Love at First Sight in Seville

You can fall in love at first with places as well as people, right? ūüôā¬†It was love at first sight for me in¬†Seville.

One year ago, we arrived late in the evening, after driving from Barcelona, to find the area surrounding our AirBnB blocked off to cars. Jenny used her impressive skills of persuasion to sort us out with a police escort.

After arriving in true style, we went to rooftop of the block of flats that we were staying in to look down on the reason for the surrounding area being blocked off. Feria de Abril!

It was the last night of the fair and so we had little choice but to take¬†our weary selves to it. I’m glad we did. The atmosphere was incredible¬†and I most definitely need¬†to go back again one April.

 

Catching the Beads in NOLA

It took me a while to figure out why there were beads draped¬†over the houses, tree, and fences when first arriving in New Orleans. We’d arrived soon after Mardi Gras, an annual carnival-like celebration that New Orleans has become famous for throughout America.

It took me even longer to figure out the reason why drunken souls were so enthusiastically throwing beads off the balconies along Bourbon Street. After a few hurricanes, I thought it was a quirky¬†tradition of the City and smiled alongside others as we caught the beads that were being thrown down to us. I didn’t find out until I was back in the UK that ladies traditionally flash in exchange.¬†ūüôā

New Orleans was definitely a party¬†City and full of life. I’m told it’s one of the only places in America where you can drink in the street. It’s also known as the home of jazz and I loved the live¬†music that I was able to catch during my stay.

Road Trip to the Grand Canyon

My team at Automattic, who just so happen to be named Phoenix, planned a meetup in January of this year to Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix in Phoenix!

It’s always been a dream of mine to see the Grand Canyon and I took the chance to loop in a visit¬†a week before our meetup with two of my team mates, Sarah and Brooke.

Day 1: Hello Phoenix

I travelled from London Heathrow and arrived in Phoenix in the evening. I handle jetlag pretty¬†poorly so¬†was grateful that my fellow road trippers were there to pick¬†me up at the airport and that they had armed themselves with my¬†favourite¬†American sweets, Birthday-flavoured Oreos and Nerds. ūüôā

Day 2: Sedona

After some toast (we were road tripping with the toast ambassador, herself), we set off for Sedona the next morning.

The views from the road were beautiful and lived up to expectations of the Wild, Wild West. The vast desert landscapes were dotted with cacti and backed up with canyons. We spotted the famous red rock canyon walls of Sedona from a few miles off.

The place we¬†stayed was¬†called the Sacred Red Rocks, it¬†markets itself as a “destination for the spiritual pilgrim” and was truly peaceful. Sedona itself has a hippy, new-age feel.¬†I wish my camera was good enough to pick up¬†the stars as I can’t find the words to describe how clear and beautiful they were¬†in the¬†Sedona night sky.

Day 3: Hiking Red Rock Canyon and Flagstaff

Brooke was¬†the experienced one¬†of the group but Sarah and I kept up while hiking the Red Rock Canyon. ūüôā

Although we were road tripping as a group, Sarah was the only one of us who could actually drive. Brooke and I also turned out to be hilariously bad navigators. Sarah troopered through somehow. She had to make her way along windy uphill roads in the snow on the way to the next stop in our trip, Flagstaff, and was amazing.

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Views on from the road on the way to Flagstaff. I had never experienced views quite like this.

Day 4: Grand Canyon or Bust

The big day! We were excited to be setting off to¬†the Grand Canyon’s South Rim on the¬†fourth day of our road trip. Once again, it had been snowing pretty heavily and Sarah made her way along tricky, icy roads.

We were, however, greeted¬†with bad news upon finally making¬†it to the entrance of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. The ranger quickly let us know¬†that we wouldn’t be able to see the Canyon that day due to the snow.

This was our only chance! We had to make our way back to Phoenix the next day and we were sad at the thought of coming all this way for nothing.

There were two choices: 1. Head back 2.¬†Stay to view what we could of the park. As we’d come all of this way, we decided to stay.

Despondently, we got the bus around the park and then walked up to¬†the Grand Canyon so that we could at least say we’d been. Guess what!? We could totally see it! In fact, I think the snow made it look even more awe-inspiring.

Day 5: Williams and Out

We woke up from a successful trip in Williams, a town nearby the Grand Canyon, and made our way back to Phoenix to get set for our team meetup.

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The Wild Wild West.

Day 6 and Beyond.

