Missing New Zealand

Today’s guest post comes from Amanda Williams who blogs at A Dangerous Business. It really spoke to me because I know exactly what it’s like to miss a foreign country like it was a living breathing person. I often think of London like it’s a lost love, and I think many of us have somewhere we look back on in this same, wistful way.

Missing New Zealand for me is kind of like missing a childhood friend who has moved far away. For the first few months, you think about them often, perhaps look at photos of the two of you together, and daydream about the next time you might be reunited. But as the time passes and you get used to being apart, you start to move on. You call less and less because you both become wrapped up in your new, separate lives, and the time difference starts to matter. You drift. The closeness you once shared is lost somewhere in the intervening miles.

This is how it is for me and the country I called home for five months. I’m the one who has moved far away, but I’m doing my best not to completely lose touch. Even though we may not be best friends anymore, I don’t want to forget about New Zealand.

When I was in high school and first dreaming about New Zealand, the country was almost an unattainable goal: that exotic, popular girl who would never be my friend, or that quirky, adventurous boy who would never ask me out on a date. I daydreamed about the little country with almost inappropriate fervor, determined to prove to myself that we could, in fact, be friends. And, when I finally got my chance to get to know it better, it was love at first sight.

There’s a lot of charm to New Zealand – a unique kind of charm that is difficult to explain and likely impossible to replicate anywhere else in the world.

Of course there’s the raw, natural beauty of the sparsely populated country. The white sand beaches laying in the shadow of snow-dusted mountains; the drab, yet striking desert, dotted with volcanoes whose craters are draped in misty clouds; the rolling green farmland where fat, woolly sheep amble along crooked fence lines. New Zealand definitely has personality, and a lot of it.

But, unlike with that popular girl I’d never want to be friends with anyway, New Zealand’s various personalities aren’t disparate; they don’t detract from the country, but, instead, enhance it. Even just an hour-long drive through the New Zealand countryside can transport you from a rugged, wind-swept coast where the surf crashes over rust-colored rocks to a dense forest where ancient, thousand-year-old kauri trees reach into the heavens.

And then there are the people – the real heart and soul of New Zealand. The rugby-loving, adventure-seeking kiwis with a refreshing “no worries” attitude. I’ll admit it: I have a soft spot for them. Regardless of how many times I found myself frustrated over a lack of timeliness or sense of seriousness, I parted ways with the country with the opinion that New Zealanders are kind of like your best friend’s puppy: The puppy might annoy you and have accidents on your carpeting sometimes, but you can’t seem to stay mad at, no matter how hard you try.

But, like with any good friend, New Zealand does have its flaws. The “no worries” kiwi attitude, while delightful and valuable in most cases, gets taken a bit too far when applied to certain social issues. New Zealand is the type of friend that, when feeling lazy, opts to just sweep the big stuff under the rug to forget about or deal with later.

But I am in love with New Zealand. And so I am willing to forgive it its flaws. I can still remember the sting of the cold, pelting rain that is so frequent in Wellington, and the tense relationship between some Maori iwis (tribes) and the national government. But, like those petty fights you used to have with your childhood friend over who got to brush Barbie’s hair first, I tend to skim over these things when sifting through my New Zealand memories.

As we grow apart, however, and the intervening miles take their toll, I am reminded to remember everything – the good, the bad, and everything in between – that gives the object of my affection its personality. As I said, I don’t want to forget. I want to remember those chilly, stormy days right alongside the brilliantly sunny ones. I want to remind myself that no place (or person, for that matter) is perfect, and New Zealand, too, has its issues.

When I look back on our relationship, I find that, not unlike a person, New Zealand is complex, unique. And though we haven’t seen each other recently, I still think about it often. And I still miss it. And I hope that, someday, we’ll be reunited again.

Like any strong friendship or short-lived love affair, I’m beginning to realize that New Zealand has become a part of my life, a part of me. It came along during those formative college years, when I was searching for something – anything; myself, maybe – and helped bridge the gap between where I was coming from and where I was headed. It became my best friend for five of the best months of my life.

So, New Zealand, let’s not lose touch. Let’s write every now and then; maybe give each other a call. No matter where I travel to or settle down, I think you will always be in the back of my mind. My first great love. And I will strive to never forget you.

Amanda Williams is a fairly recent college graduate with a journalism degree under her belt, which she currently puts to use at a small Ohio newspaper, reading lots about dead people. She loves to travel (when not uber-poor), explore, take far too many pictures, and then write about it all. New Zealand is by far her favorite destination (so far), but she’s always up for a new adventure anywhere in the world.

