Travel: Leaving New Zealand (again) – Returning to Europe; albeit with some hesitance

Last year I found myself working on a farm in Germany for several months. As the seasons changed from Autumn to Winter, I felt the draw to return home – to see family and friends that hadn’t seen in nearly three years, and attend a friends wedding. I booked a return flight, assuming I would find some work and save money and be able to return either back to the farm I was working on, or somewhere else in Europe. Truth be told, I hadn’t really thought the plan out, and the impulse to return home led me to some really great revisits with old friends and old places, and spending invaluable time with my Grandma, Mum, Brother, Dad and extended family. Those seven weeks spent in New Zealand summertime were great, albeit full of unsettled-ness as I tried to work out what to do next. Would I return to Europe? I had the return flight booked and this stayed in my head as something I couldn’t waste. Though while being home, the extent of my student loan debts that had been building up became increasingly aware to me, as did the life I was missing not being in my home country. Friends were settling down, moving up the ladder in their careers, pursuing hobbies – all while I continued to live a somewhat nomadic and financially irresponsible lifestyle. The down side to the life of the vagabond traveler became aware to me.

In Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

While I tried to find jobs or reasons to stay in New Zealand, I left the decision to the last minute, and under 11th hour pressure, it became impossible not to take the flight. It’s true – there may have been someone in my hearts interest pulling me to the other side of the world. So here I am, at Shanghai airport, on a seven hour stop over, waiting for a connecting flight to Paris and from there an overnight stop over before another flight to Hamburg – and I am unsure what is to come next. My financial debt still weighing heavily on my mind, I will try and find a job in Germany and save at least something to get back home. There’s more of Europe I would like to see – and I guess I’m in the privileged position where I can see more. Of course I’m well aware that at some point I need to settle and get a real job. Now that I’m 28, and have been living in this state of unsettled migration – it seems I’m nearly past the point that I can keep doing this, without have little to show for my future, in terms of assets, savings or the manifestation of longer term dreams.

Sitting in Shanghai Airport writing this blog on a seven hour stopover

So this is less of a travel blog and more of a discussion of the emotions of a person in their late 20s, torn between perceived responsibilities and youthful desires. I don’t think I was ever that great as a traveler anyhow, I enjoy being settled and being able to be productive in my hobbies, with music making or film making. I’m gaining experiences from this travel, but I think there is a point where I’m no longer traveling for the right reasons, I might just be running from real life. That being the life where I get a job, and am actually able to be of help to my family and friends and not just a stress and a hindrance. My family, particularly my Grandma and Mum supported me for the seven weeks I was in New Zealand, feeding and housing me and listening to my various anxieties. I owe them an incredible debt, one which I may never pay off. So as I depart into the next stages of my late-20s travel journey, I have some hesitance, and I wonder to an extent if my impulsive decisions may have taken me too far in this direction. It’s true there are many things that I don’t like about New Zealand – but I feel there might be some time soon that I have to commit myself to the place, and really make something substantial happen.

For now, I have a few more months (or maybe years) of wandering ahead of me. Here’s hoping this is productive wandering at least, maybe getting better at German, perhaps making some contacts for my music, writing songs and playing shows. And maybe some more good times with the person who holds my heart. If you’re ever reading those lists of why to quit your job and travel, as ideal as it may seem, just know that as I am expressing, there is a downside. The downside is the lack of stability, increased anxiety from not knowing where you’re heading next and a decreased foresight and security blanket for the future. At some point we all have to retire. I wonder if, looking back, I will be proud of my decision to keep traveling, or If I will wish past me put a little bit more effort into hardwork and preparing for the future. I’m guess it will be a little of both, as it currently is now.

