This was written at the end of 2016, and I found it saved in my drafts, but it has never seen the light of day until now (probably for good reason)… because I tend to write ramble-y bits and forget about them soon after.
Chances are, I can guess what you’re thinking when I mention New Zealand — that it’s a safe place where everyone is nice to you. So safe, in fact, my former boss told me that the biggest “danger” I would possibly encounter there was me accidentally stepping in sheep droppings.
As I sat at my desk at work a few months ago, I longed to get away, to be amazed and in awe of the places I’ve only seen in photographs, and break free from the routines that had slowly begun to consume my everyday life. In a way, I wanted to be one of “those” people — you know, the travellers who seem infinitely curious, fearless, and are always on the move and never short of interesting stories to tell.
One simple internet search later, and a stressful four hour wait as the website crashed repeatedly, I was the holder of a New Zealand Working Holiday visa, which, as the name suggests, would allow me to work and travel in New Zealand for up to six months.
As my departure date drew closer, so did every rational (and irrational!) fear and self-doubt I could imagine. Would I lose my luggage again? Get mugged? Get lost? Not have a place to stay? Run out of money? Be lonely? What if I hate it? What if, at the end of the day, I discover that I’m not the passionate and adventurous traveler I had hoped to be? What if, what if.
You would think that the excitement would have me enthusiastically telling everyone within earshot of my upcoming plans, but instead, the opposite happened. I hesitated telling people of my plans, because when I did, I got told that I was brave. BRAVE, me! Imagine that.
It could not have been further from the truth. I was absolutely terrified of the upcoming changes that were about to take place that I celebrated my one-week countdown with tears and frantic messages to my best friend who lives half a world away.
I hid behind the “brave” façade right up to the moment I handed my passport to the airport personnel and boarded my flight. My mind was lost in a haze of jumbled thoughts, most of which were those convincing me that I had made a huge mistake.
Why was I doing this anyway? I could have kept my job and gone for a short vacation instead. What was I trying to accomplish by doing this? Another part of me could not stop beating myself up over it: it’s only six months, for crying out loud.
There was a part of me, the part that went after this visa in the first place, that could not wait to be surrounded by the new and unfamiliar. Underneath the chorus of self-doubt that played on a loop in my mind, there was a tiny glimmer of hope. Hope that I secretly held on to, but was afraid to acknowledge.
Two months into my travels, and I’m now penning this from Picton, a small town I consider to be New Zealand’s often overlooked gem. I’m replaying a conversation I had with my co-worker earlier this week, where we were talking about the places in New Zealand I’ve visited… when she stopped and asked, “Weren’t you scared to travel on your own?”
Our conversation was interrupted, but her question stuck in my mind. It hasn’t been something I’ve actively been thinking about. Petrified, would have been my answer, but there are some things you have to do, despite, and in spite of fear. I have no idea what’s next — there’s the never ending jumble of confusion, fear and anxiety that has to do with jobs, moving on, friends, the concept of home and the feeling of wanting to belong somewhere, but it’s all going to be ok.
I still get messages today asking me if I’ve met any cute farmer’s boy (the answer is no, although if you know anyone who fits the description, please let me know), but that aside.. New Zealand, whatever happens next, whether or not I fall in love with you or decide never to return after this trip, I hope I leave with good memories and a continued appreciation for the places and people I have and am going to encounter next.
April 2018 update: Never found farmer boy, but I guess I must have fallen in love with the country because I ended up returning again in 2017.