To the Hills – Part II, in which we meet an unlikely tour guide

The first time I visited Papamoa Hills, with the Wanderlust Juniors, we walked along the main track to the summit. A week later, when I returned to the hills with Mr. Wanderlust, we climbed over a fence, beckoned by an irresistible view, and chose to take the path less travelled. The choice was easy. We walked toward the sun and the dew-glistened grassy peaks that reminded us of a scene from The Hobbit. The main path provides a great cardio and lower body toning workout, but that’s not what we were after on this day. I have been working to move away from my old tendency to rush through life, to choose to work harder, to move faster, to get more done in a short amount of time. These days, I give myself permission to slow down and enjoy the journey. I’m tired of trying too hard to make something happen. I have been making conscious decisions to keep moving ahead with an attitude of ease and softness.

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These days, I also allow myself, from time to time, to be guided by someone — or something — else. I settle into the backseat and let someone else drive and navigate. Like Alice, I lean into the adventure and allow curiosity to write the story. We wandered along the grassy, gently sloping path, welcoming the warmth of the sun on an otherwise cool morning. As we rounded a corner, we found ourselves almost face-to-face with an unlikely tour guide: a brown cow. She stood still before us, her gaze wandering between us, the visitors, and her fellow grazers on the hillside, behind the low electric fence. Somehow, she had become separated from them.

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The cow sauntered before us and we followed at the same unhurried pace, not daring to attempt to pass behind her every time she slowed and then came to stand still. She positioned her body to block our path entirely, then reluctantly turned her head to glare at us, unimpressed. We had intruded upon her as she tried to make sense of her predicament and now waited for her to continue to move forth. We followed her lead, accompanied by the curious surveillance of the other cows whose breakfast we had interrupted. They ogled us while continuing to chew mouthfuls of grass, their scent transporting me to my childhood summers on the farm in Siberia where my mother grew up and where, much to my repugnance, my grandmother had once attempted to teach me to milk a cow.

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After a short meditative walk, our reluctant tour guide reached a fence and a locked gate, and without so much as a quick glance at us, stepped off the path with surprising grace, giving us passage over the fence, and proceeded with her own snacking on a particularly lush mound of long grass. We turned to thank our gentle guide for leading us along the path and saw that, although she remained separate from her herd, she resigned herself to this situation and continued to do what came to her with ease.

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We continued our journey, climbing over fences to sit on a bench overlooking peaceful farmlands, our new neighbourhood, and the vast ocean beyond. I twirled and danced, singing a few lines from The Sound of Music, much to the amusement of my husband, who was thankful for our solitude on that quiet hill. Then, we proceeded with our walk to the summit, relying on the maps upon which we stumbled along the way. As for our tour guide, I suspect she quietly awaited the return of the farmer at the end of the day, then gratefully followed his lead. How’s that for a lesson in acquiescence?

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If you were not able to join my live Facebook video earlier this week, you may watch it at your leisure. In it, I share with you my insights to help you reconnect to mindfulness and joy on a daily basis.


Interested in reading more? Here are a couple of posts from the archives:

A year ago on the blog: A story of commitment, dedication, and love

Two years ago on the blog, and something with which I continue to grapple today: A Story to Tell

To the Hills – Part I

On Tuesday, June 13th at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time / Wednesday, June 14th at 12 p.m. NZ time, I will be LIVE on Facebook, talking about how we can practise mindfulness and rediscover joy every day. I look forward to chatting with you.


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The sun’s rays broke briefly through the low moody clouds as we sat on a bench that was missing its third plank. The Wanderlust Juniors ate mandarins and granola bars, then the eldest boy fine-tuned his binoculars, a family antique gifted to him by my dad, to better observe the sheep grazing on the hillside. The gloomy clouds reflected our thoughts and emotions, having said goodbye to Mr. Wanderlust the night before at the airport. On Day 1 of his week-long business trip, we felt his absence.

