how old is old?

guys, tomorrow is my birthday. it's officially the start of a new decade for me. that's right, I am turning 30. the big 3-0, the dirty thirty, whatever you want to call it. the older I get, the less age seems to matter. but this number feels pretty big.

birthdays and major holidays always make me introspective. so I started assembling a lovely list of thoughts for you as I mentally culled through the past years of my life. I started this post about a month ago. the first draft started off "so I'm turning 30 in 30 days..." it went through many incarnations and morphed from advice column to memoir to personal manifesto.

this morning I woke up and knew I couldn't post any of what I had previously written. not that it was disingenuous or not applicable to turning 30 - but it just didn't feel right. I've been wavering between terror and excitement about this birthday. there are moments when I feel so ready to take on this next year, this next decade... and then there are moments I am plagued by that eternal birthday question:

am I old?

a few weeks ago, when I was all about this birthday thing, I was filling out this month's calendar on our chalkboard wall and wrote on the 30th: Jamie is old. jokingly. poking fun at myself and the general disdain that most people seem to have for this particular birthday.

this morning it didn't seem funny.

but the words triggered something in my brain. old. there was something I was supposed to remember, with that word. something having to do with birthdays. oh yes...

last summer while I was back in Michigan, my Dad was pulling out old photos and journals that had belonged to my Grandma Austin. and pasted into the front of one of her daily journals was a little poem - from who knows where - but I had taken a picture of it.

age is a quality of mind.
if your dreams you've left behind
if hope is cold
if you no longer look ahead
if your ambition's fires are dead
then you are old.
but if from life you take the best
and if in life you keep the zest
if love you hold
no matter how the years go by
no matter how the birthdays fly -
you are not old.

[thanks, Grandma, I needed that one today.]

it's a little corny and maybe cliche, but sometimes those things are the most true. is my life still zesty?  me and my yellow polka dot pants would like to think so.

I've already spent time adjusting to the idea that I don't have the things you are "supposed to" at this age: a house, kids, car payments, a stable job. we kindof derailed our track to the American Dream when we moved to Taiwan. and I'm ok with that. last year on my birthday I wrote about finally figuring out that life is never figured out. so I guess... there's not really much freaking out over this birthday left to do.

it has been a strange week. I went to the dentist. I strongly dislike going to the dentist, but the one we found here is really nice and extra gentle with my scaredy-cat mouth. [plus it only costs $5 US for the appointment.] we had the annual Taiwan-wide air raid drill, which always puts me a little on edge. I even had a #bloggerfail when something I meant to publish this weekend didn't, then once it did yesterday I changed my mind and pulled it down.

but we've been celebrating, too. I got my hair cut. Husband has been spoiling me with gluten free baked goods, new shoes and a bag of goodies from Lush. my neighbor brought down cookies for me [which I may have finished this morning for breakfast.] and tomorrow our birthday plans are hunting for a new apartment in Taipei, followed by an indulgent dinner with friends.

what comes after that? what does life look like at 30? well, unfortunately on friday I have to get a cavity filled. but beyond that... I'm excited for what this next year will bring. planning travels, seeing loved ones, making new friends, moving and settling into life in Taipei.

what else do I want from this year? from this next decade? though I often have trouble deciding what I want, I think I have a few things figured out:

I want less stuff and more experiences.

I want to be a published author, even if my mom is the only one who buys my book.

I want to care less about how my hair looks in pictures.

I want to explore so much more of this big, beautiful world.

I want to always remember that I am the one who has the power to create the life I want to live.

and... I want to be zesty.


Lake Tekapo // Church of the Good Shepherd

we started our morning by breaking camp and heading to the lakefront for breakfast. after the previous night's storm, it looked to be a clear and beautiful day. we only had a few hours left on Lake Tekapo and wanted to make the most of it. the first item on our agenda: visit the nearby Church of the Good Shepherd.

the Church of the Good Shepherd sits on the shore of Lake Tekapo, and is one of the most-Pinterest-ed sights of New Zealand. usually it is pictured at night with the milky way glowing in the sky, or during sunset with a field of lupins in the foreground.

we visited during neither of these conditions. but even in the bright sun and surrounded by busloads of tourists, the blue waters of Lake Tekapo backed by mountains and an even bluer sky still made for a beautiful setting. you could argue that this church isn't very grand or fancy, but the multi-colored stone seems like the perfect material for complementing the surrounding nature.

