Attention, attention!! Read all about it!
I’ve been hinting here and there and making sly remarks for over six months now, but I haven’t written anything serious online (long-term commitment issues here people). But the cat’s out of the bag; I’ve been harboring a big fat secret and I can’t keep it in any longer…
I’M MOVING TO NEW ZEALAND!!!
All-caps title, excessive exclamation points, referring to myself in the third person, I don’t care. I am so, so SO excited to finally share my big news with you all! Where do I even begin?
When Spain pretty much deported me last fall, I thought my heart would never heal. Gone were the days of sunny siestas in the local park, red wine with lunch in the teacher’s lounge and quick weekend adventures around Europe. No more preschool students giving me wet cheek kisses and infecting me with the plague. No more coffees out on the local cafe terraces between classes. No more Spanish cured meat.
I was devastated.
Leaving Spain broke my heart. Moving back in with my parents nearly killed me. Ok, I’m a drama queen, forgive me. Life could be so much worse, I get it.
After moping around for a few days, I gave myself a little pep talk. Ok, I called all my friends and begged them to give me pep talks. I applied for a bunch of jobs I wasn’t qualified for, and shockingly was hired a week later. Who said the economy sucks?
I exchanged my skinny red euro pants for khaki slacks and cardigans. I familiarized myself with driving again. I downloaded the Starbucks App on my new iPhone (first time in 2 years could sign a phone contract!) This was an opportunity, Liz (I told myself every night). This is your chance to make something of yourself. This is your chance to start over, get some savings, pay your bills on time, and build your blog. Then you can try something new.
The only way I would ever move on from my break-up with Spain was if I looked at it like an opportunity. An opportunity to try something new and different. I had called Spain home on and off for over three years. I was only 24. Time for a change.
Why New Zealand?
New Zealand has been calling to me for exactly ten years. The origins of my curiosity for New Zealand aren’t exactly glamorous; in fact, they are kind of embarrassing to admit publicly. Deep breath. Honesty policy. Here we go.
Like so many other great nerds before me, my interest in New Zealand began with the Lord of the Rings.
If my mother only knew the chaos she would inflict in my fourteen year old mind by buying me the special extended edition of the Fellowship of the Ring for Christmas circa 2002, she would undoubtedly have thrown it out the window instead.
While other girls dreamed of homecoming dresses and summer crushes, I dreamed about wizards, hobbits and the Shire. While sketching and doodling, I would sit through hours and hours of bonus footage and all the making-of featurettes on those Special-For-Tolkien-Dorks-Edition DVDs and watch how Peter Jackson brought the Lord of the Rings to life in New Zealand. One day, I would go there, I promised myself.
But I put it off. Europe was always closer, much easier (and cheaper) to get to, where New Zealand seemed like a world away. Next year I would go, I would tell myself. Once I heard about the special working holiday visas for Americans there, I decided one day I would do that. By this point I had built up the image of New Zealand in my mind so much that I convinced myself that I needed at least a year to do it justice. There was so much I wanted to do and see there was no way I could get it all done on a quick two week trip.
For me, New Zealand has always been my number one destination to go to; it was so special and meant so much to me, I couldn’t even talk about it on here because I didn’t want to get my hopes dashed if it didn’t work out – a small glimpse into how my distorted mind works. Have you ever felt that way about a place?
When I unexpectedly came home in October, I realized my chance had finally come.
Except my bank account was in the double digits and I had crippling student loans I needed to get under control first. Selling my soul to corporate America for 8 months was a small price to pay to help make my dreams come true, right? A month ago I gave my resignation and I haven’t looked back since.
Now as much as New Zealand IS Middle Earth to me, that is sure as hell not the only reason I’m going. The more and more I immerse myself in the travel industry and this weird world of travel blogging, the more I have come to realize that New Zealand is a Mecca destination among seasoned travelers. I have not met a single soul who has had one bad thing to say about New Zealand. At all. In fact, most people rave about it. Secondly, I’ve met a lot of people from New Zealand during my travels around the world, and let me just say, they’ve all been super friendly and real wonderful people. All of them. To me, that speaks volumes about a country.
I also need a change of scenery. And holy hell does New Zealand have amazing scenery or what?!
I love Europe more than anything; in fact, I will be back on a plane to Europe in a week for 2 months of backpacking around and saying goodbye to my favorite haunts (details next week), but fundamentally I need a change. Deep inside me I have an urge to see a whole other side of the world I haven’t explored before. I need to prove to myself that I will be ok living somewhere different, that I can try something out of my comfort zone. Once I’m in New Zealand, I will hopefully be able to explore some new places, like Australia, Fiji, or hell, even Antarctica is close by (cough, cough any adventure travel PR people out there?)
But above all, I want to get to know New Zealand really well. I want to give her the attention she deserves (the feminist in me is making NZ a lady). I want to take my time, make good friends, take it easy, and relax. I don’t want to be rushed.