I gently encouraged the Wanderlust Juniors to continue walking up the track to the summit of Papamoa Hills. Reluctantly, they agreed to my idea with the promise that they would later relax at home with a movie. Given a choice, in a manner not at all resembling their usual enthusiasm for adventure outings, they would have spent that entire day indoors, coming up with ideas that would inevitably lead to some kind of trouble. In the interest of self-care, and in trying to keep a copacetic state in my household, I could not have agreed to such a proposition. We needed to leave our small beach bungalow, with its stuffy misplaced emotions. I needed to clear my head of concern about Mr. Wanderlust as I waited to learn of his safe arrival at his destination after a 16-hour flight. I also needed space to breathe after having stopped too many mischievous incidents within the first hour after the boys’ too-early rising. Shortly after 8 o’clock, having packed a small picnic and my camera, we took a short drive to the hills.

The crystal-clear air beckoned forth as we walked the inclining path. The low silver pillows of clouds hovered menacingly overhead, yet we solemnly continued our trek. One boy would stop after every few steps to play dreamily with stones that he picked up along the way, or to collect a couple of sticks. The other would race ahead, then halt and wait for us to catch up. It would be dishonest of me to say that I did not at times feel a pang of frustration at the snail’s pace of our walk. That feeling would arise every time I noticed that another person who had passed by us not long ago on the way up was already returning down the path toward us. I reminded myself to enjoy the flow, however slow it may feel at times, to stop when they stop, to move when they move, to forget my agenda and give up control. Besides, I shrugged, anything is better than trying to entertain two bored boys inside a small home. Before long, we had reached the summit but did not linger. The triumphant ascend reminded my two excitable boys of their adventurous enthusiasm and they raced each other along the winding track to the parking lot.

Later, at home, following a comforting Skype chat with Mr. Wanderlust, the atmosphere felt significantly lighter. The sky released its own heavy weight as the rain came after lunch, making our afternoon at home with a movie and banana-chocolate chip cake all the more cosy.

A week later, Mr. Wanderlust and I returned to the hills for a morning date. Come back on Friday to read part II of the story, in which I tell you of our outing with an unlikely tour guide.

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Favourites from around the web:

Wisdom from Anne Lamott

In defence of slow fitness This is my approach to exercise.

Networking 101: Make Friends Not Contacts

Five ways to survive entertaining as an introvert This is always a good reminder for me.

Something quirky for the fellow grammar nerd: The Oxford Comma’s Online Dating Profile

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

Foreshadowing. Could a favourite children’s book have predicted the future?

Slinky Malinki was blacker than black

A stalking and lurking adventurous cat.

He had bright yellow eyes, a warbling wail

And a kink at the end of his very long tail.

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After Mr. Wanderlust and I started to announce that we were expecting our first baby, a couple of our friends very thoughtfully surprised us with three children’s books. One of those, Slinky Malinki by Lynley Dodd, would quickly become a favourite for the eldest Wanderlust Junior, later for the youngest, and also for us, the parents. We admired the quirky illustrations of adorable Slinky Malinki the cat, and the Wanderlust Juniors used to comment that he looked very much like our own late cat, Meeshu. It wasn’t long before our boys, learning to speak, started to complete the words at the end of each stanza. Without needing to try, we had memorized the funny rhyming story.

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Hello there, Slinky!

Shortly after arriving in NZ, we started to notice illustrations of a dog called Hairy Maclary in bookshops, the local library, and at the school, and we quickly deduced that the same illustrator also worked on Slinky Malinki. It turns out we were correct.

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I wasn’t able to capture Slinky lurking off to the right-hand side of the kerfuffle scene.

When we first visited the Tauranga waterfront playground, we delighted at a garden of sculptures of a group of dogs that chased a hissing, distressed cat up a pole. A second cat lurks nearby, obscured by a low wooden barrier just steps from the unsuspecting, distracted dogs. Yes, you would be correct to guess that the stalking and lurking kitty was our old friend Slinky. Our investigation concluded a minute later, after we read a nearby sign about Lynley Dodd, who is originally from Rotorua and is a resident of Tauranga. As has happened several times within the past seven weeks since our arrival in NZ, Mr. Wanderlust and I looked at each other with eyes wide in marvel, then laughed.

