Arabian adventures: Petra at midnight by mule

German police men, Bedouin cave pirates, dubious liaisons and midnight mule riding. It was one of those whirlwind adventures travellers lust for. Someone recently told me you attract what you’re open to, I must be on the page of some Indiana Jones novel.

I’d spent a lovely serene 48 hours in my own company. It’d been a fun but hectic few months, and it was so nice to meander Jordan slowly feeling the stress of few heavy decisions melt away.

In the burning heat I wandered the lost city of Petra, admiring the ancient ruins carved into imposing stone cliffs. Suddenly, I felt a huge craving for company. It was around that very moment I ran into the two German guys staying at my hotel. They happened to be policemen. It was an instant friendship.

We walked up the 850 steps to the monastery in the golden afternoon light. Most of the tourists were heading in the opposite direction towards the exit. We sat atop a cliff overlooking the majestic monastery, mountain upon mountain and desert behind us. That’s when we met the cave dwellers.

They looked straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean. Long black curly hair, red bandanas, loose pants and coal eyeliner darkly riming their eyes. The afternoon desert winds were blowing hard, so they invited us into their cave.

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Being Ramadan, it had proved impossible to find any alcoholic beverages. So when they offered us Bedouin whisky our faces instantly lit up. It turned out it’s actually just black tea with sugar. The immense popularity of the drink is visible in all the local’s rotting teeth.

They told us stories of travellers from all over the world they’d met. A few had picked up foreign wives. All day everyone had been telling me about Barbara the infamous New Zealander who’d married a local and been in the village 40 years.

The most rogue of them all proclaimed the key to happiness wasn’t one wife. “I have many girlfriends from all over the world” he bragged. “Sweden, Japan, China….”

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His current lover, an older Dutch women laughed non-chalantly as she took a drag of her cigarette.

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After many a round of Bedouin whisky we were invited to stay the night, and sleep in their cave. “We’ll cook for you,” they promised. “We have blankets and bedding!” The place was authentic, but filthy. The pirates looked like they hadn’t showered in months. The German guys were keen. Wistfully thinking of my double bed with a view, I agreed to stay. Travel was after all about the unique experiences.

Next thing Ahmed, a Bedouin who’d made us tea earlier clambered up the cliff. A bit of a tiff ensued. Everyone wanted us to stay it seemed. The Germans and I exchanged raised eyebrows, dubious as why they were fighting over who we stayed with. What was in it for them?
Our favourite rogue pirate left rapidly in somewhat of a huff, before taking a photo of me. Silent tensions grew as night fell. Despite the full moon, stars began to litter the sky. We agreed to dine with Ahmed, and then go back to our hotel. In moonlight we began the slow descent down the cliff face.

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Ahmed insisted I take the mule down the 850 steep stone steps. I know he was insinuating my walking was questionable, but I trusted myself far more than some donkey breed with a horse. Yet the blisters of hours and hours of walking were burning. Next thing I was clutching onto a mule who seemed intent on walking as close to the cliff edge as possible.

When we got to Ahmed’s cave, we were somewhat surprised to find three other girls there. All solo travellers, they seemed very at home with their Bedouin locals. Very at home. Nestled around a fire drinking tea, the dinner slowly cooked on the embers.

We ate a local stew with bare hands and bread. I tried not to think about my unwashed hands, or the hundreds of flies that swarmed the mules by day.

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After dinner all the girls were whisked onto the mules, riding double with their Bedouins. My blisters were raw, and I was extremely tired, so easily persuaded to jump on the back of Ahmed’s mule. 

Rather than make the 1.5 hour trek to the Petra entrance, they were going to drop us in the local Bedouin village from where we could take a taxi. Eager to be at home, I left the Germans on foot and we started galloping towards the village.

It started out magically, riding mules by midnight’s moonlight. I felt like the ultimate Arabian bad-arse princess. It was one of those experiences you could never pay for, never create or never find. We’d just fallen into it. 

As all the horses rode in sync, I noticed the other girls seemed to be enjoying the ride far too much. They were groping the men’s chest, hugging, laughing. That’s when I clicked.

As if in a movie, I saw the girls writhing on the back of the horses in slow motion. A montage of events of the day played before my eyes. The pirate taking my photo earlier. The stories. The girls cuddling up to the men around the fire. They’d devised the ultimate pick up scheme. I wondered how many thrill seeking girls they’d lured back to their caves.