Automattic has over 400 people spread out all over the World and working remotely. It may sound strange but, despite the distance, the teams that work together are very close. We spend all day communicating in text, .gifs, and emoji on our internal P2s and Slack channels.

Meetups are our chance to see each other in person. We work, learn, laugh, and bond. Some highlights from Phoenix in Phoenix for me:¬†S’mores by the fire, Old Town Scotsdale,¬†the drama that was¬†#underweargate, and getting¬†our nails done together.

All in all, I had a lovely two weeks in Arizona and am so happy¬†to be able¬†to cross “Visit Grand Canyon” off my bucket list. I also feel incredibly lucky to have been able to spend the time there¬†with such a wonderful group of people. I’m looking forward to the¬†next all-company meetup in September.

In Bruges and a Misplaced Camera

If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me but I didn‚Äôt, so it doesn’t.

Colin Farrell’s character in In Bruges does¬†not provide the most glowing review of the City and I initially dismissed it as a¬†handy stopping point in between Brussels and Amsterdam when backpacking across Europe.¬†Though I didn’t¬†have high expectations, it ended up being one of the highlights of the¬†trip for me.

The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy actually started playing from somewhere unbeknown as we made our way¬†along the cobblestone streets from the train station to our hostel. ūüôā There was no doubt from the very beginning that the City was calming, charming, and beautiful¬†in character.

I have strong memories from my short stay in the City: canals; the view from the top of the Belfy; a¬†strapping American tour guide; medieval architecture; cobblestone streets; eating Belgian fries and stopping to admire the view from a bridge¬†only to be joined by a random man who needed ‚ā¨2 in order to catch a bus and win back the love of his life, Mary offered him some fries; waffles; colourful buildings; a lazy dog who rests at the window looking over one of the canals and has become a local celebrity after¬†his appearance in In Bruges.

Strong memories but no photos for this post! I borrowed my Mum’s camera for the trip and never got round to uploading the many photos that I took, despite the years that have passed. I will make it my mission to find the camera and (hopefully!) uncover the¬†photos this weekend. They contain¬†so many good memories and I hope they’re not lost.

Seeking Words of Wisdom

These photos are from 2013, when I was lucky enough to visit Japan with my sister. My sister (on the utmost right) and a couple of her team mates are reading the “ema” at a shrine just outside of Tokyo.

“Ema” is the name given to the wooden plaques that people write their prayers¬†on and leave to hang in a¬†Shinto shrine.

Across the shrines we visited, we must have comes across hundreds of these plaques, in many different languages. I felt a little like I was peeping in on the personal hopes, wishes, and dreams of strangers by reading, but it was also calming to find so much positivity in them.

The Best Laid Schemes of Mary and Siobhan

While looking through old photos (I’ve been doing that a lot lately!) I came across these ones of me and my friend, Mary, sleeping in¬†tiny¬†three-tier night train bunk beds.

We were inter-railing around Europe at the time and, in these photos, were on our way from Berlin to Vienna.

The night was pretty sleepless and awful but the photos still make me smile. I remember, when planning the trip, we had thought we were so clever saving money and time by bundling our train journey and sleep up into¬†one. We arrived bleary-eyed at our hostel in Vienna to be told we were there a day later than we’d booked, and having to pay the extra night’s fee anyway.

We should have maybe taken some warning from our previous, unsuccessful attempt at sleeping in Gatwick airport in order to make an early morning flight. (We spent a good chunk of the night trying to avoid eye contact with a drunken man who ended up plonking himself on top of my bag.)

From our attempt¬†to gatecrash a boat party in Rome to our dreams of walking the entire Great Wall of China being cruelly dashed by the stranger we shared them with (who knew it was so big!), it’s fair to say our plans¬†do quite often go astray.

Regardless,¬†I’m glad to have someone to share those¬†memories with. ūüôā Let’s never stop¬†planning¬†for the next adventure. Who knows? This may be the time it¬†all¬†works out.

How Many Countries?

I recently set myself a challenge to visit¬†at least 30¬†countries before I reach the age of¬†30¬†and listing¬†the countries that I’ve already visited proved to be¬†trickier¬†then you may think.

Should I list the countries of the UK individually or as one? What about Jersey? Hong Kong or China? Does Vatican City really count as its own country?

CGP Grey offers a good rundown of the problem on their YouTube channel.

