All the good things coming

As I mentioned in this post, a bunch of exciting things are coming up.
While I was back home over Christmas, I wasn’t missing New Zealand one bit. I didn’t want to go back. Why? Because I had nothing waiting for me there. With the exception of the summer basketball season coming up, I had absolutely nothing planned – and that scared me.
But since I couldn’t avoid going back – and I didn’t want to stay in Italy either – I decided to take the situation into my own hands and create something exciting to look forward to.
So here’s what I did:

  • Quit the dogs
    As much as I love my doggos, I had been walking them for about seven months now and I knew it was time to move on. This job was not adding anything to my CV and it was preventing me from applying to other potential positions that could have opened more doors to what I actually wanted to do. It was not an easy decision but I’m glad I made it.
  • Gave design agencies a go
    Before leaving for my Christmas break I met with a very interesting dude who gave me a bunch of contacts for some design agencies that might give me a chance. I’ve checked them out and made a list of my favourites, so I can contact them and show them how brilliant I am.
  • Applied at Commonsense
    I already had an interview here last winter which went great, but unfortunately they were looking for someone to work over Christmas and I wasn’t going to be there. So I called them back a few days ago and boom – I got a job! This is just a casual position for now but there are good chances that it’s going to turn into a part-time soon. I am very excited about this job as it’s exactly what I was looking for: something flexible, that keeps me active, in a friendly environment, aware of Zero Waste and veganism. I’m starting next week. Score!
  • Sent more CVs
    After all it’s after the holiday, which is the best time of the year to apply for jobs. Since I have time anyway, it would be a shame not to send as many CVs as possible for a couple of months and see what happens.
  • Reserved three days a week to write my book
    I’m writing a book! There, I’ve said it. This is something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the time or balls to do. But since now I’m in a (mental and physical) space to follow my passions, I’ve decided to take on this huge project and DO IT. I haven’t sent myself a deadline but I do want to take it seriously and fucking finish it.

There’s also something else happening but I’m not in the position to reveal it just yet (mainly cos it’s probably a way too ambitious project that might never happen so I’d  rather not disclose it in the first place, but we’ll see).
What are your plans for 2018?

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‘Tis the season

It’s after the holidays, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how being a Zero Waster/wannabe-minimalist/life simplifier relates to the consumerist mindset and spending spree that is the holiday season.
Up until not very long ago, I didn’t think much about Christmas presents. It was just something you had to do. During my London years, I used to associate the appearance of Christmas decorations in Oxford street to the daunting awareness that I had to get people stuff. Every Christmas I would fly back home with a suitcases full of presents for my friends and family, and as much as I did enjoy buying nice things for them, I also felt like this was an obligation more than a pleasure.
December 2016 was our first Christmas in New Zealand, and since we were not going home I didn’t buy any presents to my loved ones. Instead, I sent them cards that I painted myself, and wrote them letters saying that I missed them. That was the most personal gift I’ve ever given them.
I realised all I was doing was taking the values I’d normally apply to my own day-to-day life and extending them to other people. I’m all about minimising waste and simplifying my life, so obviously I wasn’t going to forget about that when it came to present-giving.
But this posed another issue: what about the presents I was going to receive? I started to dread the prospect of unwrapping a present only to find the umpteenth birthday cake-shaped hat from Ikea (yes, that’s something I’ve actually received).
My main goal this year became to avoid superficial gifts that I didn’t need. How was I going to do that? I was gonna speak up. Thanks to finding the balls to tell people what I did and didn’t want, I managed to have my first (almost) Zero Waste, conscious-consumer-oriented, kinda minimalist Christmas.
And this is what I’ve learned:

