Posted by: seehowfarwevecome | July 5, 2017

Sitting idle in wonderment of today

It’s Summer today, allegedly, though the grey skies to date have been hiding that fact. I am idly sat by a fresh log fire in a lake house about an hour south of Gdansk in Poland, watching for the first time this week blue skies and sunshine shining through the window but there’s a cold wind so I am finding respite and warmth here indoors to the smell of burning wood and the crackle of acorns.

It’s been some time since I blogged, but the peace and tranquillity of this lake house commands me to write. I don’t often make space to think and idly wonder these days, so I find myself sat mindfully enjoying the flames. There’s something uncomfortable yet comfortable about this place. As a city girl, the wilderness always pushes me to a place that is unnatural to me, yet I like to push myself into zones of discomfort from time to time.

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The slow pace of being sat here is somewhat enforced. I’ve managed to pull a muscle in my calf for the second time in three weeks, or rather, I’ve managed to set back the recovery I was making from the first injury when I pushed my calf a step or two too far yesterday by walking up a steep incline to get to this lake house. I felt my calf ping in a twist of irony that was not unlike the final snap I had felt arriving here in Poland a few short nights ago. That final snap, when after a long and tiring journey and one of the more stressful weeks I’ve had at work in a long time, was the mere fact that I couldn’t find towels in our hotel room when all I had wanted was a hot shower to wash off a stressful day and week.

It got me thinking, this week, how I used to suffer too many of those stressful weeks and how fortunate I’ve been of late for those days to have subsided. It’s been a painful reminder of the days when weekends and evenings were swallowed by work, and the ill timing of the demands upon my time this week at work with my ‘holiday’ have taken me back some years. Thankfully, it’s a rare moment these days – working on weekends I mean.

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Yet before I left for Poland on Thursday night, I literally had one of the worst days at work that I’ve had in a long time. A thumping headache and a rush to the airport to barely make my plane after getting stuck longer than planned in the office, I couldn’t wait to touchdown in Poland to chill. Two bits of dreadful news for friends had also permeated my week and when I met up with Cha, finally at Luton airport, she’d had an equally difficult few days.

Thankfully, Cha was my travel buddy once again. Cha, whom I’ve travelled all over the world with, literally, who knows me well and who I know well too, was the perfect buddy to offload upon and she assumed that role of offloading to me also, in equal measure. So when we sat there in our hotel room at 1.30am in the morning, and I discovered that there were no towels in the bathroom, she could laugh with me through my tears at the irony of that very straw breaking the back of that damn camel.

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“We will laugh about this one day” we mused, and with that I gave way to a burst of energy that I usually don’t have. “Let’s go out, now, and see the Sopot nightlife”. So we did, until 5am, and we watched the sun come up through gin and tonics and cocktails and we lazed with this laid back Polish vibe, chatting idly through the early hours. Maybe it was adrenaline, or the euphoria of finally escaping the office and the chance to forget some daily stresses for a few hours, but we giggled and chilled through a Polish scene that could have been any normal Saturday afternoon in any normal city.

Sopot by night, what a wonderful place. Despite the rain, the early morning rise of the sun kept the night from ever truly getting dark. There was a buzz to this place, and a slower pace of drinking amidst the different taverns, some still offering food at 4am. Cha and I sipped drinks somewhat slowly, taking in the décor and the European feel. Quiet music played through the background, interspersed with heavy, crazy Polish songs that broke up the stillness and stood juxtaposed to the ambience.

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Perhaps we were letting off steam, but it was what we needed. It was what I needed, with a good friend who knows every part of me and my history. We reminisced on travel stories and we talked about other trips. There are so many places that I still want to go. I often grapple with the temptation to leave it all behind, again, and take off on another trip around the world, but there’s a peace to my London life now and a balance I don’t want to tip, but that feeling, that urge to venture off is always there.

Come Friday, we stopped for food and had our share of Polish offerings, from beetroot soup to cabbage and mushroom pierogi, accompanied by local beers and warm welcomes. We sampled the cuisine with all the might we could muster, determined to have an authentic, local experience when it came to satisfying our appetites.

Whilst I have my SLR with me this weekend, unusually, I have not ventured out with it. I’m taking a new approach to seeing the world and its ways through my own eyes, unobstructed from my camera lens. Memories etched in my mind rather than captured on film. It’s a different way of being for these few short days.

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The door to the lake house has swung open and there’s a cold, sharp air flowing in. It awakens my thoughts, and my feet are a contradiction of warm and cold, with the flames of the log fire battling with the wind. The contradiction is metaphorical; the swings of warmth and the moments of cold. I want the warmth to envelope me, but the cold is a harsh reality and reminder to stay awake to the world and its ways.

There’s a hustle of noise around me, as people come and go through the lake house, playing games and heading out for walks amidst the woodlands. My enforced solace to recover my calf is somewhat welcome, as it gives me a stillness to stop and think and be mindful to the moments around me. It provides a place for restorative reflection. I am able to sit idle in wonderment.

There is talk around me of finding things to be grateful for and mindfulness; others talk of their five year goals. I realise how easy it is to not always stop to be thankful, so I spend some moments here, listening to the click and crack of the flames burning, being thankful for things around me. I also stop and realise that I have, to some extent, stopped planning of late, that the idea of a five year plan has become absent in my mid-thirties world.

I am thankful therefore that I have stopped planning, that I’ve started letting things evolve, but I do wonder sometimes if a bit of focus, like my twenty-something self, might render more reward. Life is easier to plan in few months to year-long bursts of late. It is rare that I find moments, like these, to sit idle with my thoughts and map out my path. Perhaps I plan less of late, so as to avoid the disappointment of plans not coming to fruition. Perhaps it is easier to sit idle in wonderment of today. Perhaps even more so, it’s easier to sit idle in the wonderment of yesterday.

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Yet as I do indeed sit idle, by the fire that still crackles on, I try to envisage tomorrow. I think that perhaps I stopped envisaging tomorrow for a good while, too cautious to hope that tomorrow might turn out the way I planned. A caution that I never had in my younger years, but which life slowly teaches you to hold. It’s that fine balance of hoping for the best but protecting ourselves in case of the worse, so the wonderment of tomorrow is a mix of excitement and caution, joy and trepidation, possibility and impossibilities. Yet tomorrow is something wonderful still, as I’ve the fortune to have a tomorrow.

The power of positive thinking, of seeing and believing, of hoping and knowing is a wonderful thing. I remember, so vividly, in my early twenties, being told by a senior HR leader that I’d make it to HR Director by the time I was thirty, if I held that belief and focused that thought. It didn’t happen when I hit thirty though, but as I hit my thirty-first birthday I secured my current global role. I guess that didn’t really happen by chance. I guess those moments I used to take, sitting idle in wonderment at my five year plan, had some degree of influence. Yet I didn’t plan for the things outside of my career so much, I didn’t plan for the travels or the relationships or the ups or the downs. I didn’t plan for the art, the photography, the blogs and the friendships along the way, they just came swinging by.

Perhaps I should have had more purposeful thought about some of those things a little earlier.  Perhaps I should have listened to inner thoughts a bit sooner, yet I am today here in wonderment at how yesterday has brought me to my today. Today, sat here, log fire burning, classical music playing on the stereo in the most mindful of ways, it’s the perfect back drop to sit idle and wonder once again, about tomorrow. Perhaps the wonderment and fortune of my world was always meant to be reflected upon this very day, sat idly by the fire.

Posted by: seehowfarwevecome | March 25, 2017

I Wasn’t Expecting That

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.

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Stacey and I on the West Coast of the USA, November 2007 – Las Vegas

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.

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Hollywood, August 2011

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.

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Hungover, jet lagged and freezing in Santa Monica, November 2007

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.

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Universal Studios, November 2007

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.

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Whitsunday sailing – January 2015

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.

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Brisbane – last day in Australia, January 2015

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.

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Partying in downtown Los Angeles – August 2011

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.

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Californian beach days – Summer 2011

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.

Posted by: seehowfarwevecome | March 25, 2017

Hello 2017

Written in January 2017

It may appear that I’ve had a break from blogging lately, yet the truth is, I have written, but chosen not to publish two blogs of late. The first, Own Every Second I wrote on my flight from Chicago to Newark at the end of September last year. I guess I got busy, and never got to publish it, but it was written and so today, I am pleased to share it with you.

The second blog though, Arabian Oceans and Breaking Taboos was much more personal and I guess, I was not sure whether it was the right place or time to publish it. I wrote in on a recent flight to Sri Lanka, which I toured for 11-days with a group tour company called the Flashpack. The taboo that I was, indeed am, choosing to break, was to talk about my muse, and who she really was/is.

