To Travel

When you travel blog, you spend time sorting out the parts of it that you hope to share with the folks back home. It isn’t always honest, though it’s meant to be kind. I want my friends and family to gain some of this too. I find myself in this strange space of trying to translate myself backwards. For I am a critter that changes a lot, while I am even more a critter who stays much the same.

To travel has become a gift of forgetting that I’m traveling. Realising my home’s inside my head. So, when I sit down to write or listen to the trees, I feel like here is where I’ve always been.

To travel used to be to collect for me. Now I’m learning about my greed, or at least starting to. Now, to travel is to experience. For there is no photo for later, there is only now.

No longer is it to compare. New Zealand is not America, the Alps are not the Rockies. Why am I even thinking about the phrases and prices of where I was once. I am here now.

To travel well is to notice. The calls of the birds. The changes in the night sky. The smells.

The people. The way friends meet up. The pet names mothers and fathers use for their children. It’s taking notice of how Grandma’s face always lights up when her granddaughter walks in the room. Or how John at the pub is always grumpy about the head of his porter. How same-siders sit close in restaurant booths and take in the view.

Space. Who keeps it and who doesn’t.

Power. What that word actually means to anyone. If anything.

Nature. Are we part of it or aren’t we? Are we trying to be less so? Is that the truth about us?

I hope we all can appreciate the misunderstandings. Like the time I realised I was mistaking the word “fear” for “fair” when listening to my friends talk. Or, a more fun one, the time I couldn’t tell if we were talking about beer or a bear. Which for many, would be a big difference, but for me, produces a similar smile. I hope we all can give ourselves a chance to laugh in our own faces. To realise that the soil that grew us has given us certain flavours. Which is just information. No need to call it right or wrong.

I tell you what, friends and family, I am bringing home some changes. Just in myself. I’ve learned a bit about quality, and kindness, and slowing my shit down. I’m learning to make less assumptions. Not to be in a hurry. Right now I find my recent weight gain to be lovely. For it came from a lot of good drinks with a lot of gorgeous people. It came from love. The love of bread and olives and the knowledge that I might not want to have unlimited access to those things too often. For the first time ever, I don’t mind. I’m glad for that.

My conversations with the beautiful people of Adelaide have been generous and present. We offer up the things we’re learning about ourselves. I’ve learned that Americans are really hard on themselves.

That first hit me on the Te Araroa walk. It was in a hut with three lovely Germans. They marveled at my need to drop joy out of it. As though every step was owed to some ever-present viewer. Other cultures don’t see why we can’t miss the road walks. We feel like if we miss any steps, then we haven’t done it.

“According to whom?” One of them asked.

“Touche” I had to admit. It’s time to examine yourself when even the Germans are telling you that you could stand to ease up a bit.

Spending time with these ideas, I feel free. It’s no wonder its taken me 31 years to be ok with a bit of belly fat.

I sit now, in an American coffee shop and say thank you to my travels. It’s not an ending, but it’s a chapter I hope to honour.

Always Coming Home

Lots of people walk away, together and apart. I sit alone and watch. Feeling glad, as a combination of grateful and sad. Rivers make valleys. Valleys make mountains even higher, creating space from them.

This is a good moment, saying hello to the shell my new family has made. It’s an empty shell now, but emptiness is full in it’s own way. I call my empty shells gratitude. They are beautiful.

The gift now is this. It doesn’t have to be anything. It already is.

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Of Smoothies and Sisterhood

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Rich beyond my wildest dreams. That’s the best way I can think of to describe my life in Russell. When people asked me why I was moving there, the best I could say was, “Because the water is magnetic blue, and because……avocados.”┬áThere was a feeling, that was all I knew. I haven’t been worried about what that means. I’m finally learning, at least for now, to let my heart guide me. Perhaps even more than that, my gut. My gut likes oranges and avocados. My heart likes writing by the sea and kayaking to islands in the morning before work. I found more than I was looking for in Russell. I found a kind of love that grows on trees and is everywhere you look.

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My job at the Omata Vineyard was enriching. I got to be with plants, to learn and grow in a way that was an absolute honour. The crew I worked with was beautiful. Therefor, we got close quickly, as we often do around good wine. I felt like I fit in, which is something I don’t generally feel in restaurant jobs. I attribute that one to the local loud plant life and beautiful ocean around us. It made us all want to be healthy more than most things. Our greeting chats in the morning were centered around topics of the ingredients in our smoothies and the bread we made. I had never kneaded dough before, but it felt like I’d always been doing it. For much of that, I give credit to a very special teacher, Reiko.

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Reiko and I lived together, worked together, and still came home excited to cook meals or perhaps more, to share them. I knew we were on a similar journey in my first ten minutes with her. Co-workers called us “Team Pizza” for the first week of work, but then naturally began to call us the “Pizza Sisters” soon after. She helped me find quality. She helped me hone peace. She protected me from the fire. She really did feel like a sister. Surface level, we traded smoothies for bread. Underneath the obvious, we traded wisdom for compassion. Self reflection found a safe place to be seen. I have gratitude like rain for Reiko

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Our other roommate made life even more beautiful. His gifts as a Swiss-Italian were that of generosity, passion, and a table full of beautiful food, shared often with travelers. The first time I sat down to family dinner in that house there was a couple from France, a woman from Oregon, a man from Germany, a woman and her son from Bay of Islands, then the three of us, Japanese, American, and Swiss/Italian. It was a beautiful blend of learning about the differences in our cultures, but finding ourselves to be quite the same in many ways. The hodgepodge of us, sharing wine and stories and feeling at home.

My last weekend in that house was the first time the three of us cooked together. At the climax of our concocting, Reiko was stirring two pots at once over the stove top while I chopped and blended and added ingredients around her and Chris threw seasonings into the Roux with the air of a fairy tale creature sprinkling magic dust. Disorderly, but skillfully intended. We watched him with our mouths just hanging wide open. Our hearts the same.

In those six weeks, I reveled and I said thank you as often as I could. To the sailboats scattered among the sparkly water, which provided my morning coffee view.

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To the Tui and the Morepork. Sounds I will deeply miss. To the vines I got to help grow, and the culture that helped to cultivate me. To the incredible people I shared meals with. To wild, mute laughter. Moon cycles and bonfires on the beach. To the family who shared their story with me and invited me to their table. To the dirt between my toes.

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Rich beyond my wildest dreams, and I’ve had some pretty wild ones. Thank you Russell.