This photo may not seem like anything special but I wanted to take it to remember this particular place where Eric and I sipped coffee, enjoyed the countryside of the Canterbury Plains in New Zealand, and, most importantly, had a symbiosis of minds about what we like, where we feel the most comfortable, and where we would like to settle after the big “cycle for retirement.”
After almost five months of traveling in SE Asia plus another 3 years (4 for Eric) living away from the United States, we did not realize how “stressful” those years had actually been. We lived, worked, made friends, made plans, and traveled, but we were always “foreigners living in strange lands”. We had fun. We learned. We were challenged. We grew. Each country, no matter how difficult at first, got easier over time but we were still “foreigners.”
Then we arrived in New Zealand. We’re still foreigners. There are words we don’t understand, like “housie” and “pikelet” and cultural differences to respect like not wearing hats, sunglasses, helmuts, inside buildings. But, for the most part, traveling in NZ so far has been easy. It’s easy because it reminds Eric and me of our homes. We understand the hard work of the farmers, the closeness of the families, and the freedom of the kids to play and explore.
We remember the businesses that close on Sundays or in the evenings, the community closeness at the local pubs, the abundance of nature to explore from trails to hike, the roads to bike, the rivers to kayak and mountains to climb and/or ski down.
Our house is a tent but we still feel comfortable. We walk into the grocery stores and know exactly how to cook the food in the produce and meat sections. We understand the milk and the cheese. We know how to pay. We know how to use the BBQ grill at the campsite.(I added this because the Chinese are stir-frying their burgers in the camp kitchen and filling the room with the smokey-greasy smell of fried burgers). We know how to use hot and cold tap water to wash our dishes in the kitchen and we understand how to use the bathrooms. (There are Chinese directions for those who are missing the hoses and wanting to stand on the toilet seats.)
I mention all these things because Eric and I feel “at home”. Unlike SE Asia where we always felt like tourists, here, even though we are tourists, we feel relaxed like we’ve just gone for a Sunday ride. This feeling of being at home has convinced us that we will go home. Even better, now we know where “home” will be. We know it will be in the Western United States. We know it will be more rural than urban. We know it must have easy access to the wilderness and activities that we enjoy. There will be some details to sort out first, but we know what we want. I can honestly say that one of the goals of our cycle for retirement, that of knowing more what we want, has been met.
Today’s observations and agreements may not seem earth shattering or startling. As a matter of fact, they may seem like a “duh” to many of you who know us. But for me, in particular, who has always felt antsy and unsettled, who has always wanted to see what is around the next bend, who has always wondered if the grass were greener somewhere else, this revelation of what feels like “home” and where I feel the most settled, could only be confirmed after the wandering, wondering, and traveling that has been part of our life for the past 30 years..
Today’s revelation does not mean that our cycle journey will end sooner than planned. We are still having a great time and enjoying the ride. We have more places we’d like to visit before we come home. But, we now have a target and that target makes our end much easier to plan.