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Sri Lanka’s hillside – November 2016

Readers of See How Far I’ve Come will recall my blogs that reference my muse, as far back as 2011. I don’t see her anymore, but she had a huge impact on my life and ability to manage every curveball and to chase every dream. Today, in 2017, it feels the right time to publish it. I am in a very good place, but can recognise when others are not, so if breaking the taboo of counseling helps someone, just one person, take time out to talk, reflect and ultimately make a change, then publishing Arabian Oceans and Breaking Taboos will have been the right thing to do.

It is January, it’s a Sunday and it’s 2017. I am, unsurprisingly, on a transatlantic flight from London to JFK, ready for a full week of work in our offices on 51st and Broadway and some lovely evenings catching up with some very dear friends whom I have not seen for the last three months. It’s a good time, right now, to reflect on 2016.

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2016 Transatlantic Commuting

For me, 2016 was a completely mixed year, with tremendous highs but some difficult lows too. I got to see and do some amazing things. My travels took me to New York (in February, April, June and October), Chicago (September), Dubai (April), Bologna in Italy (May), Hamburg (May), Cyprus (May), Ibiza (July), the Rocky Mountains, Vancouver Island and Vancouver itself in Central and West Coast Canada (August/September), Sri Lanka (November) and Copehagen in Denmark (December) for some Christmas markets. For someone juggling work and life and travel, it was a pretty perfect year.

Yet 2016 also saw us say a sad goodbye to my aunt, who lost a six-month battle with cancer in June. A race for life in her honour and a subsequent family gathering with my cousins and uncle in October however seemed to help us celebrate her life and laughter and I shall forever remember her grace through her battle.

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A brave auntie

September, however, saw a different kind of grief, when one of my nearest and dearest lost someone extraordinarily close to them to suicide. I got the news whilst Stateside on a work trip, and I wandered around in a daze for a good while that can only possibly be described as 1% of the daze that my nearest and dearest must have been, and continues to, be feeling. It is, perhaps, what prompted my (previously unpublished) blog Arabian Oceans and Breaking Taboos.

Three and a half months on, and undoubtedly it still is, and will always be, the most difficult thing in the world to have to deal with, so I can only hope (we can only hope), that people will realise that there is no shame in talking, in sharing, in seeking help. I can only hope that my broken taboo will help someone, somewhere, who may need to know that counseling is one of the best things you can do for yourself in life. That there are other options out there when it feels like there are none.

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Strong friends breaking taboos – Cyprus, May 2016

The situation for me, perhaps reinforced, the need for us all to take time to work on ourselves. For us to share ourselves with others who have got to a place of finding themselves. My muse, she used to challenge me, often. She would ask me what it would be like for me to let go and let someone else be strong for me. She would enquire what it might be like if I were to stop seeking out the complicated, stopped trying to fix things that others needed to find a way to fix themselves and to instead, stand up ready and waiting to be supported myself.

The notion, always seemed easy but in reality, it’s been hard to find. I spent much of 2016 repeating those same behaviours, finding complicated situations and continuing to expend energy on trying to unravel them; trying to unravel people that hadn’t taken a single step forward to try to help to unravel themselves. Whilst my muse and I parted two years ago, I could hear her exhaling slowly in my head, softly shaking hers in frustration at my continued chipping away at things that would never give.

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Simple intangibles – November 2016

Then September happened. My friend, she experienced the shortest, sharpest loss you can imagine. That thing I had been chasing, those complications I’d invested so much time in, suddenly felt meaningless. This situation, this god-awful situation that my friend found herself in, suddenly shone a light on the need, that real need, to give up on complicated and to let people be responsible for fixing themselves.

Thankfully, something a lot less complicated came my way and I guess, as 2016 began its final quarter, I was in a good place to accept it. I found my intangibles again. I have learnt to trust again. I have learnt to take a risk again. I found a way to allow myself to be supported and I am learning, every day, to let myself be looked after a little, which outside of my family and closest friends, is a pretty new experience for me.

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Racing for life – July 2016

So what else of 2016? Well, I did my first Race For Life in spite of a dodgy hip; I also managed to fracture my elbow and meet an amazing Aussie that didn’t seem to care that my less abled bodied was high on codeine just three days post break (I guess it made conversation flow easier!). I found my love of cooking again, properly, with the help of a former chef and great baker. I also finally got some of my artwork framed and hung up on the walls of my flat – maybe in 2017 I’ll be inspired enough to pick up that paintbrush again?

I did a lot of travel and ticked off more countries on my list (forty countries worldwide thus far, and still counting). I made some new friends in Sri Lanka on the Flashpack tour, and we’re meeting for Hoppers and cocktails in London in a couple of weeks. I did a couple of presentations/speaking events in London and Chicago, and suddenly was herald in an ‘expert’ in something I knew nothing of two years ago.

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Lake Louise, Canada – September 2016

With Tom moving back to the Midlands in the Summer to retrain as a teacher, I found myself living solely with girls for the first time ever and dating stories, cooking tips and candle shopping followed in great strides. We made it to Copenhagen for a girly Xmas shopping trip to peruse the markets in December and had an awesome Halloween evening out in Kensal Green.

Life shifted a lot, in 2016. Work slightly evened its pace, though 2015 had been quite exceptional and conveniently distracting and all encompassing for me. I ticked off some places on my wish list. Canada was breathtaking and seeing grizzly bears in the wild remains an absolute highlight. Dubai was just as glitzy, flamboyant and wild as I imagined it to be.

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Dubai Days – April 2016

There were many highlights to remember. January was dry, kicking off with a New Year’s Day walk in the Derbyshire countryside and ending with a James Bond themed night at the Kensington Roof Gardens with some fab friends.

February brought a snowy work trip to New York, with an amazing meal with great friends and colleagues at the Gramercy Tavern. It was also the month that Tom and I found a dog wandering the streets of West Hampstead, and we promptly took him to Battersea Dogs Home.

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Dubai Nights, April 2016

March arrived with birthday celebrations for Louisa and an early Easter, with a spa visit to Sopwell House and food in Hampstead at the Flask, where my grandad used to drink.

April brought trips to New York (-4 – it was chuffing freezing!) and Dubai (it was frickin’ hot!) with the girls, where we dined, drank, enjoyed shisha and screamed on the rides at Atlantis.

May brought Bologna, Hamburg and Cyprus – I was barely in the country! A family wedding topped the month off nicely. It was all about pasta, fresh seafood and white asparagus, as well as boat rides on the Thames and a lovely walk through the Peak District that will forever be cherished.

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Precious Peak District days, May 2016

June swung around and brought a day at the Polo in Putney, a Warner Music bike ride and a return to (a warmer) New York, before I came back to London and bid Tom a fond farewell to the Midlands and to pay respects to an aunt who had battled hard.

July arrived with a trip with Jade to Ibiza – food, cocktails, sun and sea, the perfect four day respite from London life. A Race for Life in Hyde Park with a celebratory roast dinner and a couple of weddings too, with a visit to Sandbanks. Some nice walks on Hampstead Heath and a fab Andy Murray Wimbledon win watched with pimms from the St Pancras viewing platform.

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Summer Days – Wimbledon Final, St Pancras, June 2016

August arrived with trips to the Isle of Wight and the start of a Canadian adventure. That aside, there was a fab charity ‘blag it’ challenge that our HR team participated in across London in aid of Centrepoint.

September and the Grizzly Bears came to see us in Canada and we got to hang with Fi in Vancouver (and Rob Thomas). The annual Warner Music UK Mainstage event saw the arrival of Biffy Clyro, Jesse Glynne, Busted, Rumer and Liam Gallagher just before a work trip to Chicago. An Aussie arrived on the scene and the worst kind of news for a dear friend shook us all at the end of the month’s close.

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New York nights – June 2016

October and it was adios Chicago and hello again New York to close out a two week work trip. The Goo Goo Dolls returned to Europe and a fab Halloween closed out the month.

November and it was time for a Flashpack trip to Sri Lanka and a visit to Derbyshire to check out the Chatsworth House Christmas Market.

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Christmas with the family – December 2016

December was full of festivities. Warner Music Christmas parties, birthday celebrations and a trip to Copenhagen. A Polish Christmas Eve (Vigilia) with some amazing food and some much need rest and relaxation over the festive period.

