Home for Christmas

20161220_102744We hadn’t been home for two years and 10 months when we touched down in Wellington on a gorgeous sunny Friday afternoon. One week before Christmas and the start of a four-week holiday. I felt so many things getting off the plane and hugging my mum, dad younger sister and best friend who had all come to the airport to meet us. Tired being the number one thing after a gruelling 26 hours in the air and 6 hours waiting at airports in Dubai and then Sydney. I also felt relieved, happy, nervous, excited, sadness and so, so, so much love.

It was all going on at once and I probably came across as quite shell-shocked, it was overwhelming. But as we got in our old family car, drove the familiar roads to my mum’s place, the conversations picked up where we left off from our last Skype calls and I felt comforted and home.20170107_114343Home was a funny word while I was at home. People were careful about how they used it around me. I was careful about how I used it, too. When I was discussing London I would say “going back to London” not the more natural, “going home to London”. I felt that I was home in Wellington, but I was also going home to London.

After living in London for almost five years, it would be weird if I didn’t think of it as home. It’s where my life is now, my friends, my things, my routines all my habits are formed from living in the crazy, busy, vibrant and beautiful city. London is my normal now.

I’m so proud of how Ben and I have made our lives in London, the experiences we’re having are so different from what we would have had, had we spent our twenties in New Zealand. I never thought big city life would suit me, I was actually very scared moving to London as I was worried I would hate it. Now I worry that I will never be able to leave this big city, how will I ever manage waiting longer than three minutes for public transport? Where will I get my Pret A Manger sandwich fix?

But then I spend time in New Zealand and see photos like these and realise I won’t care. I  loved the lifestyle in NZ. Being invited in to people’s houses, the ease of getting around and the ability to just roll up anywhere without encountering queues or missing out entirely. I know that eventually NZ will be my forever home. Not quite yet, but when the time is right.20161228_161231Also, how could we forego these views!?!

Here are a few things we got up to while home…

A quick mission up to the Belmont trig for views over Wellington harbour.

Hiking Karangahake Gorge near Waihi and spotting fantails in the trees.

Many days on the beach in Waihi. Exploring, swimming, sunbathing and Ben even learned to surf!

So many cuddles with this beauty. She wasn’t that into my selfie taking though!

I had better mention the food, too. Pavlova on Christmas day, ice creams as we road-tripped around the country and so much caramel slice. For Christmas I was given a recipe book called Treats from Little & Friday with what looks like a cracking caramel slice recipe, I can’t wait to try it out.

There was cards on New Years Eve in Auckland and Scrabble at Dad’s. I even managed to win a few 😉20170107_104645So many hours chatting in cars…20161228_150623And so many beautiful views. This is Maraetai Beach on the outskirts of Auckland City.

I love being able to feel like a tourist in a country that is also so familiar. There is always so much to discover. 20161228_150357I hope you enjoyed my photo round-up of our New Zealand trip. I have a few more photos to come of two really special days out. A day out at the zoo with my dad which was my Christmas present and as my birthday present, day out at Zealandia, a bird sanctuary, with my mum and sisters. I was really spoilt, so blogs on those days to follow.

I am enjoying going through these photos so much. The weather was pretty patchy when we were home and we got lots of spring rain, but when the sun shone we definitely got out and made the most of it.

What do you get up to while visiting friends and family at home? I love having lots of chilled days, but also recognise that this is my holiday time so make an effort to explore as well.

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26. Print a photo book

20170129_photo_book_0003For something so easy, that I really wanted to do, it’s taken me an awful long time to finally tick this off my 27 List. I think what held me back was the sheer volume of photos we take. It was hard to know where to start, so I didn’t.

Lately I have been thinking about how we document our lives. I take so many photos and save so many memory trinkets (hello every single ticket stub ever..oh and birthday cards, letters and travel brouchures… just me?). It kind of makes me ask what is the point? Why am I taking photos I never look at? Why am I keeping all these ticket stubs? Are they eventually destined for the bin anyway?

I have recently been inspired by some really cool projects – this blog post, using movie ticket stubs as art and a Kickstarter project I came across randomly. The Kickstarter project is a guy creating a photobook from a collection of notes his mother has left his father over the years. They are notes about what is in the fridge for dinner and when she will be home and they’re all handwritten on paper scraps. The project caught my attention in its celebration of the mundane. It shows how those little unsung parts of life can tell a really interesting story. I have funded the book and can’t wait to flick through the pages and delve into the story.

I’m mulling over similar ideas for my collection of ticket stubs so watch this space. But what I could make a start on is our photos, so in the last few months I have taken some action. I have created my first, of what I hope is many, photobooks and I have also started a gallery wall of some selected prints and photos.20170129_photo_book_0017Probably some of my favourite photos of our travels are the ones we took in Jordan. I really love the light and colours in Jordan. It helped that the country is packed with amazing sights too. So my first photo book is of Jordan.

