Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Yes, girls like cars too. Please stop making it weird.

You might've seen this meme someone made the other day. It went viral on a Facebook page called Car Memes with over 12,000 likes, 1,900 shares and more than 600 comments - impressive. This was however, mainly because of its hilarious spelling mistake, (a smart move on the creator's part, for real!). This isn't the first time someone's used an image of me to make a meme, and it's never really bothered me before. But after reading through some of these six hundred-and-something comments and even leaving a few myself, some of the conversation really got me thinking.

Firstly though, if you don't know me, please know that I do have a thick skin and a fairly dark (although not too dark!) sense of humour as well as a good understanding of how the internet works, so I don't get easily offended by comments like this. I find most of it genuinely funny. Put frankly, you'd have to be a REAL dick to actually offend me. But as I said, there was some discussion in there that really got some cogs turning in my brain. So while these thoughts were still fresh, I thought I'd write them down and share them on here.

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Learning to drift at Ebisu Circuit, under the instruction of Australian drifter Josh Robinson. 

Why is it still such a shocking thing to some people that a woman might take an interest in driving and want to learn more about car control? Get with the times, guys... 
Upon seeing this meme, my original thought was how much it sucks that just because a picture of a woman driving exists, it automatically attracts attention - and usually attention of the negative/unwanted kind. How many pictures are there out there of men drifting, and have any of those been made into memes like this? Can you imagine a meme reading, 'Ladies, if your man can drive like this, you better marry him!' (or should I say, merry him).

For those wanting to argue that it's bound to happen because women are just seeking attention by uploading photos of them driving, I disagree with this. It's a pretty normal thing to see a guy sharing a photo of themselves driving, isn't it? So normal that you probably wouldn't even think anything of it. Why would sharing a photo of yourself enjoying your normal, everyday hobby be a weird thing to do, for a man or a woman? Unless it's a girl getting nude (like those shots with girls' boobs squished behind race harnesses) then I don't think women who share pictures of them driving and having fun with cars should be labelled or automatically thought-of as attention-seekers.

It's something that I do often - sharing photos of me driving, not getting my tits out, obviously - not only because I like cars, but because I want to show other women that cars can be fun. In my opinion, having a hobby is cool. And taking an interest in becoming a better and more confident driver is cool too. Which brings me to my next point...

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First track session (well, it's kind-of a track!) at Fuji Drift Park. 

Drifting is not stupid or silly - it's a driving technique and a very useful skill to learn. 
I've seen comments from people calling drifting silly, or the worst one, 'not being able to take a corner properly'. Umm... don't you think that having the ability to control a car in different situations and having an understanding of oversteer and countersteer is actually an extremely useful life skill to have? Who knows, one day it could even save your life. And it's fun, duh! I'm genuinely not sure why people would have this attitude - perhaps because they're secretly not confident with their own driving abilities? Anyway, I'm not really willing to delve far enough into the strange inner workings of the male mind to figure that out...

But if a woman is driving, she must suck at it or be doing something wrong, right?
There are so many awesome female drivers out there - most of them are a hundred times better than me too. So is it just me, or is this a very old-fashioned assumption? It's not that rare to see a woman behind the wheel of a car doing something cool nowadays, is it?

As for comments like 'girls should stay in the kitchen' - I mean, come on, these people are clearly trolling. And not to mention that this is such an old joke now. The main thing that upsets me about this sort of thing though, is that I don't want other women who are just starting to take an interest in cars to get put off by the toxic nature of some of these internet-based car communities. I often see girls (and guys for that matter!) on Facebook succumbing to internet trolls and falling for their bait, and I've got more to say about that soon, but before I go there:

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Learning to drift at 'Kuru Kuru Land'' at Ebisu Circuit 

Someone should NOT be made fun of or criticised for trying to learn something.
I know it does sound sad, but I've honestly now come to accept that people are always going to express their opinions on the internet - whether their opinion is backed up by reasoning and facts, or not. If you upload a photo of your car and then it gets shared on some big social account, yes, some people are probably going to call it 'lame' and they're most definitely going to tell you exactly what they don't like about it and what they would do to change it to their exact tastes and specifications. But here's the thing: who cares! I'll admit that this used to annoy me, but I'm over it now. Yeah, I do wish this sort of thing would happen less, and it seems silly now, but I actually used to think that I could really make a difference in helping people be less like this and to have more of an open-mind. But it's not my job to try and change people and there are simply too many negative Nancys out there. So as long as I'm being positive and setting an example, that's all that matters to me. But here's what does grind my gears:

'A girl driver? Well, she must be crashing.'
'She obviously can't drive for shit.'
'She's burning out the clutch learning to drive a stick, haha!'

