That first morning, light burst through at a time my body told me it should fade. Thoughts scattered across my eyes, as inconsistent as the light that touched them.
We lay intertwined and marvelled at the concept of flying. Home felt close, connected by only a days travel. Familiarity lingered between us as we repeated the comforting words our families had left us with, comfortable vowels and nouns are reshaped and reused. Wrapped in the sheets of our new home.
Yet at the end of our embrace, the connection drifted. Familiar smells were replaced and goodbye hugs washed away. Soon we were wrapped up, completing the backdrop of our new surroundings. Familiar items we had brought with us became part of the now and the new. A bracelet my Mum had given me before we left clung duly to its previous context. My carry on, so carefully organised for the flight now contained a mixture of biscuit crumbs and books.
It was scary and yet exciting to step forward into our present. To accept the distance between us and everything we knew. To not cling so violently to the memories of home. To not hope so avidly to see those we missed the most.
We embraced the drift.
Home became the foreign land. It held the tang of excitement, just as New Zealand had before we arrived. Nostalgia twisted memories into perfection. Travel no longer felt like travel. The easy rhythm of our new country felt like home. Being far, was what we had become accustomed to and although at times it stung, overtime the ache dulled. Still, when my guard dropped, sharp memories hit hard like a wave, stopping me, recalling me to home. I learnt to let them slip and glide away. Not cling to them and demand they stay, like the mad king and the sea.
As time drifted past, friendships blossomed and opportunities arose. I took up offers to explore and to settle. Festivals and future plans in our new home. But as plans stretched on ahead of me, their distance took me by surprise.
“Will you be here next year?” New friends chirped and I choked. I’d reply with a quiet “no” and a vague promise that I might return someday. Just as I settled it was time to start leaving again. I hadn’t planned to enjoy myself this much, to love people this much. We’d planned to arrive, explore and flow on. Collecting experiences, not pain.
This is where the great contradiction in travel arises. To explore is to stretch yourself thin, building connections and memories everywhere you go. There is always somewhere not here that beckons. There is always the pang of what lies behind and the enthralling excitement of what is to come.
To lurch forward and to reach back. Endlessly longing, in one direction or another.
Written by Charlotte Greenstock, edited by Bethany Naylor