In 2015 I did my first backpacking trip to New Zealand. In 2.5 weeks my travel buddy (@likristyz) and I drove a car down from Auckland to the Catlins and then back up to Christchurch. This is when I fell head over heels for the country. New Zealand is such a gorgeous place and its pace of life is significantly more chill compared to my life in Los Angeles. I knew that given the opportunity I’d go back to really experience New Zealand at a more relaxed pace.
Opportunity did present itself! When I returned home from this trip I discovered that New Zealand is one of five countries that gives US citizens a working holiday visa. This combined with a need for self-discovery lead me say goodbye to everyone back home [LA Yearbook], sell all of my possessions, and book a one-way ticket to New Zealand. As of this post’s published date I’m about four months into my working holiday.
New Zealand Offers US Citizens a One Year Working Holiday Visa
I’m under the age of 30, meet the other qualifications for a working holiday visa, and therefore there’s an opportunity for me to live and work in New Zealand for a year. The beauty of this type of visa is that it allows me to explore and travel around the country while remaining self-sufficient from working as I’m on the go.
If you’re also interested in applying for a working holiday visa check out New Zealand’s immigration website.
I’d Like to Live Among Different People
And by different people I’m referring to anyone who isn’t American. I can’t begin to describe how living outside of the United States gives you a new appreciation for culture and direct window to how everyone else perceives outsiders. When you’re visiting a new place there’s really only so much you can do and see within the typical 2-week American vacation. As a result you end up just attacking a bucket list of “must do’s” found on a travel website instead of actually experiencing and understanding a culture. A working holiday would give me enough time to immerse myself into a new community beyond the tourist attractions.
New Zealand is also an attractive place for other expats, especially the Germans. This creates a mini melting pot of diversity for me to be exposed to. Although I’ve traveled to foreign countries before, this the first time that I’m noticing how other countries view Americans. I either receive questions regarding the current political state of our country or puzzled, confused looks. For instance many of the other travelers are probably confused by me since I break the norm perception of a typical American because I have a very American accent, am clearly of Asian descent, and have bleached hair and heaps of piercings.
I’m Not Married and I Don’t Have Kids
In other words I have zero obligations to anyone, besides myself. Since there isn’t anyone back home that is depending on me, I’m free to take the time to invest in myself and be selfish for the moment.
I Have My Health
Presently I’m a rather healthy and fit person. This graciously provides me with the daily opportunity to go outside and explore. Last year I also witnessed a number of family and friends go through a few health scares. Illness and physical ailments are a natural part of aging and when my health reaches that point I’d have to prioritize self-care and wellbeing. Until then I’ll seize the moment and explore the world!
As an attempt at preserving my health, moving to New Zealand has gotten me into the habit of creating nutrition packed green smoothies and turmeric/ginger tonics. The less sick days I have in a year, the more days I have to go outside.
I Want to Grow As An Artist
Creativity is not a faucet, you can’t just turn it on. You also can’t create within a vacuum. The only way to sustain creativity is to continuously experience life, and for me that equates to physically going outside of my comfort zone.
Leave the Nest
While everyone else hustles and makes the excruciating migration to Los Angeles, I have more or less spent my entire life in Southern California. I was raised in a beach town, educated at the University of California, Irvine, and worked and lived in Los Angeles post-graduation. While growing up here has given me a handful of innate advantages over the many that dream making the move, my lens of the world is narrow and based upon the city’s bubble. At this point of my life I’d like to rip away my security blanket in order to “find myself”, become more self-reliant, and widen my understanding of the world.
Something amazing happens when you leave your hometown. All of a sudden you’re free to grow and define yourself beyond who you were in the past. Returning home is also always an option –when you’re ready.
New Zealand is Beautiful
As someone who loves being outside and reconnecting to nature, New Zealand is paradise! The country has every form of climate and a plethora of biodiversity. An added bonus is that unlike its neighbor Australia, New Zealand doesn’t have any big, mammal predators nor poisonous creatures. This translates to me as “yay! I don’t need a bear can when I’m backpacking” and “woot! I’m not going to die!”
If you have the opportunity to move away from home, I’d highly recommend it. When you’re absorbed into a new environment you’re forced to tackle problems head-on and to deal with things that are out of your control. For example since moving to New Zealand, where I’m too cheap to buy a household appliances, I’ve become accustomed to frequent visits to the grocery store and hand-washing my clothes while the sun is out. I’ve also been in the process of learning how to deal with racism, sexism, and prejudice towards Americans. These are all instances of unfortunate social ignorance and do not have an easy, instant solution. While it’s impossible for me to immediately change people, I am in full control over how I deal with and act in these situations.
The beauty of all these experiences, good and bad, is that they’ll all return home with me and expand my understanding of the world. First hand exposure to new places and learning how to navigate in a diverse world without the support from home is a life lesson that can’t be taught in school. You simply have to go out and experience it.
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I’m currently feeling very similar. I’m a photographer who loves portraits, street and landscapes, but I feel like I’m living in the wrong country. I see friends treading Mont Blanc, galavanting in fields in Canada, well-known photographers hiking glaciers, mountains, beaches and lakes, and I can’t help but wonder why I’m so stuck in my quicksand.
The thought of giving up my well paying, secure and “generally satisfying” work, my friends (though many have moved away!) and everything I know behind and moving for the first time out of my home city of Brisbane feels daunting, even at 29. That being said, as an Australian, I’m pretty sure I have it good on the working visa front for a New Zealand living experience, and I can always move back. It’s only 3½ hours away!
Establishing your life into financial security and “comfort” can brew a great amount of inertia and resentment if you’re like me (and you it seems), and I feel like if I don’t do something soon, I’m going to explode.
I’m actually a pretty vibrant, enthusiastic and motivated photographer and person with many other skills that work for my benefit as far as working goes, which is why I’ve ended up on your site and others finding out what it’s like to live in NZ.
Thanks for writing this and hope you are thriving!
Hi Nick, get out before you explode! I’m hope you find your path soon. If you’re itching to get out and move, do it! Otherwise you might regret not seizing the moment to take action. And in the event that you do move and it turns out that you traveling isn’t in your favor, at least you discover that on your own terms and won’t regret making a decision.
Wishing you the best mate, cheers!