So what is next? Well, aside from my New York business trip, I have a trip to Los Angeles in the calendar for work, then an onward trip to Australia (yup, time to head down under again). I’ll be Brisbane bound then onwards to the wonderful Whitsundays for a few days of snorkeling, swimming and sunbathing. Athens is in the diary for a couple of special family birthdays and I’m heading to a music festival in Poland in June. My heart is set on a safari in Tanzania and a trip to Vietnam, Jordan and Tromso, but I’ll be making some tough choices with that wish list given my 2017 annual leave allowance.

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New Year, new intangibles

2016 was a year of loss and gain for me. Tremendous, amazing step forwards in life counterbalanced by grief, yet those that have passed continue to teach us to live. So here we are 2017, hello. New York bound, onwards to my second home. I’m excited to see it, to see my friends. Yet I know how far I have come and how much now, London, really, really feels like home.

 

Posted by: seehowfarwevecome | March 25, 2017

Arabian Oceans and Breaking Taboos

Written November 2016

I am over the Arabian Sea, just a couple of hours to go before I reach Sri Lanka ready for a 10 day adventure around the very best of what the island has to offer. It’s been a few years since I made it to Asia, aside from a connecting flight or two in Bangkok, and I’m excited at the prospect of discovering more of this Eastern world.

I am travelling solo today, just like Marrakech last year. I’m joining a group tour – The Flashpack – in Colombo later today. My photography tour of Morocco last year was one of my favourite ever travel experiences, so perhaps there’s a part of me looking to recreate that, albeit in a different sense, in Sri Lanka this year.

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Locals walking on the train tracks near the train station in the hills surrounding Ella, Sri Lanka – November 2016

Marrakech graced me with some new friendships in a period where I was rediscovering myself. It gave me the formidable opportunity to share a passion for making photos with others who held equal passion for travel. The chance to travel solo – to just head out into this world with my passport and lots of goodwill to get along with people, remains one of my most cherished memories.

It will come as no surprise then, that I want to recapture that a bit. Sure, I’ve had chances to travel with friends and family a few times already this year, but there is something liberating, something empowering and cleansing about doing it on your own from time to time. This is my space, my chance to be with myself and my thoughts and to allow the experience of it all to take me on a ride.

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With my fellow Flashpackers on our final stop in Sri Lanka

When I booked the trip earlier this year, I guess I was trying to tick off another country, trying to get back to Asia which I’d made one of my goals all along this year from the turn of the clock at midnight on 1st January. I was trying to fill time with adventures, with memories, with experiences that will last a lifetime and which I’ll look back on someday, remembering the freedom and independence of it all.

So here I am. Adventuring. Smiling. Content and happy. I have only been back in London the past month, since landing back from my two week work visit to Chicago and New York in October. But a lot can happen in a month and a lot can indeed happen in a year. We have to take moments when they swing by. We have to take opportunities when they knock. We have to encourage others to do so too. We have to make each second count, and we have to just live. We have to do things because they feel right and not be held back by fear of our own vulnerability.

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Ready to climb Sigiriya Rock

Living has become so much more than a slogan or whim. It’s more than an existence. It’s a toolkit. It’s a special set of behaviours. It’s a positive outlook. It’s about exercising our minds as much as our bodies. It’s about realising that it’s okay to talk, to share experiences, hopes, fears and dreams. It’s about knowing that in the darkest of days there can be an inner strength that pulls us through, if we just remember that living is what it is indeed about.

These past few weeks have been particularly juxtaposed. I’ve watched a very close friend battle with news that is incomprehensible to digest. That is so sudden and shocking that the mere act of standing, of existing, becomes a daily hardship. But she has learnt lessons over the years, to live. She has learnt to tap in to an inner strength. She has learnt tools. She has learnt that it’s okay to talk. It’s okay to just be with feelings. That it’s okay to go through the motions and it is in fact necessary to heal and grieve.

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The famous fishermen on stilts in Sri Lanka

She continues to stand, even when it’s the most difficult thing in the world to do. To just stand in this world again, is the greatest of challenges for her right now. It will be difficult for a good while yet, but she’s willing to try. She knows it is necessary to pull herself forward again. I know that I, and many around her, are there to help her with that. That hopefully we might one day find a way to make the incomprehensible something comprehensible. That someday, we’ll find a message from this. It may be fundraising, or simply raising awareness. Perhaps we’ll share our own stories in a bid to make people realise that it’s fine to talk and there need be no taboo.

So as I approach Sri Lanka, for an amazing solo adventure, I am contented, truly. I have taken lessons from my muse over the years. I am trying something new. I am taking different decisions, applying a new tact, adopting a different approach. It’s more carefree. It’s fun. It’s allowing me to let go. It’s a pattern of behaviour that I am breaking. Complexity, it seems, is a thing of the past. Straightforward is the only way to go.

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Bird watching in Yala National Park

And what of my muse? Well perhaps it’s time I break that taboo, as it’s okay to talk. I met my muse in 2011, and spent a couple of years working with her. A blip took me back to her at the end of 2014, but this time, my prior lessons were quick to kick in and I simply touched based with her, knowing the tools that I needed to pull myself through, to live again.

I told someone recently of my muse. “You are the last person in the world I would have expected to have been through counseling; you’re so sorted” they said. That’s right – my muse – my then counselor, helped me to help myself to not just find a path but to find the right path for me. “That’s because I went to counseling” I explained. That’s because I took a chance to make a change, even if on the surface, it didn’t seem like much needed to change.

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Releasing baby turtles in the Indian Ocean

But those days, with my muse, have shaped my life and allowed me to understand myself, my actions and my wants and needs so very, very well. I am suspicious as to whether I would have got to that level of understanding alone. Recent events, that I was reflecting on just last weekend, suggest that not everyone around us realises that even the most sorted people in life may have had past battles to get to that place.

So I’m breaking that taboo today, in the hope of inspiring others that it’s okay to talk. I am breaking a taboo and sharing the fact that my muse was my counselor, my confidante with whom I shared my thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams and whom I believe, quite firmly, helped me realise how far I’ve come and how much further I can go.

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Flashpackers on tour

And what better way than to break that taboo than to feel myself descending for Colombo airport, on another far flung journey that’ll take me far in life, growth and air miles. Computers must shortly be turned off. So see, if breaking taboos means people can realise that even the most sorted people in life have had a helping hand, then I hope it inspires them to find a muse of their own, and maybe book an adventure. To maybe talk to someone. To blog. To paint. To find a way to be with feelings, manage, nuture and share them. Our mind, like our bodies, need exercise and training to see how far we can indeed go.

Posted by: seehowfarwevecome | March 25, 2017

Own Every Second

Written 29th September 2016

It’s the last day of September and Summer has disappeared. A few days of sunshine in Chicago have been replaced by rain and New York’s forecast is looking distinctively grey. My flight to New York this time is short-haul, and after an hour and 45 minutes delay I am bound for my second home, heading East for Newark and we are just passing over Detroit.

The last few days have whizzed by in a blur, and much like last time, I didn’t really get to explore the city. My arrival into Chicago last Sunday kicked off with a baseball game with the Cubs. I was lucky enough to be treated to drinks and food in the VIP area, which helped enormously in keeping my jet lag at bay as the game got underway. I reminisced on my previous baseball experiences seeing the dodgers play in Los Angeles a few years back.

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By the time Monday rolled around and jet lag woke me with a start, a series of meetings, videos and welcome key note speeches kicked off the conference and my week. I reconnected with partners from the US who have been on my work journey with me the past two and a half years or so.   Dinner was rounded off with a meal in a charcuterie in the Loop of Chicago’s downtown.

Tuesday saw the event really kick off, and by lunchtime I had delivered my Q&A session, as part of a panel of ‘experts’ on leveraging value from a global HR system rollout. Marta arrived shortly afterwards and we got caught up on work and life in no time, London and New York catching up in Chicago. We skipped a couple of evening invites to head for some local Mexican food, feasting on guacamole and shrimp before hitting a supplier party in the evening.

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At the Cubs game

The party, held at the Underground nightclub in Chicago, was really swinging, with a violinist playing over the top of the DJ. Cheesy music filled the airwaves, and canapés and wine flowed freely amidst the crowd. Friends, partners and colleagues joined us on the dance floor and my one arm and I managed to enjoy the evening’s festivities. It was a welcome break from juggling day job with conference, throughout the day.

As Wednesday rolled around, so did another early start to clear down European and Asian workload. Come evening, Marta and I scooted off to sample a fish restaurant, first stopping for a glass of wine in a local bar. We reflected, as we often do, sharing stories of life and remembering how far we’ve come. An air of contentment surrounded us, almost exactly a year since Marta, Toby, Kirsty and I took a Sunday walk on the highline in New York, all perhaps in very different places back then.

