one of the places I am lucky enough to call home
So what’s your home? Can you only have one? I have many many homes and am very happy to take up more.
Home for me can be the fale in Fiji where I’m staying in for the week, where I have unpacked my suitcase, enjoy the company, eat my dinners and feel happy and comfortable. Home is New Zealand, where I currently live and when I travel internationally I am excited to fly back home to New Zealand. I’m also going home when I am visiting my family back in the Netherlands, where I grew up, where everything feels so normal even if I have been away for ages.
Home is Manly, Sydney, where I lived for 6 years before coming to New Zealand. Beautiful Manly, with its rockpools, local snorkelling spots, beach volleyball courts where we smashed lots of weekend hours away and where I made many friends. And of course Auckland is home, but so is the suburb within Auckland where I live. The local harbour beaches, cafés and people I know from the bus stop and walking the dog, they make me feel like home. And as soon as I drive north from Auckland, and turn of State Highway 1 towards Paparoa, I feel like I’m coming home again. Home to the trees, the stream, the neighbours horses and the vegetable plots on our 10 acre block.
Home is where I live and feel happy. So indeed, No place like home!
Bussing into work is for a lot of kiwi’s a foreign concept. Something that might happen in other countries or to other people who live in different circumstances. Those people that don’t have kids, pets, a normal working day, don’t exercise, don’t want to get home on time … Really? Traffic in Auckland peak hours is pretty horrendous since Auckland is one of the most congested cities in the world in peak hour. People are spending up to 101 hours a year in peak hour traffic (TomTom Traffic Index Q2 2013). And still people cannot see why leaving the car at home might help improve this situation. Growing up in the Netherlands of course I am used to taking public transport, and was very spoiled by the great train, tram and bus systems that are in place there. But it is also a mind-set no matter how extensive the bus network is. You accept that you plan in advance when you are going somewhere and yes maybe you will share your personal space with somebody you don’t know for an hour a day. Is that crazy? It’s a change, a big change for those who are so attached to their cars and believe taking this away is like giving up freedom. But look at yourself, sitting in traffic going 2 km/h, one car after the other with only a driver in it, every day, twice a day. You get to work stressed as it’s taken you 20 minutes longer then yesterday and you missed the start of a meeting. I’m up to date with my emails, refreshed from my walk to and from the bus stop, motivated by conversation I had with my co-bussers. I can have a drink on Friday afternoon and not worry about drink driving. Does that feel like less freedom to you?
Auckland was covered in some dense fog this morning. Only for a little while though. Once the sun comes up, the beautiful blue sky comes out, and you can’t help but smile as Auckland is sparkling.
Auckland has become an amazing city in the last few years. It has really started to stick its head out of the fog and get the confidence to come out and stand up claiming its place in the top of the most liveable cities in the world. For long it was known as the boring hub you had to pass prior to traveling into the beautiful country of New Zealand. And within New Zealand it was worse than cursing if you mentioned you actually quite liked Auckland.
But who could not want to live in or visit a city where access to water is only ever a very short ride away. Where a park is not just a cultivated lawn, but a conservation area with 100 year old native trees, where people still say thank you to the bus drivers, where you can drink good coffee on every corner and where you can find the most wonderful food from all over the world either as a take-away or in a restaurant with views you would not even dream of being able to afford.
And Auckland is definitely not pretentious. The Auckland Art Gallery for example could easily and rightly brag about how fantastic they are. It is a beautiful light building with a vast display of national and international art. They won a worldwide architectural award last year. So in a lot of countries, you’d see and hear about something like this everywhere, every tourist would be aware that this is the place to go, and highly likely there would be decent entrance fee. Not so in Auckland, people that go there are surprised, because it is free and it is such a great, friendly place with so many unexpected things to see and do.
Don’t get deceived by the modesty though. It is just some fog covering up the smiling city beyond.