Sunday: Future.

Sometimes I feel like I know exactly what I’m doing with my life. I know what I want to do for a job, I know the type of people I want to surround myself with, and I know what makes me happy.

But sometimes life chucks curve balls at us. I thought I had my New Zealand plans down pat: travel with Kathleen, do some long term WWOOFing, and do a lot of camping. Cheryl often says that New Zealand likes to laugh at plans. We might have one thing in mind, and then an entirely different thing will occur. If someone had told me that, come three and a half months into my trip, I’d be living in Wellington in an apartment with a girl I met in Queenstown, working a door-to-door sales job for an animal charity, and on the potential, fingers-crossed verge of my first relationship in four years… well, let’s just say I wouldn’t have believed you. That’s life though. We can never fight those curve balls. Our unpreparedness is not going to save us from getting pelted.

So let’s embrace the changes, because sometimes they lead us down a whole other world of delicious possibilities.

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Fan Girl Friday: My New Zealand Reading List.

To say I love books is a bit of an understatement.

I was the kid who got in trouble for reading Clifford books in second grade instead of paying attention to Ms. Voltz. Who got her copy of To Kill a Mocking Bird taken away in Chemistry by Mrs. Daschel. Who always keeps a book in her purse, just in case of emergencies. Who was on the Battle of the Books team four years in a row when younger. Who participated in the Summer Reading Program until surpassing the age limit. Who owns over five hundred books. Who can’t walk into a library without leaving with five or more books. Whose airport ritual is to go to the tiny Powell’s Books in PDX and buy one book.

Okay, okay, you get the gist.

Anyway, I’ve been doing some reading since arriving in New Zealand, so I figured I’d just talk a little about all of the books I am reading / have read /plan on reading. Enjoy!

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Monday: Working for the Weekend.

Gonna keep this entry short, simple, and to the point. I’m being lured by the siren song of my bed, and nothing sounds sweeter right now than a good ol’ fashioned full night’s rest. Mmmm, gotta love those seven to eight hours of unadulterated zzzzzz’s.

First and foremost, no, I am not dead. Despite the lack of writing that’s gone on here, I am pretty damn alive. Just been distracted as of late by the new job. I work Monday through Saturday, and considering I’m not home until ten o’clock most nights the last thing I feel like doing is sitting down and typing up a blog entry at the end of my day.

Basically my excuse is that I’m lazy – but what else is new?

Some actual proof that I am very much alive – and being social! Crazy!

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Monday: Willy Loman Ain’t Got Nothing On Me.

This entry’s going to be short and sweet; a quick overview of my ever growing resume.

I alluded to having a job in my last entry, if you’ll so kindly remember. Yes, I am currently employed. After about a week of fretful job searching, two waitressing interviews that were a bust, and dozens upon dozens of CVs handed out to any work establishment willing to take one, fate finally smiled on me. I got called into the United Advertising Group (UAG) last Tuesday for an interview, which was followed by an observation day, and by Friday I was going through training.

For some reason or another, I’ve always been particularly lucky when it comes to the efforts of finding work. I never had any problem finding babysitting jobs in middle school and high school. The first real job I applied to as a camp counselor when I was eighteen went swimmingly. I was one person in four clusters of group interviews (group interviews are the worstbut still managed to get hired by SOU Conferences. I spent an entire day handing out job resumes during the summer of 2010, and come the following day I was employed with the Ashland Motel. I guess the universe understands my insistent need to not be broke. How kind of it.

So what do I do at my new job exactly?

I’m a door-to-door salesman.

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Just call me Willy Loman.

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Monday: I’ve Heard the Word Before.

There’s something to be said about home life.

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I find it hard to describe the simple happiness that comes along with having a home. A home of your own, that is. A home that you’re happy in. A home where you actually want to be. A home in a location that fits. A home that feels like a home.

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Monday: The Hunt Begins.

Well, it looks like this blog might be slowing down a bit, at least in terms of recounting my tales of trekking around New Zealand to you all (though I am well aware I still owe an entry about Hobbiton – soon! I promise!). While these last two and a half months have been fabulous, I’ve hit a roadblock of sorts.

The roadblock? Money.