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Partying in Chicago – fractured elbow or not

Then came the part of the evening I had looked forward to the most. We got to see One Republic play live and close the conference in a customer appreciation party. I had hoped, since I heard that they were playing, that they would play ‘I Lived’. The song, that ‘anthem/’ for Sonya and my Australia trip at the end of 2014/early 2015, continues to be held in a special place. The irony of the lyrics talking of still living with every broken bone, was not lost on me.

I could barely contain my excitement when they played ‘I Lived’. Sonya and I had listened to it endlessly just a little under 20 months ago. We had used it as a theme to our Australia trip – doing it all, or as much as we could. From diving to goat mustering to holding snakes and kayaking the Whitsundays. Yet doing it all hasn’t ended there, the anthem to do it all and to live, to really live and to own every second, continues on.

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Reunion dinner in NYC, October 2016

So as I find myself Eastbound for Newark, I am looking forward to a weekend in my second home. After a day of work tomorrow, I will get to kick back with David. We’ve a simple, London style evening planned, of dinner, wine and a movie, Bridget Jones’ Baby in fact. It’ll have been a hectic week, so the chance to chill with a movie, wine and one of my best friends, shall be perfect.

I have few plans then this weekend, other than to hang with some New York friends and to take it a bit easy after a hectic few days in Chicago, before another hectic week of work kicks off, mixing meetings and workshops with the best of New York’s offerings.

I realise it’s been a year since our Global HR Leadership Update in New York, and since the end of a hurricane almost swept Stefani and I off of our feet in the East Village as we hit up Miss Lily’s for some amazing jerk chicken. How has it been a year, already, I wonder? Yet it’s been an amazing year. Another year of lessons, growth and evolution, and another fractured elbow.

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One armed at my fountain, NYC – October 2016

Marta and I reflected on the last year. A project that was so hectic it perhaps nearly broke us, and several others, but which we have come out smiling from. Personal lessons too. People who have disappointed. People who have surprised us. Ways in which we’ve owned every second and chosen to take every risk.

“I’ve slowed down a bit this year” I ruefully told Marta, and was met by skepticism and raised eyebrows. “I have, I honestly have” I exclaimed, and Marta smiled at me. Perhaps, it seems, that my slowing is relative to the last 18 months or so, for which I had good reasons, career and personal, to dive headfirst into operating at 110 miles an hour.

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At the One Republic Gig – “I Lived”

I own every second perhaps, but slowing at times, to maybe let some seconds go by without a plan, wouldn’t go amiss. So perhaps, that is my challenge for next year. To let some seconds go by without a plan. To not have to own every second, but to let every second unfold, naturally.

Posted by: seehowfarwevecome | September 25, 2016

Déjà Vu and Lemonade

It’s eight years today since I left EMI Music, which means it’s also approaching eight years since I started work at Ignite, kicking off with a business trip to Chicago. In an odd déjà vu moment then, I am Chicago bound today, eight years on, returning to the windy city for the Workday Rising conference. I am a guest speaker at the event, which seems surreal given that it was just two short years ago that we began to research Workday – now it seems, we are considered the experts!

My first and last visit to Chicago was for work also, but on that trip I had just a couple of hours in downtown Chicago, instead working at a client in the suburbs of Chicago, a good 45 mins or so from the main city area. This time though, I am staying in the heart of the city, but much like that 2008 visit, I won’t have much time to see the sights. My agenda is full, and my day job (and my life) has picked up pace again. I have just spent the last four hours of my journey working, clearing down actions I’ve had no time to take these past couple of weeks.

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Navy Pier – Oct 2008

It’s not the only sense of déjà vu that I’ve had in recent weeks. Just as I tempted fate in my last blog and said that recent weeks had an air of 2011 about them, I found myself with the same injury that I managed to inflict upon myself back in January 2011. My second elbow fracture in five years, much like 2011, came entirely out of the blue. Back in 2011, I convinced myself that my fracture was a sign to slow down, to stop working so hard and take a slower pace. In 2016, I think perhaps it’s once again telling me to do the same.

Yet 2016’s need to slow my pace is less so about lacking balance in life, less so about needing to manage my office hours better. It’s instead so much more so about perhaps needing to commit to things a little less. I’ve become an absolute yes person for all diary invitations. My evenings, weekends and breakfast windows are full through to the beginning of 2017. This is not a normal way to operate. Down-time, personal chill time, is not something I tend to book in.

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Navy Pier – Sept 2016

Having such a hectic diary is a thrill. I get to see, do and be so many things. Yet perhaps it gets in the way at times. Perhaps I have needed to start to say no a little, and to sit with moments with no plans. Perhaps I have needed to learn to have a weekend when nothing exists except waking up and deciding how to spend the day. Perhaps I have needed to make the space for me to create something again.

So the universe, it seems, has once again interfered. Its left-field attempt to slow me down with an avulsion elbow fracture has indeed been met with a need for me to slow it. This past week and a half, since I found myself in A&E, has been frustrating at times, as basic things become difficult, but it’s also been a timely reminder to heed some of my 2011 lessons.

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Leaving EMI Music – 25 September 2008

I laughed to myself when I fractured my elbow, which is perhaps a slightly odd reaction, yet the irony of the situation didn’t escape me. I could hear my muse laughing too. She would no doubt have raised an eyebrow at the irony of the universe’s interference in my need to slow it down again. I know she’d equally be commenting on the parallels between 2011 and 2016, albeit knowing that the nature of my need to slow down is more on a personal than professional level this time.

Fractured elbows aside though, there was another dose of déjà vu that hit me last Thursday when we had our annual Warner Music UK ‘Mainstage’ Company event. Like the prior two years, the entire UK business got together in a local auditorium to talk strategy, new music and people. This year, we were treated to live appearances and performances by Rumer, Liam Gallagher, new signing the Manor, Biffy Clyro, Jess Glynne and Busted. What an absolute treat!

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I had been hoping for ages that one day, our Mainstage event might include Jess Glynne in the line up. Ever since I sat in the auditorium last year, listening to a preview play of ‘Take Me Home’, I have had her album on replay. I even wrote a blog titled ‘Take Me Home’ – inspired by the track. My déjà vu moment last Thursday therefore was of that very song – though this time, Jess was live in the Warner office and I was a couple of rows back, watching her perform.

The hairs on my neck stood up. I recalled, even as little ago as 12 months, listening to that track and feeling choked. Mainstage, a bit like my NYC fountain, has become a bit of milestone for me. The first, in September 2014, came at a point of upheaval in my life, and the event, which is truly superb, gave me a much needed spring in my step and need to feel grateful again for the opportunities that have landed with me. People told me then that I just needed time, but it was hard to believe in that moment.

Then last year, September 2015’s Mainstage, was equally as commemorative and powerful. This time, I was no doubt in a much, much better place, yet when that song came on, when ‘Take Me Home’ blared from the speakers, I was once again choked in a way that I thought I could no longer be. Space had indeed made things better and time indeed had helped to heal, but somehow the song’s lyrics jut captured me, and everything that I continued to feel at periodic intervals.

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So this year, when Jess came on and played the song, her metaphorical view of life was not lost on me. This time, in 2016, I recognised my readiness to let someone take the wheel from me. I noted how I am ready now to be caught before I hit the ground. I am ready to be home.

Déjà vu has appeared even on this flight today. I recognise one of the air stewardesses; I suppose given my frequent transatlantic commutes that is going to happen eventually, but it’s still always a surprise. I don’t remember which flight I was on, but there’s a reflective part of me that wonders what I was blogging about when I last encountered her, and a part of me that wonders if I was in a better place and blogging to inspire, or whether I was still blogging at that point to nurse my then broken soul.

Like any long journey that I do of late, blogging is a great way to pause in a quiet space and blogging in the air seems to really ignite my creative juices, as well, of course, as being a great way to kill time on the flight. My efficient, and perhaps also effective, way to pass time in travel has become a ritual of sorts that I eagerly look forward to as part of any journey I engage upon.

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Partying with a fractured elbow at Mainstage 2016

The more of course, that I blog, and the more that I see, do, feel, learn and grow, the more I recognise these days that my journey is less so about becoming anything or seeing something. These days, it feels more about unbecoming those things that were never really me, such that I can begin to really be who I was meant to be in the first place.

That feeling, of unpicking who I’ve become to revert to who I should be, I hold close. I have been thinking more and more about it, actually. I’ve been thinking more about the things I think I should have and the people that I think I should be with, but the truth is, in some ways, that they are worlds apart from who I used to be. Getting back to the basics of me, it’s been about music. Art. Family. Friends. Being happy. Being optimistic. Being positive. Bringing people up and not down. Having a buzz about life. Having a sense of fun and adventure.