These comments don't personally offend me, but it's more about the principle here. In this photo, I was learning to drift in figure eights in first gear. So I wasn't actually doing anything technical and I definitely wasn't going fast. But... so what? I don't know what planet these people are from, but in my world, learning new stuff is cool. And learning to drive is most definitely cool, and fun, and useful, and exhilarating, and rewarding... the list goes on. This knocking-people-down-for-simply-trying attitude is so wrong on so many levels.

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With 'Project X' in front of the gates of Fuji International Speedway. 

Ignore people who don't know you and don't know what they're talking about, and just have fun!
To the people out there - female or male - who want to learn more about cars, driving or even anything for that matter - seriously, never take any of that shit seriously. Come on... you're smarter than that! I guarantee you that only something like 99.9% of the people who write ignorant or derogatory remarks on the internet would never, ever say that to you in real life. They're called keyboard warriors for a reason. They're weak and most of the time they're just saying these mean things because they don't like themselves, which is actually pretty sad. Then again, some people are really just dickheads. But still...

In all honesty, I'm still a very sensitive person. I'm one of those people who cries when animals die in movies - especially in animated movies. But on a more serious level, I have really high expectations of myself when it comes to achieving my goals, I'm scared of failure and I do beat myself up inside my head when I think I'm not good enough at something. But this is all from my own internal pressure that I put on myself, none of it's from other people. Over the years that I've been into cars and using the internet and hanging out with gross boys, I guess I've just developed an internal filter which keeps out all of the dumb, negative shit and absorbs only the positive stuff. It's the only way to live, and once you develop one of these filters I guarantee the quality of your life will improve.

Still, it upsets me to read comments from women who clearly like cars, but don't really like sharing anything about their hobby online, or don't like participating in online car communities because 'guys are rude and perverted'. Not all of them are, but yeah, it's true that a lot of them are. Just ignore them and don't take them seriously. I'm not saying that you have to be tough and have an attitude - I'm most definitely not that sort of person. But you do have to take in everything with a sense of humour, and you probably will have to cop being the butt of a few jokes now and then. The trick is to make sure you have a come-back waiting and ready for when that does happen. But please, remember this:

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Project X - my JZZ30 Toyota Soarer project car. 

You shouldn't want to take an interest in cars to please or impress anyone else. 
When I wrote this story last year, based around the topic of female role models and the reasons why girls might not be taking as much of an interest in cars as guys do, some reactions to this were, 'why is this a problem?' and 'just let people be interested in what they're interested in'. To those people, I don't think you realise that this is my life mission. This is my purpose. This is what I LOVE. If my automotive-loving hobby can make me this happy, I think it can make other people really happy too. They might not know it yet, but maybe they just need someone else to show them. It's not about impressing people or showing off. It's about opening your mind and your heart to new experiences, to new cultures and a new exciting world. It's something that can give you confidence and purpose. It's not about trying to push people into doing something they don't want to do. It's about showing them that this exists, and that it's there if they want in on it.

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I'm a car girl person. Deal with it. 
Am I happy about being objectified as a 'woman driver' on the internet? The twist is that I guess I kind of am. Because aside from all those idiots commenting on how women can't drive and kitchens and blah blah blah, amongst all that crap I saw so many girls commenting to their boyfriends or friends asking them to help teach them and taking interest in what was actually happening in the image.

For now, the world of cars might remain dominated by males. But maybe one day, maybe girls won't stand out in the car world. I really hope so, and if I can help by putting myself out there and showing others that yes, girls are doing this stuff and you better get used to it, then I don't really mind. And I guess I don't really care either. I know that most of the people that actually follow me and read my blog are well aware of just how many women are involved with cars as their hobby and in motorsports, but it's obvious that some people aren't quite used to this - or aware of it yet. So to those people: yep, girls do car stuff now. Please don't be surprised, please don't make a scene and above all, please don't treat women any different. We're all one community now.

