“Home is my love but New Zealand is my mistress, or maybe more; I'm still deciding if I prefer her long term.”
I contracted the travel bug eight years ago, and I've not been able to shake it since. I’m from England, and I've travelled around Europe, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Australia and New Zealand. From mushroom mountain in Koh Pha Ngan to bungee jumping in Queenstown, I've definitely dabbled in some 'once in a lifetime' adventures. Whether it's a few months, weeks, days or hours, I love finding new places and getting this Brummy blood pumping with adrenaline.
However, the most recent trip I went on wasn’t to an exotic new destination… it was a holiday back to my home city of Birmingham. When did returning home become an adventure in itself?
The air stewardess is standing to my right with a huge fake smile imprinted on her perfectly made-up face; she's just finishing the safety demonstration. I look away, bored with the video I've seen a hundred times over, the struggle of being a traveller. I close my eyes and consider whether my ignorance will cause me to lose my life should, heaven forbid, there be a crash, and I have no idea what cord to pull to inflate my unflattering yellow life jacket because I was too busy checking out the nearest hot guy or getting lost in my thoughts. It would be way more exciting if instead of pretending to blow some stupid whistle that's probably never going to get used they teach us how to perform some sort of martial arts to combat a terrorist at thirty thousand feet in the air.
I'm on the last stint of my journey from Auckland to London. I finally fall into a deep sleep when the dude next to me gives my arm a shake: “Prepare to vomit, it's food time.” I smile awkwardly; thankfully I'm actually someone that genuinely enjoys the air plane grub. It reminds me of Ikea – those Swedish meatballs are arguably some of the best around.
I start to think about home, I suddenly get giddy with excitement, and I have a glass of Merlot to calm myself. People warn you that if you have one glass of wine in the air, it can feel like three – this is no warning, it's an absolute win! Why am I so nervous to go home? I'm being ridiculous, and eventually, the wine and lack of sleep start to make me emotional at the thought of seeing everyone after two years. The thought of smelling my mum's dewberry perfume and sharing one of Birmingham’s finest curries with my dad. Oh, I can't wait to see how big my nephews and niece are! Then it hits me... will they recognise me? Will they remember crazy Auntie Rosie?
I can't wait for a good night at the local pub with my homegirls who I've known since primary school. I thank the God-that-I-don't-believe-in for giving me these (sometimes crazy) lifelong friends that ground me when I'm home and when I'm away, each personality completely different to the next. When I think of it, home is good, and I've sacrificed it for New Zealand for the last three years.
Okay, sacrifice is a little strong – it's not like I'm in prison. If prison had waterfalls everywhere you turn, over 50 volcanoes in the city you live in, and endless empty beaches where it's not unusual to swim amongst dolphins and whales, then what the hell, I'm guilty – sentence me to life! Home is my love but New Zealand is my mistress, or maybe more; I'm still deciding if I prefer her long term.
I get bored with day-to-day life, I'm completely guilty of looking for adventure, and man is New Zealand the place to be. The sights in this country are some of the most incredible I've seen, like the Tongariro Alpine Crossing: a 7-hour hike across volcanic terrain with bright emerald lakes full of ice-cold water and surrounding views of central North Island. Oh, and for all those Lord of the Rings fans, there's an opportunity to climb Mount Doom, which I believe is for the more experienced hiker.
Yep, New Zealand is definitely unique. What other country has a beach where you can dig a hole to get hot water bubbling up and make your own jacuzzi?!
Aotearoa takes your breath away with its jaw-dropping natural beauty, yet it still feels so familiar and homely. Living in this country has made me confused as to where home is. Do I swap my mosquito repellent for perfume? Do I exchange my factor 50 for fake bake? Do I escape the great outdoor lifestyle and return to being a city girl in bustling Birmingham? Or, do I just accept I have two homes, with maybe more to come? I'm thirsty to visit more of this crazy round object we call the earth.
The plane starts its landing, and I can see beautiful Big Ben and the London Eye and, of course, a few speckles of rain. I collect my bag and skip through passport control and walk through Heathrow Airport doors to a huge overwhelming crowd and there they are, my family, holding a great big pink glittery 'WELCOME HOME ROSIE' banner, stretched across most of the crowd and – just in case I miss it – my big bro shouts and cheers for everyone to hear. I'd put money on my mum’s screams alerting every security guard at Heathrow, screams of happiness to have her baby girl home. I'm feeling far too loved to be embarrassed. I'm here; I'm officially on my holiday home.
Author - Rosie Michell
Rosie Michell is from the United Kingdom. She is living and working in New Zealand and is a new mom to a baby girl.
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