Perhaps, it isn’t really actually about travel. Perhaps travel has become an easy but ill effective way to connect with people. Perhaps, and I include myself in this, those that travel relentlessly are in search of finding something out about themselves, tirelessly pursuing answers on a journey that in fact, should be in reverse. Perhaps in reality, that escapism to places overseas, to figure out the journey, is anything but effective and in fact, we should each ‘unjourney’ and find what we need from who we used to be.

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It might, in fact be so much simpler than I ever thought it could be. It might in fact, boil down to having fun. To having a positive outlook. To sharing an excitement for life, which can be as exciting at home as it is overseas. Perhaps there needs to be no escape, but rather a grounding in basic laughter.

A friend of mine recently commented that he loved my ability to make lemonade from lemons. To find the good in the bad. His comment, was shortly after I cracked a joke or two in jest about my fractured arm and history of elbow incidents. Yet it resonated with me. It’s perhaps that simple. It’s perhaps the number one thing that I need around me. Perhaps it’s really just as simple as needing to find other people who have that amazing ability to make lemonade from lemons. To find those with that zest for life that enriches our experiences and ripens any hardened scenarios, who are brave enough to face the squeeze.

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It’s easy to surround ourselves with lemons, never finding a way to sweeten the bitterness that they naturally exude. It’s easy to sometimes confuse passion for travel with a passion for life. It’s easy to sometimes overlook those who stay in one place, who perhaps are less tireless in their overseas adventures but who in turn, have a way of attracting greatness, simply from their attitude.

So with the many déjà vu moments this past couple of weeks, and with my impending arrival into Chicago, I wonder if this time, fractures aside, I have indeed cracked it. If perhaps, just perhaps, my 2011 moment is here again in 2016 and actually, this time there’s lemonade to make.

Posted by: seehowfarwevecome | September 4, 2016

Little Wonders

It’s just gone 8am GMT, yet my body clock is set to midnight. In these small hours, I find myself London bound, on a night flight from Vancouver to Heathrow, the end of a ten-day trip to Canada drawing to a close. A bank holiday weekend in August extended to maximise my annual leave allowance for the chance to explore more of this world that leaves me speechless yet ironically renders me a storyteller.

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Little wonders along the sea wall of Vancouver

It’s been a phenomenal trip, and I don’t use the word phenomenal often. Once in a lifetime, several people have said to me, yet there’s this part inside me that says no, it’s not once in a lifetime, it’s once in 2016. For every year that goes by I try to better my experiences. I try new places, find new wonders, little and large, and I guess as time falls away day by day, my storytelling gets richer, my experiences more rewarding and every twist and turn of fate is navigated that bit more smoothly.

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Not so little wonders.  Big, grizzly wonders.

Don’t get me wrong though, I love coming back to London, just as much as I love to explore the world. It perhaps wasn’t always that way, but these days, there’s a clarity that defines me and an appreciation of the noise of London, it’s buzz in stark contrast to the silence of a plane and the hum of my thoughts.

I realise that it’s taken sadness for me to know happiness. It’s taken absence for me to know presence. It’s taken umpteen trips to New York to find home in London. It’s taken many, many of the wrong moments for me to know a right one. It’s taken working too hard to know how to live, how to find a better balance. It’s taken the great unknown things in life to find the known. It’s taken closing off and hibernating from the world for a while, to learn how to open up again, how to wake up to this world and its ways.

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Bella and her cubs

I am hopeful, about my return to London. It has an air of 2011 about it. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve just spent the last few days with Fi, on that five year late visit to the West Coast of Canada. Perhaps it’s the fact that back in 2011, as I returned from East Coast Canada to London, following a Summer sabbatical, that everything began to really move in the right direction. Perhaps this feels like that moment again. Perhaps 2016 is rendering me with a déjà vu in these small hours as I find myself transatlantic once again.

My 2011 trip was full of little wonders. I did a fair amount of sitting, reflecting, looking out to the water and figuring myself out back then. I was rewarded, upon my return, with a thoroughly enriching period in which I felt like honey to a bee, hope worn on my sleeve and my open book read purposefully, my prose suddenly resonating with the world around me. The little wonders of that trip, that Summer 2011 adventure, never once missing a beat, never once deterring me from landing in a place of contentment.

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Little wonders of wilderness and wildlife

So in September 2016 I am content again. My travel itch has been scratched again, for now. I need to be in London right now, just like Selina said to me a few short weeks back. My next adventure has to be London. My 2016 world is my 2011 memory. I am returning from ten days in Canada as expectant, as hopeful, as ready as I was back then, to take on London and life.

Little wonders are all around us. Transient moments, they beckon us, encouraging us to remember them, and their fleeting presence. This moment, right now, is a little wonder. 37,044 feet up, I am bound for London via Greenland.  Every time I fly across the Atlantic, some five or six times a year usually of late, I remember these little wonders. Usually there’s a glass of wine, always my blog, and often some music on my ipod. My reflections are my little wonders.

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Telegraph Cove – wondrous wilderness

Today I am listening to Matchbox Twenty and Rob Thomas, following Rob’s show in Vancouver last night. The song I am listening to reminds me that everything that’s perfect can indeed fall away at times. I realise that these past two years or so I have been learning not to fall any further. I am reminded, of how easy it is to listen to everyone telling us how to feel, how to act, what to do, what to say, but that it’s our own responsibility to take back control and not allow ourselves to merely sleep at the wheel. That it’s up to us, as individuals, to choose our path.

My sleeping at the wheel is no more. I am no longer in a daze. My moment is no longer fading. Little wonders surround me everywhere, and everything that’s perfect no longer falls away. It may feel like the last days of Summer, but my sun is shining brightly today. There’s light in my world. There are little wonders to be grateful of every single day.

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Killer Whales

This holiday has had so many little wonders. The Rockies aside, we found ourselves in remote Telegraph Cove. A coach, two planes, and a hire car later and we arrived on Sunday night in the northern part of Vancouver Island. It was murky, grey and pouring with rain. Amidst the bleakness of it all, it seemed only apt that we would suffer a power cut, and our two days or so there, in the great unknown, was a little wonder of wilderness.

Telegraph Cove is lesser known than Victoria, with its array of flowers in Butschart Gardens, yet our visit there was purposeful. Research had told me that it was a gateway to wildlife; that this small inlet was the place to go to get up close and personal with grizzly bears, killer whales and bald eagles. I half expected the wildlife not to turn up, for the many reviews on trip advisor to be wrong, for there to be hopes dashed and wilderness without the wildlife, but instead we were rewarded with many little wonders.

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Granville Island in a rare moment of sunshine

Little wonders of bear cubs playing with their mother Bella. Of them swimming through the river. Of them putting on a playful show for us, amidst the pouring rain. Our tour guides called this day of bear watching, the best of the year. It’s unusual, apparently, to see the grizzlies so active. These little, precious moments of wonderment lived up to all expectations, surpassing them in fact. When I booked Canada in December, wanting to see the grizzly bears in the wild, I could never have dreamed of capturing the moment so vividly with my SLR. I could never have imagined or hoped to have seen so many bears, so active, with cubs too.

More little wonders graced us. A fox came out during the midst of the tour. The red headed beast usually shelters in the woodland, yet for us, he stood brazenly watching the activity of the bears amidst the grassland and woodlands of the inlet. Bald eagles soared overhead. Sea lions, seals and killer whales came out on mass.

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With Fi, in Horseshoe Bay

Amidst our killer whale tour, we were rewarded with a whole family of killer whales, travelling along the open sea, and in a most unusual turn of events, porpoises and dolphins partnered together to harass the killer whales in a move that our guides had never before seen.

Argonaut, a giant humpback whale decided to come out to play too. You could see his blowhole and feel his presence before he surfaced, anticipation filling the boat. This fierce creature rose and dove for us several times on the trip, his tail crashing down into the ocean, sending reverberations to our boat as he sunk under for seven or eight minutes at a time. I have never before, I don’t think, seen so much wildlife, out in the open seas, rivers, woodlands and estuaries, together, in such close proximity. Another, perhaps not so little, series of wonders.

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Vancouver nights

Our journey to and from Telegraph Cove from Port Hardy airport, a tiny airport in the north of Vancouver Island, required us to hire a car. It was my first time driving on the right hand side of the road, and it was surprisingly, a lot easier than I had imagined. Luckily, I had gotten more used to the car for our return trip the airport.