“The signs were there all along.”

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Leader of the pack and a new favourite literary character, Hairy Maclary
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Wonderful detail

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For over seven years, we read from a beloved book that, somehow, unbeknownst to us, would lead us to its place of origin in what has become our new home.

Do you believe in signs?

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Stalking and lurking, indeed.

Kites and community

Thank you to everyone who responded to last week’s post about homesickness / expat sadness and shared tips and stories. As I seek community in my new home, I also continue to find comfort with my friends and loved ones in other parts of the world.

More on that in today’s blog post…

On Sunday, my dear friend Shlomit was present in my thoughts as I watched the beautiful bluebird kite she gifted to us before we left Canada soar high in the perfect azure sky. The gentle breeze was just as perfect, allowing the brilliant blue kite to hover peacefully in the sunshine among so many others! Standing on the grassy field in the park of Tauranga’s Matua neighbourhood, we had joined many other families who had come to take part in Matariki Kite Day, a festival that celebrates the Maori new year.

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We stood transfixed, gazing attentively at the bird with what I acknowledged to be a sense of tranquility as it dawned on me that I had never flown a kite as a child. As I listed to the rolling laughter of the Wanderlust Juniors, I wondered at how I grew up without having ever stepped onto a grassy field or the sandy beach to experience the sheer pleasure of holding in my hand the reins of something so pretty that transforms the darkest of moods, that plants a rainbow in our hearts.

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I have been pondering the symbolism of kites in literature, thinking of The Kite Runner, where the image of a kite resurrects memories of carefree childhood and innocence. Ziggy Marley, in Love is my Religion, sings, “I don’t want to fight; hey, let’s go fly a kite.” In Maori cultures, the kites of Matariki symbolise a connection between the heavens and earth. While peacefully gazing up at the kaleidoscopic textiles dancing in the gentle breeze, we forget about the ‘to do’ list of the day. Kite meditation — what a brilliant concept! We forget, for a while, about our agenda for the evening as we stand still, smiling in the magic of the moment, surrounded by so many others in our community who have united with one simple desire, to marvel at the peaceful beauty of something so simple and at once so powerful.

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When was the last time you flew a kite?


Favourites from around the web:

Why Everything We Know About Salt May be Wrong

More mindfulness: The Japanese skill copied by the world

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Wishing you a marvelous week with unlimited potential!

Start slow: A Monday morning date

Last week, we were feeling miserable, resting in bed with a cold that knocked us off our feet. This week, we are starting to slowly, gently reawaken to greet the sunshine and restore our energy reserves. A morning walk in the sunshine up Mount Maunganui was just what the doctor ordered.

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The view of Mount Maunganui, referred to as ‘the mount’ by the locals, from the boardwalk of Pilot Bay

We had a busy first month in NZ and now that we are away from our families, couple time is not easy to carve out. Mr. Wanderlust wasn’t due to start work until lunchtime, and after taking the Wanderlust Juniors to school, we decided to make our way toward Mount Maunganui. We had walked up the mount once before with the boys, and although the trek was challenging, it did not feel overly difficult. This time, our experience was not the same as before.

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Not even 15 minutes into our hike up the mount, we felt short of breath.

“I can’t believe the terrible shape I’m in,” I complained while blowing my nose and tugging at my clogged left ear.

“You are recovering from a bad cold,” Mr. Wanderlust gently reminded me. “You can’t expect to be as strong as you normally are.”