I looked back, and suddenly our pack of horses had dispersed. All the girls and their riders had disappeared into the black of the night. I was alone, in the no mans land in the dead of the night. I had a moment of panic.

To be fair, my driver was lovely, and wouldn’t have hurt a fly. The people of Jordan had been some of the kindest, most genuine souls I’d met.

But when he suggested a tea at his place, or sitting to wait for the others I put my foot down. I had a feeling they would be awhile. We rode up to the village, and he ordered a taxi for me. That’s when the Germans guys mysteriously reappeared. Something very reassuring about travelling with German policemen. I beamed at the sight of them.

“We came to find you, to make sure you were safe.”

“Of course she’s safe!” Said Ahmed. “I’m a Bedouin, not a bad one.” I have a feeling he’d used that line before.

The Germans had been picked up by a ranger, as Petra had obviously closed with the sinking sun. I jumped in the car with them, and the day of adventures played before my eyes. We’d met locals, they’d cooked for us, and told us the stories of their lives. We’d left the typical tourist trail, and had a real Arabian nights adventure. So many moments had been so surreal, they felt as if they almost weren’t real.

In life you always have two choices. You can be open in the moment, and see where it takes you or you can go for the safe option. If you leave your comfort zone, you always walk on the fringe of danger. There were many moments were I half wished myself back at the hotel, dining contently in the safety of my own company. Yet what the experience it had been. It’s good to be open, so long as you’re always in tune with your gut. I should’ve never ridden the mule down the cliff, yet I live to tell the tale.

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Amsterdamn

Tourists flock to Amsterdam for tulips, its liberal take on drugs and the infamous red light district. Yet there’s so much more to lure you to this fine city. Here’s some insights from a Kiwi who’s had a damn good year in the Dam.

The frequency of English, the easy lifestyle and the working holiday visa explain why people are calling Amsterdam the new London. The weather is marginally better, there’s no long daily commute, and Kiwi brunch places dominate the local cafe scene. It feels just like home, only a way cooler Euro version.

The Netherlands are not best known for great weather, so it’s a case of suns out boats out. None of those awful glass enclosed boats with tourists sardined in. People in the know have their local, who strategically cruises the waterways catching the revered sun rays. The BYO food, drinks and music strongly appeal to the Kiwi mentality. There is no better way to soak up the myriad of canals then boating with rosé tinted glasses.

Biking is perhaps the most defining attribute of Amsterdam. It’s a small city, with a population of roughly 850,000. That’s less than even Auckland. This gives it a quaint big village feel. A typical bike trip is about 10 minutes. If embarking on an arduous commute of twenty minutes or more a lot of self-motivation is required. The petite size and delightful means of transport give Amsterdam its easy way of life.

So many bikes means bike thieves. Amsterdam may be safe for you, but your bike isn’t going to be so lucky. Thieves are rampant. So much so, most bikes have two locks. Everyone has a tale of at least one stolen bike. But don’t fret, there’s such a thing as bike fixer. Give them a description of the bike you so desire, €20 and a few days later it’s yours. Just beware of bike karma. Yes this is a thing. I’ve only managed to have one bike stolen, so bike karma seems to be on my side.

Cycling is merely transport, not exercise. This and fortunate genes mean that despite most traditional delicacies being deep fried you won’t see overweight Dutchies. Local dishes include stoopwafels (baked sugar on sugar), kaasstengels (deep fried cheese sticks), bitterballen (deep fried balls with mystery meat contents). You get the gist. It’s not all bad though. Kale was cool here long before it made it to Australasia. It’s the esteemed recipe from Grandma. Raw eateries, cold pressed juice and grain bowls are all on trend, in stylish backdrops that’d make even the coolest Melbourne hipster swoon.

The Dutch are a good looking race, for the most parts tall and slender, blessed with wavy silky hair and great bone structure. The women meander about in minimal make up, unbrushed hair and look effortlessly beautiful. Dutch men’s mane of long locks defies gravity lifting off their face, even when the wind isn’t blowing. It leaves female expats with serious hair envy. How do they maintain that volume?

Dutch fashion is minimalist, with a real Scandinavian feel. Clean lines, quality fabrics and muted tones. Think greys, creams, black and white, with maybe a splash of colour like denim or navy thrown in. Patterns aren’t really appreciated, unless it’s a stripe. A minimal stripe obviously. Sneakers can be worn on any occasion, even clubbing. Nothing about their fashion screams out at you, except the animal faux fur coat. In New Zealand this would seem very bogan Westie, alluding to Outrageous Fortune days. Here women of all ages somehow make it look semi chic. I’ve not attempted to master the look.

