As of late, reality has been hitting me like a curve ball I wasn’t prepared for: soon I will be leaving New Zealand.
On June 7, the Arcadianz in Wellington gathered together for our farewell dinner, the last time we would all be together. We ate delicious food, we reminisced about our favorite memories from the semester, we said goodbye to our amazing program manager, Jane, promising we would try our hardest to come back to New Zealand someday to visit her. Two days later was the last day of classes, marking the start of a week-long study period before final exams.
Most of us won’t actually be flying back to the States until July 6, so we still have time for a few more adventures. While I can’t speak for anyone else, I am well aware of how little time that actually is. It seems like just a few weeks ago I was stepping out into the Auckland sun for the first time, incredibly sleep deprived and in desperate need of a shower after a 13-hour flight. But I was so excited, so ready for the whatever New Zealand had in store for me. That July 6 departure date seemed like it was years away. Now it’s staring me in the eyes.
Last October, I wrote an article on a cross country runner for my home school, Belmont University. Just before our interview ended, I asked him the classic runner question: why do you do it? As a Division I athlete, he runs 80 miles a week, and puts himself through brutal workouts on a daily basis. But what he told me was this: it’s never as bad as long as you are surrounded with great people. I think he’s right, and I think it applies to more than just unfathomable workouts.
As I sat at Dockside Bar and Grill and listened to everyone talk about their favorite moment from the semester, I realized that the experiences I’ve had over the past few months have been insanely incredible, but it’s the people I’ve been with that have made those experiences truly remarkable and unforgettable. Mount Cook, the Tongariro Crossing, the Franz Josef, every part of New Zealand has been better than I could have ever imagined. What I didn’t imagine was how much better this country has been simply because of the people that have been beside me for all of it.
They make it feel like home isn’t so far away. They make this place feel like home.
But therein lies the downside of travel. The more people I meet, the more I fall in love with faraway places, the more I realize I will never be whole again because I’ve left pieces of my heart in each of those places. But I think it’s worth the trade-off. It’s the people you meet along the way that make your story interesting and full of adventure, even if they only show up on a page or two.