As I write, I’m already back home in the UK. I thought about sitting down to write this last diary entry whilst I was still in New Zealand but, honestly, the last few weeks were just a bit manic and I thought I’d have a different perspective on it once I was on the plane home.
That’s certainly true.
If you’ve read my first travel diary, you’ll remember that I found it really hard to adjust to life so far away from home. I never stopped missing my family for the whole year that I was away. So, it would make sense that I was really excited to see everyone once we left.
Which I was but, really, I was just so tired and overwhelmed from the previous weeks of organising, packing, preparing, and squeezing in last bits of travelling.
Our flight back seemed so much longer than our flight to NZ. Our first leg was a 17-hour trip to Dubai. I’m never particularly comfortable on an aeroplane, nor do I usually sleep, but this was something else. But, grateful to have made it home safely.
As soon as I stepped out of the airport into the refreshing 2-degree chill, I just felt at home. Back to normal. Not in a sad way, in a comforting, familiar kind of way.
It feels like home has been frozen in time whilst I’ve been away and I just pressed play again when I got off the plane. I love the familiarity of home.
On New Zealand
I love the country more than I thought I would. Had you asked me what I thought of NZ after I published my first travel diary, I would have answered “It’s nice” or something equally as banal.
Now, however, I’d bore anyone who showed any kind of interest with details of New Zealand culture, people, food, sights, anything and everything.
It is a truly beautiful country, with stunning scenery, intriguing cities to visit, mostly jovial and friendly inhabitants, and some of the best food I’ve ever eaten!
My boyfriend and I have had a few rounds of “what’s your favourite thing in New Zealand?” and the answers change every time.
For him, he’s loved the work culture. It seems to have a better work/life balance than we do in the UK. The whole ethos just seems more relaxed, although there are still the crazy stressful corporate jobs we have in plenty of other places in the world. He’s loved the opportunity to just sit, and have a beer, on the beach on his days off. Not something he’s likely to do much of now we’re home.
For me, it has to be the scenery. Wherever we’ve travelled, I’ve always seen something worthy of the word ‘awesome’. I’ve never said ‘wow’ so much in my life, and meant it. From being up close to the huge blocks of slow-moving ice in Glacier Country, to the stark contrasting landscape around Mount Cook, the brightest blue water I’ve ever seen in lakes bordered by dramatic mountains, actual volcanoes, vast vineyards, visible earthquake signatures, whales and dolphins playing side-by-side, fur seals basking on the rocks in fjordland, the sunset reflected in the glass of the Sky Tower, the sun rising as I drive over the Harbour Bridge, and black sand beaches catching waves from the Tasman Sea.
Travelling has been an incredible opportunity, no doubt about that.
I’m really grateful that I could do it. Not everyone gets to, and even fewer get to go as far and for as long as I did.
I met some lovely people; some not so lovely, too. I worked, I studied, I relaxed. I gave myself time to finally figure out the direction I want to go in career-wise. Sort of! Those things are incredibly valuable to me. As is the actual travelling side; the sightseeing.
I’ve adored learning about New Zealand and Pacific Island cultures. I learned a little Te Reo Maori and came to respect and revere what I found out. I’d also previously known nothing about how Europeans came to New Zealand.
It was a brave thing for me to do; I’m a real home person. I love home, I love being in familiar places more than I do new ones. I love being able to see my family and speak to them whenever I like.
There was so much uncertainty when we went travelling; I’d just quit my job, I didn’t know what I’d do, what would happen, whether I’d like it, whether I’d make friends.
I’d love to say it was all fine and there were no issues but it’s important to say that wasn’t the case because amongst all the wanderlust Pinterest boards and Insta-fabulous travel blogging, I never see anyone talking about how difficult travelling can be.
Perhaps that’s because nobody wants to sound ungrateful, they don’t want to share the less positive aspects of their lives, or they just choose not to focus on them.
However, travelling is hard. It’s stressful, financially-draining, lonely, tiring, and sometimes quite unhealthy. There were times when we first arrived in New Zealand that I didn’t know where we were going to sleep the following week, or how long our savings would last and what would we do if we couldn’t find work soon?
I actually think this kind of long-term travel is easier if you’re younger. Because we were older and a couple, we were less keen to do things ‘on the cheap’ i.e. stay in hostels, which I would happily have done when I was fresh out of uni.
Travelling has been really mentally taxing, but I’ve also noticed huge changes in myself in the last year which I attribute to being away from home, being away from a draining job, and having to be completely independent. I seem to have become more confident and resilient than before. I’m less stressed (probably because I haven’t been working as much!) and I’ve found new ways to cope with anxiety and look after myself.
The best way I can summarise my year in New Zealand is that it’s been both fantastic and extremely challenging in equal measure. I’d recommend it as a country to visit and would happily discuss at length with anyone thinking of making the trip!
We’d both love to go back one day because, although we saw so much, there’s such a vast amount to experience, there’s always more to be done!