Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In the Distance I Saw Light

I could not see for the fog in my eyes
And I could not feel for the fear in my life
From across the great divide
In the distance I saw light
The Maker - Dave Matthews Band

I came to New Zealand in search of something. Perhaps clarity, inspiration, peace, adventure or maybe even direction. I am in the most beautiful place in the world and I'm having an amazing time, but over the last two months l've been just as confused as when I left Portland. I had this idea that I would come to New Zealand and all the answers would instantly become clear. But a few weeks ago someone said to me, "Sometimes you have to become more confused to get to a place of clarity." At the time I thought she was crazy, but over the last few days her statement has began to make sense to me.

This morning I went to the beach for my morning run and meditation session on the hillside of Mount Maunganui. As I sat there and listened to the sounds of the ocean and watched the waves crash against the rocks I began to cry because I felt a rush of pure and utter happiness. I have been so worried about having a plan or understanding why things happen, but recently the light bulb went off and I realized that there is no reason to stress or worry about it because there is a plan for me beyond my control. Small decisions I make, actions of others in my life or unexpected circumstances completely determine my future. Let me try to explain…

My entire life I have dreamt about living on an island and by the beach. Growing up in a landlocked state this seemed next to impossible. I don't know why, but deep down I have always longed for this…and here I am, in my 30's, living out a lifelong dream. I started thinking about my entire life and how smalls decisions and actions have lead me to where I am today. Since I was a little girl, I also dreamt about working at Walt Disney World (WDW). Walt Disney was one of my heros growing up because I found his rags to riches story fascinating. I also admired his vision and ability to turn his imagination into a reality. After I graduated from college, I decided I would take the leap and move to Florida to work at WDW. I packed up the car and drove across the country with my mom for one of the best adventures of my life. I lived in Florida for a year and worked as the International Marketing Coordinator at WDW.

After my internship ended, I was drawn back to the Midwest because that was where my family and my boyfriend (of six years) were. I moved home and within three days my boyfriend broke up…but as they say, as one door closes another opens. In that same week, I got offered the Marketing Coordinator job at the Target Center Arena in Minneapolis. Since I saw my first concert at the TC many years before, I had dreamt of working there and in the entertainment business. After I started my boss told me that they hired me because of my experience at WDW. My first concert at the venue was Dave Matthews Band and I remember standing next to the stage with the photographers amazed that I was there...I had landed my dream job at Target Center.

All good things must come to an end…eventually my position was eliminated and I had to find another job. But I will always cherish my memories and the friends that I made at Target Center. I was offered a job in Memphis, but I decided to stay and work at KARE 11 in Minneapolis. I wasn't sold on Memphis and I was also going to be in three weddings that summer (one being Amy's wedding, a roommate from Flordia.) Working at the station was a great experience, but there was always a part of me that missed the music business and yearned for more adventure and travel.

One night I was in SCF (my hometown) out with my friends and I ran into Mike, a family friend of my ex. This is one of those conversations in my life that I will never forget! Mike told me how he had moved to Portland, Oregon. As he described the city and his life, I instantly fell in love of the idea of moving West and being a free-spirit like Mike. However how could I, Amy Carrier, quit my job and move West…impossible?! Well, things have a way of working themselves out…whether I knew it or not, my heart held on to the idea of Portland. I went on vacation with my family to the West Coast in the summer of 2007 and I visited Portland for the first time. After the trip, my mom asked me out of all of the cities that we visited which city would I choose to live in…I said I loved Seattle and San Fran, but Portland seemed like a good fit for me.

Crazy circumstances unfolded and within one month from the trip, I landed the Marketing Manager position at the Rose Quarter and had moved to Oregon. As chance had it, Stevie D a former co-worker from Target Center happen to be in Portland working on the Aerosmith tour. My first weekend in town I met him out at the Good Foot for a drink and while I was at the bar I ran into Mike (the guy who originally put the Portland idea in my head.) How crazy, right?!?

My life continues to get crazy, about a year later one of my best friends Marty (who I met in Minneapolis and through connections at Target Center) decided to move to Portland and we became roommates. The next few years in Portland were amazing…filled with good friends, love, adventure, good food, amazing lattes and much, much more! As chance would have it, two of those friends I met in Portland happened to be Mike and Laura. I was so sad (and envious) when they told me that they were moving to New Zealand last year.