I like to play a game with myself when I'm shooting photos of a popular attraction. I like to see how many shots I can manage without any other tourists in them. maybe this is a little misleading. because this church was actually quite crowded. a German woman and I stood outside for a solid 5 minutes waiting for a busload of people to walk around and out of the way, only to have someone stroll right in front of our lenses the moment the view was clear. we just looked at each other and laughed.

but with some patience and some careful cropping, I managed. it's sad to think some people ride in on a bus, take a lap around the church, and then drive off to Queenstown. Lake T has so much more to offer. and the Church of the Good Shepherd can be quite peaceful if you can slow down and wait for a moment to let the crowds disperse and the buses load back up.

honestly, it doesn't matter how many people were or were not there. I can't imagine a more perfect setting for a church, or a better place to sit and marvel at creation [whether you're religious or not.] Lake Tekapo is probably one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand... maybe the world. it's way the heck out of the way, but absolutely should make it on your NZ itinerary if you ever go.

linking up with Bonnie, Amanda, Caity, Michelle, and Marcella for travel tuesday


the Moeraki Boulders

when we were planning our road trip around New Zealand's south island, I knew we had to add a pit stop at the Moeraki Boulders. it was an easy detour on our way from Dunedin up to Christchurch [about 1km out of the way.]

we saw a lot of natural wonders during our NZ travels, but these spherical rocks had to be the strangest. as soon as we hit the beach, my shoes came off and the camera came out.

alternate title for this post: photos of Jamie standing on rocks

extra thanks to Husband for holding my shoes [which I should have left in the car] and also my bag [ditto] and for patiently shooting all those photos of me standing on rocks. I get excited about some of the strangest things. and playing on these rocks was one of them.

there is a bit of mystery and sometimes controversy surrounding these strange egg-like formations. science argues that they are naturally occurring phenomena, formed over tens of thousands of years. the Maori claim they are ancient eel baskets from a legendary canoe crash. some of the more interesting theories involve aliens, dinosaurs, and a tourism scheme.

whatever the actual origin [probably science] I had a lot of fun splashing and climbing around these rocks. sometimes, I just like to enjoy something without worrying about the backstory.


travel stories: when things go wrong

I'm a planner. and when things don't go according to my plan... I don't always take it very well. I might maybe have a small tendency to be dramatic sometimes. traveling always throws you some curve balls, but during our three-week trip to New Zealand it felt like every day some minor disaster was occurring.

but enough time has passed that I can look at these misfortunes from our travels as just stories to tell. I could probably write a book on this trip alone. instead, I'm going to attempt to share three of the more entertaining of those stories. with a bit of humor and humility, and some pictures.

the rental car saga

as I mentioned in my recap of our itinerary, we went through several rental cars on our south island road trip. only a few hours after we picked up our first rental, we discovered the GPS would not turn on. thankfully I had picked up a card for my phone and we were able to navigate back to the rental agency. the fuse which powers the outlet in the car was blown, and after a short wait the car was fixed and we were back on our way.

the next morning we woke to a surprise. one of the rear windows on the vehicle had been smashed in. someone had seen the camp gear in the trunk and decided to steal our lantern and a sleeping roll, getting glass all over the car and gear in the process. after several phone calls to the police, camp gear rental, and car agency, we drove back out to get a new vehicle. we had opted for the full insurance on the car, so our only responsibility was for the stolen camp gear. given that none of our actual luggage or possessions were in the car [and therefore were not taken] things could have been a lot worse. no one gave us any hassle about the car or the gear, and we managed to get on the road with only a few hours delay.

but the next day we realized the car was making some strange noises. we were out in the middle of nowhere, so really had no choice but to keep driving and wait until we made it to Queenstown. a few days later we were able to take it in to the rental location there - and apparently just in time. the noise we were hearing was actually a belt issue. one that could have been dangerous or stranded us somewhere. so we were given our third rental car. it was older, with over 100,000 miles on it and some creepy coffee stains the ceiling, but it managed to make it through the rest of our road trip without issue.

