New beginning beckons as home approaches
The view from our motel window in New Zealand is gorgeous. Just 30 metres from where I am writing this lies the Bay of Plenty, with small boats gently bobbing on its clear waters. Earlier today, we went kayaking in the bay and were startled by a large flying fish that jumped out of the sea right in front of us.
Despite this beautiful scene, just an hour's drive from Auckland, I find myself increasingly distracted by thoughts of what awaits us back home in Britain.
When my family and I left Beijing, where we had lived for 71/2 years, for a five-month trip before starting a new life back in Britain, it seemed we had forever. But now we are on the verge of returning home, and I cannot help but worry a little.
We have been on the road for more than four months, travelling through Bali and Australia before our final stop in New Zealand. The trip has brought many memorable experiences. But as it draws to a close, more mundane matters crowd my mind.
Will my husband Michael and I earn enough to support the family, especially as we return to a country in the economic doldrums? Will he be able to finish his book about China? Can I afford to settle our children, Sam, eight, and Tilly, five, properly before turning my mind to full-time work? How will the kids adapt to York, a beautiful but small city, after living most of their lives in the huge metropolis that is Beijing? And will life be as interesting as it was in China?
Beijing is often in our thoughts. We miss Wang Liying, the children's nanny for four years. We hope she will visit us next year, but sadly, Tilly seems to have already forgotten a lot of her Putonghua, so they may not be able to talk much if she comes.
We all miss friends, although many have also left China, so the Beijing we knew would not be the same anyway. Tilly's two favourite classmates both recently moved to South America.
In Melbourne, we stayed with friends we had made in China, including a pair of twins who were Sam's best friends in Beijing until they returned home in 2010. It was good to see the kids behaving as if it was just yesterday that they had eaten dumplings together on a Beijing street. It made me think about how life has to move on and how we should all seize the moment and make the best of every day.
I have come to realise that attitude counts for a lot. Having spent many years living and working abroad - in China, Taiwan and America - I am looking forward to getting to know my own country, its history, people and multiculturalism.
New Zealand's weather and greenery reminds me a lot of England, although the killer whales I spotted here will not be seen off Yorkshire's coastline. But I will be able to enjoy the outdoors, see the kids play in the garden, do sports and go camping in clean air, which was hard to do in Beijing.
It is the end of a chapter, but also the start of a new one. By the time you read this, we will probably have arrived back in Britain.
I am unsure of what the future will bring, but even if I had a crystal ball that allowed me to look ahead, I would not use it. That would ruin the challenge - and spoil all the fun.