I crested a hill coming into the town of Wanaka and had a beautiful view of the lake and alpine mountain tops. In November, it was spring in New Zealand and I walked down to the edge of the lake to take in the serenity of the of crystal water. The lapping waves soothed my tired mind and the water was so clear and cool it was all I could do to keep from scooping a handful and putting it to my lips to drink.
After a slow stroll along the rocky beach, I found a comfortable café on a bustling corner. I’d been working and traveling for months and this was my first respite since a free afternoon in Melbourne a few weeks before. I sat there sipping a flat white, listening to the conversations around me. The New Zealand accent is a cross between the English and Aussie accents. It’s more elegant than an Aussie accent and more rough around the edges than proper English. I sat listening, losing myself in reflection.
For a small town, there was a very diverse stream of people flowing through. An hour sitting in the café saw European backpackers, families traveling together from Asia, yuppies, hippies, hitchhikers. The locals were also a melting pot and, from their accents, sounded to be from all over the world.
The food I’d had in New Zealand was fresh and local. We’d had roasted pig on a spit from the farm next door. The eggs were bright orange and actually tasted like eggs should and would fresh from the neighbor’s chicken. The food here consistently blasted my dulled American taste buds. I was enjoying healthful Manuka honey, gluten free pizza with locally grown and organic meats and veggies, tender legs of lamb, crisp, locally brewed sparkling cider, wine, cheese, and prosciutto I’d bought at the market from local farms. I was in food heaven.
The locals I met in New Zealand were proud to call it home. Chris, a server in the resort where I stayed, was from Germany and had been living in Wanaka for 7 years. His tone was affectionate as he told me how it had become more of a home to him than Germany, or any place, ever had. He was renting a small house on a nearby farm and talked excitedly about growing his own herbs and vegetables. Though he pretended annoyance, he secretly loved that his landlord’s children from the big house would come and play near his little cottage and laugh at him working happily in his garden. He loved the mountains and the skiing and felt so passionately for this country that he had relinquished his passport (a scary commitment for avid travelers and expats) in order to get his residency here.
Chris was so passionate and inspired by his home in New Zealand that he made me crave the experience of finding my own true home. I imagine a true home as a place you arrive in and never want to leave. I’ve been searching for that place with several false alarms over the years. I envied him for having found it. I admired him for taking on the challenge of gaining citizenship there. Something worth having is worth fighting for and he knew that. I know it too. I’m ready to fight for it…I just need to find it.