This blog update is overdue by many months. In the time since I last posted, I’ve gone through a full pregnancy while managing two young kids with Isaac, finished (mostly) building our tiny house, and also moved to a new city (New Plymouth). And since September I’ve had my arms full, literally, with our brand new daughter. My life is too full of joy, chores, adventures, tantrums, love, and messes to write. But I wanted to post something here for two reasons: to share finished pictures of our tiny house, and to close out this blog for a little while.
When I started writing here three years ago, I called it “Here or There” because that’s how the concept of “home” felt to me – neither here nor there, both here and there. We were halfway between California and New Zealand at the time. I have always been attached to physical places as being homes in my life, especially houses. On our first caravan trip as a couple, Isaac helped me understand that home was not a place but a feeling, and it can move with you wherever you go. How freeing is that?! When we had children, I wanted nothing more than to instill that sense in them, especially since we didn’t know if we’d raise them in the US or New Zealand. On a six-week RV trip around the Southwest with our then one-year-old and a new baby, we took this concept with us. Our “RV Home,” as our son called it, felt like exactly that.
In the past four years, we have moved more than a dozen times. Sometimes big moves, like leaving San Francisco to come to New Zealand. Sometimes small moves, like coming up to live in our unfinished tiny house for a month last Christmas so relatives would have space to visit for the holidays. Our two boys each have their own special blankets (aptly named “stripes” and “flowers”) and they can sleep anywhere as long as they have these to snuggle into. In all these moves, home has been as portable as a blanket for them, thankfully.
Shortly after moving up into the finished tiny house here on the island this past April, we flew off the island to visit a town called New Plymouth on the southwest side of New Zealand’s north island. I had read a lot about this small city of 60k people with a thriving arts and surfing scene, and I’d had a feeling it would be a good option for us as the kids start school in 2024 and we look for jobs and a less rural community.
After a week in New Plymouth, despite awful winter weather, we knew we had found our place. As with most things in my life that have “felt right” to me, everything fell into place quickly. We found a house we loved and got it. I found a midwife I adored. We got the keys a few weeks before my due date and arrived with bags of clothes and our bikes. Two weeks later, our daughter was born at the hospital there. We couldn’t have birthed on the island, as there are no working midwives or facilities here, so it was all quite fortunate the way it worked out. It felt meant to be.
We’ve been spending the last few months of 2023 year back on the island in order to finish off some projects on the house, say goodbye to friends, and soak in the summer at our favorite beaches. School starts in New Plymouth at the end of January, and from then on we will only be coming back here 3-4 times a year for school holidays. But when we’re here, this will be home and will feel every bit like one. As I said, home for us is here and there.
While the kids were at their preschool here one day, I managed to put all the toys and dishes away and snap a photo or two of the house in a rare tidied up state. I can’t believe we built it, but I also see all the things wrong with it and the bits we could have done better. But as with most flaws, they only endear the place to me. The uneven walls, the unfinished deck stairs, the wonky roof downspout – they’re our fingerprints on this place. I’m proud of it.
The clouds floating above the horizon were pink with sunset the other night as Isaac and I sat on the deck finishing a bottle of prosecco left over from Christmas. The mosquitos hadn’t quite found us, and the birds were calling from the forest all around. Crickets chirped. A wood pigeon flapped past us above the trees, then swan dived in a free-fall down over the edge of the ridge. On these quiet nights, you can hear the ocean a mile away down the valley. “We did it,” Isaac said, about the house. I smiled. “You know, framing this house was the happiest time I can remember in my life,” I reflected. Up there, under the sky, with a cut list pinned under a block of wood beside the drop saw, I embodied everything I had ever wanted to be. I felt whole. I was, in myself, home.
Thank you for following along and being part of this journey. There are dozens of posts I wrote in my head and never got around to sharing – all about living off the grid and the joys and tribulations of moving to a new country. Thank you for reading what I did share, and for all your encouragement on this journey. Much love.