One day Alice came to a fork in the road…

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.”

Today marks the Anniversary of my first visit to New Zealand. “So what?!” I hear you say.

Well, it may not seem like a big thing, but facebook memories reminded me that I touched down in NZ this time a year ago and, since the end of the year is fast approaching, I’ve been using my 20/20 vision (thank you, hindsight) to stop and truly appreciate the labyrinthine year I’ve had.

Much like my namesake, Alice in Wonderland, I’ve felt a bit lost this year and had to make decisions that I felt I wasn’t 100% ready for. But, the more I think about it, the more I appreciate the paths I went down in 2018. Arguably, some of the paths were predetermined, while others were opportunities that I actively decided to take.

I’ve spent most of today watching Charlie Brooker’s new and interactive Black Mirror film, Bandersnatch (which, curiously, is also a Lewis Carroll character). The film robs the protagonist of free will and hands it over to the viewer, allowing them to decide everything from the protagonist’s breakfast cereal and what music they “choose” to listen to right through to deciding whether or not to take a life. I found it quite thought-provoking and it got me wondering whether “free will” is a product of our species’ inherently arrogant nature and whether anything and/or everything is actually predetermined. But, don’t worry; I won’t go down that rabbit hole right now (if you’ll pardon the pun). Give it a watch – it’s on Netflix and I really want to talk about it with someone!

On the subject of free will and alleged destiny, I was joking earlier this week that I was basically Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors. Eventhough the joke fell on deaf ears (it turns out that German people aren’t very familiar with the film), I’ve come to realise that the parallels between the 1998 film and my 2018 life are surprisingly strong.

Much like Gwynnie, I’ve missed many a tube train, leading to what I call “Beverly Knight Syndrome” where I wonder what “shoulda woulda coulda” been. But, of course, we all only ever experience what actually happens. I did (kind of) lose my job and chop all my hair off, so there’s that. I’m not preggo though (which Gwyneth is in both iterations), so don’t start jumping to conclusions.

I digress.

What I’m trying to say is that all the forks in the road I experienced this year have led me to the sofa I’m currently sitting on in the Wairarapa Valley, surrounded by 3 dogs, 2 cats, and the gentle sounds of nature at night. Where would I otherwise be in my previous, london-based life? To be fair, I would normally have been alone and on a sofa, just in a different way. I’d normally be in a first floor flat on the south circular, surrounded by washing, listening (unwillingly) to the irregular interludes of sirens outside my window. I think we both know which sofa I’m happier sitting on.

2018 has been a funny year. To call it a rollercoaster of emotions is an understatement but, weirdly, it’s been one of my favourite years ever. I ran a half marathon, was (f)unemployed for 6 months, renovated my flat, got rid of most of my possessions, ran a full marathon, cycled through Scotland with my brother, turned 30, moved to the other side of the world, broke my foot, chopped all my hair off, got a new job, and made some awesome new kiwi friends. Some of what happened in 2018 was to be expected, but most of it was a surprise and pushed me out of my comfort zone both metaphorically and literally.

I practised much more Yoga when I was unemployed and, in addition to the physical asanas, began to learn about and exercise ‘Aparigraha’ or ‘non-attachment’. Essentially, you take only what you need, keep only what serves you in the moment, and let go when the time is right. It really helped me to stop concerning myself with the outcome of a situation and instead only concern myself with what I’m actually doing right now as I happen to be working towards that outcome. It’s not abandoning ambition. It’s not being careless or mindless. It’s actually quite the opposite; staying mindful of the deserving moment and not allowing the journey to be trumped by the destination. It’s pretty cool and I’m very grateful for having learnt about it.

To explain, here are some examples of where I used it this year:

  • Leaving my job – eventhough I had no idea if my vague plan to “move to NZ” would end well, it got the ball rolling and now here I am!
  • Breaking my foot – it was initially really frustrating, as it meant I had to prematurely end my Te Araroa hiking trip, but it meant I secured an awesome job and spent some time enjoying Wellington and making some really lovely new friends.
  • Accepting a new job in a city I’ve visited for a grand total of 3 hours – Taking this new job now means that I’m moving to Auckland in the new year, which I never thought I was going to do, but I’m saying yes. Why not?!

Who knows where ‘London Alice’ would be right now if I hadn’t taken the paths I took this year? Who knows where ‘Auckland Alice’ will be this time next year?

Much like Alice in Wonderland, I still don’t quite know which road to take, but, then again, I don’t know where I want to go, so I guess it doesn’t matter. I’m taking each day as it comes and am loving it.

Here’s to what 2018 brought and what 2019 has yet to bring. Happy New Year 🙂

Alright, we didn’t ask for your life story…

Disclaimer: I’ve set up this blog/site to act as a kind of diary where I will share with you what I get up to/discover during my time down under (if you catch my drift). There will be a lot of introspective stuff as well as some (hopefully) cool tales of awesome activities I’ve been up to, so, if that’s not up your street, look away now!

Hello Internet people!

My name’s Alice and I’m buggering off to New Zealand for a belated gap year! Well, two gap years in a row (technically). I recently left my job and decided to finish renovating my place, let it out, and do what I’ve never done; go travelling and move to another country for a little while. Woohoo!

