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Zena – A Brit with a Once-in-a-Lifetime Travel Dream. I Made it Happen and You Can Too!

February 12, 2017

When I was a child I used to sit on the floor with a book, almost the same size as me, open on the floor. It was my mum’s Readers Digest Wonders of the World and I would pour over those pages, each time as though it was the first time I had looked at it. I would imagine myself in the pictures, staring out at the peculiar lunar landscape of Valle de la Luna in Bolivia, exploring the sandstone formations of Zangye Danxia in China and sat mystified by the mist coming in over the strange shapes of The Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. But mostly I was drawn to the photos of Antarctica. I went back to those pages again and again.

When I looked at the Antarctica photos everything seemed so alien. The ice seemed to sculpt into such peculiar shapes. The penguins looked like they spread as far as the eyes could see and in the drawn pictures it looked, to my eight-year-old eyes, as through every whale you could imagine would be flicking its tail or bearing its dorsal fin in the seas around you.

But most of all it just seemed so far away. So impossible to get to.

And so I knew, that one day, I would get there.

In 2016, I did.

Zena Exploring Kiwis Antarctica

This is me, exceptionally proud of the fact that I had climbed a mountain in my kayaking dry suit as I didn’t have time to go back to the boat and change.  There was no way on earth I was going to miss the chance to climb an Antarctic mountain! (Life jacket and all, ironically, I have never been so hot!)

Visiting Antarctica was the inevitable journey for a wandering soul; I find it very difficult to stay still. I have a constant awareness of how much there is to see and to do in this lifetime and as such I’m on a continual quest to see and do as much as I can. When Sarah from Exploring Kiwis asked me if I would like come into their fold I jumped at the chance. So here I am, introducing myself to you.

I think ultimately the best way I can do that is with every post I get to write, that way our introductions to each other will feel less forced and we can skip the usual excruciating small talk 😉

But in the meantime I can tell you a few things, which will hopefully make me seem like less of a stranger and justify my place on this blog.

I once received a phone call from a friend in the middle of the night – the next day I picked up and then carried a film camera lens all the way to Sri Lanka as it was cheaper for the film crew to fly me over with it than to have it couriered alone. It ended up shooting one of the street parade scenes in the adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. 48 hours later I was back in London.

Here’s the camera on set in Colombo…

Zena Exploring Kiwis Sri Lanka

When I was little, my Dad was a Captain in the Merchant Navy, as such my Mum and I were allowed to travel with him. The other sailors – who all missed their own children, fixed a paddling pool to the foredeck and it became my own pool! I used to sit in it wearing a huge life jacket, with sailors as my own very well trained life guards.

This is me pretending to be the Captain (with a very hefty orange!)…

Zena Exploring Kiwis

I love combing beaches for curiosities and to stroll as far away from others as I possibly can to reflect on the present time I am standing in and to let my memories catch up with me. My solitude was once rewarded when I spotted a little, almost transparent, crab –  I swear when you look closely has Laurel and Hardy on its back.

Can you see Laurel and Hardy?

Zena Exploring Kiwis

I am obsessed with ice and all things cold, so I love exploring cold countries, but I also almost always only ever wear dresses. It’s not so much a point of protest; I just don’t really own any trousers. So when I travel to wintery climes I have to invest in a big coat… or be brave. I mostly favour the latter.

But I do know how to dress up warm when it counts!

OK. Enough. I hope this little insight will help us forge a friendship, as I do my best to report back what I see, when I see it, to anyone who’s interested. I look forward to being your eyes, ears, in fact all the senses on the ground wherever I find myself on this magnificent planet.

As I once accidentally ended a presentation to a crowded lecture theatre when nervously not knowing how to finish. Peace out.

Zena Birch

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