When you move to a new area, you hope to have a solid community of people. I’m incredibly grateful that nearly every place that I have travelled to in this country has had a community of people for me to join. Whether it’s fellow backpackers, firmly established residents of an area, or random strangers met on the street “just passing through.” There’s always someone to befriend. This past week has been a good exploration of those communities that I have already established, plus the creation of another amazing one here in Rotorua (the closest place to Waikite Valley for me).
I have been frequenting a coffee shop in Rotorua for the past few weeks (shout out to Capers Epicurean for free Wi-Fi and delicious food), and Nate made a friend here that recommended a church to us. Figuring we may as well give it a try, we headed over there that Sunday. This random encounter in a coffee shop became the basis for a new friend group in Rotorua. While nobody in New Zealand has been particularly unwelcoming, I have found this group of individuals to be the most welcoming yet. We joined them for a day at the lake about twenty minutes after meeting them at their invitation, which turned into a dinner at a house. They took us to the hot waterfall which turned out to be hidden pretty near the farm we are working on as well.
Side note on the hot waterfall: If you ever have the opportunity to get to experience the glory and majesty of a natural hot spring/waterfall combo, don’t you dare miss out on it.
A few members of this same group are planning on doing the Tongariro Crossing with Nate and myself this weekend as well. This is, from what we’ve heard, the “most New Zealand” hike on the North Island. For my fellow Lord of The Ring’s nerds out there, you may know this area as the place Mt. Doom is found. We plan to be half dead and fully sunburned by the end of the hike, but it’ll be worth it.
I have also had a chance to spend more time with the family that I’m working for, and strengthen the friendship with them. Nate and I decided to cook a meal for the family as a thank you for all they have done for us so far, so we prepared a feast for them. We served sandwiches on croissants (made from scratch), a fruit salad, and deviled eggs. We had some mouthwatering chocolate croissants (again made from scratch) for dessert, and the family could not have been more pleased with the meal. We were surprised it turned out as well as it did, and were pleased to serve them. The entire meal took three days to prepare, and was completely worth it.
Aside from the family, Nate and I also had the opportunity to spend some time with their friends in the valley. One of them took us out fishing at 6AM a few days ago, and it was awesome to be able to spend some time with him and form our own bonds aside from those with the family. I haven’t been fishing since I was a child yet did surprisingly well, bringing home the biggest trout of the group (close to 2 feet). Nate and I are hoping to pick up a few poles to get ourselves some dinner after moving on from this area.
While learning to fish all over again and looking forward to Tongariro Crossing are incredibly exciting outdoor activities, there are plenty of other new things that I have experienced while here. One example of this is mountain biking, which I’m terrified of. Those who know me well may understand my background and fear on this, yet I’m proud to say that I’ve spent the last week working to overcome it. This may sound like a tame activity to some of you, but it’s been a constant fear of mine for years and I’m nervously defeating my fear it hill by hill.
Taking on new challenges is something that I am striving to do this year. The entire move to a new country is a challenge in itself, yet I have been trying to push my own boundaries further during this time. If I’m already outside my comfort zone, I may as well continue to walk further away from those comfortable boundaries to grow to the fullest extent. When it all comes down to it, that’s what this whole adventure is all about. Growing and pushing myself to the fullest extent in every capacity that I can think of (mentally, physically, spiritually, etc.).
Often it is stated that travel changes you. While I understand the idea behind this, I would phrase it quite differently. I believe that travel reveals you. It pulls to the surface all the imperfections, impossibilities, and intricacies of yourself. It pushes aside all the unnecessary pieces of life so that you can truly focus on completely understanding who you are. I don’t believe that people come back a “different person” after travel, I believe that they come back a truer version of who they are.
Do I expect to come back a different person from New Zealand? No, I do not. I expect to come back more myself than when I left.