Is the Handheld GPS Dead? Not Quite

Is the Handheld GPS Dead? Not Quite

Some say that the age of the handheld GPS is over, joining the MP3 player on the tall pile of smartphone victims. While it’s true that GPS navigation apps for… Read More

The post Is the Handheld GPS Dead? Not Quite appeared first on Justraveling.

Posted in Community | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ROAD TRIP WITH A VINTAGE VW CAMPER THROUGH PROVENCE

Who hasn't been dreaming of going on a road trip with a vintage VW Bulli? Well good news for you, because your dreams are about to get real with 69campers in France! Take a trip to Provence and the Gorges Du Verdon national park! End your trip with Saint-Tropez, we'll tell you the best route!
Posted in Abridged, Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Open Letter to a Friend I Lost While Travelling

Dear (ex-)best friend,

Things just aren’t the way they used to be. In fact, they were pretty hostile there for a while. We’ve all read stories of how people have found their besties while travelling, or had some bullshit epiphany about who their true friends are. But travel just drove a wedge between us, and almost destroyed one of the greatest friendships I’ve ever had.

We’ve been close our entire lives, sharing a beautiful and largely uncomplicated comradeship based on a mutual love of Harry Potter and disdain for sports. We’ve seen each other through all our awkward phases: the pre-teen fangirl, the side-fringe faux-emo and the trying-embarrassingly-hard-to-be-“alternative”. You were there from my first birthday to my first drink, and finally for my first independent travel experience.

And then, within six short weeks, all that was gone, and I’m left wondering how the hell I managed to fuck up so badly.

Actually, I’m wrong. I do know how. My mistake was deluding myself into thinking that travelling with my best friend and boyfriend could ever work out.

Our plan was to go on tour for a couple of weeks, then stay in London for a couple more. We had hung out together many times in Australia, and everything had been fine. Fine enough, at least, for us to agree that planning a six-week-long trip to the opposite end of the globe would be a great success. I mean, we were all adults, right? Surely we could handle ourselves.

On tour, everything seemed to be going great. You found new friends in our tour group, among them a beautiful and funny Sydneysider. Boyfriend, on the other hand, was finding it harder to socialise, so we mostly stuck together as a quartet; you, the Sydneysider, Boyfriend and myself. We had some pretty good times together: stacking on the slopes in Germany, drinking Butterbeer in an underground Polish café and laughing hysterically at our tour mates as they danced tipsily to an Austrian string trio.

Still, there were moments when I felt I wasn’t doing enough to make sure everyone was having fun. I’d assumed that our group dynamic would translate exactly to the new setting, and it was a shock to find out that I’d actually have to try harder, as the common link between you and Boyfriend, to make everyone feel included. It started to really weigh on my shoulders, at a time when I thought my biggest worry should have been about whether or not to buy a keyring of a miniature Dutch clog. To be honest (and this is painful to admit, even now), towards the end, I was feeling a little too sorry for myself to even notice what you were going through.

You must have felt fucking awful: homesick, lonely, in an unfamiliar environment, with your only safety net being a friend who (as much as I tried), was being distant and selfish as hell. I’d assumed that our dynamic would be just like it was in Australia. But of course, being 16 thousand kilometres away from home, with only each other for company, it was bound to be different, and I was naïve to think otherwise.

Then, one day, things blew up. I didn’t realise how upset you were (blame my shitty sensitivity radar, at it again), and I can’t remember now exactly how it happened, only that one minute I was eating breakfast alone, the next minute I felt my phone buzz in my pocket.

Reading that message felt like a knife to the heart.

“People said that this trip wouldn’t work and that I would be excluded. I didn’t believe them, I thought that you would never do that. Clearly, I was wrong.”

That was the part that hurt the most: the thought that you’d had so much faith in me, and I’d completely trampled it into the icy European slush, without even realising.

I wandered London’s streets for hours that day, wondering how the hell I was meant to go back into that hotel room and face you again, how to fix this goddamn mess. It was like we had spent years constructing this massive, elaborate ceramic vase, and I’d just picked it up and thrown it, shattering it into a million pieces. Now, it was up to me to fit the first piece back into place, and I was terrified to place it wrong.

