General views

Somewhere else

HouseThis is a tale that goes nowhere, what’s the point then you may wonder, why does there have to be one? I might respond. It’s kind of like an open discussion, designed to give pause for thought and reflection. I have the platform of this blog, the luxury of time and the inclination to ponder and that’s good enough for now so I’ll begin. It’s mostly about looking outside the borders you live within.

Is it about travel? Yes, sort of…but no.

Did you know that among all the awesome tunes on my iThing, over 4000 of them, the most eclectic mix of tunes you could imagine, the most played song has been played more than twice as much as the next? Yes it has. That song is the Green green grass of home by Tom Jones. OK, I know, I said eclectic.

I was watching the first Bourne film last night and there was a scene when he was at a train station somewhere in Europe. The station has those destination boards where the letters shuffle to form names of cities. They make a sort of tumbling Domino sound while they settle on a place the next train is heading for. I love those signs. They are way better than the new electronic ones, which lack the romance of the unfolding place name.

The Destinations were places like, Zurich, Paris, Hamburg, Berlin, Brussels and so on. It’s amazing where you can catch a train to in Europe. From London you can catch a train to Istanbul if the fancy takes you. Or you can take one to Vladivostok but you have to change in Paris.

The world is a very big but also a very small place now.  We can all see all of it on the Internet, which isn’t the same as seeing it in person though.

I know of many people who yearn to escape from New Zealand, you can’t take a train to anywhere from New Zealand but that’s probably not why they want to leave. The reason given for wishing to depart is usually one of claustrophobia at being so remote or removed from civilisation. As though the rest of the world is far more civilised than here. People look despondently at the insular nature of our nation. We are just about the most remote country in the world. It’s a very long way to anywhere. We are a young country in terms of habitation, the last inhabited or colonised country in the world by all accounts. Probably something to do with being so very far away from everywhere.

Many people here feel they need to go and see the rest of the world in person to make their lives richer. Go and see what the rest of the world does and looks like that is different to New Zealand. Many believe it will be much better living somewhere else, as they will be nearer to other things. I spent many years nearer to other things and I just wanted to come home.

If you have the wherewithal to go and see the world you must. If you haven’t or can’t, that’s ok too as it’s very nice here and you can see the world on the internet.

Here comes the discussion bit. People are different, they want different things. For my part, I would never go to any great effort and expense to stand in front of something large and historical, well except maybe that amazing place in Samarkand. Samarkand

I would not risk my life to sit in a canoe in a Jungle sweating in the humidity and being eaten by bugs. I would not queue for hours to stand in a gallery looking at old things on a wall or a plinth. I went to the Louvre once and walked off when I saw the queue. I walked around the outside instead.

I seem to have this unique ability to be underwhelmed by things. I walked through the Roman Forum once as it appeared to be the quickest way back to my hotel. I did notice an awful lot of broken stuff though. I like vistas, rather than architecture.  I like a nice view and luckily we have the best ones in New Zealand so I’m happy every day.

What is it about the chance of emigration though that makes people believe will change their lives for the better? If you go to a new large city, you are surrounded by people much like you, except the ones who live there are working unlike you as you visited while on holiday. So they go about their lives, commuting, paying taxes, having supper and shopping. You admire their surroundings for a bit as they are different to your own and you leave, thinking this might be an excellent place to live. Or you might like to live in the countryside full of odd things and strange people.

Out there in the world everyone is so keen to travel to and live in, everyone is getting from birth to death in the best way they know how, mostly expensively, just like you. They just do it somewhere else. What is it that makes the grass greener on the other side? People who travel to ‘find themselves’ somewhere else must simply be unhappy where they are. What is it you hope to find somewhere else that you think might make you happier?

Look at England for example. People in their millions from all over the world travel to England for a look at all the history, but very few people from Western countries would wish to live or retire there. The English on the other hand flee in their hundreds of thousands to live somewhere sunny like Spain or Australia.

People clamour for green cards to go and live in America, presumably because they like larger food helpings than they currently get at home.

Kiwi’s in their tens of thousands move to Australia, I’m guessing it’s because they like money and fire.

So many people looking to be somewhere other than the perfectly serviceable country they currently inhabit. So much desire for something other than what they have? Are so many so unhappy or so dissatisfied with their lot that they will risk everything just to be somewhere else?

I mean it’s understandable you might wish to move if your neighbours want to hack you to death for being the wrong tribe, or your children get shot in the face for going to school, or you worry about chemical weapons being used on you for wanting to vote. But if you  live in a democratic country with abundant food, democracy, clean air, freedom, wide open spaces, peace and the worlds best scenery with all the hobbits you can eat, what’s not to like?

I think it’s awesome if you can go and ply your lucrative trade somewhere you might get paid more money for it, but there is always a compromise. I struggle with understanding people who wish to make a home somewhere that isn’t their home. But I’m lucky, my home is here. I’ve always known that and it’s a great feeling of comfort to feel like I have a home, even if it’s a whole country rather than a particular part of it. The North of the North Island feels like home to me now. Maybe as I get older it’s because it’s where I started out.

