Back in the motherland

Its been over a month now since I returned to New Zealand after living in the UK for just over two years and I’m gradually adjusting to this new life. I recently wrote a post about my feelings towards leaving the UK, most of which were quite negative, and I thought it would be interesting to reflect on my experience of my return. So far I’ve enjoyed my time being back more than I initially imagined I would. Here’s a brief rundown of my experience so far.

The Flight/Jetlag:

As far as the flights go, I’m sure if you are reading this you are well versed with traveling and jet lag, There was plenty of room on the flight so I slept when I could, and during my 14-hour layover in Singapore, with only a vending machine for “nourishment”, I slept some more on the floor (which was probably more bacteria-infested than I care to think about).

 I found the return incredibly easy in regard to my body clock, and within a week I was sleeping fine and fully rested. All I really did was refuse to nap and kept myself awake till at least 9.30 pm. With the regular morning health check/breakfast deliveries you’re forced up by 9 am anyway. Aside from that, I tried to keep things regular i.e. getting dressed, brushing my teeth, a loose morning routine of meditation, and stretching before eating and that was about it.

Quarantine:

When I first arrived I got a grocery shop delivered, and got all the things I missed, like Krispie biscuits, Pics peanut butter, Whitaker’s chocolate, some nice herbal tea, etc. I really didn’t need to, it wasn’t overly cheap and I was so well fed that by the second week I had begun skipping meals and really the only thing I benefit from in that shop was a bottle of apple cider vinegar which I did shots of each day for my gut health as a way to mitigate the stress on my body from jetlag.

As for my time in quarantine, honestly, I absolutely loved it. I am extremely blessed in that I pretty much won the quarantine lottery. I ended up with one of the best rooms, in one of the nicest hotels in Auckland, with fantastic food. I spent my days relatively well occupied. I did as much life admin as I could from the hotel to make use of the downtime and focused on self-reflection and personal development for much of the rest. I read, wrote, meditated, did yoga, listened to podcasts, and watched countless documentaries. My room was a sun trap, so in the afternoons I got naked and star-fished on the armchair watching the world go by, out across the viaduct and the Auckland harbor bridge.

To maintain routine I created a daily checklist, a list of things I “had” to do. I don’t really like routines, but having a list of things to do allows some freedom whilst ensuring I still had some sort of framework for my day. You’d be surprised how much free time you have when all your meals are prepared for you.

Its not pretty and as you can see I didn’t enjoy the cold showers but it gave me a little purpose each day. (“1 hour wakeup” is being awake for one hour before turning my phone on).

As far as prepping for quarantine goes, aside from the usual items, a pen, pad, HDMI cable, and steel cutlery set were the most valuable items I bought with me. As far as I’m aware, all hotels have TVs so with the HDMI cable you can set yourself up nicely, they are also great for playing music and became the backbone of my solo dance parties. Moving your body is important and there’s only so many press-ups, star-jumps or yoga, you can do. The cutlery is an absolute must, meals are supplied in disposable containers with wooden cutlery, and trying to use them will soon ruin your meal. Even with the cutlery I still found the easiest way to eat a juicy orange was whilst having a shower in order to reduce the mess (there was probably an easier way). If you drink coffee, maybe a french or aero press might be a good shout too.

Whilst in quarantine I came across the Latin phrase “amor fati” recently in a book of Stoic philosophy I was reading. “The love of fate”, we are where we are, in the situations we are in, whatever they may be, they could always be worse, so why not be accept and be grateful for them. Fate has brought us exactly where we need to be, to not accept that and not make the most of the situation would be a waste of our energy and time.

“My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not in the future, not in the past, not for all eternity. Not only to endure what is necessary, still less to conceal it — all idealism is falseness in the face of necessity — , but to love it…” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Out, about, and kicking goals:

I’m fortunate in that I was able to ease my way into my return. I’ve worked a few weeks so far and spent a week visiting friends in Christchurch which has made for a smoother transition. It was also a nice way to return to some sort of normality whilst getting to visit some more of the country and fall in love with the New Zealand landscape once more. I understand this isn’t accessible for everyone but it allowed a nice balance of reconnection with family, friends, and not feeling like I had lost my freedom.