The work life balance is incredible. That is if you can get the work side of the balance into the equation. If you can’t? No worries, there’s no shortage of incredibly cool cafes you can pretend to work in. If I counted the hours I’d spent dwelling in such establishments, it’s almost like I had a part time cafe job here. Almost.

On that note, cafes are not to be mistaken with a coffee shop. To avoid getting a perplexed stoner wondering what an almond piccolo is, head to a cafe if you’re looking for coffee. Coffee shops are just for weed. The logic behind this is still a mystery to me, but knowing the Dutch there is indeed a great rationale behind it.

If you’re ever missing the many Kiwi waterways there’s of course an amplitude of canals. I’ve spent many an hour canal sitting. Feeling the calming nature of the water minimises the stresses of life, such as not being able to find your bike, or wondering what sneakers to wear. Some of the canals are even swimmable, though they tend to be a hefty twenty minute bike ride away.

Amsterdam masters a quaint charm and outdoor vibe that most urban cities lack. Littered with green havens and terraces, the exterior spaces breath life into the city. Rooftops, parks and the canals are flooded with people chilling, chatting, drinking and listening to music. Sun basking and people watching against historic buildings proves to be the perfect pass time.

As my year here has come full circle, the tulip’s are once again in bloom. I feel very content with my slice of life this side of the world. I’ve become fully inducted in the Dutch ways, cycling about with my cold pressed juice donning pastel tones. I’ve had many a friend come visit, all falling for the magic of this place. Must be time to head on another boat trip, and drink in my appreciation of this damn fine city.FullSizeRender-13

The Chase

 

Tales as old as time, tell of fine princes on horses pursuing damsels in distress. Men like the chase we’re told. They used to be cave men you see, and had to hunt things. We women are like modern day deer. So be all doe eyed, demurely frollicking in some shrubs waiting (but not waiting) for that modern day cave man to come pursue you.

Play hard to get. But be warm, friendly and approachable. Remain marginally out of their reach, but also be flirty and fun. It’s a difficult act to master, and a fine line to balance. If it was a maths equation the calculus would look roughly like this:

y(2×4+y)dydx=(1−4xy2)x2

Maths was never really my thing. What about girls who enjoy an element of chasing themselves? Yes, despite prehistoric tales of manly cave men, the hunt can go both ways. A man coming on too strong too quickly can be a massive turn off and frankly just a little bit creepy.

If a man pursues me before a seed of interest has sparked he has no hope. The more adamantly he pursues, the more vehemently my disinterest grows. My friend has a technical term for this feeling: the ick. It’s that feeling where you stomach drops, and you feel physically nauseous at the sight of someone. This aloof response could be mistaken for a doe eyed deer playing the game, yet it’s a fatal presumption to make.

Refer back to Doe the deer in paragraph one. A smarter hunter will wait until the deer flashes a knowing glance or slight smile before going in for the kill. The smart deer will have mastered the art of appearing to be chased, unbeknownst to the hunter it’s part of their devious plan.

I pose the question, who therefore holds the power in this equation? The hunter or the deer? Surely the pull dynamic is mirrored equally by both parties.

Many* a men have been surveyed to determine men’s feelings on women asking them on dates. It seems like men don’t really mind, though I have my suspicions they prefer to at least believe they were in the position of power.

Once I read something that said, yes in today’s modern world women can chase men, but if they do they will never really know how he actually felt. They took away the moment when he was able to show initiative and indicate his true feelings. I think this holds a lot of truth. Unfortunately patience is not my greatest strength.

I once asked a man out on a date. Once being emphasised. Not like a tinder chatter, but a real man from the real world. On an actual date. Out of the blue. I got a wishy washy answer that was not to my liking. Six months later he indicated interest. By this point I was on the other side of the world. Standard.

It reminds me of the book my mum brought me before I first went travelling. He’s just no that into you. I think it scarred me for many a years, until a fairy godfather spoke to me.

I was on a TV commercial shoot in New Zealand, when the big fancy international Director was like, “Kesha, can I ask you something? Do you have a partner?”

Taken by surprise, I was like “Errr.. No…?”

“Let me give you a piece of advice. It’s best advice anyone ever gave me. When you meet someone, and feel that mutual spark you need to trust it. Know that the other person is feeling it too. What happens from there is more a reflection of the place they are at in life than of you.”

