I recently went to Auckland for a Writer’s Festival. I was there for 4 days, 3 nights & 2 bottles of wine.
When I first landed in NZ, I hated Auckland. I was scared and alone and I had just come from a busy, bustling city and wasn’t in the mood for another one. It felt loud and dirty and uninspiring and I didn’t want to be there.
This time around, I loved it. I loved coming back to the place where it had all began; walking the same streets that I’d walked four months ago only this time, feeling overwhelmingly confident and proud instead of insecure about my life choices. And this time, after coming from the slow-pace of Taupo, I loved being back in a city. I weirdly loved putting on jeans and makeup and walking with my takeaway coffee amongst all the city fashionistas heading off to work. It felt comfortable and normal and reminded me of all the reasons I loved the Toronto hustle-bustle.
I loved the writer’s festival itself. I initially went with the aim to network; to make contacts and get my foot inside the NZ publishing scene. In that sense, it was unsuccessful. However, it proved to be insanely worthwhile. I sat in on one lecture in particular that really resonated, because this writer (who I had never heard of before but quickly added to my must-read list) was such an engaging speaker who didn’t gloss over any of the bullshit. He talked as if we were having conversation; as if he had just woken up and was like yo, I guess I’ll tell you guys my little life story. And it was amazing, and made me know that I could do this too, and I actually teared up a little bit because you could feel the entire auditorium lost in this vibe. And the best part was it was all high school kids, and it was so COOL to see hundreds of kids get excited about READING! And as I felt that feeling I knew it was the lamest thing I would ever feel and the lamest thing I would ever write about, but it made me happy so whatever. Onwards and upwards, baby.
The timing of when I was in Auckland proved to work wonders, too – aligning perfectly so I could meet up for beers with an old friend from high school during the one day he happened to be there. He was someone I haven’t spoken to in literally ten years, but it was SO much fun and such a comoforting feeling to see someone from the tiny town of Woodstock; someone who knew me before life had really happened; before I perfected the topknot and starting dropping f-bombs left right and centre. I also reunited with Erin – the first friend I had in NZ and someone who burst into my life when I needed it most – only this time she was a Mrs. and this time I wasn’t intimidated by my own life. We drank wine and I got unexpectedly tipsy pre bus ride home and proceeded to eat an entire loaf of garlic bread and fall into a deep, deep food/drunk/hungover coma for the entire bus ride.
It was a beautiful four days. It was a nice (necessary?) change of pace. But the best part of all was coming back to Taupo.
My bus landed in the wee hours of the morning, and knowing I had to work at 7 the next morning I planned to drag my suitcase straight home to bed. But after I heard the Rainbow crew was at Mulligans for beers, I dragged my suitcase there instead – and not because I had FOMO. Because I wanted to see them. And there they all were, sitting at the front high-top sipping on Tui. And as Christine got up to hug me hello, I felt so unexplainable happy. To see these people. To be back in Taupo. To feel this genuine excitement at hearing what they all had been up to these past few days. To feel this overwhelming feeling that I was home.
And yes – I have been comfortable here for awhile. I have loved feeling settled and chilled out and having no pressure to figure out what to do with my day. But it wasn’t until this moment – until I saw those people in this context at that time – that I fully realized how much of a home had been created. How it didn’t even feel like New Zealand anymore – it just kind of felt like life.
I won’t be staying here much longer. My plane is set to take off in less than 3 weeks. And I’m equal parts excited for the next adventure and sad for this one to be over – because in a sense it does feel like I’m leaving a tiny, temporary home. But mostly I feel extremely grateful; that I was able to find a place that made me feel that. That I met the right people and bought the right shampoo and was able to blur the line between travelling and life; that they became one in the same. That New Zealand life has just become life – and not in the sense that I want to stay here forever; that I want this to actually be home. Simply in the sense that it is a wonderful, wonderful feeling to be hundreds of km away from the life you’ve lived for 27 years and feel like it is so easy to be there. That you don’t have to see beautiful things or find hidden gems along the countryside to appreciate what you’re doing. That you can simply sit in your sweatpants and drink a cup of coffee with Olly, and know that life is good. That life is easy. That you’ve found a home.