Being the total weirdo that I am, I didn’t want to say anything on here to jinx my chances before I knew everything would work out.
Two weeks ago I applied for the visa online, and three days later it was approved. I was in shock. The visa process from Spain STILL haunts me it was so long and torturous; I can’t believe how easy and accessible this application was. For example, I had a specific question about the application, and I called up the embassy here in Washington D.C. and got it solved in less than two minutes! Holy crap! Compared with the Spanish consulate which I am convinced does not have phones installed, I was in shock. I am choosing to believe it is a sign of good things to come and that I am making the right choice of destination.
This morning I bought a one-way flight to New Zealand, leaving on August 9! It took me about 3 hours to summon the urge to click “buy” and I sure as hell don’t want to look at my credit card statement anytime soon, yikes! But what baffles me the most is that I leave on a Friday and arrive on a Sunday. If that won’t give me jetlag, I don’t know what will.
All I know is that I am equally terrified and excited.
And now for the biggest step of them all: this afternoon I am taking my car into Carmax to sell. Sweet Jesus, that was hard to write.
My beautiful baby yellow Jeep. Nine amazing years we’ve been together, and I never thought this day would come. I’ve loved you through thick and thin. Even when you broke repeatedly and cost me a fortune to fix. Every time I’ve moved overseas, I have had the lifeline of my car waiting for me at home, knowing that I could always come back and start working somewhere since I had transportation.
But the time has come. I want to buy a car in New Zealand because I really want to be able to go wherever I want without worry. (Can we just talk about how I am going to have to learn to drive on the other side of the road? Get prepared for some hilarious videos coming soon!) Selling my car here will enable me to buy a used car down in New Zealand. But man, let me just say, cutting the last string that ties me to my old life back in the US is really hard. I hate myself for how much I love my car. Let’s just hope I can keep it together and not start crying in Carmax.
And don’t even get me started on saying goodbye to my family yet. Can’t even think about that right now.
Ok, so, I don’t really have a plan. I have a one-way ticket and a hope and a dream, what more do I need?
I intentionally don’t want to overthink this decision for several reasons. One: I am prone to nervous breakdowns and panic attacks which I really don’t need right now. Two: I’m trying to be more open-minded and go-with-the-flow here, and I don’t want to plan out every last detail before I even arrive. Three: I want to hear what YOU ALL have got to say about it.
Here’s what I do know. I have heard amazing things about the South Island, so I bought my flight into Christchurch, the biggest city down there.
New Zealand is really popular with backpackers, but that is really not my thing anymore. I do not envision this as a year of me bumming around from city to city in New Zealand, living out of hostels or buying a campervan, or heaven forbid, woofing (sorry everyone!) I want to base myself somewhere and really get to know the area. By being in one place with a car, then I am hoping to plan trips around the country. Ideally, I would like to sign a lease for a year when I arrive. But where to go?
Since the South Island has been calling to me, and I’ve been “researching,” and by researching I mean searching “Beautiful places South Island New Zealand” on Pinterest, the one place that keeps cropping up again and again is Queenstown. Holy crap, that place looks pretty damn magical.
The only problem is that I think everyone feels the same way. If I settle in Queenstown, will I be able to make friends with locals and really get to know the area? Or will I be surrounded by a bunch of backpackers, tourists and ski-bums? After living abroad for years, I’ve found that for me, it’s really important to integrate where I move, and get to know the area, both for my own sanity and out of respect for the country too. Do you think if I go to Queenstown I will be able to find my own niche and group of friends of locals?
Because, well, I don’t know a single person in New Zealand. Yikes!
Also I am not a big city girl; what calls to me about New Zealand is the epic, untouched landscape, so I really see myself in a smaller town and not a bigger city, that’s why the views in Queenstown are so appealing to me. I am hoping to find a roomy enough place so that guests are welcome (unless you’re one of my 4 internet stalkers, then I’m busy and I actually moved to Peru instead).
So my tentative plan was fly into Christchurch and look to buy a car there, then find a place to live for a year. Help!
Here’s where you come in
I need your help! Have you ever been to New Zealand? Are you from there? Have an opinion?
No matter what I need some advice. Poll in, let me know what you’re thinking. Leave a comment. Tell me I’m crazy (please don’t actually) or tell me a city so I don’t have to chose. I’m looking for any tips, ideas, suggestions or even just “you go girl” comments because I need all the help and positive reinforcement I can get right now. EEEEP!
I’m about to embark on one of the biggest adventures of my life and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Let’s go with laugh. New Zealand, I’m coming for you!
Have you ever moved abroad? Ever been to New Zealand? Would you like to live in a different country one day?
**Update: I changed my flight to NZ to August 20 to give me a little more time to recover from Europe and catch up on work**