New Zealand, just because: a life update, travel plans, + what I've been doing

So, what about New Zealand, aye?

I left New Zealand this past January feeling fully reaffirmed that New Zealand is still the place I love most; the place that is the most like home of anywhere I’ve ever been. This time, I’m leaving with that same feeling of assurance— the Universe brought me here and brought me to these people for a reason.

And, man, it feels so good every time I come back.

It means even the most regular day doesn’t feel regular when it’s spent with people who make you laugh an incredible amount. Who make cooking dinner fun and make fun of one another in turns but would jump to protect you if an “outsider” were to start taking digs.

This visit was regular. It came about simply because I hadn’t been back since January and I wanted to see my friends. I also had a job interview in Wellington {surprise!} that was then pushed back and done via Skype in Hamilton {LOL} for a grant-writing and research-type position. I also just don’t ever need a reason to come back. I jump at any and every chance to walk through the airport to the pre-recorded sound of New Zealand’s native birds welcoming me at immigration. Working as a writer remotely has given me a lot of freedoms {and a beautiful little visa, finally} that I quite fancied taking advantage of. As I made travel {and life} plans for 2019, it seemed glaringly obvious that, after a year of upheaval, I wanted to end my year the way I started it— in New Zealand.

In January, after jumping into rivers and oceans, picnics on the beach, avo toasts and flat whites, and a significant car ride through the Valley, I left with a sense of comfort knowing that time and distance hadn’t tampered with my love of the people that live in this place, or the country itself. If anything, time has only deepened it— and that seems to be a rarity in the world today. That anyone can love anything this much for this long.

That January trip allowed me to dissect the beliefs I had about life in New Zealand. It made it clear that so much of the pressure I put on myself was unnecessary. There was no expiration date for being here permanently; I would be here when I felt ready and when the timing was right. There is no expiry date on my friendships; loves of your life are the loves of your LIFE, which is a really long time and makes physical distance irrelevant. I realized that my favourite little island home wasn’t going anywhere. The people I love here are always going to be whanau {te reo coming atcha}.

So with that sense of comfort, I came back for a late October/November stay…

…which is where I am now

New Zealand has felt a little different this time around. Not in a bad way at all. In a way that’s opened my eyes to the cards we’ve all been given as a group. We’re all growing up. No, but really it’s happening. Houses, partners, dogs, careers…we’re all slipping further into our adult lives. How incredible is it that we’re coming up on 8 YEARS of friendship?! That we’ve been fumbling and figuring it out together for that long? Breakups, promotions, new homes, loss, love, car upgrades, and address changes— and here we are.

For eight years, New Zealand has provided me with everything {except a business visa, until recently…}. Like an abundant gift from the Universe that blessed with me a group of friends who show up in my life and know my heart, a gorgeous place I am never bored of exploring, endless hiking trails and mountain peaks, and glorious beaches. It’s provided me with everything I’ve needed, even when I didn’t recognize initially.

This time around, it has been amazing to see those people sliding further into this new chapter. Where we pay bills and avoid more than a single Tui at dinner. A chapter where catch-up conversations include, “When are you getting engaged?” and it’s an actual question. Not something we laugh off like it’s a faraway-never-gonna-happen-thing.

We’re growing up. Together, even when we’re apart.

After a seriously good long weekend in Wellington, sunsets in Petone and Raglan, drives down ridiculous roads, getting lost on the way to Levin, dancing to an Aretha Franklin cover band, hikes, morning strolls with two {not so little} boys in Auckland, and catch ups with most everybody…I guess you could say I’m a happy, light-hearted girl. And my “see you {very} soon” to New Zealand doesn’t feel as heavy or sad as it did last time. Because I know for a fact there will be a next time.

And when that next time comes, I’ll be re-road tripping around the North and South Island {throwback to 2011, amirite?} to write! I’ll be happily documenting in real detail and with an actual big girl camera the things I made brief note of and shot with a pink digi cam. But, until then, I’m soaking up every hike, all the banter, and the fickle spring weather with a full and happy heart.

So, what’s on the travel radar?

Plans have already changed so much in the last few months. This year I had plans to go to Nepal on a writing gig and Mongolia {because I was in China…how could I not?}. Then, tragedy struck, plans were changed, and everyone just had to hit “reset”. Then, I was all set to go to the 4,000 islands with my friend, Lola, and later go on a press trip to Thailand, when circumstances changed again. Oh life. It’s been good practice in flexibility and remembering that everything happens for a reason at the time its supposed to; travel included. Luckily, those plans are basically recovered and we’re back on a roll.

With that in mind, here’s what I’ve got on, gang: German Christmas markets {booked}, an English Christmas {booked}, and a visit to Scotland {ye ol’ UK favourite, booked}, followed by Laos {to launch Orange Robe Tours, booked}, and Hong Kong. Then, the big ones— Nepal and Sri Lanka. The last two places have been lingering the top of my bucket list for far too long, so you can imagine how sad it was to plan and then cancel and hope that the chance would come again. Thanks to magic or the Universe or patience, it has come again. I even have a writing gig still on in Nepal, by some absolute miracle {praise freakin’ be}.

And, then, I’ll be back in New Zealand.

Moving forward into the new year, my travels are looking to include some return visits and a bunch of exciting new destinations I can’t wait to sink my teeth into.

So, what have I been working on?

In Laos, I’ve been working with Backstreet Academy, Mandalao Elephants, the U.S Embassy {which is forever in a sort of limbo}, and other brands on press and media assignments. You reading this blog helps me continue to do that fun work, so thank you for reading, guys. Shares, likes and pinning my blog posts helps support my writing and my travels. It’s just a silly little blog, and I hate {with every fiber of my being} the “copycat culture” of it all {as we know}, but its a numbers game to brands and businesses, so I’m grateful for every boost.

I’ve also been helping Luke launch Orange Robe Tours. Sustainable change is something that is important to both of us. Seeing him take the big steps to launching his own project is something I can’t quite get over. There is nothing I love more than seeing people I care about step into their passions.

In New Zealand, where work is concerned, I’ve been finishing heaps of writing for a project I can’t wait to talk more about {patience, patience, patience Tara}. I’ve also taken a few days to work on remote writing assignments for BeBe Tailor and pitches for digital publications. I’d like to take a moment here to say thank you to Lola Mendez. She’s been instrumental in helping me find freelance work, encouraging me to pitch my ideas, and getting my media kit/pitches/bylines in some kind of order. Honestly, without her advice…I’d be swimming in a sea of emails.

Finally, I’ll be working on the end of the year essay and I’ll continue to keep the blog posts rolling out, deal? Okay deal.

Alright, so that’s the update. I can’t help but feel like I’ve put two beautiful bookends on the year by being here. And I have no complaints about that, guys. None at all.