The most obvious thing I learned from returning to the “real world” from quarantine was the importance of acceptance of this new direction in life. It’s next to impossible to live in New Zealand without the ownership of a car and although it’s something I have actively avoided in recent years, I decided to suck it up. There was that little voice in my head telling me I’d be leaving NZ again soon, so why bother, but I quickly tried to see things a little differently. Maybe I will be here long term, maybe there is more to this return than my imagination/ego is allowing me to see. Maybe this limited mindset is not allowing me to see the bigger picture. Maybe this is the beginning of all that I’ve ever wanted and that this narrow mindset is not allowing me to accept and enjoy my present situation. Long story short, I bought a car, and I will love it for as long as it is in my possession. Aside from purchasing a car I spent no wasted time reestablishing myself here again. That meant setting up phone accounts, opening bank accounts, closing bank accounts, and generally creating “long-term” systems. The way I chose to see it, I could leave in a few months, or a few years, or not at all, so right now, why not accept that fate and make myself comfortable.

“I realise there’s something incredibly honest about trees in winter, how they’re experts at letting things go.” – Jeffrey McDaniel

Lyttleton, Chch from above. I went from a swim down there too. It was bloody cold but I throughly enjoyed being in NZ waters once again.

Reflections:
If I’m perfectly honest I don’t think London itself was that good for me. Its something I began to notice after a few weeks back in NZ. I look visibly younger, dandruff that plagued me for years has all but gone, Im sleeping better, and I feel far more balanced. I’m not saying I wouldn’t consider living on that side of the world again, but I highly doubt it would be in London.

The only real challenges I’ve faced so far have been pretty minimal and mostly due to adjustment. I’ve kept to myself a lot and haven’t rushed out to connect with old friends as quickly as I usually would, I figure that now I’m back longer term there is no real need to rush around. It’s been interesting to reflect on the reconnections I had made so far, some of the people I was close with only a few years ago now feel a slight disconnect, not in a negative way, just that our world views have shifted, and others have become closer. Neither are good or bad, just interesting to observe.

The other challenge and I guess its a little silly is seeing how much Auckland has changed, its growing so fast and personally I’m not sure I like the way its doing so, but again, that’s not up to me, and I’m sure my parents and grandparents said the same thing when they saw the farms and fields they grew up in disappear.

The most obvious highlight has been being closer to family, it feels like bonds have strengthened and connections have deepened. No doubt influenced by 2020 and the time it’s given us for reflection. It’s been such a pleasure to just be around my family, cooking and chatting, and hanging out. I think you forget how important a hug from your Mum or Dad, siblings, or significant other is. Coming back was worth it just for this.

“Many of us dream of a better, safer, more caring world, without recognising that it all begins with creating and maintaining a deeper love in our own home. The seeds of world peace should be planted in our own backyard.” ― Anthon St. Maarten

This may seem like an odd highlight to some, but if you’ve ever tried to deal with a government department or a bank in the UK you will know how challenging it can be, you are made to feel like you owe them and should convince them of your service. My first day back I called an NZ bank to set up an account and it was honestly, such a delightful conversation, while they were helping me out we chatted about what it was like to be in quarantine in the hotel, how they were doing with lockdown and just life in general. It just felt like I was calling a mate who happened to work at a bank. I didn’t realise how much I missed the warmth of those sorts of interactions in NZ. Don’t get me started on service in cafes here too.

In short, after all the kicking and screaming of not wanting to return to NZ I’ve actually had an amazing time, have settled back in well, and will be forever grateful for the time I’ve spent with loved ones. Who knows how long I’ll be here for or what will happen in the coming months but for now I’m choosing to live by Amor Fati as best I can, it is what it is, so may as well go all in.

“You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.” – Steve Maraboli

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8 responses to “Back in the motherland”

  1. Thanks for writing this, it’s helps I am returning after 27 years! So I am going to love all the things you describe even more but I do love london just fell out of love with the UK and it’s time to return to Aotearoa ❤️

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    • Thank you so much Ness. I completely understand, I think London/the UK can have a bit of a time limit on it, for some longer than others. All the best for your return!

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  2. This is fantastic insight, practically speaking, but I’m also so impressed at your emotional reflection – being able to confront beliefs you held strongly about returning to NZ and admitting that your assumptions may not have been completely accurate is so mature and ‘philosophically responsible’, if you like. Awesome piece!

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    • Thank you so much! Believe me, it wasn’t easy. I think the two weeks in isolation helped haha. I appreciate you taking the time to read it. I’m really enjoying writing these posts.

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  3. I’ve read all of your blogs, Jon; and this is the best one ever. 11/10 mate. Inspiring words. Well done! So glad to see you happy. As an ex-pat Australian who has been living London for 8.5 years I totally get it, and I’ve had the same thoughts too sometimes.
    Keep writing, Jon. You’re on the right track!

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    • Thank you so much Jason! The support means so much. I really enjoy writing them, so it’s great to hear you’re enjoying them!Cheers mate!

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