Gavin Sacks, a guy I met on the Green Tortoise on the way to Vancouver and who subsequently drove across America with me, said you must always take the road you haven't taken before. He was 19 and on his way home to England after trekking in the Himalayas.
He was the first real traveler I met, aside from Cousin Michael who went off to South America with his new wife and came back on his own. After I met Gavin I took off in a silver Camaro across British Columbia and went horseback riding with cowboys and ultimately moved to San Francisco, a place I knew no one.
But always seeking newness can be exhausting. A bit of familiarity when traveling is doubly reassuring. New Zealand isn't a challenging place to travel, especially in summer. It's gorgeous. It's small. Friendly locals. All the tourists are happy. You can only visit a fraction of the places you want, but the odds are wherever you go, you'll be content.
This is all by way of saying that I spent two perfect nights at The Old Slaughterhouse, David's marvelous seaside lodge where I stayed in January 2011. Nothing had changed but the people staying there. I stayed in the same room. I did the Charming Creek hike to the waterfall and liked it just as much. I probably took many of the same pictures.
The rest of this trip is to new places, aside from Wellington. I can't really justify coming all the way to New Zealand and returning to old favorites without a little exploration. Of course I'd been to Wanaka and Okarito and Punakaiki in 2001 but that was a lifetime ago.
Perhaps it's comforting to return because it means New Zealand isn't a place you only come once in a lifetime. Enough with the bucket lists.
This is my 4th trip. (A Frenchman I met yesterday is on his 19th visit!) That means I'll be back. Which is a good thing because I have so many places yet to discover. And it feels like home.