Today marks the day that I’ve been away from home for one year. Home. Funny word that is. I once started writing a post about the concept of home, but never got to finish it, because I didn’t actually figure it out yet. It used to be Groningen, then it was the Netherlands, then it was Berlin, when I traveled it was “Europe”, now it is Queenstown in New Zealand. If I’m honest with myself though, when I think of home, it is mostly still Berlin, as that is the place I miss most… But hey, this blog is called My Country The World for a reason, and it was taken from a quote by Thomas Paine, an 18th Century English-American political theorist, philosopher, and revolutionary:
“Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good.”
Paine was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, and maybe if that country would’ve followed Paine’s philosophy, it would be a slightly better place today. Nevertheless, that quote has always spoken to me, but now that I’ve started reflecting back over the past year, it applies more than ever, especially the last part.
…and my religion is to do good.
This is the most important lesson I have learned about myself in the past year: I want to be a good person. I’ve always wanted to do good, hell, everybody does right?! But it has become a much more authentic concept to me, myself. It’s not so much about how others regard me anymore. I suppose you could say I’ve become more independent in a sense that I feel confident doing what I want to do, without thinking too much about how others will look at me for doing that. Saying it like that actually makes it sound a bit self-absorbed, but on the contrary, I think I’ve become a lot more selfless. This is because of the kindness I encountered in people I met along the way in the past year. Welcoming, generous, loving, honest. From the volunteers in Nepal who would sweat away for 6 days a week clearing rubble left by the 2015 earthquakes and building new homes for those families who lost theirs, to the beneficiaries of those homes, who couldn’t tell us in words, but showed their gratitude by bringing us tea and fanta and saying “dhanyabad”. Hotel owners who would pray for us to have a beautiful sunrise, or told us to take off our shoes and worries and make ourselves at home. But also the distant family members in New Zealand, who I had never met before, yet were all so welcoming, lovely, and giving. Other Kiwis we met on our travels, who’d take us onto boats, feed us mussels, bring us insect spray. And finally the crew in Queenstown, who were all a bunch of strays away from home, but became friends almost instantaneously because they were enjoying life and wanted to share it with others alike. I want to be all of these people I’ve met: help a stranger out, invite people into my home whenever I can, give rides to people, buy them a drink, surprise them with a muffin, give them my best advice, smile at them, be interested in others, listen to them, and in general: just be fucking friendly.
Obviously, I sell skydives now and talk people into buying $300 photography packages so it’s not like I’m a saint now. Not even in the slightest. But this is something I’ve learned in the past year and I thought it was worth sharing.
When I left I told people I’d be back in May or June. That obviously didn’t happen, so some of you might wonder what reason I have for still being here, well…
The simple answer is: it’s FUN here!
When I was little I loved playing outside. Running around in the garden and fields around the house, climbing trees, diving head first into a heap of soft snow, and rolling around in the mud. I was always first in the water as soon as the temperatures hit 17 °C and the sun was shining, and first on the ice as soon as it could bare my weight (or not. In which case I then ended up with a “kletspoot”, a wet foot). On my birthday parties I wanted to go to the indoor climbing hall, in summer I wanted to go on adventure camps, some winters I’d go on skiing holidays.
My life here revolves around playing outside. And it’s not just me, it’s practically everyone here who loves it, and we all feed off each other’s energy. Camping trips, mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, and skiing or snowboarding are all part of daily life here (depending on the season). Besides that, through my current job I get to do all the crazy things such as skydiving, zip lining, bungy jumping, jet boating, and what not. Most importantly, those instantaneous friends I was talking about, are some really good people. I’ve actually been wanting to dedicate a post to these adventures, but never got around to it. This seems like the right time though, so here are just some photo impressions per trip in chronological order:
Camping trip to the Catlins
March. First weekend in Queenstown (or not really…)
Easter weekend in Milford Sound, Bluff and Glenorchy
Hikes, lunges, ice cold dips, yoga, and glow worms. Not a bad Easter.
A little stint to Wanaka in April
Mountain biking, sunrise hiking and fishless-fishing. 🙂
Aoraki (Mount Cook)
Another wee camping trip in April.
Banks Peninsula and Christchurch
Last camping trip in April, catching up with friends who tried to leave us.
Then it got too cold for camping. But luckily not for some other fun activities…
Gracias a Jose! This and rock climbing is something I’ll be doing more of in summer 🙂
Hike up Bob’s Peak and had a fun little ride with a scenic view over Queenstown.
Photographing the gorgeous autumn
A scenic birthday hike!
Got a couple of good eggs together to hike up the Remarkables with me on my birthday. Popped a bottle of bubbles, had some cake, and a superb view.
Not long after my birthday the first snow fell. Up until that point I had been on the fence about whether to stay or leave, mostly with the idea of “as long as I’m not leaving I guess I’m staying” in my mind. And then the first snow fell… Seeing the snow peaked mountains suddenly turned a switch, I got excited about a proper winter season with snowboarding and I decided to stay! …and then I was unemployed for a while, or better yes, FUNemployed! So first thing I did was go on a weekend trip again.
Meg Hut with the Wanaka crew!
We hiked out to a DOC (Department Of Conservation) hut in the Pisa Conservation Area. Here we had cheese fondue for dinner with mulled wine by the fire, and the next day cooked up a gourmet breakfast and played in the snow. Pretty much the perfect weekend.
At some point I accompanied my friend Cassie to the Saturday arts & crafts market to sell her Kid’s Spy Missions. While I was there and walked around a bit to look at the stalls, and I got quite excited about creating something myself. Thus I did. That evening I went home and started working on some postcards. Cassie pushed me to write to the markets organising lady to get a stall for the Friday’s market. She accepted, for that Friday. So I created a series of post cards, got them printed, made a display, and within 6 days I went from idea to tangible product and actually selling quite a few of them too! A great personal success! However while I was selling my postcards, I got a phone call.. And that was the end of my funemployment. Quite the exciting day. Have a look at my LINDE RAVEN cards on my facebook page 🙂
And since then (this was in June), my life has pretty much been all about snowboarding, skydiving (well, selling them), drinking wine and eating $4 pizzas with friends. And I’ve been loving every day of it. When will I return to Europe? I don’t know. I’m currently applying for a work visa, so I may stay until after the southern hemisphere’s summer… I’d say: come visit, we’ll go on an adventure! Yeeeeeeeow!