366. The “Mission Acomplished” Post

I wasn’t sure if writing a conclusion-of-the-challenge post was kind-of cheating, but lucky for me 2012 was a leap year, so I guess I get an extra day.

It turned out that the challenge of trying something new every day and writing about it was difficult mostly for reasons I wasn’t expecting. I was thinking the hardest thing would be to get out there and find/do 365 new things, followed by the challenge of actually writing/posting about them every day. Quite the opposite, my biggest problem has been having too many things to write about.

To be fair, it was a slow start in my desk job for the first week or so, and I definitely felt I was clutching at straws for a few posts, but the goal I hoped to get out of this challenge was to ensure I got off my arse and went out and had a whole bunch of new experiences. And that I surely did! Particularly once I stepped off the plane in Denmark. I never imagined just how different the Danish/Scandinavian life and culture would be, let alone all the other places I went, food I tried and experiences I had. In the end the “problem” was that there were just so many new things in a day that I started to get quite the backlog! And so my “rules” adapted, and it became a new thing for every day. Strategies, goals and plans are meant to be flexible, right?

The other challenge, that I absolutely was anticipating, was to physically write a post every day. Most of the time I did OK, but during exams it became quite difficult and I struggled to justify spending lots of time writing posts when I had so much work to do. The spanner in the works was going to a University with some fairly “creative” approaches to administration. For instance, of last semester’s exams, I have completed and received results for three out of four. The fourth I haven’t actually sat yet. So that was way more time spent in exam periods than I anticipated! I managed to catch up eventually, though. Sometimes (generally whilst stressed about exams or really tired) it was really hard to drum up the motivation to log in and spin a yarn. And even worse, sometimes, I really wanted to write the next post but couldn’t get to the internet. I think the thing that made me really stick to it, was just how many people would tell me they enjoyed reading, or thought this post was funny or that photo was great. Without that harrietvstheworld.com would most definitely have died a slow painful death! Instead I was really floored when wordpress.com sent me a 2012 summary email, telling me I’d had over 30,000 views! Crazy! I never imagined my audience would stretch further than Mum, and maybe also Dad.

All in all I think the project has been a fantastic way to really motivate myself to say yes to things I may not have before, to make a constant effort to get out and do new things, to take tonnes more photos than I would have otherwise, to do a lot more research/reading up on places I’ve been too (can’t be printing incorrect facts or anything now, can we) and to provide a wonderful record of my travels so far. It is also going to make Ryan Gosling’s job a whole lot easier if I ever get Alzheimer’s.

However, in my opinion, the biggest impact has been that my perspective on a lot of things that I would have considered mundane or negative has totally shifted. What could have been seen as boring day-to-day chores became “new experiences” to write about. Or stressful experiences like being robbed in France or having transit disasters became a story to tell. It definitely made me appreciate the effect of deliberately having positive outlook and enjoying my surroundings vs seeing something as a drama or a stressful experience and the things around me as mundane.

Some of the highlights definitely were:

  1. 18 new countries
  2. Living with/working for 2 different Danish families
  3. Discovering Sudanese Falafel in Berlin
  4. Learning to surf at a yoga retreat in the Canary Islands
  5. Going to the top of the Eiffel Tower
  6. Driving on the “right” side of the road
  7. Tito’s hilarious private Island in Pula, Croatia
  8. Seeing the Northern Lights in Tromsø, Norway
  9. Paddle boating the canals of Amsterdam
  10. Meeting loads of amazing people, especially my fellow exchange students

And of course I’ve eaten a tonne of amazing food and have drunk a tonne of amazing drinks.

As well as focussing on the new and different, there’s a lot to be said for the old and familiar, and I had some exceptional cameo appearances from some wonderful friends, as well as a spectacular few days in Italy with Mum and Dad. Without seeing my friends (plus countless hours of skype, viber, whatsapp, emails and facebook chats), the homesickness definitely would have got the better of me long ago. Being the Chatty Cathy I am, this blog has definitely been a great outlet for me to feel like I’m back home telling stories instead of on the opposite side of the globe. And so instead of finishing up and returning home as planned, one of my favourite achievements of the year has been getting a job in Copenhagen for 2013. Part of my role there is writing the company blog, so that’s definitely been a great outcome of this challenge! I’ve also gotten a lot closer to working out what to do with my studies, and have even become a postgrad student. *Gasp.*

As for the future of the blog, there’s still a tonne of great stories and photos from 2012 (Venice, Croatia, Poland, a white Christmas in Denmark and of course relocating to Copenhagen and working out what Danish workplace culture is all about). I have really enjoyed writing the posts and collecting/uploading all my photos so this definitely isn’t the end of harrietvstheworld.com, but I am rather quite relieved that the daily post challenge is over. Think I’ll try to aim for once or twice a week from now on!