Predictably, the last few days of that trip were terribe. I remember catching a train to the beach. All the way there, we were completely silent, and once we’d disembarked, you promptly turned your back and strode off. I didn’t see you again until we met hours later to board the returning train. It was the middle of winter in Brighton, and the fair on the end of the pier, so vibrant and bustling in the warmer seasons, was closed; the rides were covered, the stalls shut, all colour seemingly bleached by the steely grey sky. It looked as pathetic as I felt.

Did I ruin your first big trip? Did I neglect my responsibility to make sure everyone was having a good time? Or was the real mistake was trying to force the group dynamic to work in the first place? The entire trip, I had felt stretched too thin; like you were pulling me from one direction, Boyfriend from the other. Like a rubber band, eventually, somewhere, it had to snap.

What I didn’t realise is that friendships overseas are different to those at home. Emotions, both good and bad, are running high, and your immediate support system is narrowed down to a handful of people. People are going to have different emotional needs, like comfort in homesickness, and others are going to have to step up and fulfil them. That’s where I let you down.

There are so many stories out there of people making and consolidating amazing friendships through travel. I can only apologise, shamelessly and profusely, for ours not being one of them.

It’s been far too long. I miss you.

Cover by Jorge Flores 

Posted in Lifestyle, Unabridged | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Exploited Workers of Thailand’s Tourism Industry

Sometimes when you travel, you meet people whose impact on you far outweighs the time you spend with them. For me, Luke was one of those people.

Luke was a short, caramel-skinned Burmese man, 25 years old, who worked as a tour guide in a Myanmar harbour town called Myeik. Our relationship started out as business – a backpacker meeting a tourism operator – but it quickly became clear that we got on really, really well.

He took me to a candlelit, nighttime Buddhist festival on an island near his village, where I was introduced to the presiding military officer. We drank awful homebrewed rice wine in a thrown-together backyard speakeasy, wandered through rubber plantations and chain-smoked as we drifted on a passenger boat down the Tanintharyi River. I met his friends, and over endless bowls of tangy Burmese food in noisy open-air restaurants, he told me about his life.

Luke was born in a small village near Myeik. He started working regularly on his family’s fishing boat when he was in grade four, about eight years old. He has a scar on his chest from his flesh scraping against barnacle-covered rocks when he was 12. Growing up, he adored his younger sister, and still keeps his nails long on one hand because she thinks it suits him. He finished school as a teenager and went to university in Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon, where he was for the 2007 monk-led protests that saw the military open fire on the crowd. 

After that, he went to Thailand to find work. This is a necessity for millions of poverty-stricken Myanmar nationals, since the domestic factories and companies are largely foreign-owned, and staffed with Chinese or Thai workers. He lived in the coastal city of Chumphon – where tourists catch ferries to the nearby islands of Koh Samui, the diving-mecca Koh Tao, and Koh Phangan, famed for its Full Moon Party – for four years.   

One day, over a bowl of hot noodles, I asked him if he liked Thailand.

I will never forget the depth of emotion in his voice when he replied, slowly and evenly and with absolute certainty, “I hate it.”

I looked at him, surprised. I was just making conversation, not expecting such a serious response. Luke, usually all jokes and smiles, didn’t seem to notice my confusion and continued in this suddenly grave tone, his eyes transformed into black wells of memory.  

“In Thailand, there is no justice,” he said.

“I know the Thai language, I know it very well, but I will never speak it. If a Thai person rings to ask me to show them around, to be a tour guide, I will hang up the phone. There is no justice in that place.”

He told me that he was paid 250 baht a day – 10 Australian dollars – to build houses. However, the police knew when payday was, and they would wait for the Burmese migrant workers to go and collect their earnings.

“They say, ‘Money, passports, phone!’ and only give the passport back,” Luke said. “No money, no phone – only passport.”

He was supposed to collect his pay from an office at 5pm, and sometimes the police would wait there until as late as midnight for the Burmese workers to make their exit.

