Is the grass really greener on the other side: 1 year on in NZ
1 year ago today I landed in Auckland, New Zealand on a plane from San Fransisco in a snotty, sick mess to see my sister waiting for me at the airport (poor her). I’d been travelling non-stop for almost 8 months, had two bouts of parasites in South America and still had one sea urchin spike left in my foot from the Galapagos. I’d ended up in hospitals several times, travelled thousands of miles and had felt freedom like never before.
I’d been away much longer than 8 months though, having lived in London, UK for almost 5 years prior. It had been a long time since I’d lived in New Zealand.
Most of my adulthood had been spent in the UK and Europe.
So a year on, is the grass really greener in NZ than the UK?
Literally, yes. The sky is bluer too and stays that way for longer.
But I’m not really talking literally.
It’s been a hard year, but a year of self development and progress within myself (sounds airy fairy I know).
Moving back to NZ I thought I had a great attitude, it was going to be a fresh start without expectations. Everyone’s life kept going while I travelled and lived in the UK, I knew that, I could handle that.
Yet I still had hidden expectations, hopes and dreams that I didn’t realise before arriving. Many of which were unrealistic.
After my journey back from the UK that began in October 2014, ending in May 2015, all I wanted was a hot shower, a proper bed and a space I could call my own. I was over travelling. 8 months was too long.
I’m no longer ‘over travelling,’ I just travel for shorter periods of time. I’ve spent time rediscovering my homeland, from the far south of the Queenstown Lakes region, to the far north of Paihia and the Bay of Islands. More recently, the north of the South Island in the sunny region of Nelson and Abel Tasman (still one more post to come about that area).
All these spots have been in NZ, meanwhile I’m saving up my annual leave for my aim of at least 1 international trip a year. Hopefully it will be Japan next year (open to suggestions and tips about Japan too please).
I also feel like a tourist in my own country. The places I visit are those that tourists visit. They are areas that are stunning, but the average Kiwi doesn’t bother with because they’d rather spend the weekend at the bach (rugged holiday home by a beach) or something.
It’s a little strange being a Kiwi and a tourist in NZ, not bad, just different.
Life in Auckland
Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest city. It’s where most of the work is and as a result most of the people. This means it’s busy and expensive. Don’t even try to imagine buying a house here on your own, those seem to be for the wealthy now.
I’ve gone through a bit of contracting and now been in a permanent role for about 6 months. I live in a flatshare and spend my spare time freelancing or sorting out my health and wellbeing. I make sure to visit family and friends whenever possible and get out for beach walks often — those are the things I missed most while I was away. Sadly the camera seems to only come out when I’m on proper travel trips now… but I have signed up to Instagram finally, with my iPhone being an extension of my arm.
If I’m absolutely honest, I’ve struggled to fit in. I’ve struggled to see where my life is going. Then at times I can’t believe I’ve slotted back into ‘Auckland life’ like this, without all the excitement and experiences I had on a weekly basis in London or when I was travelling.
But that’s okay.
One year on and I’m not settled. I’m not sure if I even know what ‘settled’ means now. I see everyone’s lives around me changing in directions that are so different to mine, but that’s okay too. I’m living my own life, not someone else’s. That doesn’t mean I’m stuck in a hole with no goals or ambitions, I’m just taking my time figuring those out.
Some days I can’t believe I left all my friends in Europe and London back in October 2014. That’s one strange thing that I didn’t anticipate with my travelling. It felt like I’d just left them when I arrived in New Zealand last year because all of a sudden I’d stopped being so busy.
A year on and I still miss my friends on the other side of the world. I don’t think that will change, but I figure it’s a good thing because it shows how lucky I am that they were part of my life while I lived over there. If I didn’t miss them then it would mean I didn’t have people I cared about in my life, which isn’t much of a life is it?
Note to UK/European friends – always up for a Skype catch up in your mornings if you’re free, get in touch!