This little gem of insight really flipped the way I looked at attraction on it’s head.

He continued. “When I met my wife, it just felt different. Before I’d always wanted to spend more time with the person or felt like I should. But for the first time I actually wanted to. Something had changed.” For the record, his wife had first expressed interest in him, yet it was only a year or so later when her saw her in this different light. Duly noted.

I couldn’t help but wonder what had inspired him to share this titbit of wisdom with me. Had he seen me swooning over what was clearly a not so subtle on set crush?

I caught John Snow* looking at me a few times, then he sauntered right up to me and confidently proclaimed “I’ve met you before.”

“Hmmm, no don’t think so.”

“I definitely have.”

I disagreed. I didn’t tell him it was because he was so hot I definitely would’ve remembered him if I had.

The next day he waltz up looking rather chuffed. “I figured it out. You were Joffery’s* girlfriend. I met you when you were living in Wellington when he was on the Hobbit.”

“Oh.”

I have to say I was impressed that loved up coupled up Kesha was immune to the charm of such a handsome man. He hadn’t even made it into the memory bank. Wow.

Over the next few days he was forever sidling up to me to chat. He was one of the most charismatic men I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. He had this way of extracting stories from my lips, always managing to twist my words so everything sounded sexually charged. I blushed so many shades of crimson. It was infuriating.

Yet at the end of the shoot nothing happened. We messaged slightly, but he wasn’t driving it towards anything. He always messaged at strange times of the day. A wise friend familiar with the ways of the world told me he had a girlfriend. Her prediction was of course true. And yet there was a lesson to be learnt from the Director and Mr Snow.

I wasn’t afraid of rejection anymore. If I liked someone and sensed the feeling was mutual I no longer questioned if they liked me. It was obvious they liked me. It merely came down to what they wanted, and the place they were at in life. I could be more straight forward, and then see what their move was. It was empowering.

Maybe the chase is less linear then originally perceived. I think the idea of a man reeling a woman in like a fishing line is direly boring not only to women, but men also. Perhaps the chase is more like an intricate dance. Take any sensual dance like tango or Bachata, it’s always based on a mutual dynamic between the two. Coming close, and pulling away. Both equally footed, and both confidentially assured. Seduction perhaps mirrors intimacy itself.

If go back to the original premise of the chase, we have our prince and our damsel. She’s sitting a top the castle idly plaiting her hair. A strapping young prince catches her eye. She flashes him her winning smile. Smitten he yells out. “Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your golden hair!” I think the actual power, initially at least, comes from our fair lady. She is the one who determines if she desires to be chased, what the prince decides to do well that is another story.

*subject to creative hyperbole

THE QUEST

quest

“You should get out there, and go on hundreds of dates before you settle down.” Hundreds. My Mum has always been one for interesting advice.

Then I met a bunch of Kiwi girls living in London. They introduced me to The Quest. 12 dates. 12 months. Sounded more doable. My goal was to be single for the year, and go on lots of dates. It seemed like a good fit. Thus The Quest was born.

To define the rules of a date:

Must have a romantic intention

Only one date per person counts

I’m a diplomatic sort, so it seemed only fair to get in a broad range of nationalities. What could go wrong?

JANUARY

KIWI SPLORESOME

I ran into a rather handsome Kiwi I’d matched with on Tinder at Splore. I’m not a creep, I’m just very good with faces. Particularly good looking ones. There was some boozy bantering and we agreed to catch up back in Auckland. After many a drunken late night call from him (they were ignored) we were finally wining. All was going well, then he stopped me mid-sentence.
“I’ve just got to kiss you”

At the time I thought this was oh so romantic and swoonworthy. My friends had disagreed, saying it was a bit douche-like. Then he gave the great spiel about how he was going travelling next week, really busy, but he so wanted to see me, but was like only available late in the evenings. Unfortunately we had a slight agenda clash.

FEBRUARY

OLD FLAME

Flames burn where you put the kindling.

MARCH

ENGLISH LAD

I’d been chatting to a cute English lad on Tinder, and so we finally decided to get a drink. He was a bit younger. He was really close to his mum he was telling me, when next thing she was calling. Caute. He winked at me as he walked away to briefly chat with her. Gosh, so sexy. Post the date the selfies and snapchats continued, as well as skateboarding videos. Did kids these days still skateboard? The man child was so my type. Last year.