Burmese people are easily recognised by Thai locals, especially since many of them continue to wear Thanaka, a gold cosmetic cream that is commonly worn in Myanmar. This makes them easy targets, and police frequently stop them as they’re walking and take everything they have.

As Luke was telling me this, something clicked. I had seen workers with gold symbols on their faces in places like Koh Phangan, dozens of them. At the time, I didn’t know what it was, and my friends and I speculated that it must be some sort of religious costume.

Actually, the creamy paste is a display of bravery and pride. It’s a defiant symbol, a way of marking one’s self as Burmese in a country where the Burmese are treated like dirt.

My eyes began to burn as I made the connection between Luke’s story and my own naive travels through the sun-kissed paradise islands, and the countless Myanmar nationals who had, unbeknownst to me, served me on my Thai adventure.  

Luke told me that if he and his friends were in a restaurant and foreigners came in, the Burmese would be made to leave. He told me that all the menial work in Thailand is done by the Burmese, work that the locals don’t want to do themselves. And he told me about the playground.

For those four years he lived with 10 other Burmese men in a single room with a playground behind it, like a football field. At night, he said, Burmese people would die there.

“How did they die?” I asked him.

“We don’t know.”

At first, I thought there must have been a translation issue – his English wasn’t perfect – or that I just plain didn’t understand what he meant. But this conversation was taking place in a restaurant with the Burmese news playing on a TV on the wall, and as we were talking an item came on with English subtitles. It was about a group of female Burmese migrant workers who were waiting for a pick-up somewhere in Thailand, when a truck left the road and ploughed into them. 20 injured, six dead.

“On purpose?” I asked, after we both watched the clip in silence, aware of how pathetic I sounded. I was hoping that I had misunderstood him and that it was less horrific than it sounded – by playground he meant cemetery, maybe; the car had a drunk driver behind the wheel. He nodded. “Thai people kill Burmese people. Every day. Every day.”  

After listening to Luke’s story I was filled with a fervent hope that I had misunderstood him, or that he was exaggerating his experiences to impress me. Like a body rejecting a foreign pathogen, my brain simply didn’t want to process that something so horrible could have happened to someone who had become a real friend. But dozens of stories like Luke’s have been collected by Human Rights Watch investigators. Myanmar nationals working in Thailand have no protection. According to the bureaucratic systems, many of them don’t even exist. The police – ostensibly there to help people live safely – are their biggest threat. In every industry, from fishing to farming, to providing the labour that allows foreign tourists to enjoy “The Land of Smiles”, they are a powerless underclass in a country that has enough problems of its own.

There are between one-and-a-half and four million migrant workers in Thailand; no one knows exactly how many since most are there illegally. It’s Thailand’s dirty secret that its popular tourist destinations are run on the exploited labour of their poorer cousins, living in oppressive conditions. Next time you’re in Thailand, and your waiter or hotel janitor is marked with golden face paint, greet them in Burmese: “Mingalaba“. They’ll understand you, and like Luke, they’ll have a story to tell.   

Luke is still a working tour guide in Myeik, Kawthaung, and the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar.  He’s not paying us to advertise, but if you need a guide you can add him on Facebook.

Cover by Capturing the human heart.

Posted in Lifestyle, Unabridged | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Horseshoe housing estate (Hufeisensiedlung)

DSC07374

Hufeisensiedlung is a housing project located in the southern part of Neukölln district, on the U7 U-Bahn line. It gets its name after the shape of its main building, surrounding the central lake.

DSC07261

The complex was built in many stages between 1925 and 1933, supervised by Bruno Taut.

DSC07331.jpg

It is one of the best examples of modernist housing estates, springing up in the interwar periods, as the lavish styles on Art Nouveau and Art Deco gave way to more simple and practical forms, championed by architects like Le Corbusier or Walter Gropius.

Click to view slideshow.

According to the style’s premises, buildings lack ornamentation, have mostly straight lines, and are designed with practical every day issues of the inhabitants comming to forefront, with esthetic impressions taking a back seat.

