The reality of leaving

The reality of leaving

When you choose to live in another country for an extended period of time, leaving one place for another is something you eventually have to face. One place may offer that sense of adventure, while the other represents familiarity or security - going back to our ‘real lives’ is often a misrepresentation of what the experience gives us. I’ve been living in Peru for almost a year, and when to head back to NZ is something I’ve been torn about. Even though I have a return ticket, I always had the choice to forfeit it if I did want to stay.

The reality is that you will always miss out on something or on someone, because knowing that wherever you choose to call home, you just can’t be in two places at once. People have been asking me how I felt about going back to New Zealand, and for the most part it’s felt like a good decision for me. Not because I’m looking to go back to what’s familiar, but knowing in my gut that my happiness lies in knowing that I always have a choice. I can’t say if I’ll stay in New Zealand in the long-term, but for now, that’s where I feel I need to be.

The old man in the alley

The old man in the alley

Growing up and until my early thirties, I just assumed that I would be a mother. It wasn’t something that I felt pressured into, yet something that I somehow thought I had to be. Motherhood is such a natural part of my culture, that it never occured to me to question it. I have friends who’ve struggled with trying to conceive, and I also have friends who chose not to have children. Then a few weeks ago it hit me. Whether or not I have children of my own in the future, I know that they’ve been an integral part of embracing my purpose. No matter how much I’ve tried to walk away from teaching, I somehow find my way back to it - whether it be teaching English or dance.

Maybe I thought that having children meant that I wouldn’t be alone in my old age. I grew up in a culture where the older generation were cared for by their children, or at least younger relatives. I didn’t even know that rest homes existed until we moved to New Zealand. There, I’ve seen once active people go into rest homes and over time lose their joie de vivre, not from old age, but from feeling like they’ve been forgotten.

There’s an old man that lives in the gap between my apartment and a brick wall. It’s below my bedroom window on the first floor, so I hear him every night. Sometimes he sings, sometimes he laughs, sometimes I hear him have arguments with an invisible foe. I see him arguing with himself more these days. He’s in a permanent state of stupor but never has he been rude to me, in fact he holds the gate door open for me, especially when it rains.

Why taking a gap year in my thirties has been the best decision ever

Why taking a gap year in my thirties has been the best decision ever

If like me, you’re single and in your thirties, you’ll probably relate. I go through a cycle where I’m super comfortable about where I’m at in life - I do what I want, I’m going out and having fun and just doing me. Then,
I meet someone who either makes me rethink this whole being single thing, or it reminds exactly why I like being single.

People usually take their gap year after high school, but what happens when you get to your thirties and you feel like you’re on a raft in the middle of the ocean without a paddle? That’s why I decided to take a gap year. Sure, it isn’t the most adulting decision ever, but that space, time and permission to start over and get to know the real me again has been a real game changer. I’ve made some incredible connections and taken up new hobbies that I never thought I would, like rock climbing.

Taking a gap year in my thirties is not like a holiday, that’s the mindset I had to adapt. I knew that if I worked, I could live in Peru for at least a year. I had no plans of spending my days lying on a tropical beach somewhere - my gap year had a purpose, even if that purpose has changed somewhat throughout the months I’ve lived here. This wasn’t about taking a break from my ‘real’ life, everything that happened this year has shaped who I’ve become, as much as the memories I made in New Zealand.

Remember that you're not starting from scratch, you're starting over with experience

Remember that you're not starting from scratch, you're starting over with experience

The cackle of my laughter briefly filled the room. Two of my girlfriends were teasing me about a guy I liked - they gestured a slight flick of the hair and it triggered laughter in me that I couldn’t contain. I had been away for three weeks and today marked just my third day back in Huaraz. There was a comforting familiarity in their presence and seeing them was the icing on the cake on being home.

I had a giggle to myself as I walked home, remembering the mischievous glint in their eyes. Huaraz feels like home, it really does. I’ve begun to build a new life here, made friends, so it will surprise some people back in Whakatane that I’ll be heading back in just three months. Mind you, that’s almost a year living in Peru.

Hasta luego Huaraz!

Hasta luego Huaraz!

