I haven’t posted a blog for some six months, though that’s not to say I haven’t written them. I wasn’t expecting to slow my blogging or stall my blog publishing. Indeed, in recent months, I found myself blogging three times over, unsurprisingly each on flights, yet I just never got round to posting Own Every Second, Arabian Oceans and Breaking Taboos and Hello 2017. Until now that is.
The past six months have moved with pace, but there’s a contented and calmness to my recent days that is unexpected. I think I finally found my stride. I think I may have finally gotten into the groove that’s been tantilisingly close but somewhat out of reach. I think that I may have finally managed to tip my balance scales evenly, to hold down a successful career, busy social life, family commitments, travel adventures, a relationship and still find time for creative pursuits and passions. I am seeing how far I’ve come and smiling mid-Atlantic as I take on my usual transatlantic commute to New York.
Today is the first of seven flights over the next three weeks. My touchdown into JFK this evening shall mark a brief visit to our offices in New York, to welcome new members of our HR team and get them onboarded at Warner. I am fortunate to be getting an unexpected free weekend in the States this month, with a full day to myself on Saturday to meander Manhattan and reconnect with Stefani and David on Saturday evening.
Sunday marks an early start and trip west, for my first visit to our offices in Burbank, where I am spending time with the team and being treated to dinner with a colleague and friend on Sunday and a BBQ at another’s on Tuesday evening. This, it seems, is the Californian way to be hospitable.
Jet lag will no doubt be a bitch – West Coast trips always seem to wipe me out, but I am excited at the prospect of Californian sunshine and visits to our offices in Burbank and Santa Monica. Ah, Santa Monica, my first real taste of Los Angeles some ten years ago. Stacey and I arrived on an uncharacteristically cold November’s day, severely jet-lagged (or perhaps, still hungover) following a few days in Las Vegas for a friend’s wedding. We spent an hour or so wandering the Santa Monica Pier, silently berating it for being a rather over hyped version of Brighton Pier and struggling to hold our skirts down in the gusty wind, drinking lukewarm coffee from a polystyrene cup. The Los Angeles we met that year, well, we were not quite expecting that.
That trip though, in 2007, was merely a brief two-day introduction to Los Angeles that took in Santa Monica, Hollywood and Universal Studios – we had little time to do much else. Yet my return visit, in the Summer of 2011, saw me spend some ten days in and around Los Angeles, with Hesn and her family, perfect hosts and guides to share with me their little slice of California. The place grew on me drastically second time around. I wasn’t expecting that.
So this will be my third visit to Los Angeles, though I haven’t been back for almost six years following my last visit. I am excited, and fortunate to have a Sunday to myself to enjoy the Californian way of life and recharge ahead of a busy week of meetings with our West Coast HR team and business leaders. I think I might just pitch up on a beach somewhere and soak in the very being of Californian life.
I’ll wave goodbye to Los Angeles towards the end of next week. It is then, that I will get to stick my out of office on for a while, as my adventures take me further West still. In a typical, somewhat illogical ‘Nicola’ moment, I have convinced myself that it is totally fine to swing by Australia for a mere nine day visit and holiday, as I am already ‘halfway’ there. Some ‘halfway’ might still be 14 hours from Los Angeles to Brisbane, but it remains logical and obvious to me to make a pit stop on the East Coast of Australia before I head home for the Easter weekend.
Ah, Brisbane. It was the slice of Australia that I flew home from on my last visit, the final pit stop in a much needed three-week personal journey to gather the strength to take on London life again. I recall leaving Brisbane, and Sonya, behind as I made the epic journey home one mid-January day in early 2015. It’s a little over two years since my last visit, and I didn’t dream to return quite so soon, but stars align sometimes and opportunities arise that we simply cannot pass up. Unexpected but welcome opportunities.
The appropriateness of this return trip, in 2017, to Australia, is not lost on me. It is not something I was expecting, but it feels so very right. My 2015 self left the land down under rejuvenated and restored of hope following a rather epic three-week East Coast adventure, yet even then I was still tentative to step back upon English shores. I recall being sat in Brisbane airport, willing myself to take the strength and contentment that I had felt on that three week Aussie adventure home with me; willing myself to find a way to smile back in London and bring holiday back into my UK life once again.
It turns out, that Australia was just the kick-start that I needed. It turns out, that my fond 2009 and 2014/15 memories perhaps had more purpose back then than I could have known. How could I have expected that?
It turns out, that I am returning to the East Coast, yet again, in 2017. It turns out that the Whitsundays, where I sailed for a day back in 2009 and where that taster for the seas led me back in 2015 for my first ever dive and the chance to conquer fears amidst the depths of the waters and the corals of the barrier reef, are calling me again. It turns out that in a couple of weeks from now, I’ll be finding myself back in those Whitsundays islands, chilling in a villa, snorkeling, kayaking and mingling with the turtles once again.
I am excited. Australia, to me, has always been a place of the greatest of memories and the most significant of recharges. The Whitsundays, in particular, triggered my love of photography once again and prompted my trip to Marrakech a couple of years ago. Getting lost in the seas and savouring the silence of the ocean is an unexpected gift that I am fortunate enough to be experiencing thrice times over.
This trip, this Australian adventure to the southern hemisphere is about family and friends this time though. My brief East Coast visit shall be peppered with introductions, homestays, nights out in bars, BBQs and lazy villa days, getting to know and getting to love the nearest and dearest of my unexpected Aussie. I pinch myself that it’s actually happening. My attempts to enjoy family time in the southern hemisphere have not historically always gone to plan, yet this thing, this unexpected thing, is happening.
The sun has risen, and I wasn’t expecting it to shine a path for me back to Australia but we are where we are and I’ll be where I’ll be, and Australia, for me, is calling, once again, just like it did in 2014. Perhaps it was a sign all along, a message, however unexpected and silent, that the East Coast is a place for me to be. A place for me to frequently swing by. I place for me to unexpectedly find the balance that has been known to evade me from time to time.
I shall return to London just before Easter. An epic, three-week adventure of work and of play lies ahead of my days. And London life is pretty good these days. Work remains challenging and fun; just last week we hosted colleagues from around the world for a global HR leadership conference and just a couple of weeks prior we were treated to appearances in the office by Ed Sheeran and Stormzy.
Outside of work, the last few weeks and months have seen me recover from my second broken elbow in recent years and some awesome evenings out at supper clubs and Moulin Rouge at the Secret Cinema. Weekends are a midst of lazy days and social adventures – brunching, lunching, chilling and chatting. Of course, there’s been some holiday planning, and Australia aside I’ve adventures in Athens, Aberdeen, Toulouse, Lake Garda and the Polish countryside coming up.
My dreams of Tanzanian safaris alongside Zanzibar beach adventures, Jordanian tours of Petra, Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea, Tromso for the Northern Lights and another visit to South East Asia, potentially Indonesia, Philippines or Vietnam are all on my wish list for this year, but given my holiday allowance I’m going to have to make some tough choices on how far I can go in 2017. Sometimes, of course, the places that we get to see and find ourselves visiting are manifestations of unexpected opportunities and coincidental invites. Australia, for example, was not on my list again this time last year, yet life shifts, evolves and surprises us and we find ourselves enticed to unexpected places.
So however unexpected things may be at times, for every opportunity that you were not expecting, there’s a rightfulness to their presence. There’s a reason, a message, a sign for everything. There are unexpected Australian adventures that might just pop along when you thought you and the southern hemisphere had been and gone. There are more places down under, or wherever works for you, that unexpectedly, but rightly, show up when you need reminding you’ve still so much further to go.