Friday, 10 April 2015

Why Do People Make Plans That Don't Make Sense?

In my last 6+ years of living, moving and travelling, there's been a lot of plans: plans made, plans changed, plans succeeded and failed.

For me, this has largely revolved around visas. All of my visas for NZ and Australia have been 1 year - which makes planning beyond that time very difficult.

That said, it's suited me very well. I don't need to know what I'll be doing in 5 years' time - I still scoff at the idea of 5-year-plans, at people going on dinner dates saying "So where do you see yourself in five years' time?"

Juggling rabbits? Owning the moon? Peru? Fuuuuuuuuuuuck off.

But I do like to have a very good idea about where I'll be in 1 year, and a fairly good sketch for 2 years. Having a guide is useful, and staying flexible is too.

In amongst all this, people often ask me things like:
  • "So why are you doing that?"
  • "Why can't you do that?"
  • "That's a bit weird isn't it?"
I've even asked myself these things too!

What people often don't know or see is the bewildering variety of factors involved - with two big ones being visas and money.

People asked me why I couldn't "just stay in New Zealand", as if being part of the Commonwealth means that visas just become this magical thing only unicorns have to deal with.

Particular skill sets, or a lack of, then become a factor. Yes I have skills, just not the right ones according to New Zealand Immigration.

The availability of particular flights, and reasons for choosing particular airlines, often guides some particular decisions (while blocking others).

All of this shapes decisions and plans like carving a sculpture, from something very simple into something most people don't understand unless they were the person who had to carve it.

And then, random events can turn up and change everything: hurricanes, breakups, a death in the family. These are usually frustrating (not to mention very sad) but can also be opportunities. In 2003, when SARS was breaking out everywhere, I got to change my ticket and visit Japan - something the original booking didn't allow.

These factors, from the long-term to the immediate, often help or force us to work out who we are - at least in any given year.

Do you think you've changed in the last year, 5 years, 10 years? What were the factors that lead to this change?

So here I am, sitting in the observation deck at Bangkok's Don Mueang airport, waiting for my flight to Chiang Mai (on an Adventure Time-themed plane!!!).

I'll be there for much shorter than I planned, before flying to Macau / Hong Kong before my visa expires, because extending it costs almost as much as a flight, so I might as well see another 2 countries, and I'm flying into Macau because it was cheaper and a better time than Hong Kong, but flying out of Hong Kong to Bangkok because I don't want to take the ferry twice...... you get the idea.

So, the next time someone tells you their plans or life story which don't seem to make any kind of sense, feel free to genuinely (and politely) ask what factors were involved - or just smile and nod, acceptingly, knowing the universe is full of this weird stuff.

And yes, I'm very much looking forward to living in a country where my visa status isn't an issue. Even if my accent means people ask where I'm from.

Update: My plane was not Adventure Time-themed. I'm devastated.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Packing 6yrs of your life is like a greatest hits with 12 songs

Well here we are.

I had so many Australia blog posts to write - the Mite Tasting (comparing 6 types of Marmite); that time the Invasion Day protest crashed the official Australia Day parade and it was totally awesome; why Aus & NZ buildings are made appallingly, because they still cling to a pioneer mindset; and so on.

But time has rushed away with me. It takes me so long to write blog posts I always put it off, and even then, I'm still not quite sure anyone really reads my blog...

But punctuation points in life require them. I started this blog in 2008 before I left on my big 1yr adventure to NZ, and here I am, nearly 7 years later, with a different accent and a different outlook about to begin to last leg back to England.

Talking of legs, if you think packing to live in another country is hard, packing to come back is like chopping off entire parts of yourself. No you can't take that. No you can't that take. No, that thing you were working on can't be part of life any more. No, that pile called "Absolutely Necessary" will have to be half that size.

I am worried people in my own country will keep correcting my English.

I am terrified there will be no one single neighbourhood in London, unlike Wellington or Fitzroy, where I can feel safe wearing a skirt.

But first, I have some time in Thailand, and maybe Laos too. Going to Thailand under the military rule - with democracy suspended - feels weirder than when I went to Laos, where they are communist and don't even pretend to be a democracy. Despite being a privileged foreigner, I will be more careful than ever what I say. But Thailand is depressingly used to coups by now, and I'm sure normal life continues for the most part.

I wanted to write blog posts about Melbourne, and Australia, and how I've barely visited Australia and just been staying in the progressive liberal cosmopolitan island that is Melbourne.

I wanted to write about how Australia DOES have a racism problem. Australia has mostly gotten over its petty European racism - hate and fear of Greeks, Italians, Irish and Catholics - and replaced it with ignoracism of boat people and refugees, and all the time, an utterly despicable treatment of Aboriginals. Australia is in the shadow of shame and is many, many decades from being free of it.

I wanted to write about how wonderful Melbourne is, but also how wanky it is, and how it takes a cynical Brit to see both of these together.

I wanted to write about my amazing housemate and Wellington friend Theresa, who has made my 15 months so so awesome.

I wanted to write about all the cool people I've met and the new friends I've made and the things I've learned in 15 months.

But here I am at the airport, like so many other blog posts, ready to travel without moving.

Unlike other blog posts, I'm about to mix a mocha and a pinot noir and finally create the dirty drink of my dreams: the mochapinot.

Cheers Australia, it's been good.

Mmmm, not bad.