For the most part, high-school is a pretty shitty time. You sit for most of the day, staring blankly at uninspiring mentors that mention nothing of the fire of the soul, resembling the fight that resides inside your mind for the freedom to figure out who you are, while outside you fight to find your place in the playground. For some reason (fear of the unknown is my guess) kids find it hard to accept the things they don’t understand. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and, as kids, we learn that the hard way.
Now, some of these kids stay fearful for the rest of their sheltered lives – they don’t venture out in adventure, they don’t revel in the reveal of search and discovery, nor do they welcome the challenge of change. Some kids completely flip their personas. They get a taste of power and, coupled with the memories of being bullied themselves, they flip the script on fear and they become the bully. Like good dogs with bad owners, the big corporations own them now.

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Then there are the kids that grow up to be like the people I met over in the land of the long white cloud.
In New Zealand, the Monarch butterfly is proclaimed as native (kind of the same way that we lay claim to Mel Gibson and Russel Crowe); however, this breed originated in North America. As a caterpillar, its main habitat is the suburban garden and most home owners in New Zealand plant their larval food, i.e. milkweed, to enjoy watching them grow over a season into a butterfly. They don’t see nature as a pest, they see it is a process of growth to be a part of.

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The people I met here resemble this inclusive way of life. Comfortable in their suburban abodes, their lives intertwine with nature as they go about feeding on the necessary (important) things in life (such as honesty, integrity and friendship); and they all share one very important value – they encourage difference. All beautifully grounded, humble and culture-rich creatures becoming adults their parents would be immensely proud of.

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I was a new caterpillar on the vine when I arrived but these caterpillars do not see a new caterpillar as competition but more so see its arrival as an opportunity to grow their family. And, it seems by my felt experiences, New Zealand’s wilderness, i.e. Mother Nature, feels the same way about her litter. There is an abundance of natural goodness here, all of which make your eyes wide and your smile wider; and, the people I spent time with singing, dancing, eating, chilling, surfing, fishing, searching and discovering all highlight that as they take flight in their lives… and therein lies the beauty of metamorphosis.

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