For now, I’ve decided to make my judgement on a case by case basis,¬†which leaves me at 23 countries. You can find the list here. Seven to go before 30!

Missing Windy Welly

It was always a dream of mine to visit New Zealand and I took the chance to spend a month there in late 2014.¬†Two of those weeks were spent in Seatoun, an eastern suburb of Wellington. I’ve been looking through a lot of old photos lately and they reminded me of some of the reasons¬†I loved¬†Windy Welly, as the city’s¬†affectionately known, so much:

  • Wellingtonians.¬†Everyone I met seemed to have a smile on their face and all the time in the world to help out. There wasn’t a rush. The calm and laid back ways of the people I met made me take a step back, too. I also got a sense that they¬†really cared about each other and the City. All of this was accompanied with colourful creativity, a sense of adventure, and humour.
  • Welsh Dragon Bar!¬†Marketed as the only¬†Welsh bar in¬†the Southern Hemisphere, I visited Welsh Dragon bar¬†on the day Wales played the All Blacks. I felt comfort and happy to¬†experience a slice of home all of the way from the other side of the world, it almost¬†made up for the fact that we lost. ūüėČ
  • Middle Earth.¬†From the lady who threaded my eyebrows¬†to a friendly waiter, so many people had a story to tell about how the Lord of the Rings and/or The Hobbit had worked their¬†way into¬†their everyday lives during filming. I was staying within walking distance of Weta Cave, a mini museum from the special effects company that brought those two films, as well as many others, to life. I’d recommend a trip there to anyone who finds themselves in Wellington.
  • Bays For Days.¬†You’re never too far from beautiful blue in Windy Welly which, in addition to the City being built up on hills, meant stunning views. Seatoun Beach, Scorching Bay, and¬†Oriental Bay were highlights for me.
  • Cuba Street.¬†Cuba Street is made up of¬†a trail of vintage shops and quirky cafes. It’s known as¬†a place for artists and other creative folks to gather. Buskers are one of my favourite parts of any City and I found them here. ūüôā
  • Maori Culture.¬†I made multiple trips to Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand. The museum is free to enter and there’s so much to explore! I found it particularly fascinating to learn about Maori culture and loved coming¬†across sign that told me I was in a “Maori Speaking Area” while out on a walk one day.
  • Walking Trails.¬†I surprised myself by the amount of walking I done while in Wellington. The views and¬†catching sight of¬†little blue penguins¬†made it worth the while.

Wellington definitely felt like a home away from home and there’s so much that¬†didn’t have time to explore.¬†Fingers crossed I make it back one day!

Halfway

The first half of 2015 has flown by!

In the first four months, a¬†lot of my time was spent travelling.¬†I visited¬†Oslo, Norway; New Orleans, USA; Paris, France; Marseille, France; Barcelona, Spain; Seville, Spain; and Faro, Portugal. I feel incredibly lucky and grateful to be in a position where I’m able to travel so freely, but I’ve spent a lot of time away from home these past few¬†years and, lately, have found myself wishing that I could¬†be more settled. Over¬†the last two months, I decided to stay put in the UK for a little while and have been moving¬†towards purchasing my first property,¬†no more renting. ūüôā

I’m sure the need to travel will takeover again at some point but, for now, I’m enjoying being¬†home.

One Year at Automattic

I’ve been working¬†at Automattic for one whole year today and I can’t help but reflect on the wonderful experiences that have come my way as a result.

It’s sometimes tricky to describe¬†the company to people who aren’t familiar with it because¬†Automattic isn’t normal by most standards: We all work¬†remotely and are spread out across over 30 different countries.¬†On my team alone, there are people based¬†in¬†the US, England, Peru, Sweden, Canada, Israel, Austria, Bulgaria, Malaysia, France, Ireland, Indonesia, and Wales.

As I’m not required to be in a physical office, I’ve been able to work while travelling a lot.¬†Teams within Automattic¬†also have in-person team meetups¬†every few months. I’m hoping to blog about each of these experiences over time¬†but, for now, I’ll just say that I’m more than grateful for the chance I’ve had¬†to travel and explore other places¬†so freely.

It hasn’t been¬†all about the travel though. This past year, I’ve been privileged to work with an incredibly¬†talented, diverse, and interesting group of people on a product¬†that we’re all passionate about.

Here’s hoping for¬†many more years to come, even if my Mum does still joke that I need to get a “proper job.” ūüėČ