2014: a year of growth

“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world” – Mary Anne Radmacher

2013, to be sure, was a year to remember. I was constantly doing things and traveling, it was my first year of living abroad and everything was new and exciting.

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2014 was a bit more sedated, focused on slow travel and settling down in one place for awhile.

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2013 was lively and full of new experiences, but I felt burnt out towards the end of it, with so much traveling and the need to start over constantly in new places. 2014, although a nice change from the chaos of the previous year, was mainly a year of growth.

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This year I finally realized how much I miss home and how ready I am to go back, at least for a little while. This year I had a lot of random misfortunes that made me find my humility again and realize that no matter how much you plan, you can never account for aspects that are simply out of your control.

This year I moved up to management in the bar world, worked full-time at one job instead of a couple of part-time jobs at the same time, and learned that I don’t function well with a high level of stress in the workplace.

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I also realized that I’m not quite as ready as I thought I was to settle down right now. After finishing up my time in Sydney, and a jaunt up the East Coast of Australia at the start of this year, I moved to Wellington in April and have been living here ever since.

I was only able to take one trip since I’ve moved to New Zealand, and that trip to Taupo has been the highlight of my time here.

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After jumping head first into the life of a traveler and expat, this year was a time of finding my footing again, a year to ground myself, and tackle whatever I could with what grace I had left to muster.

This year I fell in love. After leaving behind a bruised heart in San Diego, I wasn’t wanting anything of substance for a long time, by the time I arrived in New Zealand I had even convinced myself that I’m better off alone. I saw myself as a better person, friend, and more willing to step outside my comfort zone when I didn’t have anyone else to take into account besides myself.

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Well, somehow I let my guard down along the way and now I find myself living with a boyfriend for the first time, and spending a lot of time with someone else.

It has truly been a year of growth. As someone who is most productive as a loner, it has been a process trying to find a balance in my life between my relationships that I hold dear and my passionate creativity that makes me who I am.

2014, you haven’t always been easy, but I’ve learned a lot from you.

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Here’s my year in review:

January – Byron Bay, Sydney

January started out with a bang, ringing in the new year with my Canadian best friend, dancing to The Roots playing at Falls Fest in Byron Bay. It only seemed to get better from there with the amount of friends and new relationships I made in the month.

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It was about the halfway mark for my time living in Sydney, not too close to the inevitable end date when my visa ended, but enough time under my belt to make me feel really comfortable and happy living in sunny Sydney.

Although I had to get used to humidity, it was almost perfect weather every day in Sydney, with the occasional summer lightning storm.

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I took advantage of all the time off I could with taking a day trip to Manly, and an overnight trip a bit further up north in New South Wales, to see Newcastle and Terrigal.

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I celebrated Australia Day for the first time, and really took the time to explore Aussie culture and the beautiful nature on hand in and around Sydney. I took advantage of the company when a couple of my friends from back home came to visit me in Sydney, and spent a day walking around the Blue Mountains with them.

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“One aspect I’ve grown to love about Sydney is the amount of coastal and scenic walks at your disposal in various neighborhoods. The Bondi to Coogee walk is still a favorite activity of mine. Even though I’ve been here for three months, I still love going out there to write or just enjoy the views.” – Postcard from Manly Scenic Walk

February – Sydney

In February I delved even more into finding the best hiking trails and historical treasures on my days off. This included going to the creepy Cockatoo Island, which used to be a convict prison, and learning more about the rich convict history in Australia. I also spent a day checking out the gorgeous Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park a little ways from the city, and got lost while bushwalking in The Royal National Park.

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“I’m ready for a slightly slower pace and a smaller city to while away my days for the time being. I think it’s easier in a big city to lose the essence of why we’re here to begin with, to enjoy life in the simple yet beautiful ways, withholding judgement as to what that means for some and what it could mean for others.” – Adventures in NSW: Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park

March – Sydney, East Coast Australia

My last month in Sydney was a bittersweet one. On one hand I knew I didn’t want to stay in Sydney longterm, but I also wasn’t quite ready to leave yet either.

I found myself wrapping up a romance that was harder to say goodbye to than I thought it would be. I went to my first show at the Sydney Opera House, seeing Yo La Tengo on one of my last nights in the city, and I found it to be the perfect way to say goodbye to my life in Sydney.

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I took off on my own after settling down in Sydney for the last 5 months, and bussed up the East Coast of Australia, all the way up to Cairns. I couchsurfed, stayed in hostels, and tried to sleep on overnight buses as best I could.

I fulfilled my lifelong dream of scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, I was able to hold a koala and feed a kangaroo, and I tried crocodile, emu, and barracuda for the first time at a traditional Aussie barbie for my last night in the country.

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I left Australia not really knowing what to expect in New Zealand, and not thinking I would spend more than a couple months in the Kiwi capital of Wellington.

