19 months in New Zealand: Coming to terms with leaving

James and I have been living, working and exploring this beautiful country for the past 19 months. That’s a really long time! This is a really difficult post for me to write, because I’m not sure I’m going to be able to how I feel into words well enough. Oh well. Here goes…


We’re leaving

When we first moved to Wellington in February this year, we were only planning on staying in New Zealand until May. That all changed when I was offered my job. We extended our visas and plodded along with life in Welly. I recently published my first newsletter (subscribe here if you haven’t already!), and in it, I explained the huge dilemma I was faced with a few months ago. My employer informally offered me a permanent job, meaning I would be able to work for a few years on an official Work Visa, and then apply for Residency in New Zealand. Having completely fallen in love with this country, for something like this to be offered to me on a plate was like a dream come true. I mulled it over… Once I got my Residency, I could then quit my job and travel for a few years, and the return to New Zealand to settle down afterwards. Returning to New Zealand as a Resident would make settling down here very easy.

Wellington - spinthewindrose.com
Home from home

New Zealand – Wellington, in particular – has become a home from home for James and I. Isn’t it crazy how well you can know a city that’s literally on the other side of the world to where you’re from? There are parts of Wellington that feel so familiar, almost like we know it like the back of our hand, and other parts we are still exploring.

And, as I mentioned before, 19 months is a VERY long time. We’ve passed so many milestones since we’ve been here and learnt so many new things. We’ve spent two birthdays (each) in NZ, we’ve celebrated two anniversaries here. We’ve both found jobs that have broadened our CVs and experiences of the working world – which means we can hopefully aim for higher-paying jobs the next time we settle to work. We’ve both committed to going vegetarian (almost vegan) because of the sheer volume of information we’ve learnt about the agricultural farming industry since we’ve been living in New Zealand. I’ve turned my blog into a self-hosted website, and it’s now a proper (albeit very small) business. And most importantly, we have met some incredible people who have become lifelong friends.

Aoraki/ Mount Cook - spinthewindrose.com
Aoraki/ Mount Cook

I’ve fallen in love New Zealand for many reasons, probably too many to name and little things which I will have undoubtedly forgotten until something reminds me. I love New Zealand because of her diverse, incredibly beautiful landscapes: the endless forests, the crystal clear lakes, the rocky coastlines and white sand beaches, the volcanic craters and red lava flows, the towering mountains and ancient glaciers, the black sand beaches, the bubbling geothermal pools… There are so many different vistas in New Zealand and I could never tire of them.

I love New Zealand because of her friendly inhabitants, who come from all over the world and have ancestors in Europe, Asia and the Pacific. People who welcome you into their country with open arms and are always happy to lend a helping hand. Kiwis are the kindest people on the planet.

Rotorua, New Zealand - spinthewindrose.com

I love New Zealand because of her rich culinary scene, and the fact that the seasons and locations play such a huge part in what you can find on a restaurant menu or buy in the supermarket; her diverse range of wines and their delicious tastes unique to the region in which they were made; her plethora of small breweries offering some of the best craft beer on the planet.

I love New Zealand because of her abundance of wildlife, with many species unique to the country. The novelty of seeing penguins, seals or seal lions on the beach, dolphins or whales in the sea, and tuis and kakas flying above my head on the way to work never gets old.

Seals at Wharariki Beach, New Zealand - spinthewindrose.com
Seals at Wharariki Beach, Golden Bay

I love New Zealand because of her endless possibilities to explore the country by a huge network of walking and biking trails, through the aforementioned endless forests and across the towering mountain tops. New Zealand encourages her people to get out and experience the country they live in, be it for a couple of hours or for a week-long tramp.

Sometimes I can’t believe we might never have come to this country if we hadn’t been robbed in Cambodia.

So you’d think the decision would be easy.