upside: even the views from the car rental locations were gorgeous.

a long ride down

while in Queenstown, we decided to take the gondola up and enjoy the stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains. the views definitely did not disappoint. the ride back down however... we had only gone about 1/4 of the way back down the mountain when the gondola stopped. we waited for a few minutes. it started up again... and then stopped. it started, and stopped. and then stayed stopped.

after ten minutes of waiting, we started to get nervous. Husband and I were alone in one gondola, with our friends in the one ahead of us. we noticed a sign with a phone number posted to call for information, so I dialed it. "thank you for calling. the gondola has stopped and we are working to resolve the issue. the gondola may stop for any number of reasons, to unload freight or assist passengers with special needs. do not panic, remain calm. we will have you moving again shortly. please call back in ten minutes for an update with more information. thank you for your patience."

so we waited. it was starting to get dark. and windy. our cab was blowing in the breeze and the drop to the ground was pretty significant. for some reason I decided it was time for a selfie. we did our best not to move around and wait patiently. exactly ten minutes later, I called again. the recording was slightly different, but no more informative. waited another ten minutes, called back. exact same recording.

and then we spotted a worker in a safety vest making his way down the narrow trail that ran underneath the gondolas. he stopped to yell up to the people in the cab just up the mountain from us. no, he didn't no what the problem was. no, he didn't know how long we would be there. he asked them not to panic and informed them there was a box under one of the seats with some lights, blankets, and a rope. "DO NOT CLIMB DOWN" was the order.

he walked down to our cab and yelled up the same story to us. then moved down the mountain to our friends and beyond. we weren't happy, but what could we do? we watched the sun set over Queenstown and waited. thankfully we weren't stuck up there all night. the line started moving again [after a few false starts] and we made it off the gondola 2 hours after we had gotten on.

upside: I had a bottle of wine waiting at the apartment when we got back.

a very blustery night

we had high hopes for our stay at Mount Cook. we arrived in the late afternoon and pitched our tents with the most perfect view - the mountain rising up above a glacial lake. it seemed a strange place for a campground. just an open field. but the unimpeded views were so stunning we didn't think much of it.

night fell and the weather turned colder. we layered on everything we had and it wasn't unbearable. Husband and I went out to shoot the stars before settling into our tent, excited for the day of hiking we had planned ahead. we had just snuggled into our sleeping bags when we realized it seemed just a little too quiet. and then we heard it: the wind.

the best way I can think of to describe it, is that scene in the Lion King when the stampede of wildebeest flood the canyon. there was a sound, loud and harsh, yet distant. it rushed towards us down the mountains, unstoppable. and slammed into our tent.

sleep was impossible. the tent would shake in the force of the wind for minutes on end, while I shivered and feared we might fly away a la Dorothy. then blessed silence would descend for just long enough to hope it might be over, before the distant roaring started again.

through the night, Husband and I took turns going out to check the tent stakes. the wind was so strong they kept pulling out the the ground, several of them even bending. we tied the rain fly to the main poles to ensure we wouldn't lose it [after one moment where we almost did.] sometime just before dawn, we heard a pole snap.

our initial thought was to move the tent to a more sheltered area. we rushed out, woke our friends, and dragged it over to a copse of trees. the wind was so strong we couldn't get the tent set back up, even though it was light enough now to see what we were doing. it was then that I looked across the lake to Mount Cook. or rather - to where it should have been. all I could see was a massive storm, heading our way.

so we decided to bail.

we broke camp, possibly the fastest that anyone has ever done so, shoved everything in the car and made for the camp lodge. we knew we couldn't camp there another night. not when the gale force winds were set to continue and snow was in the forecast.

upside: after a shower and breakfast, we started our stay in Queenstown a night early.

often, we only share the perfect and pretty parts of our travels. but I find these moments where it all goes wrong - the missed connections, flipped kayaks, and food poisoning - to be just as memorable, and just as important. maybe not always in the moment, but... eventually.

what is the worst travel mishap you've encountered? how long before you were able to laugh about it?

linking up with Bonnie, Amanda, Caity, Michelle, and Marcella for travel tuesday
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