Tales of a Nomad “Settling” in Auckland

Tales of a Nomad “Settling” in Auckland

I’m about three and a half weeks into my “new life” as a Professional Teaching Fellow in Auckland, New Zealand.  And I’ve been meaning to write something about it, something about this place, something about living life the way most people exist, something about unpacking suitcases and a building routine.  But I didn’t have anything unique to write about the place, but more importantly, I don’t think it’s hit me that I’m here,  and going to generally be here for 49 weeks (not that I’m counting…).  So I decided to write about this weird “in limbo” mental state, where I’m still meeting dozens of new people, still entering people in my phone “first name+city” (so now I’ve got dozens of people last name Auckland), still tagging Instagram photos of my new city as #travel, and still keeping my backpack by my pillow, half packed.  #InDenial.  The wanderer might not be wandering right now, but my nomadic tendencies are still strong.

Downtown Auckland from the Wynard Quarter

Downtown Auckland from the Wynard Quarter

In thinking about what to write here, I was flipping through “How I Write: The Secret Lives of Authors” Edited by Dan Crowe, where contemporary authors send in photos and descriptions of meaningful objects in their workspaces that help them battle writer’s block. Everything from their belly button lint collection to special pens to photographs to quotes from authors that inspire them.  One passage, written by Turkish author whose lived all over the place, struck a cord and contributed some insight why I’ve been fighting myself over settling here.

“A bird can use its wings either to reach home or to run away from it,” says my grandmother, knowing too well which of these I have opted for all these years.  And she adds in haste, “Even birds take a breather to build a nest.  No rest, no nest”.  A nomad is not an immigrant.  While the latter is future oriented and aspires to settle down once and for all, the nomad lives a perpetual present with few possessions.  To live the life of a nomad means to be able to make new friendships, meet new challenges, but most of all, to let go- of your possessions, of your old self.  A sorrowful enrichment attends the soul along this quest… Just like every nomad, deep inside I harbor a fear of orderliness and pure tranquility- both of which remind me of nothing but death” -Elif Shafak, A Purple Pen 

Gorgeous, empty beach at Watipu, less than an hours drive from Auckland, New Zealand

Gorgeous, empty beach at Watipu, less than an hours drive from Auckland, New Zealand

Unlike a friend who walks into an hotel room and two seconds later, his clothes are neatly folded on the shelf, shampoo is in the shower and toothbrush by the sink, “settling in” doesn’t make me comfortable.  I’m the exact opposite… I leave everything in my suitcase so I could zip it up and be on my way to somewhere else in two seconds flat.  Changing, evolving, growing, moving and teetering on the edge of my comfort zone is where I feel happiest.

Me looking out at the harbor bridge near Silo Park.

Me looking out at the harbor bridge near Silo Park.

Repetition, routines and commitment is what terrifies me and makes me feel trapped.  Like the author quoted above, I associate orderliness and tranquility with stagnation, complacency and sluggishness.  And now, I’m in one of the most perfect places in the world where one third of the population owns a boat, the biggest issue is whether to make the flag look less Australia and a tenant who drops the f*bomb when his landlord lets out his dog makes front page news.  New Zealand is a gorgeous, laid back and lovely… the perfect place to raise a family and let the kids run wild, camping, beaching and “tramping”.

Stormy skies in Takapuna... sometimes you need a storm to appreciate the sun

Stormy skies in Takapuna… sometimes you need a storm to appreciate the sun

But for someone who has seen the world, who knows that happiness is just a small part of the spectrum of human emotion, it’s hard to find this place satisfying.  The fact that there’s nothing wrong with it disturbs me.  You need heartbreak to inspire great art and music, you need conflict in order for inspiring public figures, you need controversy to write important books.    Struggle, conflict and challenge lead to growth and development.  Living in New Zealand is like living in Disney World (maybe except for the Maori people) and I find it hard to connect to, because it doesn’t feel real.  I keep wandering around, looking for a soul, a spirit, an imperfection in this city to make it more relatable…. I still feeling like I’m traveling, even though I’m supposed to be creating a life.  It’s easy for me to be fully present in a fleeting moment, but harder for me to feel alert and alive in familiar settings.

“Travel can induce such a distinct and nameless feeling of strangeness and disconnection in me that I feel insubstantial, like a puff of smoke, merely a ghost, a creepy revenant from the underworld, unobserved and watchful among real people, wandering, listening while remaining unseen.” -Paul Theroux, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star

Enlightenment? Cave in Whatipu

Enlightenment? Cave in Whatipu, New Zealand

So that’s kind of what I’ve been up to… kind of going through the motions of going to work, getting back into yoga and swimming, taking up boxing, exploring my surroundings, meeting new people and finding out their opinions about this place.  But generally, feeling quite disconnected from what’s happening and not sure how to fix it.

The Divers Clothes Lying Empty
“You’re sitting here with us, but you’re also out walking
in a field at dawn.  You are yourself
the animal we hunt when you come with us on the hunt.
You’re in your body like a plant is solid in the ground
Yet you’re wind.  You’re the diver’s clothes
lying empty on the beach.  You’re the fish.
In the ocean are many bright strands
and many dark strands like veins that are seen
when a wing is lifted up.
Your hidden self is blood in those, those veins
that are lute strings that make ocean music,
not sad edge of surf, but the sound of no shore” -Rumi

Beach at Whatipu, New Zealand

Beach at Whatipu, New Zealand

Song of the Moment: The Moorings by Andrew Duhon

Book of the Moment:  Patched: A History of Gangs in New Zealand by Jarrod Gilbert

 

Be Sociable, Share!

2 Comments

  1. Matthew Stukus
    Mar 7, 2016

    I guess you can always get upset at its lack of imperfections. Maybe ask some locals what they dislike. I’m sure they have something.

    • Katie
      Mar 7, 2016

      Haha ya I’m sure I sound like a whiny white girl #FirstWorldProblems… actually a lot of ex-pats struggle when they first move here because Kiwis can be kind of closed off and generally Auckland is like a big small town so its hard to find interesting things to do. So yes, I’m not the only one who struggles here. Eventually people tend to decide “it’s not that bad”, from what I gathered. Maybe I’ll decide that soon too.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Find Happiness in a New City: 3 Secrets - Gypsy Soul, Itchy Feet | Gypsy Soul, Itchy Feet - […] I first got here, I struggled, which might have been obvious when I wrote this post.  A couple weeks…