DSC07248DSC07312

The complex itself consists of the “horseshoe” as well as surrounding buildings, including around 200 apartments in all.. Many of them seem not to match each other in style or in colouring. This helps to break the monotonny created by getting rid of all decorations, that were practically necessary in all styles proceeding modernism.

DSC07251DSC07274DSC07336

The inner pond and a small park surrounding it are meant to provide space for leisure activities for the inhabitants of Hufeisensiedlung; this feature, combined with proximity of various forms of public transport, created an all round full day experience, from work through free time, to sleeping and eating, all without having to leave the estate.

DSC07264DSC07265

Since 2008 the object has a UNESCO World Heritage Site status, togerher with five other modernist housing projects in Berlin.

DSC07276DSC07329DSC07342DSC07385


Posted in Berlin, Unabridged | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NEW IN MUNICH: ROOMERS HOTEL

Just opened: the new Roomers Hotel in Munich. Located in a very upcoming and hip area it will definitely become the new place to be.
Posted in Abridged, Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seminci: An Artsy Excuse to Visit Valladolid

Seminci: An Artsy Excuse to Visit Valladolid

The 62nd edition of the Seminci International Film Festival that will be held on October 21-28, 2017 is the perfect opportunity to visit Valladolid, Spain, a gem of a city just an hour by train from… Read More

The post Seminci: An Artsy Excuse to Visit Valladolid appeared first on Justraveling.

Posted in Community | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What I Learned Studying Abroad in the Middle East

When someone mentions the Middle East, words like war”, “terrorism”, “oppression”, and “extremism” come to mind more quickly than “peace be unto you”. I admit that I thought the region was a place where Islam controlled the population and somewhat legitimised oppression and brutality. In my mind, it would be somewhere defined by tension and warfare. I assumed the people could only be angry and unapproachable.

Despite these assumptions, there was something inside me drawing me toward that region of the world. I was going into my third year of university and I needed a change. I needed real-life experience. I was tired of taking everything from textbooks and professors; I was ready to form my own worldview based on experiences. I enrolled in a Middle Eastern study program based in Amman, Jordan.

Before beginning my study abroad program, I thought of myself as an open-minded person. I had Arab friends. I was partway through a postmodern, liberal-arts education in Canada and I felt reasonably non-judgemental and accepting of difference. I thought by going to the Middle East I had so much to learn about conflict, change and oppression, but I had everything to give when it came to open-mindedness, peace, and tolerance.

Ironically, the thin, heavily-moustached, Jordanian officer behind the customs desk in the Amman airport provided the first extension of peace on my journey. “Assalam Alaikum,” he said as he stamped my passport with a student visa, “Welcome to Jordan.”

Assalam Alaikum means “peace be unto you”, which seemed oxymoronic. Peace and the Middle East seem to be in complete opposition to one another. The only thing they have in common is that they rhyme, sort of. And contrary to the extension of peace from the customs officer, the first few weeks of my semester abroad were anything but peaceful.

It all started when my checked bag never made it around the baggage carousel on that first night in the Amman airport. I left the airport that night with only the clothes on my back and my small carry-on bag. I stepped into the foreign city feeling alone and naked.

During my first weeks, every Assalam Alaikum seemed to sting a little bit. “Yeah, thanks for the peace. It would be nice to have a pair of clean underwear, but peace is great.”

I felt vulnerable so far away from the comforts of home. I was adjusting to the intense August desert heat. I was trying to get used to the sandstorms that came silently in the night and awoke in the morning with a hacking cough and a film of dust on every surface. I was exhausted from waking up in the middle of the night to the call to prayer alerting the faithful to complete one of their five mandatory prayer times for the Muslim faith. I was growing frustrated at never being understood, at hopping into taxis and ending up on the completely wrong side of the city. I was uncomfortable, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Within these first few weeks, I realised I had more to learn and overcome than I’d originally thought.