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19 thoughts on “Missing New Zealand”

  1. I do believe it’s quite easy to fall in love with a place and miss it as if it were a person when you’re away too long. That’s why so many people return to the same destinations over and over again instead of visiting new places. I’ve never been to New Zealand, but from everything I’ve seen of it, I can easily see it being one of those places.

  2. Amanda, I adore this post. I have the exact same feelings towards Australia, and I’ve never quite been able to express them like you did about New Zealand. I’m planning a trip out that way next year, and am planning on spending two weeks with my old love, however your post makes me want to cheat on AUS and experience a little bit of New Zealand during that time. *sigh* I hope you have a chance to reunite soon!

    1. Thanks, Amy! I’m glad you enjoyed it. And I would totally support your decision to cheat on OZ, in order to give NZ a go. 😉 You won’t regret it!

  3. I managed to stretch my time in NZ to 16 months and even when I was forced to leave and move on to Australia, I made a point to return over the summer hols when Aus just goes insane. And when I finally had to come back to the US, I was so happy to book my flight on AirNZ because that meant I got to stop at AKL (even if it was just the airport) for a few hours!

    Have you done or looked into the WHV????

    1. 16 months! I’m so jealous. And no, I’ve never done a working holiday, although I did seriously consider it. But then I got a real job and a boyfriend closer to home, and those ideas sort of flew out the window. But, that’s life, right?

      1. ditch the job and bring the boy!

        i worked my first “real” job after college for 2 yrs before dumping it for 16 months in NZ and 8 months in Australia. (was only originally supposed to be gone 12 months in total, whoops!)

        sounds like you have lots of time to follow in my footsteps:-).

  4. This was a really interesting post. I’ll be honest, I’ve never been somewhere long enough (asides from where I live now) to really miss it in this way. Hopefully one day, I think we all need that grand travel love affair. New Zealand definitely sounds like a country I could live in.

  5. Yeah, the old Kiwis aren’t exactly timely are they?! The ‘no worries’ mindset permeates though all aspects of the lifestyle here – which is pretty sweet as. 🙂

    I often wonder if it’s 1970 in New Zealand though – especially as I sit in my cold flat with no insulation, single paned windows, and a gas heater that belongs outside heating my lounge. It’s okay though, the views of The Remarks make up for it!

    Beautiful post – it’s great when a place makes such an imprint on your memory, though tough to say goodbye.

    1. Thanks, Matt! And I totally feel your pain with the no insulation, no central heating, and flimsy windows. Wellington winters are very similar! I didn’t even have a space heater, though. For about two months I seriously went to bed wearing two pairs of pants, a hoodie, and my slippers. But I still love NZ. I will forgive it its silly lack of proper weatherization.

  6. I know how you feel. I started my rtw in NZ and 2.5 months just wasn’t even close to enough. I ended up cutting out entire areas to focus more time on others.

    I compare everywhere else to New Zealand, and in terms of the sheer variety, pristine condition, and groomed trails everything else comes up just a little short every time…

    1. I know what you mean, Dustin. I’ve done a bit of traveling other than just in NZ, and I always find myself making comparisons. Honestly though, I don’t know if anywhere else can replace New Zealand for me. Perhaps other countries or cities will come close, but, for me, I don’t think anything will top Aotearoa.

  7. I often describe it as being home sick because New Zealand was the first place in the world I felt home, the landscape, the people, the way of life… I belonged. I still remember my heart breaking when I left after that short stay. I try to go back as much as I can but money has made it 2 years ago now that I have been and I actually silently sob as a child been kept away from home too long. I miss new zealand!

  8. Amanda, I completely agree with your sentiments.

    I lived in Windy Welly for two months working with some incredible people and my experience there changed my life.

    When I landed in the flat mid-western Ohio landscape, I found myself searching for the Mountains and Ocean that had engulfed me for two months. Every now and then I look out my window and wish that those Mountains weren’t half a world away.

    Places are like people because people comprise them. So I say Kia Ora to the memories I will never forget.

  9. Hi Amanda! I feel the same about New Zealand!!
    The first time I went there I fell in love with that beautiful country!!! On 2006 I came back, it was a dream that came true, stayed for more than three years.
    I wish with all my heart that I could go back there next year!!!

  10. I like the best friend’s puppy analogy. Us Kiwis are a bit like that. We’re soft and cute. We don’t take things seriously, because, seriously, it’s pretty easy living here. I reckon the abundance of brilliant scenery, fresh food and low population is a recipe for puppy love.

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