BI BERLINER

He was tall, blonde, well-dressed, well-travelled. All was going swimmingly until he casually dropped into the conversation
“Sometimes I hook up with guys”
“I like to dress in drag occasionally. Sparkly leggings that sort of thing”
“Do you want to see some photos?”
I’d like to think of myself as open minded, but this little penny drop just threw me a little.
“My preference is girls, but you know, sometimes you just crave the thrill of a man”
Oh I do know.

I would’ve considered a second date, but I happened to be about to fly indefinitely to the other side of the world.

APRIL

And finally I was on my way. One way tickets booked.

Auckland – San Francisco – New York – Montreal – Toronto – Reykjavik – Amsterdam.

Oh the fun! I envisioned myself solo travelling, meeting all these gorgeous babes all over the world. For the record, New York City Tinder is full of babes and Swedes. Unfortunately the thing with Tinder it is a bit of a gamble. Which leads me to the succession of North American dates…


NYC JEWISH HIPSTER

The first thing he did was give me a sticker that said DIET.
“It’s this cool social media thing I do. You stick it anywhere, then take a photo. Tag me in it.”
He showed me a photo of a girl wearing it on the front of her undies. Great idea.

He also gave me some profound advice. If you’re a pretty girl and can be funny, you’ll nail life. And social media. Note to self: work on being pretty.

THE LATVIAN (?) IN MONTREAL

He was so nervous his hands were shaking and he wouldn’t look me in the eye. After about 20 minutes of pottering about awkwardly and concluding there was in fact no table available, he decided he’d drop his dog home (yes he’d brought his dog) then we’d go to another bar. Did I like cocktails? He didn’t want me to know where he lived, so would I mind waiting here outside the packed bar for 10-15 minutes? I messaged a friend.
“Yes it’s fine for you to leave.”

I did the unthinkable, and messaged him saying sorry I had to go. He instantly unmatched me. I felt like an awful human being.

CANADIAN FILMSTER IN TORONTO

We talked film and travel. Two topics dear to my heart.
“I want your life” he said.
“Where will you be in the summer? I’ll come visit you.”
I non-committaly went along with this. Later I would regret it.

He still likes every post on Instagram.

MAY

ZILCH – 0

I moved to Amsterdam, home of the world’s tallest men. The land where men took styling their hair very seriously. It was all golden hues, flicks and waves. I was in man heaven. I’d envisioned myself going on dates with all these beautiful Calvin Klein model types. Then I got here and realised two things.

  1. Amsterdam was a small place. Very small. I had to be tactical, everyone was currently a potential friend or colleague.
  2. Dutch man chat. I noticed very quickly Dutch men liked to chat on dating apps. A lot. They seemed to prefer chatting to say, I don’t know. Meeting up? And the chat seemed to verge on boyfriend meets banker. “How was your day?” “Yeah okay I read a lot of papers. Then I went to the gym. Now I’m reading a book. Might brush my teeth later. You?” I have no desire to engage in such discussions, particularly with someone I’ve never met.

 

JUNE

ZILCH
– 0

I met the Kiwi girls, who introduced me to The Quest on a yacht in Turkey. The Quest officially began. I made many new friends. I had a big birthday. I did a lot of travel. There were sadly no dates.

But, we were sailing through this tiny bay in Turkey when I was like, hey, I recognise this spot. I had camped at this precise location seven years ago. I’d met my first Euro crush. He was a beautiful philosophical type, sketching in his notebook while his beard and ponytail glistened in the Turkish sun. A friend and I joined him backpacking around Turkey, sleeping under castles, swimming with phosphorescence, hiking waterfalls. The two of us had fallen asleep holding hands under the stars at this exact location. So romantic.

 

JULY

THE EURO PROTOTYPE

Funnily enough that very first Euro crush now happened to be single. Coincidentally he also happened to be in Amsterdam for a conference. He messaged me, and we went for dinner. He’d lost the ponytail and sketch book, and despite gaining a French accent & phD I just wasn’t really feeling it. That’s the weird thing about feelings, is how fickle they can be. The guy who was the prototype for so many crushes to follow, ended up no longer evoking feelings of… well anything. It was like one of those Chick Flicks were the ending goes all wrong, and you realise this wasn’t a Chick Flick at all.

AUGUST

NORWEGIAN VIKING

When a Norwegian viking serenades you with a guitar that is a good date. He’d play a song, and I’d have to guess it. Also men baking, definitely brownie points. I clearly gave a great impression of Kiwis, he’s currently living in New Zealand.