What constitutes home? I’ve moved an awful lot and lived in a lot of places that didn’t feel at all like home. England never felt like home. Even though I owned a house there. I don’t own a house here but feel at home.

I guess all I’m saying is that if you long for an opportunity to leave somewhere you currently are and live somewhere else, remember it’s just somewhere else and maybe the grass isn’t necessarily greener, just a different shade of green. Everywhere else has it’s own crap stuff. Most likely more than where you are now.

You can always go and visit the other places, but chances are that if you decide to go and live there, you will always refer to where you came from as home. You will just be residing somewhere else, somewhere other than home. How is that better?

Happy travels. Make sure you have somewhere in your new home to hang your hat. Apparently that’s important.

31 replies »

  1. wonderful observations Sandy, and I agree with the sentiments. NZ-ers long to travel because we are isolated geographically and the internet and accessibility to travel has made it in-our-face and easy. Looking back (which in my case is now a rather long time) we were taught in school and read in newspapers and saw the movie reels and in the early stages of TV that the “real world” where the truly important stuff happened was “over there”- UK, Europe, USA. We were still a little England, an offshoot of Britain and so many of our ancestors came from there. We were brought up to believe that’s where the real world was. And we went and we looked and we tried and tasted and we realised, as you say, there are still the same day-to-days to be faced. Its just seems so very much better to face them “at home”.

  2. I didn’t learn to appreciate home until I left it behind. So for me, travelling was good for that reason alone. I saw and did some amazing things but I always knew I would come home one day.

        • I’ve had the Man’o’war merlot, bordeaux blend. A bit tobaccoey for my taste. Very manly name though. It reminded me of an Australian wine I had called ‘Black Stump’ I think, well named because it tasted like a black stump. I’m keen to visit Waiheke but I reckon I’ll give that vineyard a miss. Personal taste though, others may love it of course

  3. Hi Sandy, I ruminated on similar questions awhile back – threw around all the cliches (home is where the heart is, no place like home, home isn’t a place – it is people etc etc) trying to weigh up which was truer. In the end I came up with my own sentimental collection of words, which I put to a soundtrack and illustrated with photos and video – here’s the original post – But to paraphrase, as Michele says above – leaving is only worth it because the homecoming is so sweet.

  4. I was so pleased to find a post from you today! And,as always, one to make me think.

    I’m one of those who moved, and moved…and moved.

    We came to England from Scotland when I was a child…Scotland to me is where I am from, other places are where I live.

    I moved to France when my husband became ill, we moved to Costa Rica because the climate and health service would give him a better chance of living as he would like to live.

    I can’t imagine that I would ever have moved to a hell hole like the Gulf States just to earn money….the U.S. A. likewise…but I’m atuned to always being the foreigner now…

    Would I return to Scotland?


    Too damned cold.

    • Gulf states are not a hell hole! I live in the U.A.E. – a model country for religious tolerance in a turbulent region. I feel very fortunate to have been able to experience the beauty, hospitality and richness of history that the Middle East has to offer, and to raise my kids here with friends of all nations. Oman has to be one of the most drop dead beautiful countries I’ve ever been to in my life. You’re missing out if you think it’s a hell-hole!

    • Thanks Helen, I don’t think I could live in Scotland, like you say too cold. I love to visit it, but it strikes me as a terribly gloomy place. I’m glad my ancestors moved to New Zealand instead

  5. “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes” – Marcel Proust

  6. The concept of home being where the heart is I believe to be very true. I live my first 20 years in Levin in the same family house. Then 6 months in Oz, then 3 years in Wellington before moving to Auckland. From the very first time I saw Auckland lying sprawled over the land as we drove north over the Bombay Hills when I was maybe 6 years old, and then again at 16 which was the next time I visited I knew Auckland was home. It has always felt right, it has always felt comfortable and secure to me. I feel no affinity to Levin apart from recognition, but there is no heartfelt feeling of belonging as there is with Auckland. Levin, despite spending my first 20 years there is just somewhere I know very well. Funny isn’t it. 🙂

  7. Goodness ..complicated. Love the old house,it’s bound to be on a beach.Two chimneys,sash windows,a verandah for the rocking chair.Lots and lots of memories of people and the colour of life.What was that you said about travel…..?

  8. I think I am very very lucky. Am now a pensioner, (??!!) Born in England, lived in Ireland for ten years, on an island off the West Coast, truly fabulous place called Achill Island. Now the other end of the earth living on Waiheke Island, two very different places but emotionally very confusing as I really love them both. So for me, travelling opens your eyes to so much, but can also prove hard in knowing where you should be, both my islands are home.

  9. I have just re read this post. I do so enjoy reading your words Sandy but I am intrigued. When you were in England I remember you wrote about being quite settled and liking the fact that you were close to places, cold Christmas etc and was just wondering if there was an event that changed your mind or did you just become very homesick? You were reasonably settled over here, did you have a light bulb moment and yearn for “home”, fascinating stuff……

    • I was settled Sheila but not content. I was writing things to convince myself I was happy. I wasn’t, although I do prefer a cold christmas. I was always homesick when I was in England.

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