I never took a gap year. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever gone on any kind of extended holiday. I’ve been working in recruitment in London for around 7 years now and it’s high time for a change. A change of speed, a change of direction, a change of environment. I suppose it sounds like I’m running away, and I guess I am, but it’s not a rash decision. I’ve never let myself do something like this trip. I’ve always had excuses or felt the need to follow some kind of script, whether it be from family, friends, society, or just a general feeling that I shouldn’t do something that many might feel is so self-indulgent. I grew up in an environment of flux (also know as being a “military brat”), moving house often and having to make and leave new friends on repeat until I left uni. So I grew up abroad, but I’ve never truly travelled. Not properly.

I didn’t take a gap year after school because I was encouraged to “maintain mental momentum” post A-levels. After I finished Uni, I craved consistency and stability, so I moved to London where I just got my head down and settled into a job I didn’t like. It was an attempt to “be adult” and make my student debt seem worth while. I’ve not stopped since.

All of a sudden, it’s almost a decade later, I’m 30 in a couple of weeks and I can say with certainty that I’ve not done half the things I thought I would have done by now (but that’s OK. I’m now in the process of doing just that, so watch this space).

I can barely tell the last few years apart from each other. They’re all much of a muchness; the only things distinguishing one year from another being new jobs and different relationships (how sad does that sound?!). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had loads of fun and made some incredible friends along the way through the tough times as well as the good. Recently, though, I began to realise that I had a secret sadness that was starting to seep through the cracks in my tired, jokey armour. You see, I’m the “Miranda Hart type”; I’m often described as big (I’m incredibly tall), silly, and a great mimic who is regularly relied upon to do impressions or silly accents. But, to be honest, being the “Miranda Hart type” is harmless in a way, but it’s not who I see myself as and I certainly don’t want to be seen as an affable clown for the foreseeable future (no offence, MH!).

But here’s the other thing: Until recently, I was technically a “business woman” working in the “Big Smoke” for one of the most highly sought after employers on the planet and, you know what? I was not happy. None of what I did mattered. None of it. Not really. I used to find comfort in the thought that, if something went wrong at work, it didn’t matter because “it’s just online shopping. This doesn’t have a real impact on people’s lives”. But this mantra, that was once a comfort to me, soon became a stark reminder that I was having no real impact on people’s lives (including my own). None of it matters. So, what was I doing there? This situation, this Groundhog Day (great film, but terrible if it’s your actual life), had made me feel less and less alive.

Last winter, I hit breaking point. I hardly ever go to the doctor, but, for the first time in my life, I was genuinely desperate after having a panic attack while I was travelling back from a work event in Germany.

Stoic and frustrated, I went in to see the GP and they asked the hardest question I’d had to answer in a long time “How are you, Alice?”.

I had prepared a precis in my head and, until that question, was ready to reel it off to him, but I started to feel my bottom lip go and so, punctuated by tears and embarrassed apologies, I told the Doc what was up. A few follow-up questions later, it was official, he informed me I was suffering from depression and, instead of medication, he prescribed me to change job and nurture myself/my personal interests.

I’m apparently a classic case of someone who “keeps b*ggering on and says yes to others but not to themselves”. He was totally right and I knew it. I left that room motivated to shake off the labels I felt had defined me before and to take control of what I was doing with my life. If I wasn’t enjoying my job, then let’s find something more meaningful and change that. Within a few months, I started re-evaluating my situation and, instead of longingly thinking “if I could just do x, y, z…” I began planning “when I do x, y, z…”.

I should probably write to that Doctor and thank him for reminding me that I should take control of my life and happiness. I’m so excited about the future. Today, I finished renovating my flat (which has been a long, expensive, and often frustrating process). In just over two weeks, I will be moving out with just a back-pack full of essentials and going after something I truly want to be doing. How great is that? I’m feeling very lucky and aware of my privilege, that’s for sure.

I fell in love with New Zealand when I finally visited last Christmas. I vowed to return and explore all it has to offer and, here I am, 9 months later, ready to do just that. I can’t wait. I’m only allowed to work 12 out of the 23 months I’m in the country, so I will get a fair amount of travel in when I’m there (cue loads of photos of me visiting Hobbiton, hugging gum trees, and hiking up Mount Doom!). One of my goals is to inspire myself with a big and badass adventure (like hiking the Te Araroa trail). But, I think, my real goal is to inspire other women the way Adventure Queens like my friend Ellie Perkins and Anna McNuff have inspired me. I would love for women and girls to see what I’m doing and think “Wow! What an adventure! I would love to do that. She knows what she wants and she goes and gets it!” But also, “Alice is just like me, so maybe I can do that too!”. This world is amazing. Sod waiting until retirement to see it from a cruise ship! I want to get out there now and show others that it’s possible, that it’s worth it.

My plan for my time in NZ is simple at the moment – spend time with my sister and her family in Wellington, find a sweet job that isn’t too stress-inducing, and go on a big ol’ hike. I’m not really sure how often I’ll be writing on this blog thing, as I don’t know how interesting my “content” will truly be. I’ll definitely be writing up some fairly nerdy posts about hiking gear but I’m taking a decent camera with me, so I might post some photos and stories from bush walks and other activities with family and new-found friends in the glorious NZ landscape.

I think that’s all for now. I’d better get back to donating most of my remaining possessions to charity and doing all the life admin I need to do before I go.

If you’d like much less wordy updates about my time in NZ, you can follow me via instagram at @alicerosella

Ciao for now!