Someone I know recently moved to Australia, probably following sterling advice he'd spied somewhere, but promptly decided to pack it in and move back to the glorious Wellington weather. Naturally this isn't for either of the obvious reasons, that Australia is crappy and full of Ockers, but because there were too many poms. Go figure that one out.
In all seriousness, I'm sure that his decision to move there was based on his experiences as a young lad, full of English pounds and partying in some of Australia's greater tourist traps. What it made me think of is the way there's simply no going back to our good ol' days.
Pretty much everyone has them, or should have, whether it's the few years before you go getting someone up the duff, or the years you spent as the popular college kid. They always sit there, reminding you that life can be an endless lotto moment without care or responsibility.
That in turn made me think about why people come back to Godzone after time away. We've all done it. You purge all the gear you don't need, sell the rest, and off you set for shores unknown. Itchy feet, probably the New Zealander's greatest asset. If we all stayed we'd freaking hate each other within five minutes. That or start breeding with our sisters. Take a look at what places like Texas give to the world if you need proof of that...
And there it is. New Zealander's need To go overseas to stop us going stir crazy. But when it all boils down to it if you're a real New Zealander you have to come back. There's no two ways about it. Even if you think you've chosen to stay away you'll always be thinking about the place. You'll always feel the presence of New Zealand there, just under you skin, always causing an itch you can't always get to. It'll perch on a branch near the back of your mind whispering sweet nothings, nudging you gently with reminders of endless hills and empty beaches.
It was a strange thing for me. Someone asked me at the weekend where I felt the yearning and I answered glibly, but there was some truth in what I said. I did feel the longing behind my ears. It was a tightness, an irreconcilable tension. It grasped forward to my brow, only to release me when tales of home sprang from a friend. When pictures recognisable only to a true Kiwi appeared on billboards or the telly. They soothed me. They pierced the veil of ignorance blinding the people around me. They brought me closer to home and smoothed the yearning in a way big money never could. Hell, when did money ever soothe yearning?
Ignorance you ask? Not ignorance in a spiteful sense, but the ignorance of lack of experience. How can you explain Kiwi summers to an Ocker who bathes in sun year round? Those days of needle-sharp sunlight. So, too, short and hazy. The bite of salt water crisp and clean. Black sand. White sand. Grey sand. The smell of Pohutukawa baking.
And the yearning never left me. In the first few years the glamour of what I was doing pushed it deeper. It buried it at the bottom of an explorers pack. The forgotten momento of my person. Lurking there, springing out occasionally during a long stay, admired, and returned for future perusal.
The second place the longing sat was my shoulders. On the days when the alien places I travelled to became too much. When they slumped me forward. When they sat upon me to remind me I was a stranger. A welcomed adventurer perhaps, but a stranger nonetheless. On those days the yearning would lift me up with smiling memories of rainforest canopies and the wafting mist of the the bush floor. I would give myself over to it and it would grant me verdant and silver wings. I would rise in my mind high above the pale greens and luscious reds to glimpse the rising hills and clustering isles. I would pause there long enough to again feel the warmth being at home, and sink back to the quagmire of alienation.
And so I came home. When the sweet nothings became too much. When the pull of the yearning became too much. When it reached too far into my daily life to ignore, a foot-stamping, petulant child, I returned.
Do I regret it? Sometimes. But the yearning is quieted, and peace is a beautiful thing.