"So, what's next?" What happens after coming home from a gap year.
After almost a year of living in Peru, I’m now back in Aotearoa, the land of the long white clouds. “So, what’s next?” Once I had announced that I was coming back to New Zealand, that became the most common question in my inbox. It’s not surprising really, after all we live in a world where information comes at the nimbleness of our fingers and only hindered by the speed of our internet connections. Life’s biggest questions can often be answered by a six-letter search engine, so why not this one?
The simple and honest answer I can offer you is that I don’t know...yet. Logically, I know I will have to update my CV and eventually start applying for jobs. Luckily, in the meantime at least, I have been afforded the privilege of moving back in with my parents and for that I’m super grateful.
Not knowing or planning what to do before coming home wasn’t exactly easy for me either, because for most of my adult life, I have lived by strict schedules and deadlines. My previous life couldn’t have functioned without my ability to manage my day right down to the minute (that included scheduling naps!). I was a high-functioning, albeit stressed-out woman who thought saying no meant missing out on life. What changed? I lived in a country where being ‘on time’ is considered more of a guideline than a necessity. No, I still don’t like being late, but I have learned to go with the flow a lot more.
I plan to use the next few weeks to reflect on and embrace the positive changes this experience has brought to me. Apart from sorting and editing a few gigs of raw photographs, there are plenty of chapters left to write in my upcoming book. In between coffee dates and morning runs, I ask myself not what I want to do, but what I actually want my life to look like so I can build it from the ground up. You see, I’m under no illusion that starting over in my thirties would be hard, but then again, I’m not alone in this.
Travel isn’t a magic pill to heal or enlighten you (check out ‘Why Travel Doesn’t Change You’ by my friend, The Wanderlust Pilgrim), but it did afford me the physical and mental space to deal with some pretty heavy things going in my life at the time. It also forced me to acknowledge some deep-seated, self-worth issues. It meant that 2019 was both a year of painful lessons and incredible growth. As the saying goes, the same lesson with keep showing up in your life in different forms until you learn that lesson.
Coming back to my hometown (a place I often said was a big comfort zone for me), I could easily fall back into old habits and limiting beliefs, yet I know that my biggest growth while living in Peru came in saying YES to things I had never tried before. Certainly living in Huaraz did make the mountains and climbing more accessible, I guess the question now is what else is possible with a renewed curiosity for life?
It’s a month into New Zealand’s spring and today the sun shines through the haze of an overcast sky. The single digit temperatures during my morning runs does make me miss the warmth of Huaraz’s sun, but I know that longing will soon fade with summer just around the corner. It’s still early days, and once I settle into this new skin, I’m sure that most of the apprehension I’ve felt will be less and less.
My gap year wasn’t to serve as a break from my ‘regular’ life, instead it was a pattern interrupt to get me out of my head. To put me in the path of people who taught me the lessons I needed to learn. To challenge limiting beliefs by DOING instead of just dreaming about it. To live alone and rediscover my independence and be able to stand on my own two feet. Most of all, it brought much needed healing and a greater appreciation for the life I had lived in Whakatane. Change isn’t the easiest thing to embrace, but it is a necessity for growth. I hope to head back to Peru in two years, so until then, here’s to my new chapter in New Zealand!
xo Ronna Grace
fivefootronna is Ronna Grace Funtelar - a thirtyish storyteller, creative, writer and poet. A woman with a curious mind who lives for hiking mountains, outdoor adventures and eating pizza. She has a unique brand of optimism that is a combination of her great enthusiasm for life and cups of coffee during the day.