Sitting under the shelter of the deck, with wind whipping through the sails of boats docked at the yacht club and the occasional raindrop finding my face, a thought struck me: this is one of the possibilities I dreamt. When I was preparing to move to New Zealand and considering how I might spend an entire year exploring a new country, one of my ideas was to find a cute seaside town to live in for a while. I could get work at a restaurant where I could get to know some of the locals, and spend as much time by the ocean as possible. Somehow, it has taken me three (miserable) weeks to realize that that is exactly what I’m doing right now.
The last few months have been challenging. Although I had very little planned for my time here, I still have had the feeling that nothing was going as I expected it to. My first job was a stressful disaster, the car I bought confidently turned out to be a lemon, my health took a sudden downturn, and I ran out of money sooner than I expected. With all the unexpected stress, it’s been hard for me to take a step back and remember that I am here, in a place that I dreamt of visiting for as long as I can remember, living in a beautiful town with an amazing partner, where I get to see the ocean multiple times a day.
For a few reasons, my mindset seems to be shifting again. It seems a bit silly, but sitting in the darkness the other night, eating my shift meal hidden from customers and shivering in the evening rainstorm, I couldn’t help but smile. There is something funny about suddenly waking up from the fog of depression and realizing just how dramatic and pessimistic your worldview had become. Laughter is an important coping skill–being able to recognize where you have been an asshole and then apologize and laugh it off can save you. I am well-versed in spiraling into self-hatred when I make a mistake. I have very high standards for myself and the world around me, and this learned behavior has caused issues in my relationships for years. It’s one of several negative thought patterns I hope to work on unraveling so that I can live with more peace in my mind and love in my heart.
But anyway, I started typing today to give you all a more tangible update. (How easy it is to get carried away philosophizing on life…). Last we talked, Leo and I were somewhat aimlessly traveling around the Christchurch area, doing some van repairs and trying to sort out what we would do next. We landed on a Workaway at a meditation and yoga center that needed help with their organic garden–an opportunity that sounded like an absolute dream to both of us, and the respite we needed after a very difficult departure from the lodge on the West Coast. But of course, it did not live up to that. We soon realized that it was a poor fit, and decided to take our leave and head to Nelson. Funds were running low so I found a job as a cleaner at a motel soon after getting to town.
After a couple of weeks living in the van and commuting to work, sneaking into a campsite to avoid paying fees, and spending every afternoon at the library, I was growing tired of van life. (I know, it sounds nuts coming from me, but living out of a vehicle when you can spend every day taking your time exploring nature is much different from doing it with a full time job and a partner).
So, I started looking around for rooms to rent and eventually found one that suited our needs and budget. After a quick tour and meeting Hugo the cat, it was settled that we would move in the following Saturday.
It’s been three weeks since we moved into this room that gets lots of sunlight in the afternoon and has plenty of space for me to do yoga. In that time, I’ve picked up a second job at a restaurant and started a digital photography class at a local co-ed college. The restaurant shares its building with a yacht club, and it gets some of the best sunset views in town.
Lately I’ve been quite exhausted from work and these somewhat mysterious health issues that have emerged in the last couple months. Some days I wonder if I made the right decision in coming here without a plan or much money saved up. Some nights I’ve laid in bed exhausted but in so much pain that I can’t fall asleep, and I wonder how I’ll get through the next day. But… I always do.
Yesterday, Leo and I drove to the red and white house that’s fenced off from a landslide and we parked off the main road. We waited for our chance to dart across, then climbed down the barrier and ran into the ocean. After a bit of coaxing and lots of laughter, I finally dived in. The cool water took my breath away but it felt so good to be submerged in the saltwater. We laughed and swam and played, shielding our eyes from the glare of the late-afternoon sun. Goosebumps covered my skin as we emerged from the sea and were smacked with wind, but I felt invigorated.
It was just a simple, short swim, from a spot I drive by at least twice a day, but it was just what I needed. There’s a reason that people describe the ocean as cleansing and renewing. There is something about water that is just so healing–whether it’s river or ocean, waterfall or lake, being submerged or simply sitting and watching this life source. Yesterday’s swim was the nudge that I needed to return to my joy.
I don’t know how long we’ll stay here, but I intend to make the most of it. We’re budgeting tightly but we’ve got plenty of free things on our to-do list. During this time of settling down a bit, I hope to really get to know our temporary home. I’ve also been developing my photography skills, working on a novel more seriously, and of course continuing with my spiritual practices. Though there is much to look forward to in the future, there is also great joy to be found every day. I need only to slow down, to pause and breathe and remember that I am here. Love is here, and I am here.
PS: Whakatū (pronounced pha-ka-too) is the Te Reo name for Nelson. Several different Māori iwi (tribes) have lived in this area since the 1300s. In the 1800s, the New Zealand Company in London began systematically colonizing the area. The city of Nelson was quickly established by Europeans, but rights to land would be disputed by its Indigenous occupants to this day.