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To The Ends of the Earth

Half-way around the world, or may farther, I took solace from a sad, raw divorce and rediscovered the power of discovery. That place was actually two places--New Zealand and Australia--where I spent six weeks traveling for my job, but also for my soul.

The trip occurred many months after my divorce was finalized but not long after I began dating a man who was a confirmed bachelor, an aspiring musician and a free spirit--someone totally different than my former husband. This new man was tall and dark and, in my eyes, very handsome and he made me feel very much alive, but also encouraged me to open my eyes to the wonders of the world around me. Again, he was SO different than my ex.

The trip had been planned before I met this new fella and when it came time to go I was loath to leave him. He had already done a great deal of international travel for a previous job he'd held but was now self-employed (painting houses while also playing his music) so when I suggested he join me for part of the trip he seemed interested and available. After I made the suggestion, though, I wondered if that had been a good idea since I didn't know him all that well yet. We were still tentative with one another.

When he took me to the airport to fly out we had made no plans for him to come and when I arrived in Aukland I immersed myself in meetings and sightseeing, a heady experience for someone who had never left my home continent. Yet I still felt a deep longing for him, one that I had not felt for a man in many years.

Apparently the longing was mutual. About a week after I arrived "down under," he sent an email saying he would meet me the following week in Christchurch. I picked him up at the airport early one morning and we set about exploring Christchurch where we were accidentally locked in the ChristChurch Cathedral tower for several hours, drank Guinness at the local pubs, and warmed the bed of my room above a karaoke bar. Then we traveled west in a beat-up rental car to Greymouth, turning south from there along the Tasman Sea coastline.

Along the way we encountered sheep shuffling down the gravelly roads and happened upon a gathering of people dressed as bumblebees (they were celebrating their rugby team's win of a tournament). We listened to Loreena McKennitt's "All Souls Night" album on our car's cassette player and found lodging each night in peoples' homes and in hostels. We ended up finally in Dunedin where the wind blew so strong it lifted us from the ground when we held our coats out like kites.

After two weeks, we circled back up to Christchurch where I took him back to the airport, clinging to him until he had to walk away for his flight. We were no longer tentative.

I mourned his leaving and a big part of me wanted to go home with him, but I was committed to staying for two more weeks and knew it was time to let him go, if only for a little while. And good that I did, because traveling the rest of my way without him gave me a strength and a space to heal and to grow.

When I did return state-side, the romance continued for a long while, but eventually ended rather painfully. He was truly a confirmed bachelor. Even to this day I sometimes still mourn the loss of him, but I think it is the loss of those days at the end of the earth that I long for the most, and appreciate the most too. It was there that I learned to love again, and also to love my life and myself.

Notes and Observations About the Stranger(s) Next Door