Insights: Going Home

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New Zealand

Time tends to go fast. If we are not careful, we will wonder what happened to the past 20 or so years. 

It had been 20 years since I returned to my homeland of New Zealand.  It was beyond time really.  Most of my family had either passed or moved so there was not a great desire to go back with so many other places to see in the world. 

However, it felt like it was time to go back to New Zealand.  Even though I have lived in California for the past 29 years and feel fortunate for my life here, there are some things that I miss about New Zealand.  Things that I want to make sure I incorporate or reincorporate into my life here. 

1.             I noticed how little trash (or as us Kiwis, another word for New Zealanders, call it, rubbish), either in the cities or the countryside.  There are a lot less people, which is part of it, however there is also much less paper or plastic used.  We do not use napkins, you get up and wash your hands if they get sticky.  We rarely use paper or plastic cups, plates or cutlery.  Products are less likely to come with bags, you just carry it out or it is put in a basic brown paper bag. 

2.             Food is kept in moderation.  I never needed a doggy bag, as when you order food it is enough so there is little over eating.  Due to the land space, food is naturally grown and raised, therefore it is more likely to be organic.  You could taste the freshness.  Food such as peanut butter and bread did not have sugar added to it.  Also food lasts for days, not months, as there was little use of additives. 

3.             Being in nature is just part of growing up in New Zealand.  People naturally just went outside.  It is expected that you will go into nature to play, be it hiking, swimming, surfing, boating, skiing, etc.

4.             I got to reconnect with people I had not seen for 30 years.  I learned that when you are kind to people, and keep relationships current they will be there even when you come back 30 years later. 

5.             People have less, yet they seemed content with their lives.  Simplicity actually does make us happier.

6.             When we ate out it would take a while to get the meal, therefore there was more time for connection with the people you are with.  There is naturally less rushing. 

7.             People are connective.  I think this is what stood out the most.  People took the time to talk, to connect.  We even had offers to stay with people or just come over for dinner and we just had met them.  There is a natural propensity to help each other. 

I want to share a story, as this experience had a tremendous impact on me. 

Just before I left, I found out my back was again having some serious issues, which led to a lot of pain.  As this was a hiking vacation, carrying a backpack was not going to be easy. 

I was on a five-day hike where I hit a wall with the pain in my back.  I had two couples stop and help me and carry my backpack over the top of the mountain and down the other side without any hesitation for the next few days.  This was not an easy hike when you are just carrying your own gear let alone someone else’s.

I experienced so many different emotions, from gratitude, feeling cared for, feeling connected, let alone knowing that I might not have made it through this hike if these people did not help me.  My gratitude stays with me and makes me want to pass it on. 

Helping others is a foundation for a happy life. Having community is essential.  This is about coming less from being an individual but rather being part of the greater good.  Sometimes I feel we have lost this due to, people feeling taken advantage of, money and status has become a priority, we do not rely on each other as much, and we rush to get from one place to another. 

Slow down. Connect. See other people. Acknowledge people. Be kind. 

I got more than just a great hiking trip when I went home. It brought me back to the basics of how I want to live, and do live.

Even though New Zealand will always be at my core, I will bring in the basics of what I grew up with and hold it in my wonderful home here in Newport Beach. 

Contact Dr. Shelly Zavala at or [email protected]





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