“Make sure you come back!” That’s what most people have told me these last two weeks. I’ve made friends here, and Huaraz does feel like home. As much as I’m excited for my month off work and traveling, in the back of my mind it feels like a dry-run for when I have to leave Peru for real in September.

My bus will leave in a few hours, I’ve never really done the backpacking thing. Even though I have a list of what I want to see in the south of Peru, I also have a flexible itinerary. That’s both exciting and slightly out of my comfort zone. Who am I kidding? It’s going to be a month of incredible memories!

Finding my bliss - the incredible gift of giving back to myself

Finding my bliss - the incredible gift of giving back to myself

Everyone has their catalyst story - when we look back at that time of our lives wondering if this was all we were meant to do, meant to be. Here’s the fascinating thing I’ve learned in my most recent introspection, I wasn’t necessarily unhappy with how my life was going. Although I was doing and being what I wanted to be before my own ‘a-ha’ moment, I wasn’t living a life that was soul-enriching either. You see, not everyone has to be at their lowest of lows to ask that question - is this it?

The woman behind these words can say honestly say how grateful she is for what pushed her to walk in the unknown. To discover and learn from the shadow parts so that she can appreciate and feel joy from within. In this chapter of my life, I know I’ve found my bliss.

For me, knowing and living my bliss is about letting go. To live from a grateful and abundant mindset and most of all, to be honest about who I am.

Hike. Eat pizza. Repeat.

Hike. Eat pizza. Repeat.

I lay on my bed while using my fingers to count how many months I’ve been in Peru. Seven. Almost seven months. It’s only 7am on a Saturday morning - I close my eyes again and ten minutes go by. April is my birthday month. Just a few days after my 36th birthday, I hope to gift myself a day on top of a glacier. I have set my sights on Mateo, a moderate terrain that can be climbed in a day. It’s towards the tail end of the rainy season, so I’m optimistic that we’ll have a mint view.

That reminds me, I also need to set aside a day or two to go rock climbing with Guido before I go on holiday in May. I tried it for the first time a couple of weeks ago and I saw a shift in me. I think that goes hand in hand with trying anything hard, right?

It took me two goes to get up what they called a “really easy rock”. On my second attempt and while halfway up the rock face, I began to hear those familiar internal tapes of doubt. I looked down at him and yelled, “What do I do next?” He smiles and yells, “Keep going up!” I laughed. And climb I did. I was pretty proud of my effort that day.

Will you be my Galentine?

Will you be my Galentine?

I started writing this amidst loud sighs and pensive faces (plus a few sneezes), that’s right, it’s Valentine’s Day and my students are spending an hour and half with me to sit a not so romantic exam. There’s the promise of chocolate at the end of it, plus an extra for someone who delivers the best short speech. I hold great admiration for all the students I’ve taught during my three months teaching English in Huaraz. It’s like every cycle (a cycle lasts a month) I get a small glimpse into their world, then after two months I’m moved to teach different class and I start all over again.

There’s usually time before classes to talk to some of the other students while they wait for theirs. It’s taken awhile for most of them to realise that I’m a teacher, and not a student. I’ve started to say hello, even if their level is basic, those short interactions gives them the chance to practice and they seem to enjoy it. Personally, the best part of teaching has always been about seeing students bridge the gap. For some it’s slow and steady, and for others it’s like a growth spurt.

In the pursuit of joy, remember, you are enough

In the pursuit of joy, remember, you are enough

I heard my voice on the podcast and it felt surreal to listen to her talk about the life I had just six months ago. Just as I am now, at the time of the recording I was riding a wave of optimism as I was getting ready to take that leap of faith. We’re only into the second month of 2019, and I can honestly say that this year feels totally different. It feels lighter, more peaceful and full of possibilities. In a few days, I’m taking a step towards a goal I set for myself last year. Does it make me weird to be excited about stepping into the unknown?

Often people ask how I can do all the things I do. Like solo travel, to follow my passions, you know, basically be me. My answer is simple: Be one step ahead of the fear and the rest you’ll figure out along the way. Stop comparing my progress to others, because if I wanted what they have, am I willing to do the work to get there? You see, you are energy, feed your passions, be kind and let go of judgement. The rest are just details. And yes, you are enough.

