New Zealand is not one of those destinations you usually go
to solely for the rock climbing, not unless you’re Chris Sharma. That’s partly
because it’s so damn far away and expensive to get to from most parts of the
world. There are many far cheaper and closer climbing destinations for most of
us, and climbers are a famously dirtbag bunch.
But more importantly, New Zealand is far too breath-taking and
offers so much for the outdoorsy adventure lover, that to come here for the
climbing alone would be worse than sacrilege. So of course, in the four months
that my partner and I spent in NZ, climbing was not at the top of our agenda.
Rather, it was dominated by catching up with his family and
friends, all of whom hadn’t seen him in years; eating and drinking a lot at
these gatherings; and trying to fit in all the sights and do all the activities
we could afford (which was sadly a small minority of what’s out there).
Nevertheless, no self-respecting climber would go to a new
destination and…not climb at all! Plus, NZ was the old stomping ground of my
partner and I was eager to see where he cut his teeth on the rock.
It’s been a month now since I celebrated being in my thirties for a whole year, but I’ve only just recently had the chance to sit down with my laptop and reflect on the year that has gone by. Which is testament to the year that has passed, really – full of activity, living off the grid and spending as much time as possible outdoors. But the most amazing thing about my birthday was that for the first time I got to celebrate it in a different hemisphere – in New Zealand – where autumn is well and truly setting in.
Being here, as far away from home as I could get, is the culmination of a year full of adventure, learning, adapting, experiencing new things and opening up my mind, a year when I finally implemented something I wanted to do for over a decade, turning my life around 180 degrees.
In the 31st year of my life I visited 14 countries, some of them ones I had never been to before, and others that were already old friends that I could get reacquainted with.
I got rid of a large chunk of my possessions and learned to live in a minimalistic way, in a smaller space, and trying to make a smaller footprint on the world that surrounds me. I have learnt to use far less water and live off solar power, but my journey has only just begun in this respect.
I have dramatically reduced my meat intake and my food spending; my spending in general really! I never imagined a couple could sustain themselves on as little money as we do without living off instant noodles, but I have learned so much about budgeting during this year.
And crucially, it has been a year when I learnt I could work professionally on the road and earn money while travelling – something I never truly imagined would be possible, and far less possible to sustain this lifestyle over months, or perhaps even years. It has been a revelation for me and a huge boost to my confidence as a writer, even if it means I haven’t dedicated as much time to my blog as I’d like to.
It has also been a year of trials – physical and mental. Getting used to this lifestyle was not always easy and it took me time to figure out how I fit in within the hippie, active and adventurous community that surrounds me.
This year has forced me to reconsider my abilities in rock climbing and learn not to compare myself to anyone but myself. It has taught me to try to focus on achievements rather than failures by showing me how emotionally devastating the latter can be. It has also been a year of rock climbing achievements I didn’t know I was capable of and the year when more and more new dreams were born.
At the same time, my new life has often taken me far away from family and friends and made me learn to find my own feet in a way I have never had to do before. It has also led me to make new, and hopefully lifelong friends from all parts of the world and walks of life.
And finally, it has culminated in coming to visit New Zealand, the beautiful country where my partner Clay comes from, seeing some of the most impressive nature on the planet, meeting people who are so similar yet so different to those I have been surrounded with during my life in the UK, indulging my love for the outdoors and rock climbing in a completely new setting and learning new things about the environment and conservation.
I couldn’t think of a better place to be celebrating the end of this most amazing year of my life, hopefully one of many.
A year ago, the idea of not eating any meat would have filled me with dread. I used to love having a nice medium rare steak from time to time, didn’t consider my meal complete without some chicken or fish, and assumed that as soon as I eliminated this from my diet I would lose all my muscle and get really ill.
But as Clay and I embarked on our big trip, a few things happened that slowly changed my mind.
The last couple of weeks since we moved to Chulilla have been as full of sunshine as the two weeks prior to it were soaked with rain, and once again I feel like I’m on holiday, even while working. My mood has been lifted to such an extent that I deleted the very gloomy post I started writing in Siurana, which now sounded far too depressive.
I’m currently reading Andy Kirkpatrick’s Psychovertical; it’s worth a read! It’s all about his escapades in winter mountaineering and terrifying aid climbs, and if there’s one thing it has made me realise once and for all, it’s that I’m not at all interested in suffering my way up multi-day winter epics.
It has, however, inspired me to share my one personal account of mountaineering, which totally and completely pales in comparison with Andy’s mind-bending adventures, but was still one of the most memorable experiences during my travels so far.