Through the program, 20 of us students from different schools across North America lived in apartments together in Amman with a professor or taught us classes: Islamic thought and practice, peoples and cultures of the Middle East, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Over the course of the semester, we also travelled to Israel, Palestine, Morrocco and Turkey. The classes were eye-opening. We had guest speakers almost every day: professors from the University of Amman, American diplomats, Imams from local mosques, NGO workers, members of Hamas, Israeli settlers, journalists and many more. Every day, we were exposed to new perspectives on topics that are increasingly relevant and decreasingly black and white.

We also had Arabic classes three times a week. In these classes, we were divided into groups of four and were assigned an Arabic instructor. For four hours our instructor would talk to us in Arabic without us being allowed to speak a word of English. Using small figurines and pictures our instructor helped us develop a vocabulary; using actions we learned verbs by following instructions. It was a completely immersive language learning program, intended to help us learn Arabic the same way a baby naturally learns to speak from their parents. Listening, repeating, understanding and developing from there.

Every day, I dreaded hopping into a taxi in the peak heat of the day, sitting shoulder-to-sweaty-shoulder with my fellow classmates in the dense Amman traffic, going to sit in a room and desperately try to understand what the nice lady in a headscarf was telling me. It was my first experience where mental exhaustion affected me physically. After the four-hour session, I would walk out to the street zombie-like, hail a taxi with my Arabic group, and my head would physically throb from the strain of trying to understand and be understood. On the way back to our apartment, we would often attempt to practise what we thought we might be learning with our taxi drivers and end up laughing and conversing in the broken version of basic Arabic and English that we called ‘Arabish’.

The language barrier was a strain, but I think the more challenging obstacle I faced was trying to understand Islam, in light of all the preconceived ideas I had. From the moment I stepped off the plane in Amman I was confronted with a drastically different culture than my own. This was a place where religion and nationality were synonymous. To be Arab was to be Muslim, and vice versa. Women dressed modestly, normally showing no skin from ankle to wrist and often covering their heads with a hijab. Fridays, the holy day, the entire city shut down, nothing was open and there were no people on the streets or cars on the road. Minarets decorated the skyline the way skyscrapers do in big cities, and five times a day melodic Arabic prayers blared from their speakers.

During lectures, we learned about Islam as this religion of peace. We learned the three main dimensions of the religion are submission, faith, and doing what is beautiful. This concept contrasted starkly with the images ingrained in my head from the news. Peace and suicide bombings did not seem to go hand in hand. However, the more I learned about Islam, in class and from the Muslims who surrounded me, the more I realised I was basing my beliefs on uneducated assumptions.

What I had thought of as “Islam” before only represented a minority of the Muslim population.  One of the lecturers I heard was a journalist from Turkey. “I feel like you would if you heard that people around the world assumed you were a white supremacist because you were a Westerner,” he told me and my class, “You are so quick to ascribe generalisations to Muslims based on the Islam you see in the media, and yet reject the idea of the same being done to you.”

His words stuck with me. Why was it okay for me to lump all Muslims and Arabs into the same category when there were a lot of North Americans that I really did not want to be associated with?

Islam the religion of peace was exactly what I experienced during my time living in Jordan.

When I was cat-called on the streets by young men, older shop owners would admonish them and shame them for disrespecting me. If I was lost and asked for help finding where I was going, anyone would be happy to guide me exactly where I needed to go. I was invited to birthdays, weddings and family dinners — fully embraced as one of their own. This acceptance and extension of peace undermined my pre-existing worldview. Going into the Middle East, I had wanted to categorise Arabs and Muslims as ‘other than’ me. I had assumed their way of life was wrong and oppressive and that my way of life was the right one. However, when I was face to face with the hospitality and care extended to me I was forced to reconsider. When I opened my mind to the otherness I was surrounded by, when I let my personal experiences transform my worldview, I found peace. It was an encounter with otherness that transformed me.

My bag eventually arrived in Jordan — three weeks after I did. However, when it arrived at my doorstep, it did not bring me the comfort and peace that I thought it would have. It was not in the familiarity of home but rather in embracing and being embraced by the difference that provided peace. Neither my physical belongings nor my pre-existing worldview kept me comfortable. I did not want them to. I opened my bag, having forgotten everything I had packed and realised I didn’t actually need any of it anymore.