On our return to the airport, the heavens opened, and hail came crashing down on the car, my windscreen wipers working at full pelt. Amidst the downpour, I saw something black in front of me staggering across the highway, perhaps 20 feet ahead. I killed my speed quickly, reducing down in the 100km zone, bringing the car to a grinding halt, as I watched in disbelief as a black bear wandered across my path in front of me, sauntering to get to the other side. Another not so little wonder.

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Vancouver Island

As we got to Vancouver, to the city, the little wonders were less of the wildlife variety and more of reconnecting with Fi, my 2011 travel buddy and friend since 2006. Louisa met Fi in the queue for a Goo Goo Dolls gig in London that I missed to go on a last minute work trip to New York. It had been my first trip to NYC for work, a fateful trip that defined me for a considerable period afterwards. I met Fi, and Jess, shortly after I got back, and we’ve been friends ever since.

It was only apt therefore, that on this trip we would hit up a gig. Rob Thomas, one of my absolute faves, was kind enough to grace us with his presence with a solo acoustic set at the Hard Rock Casino, about thirty minutes out from downtown Vancouver.

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A little wonder

It was the second time I’ve seen Rob Thomas play a solo set, as usually he has toured the UK with Matchbox Twenty, whom we’ve seen many, many times, in both London and New York. I realised that I hadn’t seen Rob solo since 2005, when I had been in the midst of my CIPD HR exams. I queued on that baking hot summer’s day for a front row spot, with my then boyfriend, and my sister Louisa, directly following a morning Employment Law exam which I later learnt I had passed with distinction.

Whilst we queued for several hours, my then boyfriend surprised me with tickets to New York, for an all expenses paid treat and long weekend getaway. I couldn’t contain my excitement. I was not earning well, back then. I had never flown further than Greece. The USA seemed so far away, and such a dream. Rob Thomas, and a trip to New York, all in one day. It was a little wonder. It was also the first time I’d ventured long haul, and so there’s a certain poignancy to Rob Thomas and his solo show, as it marks for me the very, very beginning of my love affair with New York and of course, travel.

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Emerald Lake

Back in 2005 Rob was touring his album, Something To Be. ‘Ever the Same’ from the album became a song that meant so very much to me. It defined many moments in my life at the time. Relationships, hopes and dreams. Today it’s still poignant. Eleven years may have gone by, but in some many ways, things are indeed ever the same. Little moments of wonderment fill my days now, just as they did then. So you can imagine my excitement, at the little wonder of last night when Rob played it, live to my ears for the first time in eleven years.

So these past ten or so days have been filled with wonderment, big and small. Wild bears, live music, the sheer natural beauty of lakes and mountains and now, as I find myself four hours from home, I see stunning shades of pink with purple hues as dusk plays havoc with my body clock. I should be readying myself for slumber, but instead I’m staring out the window, at this little wonder of morning breaking, again and again, in these small hours.

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Rob Thomas… ever the same.

I realise that I should attempt to sleep. We’ll be landing on Sunday afternoon and I return to work on Monday. West coast jet lag is the worst. Perhaps I’ll catch a little wonder of an onboard snooze for a couple of hours. Perhaps I shall dream of more little wonders. Perhaps there’s a riddle here somewhere, that I shall learn to finally fathom out upon my return to London. Perhaps the puzzle of 2016 is a little wonder to be enjoyed along the way, at least until the picture comes together. Perhaps I’ll ponder these little wonders again at some other small hour.

 

Posted by: seehowfarwevecome | August 29, 2016

Fernweh (Wanderlust)

It’s 1pm local time, and we’ve just departed Calgary, bound for Vancouver where we’ll pick up a connecting flight to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. From Port Hardy, we’ll be picking up a car and travelling south to Telegraph Cove, for our Grizzly Bear and Killer Whale tours.

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Bow Lake 

I booked the tours back in December. It’s salmon fishing season in West Coast Canada and that means the bears are actively pursuing the streams, stocking up on food ahead of their winter hibernation. These tours get booked up months in advance but tomorrow is the day, nine months after booking, that we shall hopefully get the chance to see these amazing creatures in their natural habitat.

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The top of Sulphur Mountain

Telegraph Cove is tiny. There’s a café, a few places to stay, and a whole heap of fishing boats I understand. This is part two of three in our Canadian tour. This is our wilderness moment. Outside generators and grocery stores available only in the next town along. This is fernweh, as they say in German – that ache of mine for a distant place and that ongoing crave for travel. This is one of the main reasons we are here in Canada.  This is wanderlust in practice.

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The Bow River and its reflections

We have been in Canada since Wednesday evening – four nights so far. Part one of our adventure saw us venture to the Rocky Mountains, as we explored Banff and all its surroundings, from Lake Louise, to Emerald Lake, Peyto Lake, the Bow River and the Columbian Icefield. We’ve had some poutine and enjoyed some Canadian wine. The Rockies have been more stunning, more majestic, more captivating than I could ever have possibly imagined.

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Emerald Lake

This is an active holiday. Treks, horse riding, glacier walks and gondolas that rise high into the mountains, rewarding us with the most mesmerising of views. Instagram style filters seem to come to life in the Rockies; the vibrancy of colours more electric than my A Level Art colour palette, yet it’s all natural here. Every which way you turn you seem to walk into a postcard here. A snapshot of time, a vividness that feels unreal to the point that you rub your eyes and take a second look, disbelieving the beauty that descends.

It’s places like the Rocky Mountains that make me ache for distant places. I haven’t seen this much colour since Marrakech last year. Yet these colours are natural, as rock flour graces the bed of lakes, reflecting light and yielding us with emerald swathes of gloriousness, amidst snow capped mountains and the stark contrast of grey, dolomite rocks.

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Peyto Lake

I couldn’t help but feel like I was back in New Zealand these past few days. Banff and its surrounds have a most definite Queenstown feel to them. Alberta and British Colombia’s best lakes are distinctly Wanaka like and Banff and Lake Louise have a definite air of Arrowtown about them. The giant gondola that lifts you up Sulphur Mountain reminded me so very much of Queenstown’s gondola.

Equally, the colours and the mountain ranges had an air of Cape Town about them too, yet no ocean and no beach, and certainly no South African heat nor Baboons to shout about.

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Sunset over Banff

Every time I think I know beauty in this world, every time I think I have seen something I’ll never match, there’s another distant land that makes me crave for more travel, that makes me want to explore more, see more, be more.

Our lakes, mountains and waterfalls tour this past Friday was right up there with one of the very best travel days. It’s on a par for me, with Fraser Island in 2009, with the Whitsundays sailing trip, with Cape Town’s stunning scenery, with every moment of my New York adventuring and with Kefalonia’s glorious sailing around the Ionian isles. It matched the surrealism of Tokyo and the captivating island of Vanuatu, with its rugged, natural and untouched beauty and the most amazing people with hearts of gold and smiles of wonderment.

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Contemplative at Lake Louise

The Rockies, and its glacier walks, was much like the Fox Glacier, without the mountain climb this time. The weather matched my 2009 glacier experience in New Zealand, moody skies of grey, clouds that both reflected the sun and teased us with infrequent downpours of rain. Seven years on, altogether richer for the experiences that have graced me since. Altogether wiser, perhaps, altogether more excited than ever to see, do and be more in these distant, captivating lands.

People in Banff are either ‘lifers’ or transient. A mix of people making this their forever home, and people joining for a Summer or two, to experience wilderness and the outdoors. Fans of ice climbing, skiing, ice fishing and mountain climbs all congregate in the Rockies and given the stunning scenery, it’s not hard to see why they stay.

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Lake Moraine – my favourite of them all

Mountain wildlife roam the forest lands around Banff and Yolo National Parks amidst the Rockies. Locals make jokes about runners being ‘fast food’ and ‘lean cuisine’ for the hungry grizzly bears and cougars that patrol the woodlands; they joke about cyclists being ‘meals on wheels’. The jokes aside though, you’re quickly taught to make noise as you wander trails, to carry bear spray and to learn to ‘play dead’ if you ever come face to face with a grizzly bear that you so happen to accidentally disturb. If you see a black bear, “fight for your life” they say.

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Mountain goats

The Rockies have their share of avalanches too. Our tour guide on Thursday talked of getting caught up in one last year whilst skiing, and how some 32 broken bones later, a 60 foot drop and four minutes of being buried and turning purple, he was lucky to be alive to tell the tale.

Then there are the elks, and the 52 people that have been admitted to hospital with elk related injuries in the last year in Banff. The Rockies, much like Australia, has its fair share of natural hazards, to watchfully be aware of it seems. Yet people still ski amidst the avalanche zones and people still trek amidst the habitats of bears and mountain lions. Perhaps it’s possible that the sheer beauty of this region lures you to find the hidden paths and make discoveries of your own. Perhaps this is fernweh.