While I like to think I’ve been doing a decent job saving money – and I do think that I have – Kathleen and I did *ahem* a fair amount of pricey things together during our travels. Skydiving in Taupo, Hobbiton in Matamata, Lord of the Rings tours in both Queenstown and Wellington, not to mention some pricey purchases at Weta Cave. All of these things were fabulous and I’m so glad to have done them, but they did cost a pretty penny. I’m not completely broke just yet, but it’s getting to the point where making money should probably be something I start doing soon.

Which is precisely what this entry is about! How it’s time to be an adult in New Zealand and start hunting for both work and a place to live.

Yeah, cause y’know, I’m totally an adult, no questions asked.

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Friday: Revisiting Auckland & Napier On My Own.

It’s been two days since Kathleen took off, and so far I’m still in one piece. I haven’t managed to get hit by a car just yet (despite always forgetting they drive on the opposite side of the street here). I haven’t gotten robbed or mugged. I haven’t gotten dreadfully lost or missed a bus or checked out/in at the wrong time of a hostel. So far, I’ve been golden.

Lacking in conversation and camaraderie, sure, but hey, I haven’t accidentally killed myself, and that’s gotta count for something.

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Wednesday: One is the Loneliest Number…

When I asked Kathleen to come with me to New Zealand back in December, I don’t think I had any clue how well it would all work out. At the time, I knew two things: that I didn’t want to travel alone and that Kathleen was one of three or four friends I wouldn’t want to smother in their sleep after spending far too much time together. This was enough to conclude that she should probably come along with me, hence me extending an invitation after we saw The Hobbit.

Little did I know that we were a travel duo made in heaven. The two of us have balanced each other out beautifully this entire trip. Not to mention we’ve sort of turned into an old married couple. Not only did we reach the point of finishing each other’s sentences, we even began to say the exact same phrases/words at the exact same time with the exact same inflection. It was awesome and creepy all at once.

But just like I didn’t realize how amazingly we’d get on together during travel, I had absolutely no idea how devastating it’d be when the day came that she packed her bags and left this country.

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Monday: Kathleen’s (Unfortunately Expected) Journey’s End

Greetings once again readers,

Kathleen here, usurping Julia’s blog for another guest entry.

On Sunday, Julia and I fulfilled one of our personal life ambitions — to visit Hobbiton.  It was, hands down, one of the most exciting and emotional things we have done on this incredible journey.  However, I am going to avoid talking about that particular adventure and leave it to Julia to share with you at a later date.  But have a few teaser pictures first!

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This entry is a bittersweet farewell to a country that I have so quickly fallen in love with and a reflection on my two short months traveling with Julia.

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Friday: Falling 12,000 Feet and Living to Tell the Tale.

Yesterday I did something I swore I’d never do; something that was never in the stars for me.

I skydived.

I’m not a huge fan of heights. I mean, as long as I’m securely fastened into a high up object (airplane, roller coaster, etc.) I’m usually all right, but I can’t look over the edge of a building or climb really high up trees because I know there’s nothing tethering me to safety. Hence why I never thought I’d skydive. I mean, what’s scarier than falling several thousand feet in the air towards the ground? Absolutely nothing.

But Kathleen suggested it a couple months back, during the initial planning portion of our trip, and for some reason I had agreed to it. Yeah, I had thought, Why not? If I’m in New Zealand, a place known for it’s extreme sports, why shouldn’t I jump? So we did some research, decided skydiving in Taupo would be the best, and that was that. I then proceeded to bury the idea of jumping out of a plane in the back of my mind. My way of coping, y’know?

We got into Taupo last Monday and still I wasn’t nervous. I continued to not be nervous because, the following day, we learned skydiving was off. The weather was just not working with us. So we rescheduled for the next morning and, as already mentioned in my previous blog, we went to the circus instead – which was pretty damn rad.

The next morning the weather looked similar, ie. too shitty to skydive. Despite kind of being disappointed that the main reason we came to Taupo was all for naught, I was kind of okay with it at the time. Partially because jumping out of a plane is terrifying, but also because money is slowly becoming more and more tight. I was okay with not spending $400+ on the potential of dying.

Then we got a call saying that skydiving was a go.

Kathleen and I loaded into a shuttle with two Asian girls, an English girl, a Candian girl, a German guy, and one excited Kiwi skydiver driving the car. I was silent most of the way to the skydiving place, seeing as I had read over the contract we had to sign and the terms had included the words “possible injury or death.” Honestly, I spent most of the ride thinking to myself, This is it. This is how I am going to die.

