I made my way up the winding path, the South Pacific Ocean spread out before me, sparkling in the late afternoon light. It was a steep hike from my hotel, down below, in Paihia New Zealand. The air was crisp, cooling in preparation for the winter months ahead. A wave of fear came over me. Soon I would return home to Seattle, where the opposite was happening, the air would be warming, preparing for summer. Why did that scare me? Usually returning home was one of my favorite parts of traveling, but this time something was different.
I crested the hill and sat down on a rickety bench, perfectly placed for weary walkers to enjoy the view and rest sore legs. The breeze rustled through my hair, cooling me, as I gazed out over the bright blue bay. I opened my journal, trying to make sense of the last two months. I had experienced
I thought back to the terrifying thrill of skydiving in Queenstown. When the instructor opened our parachute we floated effortlessly, 3,000 feet above lake Wakatipu, and he said, "welcome to my office." I remember David and Lisette, my hosts in Matamata who graciously welcomed me into their home. They stuffed me full of local cheese and wine, and proudly toured me around the Shire, where the Hobbiton set for The Lord of the Rings was filmed.
I remembered visiting a school and seeing the fierce looks of pride on the faces of the youth who performed the Haka, the traditional war cry or welcome of the Indigenous Maori people. Just down this exact coastline, I could see the Bay of Waitangi, where a treaty was signed giving Great Britain sovereignty over the land. I learned how the government was now finally trying to make reparations for years of broken treaties. I had heard grumbling on both sides, "It's not enough," said some, "It's too much," said others.
I sat on the bench for a long time. I would miss this country but I also missed family and friends. Why was I so reluctant to return home? Finally, I found the courage to face it, I blurted it out loud in sudden realization, "I need to leave my job when I get home!" The fear started to dissipate and I felt relieved. It was out there in the universe now, too late to take it back. I loved my job, but the past few years I had stopped growing. I knew deep down that I was in a rut. It was time for something new.