Before I left New York last year, my biggest fear was the concept of movement. I’d spent years comfortably ensconced in an apartment, a job, a lifestyle, a gym schedule, a routine. And even though I knew these constants were no longer making me as happy as I deserved to be, the idea of leaving them behind for a life of uncertain experiences and unfixed home addresses was pretty unsettling.
Almost a year later, I can’t help but be amazed at how completely my fears have flipped. These days, when presented with choices of staying put or moving on, accepting new jobs or buying impractical plane tickets, it’s the idea of stasis that sometimes freaks me out. After getting so used to the constant novelty of Southeast Asia, my soul still craves movement and the unknown, even though part of me really just wants to feel at home in one place for a while. This, of course, has been the central conflict of my thoughts since getting back to New Zealand in late July: should I stay or should I go? Should I be content, for now, with what I’ve got here, or see what else is out there for me?
Remember when I said I had irons in fires I wasn’t quite ready to talk about yet? Let’s talk about them now: Last month, I applied for and received an Australian Working Holiday visa, similar to the one I’ve currently got for New Zealand. I’ve got a flight from Auckland to San Francisco, booked back in December, for November 1st, and the option to push the date back if I so choose. And as I mentally took these factors through all their possible permutations a few weeks ago — go work in Oz for a few months and head home as scheduled? Extend my return to the U.S. out and start another, full year in Australia? Finish my year in New Zealand and spend a proper holiday in the Outback before flying back to SFO? — another element was thrown my way. The owner of my all-time favorite hostel offered me work for accommodation in Queenstown. He tipped me off to a waitressing job opening up down the street. And the hostel staff members regaled me with stories of feeling at home here, forming a second family with each other, celebrating Christmas in snowy June.
Being my indecisive self, I took ages to make up my mind. I’d go out for head-clearing runs, convince myself to book the next flight to Melbourne, and then feel so at home upon getting back to the hostel that I’d change my mind again. I’d think about making plans for Australia, look into work, debate time frames — and then start to worry I’d get to Oz and have no more idea what to do than I did here in New Zealand. I’d start to wonder if maybe staying in one place for a while could be exotic; if there really were such a huge difference between hitting the road again and living in a new town, getting by on new occupations, and bonding with new people. I began to remember that staying in one place for a while could be a valuable travel experience, too.
And so, finally, I decided to stick around Queenstown for a bit. Because for now, standing still might be the most novel experience I could hope for. I’ll be working at the hostel — cleaning, working reception, booking tours and activities — and spending nights as the world’s clumsiest waitress for a while. I’ll be unpacking my rolled-up clothing and putting it in my very own dresser drawer, strumming away quietly on the hostel’s guitars, getting to know the town and the other travelers who’ve gotten stuck-in here, learning more about the tourism industry, and, hopefully, feeling at home while I nail down my next step. I’ll remain a kiwi until I figure out what I’d rather be instead.
And then, I’ll move on. I’ll use my ticket back to the U.S. I’ll see my friends and my family. And from there I’ll see where I want to go, how I want to live, what I want to do (well, we all know this is what I really want to do after I get back to the States. Send positive energies). But for now, I’ll just enjoy feeling at home for a bit — even if it is on the other side of the world.