I arrived in Stockholm to quickly discover that a Northern Winter truly is bone chilling. My suitcase, backpack, guitar & I jumped on a bus that took me to a train, that was apparently just the right temperature & level of comfort to make me have an involuntary nap. The following hours were comprised of swearing if I ever got back to NZ alive I would move home & never leave my house, smiling while internally screaming about the fact I could not recognise even one of the train stop names on my map with the words coming from the loud speaker & coming to the harsh realisation that I really should have conquered my fear of the dark before making my way to a country that has an average sunset time is 3pm.
You really don’t know what it’s like to feel far away from your mum until you’re lost, alone & only have 3% battery on a phone with no sim card on the Swedish coast.
Thanks to the help of a lovely young man that gave me directions (I've yet to decipher the location of this particular encounter), I ended up in Nynäshamn. I then boarded the ferry to Gotland where I met Steve Chadwick. Steve had offered to host a house concert for me in Gotland & put together a night of homebrew, some great soup & an audience that seemed to be just as gentle & kind as Steve's family. I felt so blessed to have met a family that made me feel so at ease. Below is a series of photos taken by the amazing Plathuset - check out her other work. It’s the bees knees.
I’m not ashamed to say that a highlight of London was visiting the Harry Potter Studios. A must do.
After a week of the colourful, fast paced landscape of London I boarded a flight to Dublin. My week of backpacking in Dublin was everything I’d dreamed of. New friends, great music & many euros spent on an attempt to introduce my taste buds to Guinness.
I visited Josh & Liam’s school where I shared some songs, had a few sing along carols to get in the Christmas spirit & told the students all about kiwiland. Words of pride, that I'd never spoken aloud before, fell out of my mouth as I told stories of the landscapes, people & animals on my side of the world.
At this stage, I hit a small bump in the road - a cheeky chest infection & a good ol’ dose of sinusitis. I slept for 8 hours after the school visit, woke up for dinner & went back to bed. I was obsessed with the idea that I wouldn’t waste even one moment of my time away, but I quickly learnt that I am in fact not superhuman & rest is something that must eventually be done.
The next stop was New Castle West, Co. Limerick - the birthplace of my late Grandad Joe Brouder. I went to the pub where he had his first pint, stayed with his sister & had a great time with the next generation of cousins - I must make a special shoutout to Kate & Moss who treated me like a queen for the week & took me for a trip to the beautiful tourist hotspot of Killarney.
On the final night of New Castle West, a small house concert was put together with a collection of family members. I had just finished writing a song in Dublin called Ends of the Earth. The song is all about grandparents migration to New Zealand & no matter how many times I play it in my life, I don’t think anything will quite compare to the connection I felt between myself & the people in that room who I’d only met once before.
The next stop was County Clare. Clare is the home of the best Irish music on the planet & I played gigs at two of the best pubs - The Roadside Tavern & Egan’s Bar. My new friends Christy & Gabi kindly hosted me & provided a night of great stories, wine & cheese.
Playing at Egan’s bar was easily one of the best gigs of my entire life. From the moment I spoke my first word I felt so much respect from every audience member (maybe it was because they couldn’t understand my accent, but we’ll go with the idea it’s because they loved the show) & nothing fills my soul more than being able to tell stories that relate & impact those listening to them. Photos below by the wonderful Bastien Réau.
I feel so lucky that my family at the other end of the earth give me a reason to explore & wander, but I can’t put into words how it feels to be amongst their love & then have to drag my suitcase down the path where my grandparents once did & leave it all behind.
It’s cliche, but travelling (& specifically travelling alone) allows you to learn so much about yourself. I am not a Psychocentric nor Allocentric traveller, but somewhere in the middle. Some of my favourite hours were the ones when I turned my phone off & gave myself the opportunity to get lost in an unfamiliar city - but other great moments included asking Tripadvisor where I could find the best soy vanilla lattes within 10 minutes walking distance.
I know not everyone is into travel (& if you’re a kiwi, who would blame you? We’re blessed with the best). But, while it seems the only news is bad news & that the world is turning into a violent & increasingly negative place, I think the only way to learn that there are a ton of good sorts around & that strangers can be kind - is to get out there & experience it.
Or just take my word for it. Whatever suits.