When I travelled to New Caledonia recently, something happened to me that hasn't happened in a very long time.
I left the shores of my homeland.
I conquered my fear of foreign borders.
Most of you know my story and experiences with the American immigration.
It put me off travel for a long time. Nearly 25 years.
Stay in New Zealand. Stay safe. They can't kick you out of here.
We had a rather harrowing flight into New Caledonia. It was very turbulant., or as the captain would say in his lovely French accent..... "turbulonce." (spelled how it sounded).
They even stopped serving drinks, and the seatbelt sign was on pretty much for the entire flight. For the few minutes they turned it off, the queue for the toilets was almost the length of the plane.
I hate flying, so I was saying over and over to myself, 'turbulance isn't (usually) dangerous.'
So when the jewelled reef of Nouvelle Caledonie appeared in our windows, there was an almost audible sigh of relief, and everyone got very chatty again, after quite a quiet flight.
A quiet moment of private triumph.
I was in foreign parts.
Maybe I've been bitten by the travel bug again. I certainly had it once, many years ago.
But after that flight into Noumea I thought I would probably take a lot of convincing to get back on a plane, but the excitement of seeing new things and experiencing a new culture, and hearing a different language, all with a bunch of wonderful teenagers, made that experience fade into the past.
The journey home was quite different. Smooth, sunny and quick. We were halfway home before we'd barely settled into our seats.
There's something rather wonderful about flying back into New Zealand. As I said once to an American girl who has come to live here, the rugged cliffs of our Pacific Coast and the rolling green hills of our farmland viewed from the air, make it feel like the country stretches out it's arms in a warm embrace, welcoming you back into the fold. Going away makes you appreciate coming back.
I'm sure every wandering kiwi has experienced that moment of a full heart of love when our coast comes into sight as you fly back home from other worlds.
It's almost the best part of the entire trip.
The funny thing is, almost like a test, when I went through border control at Auckland airport after we landed, the electronic machine spat my passport back out and refused to let me enter, saying I had to go and speak to a customs official.
For a split second, I had flashbacks to 1993. My nightmare coming true. Again.
But, it was a fleeting moment.
And I didn't even get a heart palpitation.
It happened, as I heard later, that they were having trouble with the machines.
So, as I think back on my visit to New Caledonia, I think I will always view it fondly.
It was responsible for giving me back a part of myself that I had lost.
Merci, belles iles.