Posts Tagged ‘life’
Here’s a truism if there ever was one: Travel widens your horizons.
You can know a lot of things intellectually, theoretically – but often you can’t really grasp them until you’ve experienced them firsthand. Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone?
What would my ideal city be? I’m still stumped. Somewhere warm, but not punishingly hot. That poses a problem for T, though. We would prefer to live at opposite ends of the globe in that sense – I’d decamp to a sunny island, he to Antarctica. Other criteria:
- Somewhere with advanced transport – a comprehensive metro system.
- Somewhere with diverse, awesome and affordable food options, including a range of ethnic choices.
- Somewhere with cheap/free entertainment options year round.
- Somewhere with proximity to beaches, and maybe bush, mountains, etc.
- Somewhere that doesn’t have a sky high cost of living, or at least a place where incomes and costs are in line, proportionally speaking.
I’ve yet to find this magical city, and I fear it does not exist.
While New York is now my absolute favourite destination in the world, it’s not my forever city. Sure, it seems like a fabulous place to live in your 20s, but long term… probably not so much.
Toronto was another city T and I found ourselves nodding at. Canada seems pretty close to perfect as a country goes; it has the good stuff you enjoy in the US (low prices, a range of ethnic cuisines, good customer service) and none of the bad (guns, healthcare, lack of employee rights, the imperial system, litigiousness – did anyone else adore that Don monologue to the lawyer in The Newsroom?). But the weather! I doubt I’d survive a single Canadian winter.
I thought I would return home either with a newfound fervent love for New Zealand, or the exact opposite. Turns out, it’s a grudging mix of both, tilted slightly in favour of the former.
My city has its faults. But I also need to appreciate what we do have.
- Auckland has ridiculously unpredictable and rainy weather, but it’s milder than almost anywhere else in the world. A variance of about 15 degrees from hottest to coldest really isn’t very much at all. Many parts of the world have it so much worse; sure, they have lovely hot, dry summers, but by the same stroke, bitter, snowy winters.
- We have the most pathetic excuse for public transport, but we aren’t under CCTV surveillance everywhere we go. Nor do we have armed police.
- We have no squirrels, but also, we have no scary/poisonous creatures (or even plants) that are out to get you.
- It’s hard to get ahead if you’re part of the squeezed middle class, but we do have a reasonably laid back and egalitarian culture.
- We don’t have anywhere near the variety of cuisines that bigger international cities have to offer (though that’s sloooooowly improving), but at least we don’t put high fructose corn syrup in everything.
- Everything costs a lot. There’s no getting around that. But, erm, at least we don’t add sneaky taxes at the till?
I realise things in Auckland are unlikely to change. We are too small for mass transit; we don’t have the density and possibly never will. We like our houses, detached ones. (That goes for me, too.) It’s a city that’s desirable enough that prices keep steady or continue to increase; there’s still enough money around, both local and international, to feed this – even if the rest of us get left behind and priced out. We are too small for competition in consumer markets and far away from other countries – the tyranny of distance still exists for certain kinds of goods.
Living in New Zealand really is a lifestyle choice. Now, at least I’m a heck of a lot more aware of the sacrifices I’m making in exchange for what I get.
What tradeoffs do you make to live where you live? Have you found your forever city?
Tags: life, reflections, travel
“What happens when we go home? Do we just work till we die?”
(October 21, 2013, filed under Shit My Husband Says)
For the past six months, I’ve lived in a perpetual state of flux. I’ve never known what the week ahead will bring, let alone what lies in store for us the next day. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with uncertainty, and now, it’s time to get used to routine again. To get up in the morning knowing, more or less, what to expect from the coming 24 hours.
I’m not unhappy about that. I could use some structure again. I want some of the conventional things that society dictates I should want, and I’m not ashamed to admit it: a steady income, a house of my own, maybe even a pet and kids someday.
What I don’t want is to sink into mundanity. The older you get, the faster the time seems to go, and I don’t want to lose precious weeks or days to a forgettable rote existence. I want to make memories, not just once a year, but throughout the year. A life that doesn’t warrant escape. One without the Monday blues. And I want this for both T and myself, with the knowledge that I’m much further along this path than he is, and that it’ll take work to craft that mutually happy existence.
