While this blog has been flying on relative radio silence these past few months, I have a couple big changes coming up in my life, and I figured now is as good a time as any to get back on the horse and organize my thoughts.
I’ve spent the past year living in the stunning Hunua Ranges of New Zealand’s North Island, and come Wednesday I’ll be flying home to the less temperate, but more familiar Boston. Now, this has been my first real foray into prolonged international travel, and with my departure date hurtling towards me at an alarming rate, its been stirring up some unfamiliar emotions; there is so much to be gained from spending time abroad, and I don’t think I put enough time into internalizing the lessons presented to me these past months until the window to take them in began to close.
To get some perspective on what this trip has been for me, before I came here I had been bouncing around jobs in Boston for months. I had been a stoneware salesman, a barista, a secretary at a publisher, worked a brief stint at an energy trading company, and even spent a single day as a Pre-School art teacher. While the job around me changed with an alarming level of regularity, my life however had found a way to stagnate. While what I did from 9 to 5 was up in the air, the rest of my day was predictably spent doing the same few things, in the same few places. At twenty three I was convinced I had already hit my (unimpressive)stride.
A chance online encounter with an old friend presented me with the chance to travel. He had a job lined up for me at a camp in New Zealand, that paid well and included housing. The only thing between me and travel was a plane ticket. Making things more exciting, a girl who I had vaguely met in college expressed interest in joining me on the trip, and being that I found her drop-dead gorgeous, I wasn’t a hard sell. Suddenly, I had this thing, off in the future, that made me more than what I was. I could get through my daily grind, I could stomach any job, however soul-crushing and menial, because I knew that in the distance, rapidly approaching, was a globe-trotting adventure with an attractive stranger.
For a number of reasons, this was not what my trip ended up being. The girl and I briefly had a fling that ended quietly and without fanfare. The job did not provide the pay or amount of work I needed. My house flooded, on three separate occassions. There was a distinct period of disillusionment upon my arrival in New Zealand, during which I realized that, maybe, I had enjoyed the trip more as something to bring up in conversation as this big, exciting thing I was going to do, than as an actuality. I had this thought; that I had designed this trip hoping to stave off the fear that I’m boring, and upon experiencing things I was realizing, maybe I was. I found myself shrinking, a quieter shell of the boisterous image I had spent years cultivating. More importantly, I didn’t feel like me, I was a stranger adrift in a vast foreign sea.
I couldn’t say what ultimately pulled me out of this funk; maybe it was the discovering I’m going to be an uncle soon, maybe it was the community here, maybe the obscene levels of scenic beauty, or maybe it was opening up lines of communication to my friends back home, but the fact is; I was eventually dragged out of my haze. I began doing things again, I felt vocal, I felt loud again, I felt like me. I sampled experiences; I performed poetry for the first time at a public venue, I tried my hand a
white water kayaking recreational drowning, I spent thanksgiving being chased by beach patrol while lighting off fireworks, I got my first tattoo, I explored abandoned cabins in some of the most remote areas I’ve ever seen, and so much more. I’m leaving this country brimming with stories, heavy with experience.
What has been eating at me though, is a question I’ve gotten a few times in the past few weeks; “Whats your biggest take away from New Zealand?” It has gnawed at me incessentantly, and despite mulling it over countless times, I have been unable to place a finger on what has stuck with me most. Could be its the knowledge that at the end of the day wherever I end up, I know I can at least find me, and the knowledge of what that actually means. Maybe its a truer understanding of what my friends are to me and how much the people around me can influence not just the time I spend with them, but who I am when I’m with them. Even these are crude, cliche answers; and while they don’t feel incorrect, they still don’t seem to encapsulate how profoundly I feel this trip has given me a semblance of perspective.
One of the first things I saw when I arrived here was a Kauri tree. Kauris are steeped in myth; they’re the biggest trees in New Zealand, and while they’re certainly impressive to behold based sheerly on their enormity, there is a weight to their image that leaves me grasping at words everytime I see them. I heard a story about the trees. It said at the beginning of time the sky and the earth were so deeply in love with eachother that there was no room between them, and all was dark. Gods tried time and time again to find a way to push the two apart, but to no avail, until the god of the forest grew the first Kauri tree, which thurst up and pushed the sky away, lighting up the world. This stayed with me. Its bounced around in my head for months, and I’ve been trying to find a way to process it, to really take in its meaning. I think we all like to see ourselves in stories, to find a way to connect it to our own personal lore, and maybe thats what I’ve been doing. I think thats what I gained though, I found the connection between myself and the story.
Sometimes, a push away from comfort is what you need to let in the light.