Today, I’m feeling incredibly settled here in New Zealand. This is a big turn around from just a few short weeks ago. I don’t know if it will last, but it’s nice for now. Would I feel settled anywhere I stop moving for long enough? We’ve been here longer than we’ve been anyplace in the last four years and it has only been a little over eight months. We’ve been living in displacement.
I wrote these words just a few months ago. Today I sit in a half-empty apartment surrounded by boxes waiting to be filled and shipped back to the United States. I have accepted a job in North Carolina and reluctantly we are leaving New Zealand.
It’s been one of the most rollicking years of my life with extreme highs and lows coming in rapid succession. I’ve gone from the initial high of learning we were coming to New Zealand, down into the trough of thinking it was a horrible mistake, back up to the heights of a honeymoon love that I am now walking away from. Throw in a big identity crisis and training for and completing my biggest run in four years and it has been an eventful 12 months.
Though we are returning to the United States, I still can’t help but think that New Zealand isn’t done with us yet. I feel like we are traveling back into the past by going home while the future is still here. What does that mean? Thoughts are just thoughts, but they do color and shape reality. What is it about this place that makes it so sticky for me? Is it the unspeakable beauty I have known here? The peace? The stillness? The laughter? Words don’t do this place justice and even a picture can only say so much.
I have come to deeply love this “land of the long white cloud” along with its people, kiwis and fellow migrants alike. There is a relaxedness about this place, permeating the air and all aspects of life here. Everything just seems a little easier, a little less full of bullshit. Things, like paying taxes and buying and selling a vehicle, are simple processes that can be done online in a matter of minutes. As I write these words I question once again why we are leaving.
How can I say goodbye to this place; this land of sky and sea, of mountains rippled across the land like frosting on the most delicious cupcake you ever tasted? This strangely familiar place that I now somehow think of as home. The air and water here are now within me, composing the very cells of my body. New Zealand’s soil is underneath my fingertips.
We go back to a place where we are known and we are loved. We go back to the sounds numberless chirping crickets singing us to sleep on warm summer nights. Back to wandering old, familiar pathways. Back to things that are remembered.
So while my heart is still breaking over our departure from New Zealand, I look forward to spending time in my other homes: the mountains of Western North Carolina, the sun-drenched beaches of the Outer Banks, the stillness of the Everglades, and hopefully a return next summer to the Camino de Santiago. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend significant amounts of time in parts of the world so different from where I came from. I can honestly say that many of them now feel like home.
I’ve written many times about home. It’s a feeling in the heart. Sometimes it consists primarily of the people around me and sometimes it is the way the landscape speaks to me and works its way into my essence. Some places do both. New Zealand is one of them.