A few days ago, we were feeling too weak to walk around the block, let alone walk up a mountain. Our next thought, as we stopped to catch our breath, was that if we’re feeling weak, at the very least we were in this together. We had to crack a few jokes along the lines of, “If I ever make it up the mount…”

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We made a few more stops on the incline, each time taking the opportunity to snap a few photos of the spectacular vistas in-between coughing and clearing our noses — okay, it was me blowing my nose while Mr. Wanderlust ensured that I did not have bits of facial tissue left on my face. What started out as a frustrating and humbling trek left me with a reminder to start slowly and be kind to myself, to be patient as I continue to regain my strength. This was our opportunity to go gently, without feeling the need to rush toward a destination. We reminded ourselves that while we were working to catch our breath, we had the perfect excuse to stop to enjoy the sights on the way up.

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Putting one foot before the other, we made it to the summit sooner than we had expected. Our walk was silent, in the comfortable manner of long-time lovers who have lately had too much on their minds and hearts. Sitting down to recharge before coming down from the mount, I rested my head on my husband’s shoulder and, closing my eyes for a few moments, leaned into the comfort of home.

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Adorable residents of the mount.

Updates from Instagram:

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Previously on the blog:

Chez Kathleen Kelly and Holly Golightly

Skipping the Small Talk

Wishing you a week of gentle beginnings!

The week in review: May 19th

It appears winter has arrived in NZ, announcing itself by way of rain, wind gusts, and crisp mornings. Inevitably, it’s all very different from winter in Ontario and we are curious about the months to come. I think of plans for July and immediately conjure images of hot and humid days, then remind myself that such weather doesn’t apply to this part of the world at that time of year.

There are also other fascinating discoveries. Two weeks ago, I noticed that the moon phases progress in the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere than in the northern. As someone who follows the moon particularly closely, I was puzzled to see that the moon was waxing from the left to the right side. My delight at this so-called discovery might sound downright ridiculous to others for whom this information is likely common knowledge, but it fills me with inexplicable joy and curiosity. Please do leave a note in the comments below and tell me, did you know about this ‘mirror effect’ of the moon in the northern vs. the southern hemisphere?

A few favourite moments from the past week:

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I was almost knocked off my feet by a wind gust while taking photos near the dunes. I’m at once terrified and fascinated by the ocean on stormy days.
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Beachside treasures that leave me in awe of the wonders of the universe.
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It’s easy to eat the rainbow when delicious vegetables are in abundance at the farmers’ market.
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I adore the whimsical nature gifts that the youngest Wanderlust Junior brings home almost daily. Some of them — ahem, pet bugs — are somewhat questionable, but others are sweet.

Favourites from around the web:

Modern Mrs. Darcy has released her list of 17 books everyone will be talking about this summer. I can’t wait to get my hands on a few of these. Which ones are you looking forward to reading?

A fascinating podcast: Accelerated Learning: Get Good at Anything in 20 hours

Beautiful, honest, and though-provoking. Our Mothers as We Never Saw Them. I have often looked at photos of my mother from her late teens and early 20s and wondered about the woman she was before I changed her world.

We spend plenty of time inside our heads. You Can’t Be Creative without Being in Your Body

Things have been busy on my end. It’s time to return to basics. Today I’ll Press Pause

Excellent advice for the writer. So you want to be a writer? Essential tips for aspiring novelists

Wishing you a beautiful weekend, regardless of the reigning season!

Mindful Motherhood

This week’s blog post arrives one day early. The reason for that is simple. It is Mother’s Day in NZ, Australia, Canada, the U.S., and numerous other countries in the world (yes, I looked it up).

In preparation for this week’s blog post, I brainstormed a few ideas. I could tell you about how my children, Mr. Wanderlust, and I have been adapting to our new environment, what with the Wanderlust Juniors starting school in a new place. I could also tell you about recent mistakes I have made as a mother. I could follow those mistakes with stories of celebratory moments after which I wanted to give myself the proverbial pat on the back. In truth, this has never been a parenting blog because I do not have an interest in writing detailed stories about my family. The information I share via this blog and social media is carefully edited.

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Exploring the beach near Devonport, Auckland.