Anyone would be crazy to turn down the offer of Residency being pretty much handed to you on a plate, right? But something inside me didn’t feel quite right. I discussed the dilemma with James and asked a load of questions neither of us had the answers to.

What about our travel plans? Could we really just put our travels on hold for an extended, perhaps indefinite period of time? What if we stayed in New Zealand for a few more years, but in that time became really attached to our jobs? Or, what if we decided to get married, or if babies came along? Then what?

Also – we really just want to travel again. My itchy soles are whispering to me to follow my underlying case of wanderlust, and something is telling me to listen.

Slope Point, Catlins

So, after LOTS of umm-ing and ahh-ing (I mean months of it, really) I decided to stick to my guns and finish my fixed-term contract at work as planned. I advised the company I was definitely not going to be sticking around, and I helped update the job description and interview applicants to replace me. We found the perfect person to take over the job and she’ll ace it. It’s been difficult to refuse something that’s handed to you on a plate, but I think I’ve made the right choice.

Christmas 2015: on the beach in Golden Bay

That doesn’t mean that leaving New Zealand isn’t hard.

New Zealand – Wellington in particular – has become our home away from home. It’s a very difficult thing to get your head around; that somewhere you have grown so fond of is no longer going to be your home.

And it isn’t simply because we’ve been here a long time. After 3 months in Auckland, I’ll be honest, I was sick of it. In Auckland I felt claustrophobic and couldn’t wait to escape. Every single weekend was filled with trips around or out of the city – even the weekend it poured all day long and we went to some crappy nature reserve which was so wet and muddy… Anything to avoid aimlessly wandering up Queen Street or sitting in our apartment.

Wellington feels quite different. I haven’t got bored of it after 10 months of living here, and through the worst of the weather too (i.e. the incessant winter/spring downpours). If I’m not bored after 10 months, that to me means that I probably wont ever get bored. If and when we decide to settle in NZ permanently, Wellington will be a strong contender; it’s slap bang in the middle of the country, meaning it’s so easy to get from here to anywhere else, and I love living in a leafy suburb and being able to walk into a vibrant, unique capital where there’s always something going on.

The view from Mount Victoria at dusk
Wellington at dusk

I keep telling myself not to get down about leaving, and I try to remind myself of all the bad things about New Zealand. The wifi is slow and expensive because it’s at the end of the line. Pints aren’t really pints in NZ, they are 3/4 pints, but they cost double the amount a proper pint would cost back home. The weather in Wellington is, quite frankly, shit; the wind and rain are just non-stop. Christmas in summer doesn’t make sense – it should be in the winter, cuddled up in front of the fire wearing wooly socks and watching Home Alone. There are earthquakes and tsunamis and volcanoes and the houses are basically glammed up sheds without insulation so Winter is really bloody cold. And it concerns me that New Zealand is so far away from everywhere else; if there was an emergency and I needed to get back to the UK quickly, it would take over 24 hours. I find myself missing budget European flights, where you can see a whole different country so quickly, easily and cheaply. But really, these are little tiny problems that really don’t put me off New Zealand at all. I’m just grumpy about leaving.

I’m ready to leave, because there is so much more of the world I want to see before I settle down. But New Zealand is always going to have a hold on my heart.

Sometimes in life you are faced with huge choices and dilemmas that you don’t want to make a decision on. You feel like burying your head in the sand and letting someone else make that decision for you so that you don’t have to. This has been one of those times for me. A part of me is hugely worried that we’ll leave and regret our decision; that we’ll try to do the same thing in another country and it just won’t work. But, if that is the case, we can always come back. It would be difficult, but it’s possible, and where there is a will, there is a way. For now though, I’ve made my choice and I’m going to have to stick with it. We’re leaving New Zealand. But I will not promise not to cry when I board the plane home…

Atop Mount Roy, Wanaka -That view more than made up for the 3 hour trek!
Mount Roy, Wanaka

Ka kite ano, Aotearoa.

Thanks for reading & happy travels



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