Category Archives: On Where I’ve Come From & Where I’m Going

On Where I’ve Come From & Where I’m Going

Five Things You Learn When You Could Have Died


A cut in time

Of terror

Of rash worries

Mattering no more

Of crushing glass

Losing balance

Losing ground

Never coming to stillness

Smashing metal

A crash on crash

Pieces lost

Of broken cries

Of what went wrong

Hurtling to a halt

But coming to rest

In life

(c) 2014 Sara Litchfield

A couple of weeks ago, the above happened. It knocked me sideways, quite literally. But I’m okay. I’m grateful that, despite careering out of control on sheet ice for over a hundred metres: I didn’t hit the stone post; someone close came running to untrap me within ten minutes; I didn’t hit my head too hard while my toasted car rolled twice over; ACC covered my ambulance & hospital costs. And I learnt some stuff:

1. The top 5 things you stress about on your way to work are probably not important in the grand scheme of things.

2. All things are replaceable, except people.

3. Seat belts save lives.

4. Neighbours are kind.

5. Any day could be your last.

Are you stressed? Take a moment, look around – you’re alive. Be happy to be so – however much there is to do, at least you’re here to do it 🙂

Happy Anniversary, Right Ink On The Wall – How To Party With Very Inspiring Bloggers

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It’s my one-year ‘blogiversary’ here at Right Ink On The Wall and what better way to celebrate than with an award?!

The Very Inspiring Blogger Award

This shiny award has been bestowed upon me by the lovely Deborah Makarios, who was one of the first ever readers & commenters here on my blog. This was back at the beginning, when I knew her only as Sinastra Inksteyne (and I still haven’t met a better pen name!). I’m always wildly happy when new people from around the interweb pop up and comment, because it means get to discover them. Deborah’s blog is an eccentric and aesthetic place to be, never more so than when slaying Jabberwocks and exploring fantastical taxidermy. And I will be forever grateful to her for being a guinea-pig beta reader for The Night Butterflies and providing such valuable feedback.

This here award has some rules:

1) The nominee shall display the Very Inspiring Blogger Award logo on her/his blog, and link to the blog they got nominated from.

2) The nominee shall nominate fifteen (15) bloggers she/he admires, by linking to their blogs and informing them about it.

My Nominees

My nominees needn’t feel pressured to accept this award (I know these accolades aren’t everyone’s cup of tea), but it makes me so happy to have been hailed as inspiring – it means I’m making the right mark, and I’d love to let you know whose writing out there fills me with energy, happiness and hope. So without more ado, the following are some of the wonderful, inspirational folk I’ve met since starting this blogging malarky (in alphabetical order – just because):

Anne R Allen is just wonderful, full of sage writing/blogging/living advice and witty charm. A perfect example is this post, of which wise writers take note – 12 Dumb Things Writers Do To Sidetrack Our Own Success.

Aussa Lorens makes me laugh every single time she hits publish. I was lucky enough that she found me and left a comment here when she’d just started blogging, so I ended up getting to read every one of her blog entries in real time. She’s known as Hacker Ninja Hooker Spy for a reason – and if that doesn’t intrigue you I don’t know what will! There are 5 parts to this particular strand, but I dare you to stop reading. It starts with one of four Cross Examinations

Barbara Glass is new to this interwebious world of blogging, but she’s a natural. She inspires me with her humorous take on life, sharing off-kilter stories like this one – The Ancient Order of _ilts, _ettles & _ites (also known as a story not using the letter ‘K’).

Christina Anne Hawthorne is one of the loveliest ladies you’ll meet on the internet. She writes fantasy and she’s also a talented, published poet. This is one of my favourite poems – Fire.

Helena Hann-Basquiat has a way of twining fact and fiction together to form Truth that is as unique as it is entertaining. I was honoured to host her here when she released her three-part story Postcards from California. But I first discovered her with a two-parter Valentine’s Day post, which blew me, and the rest of WordPress, away – I Know Very Well How I Got My Name.

Jami Gold is many wonderful things and one of the most wonderful is a fantastic teacher. She doesn’t just write about craft – she is incredibly generous with her time, resources and expertise and actively helps you become a better writer. Jami’s posts also ask brilliant questions, like this one – Do our favourite stories read as children affect our writing as adults?