Less than a year later, circumstances in my life led me to the decision to take the leap and follow my dream of living abroad. So I turned in my notice at the arena, packed up my apartment and moved to New Zealand with Mike and Laura. So fast forward to last week, I was sitting in a cafe with my new roommate, Richard, drinking a latte and I picked up an entrainment magazine. I flipped to the back cover and saw an ad for Stone Temple Pilots in Auckland. Seeing that ad made me feel nostalgic and miss the life I once had. Later that night I went home and surfed Facebook (just like anyone does when they are missing home) and I noticed that my friend Stevie D was in Sydney (where I had been one week earlier.) So I shot him a message and asked who he was on tour with and if he would be stopping in New Zealand. Turns out, he is the tour manager for STP and was going to be in NZ that weekend. It is funny how things work out, because less than a week later I was up in Auckland rockin' to STP and then enjoying cocktails with the crew, band and my new roommate in the hotel bar after the show.

Coming off a great weekend we headed back to the Mount and I have enjoyed three amazing days at the beach with my new German (which ironically is the language I took in high school and college) roommates. Marcus taught me how to surf and we have also enjoyed beach volleyball pick-up games with Germans, Argentinians and a guy from France. I never thought this would be my life…ever! I got the call yesterday that I would begin fruit packing on Friday, so I am headed to Hamilton to move my mattress and pick up the rest of my stuff from the Knapps. On the way to Hamilton, I stopped by Hobbiton and chatted with the woman about the filming of the movie. She gave me the name of the production company, so I am going to make a few calls and see if there is any chance to get a job. If I have learned anything, everything happens for a reason and no dream is too big.

I tend to ramble and sometimes divulge too much personal information. However my point of sharing all of this with you, is so you will understand me when I say…that even though I don't have a plan, I see the light. I am starting to give up the unnecessary worry and stress that I have carried around for so long. I am going to stop worrying about the details and how to get to the end goal, because living in the moment, enjoying each day and doing what I love is the goal. This approach to life is what will give me balance, peace and happiness.

You may all think I am crazy and in all honesty, I don't really care if you do. I think I have found the secret to life…don't just live it, truly LIVE IT! When others doubt you or think your dreams are out of reach, don't listen. Keep them close to your heart and be confident in yourself. Look at every situation as an opportunity and appreciate every person you meet…you never know how they will impact your life. Not everyone has to go to the Southern Hemisphere to have an epiphany, but that is part of my journey and is the path for me to see the light.

The view I had this morning from the Mount.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

To Everything There Is A Season

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late
~The Byrds

The leaves are starting to change color, the hot summer days have now "chilled" to an average of 20 degrees Celsius and rain showers are becoming more of a regular occurrence. As we say goodbye to summer in New Zealand, it is time to welcome many new changes in my life. On Thursday, I packed my bags and moved to Mount Maunganui. I said goodbye to my roommates, Mike and Laura, who have become my second family. I also said farewell to the apartment on Lorne Street which has been my home-base since I arrived in New Zealand in January. Even though I have been sick, my last week is Hamilton was filled with lovely girl's days, crazy nights out downtown and lots of great walks around the lake. When I moved to New Zealand and would tell people that I was moving to Hamilton, the #1 response was, "Why Hamilton?" It gets a bad rap (and according to my new roommate it's the chlamydia capital of the world), but it is actually a quaint little city. It's filled with so many great little cafes, hidden nature walks within the city limits and is home of the most beautiful public gardens I have ever seen. It was bittersweet to leave, but it is time to pack my bags, head where the work is and start a new chapter of my Kiwi adventure.

Laura, Lindsay and I packed up the car and road-tripped to the Mount. It was a beautiful day, so we went straight to the beach. When we arrived, we saw a crowd of people so we headed over to take a closer look. The Travel Channel was filming a show about New Zealand and they had built a beautiful Maori sand sculpture and were performing a haka, which is a traditional Maori dance. We jumped in as extras and played the role of "excited crowd members"…I even gave my character a Southern accent for a little extra flare. After the filming, we hiked to the top of the Mount and took in the amazing views of the beach and city. To reward ourselves for the hard work, we hit up the gelato stand and then walked around the CBD and did some shopping. It was a lovely day with the ladies and a special visitor all the way from Wisconsin, Flat Stanley. My cousin Tanner, who is in second grade in St. Croix Falls, sent me his Flat Stanley. We toted "Stan" around with us everywhere and we were pretty excited when he ended up on camera for the Travel Channel.