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Lake Louise in the sunshine

Then there are the incredible stories of mother nature. Of the importance of forest fires in yielding new habitats, fresh trees and grasslands for the entire ecosystem of the forest and its inhabitants to remain healthy. The stories of how we, as humans, upset the equilibrium of the forests when we tried to stem the flow of natural fires a few decades back, rendering trees that grew too old and which were poor habitats, yielding less carbon dioxide than the fresh trees that fires inevitably brought.

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At Takakkaw Falls

I think that the power of Mother Nature is something that will definitely stick with me from this trip. The tales of grizzly bears, who breed in the Spring but only fall pregnant in the Fall, if those potential mother to be bears have managed to indulge on enough berries, salmon and the like in time for their Winter hibernation and to carry their cubs to full term. Only if they have managed to build up enough weight shall Mother Nature determine whether these females bears should indeed fall pregnant come Fall.

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Colombia Icefields

As Winter comes and the bears hibernate, these amazing females sleep through their pregnancy, giving birth in their sleep, letting their cubs feed on their milk through their winter snooze, waking in the Spring to toddler cubs that they then spend the next two years teaching the ropes of life in the forest. Where to find water, where to find berries, how to catch prey. Mother Nature is amazing.

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Sulphur Mountain

So we are just ten minutes now from landing in Vancouver, and I must turn off my laptop. We are arriving on the West Coast and have just gained another hour. There’s cloud and it’s 16 degrees. Summer, it seems, has escaped this part of town today. Yet it doesn’t matter, as I’m in a distant land and my craving for travel has been fed. If the second leg of our adventure is anything like our first, we are in for a treat. Excitement, contentment and inspiration fill my heart.

Posted by: seehowfarwevecome | August 25, 2016

Bruises, chandeliers and bringing dusk to my day

It’s been a month since I last found myself in the air, perhaps one of the longest periods of not flying this year. I guess it’s only natural therefore that today I am indeed again at 38,000 feet. There is no work today though; this is a vacation. I am bound for Calgary, Alberta with my sister Louisa, for a few days in the Rockies before we hit the West Coast and explore Vancouver and reconnect with Fi, who last joined me on my East Coast Canadian adventure in 2011.

It’s August. A year has gone by in a flash. This time last year I had just returned from Lisbon and was about to venture to Dubrovnik. The prior year, I had been Aberdeen bound ahead of more New York adventures. I always seem to find myself in the air during the Summer. I always seem to find myself escaping London’s humid heat.

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Toronto with Fi, August 2011

I am reflective, once again. I don’t know where this year is going; I don’t know where last year went either. Two years ago, seems forever ago. It’s appropriate, oh so appropriate, that I escape this week. August bank holiday breaks – I’ve had many over the years. New York, Dubrovnik, Canada and Inter-railing across Europe. I always seem to find myself adventuring at this time of year.

I booked this trip to Canada last Christmas. I finally came up for air over the festive period, following a crazy 12 months of work, and in doing so, I had the chance to stop and think again. I had the chance to think about things I have wanted to do but delayed. I thought back to 2011, when I left Fi in Montreal and headed to New York by rail, thwarted by the tail end of Hurricane Irene. I thought about my promise then – to be back that very next year for the West Coast adventure. Yet the West Coast didn’t happen. Well, not until now.

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Paul, Fi and I in Toronto for rooftop drinks – Summer 2011

The best thing about my independent life is doing exactly the things that I want to do. This existence, it affords me opportunity. I don’t need to consult with others. I don’t need to consider other plans. I don’t need to balance any priorities save for the ones I create for myself. I imprint upon my world, only the things I want to. These past two years, and even before that to some extent, have been a kaleidoscope of opportunity. Opportunities, vibrant opportunities, smashed together in a sea of colour, in a pattern that I’ve been fortunate enough to call the canvas of my independent life. They’ve glistened, like chandeliers in daylight.

So as my canvas evolves, I find new memories to make my mark. I etch new beginnings. I paint adventures every which way I turn. So much adventuring is done overseas. Perhaps, much more focus needs to be on the adventures of my London life. Perhaps, in the midst of my escapism, in the middle of my memory making abroad, I sometimes need to focus a little more on home.

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Champagne on board at Heathrow to get the holiday started

Yet home is marked with bruises. Blemishes of a past that imprint on my today. Mementos of yesterday. Reminders of days gone by. Darkness in daylight of the past. Times that have flown by. Conversations that have halted. Investments that have suddenly ceased. The past can pull like gravity; at times, freedom has seemed to only come from travel.

But I am free today. My bruises, they make me – I don’t need to lose them. I don’t need to be fixed. I am who I am for the marks that have been made upon my life. Scars are indeed souvenirs. Every scratch is a part of me. It’s made me who I am. It’s brought me to my today.

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Calgary bound – 8 hours and counting

My today happens to be here, 38,000 feet above Greenland, bound for a tremendous 12-day trip to Canada. 2016, is not so bad after all it seems. It’s been a year of learning to want again. 2015 was just a distraction. Travel aside, anything I wanted last year was nothing more than a distraction, a recovery to help my bruises fade. Yet 2016 has shown me that I can wear my bruises with pride. That I can learn to want things again. That I can be ready to risk more bruises. That bruises make, break and shape us. That chandeliers can shine again.

So in the same way that we rise and retreat amongst mountain peaks and flights in the sky, I am seeing now how my bruises, once prominent scars, can indeed fade but still have a presence that somehow reminds me of the journey I’ve been upon. They serve to remind me to be more aware to the world and its ways. They peak through the skin of my world to hint at the past, but they never break through the skin of my future. Their presence is purposeful, but not indicative of my future path.

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Niagara Falls, August 2011

My future path is here, it is now. It is 38,000 feet up, pending four days in Banff, three in Vancouver Island and four days in Vancouver itself. It is the reminder that Selina, my flatmate, gives me daily. It is her suggestion that perhaps, after this trip, and the next (Chicago and New York), and after that (Sri Lanka), that perhaps, just perhaps, my next trip should be London. My future is London. My life is London. Maybe, just maybe I need to be there a little longer to build something, to risk knocks to my skin, bruises to my world. Maybe it’s the potential promise of something that fails to imprint on my life in any other way than leaving that illusive, amazing mark I’ve been looking for.

The habitual escapism of my world, of my international travel adventures, has become so very embedded in my today. Every passport stamp blocks my bruises from resurfacing. Every immigration form deters any sense of reality back home. It’s an amazing existence. It’s a phenomenal way to live each day. Yet it’s not always reality. It’s not always accepting of bruises. It’s not always rendering me the chance to wear them with pride. It’s not always affording me the chance to go for another round, to prepare for another belting, to end up the one standing, one day.

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Stunning Greenland through the Dreamliner’s tinted windows

Travel makes me stand tall. Home can do that too. The world, can make me feel small, yet a few hours in a plane and some distant, entirely different landscape and an altered body clock, is mesmerising. Right now, I am looking out of my plane window, drawn to the rugged landscape of Greenland. Clouds disperse and jagged formations of rocks bruise through the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

I am reminded, of a travel photography workshop I ventured to this past January, at Olympia. One of the talks had centered on a visit to Greenland. An amazing expedition, with sleds pulled by huskies and seal skin rugs. Vivid photographs of an endless snow, an unblemished skin of landscape, bruised only by the seasoned travellers who chose to tour this distant land. Snow encased highways with no one on them. Chandeliers of sunlight glistening upon flakes of white.

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Seeing Maroon 5 and Train in Toronto in Summer 2011

I smile. This trip is the biggest adventure since Australia last year. It’s hard to believe that tomorrow I shall awake in the mountains of Banff National Park, before venturing on horseback alongside the Bow River. Our evening shall see us rise to the mountain top on an 11 minute gondola journey. My fear of gondolas it seems, has dissipated, a faded bruise of my past.

Come Friday, we shall explore the lakes and waterfalls of the Rocky Mountains. Lake Louise and majestic rivers with cascading falls that imprint memories that need never fade. Saturday is Glacier day. I haven’t set foot upon a Glacier since New Zealand in 2009. The Fox Glacier, rose menacingly amidst fog, rain and the gloomiest skies. We hiked to the top of the mountain, some two hours upwards, before finally venturing onto the glacier itself, our moods grey like the sky. Dim chandeliers amidst dark clouds.

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Approaching Calgary.  Dusk again.