Is the grass really greener?
I can’t tell you how many times I attempted to write this post. Deleted and started again, edited, re-written and so fourth. It’s really hard to put into words how I feel about being back here.
I had a love/hate relationship with London, but it felt like home. I felt free. I just didn’t know these things until I left for good and they were no longer an option. I know if I ever considered going back it wouldn’t be the same at all, so that’s not on the cards anytime soon.
Auckland definitely has similarities to London, minus all those fantastic people (there’s still a few fantastic ones here though). Lifestyle-wise it’s much better in terms of weather, landscapes, finding peaceful spots etc. I still spend an hour commuting each way to and from work, but it’s just part of life, it’s not stressful, I enjoy looking out at the water as the train whizzes by. I still have a few friends and family around New Zealand, so I’m not completely alone.
Over the last year I’ve thrown myself into sorting out my health and wellbeing. It’s been a hard long road and it’s still ongoing, but I’m making progress, I’m on top of it now and feel better for it – especially for the sea urchin spike that got removed!
I’ve learnt to find beauty and happiness in everyday things rather than focusing on thoughts like ‘once this happens I’ll be happier’ and ‘when I achieve this I’ll be happier.’ I’ve taken to being happy about my morning coffee, the birds singing outside my door, my long walks along the bays in the weekend, blue sunny skies and long weekends away that give me back that taste of freedom.
I’ve learnt how to not stress too much (yes it’s true… somewhat). I’ll get a house one day, yes I’m saving, but I’m living too. I can’t control the future, what will be will be. In the meantime I’ll keep going about my day-to-day life enjoying moments that put a smile on my face and trying not to think about not being settled.
Who knows what the next year of life in NZ will bring?
Even though Nz might be ‘home’, I guess it’s easy to underestimate the impact London has on us right, I’ve now been here 9 years and with husband, baby and a house I can’t now imagine going back.. Maybe one day, never say never right.
Love this post, hope you find your new home ‘home’ again x
It really is hard to imagine these things until they aren’t an option anymore I think. Thank you for your kind words, it was a really hard post to write and still don’t know if I put down the right words!
I travelled a lot as a kid, living in several countries for extended periods. Then settled in the UK from 10 to 28, then started travelling for work a lot, before doing it for fun. One day I realised I was a foreigner in the country I was born in, being slightly different to most others in my cultural compass.
This isn’t a bad thing, but it takes some getting used to. Eventually you realise it’s important to find similar people around, with similar shared experiences, because they’re what helps you feel rooted.
Thanks David! Yes I think it just takes time to find those who have had similar experiences and not putting too much pressure on myself to feel more settled. Thanks for reading!
Buying a house isn’t the be all end all! And to be fair, we have a lot less money now for adventures, and that irks me. Not to mention now I feel I’m stuck where I am! I think if I were to move back to where I’m from in NY it would be so strange, so I can empathise with you.
Yer I toss up between whether a house and my own space is worth it, but I am just really over flatting! Thanks for understanding how hard it is to return!
Very informative and cool blog.
Great post, and I understand how you feel! I emigrated to NZ from the UK just under a year ago, and I’ve been struggling to find my ‘purpose’. Where is my life going? What am I doing here? My relationship went south just after moving here, and suddenly I find myself a single 30 something half a world away from friends and family! There are good days and bad days, and I’m keeping motivated by challenging myself to learn, do, or experience (or endure!) a new thing each day!
I’m also over flatting, and started renting my own apartment a few months ago – it was a great decision, although I’m not in the position to buy at the moment.
Good luck and I hope you feel settled soon! I’ll follow your blog for inspiration for my challenge 🙂
Wow that’s awesome that I’m not alone! Sometimes it feels that way. I like your idea of doing something new each day, feel like I need something like that! Maybe that can be my creative 100 day project!
Thank you for consisting of the stunning images–
so vulnerable to a feeling of contemplation.