I could’ve gone anywhere in New Zealand. Logic tried to push me towards exploring the new instead of returning to a place I’d been two months back. But really there had never been a choice to be made. It was always going to be Queenstown, cinched in the moment I first stepped foot on New Zealand ground; on the tarmac, plane engine still rumbling, the Remarkables aglow and the cool, crisp alpine air a wonderful shock to this city girl’s system. The love affair was instantaneous and it only grew in strength and complexity, filling up this void I didn’t know I had.
Because here in Queenstown, life is full and slow and keeping up with the Joneses is just not a thing. It’s the antidote for someone who can get absurdly wound up in trivialities and all of modernity's rat races. Here, there are mountains that change every hour, every day in colour and mood, but never waver in their majesty - they remind me of what really matters, of what will hold steadfast amongst the colours and moods of my life. When I’m near them, I almost can believe in divinity...except I don’t need to because they are my divinity. It’s the town; small enough to feel like a village, big enough to keep my mind and body curious, abundant with life-loving folk from all walks of life with all types of accents, vibrant drinking holes and a million and one ways to get the adrenaline flowing. In this town, value is in experience, not rank and titles and material symbols of ‘wealth’.
When I’m not here, I hold Queenstown in my heart and it tugs away gently, sometimes unnoticed, until the pull is irresistible. They say third time’s a charm; the third time I landed in Queenstown, the third time I stepped foot on the tarmac, it was once more like coming home. The Remarkables were asleep this time and it was a nippy one degree but I was hot with emotion, to be back where I know I belong. Maybe it's a case of seeing what you want to see…but the customs man was so delightful, joking with these little kids and then bursting out, “hope you get some good photos” to me as I left (as I’d written ‘photographer’ for my occupation on the declaration form) and the guy who checked me into my hotel was so engaging and beautiful - it’s like the pieces of the puzzle were falling into place and the picture they made was me coming home.
It may be hard for you to understand - what it’s like to be drawn so powerfully to a place that you didn’t grow up in - but maybe you’ve just never ventured far enough, wide enough, deep enough to find your place. Or maybe you’re lucky and by default, where you’re born feels completely home. Or perhaps home is the road and every new place you go to, fills you with this overwhelming sense of wholeness.
I think the last one used to be me. Until I got to this town deemed fit for a queen. I can tell you it’s unlike anything I’ve felt anywhere else - and I’ve been places. I’m bursting at the seams with happiness and fulfilment and sheer bliss. My heart thumps against my chest and my breath quickens just that little bit when I look around and realise that for now, I am where I belong. I know I’ll have to go back ‘home’ tomorrow…but for right now, there is no void - I feel more whole than whole.
The above was written when I was in Queenstown in June 2017 for a collaboration with Jetstar NZ. Here follows my favourite photographs from this beautiful place: