Dear New Zealand…

10 years today since we met. Ten amazing, incredible, hard, challenging, rewarding, beautiful years in the best place in the world. What a ride it has been.

I looked at photos from my first year here the other day. I hadn’t seen any for a while and it really hit me — I barely recognised myself. It reminded me of who I used to be and what my life used to be like. And how different, how much better it is today.

Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I catch myself taking things for granted. Taking my life for granted. Taking you for granted. But the second I realise, it comes back. This feeling of overwhelming gratitude and I remember how lucky I am to have found you — my place in the world.

I’ve been trying to write something beautiful and powerful. Something worthy of how I feel. But nothing I wrote felt right, nothing was big enough or meaningful enough.

I’m usually good with words but right now I struggle to find them. I’ve had this inside of me for weeks now. I’ve been wanting to put it on paper because that’s what I always do — I write about it. But this time the words won’t come. It’s like what I want to say is there, right under the surface but I can’t put it into words.

And then last night it came to me. I was somewhere in the middle of nowhere on your beautiful South Island looking out over the ocean and realised that maybe the reason I can’t find the right words is because they don’t exist.

Maybe there just are no words. Maybe there is nothing I could write down that would get even close to describing just how grateful and proud I feel or how much I love you and all your beautiful people — The ones that were born here and the many, many more who made it their home by choice.

Maybe there are no words to describe how amazing it feels to sit here today knowing that I’ve done it, I’ve created the life I’ve always wanted — and more. I’ve created a life so much better than anything I could have imagined 10 years ago.

Maybe there are no words that could ever be big enough to tell you how much it means to me to wake up in this beautiful place every morning, to wake up to a life I love, to wake up as someone I want to be.

Maybe there are no words that could ever express just how incredible it feels to be at peace with myself, to feel settled and comfortable. To feel safe. To know that no matter what, I can deal with it — because I have you, my home.

Maybe there are no words to describe that overwhelming feeling of pride that comes over my when I look back and realise how far I’ve come in the last 10 years. Sometimes I still can’t believe it’s real. But one thing I know for sure, I could have never done it without you.

Maybe there are no words to describe how incredible grateful I am.

I feel like I’ve been on a long journey to find myself and my place in the world and you have been my guardian angel watching over me and guiding me, always giving me exactly what I needed at the right time — even when I sometimes didn’t realise at the time, that it was what I needed.

And don’t get me wrong, life is not perfect. It’s actually pretty far from it sometimes. There are tough times and setbacks. I feel lonely and sad. There is so much more I need to work on, so many more obstacles to overcome and challenges to tackle. But I know now that obstacles and challenges are there for a reason, they teach us something we need to learn. How we approach them is what matters. You taught me that.

I don’t think any words can ever express how much I love you for opening my eyes to all this, for waking me up. I love you for giving me the wind and the ocean, for your amazing sunrises and sunsets, for giving me your beaches, rivers and mountains, for letting me ride your waves and fly with the power of your wind.

I love you for all the lessons you’ve taught me — especially the tough ones.

But most importantly, I love you for bringing the most amazing people into my life, each one touching my life and changing me for the better. I love you for giving me my tribe.

I wish there were a better, bigger, more meaningful way to say thank you! Because that’s what I really want to say. THANK YOU New Zealand!! You are the most amazing place in the world with even more amazing people and I will be forever grateful that I got to meet you and had the chance to make you my home.

THANK YOU to everyone that has touched my life over the last 10 years. You are what made all the difference. There are hundreds of people who have made the last 10 years the amazing journey it has been. But there are a few that are extra special:

All the Sparkies (especially the 2008 team) — it all started with you; The Banff crew for being my first NZ home; Celine and Nina for being ‘my girls’ and spending hours contemplating life with me; my family for letting me go and never making me feel bad about it; and most off all, my adventure-loving, saltwater-addicts — you are what took my life from pretty great to amazing!!

PS: And the best part about all of this? I’m just getting started :)