If our priorities change, a few months or a few years from now, then maybe we could do this again. Work and save for a few years, travel for a while, then come home, rinse and repeat. Maybe we can craft a lifestyle where we work for 10 months a year and travel for 2. Or maybe we’ll choose the traditional middle-class route, and treasure the memory of the last six months like a precious stone, bringing it out every so often to admire, polish, and remind ourselves that once upon a time we were young and carefree with the whole world in front of us.
Work till we die, or work till we retire. Sound depressing? In a sense, it is … but it’s only a terrifying thought if we fail to make the most of life in between – in our careers, in our relationships, in our hobbies.
Tags: life, reflections, travel
Long-term travel changes you, sometimes in ways you could never have anticipated.
I have so much more respect for people who do our grunt work
The people who produce our food. Who make sure our trains and ferries run smoothly. Getting out of the office and experiencing so many facets of the tourism industry and beyond has given me way more appreciation for their contributions. It may not be the most enthralling work in the world but it’s work that needs to be done. Even as we move toward a weightless economy, some of the most seemingly simple work remains the most crucial.
I’m way more environmentally conscious
It started back in Asia, with all the water bottles T and I must have added to landfill. And it only got worse from there. All the little individually wrapped items on planes, in hotels, and so on… When you live out of your backpack, you become hyper aware of everything that passes through your hands. Paper – maps, tickets, receipts. Packaging. Plastic bags (terrible for the environment as they are, they’re still very handy and in some cases, necessary). Plus, having been through the likes of the Netherlands and Germany, we’ve seen how recycling really gets done. Come on New Zealand, we’ve got a lot to catch up on.
I’m more globally-minded
Back home, world events just seem so far away. Protests, riots, bombings all take place on the other side of the globe. Buffered by oceans on all sides, it’s easy to get complacent in our isolation. But being in the thick of it all for a change is a reminder of how closely we’re all connected. When the US was first considering strikes on Syria, we were in Italy. And that’s when I realised: Whoa. We’re not at home anymore. That’s only a couple of countries over. That’s REALLY FREAKING CLOSE TO US RIGHT NOW. (You may find this beginner’s guide to Syria helpful, if you’re interested.)
There are some benefits to living in a young country
As one of the most recently settled countries around, New Zealand has a short and relatively dull history. We don’t have much in the way of culture to speak of. It’s not surprising that a lot of travellers find it boring here.
The upside of that, though, is that we don’t have the integration problems that many other countries have, or at least not to the same extent. Every country has its own racists (usually of the type who conveniently ignore the fact that their ancestors were immigrant settlers not so long ago), but compared to many other countries, I honestly believe that our race relations are positively rosy. We’re also largely spared the strange dilemma that old cities face: how to preserve their heritage while incorporating new influences; modernising without diluting their traditions and culture.
It’s human nature to play the comparison game
I find myself trying to draw parallels constantly. Oh, this must be about as far as Hamilton is from Auckland. Oh, this looks just like our mountains! We draw on our knowledge of the familiar to make sense of what’s new around us. I find this annoying when other people do this too much, but I’m guilty of it myself.
On a similar note, I’ve also come to realise the true power of a strong brand. They can be a lifesaver in a foreign country – Coke, Twix, Subway, or of course, that familiar beacon the world over, McDonald’s. And after flying with a bunch of different airlines, I’ve got a lot of love for our national carrier, Air New Zealand. I genuinely think it’s up there with the best, and let’s face it, their flight videos kick ass.
Human beings are godawful
We suckity suckity suck. Our compulsion to meddle in other countries’ affairs, to invade and conquer and kill one another, is beyond belief. The more we travel, the more I realise just how dark and bloodsoaked our history truly is. And religion is to blame for a lot of it. I hate that there were – and still are – people willing to murder over religious differences. I suppose it’s admirable that there are people who are ready to die for their beliefs, but it’s all so heartbreakingly futile, particularly in cases where the two sides believe in basically the same god.
