On 8/28/2016 we booked a one-way ticket to Christchurch, New Zealand. On 9/27/2016 we boarded the first of our three flights to a place we had never visited. We had six suitcases, had no jobs lined up, and didn’t know one person in this land far, far away. We went ALL in. People told us this took courage and balls. I guess I have to agree.
This has been one of the best experiences I’ve had thus far in my life. There have been ups and downs during this time but it has helped shape me into who I am today. I can tell you that I am not the same person I was a year ago.
When we left we didn’t know if we would make it a year in New Zealand. We may not have made it one week, one month, yet alone one year. (Okay one week is really stretching it but you get the point.) Have we had struggles here? Absolutely. Has life been perfect? Absolutely not. I can tell you that all the good we’ve experienced has outweighed the bad.
There’s a quote from author Bill Bryson “I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again”. If you were around to hear some of the questions I’ve asked during this past year you would totally understand how this quote fits for me. And please feel bad for those that field the answers to these questions.
During this past year, we’ve said so many hellos and met some of the most amazing people. We have also had to say quite a few goodbyes (Anthony calls them “see you laters” and I try to take that approach too). That’s what you have to do when you live in a place where heaps of people are transient. Some of these people have touched my life in ways they don’t even know. They’ve challenged my thinking and taught me about more subjects than I can begin to list. The people we’ve met, along with the experiences over the past year, have helped me to better embrace diversity. I’ve also been getting better at embracing change and not stressing (at least as much) over the things I can’t control or things in the future.
In ways we’ve stepped back in time in New Zealand. I’ve seen and heard differences in the way women are treated. I’ve personally had experiences where I have not been treated anywhere near equal as a female (and I am really sugar-coating it when I say that). Talking with a Kiwi mate, he said in the past 10 years it has “started” to become acceptable for women to drink beer. Don’t worry I was quick to thank him for giving me permission me to drink the craft beer that was in my hand. FYI – It wasn’t his view but he was providing us with some background info.
There are positives of stepping back too. There’s an innocence here that isn’t in the US anymore, at least in my opinion. I’ve mentioned it before, but fly domestically within this country. You’ll immediately see the innocence. See the friendliness and service of the staff on an Air New Zealand flight compared to an American airline and it’ll make you hate flying within the States even more than you probably already do. Online shopping isn’t big when you are in one of the most remote parts of the world so shopping malls are like they were when we were kids. Children walk to and from school without crossing guards and without parents worried someone will try to lure them into a van. Everyone, kids and adults alike, are outdoors doing some sort of activity on a nice day.
I have become more aware of the environment and global warming. Did you know there’s a hole in the ozone that directly impacts this part of the world? Go outside on a sunny day here without sunscreen and you’ll find out very quickly. We also have friends from USAP (United States Antarctic Program) that see firsthand the results of a warmer globe. Oh and the Paris agreement/Trump/Pittsburgh thing, it’s not the way you want to have Kiwi’s learn of your hometown. Thanks Trump.
While there are people reading this that probably think we are still on an extended “vacation” (which we now refer to as holiday like the majority of the world), we aren’t but we have been fortunate to do some traveling and add more stamps to our passports.
We’ve made our way to the Gold Coast in Australia. A trip booked last minute before I started work because I could not start work without having visited Australia. We did the normal beach thing, watched Trump get elected (that was interesting to watch overseas), and it randomly happened that the first person that started talking to us on the metro bus grew up in the Burgh. I touched a kangaroo, got chased by an emu, and held a koala (it was worth the money for that one).
I can add Asia as a continent I visited with our trip to Thailand. While we were in Phuket, a touristy area, it still counts. Anthony was in charge of this trip so I was along for the ride as he “eased” me into Asian culture. We did get to go a bit off of the beaten path a bit however I would have preferred more. I even said that after having to use the pay-for-service bathroom at the beach. I won’t go into detail but let’s just say it had an actual toilet so that was a plus.
We spent Christmas on Fiji. My jobs in the States have never given us the opportunity to spend Christmas at the beach so we jumped on making this a reality last year. We got 2 experiences because we ended up shifting (not pre-planned) partway through the trip to a different part of the island to get a different experience. In case you are wondering, it is pricey to do this during your trip especially during the peak week between Christmas and New Years.
We’ve been able to experience a few road trips throughout the South Island of NZ. And we’ve made it to the “big” city of Auckland. My mom was in New Zealand for Mother’s Day and I think it’s safe to say it was the trip of a lifetime as she is already trying to determine when she’ll visit again. And her request for next trip is also some time travel in Australia in addition to NZ. Anthony’s mom and Aunt have also started to plan a trip to visit. Looks like 2018 will bring some more Americans to NZ.
I guess I should also mention that in a few days I will be heading back to the Burgh for what will feel like a hot minute. It will be for a week but when traveling for more than 24 hours and with a 17 hour time difference once I get there, the week will go by in what will feel like a minute.
So people have been asking if I’m excited for my trip back? There are lots of different thoughts and emotions going into my first visit back after being abroad for a year. This trip was planned to help with some things back in Pittsburgh so probably isn’t what you would consider ideal circumstances. I will be traveling back solo as the time I’m taking off is unpaid so Anthony will be holding down the fort and paying the bills whilst I am away. (Yes, he’s the best. Everyone on this side of the globe thinks so too.)
You may have read about my stints with homesickness, missing the food heaps, and missing people that are “like” me. The reality is, as I mentioned, I’m not the same person I was a year ago. I may not be as much like the people back at “home” as before. It may be that I have more in common with people that have only been in my life a few months than the majority of the people I’ve known most of my life. That’s okay and that’s part of the experience of moving and living abroad.
Don’t worry though, I am looking forward to so much. Hearing other yinzer accents, seeing everyone wear black and gold, shopping (and more shopping), AMAZING food, drinking American craft beer (wonder how my palette is going to handle this one after living mostly on NZ hops), and spending as much time as possible with family and friends as my jet-lagged body will handle.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You can take the girl out of the Burgh but not the Burgh out of the girl. See you soon. XOXO.