  • It’s ok to ask
    A few months prior to my return, I wrote to my family members and gave them my Christmas wish list. I knew it wouldn’t make sense to ask for no presents at all as people still feel compelled to get you something, so at least I was going to ask for things I actually wanted or needed. This may be a bit blunt but at least you won’t end up with stuff you’re never going to use.
    This also goes for wrapping paper: I’ve asked everyone to please not wrap any of my presents or to at least use old wrapping paper or whatever wrapping they had lying around. It worked!
  • Presents don’t have to be a physical thing
    Giac, for example, always asks for experiences for his birthday. This Christmas, his aunt and uncle told us to pick anything we want to do in Welly and they would pay for it – it can be anything from a theatre performance to a museum exhibition to dinner in a fancy place. That’s amazing because it’s up to us to decide, and it’s one less item we had to carry back to New Zealand in our suitcase.
  • Cashy -cashy
    If somebody really doesn’t know what to get you (and is kind enough to tell you), you can always ask for money. This obviously only applies to people you are particularly close to, but if they really won’t go for not getting you anything, in spite of you insisting, then just ask them to give you a little bit of cash – which you can use to cover some boring expenses like paying for gas or for some bills.
  • Go with someone
    My mum didn’t get me anything for Christmas. Instead, she said she would come with me to whatever shop I wanted to check out, and if I did want to buy something she would pay for it. I’m not gonna lie, it was amazing to feel this spoiled and I did end up buying a bunch of things. But at least they are all things I love! And I got to spend time with my mum 🙂

Now, you’re always going to get the odd relative who doesn’t listen to you or doesn’t understand why you have so many requirements, but that’s ok. There’s only so much you can do and you can’t demand that everyone gets where you’re coming from. Remember not to get upset (something I still struggle with) and maybe try to explain your position again to them. At least you’ll know you’ve done your part.
I actually had some really great conversations about Zero Waste with people I would have never thought would be interested in that, so another lesson I’ve learned is to never assume. People are always going to surprise you!

BACK

I’m back from Europe and, to put it nicely, I am fucked up.
I’m not handling the jetlag very well and I am emotionally discombobulated, possibly the worst combination when you wake up at 4.21am three nights in a row and you just sit there staring at the ceiling and questioning every single decision you’ve made in life.

Being home after 18 months was an interesting experience.
We flew to London and we spent our first six days there. I didn’t know what to expect, and it turned out I was an emotional wreck for the entire time.
While Giac acknowledged the importance of taking it easy, not overdoing it and following all those suggested guidelines on how to recover from the jetlag, I behaved like a complete mess. I felt like I had to do everything but I didn’t have enough time. Every breakfast, lunch and dinner was booked with friends, I had a list of places I wanted to visit and things I wanted to do and stuff I wanted to buy. I would quite literally run from one place to another, ticking entries off my list as I progressed.

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Seeing all my friends brought tears to my eyes. It was great to catch up, to sit on a rug sipping tea and to realise that our friendship is stronger than  18,802km distance. At the same time though, I looked at them getting married, having kids and carrying on with their lives, and I couldn’t help but feeling like I’m missing out.
I hardly took any pictures – outrageous, I know – because I was too busy absorbing the London-ness of it all: caressing books in Foyles, smelling curry in Brick Lane, crying in front of relics older than New Zealand at the V&A, taking it all in.
I obviously didn’t manage to do everything I wanted to do, and on the plane to Italy I felt an incredible sense of incompleteness.

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Arriving home was way more relaxed, and I finally started sleeping and eating again – something I hadn’t been able to do since I’d left New Zealand eight days earlier.
Italy involved a whole lot of catching up with friends and family, eating good food, travelling around, and being ridiculously spoiled by my mum.

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But mostly, I felt safe.
When I lived in London, I couldn’t bare being home for longer than three days. I was so used to being self-sufficient, with my own schedule and rules, that having to adjust to my family’s routine made me freak out. This time round, though, I never wanted to leave. Those four weeks in Italy flew by, and when the time came to pack my bags the prospect of going back to the uncertainty of job-hunting-filled days in Wellington seemed daunting. As much as I enjoy my independence, I didn’t mind being looked after for a whole month, and not having to worry about a thing.
On top of this, I was so happy to be with my family again. I missed spending time with my parents, visiting my Grandpa, being able to hug them and have real conversations and do things together. I loved going for dinner with my in-laws and I wish we could hang out together on the regular instead of Skyping once a month.

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On the way back to New Zealand I cried in every single airport, on every single plane, and several times once I’d landed.
But we came back to a sunny Welly, and this morning we walked down into town at 6am and it was magical, so peaceful and quiet and beautiful I felt bad for not wanting to come back.
I realise this place is special, but it’s so freaking far away. But the point is that all the things I like about New Zealand are the way they are precisely because it’s so freaking far away.
I know that moving back to Europe wouldn’t solve anything. If I were to move back to London now I would have a very hard time readjusting to its rhythms now that I’ve seen how much slower life can be. London was a nerve-wrecking, heart-breaking, incredibly emotional trip down memory lane – but I know that I left it for a reason.
The thing is, I’m not sure where else I want to be. I wish I could live in New Zealand but have regular access to Europe every three months or so. But since this is not going to happen, all I can do is try to create myself a space where I feel happy, productive and content.
In fact, I do have some exciting projects coming up that hopefully will keep me busy for the coming months, so stay tuned if you want to know more, and in the meantime I hope everyone had a wonderful break and bring it on, 2018!