Kat Kinnie is just an all-round inspirational person; merely being around her words means you absorb positive energy, as if by osmosis. It was she who suggested I start a blog in the first place. This is one of my favourite posts by her, in complete harmony with the mission of my business, encouraging people to write words on the wall of the world – Dare To Dream.

Kelly Roberts loves bubble wrap. But there is oh-so-much more to her than that. She tells stories from life with wit and wisdom (and,  yes, bubble wrap). Here’s one of my favourite posts – Declaration of Independence… From Bucket Lists.

Kristen Lamb is my hero. She founded WANA (which stands for We Are Not Alone), a community of writers supporting each other, playing together, and learning from one another. Many names on this page would be lost to me had I not discovered Kristen and her wonderful work and way of bringing welcoming, friendly, talented people together for fun like WANACon. Here is an example of how she socks it to you in just one of her powerful posts – Are You A ‘Real’ Writer? Is This Even The Correct Question? 

Kristine Kathryn Rusch is an incredible writer. Her stories take me somewhere else and stop me breathing. Every Monday, she gives a short one away – it’s on the site for a week, or you can sign up to have it arrive by email. And if you’re a writer yourself, the resources she’s written and made available are incomparable. Here’s a passionate post that proves my point – Storytelling. And, just because I can – here’s the link to tempt you with one of my all-time favourite short stories – Folk Lure.

Marcy Kennedy is a brilliant writer and beyond-valuable editor. She has a Masters in theology, like me. I loved the way she posed a recent question on her blog by tying it in with the latest X-Men movie – Do You Believe In Fate or Free Will? The suspense eBook mentioned at the end, Frozen, knocked my socks off, and not in a Disney way.

Myndi Shafer is an awesome indie author. She inspires me because she’s killing it writing and publishing books like Shrilugh and Hanna, Hanna, One-And-Two and because she writes posts like this one – Five Things That Make Me Smile.

Piper Bayard is a thrilling writer who writes one of the most unique blogs I’ve come across with her partner, ex-intelligence operative Holmes. It’s so sharp it will cut you and leave a scar. This is one of my favourite shocking ‘The End is Near’ posts – The End Is Near (And We Deserve It)… Funeral Selfies.

Sara Letourneau is not only someone with a brilliant name but someone I will be forever happy to have met. She writes fantasy and blogs about music, tea, books, craft – she knows so much about so much! She is a soul after my own heart and someone who spent an amazing amount of time beta-reading for me, providing detailed feedback worthy of a paid edit – and then even wrote an article on manuscript critique based on the experience!

Through The Wardrobe is a blog offering beautifully written, honest book reviews by Libby, who explores books like special treats while working in publishing and gaining a Masters in children’s literature. One of my favourite non-review posts is a touching call-to-arms on a subject close to my heart and former home – The Beauty of The Independent Bookshop.


Happy Birthday To Me!

So it’s been one year of blogging. Wow. I really don’t know how it happened. Since realising, I’ve flapped about a bit, wondering what to say about it all. Going from the suggestion of starting a blog to having amassed a year’s worth of weekly entries feels like quite an achievement. Before I started, I wondered what I’d ever find to write about, but a lot of life happens on a weekly basis, and sometimes posts even write themselves. As with so many things in my life, I didn’t have a plan, so didn’t organise categories, but I’ve been back over my plethora of posts and seen them slot into subject matter much in line with what I envisioned back at the very beginning – happiness, hope, a bit about books, a bit about business, and a bit about making the world a better place. I’m going to round this off by saying to you now what I said to (significantly fewer of) you then:

One of the messages of these posts is that hope without action is futile. If we want to change something in our lives, or change everything about our lives, we have to do something about it. I spent a lot of time moaning about things and hoping that things would be better one day. It was a bit of an epiphany when I realised I could do anything I wanted to and that the only thing stopping me was myself.

I (still) like the blogs that end on a question. I’m going to ask my anniversary question every year: What do you hope for? And what are you going to do about it? I currently hope to be a published author… And I’ve just ordered my ISBNs…

Don’t Forget To Feel Alive


Sunrise over Arrowtown

What a week it was. Partner-in-crime’s birthday was Wednesday. Tuesday night, friends gathered for dinner & drinks. I had a lovely Skype catch-up with an editor friend before joining the crowd. On the one hand, I was designated-drivering but, on the other, I had fried chicken, so overall I was winning. Fun times. Then a new arrival said something that spun me about a bit. “Wow, Sara doesn’t look stressed!”

