My cab driver looked at me with his beautifully weathered cherubic face, “Today is a good day! You know the only thing in life that is free is a smile? I want to stamp everyone’s passport with a smile! Life is too short not to be happy!” he continued on “you are so bright and beautiful and New Zealand needs bright and beautiful people!” I resisted the urge to look besides me for someone else in the cab, surely he couldn’t be talking about me. It was 8am and I hadn’t had my coffee, two things that do not equal a “bright” Jo’el. His effervescent enthusiasm for life took me by surprise. An ordinary day, an ordinary city, the most ordinary job, but his radiant happiness was anything but ordinary. What does it mean to be extra-ordindary? We seek, we travel, we search for the amazing in life, but what if we acted like everyday was a gift? To see the extra-ordinary in daily life is a beautiful skill, one that should be actively cultivated.
Staying in one spot for the last three weeks has taught me that to be amazed all I need to do is open my eyes. Open my eyes to everything around me and the windows of my heart will be flung open.
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
For me, the process of traveling is as much as learning about my environs as it is learning about myself. It has been five weeks since I’ve left the U.S. and I’ve travelled to Fiji, spent time farming in North Island, visited the Shire, and now find myself at an idyllic place in Marlborough, South Island. WWOOFing at this second farm has been an even better experience than the first. WWOOFing can be tricky, and I cannot express the importance of establishing expectations with your host ahead of time. I feel I failed at that a little bit at the first farm. WWOOFing is a delicate balance between serving your host (which you are there to do) and getting the right amounts of time off to see the local sights. Working with animals as my sole focus on the first farm required morning and evening work, effectively anchoring myself to a very small radius. I also did not have a car at the time and it made really impossible to see anything.
At this second farm there is much better of a personality fit between me and the host family, and much more structure and definition in the expectations of the work. I am not wondering how to fill my obligated five hours of work a day as I was on the last farm. I have a to-do list and I am empowered to keep myself busy on pretty much my own schedule. I wake up at 0645, take care of the pony, the horse and the donkey by 0730 and do various odd jobs required that day. Usually by 1130, I’ve had my four hours in and I eat lunch, write and nap and in the late afternoon spend another hour finishing up any projects so I get my five hours in and I have weekends off. I love the odd jobs I’ve been able to do here, from staining wood (the host is a taxidermist), to cleaning tack, weeding, laundry, child care, garden work to digging trenches and fixing up the animal water troughs. My hosts are really friendly and I feel my work is appreciated.
My accommodations at this second farm are outstanding. I have my own cottage that is completely self -contained. I can see the beach from my bed and I have access to WiFi from my cottage (big win!) There are no other WWOOFers here, which is bittersweet. At the last farm I made friends with four friendly Germans and it was a blast to do some traveling with them. At this place since there are no other WWOOFers it is much quieter, which for me right now is exactly what I need. I can walk down to the beach anytime with my journal and meditate and clear my head. With the solitude and the absolutely jaw-dropping beauty I am surrounded with, I am able to quit my soul at this place.
With each place I travel to, I want to be spoken too. The last few weeks I have spent a lot of time thinking about what this wild place is trying to tell me. What is about New Zealand that makes it unique, what message am I supposed to convey from my time here?
This country is new, probably one of the newest one the planet, and it feels new. What I mean by new is that New Zealand was not settled by Europeans until the 1870’s; the indiginious Maori were here long before that but did not join the “modern” world till the British arrived in the 1800’s. As with any “new” country, there are not a ton of people from New Zealand. Most are first or second generation New Zealanders, with a large portion immigrating from Europe in the last 100 years. Dutch, German, British, Pacific Islander, you name it, it is a hodge podge of ethnicities. Perhaps that is why I have struggled to find things that explempify “New Zealand” in the way you’d find in other countries you travel too, e.g. the Brit’s have Union Jack and tea, France has Paris and Champagne ect… I think what DOES exlempify the people of New Zealand is a practical attitude, an attitude that enabled them to travel to the ends of the world and become apart of one of the most amazing landscapes on earth.
Maybe it is because the landscape is so amazing, and the country so new, I have noticed more “green” products and practices than any country I’ve visited so far. The Kiwi’s are protective of their land, GMO’s are outlawed and sustainability is a big deal.
The conclusion I am reaching is that what is speaking to me about New Zealand is the landscapes. You will not be moved by the architecture, or country-specific food, but if you let go, you can be moved, and connect with the earth in such a deep and beautiful way; a connection I find difficult to establish while entrapped by all the modern “advantages” technology has afforded us.