Before I dive right into you

Before I dive right into you

I had brunch with a guy on Sunday, and what was meant to be just a breakfast sandwich turned into a four conversation. And pizza. Oh and juice - who knew mango and basil is a great combination, right? Really refreshing.

He sat at a table in the shade, there was no one else at the cafe so he was easy to spot. His dimples were unmistakable too, I liked it when he smiled. It can be a bit awkward meeting someone for the first time, and I found myself talking faster than usual. When I realised this, I took a deep breathe and relaxed, and that’s when conversation flowed.

There’s that word again, flow. Lately it’s been popping up regularly on my social media, in conversations with people and sometimes, even at 3am when I’m bed. It asks me to look at my life in a way I’ve never seen it before. So, what does it mean to go with the flow?

It starts with walking in my truth, hand-in-hand with the weird part of me that kind of hides away in the corner in social situations. Especially in Peru - where I’m both free to be who I am, yet still feeling my way through an introverted culture. There are times when I feel too loud, too energetic - sometimes even too independent.

Ciao 2018! Thanks for the lessons on life and men who love pizza

Ciao 2018! Thanks for the lessons on life and men who love pizza

Choices and making them isn’t something I paid much attention to. A lot of the time I’ve just winged it and in some ways it’s served me well. I mean it got me as far as Peru, right? Then this big shift happened and it changed the way I saw myself and everything that was around me. What if my future isn’t something that happens on the other side of sleep, because that “future” is happening right now.

We’ve heard it all before, and it answers to different names. Someday, one day, could have, should have...even tomorrow. A lot of 2018 for me was spent in retrospect about the last two years, and how I was convinced that I “had to heal myself” to move on. Then I realised that each time I chose to do things that made me happy, to love myself more, it was greatly influencing the life I was creating for myself. When you let go of judgement (both of yourself and others) it asks you address the last emotional triggers that keep you from flying.

A Christmas postcard from Huaraz

A Christmas postcard from Huaraz

It’s my first Christmas away from New Zealand in almost ten years, maybe more, I can’t remember. This time of year has often been a time to recharge more than being about the “festive” season, and because my family has been scattered around the world over the years, gift giving has mostly been more about making the time to catch up or sending each other pictures of the food we had that day. You know, the simple things in life.

December has been a full on month, teaching four classes including Saturdays. I know some teachers do more, and they even study at university after their classes. It’s something I often joke about with one of the teachers, like, when does he actually sleep?

The Not So Typical Like Letter

The Not So Typical Like Letter

I actually told someone I liked them today, oh wait, does it count when you also tell them that you “used” to like them? You know, like in the past tense. Not really sure on that one.

It’s been a weird few days for me, my energy has been really up and down. My mornings, when I would normally go to the market and then make time to cook lunch, has been swallowed up by extra commitments. Falling back into those old patterns of being in the business of being busy, not eating as healthy and definitely not sleeping enough.

As I sat there watching my students frown at their exam papers, on impulse, I tore a piece of paper from my notebook. It made that satisfactory tearing sound that made you feel productive in a sea of silent tension. I picked up the pen and began to write. My hands had the usual onset of cramping that anyone who ceased to write essays in their high school years knew too well. No matter how neat your penmanship was back then, as an adult, it just looks like chicken scratches.

Lost In Translation: Yohan's Story

Lost In Translation: Yohan's Story

He worked at the hotel and I was a guest - our connection was purely platonic and maybe he just needed someone to listen to his story. Sometimes it’s easier to tell your story through a screen, to a stranger, it feels less confronting that way. Then again, I only speak a little Spanish so it made sense that his story came to life with the help of Google Translate. Maybe at the end of my time in Peru, when my Spanish is better, I can rewrite this so that his voice can truly be heard in my words.

”Yohan was born in the mountain city of Merida in Venezuela, on the 7th of November 1992. Long before the economic crisis of the past decade, he was raised by a single mother, growing up with his five brothers. There had been six, but a brother passed away. A lot of our conversations centred around his family, they meant the world to him and his biggest motivation for moving to Peru.”

Teaching Moments In Solo Travel

Teaching Moments In Solo Travel

This photo was a teaching moment for me – it was taken in my room at a not so pretty hostel (it was a dud). There was no keyhole on my door and to lock it from the inside was a simple slide latch and a brick I found on the floor. On the outside are two hanging screws with loops and a padlock you would use for a garden shed. Today, I’m not sure if the shower will work, but the optimist in me is hopeful.