- Taryn

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Japan Tips

Seeing as I get asked so much about this subject, I've decided to start sending out a fortnightly e-newsletter containing some quick tips and advice for travelling to Japan and getting involved in Japanese car culture. If you've always wanted to visit Japan one day or if you just want to learn a few random facts about Japan car stuff, I think you'll definitely find the type of content I'll be including in these emails to be interesting and helpful.

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It doesn't cost anything and you can sign up here. 
I'll be sending out the first email within the next week or so! 

- T :)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Enchanted by the Japanese countryside...

I’m walking along a dark narrow path; the faint silhouettes of manicured Niwaki trees and traditional Japanese roof tops are just visible around me as the last light of the day fades. I can still see the outlines of the mountains standing out against the sky, and as I look up, three stars have emerged and are twinkling brightly. Stars visible from Tokyo? That’s weird, I think to myself. It's the perfect temperature, and I’m wearing baggy shorts and a loose singlet. As I walk, I feel strangely conscious of the fact that there isn't even the faintest breeze, it's completely still. Even as my arms and legs move through the air, I can’t feel anything, not even the slightest breath of wind. I close my eyes and listen to the sound of the gushing river behind me, and as I open them a pair of white butterflies dart in front of me, circling each other playfully. Suddenly, a little old lady pops her head up over her fence and greets me with “Konbanwa!”. I smile and respond, and continue my walk up to the main road to the local grocery store to buy kewpie mayonnaise and some beer.

私は暗いパスに沿って歩きます。私は、庭木の木と日本の伝統的な屋根トップのかすかなシルエットを見ることができます。山はまだ空を背景に表示されます。私は星が上記きらめき見ることができます。東京では見えスター、すごいです!温度が最適です。私はショートパンツや一重を着ています。全く風がありません。それは完全に穏やかです。一緒に遊んで2蝶があります。私は目を閉じて、私は川の音に耳を傾けます。ここでは、非常に美しく、平和です。
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I wish this was my life. I mean, it has been for a few weeks now, but unfortunately it's not permanent. I've never been able to see myself living in Japan on a long term basis, but after spending three weeks staying in an enormous 3-bedroom house in a beautiful rural town roughly 60km west of Tokyo, I never want to leave. It's so incredibly tranquil and quiet here, and even though it's been raining quite a bit, each varying weather condition seems to highlight something beautiful about this place. There are a thousand shades of green everywhere you look, the surrounding mountains are all different gradients of greyish blue, with low misty clouds floating in between. Best of all, I haven't even seen one terrifying insect out here... yet.

永遠にここに滞在したいと思います。残念ながら、それは永久的ではありません。私は巨大な3ベッドルームの家に住んで3週間過ごしてきました。それは農村部の町です。緑のように多くの異なった色があります!それはとても静かで静かです。山がたくさんあります。私はまだ怖い虫を見ていません!
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Backing things up slightly, in my last post I wrote about how Pedey and I could not obtain a visa to allow us to stay in Sweden for more than 3 months, so we had to leave the EU altogether so that we can return at the end of August. This put us in a weird position because we couldn't afford to go all the way back to New Zealand, so we decided to compromise and go halfway, by staying in Japan for a whole three months. At first we weren't sure whether we could do it, as last year we spent six weeks living in a small inner city apartment and it was a bit suffocating for us. But after a bit of research, we discovered an affordable rental house on Airbnb that had huge amounts of space, and even onsite parking! We made a spontaneous decision and booked it, and I'm so glad that we did, because it is absolutely beyond magical out here and it has really changed the way I feel about Japan.

ピーターと私はスウェーデンを残していました。だから今、私たちは3ヶ月間日本にあります。私たちは、Airbnbのウェブサイト上で、大きな家を見つけました。多くのスペース、駐車スペースがあります!私たちはこの家を予約して喜んでいます!それは素晴らしいされています!

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The house itself is great, but the area in which it's located has really captured my heart. What we didn't realise is that it's actually part of the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park, which contains various famous mountain peaks, hiking trails and hundreds of ancient shrines. Even though it's quite far from the center of Tokyo, it still lies within the western boundaries of the Tokyo Prefecture in a smaller, sleepy town called Oume (or Ōme-shi). The name means 'apricot' because the area was once famous for its apricots, and it's been around since at least the 1600s.