Now, I’d had a haircut. And this party-time – Tue night & Wed day – had been locked in the diary as un-negotiably non-work time, so I was pretty relaxed. But this gave me pause.

I’ve been trying for a while now to cultivate a blog full of hope & happiness, living a life full of the same. Obviously, all sorts of anti-fun things happen – but it’s generally possible to put a positive spin on them and find the silver-lining. At the same time, I’ve been building up an editing business, going through the publishing process (don’t talk to me about rewrites right now), holding down an accounting job while freelance accounting for a fish&chip shop and a charitable trust on the side, and participating in two writers’ groups. And moving house several times. I’ve had to forgo the badminton season this year but am still hoping to get some snowboarding in before a trip back to the UK in August.

In summary, I’ve been busy. And, even though I know that I procrastinate, and I know that there are days I’m not as productive as I should be, and that there are days when I’m not creative in the slightest, and that I’m envious of about a hundred other people who seem to be perfectly simultaneously juggling and balancing a hundred successful plates at the same time (as well as having a family to feed for gad’s sake!)… I find myself thinking about work/WIP. all. the. time. I fear that I’m getting a reputation as ‘the one who only works.’ This is distressing to someone once known as ‘the one who is always out.’ I suffered enduring FOMO back in my city days and never missed anything that might be remotely *fun* (or even a second cousin to fun. Twice removed).

I’m definitely living a more staid life. Apart from anything else, I lost the ability to cope with a hangover somewhere between Asia & Australia. But, however much work I’m doing, however ambitious I’m being – I’m still having fun.

Last weekend, I went up to Auckland for a reunion with some school-mates and we watched England lose to the All Blacks at Eden Park. I got to have the teeny-tiny donuts I’ve missed since the world cup.

On Wednesday, I skydived from 15,000 feet, free falling for 60 glorious seconds that felt like forever. It was beautiful up there. I sprung the jump on partner-in-crime as a surprise birthday present with great success, getting right to the drop zone before he suspected.

We then went to the birdlife conservation park and met kiwis for the first time. I’ve been desperate to see them in the wild, but it’s not that easy. Fun fact – they are the only bird that have evolved to have their nostrils at the tip of their beak rather than the base. They also mate for life, which pleases me.

On Saturday, I got up at a quarter to five. In the *morning* (it actually wasn’t my idea). We hiked up a mountain in the dark with our housemate to watch the sun rise (it did). And it was heart-stoppingly stunning. It made me happy to be exactly where I am, doing everything I’m doing. Like all of the above, it made me feel alive. And happy to be so.

Are you a recovering FOMO-fiend? Do you find work / your current projects overwhelming your life sometimes? Don’t forget to feel alive. No time is wasted time if you’re doing something that brings a smile to your or someone else’s face. 

A River Runs Through It

image-1‘Life every now and then becomes literature’ – Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

I’ve moved. The fairytale cottage fades into the past like a dream, the escapade of moving (again) now another funny anecdote in the story of my life. I’m still not quite entirely unpacked (and I’m sure, depending on the degree to which you know me, pictures in your heads will vary widely at this point), but I feel settled and happy in my new home.

The new pad is a home-made house sitting on seventy acres. You have to get out your car to open a wooden gate off a dirt track in order to reach it. From a spacious room full of windows letting in reams of light, I look out onto a paddock, flanked by rolling hills and woodland. If you venture through the woods at the far end, you descend to the pebbly banks of the Lower Shotover – the river the jet boats ride. At the moment, frost tends to dance on just about everything in sight, making leaving the house at 7am an arctic, if pretty, expedition.

But the best element of all? Aside from our lovely host & housemate Briar, it has to be the horses. There are three: Holly, a graceful ex-racer; Poppy, a miniature bundle of cute, solid Shetland; and then there’s River, pictured above, a towering, magnificent youngster, broken in recently by Briar’s sister, Shae, who lives in a cottage next door.

