In Wanaka, New Zealand, all the locals have a favourite topic of conversation: how great it is to live in Wanaka, New Zealand.
They've become part of a cult, clearly. A friendly, laidback Kiwi cult. And they're serious about it. It's a reverse of Fight Club – because rule number one of living in Wanaka is, always talk about living in Wanaka.
Spending time with Wanaka residents is like hanging out with people who do Cross Fit, or with vegans – they have to tell you about it, otherwise it doesn't exist. Everyone loves it. And everyone has to tell you they love it.
"How good is this, eh?"
That's one of the first things someone from Wanaka will say to you as they settle in next to you at a cafe, or order a beer with you at one of the lakeside pubs. They'll figure you're not a local, but you should understand how good it is to live in Wanaka anyway.
It's the mountains, they'll tell you. It's the lake. It's the laidback, family-friendly atmosphere. It's the wine. It's the food. It's the fact that in some ways, Wanaka is just like Queenstown, which is an hour's drive away. But in other, more important ways, it's nothing like Queenstown.
There are no fast food outlets here. No one goes bungy jumping. People nod and say hello on the street. They go for a quiet hike up Mount Iron before dinner. It's a much gentler version of the town's bustling neighbour.
Most of the Wanaka locals don't take any of this for granted, either, because they weren't always locals. Not many people were born here. So often you hear the same story: they came here from Christchurch, or Wellington, or Auckland, or Belgium, or France or Canada, and they never wanted to leave. So they didn't.
They invented some sort of way to make money and ensure they could make Wanaka their home. There are two brothers here who started a lavender farm. There's a couple who take tourists stand-up paddleboarding down a river. There's a lady who owns a few old Citroens and who now takes people to wineries in her funny French cars.
None of these are typical professions – they are invented reasons to stay in Wanaka, to make life work in a little Kiwi paradise doing whatever it is you can.
I'm jealous of all of these people (which I think is their aim, really). But I'm not just jealous because they get to live in Wanaka. I'm jealous because they've found their one slice of happiness. They've found a place in the world that spoke to them so loudly and clearly that they downed tools and shrugged off all other responsibilities and made a permanent move.
They've found their place. And they're not leaving.
I've travelled to so many different cities and towns, but I'm still yet to have that moment of absolute certainty, that feeling that this is the one place in the world I want to call home. And so I keep travelling, searching and exploring.
I've loved plenty of places. And I love Wanaka. I could easily see myself living in Wanaka. I could live the dream here for a year or two, breathing in that fresh mountain air. But I'd probably miss city life after a while, and move on.
I loved Berlin from the moment I set foot there. I still want to soak that city up on a long-term basis, to get to know all of its secrets and lies and dark little spaces. But then I'd probably get tired of the cold. Or I'd miss being close to friends and family. It's on the other side of the world. So I'd continue on.
I've felt equally enamoured with Buenos Aires, and San Sebastian in Spain, and Tokyo, and Beijing. These are places I will always want to spend more time in, will always go back to, could easily be talked into moving to.
But forever? Probably not. I'm still waiting for that lightning strike moment of certainty that this, this is the place. The one I'll be blabbering away to strangers about, telling them that I came here for a week, and that was 15 years ago. The one that will force me to join the cult of personal paradise.
Maybe it'll be somewhere similar to Wanaka. You could do a lot worse than spectacular mountain scenery, world-class wineries, outdoor sports and friendly people. But I'm here now and I'm about to leave, so it's not the place. The search continues.
Wherever it is, however, I know I'll have to talk about it, and probably write about. Otherwise how will everyone else know how good it is?
How you experinced the laidback Kiwi cult in New Zealand, or any where else in the world?