfront is a great way to enjoy a sunny Wellington afternoon.

Walking or sitting by the waterfront is a great way to enjoy a sunny Wellington afternoon.

Meandering through the circuit of Welly's quirky shops makes for a great pastime and discovering offbeat trinkets.

Meandering through the circuit of Welly's quirky shops makes for a great pastime and discovering offbeat trinkets.

There are some easy yet rewarding day hikes around Wellington.  Bust your ass for a bit and get an epic view like this.

There are some easy yet rewarding day hikes around Wellington.  Bust your ass for a bit and get an epic view like this.

Oh, Wellington, I love you.

Till we meet again...

Xoxo

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New Year No Toilet

New Year’s Eve in Sydney

 

            I’m pretty sure my New Year’s Eve this year channeled all things Amy Schumer.  Counting down to midnight on a boat under the Sydney Harbour Bridge sounds pretty magical, right?  If your definition of magical includes urinating in a bucket next to two of your guy friends peeing off the side of the boat adjacent to your other friend passed out in her seat as everyone rings in the New Year around you, then yes!  It was magical.  I’ll paint you a picture here…we’re not all degenerates, I promise.

            For months I had been planning to spend my 2016 New Year’s evening on a boat in the Sydney Harbour under the bridge while the fireworks light up the sky.  One of those things you dream about and finally stick to your guns and make it happen.  A few friends joined in on the plan, the excitement escalated and our itinerary evolved into a dance-in-your-cubicle-at-work-when-no-one-is-looking level.

            Thirty hours of flying time, an airport shuttle, and long ferry ride later, I was greeted with tequila shots at Manly Beach on the morning of New Year’s Eve.  Suddenly I went from a mid-winter New York mentality to floating in a pool in the suburbs of Sydney drinking Australian beer fresh out of the “esky.”  Things could definitely be worse.  We had incredible hosts who ensured we were well fed and properly buzzed before the night began.  Once we were all dressed up and photos were taken, we headed to the Harbour ready for a night of epic proportions.

 

            We arrived at the dock excited for our BYO night cruise.  After checking in, we boarded a boat – much smaller than anyone anticipated –converted from a water taxi for the evening.  “Who cares?!” we thought, “It will get us closer to the fireworks!  Plus, we’re in Sydney on NYE and we look awesome!”  With little hesitation and lots of champagne, we boarded the water taxi.  Music was on point, the 10 other guests on the boat were friendly, and the driver was funny and welcoming.

Here’s where things started taking a turn for the worst…

            About an hour into the ride, someone in the group chirped, “Wait, I have to go to the bathroom.”  We all looked at each other, took a glance at the back of the boat, and realized there was no immediate solution to this problem.   You would think the driver would have a plan for this type of problem, but NOPE, he had no idea what to do.  Realizing we had less than an hour before the fireworks set off, we started scrambling around the Harbour like a fox in a chicken coop.   We asked large yachts if we could use their restroom trying to bribe them with champagne (as if they didn’t have their own personal butler serving them Dom Pérignon).  We stopped at a pier asking some guards to use the very obviously vacant port-o-potty.  They basically treated us like a group of terrorists yelling, “PLEASE DO NOT EXIT YOUR VESSEL. YOU MUST HAVE THE PROPER PERMIT TO PARK HERE.”

            It’s approximately 11:40pm at this point and our bladders are screaming for attention.  The originally small problem turned into group mayhem aboard our toilet-less water taxi.  The poor driver is calling headquarters over the radio, basically ready to abandon ship and everyone is desperately trying to figure out a solution.  There’s no better way to make strangers (of all ages) immediate friends than to have a basic human need at the forefront of everyone’s problems.

            Suddenly, the driver had an idea.  Basically…a bottom of the barrel, please don't tell my boss, I’m so sorry this is your NYE experience type of suggestion.  Homeboy finds a bucket full of rope, dumps it on the deck and we all just look at him like, “Oh no he didn’t.”  Immediately, it was a free-for-all urination celebration.  Our standards and polite etiquette went right out the window – or over the side of the boat for that matter.  The women took turns hovering over the bucket and the guys stood along the side of the boat showering gold onto the fish.  A nearby yacht decided it would be hilarious to shine their high beam right at us earning a loud, boisterous uproar at the sight of an entire boatload of people peeing together.

 

            When it finally became time for me to utilize the bathroom of champions, the boat sang out in chorus, “10-9-8…” I just kept on peeing while half crying/half laughing at what the night turned out to be.  Another comical element, as I briefly mentioned earlier, was our friend, Britney, who had been passed out the entire duration of this bathroom fiasco (apparently pacing herself while drinking isn’t in her line of expertise). We were beside ourselves just cracking up at the fact that Britney literally slept through the ENTIRE evening of fireworks.  Best $360 nap of her life.

            Of course my GoPro had died (along with the entire boat’s dignity), but my friend, Ross, managed to get some decent photos of the fireworks.  I've also included some other photos from the weekend in Sydney and Wollongong. Enjoy!


 

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18 Little Reasons to Smile

I know I'm not the first person to have this realization, but life can be really hard sometimes. Like world turned upside down, backwards and through-a-blender kinda hard. Shit happens and it can feel impossible to trudge through the storm.  People often experience rough patches in their lives: a week, a month, a year, or just a few hours that seem like a painful eternity.  Spoiler alert: it's normal.

