I've finally settled on a name for this blog. 'All over the place' refers not only to my location over the past few years but also the general state of my thoughts, life plans, emotions AND hair (chuckle). It's also a phrase I've used a LOT over the past couple of weeks since returning to England when asked how I'm feeling about being home.
The truth is I'm not feeling too positive right now. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of Christmas celebrations, reunions with friends and family, lots of prosecco and lots of attempting over and over again to answer the dreaded question: SO...what's the plan now?
I naively wasn't expecting to be faced with this question as much as we have. I get it - our loved ones care about us and want to know what's next for our lives. It's a natural question to ask and I'm grateful to have people in my life that are genuinely interested in us. I just didn't expect the focus to be immediately on what's next when the past three months have been some of the greatest of my life.
I'm not totally self-absorbed and I know that travel tales are only really interesting for the people who were there. I don't want to be the person who bangs on about their "totally life affirming experiences in South East Asia yah," while everyone glazes over and looks for the nearest exit. I guess I was hoping we could ride the wave of answering questions about our travels for a few days before discussing what to do next because...spoiler alert folks: we have no idea!!
Coming back has also triggered what one of my friends called 'reverse culture shock'. I'm back in my home country but feel like an outsider. I notice EVERYTHING around me both the good and the bad. I am mesmerised and horrified by how many shops there are; I want to buy everything I see at the same time as wanting to run away from all the 'things' everywhere. I want to find a home for us that we can finally make our own but also feel dread at the thought of being 'tied down' to anything, anywhere. I am craving the company of the friends I haven't seen for months but am scared of the anxiety that discussing my future will bring.
I feel like I have one foot still in New Zealand and just a toe dipped into England; I realise it's not a helpful position to be in and should throw myself into life back here but I just can't make the leap.
When we first arrived in New Zealand three years ago I felt completely out of my comfort zone. I remember sitting in a house we were looking after a couple of weeks after we arrived and just crying and crying. I didn't understand how I was going to fit into this strange new country that seemed to offer nothing for the person I was back then.
I felt like I was in Nick's shadow with nothing to say for myself as the conversations with locals usually turned to what outdoorsy hobbies we were into, wildlife that I knew nothing about and past travel experiences of which I had NONE. Nick was in his element and it was clear this was a country made for an interesting, well travelled, outdoorsy marine enthusiast, but not so much for a city girl who worked in the media industry and thrived on organisation, planning events, and seeing friends.
I already missed my friends, felt like they made up a significant part of my personality and just felt completely lost. Nick was amazingly supportive I should add, and skillfully helped me out of my funk and out of my shell again.
I feel like a completely different person now. NZ softened me, changed my heart and set alight passions within me that I didn't know I had. Being away from everybody and everything I knew and starting again gave me the space to figure out what I really thought and cared about instead of being influenced by everyone around me, something I've always struggled with. It's impossible to live there without falling in love with the ocean and it's incredible inhabitants. The mountains took my breath away every day and made me feel connected to something bigger than myself. I began to understand the devastating effect that our modern lifestyle is having on the planet. The marine life on my doorstep gave me something to focus on during those days where eco-friendly living seemed like a chore.
There was no 'planning' anything other than where to spend our next weekend. Both of us felt connected to the country in a way that I never had to anywhere before. For us, it wasn't just a three year working holiday and now we're back to reality. It could have been our reality forever if we had decided to put all of our efforts into trying to stay. The truth is I miss it so much. I feel homesick for Kaikoura and the life we had there. It wasn't perfect of course, but it was a life that suited us.
Once again I feel like a square peg in a round hole (is that the saying?!) I've known for ages this was going to be the most difficult part and I've had friends move back home after living abroad who struggled to fit back in. I know my situation isn't unique and it's absolutely not the world's biggest problem. I recognise how privileged I am and feel completely wretched moaning away when many of you reading this have been and are still going through a lot of real scary life stuff at the moment.
But if you can't pour your confused emotions into your own blog where can you aye?