“Home” is a word with such significant connotations – a word attached to the concept of family, love, longing, and identity. We lucky ones know where we might call our ultimate home, often where we grow up or where we start our own family. Yet despite its importance, it’s also a word we use incredibly lightly. In the last five months, I’ve described perhaps eight places as “home” in a casual context, ranging from our two-month house in Greymouth, to a hostel in Wellington, to our car Max; some places we might only have stayed for a couple of nights.

Considering the emotional significance in the term “home”, it’s a wonder we haven’t come up with a different word to describe these temporary stopping points – something which captures the physical aspects of a home, but perhaps not the extent of the sentimental. It seems that this word might subconsciously aid our settling in process, making us feel comfortable in a new environment – as much a wish for the comfort of “home” as a convenient description. Or perhaps it is the difference between physical space and a concept: “home” can be both purely symbolic or purely physical, but is best when it’s somewhere in between.

I think a small part of me feels guilty about referring to New Zealand as my current home. I’m touched by a feeling of disloyalty to family and friends, especially when I consider that although I miss people hugely, I am yet to feel truly “homesick”. This doesn’t make my family home any less important to me, and it makes sense that if you feel truly “at home” somewhere then you won’t long for another; it just makes me extremely lucky – to feel “at home” somewhere is such a gift, not to be taken for granted. But this humbling sense of belonging doesn’t mean we shouldn’t move on, trying new places and people who might or might not offer us this same luxury. It might be the most valuable thing about travelling: finding happiness and a new part of yourself in unfamiliar places.

Here’s to many more homes to come.


Lesson Learnt No. 2

Everyone has their people.

Throwing yourself into a group of strangers, whether for work, play, or a little bit of both, is a huge challenge and hopefully a whole lot of fun. Although first appearances can be misleading, in most cases within days or even hours, you can normally identify those people you click with, and those whom you never will. Even if there aren’t any negative feelings involved, you just get a good feeling about some: they make you feel instantly comfortable, bring out a good side of you, and without knowing, encourage you to share your thoughts. They see you the way you want to be, bringing out a lovely side of you which you may not have seen in that particular form before. And most of all, they make you like yourself.

These are the people who, given enough time, become truly great friends. If time isn’t there, they are still the people we should be surrounding ourselves with as much as possible. This doesn’t mean dismissing other people, or thinking you can’t enjoy their company, and people can always surprise you. But it’s just as important to recognise that we don’t have to love everyone. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you can’t seem to get on with someone well: it doesn’t mean you’re boring or cold, it just means you’re missing that natural connection – it can’t be helped, and chances are, they’re feeling exactly the same way about you. Be kind to everyone, give everyone a piece of your time, but try to find those people who make you feel like a really great person, because in their company, you will be one.


Making Photos

No one can deny that a huge part of travelling is self-discovery, despite it having become a cringeworthy cliché. I expect I’ve learnt more than I’m fully aware in New Zealand, about what kind of person I am and what my priorities are. However, one characteristic that has become abundantly clear, is that I lack the photography instinct; much to Hayley’s frustration, in special moments, I just don’t think to pull out my camera or phone to take a picture. In lots of ways, I’m glad this is the case: taking a picture might be the easiest way to save a moment as a memory, but it can also distract from the moment itself, dampening that memory’s potential. But as I was running home the other day (home now being the Pancake Rocks Café in Punakaiki), I regretted that I’d missed the opportunity to take a certain picture. Since I didn’t get the photo, I’ll try to describe it with words.

A couple stands on the pavement directly in front of me. They’re next to each other but facing slightly inwards towards the road, feet and bodies at precisely the same angle. Both are wearing knee length khaki shorts; she’s in a purple V-neck, he’s in a navy collared t-shirt and a light brown cap. Their backdrop transitions, top to bottom, from clear blue sky, to green bush, to grey road. You can hear the Tasman Sea against the beach and jagged rocks, hidden behind a beach-front motel, trees, and the Punakaiki Tavern. The woman holds a large smartphone just above her head, taking a picture of the wild west coastal road in front – towering green cliffs; the man mirrors her movements exactly, but using a black digital camera.

There was something so perfect about this shot – their positions, actions, and expressions of deep concentration – that I was disappointed I’d run past without slyly getting a picture. Now I think the result may never have lived up to expectation – better left as a mental image. I could hear their conversation when they arrived home, wherever that might be, and were looking through their holiday snaps, frustrated by the time-consuming job of deleting duplicate photos on multiple devices: “Now which part of the West Coast is this then? And why do we have eight of the same shot?”. This imaginary picture had such a strong narrative as well as visual appeal, as a moment of companionship, and as a commentary on our photo “addiction” – beautiful, but also beautifully critical.

Excessive photo-taking seems to be a growing phase. For lots of people, when they arrive in a beautiful place, their priority is pulling out their cameras, even before they look with their eyes. Most get deleted or forgotten, and they never live up to the reality of what’s in front of you, but it’s become an instinctive response whenever we’re doing something enviable. This obsession, fuelled by social media, seems enough to drive out common sense – it’s more often than not a waste of time, in the present and future. This isn’t to say that photos can’t be incredibly beautiful and valuable, but moments should be chosen carefully, before photographs are considered the most significant thing to take away from an experience.