Travel far enough to meet yourself …

There is nothing better than the feeling of walking through the arrival gates of Auckland International Airport. I love going away and I love adventuring but the smell of crisp air, the familiarity of surroundings and seeing family waiting through the gates … It’s the feeling of home and it is unbeatable. It’s an interesting predicament that wanting so badly to go away and leave our little country in search of different experiences and new cultures but then also being so contentedly happy to come home and cocoon oneself with our way of life once again. It’s a concept that is unique to our country I think.

I was excited to be home, excited to pick up Phillip, excited to see family, excited for the new adventures that lay ahead for Damian and me. It was nice to be home and there was no time for post-holiday blues. In all honesty, they were not on the cards at all, I was ready to be home and ready to get back into our life. We also had no option but to be ready because life did not gently ease us back into reality. We both had work in four days time (me in National Park and Damian in Auckland) to prepare for. We also wanted to go straight to pick up Phillip but needed to pick up the car in Whangamata first. Oh and somewhere between Boston, Singapore, and Vietnam, we had bought a house so there were bankers in New Plymouth to see and Lawyers in Hamilton to meet with and of course the house in Ohakune to actually visit. We were busy but we were happy. Happy to be back.

What I didn’t realize at this hectic time, however, was that while I was happy to be home and ready for our new life adventures, my definition of importance and priority had changed somewhat dramatically.

Packing up to travel can be like moving your foot out of a bucket of sand, I believe. You move your foot and there is still an imprint for you to come back to, eventually, when you are ready. You can just put your foot back into the same mark and continue from where you left off previously like nothing had ever happened. Time marches on and when you come back nothing at all has changed. You fall back into the same routines as if you never went anywhere. I, however, found this difficult. My bucket, it seemed, was full of water rather than sand. When I lifted my foot out and left the water filled the gap and swallowed any trace of my footprint. When I tried to come back to continue on from where I left off, I couldn’t find the same place again. Things just didn’t feel right. No matter what I tried, I just could not find that old print and contentedly carry on my way. It wasn’t a bad thing or a result of any one thing, it was all just different. I was different. My thinking was different.

People talk about how traveling changes them, opens their mind to new people and places and shows them other perspectives of the world. This is all so true but I guess what traveling did for me, was put things from my life into perspective. Without sounding too overtly philosophical, it clarified answers to questions I had about what was essential to my happiness.

Pre-trip I thought the answer to that was simply traveling, the big missing piece to my happy pie. I had never really done it, it was what was missing, so that must be the answer. In reality, I learned, travel just allowed me the time, space and objectivity to question aspects of my thinking and find my own answers along the way. Things like: What was it I was really missing at home? What was in my bag that I was content living with for four months? Who made a genuine effort to keep in touch while I was away? Who was genuinely excited and happy to hear updates from me? Who helped us out during that time when there was nothing in it for them? and most of all, what was the most enjoyable and memorable parts of the trip?

What became clear was that actually, I didn’t need much to be happy. I didn’t need a million outfits in my wardrobe or the best and flashiest of anything. I didn’t need to be surrounded by a lot of people or bother with people who treated interactions and support as a transaction. What I did need was family, a few good friends, Phill, a home base, the mountain and to share it all with Damian. Within the scope of that, I was genuinely happy. I also realized how lucky I truly was because we already had all of that.

So why could I not slip back into my previous life? Why did things not feel right anymore? Well, I had slowly begun to ask myself why? Why am I pushing myself to work longer and harder to earn not really that much? Why am I stressing myself to the point of breaking to win the approval of people who don’t respect me? Why am I forgoing the things I love and enjoy to spend more time moving away from my passions? Why am I compromising my happiness to appease some notion of how life ‘should’ be lived? As it turned out, I couldn’t answer these things and that bothered me. I had just learned so much about myself and what was really important to me, I could not continue on a path that contradicted that. I needed to make a change.

So I did, I mustered up all the courage I could (admittedly most of this came from Damian and his unwavering belief that “all would work out because it always does”) and I began to build my life around what was really important to me. I booked into my level one instructors exam, I resigned from my job, I re-evaluated the people around me and I began to look to the future with a new optimism of renewed hope. The future looked bright. Winter was coming. As it turned out, work offered me part time hours. Which I took, as at the time it seemed like a happy compromise and somewhat fitted around my desire to be on the mountain more. So it wasn’t all as dramatic as it sounds.

What I am trying to do now is not waver from what I have found to be most essentially important for the life Damian and I want to lead. The decisions I try to make reflect the path we want to take and not what is projected onto us from other people. It is really hard however, people all have their own self-interest and once they realize you are not willing to compromise yourself for them any longer they can turn nasty, belittle you, make you feel guilty, or slip away altogether. At the end of the day, it is just another opportunity to learn about navigating the world and further develop the confidence to be true to one’s self. Which is all that really matters because once you have finally traveled far enough to meet yourself, how can you then turn your back and ignore what you found?

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