Part of the reason I wanted to travel 6,000 miles away from home was because I wanted to find a place where I was uncomfortable. I wanted to be afraid, to feel unsure. I wanted to find myself submerged— standing on fluid ground. When I first arrived in Auckland I expected to feel some sort of universal alteration—as if I could sense a dislocation within my very chemical make-up. Instead, I kept needing to remind myself that I was in a different country. That I was very, very far away from the furthest place I’d ever been.
The main sensation that I experienced those first few days? Comfort. And ease—I felt incredibly at ease. But, I figured this had to do with the fact that despite minor cosmetic differences, Auckland didn’t feel distinctly different than the United States. Yes, it was more tropical—the scents, bird songs, sea—all more vibrant and intoxicating. And even though I have a very, very hard time understanding Kiwi’s—sometimes I feel like they’re speaking a unique language--ultimately it’s still English. Also, I was staying with my friend Erika—perhaps the comfort of a familiar face was what was creating a sense of security?
Perhaps it was not different enough?
Erika and I left Auckland and traveled to a small surf town on the North Island called Whangamata. Once again, in the “bush” I felt completely at ease. So I figured, when Erika dropped me off at my new job, a hunting and fly-fishing lodge and hour from the closet down on it’s own 16,000 acres—that’s when I’d feel completely foreign. But when Erika left me at a house 30+ kilometers down a dirt road shrouded in mist, fog and pouring rain—I still felt fine.
A few days later I’m still ruminating on what it means to be displaced. Perhaps I need to go to a place where locals don’t speak English, where most people don’t look like me, in order to feel truly isolated. I also wonder if I’m so egocentric that wherever I go I can’t feel out of place because I’m there—and that makes it, at least partly, mine. I think about moving so much as a kid, how Frankie (my sister) and I would make a little game out of each house, finding secret nooks and crannies—finding more of a home in the game of transition than the structure itself.
In the last 12 months I’ve lived in 4 houses, 1 cabin, 2 states and 2 countries. So far, I’ve yet to feel completely out of balance.
I know that it’s a luxury, a true privilege, that I’ve never felt ill at ease in a place. That I’ve never felt outnumbered or dislocated or afraid of the fact that I am different. I also know that my quest might be naïve and demonstrate a lack of understanding for what it truly means to feel those things—that I might be a classic, insensitive white girl who doesn’t really get it. But still, I would like to have a greater understanding for what it means to feel out of place, dislocated. I'm determined to find it .