Saying Goodbye to my family (Mum pictured here) at Auckland Airport

If I sound overly negative or pessimistic, perhaps that’s partially due to the worries i have of whether I’ll be able to find work in Germany, or if it will be more of the same. I have a habit of seeking out opportunities but then not following through – perhaps due to fear, or self-doubt. If this European adventure turns out alright, and I manage to find work and not completely crumble in a mess of abject poverty, perhaps I will have a more optimistic story to tell. I hope this is the case. For sure, it is not easy leaving the warm of home in summer, for the cold and uncertainty of an unknown Europe in winter. Maybe it is indeed madness, that someone would leave warmth and security, or something so uncertain as adventure.

The Warmth of New Zealand

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Travel: Volunteering through Workaway on a farm community in Germany

In the current part of my last-20s travel journeys: I’ve left London, my television office job and extremes of living in such a large city, and have some how stumbled upon farm life in Northern Germany.  How does a city slicker like myself cope with life in an agricultural environment such as this? Better than expected it turns out.

There were ups and downs in the first 6 months after leaving my office life in London, but I was able to fall on my feet thanks to the decision to become a volunteer worker to fund my travels. Using the site http://workaway.info  , I searched until a found a community that interested me. This happened to be in Lower Saxony, about one hour south of Hamburg via train, at a little village called Sammatz. It was actually closer to Luneburg than Hamburg, and in terms of address it was situated in the area of Neu Darchau (a nearby town, nothing to do with Dachau), but disregarding geography, in turned out to be a great place to volunteer. There were lots of other fellow travelers working in order to have free food and accommodation, in fact in summer we had up to 85 volunteers on the farm! This is not to mention the 90+ permanent residents. Sammatz (google map it here) is a community unlike many you’ll find on the Workaway database – it’s well organised, with much varied work, cooked meals every lunch time, a fridge always full of food to cook your own, good accommodation, really friendly locals and some beautiful surroundings in the Northern Germany forest. As well as an organic farm, they have farm animals including many rare breeds (horses, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, donkeys, an avery, chickens, turkeys, ducks, dogs, cats, people), a bakery for fresh bread, dairy for making organic yoghurt and cheese, an excellent cafe with deserts drinks and meals and also home and schooling for special needs and disadvantaged children. The volunteers can get involved with any or all of this, from caregiving with the special needs kids, to gardening – weeding is somewhat of a prerequisite when you first arrive, there’s plenty of stables and animal work to get involved in and also construction and larger labouring type gardening. Oh, I forgot to mention the kitchen as well, with prepared meals everyday the catering is fantastic from the cooks. These are served Monday to Saturday and you can also get involved cooking there.

Daniel, my friend and blogger, check his hot blog out: https://www.failingforward.today/

So there’s a lot to do within this little (but in a sense, big) community in the heart of Lower Saxony. When I arrived, I was but a mere volunteer, but soon my plan to stay 2 weeks had sped by and it wasn’t long until I found myself staying 6 months, until nearly Christmas. I eventually had my own room to myself, used lent instruments such as Piano and Guitar to continue writing songs, and had gotten the basics of German down thanks to one of the mentors on the farm who also teaches German. I probably would have stayed past Christmas as well, if it wasn’t for a nagging call to return home to my birth land of New Zealand. Coming back to New Zealand had an element of shock to it as well – after the freedom and social environment of the farm – I feel the experience changed me. I will no longer be able to return to the confines of the usual 9 to 5 office job without the knowledge that other, more communal ways of life can exist.

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Not that working at the Sammatz community in Germany was a holiday, we would work 7.5 hours a day, starting at 8am and going until 5pm, with the 1.5 hour break for lunch. This was a little on the excessive side as most Workaway’s have the guidelines that there should only be 5 hours work a day, but the extra work was made up for by the good social environment and good food. The work was rewarding as well, perhaps not the excessive weeding, i.e. ripping grass out of the ground (which could be fun in summer as an excuse to flirt and bond with fellow workies, but was pretty tough by cold Autumn).  With the larger construction tasks, care giving, labouring around the farm something could always be learnt, about team work and individual skills. Cow herding was a highlight of mine, something I took the lead on for several months, along with a Scottish friend of mine. Cow’s turn out to be highly emotional and interesting creatures, not unsimiliar to what a dinosaur might be like. This lead to a screening of Jurassic Park with the borrowed farm projector, which in turn led to an impromptu road trip with the friends group I had at that time, up to the city of Lubeck. Lubeck was in no way connected to dinosaur’s but the trip was a lot of fun, and an indication of the cool things that you can do with the cool people you meet in community volunteering experiences such as this.