Did I not read the reviews before booking this place? Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. It could be that I had grown complacent in my month in Zorritos and decided to take a chance on the price. That’s irrelevant now, and to be honest I’m glad it happened early on in my travels. It reminded me to be more present in my decision making, and if things don’t go to plan, I will take it as it comes. In a few months, this just becomes another story I can laugh about.

The Privilege Of Travel

The Privilege Of Travel

I’m going to be honest, these past two weeks in Peru have really opened my eyes to my privilege. Growing up, I had seen and understood this level of poverty in the Philippines - though having food on the table was never a worry for me. Both my parents have degrees, taught at University and had good paying jobs when we lived there. We may not have been ‘rich’ by Western standards, but at the least, they had the means to help us migrate as a family. My parents’ hard work and determination afforded me this privilege.

What is privilege? Why do I think it’s hit me in Peru, and not when I go home to the Philippines? Privilege is an advantage that a person or group has because of their social position or economic status. Even though I have called New Zealand home for the last 27 years, I have been back to visit the Philippines since. It’s not that I turn a blind eye to the poverty or social injustices, we just grew up accepting that it’s the way of life. The culture is so ingrained that to affect change will be multi-generational, way beyond my own.

A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama

A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama

Did you learn about palindromes as a kid? As a lover of linguistics, I often wondered if other languages had them too. Let’s be clear about this post - I’m very much still a woman and don’t worry Mum, I promise that I am in Peru. At lunch, we actually walked past a canal, and as far as plans go, this trip is really teaching me to go with the flow. Synchronicity is the Universe’ way to reassure you they’ve got your back.

Travelling has always been a transformative experience for me, usually in a phase of my life where I craved change. We are not made to stay stationary (although it may feel like that at times), and when I have resisted that, the Universe steps in, guiding me back to my purpose. When I landed in Peru on Friday, I knew this is where I needed to be honest, and I can’t really tell you why.

How To Prepare Your Heart And Mind For Travel

How To Prepare Your Heart And Mind For Travel

People ask me everyday, “Are you excited about Peru?”

I’m so excited about traveling that my body is literally sick with anticipation. My eating habits are all whack, sleeping patterns are more like naps of doom, and don’t even talk to me about ‘the list’. It’s not like I’m getting cold feet, more like I wish this was a spontaneous trip so I can just pack my bag and disappear already.

Here’s the thing, as a frequent solo traveller, I’m used to these pre-travel jitters. You just have to ride it out and check yourself before you wreck yourself. Before leaving on my bigger adventures, there's a mental health checklist I go through to make sure that I have my heart and mind ready before flying out.

There She Goes - Getting Ready For The Jump Off

There She Goes - Getting Ready For The Jump Off

The rain has stopped, and the house is really quiet. Except for my music - it feels like the world’s asleep and it’s not even 10pm. I’ve spent most of today on the couch, so maybe I’m trying to feel productive in what’s left of today. Hiking 18km in the Pakihi beats my usual leg day session. Today I chose to rest, plus I was sore.

What’s on my mind tonight? Nothing heavy, just reflecting I guess.

You can say that for every ending there is a beginning. Awhile back when I got the letter in the mail, I marked the date on my phone: Monday July 16, 2018. If you’ve been following my journey, you can probably figure out what was in that letter. I thought I would be sad, but really I felt more relief than anything, this was it, the sign from the Universe that really, it’s time for me to move on.

The Burden Of Chasing The Certainty

The Burden Of Chasing The Certainty

I wrote down some long-held goals last night. Like anything, when you hear an idea verbalised or written in front of you, it gives it life. Maybe a soul even? It’s no longer this thing that just floats around in your head, you consciously drive energy towards it. I may not part seas like Moses, but I know I’m going to live the best life for me.

Oh boy, I felt an incredible shift in energy and for the first time I could see how that seed can grow. Isn’t that one of the hardest things to do, get started? I asked myself if I was taking steps to move towards those goals, and the answer didn’t surprise me at all...sorta. Sorta is this word that tells you that you have one foot in and the other is ready to bolt when it gets too hard. It’s that word that means you haven’t let go completely.