And yet, I went through with it. There were several instances where I thought about chickening out, but for some reason I never did. Maybe it was because Tim, my awesome tandem partner, had been skydiving for fourteen years and he seemed very much alive. Or perhaps because everyone working there seemed so enthusiastic. Or because I didn’t want to embarrass myself by going “No, sorry, I can’t do this.” Pride isn’t much of a deal for me usually, but sometimes my stubbornness can get in the way.

Our “holy shit we’re about to skydive” faces.

Eventually I was loaded into the plane, donning a red jumpsuit, a cap, and goggles. As I watched as the plane rise off the ground, I knew the only way back to the ground was by jumping.

At one point I looked out the window and thought, Oh. We’re so high up. We must almost be there. Tim then told me we were only 3,000 feet in the air. 3,000 feet?? I was jumping at 12,000 feet. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” was my only response to him.

I watched Tim’s altitude watch as we climbed higher and higher in the air. I watched as we passed the halfway point, and eventually the 10,000 feet mark. I was oddly calm, I realized. It was just all so surreal, y’know? I kept looking out the window and thinking, Nah. There’s no way I’m gonna jump. That’s not possible. That isn’t a thing. It’s all good. I guess denial is one of my stronger defense mechanisms. It also helped that my camera guy and Kathleen’s camera guys were sitting right next to me, and both of them kept goofing around with each other and with me. I think they knew how nervous I was, and they did a marvelous job keeping me distracted.

Then suddenly my camera guy was opening the airplane door and I realized what was gonna happen next.

I was the first jumper. Kathleen and the other two girls in our plane were gonna go up to 15,000 feet, but I had opted for 12,000 because of money (I only saved $70, but that’s three nights in a hostel versus fifteen extra seconds of free fall, so I think I made a wise decision). On the one hand, going first was probably the better option. I didn’t have to sit at the back, watching everyone else go before me, worrying my pants off about my fate.

Even so, in that moment, I became fucking terrified.

I was tethered to Tim now, and he shifted me towards the door. He had instructed me to hold onto my harness, and to bend my head and legs back once were on the edge of the plane. I, of course, made the horrible life decision of looking down once my legs began to dangle. I’m pretty sure I’ve never said the word “fuck” as much as I did in that instant.

Oh my god. Oh my god. I am going to die.

Tim had be look back at the camera set up to take my exit photo, but it barely even registered with me. It felt like I was sitting there for an eternity, my heart pounding through my chest. Why weren’t we jumping? Why were we just sitting there? Fuck, fuck, fuck, what am I doing? I thought. Maybe it’s not too late. Maybe I can get out of this. Maybe I –

And then we were falling.

I’ve never screamed the way I did in those first ten seconds. I felt like one of the passengers falling out of the plane in Iron Man 3. We fell head first, and I watched (briefly, though it didn’t feel that way) as the plane grew further and further away. I screamed and screamed and screamed. In the words of the Bluth family, I made a huge mistake.

Then suddenly Tim turned me over, and all I saw was the ground. The rapidly approaching ground. If you watch the video below, you’ll notice for the first four or five seconds I am just staring at the ground, screaming. Mainly profanity, really, but also just screaming. But then there’s a shift. Here, watch the video and you’ll see what I mean:

Skydiving like nothing I have ever experienced and I don’t know how to even put it in words – which I realize is a cliche to say, but I mean, it’s really true. Nothing can match those first couple seconds; it’s like you left your stomach up on the plane and your heart is trying to escape from your chest. But then you feel like… like you’re flying. It’s just the most surreal thing I’ve ever gone through. It was just impossible to believe it’s actually happening. The change from terrified to amazingly enthusiastic happened so fast for me. That huge grin you see on my face in the video is legit. It occurred to me quickly that I was gonna be okay. Tim knew what he was doing and my camera guy was also there and – dear god – I was twelve thousand feet in the air and it was goddamn amazing. You can barely catch your breath while it’s happening, and it goes by so fast but at the same time everything feels like it’s happening in slow motion. It was fucking incredible.

Once the parachute was pulled, it took about six or seven minutes to get back to the ground. Tim flew us in rapid circles at one point, which was great, and the views were breathtakingly spectacular.

Skydiving was something I never anticipated enjoying, but holy Henson did I ever. I’d love the opprotunity to do it again, if I’m ever at the point where I can afford it again. It’s a feeling I think everyone should experience.

That feeling where you feel so very mortal but so very invincible all at once.

A feeling that cannot be beat.