I have always loved horses. When I was wee, I remember having riding lessons on a horse called Pepsi. Always the naughty one of the group. Our relationship didn’t last too long, from my recollection. I went on in my formative days to flirt with ballet, swimming, the bass recorder, the piano, cello, drama, badminton, netball, hockey, an orchestra, a string ensemble, ice skating, musicals, skiing… All of which I committed varying degrees of commitment, enthusiasm and talent to. But I never became a horsey-girl.

When I moved to Edinburgh, I should have learnt to drive. I’d found it challenging, to say the least, to obtain a license in crazy, ring-roaded Coventry and pointless in Cambridge & London. But I took the pennies instead and took a bus out of the beautiful city into the even more beautiful countryside. I found a riding school and I took some lessons so that I could start trekking.

My horse bit me on my first day. Right on the stomach. And my riding didn’t improve much. The school horses followed each other around and tended to ignore me. I couldn’t afford private lessons and soon I was back in the big smoke, far from the country-life that had called to me. I didn’t ride again until I reached New Zealand.

Here, once settled, I went on two treks. One through Paradise (famous as the setting for many scenes in Lord Of The Rings, if you’ve heard of it?) and another through Cardrona. Both stunning and thoroughly enjoyable but also thoroughly expensive, despite being booked as half-price deals. And my horses tended to do their own thing, as usual, sensing the same lack of authority that calls seagulls out of the air to pluck fish and chips from my actual hand when I eat them on the beach (sigh).

A little wistfully, I’d made my peace with not being able to ride regularly, or well, when we became friends with Briar & Shae. I’ve now ridden both Holly & River several times, not just round the paddock but down to the Shotover River, idling along its sandy beaches through frost-dipped foliage. I’ve learnt a little how to trot properly and I’ve definitely overcome some of the apprehension that’s held me back from being a firm, confident rider in the past.

I never thought I’d ride River – he’s so big, so beautiful. I met him first when he was unbroken and found him quite intimidating. So not for me, I thought.  When Shae invited me to go for a ride, I was surprised. She’d trust this wonderful, playful, but most of all giant horse to my hands? As with many relationships/challenges/fears, what it takes is some confidence, some surety, some commitment – an invitation, a leg-up and some support and you can do anything.

I never thought I’d ride River, but it was in the realms of the possible. However, I’d never imagined that I’d ever have the opportunity to go bare-back riding – something so free, so natural and so uplifting that the feeling stays with you in a glow. I’ve felt this now, too.

Sometimes life conspires for your happiness. It presents a home when you lose one, a horse when you’d like one, a friend & teacher when you need one. There are so many sad stories in the world, so much grief, so much pain. When good things happen, we can only be thankful and enjoy the ride.

Have you ever conquered something you thought you never would? What’s *your* bare–back riding? Do you ever have moments where the sense overtakes you that your life is becoming a story?  


Snowed In Vs Moved Out


Well, I know now. know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person.’ – Sylvia Plath

As expected, we’ve been given our marching orders – vacate date is tomorrow. The weather seems to feel pretty much as I do about the situation – no sooner did we start to pack on Sunday evening then the rain storms that had showered us all week, to the accompaniment of Armageddon thunder, turned to snow.

We woke in a winter wonderland. There was no question of making it down the mountain to civilisation, with or without our possessions – remember when I illustrated where I live?

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On the one hand, we were supposed to be moving our household and couldn’t find the car. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else to witness the coming of Winter – and I got to snowboard in my actual garden.

The snow has made everything a hundred times harder. We weren’t able to move anything. We boxed up as best we could in the biting cold, aware of the dwindling logs for the fire. We would have been lost without a friend with a heavy-duty 4×4 enacting a rescue mission, enabling Partner-in-crime to escape and return with wood and wine (the two essentials for surviving an avalanche, no question).

Yes, the snow has made everything a hundred times harder. But just look…


This is the reason I’m out here. I’m happy to do all the extra work required to be able to wake up stranded, buried in snow and surrounded by beauty. Apart from anything else, it also sounds pretty cool to say you’re snowed in, and my wifi is still connected.

During the day, I was contacted by two potential clients, who booked me in for dates that fit in mysteriously perfect accord with my other deadlines. One had contacted me repeatedly over the last couple of weeks due to a recommendation and booked me despite my lack of prior response (*shakes fist at over-zealous spam filter*).