Will I volunteer on farms or community’s again? Yes I probably will. Now back in New Zealand I have the choice of staying here, getting an normal job to pay off my ever escalating student debt, or escape back overseas on a flight I’ve booked to return to Germany and start the traveling once again. Since I’ve turned down the job and thus the opportunity to make money, I may as well go for broke and see what will happen in Europe for me in 2018. This time I think I’ll try find a workaway closer to the city, like Berlin and perhaps get involved in the sights and sounds of city life once again. But I have a feeling it won’t be long, until I’m back at that farm in Lower Saxony once again…

A Season of Firsts part II: Final Bout of Hesitancy

Leaving home ain’t easy, Queen knew it all too well (Brian May to be precise).

Great song, and the message is true. By now some of you all ready know I’m departing my usual New Zealand soils and heading over seas in a trip much shorter than that taken by our colonialist ancestors. Six months in a leaky boat it is not, instead it will be our much taken for granted, 20 hours in an air-conditioned airplane.

While I’m very excited about my upcoming adventures, just this week I have been experiencing pangs of indecision and possible regret. This is probably to be expected with any large personal undertaking. When I pulled the trigger to head overseas on this working adventure, I most definitely my heart was only about 80% into the idea. But it had been sitting in my head for so long; festering, stewing – that eventually something had to be done. Once the trigger was pulled there was no turning back .Through the inevitable regrets and doubts I must trek, to blunder forward as confidently as I possibly can; meanwhile being shit scared about turning my back on a good job, the safety net of family and of familiarity.

As I move forward, not yet having left, I have to say that already positive things seem to be happening. I’ve gained a lot more momentum, something I’d been searching for for some time. Momentum is crucial to getting creative projects done and I guess the relief of not having to spend nights worrying about what I’ll do has freed me to up to be thinking more creatively. Working on this blog is one such example.

But then I think of how I no longer have an income. Of how I have to go back to working tough jobs for long hours, or maybe not working at all. I have no idea where I’m going to live, and I have no idea of the city I’m about to enter.

This all might be quite melodramatic overseas experiences to the UK have been done time and time again by New Zealanders. I guess that doesn’t make it any easier for this Kiwi however.

Here’s the final self portrait photograph (or selfie) taken by myself, before I departed Southern Hemisphere land (taking in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, exhausted and un-showered. More on Malaysia to come)

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Indecisive Travels

I’ve been writing blogs now for a few weeks, but have been storing them up, due (cough) indecision over what to do with. Out of necessity, I have to pull the trigger, so I’m going through with having not one, but an excessive TWO blogs. My main blog – http://www.shutuphamish.com – will remain and will be the hub for both my culture writing and travel writing (I will reblog from here to there, the culture writing won’t appear here). The reasons for this are that I somewhere deep down inside feel that I need a specific place for my travel writing, even more specific then a category page on shut up hamish. So here we are, Indecisive Travels is born, and it shall be for the next few months as well. I’ve got some good stuff building up on life in London, because man it’s full of some ups and…

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A Season Of Firsts: Losing My Overseas Virginity

I’m now in the middle of travelling to London, and am currently editing this blog from a train in Kuala Lumpur. I should be making the most of being in a foreign place but I wanted to post this while it’s still relevant to my current travels. There will be more travel posts to come, either here or on a new site that I will link up.