Come Saturday we shall travel further West. Calgary to Vancouver, then transferring again by plane to Port Hardy in the north of Vancouver Island. We are picking up a car there, and another first shall follow as I drive on the right-hand side for the first time. Something, I am reminded, I wouldn’t have chosen to do some two years ago. It seems, ironically so perhaps, that bruises make us stronger, braver, more willing to break the surface with new experiences.

Speaking of new experiences, our arrival into Telegraph Cove shall afford us a rare, once in a lifetime opportunity, to see grizzly bears in their natural habitat, as they salmon fish ahead of their hibernation. Our full day adventure out on the seas and into the rivers shall no doubt be a once in a lifetime imprint on our world.

As if that isn’t enough, we shall venture back again to the open seas, whale spotting amidst the migration season. If we are lucky, bald headed eagles shall soar above and sea otters may inquisitively approach us in wonderment. The wildlife opportunities of Vancouver, with its hummingbirds, moose and black bears too, shall mark my world in a way that will no doubt be unforgettable.

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The flat landscape of Calgary

So our final few days in Canada shall take us to Vancouver itself, and to Fi. Five years late it may be, but our four days in Vancouver, perhaps the most iconic part of British Columbia, can only leave bruises that I’ll hope to savour for life. The culmination of our adventure, fantastically, shall be an evening with Rob Thomas, to see how far we’ve come and no doubt, how much further we can go.

I am aware suddenly that daylight is following me. Our 6.40pm departure from London Heathrow, and forthcoming 8.03pm arrival into Calgary, affords us a flight path of daylight. An endlessly long, but wonderful day. The light is fragile like chandeliers, a constant path of dusk. So as dusk is brought to my day, and I learn to celebrate the bruises below the surface of my skin, I know that I am ready to take on another Canadian adventure, but I’m also ready to come home afterwards. To come home, celebrate my bruises and swing like a chandelier, once again.

Posted by: seehowfarwevecome | August 14, 2016

Imperfectly Beautiful

August has swung around again, though this time we seem to be treated here in the UK to some actual Summer. Imperfect Summers, with the odd week or two of rain, can still be beautiful it seems.

I find myself heading back to London, following a gloriously sunny weekend in the Isle of Wight with some dear friends and their gorgeous Labradors, Bollo and Boo. We’ve spent the last 48 hours eating food, cooking on the BBQ, walking along the countryside and wandering the beaches, letting the dogs play in the sand and the sea, stopping for the occasional larger shandy. We have whiled away our evenings in the garden watching shooting stars and fireworks with a glass of wine in hand.

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Bollo and Boo – simple, perfect pleasures

It’s been a perfect respite for my Summer cold. London has been hectic of late and I’ve needed a chance to rest a bit. Travel, evenings out and busy days in the office have been tiring me and so a recipe of doggy cuddles, fresh sea and country air and home cooked food has been just what I ordered to offer myself a little respite.

I am choosing to slow down my exploration for a bit. I have found myself growing physically tired of continual re-investment and effort in new people and places and I need a bit of time with myself and my nearest and dearest for a while to just be again. Imperfect, yet beautiful encounters, permeate my weeks. So a weekend on the Isle of Wight has been the perfect launch to just connect with long-held friends and enjoy basic things again. Walks in the country and meanderings amidst the sand dunes have somehow reconnected me with simple pleasures. Beautiful ones.

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Race for Life – at the starting point

My Race for Life was just two weeks ago and I’m so pleased to say that we made it around. I had been training hard for the race, then just a week or so after returning from my last trip to New York in June, I managed to trigger off a problem with my hip that I have had since I was born.  My imperfect hip. I found myself having to cease all jogging, indeed I could barely walk for several days, and I was only able to start swimming again a month or so ago. But the moment I could swim again, was indeed beautiful.

When the race day came, I hadn’t been able to jog for some five weeks, and so I was nervous, and irritated, that I wouldn’t make it around. My imperfect hip, still feeling slightly dodgy, would need to hold up for the race, the race that perhaps I never should have done knowing my condition in the first place but which, given my aunt’s diagnosis and subsequent passing, felt absolutely the right thing to do. A beautiful thing to do that raised more than £700 thanks to generous family and friends.

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Our Race for Life mascot – Tomos – with Louise and I

So race day arrived and the buzz was immense. Several thousand women in pink – setting off with their own purpose and own fund-raising efforts. Kathryn, Louise, Stacey and I all enrolled and the buzz when we all made it through the finishing line was so very worth it. It was a baking hot day, but Hyde Park looked beautiful and I wondered about all those who have passed, no doubt looking down smiling and gracing London with the gift of sun. This imperfect hip of mine had made it around the park beautifully.

Kathryn ran for Julia, her childhood friend who lost her cancer battle just a short while ago. A young woman, in her thirties, leaving behind two children and a husband. We ran for her, and we ran for my aunt. Somehow, my hip put up a fight and let me finish, though now I return to swims and in all likelihood, shall abandon any future jogging pursuits.

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Kathryn and I – racing for life for Julia and Mavis

So with the race for life out of the way, I am wondering about other challenges. I already gave blood this year for the first time, and I’ve booked myself time in Sri Lanka to volunteer with a turtle sanctuary and spend time with some school children. Next week, my team at work and I shall volunteer for Centrepoint, spending an afternoon around London, collecting items and delivering them to the hostels around Soho. Yet still, I feel like I want to do more.

Just this past Monday, I caught up with a former colleague who I haven’t seen for four or five years. Ketan and I worked so closely together for four years at EMI when I first worked there. A lot of the work was tough – it was imperfect – but each day was still beautiful. We did trips to New York together and somehow, lived through several crazy periods of restructuring.

Ketan and I managed to while away several hours last Monday night, and I found myself getting home at 1am having chatted to him as if the last few years were yesterday. I set myself up to feel exhausted all week, but the catch up was so worth it.

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Beautiful August weather on the Isle of Wight

We reminisced and we caught each other up on our lives the last few years. His children are grown up now, and spending their Summer volunteering in Peru. He retold the story of his childhood, the child from India who came to England as a young boy, unable to speak English but who today is a very successful CFO. He volunteers as a School Governor, and told me how powerless he can feel at times to help vulnerable teenagers. He mused about being able to make a difference to some though, and of how much that matters. Imperfect volunteering that still yields perfect, beautiful moments.

I left my Monday evening inspired. The family man with the successful career who balances friendships and voluntary work to lead a fulfilling and rounded life. He’s done his share of travels too. Perhaps, there is even more that I can do. Perhaps I need to think more on that again.

Yet the next few weeks are going to be hectic. Hectic and fun. I fly to Canada next week, for an incredible 11-day trip that I’ve been planning for eight months. Then I am home for a little under three weeks, before I fly to Chicago to speak at a Global HR Conference. From Chicago I shall head back to New York, to see my team and spend a weekend with friends. Things may calm down again around October, or at least I am going to try and let them calm, before my November adventure to Sri Lanka.

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Bollo and Boo enjoy the sea!

Speaking of Sri Lanka, just last weekend I spent an afternoon drinking iced coffee and sitting outside in the sun with one of my oldest friends Kavan, and his heavily pregnant wife Anna. Kavan and I bonded when we were around six years old, and his parents still live down the road from my parents. Incredibly, despite him leaving my primary school when he was eleven years old, we have stayed friends for the last 28 years. Sometimes a year will go by before we catch up, as was the case the last week, but our reconnection is always effortless and full of news in bite-size chunks.

Kavan gave me many tips for Sri Lanka, and we shared stories of the last year or so. He could tell I was in a better place than our last reconnection last Summer. He could tell there was a contentment within me again that had been lost for a while. He could tell that I was ready to explore again, but that I needed a break from it, to just perhaps enjoy my Summer a bit more and go a little more with the flow. He could tell I was getting comfortable with imperfect, that I could find this imperfect year beautiful still.

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Imperfectly beautiful August days

So what of going with the flow? Well, perhaps there are some things in life that are not meant to be perfect. Perhaps the imperfect is the most beautiful. Like beautiful disasters. Perhaps I need to enjoy things less than perfect for a while. Perhaps I am not meant to have everything completely sorted right now. Perhaps I am supposed to be exactly where I am, in my slightly imperfect, yet beautiful existence. Perhaps my imperfect is some other person’s perfect. Perhaps my travel adventures and weekends away are beautiful, even if on some level, I do them to fulfill other imperfect moments in my life.

So all in all, perhaps it’s perfectly fine to explore a little less for a while. Perhaps it’s imperfect, but beautiful to slow. Perhaps a world where I am not running at 100 miles an hour, where imperfect moments are the most beautiful, could indeed be the most perfect place for me to be this August.

 

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