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“I know I’m not ready to settle. I’m inspired or not inspired by so many things pulling me in every direction. I think I can be happy everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It’s the delusions of choice my generation and nationality has given to me. It’s the fate of a Gemini and the indecisive spirt I’ve always relied on. I get flashes of the past more often these days, wondering if there’s meaning behind it or if it’s simply the necessary romantics of the road.” – Random musings over an iced lemon croissant

April – Wellington

My first month in New Zealand was filled with trying to start over and get everything sorted for my new life in Kiwi land. I found a job at a craft beer bar my first week in the city, and it only took me a few weeks more to find a cozy little house in the suburb of Newtown to move into.

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I made a good few friends from the hostel I was staying at for my first month, and that was how I first explored all there was to see around Wellington: the waterfront, the cable car and lookout, the botanical gardens, and the first glimpse at my spot in Welly, Mt. Vic.

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The biggest transition for me to get used to was the weather. Coming from a summer in Sydney, it was quite a change when I didn’t see sunlight for the first week and a half I was in Welly, and even then I only had about 2 nice days of weather to enjoy out of my whole first month I was there.

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“Luckily, with the amount of times I have started over in new places this year, I have it down to an art on how to settle into a new city right away. The weather is much much colder than what I’m used to in Australia, I don’t think I’ve even had to wear pants in the last 6 months, but they have Tim Tams here so I think I’ll be just fine.” – My first 36 hours in Wellington

May – Wellington

I used the month of May to settle more into my new life in Wellington, and my new job at The Bruhaus. I went through management training and received my duty manager’s certificate.

I turned 24 and had one of the better birthdays I’ve had abroad with a lot of new friends to spend it with.

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I explored more of my own backyard, and realized with glee just how many hiking trails and beautiful vistas there are to find around the outskirts of Wellington. I went to a lot of bays and beaches around the city, which I think was due to me starting to become genuinely homesick for the beaches back home in California.

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“I’m a fan of simple aspects that happen every day, I call them daily doses of beauty. In my 23rd year, one of my favorite things was to watch the sunset and/or sunrise in every new place I traveled. Each one containing the same structure, but holding a unique awesomeness that never seemed to fade even with how many I witnessed last year.” – Take a moment to enjoy it

June – Wellington

This month was all about work, I stepped up and dived into management head on, there was a noticeable increase in stressful days at the bar. It was also the start of winter, so the weather had grown cold and blustery real quick. Luckily I had recently bought myself a onesie, so I used the weather as an excuse to curl up and read a lot of good books throughout the month.

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I grew closer to my coworkers, and said goodbye to some that were going their own way. I became used to my life in Wellington, I had my own room, a full-time job, and even a guitar and ukulele to keep me happy when I wasn’t working.

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“I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter where you decide to go in New Zealand, you will be rewarded with awesome views and stunning scenery. I’m partial to coastal views especially because of where I grew up, so I’ve recently been drawn to day trips that usually have the word “bay” in them. Luckily with Wellington’s location, you’re spoiled for choice.” – A journey from bay to bay

July – Wellington

July was a month of not a whole lot, to be completely honest. It was the middle of winter now, and I was still saving up like crazy for my travels in the summer.

I celebrated 4th of July for the 3rd time abroad, and decked out the whole bar with American paraphernalia, and I was pleasantly surprised to find my coworkers just as into dressing up as I was. It was also a coworkers birthday on July 5th, so we had quite the epic night.

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Even though the weather wasn’t great, I used my time to explore more of the Wellington region, and went to craft beer classes for funsies. I got together a group of friends and we checked out the quirky mini-golf and paintball industrial playground that is Carlucci Land.

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“That homesickness creeps in sometimes, especially on cold nights like tonight. I think back to those warm San Diego nights, exploring beautiful beaches and eating burritos under the moonlight, swinging on a playground, laughing, trying to pick out constellations on our smartphones, and unaware of where a year and a half later would lead me, and where my heart would be.” – Walkabout: Oriental Bay edition

August – Wellington, Taupo

August was a turning point for my time in New Zealand. On the 1st, me and a group of other coworkers and friends went to a Katchafire concert at a local venue. During the concert, my coworker leaned over and decided to kiss me, and really, the rest was history from there.

My coworker’s name of course was Kendall, my best friend in New Zealand at the time, and a guy who would become my boyfriend in October. That was the start to our romance, and one that has been the highlight to my time abroad.

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August was also the first time I was able to get out of Wellington properly. Me, Kendall, and another coworker, Mats, decided to take a weekend trip to Taupo, and it ended up being a great time in the little mountain town up north.

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We hiked the Tongariro Crossing in the snow with ice axes and crampons, bathed in natural hot springs, and I jumped out of a plane – did I mention, Taupo is considered the skydiving capital of the world? Needless to say, it was a ridiculously good trip, and a weekend that is still one of my favorites of all time in New Zealand.

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The rest of the month was filled up with attending festivals and conventions around Wellington, including the craft beer convention called Beervana, and the stellar Lux: Festival of Lights.