I’ve not wanted to move out of my lovely home and I’ve thrown the usual number of teddies out the pram when it’s come to packing. But it’s almost as if Nature and the gods of Freelancing have struck up as one, saying, ‘Hey, more things go right than wrong. Look around. Enjoy the moment. You’re perfectly placed right here, right now.’

Last night, we burnt the wood and mulled the wine, clearing out the top part of the house in the process. This morning, we made it down the hill at 7am, past a car in a ditch, which we didn’t join, but which could have been us if we’d risked the journey to work the day before. I made the drive to Arrowtown through fields of icing sugar backed by majestically powdered mountains, as the sun came up and cast the whole panorama pink.

There’s a lot to do today. The snowy scenery makes it easy to pause and just appreciate where I am and all the good. Fun as yesterday was, at least today we can move around and move out. Packing is pesky and cleaning is painful, but at least we’re moving out on time. And we were granted a moment, frozen in all senses of the word, to stand still and be filled with wonder.

Have you ever found signs to lift you out of sad situations? Are you awed by nature? Been snowed in? Do you agree wood & wine are the way forward?


The Winds Of Change

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 8.56.47 AM“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”

― Mary ShelleyFrankenstein

I’m waiting, these days, to hear whether I’ll be moving within the week. In the last fortnight, the two friends we’ve lived with since discovering this dreamy, alpine retreat have returned to France. We’re back to the UK for a visit in August and hoping to escape rent bills on top of travel expenses, so it’s time to go. Meanwhile, this lovely place has been put up for sale. Leaving early wouldn’t really be an issue if it weren’t for the fact we signed a fixed term lease, locking us into payments until the house is sold or the tenants replaced, but life’s a learning curve. And if we’d planned for the unanticipated, we would never have ended up living here at all, so I don’t regret it.

The cottage rattles emptily at the moment. It’s also, now the season’s changing, colder than any house has a right to be. But I’ll be so sad to leave it. Leaving conjures feelings the antithesis to those that flavoured the post I wrote when I was about to move here – Home Sweet Home. But I am still excited about the future, still hopeful, just in a more subdued way. I’ve achieved so much of what I set out to do while living here – I’ve built up the business over the last six months, I’ve launched a website, engaged with wonderful writers, edited valuable work. And I’ve written the-book-to-be. Admittedly, every waking hour that’s not spent working is being spent rewriting the damn thing, but I’m still on track to publish this year. So all the big bits of life are where I wanted them.

So why the melancholy? Although I like to be on the move, I don’t like moving. It takes so much time, so much effort, there’s so much mess, and I *hate* packing. Thankfully, a wonderful friend is taking us in, but we’re losing a place of our own and I don’t know when we’ll have another. I’ll miss my window seat study. I thought we’d be here longer, be more settled. I thought many things. I thought this was my perfect pad, a utopian dwelling where everything would go right and nothing wrong. Instead, many things have gone the least helpful of ways.

Queenstown is a funny and unique place. It’s a high-octane, beautiful bubble full of comings and goings. Everyone’s on an adventure. That makes it an exciting place to congregate, and those who hang about feel a real sense of achievement just for being here above a couple of days. After a week, they call themselves ‘local.’ But there’s a saying here, ‘No one stays.’

Do you embrace change? I try to. Sometimes, I crave it. A change can be as good as a rest. It’s a fresh start, a new beginning. It’s freedom. Other times, it’s unwelcome. It’s exhausting.

You can’t always hold onto the people and places you want to. The main thing is to recognise and cherish the value they’ve brought to your life, rather than bemoaning their loss. The winds of change mess up all sorts of things, but they can’t sweep away the memories you choose to keep. Choose to keep the good ones.

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Mt Cook & Kea Point: 10 Years Of Pilgrimage – Part Three


“You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things, to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” – Sir Edmund Hillary

The pilgrimage started here, two days and ten years ago. We continued here, yesterday, when I’d grown up a little. We finish here, today. I don’t know when I’ll next be at Mt Cook and I’m excited to think what may have happened by then – going from history, something will have…

I missed Bella the van when I got to Queenstown, however hard it had been to get rid of her. I also missed Partner-in-crime – we were parted for a couple of months while I tried to sell Bella on the Gold Coast. Cai went to work in Adelaide and I went to stay with our pal, the late and loved Kade, and his family, after an abortive attempt to live alone in Bella, in Byron Bay and off bread & butter (alliteration unintentional). I wasn’t sure when or even if we’d be together again.