I will confidently say, however, that as with various big moves and transformations, there are inevitable challenges, disappointments, and triumphs, and in most cases we hope that the magical moments will by far outnumber the ones we often wish we could sweep clean from our memories. I can also confess that although I am continuing to work to remain a mindful, present mama, some days and scenarios create hurdles in this practice. As my children continue to grow with each new experience, so do I. My role as a mother is forever changing and evolving, and it keeps me curious. The great days remind me to acknowledge and praise the work I do; the not-so-good days inform my future steps. And so the ebb and flow continues, keeping me humble yet empowered, tentative yet self-assured. I’d bet many of the parents reading this will relate; we walk this road together.

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A beloved moment from our cottage getaway to Sauble Beach, Ontario in August 2015.

Today, I celebrate my Mama, as well as my mother-in-law and my grandmother, the beautiful mother figures whom I am fortunate to have in my life. I bow to them in deep gratitude. I also celebrate myself, and express gratitude for all those triumphant and not-so-pretty moments on this incredible journey. May those experiences continue to remind me to stay present and be the best mum I can be, every day. This morning, I raise my mug of peppermint tea to all the other mothers who walk this brilliantly crooked path.

May 5th / 6th: Simplicity, and local exploration

Here is a small selection of favourite moments from the past week:

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A breezy Sunday afternoon on Leisure Island, with a view of Mount Maunganui.
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Cilantro (coriander in NZ) catching a few cosy rays on the windowsill.
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Posting mail to a few special recipients overseas.
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Joy is a new-to-me beach cruiser that feels like it’s always been mine.
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Simple and delicious.

Favourites from around the web:

We have been doing plenty of sightseeing, but we are also working to balance it with quiet time and simplicity. Why simplifying may protect our children’s mental health.

Quirky. How reading makes our lives better.

This resonates. How to make and keep friends as an adult.

Self-care. A YogaLand interview with Tiffany Cruikshank regarding self-care idea for spring’s transitions.

Here’s to a pleasant weekend!

April 29th: Family. Adventure. Discipline. Home.

After 11 days of sunshine, today is our first rainy day in NZ. I see this as an invitation to slow down the pace following our week-long sightseeing adventures, to stay close to home and take care of a few mundane but nonetheless important housekeeping duties. After all, adventure must be balanced with everyday discipline.

Here are a few of my favourite moments from the past week:

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Redwoods giants rising above us.
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Hobbit-sized clothes on a line.
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Fluffy clouds on four legs.
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A beautiful illustrated edition of a beloved book, and a comforting flat white. These are a couple of my favourite things.
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This boy and his delight at the sight, smell, sound, and feel of the ocean as it beckons.
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Autumn colours reflected in the tranquil water.

Favourites from around the internet:

Why we make things

For the fellow traveller: Simple ways to feel at home when you travel.

On a similar note to the above. Finding home wherever you are.

For those in the northern hemisphere, 20 ways to savor springtime.

Compelling. Why you should read books you hate. I’d love to read your opinions on this. Would you like to leave a comment below?

Magic and science mingle yet again. Meet the biologist who says trees have their own songs.

Celebrate who you are right now.

Favourite words:

I loved this advice from Helen Mirren on femininity, strength, and the freedom that comes with ageing.

Wishing you a weekend of adventure and/or focused discipline — you choose what you need, then seize it!

We sold our house, packed our suitcases, and moved to the other side of the world

We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us. ~ Anonymous

Those of you who follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook likely already know that the Wanderlust Family has moved from Canada to New Zealand. Many of you have been waiting to hear the full story of our move, and although it is comprised of many chapters that I will most definitely write over the next few months, today, I share with you the prologue.

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View of the coast from our hike to the summit of Mount Maunganui

In late September 2013, Mr. Wanderlust and I were on a weekend getaway to Goderich and Stratford, Ontario. Earlier in the afternoon, we had enjoyed a peaceful walk on the grounds surrounding the charming, quaint country inn in which we were staying. Following dinner, as we relaxed in our room, we had decided to turn on the television. We never watch TV at home, so this action in itself was highly unusual for us. We had flipped a few channels and settled on HGTV and a fantasy show on which a couple from our neighbourhood in the Toronto area was offered, purely hypothetically, a chance to sell their home and, with the money from the house, purchase a home in one of three different appealing locations in the world. One of the locations was Hawke’s Bay, NZ and simply looking at the shots of the location on TV, we started falling in love. Mr. Wanderlust expressed that he has always dreamed of visiting NZ. Yet, reality check! The couple from Ontario wasn’t actually about to sell their home. If they were to move to a different country, more than just the cost of the home would have to be taken into consideration. What about the cost of living, job prospects, etc.? We dismissed the show due to its fantastical nature, but the universe works in wondrous ways, storing information on some faraway shelves in our subconscious minds.

Several months later, on a -30°C day in Toronto, Mr. Wanderlust and I, in typical Canadian fashion, were commiserating about the frigid winter temperature when I sighed, “You know, people complain about the weather and wonder about why they are living in such a cold place. Well, why don’t we do something about it?” When Mr. Wanderlust asked me where I would want to move, I blurted out, “New Zealand.” Then I laughed, brushed aside the crazy idea, and prepared lunch for the youngest Wanderlust Junior, then put him down for a nap. Several hours later, Mr. Wanderlust approached me with a tentative proposal to move to NZ. He had spent some time researching the major cities in the country, job prospects, housing prices, and the cost of living. After several months of serious contemplation, we decided to put the idea into action.

Ultimately, the temperate climate of the north island was just one small deciding factor for us. Both Mr. Wanderlust and I spent our childhood in three different countries, emigrating twice with our parents. These international moves gifted us a lifelong love of travel, and we travelled extensively together, whenever possible. Perhaps, for that reason, the idea of uprooting our family did not seem intimidating to us. We feel at home anywhere in the world.

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SOLD

Having thoroughly researched NZ, we were attracted to its diverse landscapes and the various opportunities for activities that we love most — camping, hiking, and paddleboarding — and for new ones that we are looking forward to experiencing in the near future. We wanted to move to a smaller city but one in which we would have access to everything that we need and where we would be able to enjoy a slower way of life. For that reason, we chose Tauranga, currently the fifth largest city in NZ. It’s a large enough city that feels like a small town. Frankly, I loved the idea of Wellington, which reminds me of San Francisco, one of my favourite cities. However, as a person of mostly Vata constitution, I do not like the idea of living in a windy location, and Wellington is known for precisely that kind of weather; Toronto was already too windy for me on most days. But there I go talking about the weather again. We wanted to be in a relatively quiet and family-friendly city in which we would have an opportunity to spend plenty of time outdoors. And so, we chose to follow our dream.

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Celebrating the sale of our home with some bubbly.

We made a timeline for our move and followed through. We knew we wanted to relocate in late 2016 or early 2017 and submitted our initial visa application. We went through the immigration process, arranged everything for our move, sold our house north-east of Toronto, sold many of our furniture pieces and housewares, shipped some 100 boxes of personal belongings and furniture, packed our suitcases with clothes and other essential items that we require for the first three months in NZ (until our shipment arrives), and were on our way.

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Saying ‘goodbye for now’ to our books, Lego, and a few other valued possessions.

We have been in Tauranga for a week now and are settling into our new temporary home, exploring our new town and its neighbourhoods, and getting used to a new way of life. I will continue to write about our adventures in NZ, new discoveries, and lessons.

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On our way to the airport.

I will publish a second post on a weekly basis, on Saturdays (in NZ) / Fridays (in North America and Europe), featuring a photo journal of weekly highlights, as well as notable links from around the web, related to mindfulness/awareness, literature, travel, and other subjects of interest. There is so much to discover, but I remind myself daily to slow down and savour each new incredible experience.

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A spectacular sunset on the local beach.

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Until next time, wishing you a peaceful week!