To divulge a bit, the last nine months of my life have been, without question, the absolute roughest of my 27 years.  I've had countless break downs, multiple anxiety attacks, dozens of heart-to-hearts, and several epiphanies.  My step dad exposed that he's been having an affair for the past three years; my mom is filing for divorce; I met my biological dad for the first time; had my heart broken; worked two full time jobs to get back on my feet; and, for the first time, experienced a deep depression I've never otherwise seen in myself.

Woah, that escalated quickly.

To be honest, I'm neither embarrassed by it nor do I want to hide the story I carry with me.  Social media can be deceptive, but we all have our own pain hidden behind the scenes.

My point is that everyone has tidal waves that crash into their lives, sometimes without warning and often when you feel least prepared.  It's those times of crisis that you actually find yourself growing more than ever and getting stronger without any choice in the matter.

Sometime during my whole mess I decided...I needed a survival plan. Fast.

I thought back to when I was in grad school in Colorado.  The #1 take-away lesson from the program, for me at least, was self-care - a concept I often used to avoid (I can be annoyingly stubborn).  When you actually indulge in some self-care, life can feel more tolerable, less painful, and actually manageable.  Aside from going to therapy, having wine dates with friends, and an occasional weekend trip out of town, I needed a daily way to take care of myself when some moments felt truly unbearable.

I started heightening my awareness to little instances & momentary observations my mind would otherwise overlook.  Moments that made me smile when all I wanted to do was cry.

I kept a running log in my phone of things throughout the day that could be considered “little victories” or things that make you smile without even realizing it.  I asked a few of my coworkers at the hospital where I worked to help me with my list.  It became a frequent blurting out of “Oh, Kelsey, add this to your list…”  That in itself made me smile.  People started looking for special & funny moments in their day, somehow turning it into a microscopic social experiment.

Before I knew it, the list was long and the moments were more frequent.  I told my best friend about this concept to which she replied, "I think you just figured out mindfulness."

Here are some of my favorites on the list we created (in no particular order):

1. When you call someone and they answer the phone laughing before they even say, “Hello.”  Whatever is making them giggle on the other end tends to have a contagious effect.

2. Pull-through parking spaces and/or meters that still have money in them from a previously parked car.  Tell me that doesn't feel like a little life win.

3. Telling a good joke, delivering it perfectly and getting a satisfying response from your audience.  Feels so good to nail the punch line (I reaaaaally suck at telling jokes/stories, so it's particularly satisfying when I don't butcher the delivery).

4. When you're offered a larger sized drink than you paid for or expected: coffee, cocktail, etc.. and the extra drinkage is on the house.

5. Giving or receiving a genuine compliment from a stranger in passing -- No ulterior motives or desire for something in return.

6. When you accidentally dress exactly like someone you work with or meet up with…the whole: Oh-yeah-we-called-each-other-this-morning-and-planned-our-outfits exchange.

7. When you overhear someone else's cheerful banter (a family joking together in a grocery store or a older couple sitting next to you at the airport, for example) and you can't help but let a grin curl onto your face.

8. Catching a baby smiling to themselves when they're sleeping soundly.

9. When you're alone and a funny coincidence happens around you or to you, but no one else in the vicinity could possibly understand you so you just laugh to yourself.

10. When you see someone trip or fall, but they recover gracefully (which is never the case for me) or just crack up at themselves (usually the case for me).

11. Being offered a mint or piece of gum by a stranger. "Everyone likes the guy who offers them a piece of gum, " - Michael Scott.

12. When someone has a resting "stink face," but you speak to them and they're surprisingly very kind.

13. Over hearing a very humbling statement from a passerby: “Back when I was homeless…” (I overheard from a man during work one day at the hospital). Really reminds you of how lucky you are that those words have never come out of your own mouth. Or, if they have, feeling the compassion for the common hardship you & that person endured.

14. When you’re set up for the perfect “That’s what she said” joke.  We may have to act like adults most of the time, but we don't need to always be grown ups.

15. Getting to a restaurant, being told it will be a 20-30 minute wait, but being sat right away because something became available unexpectedly.

16. When you have a moment with a stranger in the bathroom (I imagine this mostly happens in women’s restrooms): helping to fix a shirt, make-up adjustment, passing toilet paper to another stall, laughing about how loud the music is… you walk out feeling like you just made a new friend.

 

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17. Accidentally getting more gas/petrol than you paid for, especially when the clerk doesn’t care and lets you go for free.

18. Out of the blue being invited to an event/show/exhibit that day or night.  Being able to adjust your plans and ending up having the most epic, impromptu adventure. It's always great when someone's calls you up and says, "Hey, not sure what you're doing tonight, but I have an extra ticket to...."

Feel free to add any smile-worthy moments of your own in the comment section below.  It sounds super cheesy, but I highly encourage taking note of tiny instances that give you a subconscious pep in your step.  Acknowledging the universe's little tricks makes me feel more appreciative and adds positivity to my world, especially when everything seems like it's crumbling inside.  "Give people high fives just for getting out of bed in the morning, being a person is hard sometimes" - Kid President.

 

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