Returning home can be dangerous to your health – post travel distress and a general malaise that can leave one feeling restless, irritable and discontented. Conversely it can also invigorate ones own space.
New Zealand is fabulous when I return, the green greener, the blue bluer, the seafood tastier than when I left. Christchurch too always looks even more interesting when I haven’t seen it for a while. Flying into the airport I am delighted to be seeing the Alps, overwhelmed with the braided rivers, love the patchwork quilt plains and I’m also really amazed at how small the airport is.
Bringing my travel-fresh eyes home means for some time I see the local sights as a tourist does. The traffic lights flash “Don’t Cross’ and I wonder why not? The streets are empty of cars and people. I forget that we only have a small population in NZ (4 million) and Christchurch (400,000) in particular: I also forget that few live in the inner city when I expect to be able to eat breakfast in the city as I do in cities that are often bigger than our whole population.
Once I have been back for a while I stop looking up at buildings, examining bridges or reading the various plaques – which is what we do on our travels. When I remember to do so I am delighted at some of the old buildings we have and surprised at little features I hadn’t noticed before.
A quick self-check for my Christchurch readers – have you seen the arts centre decorations of a hand and pen, faces, or the hand holding a ball? Could you tell someone where to find them? Do you know what else is on the Queen Victoria plinth? What about the various features in the Botanical Gardens; the bonsai collection, the water garden, the fragrance garden or any of the many pieces of sculpture?
Have you stopped in the square to eat lunch, play chess, heckle the Wizard or just drink coffee and watch the huge numbers of people who use the great now-fume-free space? Have you been for a ride on the tram and learnt the history of some buildings as you glide by? Been up the gondolier? Watched buskers – and contributed to them- on Worcester Boulevard.
These are the things I find myself doing when I am back here in the city I was born in. The closer it is to my last trip the more I see and do and value in Christchurch.
I was reminded of this a few days ago as I looked up at a Hereford St building and saw some great art deco window surrounds. How come I haven’t seen that before I wonder? Perhaps I too have stopped using my tourist eyes. Eyes that drink in all they can when in some foreign city or in someone else’s national park. This was a wake-up call for me, go travel or start being a traveler in my own city.
Travel is out for a wee while but appreciating my own surroundings is always available. Costs me nothing but makes me enjoy my day as I walk the city streets. Tourist, traveler, new migrant or long-time ratepayer, I hope you remember to enjoy Christchurch too.
Note: this was previously published as one of a series of my weekly column in the now defunct Christchurch Citizen 2002/3