Leaving London Postcards

Leaving London Postcards

Arriving at Heathrow this time on the Piccadilly line from our West London home was different. It was the last time I would make that journey. There was no return plane ticket. Only memories and an expiring visa in my passport marking the end of my welcome. The day had come.

It was time to go home.

Standing under the departure boards with my packed bags, the past three and a half years felt like they had gone by in the blink of an eye. How could my initial “one to two years” response to family and friends who asked how long I would be gone for have doubled so quickly?

Quite simply, London does that.

Time is distorted with its fast pace and endless offerings. A month often feels like a week, six months, two. It gets under your skin. Sometimes for the wrong reasons, but mostly for all the pockets of magic it does offer.

It was an instant love affair that started two weeks before the 2012 Olympics and after three months of countless laughs and adventures through South East Asia. A flat was quickly secured and not long after a job with my dream company; right in the heart of all the action. Oxford Circus.

Bank holidays and Christmas closure became opportunities for travel and maximising annual leave. There was always somewhere new to see. I ventured to destinations like Egypt, Croatia, Montenegro, Prague, Portugal, Greece, and one of my favourite trips, a cruise from Southampton on the Queen Mary 2 to spend Christmas in New York. If there was a chance to explore, I took it. It became a joke with colleagues about how much travel I seemed to do and how I must surely have twice the company holiday allowance.

In such a transient city – and for most antipodeans a ‘not forever’ city – most of the contacts I knew on arrival moved on within a few months, so new friendships were constantly established as people came and went.

Family and friends visiting was always a cherished time to look forward to, as well as being the perfect excuse to tick off the popular (usually avoided) tourist spots. Actually, who am I kidding? All of London is busy and what is a tourist attraction for some is part of someone else’s daily commute. It’s unavoidable. I think the beautiful and extraordinary surroundings are often taken for granted by locals rushing about their day. Even after three years, I still had to pinch myself walking to Piccadilly Circus after work. Closing my eyes now, I can still feel the mixture of excitement and awe as I took everything in.

In between all the travel (and work), spare time was filled with brunch dates, weekend markets, theatre, music gigs, strolling along South Bank, picnics in Hampstead Heath, pop-ups, shopping, deer spotting in Richmond Park, blogging events, afternoon teas in hotels older than New Zealand, walks along the Thames and tube missions to Camden, Greenwich, Shoreditch and Brixton.

Weekdays quickly became weekends – with so much to see and do, there was no reason to leave all the exploring and catch ups to only Saturday and Sunday. Every night of the week there is anything and everything to do. All part of what I miss.

Fast forward to two days before leaving, I was sitting on my bedroom floor – tired, frazzled and absent minded from everything to remember. Surrounded by belongings strewn everywhere, the previous few weeks caught up and I sobbed while feeling ALL the emotions as they came pouring out.

Moving countries takes its toll. Packing up your worldly possessions takes twice as long as you think, it’s stressful and a roller coaster of highs and lows finishing work and saying goodbye to cherished colleagues and friends. Those same people, who when you are living on the opposite side of the world also become your family.

There really is no other place quite like London. Others who have experienced the vibrant, chaotic, busy, beautiful and intoxicating city will know the all too familiar feelings. Moments of dizzying love, excitement, overwhelm and stress – sometimes all at once.

Every day I felt inspired by my surroundings. I explored and it was a time I learnt more about myself. With the anonymity that living in any large city gives, comes also a sense of freedom of being able to be yourself away from preconception and expectation.

Now I sit here, that other world feeling a distant memory away with an ache, a desire and a heartfelt longing to be part of that rush again. There are feelings of sadness for the past I know can no longer be re-created and mixed feelings of being far from where I was, but knowing I’m perhaps right where I need to be.

Who knew the hardest thing about London would be leaving it.

Home of course continued – friends got married, careers progressed, families were started and expanded and I find myself now trying to figure out where I fit in the dynamics of this familiar, yet very different environment.