面積はChichibu Tama Kai国立公園にあります。多くのハイキングコースや古代の神社があります。町はŌmeです。

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The house is down a long skinny road with a lot of houses, but ours is up a driveway and sightly off the road on its own property, right next to a row of giant pink-flowering hydrangea bushes lining a big bamboo forest. Our bedroom looks out into a sea of towering green stalks, with the Tama River flowing behind them. Waking up each morning here, opening all of the doors and windows to the sound of the neighbour's doves softly crooning, birds chirping and the flowing river, making a cup of coffee and opening my laptop to start work for the day is just the best ever.

私の好きな花があります - アジサイは!また、美しい竹林があります。家は多摩川に非常に近いです。それは私たちが機能するための素晴らしい場所です!ピーターと私はSpeedhunters.comのために働きます。これは、フルタイムの仕事です。仕事はオンラインです。我々は、自宅で仕事をすることができます!

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Five minutes up the road - the Ōme Kaido highway or 411 - is a mountain called Mitake-san, which we went up yesterday. There's a crazy cable car which runs up a terrifyingly steep incline, and incredibly there's a small village at the top which has a beautiful shrine, Musashi-Mitake. I read somewhere that it's believed that people have been going up there for over 2000 years. You still have to walk quite a bit to get to the shrine after getting off the cable car, and it was so steep, yet whole families with their tiny grandmas with walking sticks were going up there. Amazing.

私たちは、マウント御嶽に非常に近いです。御岳さん!昨日、私たちは山に行ってきました。ケーブルカーがあります - それは怖かったです!山の頂上には、小さな村があります。美しい神社もあります!ビューが素晴らしいです!

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And then there's Okutama. Continue up the 411 for another twenty minutes, and you'll reach the enchanting Lake Okutama, a man-made drinking water reservoir formed by the Ogouchi dam, blocking the Tama river which the 411 is built next to. We drove up there a couple of weekends back, and saw a sign for the Ogouchi shrine and walked up there. Along the way we saw some cute fluffy monkeys and a giant deer, as well as the most enchanting view of this S-section in the lake. Is this even real?!

また、奥多摩湖は近いです。二週間前、私たちは、奥多摩に行ってきました。また、小河内神社まで歩きました。私たちは、かわいい猿を見ました!このビューはとてもきれいでした。うわー、日本はとても美しいです!

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This is our fourth trip to Japan, but this time it's proving to be very different; mainly because we bought our own car to get around in. It's a relatively stock JZX110 Mark II, and we've been trying to drive it as much we can while we're here, as we're going to sell it again before we leave. Last weekend we drove down to Hakone with our friends who were visiting from New Zealand, and we drove up the Hakone Skyline road in an attempt to get a better view of Mount Fuji. This isn't a great time of year for viewing the mountain, but we still caught a glimpse later in the afternoon as Fuji-san peeped out from behind the clouds.

今、私は日本に4倍されています!私たちは車を買ったので、今回は、それは非常に異なっています。それはJZX110マークIIです。先週末、私たちは箱根に行きました!私たちは、箱根スカイライン道路に運転しました。私たちは、富士山のより良いビューを取得したいです。これは、山を見るためにベストシーズンではありません。しかし、富士山は雲の後ろから出てきました!

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The Japanese countryside isn't just about nature though. If you've ever visited Tokyo and stayed in the center of city and wondered where all the modified cars are, that's your problem. Come out into the mountains, and that's where you'll find them! Down my street alone I've spotted a modified 86, a four door Hakosuka (which I managed to sneak a peek at while its garage door was open), a modified Subaru Legacy wagon and a Honda CR-X, and here's a video I posted not so long ago on Instagram of some rad Skylines cruising past! Pictured above is my friend Tanaka-san's S30 track car which hides out in the lush green mountains of Hakone, along with a bunch of other modified old-school Nissans - more on that soon!

日本の野生動物や風景が、それは特別です。しかし、また、日本の車は非常にクールです!日本の農村部では、多くのクールな車があります。これはTanaka-さんのS30レースカー!この車は箱根の近くに隠れています。すぐに、私はより多くの写真を共有します! :)

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I'm devastated that we've only got a week left staying in Ōme, as the house we're renting wasn't available for any longer. After next week we'll be moving slightly closer to the city into an apartment for another two months, but the dream of owning a big house in the mountains in Japan with a massive garage is definitely going to stick with me forever now. (In that dream I have a Nespresso machine too, obviously).