Cover by Maria Darii 

Posted in Lifestyle, Unabridged | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Only Sex

Her room is shaped like a triangle. The ceiling drops down into a low window that makes up the wall and lets only a trace of moonlight through. Her skin takes on the pearly white shine of her dress, and her blue eyes look like a wolf’s in the winter snow. I’m wearing genie pants and a Saigon singlet. One of my Ripcurl thongs has a bread-clip in it to stop it from coming apart, and am just glad that I showered before leaving my room. We stand at the foot of her bed and look at each other like we have been for the last three days.

On day one, I got caught staring at her sunbathing as I walked past the swimming pool to the pool table. She dropped her sunglasses and smiled at me. I looked away.

On the second night, she was out by the pool again with a short haired lady in a leopard skin shawl who was old enough to be her mother, but with no motherly warmth, and a giant with a tree trunk neck, frost-tipped hair and sun-cured skin. She eyed me walking towards the lobby as they sang Russian ballads in a harmony both beautiful and unsettling. I looked away.

This is day three. I didn’t make it to the pool. On my way out, she was standing at the hotel staircase, and as I walked by she pointed her finger up the stairs and smiled. I followed.

Russian words roll off her tongue and into my ears. I um and ah and say, “What?”

She giggles and covers her mouth with her hands and more Russian words tumble out from under her breath, quietly at first and then faster and louder with an excited rhythm.

“I have no idea what you’re saying,” I shrug, and realise the tension of my body.

She laughs again, harder than before and jumps back onto the bed. Her elbow knocks the wall, and three hard bangs and two fierce Russian voices come back from the other side of it. The Leopard Mother and the Giant are next door. She giggles.

“Am I about to be robbed?” I ask.

Her finger moves from her lips and points to me and curls to say come here, and I’m sure she does understand me. She is offering a final temptation and I can’t do anything but say yes, because this has never come before and might never come again. Our bodies touch for the first time and more Russian words slither from her mouth to my ears.

I’m here because of those words, because I can’t know anything about her and she can’t know anything about me, because behind this veil of language she is sexy and mysterious and a little bit dangerous, and in her mind, I must be too. She can’t tell that no matter what language we speak, I would have no idea how to talk to her. She can’t know that the last time I was here I was too drunk to remember it and that now, I have no idea what to do with her body or mine.

Her hands slide under my singlet and sweep across my back like figure skaters. My hands sit on her hips and occasionally jolt upwards and drop back down like nervous kids on a diving board. She pushes her lips against mine and I try to push mine against hers but our teeth clash and now her nose in my mouth. My brow furrows and I open my eyes, which I’ve always heard is an awful idea, but’s not that bad.

Her eyes are still closed, her hands still skim across my skin, and her face still seems to want mine. I wonder if this is desire. I’ve never been desired before. My ears are open and trying to listen for any footsteps and rumbling from the room next door, in case the Leopard Mother and the Giant are readying themselves to barge in, take everything I own, and leave me naked and unconscious in a Vietnamese hotel. I start to trust her, despite that mental image.

Her face drops down to my neck and her tongue slides over it. I wonder if she’s knows how good that feels, if she can measure how well it works with her fingertips on my back, or if it’s just coincidence. I make a mental note of where my clothes are in the room, so that if I do hear movement I can grab everything and beat them to the door and maybe clothe myself as I dash down the stairs to safety. I wonder how much of sex is a coincidence.

She takes off her dress and she isn’t wearing a bra. My hands have taken the dive and are comfortable now, exploring the waters of her body. But why isn’t she wearing a bra? Is that something all girls do? Does it say something about her? Maybe this is desire, but it’s not just for me. Maybe she just likes really Asian men and is just travelling Vietnam for some sort of Dionysian sex tour. Also, I’m about to be robbed.

She takes my singlet off and kisses my body. That really shouldn’t feel good. Maybe this is desire. If not, then maybe I’m okay with being fetishised, just this once. She takes my pants off.