In 2013 I still have plenty of goals and ideas for my “reverse bucket list” (like a normal bucket list, except instead I just make it up as I go along). On the list so far:

  1. Getting a degree. Luckily I’m (hopefully) only one exam away from that
  2. Completing the half marathon I trained for before the blonde took over and I injured myself
  3. Turning my 3 month trial into a permanent contract
  4. The scary task of making new friends in Copenhagen
  5. Seeing more of the UK than Dover and the London Underground
  6. A cycling brewery tour in Belgium and/or the Marathon du Medoc
  7. Seeing more of Croatia/most any Mediterranean Island
  8. Be able to travel around Eastern Europe and not go nuts over how cheap everything is
  9. Less time at the touristy overrated places, more time at the quirky, novel places
  10. Recreating the amazing food I had all over Europe in my own kitchen, most especially the amazing organic/vegetarian/glutenless food I had in the Canary Islands that left me feeling so healthy

So it isn’t over, but thanks to anyone/everyone who read and encouraged and I hope maybe I’ve inspired anyone else that wants to force themselves out of their comfort zone or simply change their perspective on the day-to-day.

 

1. Start a project and fail immediately

The original plan was to start January 1st, being a new year’s resolution and all. Unfortunately I was too preoccupied gallivanting around the North Island with no computer or internet access for that to work out. When I came back I was straight in to work. Despite my best efforts, working 9-5 implementing a contract management system doesn’t lend itself to doing exciting, blog-worthy things.

Between returning from holiday, planning my departure to Europe, working full-time and not having actually started this blog yet, I managed to keep deferring kickoff for a good 16 days in to the new year.

I did manage a number of ‘firsts’ throughout that time, but I realised that it actually takes quite a conscious effort to ensure you do something new every single day. Maybe this challenge will be harder than I thought.

So instead I decided to defer the beginning of my 365 days to January 17th (no particular significance, other than finally getting this blog going). While I could drum up something new for each day, I was really clutching at straws for posts for the days I was at work. Instead, as a consolation prize, I do have a list of highlights from my first 16 days of the year:

1. Dance in the rain on New Years Day

While I certainly wasn’t the only one experience this, it was my first New Years at a festival where it practically rained the entire time. AND IT WAS AWESOME! It was also the first time I had been to Rhythm n Vines. A great lineup, a great bunch of people and a magical moment when the rain stopped just in time for the midnight fireworks.

2. Go to Tauranga

To be fair we only drove through it on the way to the Coromandel, but I have never been to New Zealand’s fastest growing city before.

3. Go to the Worst Best Restaurant

Down the road from the bach we were staying in for the post New Year’s detox was what looked like a lovely restaurant, albeit with a terrible name and incredibly tacky sign. However, ‘Go Vino’ had been voted ‘Best Restaurant in Coromandel’ and claimed to be a “Tapas Bar and Wine Merchant’ so we had high hopes. Sadly, it was the most shocking service I have ever experienced. In something that reminded me of the winning customer service experienced by David Thorne here, there appeared to be a bizarre practise in place where the staff at Go Vino would inhale sharply, grimace, and exclaim we are terribly lucky to be able to get a table at this time of night (8pm, well past the dinner rush) and look like it really pained them to serve us. I would guess the restaurant was about 1/3 full.  Perhaps if we were in the finest restaurant in New York, the wait staff were done up to the nines, bow ties and all and there were lines outside, behaviour like that may be expected. Unfortunately we were in Cook’s Beach, there were at least 6 empty tables the entire time, the waiter was a bizarre Latvian in cargo shorts, jandals and ridiculous purple aviators and he asked us to produce our ‘documents.’ A bottle of warm Pinot Gris, a forgotten entrée and two decidedly average pizzas later I can quite confidently say the only things salvaging the evening were the 3 lovely friends I was with and the wine waiting at home. At an appropriate temperature. The menu also featured a bizarre explanation of how some people find the concept of Tapas confusing, so rather than explain it in fewer words, they have invented (and subsequently needed to explain) an entirely new concept called ‘Kaizen.’ Not confusing at all.

4. Go floundering and feel like a murderer

My father and I have always found it a little difficult to sit still on holiday. Unfortunately for him he had a wee cycling accident and had a broken collarbone this summer so there wasn’t much windsurfing, sailing, kayaking or fishing to be done this year. One of few activities he could manage this year was floundering – a new hobby since I last holidayed with the family.  After pulling out the doe eyes and the ‘I’m crippled’ card, before I knew it I had put the wine down and pulled on my wet suit. Little did I know floundering would involve walking around in circles in the shallows for an hour trying to spot fish shapes in the sand, then ruthlessly stabbing them with a trident. When I finally spotted one I edged closer, hoping it wouldn’t notice me, hovered over it and tried to work out where to aim to combat the light refraction. There was nothing left to do but stab this poor defenceless fish, but I couldn’t do it. Hesitating a few seconds was enough for the poor little guy to work out what was about to happen and scurry away. I spent the rest of the evening being berated by my father and brother for losing him, but I was kind of OK with that.

5. Play ‘Articulate’

A brilliant board-game, played at a friend’s place on Waiheke Island. We enjoyed it so much we went another round (and it was a relatively long game). It is kind of like pictionary, except you describe words (without saying them) instead of drawing them. Much more fast paced. I tried to control competitive Harriet but I don’t think I did too well. I think I would still endorse Articulate even if I wasn’t on the winning team!

6. Win money at the Casino

I have been to the Auckland, Brisbane and Dunedin Casinos, but never have I gambled at one before. It just doesn’t interest me at all. I know the odds, they are shocking. How can I enjoy sitting at a table seeing my money disappear? However, this was my first ever casino trip before 3am and all but sober! At the end of two weeks of drinking none of us felt like a big night out in Auckland, even if it was a Saturday. So after a civil dinner in town we decided to go to the Casino (some of my friends have quite different views on gambling to mine). We arrived at 9pm and it was packed. There would have been thousands of people there. The boys had to queue for their blackjack table while the rest of us wandered around for ages to find an available pokie machine (it was that busy). You can spot the tourists and those there for novelty’s sake, but it actually made me sick to see just how many people were there repeatedly putting $2 coins in to the pokies as a legitimate Saturday night activity. After watching a friend lose her gold coins to the sparkling abyss I thought heck, when in Rome! and decided to empty my wallet of unnecessary spare change. I am leaving the country after all! A rookie mistake, however, as they only take gold coins. Here’s where things started going bad – I went in to debt to fuel my gambling. After a kind donation of $2 from another friend I gave it a go. I didn’t even fully understand what all the sparkling moving pictures meant, but somehow they made me feel hopeful! Unfortunately money was diminishing by the cent. 30c later I was bored and skeptical as ever (does anyone ever win these? It must be a scam). In the end I was just waiting for it all to disappear so I could leave, when all of a sudden the numbers were going up! I couldn’t believe my eyes. And they kept going up and up until it said I had $8! After that I decided to cut my losses, claim my $8 and repay my gambling debt. For a brief second though, I felt the temptation to put one of those coins back in the machine and see what happened. The very next moment I didn’t feel quite so morally superior to all of the people sitting around me putting coin after coin in to the pokies.

7. Go to the cricket and watch the whole game

Not! I gossiped the whole time and still have no idea what cricket scores mean.

8. Dye my hair a ridiculous colour

In 2011 I already went for ‘dye my hair a colour I have never been’ just for a laugh. I went a dark brown/auburn colour initially and wound up quite red after a disappointing trip to a hairdresser (stupid group-purchase-online-sites). It was all fun and games but dark red hair is incredibly high maintenance on a natural blonde and after a beach holiday it was starting to go pink. So I thought it was time to return to blonde and bought a couple of boxes of bleach. I knew it would be a challenge and was predicting at least 3 rounds would be necessary to rid myself of dark coloured hair.Little did I know the real issue was the industrial strength of hair dye required to get me back to blonde isn’t available on the supermarket shelf. 2 rounds later and my hair is now bright, bright orange. I’m talking bitten by a daywalker orange. I must look like the ginger kid with the best ever tan right now. Thankfully, my mother intervened and forced me to make an appointment with a hairdresser to finish it off before I could do the third round of hair dying and risk having it all fall out. With that comes a rather interesting wait to get my soul back/for my appointment. Two more days until I am cured of gingervitis!