Hi all, just a heads up that I might not be blogging for a few weeks as I’m going back home for Christmas and I might not have time/will to update. I might occasionally upload but I just don’t want to commit as I’ll be on holidays and I want to focus on spending time with friends and family. I can’t wait!
Have a good break everyone 🙂

Grass For Dinneris taking a break

Zero Waste toiletry bag

I’m flying back home in eleven days and I’ve already packed three times. This is what I’m taking with me in my toiletry bag. It’s not 100% Zero Waste but getting there. I haven’t included things like soap or toothpaste as I’ll be staying with friends and family so I’ll be borrowing from them, these are just the things that I can’t do without.

The flu made me write this

I’m home sick with the flu and I’ve spent the last five hours looking at flats for rent on SpareRoom in London because I’m being nostalgic as fuck. I’m trying really hard to remember what I didn’t like about London, to resume the feeling I had towards the end of my stay, the itchiness for leaving and travelling and discovering new places, but it just doesn’t come back. I know that when we decided to move overseas I simply I couldn’t stand living in London anymore, but now that I’m here I wonder what the hell was I thinking. Here in Wellington, it feels like I’m stuck in a snow globe and I can see everything happening in the outside world but I can’t take part in it. I mean, I know a lot of shit is happening in the world and this is probably the safest place I could be and people are trying to get away from Europe and the States because of all the horrible things happening there, BUT. I liked being in the middle of everything. As much as hated commuting and Oxford Street and  overcrowded places, at least I was close to the rest of the world. I could fly home in half a day. I just watched a bunch of old videos that I made when I was in London and they reminded me of how cheap food used to be, and yes I know rent was crazy expensive and doing stuff was crazy expensive but you could easily survive on £20 of groceries a week and I could afford to buy books even on a super low wage and this image of myself keeps on coming back to my head and it’s a happy me. The most recurring one is from when I used to live in Homerton and I would cycle into town via London Fields, in the autumn fog. And then, the more I think about it, the more I realise the things I miss are the things I never had. White tiles. Wooden floors. A fancy apartment. Succulents. I have this idea of London that was never real life for me. I’ve always lived in crappy flats, shopped at Primark, had to cycle not because it was cool but because I could hardly afford a Tube monthly pass. And I know that if I were to go back to London, I would find myself in the same exact situation. It would be a thousand times harder to get a job, and I would again end up living in Zone 5 and spending the majority of my time on a jam-packed train. Yet, I long for good old Europe. I miss it. I miss my friends and family. I miss old stuff. Red brick buildings and the smell of history. I miss Broadway Market, and Victoria Park, and the houseboats on Camden canal. I miss Foyles and Paperchase. I miss Cass Art and the record stores. I miss the awareness that if anything cool had to happen in the world, it would happen right there where I was. Here, all I get is quiet and nature. Which I do like, but nothing ever freaking happens here, and I can go for walks and hikes as much as I want but that’s never going to make up for the fact that I do miss city life a freaking lot. And the fact that I’m so far away from my family is really starting to weigh on me. I’m going home in 23 days and it’s going to take me 37 hours to get there. And after a month I’ll be here again, with no idea when I’m gonna go back again. I miss my friends and family so much. In spite of all the good friends I’ve made here. This is so freaking far away.

What living away from everything did to me

I have the terrible habit of re-reading old diary entries. I’ve been journaling for as long as I can remember, through happy times as well as the darkest times in my life, and I’m terrified that Giac will actually keep faith to his promise of publishing all my journals when I’m dead. (The fact that he’s so sure I’ll go first should probably scare me.)
A while ago I was tidying up the chest I keep all my journals in, and inevitably I ended up leafing through a few of them, including the one I was compiling just before moving to New Zealand. Since I had never been, I could only imagine what this place would look like, which was reflected in pages and pages of couldn’t-be-further-away-from-reality expectations. In my ignorant eyes, New Zealand was the place of never-ending summers, where I would live off coconuts and pineapples in my mansion on the beach.
Well.

One thing I got right, though, was that in New Zealand I would be away from temptations. That I knew: New Zealand was not going to be the same as London.
During my five years in the UK, I was constantly bombarded with ads and commercials wanting me to buy stuff; shops and malls were everywhere, promoting thoughtless consumerism. When I lived in Stratford I literally had to walk through Westfield, aka the largest shopping centre in freaking Europe, every single day on my way back home.
I’m contemplating this as I apply a nail polish that I probably grabbed without much thinking during an unplanned trip to Boots over lunch break. This would be a common occurrence in my previous London life: on any given day I would be highly likely to walk into Boots/Superdrug/Paperchase/Lush/H&M/you name it and buy things I didn’t need just because I could.

If I think about any of the possessions I acquired since I’m in New Zealand, none of them has been purchased on a whim.
First of all, I don’t have a stable income now, which is enough to prevent me from impulse-buying anything without mulling it over for weeks first.
Secondly, shopping in new Zealand is lame anyway. I simply don’t like any of the shops here (all three of them). All the chains like Glassons or Factorie, not to mention the infamous Warehouse, sell cheap, poorly made, unethical clothing I don’t want to have anything to do with. There is no such thing as Boots. Makeup is ridiculously expensive. Top Shop landed in Wellington and closed down in the space of less than a year. The first H&M in New Zealand is opening in EIGHTEEN DAYS OMG and although I will admit I am annoyingly excited about that I am also prepared for it to evaporate as swiftly as it appeared as soon as people realise how overpriced it’s going to be #livingonanisland

In my journal entries, I was well aware of my problem with consumerism, and expressed my trepidation of being about to move away from temptations. However, now that I’m here, I’ve experienced something strange. I remember, during my first months in New Zealand, being extremely annoyed by the lack of things. Even in Auckland, the biggest city in the country, I was disappointed with the absence of theatres and museums and shops. I mean, they were there, but they weren’t cool. They were nothing like London. And in spite of me thinking I was ready for this, once in New Zealand I found out that I really wasn’t.
I missed buying things. I missed cool shops like Whole Foods, Ikea, Waterstones and R.E.I. (I’ve been to the States a bunch of times). And those that did make it to New Zealand, like Lush or Lululemon, were so overpriced they brought tears to my eyes.

Fast-forward to now. I’ve been living in New Zealand for over a year. I’ve travelled for a few months, lived in a van, carried all my possessions in a backpack. I got very much into ethical living, Zero Waste, conscious consumerism. I gradually stopped being drawn towards what I would once consider temptations. When I walk down the main street in Welly and I pass shops and boutiques, all I see is useless stuff I don’t even want.
Back in London I would observe people’s outfits and wonder where I could get those clothes and wished I could look like that. Now I can’t help but notice that everybody’s wearing the same Katmandu raincoat and the same Adidas Stan Smiths and all I can think about is how I don’t want to conform to this sad homogeneity or to contribute to a fashion industry that promotes child labour and global warming.
As a result, I have become very frugal. I have bought things, but not without carefully considering if I actually wanted them and where they came from. I pretty much only shop second hand. I haven’t bought a single piece of makeup since I’m here.

And I freaking love it.

I’m pretty sure the initial phase of desperately wanting to buy and consume stuff was a reaction to finding myself in a completely different scenario that I wasn’t ready for, actually realising how freaking far away New Zealand is from everything else, and missing London a lot.
But I got over it, and now I really enjoy living simply. I don’t mind not having fancy kitchenware or house decorations. I’m happy that I can fit all my clothes in the wardrobe without the need for extra storage. Going out to eat has become a treat. I only pay to go to the cinema for films that I really want to see. I check out books from the library instead of buying them (although I have to admit I haven’t completely adjusted to this last one just yet). I still want a stable income but I want it because so I can put money in the saving to go travelling, not because I want to splurge on things I don’t really need.

I’m not saying I completely detached myself from the world of consumerism (a separate post on this is coming soon), but living away from temptations has definitely taught me that you don’t need a lot of stuff in your life, and that a lot of the things you want are probably not things you need. And if I personally surround myself with things I don’t need, I’ll probably end up getting rid of them anyway, so why purchasing them in the first place?

(Having said all this, I also have a list of things I want to buy when I’m in Europe over Christmas. But they are all things I really want and need. But this is a whole other story.)