Alright, this is probably desire. This is normal. This is okay. Her neck tastes like insect repellent, but that’s okay. I’m sweating way too much, but that’s okay. The Leopard Mother and the Giant are bashing the wall and yelling angry Russian things, but that’s okay. We can’t talk to each other, but that’s okay. We’re lying together and I can feel her heartbeat and we’re almost definitely never going to meet again, but that’s okay.

Cover by Mr Wong

Posted in Lifestyle, Unabridged | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alone in a Big City: The Realities of Leaving Home

Two years ago, I moved away from home: away from my small riverside town to the big city of Auckland, often confused for New Zealand’s capital, but really just the one with the most people, skyscrapers and designer dogs.

I moved for uni. Well, at least that’s what I tell people. Really, it was to get a fresh start. I didn’t want to be one of those small-town people who gets trapped and starts a family without ever leaving. I wanted out. An all-or-nothing kinda girl, I either give it my all, or not at all. So saying goodbye to childhood friends, family and everything comfortable was a small sacrifice to pay for the thrill of new beginnings and exploring a city I’d only ever seen through an airport terminal.

And it was great – I knew absolutely no one, but that’s never bothered me. I loved the feeling of wandering down quiet alleyways, discovering new favourite cafes and playing tourist in what would become my new home.

The honeymoon phase was perfect.

But the truth is moving away wasn’t so much about creating a new life. It was more about running away from my old one. I’d made some stupid mistakes growing up, didn’t take the opportunities I should have, hurt people I shouldn’t have and created a person I had never planned on becoming.

I was looking for something, to figure out what was missing, and – you know – “find myself”.

And for a while, it worked. Starting anew pushed me out of my comfort zone and broke down the barriers I had put up around me that I hadn’t even realised existed. Suddenly, I was meeting new people, spending afternoons wandering through art galleries and going ice skating in outdoor ice rinks lit up by disco lights.  I got a job in a quaint little bookstore and fuelled my always-growing but often unused book collection. I was learning about intersectionality, and indigenous rights, and how to survive on three hours of sleep yet still do well in an exam.

I kept myself busy, constantly on the go. Losing myself to the big city, I was a new girl.

But slowly, gradually, I’ve realised the shiny newness of Auckland is wearing off, and the life I’ve built here has these tiny little cracks in it I’d never noticed before. Those cracks revealed what I’ve been avoiding: commitment. Connection. Allowing people into the life I’ve built up around me.

I got a call from a friend the other day. And it hit me. I miss my home so bloody much. I miss feeling comfortable. I miss familiarity. I miss not being confronted with new things every day. I miss those beautiful, stable friendships that you know don’t need constant attention to survive.

 The honeymoon phase is over, and now I can see that leaving isn’t clean and tidy. You can’t just duck out of your old life and enter a new one. There’s loose ends and hurt feelings, and bits of yourself left in both places.

 Because the truth is, I wished for this city to be an escape. I wanted the hustle and bustle to drown out the unease inside of me. I hoped the big city life and all its people would make me feel part of something. I wanted this place to heal me. I now understand that doesn’t happen. Travelling is transformative, but running away is not.

 Being alone in a big city sucks.

Those quirky alleyways are now less quirky and more threatening; going to cafes alone doesn’t have the same appeal, and what I would give to stop being a tourist and just be a local.

It feels like being in limbo. The intermission between scenes. Like I’ve stepped out of my “life” and it’s just waiting for me somewhere else, ready for when it’s time to put down roots and build a home. There’s a piece of the puzzle missing. The piece I left at home, when I started again. I wasn’t just leaving – I was isolating myself from anything that could help me deal with everything I needed to. Isolating myself from the people who loved me.

Running away from your shit never works. You just can’t. Issues, insecurities and baggage don’t just disappear when you hop on a plane, a bus or a train. It’s inside of you, and until it’s confronted head-on, you’ll never be free.

Cover by Ben Blennerhassett 

Posted in Lifestyle, Unabridged | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment