Originally I was going to title this post “365 Away from Home”; but, one of the many things I have learned this past year is that home is a feeling – not a place.
I have had many ” homes” this last year. I have lived with family, family friends and friend’s family. I have lived in a van, in a tent and in inside of a dairy. Some of these places felt more like home than others – but, it was the people I was surrounded by and my attitude toward each that affected my overall experience.
I’d like to think that I have grown a lot this last year. I’ve tried really hard to see life from a different perspective, and to embrace what ever it is that life throws my way.
It’s absolutely insane to think that the photo below was taken a year ago today. That morning was a blur – the weather was crazy and emotions high. It was last minute packing, cleaning and goodbyes- high on excitement and nerves. I don’t think it really quite felt real for Kels and I. It wasn’t until we got through check in and were playing Skip-Bo while waiting to board our first (two hour delayed) plane that it really hit me. Were we really taking our lives across the world in three bags between the two of us? Were we seriously leaving everything and everyone we knew, all of the comforts we grew up with?
We landed in Brisbane, Australia full of naive excitement. I think we both thought we could just pick up life where we left off – just this time in a country with warmer weather. We strived to recreate the feeling of home – we found a gym, created a routine around it and continued on with optimism that we would find jobs and settle in. Finding jobs proved to be a bit more difficult than anticipated; and, that was when we learned our first big lesson – things do not always go to plan.
We were forced to re-evaluate our plans and decided to leave city-life behind. We bought a van and decided to look for work on a farm. We drove 650km North, only to drive 2300km South. We left hot, sunny and beachy Queensland for a chilly dairy farm in South Australia. We quickly learned that Aussies did get a winter- some mornings were so cold that I lost entire feeling in my hands.
The 88 days spent on the farm were some of the most mentally challenging days of my life. I struggled being stuck on a farm with very little social interaction. I was missing having a proper gym (rather than a kettlebell, skipping rope and an old tire). I hated being shit on by the cows. I felt completely stuck. After a month or so, I also began to struggle with the ethics of dairy farming. The farmers we worked for treated the animals very well – but they were still living a sad life. Those 3 months tested me, and they tested Kels’ and my relationship. We both were hardcore struggling and learned to be rocks for each other when we both wanted to be puddles. If Kels wasn’t as incredible as he is, I would not have lasted 3 months there.
When our time on the farm was done, we headed straight to the East Coast. We were ready for sun, salt water and freedom! We had very little plans, we didn’t know where we were parking our home each night – and even when we were parked, we weren’t sure if we’d get woken up in the middle of the night and told to move. We spent six weeks being absolute beach bums; what we lacked in routine, showers and stress we made up for in reading in the sun, splashing in the sea and really appreciating the little things. We headed up the coast in time for Kels to attend a coaching conference and for me to volunteer at a yoga festival near Brisbane.
The yoga festival was WAY out of my comfort zone – which is exactly why I volunteered for it. I wanted an opportunity to meet people and expose myself to something new. I caught a ride at a highway gas station with a girl I’d never met, and spent the following hour and a half getting to know her before sharing a bed with her that night. The festival itself was something else! There were so many inspiring people there; from all walks of life. It wasn’t just all regular yoga either – there was hula hooping, acroyoga, hip hop dancing, drum circles and yoga on the beach. It was an incredible experience and I gained a massive appreciation for the many forms of self-love and expression.
We caught our flight out of Brisbane to New Zealand in mid-November. We had a roadtrip around the South Island planned, Christmas with my NZ family and then planned to head back to Australia to find work again (little did I know that I wasn’t going to return back to Aus at all).
We spent a month living out of a little car and a borrowed orange tent. We lived in nature; we hiked up epic mountains, swam in icy rivers and skipped rocks until our arms were sore. We adopted vegetarianism (something Kels would have completely rejected a few months earlier). We spent just about every waking moment in the fresh air together and I can honestly say those 4 weeks were some of my favourite of the whole year. Being in Australia we hadn’t realized how much we had missed the presence of the mountains, and all of a sudden we realized New Zealand just felt like home.
We spent the holidays with the NZ side of my family and I got to see my sister Margaret for the first time in 3 years. We spent the week of Christmas in the Golden Bay area, and on December 23, 2017 on Wharariki Beach (my favourite beach in the universe) Kels asked me to start a new adventure with him, and I said yes.
Afterwards, we went to Wellington to spend more time with Margaret. It was there that Kels and I decided to once again go against everything we had planned and to stay in New Zealand. I remember calling my parents so confused about life – I had no idea if we were doing the right thing. We took a leap of faith and trusted our hearts. Kels had to head back to Australia to sell our van and to apply for a New Zealand WHV; I ended up just never getting on the plane.
I moved up to Auckland, NZ the beginning of February – Kels joined me about 2 weeks later. From there, it felt like we had completed a big circle – here we were, back in a big city looking for work and to start a “normal” life again. We went to multiple flat viewings and job interviews, once again questioning if we made the correct choice. By March we found a flat, jobs and we each found a gym to call home.
And now I’m here.
Sitting in a cafe on my day off reflecting on this year. I won’t lie, writing this and remembering all the challenges, successes, cries and smiles has brought up so many emotions. I may or may not have had a tear or two slip down my cheek and into my cappuccino. That being said, I would not change any of this. I have gained so much out of life. I have been knocked down, only to get back up stronger. I have seen more this year than I ever thought I would have. The me one year ago is not the same me sitting here. I have been filled with so many blessings, created relationships with so many incredible people, and grown the relationship between Kels and I.
Who knows where Kels and I are headed in life. I sure don’t. I still question what the heck I’m doing multiple times a week. I still am searching for my own personal meaning of life. But; no matter what, I still find multiple reasons each and every day to smile. I still attempt to find ways to grow. And I’m still chasing happiness in this crazy adventure of life.