Within the next week or so, I will start packing kiwi fruit at Seeka Oakside. Typically the season starts in mid-March, but due to a disease that is killing the vines the fruit is not maturing at the normal rate. Thousands of people come from all over the world and work for 3-6 months during kiwi fruit season. For most of them, they can make more money in those months than they can in an entire year in their own country. Since the work is in Te Puke, I have moved in with my friend Richard who also works for Seeka. There is also a cute German couple, Marcus and Jessica, living with us. The two are working for Seeka, but are actually picking fruit.  We enjoyed our first night in the house and all sat around the dinner table and discussed differences in American, Kiwi and German culture. We also swapped NZ travel stories. Marcus, Jessica and their friend were snorkeling and their van (they were living out of) was recently broken into and they lost everything. Their clothes, packs, computers, ipods and all of their money were all stolen. They had to borrow $200 from a local cafe in order to buy Petrol and drive down to Richard's house. They are currently filling out forms for the insurance company and applying for new visas. Makes me realize how smooth my travels have been!

It is quite funny living in a house full of accents. I can't understand half of what my roommates say, but perhaps this will be a good way for me to brush up on my German. I think having international roommates will challenge me and broaden my horizons. On a sad note, my friend Lindsay had a family emergency and is cutting her trip short. Lindsay has been an amazing travel buddy and roommate. We have traveled all around New Zealand and Australia together and I will cherish my times with her. I am sad to see her leave early & not have her there to work in the packhouse with me, but I am so glad that I had the chance to become such good friends with her. Best of luck in your travels Miss Lucia Sue!

The only constant in life is change, so I must be flexible and open to what life brings me. As the Byrds said, "To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose."

The Mount

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Like A Rolling Stone

How does it feel
To be Without a home
Like a complete unknown
like a rolling stone?
~Bob Dylan

I can relate to Bob Dylan's lyrics because in the last month I have been living out of a backpack and have spent approximately 20 nights in either a hostel, hotel or bach. We have been traveling quite a bit over the last month both in New Zealand and Australia. In the beginning of March, Laura's friends Heidi and Aaron came to visit so we booked a bach in Whangamata in the Coromandel. Because we had company in town, Lindsay and I had to rent a car for the weekend. Our little economy rental car didn't have AC or a radio. However that didn't stop us from having a great roadtrip. We rolled down the windows and used my ipod speakers to rock to everything from Bon Jovi to Otis Redding. The trip to Whangamata took a little longer than expected because we kept stopping at all the tourist attractions, including the giant L&P bottle in Paeroa. When we arrived at the beach, Lindsay and I went straight to the beach. I just took in the sites, while she combed the beach for treasures.

The next day we headed to Cathedral Cove (Te Whanganui-A-Hei), the marine reserve which is located on the Coromandel peninsula. It is named after the cave located there linking Mare's Leg Cove to Cathedral Cove. When we arrived at the cove there was a giant fence and danger sign warning hikers to not enter because there had been a landslide. Like typical Crazanks (Crazy Yanks), we hopped over the fence and headed to the cove. We hiked 45 minutes to the cove and had to crawl over several piles left by the slide. When we got to Cathedral Cove we had to shimmy ourselves down a slope where the slide had taken out the staircase. It was a tad chilly, so we just relaxed and enjoyed a nice little picnic at the beach. When we got home, a few of us decided to go for a nice run along the beach…it was amazing! Later that night we went back to the bach and enjoyed a nice kiwi dinner, which consisted of lamb & rosemary sausage, salad and red wine. On Sunday, we went for another run and then headed to downtown to treat ourselves to a latte and some lovely conversation. Later that day we headed to Whitianga for a day at the thermal pools called The Lost Springs. I felt like we were at a tropical resort because of the foliage, native birds and waterfalls. After the pools, Lindsay and I parted ways with the group and headed to the Mount to crash at Richard's. We got a call earlier in the week from Seeka saying that we both got jobs packing kiwi fruit, so we needed to head to the packhorse to fill out our tax forms. We also drove around and scoped out the hostel that we will be staying at while we pack fruit. We will truly be living the life of a migrant worker!

Lindsay and I went basically straight from our Coromandel trip to Australia. We hopped on the Naked Bus to Auckland and flew New Zealand Air to Sydney. We arrived in Sydney on Tuesday night, just in time to check into the hostel, grab a nice Mexican dinner and take in the amazing Sydney skyline at night. We walked down to the nearest harbor and each enjoyed some American candy. We called it an early night and headed back to the hostel for a "good night sleep" (which is never possible in a hostel. We decided to stay at the Original Backpackers Hostel in Potts Point near Kings Cross. It was a cute little neighborhood. The streets were lined with trees, hostels, quaint cafes and quite a few dodgy strip clubs.