At 25, I’ve experienced a fair amount of life. I’ve done the preschool years, the wild innocence of my childhood. I’ve done the confusing and expectantly traumatic period of puberty and early teens. I’ve graduated high school, graduated University, had a few proper adult jobs and lived independently for some time.

I’ve achieved many things I’d dreamed of achieving but had not been so arrogant to have assumed them a certainty. Things such as learning an instrument, learning multiple instruments, playing concerts, touring, releasing CDs, having reunions, finishing dissertations, filming music videos and releasing mildly successful local music videos – successful enough in their political critique to gain the attention of the electoral commission. I’ve made friends, lost friends, gained friends again. Had girlfriends, lost girlfriends, become friends with them in time. I’ve had many great times with family and am lucky enough to still have most of my family alive and well. So I can already look back on my quarter century and feel gratitude, and satisfaction at how things have turned out.

But still, there are many firsts I am yet to experience. Over the next few weeks I will be ticking a great many of these firsts off my bucket list. It will be first time outside of Australasia, my first time on a long haul flight, my first time traveling internationally solo, and my first time crossing hemispheres. I’ve never been to Asia before, but I will achieve this with a day long stop over in Kuala Lumpur – hopefully enough to see the Batu Caves and perhaps some monkeys roaming free around them. I’ve never been the Middle East before, but a five hour stop over in Dubai will provide a brief experience of this. I’ve never had to sleep overnight on a plane, and never really crossed time barriers, so therefor I’ve never experienced jet leg. All of this is to come.

Travel is a relatively common thing for some families so this may not seem a big deal. But my family are not great travelers, my Mum, Grandma and Grandfather only got as far as Australia. My Dad’s made it to Asia and many Pacific Islands. Only an Uncle of mine had previously ventured off to do the living in England thing. So for me, it seems a massive deal, and I’m kind of surprised I’ve even gotten to this stage where I’m about to pull it off. The fact I’ve done so little like this in the past, except for moving from Dunedin to Auckland, makes it all the more thrilling and nerve wracking (although to be honest I’m relatively calm at the moment).

The experience of moving across to the United Kingdom and working there is in many ways part of the New Zealand cultural identity. We our a colony of the British Empire after all, with a great deal of us descended from British, Scottish and Irish immigrants, and the influence of England has of course spread into the many other cultures that now make up our multicultural Islands. We used to view the UK as home, as my Grandma was telling me just yesterday, as she reminisced about her childhood. In this way, I like to think that I am venturing back to our recent ancestral home, so good or bad, it will be incredibly valuable cultural education.

This is of course the biggest first, losing my living overseas virginity. I’m sure it’ll come with it’s own crazy highs and depressing lows, homesickness, work struggles and such – but it will surely give me an experience at following my own heart and taking some risks. Plus I’m also breaking my camping festival virginity – and this happens to be for Glastonbury 2015. So the hedonistic partying highlights are there already.

I will attempt with this blog to give you a rundown on how everything goes. You’ll soon here about how I go attempting to fly Jetstar, Royal Brunei and Emirates with stop-overs in Melbourne, Brunei, Kuala Lumpur and Dubai. Will I make the flights? Will my luggage come with me? You’ll soon here about Glastonbury and whether it lived up to the hype. Who were the best artists? Is it really the best festival on earth? Did my tent survive the rain and mud? I’ll also write on life in London, the steps I take to get set up and how a Kiwi with little world experience finds life in the big English metropolis.

I’m not entirely sure if I am following that most metaphorical of organs in my upper chest, or if I’m running to the other side of the world out of fear, of something like commitment for example. My heart most definitely lies with my family and friends in New Zealand and I will make as much effort to stay in contact with them as possible. Right now, having resign from my job and taking steps towards this most anticipated adventure, it feels good. Surely if something feels good, that’s a good indicator that you’re on the right track.

Peace out, more from me soon.

Oh and here’s a drawing of me by my good friend, the great Shanghai artist, Ultraman Zhong Wen Chen.

ultraman-drawing-2015 hamish