But it’s the people who make the place
People are people are people. I knew this already, of course. We’re all human beings, and essentially, we tick the same. We respond in kind, we take pride in where we come from, and we’re eager to help others if we can. Sure, sometimes there are significant cultural differences, and yes, stereotypes exist for a reason – but they’re often less prevalent than you might think.
And ultimately, people – the connections you make – are what make travel memorable. Amsterdam and Prague and Edinburgh were lovely, but Berlin, Munich, New York, Vermont, Toronto, Chicago… they will all stand out in my memories for the generous, welcoming and friendly people who welcomed us into their homes, who showed us around, who let us be a part of their lives.
Tags: life, reflections, travel
Friends are awesome. We could leave it at that, and you’d know exactly what I mean.
But it’s also super handy to have certain kinds of friends. For example:
Our 1998 car has always driven slightly funny, and while we could pin it on something to do with the left back wheel, in 2-plus years no mechanic we’ve been to figured out what the culprit was. But after one conversation over drinks with an acquaintance who works on cars, T came home with a fresh take and a <$200 fix. Frickin’ wheel bearings (um, I think). Cars. So many parts. So many things that can go wrong.
The first time I got a UTI, I self-diagnosed through Google. But the hypochondriac in me still sought out comfort from my med school friend and reassurance that I didn’t have some rare illness that would end in my death.
When you live with a bunch of unruly boys who like to wrestle in the lounge and are prone to breaking windows (easy DIY fix) or smashing up light switches/wiring (not so easy to DIY) it’s much cheaper to bribe a mate who’s a sparky with a box of beer. Could also add other general tradespeople to the list.
Because TAXES. Holy hell, taxes. That said, accountants are everywhere. My mother, several friends’ mothers, several friends, even, and in the future, quite possibly, my own brother. I bet you have multiple accountants in your circles too.
A friend in a good band is invaluable. Their gigs give you a reason to go out on a weekend night, and they’ll hopefully play at your birthday party.
The friend with a bach
Holiday houses are not cheap to rent and they’re always booked up for the times you want to go away. Also add: the friend with the boat/jetskis/kayaks/other leisure toys.
A highly travelled friend is the one you go to for recommendations, insights and encouragement.
(While it might sound a bit mercenary, this really is just a bit of fun.) Got any to add to the list?
Tags: life, reflections
Time for a few confessions.
- I fear I’ll never be good enough at anything professionally. I often feel like a fraud. I fear that I will never figure it out.
- This isn’t a big fear, but a small niggly part of me is afraid marriage won’t last.
- I fear we will run out of money on our trip and that we will be homeless, jobless, and any other -less you can think of upon our return (even though I know we have family and friends who would take us in and my emergency fund, and at a pinch, credit cards – and I have a job to come back to). I’m equal parts exhilarated and terrified about embracing the great unknown, though the anxiety is rearing its head more often as the day approaches.
What’s weighing on your mind today?
Tags: life, reflections
I struggled with deciding whether or not to write this post. While the name-changing thing has never been up for debate for me, I do have some strong feelings on the matter. And, troublingly, I know some of those feelings are wrong (inasmuch as an opinion can be wrong, which by definition it can’t).
Intellectually, I get that choosing to change your name isn’t any less of a feminist choice, and is in fact an active choice, whereas you don’t get any choice when you’re lumped with your family name at birth. But as I’ve previously written, I am secretly disappointed when I hear a woman I know is taking her husband’s last name. This is a bias that I keep to myself; I would never presume to judge anyone else’s choice, but deep down a definite pang is there. It’s one of those things that I know logically doesn’t make sense. How do you overcome that?!
I’ve been surprised at the fact that I’ve been asked about whether I’m keeping my name at all. Asking a woman whether she plans to change her name after marriage? I suppose it depends how close you are, but to my mind, it doesn’t feel like an appropriate question – I wouldn’t ever ask this of anyone. I suppose this is one of my personal quirks. What can I say? I’m very private.