SEPTEMBER

A KIWI IN LONDON

Kiwis like to brunch. And everyone knows brunch is secretly the real way to every women’s heart. I’d never actually been on a date with a Kiwi when I was living in London. I’d also never been on a date with a suit. So there’s a first for everything.

THE SWEDE

I never thought I’d say I was disappointed to go on a date with a Swede. My mum had been bugging me to go on a date with a Dutchie ever since I moved to Amsterdam. I thought I was finally getting my date, got there and realised he was in fact Swedish. Also he had a man bun. Isn’t that one of those things you should mention beforehand? However he did introduce me to what may be the best word known to mankind. Sonder. Google it.

OCTOBER

THE HAND MODEL

So I (finally) got my Dutch date. I thought he’d been joking about being a hand model, but no he was in fact an actual hand model. He made me feel his hands. “See how soft they are?” Then he showed me lots of photos of his hands in photoshoots. I could agree, these were indeed very attractive looking hands. But things really livened up when he started singing Disney songs in the bar.
“I can show you the world…”
“Sing with me!”


NOVEMBER

BIKE SHOP

My bike had been having a few issues as of late. It’s an Amsterdam thing. I’d been taking it to my new local bike shop, where the same guy had been attempting to fix it.
“How much do I owe you?” I asked.
“Nothing if you take me for a drink sometime”
Got to like the Dutch forwardness. I had wondered if he’d been flirting. He was cute. He was old Kesha’s dream type. Blonde ponytail, a splash of facial hair, lean, slightly androgynous. On the date I learnt he didn’t like fixing bikes (my bike is still having issues for the record). Then we got on the topic of juices. He’d never heard of a green juice. “I can’t even imagine what it would taste like.” Being such a green juice and smoothie fan I couldn’t fathom this. What sort of ponytailed, bearded hipster hadn’t heard of green juices? Had he been living under a pile of bikes?

 

DECEMBER

I remembered my yearly goal. Catch flights, not feelings. Time to amp up the dates. Even though I’d already fulfilled The Quest I decided to do additional dates. Because I’m a dork, and ex over-achiever.

BIKE SHOP TAKE TWO

I can tell straight away if I have the potential to like someone. But my friend went on and on and on. Give him a second chance. He sounded nice. He was cute. I should get out there and date Dutch men. So I found myself sitting at grimy pool bar, with someone it turns out was 7 years my junior. All was going okay, until we got on the topic of snow. I was so excited it might potentially snow. Did he know what time of year it usually snowed? What was the general temperature for snow? What sort of conditions did there have to be… something to do with rain and the earth’s atmosphere if I remembered correctly? It wasn’t just that he didn’t know anything about snow. It was more that he had no desire to know anything about snow.

ANOTHER DUTCHIE

We had a nice date. I wasn’t overly swooned, but we chatted for hours about one of my favourite topics, travel. He was really nice and normal and grown up. I would’ve considered a second date. But he just kept messaging and messaging and messaging. Then I turned around at work one day and he was there. My heart sunk. He went in for the hug. I got the dreaded ick. I thought I was so unfriendly and cold, and yet he still messaged after. And Merry Christmas. And Happy New Years. And now he’s stopped.

2017

And suddenly a new year is upon us. It’s already panning out to be a curious one. I made no such quests or even goals this year. I think I’ve given up on dating apps. I can think of far better ways to spend my time then on awkward blind dates in search of that elusive spark. The Quest served its purpose. I’ve gotten far more decisive in the nuances of dating. I’m more aware of the qualities I like in a man.

I’ve also learnt a few helpful facts along the way. My mum always said that Kiwi men weren’t charming, but ironically I found them to be the biggest smooth talkers of the lot. I learnt you can outgrow types, outgrow people, and who you like can sometimes surprise you. My two favourite words are still dubious and swoon. One day I’d like to think someone will trick me into not being dubious about swooning.

This all paints a portrait of a very cool, calm and collected Kesha. Sadly this is not the case. Dating and feelings is a realm I’m not sure I’ll ever master. I sit between too aloof, too honest, and often confused by the rules of the unspoken game everyone is playing. I think I would’ve made a good Dutch woman, I’d take frankness any day. My verdict on Dutchmen is still pending.

And so the tale of The Quest comes to an end. Although behind every good story, remember there’s always a tale or two untold.