私たちはもう一週間青梅市に滞在します!私たちが借りている家は、それは月よりも長く使用できませんでした。来週の後、我々は街に近い移動します。二ヶ月のために、私たちはアパートに住んでます。しかし、私はこの場所から素晴らしい思い出を持っています。今、私は日本の山の中で大きな家を所有するの夢を見るでしょう!

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Stay tuned for more stories on car events and adventures coming up very soon, on here and at Speedhunters.com, including more pictures of old school Nissans, rad drift cars and some of the coolest Porsches I've ever seen at the recent Idlers Games event at Tsukuba!

非常にすぐに、私は日本への旅行についてもっと話を書きます。将来的には、私はまた、日本の自動車イベントの詳細物語を書きます!このウェブサイト上でそれらを探してください。また、Speedhunters.comで!お礼を読み取るための!どうもありがとうございました! :D

- Taryn


Monday, June 1, 2015

The Tardey World Tour... is still happening

A lot has happened since October last year. I know, I know, it's been around six months since my last post on here. Shit effort, huh. It might sound like a poor excuse, but when you get paid to help run a website for a living it really makes you feel like you don't have time to update your own personal blog! If you're reading iheartstance for the first time, let me fill you in real quick: Pedey and I left our home in New Zealand in May last year and embarked on a crazy world tour. We sold heaps of our possessions including Pedey's beloved Chevrolet Impala, moved out of our rental home permanently and went to Japan. From there we visited Norway, Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain, the UK, Amsterdam and the United Arab Emirates over six months, working/attending car events/sightseeing as much as possible. It was like a dream come true and I still can't believe it happened! I was freelancing for Speedhunters full-time, and Pedey had left his job as Editor of NZ Performance Car magazine and picked up some freelance work too. Our ultimate goal was to find Pedey a new job before we returned to New Zealand in time for summer; a goal which we achieved and couldn't be more happy about.

I've published a few stories on Speedhunters from some of our adventures, but I haven't really put together a proper blog post from our trip yet. So stay with me while I try and recount some of the highlights since my last post. At that time I was working from Amsterdam, which was so, so great...
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From left: On our roof deck overlooking the city, one scenic canal photo as promised, and a cute cat leering at me from an upper-storey apartment 
I can't even begin to describe how much I loved Amsterdam - I could definitely live there! Firstly, it was great because shortly we arrived, Pedey got a call asking if he wanted a full-time position at Speedhunters, but it was also great because we lived in a cute loft apartment (thanks Airbnb), walked around the city and drank lots of coffee, worked from cafés, (not to be confused with coffee shops, of course) and I took a LOT of photos of canals. Don't worry, I'm only including one canal photo in here. Count yourself lucky...

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Morning view of Grund, Luxembourg City. This area is so rich with incredible history, it gave me a very weird feeling being there. 
We also did a weekend trip to Luxembourg and Belgium, which was so much fun. Luxembourg City was only a four hour drive from Amsterdam and it was beyond amazing. Grund, a historic village nestled below the towering natural cliffs of the Bock was perhaps the most amazing place I've ever visited. On a misty autumn morning at 7.30am it looked and felt completely unreal. Pro tip: Getting up super early in the morning to explore places that are usually overrun with tourists during the day makes such a huge difference to sightseeing experiences like this.

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Ethereal.
Our cameras don't often see time outside of their bag when it's not for work, and this trip was one of those special exceptions. It was a place of magical, ethereal beauty which Pedey captured perfectly in the above image.
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Exploring the old town of Bruges, Belgium.
We spent a day exploring Bruges too, which feels like a dream now. Another extremely beautiful city. Sigh... I love Europe so much, (although the cool old buildings and excellent croissants only just make up for how expensive it is). Anyway, after our month-long stint in the land of stroopwafels and no curtains, Pedey and I spent November working in Stockholm from the EA office again, which like Amsterdam, sadly didn't involve any car-related adventures. This was hard for us; we really missed cars and were starting to feel a bit miserable because of it. So before we headed back to New Zealand, and to break up the 28-hour-long trip home, we organised a four-day Speedhunting stopover in the United Arab Emirates.