But we were 😀 Cai’d been in Auckland for the world cup semis, because Wales were doing so well (we’d even been in the same bar the same night without knowing it), but had never been further south than Auckland. So when he came to join me, I gleefully hired a wee camper van and picked him up from Christchurch. First stop – the hot pools of Hamner Springs. Second? Mt Cook. 

We walked to Kea Point and stared at… well, where the peak should be. We were shrouded in mist, the mountain in cloud. You couldn’t see the landscape but I knew it was there. Remote and overwhelming, the sheer magnitude of the place surrounded us. “This…” I said, “This is New Zealand.” 

That was winter 2012. Come summer, we had a place of our own and were road tripping every weekend, exploring, fishing, loving life. We went back to Mt Cook. This time we had bluebird skies. Only a year before, I hadn’t known where I was going – this time, I’d arrived. 

Last weekend, Easter 2014, our good friend came over from Sydney. The last time we saw him in New Zealand, we’d road tripped to Ohau with Kade & co. Since then, so much has happened. We lost lovely Kade, one of the wonderful ones who, along with his whole family and girlfriend, wrote us letters to help us gain the passport stamps declaring us NZ residents that arrived last week. I’ve moved house, written a book and planned a trip back to the UK to visit. It’s been a crazy few months.

It was so good to be together again. We reunited in the pouring rain, but it cleared the next day and the cloud slowly swirled around Mt Cook like a halo as we trekked to Kea Point. The sun even popped out, warming our backs and lighting up the glaciers. We played peekaboo with Coe’s new camera (which brought us the above view) and yarned while we tramped about. Perhaps it’s not just been Mt Cook, but the company I’ve had on every visit there that has made it such a special place in my mind.

I’ve been awed by nature so many times now in that national park – and I’m sure I will be again. I’ve gone there for beauty and wonder and wanderings. But I’ve also lived and laughed and loved. It’s people as much as place that can call fond memories to mind. I feel lucky.

Do you have a place you visit by which you can measure the changes in your life? What makes you take stock? If you’ve not already, I hope everyone finds their Mt Cook. 

Mt Cook & Kea Point: 10 Years Of Pilgrimage – Part Two


“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary

Our journey began here – yesterday and ten years ago. Having spent three years studying theology and philosophy, I naturally spent a further four years training as an accountant. Qualification under my belt, I elected to leave the big smoke far behind me. I travelled Asia for a month and a half, visiting family and enjoying epic adventures with my sister, who has no equal on land or sea. I then hopped over to America and drove the West Coast, top down and volume up, freedom flying through my hair again and scratching the itch under my skin. Then, finally, I made it back to the land that first sang to my soul. Just in time for the start of the rugby world cup 2011.

No amount of mediocre performance from England could dull the joy of being back here, nor the happiness at finding the country much as I’d left it all those years ago. I felt like it had been frozen in time, untouched, just waiting for me to return. I delighted in taking my travelling companions back to old haunts, including, of course, Aoraki Mt Cook. I went twice during that world cup, in between matches, taking the different friends I was with just to witness them soak it in while we tramped about together. I marvelled all over again, treading the track to Kea Point each trip and breathing the wonder of the snowy mountain scenery. September and October saw flakes in the air and a bite in the wind. Dramatic to say the least.

Also dramatic was witnessing the All Blacks take it home at Eden Park and win the world cup – just epic. I was pretty sure this was where I wanted to be. But I’d started this madcap mission after a secondment to work in Australia fell through – so to Australia I went. I loved Sydney. I unashamedly followed the beaten path and moved to the beach. The Northern Beaches deserve a series of posts unto themselves. Two things of moment happened there in the first 2 weeks – I nearly died from anaphylaxis and I met my partner in crime, who’s been a part of my adventures ever since (watch this space for a blog post titled Life of Cai).

Much as I loved Sydney and becoming Tom Cruise in Cocktail, shimmying Boston shakers on the beach, I still itched. It wasn’t just wanderlust-  somewhere else was calling me to call it home, and I knew where it was.