* no men were harmed in this Quest

What is love? Baby don’t hurt me

L o v e. It’s the madness of the gods, according to the Ancient Greeks. We write, cry, laugh, rhyme and sing about it. Crazy in love. I can’t help, falling in love with you… You make loving fun. Love me, love me say that you love me. More than words. Nothing compares to you. How deep is your love? It must have been love, but it’s over now. Cry me a river. Now you’re just somebody that I used to know. I will survive.

“Nothing is mysterious, no human relation. Except love.” – Susan Sontag.

Love is central to all human stories.  It’s that feeling of a warm summer’s day. The look of a kid in a water park. All the colours of the rainbow, woven into one.

Love is one of the few things in our world that cannot be bought. It cannot be manipulated. We cannot make ourselves love someone. It’s a force of nature that sneaks up on us, and temporarily changes the hue through which we see the world.

Falling in love affects our brain in a similar way to cocaine and other recreational drugs. The infusion of adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin all explain the wonderful yet somewhat irrational feelings that take over. However like the laws of gravity, what goes up, must come down. If you’re willing to feel the high, you have to be willing to feel the low.

Love is perhaps one of the most coveted, and simultaneously feared things on planet. We yearn for love, and yet many of us are truly terrified by the prospect. The lack of control, the feelings of helplessness, the many tales of unrequited love. Even when we have love we’re scared to lose it.

In the back of our minds, we’re aware that often love ends. Sad, but true. People change. People fall out of love. People grow apart.

“Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one… Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements… But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” C.S Lewis.

Perhaps the only thing worse than heartbreak, is a heart that’s unbreakable. Philosopher Bertrand Russell warned “Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.” That’s because love is perhaps the greatest human experience.

So what exactly is love? It is a word thrown about so easily. Gone are the days of love letters, where people declared undying love and even world wars couldn’t keep them apart. In today’s world people love many over the course of their lives. What is actual love? What is mere words? And what is just settling?

“True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen.” – François de La Rochefoucauld.

Scientists break love down in three stages. Yes, even scientists endorse swoonery.

1. Lust. “Love is friendship that has caught fire” – Ann Landers.

The first stage is attraction. Boy meets girl. Or boy meets boy. Or girl meets girl… You get the picture. It’s all about attraction, and primal instincts. Desire. The sex hormones kick in, and make us want someone. This is the emotionless safe zone. Sparks can fly, but fear not. You can go from person to person, fling to fling and your heart will remain unscathed. Sadly you miss out on love if you live your life in this arena. Cue the playboy or nymph who secretly fear rejection and heartbreak.

 

2. Swoonery. “Whenever you’re near, I hear a symphony.” – The Supremes.

This is perhaps the funnest phase. The feeling of love. The breathlessness, the excitement, the daydreaming, giddiness and straight swooning. You have a spring in your step. You lose your appetite. You find it difficult to sleep. No one makes you feel this way. You’ve never felt this way before. Your memory is slightly skewed, sitting behind love tinted glasses. Whilst this is all very enchanting, and you can have meaningful connections, if you stay here you evade reality. You miss the reward of truly knowing someone and letting yourself be known.

 

3. Attachment. “Love is a flower, you’ve got to let it grow” – John Lennon.
Hormones permeate the body, giving feelings of attachment and security. Attachment lingers close to commitment, perhaps one of the most terrifying words on the planet. We live in a world with so many choices. They are part of what make us human. Choices represent our freedom and individualism. The idea of wading through all these prospects, and choosing one option is a scary thought. Only one. One. One. One. Yet this is perhaps where love really sits. It’s not gliding along the highs of life. Love encompasses the natural ebbs and flows, the ups and downs, the laughs and the tears. These are a necessary part of the human existence.

“Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement… That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.” – Louis de Bernières

Perhaps our society’s problem with love is not love itself, but the fact that we feel pressured to commit before we are ready. Before we’ve seen the world, found ourselves, fallen for the wrong and the right people. Because to fall in love at the right time, coming from the right place is one of the most magical things in all the world. And maybe, just maybe worth the potential heartbreak.

What is love? Baby don’t hurt me. 

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photo @nandahagenaars

Written for The Cold Pressed Juicery, Amsterdam

Read more content here

 

Skip the mistletoe. Make this aphrodisiac love potion….

Don’t be that person chasing after the object of your affections with the mistletoe branch. So uncouth. Instead snare them more subtly with this amorist love potion. No Christmas snog guaranteed, but the cunning is (potentially) much more likely to woo.

