I met Jana on my first trip I took away from home, a year of living and studying in France at the tail end of law school in Montreal. We disliked each other almost immediately upon meeting in September, each bristling at the other’s direct and assertive spirit. But then we realized we were merely recoiling at meeting what was essentially another version of ourselves, albeit from a different country. From then on we were close to inseparable. We spent afternoons drinking tea and talking in the university dorms, we wandered town, arms linked, singing at the top of our lungs to the horror and dismay of some residents (who thought we were far too cheerful for our own good).
For that year in France I chose head for the South, opting for warmer Aix-en-Provence instead of somewhere with a higher chance of snow. Proximity to Spain, and the (retrospectively twee) images I had of skipping through fields of lavender sealed the deal. Jana and I met in the same programme, both studying for a French Maîtrise. My specialties were economic integration and EU intellectual property law, both completely irrelevant to my subsequent years as a lawyer in New York, but a lot of fun. We took air and space law together, we improved our French, and we hung out for several months before Jana, who was only there for one semester, headed back to her home in Amsterdam.
I then spent much of the last part of my year skipping class and instead running around Europe, capitalizing on cheap flights and student rates on the train systems in France and Spain. When my dorm-mates, many of whom were French, asked why I would leave their country, I explained that a frequent trip from Montreal was Toronto — a 6 hour drive. With everything so close together in the EU, how could I not explore? Thankfully I had already worked as a summer associate at a law firm in New York, and had thus saved enough that I could take advantage of how many countries were squished in close proximity.
One of those trips, in the second half of the year, was to Amsterdam. I met Jana’s family and friends, ate “war fries” and experienced the glory of stroopwafels. We parted ways not knowing when we would see each other, but confident in our friendship and the technology that would help keep the bond together over larger distances.
In the years that followed, our travels took us to disparate places for long sequences, but we managed to squeeze in short visits. I came to London where she was working to raise awareness for anti-human trafficking, and she visited in New York prior to my giving notice and starting this site. We coincided once more in Bangkok in the early days of my adventures, sharing meals, catching up and ringing in 2010 on Khao San Road. Up util her wedding, however, it had been almost four years since I saw her. After another short time in London, Jana had moved to The Gambia with a Kiwi man she met in the UK; they were both doing wonderful work in anti-human trafficking and education. I hadn’t managed to visit Africa, and though we chatted on Skype, it was a poor substitute for in-person hugs.
Attending my first New Zealand wedding
So, on January 26th, I booked a very last minute trip to New Zealand, to be a witness at her wedding on a rock at the edge of the sea. Stepping off the plane and into the Auckland airport, I cried like a baby when I saw Jana again, both of us folding into a long hug while her Kiwi (a lovely gentleman named Gregor) patiently stood by for introductions. As with Nadia in Costa Rica, Jana wore wore red — a theme for my best friends, it seems — and the wedding was the smallest I’ve attended, with 5 people and an officiant.
It was intimate, the sun was shining and the landscape was awesome in every sense of the word. I felt humbled by their unpretentious declaration of love and by their desire to keep it simple. They had friends and family around the world, and knowing all of them could not be aggregated in New Zealand, they opted for a small ceremony instead.
I’ve already posted a longer photoessay from my brief visit around New Zealand’s North Island, but wanted to do a short post about the impetus for my travel to New Zealand. It was a magically beautiful place, and I’m so glad that I had such a wonderful reason to be there.