On our first morning in Sydney we spotted the Coco Cafe on Victoria Street and headed there for brekky (breakfast) and a latte. I enjoyed the most amazing fresh tomato, avocado, olive oil open-faced sammy on artisan bread. While we sipped our lattes (local roast Campos), we discussed the GFC with Grant, the cafe owner and then exchanged travel stories with a lovely, young couple from Ireland. They told us about their recent travels to Thailand…and it made me want to go even more! (So if anyone wants to come visit & go to Thailand with me, I am looking for a travel buddy.) After brekky, we headed to the train station and made our way to Bondi Beach, which is located about 7 km from the Sydney CBD. While looking at a map at the bus station, a man stopped us and asked if we wanted help. The minute he heard our accent he instantly started to rave about Napa Valley wine and how much he loved wine country. It was rather cute (but he's right, Napa is amazing.) When we finally arrived at the beach, I was in awe. The beach was amazing! The sand was like nothing I have ever seen before and the water was filled with surfers. While we chilled on the beach, we met a nice girl from Chicago who was living in Sydney for about six months. She told us her story and also gave us a list of places to visit. That night we headed out on the town and went to a bar called O'Mallys. We sat next to a Southern Irish man and a guy from Scotland. I swore the Irish guy wasn't speaking English because his accent was thick and I believe he was extremely intoxicated. The sun had wiped us out, so we called it an early night and went back to the hostel. Our German roommates, were fast asleep so we had to creep around in the dark in order to get ready for bed. (Traveler's note: always bring your head lamp!)

The next morning we went back to the cafe and enjoyed a latte to go as we made our way downtown. We took the path along the harbor and that cuts through the Botanical Garden. There are amazing views of the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House from the garden. We made our way to the Opera House and for kicks decided to see if there were any tickets available for that evening. Belle & Sebastian and Carmen were sold out, but they had a special going…a tour of the SOH and a ticket to the opera, The Barber of Seville for $85. Tickets for that show were usually $280, so it was quite the deal…and come on, you can't go all the way to Sydney, Australia and not see a performance at the Sydney Opera House. The tour was worth every penny. It is a phenomenal building and it was so interesting to learn the struggles they went through for it to become the icon it is today.

Later than night we took the train back downtown and I saw my first opera. I remember sitting there thinking, "Wow, I am in Australia while my sister is at home giving birth. It is amazing how different our lives are right now." At about 2:30 a.m. (which is exactly when Shelley was scheduled for the c-section) I was awaken by rowdy people in the hostel and I couldn't fall back to sleep because I just had this weird feeling. I kept thinking about Baby Mason and had this feeling that something wasn't quite right. At first light, I got up and ran to the communal area to use the computer. I had 3 emails from my mom - the first telling me that they were headed to the hospital, the second telling me that Mason Phillip Guptil had arrived and then a third email that said that they were taking him to the NICU in the cities because he was turning blue and his oxygen levels were low. I instantly broke into tears and I didn't care what all the other travelers thought of me. At that movement I wanted nothing more than to be back in Minnesota with my family. I was literally on the other side of the world and there was nothing I could do. I was able to gchat with my Mom and get an update, but they didn't have any answers. I didn't want to ruin Lindsay's vacation, so we decided to walk downtown and go to the Sydney Wildlife World. On our way we stopped at a little cafe to get our morning latte. After I ordered my latte, I made my way to the bathroom and saw a quote on the wall that changed my frown upside down. It said, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined." In that moment, I knew I had to stay the course and not fly home. I came here to find something for myself and I need to stay true to that and do my best to be a support for my family from afar.

So after my latte and revelation, we stopped at a shop and got a free boomerang throwing lesson. We eventually made it to Wildlife World and saw kangaroos, koala bears and a giant crocodile. For our last night in Sydney, we went to the Rocks, which is the hotspot in Sydney. It is located right under the Harbour Bridge and is lined with so many cute bars and restaurants. Lindsay and I made our way to a couple different spots and did our version of a progressive dinner. Our time in Sydney was amazing! It is one of my most favorite cities in the entire world and I definitely want to go back there again.

So there it is…I will continue to be a rolling stone…without a home and into the unknown.