Even in the 21st century, this still seems to be very much the exception rather than the norm. To me, the whole practice feels very archaic. (This post by Bitch PhD pretty much hits the spot for me.) Let’s face it – name changing is a bullshit patriarchal custom, a hangover from the days when women were no more than property to be sold off to husbands by their families. With that said, I do plan to have our kids take T’s name. I don’t have strong feelings about that, despite being adamant about retaining mine.
One of my friends used to say “I never want to be a [very common Indian surname]“. And what do you know, she found herself a nice boy, who was of course saddled with that accursed name. Funny how things turn out. Despite that, I’m almost certain that NOT changing her name was ever an option.
People who decide to change their names seem to do it for one of two reasons:
They prefer their husband’s name – fair enough. I despise my surname; it’s caused me plenty of grief. But at least it flows, which is more than I can say for slapping T’s last name next to my first name.
Or because, you know, it’s tradition. I don’t buy that. I’ve never considered the name thing an integral part of marriage. Perhaps it’s because my mother didn’t. When I was in primary school, a friend once saw a letter addressed to both my parents by name. “Aren’t your parents married?” he goggled. “Yes – she just kept her own name. And?” was my reply.
This is such a dealbreaker for me that when we butted heads over this pre-proposal, I was prepared to simply scrap marriage altogether. Eventually T realised how important it was to me, and accepted it.
Heck, I’ve gone 24 years without ever bothering to change my first name to the name I use (my Christian name is not my legal name), partly because it feels like I’d be culturally rejecting a choice my parents no doubt put a lot of thought into, but mainly because of the cost and hassle. (I’m finding it hard to pin down what it actually costs, but it looks like nearly $130, plus all kinds of extra fees for name changes on various documents.)
It’s not just the IRD. It’s the NZTA for your driver’s licence. It’s your bank/s. Your investment fund providers. Your insurance company. Your cellphone provider. Your ISP. Your power company. Your place of work. And no doubt dozens of other important places where your name is on file.
Another biggie for me is that I’ve been published for years under my name. But I think that name changing can be professionally detrimental no matter what your field. It’s insanely unfair, but there are studies that have found women who take their husband’s names end up earning less. Possibly those women are also more likely to take time out from work and raise children, accounting for that – or maybe it’s genuine bias in the workplace that penalises them. Or some other factor. /shrug
(When I first read that, I thought ‘how in heck would anyone know if you’ve changed your name? DUMB QUESTION – unless you get married at say, 20, and start off your professional career under it. Women who get married at work change their email addresses – thus announcing their new marital status to the entire office, which men never have to do – and then obviously have to deal with things future employers calling up past references who know them as somebody else.)
Unfortunately I don’t really see any way to smashing that barrier, aside from soldiering on, choosing to change your name, and kicking ass in the workplace – I just won’t be a part of that, I suppose.
And now, after writing this, I’m more conflicted than ever – not about my personal choices, but just by all the social and cultural norms and ramifications involved in a wider context.
Again: I’m not here to bash on you for changing your last name. I’m genuinely trying to reconcile my feelings on this matter.
Tags: life, marriage, relationships, weddings
One of my dearest friends is about to get formally engaged. It’s a modern arranged marriage, which, from my perspective, simply means that her parents have been heavily involved in the matchmaking (think of them as her wingmen, out scouting the community!), and in the end she has the ultimate choice.
I’ve known her for over 10 years now, and I’ve always known that she would almost certainly have an arranged marriage. That said, I just wasn’t expecting it to happen so soon and so fast…
Their compressed timeframe is absolutely mind boggling. They met last month. They’re getting engaged over in his hometown over Easter. They’ll be tying the knot later this year (as in, within six months or less). I don’t know about him, but she hasn’t really dated anyone else. I know it took me years to learn to be in a healthy relationship, so I struggle to fathom how two strangers, essentially, can slot into each other’s lives just like that.
That said, I really like the guy. Us girls all do, based on our one and only meeting so far – we have no quibbles whatsoever with him. In fact, he seems just about eerily perfect for her. After all, the families have spent years looking for the right match, so maybe it’s not all that surprising. I think they’ll be just fine.
