One year ago, I boarded a plane bound for Auckland. In the strange time suck that occurs when you fly a wide path over the Pacific Ocean, I lost a day. I departed Denver on November 1st and arrived 17 hours later in Auckland on November 3rd. Somewhere in the sky, between short fits of sleep and plenty of snacks, November 2nd evaporated.
When I made that journey a year ago, I didn’t have an exact plan for what I would do next, but I figured it would involve more travel. After all, my working holiday visa allowed me one year in Aotearoa. When that year was up, I figured I would choose a new country to explore, and continue hopping around the globe for a while. As usual, the universe had other plans.
I am extremely grateful for all of the beautiful places I’ve been able to visit across Aotearoa, as well as the countless kind people who have lifted my spirits and shared conversation. That is one stereotype that holds true—Kiwis are friendly as, and love a good yarn. Most of them are quite happy to help you out if they find you in a pinch. There are some fantastic people on these islands.
Over the course of the last year, through moments high and low, I have fallen deeply in love with my partner and have decided to apply to stay in the country longer to be with him. But not only that—I want to root myself here for my own reasons. Over my last few years of travel, I’ve grown quite weary. I spent years idealizing a life of travel, dreaming of backpacking around the world, and then finally embarking on my own nomadic journey in May of 2021. The truth is, that kind of life is hard. There are so many challenges I could not have foreseen. I’m honestly not sure how people do it long term (I’m sure there’s a fair bit of stuff we see online that doesn’t paint a full picture, but still. I know people who have lived nomadically for decades, and I don’t know how they cope). It’s difficult to admit that a dream I held onto and nurtured for so long must now be let go of. It feels a bit like I’ve failed, or that I’m losing someone close to me. It’s not the first time in my life that I’ve had to give up on a dream because I’ve grown older and my path has shifted. Letting go is not an easy thing, but few things are. It is a necessary step to make room for what comes next. To release those things (beliefs, jobs, people, places) that no longer fit with our lives so that we might create space for that which suits us better.
This was one of the great hard lessons of this past winter: I need stability. While I love traveling and do plan to travel more in the future, I’ve realized that I need a home too. I need community. I’ve had to face the very painful reality that while I do have people in the United States (and beyond) who love me, they are not my community anymore, not in the traditional sense. So, I have to build a new one. I hope that in the coming months I can forge the kinds of friendships and connections that I ache for. I have already found some wonderful community spaces and people who have welcomed me, and I am so grateful for that. I’m excited to get to know Ōtautahi/Christchurch and find my place within it.
At the same time, I do grieve. I miss my friends and family and I know that our relationships will never be as strong. Life happens in the real world, not online or through a phone. As much as I have clung to people and tried to maintain connections, I have to face the truth that it is simply not the same as being in someone’s physical life. This does not mean that I will give up or stop talking to those people, just that I need to accept reality as it is and work to form new bonds here. I cherish all my friends who are scattered across the world. I love deeply, and it tends to happen fast. This has caused a lot of heartache, especially in this last year. But I wouldn’t change it. Loving people fiercely is a gift, a two-edged sword like any other. I will always cheer on my friends from afar, and hope that we can reconnect in person one day.
So, what happens now? I’m officially on a visitor visa, with plans to apply for a more long-term visa very soon. Once that is all sorted, I think I will feel like I can finally breathe. It has been a beautiful adventure traveling around this past year, but I am exhausted and it has been hard to not be able to make many long-term plans. I’ve already started rooting down here in Ōtautahi a little bit, and I look forward to being able to do that more seriously soon. I’m also looking forward to visiting Colorado in the near future and catching up with lots of loved ones.
Our paths in life are winding, they stop and start again, they have potholes and traverse great mountains and deep valleys. And we never really know what’s coming next. So love fiercely while you can, live life as fully as you are able wherever you find yourself. It is simply too short and precious not to find joy in all the little moments we’re offered each day.
Go with kindness.
Please enjoy this random selection of happy memories from the last 364 days: