Now that Kathy Feest has made herself back at home in the UK, she shares her final reflections on her extended trip to New Zealand…
You can read the previous instalment of Kathy’s NZ adventures here…
Home at last! We’ve been back from New Zealand two weeks today and it feels like the life we lead on the other side of the planet has finally found its rightful place to reside in my memory.
Expectations are funny things. Expecting to have a similar experience like one from a remembered past is quite normal. We all want to return to those lovely moments that got us to where we are today. That’s one of the reasons people return to places, as we return to New Zealand year on year. But what happens when things change and do not match what was anticipated?
New Zealand for many years – since we spent a year working there in 2009 – has been about the people we know, and renewing our many friendships. Importantly as well, the country has become a place where we spend time walking in the magnificent forests and fields and on the many near secluded beaches and, of course, my near daily swims in the large salt water municipal outside pool when we settle into Auckland for many weeks.
When we’ve returned from New Zealand in the past, it felt like we’d brought many things back with us; the embraces we’d received from the trees; the strength and light from the forest; the tranquillity from the rushing streams and rivers we trekked or boated. Our many walks and outdoor pursuits enabled us to carry on back into our British lives recharged and energised.
Our time this year, especially in Auckland, where we live as opposed to being “just” on holiday, was different. Three cyclones and months’ worth of rain over just a few days is not normal for New Zealand, nor for us.
The weather meant there were fewer opportunities to walk in the (now muddy) woods, fewer possibilities to explore the beaches reached by newly water logged walkways where we would normally tramp. The cyclones literally stopped us in our tracks on more than one occasion. Many friends had water in their homes and several had the threat of slips that might put their property and themselves in danger. Thankfully, that wasn’t our experience. We were fortunate. We lived alongside the weather and didn’t come to harm. Our Kiwi home was safe and dry. The rain came along more often than ever before, but in between the rain it was sunny and, through it all, it was warm. We were living in the warmth of summer.
We captured special moments when we could. The day before the second cyclone hit, we walked on KareKari beach (where the award winning 1993 Jane Campion film The Piano was filmed) in the glorious sunshine.
From the next day, until several weeks later, the poor folks who lived there couldn’t get in or out, had no electricity and food and supplies had to be helicoptered to them. This sort of puts things in perspective. We spent more time with friends sharing meals and having discussions than ever before. Our friendships deepened as the amount of rain increased.
Parnell Baths, the municipal pool, was a casualty of the first cyclone in January. The pool itself was fine, but half the cliff above the only road leading to it slipped onto the road, blocking safe access. The place closed for the season and won’t reopen until next summer.
It took a while – well nearly two weeks – for me to realise that the changes in our experience of our time in New Zealand would also impact on what it felt like to be home. The pain of saying goodbye to our New Zealand friends was more acute this year than ever before. Slotting back into our routines at home hasn’t been easy. They were all disrupted by the weather on the other side of the planet and remained disrupted when we arrived back home. We got out of our habit of a great deal of walking and my regular swimming stopped at the end of January.
Coming back to Bristol and instantly experiencing a garden full of snow and freezing temperatures didn’t help me to don my bathing suit and jump into the (heated) outdoor pool I swim in here.
As the jet-lag subsided, and visits with family and friends increased, we began to slowly slot back into life again. We were enriched by those many weeks away. Not only did we have plenty of time to reconnect with friends, but we also had the luxury of having time to reconnect with ourselves and each other. New Zealand reminded us how grateful we are for the lives we lead, for our friends on both sides of the world, our two homes (one that we rent – thanks Sally!) and importantly, each other. Our hearts and home are open to our family and friends once more.
Was that a good holiday? One of the best!
P.S. The walks and swimming are gently resuming….
Kathy Feest has a wealth of experience with writing, leadership and personal development mentoring. Kathy fulfilled her dream at the age of 41 and earned her first University degree; she went on to complete a PhD in Medical Education. She regularly runs self-development workshops at The Joy Club so keep your eyes on our events calendar for one of her next live sessions.