Loving Where You Live

I always liked the idea of a “stay-cation.” Now that I don’t have a car (besides what I can borrow) I decided it was time to try it out. Surprisingly, it was harder than I expected.

The place I currently call home has a rather small population: 2,000 permanent residents. Quite the change from my New York hometown of 28,000. But, to be honest, that wasn’t really a big factor when I took the job here, because this small town is Kaikoura, New Zealand. In a place where the mountains touch the ocean, and you can see the Milky Way on a clear night, living here sounded idyllic.

But even in New Zealand it is easy to take your home for granted. Between the mundane chores of fueling up at the BP, shopping for groceries at New World and other errands, a place can get normalized to the point of disinterest. Sometimes it’s the feeling that to relax you need to “get away” for a vacation, the further away the better. While traveling away can help you realize what it is you miss and love about your home, I was determined to learn another way to fully appreciate the place where I am living: to practice “stay-cations.”

It’s true; some places are easier to love than others. No place is without its flaws — it’s moments of dissatisfaction where it either feels too small or too big, too boring or too expensive, too lonely or too crowded. You might prefer the peace and rest of the country despite the loneliness of small town life. Or you might choose the city with its excitement of countless shops, restaurants, and things to do, despite the presence of commuter traffic. Having lived in both, I’ve noticed that when I’m in one place I start missing another, and struggle to love the place I’m currently living in. So how do you learn to love where you live, especially if you feel like you are just stuck in your current hometown?

For me, it started by becoming an avid birder. 

Don’t close out of this tab just yet!! Okay, you don’t have to become a birder. But what birding helped me to do was practice the art of noticing things. I saw what was beautiful and unique about the particular place where I lived, and learned that, as nerdy as it sounds, I really enjoy being able to say, “that’s a tui singing over in the cabbage tree.” And most importantly, I started to learn what it is that I love to do, which I’m still figuring out as a 20-something year old. I try to ask myself, “What is it that I can do around my hometown that would be special to this place and I’d really enjoy? Who else is interested in it?”

It took some experimenting. I tried out the tennis club a few times. Then I signed up for local 10k
Local "Warrior" Run
races, and realized races are so more fun than training runs! There’s a new weekly writing group in town, and I’m on the quest for a zumba course. If I’m not feeling very creative, I can always fall back on my go-to activities of lazing on the beach or exploring eclectic cafes around town. But finding these new passions, these new loves, opens up a whole new world of what my hometown can be. Even with a population of 2,000 people.


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