Intellectually, I don’t have a problem with her arranged marriage. It’s an active, informed choice she’s made, and I support it. Given that we’re not dealing in dowries here, I don’t see anything inherently anti-feminist about an arranged marriage.
BUT. There’s a but. Most of all, what bugs me is the fact that by default, she will be moving to Australia to live. And that’s what gets my goat. That the convention is to defer to the guy – though I suppose the context for this part of the tradition is exactly the same reason many women take a backseat to men in general, arranged marriage or not: generally, the guy is older (in this case, true), his career is more settled (true), lucrative (unclear – I don’t know what he does aside from the broad industry), etc, and thus takes precedence. I imagine this is even more pronounced in an arranged marriage, where the families are probably quite concerned with finding a ‘successful’ man, while the criteria for good wife material is perhaps not measured quite the same way.
Tags: life, reflections, relationships
As some of you might recall, I worked shifts up until the middle of 2011. It’s funny how quickly you forget about that kind of thing, though, once you’re immersed into the dominant 9-5, Monday to Friday mindset.
My journo friends who don’t work in magazines/community papers/business news all work constantly changing hours. There are a couple of cops from our high school group who also work long and varying shifts, with long stretches of days on followed by long stretches of days off. And of course, there’s my other friend, who’s a newly minted doctor and gets slammed with shifts that would probably find me passed out from exhaustion by the end of my first week. Plus security, hospitality and all kinds of other industries also operate round the clock, year-round.
An ex-colleague has decided that as much as shift work stinks, it’s more about the people and environment than anything else: i.e., it’s better to work shifts with an amazing boss overseeing you rather than work regular hours but chafe under management by a total prick. Intellectually, I agree – but having experienced the pros and cons of shift work, I still hope to manage to stay firmly on this side of the fence.
Working shifts enables you to:
- Beat traffic
- Get stuff done during off-peak times (banking, grocery shopping, exercise)
- Can work well with your body clock
On the other hand, it often means:
- You aren’t able to use public transport, depending on your exact shifts and where you live.
- Wreaking havoc on your social and personal life
- Messing with your body clock – you might feel that you have fewer hours to operate in when your routine is constantly changing and you’re always struggling to keep up
- You can’t commit to certain extra-curriculars with fixed schedules
When I worked Wednesday-Sunday, I pretty much never saw T, and the time we did have together was NOT quality time. I was getting paid well and racking up great work experience, but didn’t have much of a personal life. Monday and Tuesdays were my chance to breathe and catch up on things, usually consisting of: a cathartic run, some guitar practice, some reading, cleaning our little house, baking, making lunches for the week, and leisurely walks to the fruit and veg shop to pick up fresh produce. (Those days always went far too quickly.) And when we lost a few staff and I started having to rotate across various shifts pretty regularly, I felt like I had even less time, with the constant disruptions to my schedule. Life in the 9-5, however, means I sometimes actually almost have time to be bored! (I never am; there’s always something to do, but I technically *could* be legitimately doing nothing.)
There’s another benefit to industries that operate round-the-clock, year-round, though. When your company doesn’t shut down over Christmas, thus forcing you to take 2-3 weeks off when EVERYONE ELSE in the country is on break, you have more flexibility to take your holidays when you actually want to go away (particularly useful during winter). I used to volunteer to work public holidays quite frequently, or at least not whinge about being rostered on, because I’d rack up extra pay simply for being there – time and a half, legally, and I think those of us who were union members received double) as well as an extra day of leave to bank.
What kinds of hours do you work/would you prefer to work?
Tags: career, life, work
I’ve grown up in Auckland. I probably will live out my life here. I’ve loved building up savings and a financial foundation. I love what I do.
But I want more.
(Typical bloody Gen-Yer.)
Tons of my friends have already gone off on their OEs; some have already returned. And others are about to leave. “Is this the OE you never had?” my boss asked. (Way to make me feel over the hill, dude. But my response, in a nutshell, was yes.)