New chapters are always an exciting time to start fresh. To re-set, re-evaluate and focus with the new knowledge learnt along the way. So, right now, that’s exactly what I’m doing. Looking forward.

But, London, I just wanted you to know you will always have a special place in my heart.

Loving & leaving London,

Santorini Sunset

The last few weeks have all gone by in a bit of a blur. There has been summer trips to Italy and Greece, Glastonbury, family and friends visiting from New Zealand, sightseeing, rugby world cup games, time on the yoga mat, a recent wedding in Denmark and the ultimate, GQ Men of the Year awards. There’s no questioning why I love living in London, but here am I am asking myself “To stay, or not to stay?”

In the back of my mind though, there has been a constant debate about whether to stay in this city that has stolen my heart, or return back to New Zealand. If it were only my decision, the choice would have been easier.

Unfortunately it’s not always so simple and there were a lot of other factors to consider – the main one being that Mike was ready to return home. The initial one to two year plan of moving to London has already turned into 3.5 years. London seems to have a way of doing that. The months and years whizz by. There is always something new to do, to see, to learn and experience.

It has a magical hold with its bustling streets, history, international cultures, pop-ups, food markets, theatre, gigs, entertainment, shopping and travel. If you can think of it, you can probably find it in London.

Reaching this fork in the road of one of us wanting to stay and the other wanting to leave meant there has been a lot of umming and aahing this year when it came to making a decision. The fast approaching deadline of our visas expiring only adding to the pressure.

To be honest, I’ve been in complete denial. Pulling back from my blog, from social media and putting my head in the sand, hoping that time would stand still and I wouldn’t have to make a decision, or leave the city I love.

FYI – this is not the recommended way to deal with things. Time will never stop and by not making any decision, I put life on hold inevitably not making progress either way. Sometimes fear holds us exactly where we are, in turn creating what we are most afraid of.

Time was running out and it was time to make a choice.

A lot of people gave their advice (a lot of it biased on both sides – love you all), but comments from two people really stuck with me and I think can apply to others in many situations.

The first from an unexpected source who told me, “It’s time to move forward. If you make no decision, it will keep you stuck and static. Don’t wait until a decision feels right. Just move. Only once we’ve moved forward will we know if it’s a mistake and if it is, we can change it.”

The other from a close friend, “Just make a decision and see how it feels. There’s no wrong decision. There’s just a decision and if you don’t like what you decide, you can make a new decision. That’s how we learn and grow. That’s life. A beautiful mess. Either way, make the decision from a place of power and love, not a place of powerlessness and fear.”

Both pieces of advice really helped me move forward, so, recently I handed in my resignation at work.

And then cried.

While there are plenty of positives of moving back to New Zealand, I’m still sad to be leaving a company I love, a city that fills me with excitement and to say goodbye to beautiful friends I’ll be leaving behind.

But, as the sun sets on one day, a new day begins and I am excited about what is next. While London and all the wonderful memories, experiences and friends I have made here will always have a special place in my heart, there are new adventures to be had.

So, London friends – it’s time to schedule catch ups and after a holiday in Bali, New Zealand friends and family – we will see you in a few weeks.

Love & London,

Nicole and A Life Less Beige Mum

Living overseas has many fun advantages, but sometimes it means missing special occasions you wish you could be part of. Since leaving New Zealand a few milestone birthdays, weddings, births and other events have sadly been missed. Likewise, turning 30 and getting engaged have been times I wish family and friends were on this side of the world to share in the excitement.

While home in New Zealand Mike and I made the most of our visit by finally celebrating our engagement with loved ones. If you missed the post about his romantic proposal in Budapest, go have a read and come back.

I’m still impressed by Mike’s efforts and I think he’s still got a few brownie points up his sleeve (don’t tell him though).

Post wedding dress lunch and bubbles

Post wedding dress shopping lunch with the girls

The first exciting girl date while home, was wedding dress shopping with my Mum and two of my gorgeous besties, Stacey and Julia to try on my first ever wedding dress! So grateful to Julia who even flew all the way from Australia to be there. We’ve been friends since we were nine and have our fair share of memories (and shenanigans) together over the years.

LOVE these girls.

Nicole and A Life Less Beige Mum at lunch

It’s true what they say – the dress really does choose you (indicated by how many excited butterflies and teary eyes are present). I thought I had an idea of style, but it didn’t flatter my figure, or suit my look and I ended up finding a beautiful dress, that is the complete opposite to what I had in mind at the start of the day.

That is all I will say about the dress though. My lips are sealed!

Mum has been so supportive and helpful, but then again, she always is. I don’t know what I would do without this woman in my life. She’s always in my corner, cheering me on and is there whenever I need her.

HUGE love to all the Mum’s out there.

P.S. How great does she look!?

Celebrating with bubbles at Dux Dine Christchurch

Finding ‘the dress’ was certainly worth celebrating, so we stopped by Dux Dine to refuel our grumbling stomachs and toasted our success with some bubbles in the sunshine.

Trying on so many dresses was thirsty work!

Celebrating our engagement in Christchurch

The day of our engagement party, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for a casual outdoor soiree. The sun shone bright without a cloud to be seen across the clear blue sky, while guests sheltered under marquees from the heat.

A very special thank you to Stacey and Paul for letting us host in the grounds of their beautiful home. It was the perfect setting for our get together.

Nicole and Mike celebrating their engagement

Ashleigh and Duncan engagement celebrations

And thank you to my gorgeous friend Ashleigh for doing my make-up on the day (she has come to my rescue on more than one occasion).

Girlfriends engagement celebrations

Renee Lucy and Mel engagement celebrations

The sun shone, old and new friends mingled, families came together, champagne corks popped and music drifted across the air with the sound of laughter. All the elements to make for a perfect afternoon outdoors.

Chocolate engagement cake with strawberries and chocolate curls

One of our friends made this deliciously rich chocolate mud cake topped with fresh strawberries and chocolate swirls. It was devoured in no time. Always a good sign that it was enjoyed!

Stacey and Nicole engagement celebrations

MIke Nicole and David Engagement Celebrations

With over 90 adults and a few children, the afternoon went by in a blur – I can see why some couples do opt for more intimate weddings. It’s hard to spend quality time with every guest.

Engagement celebrations friends by the lake

Engagement celebrations friends relaxing by the lake

As the sun started to go down, shoes came off and friends lounged by the lake, sharing stories in the last of the rays.

It made us feel so loved having all our family and friends come together to join in celebrating a special occassion. We really appreciated all those who made the effort to come and for spoiling us with thoughtful gifts. Sorry I couldn’t put a photo of everyone in this post! Miss you all.

Much love,

A Life Less Beige in Valencia

Hi! How are you? The age ‘ol line “It isn’t you, it’s me” seems fitting.

There’s been a lot of change and things happening behind the scenes here, which is why it’s been quiet. I wasn’t sure how to start, so I may as well launch into some of what’s been happening and catch you up on a few things.

Feeling burnt out last year, I’ve tried to consciously slow things down and be more present this year. Every day I see people rushing around, heads down looking at their phones getting from point a to point b, but not really taking in the journey.

Kind of symbolic of life I think.

Remember to enjoy all the small wonders and the journey as a whole, rather than constantly worrying about the next step and not enjoying the moment you have right now.

Deep.

Henna hand reading Get Some Headspace by Andy Puddicombe

What do you think of the henna art? I had it done at a fundraiser for the Nepal earthquake appeal. It’s the first time I’ve ever had it done, but I think it’s intricate detailing is really pretty.

I had one of those moments last week when I looked down at my henna, holding a book on meditation wearing loose patterned trousers and laughed to myself. TOTAL stereotype.

I’m reading Get Some Headspace by Andy Puddicombe at the moment and I recommend anyone to read it. I know meditation is a bit out there for a lot of people, but this book helps breaks the process down in an easy to understand way. It even has an app – now that’s modern meditation!

As little as ten minutes of mindfulness a day can help with all the thoughts we get busy chasing around, or getting tangled up in. Think of it as a workout for your mind. The brain is just as important to take care of as any other muscle and organ in the body. If you’re curious to know more, take a look at the fun Headspace website. It’s been making a massive difference for me with a feeling of general calmness.

 

The most exciting news – after 18 months of studying my other half, Mike qualified as a Health Coach and Personal Trainer before Christmas. I’m so proud of him and all his hard work. It’s what he was born to do and he’s a natural with clients.

Needless to say the theme for me this year has been focused around health, wellbeing and fitness. I’ve been learning loads from Mike who has been training me in the gym (secretly I think he enjoys being able to make me hurt) and has helped me make A LOT of positive changes in my diet.

Goodbye sweet tooth and refined sugars.

June 1st is when he’s all set to officially change his career and start working from a gym. He is also SUPER close to launching his website, so in the mean time, follow him on his social media and give him a virtual high five:

Urban Life Fuel Facebook  l  Urban Life Fuel Instagram  l  Urban Life Fuel Twitter

Girls that lift. Weight training in the gym.

The biggest shift so far for me this year has been exercise. Over the years I’ve dabbled with the gym – never really having set goals and doing the same exercises, at the same weight and the same amount of reps for months at a time. I’ve lost weight, but always just become a smaller version of myself. Getting more educated, I now understand the benefits and difference weight training can make – including how you can change the shape of the body.

I am loving the feeling of getting stronger physically. Myth buster – girls, you will not turn into the incredible hulk because you do weights.

1. You have to eat LOADS of food to build muscle.

2. Females don’t have as much testosterone in their bodies, so don’t get as bulky as our male counterparts, AND

3. It doesn’t happen overnight. If you don’t like how an area is progressing, you can maintain and change the way you train.

I’m a girl who loves balance in life, so along with weight training, I’ve also started yoga and man it feels good to stretch and open the body.

There is a great website, Do Yoga With Me, which has plenty of classes you can do for free from the comfort of your own home. Thanks Ché for the recommendation!

I’m super excited to start a six week intro to yoga course on Monday, taken by my friend Ché who has recently qualified as a yoga instructor. Check out her Instagram for some inspiring, fun and informative yoga posts.

I’ve followed SO many yogi babes and strong fitness girls on Instagram this year as a form of inspiration. It’s my new obsession (in a non-creepy way).

 

This month we also had a wonderful trip to Rome and the Amalfi Coast (HELLO pizza and gelato), but I’ll fill you in on more of that later.

The rest of this year is looking exciting with Glastonbury nearing, a holiday to Greece, family and friends visiting from New Zealand, plus celebrating several friend’s weddings. The second half is going to go by in a flash.

Be present,

Looking at views of Lake Hayes, New Zealand

Sorry it’s been a bit quiet around these parts. With views like this, you can see why I’ve been a little distracted. For the first time in nearly three years, I ventured back to my homeland for a few weeks over Christmas and New Years. I felt called to just be present for awhile. To enjoy being in the moment with friends and family and not worry about taking photos, or being on social media.

And, it felt really good.

Sometimes we all need a break. To re-set, re-focus and unplug.

I absolutely love blogging, but by the end of last year I was feeling a little burnt out. Blogging really is a full-time job in itself, so trying to to balance the amount of time it requires with a full-time job, commuting, quality relationship time, having fun with friends, travel, enjoying London, eating well, exercise AND ensuring my family know I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth over here – plus now planning a wedding – it was all catching up on me.

Being back in New Zealand was so rejuvenating. Even though it was a busy trip filled with loads of catch ups, it was wonderful to see everyone and was nice to know that after so long I can just slot back in like I’ve never left.

Ashamedly I had forgotten how stunning New Zealand’s landscape is. It truly is a special place. With two weeks in Christchurch and one week in Wanaka (one of my favourite parts of the world), we got to see many rivers, flower filled paddocks, plains, rolling hills, breathtaking turquoise lakes and snow covered mountains.

Come back for my future posts to see for yourself. I promise it won’t be long.

Happy 2015!