I used Photobox for printing and I’m really happy with it, good price, good quality and something that we’ll keep forever. I hope to have a whole collection of these albums one day. I think my next one will be Egypt.

Speaking of Egypt, one of the few pictures we have up on our gallery wall so far, isof Ben and I fiding camels to the pyramids in Egypt. That was a total pinch myself moment so it’s nice to be reminded daily. 20170128_photo_gallery_0002I do want to have a few more actual photos in it, but I’m very happy for it to grow organically as and when I have the time and inclination. It makes me really happy to see it.

The newest edition is the cross-stitch mix tape my friend made me for my birthday. It’s so new it’s not even in some of these pics. The little fox is called Huckle, I bought it off my friend who illustrates prints and cards to sell, you can get your own Huckle, too. Find @mbmillustrations on Instagram.

My sisters and I are up the top, this is my favourite picture of us together and of course, images and trinkets from my favourite placeses New Zealand, Japan and Italy feature too.

What do you have on your walls? And what do you do with all the little keepsakes from travels and life?

Home: It is the people. It is the people.

He aha te mea nui o te ao
What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people
Maori proverb

You know when you learn a new word or phrase, and then all of a sudden it turns up everywhere?

Hutt River, Lower Hutt, New ZealandI recently came across this beautiful Maori proverb and since then, of course I have seen it everywhere since. It has already featured in this month’s #travellinkup. Pop over to Two Feet One World for another Kiwi’s take on home.

I have made a home in three countries so far and many different houses with different people and for me, what makes a place home is the connections I make and the little pieces I pick up along the way.

When I was preparing to leave New Zealand for the first time to live in Japan, I remember reading advice on how to combat homesickness. It said pack little things to remind you of home and make your new space feel familiar. Things like photos, special trinkets and even a pillow case. I took my second hand copy of Bridget Jones’s Diary and lots of pictures to put up on my wall. I got homesick a lot in my first year away in Japan and those things did help. Bridget never fails to make me laugh, all I have to do is read: 9st 1, alcohol units 2, cigarettes 0, calories 998 (excellent, v.g., perfect saint-style person) or the like I can’t help but crack a smile.

Fushimi Inari Temple- Kyoto JapanBut what helped more in that first year in a foreign country, was crossing the hall for dinners of miso fish and tofu with my fellow kiwi teacher, learning koto (a traditional Japanese harp instrument) and chatting over cake with a local housewife and spending weekends touring the prefecture I lived in with fellow foreign teachers. We would all congregate in a town for the night, cause general mayhem and party too hard, then crash for the night at the local teacher’s apartment. I knew I had to live in Japan first, I had to make my home where I was, by finding my people there.

I’ve made a lot of awesome memories throughout my travels, but what will always stick with me are those things that you never think to photograph. The normal daily life connections you make that make you feel at home. I remember the weekend nights watching The Voice and eating pimped out desserts in our Tottenham flat. My flatmate and I would buy ice cream and then add extra awesomeness to it like biscuits and cake. So good!

In my first flat in Wadestown, Wellington we would come together for Turbo Jam workouts in our only just large enough for four people lounge. In Lower Hutt it was Easter eggs + Greys Anatomy viewing with my sisters when I went home for Sunday dinner. Hangover curing breakfasts of fried herby potatoes, eggs and whatever else was available all over Yamagata prefecture, Japan. Most recently in Tufnell Park we’re walking down the road every Monday night to watch Game of Thrones and have freshly popped popcorn. Oh and having drunken sing-alongs to 90’s classics with our new flatmates. Long may they continue…

Home travel quoteThe little traditions are always changing, but the connections last.

My Facebook feed gives me political commentary from Northern Ireland, pregnancy updates from Canada and random life musings from Japan. I have a friend who blogs about crafting in Borneo and gorgeous architecture pictures pop up from a friend in Sydney. I get a once a year behind the scenes look at the Sydney Pride Parade which is always fabulous – I’m coming to watch in the flesh one year!  I wake up to picks of the ever growing animal menagerie in Upper Hutt and the award winning huskie and her lovely parents in Auckland pop up every once in a while. I catch up on #RICH living in Scotland and a Perth to Sydney cycle by someone who had barely ridden a bike before. A new baby in Toronto and girls nights in Melbourne. Sunsets from snowy mountains in Canazei, Italy and tourist-ing in Wellington.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0001I love these brief insights into everyone’s lives. Thank you to Facebook, Skype and good old snail mail for keeping the connections alive.

I often wish I could have all the awesome people in my life here with me in the UK but as the quote says, this is the price I pay for making connections as I have travelled. I’m glad we had the chance to make each other feel at home, wherever we were/are.