Putting an end date on our time here has had the added benefit of making me appreciate everything I do have a little more. But the impending change, excitement, freedom, is definitely dominating it all.
I don’t believe in waiting till you’re old to travel (have you seen Up??!!). And I simply wasn’t sure if my job would be conducive to taking the big annual international trips that were in the original five year plan (at my old workplace, yes, but things are less flexible here). It was a case of deciding, what would I regret more? Doing this, or NOT? And the answer was clear.
It’ll never be easier to do this. We’re young, healthy, energetic (relatively). We’re not chained down by golden handcuffs; it’s not like either of us is tied to a Wall St desk raking in the big bucks (I just finished reading Bond Girl. ‘Nuff said).
Our wedding is in May, and it wasn’t a crazy leap from contemplating a European honeymoon to considering a full blown RTW trip, particularly once STA Travel came out with its earlybird RTW tickets.
So, come May 10, for the next six months we will be nomads.
Fly, little kiwi.
So, there’s a lot to say! I’ve got more travel posts coming up, including a full itinerary (I hope to meet up with some of you along the way!) – is there anything in particular you want to know? Tell me, and I’ll cover it!
Tags: life, reflections, travel
It would be really nice to attend a wedding in which the couple was made for each other and we as guests fully supported the union. It’s sad to say that of the two I’ve been to (and one that I had to miss due to being out of town), none quite meet this benchmark.
“Non crazy chicks are boring” is a line I actually heard at the most recent one. Not surprisingly, this is a couple who thrive on drama – or at least, their entire relationship is built upon it. That, and the child they have together. But there’s a lot to be said for stability, especially when you already have a family. And while a little craziness can be fun, abusiveness is never kosher.
Because objectively, that’s what that relationship is. Abusive. While he’s not the only guy we know to be in a seriously unhealthy relationship – my female friends thankfully all have good taste, apparently – the other three I can think of have at least had the sense to get out. This one decided to commit for life.
And somehow, I get the feeling that saying a few vows in front of a pastor is not going to magically fix things. Just an inkling.
Abusive = overly controlling (whether that’s born of insecurity or something else, I don’t know. I’m talking setting arbitrary curfews like a parent rather than a partner, taking all your partner’s money, and so on), as well as physical abuse (manifested through blows, attempted choking, smashing of all your possessions, etc). Not all of these apply to the guy in question specifically, but these are all things that have happened collectively to the four friends I’m thinking of who’ve been in unhealthy relationships at one point or another.
Making things slightly more tricky is when mental illness plays a part. (To my knowledge, it was/is a factor in some of these cases, though I’m not of course saying mental illness is or should be a barrier to happy relationships. Please don’t think that’s what I’m getting at. What I am trying to say is that being a human punching bag, literally or figuratively, is not helping either of you). But it is not an excuse to put up with abusive treatment.
Guys (and gals). You deserve to be in a healthy and loving relationship, one that makes you feel good about yourself more of the time than not. When a restraining order is part of the mix (and you STILL go back?!), if you’re being regularly thrown out of the house, if your possessions are being unceremoniously dumped on your best man’s lawn while you hide inside his house, ALL IS NOT GRAVY.
Despite anything we say or do, sometimes they hang on in there – it’s hard to watch and stand by but sometimes that’s all you can do. Is there anything more frustrating than hearing a friend justify their partner’s unacceptable behaviour?
Though of course you can never really know unless you’re put in a situation yourself, these would be my dealbreakers:
- Prohibitive amounts of debt (subjective, I know)
- Other irresponsible money habits
- Not accepting you for who you are
- Being overly controlling OR dependent on you
- Doesn’t put you first (or second. Sorry, I’m still putting on my lifejacket first if the plane goes down
- Violence of any kind. T is more than twice my size, so this would be an absolute non-negotiable. (The odd bruise caused by him picking me up with too firm a grip, – I’m delicate like an overripe fruit and was basically one giant walking bruise the year I played soccer – is excluded.)
And that’s about all I have to say about that.
With a slightly heavy heart, I ask you – what would your relationship dealbreakers be?
Tags: life, rant, reflections, relationships