Do you ever sit, ponder life and wonder “What am I doing!?” I am pretty sure I have this thought at least a hundred times every single day. I don’t even want to count the number of months I have been back in New Zealand since visiting the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand sanctuary. It’s completely impossible for me to feel satisfied with life unless I believe I am putting my passion to good use – and as much as I love my job, the desk work doesn’t compare to being out in the field where you are fighting relentlessly for a sometimes seemingly unachievable cause whilst learning so much along the way. My sister and her partner have just relocated to Canada (after years of waiting for Visa approval they finally made it!!) and on having a chat to them the other night they told me it was just like coming home; they knew it was where they were meant to be. I felt this way very quickly after being around the elephants and the Thai locals in the sweltering, gorgeous Southeast Asian heat. New Zealand is my birthplace, its people are my main family, but I always feel an impossible-to-ignore pull to other spaces of the globe. Rural Thailand could quite easily be home; I couldn’t think of anything better than to campaign for a cause I feel so strongly about by working directly for it while still educating others all over the planet and raising awareness through the use of social media and the like. Plus any chance to be away from western living is one I’d gladly take.
It is less than three months until I depart yet again for an overseas volunteer expedition. There is far too much to do out there, and my list of things to get involved with is just getting longer and longer – yet for this journey I just couldn’t resist going back to the wolves; those stunning, incredible scapegoats. I leave in early August, and will be back in November, so expect to see updates resume as I travel around. I will be visiting a few extra sanctuaries on the west coast of the USA, and will also be heading up to Canada for the very first time. I still have lots of loose ends to tie up here before I head off, but in all honesty if you threw me a backpack I would up and leave tomorrow.
The plight of wolves is not a secret, and it is something I have talked about a lot; for some reason these species are extremely close to my heart and no matter what the reasons are for them to be discriminated against, it all saddens me. Last time I worked with them I was at the White Wolf Sanctuary in Oregon, and spent a good three months there bonding with the wolves and learning about their captive husbandry. This time around, while I will go back to those particular animals I miss so dearly, I will also travel a lot and hopefully learn more about the nitty-gritty problems these creatures face from state to state (and country to country), as well as conservation and preservation efforts. Sure, I could just read a few books and online articles about it all, but in order to be able to tell a story properly I believe I have to see it and experience it for myself. So that is the next big travel adventure.
In the mean time, what does one do to keep oneself busy? This I am always asking myself. The selfish gene theory says I should be breeding, my culture tells me I should be buying a house and working overtime, but my heart tells me the that point of life is to be happy – above power, money, a career and all that is expected of us, we should focus on happiness and joy. For some of us that is self-happiness. For some others, it means bringing others happiness. For me, I find myself drawn to ventures in which I can contribute positively to the life of another. Usually I find it is in the form of reducing suffering as opposed to nurturing “happiness” (for want of a less anthropomorphic word). While I type this, however, I look down at my little foster kitten Elphaba (named after the supposedly wicked witch in the production ‘Wicked’), who is softly purring in my arms, cuddled as tightly as she can against my chest, and I think to myself: surely this is an example where I have nurtured happiness into a little soul.
There is suffering everywhere you look. Sometimes I get so frustrated at myself that I am not doing more in the world – but you have to remember that you don’t need to travel for miles to make a world of difference to someone, or something. When I got back to New Zealand from Thailand I moved out from the suburbs into a little studio flat in the country – Karaka; horse kingdom. On the overall property we have rescue dogs, chickens, horses and of course my constant litters of foster kittens. I love the difference this has to suburban life. I like the fact that some mornings I am woken up by the sound of a big Buff Orpington pecking away nonchalantly at the cat biscuits after it has managed to somehow get into my flat. I like the fact that if I am painting on the deck, the beautiful stocky dog Rhino will probably come along and stick his nose in my paint and run it through the paddocks. I love getting home from a late clinic shift to find the horses grazing freely around the driveway, and how the smell of them can make you forget absolutely any stress. I like the constant reminder that all of these animals are cared for now, and have the kinds of lives they ought to live. I look at little Elphi, and my grown-up foster kitty Jasmine (who has been with me for over a year now), and I realise I had a main part in assuring their freedom from stress and suffering. A big proportion of humankind have shaped the world into a ruthless, power-hungry machine, and I just want to get out there and tackle things head-on – but sometimes you need to remember that every day holds the opportunity to do something good, and even the tiniest act of kindness can ripple out into something much bigger for someone other than yourself.