Thursday, September 09, 2010

White Water Rafting vs. The Lake

I've just spent the last 5 weeks in Canada. The number 1 question people ask me is, "Why do you live in New Zealand?" Many people couldn't imagine living so far away from their family. So I thought I'd write about why I decided to make New Zealand home.

First of all, I just want to say that I have strong instincts (and learning to trust them more and more). For whatever reason, I always felt very restless living in Canada. I was the sort of kid who always suspected I was adopted because I never felt like I fit in. In school I was "popular" but I didn't fit in to any particular "clique". I floated around and made friends with everyone. I changed highschool 4 times. I made loads of friends but not a lot of very strong bonds... that came later... with lots of work... and facebook.

Recently there was an article published from CBC saying that facebook attracts narcissists with low self esteem. Of course I am going to disagree (being the narcissist I am - yeah right). Facebook has allowed me to get to know my friends on a much deeper level. I love people. I am friends with every person on my facebook page. I like to think that they are on my page because they like me too. I don't think there is anything wrong with your friends posting a comment on your photos telling you that you still look great after 20 years or living vicariously through your travels. Friends are there to boost your confidence. When did that become a bad thing?

Sorry... I digress... back to my blog;

I moved a lot too. I could never really figure out where I wanted to live. My problem is that I like everywhere. I am one of those people who wants to experience everything. It's a blessing and it's a curse. I had moved 15 times in 13 years. It really started to get to me. With each move, I had to start all over. Having my own business helped but if I had stayed put I would have established myself in my career... but that's not what I wanted. At the time, I had no idea WHAT I was searching for.

So when I took a trip to Australia and New Zealand in 2003, my expectations were low. I knew very little about NZ and came here only because so many people told me how beautiful it was. I planned a little jaunt over from Aussie, intending to stay for a few weeks tops. It's hard to explain what I felt when I got here. All of a sudden, it became clear that this was where I belonged. For the first time in my life, I felt switched on.

New Zealand makes sense to me. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Canada and I had a lot going for me. I had settled in Stratford Ontario which I absolutely loved, my business was thriving, I had great friends... but I was so dissatisfied. I enjoyed my job but I needed more freedom. I was TOO busy and I couldn't turn business away. The busy-ness of life felt overwhelming. I was always off to do things with friends on the weekend or chasing after family that it hardly felt like I was ever able to just relax. I was absorbing all the stress. Thing vibrate at a higher frequency in Canada and so was I.

Life in New Zealand ticks along at a much slower pace. The vibe is slower and I can feel it inside of myself too. It actually took me some time to learn to allow my body to slow itself down but ultimately I knew that I would extend my life on this frequency. There are fewer people, fewer cars, fewer options, fewer distractions... and that's just what I needed.

Allow me to use this metaphor to explain it:

To me, Canada is like a white water rafting trip. It's a lot of fun when you're in the raft (often with lots of other people). You have to keep alert because the rapids can get really fast which causes the adrenaline to pump in your veins. But if you aren't careful, the raft could tip and then all of a sudden you're traveling down the rapids on your own trying to keep your head above water. It's a thrill but I always felt like I was drowning.

New Zealand is more like a lake. It's vast and clear and safe to swim in. You pretty much know what to expect the moment you step foot in the boat. It will be a smooth and pleasant (and dare I say it, boring) experience. I have been learning to swim here for 7 years. I am pleased to report that I am very gifted at treading water.

As much as I enjoy white water rafting, I couldn't to do it every day (I'm the rowdy one in the middle of the raft in the photo above btw which was actually taken in the Swiss Alps which is a pretty laid back sorta place). The constant adrenaline isn't healthy. My blood pressure was through the roof and I needed to look after myself. I have less in New Zealand - less stuff, less money, less options, less stress. When I want more, I just go to Canada for a few weeks and that does the trick. I feel like I've made the right decision. The swimming lessons are paying off. I've toyed with the idea of moving back to Canada but I'm still testing the waters. I'd definitely need a swim coach.

Another thing I love about living in New Zealand is that I actually feel like I can make a difference here. It might be the simple fact that there are fewer people therefore less competition but it is also a place where personality goes a long way. My community needs me and I feel valued being here. I'm not saying I wasn't needed or value in Stratford (because I know I was) but it was more about gaining confidence to make a difference through volunteering my time on whatever needs doing whether its on a charity committee, helping at church, visiting rest homes and running errands for people, or just popping in to have a cuppa tea with someone who needs company. The biggest difference between NZ and Canada is the amount of extra time I have in a day. I don't necessarily want to get paid to do these things. I do them because they make me feel really good. It's amazing how many people just don't get that. I wonder if it has anything to do with not growing up in a close family (we are close as adults but as kids not so much). Being in an environment where I feel loved, valued and respected makes me feel good about myself. It's ultimately what we need for a healthy self esteem. Of course it might also have a lot to do with age and maturity. I'm a different person now to who I was 10 years ago.

The big question I have to ask myself is, "where next?" I can't imagine treading water for the rest of my life - what does that mean? Do I even want to leave NZ? Is that just complacency talking? Am I getting too comfortable? All that talk about "living the simple life" but am I challenging myself anymore? These are the questions that I'm asking myself right now.

Going back to Canada this time has made me think that it might be time to start testing the waters again. I've been paddling around in this lake for 7 years now. I have come back from my white water experience feeling unscathed and refreshed. Is it time to think about doing it more frequently? Is it time to get out there for longer trips? Is it time to get out of my comfort zone? Am I ready to start over? Start over or fresh start?

All I know is that life is so good right now and I'm just taking it all in stride. I've got my eyes wide open to any opportunity that presents itself. I have a good life that I know so many people would give up their busy lives to lead. The truth is, I only seem to become conscious of how little I have when I return from the rafting trips, but living at the lake means not needing much at all. Somehow I feel the link lies somewhere in the whole self esteem issue. I need to mull that one over a little longer...

... in the meantime enjoy this photo from my hometown of Hanmer Ontario overlooking the peaceful Onwatin Lake from my best friends parents home. Note: there ARE lakes out there besides New Zealand (but there is also snow... and that is a whole other issue)!!

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