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Clockwise from top left: Shooting a Nissan GT-R in the Jebel Al Jais mountains, the view of Dubai from the roof of our hotel, a private Nissan meeting held in Ras Al Khaimah, a Porsche 991 Turbo that started racing our GT-R on the motorway (we lost!), a GSX-R1000-powered Silver Car S2 race car and a beautiful hotel we had dinner at in Dubai.
Thankfully, the climate was lovely and not too hot at the time of our visit, as we had a lot of activities to get through in four days' time. We took a new Nissan GT-R out on one of the most incredible driving roads in the world, discovered a rare nostalgic Japanese car collection in Ras Al Khaimah, piloted an ear drum-shattering 16,000rpm cross kart through the desert, went for a passenger ride in a terrifying Hayabusa-powered Silver Car S2 and enjoyed some wonderful hospitality, courtesy of some fantastic new friends we made.

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Heading back down the mountain - such a crazy view!
Our GT-R dream drive really was an experience of a lifetime and I still can't believe that such a place can even exist! The winding mountain road leading up to the peak of Jebel Al Jais cut through layers of vast, rugged golden rock towering so high that it made me feel a bit dizzy.

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Our Nissan GT-R press car at the top of the Jebel Al Jais mountain, United Arab Emirates 
When it was Pedey's turn to drive, I actually got a bit car sick which usually never happens to me. The fact that the GT-R kept making me lose my stomach probably wasn't helping! Parking at the top and checking out the view was definitely one of those 'pinch me' moments that I'll never forget.

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Starting up Marc Planas' Silver Car ST2 cross kart. I might look confident in this photo but my heart was beating pretty damn fast!
Another highlight of our trip was hanging out with Marc Planas and the team from Silver Car UAE; not only were they genuinely lovely people, but they brought some bad ass machinery out for the day just for our enjoyment. Firstly we got to pilot Marc's ST2 kart around a makeshift course in the desert...



And then we hit up a local go kart track and went for a few passenger rides in a Silver Car S2 with Marc behind the wheel. Passenger rides on a karting track, you ask? That can't be that exciting, right? To be honest I think this was probably one of the only times I've ever felt genuinely nervous riding passenger, (although my ride along with Mad Mike at Gatebil Rudskogen back in 2013 might be an exception!). It was so hot and so incredibly loud and the acceleration was just like nothing I'd ever experienced before, combined with the fact that Marc was an extremely talented driver and knew the car really well; it really got my blood pumping much faster than usual. I really had one of those 'LOL what am I even doing right now?' moments as the sun set, casting beautiful pastel hues over the desert around us while the S2's GSX-R1000 engine screamed and I clutched for dear life onto the edges of the race seat I was strapped into. So yeah... in summary, the UAE ruled. I really, really hope we can go back again at some point.
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Back in New Zealand and reunited with the Z! Ultimate joy! 
On the 4th of December, jet-lagged and exhausted we arrived back in New Zealand. After half a year of being away from our home country it was a really strange feeling to come back and find that everything was still there, just as we left it. After missing home for so long, it suddenly felt like we had never left. Weird. And we were so excited to be reunited with our Datsun 280Z!

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With the Z parked up at Mount Maunganui, New Zealand 
So excited, in fact, that we decided to take it with us down to Mount Maunganui for New Years. It handled the three and a half hour journey like a champ, although we didn't do so well - it was so hot that we had to keep putting the windows down, and the car was still having slight issues with exhaust fumes getting drawn into the cabin. Stinging eyes and headaches aside (that sounds so bad - lol), it was still so much fun!
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New Zealand adventures, from left: Standing at the top of the country overlooking the Aupouri Peninsula, watching the sun set over Waiau, a small town on the Canterbury Plains in the South Island, and the breathtaking view of the Christchurch coastline from Summit Road - wow!
After being away from New Zealand for an extended period of time, something really changed in us. Leaving NZ not only made us realise how extremely fucking awesome it is, but how much of it we'd not even experienced yet. So during the summer, we made an effort to get out as much as possible and explore.
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From left: Possibly one of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand - the Karikari Peninsula, Matai Bay, tourist photo at Cape Reinga and a gorgeous sunset viewed from my friend's family yacht moored in Opua, Bay of Islands. 
We went on a road trip up north and stayed in Paihia for a night, spent a few nights on our friend's parents' yacht sailing around the Bay of Islands, visiting Oke Bay and a few other white sandy beaches only accessible by boat, we visited Matai Bay and the Karikari Peninsula, and drove up to Cape Reinga at the northern-most peak of New Zealand. I just can't even begin to describe how beautiful the far north is. Depending on which beach you're going to, if you visit on a weekday there's a chance you could even have it all to yourself.

