I woke up early the other morning and took my cup of coffee out onto the porch to watch the mist rising up from the river.
As the water flowed, I reflected on how much life has changed in recent years and just how good it feels to be home.
It is coming up three years since I left Wellington and moved back to Whanganui with my sons and I have to say, it has been a massive change for us all.
When we were in the capital, I was working a high-stress job in a newsroom which meant my baby and toddler were spending a nine-hour day at a Māori early childhood education centre nearby.
Our commute from home could take up to an hour each way and it felt like nothing was ever straightforward – the traffic was intense, there were never any parks, everywhere was a mission to get to.
Notwithstanding the fact that I was parenting on my own, which meant the pressure to work hard and provide was huge.
Our rent was astronomical, and life could be very lonely and isolating.
We had no whānau living down there which was a big part of why I made the call to move home in 2018.
I felt a pull to return to my family and my awa, and I wanted my kids to grow up rich in their Whanganuitanga.
At the time, there was a sense that leaving the big city and moving back to the regions was a bad idea, like it would be a step backwards for my career or limit future opportunities.
But that has not been the case.
Actually, everything feels better here, and it's forced me to reflect on what motivates me and my generation, and what success really looks like.
Whanganui is a gorgeous little city made all the more special by Te Awa Tupua, the Whanganui River.
The awa is the heart of this place and our connection to it as Māori here is hard to explain.
I often say the river called me home.
My children and I speak to the river. We sing about the river. We swim in the river at our marae, and we take time every day to pause and watch it flow.
There are lots of pretty parks, beaches and lakes around the ways and there's always somewhere to take the kids that doesn't cost a thing.
The Whanganui Riverside Markets on Saturday mornings are great, the kids love Kowhai Park, and we had a great time checking out the Whanganui Regional Museum during the school holidays.
Despite what some of you think, traffic isn't really an issue here. Almost anywhere is within a 10-minute drive, there are plenty of car parks and parking is cheap comparatively.
These may seem like small gains but trust me, spending hours a day in traffic is commonplace in bigger cities and a real bane on your life especially when you've got small children.
But what I love the most about being back has been being close to my whānau and seeing how much richer my boys' childhoods are being home with their family and growing up with their cousins.
They are thriving at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Ātihaunui-a-Pāpārangi in Putiki where several of their cousins also go.
They are learning te reo Māori in our dialect and are growing confident in their Māori identities which is paramount to me.
A secure cultural identity provides resilience and a sense of purpose and is known to lead to better outcomes in life.
My boys know who they are and where they come from which will steer them well.
What I have also noticed is how much more complex relationships can be back home.
It's not as simple as meeting strangers all the time, and them knowing you only in that context.
People here – families - have history that goes way back which means new connections or relationships can start with ease or baggage.
Relationships here run deeper and are not so transactional.
It makes me feel a little naïve and on the backfoot sometimes having been away for so long, so I am conscious of trying to join the dots and work out who is who and how we connect.
And while the housing market here isn't great, it is more affordable than elsewhere and my partner and I were recently able to buy our first home across from the awa, my late grandmother's home.
Whanganui has enabled us to cut through the noise and settle down and to figure out what is really important to us in our lives. Family. Relationships. Peace. Culture.
I know I can be critical of our community and often point out areas for improvement, but that's because I am passionate about our home, and I want it to be the best it can be.
I used to think that success was all about hustling and making more money and people knowing who you are, but I've come to realise that that's all ego and that is not what brings happiness to my life.
Here, we have close relationships with our friends and whānau.
We have more time up our sleeves and less stress. We appreciate the simple joys. We are grounded, we are loved, and we are happy.
Whanganui is a great place to live and moving back home was the best decision I made.