January of 2012, my mother chose to join my cousin on a trip to New Zealand for her sixtieth birthday and I flew from Sydney to join them. I jumped in a car as soon as I landed, driving through the night to reach Queenstown, where I now call home. We had less than a week, but I wanted to show Mum the best of New Zealand and try and communicate just why I was wandering – why I was out here. Our road trip took us to Marlborough… via Mt Cook. We walked to Kea Point. In the rain. Myself in flip flops (/jandals – and yes, after several trips there, I should have known better). Mum loved it despite the lack of view. The scenery was still as seductive as ever. 

I went back to Sydney and picked up my beach life. But it seemed a little pale compared to the mountains and lakes I’d been loving the week before. I agreed to meet a friend back in New Zealand for the snow season, and I decided I’d stay. But first, there was an Ozzie road trip and, of course, Bella… 

Have you ever felt a call to a particular place? Known where you belonged? Travelled far just for a particular feeling? Stand by for part three tomorrow – I seem to have a lot to say (here’s the ending) 🙂

Mt Cook & Kea Point: 10 Years Of Pilgrimage – Part One

299384_952657130680_1286931103_n“It is an act of worship just to sit and look at high mountains.” – Sir Edmund Hillary

I’ve been neglecting you all, and I’m sorry. Time isn’t just flying – it’s a peregrine falcon in a dive. I don’t know where it goes. It did stand still for a moment, however, and let me make an escape on the Easter weekend. I hope you all managed to take a break too. I’ve missed a couple of posts, so here’s a two, no, three-parter. I did a lot of thinking on the weekend, and it wants to come out in words.

Aoraki Mt Cook (‘cloud piercer’ in Maori) sits majestically in the middle of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s the tallest mountain in the country, at 3,754 metres, and a four hour foray from my humble abode in Queenstown, through breathtaking scenery. Sir Edmund Hillary cut his teeth there – he’s the one famous for climbing some other mountain and being the only New Zealander to appear on a bank note in his lifetime (he insisted it be Mt Cook that appear on its background).

As I skipped along the track to Kea Point and a view of the peak, I realised I’d first stepped on its slats ten years ago now, almost to the month. I counted the number of times I’d visited this sanctuary in that time, hoping to count to ten (much as you might raise an eyebrow, I do appreciate a little order and symmetry in life). Although I tried to distort the stats by counting times I’d driven past and enjoyed the view from afar, the number of times I actually went into the wilds of the national park and trod to Kea Point came to eight. I realised both how much my life changed in between those trips and how little my experience of Mt Cook did. No matter how many times I’ve dropped by to say hi, the mountain has always taken my breath away. The glacier may be receding and my life may be ever-changing, but the important things don’t change. Nature reigns there, in all its glory, and the national park remains a place you can find beauty seeping through all your senses.

My first visit was during my gap year, around this time back in 2004. I’d finished school, spent six months living in Singapore with my cousin’s family, working for a shipping company, and was now with one of the best travelling companions to be found, scrambling across the islands without a care in the world. 2004 was the first time I’d truly felt free – New Zealand was the first place. That trip to Mt Cook we couldn’t afford to both eat well and sleep in a bed, so we decided to share a buffet dinner and to drive through the night. First, we walked to Kea Point. Darkness fell as we approached the end of the track and you could see the stars standing out above the monarch’s snowy silhouette. The bad news was that my camera battery died the moment I called upon it. The good news was that I already knew I’d be back someday. We hit the road after midnight, the plan of driving through the night slightly railroaded by running out of petrol and having to camp outside the nearest town’s petrol station until it opened at 7.30.

I didn’t return for seven and a half years. In the meantime, I went to Cambridge, gained a degree, and transitioned easily into the big-city-life of London Town, working for Ernst & Young. But both freedom and New Zealand remained on my mind. When I decided to change career and country / quit, there were many who called me crazy. There were some who accused me of wanting to relive, or at least recall, the glory of my gap year, and who warned me it would never work. There were others who couldn’t believe I was swan-diving off the corporate ladder and into oblivion. Even I wasn’t sure what I was doing. Initially, all I knew was that I wanted to be in New Zealand for the rugby world cup, so I went…

Have you ever stuck to a decision that made other people call you crazy? Do you have a place of peace you can always go and find beauty / a boost? I’ll be back tomorrow – I’ve found ten years is too long to squeeze into one post (here’s the second) :p

Sara Wars – A New Visa

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 10.58.46 AM“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

My hands are so chilly I can barely type. But I must. I need to tell you the news 😀 Partner-in-crime and I have finally been granted New Zealand residency.