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The Z parked up outside my mum's house
For most of the time while we were back in NZ, we stayed at my mum and stepdad's house, which is in Parua Bay in Whangarei. A brief back story: My family moved from Hunua in South Auckland to Whangarei when I was twelve, and I attended Parua Bay Primary for a year. I moved back down to Auckland just before I turned twenty, but my parents still live up north.
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From left: View of Whangarei heads from my mum's amazing garden, flowers from the garden that Pedey (or should I say, mum!) picked me for my birthday, mum's cat Henry, and a beautiful rainbow sunset - one of many that looked like this!
Although it was difficult having to work in the opposite time zone to Sweden, staying at mum's house was heavenly. I really love nature and I love animals, and the house is situated on a beautiful lifestyle block overlooking Whangarei harbour. Over eight years, mum and her husband have transformed the bare, empty property into a beautiful tropical paradise with a huge rose garden, a Balinese gazebo hut, two ponds, an orchard and an arboretum with a five-tiered waterfall. They have four alpacas, three cats, fish, and an enormous family of fluffy bantam hens, and the neighbours often graze their cows, goats, miniature ponies and even sometimes donkeys in their paddocks! Although working in the NZ time zone was frustrating, it was the best summer I've ever had and I've never felt more appreciative of my home country.

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This was taken just a few days before we had to put the Z back into storage. We took it on a drive around Whangarei Heads and took a few photos.
By the time March rolled around, we'd received renewed contracts from EA and it was confirmed that we'd be working for Speedhunters for another year - woohoo! And so we were faced with a strange decision: where in the world would we live? We thought we could get a six month visa to work in Sweden, so we decided to leave New Zealand once again and head out into the unknown... when we left the country we only had two weeks of accommodation booked in Stockholm and we had no idea what was going to happen after that! Rental apartments are so hard to get in Stockholm, and they're really expensive. We crossed fingers and hoped, like we always do, that things would all work out in our favour. I sold my daily driven Nissan Lucino and the Z went back into storage (sad face) and
we said our goodbyes to our friends and family.

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View of Hong Kong from Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade in Kowloon. 
First stop, Hong Kong! This was our first time visiting HK and we only stayed for three nights, but we packed in a decent amount of sightseeing around the city centre and Kowloon, and of course Speedhunting was involved too. 
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From left: Cars in the Blackbird Automotive showroom, Nathan Road in Kowloon, cool old Celica spotted near Tsim Sha Tsui. 
The main reason for our trip was a visit to the Blackbird Automotive headquarters, hosted by creative director Frank Liew. Frank is an old friend and gave us exclusive access to the private Blackbird Heritage Motorworks showroom and workshop, which was by far the most pristine, orderly space I've ever had the pleasure of stepping foot in.

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Gorgeous black Ferrari Enzo at Blackbird Automotive.
The workshop was so clean I felt as if I should be taking off my shoes to enter - I'm not even kidding! I really appreciated the level of detail put into everything, from the labelled and organised tools and gleaming work benches, to the bathrooms hidden behind secret doors and the beautiful selection of carefully selected art prints adorning the crisp white walls. Oh, and the cars were cool too. These are all images from my Instagram, but you can expect a full story with better quality pictures coming up very soon on Speedhunters.com. Thank-you so much Frank & the Blackbird team for having us!

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View from the Speedhunters Head Office in Stockholm.
From Hong Kong it was onto Stockholm, where we spent most of our time working from the EA/Speedhunters office. Since I started working for Speedhunters I've become super attached to this city and it's my goal to move here permanently or at least for a couple of years. Swedish people are super chilled out and although they can be a tad serious sometimes, they're incredibly lovely, intelligent and very welcoming.