Since the dawn of time, love potions have been used to intoxicate unsuspecting crushes. Even before crush was officially a word. The best love potions not only help you lure a lover, but their aphrodisiac properties put them in the mood. Ideal for those wanting some extra loving this festive season, or the coupled looking to add some extra spice to their relationship.

But first, how to charm this love interest into close proximity? Here’s how to make them fall under your spell.

Eye contact is the key to love. Even scientists agree. Looking deeply into someone’s eyes creates a feeling of deep intimacy. If they seem to be responding well try the following look: puppy dog meets deer in heads lights (you may want to try this at home first). Wide eyed pupils is apparently very sensual, and if you look at someone all toffee eyed it triggers memories of the feeling of love that may be associated with you. While all this sounds great in theory, it’s important to read your subject well. Always remember stalking and staring are not alluring.  If the person is looking at the ground, avoiding you or bolting in the opposite direction maybe reconsider that love potion.

After much ado, the elixir of love you’ve all been waiting for:

RECIPE

2 cups of rain water (normal water works fine too)

1 tablespoon of dried rose petals

2 teaspoons of jasmine flowers

1 tablespoon of cacao

1 vanilla pod or 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence

1-2 cinammon sticks

1 teaspoon honey
Mix ingredients, and bring them to the boil. Simmer slowly for five minutes. Store in a glass bottle. Will keep in the fridge for a week. Best served as a warming tea or cold diluted with sparkling water.

Now the best part, lure your crush into drinking it. Like love, this potent potion works in mysterious ways. Side effects may vary.

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photo @nandahagenaars

Written for The Cold Pressed Juicery, Amsterdam

Read more content here

Viking Hunters

We journeyed far and wide, across many an ocean to Iceland in search of their infamous Vikings.

There’s something about the urban myth of tall, manly, blonde, bearded men that makes a girl swoon.

Viking explorers were said to have settled in Iceland in the late 9th Century. But were they still lingering about?

And thus, two Kiwis quest to find Vikings begins – of course at a bar in Reykjavik. We eye the swarms of modern day bearded men with curiosity.

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“Are you a Viking?” my friend Michaela asks the older bearded man seated beside us.

“Yes, of course” he slurs in a thick Icelandic accent emphasised by his drunkenness. So far, living up to the reputation.

He insists on buying us multiple shots of Icelandic Schnapps the true Viking liquor.

Michaela notices that our beautiful bearded barman is in fact pouring shots of Jim Bean and Vodka. Viking credibility is deteriorating rapidly.

We get one over him by convincing him I am in fact Keisha Castle Hughes New Zealand’s infamous Whale Rider. They eat whale in Iceland, so he has no issues with animal riding ethics.

We stealthily slip away to the other side of the bar to research the younger Norsemen.

They’re not overly tall, slim bordering on skinny, and don tight jeans, beards and lush long locks that give me hair envy.

These urban Vikings are surprisingly Hipster, straight out of a cool cafe that serves on point espresso.

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Michaela interviewing a Cafe Viking

We befriend a Norwegian Viking, he’s a brunette not a blonde but has the beard and hair down pact. We even convince him to get into costume for the cause.

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A modern day Norwegian Viking

He displays a natural talent for finding hot springs which seems like a useful Viking skill. We document our findings happily over champagne, but are determined there must be Icelandic Vikings lurking in the wilderness.

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We enlist the help of another huntress, Nicki from Seattle who embarks with us on the Viking road trip quest.

We circumnavigate Iceland over five days. We drive the Southern coast, the Eastern Fjords, through the Snowy mountains and the Northern highlands. We leave no waterfall, beach, glacier or hot pool unturned.

We even scour an old Viking village.

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And yet, there seems to be a severe shortage of not only Vikings but people in general. We are shocked to learn there are only 3.2 people per square kilometre. That’s even less than our beloved New Zealand deemed the Iceland of the South by locals.

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Maybe we’d be better off searching for Huldufolk – the hidden people. Better known as Elves, it’s claimed 80% of the population believe in them.

The Huldufolk are known for their environmental lobbyist stance, they whisper in the ears of influential individuals and have been said to help drastically reduce construction in Iceland.

I’m not sure Elves are quite a sexy as Vikings. Although no doubt we could be swayed. Time to head to the local cafe in search of urban Hipster Elves.

Ororlando