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“In almost a year and a half now, I’ve been blessed with witnessing some of the best street art around this side of the world. I don’t know what it is about cities in the Southern Hemisphere, but there are so many that produce intriguing and talented street artists.” – A look at Taupo through street art

September – Wellington

September was when some of my luck began to change. I severely injured my achilles heel during night adventuring at Mt. Vic with a few of the guys, and it’s an injury that would give me pain and cost me quite a bit of money for the next few months.

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I spent a decent amount of time off work because of my injury, and that’s when I started putting more energy into this blog, and realized that it’s an endeavor I’d like to monetize eventually.

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“These are the adventures that keep me traveling, a little off the radar, a little wacky and random, and a whole lot of awesome.” – Carlucci Land, the industrial fantasy playground of Wellington

October – Wellington

At the start of October, Kendall and I decided to take our romance to a relationship, and we spent a hell of a lot of time together, simply happy in each other’s company.

Halloween was one of the best I’ve had in years. I somehow managed to convince everyone at work to dress up in 1920s bartender zombie wear and makeup that scared more than a few customers.

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Kendall and I also went to a concert later that night, decked out in our zombie get-ups, and we were hilariously the only ones in the building dressed up for Halloween since it’s not so big of a holiday over here, but hey, at least we got a shout out from the band.

We also endured gale force winds on a daily basis as per usual for Wellington, and I realized that I’ll probably never get used to that much wind in my life.

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“If Wellington as a city was a character in the Captain Planet crew, it would most definitely be Linka, the planeteer that possesses the power of wind.” – A hike to the Brooklyn Wind Turbine in Windy Welly

November – Wellington

In November I bought the first car I’ve every owned for my upcoming travels around New Zealand at the end of December and the start of January. Within two weeks, that car was totaled by a drunk driver, and I’m still currently in the long process of waiting to be reimbursed for her reckless decision.

In the short life span of that car, I managed to take a day trip to Cape Palliser to test out my skills of driving on the opposite side of the road, and to see a beautiful place that can only be accessed by car.

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I entered into a beer tasting competition (can you sense a theme here with craft beer?) with a few other friends, and we made it to the top 5 in the competition, and even won a free imperial pint glass for having the best name: “I thought this was a wine tasting…”

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I celebrated Guy Fawkes Day for the first time, a holiday I didn’t even know about until I moved to New Zealand. For the festivities, I witnessed some of the best fireworks I’ve seen in long time, and had some classy drinks with new and old friends over a good view of the harbor.

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I also put on a proper American Thanksgiving for all of my Kiwi friends and made them personalized pumpkin pies and turkey & cranberry sandwiches.

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I went back to exploring more of the Wellington coastline with walking out to the Red Rocks Reserve and getting up close and personal with some male fur seals.

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“I love this area of the Wellington coastline, looking out towards the South Island, it always promises grand views and many bays, no matter what the weather may do that day. It’s also a coastal walk that’s loved by locals and travelers alike, so I’m happy I was finally able to tick it off the list” – Red Rocks and Seals, Oh My!

December – Wellington, Coromandel Peninsula, Rotorua

December has basically been a whole lot of getting ready for summer travels around New Zealand. I managed to squeeze together enough money to buy another car, and my friend from back home is about to get on a plane to come visit me. Everything is finally coming together and I couldn’t be more ecstatic.

I celebrated my first Kiwi Christmas, and actually had a great holiday with the people I was able to share it with.

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For the remainder of December, I’ll be making the long drive up to the Coromandel Peninsula to check out the famous Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach, and driving through Rotorua and Hobbiton on my way back to Wellington for New Year’s Eve.

I’ll be ringing in the New Year in Wellington, and immediately from the 1st of January will be on the road for a couple of weeks. I’d say it’s a good vibe for 2015 if I’m starting out with travel from the beginning.

“And it’s important to note that I’m still incredibly grateful that my life has lead me here. For the friends I’ve made, the relationships I’ve created, and the new culture I’ve grown fond of, I don’t regret moving here for a moment.” – Walkabout: Paraparmumu Edition


I don’t have any idea what type of year 2015 will be, but I already have a lot of exciting plans for the upcoming year so I’ll take that as a good sign.

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So far for 2015, January will be filled with a South Island road trip with one of my best friends from home, February will consist of the remaining travels I have around New Zealand’s North Island, and March will be my last month in the South Pacific.

From March I’ll be traveling to Hawaii, California, and Oregon on an epic West Coast road trip that will end with living in Portland, Oregon for a little while.

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I’ll be posting my goals for the upcoming year in a follow up post, but let’s just say I think I’m well set-up for a good 2015, and a return to my adventurous tendencies.

Hope you all had a great 2014, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

xo

The Atlas Heart

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Mimi McFadden
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Mimi McFadden

Travel Writer/Blogger at The Atlas Heart
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
Mimi McFadden
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