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The trees have their green back and the tulips in full bloom in Mariatorget, Stockholm.
Stockholm is a picturesque city, rich with history and culture, yet it's extremely modern - it's very eco-conscious, the internet is super fast, there are some amazing gluten-free and dairy-free foods available there, public transport is excellent, it's incredibly safe and the coffee is just great. And when it's not dark and snowing, it's very easy on the eyes too.  
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From left: View from our rental apartment in Hornstull, beautiful sunset overlooking Kungsholmen one night walking home from work, our street 'Heleneborgsgatan' in Hornstull.
Thankfully, we did manage to secure a two-month-long rental apartment just 2.5km away from the office, and it was seriously amazing! Massive kitchen, heaps of space, a Nespresso machine and cute furniture... awesome. Life was good, but before long I began to miss cars. For some reason, every so often the idea creeps into my head that I could be this cool city-dweller who rides a bike to work in a pretty coat and scarf and lives in a modern city apartment, but then I remember, what's the point if I can't have a rad car and a garage to keep it in and work on it? Car life > any other kind of life.

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Gorgeous 200SX/S13 at the 2015 Elmia show in Jönköping, Sweden

We got a really great car fix at the Bilsport Performance & Custom Motor show (aka. the Elmia show) though, which took place in early April in Jönköping, a few hours south-west of Stockholm.

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Thanks for the T-shirt, Boosted Boris! Because vodka, guns and turbos are totally part of my every day life.
I attended this last year and thought it was incredible, and this years' show I think had to be even better. There was such a huge variety of cars on display, and although there was a bit of the usual rice/Fast and the Furious-type stuff, there were so many cars with current styling, big power and crazy attention to detail.
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From left: An incredible BMW 2002 with an S2000 engine spotted at the Elmia show, our friend Magnus' new twin turbo V8 set-up good for 1600hp (for street racing only, of course!) and a beautiful 911 turbo spotted near our apartment.
Scandinavia's car scene is overwhelmingly rad and one of the best in the world. They are just so damn crazy about cars! And not just building them; driving them too. But apart from Elmia, hanging out with our friends at Team Insane Racing on one occasion and a few modified car sightings around the city, we were so busy with work that we didn't really have time to do any other car-related activities.
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From left: Rök, a beautiful old church in Östergötland, a very cute courtyard in Gothenburg, and Pedey with the Rök Runestone (next to the Rök church).
We managed to see some pretty cool non-car-related sights though. I managed a quick trip two-day trip to Gothenburg, and on the way back from Jönköping we stopped at some cool historic sites, like the Rök Runestone in Östergötland, which is predicted to be from the 9th century and is considered to be the first piece of written Swedish literature. It's pretty weird being able to run your fingers across a rock inscribed by Vikings.

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Me standing in front of the ruins of Brahehus Castle near Jönköping!
We stopped at the Brahehus Castle ruins too, which overlook the stunning Vättern lake and date back to the 17th century. Perhaps it's the nerd in me, but I really have a thing with castles.
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Stockholm adventures, from left: Exploring the little island of Reimersholme in the city (beautiful cherry blossoms!), Pedey walking through Gamla Stan, walking to the office only a few weeks earlier when it was still snowing - this was the first time I'd ever seen real snow falling!
Sadly, we couldn't get a permit to stay in Sweden for longer than three months, so instead of going all the way back home to New Zealand, Pedey and I are going to be working from Japan for three months! Since we've been to Japan a few times already we really wanted to make this trip different somehow, so we decided to buy a car in Japan and live on the outskirts of the city. Thanks to Airbnb we've booked two separate accommodations, both on the outskirts(-ish) of Tokyo. This also means we can have larger apartments with actual beds which is an extremely exciting concept!

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Japan weirdness at Atsugi Parking area last year
I'm sad that we're going to miss summer in Sweden, but at the same time I'm so excited to actually have my own car in Japan and hopefully drive at tracks like Honjo, Ebisu and Nikko. Now that would be sick!!! It's going to be so sweaty and I've already developed a phobia of giant centipedes (as we are going to be living near a forest - arghh!!!) but I can't wait. The Tardey World Tour is still happening, we still don't have an official home, and it looks like we aren't anywhere closer to finding one - but that's fine by us. Stay tuned for my next update from Japan very soon! :)

 私は日本にいきます, 5月29日に!3ヶ月間、私は青梅市次いで神奈川県に住んでます。私も大阪、名古屋、長崎を訪問します。今回は、私は車を買います。私はとても興奮しています! 私は日本での私の友人を見て興奮しています! ^_^ 私は新しい友達を作ることを楽しみにして!また、ニュージーランドからの私の友人が日本で私を訪問します!わーい!

Peace out,
T x