That’s right. After a year and a half in make-up, I now look like this:

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 1.06.18 PM

Some of you may have heard more than you care to of the trials and tribulations that have brought us to this point. A hefty sigh of relief was blown over my bubbles last night! I’m so happy to be here, with all the battles fought and the war finally over.

To those who may not have an appreciation for the pain of immigration admin, let me walk you through the process. Last January, we decided to go for residency. Due to my prowess with paper, we decided not to go for an immigration lawyer (they cost a crazy amount. I’m almost tempted to become one). Before you can even apply for residency here, you have to submit an application asking to be allowed to ask to be invited to apply. This ‘Expression of Interest’ cost $500 and involved a large form, covering all sorts of background, proving that you have 100 points plus. You get points for qualifications, an offer of employment in a ‘skilled’ category, years of relevant work experience etc. These things I have, so I thought it would be a straightforward road to travel. First up, your EOI joins a pool, from which the higher pointed applications are selected every fortnight. Having started to gather evidence and prepare the app in Jan, we submitted in Feb and received an Invitation To Apply in March. So far, so smooth.

Then the real work/expense began. It took another 3 months before we could submit an application (at a cost of $2k) because I had to have my accountancy qualification assessed by the NZQA (at a cost of $1k). I had everything lined up ready to go, but alongside certificates and transcripts, they then asked for my school qualifications (GCSEs and A-Levels), which I hadn’t seen for a wee while (ok, a long while, I’m aging). We had to have full medical checks, bloods and x-rays (at $450 each). We had to have full police checks and certificates from any country in which we’d been situated for a combined total of 12 months over the course of our lives (thankfully just the UK – NZ do their own sneaky check – and thankfully clean 😉 at $100 each – and they only accepted UK based payment, thanks Mum & Dad). We also needed proof of partnership, which would have been easier had we not been living in a van 12 months previously, with no idea that we would have been doing ourselves a favour if we hadn’t thrown away all proofs of address to lighten the load on the road. Initially, the first employment reference I requested (for my 4 years at Ernst & Young in London) came back stating I’d only worked there as an intern for 6 weeks. Awkward. And getting the right evidence was only a part of it. Referencing it and writing it up was a whole other kettle of kiwis.

Pressing submit on 21 June last year was *amazing.* Subsequently waiting 7 months for an immigration case officer was not. Her first contact was to request us to provide a statutory document, which we’d need to request from a government body in the UK, in 3 business days. Was she on glue?! That took 4 weeks. I later ended up providing her with 14 months of payslips and background to why partner-in-crime’s nose was broken when he was 15. No joke. She asked so many technical questions of my employer, the response took 4 pages of A4. At more than one point, the future did not look bright. It seemed they were trying to make an example out of me. They wanted answers in tiny timeframes, but wouldn’t respond to my communications. There was a distinct lack of friendliness about the process. It was like being in a trial, where you’re not welcome until proven worthy. So you can imagine how it felt to outgun them :p (ahem, I mean, thank you so much for letting me stay in your country). Now all we need to do is coax them to put the stamps in our passports within the year – and pay a $600 migrant levy.

Just as I’ve learnt with the path to publication – it’s better not to be an island. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. There’s nothing wrong with people sharing and supporting your goals and letting them assist you. Yep, we didn’t fork out for a lawyer, but I *drowned* in paperwork. Half a metre had to be couriered off. I stressed and worried and triple-checked things every step of the way. Being qualified to do something alone doesn’t mean that you have to. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do the same again – just that if money is no object, an immigration lawyer is a swell team member to have :p I became a paranoid pest when dealing with my immigration officer. With a lack of lawyer, I couldn’t have done this without having friends to bounce off and whine to. We couldn’t have done this without the 18 people who wrote us letters of support for our partnership and posted them from all over the world. And we couldn’t have done this without timely references and recommendations from employers past and present. So I’m not just triumphant, I’m grateful.

Are you struggling with anything at the moment? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be too proud to ask for help (just don’t ask me – I’m fricking exhausted :p). A win is a win – sometimes we need support to get where we want to be. And it’s so lovely to see so many people happy for us. A genuine thank you to everyone who has shown their support in so many forms, during this and many other long, arduous battles.